What I Watched This Week – 1/17-1/23

Title image for Sagrada Reset. A boy and girl in high school uniforms in the foreground with a girl in a middle school uniform standing behind them on the breakwater

Sagrada Reset – I think I liked this light novel adaptation that mixed mystery, suspense, romance, and the supernatural, but I’d be lying if I said it made sense 100% of the time. It takes place in a town full of people with various psychic abilities and our main characters are a boy with a perfect memory and a girl who can rewind time. They pair up to go back and forth in the timeline solving various problems from the trivial, such as preventing a cat from getting hit by a car, to the life-altering, such as preventing a higher-up at the government agency from changing the town irrevocably. Some scenes were a little too dialogue-heavy, with long monologues on ethics or metaphysics, that may have worked well in the novel, but didn’t reflect the way people actually speak and were a little hard to follow. 7/10 Hidive, Amazon Prime 

Title image for A Sister's All You Need. A group of young adults crossing a street in a crosswalk.

A Sister’s All You Need – Lord knows why I decided I needed to watch this romcom about a light novel writer obsessed with little sisters. I don’t particularly care for ecchi stuff, and I really don’t like siscon stuff, but I ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I saw someone describe the series’ opening two minutes as “a normie filter”, and it’s absolutely correct. If you can watch those two minutes and chuckle at the obscene absurdity, you’ll probably enjoy the rest of the show and the antics of the main character and his equally strange friends. Other than a few drawn-out fanservice scenes where one girl forcibly undresses other girls, that were unfunny at best, it is, at its heart, just a silly romcom about young adults finding their way in the working world. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Beelzebub. Disreputable looking high school kids in a grassy field with a green haired baby.

Beelzebub ep.31-60 – The second half of this introduced a bit more action and a bit more demon lore to go along with the high school delinquent character comedy in the first half. The funny parts were funny, and the fights between the delinquents and with the visiting demons were exciting, and the large cast of characters was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the final cour was about half anime original filler that wasn’t as good as the canon material, and the show just sort of… ends without much of a conclusion. Still, I had a lot of fun with Oga and his foster demon lord baby. 7/10 Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime 

What I Watched This Week – 1/10-1/16

Title image for Beelzebub. Disreputable looking high school kids in a grassy field with a green haired baby.

Beelzebub ep.1-30 – In one of the more unusual premises I’ve seen for a shounen gag comedy, a high school delinquent finds a baby down by the river and ends up co-parenting him with a gothic lolita demon girl while fighting his way to the top of the local high schools. It’s patently absurd in every way – the demon baby electrocutes everyone nearby if he cries, the delinquent high school doesn’t seem to have classes or teachers, one of the characters can split in half to warp people and things to another dimension – but somehow manages to consistently make me laugh at its dumb jokes. I’m looking forward to watching the second half this week. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Restaurant to Another World. A smiling waitress with horns and pigtails holding a menu.

Restaurant to Another World – I didn’t dislike this story about a restaurant whose door opens to another world once a week, but I can’t help but compare it to similar shows like Isekai Izakaya and Kakuriyo Bed & Breakfast and find it just kind of okay. I found the titty fanservice off-putting, some of the stories were so narration heavy that they bored me, and a few of the featured dishes felt lazy. It had all the motions of a food anime, but not enough of the charm. 6/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Jormungand. An assortment of armed mercenaries surround a smiling platinum blond woman.

Jormungand S1&2 – This is a tough one to give a rating to. On the one hand, the cast of characters in the crew of a young, pretty weapons dealer dubbed the Young Lady had intriguing backstories and motivations, the various situations they shot their way out of were exciting to watch, and there was lots of bare skin and muscles from both genders that was nice to look at. On the other hand, though, the grand scheme our weapons dealer has been orchestrating for years to change the entire world order was clearly not going to do what she said she did it for, and I can’t tell if the story knows that or not. It was full of exciting action and was at least trying to tell a deeper story with it, I just had a hard time deciding if it’s good or if it’s great. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for Amanchu. Three girls and a boy in high school uniforms with the ocean behind them.

Amanchu – While I enjoyed this slice of life series about a shy girl moving to a coastal town just before starting high school and meeting an energetic girl who introduces her to scuba diving, it felt like such a complete story that I don’t really understand why there’s a sequel. Our frustratingly timid main character got to come out of her shell and gain confidence, and the enthusiastic oddball girl got to make a friend and share her passion for diving. I got everything I wanted for the characters and feel like a sequel would only belabor the point, so I’ll stop here while I’m pleasantly satisfied. 7/10 Crunchyroll

What I Watched This Week – 1/3-1/9

Title image for Heaven Official's Blessing

Heaven Official’s Blessing – While this isn’t technically anime because it’s Chinese, I’m going to include it since it’s being streamed by Funimation and is listed on MAL. If you like your boys pretty, then this fantasy by the creator of Mo Dao Zu Shi is for you. The romance between the impossibly pretty god and the powerful ghost from his past is all very wink wink, but it adds a nice layer on top of the main story of newly re-ascended god Xie Lian resolving a couple of supernatural conflicts on the mortal realm. It was good, but not great, and while it was quite beautiful, the faces were so similar that it was hard to tell characters apart sometimes. 7/10 Funimation, YouTube

Title image for Noragami

Noragami – I really enjoy this urban fantasy about a girl who gets her soul half knocked out of her by a bus leading to her getting tangled up in the affairs of the gods. It’s a great mix of comedy, drama, and action with a large cast of entertaining characters. It was a bit of a gamble to rewatch it with my husband, since a big part of my love for the show is Yato’s blue eyes and the hinted romance between Yato and Hiyori, but he enjoyed it quite a bit, thankfully. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for Mirai

Mirai – I’m not sure if this is a kids movie or a movie about kids, but this story about a toddler jealous of the attention his new baby sister is receiving was an interesting mix of almost painfully realistic family and toddler behavior and fantasy time travel. Instead of a single story arc, the movie is made up of five vignettes centered around the toddler having a tantrum, storming off to the yard, and getting whisked away into the past or future of various family members by way of a magical tree. It could’ve used some sort of overarching message to tie the stories together, but they were entertaining enough. 7/10 Netflix

