When it comes to guides writing, I often spend a lot of time listening to podcasts or watching television shows on my second monitor. When you’re on your third playthrough of Resident Evil: Village hunting for collectibles, it’s easy to get bored. I quickly learned that having additional entertainment can make the process much easier. Because of that, I have watched a lot of anime this year — some of which were good, and others less so. Since I typically shy away from the bigger shows like One Piece or Naruto, I often end up watching a lot of random anime that gets lost in all of the high-profile announcements, premieres, and additional seasons.
Keep in mind this isn’t a list solely of anime from 2021. These are just the anime I ended up watching throughout the year while writing some of the fast guides here at Fanbyte. So next time you need some background noise while collectible hunting, or just want to try (or avoid) a new anime, here are some of the best and worst anime I watched this year.
Go on get all the furry jokes out of your system. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. Better now?
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Beastars when I first started this anime. While the comparisons to Disney’s film Zootopia are inevitable, Beastars quickly carves its own path. Much of this is thanks to its willingness to explore darker subjects and question what life would be like if predators and prey were living alongside one another. At its core, this is a high school drama filled with love triangles, betrayals, mentors, and all the shenanigans you’d expect a bunch of teenagers to get into. Yet, it’s the terrific writing, voice acting, and remarkable amount of world-building that kept me invested throughout the two available seasons.
Bungo Stray Dogs
I’m cheating a bit because I pretty much watch this anime all the time and will take any moment to gush about it. Bungo Stray Dogs is a supernatural action/drama that revolves around the Armed Detective Agency and a young man named Atsushi. In this world, some people are born with gifts, special powers that let them summon items by just writing them down in a notebook or controlling the flow of gravity around their body.
While this certainly crafts some unique fight scenes, Bungo Stray Dogs doesn’t lean on these big action set pieces to carry the story and your engagement throughout its three seasons. Even the powers themselves rarely ever get to the level of something you’d see in more popular anime like My Hero Academia, Naruto, or Jujutsu Kaisen. They’re weird and often heavily limited in what they can do, which makes some of the battles even more thrilling.
But Bungo Stray Dogs is more than well-animated brawls, as it tells a fantastic crime story about a feud between the detective agency and an organization called the Port Mafia. Despite the large cast, the show takes time to explore who these people are and their motives. We even get some incredible side stories in the second and third seasons that flesh out the backstories and relationships of some key characters. If you’re looking for an action anime that’s a bit different and prioritizes good storytelling over spectacle, then you should absolutely give this show a try.
Baki is such a weird anime. At its core, it’s all about fighting, martial arts, and overly long monologues about the history of whatever technique a specific character is about to unleash. And while the show can easily be summed up as “just guys being dudes,” it’s ultimately about the relationship between Baki and his cruel father, Yuujiro “Ogre” Hanma. This is something the first few seasons of Baki forget, as the show often devolves into a series of fights between supporting characters for several episodes at a time. The newest season, Baki Hanma, corrects this by solely following Baki as he goes to prison to become a tougher combatant.
It’s an absolutely ridiculous premise, expanded on further when you realize why Baki is thrown into jail and what famous real-world fighter is living there. The entire show is nonsense, but it’s thankfully self-aware. One of the opening episodes has Baki battling an imaginary eight-feet-tall praying mantis in front of a small child who recalls this is just like how Iron Mike Tyson fought. I honestly don’t know if I can fully express to you how silly this show is. But god, I love every second of it.
Moriarty: The Patriot
As my current obsession, Moriarty: The Patriot is quickly rocketing itself to the top of my favorite anime list. Centering around author Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters, this anime is all about the soon-to-be “Napoleon of Crime,” James Moriarty. Following the villain as he attempts to liberate London from the higher class, Moriarty: The Patriot blends elements of its detective source material with other anime like Death Note. Moriarty is a superb lead, walking a fine line between being likable and never losing sight of being the story’s main villain.
Things really heat up once more characters from Doyle’s works begin emerging, creating a twisting web of intricate plans and relationships. This is an anime I strongly urge you to watch in English since almost all the characters are from the United Kingdom (and voice actor Aaron Dismuke absolutely nails Moriarty). It also makes the bold decision to ask, “What if Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters were all hot, actually?” I really appreciate that.
Seriously, please go watch this show if you’re itching for a good crime anime that focuses more on characters than fighting or action.
When it comes to horror anime, one of my biggest pet peeves is the over-reliance on gore and brutality to convey a sense of fear. While some shows like Monster, Paranoia Agent, and Parasyte: The Maxim use violence more as punctuation, Terraformars just hits CAPSLOCK and smashes its bloody hands across the keyboard. Taking place in a future where a bunch of roaches have mutated into hulking humanoid monsters on Mars, we follow a group of scientists and soldiers attempting to eradicate these pests.
It’s a unique premise, but everything falls apart once the actual Terraformars are introduced. Setting aside the bugs’ questionable appearance, Terraformars almost solely focuses on showing us every character being brutally beaten to death or brutally beating the roaches to death. One neat gimmick is the crew members have to inject themselves with a special serum that gives the user properties of certain bugs or animals. This makes for some interesting fight scenes as you see characters use silk or giant crustacean claws to clobber their foes.
Yet, the problem lies in how almost the entire human cast of Terraformars is uninteresting or lacks any real sense of development. With the exception of one fighter with a pretty tragic backstory, the show never really slows down to allow us to learn or become invested in the survivors. Instead, most of them are killed off rather unceremoniously, which makes it difficult to grow attached to, well, anyone. Terraformars also just isn’t that scary or dread-inducing once you realize it’s basically repeating the same gimmick across two seasons.
Record of Ragnarok
Possibly one of the worst anime I’ve ever watched. On paper, the Record of Ragnarok sounds like it should absolutely be my jam. A bunch of gods from different cultures battling against history’s greatest fighters to save humanity in one big tournament. The show even starts out with a promising first episode that sets the stakes and introduces a bunch of different gods, all with rather unique designs. Then, the tournament begins and Record of Ragnarok has absolutely no fucking clue what to do with itself.
The battle scenes are comically bad, lacking any real sense of movement, drama, or excitement. Half of the fights feel like a bunch of still frames being shaken up and down to imply how intense something is. It’s utterly boring to watch, enhanced further by the boring way in which every battle plays out. Characters constantly unveil new super-powered moves in an attempt to one-up each other, which makes for simply messy and uninteresting fights.
We also don’t really spend a lot of time with our main character, a Valkyrie called Brunhilde. Sure, she watches the fight scenes and comments on them, but Record of Ragnarok refuses to give her character an ounce of development beyond liking humans and hating gods. But it’s not like the rest of the cast fairs any better, as every character is either insufferable or weighed down by the poor writing. Record of Ragnarok is a perfect example of how the tournament subgenre can absolutely lose itself and assume all you need to succeed is just showcase several hours of near non-stop action. If you really want to see a bunch of famous historical characters fight, just go watch Drifters instead.
Persona 5: The Animation
It’s not Persona 5. Just go play Persona 5 or watch a playthrough of it. I promise you it will be infinitely more engaging and entertaining.