We had quite a bit of amazing TV this year. While I will make a list dedicated to the many anime I watched this year, I also wanted to cover everything else I saw as well. The following are my five favorite TV series I watched in 2021.
Young Justice: Phantoms
Shadow & Bone
Infinity Train Season 4
Doom Patrol Season 3
Succession Season 3
Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley’s Invincible is one of my favorite independent comics. Thus, when a series was announced to air on Amazon Prime, I was extraordinarily excited. The Invincible animated series takes the core plot and ideas of the original comic with Kirkman improving on as much as he could. These changes ranged from things as small as establishing William as gay much earlier, to larger aspects like Amber’s characterization and dedicating a subplot to Debbie and Damien Darkblood, the latter of which was just a joke character in the comic. While the animation may not have been the most consistent, the moments where Skybound’s animation team were allowed to flex their muscles were truly spectacular. I am excited to see how they adapt the story for the next two seasons and what further changes may be made.
4. Squid Game
Netflix’s unexpected Korean breakout drama, Squid Game deserves all of the popularity it has garnered over the past few months. A violent commentary on the darkness of South Korea’s capitalistic society, Squid Game hits very close to home for anyone who understands what it feels like to want to do anything to gain a step up from your peers. The series features some of South Korea’s greatest actors, Park Hae-soo, Wi Ha-joon, HoYeon Jung, and O Yeong-su. However, it is the show’s lead, Le Jung-jae that provides the core emotion of the series. Despite his many terrible mistakes, including a gambling addiction and the neglection of his daughter, writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk makes us sympathize with him, rooting for his survival or even victory just from the first episode alone.
When Marvel first announced that they were making a Loki series, I was far from excited for it. With the series following the 2012 Avengers version of Loki, I was worried that the series would lose all the development Loki received by his death in Infinity War. That quickly changed upon watching the first episode of the series. Hiddleston has always been amazing as Loki, but he never had such brilliant material as he does here. Loki’s acceptance of the weirdness prone to comic book stories and heartfelt character drama and romance is what made it my favorite of the Marvel Disney+ series. The beautiful visuals thanks to Kate Herron’s direction, Autumn Durald Arkapaw’s cinematography and production designer Kasra Farahani gave Loki a similar feel to popular sci-fi series like Doctor Who. Even the score by Natalie Holt is phenomenal. I am excited to see where Marvel takes the second season, even if it will be without Herron in the director’s seat.
Powerhouse Studios’ adaptation of Castlevania is a remarkable feat of animated spectacle, especially considering the horrendous history video game adaptations had before its first season. The final season of Castlevania had the absurd task of wrapping up the stories of every major character, while one-upping the visual delight presented in previous seasons. The latter half of the season is one of the best endings to any series I have seen. While there was plenty of fanservice for long-time fans of the game series, especially in the final battle, the show ultimately chose to put its characters first. The final episode choosing to be an epilogue with the remaining cast allowed the series to be complete, while still leaving a couple welcome surprises. I assumed no video game adaptation would ever top it, yet my number one pick somehow did.
Not only is Arcane the best video game adaptation ever made, it is one of the greatest series ever put to screen. With jaw-droppingly gorgeous animation by the French studio Fortiche, beautiful art design by the team at Riot Games and some shockingly compelling writing from Christian Linke and Alex Yee, it is no surprise that Arcane usurped Squid Game to become the most watched Netflix series of 2021. Every character may be morally gray, but it doesn’t make them any less compelling. Arcane had me rooting for its most broken, beaten-down characters, and that is remarkable. It is a miracle something this artistically creative came out of a franchise like League of Legends. I am more than willing to wait as many years as it takes to get another season of this masterpiece of a show.
Is there a series you loved from 2021 that didn’t make my list? Comment below!