The Spring 2021 anime season is packed with highly-anticipated new and returning shows -- but looking beyond the expected heavy-hitters, you'll find even more promising anime. The following 10 series might not have a ton of hype, but each appears promising. Add these to your watchlist, and there's a good chance you might just find a new favorite.
From its title, MARS RED might sound like a space opera, but it's actually a vampire drama set in 1923 Japan. This story, about the army unit "Code Zero" fighting a rise in the number of vampires, started life as a staged reading play in 2013 before becoming a manga in 2020. Many actors from the original cast will be reprising their roles in the anime. Signal.MD, a division of Production I.G., will be handling the animation.
MARS RED premieres in Japan on April 5. Funimation will release the first episode early on March 29.
The gothic mystery manga Shadows House by Somato follows two unusual groups of characters: the faceless, aristocratic Shadow family and the living dolls that serve as their "faces." Some have compared the manga to The Promised Neverland, and the upcoming anime adaptation shares both a head writer (Toshiya Ono) and an animation studio (CloverWorks) -- let's hope the quality is closer to Promised Neverland Season 1 than Promised Neverland Season 2.
Shadows House will premiere in Japan on April 11.
Every sport will get an anime at some point, and this season, it's time for a kabaddi anime. The original Burning Kabaddi manga by Hajime Musashino has been going strong for 15 volumes and counting, so if this anime is popular, you can expect more seasons in the future. The Indian contact sport of kabaddi isn't very well-known outside of Asia, but this anime might make more people around the world want to play.
Burning Kabaddi will premiere in Japan on April 3.
A sports anime of a different sort, Super Cub follows an aimless high school girl who finds purpose and friendship when she gets a Honda Super Cub motorcycle. Though the light novels and manga written by Tone Kōken do feature racing scenes, the general mood of the series appears to be a lot more low-key and iyashikei than most sports anime. The anime is directed by Boruto's Toshiro Fuji and written by Toshio Nemoto, who is also writing the gymnastics anime Bakuten!! this Spring.
Super Cub will premiere in Japan on April 7.
Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood
Bushiroad is primarily in the business of card games and musical multimedia franchises, so it's both surprising and intriguing that the company is producing an original alternate-history samurai revenge anime. Making this series even more of a wild card is that the animation isn't being handled by Bushiroad's co-owned studio Kinema Citrus but by relative newcomers Bakken Record. This could go many ways, but the trailers certainly make it look exciting.
Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood will premiere on Crunchyroll on April 6.
Vivy: Flourite Eye's Song
Sometimes the best anime have the silliest-sounding titles (Wonder Egg Priority, anyone?). Vivy: Flourite Eye's Song is another title that might take some time to get used to, but this story about a robot idol trying to prevent a future war looks like it could be one of Spring 2021's best shows. Tappei Nagatsuki, the creator of Re:Zero, co-created this original anime with Eiji Umehara. Studio WIT, who did the first three seasons of Attack on Titan, is doing the animation.
Vivy: Flourite Eye's Song will premiere in Japan on April 3.
Pretty Boy Detective Club
Are you a fan of the Monogatari franchise? Pretty Boy Detective Club is a new anime series from many of the same creators. Nisio Issin wrote the original light novels and manga, while director Akiyuki Shinbo is overseeing the anime adaptation at the animation studio SHAFT. From the title alone, it's obvious this is going in a very different direction in terms of fan service than Monogatari, but it promises similarly well-written mysteries and stylish visuals.
Pretty Boy Detective Club will premiere in Japan on April 11.
The Saint's Magic Power Is Omnipotent
Based on the light novel series by Yuka Tachibana, The Saint's Magic Power Is Omnipotent is another entry in the growing trend of female-led isekai stories. The protagonist Sei has been summoned to another world to be its "Saint" and banish dark magic, but when the summoning ritual brings along a second girl who's more popular, Sei decides to avoid hero work and instead sell potions and cosmetics. The anime adaptation is being written by Wataru Watari, creator of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU.
The Saint's Magic Power Is Omnipotent premieres on Funimation on April 6.
Possibly the most unique new anime of Spring 2021, Odd Taxi follows a 41-year-old walrus cab driver who gradually pieces together a mystery about a missing girl by talking with various riders. This is the first anime credit for director Baku Kinoshita and writer Kazuya Konomoto, so it's hard to say what to expect. However, the quirky Animal Crossing-esque world, brought to life by Pokémon animation studio OLM, looks incredibly appealing.
Odd Taxi will premiere on Crunchyroll on April 5.
Cestvs: The Roman Fighter
From screenshots alone, Cestvs: The Roman Fighter will feel kind of familiar. The combination of CG animation and hand-to-hand fighting resembles other Netflix anime like Kengan Ashura and Levius. The historical ancient Roman setting, however, is definitely distinct, and the original manga by Shizuya Wazarai has been running since 1997, so this story has clearly connected with readers in Japan.
Cestvs: The Roman Fighter premieres in Japan on April 14. It will stream on Netflix later this year.