The Best Anime of 2021
MrAJCosplay, Monique Thomas, James Beckett & The Best Songs

by ANN Editorial Team,

Click the cow to jump to Best Songs!

MrAJCosplay

5. Beastars Season 2

Beastars was one of my favorite anime of the past few years, and that's partly because Studio Orange did an excellent job translating some of the more unorthodox stylings of the original manga to anime form. Season one was grounded through the lens of an unconventional romance and how that reflected some of the instinctual and societal pressures of how certain animals are supposed to act in this society. Season two, on the other hand, sidelines that romance and instead tries to dig deep into some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the society while also finally shifting focus to the main inciting incident of season one. While the latter definitely feels a bit more rushed compared to the first, I would say it has payoffs that are just as personal with more of a dark twisted edge.

This season definitely leans more into the dangerous implications of carnivores and herbivores being friends with each other. The inciting incident that kickstarts the entire series is finally brought back into focus with Legoshi looking for his friend's murderer, and when the killer's identity is revealed, we start to get more into the difficult reality of what happens when you suppress your urges. While the show definitely implies more psychotic motivations, there is an argument to be made regarding whether or not this twisted society does just as much harm as it does good for these relationships between different species. Legoshi continues to be the person that tries to find a better solution and we see how far he's willing to go in order to preserve the love that he spent so much time trying to find, while his best friend wanders the dark underground only to discover that he's not nearly as hardened as he thinks he is. The conclusions reached are noble and surprisingly relatable for a show about anthropomorphic animals. With season one I knew I was watching something special that would stick with me for a while, and season two was definitely another step in that direction.

4. Sk8 The Infinity

SK8 the Infinity is definitely one of the more colorful sports anime that I've seen in the past couple of years, and I'm not just talking about the bright exuberant color palette. The show manages to bring a variety of fun and engaging personalities from different walks of life, unified by their love of skating. It does a good job of introducing the sport to the more uninitiated through a character like Langa who has clearly never skateboarded before in his life but is able to transfer similar skills over with enough practice and help. The bond that he develops with Reki feels genuine and is definitely amongst the purest anime relationships that have come out of this year. Even when they're acting like a stubborn married couple, nothing feels forced or played up as any kind of fanservice. Rather, everything is born out of naturally developed chemistry stemming from such hot and cold personalities.

That isn't to say that they are the only defining dynamics within the series as there are a variety of other equally colorful characters who come in with their own style and approach to the sport. And speaking of style, SK8 the Infinity is certainly bursting with it at the seams, full of incredibly well-animated and creatively exaggerated skating sequences that just skirt the line of believability. It is an amazing treat for the eyes overall and there are some sequences in the show that I have legitimately watched on repeat throughout the year. Combine all this with a villain that is as in love with being evil as he is with himself and you have a show that is an amazing time from beginning to end.

3. My Hero Academia Season 5

I and a lot of other people were a bit harder on this season of My Hero Academia compared to others. I would say aside from the first season, this is definitely one of the trickier installments to appreciate due to its pacing. To this day, I still don't fully understand why the powers that be chose to rearrange the arcs of the show, resulting in an overall lopsided season that felt a bit boring at first and rushed towards the end. However, I would also argue that even at its worst My Hero Academia is still a well above average shounen, and while most of my issues come with the overall placement of scenes, that doesn't mean that the actual thematic implications of said scenes were no less intriguing.

This is the season that truly felt like we were taking a turn away from the more colorful black-and-white aspects of superhero media and instead got more into the extensional questions regarding society and a hero's place in it. The season started to deal with things like personal inadequacies and how just because you're not always practical doesn't necessarily mean that you're useless to others. However, on a larger scale, this season also dealt with the idea of societal neglect and how villains often aren't born – they are made. What happens when heroes or those close to you refuse to help you get through some of the more difficult and impressionable moments of your life? What happens when people see you more as a burden that they can pass the buck off on rather than as a genuine responsibility that needs to be nurtured and protected? The minute these victims cross the line is when they're labeled as villains, but nobody really wonders what got them to that point in the first place. How these individuals are exploited and how broken the hero system is are the issues that take center stage for most of this season, and it has led to some of the most nuanced discussions I've had all year with other talented and like-minded individuals. All of this was contrasted with Endeavor, a character who now represents the best that heroes were supposed to offer and yet we see here, front and center, how much of a damaging individual he used to be to the people that he should've cared for the most. So yes while it is far from perfect, I cannot deny the impact it had on me personally as well as the respect it had for the sensitive subject matter it chose to talk about.

