From powerful cursed energy techniques controlled by gorgeous blindfolded Jujutsu sorcerers, to terrifying Tokyo-based biker gangs ruled by delinquents, the best animes of 2021 took us to unimaginable worlds.

Anime fans went crazy over the supernatural shonen anime “Jujutsu Kaisen”, and just recently fancied the anime adaptation of Riot Games’ flagship title. Which ones really stood out from the pack?

ONE Esports writers surveyed shows of different genres from Winter 2020 to Fall 2021 and came up with a list of the best animes of 2021.

The 5 best animes of 2021

  • Horimiya
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean
  • Tokyo Revengers
  • Jujutsu Kaisen
  • Arcane

5. Horimiya

Anime protagonists Hori and Miyamura in HoriMiya.
Credit: CloverWorks

Calling all romcom fans — “Hori-san to Miyamura-kun” is one of the best anime shows this year. If you haven’t watched it yet, you’re missing out on a lot.

The anime follows the story of high school students Kyoko Hori and Izumi Miyamura, or simply “Horimiya”. Hori accidentally finds out about Miyamura’s secret, which leads to the start of an intimate connection between the two.

Horimiya will bring back the romantic butterflies in your stomach and make your heart flutter with the pair’s sweet beginnings and relationship antics. It is a lighthearted anime highly recommended for anyone looking for a top-notch romantic comedy and slice-of-life series.

CloverWorks’ magnificent art style is the cherry on top, bringing Hero’s loveable manga characters to life, cementing Horimiya as one of the best animes of 2021.

Even esports couple Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and Kyedae Shymko can’t get enough of Horimiya, as seen in their matching Twitter profile pictures.

Kristine “Kurisu” Tuting

4. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean's Jolyne Cujoh.
Credit: David Production

What do you get when you mix raunchy rock bands with supernatural powers? JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

Created by Hirohiko Araki, the JoJo franchise is a longstanding bastion of manga and anime that pushes the limits on what it means to be a hero and a villain.

While it’s not the most approachable franchise out there with eight parts and 30 years of content, JoJo just released Part 6: Stone Ocean, which introduced its first female protagonist, Jolyne Cujoh.

Stone Ocean’s plot focuses on Jolyne’s individual journey of proving her innocence after being tricked into going to jail. On top of that, you also learn about the intricacies of JoJo’s power dynamics and the show’s use of Stands, a visual manifestation of one’s soul.

If you’re looking for the classic JoJo experience of badass character designs and mind-melting action scenes, Stone Ocean flaunts it all without the confusing lore as one of the best animes of 2021.

Joseph “Jagwar” Asuncion

3. Tokyo Revengers

Mikey in Tokyo Revengers anime.
Credit: Liden Films

Making its way onto Netflix recently on December 28, Tokyo Revengers by Ken Wakui was not only one of the top selling manga of 2021, it also had an anime adaptation, stage adaptation, and live action movie adaption in the same year.

In fact, the Tokyo Revengers live action movie adaption was so good that it topped the charts as the highest grossing live action film in Japan this year. Both the movie and the anime were praised for their faithful adaption of the manga.

Tokyo Revengers’ premise is simple. Takemichi Hanagaki’s life peaked in middle school where he had a girlfriend, and went completely downhill from there. An easily forgettable average bloke, the day his ex-girlfriend died in a tragic accident on the news was the same day he got pushed onto the tracks of an incoming train. He then woke up in the past, back in middle school living a delinquent life, 12 years ago.

“Revenge” in Japanese means to redo or to try again, which is exactly what Hanagaki Takemichi has the power to do with his newfound time travel ability as he attempts to save his ex-girlfriend’s life in the future. However, not everything goes to plan.

Its accompanying original soundtrack was composed by Hiroaki Tsutsumi, who also collaborated on Jujutsu Kaisen’s OST. The suspenseful Tokyo Revengers story centered around the Bōsōzoku subculture in the 1990s is dictated by a very edgy electric guitar main theme, Hiroaki’s specialty.

For these reasons, Tokyo Revengers is definitely one of the best animes of 2021, and you should totally watch it if you haven’t already, for as you can tell, I simply adore it too much.

Amanda “Tania Mae” Tan

2. Jujutsu Kaisen

Jujutsu Kaisen game, Jujutsu Kaisen Phantom Partade, Gojo Satoru
Credit: MAPPA

Centering itself in mainstream anime culture, Jujutsu Kaisen took the world by storm this 2021. Loved by fans all across the globe, it debuted two Uniqlo collections this year, and will launch its new mobile game called “Phantom Parade” soon.

Even though season two of the Jujutsu Kaisen anime hasn’t yet been announced, the ongoing manga series by Gege Akutami just premiered its latest movie, Jujutsu Kaisen 0, on Christmas Eve in Japan, which is already breaking box office records.

Jujutsu Kaisen takes place in a dark world where negative emotions from humans produce “curse energy”. When curse energy builds up, they turn into invisible monsters, which in turn harms humanity.

This is where sorcerers come in. Trained to manipulate curse energy with unique techniques, they fight to eliminate curses in this world and save humankind.

Produced by MAPPA and directed by Sunghoo Park, the fight scenes in the Jujutsu Kaisen anime, particularly when high level technique Domain Expansion is used, are visually stunning and incredibly well animated.

Of course, no good anime will be without its soundtrack. As one of the best animes of 2021, its accompanying OST composed by Hiroaki Tsutsumi, Yoshimasa Terui, and Arisa Okehazama was also highly praised and worth many listens.

Amanda “Tania Mae” Tan

1. Arcane

A wallpaper featuring League of Legends' Jinx from Arcane.
Credit: Riot Games

League of Legends’ Arcane is a masterpiece. Even the legendary game designer Hideo Kojima said so.

In fact, the Metal Gear Solid creator went as far as saying that “Arcane is the future of animation and CG”.

One of the best animes of 2021, if not the best, Arcane took six years in the making — and it showed. Created by long-time employees Christian Linke and Alex Yee, it was produced by game developer Riot Games and French animation studio, Fortiche.

When Arcane made its debut exclusively on Netflix, it topped the charts as the number one show in more than 30 countries globally, with a very high Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Based on one of the biggest multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games in the world, Arcane’s story centers around sisters Jinx and Vi in the backdrop of Piltover and Zaun, two cities within the League of Legends universe of Runterra. They are joined by other familiar League of Legends champions from the game, such as Ekko, Heimerdinger, Viktor, Jayce, and Caitlyn.

A well-told story with a tight script, a star-studded soundtrack, and excellent voice acting by familiar Hollywood names, Arcane will make you cry, it will make you feel exasperated, it will make you laugh, but most of all, it’ll make you care deeply about the champions that League of Legends players know and love so well.

Amanda “Tania Mae” Tan

READ MORE: The strongest anime character of all time? Here are 5 powerful candidates