The 10 best anime of summer 2021

Narrowing down what anime to watch in a given season can be a formidable task. While it would be great to be the type with the foresight to deem which series are worth dedicating time to with each season, it’s much easier to give shows a few episodes to burn through before making a decision, lest you be disappointed later when the following installments fail to live up to the initial promise. We looked back at our summer and picked our ten favorite anime that either debuted or aired and while we’d love to say that between the two of us we managed to see it all, that’s an impossible prospect. We did the best we could though and, along with others, we have the second seasons of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a SlimeMiss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and Megalo Box: Nomad queued up, along with the new series The Case Study of Vanitas. It’s already been a tremendous year for anime and, as we’ve all learned in the past year or so (for new-ish viewers at least) the medium can be one of the finest means of escape out there. 

Check out our favorite anime of summer 2021 below and where to watch them. 

P.A. Works

The Aquatope on White Sand (Crunchyroll)

The Aquatope on White Sand is gorgeous, both in its presentation and its deceivingly simple premise. The series cleverly makes you grow attached first to its setting before even setting up the actual show—so when you learn this slice-of-life series centers around saving a failing aquarium, you’re already plenty invested. This mission also is a lesson in healing for the disgraced idol Fūka, who is presented genuinely and with familiarity for anyone who’s had to decide what they’re going to do next with their life. The series ends up a great companion piece to Remake Our Life’s looking back for a new direction and this show’s focus on moving forward. Really though, it’s the stellar visuals from P.A. Works that tie Aquatope together with the perfect symbolic and stunning opening and ending credits to deliver a stellar package for the 2021 season. Aquatope also stands out for having a pure agent of chaos character wandering in the background, keep an eye out for them, they’re impossible to hate. [Travis Hymas]

Production I.G.

Fena: Pirate Princess (Crunchyroll, Adult Swim)

The combined forces of Production I.G, Crunchyroll, and Adult Swim have delivered one of the year’s strongest visual presentations—a difficult club to join. After escaping the brothel she was trapped in, the titular Fena sets off with a crew of deadly warriors to explore the outside world and solve the mystery of her life before now, guided only by a clear stone left behind by her father. Fena has only aired a scant few episodes so a lot of the larger world and its mysteries are only beginning to show themselves, but Fena leans hard on the secondary cast and their resources to keep you from noticing too much. Being an original series, Fena benefits from keeping some cards close for now. Bonus points to this series for managing to avoid getting gross about the experiences Fena could be having at the start of the series – looking at youIdaten Deities. [TH]

Tezuka Productions

Girlfriend, Girlfriend (Crunchyroll)

Very rarely will you see an anime try to put the thesis of a 20-second YouTube video to the test? Yet, that pretty much sums up the initial setup of Girlfriend, Girlfriend, a romantic comedy that tries to solve the harem genre with a hit of polyamory. While Girlfriend, Girlfriend isn’t afraid to pull on every harem trope in the book, the centering of enthusiastic Naoya, naive Nagisa, and hot-headed Saki genuinely trying to make their relationship work gives a new perspective to a relatively well-worn story. Girlfriend, Girlfriend does tread into genuinely goofy territory a lot, but these three polyam-newbies are enduring and the series does make you want to root for them to make it work. Polyamory doesn’t get good representation in much media, so seeing a series tackle the subject with at least a somewhat genuine desire to depict such relationships reasonably is a breath of fresh air, even if the material it’s working with is pretty familiar otherwise. [TH]

Studio Blanc

Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan (Funimation)

If you too have mourned the loss of the marvelously odd The Disastrous Life of Saiki K, the similarly paced, cynical slice of life series Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan will perfectly fill that void. The series primarily follows Uramichi Omota, the gymnast Oniisan for a children’s television show along with his co-workers and their daily grind to keep up their faux enthusiasm for the sake of their young audience all the while enduring a grueling work schedule, demanding bosses, and a lifestyle that enables burnout over “quitting.” It’s frank and hilarious in its depiction of millennial ennui, especially in an unsatisfactory workplace environment. With the slice of life storytelling framework, it means we get to barrel through multiple snapshot plots for each episode and while there’s an abundance of situational humor and characters who are inherently there to be the butt of the joke, the show sneaks in just enough moments of wisdom or moments of friendship between characters that give it enough depth so that while we’re laughing at the characters and they’re hijinks each week, we also are growing to care about them. [Ally Johnson]

Read Now: The 11 Best Anime of 2021 so far


My Hero Academia (Hulu) 

With all of the newly airing shows on the list, My Hero Academia may at first seem like a cheap pick (though we genuinely love it) but it’s on this list not for the entirety of season five—though solid—but because of the second cour which has largely been phenomenal. Though I’m sure there will be some manga readers frustrated with how little screen time certain threads have gotten so far, as a primary anime viewer it’s been fantastic amounts of fun to watch as pieces are being set in place to hint at the looming, destructive future for our heroes. From Hawks leaving hints for Endeavor regarding potential threats, to finally seeing what the villains lead by Shigaraki have been up to and to a truly stellar and season standout episode that dives into Eraserhead’s backstory and his friend from his past that met a seemingly untimely end, My Hero Academia with the back half of season five is once again upping the stakes. With how low stakes and easy-going the school festival and joint training arcs were, it’s both refreshing and foreboding to witness the tonal turn the series has once again taken, and we couldn’t be happier. The only downside is how long we will likely have to wait for season six. [AJ]


