What’s the best anime to watch in 2021? You might be surprised by the sheer number of options you have right at your fingertips. From the best anime websites such as Crunchyroll, Netflix, and GogoAnime, to the different KissAnime alternatives alternatives available, finding even older titles has also become much easier.
Aside from anime series, we’ll also give you a few recommendations when it comes to the best anime movies for 2021. With the recent release of Demon Slayer Movie: Mugen Train, we’re sure you’re looking for more! From anime classics to new favorites, here is our list of the 35 best anime to watch in 2021.
Best Romance Anime
Whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day with a special someone or Galentine’s day with a bunch of friends, romance anime can add a bit more color to the special day. Here are our top picks!
Howl’s Moving Castle
This Japanese fantasy animated film from Studio Ghibli is considered a classic by many fans. The animation studio is known for creating some of the best anime characters and Howl’s Moving Castle is no exception. Released back in 2004, it follows the adventures of Sophie and Howl, along with their entire motley crew. While not marketed as a romance anime, the budding relationship between the protagonists certainly added more color to this already beautiful story. It’s not too surprising that many consider it one of the best anime movies of all time.
Your Lie in April
Released back in 2014, this coming-of-age romance anime shows just how much music can actually impact our lives. It’s got all the hallmarks of your usual romance film, with the kind of magic animation can only produce. If you’re looking for a feel-good movie to watch on Gogoanime or KissAnime with your pals during Galentine’s Day, include this one on your list.
The thing about this anime series that stands out the most is how it handles the subject of love and friendship in a mature way. Unlike other stories that mostly deal with the courtship phase of a romance, Nana tackles themes like friendship, heartbreak, love, and lust. It’s a must-see for those looking for something different. Aside from the storyline, they also put great thought into the music for it. It features some of the best anime songs on our list.
The best romance anime often go hand in hand with action. This rings true for the epic adventure series Inuyasha. It follows the story of the titular half-dog demon and of Kagome, a young girl who time travels back to the past and by a twist of fate, meets him. The romance aspect of this series is slow-burn, but every cute moment between the two is worth waiting for.
Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers)
The name alone is likely to ring a bell, but unlike the multiple live-action adaptations that this 90s anime has had, nothing beats the original. Consider it the blueprint for all other teen dramas centered on a poor but strong-willed girl who the richest boy in school falls for. Sure, it might sound cliché, but trust us when we say that this is one of the best shoujo anime you’ll watch.
Best Action Anime
If fight scenes and adventure are more your speed, there are plenty of anime series to choose from. From old titles to the newest ones, here are some to add to your anime list.
Bungo Stray Dogs
If it’s action you’re looking for, then there are plenty of anime shows to choose from. One of the most popular at the moment is Bungo Stray Dogs, which is based on the manga by Kafka Asagiri. It’s got a host of interesting characters, each with their own unique backstory. The plot is a great balance between serious action and dark humor. Combine that with the beautifully animated fight scenes and you’ve got the formula for a hit. It’s also worth noting that this show has some of the best anime villains you’ll encounter.
Attack On Titan
Attack on Titan or AoT premiered in 2013 and has maintained a cult following since. This dark fantasy anime series was adapted from a manga by Hajime Isayama. What makes this anime stand out, aside from the animation itself, is the story. Imagine living in an apocalyptic world where, aside from obvious challenges such as hunger and lack of supplies, you also have to contend with literal man-eating titans. It features some of the best anime fights, making it a truly thrilling watch.
My Hero Academia
In a world where superpowers are the norm, what happens if you’re the odd one out? Izuku Midoriya dreams of becoming a superhero, but having been born without any special abilities, it seems nothing more than a pipe dream for the young boy. That is until Izuku gets recruited by the world’s greatest hero who also shares his powers with him. It is among the best shounen anime titles out there, which adults would be able to enjoy as well.
Another shounen classic, Naruto premiered back in 2002 and instantly became a huge hit. Even to this day, it has maintained the same level of popularity. The story follows Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja, who is on a quest to become the Hokage. There’s plenty of action and a cast of memorable characters. It might seem geared towards kids more, but it also features some of the best anime fights.
One Punch Man
Next up, we have another cult fave among anime fans. One Punch Man follows the story of Saitama who has a powerful punch but has grown bored of the lack of challenge from opponents given his immense strength. In fact, he is a superhero not because he feels a civic duty to help, but because it’s entertaining for him. Aside from being action-packed, this is also one of the best comedy anime you’ll watch thanks to the often dark humor used in the episodes. It’s definitely a must-see for newbies in the anime community as well.
