2021 is almost over! Seriously, in just a few days, another year of incredible anime will be in our rearview mirror. So, we figured, what better way to celebrate than by breaking down some of our favorites from the last 12 months?
To qualify for this list, a series (or movie) needs to have aired at least one episode, or premiered in 2021. After breaking down our Staff Picks earlier this week, we asked the Funimation Blog contributors to share their favorites!
Take a look at the full list below! What were your favorites from 2021? Share this post and let us know! And stay tuned to Funimation for the latest on all things anime, this season and beyond.
Attack on Titan Final Season – Rafael Motamayor
It managed to expand the world and its lore while introducing a set of characters we should hate, but can’t help but root for, while showing a darker and more complex side of the characters we use to love—all with excellent animation.
Honorable mention: Ranking of Kings
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Mugen Train Arc and Entertainment District Arc – Khadjiah Johnson
First off, let me start off by saying respectfully Tengen Uzui > Your Man. I know we had Mugen Train, and had our heartbroken throughout 2021, and then had to revisit that heartache AGAIN in the first half of this season, but we have to appreciate the tenderness of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.
We have arguably one of the most wholesome boys ready to put it on the line for his little sister, OK? Risk it all, Nezuko or nothing. If you watch this series and it doesn’t have you picking up the phone and rage crying to your sibling, proclaiming that they deserve the world, bless your frigid soul.
As we watched our team go on a dream-screening, human-munching Demon train, we witnessed the true strength of the Flame Hashira, Rengoku. We watched him straight up pan-sear Demons left and right with Nichirin swords, no human casualties. Just one, two slice and another one bites the dust. This show gives you action, heartache and the strength to push on and keep going in spite of what is coming for you.
Honorable mention: My Hero Academia Season 5
Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House – Taylor Cross
It’s a charming little slice-of-life anime about two childhood friends who move to Kyoto dreaming of becoming maiko, or an apprentice geisha. The series is heartwarming, educational and features mouthwatering food!
Honorable mention: Jujutsu Kaisen
Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan – George Yang
I like the main character because he’s just as hopeless about his 9-to-5 like I am lol.
LINK CLICK – Deanna Nguyen
My pick is LINK CLICK because of the unique time-traveling premise, the mystery of who the big bad villain is, and how the main characters are constantly questioning whether or not they’ve made the right decisions. Kudos to donghua/Chinese animation!
LUPIN THE 3rd PART 6 – Tom Speelman
With a meta “Episode 0” centered around the fact of it being Jigen’s original voice actor Kiyoshi Kobayashi’s last turn in the role (having played the sharpshooter since 1969), this latest action packed series from TMS starring Monkey Punch’s iconic thief has been fun, exciting and (of course) stylish as all hell.
Following up on PART 4’s Italian escapades and PART 5’s (largely) France-based endeavors, director Eiji Suganuma and chief scriptwriter Takahiro Okura drop the Lupin gang in London where, like Lupin’s grandfather before them, they fight none other than Sherlock Holmes! That is, the modern Hot Single Dad version of Holmes, raising a young Lily Watson after her father John was mysteriously killed 10 years ago.
But Lupin is also on the trail of a treasure owned by the secret British society known only as the Raven. Can he find it and outwit Holmes, who seems to hold Lupin responsible for his partner’s death?
With stylish, fluid animation, Yuji Ohno’s typically excellent jazz score and guest scripts from the likes of writers like the legendary Mamoru Oshii, the unraveling answer to those questions has been one of the most exciting things to hit anime in ages.
Honorable mentions: Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train, Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro
MEGALOBOX 2: NOMAD – Alejandro Medellin Jr.
MEGALOBOX 2: NOMAD is not what I was expecting. Joe, once the hero, is alone, broken, addicted to pills and fighting for scraps as an unknown boxer in town after town. But it’s when he meets Chief and his community of Spanish-speaking immigrants, that he’s finally awakened to harsh realities of what led him to this point.
In Season 2, boxing takes a back seat so that Joe can confront his past, this time having to battle his demons and mistakes to make things right with the people he left behind. His journey is an emotional one for both character and audience, and is aided by plot points that reflect our world, such as climate change and who it affects most, immigration and how big tech exploits people for profit in the name of science.
Also, it’s the first time I’ve felt represented in an anime. Watch the show!
My Hero Academia Season 5 – Keith Reid-Cleveland
I really enjoyed My Hero Academia Season 5 because it brought us plenty of classic anime tropes—tournament-style combat and level-ups—and went against the grain in several ways.