Title image for My Sweet Tyrant

My Sweet Tyrant – This series of 25 three minute episodes about an extreme tsundere and his girlfriend was equal parts cute and funny. A-kun is hopelessly head over heels for Nontan to the point of absurdity, but any attempts to earnestly express affection make him act rudely towards her or make him blush so hard he misses a week of school, which Nontan finds adorable. It does a lot with the short episodes to tell a sweet shoujo style romance. 7/10 Crunchyroll

What I Watched This Week – 12/27-1/2

Title image for Servant x Service. Cascade of the show's characters with government forms flying around them

Servant X Service – I believe this workplace comedy about civil servants is by the person who did Working!!, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The romance plot was super good, the customer interaction gags were spot on and very funny, and the characters were just a delightful bunch of oddballs. The sister was kind of annoying, and the bunny thing was an odd choice, but I had fun watching it. 7/10

Title image for And Yet The Town Moves. Girls in maid outfits in a shabby restaurant with other characters

And Yet The Town Moves – This comedy about girls working in a shabby maid cafe in an aging shopping district was drawn and animated really well, with interesting camera angles and unique style, and some of the bits were really funny, but I couldn’t stand the main girl. Her personality sucked – she was rude, selfish, and foolish – and her loud, nasal, and whiny voice was insufferable. I didn’t find her funny and I don’t know how she has friends. 6/10

Title image for Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju. Five main characters dressed in kimonos

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju S1&2 – I hardly know what to say about this drama about a rakugo performer’s life from childhood through old age. Season one is, fittingly enough for a drama about a storytelling art form, told almost entirely as a flashback where the main character tells the story of getting apprenticed to a rakugo master as a child before WWII and his tumultuous journey through young adulthood with his fellow apprentice. It was an absolutely gripping story about troubled, imperfect people making their way through a rapidly changing Japan that made excellent use of rakugo performances to illustrate the character’s own stories. Season two jumps several decades ahead to the twilight of his career, the rise of his apprentice’s career, and the simmering tension in his relationship with his adopted daughter. If it ended at episode 11, it would’ve gotten the same high rating I gave season one. But there were 12 episodes, and the insinuated twist in the last episode changed so much of the meaning and feeling of earlier events that I honestly felt betrayed. It was a really unnecessary twist delivered in a bad way. 9/10 & ?/10

Title image for That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime OAD. Monster girls in bikinis floating in a lake.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime OAD – The first two episodes are your standard OVA fanservice material, episode one has everyone strip down to sumo wrestle and episode two has everyone strip down to go swimming and get caught by a tentacle monster, but I got to see the hot kijin guys all but naked so no complaints from me. The last three episodes are a mini-arc about the school kids, and it was about as entertaining as their arc in the main show. All told, it was an enjoyable snack between seasons. 7/10

2020 Anime Roundup

Well, here we are at the end of 2020, where the pandemic left me with little else to do but stay in the house and watch anime. In addition to completing around 200 items on my watch list last year, I watched 62 seasonal shows this year. For comparison, at this time last year, I’d seen 30, and four of them were dropped. This was the year of trying everything that looked at all interesting and sticking with it until the end.

My pick for anime of the year is definitely Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken, which was a delightful journey with three imaginative girls through the process of making anime. If you only watch one 2020 anime, make it that one.

My top five non-sequels this year would be the battle shounen Jujutsu Kaisen, the fantasy comedy Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle, the gritty but darkly funny urban fantasy Dorohedoro, the comedic slice of life Wave, Listen to Me!, and the fantasy drama Somali and the Forest Spirit.

Best original series (as in not adapted from a manga, novel, or game) this year goes to the cyberpunk thriller Akudama Drive, which just edges out Deca-Dence on story and visuals.

The biggest disappointment of the year for me was season three of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, which I had really been looking forward to after really enjoying seasons one and two, but it was a super unsatisfying end to the series.

Finally, my lowest ratings this year were two 4/10 scores, which went to the boring bad mecha anime Listeners, and to the terrible worldview mixed with thoughtless writing bad Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina.

With all that said, I’ve gone through all my reviews of shows that aired in 2020 and ranked them here in order of enjoyment. The middle part gets a little fuzzy, but I’ve agonized over the top 15 and the bottom five quite a bit, so those are solid. I hope this leads you to watch something you missed or weren’t sure about, and may 2021 be a better year for everyone.

Title image for Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken. Three girls flying around a partially drawn environment on whimsical contraptions

1. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken – This love letter to imagination and creativity is, hands down, the best anime of the year. I absolutely loved that we got a story about motivated high school girls creating anime without it being a CGDCT. They’re average looking girls with exceptional abilities creating anime with the help of a diverse cast of side characters. The characters were not moe, their voices weren’t high and squeaky, and they unapologetically pursued their creative passions past the point of cuteness. All of this mixed with a relaxed, cartoonish art style and fluid, lively animation made this the uplifting antidote to all the bullshit this year threw at us. 10/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Fruits Basket 2nd Season. Tohru and the Soma family at the beach running after a straw hat blowing in the wind.

