I haven’t decided if 2021 was better than 2020. It feels like it was an improvement, but I’m worried I’ve actually just grown numb to living through a pandemic and witnessing the decline of modern civilization… THAT SAID, maybe anime was better in 2021? We had some really outstanding series, and spring season was arguably the best block of anime we’ve seen in years.
And so it is time once again to look back at the very GLORIO anime that aired in 2021, starting with a list of my favorite anime moments. Stick around all week as the rest of the GLORIO crew shares their thoughts on the year, leading up to naming our top 10 anime of the year. Everyone likes lists, right? So make sure you check it out.
Shameless Product Placement
Super Cub All Episodes
This is not so much one moment but many, many moments scattered throughout Super Cub. While the show itself is a slow paced, gentle slice of life series, they never miss an opportunity to shill for the titular motorcycle. It reaches a climax in the final arc when our main character Koguma rescues a friend, foregoing help from emergency services or the girl’s parents, and gives all praise to the glorious Super Cub. It’s so shameless that I can’t help but respect the honesty, and the dash of silliness helps keep the series from feeling too dry.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S Episode 12
Yes, they get married at the end, there’s no room for interpretation. Don’t come at me with any arguments otherwise. Despite my love/hate relationship with Dragon Maid, I have long claimed that Kobayashi and Tohru are the best couple that Kyoto Animation has ever put on screen. They have a surprisingly mature relationship, always trying to consider each other’s feelings and talking things out when they need to. The unconventional wedding at the end of the series is a perfect example of this, all of it being the result of Tohru doing her best to understand Kobayashi’s human feelings. Now if I can just forget the first three or four episodes happened…
Lenny’s Last Stand
Takt Op. Destiny Episode 10
While this is technically Lenny’s final battle, this moment is really about his partner, Titan. Her absurd neon orange character design and irrepressibly cheerful personality seem like an anomaly in this series, and yet when it’s time to get serious and the twin tails come down, she delivers. We all love an underdog, and seeing her stand up the main villain and live to tell about it is pretty satisfying. In fact, she surprisingly goes on to be the secret MVP of the final few episodes. I will definitely pull on her banner whenever the game comes out.
Nobara Plays Chicken
Jujutsu Kaisen Episode 24
Speaking of cool fight scenes, you know what’s bad ass? Catching a magic bullet. But you know what else is bad ass? Taunting your enemy while driving nails into your own arm, until one of you taps out from the pain. Nobara and Yuji’s final battle is one of many great fight scenes in the series’ second season, and a real testament to how good the show became once it found its footing.
Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song Episode 6
The assault on Metal Float is the perfect mid-season climax, leaving our heroes with a bittersweet victory that in some ways destroys Vivy. It’s also very cool. The image of Vivy riding a block of box shaped robots like a Minecraft airplane, dogfighting her way to the core, with her song playing in the background… it’s the kind of spectacle I’d expect to see in the best episodes of Macross. The series seems to have a lot of these big moments, as well as some good small ones too. It certainly ended up being one of the biggest surprises of the year.
The Taste of Rebellion
Beastars Episode 24
I don’t want to define Beastars solely by how absurd some of the scenes are. The solid, likable characters and good writing really give the series a soul. That said, there are some truly wild things that happen, which escalate in the final showdown between Legosi and Riz. I could write about how this is a powerful turning point for Legosi as he embraces his inner carnivore, but really we’re here because (spoilers) Legosi has to EAT Louis’ LEG to power up. It’s a ridiculous concept but somehow it all works, which is what Beastars specializes in.
Odd Taxi Episode 12
I love a good ambiguous ending. The details that lead up to final scene of the series are too complicated to explain in one paragraph, so let’s just say I have never been more terrified of a smiling little anime girl getting into the back of taxi. Odokawa is clearly in danger, but his fate is left to our imagination. I’d like to think this just leads him on another wild adventure through the strange but often too real world of Odd Taxi that we grew to love.
The Rising of the Shield Hero
Ranking of Kings Episode 9
Practically every scene in Ranking of Kings deserves to be on this list. It’s just that good, please go watch it. Unfortunately I have to pick one, so I’m going to go with Dorshe’s heroic defense of the queen in episode 9. It’s the perfect example of how Ranking of Kings does everything you could possibly want in an anime. On the surface, it’s an amazing fight scene brimming with creativity, superb animation, and general badassery, if that’s a word. But then you add the back story and character development that led up to this moment, it really makes you get up from your seat and cheer. With the series continuing into next season, I’m confident we’ll see it on this list again in 2022.
SSSS.Dynazenon Episode 7
Dynazenon is one of the rare examples of a sequel surpassing its predecessor. It does this by delivering one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. Not only are they all interesting characters on their own, the way they genuinely care about and support each other is incredibly endearing.
My favorite example of this is when Yume finally opens up to Yomogi about her sister, and he starts crying. He doesn’t offer any advice or solutions, in fact he says he doesn’t even know why he’s crying when asked. It’s just an involuntarily reaction when hearing about the pain his friend is going through. Depictions of true empathy and kindness feel very powerful to me in these dark times, and I think about this small moment more than anything when looking back at Dynazenon.
The Boy with the Flute
The Heike Story Episode 9
Atsumori’s final moments have been retold for hundreds of years, and this adaptation shows why. His death becomes the powerful climax of The Heike Story. Atsumori is a beautiful young boy that represents the honor and dignity that the Taira clan had in the past. Cutting him down is a fitting symbol for the end of the Heike, but it’s more than just that.
This adaptation of The Heike Story does a fantastic job displaying the humanity of the cast beyond the court intrigue and big battles. Through the magical eyes of Biwa, we see a family with their own joys and struggles like any other. It’s painful to watch their happiness destroyed by the bad decisions of a handful of petty old men. I pretty much had a lump in my throat through the entirety of the final three episodes. That said, it’s a fitting conclusion for a series this complex and emotionally compelling, and I would definitely consider The Heike Story one of the best anime of the year.