2021 was a year filled with great anime—in fact, there were so many that you probably missed a lot of them! Luckily, some true gems like Odd Taxi and Ranking of Kings have gotten the spotlight they deserve through positive word-of-mouth, but we’re here to highlight five other series that still haven’t quite reached the mainstream yet. Here are the 5 best underrated anime of 2021 that you need to watch!
5. Kageki Shoujo!! (Opera Girl!)
If you’re a dedicated shoujo and/or idol fan, you’re sure to love Opera Girl. With its fanciful old-school art style and focus on show business, it’s certainly a pleasure to look at, but its true appeal lies in the realism with which it portrays the darker sides of the entertainment world. Sexual harassment, eating disorders, trauma, stalkers... it’s all handled in a very mature and deeply affecting way that sticks with you long after each episode is over. Wonder Egg Priority wishes it could be this well-written.
4. Night Head 2041
Because it had the misfortune to come out in the same year as Ex-Arm and Tesla Note, this CGI sci-fi anime was unfairly lumped in with its much lesser brethren instead of being given a chance to shine on its own. But if you actually watch Night Head 2041, you’ll see that it’s a well-animated and well-told story about a flawed society that prevents its citizens from expressing their own individuality. The Kirihara and Kuroki brothers, two sets of siblings who share a mysterious connection, struggle to untangle the truth of why Japan ended up like this and whether or not they played a role in its downfall. For a speculative fiction mystery that only gets crazier the longer it goes on, check this out!
3. Kyuuketsuki Sugu Shinu (The Vampire Dies in No Time)
There’s honestly not a whole lot to say about The Vampire Dies in No Time other than that it’s really good at being really stupid. We’ve got a grandiose but pathetically weak vampire named Draluc, his adorable armadillo familiar John, and a vain but dorky vampire hunter named Ronaldo living under one roof and trying not to annoy each other to death every single day (although that frequently does happen). The characters are so much fun, especially since they’re brought to life by such talented and expressive voice actors, and that makes the zany situations they get into that much more entertaining. It’s one of our favorite comedies of the year!
2. Muteking the Dancing Hero
For those who love a little retro ‘80s flair, we have the perfect anime for you! This broad-strokes remake of the 1980 Muteking series takes place in Neo San Francisco, where a roller-skating superhero saves his fellow citizens from the machinations of Evil Steve Jobs™ with the power of dance. The tone can be a bit all-over-the-place, ranging from an episode of Power Rangers to straight-up End of Evangelion, but it’s a surprisingly engaging anime and even has some great black and transgender representation!
1. Mars Red
Mars Red, like Muteking the Dancing Hero before it, isn’t for everyone. It’s a vampire drama set in the 1920s that focuses more on character development than action, and many of its episodes take inspiration from famous plays or older films. But if you’re down for a contemplative mystery that tackles deep issues in a unique way, you really should give this anime a shot. The striking art style and orchestral soundtrack really help drive home the pain that these characters feel as they struggle to understand their roles in the theater of life, and we can’t help but be taken in by it. Binge this one and let us know what you think.
What do you think of our list? Have you seen any of these underrated and under-watched 2021 anime? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!