5 most underrated anime of 2021

Posters of Uramichi Oniisan, Nomad, and Ousama Ranking (Image Via Sportskeeda)
Posters of Uramichi Oniisan, Nomad, and Ousama Ranking (Image Via Sportskeeda)

2021 was packed end-to-end with great new animes, as well as sequels. However, some of the most universally acclaimed anime did not turn out to be as popular as expected. This article takes a look at five such anime, listed here in chronological order according to their release dates.

Note: This article is subjective and reflects the opinion of the writer.

5 hidden anime gems of 2021

This article considers the critical and the general review garnered by an anime and compares that with the viewership. Some of the more critically acclaimed anime from this year like Odd Taxi or Blue Period have a sizable viewership, and are therefore not considered.

1) World Trigger season 2

  • Winter 2021
  • Manga adaptation
  • Animated by Toei Animation
  • Licensed by Crunchyroll

World Trigger’s second season follows Osamu Mikumo and Tamamkoma-2 after Aftokrator and the B-Rank wars continue, in order to secure a spot in the upcoming Expedition.

The plot, the voice acting, and the characterization have remained as good as the season. However, the popularity of World Trigger depleted; likely due to the animation quality of the first season, which was severely criticized.

However, both the animation and the art-style of the second season, and the ongoing third season, are leagues above season 1. World Trigger season 2 has a more fluid, polished quality to it, which does justice to the innovative storytelling and brilliantly tactical plot.

2) Nomad: Megalobox 2

  • Spring 2021
  • Original animation
  • Animated by TMS Entertainment
  • Licensed by Funimation

Nomad is the sequel to Megalobox, a dystopian anime centered around boxing where the boxers wear exoskeletons called Gear. Nomad follows Gearless Joe, who is no longer Gearless, and has now picked up the name Nomad, as he wanders into an underground boxing ring seven years after Megalonia.

While Nomad has the same great animation and distinctive art-style as Megalobox, it is more complex in structure and features in-depth character development.

Nomad transcends the boundaries of just boxing or sci-fi, and delves deep into the human aspects of the characters that came to life in Megalobox. According to many fans, Nomad perhaps overshadows Megalobox, which was primarily a tribute to Ashita no Joe.

3) Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan

  • Summer 2021
  • Manga adaptation
  • Animated by Studio Blanc
  • Licensed by Funimation

Unlike the other entries on this list, Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan, or Uramichi Oniisan for short, does not have any fantasy or sci-fi elements. It is the story of 31-year-old Uramichi Omota, an ex-gymnast who currently hosts a children’s show.

The anime features uncomfortably realistic characters, a star-studded voice cast, detailed animation, and a fluid plot. However, Uramichi Oniisan’s single greatest selling point is its humor - which is dark, layered, relatable, and incredibly addictive.

Understandably, Uramichi Oniisan is marketed towards a particular age-group, and can seem a little too pessimistic for the younger audience. However, the anime is rooted in reality and is definitely one of the hidden gems of 2021.

4) Sonny boy

  • Summer 2021
  • Original animation
  • Animated by Madhouse
  • Licensed by Funimation

Sonny Boy is the story of a group of school children who suddenly find themselves afloat in another dimension, which has its own set of rules and respective consequences for disobeying them.

As the students awaken supernatural powers, they start to rebel against the authoritative Student Council. Sonny boy is criticized for its animation and slightly flat characters, but the social allegory in the anime is masterfully done.

The symbolism carries Sonny Boy forward, and the intriguing plot adds to it. While the execution might not be flawless, the content and the scope of the anime are enough for Sonny Boy to merit a watch.

5) Ousama Ranking

  • Fall 2021
  • Manga adaptation
  • Animated by Wit Studio
  • Licensed by Funimation

Ousama Ranking or Ranking of Kings is centered around Bojji, the deaf and physically weak first prince of the kingdom of Bosse, and his journey towards becoming the greatest king of all timec. He is accompanied by Kage, a literal shadow, who becomes his staunchest supporter.

Ousama Ranking’s animation is detailed enough that the sign language used in the anime can be read by the viewers. With a stellar voice cast, a complex plot, layered characters, well-choreographed action sequences, and the considerate but not condescending attitude that the anime displays towards Bojji, Ousama Ranking is a masterpiece in the making.

The slightly cartoonish art-style is a deliberate choice to highlight the maturity of the plot, and it only makes the anime better. With the first cour completed, the second cour is all set to debut on January 7.

In conclusion

While there are many more hidden gems and underrated anime from 2021, a single article is not enough to list all of them. 2022 will surely gift us with more such anime, and hopefully they will get their due recognition from critics and fans alike.

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Edited by Mason J. Schneider
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