Top 5 Action Anime of 2021

Action anime is pretty easy to define, usually focusing on intense, massive storylines. A major portion of them is the fighting. If there’s a focus on scenes of heavy fighting and crazy-high action, you’ve got an action anime on your hands!

This list’s selections focused on viewer rating and popularity. We also took a look at our favorites of the year, including those that flew under the radar! One of the major things you’ll see is how nice the fights look, as that’s a key component of action anime! Take a look and see what we found!

5. World Trigger 3rd Season

  • Episodes: 14
  • Aired: October 2021 – January 2022

World Trigger has been going on strong since 2014, sporting a massive first season and excellent follow-ups, all based on the adventures of Border Defense Agents and their fight against interdimensional beings known as Neighbors. As the first season taught us with Yuuma Kuga, Neighbors come in all shapes and sizes, including humanoid! Hyuse, from a Neighbor world called Aftokrator, is the latest addition to protagonist Osamu Mikumo’s team: Tamakoma-2. After his participation in many ranked matches to become B-rank, Hyuse is finally cleared to join the team, but there are still more Rank Wars to get through! The team aims to make it onto the Away team, otherwise known as the first expedition to the Neighborhood worlds nearby.

World Trigger has been very fun to watch. The Rank Wars are compelling and the battles are exciting. When we’re seeking action, as we were for this list, a good agency-wide fight club is all we could ask for! The entire season is comprised of not just the Rank Wars but also fights against invaders from the Neighborhood. The animation is beautiful as well, far improved from the initial episodes back in 2014.

4. Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken 2nd Season (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Season 2)

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: January 2021 – March 2021

Most of us wonder what would happen if we could live another life; Mikami Satoru discovers exactly what it would entail for him when he is attacked and subsequently killed. Mikami is reincarnated as a classic RPG slime and soon discovers his ability to devour and mimic anything in existence. After being given the name Rimuru Tempest by “Storm Dragon” Veldora, he manages to solidify his new life in a new kingdom later named Tempest. Season two picks up with a new story about the kingdom, and Rimuru’s desperate attempts to get back home. Enemies are within and without the kingdom, more battles become a necessary evil in short order…but how will the mystery of these assailants end?

Action anime are typically defined by their fight scenes. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is no different! The animation is incredible, entertaining, and fluid. Every fight is unique, too! New limitations are placed on Rimuru this season, so watching him try to rearrange his strategies is incredibly fun. We would’ve preferred to see more fights, honestly, but what we got is worth the watch!

3. 86 Part 2

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: October 2021 – March 2022

Many people have heard of the famous Area 51 in the southwest United States: for a time, it was hard to say whether or not it even existed. Similarly, the Republic of San Magnolia’s 86th factor, or section, is unknown to the public, as are the “Handlers” (otherwise known as Juggernaut pilots) contained within. Despite the Republic’s claims that their war against the Empire of Giad is completely ethical, with no human lives claimed, this does not account for the Handlers, or the 86s. In part 2, Shinei Nouzen, one of our protagonists, wakes up in the care of the Federacy of Giad — the Empire’s post-rebellion successor. Shinei and his rescued friends are given citizenship within the Federacy, and must adjust to their new lives while the war continues in earnest.

As mentioned, there is war throughout the series. It has ups, downs, and tragedy galore. Better than all that, though, is the beautiful mix of traditional animation and CGI, which is at its most noticeable during the battles. Mixes like this, unfortunately, don’t always work, but we (and reviewers) find the visuals of this season to be striking and fun to watch. The choreography is great, and in between battles, there are brilliant explorations of the world and the traumas endured by the characters within. With such a well-thought-out universe, it’s hard to see this pick any lower on our list!

2. Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song

  • Episodes: 13
  • Aired: April 2021 – June 2021

There are plenty of stories about artificial intelligence and ‘robots’ being integrated into society, but this one was a delight to watch. Vivy is the very first “autonomous AI” of this world and a musical performer, working at a theme park. Things change abruptly when another AI from 100 years in the future arrives to warn Vivy of a future war in which AIs aim to destroy the whole of mankind. She now has about 100 years to change history and prevent the war!

There’s a lot to love about Vivy — both the character and the anime! The tension is high throughout the season, making for a delightful viewing experience. The fighting has excellent animation and choreography, and you can almost feel the hits as they land. Hand-to-hand combat can be hard to get right, but Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song delivers top-tier work. There’s only one anime we can recommend above this, and we’re looking forward to seeing more from this incredible AI!

1. Kimetsu no Yaiba: Yuukaku-hen (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc)

  • Episodes: 9+
  • Aired: December 2021 – Ongoing

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc picks up after an awful death in the previous Mugen Train Arc. The opening is dedicated to the aftermath of this tragedy, but soon introduces us to a new character: the ever-so-flashy Sound Hashira, Tengen Uzui. Tengen has a new mission for our old favorites, including Tanjiro and Nezuko Kamado. They head off to the Entertainment District, where demons are a dime a dozen…and battles are just as common!

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has been extremely popular since the manga started back in 2016. One of its major draws is the sheer variety of characters and the impressive level of character development. What we’re here for, though, are the incredible fights! Tanjiro in particular uses techniques that remind us of sumi-e, a style of traditional Japanese ink drawing, and it makes the fights visually fascinating to witness. On top of that, the choreography and animation are fantastic, adding to a story that will delight any action anime fan. We cannot recommend this series enough, especially this arc!!

Final Thoughts

Not every action anime is perfect, but the genre as a whole is amazing and varied. Whenever you need a dose of excitement and battles, we always seek out the action subgenre. There were some really great ones released last year, and while this list is not extensive, it’s an excellent start to exploring 2021’s gems!

As mentioned, these picks were based mostly on viewer ratings and recommendations. As such, some other great works had to be parsed out, but we’d love to hear your thoughts! What action anime did you find this year? Which of our picks do and don’t belong? Leave a comment and let us know!

by Link King