2021 has finished up as a second season to 2020. While things almost returned to normal in many places around the world, the lingering effects of the pandemic still continue. But the anime world continued to strive ahead, with lots of new original anime and sequels to insanely anticipated series series coming out this year. But which where the cream of the crop in the home of anime? Japanese anime site Anikore has released its rankings on their users’ top and most popular anime of 2021. The site uses its own special algorithm to calculate the popularity of seasonal anime, using both review scores and the number of reviews.
The rankings include both TV anime and anime films released in the 2021 anime seasons. If there are multiple seasons listed for an anime series in the list, it will be consolidated into the higher-ranked season listing.
So, without further ado here are Japanese anime fans’ Top 20 anime of 2021:
20. BanG Dream! Episode of Roselia: Promise
To reach the stage of “FES.”, Yukina Minato decides to form a band. Each holding their own convictions, the members of the band come together. The five girls now begin their journey to the top as Roselia… This is the story of their “promise” made to each other, from the start of the band to their challenge towards FUTURE WORLD FES!
19. Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night
“There’s no way to beat this game. The only difference is when and where you die…”
One month has passed since Akihiko Kayaba’s deadly game began, and the body count continues to rise. Two thousand players are already dead.
Kirito and Asuna are two very different people, but they both desire to fight alone. Nonetheless, they find themselves drawn together to face challenges from both within and without. Given that the entire virtual world they now live in has been created as a deathtrap, the surviving players of Sword Art Online are starting to get desperate, and desperation makes them dangerous to loners like Kirito and Asuna. As it becomes clear that solitude equals suicide, will the two be able to overcome their differences to find the strength to believe in each other, and in so doing survive?
Sword Art Online: Progressive is a new version of the Sword Art Online tale that starts at the beginning of Kirito and Asuna’s epic adventure—on the very first level of the deadly world of Aincrad!
18. Mobile Suit Gundam: Hathaway’s Flash
Thanks to the sacrifices of war heroes like Amuro Ray, the Universal Century’s 105th year sees an era of hard-won but short-lived peace. The Earth Federation keeps a militaristic hold on the planet and its surrounding space colonies. Although Char Aznable’s rebellion against the neglectful Federation met its ultimate failure, his revolutionary philosophy of true freedom for all human beings lives on.
Despite being the son of a famous Federation commander, Hathaway Noa embodies both the undying loyalty of soldier Amuro Ray and the militant passion of rebel leader Char Aznable. Haunted by memories of Char’s Rebellion, Hathaway leads a dissident faction of his own known as Mafty. He adopts the alias “Mafty Navue Erin” and commits acts of violence in revolt against the growing tyranny of the Federation.
After thwarting the hostile takeover of a plane by a terrorist group fraudulently claiming to be Mafty, Hathaway’s secret identity is discovered by a young woman named Gigi Andalucia. Hathaway befriends both Gigi and Federation colonel Kenneth Sleg, but his double life endangers them as the armed conflict between Mafty and the Federation comes to a head.
17. Pokémon: Secrets of the Jungle
The new film’s story is set in Okoya Forest, a Pokémon paradise protected by strict rules that forbid outsiders from setting foot inside. The film centers on Koko, a boy who was raised by Pokémon and also considers himself as one, treating the Mythical Pokémon Zarude as his father. Ash and Pikachu encounter Koko during an adventure. The film focuses on the theme of a “human raised by Pokémon,” instead of the previous films’ focus of the “bond between a human trainer and their Pokémon.”
16. Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken Season 2
Taking a break from his time as a teacher, the powerful slime Rimuru Tempest returns to his kingdom, eponymously named Tempest, just in time to begin negotiations with a nearby nation—the Kingdom of Eurazania. While the negotiations are anything but peaceful, they do end successfully, allowing Rimuru to return and finish teaching. When trying to again return to Tempest, this time permanently, Rimuru is stopped by a mysterious figure who is somehow able to constrain the many magical abilities he has at his disposal.
