Thoughtful Bear 2021 Anima Awards

Thoughtful Bear’s 2021 Anime Awards

2021 was the greatest year for anime in the history of anime. I don’t even think that is much of an exaggeration given the titles released this year. From blockbuster hits such as Shingeki no Kyojin and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, to smaller projects like Odd Taxi and Ousama Ranking, and dynamic entrances from Mushoku Tensei or 86 – this year was filled with absolute bangers. At first, I wanted to create a top 10 list but figuring that everyone’s top 10 list would probably end up with the same 10 anime, I decided to segment this article with a few “best of” categories in order to give a little variety. This way you as a reader can figure out what series excels at what. Disclaimer, I did not watch every anime this year, I just happened to watch a lot of anime this year. Excuse me for having a job outside of blogging. Ikuzo!

Biggest Disappointment

CloverWorks

Honourable Mention: Shaman King

My God, my God. OK so this is kind of a troll category. Considering how they ruined The Promised Neverland, the ending of Wonder Egg Priority and their track record of not sticking landings in other popular series that they’ve done, jeeeez. Even with Horimiya – a series that ends the way it  does in the source material, I ended up thinking “oh that’s it?” Could they not have paced towards the ending better or even given the ending some real weight? Because I finished Horimiya thinking that there was going to be a season 2 until my friend (a manga reader) told me that the story ends there. Here’s me spamming the MIA ping in League of Legends. CloverWorks can do great stuff, they have! But they just struggle to be consistent. For example, they did the Persona 5 animation which was panned, Darling in the FranXX was loved until the ending, and their attempts at Wonder Egg Priority after the season ended were . . . I don’t even know. I’m currently watching Sono Bisque Doll which looks good right now and they’re also doing Spy Family for which I read the manga for – well here’s hoping it all works out.

Best Animation

Mushoku Tensei

Honourable Mention: Vivy Fluorite Eye’s Song, Wonder Egg Priority

This series will probably top the list of many best of lists for 2021. It was the rookie of the year in many aspects and definitely deserves to be so. Wining this award in 2021, is crazy considering the level of animation that is out there. SNK, Vivy, Wonder Egg Priority, and Komi come to mind as well but Mushoku Tensei takes the cake. In a land of fantasy and magic, how does this series do such a good job with making water look wet? Not just wet, it makes water look tranquil, bleak, and terrifying. How does it do such a good job making magic look impactful and magnificent. This series is straight up sakuga the entire way. Not to mention things like boob physics and all the other smut that any pervert would love (not me though, I watch for plot). For those not in the know Studio Bind, the studio behind this series was specifically created for Mushoku Tensei. That level of focus and detail to attention has paid off as it’s created for what many to believe is the anime of the year.

Best OP/ED

Kaibutsu by Yoasobi (Beastars Season 2)

Honourable Mention: ODDTAXI by Skirt and PUNPEE (Odd Taxi)

Honestly, this is purely on just how much I like the song. I am one of those anime watching curmudgeons who ends up skipping the OP. However, every time I watched an episode of Beastars I didn’t just sit through the OP, I danced through it. I liked this song so much that I currently have it in my Spotify rotation. I have worked out to this song, driven to this song, become an Excel monkey for my work to this song. Chances are, I wouldn’t even have this category if it weren’t for this song. Kaibutsu is hype generating, it’s hypnotizing, it’s got charm up the butt – I love this song. Not just that but it got me into Yoasobi Have you guys ever checked out Yoasobi? They’re mainly in the realm of techno, dance, and pop – plus they love a keyboard solo. Beastars season 2 was good as an anime but by GOD did the OP set the tone for this entire series.

Best OST

Nomad: Megalox Box 2

Honourable Mentions: Odd Taxi, 86, JoJo Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean

Maybe it was the Latino vibes mixed with the upbeat sounds of a futuristic fighting anime. Maybe it was how it encapsulated everything about the world of Megalo Box. The song Determination on the soundtrack is what will really hype you up. I kid you not, in moments where work got tough and I had a little pressure on me, I would start playing Determination in my head. I love how you could close your eyes and just listen to this anime and because of the soundtrack you can tell what kind of setting the story is in. The soundtrack had great bits of somberness to match the themes of grief and parting ways that were so evident in this season. Yet it also had songs that felt like a shot to the arm in order to let the viewer know when shit was about to go down. Say what you want about how much you liked or disliked Nomad, the direction was top notch, especially when paired with the soundtrack. Shoutout to sound director Keiichiro Miyoshi for the excellent work.

Best Boy

Boji (Ousama Ranking)

Honourable Mention: Fumi (Fumetsu no Anata e), Yatora (Blue Period), Joe (Nomad: Megalo Box 2), Mikey (Tokyo Revengers) – honestly too many to count

Damn this was a hard category to fill out. Ousama Ranking not only has someone who is best boy material, this series is anime of the year material. Boji is this kind sweet boy, who you might believe would be timid considering his stature but in reality, he is incredibly courageous and he is always doing his best. I just want to hug him and tell him that he’s doing a fabulous job. I LOVE HIM. So far his character arc is looking good and I can’t wait to see where his growth takes him! He’s one of those characters that would do well in any medium. People love an underdog – and he’s a prime example of one. I will say that the one flaw about this choice is that we haven’t seen Boji’s full arc yet. Who knows – maybe he’ll take the route of Eren Yaeger.

