Top 5 Shounen Anime of 2021

A good shounen anime can mean the world to its viewers. While it’s typically marketed towards teenage boys, it can be enjoyable for all ages! Often, shounen series tell stories about young men with fantastical plot lines, featuring genres like science fiction, mecha, horror, mythology, and more! Themes include growing up and facing hell, no matter the cost — even if they have to go through more hell to get ready for the showdown!

This year’s picks were based first and foremost upon viewer ratings! We also looked into some personal reviews to see what people liked most about the shows in question, such as: why they liked the characters involved, what was best about the plot lines, and what viewers most enjoyed about the anime! Enjoy!

5. Yuukoku no Moriarty 2nd Season (Moriarty the Patriot 2nd Season)

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

The story of Sherlock Holmes has been popular since around 1891. What surprises us is how long it took to make it to anime! Moriarty the Patriot is a twist on the classic tale, however, focusing on a man typically called the villain: William Moriarty, crime consultant! Season two provides some backstory to Moriarty’s enemy, the great Sherlock Holmes, while each of the following cases further elaborates on the Moriarty Clan’s dealings in the so-called background of the famous detective’s work.

Season one was strong and well-loved, but season two is rated even higher, and we can see why! The further character development of our leads (the Moriarty Clan, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and more) is a delight to watch, as are their interactions. The visuals remain engaging throughout the series, and each episode ends up being a nice callback to previous media, such as the original Sherlock Holmes stories themselves! Many fans tout this series for its psychological roots, as we don’t often see anime about non-supernatural mystery solving. The only reason we could see for this show’s lower place on the list was a lack of overarching narrative, but who knows: if season three happens, we could see a whole new world of William Moriarty!

4. Tokyo Revengers

  • Episodes: 24
  • Aired: April 2021 – September 2021

Back in middle school, Takemichi had a great group of friends and a lovely girlfriend in Hinata Tachibana, but later, in his 20s, he hears the worst news: Hinata and her younger brother, Naoto Tachibana, have been killed by the same local gang who used to pick on Takemichi. His day continues, as days do, but unfortunately, his day becomes messy: someone pushes him in front of a train, and as he realizes he’s about to die, he wakes up elsewhere. Specifically, he wakes up twelve years ago, back in middle school, and he eventually realizes he has the power to time travel!! It doesn’t take him long to realize just what he can do with these new powers: he saves Naoto, and now, it’s time to save his girlfriend!

At first, we expected a basic revenge story, but the nuance of how Tokyo Revengers is handled and the addition of time travel to save lives says a lot about why this anime is so highly rated across the web. Takemichi Hanagaki is also an unusual protagonist: he thought of himself as very cool in his second year of middle school, but somehow became very shy, submissive, and apologetic by the time he was an adult. How did that happen? Turns out he went through some heavy traumas alongside his friends back in middle school, shaping his adult life up to be everything he never dreamed of. Nearly everyone wishes they could change their past, but in Tokyo Revengers, Takemichi actually gets the chance to!

3. World Trigger 3rd Season

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

The first season of World Trigger introduced us to Osamu Mikumo of the organization Border Defense Agency who is out to protect the world from the invincible trans-dimensional monsters called Neighbors. He meets Yuuma Kuga, who soon reveals himself to be a humanoid Neighbor and nothing like what Osamu expected. By the end of the season, they’ve already driven off an invasion from the Neighborhood (or other dimensions)! In season two, Hyuse, a previous enemy Neighbor, works hard to join Border, and season three picks up just after he’s finally managed to make B-rank — a requirement for joining the Border team Tamakoma-2. This is not the end of the Rank Wars, either, as many are hoping to join A-rank and be chosen to join the first Away mission into the Neighborhood.

World Trigger has a rather complex storyline, but its high ratings don’t lie: this is a series that is enjoyable from start to (current) finish. There’s a wide and varied cast that fits into a variety of tropes while still feeling fresh and interesting. The battle sequences of each Rank War match are incredible, and the layers upon layers of world-building are nothing to sneeze at. We’re just as excited as fans of this series to see more content soon!!

2. Kimetsu no Yaiba: Mugen Ressha-hen (Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Mugen Train Arc)

  • Episodes: 7
  • Aired: October 2021 – November 2021

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Mugen Train Arc introduces us to Kyojiro Rengoku, a Demon Slayer who is also known as the Flame Hashira (one of the highest-ranking members of the Demon Slayer Corps). He aims to solve the mystery of the Mugen Train, on which over forty people have disappeared! It has to be demon activity! Rengoku is joined by our favorites from the first season, like Tanjiro Kamado and his sister, Nezuko, Zenitsu Agatsuma, and Inosuke Hashibira, and together, they must discover the demon behind the tragedy.

Demon Slayer has been one of the most popular shounen anime since the start of the first season. The opening of the second season, Mugen Train Arc, is just as exciting as season one had been! Rengoku is incredibly likable and makes an excellent big brother figure to our season one heroes. We won’t lie, there is definitely some tragedy in the Mugen Train Arc, but Demon Slayer has shown us in past episodes that even tragedy has silver linings. Even better, this wasn’t the only iteration of Demon Slayer shown this year: make sure you check out the Entertainment District Arc too!

1. Fumetsu no Anata e (To Your Eternity)

  • Episodes: 20
  • Aired: April 2021 – August 2021

In the beginning, it was only an Orb. A literal sphere that, when it came to Earth, morphed into the first thing it touched: a rock. Next comes moss, then a wolf, and eventually, a boy. As a boy, later named Fushi, he meets many characters, including March, Gugu, and more. March, in particular, informs him that he must be immortal, and this is true: every time he dies, he heals again and gets back up, good as new. Fushi has much to learn about the world, and he’s taking us along for the ride!

There are a lot of reasons for To Your Eternity to have taken first place on this list. Stories about characters who can live forever are a dime a dozen, but this one came from a place that caught our attention. What would it be like to be a creature that was nothing, knew nothing, and then suddenly gain sentience as a fully-fledged creature? The psychology behind Fushi’s development is as fascinating to watch as it is beautiful. On top of that, the emotional draw of the series cannot be understated. You will probably cry (we did!) but To Your Eternity is absolutely worth the tears.

Final Thoughts

There were tons of great anime this year, and the shounen genre is no exception. It was refreshing to see old stories remixed and remade alongside new stories exploring new ideas. A lot of this list are sequels, but it only lends credence to the previous seasons’ strength and popularity.

As mentioned, these picks were based on ratings from viewers. We also looked at reviews, and what people liked! We mentioned above some of our favorite characteristics, but what about you? What do you think is the best shounen of 2021? Leave a comment!

by Link King