The Best Anime of 2021 (So Far)

There's already plenty of great new anime to watch.


Coming off the back of a year riddled with delays and calendar reshuffling in literally every aspect of entertainment (and live-action movies and TV shows, in particular), the Winter 2021 anime season has come storming out of the gates. We were already excited about the continuation of series from last year, like the Crunchyroll Awards favorite Jujutsu Kaisen and the tail end of Attack on Titan‘s final season, but the new additions to the lineup of currently airing shows have been welcome, unexpected surprises. Luckily, watching these titles are more accessible than ever, with free tiers on Crunchyroll and Netflix producing its own originals (and licensing some recent hits). From the weird to the heartwarming, these are our favourite anime of the year so far.

Ajia-do Animation Works
Ajia-do Animation Works

6. Kemono Jihen

Release date: January 10
Director: Masaya Fujimori
A child of a human and an otherworldly creature, and seemingly abandoned by those parents, Kabane Kusaka is shunned by other children. They can tell something is different about him, which is accurate: There’s a demon inside of him. After encountering a supernatural private detective, Kabane is introduced into a world of kemono, or those who lurk in the shadows, involved with humans but undetected by them. The concept of being ostracised because of such perceived evil isn’t a particularly new idea, but Kemono Jihen tweaks this trope and its dark fantasy formula enough to be compelling viewing. Kabane is not exactly a wide-eyed idealist, nor super in touch with his feelings-his numbness to pain and insult is a chilling subversion of outsiders in the genre. In addition to its exploration of found family, the mix of folktale horror among the everyday calls to mind Bill Willingham’s comic Fables, both about the integration of old mythical creatures into contemporary society, with threads reaching into institutions of power. The show also wrings some grim imagery and macabre humour out of the fact that Kabane can’t die-shot, consumed by bugs, and even beheaded in the first few episodes. With the show going to such places while still only getting warmed up, it’ll be interesting to see where it lands.
Available on: animelab


5. Vlad Love

Release date: February 14
Director: Mamoru Oshii
After decades of heady philosophical science-fiction and fantasy, Vlad Love represents something of a palette cleanser for the veteran director Mamoru Oshii. After contemplations on everything from our bodily relationship to technology to man’s impulse to destroy, the show plays like a low stakes and often extremely stupid return to his roots, recalling his years of work on Urusei Yatsura in the ’80s. The show is quirky and off-the-wall in a way that Oshii’s work hasn’t been since that time, with hyperactive scenes full of strange meta-gags and non-sequiturs (look out for a scene interrupted for nearly a half-minute with Wikipedia descriptions of a bomber jet). That wall-to-wall silliness won’t work for everyone, but its bizarre digressions are constantly amusing, and Vlad Love makes for a kinetic return to the kind of playfully raunchy rom-com Oshii cut his teeth making. That nostalgia is extremely deliberate-those with a keen eye will spot visual references to his past works and series. It’s artful in its goofiness as well, with strange and subjective use of split-screen interpolated amongst soft, painterly backgrounds, courtesy of art director Kazuhiro Obata and background artist Yasutada Katou. Though the series’ sudden release has threatened to bury it, its high energy helps it stand out amidst an already packed winter season.
Available on: Crunchyroll


4. Jujutsu Kaisen

Release date: October 3, 2020
Director: Sunghoo Park
If you’ve watched any shonen anime, Jujutsu Kaisen often feels comfortably familiar. Its teenage outcast protagonist Yuuji Itadori housing an all-feared demon inside him (and his immature silver-haired, blindfolded mentor Satoru Gojo) recalls Naruto; the thin veil between humanity and demons and the invisible war between them recalls Yu Yu Hakusho. Its goofy supporting cast, spectacular fights, and can-do spirit feel part and parcel with its designation as battle anime. Where Jujutsu Kaisen‘s magic lies is in its knowing embrace of genre tropes, and then smartly subverting them, letting the audience think they’re in on what the show’s planning before veering sharply off-course. It’s also the rare shonen where women are portrayed with as much complexity and forcefulness as men, something that came to a head in a recent standout episode that explores the characters’ psychology through perfectly choreographed brawls. Jujutsu Kaisen isn’t reinventing the wheel, and more often than not living up to the straightforwardness of its title (translating to “Sorcerer Fight”). It’s still squarely focused on big fights and supernatural horror, but it’s a canny modernisation of a tried-and-true formula, one that continues to satisfy week after week.
Available on: Crunchyroll 


