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Scott looking shocked while Ramona smirks back at him Image: Netflix

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The best one-season anime to watch in a weekend

From shonen to shoujo and everything in between

It’s nothing new to note that there’s too much TV to watch, and this staggering wealth of options applies to anime too. With streaming services like Crunchyroll and Funimation making it easier than ever to keep up with seasonals, Netflix increasingly producing more original anime, and an abundance of classic series now available to watch without tracking down illegally ripped DVDs on eBay, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when deciding what to watch. And sure, choosing to marathon a long-running anime like One Piece, which is now over 1,000 episodes deep, means you can avoid having to make another streaming decision for a long, long time. However, this also means you’ll have less time to explore the wide array of first-rate anime that are well worth your time.

That’s where the beauty of the one-season anime comes in. They’re quick, satisfying binges that you can watch start to finish in a single weekend. Some of the greatest anime of all time are only one season, like Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Death Note. But the list of exceptional one-season series doesn’t end there. There’s a bounty of other fantastic one-season anime available to stream, like the sci-fi thriller Steins;Gate, the ice skating romance Yuri on Ice, or the hilarious space Western Trigun.

So the next time you’re struggling with decision fatigue, queue up one of these one-season anime and enjoy the unparalleled gratification that comes with checking a show off your must-watch list in record time.

Our latest update adds Scott Pilgrim Takes Off as our editor’s pick.

Editor’s pick: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

Number of episodes: 8

Ramona and Scott running getting ready to fight Image: Netflix

Where to watch: Netflix

Science Saru’s anime adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s hit graphic novel series is full of surprises. The biggest is the true meaning behind the series’ name. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is less of a one-to-one adaptation as it is a pseudo-reboot-sequel that exists in conversation with the events of the original comic and Edgar Wright’s 2010 movie, similar to Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno’s tetralogy of “Rebuild” films.

In choosing to treat the comics as more of a launchpad than a verbatim script, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off affords its characters the space to grow and evolve beyond what audiences and fans might have otherwise come to expect. This isn’t a Scott Pilgrim story made for the early aughts, but for the 2020’s; A story told from a older, wiser perspective that’s able to parse the elements that made the comic such an enduring phenomenon from the parts that haven’t quite aged as well. Ramona Flowers, for example, takes on a more central role as the protagonist of the story, and the so-called “League of Evil Exes” are afforded more dimension and backstory. Make no mistake, however: This is the story of Scott Pilgrim, but a version whose ambitions and scope far exceed what its first episode might otherwise lend one to believe.

The ending of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off suggests the possibility for more adventures with these characters, but with no announcement as of this writing, the series functions as a terrific one-off season. —Toussaint Egan

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

Number of episodes: 12

An anime girl in a pink outfit, wearing a pink hat with rabbit ears, aims down the sights of a pink FN P90 submachine gun in Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online. Image: 3Hz/Aniplex of America

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu

Here’s the elevator pitch for Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online: “What if Sword Art Online, but instead of an MMORPG à la Final Fantasy XIV, it was a battle royale shooter à la PUBG: Battlegrounds or Fortnite?”

Based on a popular light novel series written by Keiichi Sigsawa (Kino’s Journey), Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is set several years after the events of the original anime and centers on Karen Kohiruimaki, an awkward 6-foot-tall college student who’s insecure about her height. Looking for escapism, Karen finds it through Gun Gale Online: an online shooter game where she adopts the persona of “Llenn,” a 5-foot player character clad in an all-pink outfit. Taken under the wing by “Pitohui,” a veteran player, Llenn quickly learns the ropes of the game and begins to build a reputation for herself as “The Pink Devil,” a formidable opponent known for her heightened agility and knack for improvisation. When Pitohui challenges Llenn to participate in the upcoming “Bullet of Bullets” tournament, knowing that the two will be forced to face off against each other, Llenn sets about training herself to take on her mentor, prove herself as a capable and self-reliant player, and gain more confidence in herself in the process.