2. Fruits Basket S2 – Ah, Fruits Basket. The show with the odd premise – 12 members of a family are cursed by the spirits of the Chinese zodiac and turn into their animal if hugged by the opposite sex – that looks like a fluffy romcom but is actually a drama about recognizing how adults aren’t always acting in your best interest and finding the people outside your messed up family who you can lean on. I do wish Tohru was just a little less perfect and self-sacrificing, but, man, the feels this show delivered each week. Can’t wait for season three next year, when all the ships set sail. 9/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

 

Title image for Jujutsu Kaisen. Main characters in black school uniforms in fighting stances 3. Jujutsu Kaisen ep.1-13 – I generally enjoy battle shounens, so I was predisposed to like this adaptation of a Shonen Jump series about sorcerers who exorcise the cursed monsters that threaten the peace, but the stylish art and animation has me in love with it. On the surface, it has a lot in common with Naruto – a main trio of two boys and a girl, a main character feared by people for the monster sharing his body, a white haired and partially masked instructor with a laid-back attitude and incredible power – but Itadori isn’t rude and thoughtless, Fushiguro isn’t a self-absorbed hothead, and Nobara is neither useless nor boy crazy. I like how genuinely scary the monsters can be and how our characters really struggle with them and don’t always end the fight unscathed. There’s a real sense of danger and high stakes that has me feeling like I shouldn’t get too attached to anyone. Looking forward to the second half. 9/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Haikyuu!!: To The Top. Five high school boys in volleyball uniforms

4. Haikyuu!!: To The Top – My favorite parts of sports anime are always the training arcs, where our plucky protagonists are made painfully aware of their weaknesses and have to figure out how to overcome them, so watching Hinata and Kageyama struggle through their respective training camps was completely up my alley. I normally can’t bear to watch a sympathetic character get humiliated, but Hinata getting humbled after crashing the camp he wasn’t invited to was a huge moment of growth for his character and I loved it. Other people dislike this season’s animation and character designs, but I haven’t really noticed a huge difference myself. It’s still head and shoulders above other sports anime in quality. 9/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Haikyuu!! To The Top Part 2. Two teams of boys in volleyball uniforms jump for the ball

5. Haikyuu!! To The Top Part 2 – The match against Inarizaki was on the same level as Aoba Johsai and Shiratorizawa for intensity and interesting characters, and gave me the second biggest highlight of the whole series with that big Hinata receive (number one will probably always be Tsukishima’s block against Shiratorizawa *goosebumps*) in episode nine that called back to all the work he did as the training camp ball boy. I did find some of the backstory segments interrupted the game momentum awkwardly, and there were a few weird moments where the art went oddly off-model, but the characters and story still got my heart racing every week. 9/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Chihayafuru S3. Three guys and two girls wearing kimonos with cherry blossom petals flying around them

6. Chihayafuru S3 – Never in a million years would I have thought I’d get hooked on a series formed around a competitive card game based on classical Japanese poetry, but here I am three seasons later, praying for a season four. It’s got to be some sort of magic that makes the matches super intense and completely engrossing, because I’d be tapping my foot like I’m watching my team in a game seven. I love Chihaya’s singular focus on karuta, and how oblivious she is to the feelings of others, romantic or otherwise, because flawed but driven female characters are such a rarity. The romantic confessions had me absolutely drowning in feelings, and I really hope we get another season. 9/10 Crunchyroll 

Title image for Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. Five girls and two boys standing together wearing black school uniforms in front of a fancy high school.7. Kaguya-sama: Love is War S2 – I thought season one was pretty damn funny, but somehow this season had me laughing harder and more often while squeezing my poor heart. Shirogane and Kaguya continued to deliver as everyone’s favorite tsundere-tsundere couple, and best boy Ishigami finally gets to shine in the sports festival arc that had me sniffling.  9/10 Funimation

 

 

 

Title image for Golden Kamuy S3. Characters in mix of Ainu and Japanese military clothing walking through a snowstorm

8. Golden Kamuy S3 – Everyone who’s skipped this series because of the laughably bad CGI bear in season one is missing out on one hell of a wild adventure. Sugimoto and Asirpa get separated at the end of season two, and this season follows their respective groups as they continue to work towards finding the hidden gold. I love how loyalties, identities, and motives are always shifting and revealing themselves as Sugimoto’s group pursues Asirpa’s across the frozen lands of Sakhalin, and violence and intrigue mix perfectly with off the wall, irreverent humor. There’s no one particular villain, just an assortment of desperate men with conflicting motivations, and it’s fascinating to watch unfold. 9/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle. Princess snoozing in bed with winged teddy bear demons

9. Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle – You’d think that a show about a kidnapped princess whose only concern is finding new ways to sleep comfortably in the demon king’s castle would quickly exhaust the premise and stop being funny, but you’d be completely wrong. Any time I thought it was about to settle into a routine, it would twist itself just a little bit to surprise me and leave me cracking up. Watching our diminutive sleepyhead inadvertently terrorize a castle full of demons and leave them wrapped around her finger was consistently hilarious from start to finish. 8/10 Funimation

 

Title image for Dorohedoro. Various characters in masks against a backdrop of a gritty cityscape.

10. Dorohedoro – I didn’t know much about this urban fantasy before I started it, but I was surprised by how hard it made me laugh considering how gritty and gory it was. It felt really 90s to me, like something that might’ve been on MTV back when I was in high school. The balance of comedy, mystery, and violence was just right, with a fun cast of likable characters, protagonists and villains alike. My only big complaint is how it ended sort of abruptly without much of a conclusion. 8/10 Netflix

 

 

11. Title image for Wave, Listen to Me. Main character wearing a waitress uniform stands with the staff of a radio station.Wave, Listen to Me!– In a rare twist, we got multiple stories about working young adults in the spring season, and this comedy about a hot mess of a woman who falls into a job in radio was a riot. Minare’s voice actress gave the performance of the season with how she delivered the wild, drunken monologues Minare often went on where she’d rant about men, family, or whatever without stopping to breathe, never mind think. If you want a flawed but 100% relatable heroine, this is it. 8/10 Funimation

 

 

Title image for Somali and the Forest Spirit. A faceless golem carries a young girl on his shoulder through a fantasy landscape

12. Somali and the Forest Spirit – I am always up for a story about people caring for children, and this fantasy adventure about a forest golem who finds a young human girl and decides to leave the forest with her to find her people gave me pretty much everything I wanted from it. Humans are a hunted commodity in the setting, and golem and Somali face real danger as they travel in search of other humans, but it never feels bleak, or like they’re being ground down. It paints society as a mixed bag with both enemies and allies, all with their own motives that make sense to them. Watching golem and Somali persevere together and develop a strong family bond was really satisfying. 8/10 Crunchyroll 

Title image for Akudama Drive. The cast of seven criminals in futuristic street clothes

13. Akudama Drive – I didn’t plan to watch this original cyberpunk thriller, but so many people raved about it that I decided to pick it up around episode seven or eight. It’s at its best in the first two thirds, when it’s a futuristic train heist with a hastily thrown together group of elite criminals, before losing steam a bit down the home stretch, although the strong ACAB energy in the last episode left me satisfied at the finish. The art and animation was an absolute treat to watch with distinctive character designs, richly designed backgrounds, and electric action scenes. It’s a little uneven, but it was an exciting ride from start to finish. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited.