In Tempest, the situation is even worse. A group of unknown humans has invaded the land and are assaulting its citizens, both influential and innocent. They are not just trying to bring harm either—they have the intent to kill. Can Rimuru overcome his powerful and dangerous foe and return to Tempest before it is too late?
15. Josee to Tora to Sakana-tachi
Equipped with his passion for diving and admiration for marine biology, university student Tsuneo Suzukawa tries his best to juggle several part-time jobs to earn enough money to study abroad. But one night, in a fateful accident, he meets a girl in a wheelchair, driving his current path into a detour.
The girl, Kumiko—who prefers to be called “Josee”—initially comes off as rude. Tsuneo, however, is then convinced by Josee’s grandmother to take on the paid job to be Josee’s caretaker. Despite being annoyed with her bossy demeanor, Tsuneo sees the opportunity to save more funds to support his academic dream. Nonetheless, after putting up with Josee’s behavior for some time, Tsuneo tries to quit, only to discover Josee’s dreams of traversing the outside world—to experience a life free from her crippling condition.
Changing his mind, Tsuneo decides to accompany Josee in exploring the wonders that the world has to offer. Through their time together, the two begin to realize that the traits that bind them may be vital toward fulfilling their respective aspirations.
14. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu Season 2
After a stern yet compelling speech by Otto, Subaru Natsuki solemnly swears that he will successfully make it through this timeline and save everyone he can along the way. The first step toward achieving this goal is to help Emilia work through her past; however, that is easier said than done. Feeling as if she has been lied to by everyone around her, it will be difficult for Emilia to trust anyone, even Subaru, her self-proclaimed knight.
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu 2nd Season Part 2 presents the culmination of Subaru’s experiences with the Sanctuary and its people, along with his unwillingness to give up hope on saving them.
13. Princess Principal: Crown Handler 2
The film is set in London at the end of the 19th century and after the attempted assassination of the Imperial princess in the television anime. The Empire is increasing counter-spy actions in the wake of the incident, and finds Control, the Commonwealth group in charge of covert operations against the Empire, at unease and suspecting its spy within the royal family as a double agent. Control assigns their spy ring Dove with a new mission to extract a secondhand bookstore owner and deliver him to Commonwealth hands. Ange, Dorothy, and Chise successfully spring the bookstore owner from an Imperial prison. Control also assigns Dove to make contact with Bishop, their spy within the royal family, to ascertain their loyalties.
12. Girls und Panzer das Finale Part 3
The third film in the six-part Girls & Panzer: Saishuushou film series.
Rumor has it that Momo Kawashima, former student council member at Ooarai Girls Academy, is bound to repeat a year. Having failed her university entry exams, she is far from spending another year at Ooarai, but her plight is unenviable nevertheless.
The only way for her to gain admission into a university is to be granted an athletic scholarship. With the Winter Continuous Track Cup rapidly approaching, Momo becomes the commander of Ooarai’s tankery team, so as to demonstrate her sport skills and wipe away the stain on her honor.
Their first opponent—French-themed BC Freedom High School—is split into two factions that are constantly at odds with each other. Despite this seemingly fortuitous match against a disorganized rival, Ooarai might soon find itself taking one step too far.
11. Non Non Biyori Nonstop
The carefree journeys of the four girls continue! As their fleeting yet eventful summer becomes a distant memory, the arrival of fall signals a new school year with limitless opportunities. Even as the four girls return to their peaceful routine, the appearance of new faces enlivens the anything but exciting rural life of Asahigaoka.
Non Non Biyori Nonstop leisurely walks back into the lives of Hotaru Ichijou, Komari Koshigaya, Natsumi Koshigaya, and Renge Miyauchi as they fully embrace their rural lifestyles and turn anything they find into nothing but fun!
(Tied) 9. Knights of Sidonia: Love Woven in the Stars
The film will feature contents different from the original manga by Tsutomu Nihei with a new story. Nihei is supervising the film.
After the Earth was destroyed by mysterious alien lifeforms known as the Gauna, surviving remnants of the human race escaped to space in the enormous generation ship Sidonia. Having drifted through space for millennia, the Sidonia found itself once more under attack from Gauna for the first time in a century.
