Genre: Shonen/Folklore – There’s nothing more engaging than shonen anime. Shonen anime is the basis of historic manga and anime series. Such is the same with Dragon Ball, one of the iconic anime with an underbelly of Chinese Folklore that launched the media into the international mainstream. MAPPA’s Jujutsu Kaisen is, no doubt, one of the best anime this year.
The story begins in the eyes of an unusually strong middle schooler that faces an unfortunate turn of losing his only family. Yuji Itadori’s grandfather dies, leaving Yuji with the message of “help everyone around you, and you’ll never die alone.” He then faces his demon encounter, leading to his unexpected team-up with a mythical demon called Ryomen Sakuna. Ryomen stands for the Japanese word “Ryo” which means twin or two, and “Men,” which means face or side. Yuji and the demon, Sukuna’s polarizing tandem is based on a two-faced monster in Japanese Folklore with the same name.
Mappa’s animation quality is on point from the opening song until the end credits. A groovy city pop-like song called “Lost in Paradise” by AKLO with an energetic and colorful dance ensemble from the main characters is featured.
Genre: Delinquent/Psychological/Action – Tokyo Revengers is an odd mixture of magical time travel and your Japanese Delinquent/Gangster anime. Takemichi Hanagaki, a former delinquent or “Yankee” as an adult, lives in an average future in Tokyo. In this reality, his former gang members kill him and his ex-girlfriend. In turn, he wakes up in the same place, but in 2005. He builds a bond with his ex-girlfriend’s brother, and he starts an endless cycle of jumping back and forth as he avenges his girlfriend’s death and tries to solve this mystery. He becomes close friends with his crew, the Tokyo Manji Gang, and Drakken and Mikey, the co-leaders of the violent but virtuous delinquent group.
Genre: Fantasy/Isekai/Comedy – Mushoku Tensei is the best Isekai of 2021. I will die by my sword with this statement. Mushoku Tensei’s central message is that “Regardless what an awful human being you are. As long as you don’t give up on changing your ways, you always have a second chance.” Rudeus Greyrat’s chronicled journey to his second life is a mixed bag of emotions. His first tour out of his neighborhood with his mentor, the roaming wizard, Roxy Migurdia, was an emotional rollercoaster. Rudeus was traumatized in school in his past life.
In addition, Rudeus was an unhealthy and overweight kid who led a toxic lifestyle. His previous life involved becoming an urban hermit or NEET, as the Japanese called it. He was abused and shamed as his bullies stripped him naked in his school and posted it online. He remained a degenerated lifestyle until he died at the early age of 34. In his first tour outside with his mentor, he realized that humanity in life is not all rough on the edges. Rudeus was full of distrust.
Also, seeing an actual murder, with blood spurting on a victim’s body in his own eyes, is beyond words. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Mushoku Tensei. It is a story of a human being getting his second chance in life, with the tropes of fantasy and Isekai as its underbelly.