2021 Anime to Give a Try

2020 was a notoriously weak year for anime, especially for new series. Outside of the otherworldly “Jujutsu Kaisen,” the best new franchises that fans could take in from 2020 were the admittedly great “Tower of God” and the somewhat mediocre “God of High School” and “Rent-A-Girlfriend,” neither of which have shown much discussion among anime fans just half a year later. For sequels, it was a bit better. “Re: Zero,” “Love is War” and “Fire Force” all had their highly anticipated sequel seasons debut, with some lesser ones accompanying them. However, the currently-airing Spring 2021 season could potentially dwarf the entire year of 2020 with the number of quality shows they have running.

To discuss the elephant in the room, “Boku no Hero Academia” did return for its fifth season and largely seems to consist of a battle between the two first-year hero classes. There isn’t much to develop in terms of the story, but it’s clear that the team at Bones Studio is flexing their animation chops at times, making it an overall fun watch if you have some time to waste.

The eccentric idol anime from 2018, “Zombie Land Saga,” took its sweet time developing its sequel after immediately announcing it over two years ago. “Zombie Land Saga: Revenge” is everything that made the first season a good watch. It’s fun and playful under the premise of zombies raised from the dead to save the city of Saga through music. The music is of stellar quality and the voice-acting chops of Mamoru Miyano as the group’s manager Koutarou Tatsumi provides an excellent break between whatever story development is happening.

These two major sequels are accompanied by a plethora of other beloved franchises receiving their own. “The Slime Diaries” is airing as a laid-back filler story between the first and second parts of the second season of “That Time I Was Reincarnated As A Slime.” “How Not to Summon a Demon Lord” is receiving its first sequel since 2018, drawing mixed reviews overall. “SSSS.Dynazenon” might not be a direct sequel to “SSSS.Gridman,” but it exists in the same world and is run by the excellent Studio Trigger. Even the much-awaited final season of the “Fruits Basket” reboot is underway and is reaching critically acclaimed levels, showing up in the top 20 anime of all time on MyAnimeList.

Would you believe me if I told you the sequels were on the backburners to some seriously remarkable original shows? The incredibly shameless romantic comedy “Ijiranaide, Nagatoro-san” has made a huge splash within the anime community. The premise of Hayase Nagatoro teasing and then eventually developing feelings for her senpai Naoto Hachiouji starts off on levels that borderline disgusted me, but once it hit that breaking point where Nagatoro started to show possessive qualities towards him, it turned a new leaf as an entertaining show with a good level of sentimentality between the two.

“To Your Eternity” (shown in the featured image above) premiered with one of the most emotional single episodes of anime I’ve ever seen and leads perfectly into the journey that the rest of the show is about. It seems to want to turn into some sort of action anime in the future but is taking its sweet time developing the characters and telling both dramatic and comedic stories. It’s certainly going to be a slow burn and the writers in charge have a sound grasp on what they’re doing.

A-1 Pictures and composer Hiroyuki Sawano teamed up for “86,” an action story about a war with machines that disguises a deeper societal trend of dehumanization toward people different from them with even darker undertones. The silver-haired Alba sit in their battle stations, commanding the 86, people who don’t have that silver hair and live and fight the “Legion” in neighboring regions. They are so low on the food chain among the Alba that the Alba government insists that they are fighting a humane war with no human casualties. It’s a scary premise, but the mysterious subplots slowly seep into the forefront in tantalizing fashion.

“Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song” is the shocker of the season, an anime-original produced by Wit Studio. In an era when highly evolved AIs are becoming prevalent in society, the first-ever autonomous AI in Vivy is visited by an AI from the future and tasked to save the world from the inevitable destruction of the human race by AIs 100 years in the future. With glorious music, compelling characters and incredibly sequenced action scenes, this is a masterpiece in the making and it’s hidden among the sheer mass of quality content this season.

This touches on just half the anime I am currently watching and even worse quality shows made the rounds. “Odd Taxi” is an incredibly compelling mystery story disguised by seemingly inane character designs. “Pretty Boy Detective Club” is backed by the writers of Monogatari and presents itself with the utmost confidence in its story of junior high students with both brilliant minds and a natural aesthetic. “Higehiro” is a beautiful coming-of-age story with a remarkably surprising premise. It’s a mature show and constantly presents itself as one, knowing that they can’t hide from the naturally adult themes.

“Shadows House” is a mysterious story about shadows and servants that exist to be their faces. There is definitely something bigger at play, but it’s hard to decipher what. “Osamake” is a romantic comedy where the “childhood friend won’t lose” with the super obvious plot twist that both girls are his childhood friends. “Slime 300,” powered by Aoi Yuuki’s lovely voice, is a fluffy wholesome show with no ulterior motives. It’s designed to make you feel good watching it, and it works every time. “Edens Zero” apparently rips character designs straight from the classic “Fairy Tail,” drawing some ire within the anime community. The catch here is two-fold: the same writer was behind both stories and “Edens Zero” is clearly superior through a remarkably unique main character and a fun story. It has all the makings of a classic battle shounen from the early 2000s and it should be a great experience.

In this era where anime is more accessible than it’s ever been, there’s no excuse to not crack something open and give it a try. There’s truly something for everyone, and that’s no exaggeration.

Where can you watch it?

Crunchyroll – 86, Boku no Hero Academia, To Your Eternity, Higehiro, Ijiranaide Nagatoro-san, Odd Taxi, Osamake, Slime 300, Zombie Land Saga: Revenge, Slime Diaries, How Not To Summon A Demon Lord

Funimation – Pretty Boy Detective Club, Boku no Hero Academia, Shadows House, Vivy, SSSS.Dynazenon

Hulu – Boku no Hero Academia, Vivy

Netflix Jail (will show up but not until well after the series ends) – Edens Zero, To Your Eternity