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10 must-watch anime arriving for the 2021 summer season

From returning favorites to exciting new premieres, there’s a ton to watch this summer

Shaman Yoh Asakura holding the spirit of the samurai Amidamaru Photo: Netflix

After a deluge of new anime releases this past spring, things appear to be thinning out a bit in the lead up to summer season.

That’s not to say there aren’t big premieres on the horizon: Beastars season 2 is prepped to finally make its North American premiere on Netflix this summer following its conclusion earlier this year, as well as long-awaited follow-ups in the way of My Next Life as a Villainess and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid finally set to debut. We’re still in the dark as to when or where some of the biggest upcoming anime releases (The Devil is a Part-Timer! season 2, Spriggan, Chainsaw Man, etc.) are set to premiere, but there’s still plenty in the way of exciting anime to tide us over until the fall.

Here are our picks for 10 of the most exciting anime to watch this season.


Beastars season 2

The first season of Studio Orange’s adaptation of Paru Itagaki’s coming-of-age drama Beastars was a runaway success and ranks as one of the best anime of last year. Set in a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, the story of a reclusive wolf named Legoshi and his uncommon friendship with a dwarf rabbit named Haru made for a compelling drama that culminated with the two confessing their feelings for one another. There’s also that whole murder mystery business and the question of who will become the next “Beastar” to mediate relations between the carnivores and herbivores. Season 2 promises to delve more into that aforementioned murder plot, and Legoshi and Haru’s dawning relationship following the events of the last season’s finale.

Beastars season 2 premieres on Netflix in July 2021, but a more specific premiere date has not yet been confirmed.


Fena: Pirate Princess

Directed by Kazuto Nakazawa (Kill Bill: Volume 1, Samurai Champloo), Production I.G.’s new Shojo-inspired fantasy series Fena: Pirate Princess centers on the story of a young silver-haired orphan on the run from the English Navy following the murder of her parents. Protected by an entourage of samurai who go on to form of makeshift pirate crew, Fena embarks on a journey to learn the truth behind her parent’s death and the motivations behind their mysterious voyage in the first place. Think Samurai 7 meets One Piece, though presumably without elastic ship captains or buff anthropomorphic reindeer sailing across the world and making friends along the way.

Fena: Pirate Princess will premiere this summer and air dubbed episodes on Adult Swim’s Toonami and stream subtitled episodes simultaneously on Crunchyroll.


How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom

Pseudonymous authors Dojyomaru and Fuyuyuki’s 2014 light novel series How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom is yet another Isekai (Japanese for “different world”) attempting an especially meta twist on the tried and tested genre. The series follows high school student Kazuya Souma who, after being transported to the mythical world of the Elfrieden Kingdom, chooses to become the realm’s ruler rather than a wandering warrior hero. Get ready for some bureaucratic hijinks as Kazuya and his court rebuild that nation from the ground up!

How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom premieres July 4 on Tokyo MX and BS11 in Japan and will stream this summer on Funimation.


The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated!

Based on Wakame Konbu’s slice of life fantasy manga, The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! follows the story of Jahy, a powerful demon and second-in-command to the ruler of the Dark Realm who, after being defeated by magical girl, is transported to the human world and transformed into a diminutive shadow of her former self. To reassume her original body and restore the Dark Realm, Jahy will have to recover the shards of the precious mana crystal which sustained the realm’s power — all while making rent and preventing her tiny one-room apartment from crumbling around her! If this premise sounds a bit like The Devil is a Part-Timer! (which is finally getting a second season after airing in 2013) but with a magical girl twist well, that’s because it essentially is that! The series is set to air for 26 episodes, so it’ll likely air across the rest of this summer and into the fall season.

The Great Jahy Will Not Be Defeated! premieres July 31 in Japan. Where the series will stream in the U.S. has yet to be announced.


Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S season 2

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was a huge hit when the series first aired back in 2017. The follow up to the original, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S, promises yet even more hijinks and misadventures as officer worker Kobayashi, her dragon maid Tohru, and Tohru’s friend Kanna grow together as a found family. From the looks of the trailer, this season will introduce a new character in the form of Ilulu, a mysterious new antagonist who seems to have an axe to grind with Tohru and co.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid S premieres July 7 in Japan and will stream on Crunchyroll.


My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! season 2

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! was one of the biggest surprises of the Spring 2020 season, putting a fun and mischievously clever twist on Isekai (Japanese for “different world”) fantasy anime. The first season saw its protagonist Catarina reincarnated not as a stalwart heroine, but the ostensible antagonist of an “otome” dating sim game. Catarina used every ounce of her knowledge as a gamer to pre-empt any scenario that would lead to her untimely demise, all while inadvertently nurturing the affections of every romanceable NPC in the game’s world. In season 2, it looks like she’ll be doing much of the same — and we’re not complaining.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! Season 2 premieres July 2 in Japan. Where the series will stream in the U.S. has yet to be announced.


Night Head 2041

The second anime based on the 1992 Japanese TV drama of the same name, Night Head 2041 follows Naota and Naoya Kirihara, two brothers with immense psychic abilities who escape from the clandestine scientific facility they were detained in. Desperate to keep the existence of psychic ability users concealed, the National Security Force deploys Takuya Kuroki and Yua Kuroki, two brothers with their own unique talents to track down the Kirihara brothers and bring them back.

Night Head 2041 premieres this July on Fuji TV in Japan. Where the series will stream in the U.S. has yet to be announced.


Shaman King

Who could forget about Shaman King? Hiroyuki Takei’s manga series was a huge hit for Weekly Shonen Jump back when it was being published during the late ’90s and early aughts, going so far as to be adapted into an anime series by director Seiji Mizushima (Fullmetal Alchemist, Concrete Revolutio) during the manga’s initial run. This new adaptation adapts all 35 volumes of the complete series, so don’t worry if you haven’t seen the original or have never read the manga before. Shaman King follows the story of Yoh Asakura, a teenage shaman who has been trained from childhood to become the so-called “Shaman King,” a medium of immense power whose communion with the Great Spirit will usher in a new age that will radically reshape the world as we know it.

Shaman King premieres August 9 on Netflix.


Sonny Boy

One-Punch Man and Boogiepop and Others director Shingo Natsume returns this summer with a new original anime series, Sonny Boy, produced by Madhouse. Described as a “sci-fi survival” series, the anime follows 36 classmates who are uprooted from their mundane middle school lives and thrust into a do-or-die contest of brains and brawn in another dimension. Aside from Natsume, the other big name talent attached to the new series is character designer Hisashi Eguchi, known for his work on Satoshi Kon’s 1997 film Perfect Blue and who joins Sonny Boy for his first anime project in over 18 years. In any case, the trailer looks sufficiently trippy — like 2013’s Flowers of Evil by way of Ping Pong’s Masaaki Yuasa.

Sonny Boy premieres July 15 in Japan and will stream this summer on Funimation.


That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime season 2 (part 2)

That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime returns this summer with the second half of its second season. In the aftermath of Veldora’s revival, Rimuru and co. must now prepare to take on the malevolent Clayman in a battle larger than any they’ve fought before. As we mentioned back in May, the show’s second season was originally supposed to air its first part in October 2020 and its second part in January 2021, but faced production delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Season 2 part 2 premieres July 6 in Japan and will stream on Crunchyroll and Funimation.