If you’re an anime fan who enjoys series like Recovery of an MMO Junkie, My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, or Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, then Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online is an easy recommendation. Filled with pulse-pounding action, a relatable protagonist with a strong emotional arc and deeply personal goals, and a self-contained story set in a fascinating speculative video game universe, Gun Gale Online is arguably just as good an entry point into the massively popular Sword Art Online franchise as the original anime itself. —TE

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song

Number of episodes: 13

A blue-haired android anime girl guards against a damaged android anime man lunging with a knife. Image: Wit Studio/Aniplex

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation

Created and written by Tappei Nagatsuki and Eiji Umehara (Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-), directed by Shinpei Ezaki (Banana Fish), and produced by Wit Studio (Ranking of Kings, Spy x Family), the 13-episode original anime Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song centers on the story of a young android songstress named Diva. She is recruited by Matsumoto, an AI from a hundred years in the future, to intervene in major historical events and prevent a future where humanity is annihilated by androids.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is the perfect choice for anyone looking for a stellar anime with great music and breathtakingly beautiful fight sequences. It’s a sci-fi drama with an emphasis on the cruel passage of time and the purpose of music and art in a world of artifice, while also being a poignant story about personal growth and defying fate.

The series on a whole is worth watching, but episode 9 is the standout entry of the entire anime, featuring a pulse-pounding sequence between Vivy and Matsumoto in a modular cube-like body fighting against a vengeful android assailant with a powerful arm cannon. Trust me — if you haven’t watch Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song, you’ve missed out on one of the most spectacularly animated fight scenes of 2021. —TE

Id: Invaded

Number of episodes: 13

An anime character with light pink hair in a tan brown suit and coat with a mustard yellow scarf stands in a room filled with people with half-formed bodies. The ceiling of the room is missing, and the background is filled with debris and broken buildings floating in white space. Image: NAZ/Funimation

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

Id: Invaded is another original anime that slipped under the radars of many fans when it first aired in January 2022 — including my own. That’s a shame, because this anime rocks. Directed by Ei Aoki (Fate/Zero, Aldnoah.Zero), written by Ōtarō Maijō (Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo), and produced by studio NAZ, Id: Invaded takes place in a Minority Report-esque future where specially trained investigators can dive directly into the mind palaces (known as “id wells”) of killers in order to deduce their motives, actions, and the last known locations of their soon-to-be victims.

Think of it as a less dystopian version of Psycho-Pass by way of Inception, where Sherlock Holmes is a convicted killer working as a consulting detective to hunt down serial killers and bring them to justice. Id: Invaded is an engrossing sci-fi mystery thriller with intriguing characters, provocative world-building, and dazzling visuals. In short: It’s the kind of series that makes the case for the elasticity of anime as a medium that is capable of doing anything and everything. —TE

Odd Taxi

Number of episodes: 13

A walrus taxi driver talking to a smiling blue hippo passenger holding a yellow smart phone. Image: OLM/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Odd Taxi tells the story of a 41-year-old walrus taxi driver named Odokawa living in a world of talking anthropomorphic animals. When Odokawa inadvertently becomes the suspect in the disappearance of a young girl, he’s preyed upon by conniving yakuza and crooked cops eager to track the young woman down for their own nefarious ends. On top of that, he has to deal with his begrudging affection for a young alpaca nurse named Miho, as well as elude a vicious masked stalker with a murderous vendetta against him.

Directed by Baku Kinoshita (who also served as the series’ character designer), written by Kazuya Konomoto, and co-produced by creative company P.I.C.S and anime studio OLM, Odd Taxi is a fascinating and well-paced crime thriller that easily earned its place on our best anime of 2021 list. Plus, it’s got a gorgeous opening title sequence. —TE


Number of episodes: 24

Rintaro Okabe looks down at his cell phone in Steins;Gate. Image: White Fox/Funimation

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

The idea of hooking a cell phone up to a microwave in order to send texts to the past is very silly, but Steins;Gate is definitively not a silly show. A tightly plotted sci-fi drama, Steins;Gate follows Rintaro Okabe, an egotistical “mad scientist” who, along with his two friends and colleagues, unexpectedly discovers a way to send messages — and eventually memories — into the past. It’s an exceptional time travel story with a compelling cast of characters, thrilling mysteries, and edge-of-your-seat action. —Sadie Gennis

[Ed. note: While it’s a terrific series overall, there is one instance of poor localization in the English dub that comes across as racially insensitive at best. We recommend the sub for this reason.]


