Anime 2021’s Best Girl: From Wonder Egg Priority’s Ai to 86 Eighty-Six’s Lena

WARNING: The following article contains brief discussion of suicide and self-harm.

2021 has ended and 2022 is here, which means it's almost time for Crunchyroll's annual Anime Awards. Kudos for best ship, best score and best show will soon be voted on and handed out, but before Crunchyroll opens its polls on January 18here's a look back on 2021 in anime to remember just who is in them.

Naturally, the title of Best Girl is always hotly contended. To give things a little bit more variety, this list only includes characters from anime that premiered in 2021, so the likes of Demon Slayer's Nezuko and My Hero Academia's Uraraka will sit this one out. These best girls of 2021 shone as newbies on the stage, each of them deserving of the title in her own right.

Vivy (Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song)

Vivy Smiling in Vivy Fluorite Eyes Song

As an AI on the path to save humanity from extinction, one can't help but cheer Vivy on as she performs in Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song. Vivy began as an autonomous AI with the simple mission of performing in an amusement park. When she learned through a fellow AI that a war between themselves and humans would break out a century later, Vivy chose to expand her duties and do whatever she could to prevent this future disaster.

As an AI with set limits, Vivy can be a difficult character to pin down. However, she also possesses intuition and will make her own choices as long as they fit within the broad category of keeping humans happy. So, just how human is she? Though her story is one of endless conflict and war, Vivy herself remains pure of intention with the goal to 'always make everyone happy with my singing.' Her motivations to do what must be done, no matter how much she suffers, might make this fake girl one of the Best Girls there is.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song can be streamed on Funimation.

Biwa (Heike Monogatari)

Biwa had every reason to be callous and cruel, just as life had been to her. While she did develop a hard shell, she forgot to keep it up around the people she cared for, even knowing that caring for them would only lead to heartache. Heike Monogatari is a story of endless tragedy for the Taira clan during the Genpei War, and the little girl determined to watch it unfold.

With the ability to see the future -- and a personal grudge against the Taira clan due to the murder of her father -- Biwa made it her mission to infiltrate the clan through her skills as a musician and then chronicle their end, though that soon became like losing her family all over again. Though Biwa never worked to change the future, she still suffered for it. Her genuine affection for people of the Taira clan revealed the child Biwa might have always been: clever, compassionate, curious and always outspoken for herself and those she cared for.

Heike Monogatari can be streamed on Funimation.

Ai Ohto (Wonder Egg Priority)

Initially a complete shut-in following her best friend's suicide, Ai Ohto was given a chance to bring her friend back to life through entering wondrous alternate worlds. In these worlds, she was forced to be the hero of Wonder Egg Priority and save the girls inside who were being attacked by figurative monsters that would lead them to also commit suicide, such as a bullying classmate or an overbearing coach. As Ai managed to save the girls and meet others on the same mission, she grew more confident in herself and in her abilities, eventually taking that confidence and carrying it over to real life.

Ai is still shy when it comes to topics like love or sex, but incredibly sensitive to people's feelings and willing to listen. She is fiercely protective of other people and in a constant state of change as she grows stronger and realizes what areas of herself she can improve. The amount of growth she experiences during Wonder Egg Priority makes her complete Best Girl material, and she gets a fancy weapon to go with it.

Wonder Egg Priority is available to stream on Funimation.

Hayase Nagatoro (Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro!)

Nagatoro Grinning and Plotting in Nagatoro

Naoto Hachioji didn't really have anything to fear -- Hayase Nagatoro may not always seem like she has his best interests at heart, but his tormentor never actually wanted to harm him or their relationship. Though their initial interactions in Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro! were rough and some tears were shed, Naoto admitted he rather liked having Hayase's attention as her games began.

It became increasingly obvious as time went on, however, that while Naoto had always been sensitive, Hayase was simply a high school girl with a raunchy sense of humor and no idea of how to flirt properly. Whenever a trick spiraled out of her control or was initiated by one of her scheming friends, she would be just as embarrassed -- Hayase might be a trickster, but only on her own turf.

Don't Toy With Me Miss Nagatoro is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

Kyouko Hori (Horimiya)

As confident as she portrayed herself, Kyouko Hori once felt she had a lot to hide in the popular romance anime Horimiya. With a pristine reputation at school, matters such as her fractured home life and domestic responsibilities were embarrassing failures on her part that she had to make sure were kept secret. It took Izumi Miyamura becoming part of her life -- with all his imperfections and who confessed to liking this other side of her -- to let Kyouko feel ready to let down her defenses.

Walls down, Kyouko is opinionated, even bossy, and stops caring about her reputation. Even if she's considered less 'likable' by the general student body, she's able to be a real person, and that's what matters to the people who love her. Her friend group actually expands as she learns to trust more people with her true self. Perhaps it's the fact that she no longer has to pretend to be a Best Girl that makes her one.

Horimiya can be streamed on Funimation and Hulu.

Vladilena Milizé (86-Eighty-Six)

Lena Judges Her Fellow Soldiers

Lena is a serious and mature woman deserving of her station in the mecha war drama 86 Eighty-Six. Just as importantly, she's willing to listen and learn from her experiences and the words of others, making her capable of great growth. An overachiever to the core, Lena also disregards what she sees as useless social convention, such as the separation between her and the members of her squads and the insistence that she should focus on marriage over the current conflict.

That said, Lena still needs to learn to keep her thoughts to herself at times, since a sheltered upbringing hasn't always taught her when it's best to let a matter lie. However, her track record when it comes to battling alongside Shinei Nouzen speaks for itself, and she can't be called naïve for long.

86 Eighty-Six can be streamed on Crunchyroll and VRV.

Honorable Mention: Momoe Sawaki (Wonder Egg Priority)

sawaki momoe wonder egg priority

Though not the main girl of Wonder Egg Priority, Momoe Sawaki and her struggles with her gender and sexuality resonated with audiences in a way that is currently paving the way for more characters who are gender nonconforming, such as Ryuji Ayukawa from Blue Period and Lily Hoshikawa from Zombie Land Saga. Momoe was devastated after being mistaken for a guy and then abandoned on a date, especially after dressing as prettily as possible, but her experience saving (and getting a kiss from) the transgender boy she saved within the world of the egg helped to confirm her own identity and secure her place in viewers' hearts. She is the Best Girl of the Year in an entirely different and incontestable way.

For more information on the warning signs and prevention of suicide, click here. If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you live outside the U.S., click here for a list of international hotlines.

Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan
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