2. Megalobox 2: Nomad

Megalobox was definitely a show that didn't need a sequel. As a classic underdog story that was aesthetically trying to harken back to similar shows of the 80s, I'd argue that it accomplished everything that it wanted to from beginning to end. So when news came out that the same team was working on a sequel I was surprised and intrigued as to where exactly they could go from the neatly wrapped up conclusion that they themselves facilitated. Their answer turned out to be ripping that wrapper back open to reveal how messy the process can be, leading to a series that felt like a natural extension to what was established before.

One of my only real complaints about the original Megalobox was the characterization of our main character Joe. He was far from badly written, but considering how heavy the show went into the backstories of those around him, he very much came off as a vehicle or a totem for this type of rough underdog story rather than a fully realized person on his own. In Nomad, that complaint became the biggest non-issue of the franchise, as Joe was put through pain that was far more severe than anything he could have experienced in the ring. Our hero emerged as the champion at the end of season one, and now he has to handle the responsibility of what it means to take up that mantle. Legacy, loss, and how badly a person can spiral when they make a mistake are themes that are all handled with an amazing amount of care and pathos to the point where the opening episodes of the season are probably some of the most depressing that I've seen all year. But you endure that pain with our hero as he tries to piece his life back together and make right by the people that he has hurt and learn to forgive himself for the sins that he has committed. The road is dirty and painful but the end result is extremely rewarding.

1. Fruits Basket The Final

With The Final, we reach the conclusion to a reboot that I honestly feel like all Fruits Basket fans needed. Many of us grew up with the original Fruits Basket anime and loved its wacky sensibilities, but now we finally get to see the complete vision of what that story was really supposed to be about. This isn't just a story about young teens falling in love and funny animal transformations; It's about generational trauma and gaslighting. It's about mistakes that spanned lifetimes and how badly just being born can hurt. It's about coming to terms with the fact that you actually deserve happiness and going through the steps of allowing people to grant it to you. You are stronger than the curse that you were born with and sometimes all it takes is one person giving you a chance in order to realize that.

This season needed to do a lot to pay off two seasons' worth of build-up and wrap up the arcs of over a dozen characters. The answers everyone comes to regarding the paths they take are not all uniform, with some coming out on the other end of these struggles happier than others, but there isn't a single endpoint that feels forced or inappropriate. It even managed to find a glimmer of sympathy for probably one of the vilest antagonists I've seen in a drama series of this nature, and there wasn't a single episode I walked away from with a dry eye. There were some tropes that I personally wished were either tweaked or worked around as I don't think they have aged the most gracefully, but of all the shows that I watched this year, this was the one that I had the least to complain about as it carried one of the heaviest burdens. It's so hard to tell a story like this in a way that does justice to the traumatic experiences that it's trying to relate to. What started as a show about a young naïve girl coming across a bunch of talking zodiac animals ended up becoming one of the most emotionally enriching and relatable stories I think I have ever watched. I honestly wish I could go back and rewatch this whole thing from beginning to end as if it was my first time again because that was a spectacular experience worth reliving.

Monique Thomas

5. The Case Study of Vanitas

Boy, do I love me some cute vampire boys! And girls too! And The Case Study of Vanitas is full of them! Studio Bones really brought their A-game once again to adapt Jun Mochizuki's manga about these Edwardian-era trashpires, with all their messy emotions delivered with sparkling flair. Every part of Vanitas is dazzlingly fun. Its characters go from super-deformed bouncy banter in one scene to bloody and tragic backstories in the next, all in a way that both endears you to them and also makes you want to drive them to therapy. They're all beautiful, well-dressed, and horny; they are piles of complexity but they're also just great to spend time with outside of the action and the drama. The first season doesn't cover a whole lot of ground plotwise, but makes it up with an abundance of energy, which gives Vanitas a very wide appeal for people who simply want a well-paced action fantasy that knows how to have a good time. I'm greatly looking forward to the 2nd half coming soon next season!