Number of episodes: 26

A man with round tinted glasses looks ahead in Trigun. Image: Madhouse/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

A space Western set in the 32nd century, Trigun follows Vash the Stampede, a pacifist gunslinger with a 60-billion double-dollar bounty on his head for accidentally destroying a town with his superhuman abilities. However, due to his amnesia, Vash has little memory of the incident or his childhood alongside his twin brother, Knives, who now wants him dead. As Vash travels the planet, he’s joined by Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, two insurance agents whose duties involve evaluating claims caused by the damages Vash inadvertently leaves in his wake while fighting off bounty hunters and assassins sent by his brother. As Vash’s history is explored through flashbacks, the truth about the town’s destruction and Knives’ vendetta comes to light in this high-energy adventure. —SG

Yuri on Ice

Number of episodes: 12

A group of young people on ice skates, most of them smiling, in Yuri on Ice. Image: MAPPA/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation

This ice skating romance is pure serotonin. After Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki decides to go on a hiatus after a brutal competition loss, he’s shocked when his hero (and crush), Russian figure skating champ Victor Nikiforov, shows up at his doorstep offering to be his coach. This leads to an energizing rivalry with the up-and-coming Russian skater Yuri Plisetsky, whom Victor had previously promised to coach. The skating animation in the series is absolutely breathtaking, but it’s the slow-burn romance between Yuri K. and Victor that will stay in your heart long after the finale credits roll. —SG


Number of episodes: 12

A young Satoru Funinuma runs past Kayo Hinazuki in Erased. Image: A-1 Pictures/Aniplex

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

Nearly 20 years later, Satoru Fujinuma remains haunted by the disappearance of his fifth grade classmate, Kayo Hinazuki. When his mother is murdered by an unknown assailant, Satoru discovers her death is somehow connected to Kayo’s abduction. Using his mysterious ability to travel back into the past, he becomes determined to save his mother and Kayo from their tragic fates and uncover the truth of who’s behind their deaths. Erased is an atmospheric, twisty, and gripping tale, so don’t surprised if it doesn’t even take a full weekend to get through it. —SG

Ouran High School Host Club

Number of episodes: 26

Tamaki Suoh points his finger at the off-screen Haruhi Fujioka while other members of the Ouran Host Club stand behind him. Image: Bones/Viz Media

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, Tubi

This comedic, reverse harem anime is one of the most iconic gone-before-its-time anime. Joking about waiting for season two is practically a hobby of the shoujo community at this point. The series follows Haruhi Fujioka, an Ouran Academy scholarship student who finds herself indebted to the Host Club after breaking an expensive vase. At first, Haruhi is only supposed to run errands for the club’s six wealthy male members, who entertain female clients in the school’s unused music room. But due to her natural rapport with the clients, Haruhi is promoted to a host-in-training, a role which requires her to disguise herself as a boy — and which leads to ample opportunities to winkingly poke fun at typical shoujo tropes. —SG

[Ed. note: A queer character who does drag is referred to with transphobic slurs in the original English localization. These terms have been removed and updated in some versions of the sub, including Netflix’s, but remain in the English dub.]

Samurai Champloo

Number of episodes: 26

Jin and Mugen look at Fuu in exasperation in Samurai Champloo. Image: Manglobe/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

Shinichirō Watanabe’s directorial follow-up to Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo is a contemporary, hip-hop-infused story set against a historical backdrop. The series follows waitress Fuu and her two hired bodyguards, samurai Mugen and ronin Jin, as they set out to find a mysterious samurai in an alternate Edo-era Japan. Samurai Champloo is a largely episodic series, but it has a charming momentum that makes it perfect for a quick binge. Fans of Cowboy Bebop’s referential storytelling, contemplative themes, and inclusive world-building will also find a lot to love in the series. —SG

Fruits Basket (2001)

Number of episodes: 26

Tohru Honda gazes up in awe in the 2001 adaptation of Fruits Basket. Image: Studio Deen/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