3. Horimiya

Release date: January 9
Director: Masashi Ishihama
An isolated and intense young man, Izumi Miyamura doesn’t grab much positive attention from his high school classmates, nor does he try to. This all changes in a chance encounter with his popular classmate Kyoko Hori outside of school, where both discover that their first impressions of each other couldn’t have been more wrong. Though the manga on which the anime is based has been running for years, Horimiya wastes no time in building the romantic overtures between the two, focusing on the emotional consequences of their relationship rather than merely the step-by-step buildup. It’s a double-edged sword, as its breakneck pacing (the director has only a single season to work with) can feel disorientating. But it’s salvaged by its elliptical approach to storytelling, viewing Miyamura and Hori’s burgeoning relationship as a collection of different moments rather than a will they/won’t they courtship. As a result, it feels like a more naturalistic, but no less touching approach to romance. Horimiya is more than worth watching simply for its visuals and character art, perfectly emphasising moments of quiet intimacy, loneliness, and self-doubt.
Available on: animelab


2. Sk8 the Infinity

Release date: January 10
Director: Hiroko Utsumi
An original sports anime directed by former Kyoto Animation staffer Hiroko Utsumi (Banana Fish), on its face, Sk8 the Infinity is equal parts radical and ridiculous, and full of the emotional acuity and gentle, good-natured humour that you’d expect from someone whose visual and directorial sensibilities stemmed from work on K-On! and Nichijou. It’s full of vivid, contrasting colour and high energy, and simply just great fun from the jump as it depicts a group of hardcore skaters participating in a secret, no-holds-barred downhill skateboarding competition in an abandoned mine, known as S. But it finds surprising emotional grounding through the relationship between Reki Kyan, a high school sophomore, who introduces new transfer student Langa Hasegawa to skateboarding. Like the best sports anime, Sk8 the Infinity builds interesting rapport between competitors and allies alike, with implicit tension between Reki and Langa as the former begins to feel insecure about how quickly his close friend picks up new skills. For once, the protagonist isn’t preternaturally gifted, and the show finds compelling characterisation through the insecurities of hard-won talent cultivated through a lot of practice. Robot skateboards, skaters who dress like matadors and ninjas, some incredibly good voice casting, the insecurities of seeing someone that you love surpass you in ability-it’s the show that has everything.
Available on: animelab


1. Wonder Egg Priority

Release date: January 13
Director: Shin Wakabayashi
The words “magical girl” are never uttered in Wonder Egg Priority, but the loud and colourful markers of the sub-genre-transforming objects of power, animal familiars-are presented in contrast with quiet and delicate observation of each of the character’s painful inner struggles. Following 14-year-old Ai Ooto as she fights to protect the souls of dead teenage girls housed within the eponymous “wonder eggs,” the high quality of the show’s animation proves immediately striking, full of nuanced character acting and spectacular, high-flying and allegorical action that has earned comparisons to Kunihiko Ikuhara (Revolutionary Girl Utena) and Naoko Yamada (A Silent Voice) in equal measure. Even with all that visual flash, the explicit depiction of a tough subject matter will understandably prove an insurmountable hurdle for many-even though for the most part, director Shin Wakabayashi (Owarimonogatari) and writer Shinji Nojima (Suki!, Ie naki ko) tackle the most uncomfortable topics through quieter, incidental reveals. Consistently powerful and provocative, Wonder Egg Priority strikes a perfect balance of sensational action with painful subject matter without missing a step (yet, anyway). From its incredible animation to its off-kilter electronic score, it’s without a doubt the most exciting new show of the year so far.
Available on: animelab

Kambole Campbell is a contributor to Thrillist.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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