4. BEASTARS Season 2

Who would I be if I didn't put the second season of a great adaption of one of my favorite manga on here? Even I'm surprised there are three other shows ranked above it. That's less a knock on the second season's quality and more of a comment on how much great anime we got this year that I got nervous that BEASTARS' awesome second season might not even make my own list.

While the first season of BEASTARS was quite frankly impeccable, the second season's murder plot, while a very different beast, still tackles a lot of the same themes head-on with style and grace. Those that love the first season will likely still love the second. However, instead of Legoshi's carefree school life, what we get this season is a cerebral hunt as Legoshi tries his best to put his nose to the test. His investigation leads him to sniff out not just the nature of a killer, but the nature of a society. Which one is the real beast? I won't tell you the answer, but everything about BEASTARS is just WILD.

3. Ranking of Kings

I might get flak for placing an anime that's still currently airing and not even finished with its first cour. I almost decided to include the spectacular short PUI PUI Molcar on this list (which I didn't because it's too powerful for people to handle). But Ranking of Kings has been too wonderful for me to not give it a mention at all, so I felt it should be ranked (no pun intended) honestly. It may on my list prematurely, but I know in my heart of hearts that the goodest boys, Bojji and Kage, really deserved their place here.

Ranking of Kings is a fable about a young disabled child, Prince Bojji, who's taking the world in stride in spite of what all the naysayers have to say about him. Normally, allegories about disability leave me wary. Fiction tends to treat disabled individuals as narrative devices. Bojji, an outwardly happy-go-lucky boy who literally cannot speak for himself, isn't too complex as a character, but he's a deeply sympathetic, resourceful, and kind protagonist that has all the makings to become a real hero. What's more is how RanKing fleshes out the characters around Bojji, whether they be friend or foe. While many appear in direct opposition to Bojji's journey, the show pulls back the curtain to show the emotional complexity behind those who love him, even if that love sometimes causes more harm than good.

It definitely feels like the team at Studio WIT have outdone themselves in producing a soft, colorful, storybook world that also has a fair amount of Game of Thrones-esque grittiness. Ranking of Kings' world is full of strange magic, brusque sword fights, and dark political machinations. I've deeply enjoyed watching it all unfold while also being reminded at its core it's still just a warm-hearted adventure of personal growth.

2. The Heike Story

Speaking of stories that are equally warm-hearted as they are sorrowful, nothing could be as equally elucidating an experience as The Heike Story, an adaption of a classic Japanese historical tale undertaken in a joint effort between the Masaaki Yuasa-founded studio Science Saru and the well-regarded Naoko Yamada. The Heike Story is a centuries-long fable of the karmic downfall of the once-powerful and noble Taira clan known as the Heike. This lovingly animated retelling depicts this tragedy through the supernatural eyes of a young girl who only goes by the name of an instrument, Biwa.

At first, the historical nature of The Heike Story felt a bit daunting. I was worried I might not be smart or cultured enough to even begin to connect to it, and I wouldn't say that there wasn't any sort of barrier as a layman. The wonderful part about Heike is how universal its messages of life and death, time, and family are. The original is steeped in Buddhist thought and the adaption takes its message of humbleness in the wake of all things to heart. In other words, it's awe-inspiring. Like Biwa, the audience gets this close-up look of each of the members of the Heike, and like Biwa, we get drawn into their family politics until we can no longer position ourselves as outside observers, but members of their family too. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it definitely ticks my boxes of being an incredible piece of well- crafted art and wringing unsightly amounts of emotion out of me. Those that love history, family dramas, and crying a lot should definitely not let this one pass under their radar.