The Fruits Basket manga was adapted for a second time in 2019, with the reboot running for three seasons. However, if you’re in a rush, you still can’t go wrong with the original, single-season adaptation of the beloved story. The series follows Tohru Honda, a recently orphaned high school student who moves into the house of her classmate, Yuki Sohma. On her first day living there, she inadvertently discovers the family curse: 12 of the Soma family members are possessed by the spirits of the Chinese zodiac and transform into their animal when, among other things, they’re hugged by someone of the opposite gender. There’s something for everyone in this charming anime — particularly if you’re already a fan of Ranma 1/2. And though the manga’s author, Natsuki Takaya, notoriously disliked the original adaptation, the 2001 series remains a classic. —SG

Gurren Lagann

Number of episodes: 27

Kamina, Simon, and Yoko stand around the robot head of Gurren in Gurren Lagann Image: Gainax/Aniplex

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

Gurren Lagann is a mecha anime set in a world where humans live underground with no knowledge of what the world is like above ground. When the young outcast and digger Simon discovers a drill-shaped key and the mecha that goes with it, he’s able to break through his subterranean village’s ceiling and reach the surface. There, Simon and his best friend and older-brother figure Kamina discover that the surface-dwellers are under constant attack by the tyrannical king’s army, made up of humanoid creatures piloting mecha like the one Simon found. What follows is a boisterous adventure as Simon and Kamina launch a rebellion against the king. It’s a modern classic that handles high-stakes, real-world issues with an energetic, light-hearted tone. —SG


Number of episodes: 12

A recently awoken Kaiba looks down at the mysterious locket he’s wearing. Image: Madhouse/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Peacock, Pluto TV

If you’re in the mood for something a bit different, Kaiba is a mesmerizing sci-fi anime with a wonderfully distinct aesthetic. Set in a dystopian world where memories can be digitally stored — and therefore stolen, sold, and exploited by the upper class — Kaiba begins as its titular protagonist wakes up with no memories of who he is or what happened to him. What Kaiba does have is a hole in his chest and a locket with a photo of an unknown girl inside. Kaiba sets out on an interplanetary journey of self-discovery in a vivid, philosophical tale about longing, loss, and the human condition. —SG

Devilman Crybaby

Number of episodes: 10

Two young men sit on a motorcycle together in Devilman Crybaby. One looks back at the other and smiles Image: Science Saru/Netflix

Where to watch: Netflix

When kind-hearted Akira is dragged to an underground orgy, his best friend, Ryo, baits demons into attacking the party so that he can film them to prove their existence. During the melee, a demon, Amon, attempts to possess Akira, but the high schooler’s good nature proves strong enough to overpower the creature. As a result, Akira physically transforms into a Devilman, but manages to retain his human soul, making him a powerful weapon in the war between demons and humans. Devilman Crybaby is graphically violent, horny on main, and wonderfully surreal. But the show isn’t lurid and shocking simply to get a rise out of viewers; it uses its unflinching storytelling and visuals to speak to modern-day bigotry and the needless cruelty of humans. And the way Akira’s relationships with Ryo and his two high school friends, Miki and Miko, develop provide just the right amount of gentle heart to counterbalance the show’s gratuitous brutality. —SG

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Number of episodes: 12

Midori Asakusa looks excited and determined while holding her sketchbook in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! Image: Science Saru/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is an endearing love letter to anime that follows three high schoolers who start their own anime club with the goal of creating the “ultimate world” from their own imaginations. Midori Asakusa is an energetic and passionate freshman who aspires to create her own anime one day. When she discovers her classmate, amateur model Tsubame Mizusaki, shares her dream, the two decide to team up — a collaboration strongly egged on by Midori’s financially focused best friend, Sayaka Kanamori, who sees this as a potential gold mine. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is utterly charming, and you don’t have to look further than the opening theme to get a sense of the show’s boundless kinetic joy. —SG

Death Parade

Numbers of episodes: 12

A determined man plays air hockey in Death Parade. Image: Madhouse/Funimation

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu

If you found yourself marathon-viewing Squid Game, you’ll want to queue up Death Parade next. In this dark thriller, the recently deceased are sent to a bar where they must compete in death games as a means of determining whether their souls will be banished into oblivion or reincarnated on Earth. During the process of playing the games, which include everything from darts to bowling to Twister, the deceased’s memories return, revealing the choices they made and secrets they kept that led them to their deaths — and providing all the information the bartender, Decim, needs to determine the fate of the players’ souls. —SG

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