14. The Millionaire Detective – This is so not the year anyone needed a buddy cop show where one of the cops is a billionaire, but the trailer was so stylish that I decided to give it a shot. While the first four or five episodes are perfectly entertaining, self-contained stories, they’re really just introductions for the characters, and the show doesn’t really take off until the halfway point when the big mystery plot gets started. It’s at that point that it stops being about rich boy Daisuke and working class detective Haru humorously failing to understand each other, and becomes a high-tech thriller as they race to solve an old murder case before it kills them. The art and animation were surprisingly good, with lots of fluid movement during the action scenes. I found Haru really interesting as an American, as I can’t imagine one of our cops struggling with guilt from shooting someone on the job. 8/10 Funimation

Title image for Deca-Dence. A girl with a prosthetic arm and a middle age man float in the air while fighting a giant monster.

15. Deca-Dence – This show gave me a good chuckle with how many anime fans panned it before it aired for looking like an Attack on Titan clone, only to then freak out after the twist in episode two because they thought the character designs were too weird. So, please be different, but also the same, lol. Anyways, this post-apocalyptic thriller was a delight to watch each week with no source readers to spoil you as you wonder what’s next for gruff, cynical Kaburagi and the young, idealistic Natsume as they battle the giant monsters that threaten their home. I don’t normally like flashy CGI, but it makes sense in context this time, and the regular animation is above average, with exciting fight scenes and expressive faces in conversations. The ending was a little anticlimactic, but it was an exciting ride with a great pair of protagonists. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You. A young man embraces a young woman in a white wedding dress

16. TONIKAWA: Over the Moon for You – Most anime romances are about the courtship with some hand-holding or a kiss at the end, so a show about a newly married couple is something like a unicorn. Our couple has a bit of a bizarre first meeting, where she saves him from getting run over by a truck on a snowy night, before suddenly getting married the very day they’re reunited three years later. What follows is a totally sweet story of young newlyweds flirting with each other while discovering the joys of marriage that was a pleasure to watch during this nightmare year. My only complaint would be the annoying sister who objected to her sister’s marriage. It was played for laughs, but the trope of the overly attached girl who jealously tries to guard/steal back another girl from a guy drives me up a wall. 8/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun. Three main characters clinging to each other and yelling

17. Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun – A girl with a crush visits the girls bathroom in an unused school building to see if the urban legend about a ghost named Hanako granting wishes was real. One thing leads to another, and not only does he exist, but she ends up tied to him after he saves her from a murderous mermaid. The animation is choppy, but the art is really pretty for this dark comedy about the supernatural beings inhabiting a private school. The characters and their relationships were a lot of fun. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu

 

Title image for Id: Invaded. A man in a trench coat and long scarf stands in a pixelated world

18. Id: Invaded – This original sci-fi thriller pits murderer against murderer to unravel a mystery about a serial killer using technology that allows investigators to wander around a suspect’s subconscious. I liked the art and animation, which was fairly stylish, and enjoyed how complicated the protagonists were, as the only people who could do those investigations needed to have killed someone themselves. My only complaint would be the final confrontation with the villain, which was kinda anticlimactic. 8/10 Funimation, Hulu

 

 

Title image for Sing Yesterday for Me. Two young men and two young women sit on a bench in an art gallery.

19. Sing “Yesterday” for Me – If you like love triangles about people who can’t get out of their own way, this is the anime for you. It felt a little rushed in the last two episodes, but I really enjoyed this romance about people fumbling around in the transition period between school and adulthood. 8/10 Crunchyroll/VRV

 

 

 

 

Title image for Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It. Five graduate students in white lab coats

20. Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It – What happens when two data obsessed nerds fall in love? They build a research project that tries to quantify love and drag the rest of their grad school research lab members into it. The science humor drifts a little close to Big Bang Theory territory sometimes, but the characters are all so charmingly absurd that I couldn’t help but love them. 8/10 Crunchyroll 

 

 

 

Title image for My Next Life as a Villainess. Characters in gowns and suits gathered in a ballroom.21. My Next Life as a Villainess – I watched several isekais this year, and this one about getting reincarnated as the villainess of an otome game was my favorite of the bunch  Caterina was frustratingly dense at times about her friends’ obvious romantic feelings towards her, but I really enjoyed how her devious machinations to outwit the game and avoid her character’s bad ending all involved just being a genuinely nice person and good friend to everyone. A nice girl collecting a mixed gender harem is my kind of party. 8/10 Crunchyroll/VRV

 

Title image for The Misfit of Demon King Academy. Main character in white uniform surrounded by his accomplices.