1. ODDTAXI

As some of you might've guessed, I'm pretty bad at making lists. I find art difficult to order. How can I pit my enjoyment of wildly different pieces of art against each other in a way that makes justifiable sense? Trying to figure out all the nitty-gritty of that was a huge hassle and I admittedly find the whole thing a bit arbitrary when there's no shortage of wonderful new anime I enjoy for a myriad of reasons. But nevertheless, my number one choice was already set in stone because no other anime has defined The Year of 2021 for me like ODDTAXI.

When ODDTAXI was announced, I wasn't sure if it would ever be anywhere near popular. It's an original 12-episode romp with no ties to a grander franchise. It's not a fantasy, it's not high school hijinks, and the mascot-ish character designs look closer to its western counterparts than that of most anime. But those are also things that I love about it. What's introduced as a modern-day noir is also a charming, funny, and tightly wound little tale about a bunch of people coming together in the back of one single vehicle. Its grounded conversations, peppered with dry humor, exude a weariness but also a fondness towards people and the neon-tinged technology-driven world. Each character feels intimate with their own backgrounds and personalities. I couldn't help but adore all these fuzzy-but-flawed adults by the end. AND BOY does it end. ODDTAXI starts off cruising at a leisurely pace but really knows how to step on the gas and maneuver its path in a way that feels effortless. It's just a great ride from start to finish, and one that I think anyone would be able to step in and enjoy. But even so, never did I expect for it to get such a cult following! Watching people hop on the ODDTAXI wagon has been one of the few joys this crummy year and I hope we'll keep talking about it for years to come. This one's for you, folks!

James Beckett

5. Beastars Season 2

BEASTARS' second season is a messier and stranger affair than its masterful first season, but that doesn't mean that we should discount the excellent work that Studio Orange continues to do in adapting Paru Itagaki's very messy and very strange manga. What started as an unlikely high school romantic dramedy about a carnivorous wolf who falls madly in love with a social outcast who also happens to be a tiny rabbit has evolved into a multi-genre soap opera battle anime, with a healthy dose of modern crime drama for good measure. For the most part, this mad ambition works in BEASTARS Season 2's favor: Legoshi finally digs into the murder mystery that kicked off Season 1 only to never be mentioned again; Louis the Most Extra Deer of All Time gets a thrilling arc as he takes on the role of the unlikely leader of the local Lion Mafia; Haru…well, okay, Haru barely gets anything to do this season, which kind of sucks. Still, for as scatterbrained and unsatisfying as BEASTARS can occasionally be, it's still one of the wildest and most original anime around, and if Season 3 really is going to be the last one, I can only hope that Orange is able to iron out some of the manga's biggest quirks and go out on a high note.

4. Jujutsu Kaisen

My #4 and #3 picks both have a lot in common: They're both technically shows that premiered in 2020, but they both missed nabbing a spot on my End-of-Year Ranking because they weren't quite far enough along in their seasons for me to be absolutely sure that they wouldn't shit the bed at the last minute. They're also both much-hyped MAPPA productions, which just goes to show how much they are dominating the anime landscape as of late (and you can bet your ass that I'm stoked as hell for that Chainsaw Man). Thankfully, both shows ended up paying off in a big, bad, way, and I'm very happy to be giving Jujutsu Kaisen the credit it deserves this year. The spooky, thrilling, and often hilarious story of Gege Akutami's original manga was already ripe for a good adaptation, and MAPPA got the perfect men for the job: Hiroshi Seko is one of the best writers in the business when it comes turning kickass manga into well-paced and cohesive television series, and Sunghoo Park is equally skilled at directing action sequences that straight up punch your teeth in and leave you grinning from ear to ear the whole time. Yuji, Megumi, and Nobara are some of my favorite heroes around, and I can only hope that their adventures continue to blow up in popularity all over the world. Bring on Jujutsu Kaisen 0, baby!