Best Isekai Anime
Isekai basically refers to a genre of anime that centers on a person from Earth who is transported to another realm or parallel universe. There are many anime that focus on this particular theme, ranging from lighthearted and comedic stories to ones with a darker and more serious undertone. Here are some of the best Isekai anime on our list.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
The name is telling enough of what to expect from this anime. It follows the story of the Joestar family, whose members are gifted with powers and are destined to fight supernatural enemies using it. This anime series is divided into different chapters that each follow a different member of the family. It has everything you might expect, mixing comedy, action, and fantasy all in one program. Don’t take our word for it, though, and give this one a try. It’s the best anime to watch if you’re looking for something different and unpredictable.
Sword Art Online
Here’s one of the best action anime for gamers! If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to be transported into the world of the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) you’ve been playing, then look no further than Sword Art Online. It follows the story of Kirito and his adventures after becoming trapped in a virtual world. Now he’s left to fend for himself or risk losing, and actually dying, in real life. The thrilling story coupled with stunning animation will keep your eyes glued to the screen. If you want to watch this popular anime, check out Netflix, Hulu, or Crunchyroll.
The Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Who would want to live life again as a slime? Well, this is the story of Satoru Mikami who ends up getting reborn as one. He isn’t just any ordinary slime, however. Under the new name Rimuru Tempest, he becomes one of the most powerful protagonists on our anime list—capable of absorbing the skills and powers of whatever he consumes. He might have been a slime, but Rimuru is particularly popular among fans and was even voted the best anime protagonist for 2019 on Crunchyroll. We think it should have also gotten the award for the best anime to watch when depressed.
We can’t talk about Isekai and not mention one of the most beloved films in this genre. Spirited Away is another masterpiece from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It was one of the first Isekai films to have gained popularity around the world. Aside from being one of the most visually stunning animated movies, the story and its host of memorable characters make it a must-see even if you’re not a big anime fan. It is also one of the best dubbed anime, though some might prefer to watch it in the original language.
Magic Knight Rayearth
It might be an older title, but Magic Knight Rayearth was among the most popular anime series of the nineties. The series follows the story of three girls who get transported from modern-day Japan to a parallel universe where they are then tasked with the job of rescuing a princess. It might be compared to another anime with a similar theme, but Magic Knight Rayearth’s introduction of mecha anime to the magical girl genre is unique to its storyline.
Best Slice of Life Anime
When we think of slice of life anime, we often picture the more idyllic and sometimes mundane aspect of everyday living. While such can be quaint to watch, there are many anime series that elevate the genre to a new level by introducing elements that keep viewers invested in the characters and their stories. Here are some of our favorites!
The story of Violet Evergarden has to be one of the most emotional among today’s anime shows in quite a while. It follows the story of our protagonist, Violet, who is an orphaned former soldier and treated as more of a weapon instead of a human. After the war ends, she ends up becoming an “auto memory doll” or a letter writer at a postal company. It might be set in an alternate universe, but its themes of love, loss, starting over, and adventure will resonate with every viewer. What is the best anime on Netflix? Many would agree that this counts as one. Once you’re done with the anime, check out the Violet Evergarden movie too!
Can you still remember your high school crush and all the silly things you did to get their attention? Well, this anime will surely make you reminisce. In this popular shoujo anime, classmates and neighbors Ryuuji and Taiga finally find something in common: they have a crush on the other’s best friend. As they help each other find love, the two become friends and eventually become closer than they once were. Set in a high school, this series delivers real-world struggles, adventures, and even a love-hate romance.
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Here’s another from Studio Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki truly has a knack for adding wonder even to the most mundane things. Considered to be one of the best anime movies, it follows the adventures of newbie witch, Kiki, who moves from her home in the countryside all the way to the big city. As customary for trainee witches, she has to learn how to be independent while also navigating her new home. It’s a coming-of-age tale with a dose of magic, friendship, and many memorable characters sprinkled throughout. Even adults will find this one magical.