Best Girl

Vivy (Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song)

Honourable Mention: Komi (Komi-san, wa Comyushou desu.), Hiling (Ousama Ranking), Lena (86)

Disclaimer, I’m not really into the whole moe girl motif so this category is not one that I feel so strongly about. However, I really wanted to give this to Hiling from Ousama Ranking, I really enjoy her character arc as it’s unfolding. However I do feel like it might be recency bias as her series is still ongoing. Vivy on the other hand is finished and was amazing. The entire series outside of our main girl is fantastic but our main girl here just fits so perfect into this series. I don’t think the writers of this series could have done a better job writing her. She is a strong character who’s arc has dramatic ups and downs. Vivy’s realization that she is a hero and the savior of the world reminded me much of Goku’s change into becoming a super saiyan against Freeza. She’s that girl.

Best Couple

Miyamura and Hori (Horimiya)

Honourable Mention: N/A

Didn’t really have many couples that I really loved this year so Horimiya wins. However, I don’t think that it means that Horiymiya wins by default. I think that they are genuinely a well written couple. They felt like a pair that was grounded in reality. Both members of this pair bring equal quality parts and compliment each other in their relationship. It felt fresh but not too much. They had chemistry and it didn’t feel like an opposites attract so let’s put them together kind of trope. They might have been very different from each other but they had similar vibes, you feel me? Although I didn’t really like how this series ended and believe that it could have benefited from a longer story, I can totally respect that this series is here for a good time, not a long time.

Best Concept

SK∞: The Infinity

Maybe this is best couple…

Honourable Mention: Odd Taxi, Wonder Egg Priority, Ousama Ranking

In terms of my enjoyment of this series it wasn’t up there with a lot of series on this list but it still sticks out to in a good way. It’s a spin on the sports genre executed incredibly well, in terms of animation, character designs, and the sport it chose. I know that there were a lot of people who loved this series and I totally understand why. It made skateboarding incredibly exciting with slick animation and interesting characters. I mean, just looking at the different outfits that the characters would put on when they would become their alter-egos, it gave this series a lot of vibrancy that pushed the fun to a heightened level. Definitely a great switch up to the ever so common Shonen Jump sports series that seem to dominate once every few years.

Best Writing

Odd Taxi

Honourable Mention: Vivy Flourite Eye’s Song, Ousama Ranking, Nomad: Megala Box 2

Even if this year had so many bangers, Odd Taxi sticks out among all of them. You could say that action anime kind of took over this year, but Odd Taxi was very much the opposite of an action series. It was cool, it was a vibe, it was mellow – until it wasn’t. It reminded me of jazz music, it was nowhere, and then everywhere all at once. While many other series had amazing animations, grand budgets budgets, or marquee names – Odd Taxi simply relied on its colourful cast of characters, weaving this dynamic tapestry of relationships and situations that could have only reminded me of the meme of Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in front of the white board. This series is a short and tight series that doesn’t take a break or do too much. Every plotline, every character, every scene was a hint at what the ending could have been. If you said that Odd Taxi was your anime of the year, I would not even flinch – I get it.

Best Direction

Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song

Honourable Mention: Odd Taxi, Nomad: Megalo Box 2, Fumetsu no Anata E, again – just too many to count, holy moly.
Every episode of Vivy could have been an hour long OVA if it wanted to. It definitely looked good enough to be an OVA or movie. This series captures the magic of what anime can be. A story about becoming your best, realizing the burden of duty, and sacrifice for the greater good. A story about facing your humanity – what does it mean to be human – what is the value of life? A story that could fit as a live action, a manga, or a novel. This series is truly chef’s kiss. The way that the director was able to make every single episode carry energy from one episode to the next. How they were able to architect this world where people were as advanced and productive as ever, yet more isolated and estranged from reality than they’ve ever been. This series knew when to be dark, it knew when to be bright, it knew when to take the audience to limbo, in order to get them to think seriously about the themes presented in the story. A tip of the hat to director, Shinpei Ezaki.

Anime of the Year

Vivy: Flourite Eye’s Song

Jeez, I sure love Vivy

Honourable Mention: Odd Taxi, Fumetsu no Anata E, Ousama Ranking, 86, Mushoku Tensei – again, too many bangers this year

When creating this list I really fought with myself. Odd Taxi was so different and was such a tight story that I feel like your anime fan’s favourite anime fan, probably would have picked something like Odd Taxi. The mainstream consensus for a lot of people was something like Mushoku Tensei, which I totally understand, is that it’s an A+ across the board in animation, writing, direction, and world building. Fumetsu no Anata e I feel was almost forgotten by the community but the hype it generated when airing was really high as every episode felt like it was tugging on your heart strings. I legitimately cried watching Fushi’s journey on multiple occasions.
So why Vivy? I think that Vivy as mentioned before, every episode felt like a movie. I really feel like Vivy did a fantastic job at immersing it’s audience into this world. Even though it took us through many lifetimes, you could still see that humans are humans regardless of what age we are in. You can still see that Vivy as a character as much as she is an AI, she herself holds so much humanity. And I feel you could say the same for Fushi – but Vivy was a truly conflicted character throughout the entire series. As fun as it was to see Fushi learn, for myself if it was more interesting to see Vivy grow, yet realize what she isn’t and can’t be. It was her that struggle and attempt at understanding that made her so charming to watch. Plus Vivy is a one and done original story. Other series such as a Mushoku Tensei or Fumetsu no Anate E have really only just begun. With Vivy we are there with her creation and her end. Vivy is not just best girl, she’s best anime 2021.
In conclusion, thank you for making it to the end of this article! A few other notes that I wanted to make was that this list took awhile to come to. I didn’t want to make it too mainstream of a list and I tried my best to diversify the winners (even though it ended up being the same like 10 anime being winners/honourable mentions). But to be frank, I don’t really love SNK, or Slime, or RE:Zero. I’m sure a lot of anime fans would be up in arms about that. I’m just happy that we got another year of stellar anime after how brutal 2020 was for everybody. Have any comments, questions, concerns? Leave them in the comments below. Talk soon!
 
 

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