Once again facing the threat of extinction, a temporary victory against the Gauna was eked out thanks to the human-Gauna hybrid Tsumugi Shiraui and ace Guardian mech pilot Nagate Tanikaze.
10 years later… The people of Sidonia enjoy a brief respite. Peaceful days pass, during which Tsumugi begins to realize her feelings for Nagate, who is now celebrated as a hero of Sidonia. However, as Captain Kobayashi has always known, as long as the Gauna remain, peace cannot last.
The decision is made: a final battle, upon which rests the fate of humanity’s last survivors. As the end approaches, will the crew be able to protect those they love?
(Tied) 9. Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon S
As Tooru continues on her quest to become the greatest maid and Kanna Kamui fully immerses in her life as an elementary school student, there is not a dull day in the Kobayashi household with mischief being a daily staple. On one such day, however, a massive landslide is spotted on the hill where Kobayashi and Tooru first met—a clear display of a dragon’s might. When none of the dragons they know claim responsibility, the perpetrator herself descends from the skies: Ilulu, the radical Chaos Dragon with monstrous power rivaling that of Tooru.
Sickened by Tooru’s involvement with humans, Ilulu resorts to the typical dragon method of resolving conflict—a battle to the death. Despite such behavior, she becomes intrigued by Kobayashi’s ability to befriend dragons and decides instead to observe just what makes Kobayashi so special. With a new troublesome dragon in town, Kobayashi’s eccentric life with a dragon maid is only getting merrier.
8. Eiga Daisuki Pompo-san
The film centers on Joelle Davidovich Pomponette (Pompo-san), a talented film producer at the movie capital “Nyallywood.” Despite her prowess to see through to the potential of actors and staff and bring out their talent to the fullest, she has only been producing B-class action and erotic films. One day, Pompo’s “film-worm” assistant Gene, who has been doubtful of her choices of film genres, is given the task to direct a film based on a script written by her. Will Gene be able to bring Pompo’s “masterpiece” to fruition?
7. Kageki Shoujo!!
After being forced to graduate from JPX48 following a controversial incident with a male fan, Ai Narata swears to never interact with another man ever again. Using her talents and strong desire to get away from men, Ai auditions for the exclusive all-female Kouka School of Musical and Theatrical Arts. The school is renowned for producing the best actresses that go on to perform in the famous all-female Kouka Theatre Troupe. Coming from the idol industry, Ai is the perfect candidate for the school’s hundredth generation class, but her aloof demeanor alienates her from her classmates.
The eccentric Sarasa Watanabe is the only person who wishes to become Ai’s friend. She enters Kouka with the goal of becoming a top “otokoyaku” performer—an actress that plays traditionally male roles. After seeing a Kouka performance of The Rose of Versailles when she was younger, Sarasa dreams of performing as Lady Oscar one day. Unfortunately, Sarasa’s inability to read a room causes friction between her and her classmates, including Ai, who reluctantly becomes her roommate and partner in many of their classes.
Succeeding at Kouka will involve more than just raw talent for these young girls as jealousy, deceit, and the harsh realities of show business put their mental fortitude to the test. Will Sarasa and Ai be able to rise to the top and stand on the silver bridge?
(Tied) 5. Odd Taxi
Eccentric and blunt, the walrus Odokawa lives a relatively normal life. He drives a taxi for a living, and there he meets several unique individuals: the jobless Kabasawa who is dead-set on going viral, the mysterious nurse Shirakawa, the struggling comedic duo “Homo Sapiens,” and Dobu, a well-known delinquent.
But Odokawa’s simple way of life is about to be turned upside-down. The case of a missing girl the police have been tracking leads back to him, and now both the yakuza and a duo of corrupt cops are on his tail. Set in a strangely familiar city filled with unusual individuals, Odd Taxi is a bizarre story about a humble taxi driver and the mystery of a lost high schooler.