3. Attack on Titan The Final Season Part 1

You know what else my #3 and #4 picks have in common? I almost completely forgot to include them on this list, because both Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan The Final Season Part 1 finished their runs early in 2021, and that straight-up feels like it was five years ago, at this point. I'm glad I came to my senses, though, because I adore Attack on Titan, and its fourth season has proven to be one of its best…and one of its most controversial. Thankfully, I feel like most fans came around to the major aesthetic shift that came when MAPPA took over for Studio Wit, though for the record, I was on board from the get-go. Aside from some occasionally iffy CGI, the new art style doesn't just do a better job of matching Hajime Isayama's work from the manga, it also fits the dramatic perspective shift we get as AoT's narrative focuses on the trials and tribulations of the young Marleyan soldiers that have been caught up in the decades of war and propaganda that resulted in Eren and the other Eldians being exiled to Paradis Island in the first place.

The other controversies have been harder for Attack on Titan to shake, as the story continues to explore the messy and volatile themes that accompany a story of fascism, genocide, and world war. I have done everything in my power to avoid spoilers from the already concluded manga, so I might end up with egg on my face this time next year, but so far, I think the ways that AoT has handled the increasingly fraught and destructive conflicts of its story have been exceptional. I don't begrudge anyone for having misgivings about this complicated series, but Attack on Titan The Final Season has done more than enough to convince me to see the battle through to the very end.

2. ODDTAXI

Reader, I cannot tell you how much I agonized over the final two spots on my list this year. The other picks were easy enough to fill out, because there have been a lot of good anime this year in spite of everything going on in the world right now. My top two anime of the year aren't just “good”, though—they're goddamned masterpieces. That's my long way of telling you that you can basically consider this my “Other #1 Anime Of 2021” spot, because both of these shows are just that good. Anyways, here's the short version: Watch ODDTAXI. Right now. Don't even finish reading this list! All you need to know is that it is the kind of modern crime drama that you just don't see very often in the world of anime, where all of the characters are complicated adults who deal with real problems that have nothing to do with high-school romance or shadow dimensions or getting teleported to another world. Sure, every single character is an anthropomorphic animal, but even that detail is so much more nuanced and important than you might imagine at first glance. ODDTAXI is a funny, heartbreaking, and genuinely heart-stopping caper that would make the Coen Brothers proud, and it stands out not only as a masterpiece of modern anime, but of modern television, full stop. I cannot recommend it enough.

1. Ranking of Kings

Remember when I kept Jujutsu Kaisen and Attack on Titan off of my list last year because they weren't all the way finished? Well, I'm throwing the rules out of the window for this one, because I don't even care that Ranking of Kings isn't even halfway through its run. It was already on deck to be one of the best anime of the year after its incredible first episode, and it has somehow kept up that quality for eleven weeks in a row. Most anime would be lucky to have a handful of episodes as good as every single masterwork that Ranking of Kings has dished out so far, and it shows no signs of slowing down yet.

Maybe the heartwarming story of Prince Bojji and his little shadow-blob pal Kage was always destined to bring the house down, what with its impeccable writing and fascinating fantasy setting. Maybe the creators at Wit took a cue from King Bosse and made a deal with the devil in order to turn out what is probably the best work that the studio has ever done (sorry, Attack on Titan). Maybe I was especially touched by the powerful messages about how love and trust can win out over the forces of darkness because of what an incredibly awful year 2021 has been. Either way, Ranking of Kings is the most stunning animated fable I've seen since Made in Abyss rocked my world back in 2017, and it earns its place on the throne of 2021's best anime.

Best Songs of 2021

Nicholas Dupree

"“Blizzard” and “Ginsekai” – BURNOUT SYNDROMES (Those Snow White Notes)

Alright, yeah, I'm cheating a bit here. But it's not my fault that Those Snow White Notes decided to give us not one, but two new Burnout Syndromes songs for the price of one! But outside of both being certified bangers, this pair of tracks got my pick for just how well they're used to capture the energy of the show they open for. The entire point of an opening theme is to set the mood for the story to come, and this show quite judiciously uses both to great effect.