22. The Misfit of Demon King Academy – On paper, this sounds like generic power fantasy trash, but it knows what it is and leans into it so shamelessly that I had no choice but to join Anos’ fan union. After sacrificing himself 2,000 years ago to end the war between humans and demons, Demon King Anos reincarnates himself and enrolls in high school, as one does, and plans his way back to the top. Along the way, he uses his heartbeat to beat a guy senseless, picks up a castle and throws it, says things like “Did you think killing me was enough to make me die?”, and gets himself a fan club whose singing gives him power. It’s never heard of subtlety and isn’t exactly deep, but it is an awful lot of fun. 7/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Kakushigoto. Main character dressed like a businessman crossing the street holding his daughter's hand with the rest of the cast on the pedestrian bridge behind them.23. Kakushigoto – Going into this without reading the manga, I was expecting a fluffy slice of life about a dad hiding his job writing a raunchy gag manga from his young daughter, but the ending segments of each episode kept hinting at a tragic present that didn’t feel very fluffy at all. Like most stories about manga artists, it has a lot of inside jokes and self-deprecating humor about writers’ anxieties and procrastination activities, but the added layer of trying to write dick jokes for a living while being a single dad sets it apart from the others. 7/10 Funimation

 

Title image for Ascendance of a Bookworm. Various characters in medieval like dress against a colorful background.24. Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 2 – The second half of this isekai about a librarian reincarnated as a young girl in a European-flavored fantasy world follows Myne as she navigates noble society as an apprentice priestess. While I loved watching her work towards her dream of filling this world with books accessible to everyone, a lot of the fish out of water conflict of an isekai falls a little flat with a child protagonist. Of course she can’t manage church and noble society, she’s eight. 7/10 Crunchyroll/VRV

 

Title image for Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? S3. A white haired adventurer carries a monster girl in his arms

25. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? S3 – Aside from Hestia’s ridiculous outfit, this series isn’t anywhere near as sleazy as the title suggests, and deep down is really just a light fantasy about a town with a dungeon and guilds full of the adventurers who fight in it. Season two wasn’t very good, so I didn’t have high hopes for this, but this season was an improvement on the last one in just about every way. The moral dilemma our hero is faced with after encountering an intelligent monster with self-awareness and emotions created an interesting conflict that brought out new facets of the characters’ personalities and clarified their motivations, and it stayed on point from start to finish. All told, it was a lot of fun to watch, and is probably my favorite season of the series. 7/10 Crunchyroll, HIDIVE

Title image for By the Grace of the Gods. A boy surrounded by his friends and his pet slimes

26. By the Grace of the Gods – This isekai fantasy about a middle aged salaryman given a new life in another world as a young boy with a gift for magic is as generic as they come, but it was so chill and relaxing that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. The stakes are low and there’s virtually no conflict, it’s just an 11 year old boy making friends, fighting monsters, and setting up a laundry business with his army of slimes. Ryoma and everyone he meets are just so pure and nice. It was something I needed during this awful year. 7/10 Funimation, Hulu

 

Title image for Ahiru no Sora. Five high school boys in basketball uniforms.

27. Ahiru no Sora – This basketball series really could’ve become one of my favorites if another studio handled it. I loved the realistic treatment of the sport – nobody shoots threes from the opposite end of the court, and the ragtag group of reformed delinquents doesn’t magically dominate their way to nationals – and the slice of life drama about the characters’ lives outside of basketball really made them come alive. It’s unfortunate that this great story of troubled kids finding a positive way forward was weighed down by absolutely abysmal animation quality. Not only were the basketball action scenes slideshows of static images, one of the effects they layered on them to give the impression of motion was a blurry filter that just made it feel like someone smeared mayonnaise on the camera lens. The story deserved better. 7/10 Crunchyroll, HIDIVE

Title image for Talentless Nana. A mosaic of the various characters

28. Talentless Nana – This thriller about an isolated high school for kids with superpowers wasn’t bad, but its best episode was the first one, and that’s a little unsatisfying. I mostly enjoyed the cat and mouse game between our villain protagonist and the one halfway sensible kid at the school, but the kids really were TSTL, which made the killer’s machinations just a little less interesting to see pieced together. Nana becomes a more compelling character as the show goes on, and I’d definitely watch a sequel if one ever happens. 7/10 Funimation

 

Title image for Moriarty the Patriot. Men in Victorian suits on a London street with a red sky

29. Moriarty the Patriot – I’m not really familiar with Sherlock Holmes stories, and haven’t seen any of the modern adaptations, so I can’t really comment on how well it uses the source material, but I basically enjoyed this crime drama focused on William James Moriarty and his plan to remodel society through elaborately planned crimes. I found his origin story and the idea of Moriarty being the surname of an English noble family a little hard to swallow (never mind the thin Queen Victoria), the villains are a little one note, and the class politics aren’t quite right, but once it introduces Moriarty’s motivation and brings Holmes into the picture, it becomes a solid mystery drama. I’m looking forward to part two in spring. 7/10 Funimation

Title image for My Hero Academia S4

30. My Hero Academia S4 – Despite this season featuring the dulcet tones of Kenjiro Tsuda’s voice acting, the lack of Todoroki overuse of flashbacks and info dumping in the first half really hurt the flow of the story and made it a little less enjoyable than the previous three seasons. I’m also 100% not down for trying to redeem domestic abuser Endeavor by having him act heroically at his job. 7/10 Crunchyroll/VRV, Funimation, Hulu

 

 

 

Title image for BNA. A tanuki girl runs in sneakers and a red hoodie.

31. BNA – I love the look of everything Trigger puts out, but they don’t always have the best story. BNA is full of beautiful, colorful art and kinetic action scenes, but the plot is a bit of a mess that didn’t need to be as complicated as it was. There’s plenty of drama you can get from a city full of beastmen surrounded by humans who despise them. It didn’t also need a big evil corporation with an executive that seemed so obviously like a villain that I kept waiting for the twist where he’d be revealed as a secret hero. Also, like most stories about make-believe oppressed minorities, it doesn’t really have anything insightful to say about oppression and even engages in some “both sides do it” logic. Pretty, but underwhelming. 7/10 Netflix

Title image for Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun. Various friendly demons gathered on the road to school

32. Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun – This looked like a little kids show, so I slept on it until about halfway through its run before deciding to watch it. And, well, it is pretty much a kids show, but it was a lot of fun watching human Iruma accidentally establish himself as an exceptionally talented demon while making friends with all sorts of oddballs along the way. The school festival arc dragged quite a bit, but I’m really looking forward to season two next year. 7/10 Crunchyroll 

 

 

Title image for Noblesse

33. Noblesse – This vampire-ish action drama wasn’t received very well, likely because of Crunchyroll over-hyping its previous manhwa adaptations this year and because this picks up the story after an OVA from 2016, but I really enjoyed the mix of fish out of water comedy and dramatic fights between factions of immortals. I don’t really understand why a thousand year old, wildly powerful immortal wants to attend high school, but the characters and their relationships were interesting enough that I don’t really care. The comedy was amusing and the action was well choreographed and animated, and that’s really all I can ask for. 7/10 Crunchyroll

 

Title image for If My Favorite Pop Idol Made It to the Budokan, I Would Die. A woman in a tracksuit approaching a girl idol for a handshake.

