10. Made in Abyss
The world of Made in Abyss is a strange fusion of post-apocalyptic dystopia merged with magical fantasy. The infectious optimism of our hero Riko against the backdrop of a strange society in an unforgiving world is just immediately gripping. The visuals are fantastic and the stakes grow heavier and heavier the further our characters descend into the literal unknown of the city-sized abyss they journey into. As strong of an impression as this made though, I don’t think I have the heart to revisit this show with its incredibly emotional arcs. But I also believe I will always look back fondly at how captivated I was by the strange mysteries in the abyss.
9. The Promised Neverland
I’m not a fan of horror anime, which is what makes The Promised Neverland such a pleasant surprise. The show is packed with suspense and the premise is immediately intriguing. It’s an engaging cat and mouse battle of wits between the eldest orphans of Gracie Field House against their caretaker, Mama. It’s a game of survival with compelling characters and gorgeous art style. I will say, that because I’m not a horror fan – I don’t think I will rewatch or revisit the season often. I do think this is a great first time anime for anyone interested in trying anime out.
8. Ascendance of a Bookworm
The story of Main and her new life in a fantasy world was an unexpected favorite this year. What sets Bookworm apart from other fantasy shows, is that instead of focusing on heroes in battle – we are treated to an almost edu-tainment style show that provides insightful lessons on early craftsmanship and entrepreneurship. It’s a strange cocktail of fantasy escapism and the excitement of business innovation.
7. Senryu Girl
“Light and fluffy” comes to mind when looking back at Senryu Girl. It’s a pretty simple romantic comedy about the awkwardness of first love. Nanako and Eiji are members of the school’s literature club, and the series follows their daily adventures making curious friends while sharing their appreciation for senryu poetry (similar format to a haiku but with a focus on people instead of nature). The show is a welcome addition this year for its wholesome stories and funny characters.
6. Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!
To those who aren’t familiar with anime genres, there’s an over saturation of what’s known as an “Isekai” show. The formula is: protagonist is hit by a truck (literally), wakes up in the afterlife face to face with a goddess who offers them a chance at reincarnation in a magical world. Isekai are typically fish-out-of-water comedies a la Back to the Future. It’s a cookie-cutter formula that is usually just an excuse to produce a male fantasy show where a self-insert protagonist is often overpowered and surrounded by a harem of love interests. Didn’t I Say is a parody that pokes plenty of fun at the genre. Our protagonist has a meta awareness of the narrative tropes and fights against the baggage that comes with being an Isekai protagonist. In a monkey’s paw style turn of events, Mile’s attempts at a normal life only lead to comical ironies that put her in the very spotlight she’s always avoiding.
5. We Never Learn
I don’t talk often about my anime taste, but one of my favorite genres is high-school romantic comedies. However, shows like that are a dime a dozen in the industry, so a series needs a special hook to really get me to follow it. I’ve definitely found a special affection for this one, the premise really connected me. An academic prodigy takes three peers as his pupils, each of them are geniuses in a specific field but want to pursue careers in their worst subjects. The characters compliment one another really well, each supporting one another through a shared challenge of struggling to reach their seemingly impossible goals. I loved the spirit of chasing your dream, even if it goes against everyone else’s expectations.
*Warning: There is an unfortunate amount of fan-service in this series.
4. My Hero Academia Season 4
Life after earning hero licenses has opened up a mature new side of the My Hero world. We’ve had a peek before at what collaboration between the police and professional heroes is like. This season takes an even deeper dive into the battle between law enforcement and criminals – this time in a fight against yakuza in a hero society. It’s a gritty backdrop for the character drama surrounding Midoriya as he starts a new chapter in his journey, working for All Might’s former sidekick Nighteye. Lives have always been on the line ever since the first season, but the contrast in season 4 is that instead of being ambushed as students – Deku and crew are on official hero duty under direct command of pro heroes. The fights are rare, but they hit hard emotionally as the heroes are yet again pushed to go Beyond!
3. Food Wars! The Fourth Plate
Personally, this has been the spiritual finale of the Food Wars anime. The manga does continue with more story, but behind the scenes – the production team lost their culinary consultant. The strength of the show is the real life accuracy of the gastronomy exploration in each episode. This season ended on a satisfying note, that I really don’t think I can bear to ruin by continuing to watch the rest of the series. I completely blame Game of Thrones. The battles reach an all-time emotional high in Season 4. The tournament matches are so well executed, not only for the food showcased but also because of the character arcs we see through the battles as well. I was completely surprised and so excited to see that the final battle for the soul of the school to come down to a battle between Yuikira and Erina. It subverts expectations that the final confrontation is between our heel-turned-ally and the protagonist rather than against the school’s oppressive new director.
*Warning: There is an unfortunate amount of fan-service in this series.
2. Kaguya-sama: Love is War
I have a special place in my heart for situational comedy. Probably because I personally used to find myself in cartoonish situations back in my high school days. I think that’s why I enjoyed Love is War on a nostalgic level. It took me back to the frantic days of high school crushes. The celebrates the inner battle of figuring out the do’s and don’ts of interacting with your crush. The characters each have their own social awkward quirks that make for great comedy. The art style is simple and clean, which allows occasional stylized re-enactments of the characters’ overdramatic states of mind.
1. Mob Psycho 100 Season 2
Season 2 of Mob Psycho 100 continues the misadventures of psychic prodigy Mob and his con-artist mentor, Reigen. I didn’t have too many expectations for Mob Season 2. I know Mob Season 1 had a fantastic reception from anime fans, but it didn’t blow me away. I enjoyed the combination of slice of life and supernatural adventures – but the show never really hook me. Season 2 elevated the production – but the story matured as well. Growth is the theme of this season, and I can’t count the times I felt genuinely proud watching Mob and Reigen find their independence and grow closer from new found appreciation for one another.