Wooooooooooah, we’re halfway there! 2020 has been something, hasn’t it? On the anime side of things, “delay” has been the word of the year. But that doesn’t mean some awesome anime hasn’t come out this year. Cue our struggles to make a Top 10 list. The quality this year has been very strong, which made picking ten series was impossible. So, screw it, we made a Top 12 instead!
Note: This list will be for anime that were released in the USA this year. Apologies to The Great Pretender and BNA, which haven’t been released on Netflix in the USA at the time of writing. They both look great though!
We would’ve had some mad mad co-workers if this wasn't included. The premise answers the question, “What if Sherlock Holmes was a jewel appraiser?” Jeweler Richard Ranasinghe and his assistant Seigi appraise jewels for customers. But for Richard, jewels (and their owners) are puzzles to be solved. This episodic mystery series does a good job developing the customers every episode, teaching a life lesson by the time the mystery is solved. The zen-like atmosphere allows you to ponder the heavy subjects at hand while never becoming emotionally taxing. This mix of drama and calmness makes this a unique series that deserves a watch.
One of the gripes people have about isekai is that the worlds feel largely the same. Ascendance Of A Bookworm, to put it mildly, does not have this problem. This anime builds one of the most complex, fleshed out anime worlds in recent memory. About a book lover who is reincarnated into a fantasy world that doesn’t have books, the anime covers cultural aspects from class-structure to business customs. It’s a world fans can get lost in quickly. But a series needs more than just an interesting world; it needs interesting characters. Myne proves to be a great protagonist as she faces adversity in her goals, plus she makes the best pouting faces. We also want to nominate Book Dad for Anime Dad of the Year. If you need anime with a deep world, Ascendance of a Bookworm can’t be overlooked.
Hey, listen up! Wave, Listen to Me! is a criminally underwatched anime. Not many series have protagonists like Minare Koda, a deeply flawed 30-something who stumbles into talk-show radio stardom. An anime about radio wouldn’t work without good voice acting, and Minare Koda’s voice actress, Riho Sugiyama, delivers one of the best performances of the year. It’s a breath of fresh air when an anime features adult characters going through adult situations. Also, not many anime start with the main character fighting a bear under the light of the moon. This series has some visual creativity up its sleeve and has fun surprising its audience. Tune your dial and give it a listen!
Don’t let the long isekai title scare you away from one of the funniest anime rom-coms of the year. Katarina finds herself reincarnated into her favorite otome game, only she’s the villainess that dies or is exiled in each of the game’s endings. In her attempts to avoid her fate, she accidentally causes all the potential love interests, including the main heroine, to fall in love with her! Katarina, nicknamed Bakarina by the fans, is the most lovable idiot. The core cast shine as well, creating a reverse harem that will attract even the most hardened of hearts.
We’re only halfway through this season and it’s already proven to be just as good as previous ones. Production I.G. continues to do a stellar job of making volleyball action exciting, as well as selling the emotional moments. It wouldn't be Haikyu!! without the cast having great chemistry, and the voice actors continue to give strong performances. If you want more sports, anime boys, and shonen-style hype, Haikyu!! continues to serve up what you love.
How do you make an anime that specializes in wordplay visually compelling? Produce the ever-loving heck out of it! The story is about single-dad Kakushi Goto, who tries to keep a secret (kakushigoto) from his daughter that he draws dirty manga for a living. Along with wordplay, it’s lovable characters are a large part of the show’s humor. You wouldn’t expect anything else from the writer of Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, though this show is much lighter and optimistic. Kakushi wants the best for his daughter, and the daughter is one adorable kid. Along with Barakamon, Kakushigoto is a good example of how to write children. Plus the animation is just gorgeous, one of the best looking of the spring season. If you need something that will spark joy, Kakushigoto is a great option.
This one-trick pony just won’t stop leaving us amazed! You’d think a rom-com Death Note would get old: Just how many situations can you come up with? Enough not only to last one season, but also two! It wouldn’t be possible without such a strong core cast. Not to mention all the new characters that steal the spotlight. Who needs Chika when you have Hayasaka?
This is what we call the silent hit; no one talks about it, but when you bring it up it’s like you’ve thrown meat into a lion’s den. The production has been stellar and both sub and dub fans have been treated to wonderful voice performances. But the biggest draw is that anime-only fans finally get to see the true ending to the series. For those fans we say buy a palette of tissues, you’re going to need it.
Do you ever finish an anime episode, lay back on your couch, give a deep sigh and think, “This anime gets me?” That’s what Sing “Yesterday” For Me is for many 20-somethings going through a quarter life crisis. These characters have just graduated college and into adulthood, and that transition sucks. The highlight of the show is the character animation. This series pays extra time in animating the characters' faces, giving subtle expressions that convey deep emotions. The struggles of keeping a relationship, developing long-term goals, and more are explored. There are moments that just resonate. This is a rare anime that feels real.
Studio Orange, the makers of Land of the Lustrous, are back with another great anime. Legoshi the wolf is a great protagonist as he tries to control his instincts while falling in love with his natural prey, Haru the rabbit. This strong emotional journey holds the plot together, which runs the gamut of genres from murder-mystery to romance to gangster. What never changes is the anime’s excellent use of metaphor to reveal the teen experience. From racism to sexuality, the carnivore-herbivore conflict is ripe to explore these themes. It’s something that animal characters are uniquely capable of doing, and Beastars mines it for all it’s worth.
This anime is bonkers, and we mean that in the best way possible. It throws Mad Max, Evil Dead, and Alice In Wonderland into a wood chipper and then resurrects the remains in a supernatural ritual. It’s got a main character with a lizard head and a human head inside of the lizard head, and that’s the start of the weirdness. But amidst the gore and absurdism, there’s a sharp satirical take on class and modern society. Similar to FLCL, it seems like a random mix of things, but it all makes sense when you uncover its message. This is something that could only be made in the anime industry, and even then it’s completely unique in the medium. We don’t know when, or if, we’ll ever see an anime like this again. So go watch it.
Another anime from Masaaki Yuasa, the director of Tatami Galaxy, Ping Pong, and Devilman Crybaby? You had us at Masaaki. Yuasa is a gem of the anime industry, with his creative direction, energy, and mix of art styles that make his work stand out from anything else on the market. He brings that same creativity and energy to this series about a group of girls who found their own anime club. Like Tatami Galaxy, Yuasa gives TLC to the excellent cast of characters and revels in the chaotic world of school life. This is an anime that stimulates the creative side of the brain to the point of overload, and gives the logical side of the brain a trip into the hardcore business of anime production. Simply put, this series is an absolute joy to watch. For our money, the best anime of 2020… so far.