This next anime is about as “slice of life” as it gets, but isn’t without its adorable and learning moments. K-On! follows the story of Yui Hirasawa, a high school student who ends up joining her school’s light music club despite not being able to play any instruments. All the girls in the club don’t mind this, however, and they all work together to help her out—along with doing other fun stuff such as throwing tea parties and even raising money for instruments. What is the best anime for younger audiences? This one is a must! It’s all light-hearted fun, which makes it easy to watch.
Five Centimeters per Second
Looking for movies like Your Name and Weathering With You? Try this one next! It is considered by many to be one of Makoto Shinkai’s masterpieces. The animation is beautiful, but it’s the story that will move any viewer. Five Centimeters per Second follows Takaki Tonoo and Akari Shinohara, inseparable fourth-graders who are bonded by their love for books. All is well in their little bubble until their families relocate and they slowly begin to drift apart. It is the best anime to watch if you’re feeling sentimental.
Best Horror Anime
From the heartwarming, we move on to the downright frightening. Aside from the best horror movies, there are also plenty of horror anime series produced throughout the years that are on par with them. If you’re up for a scare, try watching some of these!
Hell Girl (Jigoku Shojo)
First on our list is Hell Girl or Girl from Hell by Hiroshi Watanabe. It premiered back in 2005, over 15 years ago, but still maintains cult status among anime fans. It follows the story of Ai Enma who is basically death personified. Through a Hell Correspondence website, people can send her requests to kill an enemy or someone they just want out of their lives. Of course, this contract comes with a price: the requester’s soul. She might be terrifying, but did you know that Ai Enma has been voted as one of the best anime girls multiple times?
If you don’t have the stomach for gore then you might want to skip this one. Psycho-Pass is a cyberpunk psychological thriller that deals with many mature themes. Violence is almost inevitable in every episode, though the story itself goes much deeper than that. The anime questions whether people are inherently good or bad, and if a person’s tendency to commit a crime can be measured by science. If you can get past the more graphic elements, you’ll find one of the best horror anime storylines in recent years.
The Promised Neverland
Perhaps the truly scary thing about this next anime series is the fact that you don’t see the horror coming. It is set in 2045, a thousand years after the truce between humans and demons. Instead, farms have been set up so that human offerings can be bred as offerings to feed the demons. The idea is terrible, but it gets even worse when you realize that these farms are made to appear as orphanages and the kids have no clue what purpose they serve. The show is considered one of the best new anime as well.
Much like Psycho-Pass, Tokyo Ghoul’s horror comes in the graphic elements of the story. This popular anime is set in an alternate reality where ghouls, man-eating creatures of the dark, live in secrecy among the human population. Some of them hide their true nature and avoid killing just to survive, but there are those who do murder and spread terror across the cities. Like the manga, the anime series follows Ken Kaneki who accidentally gets turned into a ghoul, and has to deal with the transformation and the growing hunger within him. Are the monsters really that bad or are humans much worse? You’ll have to watch this one to find out!
What could be scarier than Death Gods and a teenage boy who gains the power to kill anyone just by writing their names on a notebook? This anime series is one part supernatural horror and one part police procedural as authorities try to figure out who is behind the killings of convicted criminals. It’s also got a motley crew of characters, and pits humans against Shinigamis in a battle of wits. Considering the depth of its story and plot twists, we’re not surprised that it is considered one of the best anime shows of all time.
Best Fantasy Anime
If there’s one thing that Japanese anime does best, it’s fantasy. These types of stories can come in many different forms. From magical girls to old gods taking on human forms, here’s our recommendations for the best fantasy anime.
For 90s anime fans, this series is iconic. Not only does it have one of the best anime openings, it is also considered by many to be the blueprint for similar magical girl anime that followed. Sailor Moon follows the story of Usagi Tsukino, Ami Mizuno, Rei Hino, Makoto Kino, and Minako Aino who become protectors of the Earth against forces of evil. The anime chronicles their fantastical adventures and all the colorful characters they meet along the way. The original anime had a seven year run and was followed by a number of movie sequels, including a live-action series in 2003.
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress
It’s humans against zombies in this popular anime series set during an alternate retelling of Japan’s Industrial Revolution. The Kabane are aggressive and undead creatures who cannot be defeated unless their hearts are pierced. What remains of humanity has built fortress-like stations to keep the Kabane away. We follow Ikoma and Munei, who are both part Kabane but have retained their human consciousness, as they travel from one station to another in hopes of helping other survivors. The series is as thrilling as it sounds and spawned a sequel considered by many to be one of the best anime movies in recent years.
