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The Best Anime Movies Of 2021

Has it ever been a better time to be an anime fan? The genre is thriving, and almost every year brings you a brand new batch of cool, new offerings that entice the public and smash records. The year 2020, for instance, saw the action-packed Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train become the fastest Japanese film to make 10 billion yen, which is all the more delicious because the previous record holder was also anime — namely, the legendary Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away. 

That's how cool anime is these days, and the future seems pretty bright, as well. The year 2021 has been a pretty good one for anime fans, with a wide variety of awesome stuff coming out, and some pretty classic franchises wrapping up some serious story arcs in full-length movie form. In fact, there's already so much good stuff out that if you haven't been able to wolf it all down in real time, it might be hard to figure out where to even begin. With that in mind, here's a bunch of the absolute greatest films the genre has had to offer this year. Let's take a look at the best anime movies of 2021. 

Gintama: The Final was a massive box office success

On Jan. 8, the action comedy anime Gintama came to a conclusion with a massive movie about the final battle for the Terminal. Gintoki (Tomokazu Sugita) and his allies face off against the Tendoushuu and the immortal Utsuro (Kōichi Yamadera), and the plot twists and turns as the various characters find their fates in a number of inventive ways. 

The Gintama series finale is a big ol' movie, and the business it's made has been equally impressive. Per Box Office Mojo, the film's box office success has been considerable, and the slightly under $17 million it's raked in at the time of writing is enough to land it in the Top 20 most successful movies of 2021. While it's a shame that fans won't get more Gintama in a hurry, it's probably safe to say that Gintama: The Final makes sure that the series ends on an extremely high note.

Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time wraps up the Rebuild of Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion and its various follow-ups are the official "Wait, what just happened?" series of the anime world. The Evangelion franchise is a convoluted, yet incredibly popular and impactful mess that has enticed viewers since the original series dropped in 1995, and the seemingly straightforward story about teens piloting giant battle machines against the monstrous Angels soon twisted into a bold, dark character study — and then into something else completely. 

On March 8, 2021, the most recent (and possibly final) installment in the franchise, Rebuild of Evangelion, wrapped up with the release of the fourth film in the series, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time. Since Rebuild is essentially a visually updated and less depressing retelling of the original series, it's certainly curious to see if the final movie would head in the same direction as the original series. The keen fan interest to see what happens to Shinji (Megumi Ogata), Rei (Megumi Hayashibara), and Asuka (Yūko Miyamura) this time around has reflected to the ticket sales. As Box Office Mojo reports, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time currently sits pretty at $30.6 million, making it the 12th highest-grossing movie of 2021 at the time of writing.

Sailor Moon Eternal: The Movie

The cutesy world of Sailor Moon has always included some pretty compelling villains, and the entire backstory of the show is exactly as complex as you'd expect from a show featuring a group of teenagers doubling as super-powerful Sailor Soldiers and dealing with a past life-filled history that spans centuries. The franchise's heyday was in the 1990s, and its only appearance this millennium has been the Sailor Moon Crystal reboot, which ran from 2014 to 2016. As such, getting a new installment in this iconic franchise is a big deal — and 2021 has given fans no less than two new Sailor Moon movies. 

Sailor Moon: Eternal is a set of two 80-minute movies that continue the Sailor Moon Crystal series. Per Crunchyrollthe first movie dropped on Jan. 8 in 127 theaters in Japan. The second one was released a month later on Feb. 11. Fans who are keen to experience this two-part, 160-minute epic might be interested to know that while the films are technically part of the Crystal series, they're also just about as classic as it gets: As Anime News Network notes, the character design of Sailor Moon: Eternal comes courtesy of none other than Kazuko Tadano, who worked in the same capacity with the original Sailor Moon series. 

Gekijouban Seitokai Yakuindomo 2 takes you back to Osai Academy

Seitokai Yakuindomo is a long-running manga and anime about Ōsai Academy, a happy all-girl high school that starts allowing male students as well, and ends up with a ratio of 28 boys against well over 500 girls. This makes the students' everyday life difficult in a number of ways, and the person in the middle of it all is Takatoshi Tsuda — a boy who gets immediately drafted in the otherwise all-female student council. 

The first full-length anime movie based on the series dropped in July 2017, and as Anime News Network reports, it was a smash hit at Japan's mini-theaters. The sequel, Gekijouban Seitokai Yakuindomo 2, was originally slated for a 2020 release, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic moved its premiere to opened on Jan. 1, 2021. Fans of the slice-of-life franchise have clearly been thrilled with the movie, seeing as it repeated its predecessor's trick by topping Japan's mini-theater charts (via Anime News Network).

Princess Principal: Crown Handler Part 1 is a bold new step for a cool franchise

What's better than a full-length movie that expands on the story of your favorite anime? How about six full-length movies that do precisely that? The acclaimed Princess Principal, which Kotaku called one of the best anime series of the summer of 2017, has now entered the anime film game, and the first of the six Princess Principal: Crown Handler movies premiered on Feb. 11. The movie is still a bit of an unknown commodity stateside, but the few who have seen it appear to greatly enjoy it, judging by its current IMDb rating of 8.2 stars out of 10. This isn't exactly shocking, because Princess Principal is a quality franchise with a particularly intriguing setting: Albion, a civil war-torn fictional version of Britain, where a group of Commonwealth spies posing as private school students navigate the intricate world of the Kingdom. 

Since the original Princess Principal show ran in 2017 and only has 12 episodes, this is the perfect time to jump on board this quality franchise. There's not too many hours of plot to catch and it's all pretty awesome — and with several more full-length films on the way, there's no risk of the story leaving you hanging anytime soon.