Best 2021 Animated Films & Series About Apocalyptic Extinction

Science fiction has managed to elope its way from storybook pages to big screens. Another transformation that mirrors the page to screen tailoring, is animation. Fast forward to 2022, we look back and see how far animation has come from being a children’s escapade to carrying heavy themes of loss, destruction, dystopia, and the dwindling of morality in a fragmented world. Looking back just a little further, 2021 comes to sight, and with that, harkens a theme of survival scenarios in animated line drawings and Pixar movies. Here’s a list of major animated films and series in 2021 that dealt with end-of-the-world narratives in exciting and distinct ways.


Best Animated Films and Shorts Of 2021

Ron’s Gone Wrong 

“Machines vs. humans” was 2021’s magnum-opus theme, and production houses could not be more aware of that. HBO and Disney took that path in portraying a friendship between a robot named Ron and its human companion, Barney. To enhance social relationships for children, buddy robots called b-bots were manufactured to serve humanity in the one thing they should be good at, interaction. While Barney and Ron seem to go through the same thing, a massive technical glitch reveals the plight and degradation of human nature through social media and the importance of natural relationships over superficial ones. While heartwarming, it’s also a thought-provoking watch. 

Rons Gone Wrong Summary Ending Explained 2021 Animated Film
Credits: 20th Century Studios

Extinct

Animator David Silverman makes two donut-shaped animals (flemmels) from 1835 time travel to the present, to see the mayhem of our reality today, along with the fact that their kind has officially gone extinct. Ed and OP, the two flemmels, try to save their own species, as opposed to humanity. However, you wouldn’t want to separate yourself from these two adorable characters, as they reflect aspects of human nature and behavior as they change the course of their history. 


Mad God

Stop motion animation has been a favorite of audiences ever since Into the Spider-Verse’s success. 2021 had its own share of feature films with this style, and the dystopian Mad God was a unique exploration for graphics, depicting the anti-hero assassin. An assassin that is only a small part of the cataclysm of monster troops and deranged scientists makes up this estranged world. With literary symbolism, and hand-crafted images, the putrefaction as a reality to live in is brilliant in portrayal. It harps on humanity’s ugliest side and is cinematically stunning in Phil Tippett’s production. 


New Gods: Nezha Reborn 

To dive into human nature is one thing, but to treat the powers of immortality in the eyes of mortals is another. A city life seemed normal to delivery man Li Yunxiang before discovering the cooped up godly power within him. On the surface, it seems like an inevitable victory that will allow him to escape poverty and gain authorship over the city. However, the limits to even being a god of sorts are revealed when he’s left with tough choices. The movie grapples with the themes of saving people over gaining one’s own ascendency, and battling the unfamiliar with immortality, and the difference between moral good and evil. However, humanity’s deeper crisis is showcased through greed, power, and ultimately guilt, the repercussions of which Yakasha faces. This movie is heavily based upon ancient Chinese mythology, which informs the moral motifs of the narrative, and the philosophy of god vs. humans as a whole.


The Mitchells vs. the Machines

On the brighter, mellower side of things, Sony pictures thought of lifting moods from the dark tunnels of tech fears. They produced Michelles VS The Machines – an animated movie playfully taking on the robot apocalypse trope, only with a family of four on a road trip, trying to save humanity while they’re at it. Sometimes, a little relief is always a good choice, as the film is a heartfelt celebration of the tropes of family, both inherent and found.

The Mitchells vs the Machines Summary & Ending Explained 2021 Animated Film
Credits: Netflix

Best Anime of 2021

Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon A Time 

One of the more anticipated Japanese anime movies, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0, crystallized the plot around mecha-designed giants called Evas. Humans are seen figuring out the brunt of the Third impact, or the apocalypse on humanity. The anime broods on philosophical concepts, forcing out of us cataclysmic questions rather than marveling at technology only. While we’re on the theme of nostalgia, this movie was an excellent closure to the loose thread of the original series back in 1999 and served a moral lesson about what goes through different people’s minds when the end is near for them. 


Gintama: The Very Final

To watch this movie, a little background viewing of the series is needed to grasp the gritty realism in the Terminal world. Yes, the series was a bizarre satire unraveling in the witty commentary of ninjas and warriors. The movie, however, goes above and beyond to deliver the most grueling, heart-wrenching wars of the Odd Job crew against the destroyer, which puts the entirety of humanity and the universe at risk. While the battle unfolds and the quirks play alongside, the three fighters, Gintoki, Takasugi, and Katsura, close the end to a brilliant series, finally battling to bring order to the universe. 

Gintama: The Final
Credits: Bandai Namco Pictures

Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway Flash

Shūkō Murase and writer Yasuyuki Muto thought to revive the 1979 mecha anime 42 years later, at a time when the world tethered closer under the rule of politics and machines. Hence, when Hathaway Flash got added to the title, we knew this first movie of a giant upcoming trilogy will showcase much more than the lurid machinery we saw in the fan-favorite movie Char’s Counterattack. The Globalized Earth Federation, indeed, is finally at peace. However, with the rise of a dissident political group, the world order turns shaky, leaving former mobile suit Noa to take on a new mission; saving the earth in the process. It’s more of a global political threat than technology, making the feature anime a must-watch.


Themes To Expect in Animation in 2022

Now that 2022’s here, and humanity’s fate flickers via small lights of hope, people are looking forward to their beloved anime renewed for seasons, like Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, or movies like Requiem of the Rose King. Newer members of Pixar, Turning Red, and Lightyear are being scheduled for release in 2022 while Studio Ghibli rounds up for its latest release, How Do You Live. Nevertheless, somewhere between the release of Attack On Titan Finale, Vinland Saga, and Bleach, it seems that the disaster survival trope is not going away anytime soon.


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Soumini Banerjee
Soumini Banerjee is a second year undergraduate student at the Jadavpur University, Kolkata West Bengal, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative literature. She believes the world becomes a little better every time someone sees and appreciates a Scorsese movie. She is a great enthusiast of abstract art and anime. Painting her mind and doodling things frequently lying on her desk, are her escapades.

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