It’s been a great year for anime. The 2019 season gave us a surprisingly wholesome psychic detective work in Mob Pyscho 100, and heartwarming romance with shows like Kaguya-sama: Love is War. There were outstanding shows that took us everywhere from singing competitions on Mars with Carole & Tuesday, to the times of vikings in Vinland Saga. There were even a couple of horror-adjacent series that broke through and found success.
But with all these new shows released, sorting through them all to find the best ones can feel nearly impossible. Thankfully we’re here to point you in the right direction for all the best anime of 2019.
The Promised Neverland comes from strong source material. Despite only debuting in 2016, the manga on which the show is based quickly became one of the most acclaimed of recent years, drawing in a legion of fans thanks to its mysterious plot and often terrifying imagery. The story follows a group of children who live in an orphanage. One day the kids escape the grounds and discover why they were never supposed to leave them. Outside of their idyllic home is a horrific world of demons and their orphanage has a more sinister purpose than they imagined.
With such a strong and haunting foundation, it’s easy to see how the anime could have coasted on reputation. Fortunately, fans got something transcendent, with CloverWorks delivering a gorgeous adaptation of the manga that helps bring its most beautiful and horrifying moments to life.
Mob Psycho 100 (season 2)
The second season of Mob Psycho 100 features the same plot elements we know and love from season 1. Mob is a young boy who is a powerful esper, and his master, Reigen, is a fake psychic who runs psychic consultation business and uses Mob to fix the issues he can’t. Mob knows he shouldn’t use his powers to hurt people, but when he’s pushed too hard emotionally, he snaps and unleashes an uncontrollable amount of energy.
This season finds Mob facing more powerful enemies with much higher stakes, but the message remains the same: empathy for other people is a much stronger power than ESP. Studio Bones (Soul Eater, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) does a great job animating both the show’s fight scenes and tamer, heartwarming bits.
Stream on Crunchyroll
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
Kaguya is the hilarious story of what happens when two students in love are too stubborn to confess to each other. Each episode shows the student council president, Miyuki Shirogane, and his VP, Kaguya Shinomiya, trying to get the other one to express interest through a series of mind games.
While this would normally be a pretty dry premise to animate, with most of the show revolving around witty conversations, A-1 Pictures illustrates the hijinks with over-exaggerated emotions, which raises the dramatic tension between the two. If this show doesn’t make you laugh out loud, expect some other physical reaction — it’s that funny.
There’s no shortage of good anime about demons, or people who use katanas to kill things. Demon Slayer joins the ranks of those shows with a premise so simple ... well, it’s the show’s entire title. But where the series sets itself apart is through beautiful animation and the way that it constantly walks the line between horror and action. Animated by Ufotable, the studio behind the Fate series, Demon Slayer’s battle are the best looking of any anime this year and the design of the demons themselves is often absolutely haunting.
Fruits Basket follows the story of Tohru Honda, a recently orphaned teenage girl who has begun to live with the Soma family. However, the Soma family is harboring a curse: when hugged by the opposite sex, some of the family members turn into an animal from the Chinese zodiac. Tohru gets to know the family and begins to teach them about love and compassion — two things that aren’t prevalent in the Soma household.
This beautiful remake of the original 2001 anime series is more than a nostalgia grab. This version of the anime stays true to the manga, introducing characters that were never seen in the original run, as well as finally concluding the story.
Carole & Tuesday
Carole and Tuesday are two girls living on a human colony on Mars. Though they come from vastly different backgrounds, they’re brought together by their music.
Studio Bones, the studio that also animated Mob Psycho 100, does a fantastic job adding magic to the music anime. The songs are all bangers and the emotion and character animated in the performances feel real and unique. The second half of the show will be available to watch on Netflix starting Dec. 24.
Stream on Netflix
To try to get a plate that will grant their wishes, three boys turn into kappas (mythical frog-like creatures) to purge the desires of zombie humans. They can only defeat the zombies when all three of them is present, and each time one is defeated, a new secret about one of the boys is revealed. Each secret that gets exposed damages the relationship between the boys more and more until they all have to come clean about their real intentions.
Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum director Kunihiko Ikuhara does it again. He takes a seemingly silly fantasy premise and turns into a show that dives into the human psyche. This is the show if you want to say, “Dude, what the hell?” every other episode.
This adaptation of Riichiro Inagaki’s incredibly successful manga series, about a mad scientist who has to save the world after everyone in it turned to stone for almost four thousand years, was one of the most anticipated anime of the year. While it got off to a slow start, Dr. Stone came into its own as it added more characters to the core cast and set them on a course to rebuild the world. As factions emerge and new technologies emerge, Dr. Stone becomes something like a cross between pre-historical Game of Thrones, and a match of Civilization.
The show’s mix of pseudo-scientific innovations, warring factions trying to rebuild the world, and gorgeous animation from TMS Entertainment makes this a worthy addition to this year’s list great shonen anime.
Putting out fires is a firefighters job, but fighting the demons that cause fires is the Fire Force’s job. Shinra Kusakabe is a new recruit to the team and he’s searching for the one who started the fire that took his mom and brother away from him.
Writer Atsushi Ōkubo’s usual themes make an appearance in Fire Force. Those who watched Soul Eater will notice similarities: religion, demons, and out-of-place fanservice. The interesting story and wide variety of cool characters with unique abilities will keep you hooked in.
Dororo tells the story of Hyakkimaru, a ronin whose limbs and organs were stolen by demons because of a bargain his father struck when he was a baby. However, if Hyakkimaru can hunt down the otherworldly creatures that stole his limbs, he can gain them back. During his hunt for these demons, Hyakkimaru meets a young thief named Dororo who accompanies him on his travels.
Thanks to a folktale-style narration, the entire show feels like a legend that’s been passed down generation to generation. It’s filled with inky darkness and a muted color palette. The few bright colors that exist demand attention, and lend the show the feeling of a ancient picture that, while slightly faded, is still beautiful. Dororo’s action scenes are well animated, but the best moments come when it’s simply watching its characters quietly travel the country and the show’s landscapes can be seen in all their glory. Dororo is easily one of the best samurai anime to air in the last several years, but also one of the most best animated in any genre.
Stream on Amazon Prime
Vinland Saga is an anime about Vikings. Not, like, space-vikings or anything like that — just regular, real-life vikings. The show follows a young viking named Thorfinn, loosely based on a real viking, as he navigates the harsh Scandinavian environment and the precarious waters of the Atlantic.
There’s really no other anime quite like this, and the premise alone would make it worth a look. But the unique approach that’s as close to realism as a shonen anime can manage, complicated feelings on violence, and meticulous character building, which comes directly from Makoto Yukimura’s much-celebrated original manga, help elevate the show into something truly special, and one of the best series of the year.
Stream on Amazon Prime