“Blizzard” is a fast-paced, harsh wail capturing Setsu's confused and desperate search for identity after losing his grandfather. “Ginsekai” – meaning “Snowscape” – follows him after that storm passes, in a nearly unrecognizable world that nonetheless beckons him to explore it now that the turmoil of its icy predecessor has quelled. Both songs are great at what they aim to do, and very poetically delineate the two separate parts of Setsu's arc as he gradually finds community and support in his new home. And again, it doesn't hurt that both are fantastic performances from one of the best bands in anisong, carried by Kazuumi Kugamai's ever-enchanting vocals.

And then, for the season's final episode, as the story mercilessly tosses our hero back into the throes of grief and confusion, it brings back “Blizzard” for a wonderful, incredibly cruel needle drop to punctuate the whole affair. It's a brilliant move that anchors these songs to Setsu's story in a way most anime don't ever try, and the perfect choice for a story all about communicating through music.

Richard Eisenbeis

“Uta Yo” By Kaho Nakamura (Belle)

Within the story of the film, Suzu, our main character, has been unable to sing for years due to her ongoing trauma stemming from the death of her mother. However, reborn as “Belle” within the virtual world of U, the first thing she does is try to sing—hoping that this new version of herself will be free of the pain that plagues her in the real world. The song she chooses is “Uta Yo.” It starts off tentative and tremulous, Suzu expecting the usual psychosomatic sickness to consume her. When it doesn't, her passion grows, and waves of pent-up emotion wash over her and out through her song.

And here's the thing, “Uta Yo” is diegetic—meaning that more than just being part of the soundtrack, it is heard by people in the film. They ignore her or make snide comments at the newbie randomly singing. However, Suzu is not singing for them.

In-universe, “Uta Yo” was written by Suzu herself. It is a song full of the pain she still feels at the loss of her mother and the irrational hatred she feels for everyone who can just continue living as normal with their loved ones still beside them. The closest thing the track has to a chorus is Suzu calling on the song to guide her through her pain: to heal her. Not only is this song beautifully haunting and representative of a key moment in the plot—it is also a detailed look into Suzu's mind. It's character development delivered in a uniquely powerful way. While the other songs in Belle tend to get scenes more akin to full-blown music videos, the simple way that “Uta Yo” is delivered allows you to focus on the words and emotions, making it hit harder than anything else in the film's stellar soundtrack.

Rebecca Silverman

"Nai Nai" by ReoNa (Shadows House)

I think this song spoke to my proto-Goth middle school soul. Certainly the full music video for it does, but it also hits a lot of the right notes in terms of creepy, carnivalesque, and catchy, with the sounds of breaking glass highlighting the tension of the piece. I also love the use of color in the (anime) video and the stilted, Victorian poses that end the image in the soot globe – both capture the themes of the show beautifully while still making us worry about what's to come after the credits have rolled. Basically it was everything I wanted from a song for Shadows House, and if it also let my middle schools self come out for a little while, that's an added bonus.

Christopher Farris

"in case…" by BiSH (Godzilla Singular Point)

Godzilla Singular Point was a weird show. A theoretical meditation on the effects the titular kaiju and his pals might have if they managed manifestation in a 'real' world, it was quickly made abundantly clear that the show was written by someone with a Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics. But even as the labyrinthine deployment of hard science left me reeling to keep up, that sick-ass opening theme by BiSH was there at the beginning of every episode to draw me back in. Satoshi Ishino's direction of the sequence takes what are ostensibly just elements of animation from throughout the series itself, and elevates the presentation into an evocative, tone-setting introduction to the laws-of-physics-destroying chaos that was escalating with the show's big-brained narrative. "In case…" felt like a countdown each step of the way I walked into Singular Point's serialized story, a genuine component of the "just one more episode" viewing habit I know Netflix wants to cultivate its watching models around, and yet another refutation of that same company's blasphemous "Skip Intro" suggestion.