A Whisker Away
Looking for some of the best anime characters? A Whisker Away delivers many. Miyo Sasaki gains the ability to transform into a cat after receiving a magic mask from a seller. In her cat form, she gets to visit her crush Hinode, and become close to him. So much so that Miyo begins to think that, perhaps, life as a cat is much better than being human. As they say, “be careful what you wish for” because Miyo soon comes to regret her decision. Will it be too late for her? You’ll have to watch this anime to find out.
The misadventures of Monkey D. Luffy and his friends have quite the following around the world. The fight scenes have a lot of exciting energy to them and the humor will certainly tickle your funny bones. It isn’t your average pirate adventure either! One Piece might seem like it’s marketed for young kids at first glance, but it is enjoyable for people of all ages. It is considered one of the best comedy anime ever produced.
We’re talking about the original 90s anime adaptation of Berserk, along with the three Berserk: Golden Age films. As you might already know, the story follows Guts, the captain of the Bank of the Hawk. While fighting with his crew in the frontlines, they encounter terrifying new enemies—demons—who are as deadly as their human opponents. It is one of the best fighting anime series thanks to the beautiful animation, the memorable characters, and the story’s often unexpected depth.
Best Ecchi Anime – Rosario to Vampire
Ecchi is a slang term that is used to describe playfully sexual actions. In manga and anime, it refers to a subgenre of content that depicts sexual themes and imagery in a light or cute manner. It features skimpy costumes, provocative moments, and plenty of fanservice.
If you’re looking for the best adult anime, Rosario to Vampire is a must-see. The show is set in a Youkai academy where monsters of all sorts learn how to coexist with human beings. They attend classes, make friends, and do so while in their human form. The only rule? No actual humans allowed. Well, that is until Tsukune Aono ends up enrolling there and falls for the vampire Moka Akashiya.
Best Sports Anime – Haikyuu!!
Whether you’re a volleyball fan or not, Haikyuu!! has something to offer. This is the best anime to watch when depressed and looking for a bit of extra motivation when it comes to achieving your dreams. Our main protagonist, Shoyo Hinata, might be small in stature but he has big dreams. The anime follows his story to becoming a great volleyball player and all the challenges he, and his team, overcome along the way. It currently has four seasons for you to enjoy!
Best Mecha Anime – Ghost in the Shell
Based on a seinen manga of the same title, Ghost in the Shell is one of the best mecha anime in recent years. Sure, we’ve seen classics such as Gundam and Voltes V, but in terms of story and depth our vote goes to this one. Motoko Kusanagi, our protagonist, gets turned into a cyborg following a near-fatal accident. While she is in full control of her cyberbrain, it is prone to attacks from skilled hackers who can make people like Motoko bend to their whims. With all the recent advancements in A.I. tech, this anime gives us a glimpse to what a future with cyborgs and androids might be like.
Best Harem Anime (Reverse Harem!) – Ouran High School Host Club
Harem anime is a genre where the male protagonist is surrounded by multiple potential love interests. There may be plenty of harem anime out there, but our personal favorite is actually a reverse harem. The opposite of harem, reverse harem is when the female protagonist is liked by many male characters. A classic in this genre is 2006’s Ouran High School Host Club. The show chronicles the misadventures of Haruhi Fujioka, a newly enrolled student at Ouran Academy. Haruhi ends up getting a job as a full-time host after getting mistaken for a male student by members of the club. The best bit? That’s just the start of our protagonist’s complicated school life.
Best Comedy Anime – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
This anime series follows the seemingly ordinary life of high school student Haruhi Suzumiya and her SOS Brigade. Unlike other teens her age, however, Haruhi is rather eccentric and often gets into all sorts of misadventures. That’s not the only thing “different” about her, though. Unbeknownst to everyone, her SOS Brigade is actually comprised of an alien, an esper, and a time traveler who were tasked with watching over her. Their mission? Make sure she doesn’t end up destroying the world and creating a new one by accident!
Whether you’re into cute romance anime or horror anime, you’ll find some of the best anime series on our list. You might be surprised to know that some of the popular titles today are over a decade old. This includes the likes of Sailor Moon and Naruto. It just proves that good stories rarely ever age. We think that’s one of the hallmarks of a really good anime, right?
We hope this anime list helped you find new favorites or rediscover old ones. With most of us spending more time indoors, take a bit of time off and watch some of these as a form of self-care too.