The Spring 2021 anime season was so stuffed with high-quality shows that many of the smaller names hardly made a blip on the radar. And that’s a shame since the hidden gems of this season are so special that any anime fan would be doing themselves a disservice by not checking out at least a few of them. So, if you have the time, please check out these underrated Spring 2021 anime that deserve more love!
1. Odd Taxi
While this offbeat mystery anime is gaining a bit more traction now thanks to its critical acclaim (it’s currently the #31 highest-rated entry on MyAnimeList), it still deserves to be a proper classic instead of just a cult hit. Odokawa, a lonely taxi driver, finds himself at the center of a missing person case that may or may not involve everyone from yakuza thugs to struggling comedians to idol singers. With its sharp and witty dialogue, layers of interconnected mysteries, and carefully foreshadowed plot twists, Odd Taxi feels like a Tarantino film set in the dimly lit streets of Tokyo. Don’t let the art style put you off—this is a rabbit hole of intrigue that you really don’t want to miss.
2. Mars Red
The fact that Mars Red has gotten such a lukewarm reception on anime ranking sites is a crime—one that can only be made right by introducing it to more people who would enjoy its particular charms. Vampires sow terror from the shadows in 1920s Tokyo, and it’s up to the secretive Unit 16 of the Japanese military to keep the peace with specially trained vampires of their own. Instead of the typical shounen/horror approach most anime would use for this premise, however, Mars Red goes for a more contemplative character drama that delves deeply into what it means to be an undying creature of the night. And if you enjoy digging through symbolism, the subtle references to classic theater and film add layers of meaning that are fascinating to discuss with fellow fans. It’s definitely a niche anime, but if you think you would enjoy it, give it a watch!
3. Bakuten!! (Backflip!!)
Sports anime are a dime a dozen these days, but a truly good one is hard to come by. Backflip is one of these coveted few, and it centers on just about the last topic you’d expect—men’s rhythmic gymnastics. Okay, it becomes a bit less surprising when you learn that this anime was created to promote the Tokyo Olympics, but Backflip still stands on its own as a solid show because the creators obviously have a real passion for the sport. The detailed animation takes care to portray everything from the grand adrenaline rush of a well-practiced routine to the tiniest of mistakes that constitute a penalty. Wrapped up in a package with lovable characters and expertly executed sports anime story beats, Backflip is much more than just a commercial.
4. Bishounen Tanteiden (Pretty Boy Detective Club)
Far from being just another fujoshi bait anime to throw on the pile (unlike its Spring 2021 co-star, Fairy Ranmaru), Pretty Boy Detective Club is actually a deeply strange mystery series that blends larger-than-life characters with visual spectacle to create an atmosphere of child-like wonder that simply can’t exist in the real world. It should come as no surprise that this anime comes from Studio Shaft and the creators of the Monogatari franchise, but you don’t have to be a longtime fan of their work to enjoy this short excursion into the world of absurdly pretty middle schoolers who solve cases involving things like supernatural killers and casino rackets. Check the logical part of your brain at the door and join in the fun!
5. Shadows House
In a gothic castle high up on a foggy hill lives a well-to-do family of Shadow people, so called because their soot-covered bodies make them look like walking silhouettes. Each member who has come of age is accompanied by an attendant referred to as a Living Doll, who resembles what they might’ve looked like as a normal human and answers to their every beck and call. Despite its high-concept premise, Shadows House is actually a very grounded story about how systemized classism makes victims out of everyone involved. The overall presentation has that fun “anime Victorian” flavor of series like Black Butler or Rozen Maiden, but with a serious thematic undercurrent that’s as relevant today as it was in the society that it emulates.
You should also be sure to put Godzilla Singular Point, Those Snow White Notes, SSSS.Dynazenon, and Dragon Goes House-Hunting on your watchlist as well. But are there any underrated Spring 2021 anime that we missed? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!