Steve Jones

Lightship” by The Natsuyasumi Band (Sonny Boy)

Honestly, I'd rather nominate the entire Sonny Boy soundtrack than try to isolate a single best piece of it. Like the rest of the show, it doesn't follow any traditional rules. There's no opening. The premiere is almost entirely devoid of music, and the show continues to wield long stretches of silence throughout its run. As the story progresses, however, the music cues grow to be just as much an integral part of Sonny Boy's identity as the shade of blue used for the sky or the philosophical meanderings. The impeccable theme song sting at the end of the premiere sets the bar, and nearly every subsequent episode raises it with a new piece of music, ranging from breezy tropicalia to indie punk to ponderous ambience. If I have to pick a favorite, I'll go with “Lightship” by The Natsuyasumi Band, which supports the series' saddest moment and most precious reunion. It's used beautifully, but the song stands well on its own too. The vocals have a clean yet melancholic lilt, and the instrumental outro evokes the baroque sentimentality of the mid-aughts indie scene. Just allow me to stress again that there isn't a single bad song on Sonny Boy's soundtrack. I don't usually import vinyl copies of anime OSTs, but I made a worthwhile exception here.

Mercedez Clewis

"Minikui Ikimono" by CHiCO with HoneyWorks (Otherside Picnic)

"Minikui Ikimono", or “Ugly Creatures” is hands down one of the best OPs of the year, and that's not just because it's performed by CHiCO with HoneyWorks, though they definitely brought the fire to this track. No, what makes this a 2021 banger are the lyrics, as well as the striking animation, which offer peeks into Sorawo and Toriko's antics in our reality and the unreality of the Otherside. The bulk of the lyrics chosen for the TV-size OP center around a girl who doesn't understand the nature of friendship, or even how to reach out to the ugly creatures (like herself) that make up her world. Like a fish out of water (this is a lyric as well), the unnamed singer gets walloped by feelings when she meets someone who “trespasses” on her emotions, forcing her to see the world from the vantage point of a friend. This is a perfect fit for lonesome lead Sorawo, who slowly broadens her horizons via her friendship with Toriko that was more or less forced upon her. It's already a memorable earworm that is guaranteed to get stuck in your head – that it resonates with the journey of the story's protagonist is just the icing on the cake.

James Beckett

“One Last Kiss” by Hikaru Utada (Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time)

With “One Last Kiss”, we have the one of the rare entries on these Best of… Lists that took me less than a second to decide on. I didn't even have to think twice about it. I've written a lot over the years about how much Neon Genesis Evangelion means to me, and the franchise is such a phenomenon that there are probably millions of people out there who feel exactly the same way. It may have taken over a decade longer than originally anticipated, but when Evangelion 3.0+1.0 brought the long and strange tale of Shinji Ikari to an utterly perfect conclusion, we also had one last opportunity to have Hikaru Utada close us out on with equally perfect needle-drop. Even if the song didn't resonate so much with the themes of the film, and even if it wasn't married with a final shot that is so wonderful that it makes me tear up even just to think about it, “One Last Kiss” is a banger of a love song, pure and simple. I've put in at least a hundred listens since the final Evangelion film dropped earlier this year, and I'm going to do my best to fit in at least a couple dozen more before the year is out.

Caitlin Moore

“Boys and Girls" by the Ging Nang Boyz (Sonny Boy)

With Shinichiro Watanabe serving as a musical advisor to the show, it's pretty much a given that Sonny Boy had an excellent soundtrack. The series had a number of insert songs, each one a perfect match for the scene's mood and the overall series theme of disaffected youth coming of age. However, none of them took my breath away quite like the series theme song, “Boys and Girls” by the Ging Nang Boyz. The very first time it played came at the end of the first episode as the students leapt from their drifting school, landing in a blue sea. The episode, up until that moment, had no music whatsoever, and the tension had been building until it was practically palpable. The song comes at the moment that tension is released, creating a powerful sense of catharsis.

It's hard for me to find the language to explain exactly what makes a song work for me; I may have musical training, but no base knowledge of music theory or appreciation. I can only go for how it makes me feel, and even that can be hazy, “Boys and Girls” made me feel a certain way every time it kicked up, and I'd let it play through with every episode. Even though the credits were just scrolling white text against a black background, I never skipped them.

If you want to make sure your voice is heard, be sure to vote in our MEGA POLL! The poll closes on New Year's Eve, so don't miss your chance!


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