Japanese trade show AnimeJapan recently polled their audience to put together the top ten list of manga that fans wanted to see adapted to anime in 2021. It was the organizer’s fourth annual contest, and over 250,000 votes were submitted across over 100 manga options. With such stiff competition, the winners are sure to appeal to a wide variety of fans.
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The winners form quite a diverse list from action to romance to mystery and everything in between. While some of the more niche manga offerings are typically passed up in favor of properties with broader appeal, there seems to be quite a bit of material from 2021 and beyond that’s worthy of adapting.
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Updated on April 25th, 2022 by Tanner Fox: 2021 may be in the rear-view mirror, but there are still quite a few awesome manga releases from last year deserving of their own anime adaptations. Titles like Odd Taxi and Komi Can’t Communicate stood out as obvious favorites, but there are plenty of less-recognized works deserving of similar success.
There were also a number of hotly-anticipated series that were delayed beyond 2021. The second season of The Rising of the Shield Hero was perhaps the most notorious, but fans are still waiting on plenty of other once-promised adaptations, as well.
The Apothecary Diaries
The Apothecary Diaries follows the adventures of Maomao, a young palace servant in feudal Japan who has been trained in herbal medicine. Once her skills are revealed when she breaks a curse on imperial heirs, Maomao’s qualities are sought out by a eunuch to endeavor countless mysteries.
The light novel was 2019’s sixth best-seller at over four-hundred thousand copies sold, and Square Enix ranked it 5th on their Nationwide Bookstore Employees Recommended Comics of 2020. There is both a light novel and a manga. Readers can find The Apothecary Diaries anywhere that Square Enix licensed manga is sold.
My Lv999 Love for Yamada-kun
Another series in the high school romance genre, My Lv999 Love for Yamada-kun falls somewhere between Sword Art Online and Your Lie in April. It is set in an in-game world where the protagonist, Akane Kinoshita, is cheated on by her boyfriend and decides to swear off gamer boys… until she finds one that she just can’t avoid and makes it her mission to sway the overly unsociable game master.
The plot unfolds as Akane falls in love with Akito Yamada, who, while he has maxed out every stat in the game, is not the most experienced in much else. So, Akane must find a way to capture his heart, and the two find new friends and adventures along the way.
I’m in Love with the Villainess
I’m in Love with the Villainess is a romantic comedy about a reincarnated gamer, Oohashi Rei, who awakens in the body of her favorite game and is greeted by her favorite character, Claire Francois, who also happens to be the game’s villain.
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But, what will happen when Rei decides that she would rather romance the villain and invert the game’s story structure? The story unfolds as Rei’s courtship efforts meet Claire’s villainy for an unpredictable and interesting love tale.
A Man and His Cat
Move aside, dogs; man has a new best friend! Perhaps a twist of the 1952 film classic A Man and His Dog, the manga A Man and His Cat follows the adventure of a lonely male widower who adopts an unwanted cat, and the two become best pals. This is a tug-at-the-heartstrings story of two lost souls who find companionship in one another. Bring tissues.
A Man and His Cat was Square Enix’s top manga launch in 2018 and was voted in as a top ten manga by Japanese bookstore employees. It was acclaimed for the storytelling, pathos, and, of course, the adorable cat.
Senpai is Otokonoko
One day at school, a crossdresser, Makoto Hanaoka, is mistaken for a girl and confessed to by his junior, Aoi. However, rather than the typical rejection trope, Aoi instead decides to become the first person that Makoto has ever loved.
Senpai is Otokonoko is a gender-bending story that explores the perks of passing as both genders and loving beyond rigid gender lines. Aoi’s eagerness is matched only by Makoto’s shock as the two explore the bounds of their new relationship.
Takakura is a superstitious student fascinated by the occult, and Ayase is a girl dedicated to the hunt for extraterrestrials. Each believes the other to be full of it until subsequent investigations prove them both to be correct. What follows is a horror-comedy manga about two friends getting in over their heads in realms of the preternatural.
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Debuted in April 2021, Dandadan has amassed quite a large following over the past year, and fans are already clamoring for an anime adaptation.
In a world where magical gates link the human world to monster realms, hunters emerge to protect humanity or sometimes to just cash a check. But, hunters are not all created equal, and Sung JinWoo, who is also known as the “World’s Weakest Hunter,” is just trying to get by.
One day, in what is supposed to be a simple mission, Sung JinWoo’s team is massacred in a secret dungeon, and, moments before his death, he is granted special powers that allow him to go past his limits and become a hunter unlike any other. But, just how much can he level? On April 13, 2021, Maeil Business News Korea released a press statement about a potential upcoming Solo Leveling adaptation. However, little has been said since then.
Kaiju No. 8
Japan is ravaged by kaiju—Godzilla-esque giant monsters—and Kafka Hibino has always dreamed of aiding in the nation’s defense. However, after failing the entrance exams to join the Defence Force, he’s forced to join the cleanup detail, joining in the effort to remove dead kaiju from the streets. However, things change when a strange parasite morphs him into a dangerous new kaiju.
Highly praised and endlessly entertaining, Kaiju No. 8 ranked fifth in AnimeJapan’s 2022 poll of most-wanted anime adaptations. Given the continued successes of shonen series such as My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan, this work seems destined for adaptation.
The Dangers in My Heart
Winner of the 2020 “Tsugi ni Kuru” web manga award, The Dangers in my Heart is a romantic comedy between a delusional introvert and a popular extrovert that bridges school youth social cliques.
While the antisocial Kyotaro Ichikawa normally fantasizes about murdering the gorgeous Anna Yamada, he realizes she’s unlike the cool kids who normally tend to ignore the unpopular. This is all it takes for Kyotaro to find his first love, but will Anna reciprocate this newfound passion? A psychological thriller-turned romance, The Dangers in my Heart leaves no stone of the adolescent male soul unturned.
Junji Ito is perhaps the most celebrated horror mangaka of all time, but efforts to adapt his works to anime have mostly fallen flat. The most recognized is 2016’s Junji Ito Collection, which received mixed reviews from fans, many of whom felt that the series didn’t capture the artistry of the works on which it was based.
Toonami’s Uzumaki, however, looks to break the mold by recapturing the look, feel, and fear of the artist’s most renowned work. However, first announced in 2019 and originally slated for a 2020 release, the production suffered several delays. Many fans held out hope for a 2021 debut, but that has since been pushed back to October 2022.
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About The Author
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Barrington Levi is a lifelong consumer of Japanese manga and anime culture from Brooklyn, NY. He has studied Japanese language and anime history and lived in Japan. The first manga he ever read was Beet The Vandel Buster and his favorite anime is a toss up between Code Geass, Steins;Gate and Attack on Titan.
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