34. If My Favorite Pop Idol Made It to the Budokan, I Would Die – I’m not into idol groups or idol anime, so I figured all the jokes in a comedy about stans of a small time girl idol group would sail over my head, but both the jokes and the idol drama hit just fine for me. I was impressed at how they managed to get across that our stan main characters are giant losers while still making them totally likeable and never humiliating them for cringe style laughs. It was a gentle ribbing of stan culture with a delicate whiff of yuri in the background. 7/10 Funimation

 

 

Title image for In/Spectre. Young woman using a cane standing back to back with her boyfriend with a busty woman armed with a steel beam behind them

35. In/Spectre – When I saw the main heroine used prosthetics and a cane, and there was a ghost who reads Harlequin Romance in the first episode, I was hooked instantly. Iwanaga was delightfully bold, shameless, and assertive without being a violent tsundere, and her romance with the reserved, quiet Kurou was kind of adorable. While it started strong with a couple of short arcs, the longer final arc really dragged in the last three or four episodes with a lot of monologue that wasn’t very compelling. 7/10 Crunchyroll 

 

 

Title image for BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. Characters in their MMORPG gear and the main character holding a large black shield

36. BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense – This brought all the warm and fuzzy, low-stakes qualities of CGDCT to a VRMMO adventure, and it was just good clean fun all around. It was amusing to watch our new-to-gaming main character continue to stack points in defense, inadvertently creating an overpowered monster character build because the developers didn’t imagine anyone would put all their points in defense. It’s nothing particularly innovative or deep, but it’s cute and fun in a relaxing way. 7/10 Funimation, Hulu

 

Title image for Seton Academy: Join the Pack!. Various human-like animals in a high school classroom

37. Seton Academy: Join the Pack! – I didn’t expect to enjoy this high school comedy for furries, but the jokes were surprisingly clever at playing off actual animal behavior that I often found myself chuckling at it. They basically took a bunch of animal trivia and turned it into dirty jokes and somehow made it work. 7/10 Crunchyroll 

 

 

 

 

Title image for Number 24. Handsome guys with colorful hair wearing striped rugby uniforms.

38. Number 24 – I wish I were a more enlightened person, but I’m just an absolute sucker for sports anime that are just a pretense for handsome guys to get handsy with each other. As a sports show about rugby, this is sub-par at best. There’s very little practice or game action and it explains nothing about the sport. But as a slice of life about guys playing college rugby, it’s… still not really good, but all the guys are handsome and I will tolerate a lot in the name of cute guys giving each other hugs and head pats. I did honestly like how it treated the main character’s adjustment to life after rugby when a motorcycle accident forces him to quit playing, and how he wants to find a way to stay involved. I enjoyed it for what it was – a story about a sadistic shorty and his harem of rugby guys. 7/10 Funimation

Title image for God of high school.

39. God of High School – I went into this one expecting a fun, brain-turned-off orgy of fight scenes, and that’s mostly what I got, until the plot decided to do all the drugs and kill God around episode 10. All of the action was well animated, if you don’t mind a lot of 3D CGI, and I liked the three main characters and their friendship, but it was more like a physics engine demo than a story by the end of it. 7/10 Crunchyroll

 

 

 

Title image for Fire Force season 2.

40. Fire Force S2 – I think a lot of people dropped this series early in season one after a particularly gross scene of sexualized violence, but I kept watching for some reason and started to enjoy it in the second half. I still can’t stand how Tamaki’s clothes fall off at wildly inappropriate times, but I like pretty much everything else, especially the delusional little fool Arthur. The cast of characters is fairly big, but everyone is so distinctive that I’ve never had trouble remembering who was who, and the tangled web of interests and loyalties as they unravel the secrets behind their post-apocalyptic world is never boring. The fight scenes are as pretty as ever and the sound rattles my speakers in a really satisfying way. Despite its flaws, I’m still enjoying the characters and the world. 7/10 Crunchyroll, Funimation

Title image for Room Camp. Three high school girls in sweaters and scarves floating in the air

41. Room Camp – I don’t have a lot to comment on since the episodes were only three minutes long, but the girls of the Outdoor Activities Club touring around Yamanashi prefecture made a nice little treat while we wait for season two of Laid-Back Camp. 7/10 Crunchyroll 

 

 

 

 

Title image for Tower of God. Various characters holding their respective weapons.42. Tower of God – I don’t generally call things over-hyped, but I absolutely cannot understand why this mediocre show was the talk of the spring season. It didn’t do a very good job with introducing characters or establishing the world building, because I barely understand who’s who or what the rules are after 13 episodes. And, wow, was Bam a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Instantly powerful and beloved by all with a personality like lukewarm vanilla ice cream. I don’t get the hype, but it was entertaining enough with good voice acting. 7/10 Crunchyroll

 

Title image for Diary of Our Days at the Breakwater. Four girls in blue high school uniforms fish from an ocean pier.