Re-Main (Funimation) 

There is no shortage of sports anime —so many that it could make up its own list with titles such as Haikyu!!Run with the WindTsuurne and Stars Align all being worthy mentions for a whole host of reasons. It’s what makes any new show in that genre come with such immediate baggage—because for all the good there’s plenty more forgotten. Re-Main, at the very least so far, has managed to bypass any obvious missteps by allowing the original anime series to be genuinely funny since the start. It isn’t often where an anime about an amnesiac who has forgotten the sport he loves will allow comedy to prevail and yet, this is the charm of the show. We still aren’t convinced it can and/or will measure up to some of its contemporaries, but with an eclectic group of characters and under MAPPA some gorgeously rendered animation, it’s at the very least worth checking out to see if the story or characters latch on. [AJ]



Remake Our Life (Crunchyroll)

Usually, when I’m writing for TYF, it’s under the video game banner. Naturally, that means Remake Our Life’s initial setup is totally my bag. Hashiba Kyouya is a 28-year old game developer completely burned out by the harsh realities and lack of reward often found in the industry. After hitting rock bottom and thinking back to ten years ago when he passed up a chance to go to the same art school as some of the hottest game designers in the business, he wakes up at that exact moment with a chance to give it another try. It’s here that Remake does a solid job of reflecting the creative process itself in the ups and downs experienced by the starry-eyed art students. Remake did originate as a light novel, so it’s more interested in the slice-of-life and tame-yet-lewd interludes than its choice in themes, but those themes are there nonetheless, and it’s that background that makes Remake a compelling enough watch. [TH]


Shaman King 2021 (Netflix) 

Twenty years after its original airing, Shaman King returns to animation with the goal of giving the series the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood treatment. All in all, Shaman King lives up to that comparison in every way. This version loses some of the early 2000’s charm but it gets more efficient pacing and sense of identity in exchange. Even so, the anime isn’t ashamed of its past either, with several cast members and musicians brought back at the behest of series creator Hiroyuki Takei, who previously declined this exact project if that request couldn’t be fulfilled. By connecting the past to its own future, Shaman King leans that much more into the series of themes of the same nature. It’s hard to not get a bit hyped up when the original opening theme song cuts through in one of the early arc’s biggest moments—something that even the FMA redo never tried. On top of that, being sent to Netflix jail doesn’t seem to have hurt the series. Eyecatchers and title cards are preserved in full and getting to watch the chunk of Shaman King that the first anime already adapted faithfully as a single release gets us that much closer to the bulk of the Shaman Fight—and the series “true ending.” [TH]


Sonny Boy (Hulu) 

From the mind of Shingo Natsume, the director of One Punch Man, comes Sonny Boy, one of the most thrillingly inexplicable shows of 2021. An original anime that doesn’t rely on existing material and is made all the more ludicrously genre-defying because of it, it begins with a group of students left afloat in time, confined by a black abyss. The premise promises a Lord of the Flies type of energy and while it does play within those confines, it’s greater still because it doesn’t linger there. Rather, Sonny Boy refuses to answer almost any of the questions it sets up by refusing to tell the story in a linear fashion. Instead, one week will focus on a murder mystery, the next a post-apocalyptic survivor story, and the next and entire episode dedicated to the history of “ape baseball.” The series challenges itself by deconstructing the “chosen one” archetype by having its lead character be the potential catalyst for the trouble they’ve found themselves in rather than a savior. It’s also simply uncomfortably beautiful to take in, with its thick, crude line art, the lack of score, and the considerable talent of Hisashi Eguchi, best known for working on Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, on character art. It’s a triumph of a series thus far and we can only hope it sticks the landing. [AJ]

Liden Films

Tokyo Revengers (Crunchyroll) 

What a befuddling and at times off-putting show. Directed by Koichi Hatsumi and based on the manga from Ken Wakui, this time-traveling shōnen series manages to create instant intrigue through both its familiar and disarming story beats. There’s the well-trodden paths of an eclectic group of friends stuck in unfortunate circumstances, the girl who needs to be saved, and the character duos who act as one another’s foils for potential tragedy. But then, throwing it off-kilter, there’s also a somewhat unlikeable and feeble leading character, exaggerated facial animation, and protagonists that we’re not sure if we’re meant to root for or not. This isn’t even touching the time travel aspect which, with shows such as Erased aren’t so much a novel concept but the way it’s used here to show our lead character at his more pathetic modern version to his past, more assured self is to great comedic effect. It won’t instantly rope you in emotionally, but with each episode, you’ll find it harder and harder to not just binge what’s currently available. [AJ]



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