We got to get a good, extended look at the series’ main villains before major events come up and we even got a classic holiday episode to balance things out.
Platinum End – Yali Perez
Platinum End reinvigorated anime in a way that, for me, I have not seen in years. The anime series offers the greatest power one can imagine and offers it to people at rock bottom.
Most of the God Candidates are absolutely awful, while some are just very sad and lonely. Yet, the anime still manages to get the audience to route for these people. It truly is picking the lesser of evils. All the while, subverting our idea of happiness!
Platinum End pushes the boundaries of what anime can be. Yes, it is entertainment, but it can also be a real-time test that forces the viewer to think about their happiness and the happiness of others. Are similar enough to the characters that we too could be a candidate? The anime is a pure work of genius and I can’t wait to see what else it has in-store.
Honorable mention: Dragon Goes House-Hunting
Ranking of Kings – Liam Dempsey
Even in a year that delivered a stunning adaptation of my all-time favorite manga, it was the humble but grand tale of a deaf little prince that unequivocally stood atop the 60+ anime I watched from 2021.
Ranking of Kings, or Bojji is #1, Why is This a Question?, excites and delights with its vibrant character animation and storybook-style visuals, with my reactions covering everything from “whoa, that fight was smooth” to “OH MY GOD, HIS CHUBBY CHEEEEEEEKS.”
This is Bojji’s odyssey through and through—a journey of self-discovery to conquer a world not built for him—but the bright exterior also hides the strokes of gray that perpetually evolve your impression of every side character, from the dependably defensive Kage to the ostensibly offensive Daida.
SK8 the Infinity – Chelsea Cruz and Briana Lawrence
I’m into sports anime with some theatrics. Any villain that decides to wear a full Phantom of the Opera-inspired outfit while skating is an A+ in my book. –Chelsea
Honorable mentions: My Hero Academia Season 5, Dr. STONE Season 2, Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer -Kimetsu no Yaiba- The Movie: Mugen Train
I have to give it to SK8 the Infinity, because it’s become the anime I recommend watching when someone says, “What anime should we watch?” SK8 the Infinity just…makes you feel good when you watch it, you know?
It’s fun and kinda wacky (long live Shadow) with characters you love and themes that really hit in a way I didn’t expect. As someone who struggles to just ENJOY a thing (Hi, I’m the friend that would try and monetize all her hobbies), it was nice to see a series where the end message was, “I do this because I want to.”
There’s no huge push to skate to get something “useful” out of it, they just do it because it’s fun, and that’s fine. I also appreciate Reki’s struggles, a lot, as he watches people better than him take part in the thing he loves. It really is hard to enjoy something when it feels like you’re being left behind. You try and figure out what you can do to catch up, especially when there are whispers about you clinging to the “good” ones. But in the end he learns that he doesn’t HAVE to be the best in this thing that gives him enjoyment.
Honestly, I went into SK8 the Infinity expecting some sports anime good boy vibes (which it FOR SURE has, and it’s delightful), but ended up gaining a newfound appreciation of liking things without needing to justify it or prove that they’re valuable. As long as you like it, it’s fine. –Briana
Honorable mentions: Tokyo Revengers, Jujutsu Kaisen, Super Cub, ODDTAXI, Ranking of Kings, To Your Eternity, Dragon Goes House-Hunting, Horimiya, Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan, Heaven’s Design Team
Star Wars: Visions – Kelly Knox
Star Wars: Visions brought anime to an entirely new audience this year! With wildly creative and unexpected takes on the galaxy far, far away, it showed off the imagination and innovation that anime can inspire as a medium.
The project highlighted Japanese animation studios that absolutely deserve recognition from a worldwide audience. Also, twin Star Destroyers. How cool was that?
Tokyo Revengers – Sean Aitchison
Tokyo Revengers is my favorite of the year because it makes the aspect of time travel, of “going back and fixing it all,” not a fantasy. Takemichi is burdened with the aspect of fixing the future, and it is NOT easy. as he’s struck with tragedy after tragedy, over and over.
It also reminds us that we weren’t our best as kids, no matter how much we romanticize the past. It’s my favorite time travel series since ERASED and it’s brutal in all the best ways.
Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun Season 2 – Kathleen Townsend
This is just pure fun from start to finish. From magic school shenanigans, a coming of age story and great friendships, to dastardly plots, amazing creature designs and plenty of world-building for high fantasy fans to sink their teeth into, there is tons to love!