43. Diary of Our Days at the Breakwater – This CGDCT about a high school fishing club could’ve been really cozy and relaxing, but the main girl’s voice cut through me like nails on a chalkboard. Her screeching and whining was really frustrating, because I really enjoyed watching the different ways each character approached catching the fish of the week, and seeing them cook what they caught totally made me hungry. If I could’ve muted Hina, I’d have rated it higher. 7/10 Funimation, Hulu

 

 

Title image for Smile Down the Runway. Four main characters either holding clothes or modeling them

44. Smile Down the Runway – You’d be forgiven for assuming a show about the world of fashion would be shoujo, but this is a shounen sports anime re-skinned so the players are models and designers, and the games are runway shows. It even has the character determined to make it to the top despite being too short. I enjoyed seeing the rivalries and drama of sports anime applied to fashion, but unlike high school sports where your window of opportunity is closing, they’re kids just getting started in an industry they could easily be a part of for decades. Because of this, and because I’m watching this when I’m old enough to be their mother, some of the drama felt a little forced. Like, everyone calm down, you’re 17 and competing with adults. It’s only up from here. 7/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for The 8th son? Are you kidding me? Main characters together in fighting poses.45. The 8th son? Are you kidding me? – Of all the isekai this year, this was by far the weakest. It’s supposed to be about a twenty-something year old office worker who wakes up as the youngest son of an impoverished minor noble, but other than pining for Japanese food, his previous life as an adult in a technologically advanced society never really plays a role, making this more like a straight fantasy than an isekai. There was a lot wrong with this – the magic looked silly, the fights suffered from bad CGI and a lack of tension, the final confrontation is wildly anticlimactic – but for whatever reason I enjoyed watching it each week. It’s a decently entertaining story about a nice boy and his friends fighting dragons for fun and profit. 6/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Gymnastics Samurai. Three men and a girl striking gymnastics poses

46. Gymnastics Samurai – This series about a veteran gymnast raising his daughter alone after the death of his wife definitely got better as it went on and we got less of that bird and Leo acting like a full grown chuuni, but I don’t know if I can quite call the show good. It didn’t seem to know what kind of story it wanted to tell until the halfway point, when it became a solid story about facing your fears and pushing forward towards your goal. The CGI used for the gymnastics scenes wasn’t terrible, but it’s still in the uncanny valley. I really enjoyed all of the characters, but I wish the writers gave them a more focused journey. 6/10 Funimation

Title image for The Irregular at Magic High School: Visitor Arc

47. The Irregular at Magic High School: Visitor Arc – Man oh man, this dumb series. I really can’t explain why I wanted to watch this or why I didn’t even dislike it. It’s a futuristic sci-fi power fantasy with a cool,emotionless overpowered main character who embarrasses anyone who fights him and attracts all the ladies *including his own sister*. Anime is lousy with sis- and brocon stuff, but nobody goes half as hard with sexual tension between a brother and sister like this series and it is wild. Anyway, I think the CG art and animation looks more cold than futuristic, there’s a silly amount of magi-babble, and the plot doesn’t totally make sense to me, but sometimes it’s just fun to watch an OP guy mop the floor with his enemies. 6/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for The Case Files of Jeweler Richard. A handsome blond man and a dark haired young man with a gemstone background

48. The Case Files of Jeweler Richard – This was 100% the most frustrating show of the year in that it half delighted me, and half drove me up a wall. I’m still not sure what sort of story it was trying to be. If the customers’ problems were actual mysteries, or if all that romantic subtext between Richard and Seigi went somewhere and stopped being so wink-wink, it would’ve been a great show. I loved the main characters and their relationship dynamic, emotional and impulsive Seigi ruffling the feathers on the always calm and calculating Richard, while coolheaded Richard saved Seigi from self-immolation, but the story didn’t seem to know what to do with them. 6/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Princess Connect. Fantasy characters gathered around a dining table. 49. Princess Connect Re: Dive – I didn’t think about watching this at all while it was airing, but seeing lots of people say they enjoyed it made me toss into the queue after the season ended. There was a lot I liked about it – how the princess was the strongest fighter in their group, the way our hero kept getting dragged off by wolves, the fun atmosphere – but ultimately I was a little frustrated by how the story seemed to wander from genre to genre. Depending on the episode, it was a slice of life, a comedy, a serious fantasy, an action-adventure, or a cooking show. I liked it enough that I plan to watch the sequel, though. 6/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Appare-Ranman.

50. Appare-Ranman! – Despite the vibrant color palette, the unusual setting of 19th century America, and some of my favorite voice actors, this story about a car race from California to New York never really got going for me. The American Indian kid and the Black driver were uncomfortable stereotypes, the villain was so bad for the sake of being bad that he wasn’t very interesting, and the 3D animation for the racing scenes looked lifeless and out of place. The slice of life buildup to the race in the first half was enjoyable, and I liked most of the characters, but once the race starts, it can’t keep the excitement going. 6/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for A Destructive God Sits Next to Me. High school kids in various odd outfits gathered in a classroom.

51. A Destructive God Sits Next to Me – Chuunibyou characters are pretty played out at this point, but this comedy about a “normal” high school kid beset by an an assortment of imaginative weirdos made me chuckle despite myself. Still, despite having surprisingly good voice actors, it was just sort of okay, with a lot of the jokes falling flat for me. 6/10 Crunchyroll 

 

 

 

Title image for Adachi and Shimamura. Two girls in high school uniforms sharing a bicycle flying in the sky

52. Adachi and Shimamura – How well this slice of life yuri romance works for people probably comes down to how they feel about the awkward and introverted Adachi. Lots of people seemed to find her blushing, stammering, and stumbling attempts to interact with Shimamura cute or relatable, but I found her complete inability to read the situation or relax around Shimamura really uncomfortable. When one character can barely speak a whole sentence to the other without clamming up or straight up running away, I’m not really seeing a romantic relationship being built. It was borderline creepy one-sided infatuation. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very satisfying, and the random space alien girl was both weird and annoying. 6/10 Funimation

Title image for My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Climax!. Kids in high school uniforms sitting around a table goofing off.

53. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU S3 – I thoroughly enjoyed seasons one and two and went into this fully expecting to love it, but I really struggled to get through it. The whole prom planning thing was such an annoying and unsatisfying way to work through the conflict in his relationships with the two girls. What was the point of that whole scene in season two where he tearfully declares he wants something genuine with them if you’re just going to have him play 4D chess again while spouting nonsense pop psychology? His whole character arc is supposed to be finding satisfying relationships with people and leaving his misanthropic cynical self behind, but he never manages a real, honest conversation with the girl he chooses. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I wanted. 6/10 Crunchyroll, HIDIVE

Title image for Arte. Main characters in period dress on the streets of Renaissance Florence.54. Arte – I was really excited for this when it was announced, as a story about a female painter in Renaissance Italy tagged as romance sounded entirely up my alley. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t really any romance beyond the old “why does my chest hurt when I look at him? What is this mysterious feeling?” trope, and Arte herself annoyed the shit out of me with her impulsive need to involve herself in other people’s business. The show also seems to think sexism is both displayed overtly by blatant sexists and overcome by just working as hard as a man with a smile on your face and that’s some hot nonsense. 6/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for Mr Love Queen's Choice. Four handsome men in dark clothing.

55. Mr. Love: Queen’s Choice – Honestly, the best thing about this visual novel adaptation was the unnamed heroine’s dress collection. Our aspiring media executive had a fabulous array of classic shirt dresses and always looked super cute. Everything else about this reverse harem mystery/thriller set in a world where people have superpowers was just kinda so-so. The four main guys were inexplicably devoted to the heroine, the plot with the big bad shadowy organization stopped making sense two thirds of the way in, the names in the dialog didn’t match the names in the subtitles, and the art made people look so similar that it was hard to tell people apart. 6/10 Crunchyroll

Title image for Woodpecker Detective's Agency. Young men in a mix of suits and kimonos standing on a street in Meiji era Japan.56. Woodpecker Detective’s Office – While I liked the art style and it had a couple of voice actors I generally enjoy, the story didn’t really go anywhere or have a point. Maybe if I was familiar with Japanese literature and knew more about the authors these characters were based on, the story might have held more meaning. I don’t have that knowledge, though, so this was just a story about a self-centered, lying asshole and his enabling friend solving mysteries without leaving clues for the audience to play along. 5/10 Crunchyroll/VRV

 

 

Title image for Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World. Young man and woman armed with sword and magic stand back to back

57. Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – I really enjoyed the three other shows Silver Link did this year, and I generally enjoy basic-ass generic fantasy, so I had high hopes for this fantasy about two people from warring nations who are drawn to each other. Unfortunately, it was just straight up not a good show. The plot didn’t make much sense, the 3D CGI was sterile and jarring, all the female characters had the same pair of back pain sized tits, and the whiny, useless squad captain Mismis ruined every scene she was in. To top it off, the “romance” boiled down to the guy staring blankly ahead like the power fantasy placeholder character he was, while she blushed and lashed out like a basic tsundere. *yawn* 5/10 Funimation, Hulu

Title image for Ikebukuro West Gate Park. Assortment of gang members gathered in a city park

58. Ikebukuro West Gate Park – Every season has at least one show that I don’t dislike enough to decisively drop it, but I don’t like enough to want to stop what I’m doing and watch it either, leading to new episodes piling up in my queue. This reboot of a 2000’s TV drama about street gangs in Ikebukuro was so incredibly meh that it became the fall season’s weekly chore. I honestly should have left it after episode one had our main character team up with his gang friends and his cop friends to take out the bad guys turning people into “junkies” with, dun dun DUN, *marijuana*, because it did not get any more realistic or believable later. The characters, situations, and resolutions were all very how do you do fellow kids dot gif, and not for me. I did love the opening song, though. 5/10 Funimation

Title image for Bungou and Alchemist.

59. Bungou to Alchemist – I’m not entirely sure why I watched this when I know game adaptations are rarely good and I know basically nothing about Japanese literature, but the boys were awful pretty and the action scenes were kinda fun sometimes. Unfortunately, the plot didn’t make a ton of sense and I just never stopped snickering at the bad guys being named “taints.” 5/10 Funimation

 

 

 

Title image for Sorcerous Stabber Orphen. A guy in a denim vest and red bandanna pointing a sword

60. Sorcerous Stabber Orphen – This was a reboot of a 90s anime and between Cleo’s mom jeans and Orphen’s sleeveless denim jacket, it absolutely looked like the 90s. I wanted to like it, but the story jumped back and forth in time so much via flashbacks that I couldn’t remember who was still alive in the present or tell what was happening. It’s getting another season, which I’ll be skipping. 5/10 Funimation, Hulu

 

 

 

Title image for Listeners. A teenage boy and girl in a desolate rail yard with an amp speaker.61. Listeners – Man, I don’t know how you make a rock and roll themed, post apocalyptic mecha anime boring, but the brain geniuses behind this managed it somehow. Incoherent plot, sterile CG fights, and poor music direction made this the worst show of the spring season for me. 4/10 Funimation, Hulu

 

 

 

 

Title image for Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. Young and pretty witch with white hair flies on a broom

62. Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – This one started near the top of my list after the first couple episodes made it seem like a coming of age story about a young witch traveling the world, but it began sliding downward from episode three, when our young witch left some people to suffer rather than get involved. I was ready to sort of accept Elaina didn’t rescue a girl from slavery and sexual exploitation in episode three because she’s flawed and/or she didn’t want to instigate a major incident, but not only did she not appear affected by it at all, three episodes later she fights a whole-ass king because she felt like it that day. When episode nine had the child victim of physical and sexual abuse become a psychopathic murderer, it dropped to the bottom of my list. Adding a dash of f/f incest in episode 11, and making the antagonist of episode 12 the version of Elaina that was upset by others’ suffering only further convinced me that this was written by a overgrown teenager stuck in an edgelord phase.

The disinterested observer made sense in Kino’s Journey, where Kino was a girl without a family, special powers, institutional affiliation, or a home to return to. When you’re a powerful witch with influential connections and a place you belong, you’re just a privileged kid taking a gap year. 4/10 Funimation, Hulu