(Tied) 5. Yurucamp△ Season 2
Having spent Christmas camping with her new friends, Rin Shima embarks on a solo-camping trip to see the New Year sunrise by the sea. All goes according to plan until unforeseen weather blocks the roads back home, making a return trip impossible. Rin, who is now stranded for a few days, is invited by Nadeshiko Kagamihara to stay at her grandmother’s house.
What is supposed to be a two-day trip becomes an extended period of sightseeing and new experiences for Rin, and she encounters some new and old faces along the way. Yuru Camp△ Season 2 continues the story of Rin, Nadeshiko, and their friends as they further explore the joys of camping.
4. Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song
When highly evolved AIs set out to eradicate mankind, the carnage that ensues fills the air with the stench of fresh blood and burning bodies. In a desperate bid to prevent the calamity from ever occurring, a scientist bets everything on a remnant from the past.
Turning the clock back a hundred years, AIs are already an integral part of human society, programmed with specific missions meant to be carried out for their entire course of operation. Vivy, the first ever autonomous AI, is a songstress tasked with spreading happiness through her voice. In a theme park where she hardly ever gets a proper audience, she strives to pour her heart out into her performances, bound to repeat it day after day—that is, until an advanced AI from the future appears before her and enlists her help in stopping a devastating war a hundred years in the making. With no time to process the revelation that flips her world upside down, Vivy is catapulted into a century-long journey to avert the violent history yet to come.
3. Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time
Shinji Ikari is still adrift after losing his will to live, but the place he arrives at teaches him what it means to hope. Finally, the Instrumentality Project is set in motion and Wille make one last grueling stand to prevent the Final Impact.
Fourteen years after the Third Impact, the Earth is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, human civilization is in ruins, and the people Shinji Ikari knows are almost unrecognizable. Trapped inside Evangelion Unit-01, he is recovered from space by Asuka Langley Shikinami and Mari Illustrious Makinami, only to find himself a prisoner of WILLE, a military faction led by his former guardian Misato Katsuragi. Cold and bitter, his former allies view him with suspicion and refuse to support him as he comes to terms with the consequences of his actions.
A hurt and confused Shinji is rescued from WILLE by Rei Ayanami and returned to NERV headquarters. There, he meets and quickly befriends the enigmatic Kaworu Nagisa, who offers him warmth and insight into the state of NERV’s war with the Angels. But Shinji and Kaworu’s brief respite lies on the eve of a new battle, one in which Shinji finds that his enemies are no longer Angels but former comrades. In this bitter confrontation to determine the future of the world, Shinji will learn first-hand that the past truly cannot be undone.
2. Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu
Despite being bullied, scorned, and oppressed all of his life, a thirty-four-year-old shut-in still found the resolve to attempt something heroic—only for it to end in a tragic accident. But in a twist of fate, he awakens in another world as Rudeus Greyrat, starting life again as a baby born to two loving parents.
Preserving his memories and knowledge from his previous life, Rudeus quickly adapts to his new environment. With the mind of a grown adult, he starts to display magical talent that exceeds all expectations, honing his skill with the help of a mage named Roxy Migurdia. Rudeus learns swordplay from his father, Paul, and meets Sylphiette, a girl his age who quickly becomes his closest friend.
As Rudeus’ second chance at life begins, he tries to make the most of his new opportunity while conquering his traumatic past. And perhaps, one day, he may find the one thing he could not find in his old world—love.
1. Uma Musume: Pretty Derby Season 2
Within the horse-racing world, the horse girls of Team Spica have been gaining popularity as they continue to rack up victories. The one receiving the most attention in the group is Toukai Teiou, known for her cheerful personality and exceptional running skills. Teiou aims to become an undefeated Triple Crown horse girl by winning all three G1 races consecutively, a feat that has not been accomplished since the legendary Symbolic Rudolf managed to do so many years ago.
On her path to obtaining the Triple Crown, Teiou is met with many challenges, encountering both old and new rivals. Amidst her fierce rivalries, however, Teiou is soon confronted with decisions that will leave a huge impact on her very own racing career.
Where there any surprising anime on the list? How does it compare to your own top 20 of the year?