2022 has proven itself, much like 2021 before it, to be an exceptional year for anime, boasting the return of several acclaimed series, the debut of even more highly anticipated new anime, and an array of impressive limited-series originals. With Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2, Mitsuo Iso’s The Orbital Children, Hiroyuki Imaishi’s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Chainsaw Man, Mob Psycho 100 III, and many more, it’s been a year to remember for anime so far — and it’s not even over yet!
There’s a wealth to choose from and not nearly enough time in the day to watch it all, which is why we’ve gathered together Polygon’s quorum of anime aficionados to submit ballots for their favorite anime of the year. After collecting and tallying the ballots, the 10 anime with the most votes comprise our list of the best anime of 2022. For clarity and convenience, this year’s top 10 list is ranked in ascending order, while the “best of the rest” runner-ups are ordered by premiere date, from most recent to least.
The top 10 anime of 2022
10. Sasaki and Miyano
If you need a feel-good romance to drown your brain in good mushy feelings, I implore you to watch Sasaki and Miyano. The story follows Miyano Yoshikazu, a high school student who has a passion for reading manga. Miyano harbors a lot of shame for his interests, but one day gets to know a broody classmate named Sasaki Shuumei, who takes an interest in Miyano and supports him in his love of boys’ love manga. As their relationship develops, we see the two process and grapple with their feelings, and learn how to treat each other with the support of loving friends.
The sort of meta nature of the story makes it the perfect starter show for anyone new to the boys’ love genre. A lot of the loving interactions in the show involve Miyano gushing to Sasaki about his favorite boys’ love series as he explains various tropes and archetypes common to the genre — some of which the characters embody themselves. While the story certainly presents poignant reflections on what it means to love someone, Sasaki and Miyano is just plain fun to watch. While Sasaki possesses a bit of a gloomy demeanor, Miyano bubbles and gushes with a love for his interests, and seems to wrap up the entire series in his light. It’s the perfect answer for anyone looking for a great will-they-won’t-they romance story, and one of my favorite shows of the year. —Ana Diaz
Sasaki and Miyano is available to stream on Funimation and Crunchyroll.
9. Bocchi the Rock!
To tell the truth, I didn’t have especially high expectations for Bocchi the Rock. Having no personal familiarity with the source material, Aki Hamaji’s popular four-panel manga series, and with only a brief preview trailer released within weeks of the anime’s premiere, I was ready to write this series off as one of innumerable smaller series with only the briefest of moments in the spotlight, if that.
Boy, am I eating crow now! Five episodes later, I write this as a proud Bocchi the Rock convert, loudly proclaiming to anyone within earshot why this anime deserves to stand as one of the year’s best. The series follows Hitori “Bocchi” Gotoh, a socially anxious high schooler and self-taught guitarist who dreams of one day starting a band and becoming popular. When Bocchi is recruited by Nijika Ijichi, a student from a neighboring high school, to play in her band in lieu of their missing member, she’s thrust into a crash course in both music and life as she grows into the role of not only a bandmate, but also a good friend.
Sounds like your typical slice-of-life coming-of-age anime, right? Wrong. Bocchi the Rock, besides being a deeply sympathetic and nuanced story about overcoming social anxiety, is a wickedly hilarious anime bursting with personality and medium-blurring animation. From Popsicle-stick-figure theater to Dezaki-style “Postcard Memory” freeze frames to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it real-life cutaways and more, director Keiichiro Saito and studio CloverWorks are sincerely delivering some of the most memorable week-to-week animation this fall season, let alone this entire year. If you, like me, overlooked this series at first glance, I implore you: Make time for Bocchi the Rock, and you’ll soon enough see what all the fuss is about. —Toussaint Egan
Bocchi the Rock is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
8. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc
After the frankly devastating Mugen Train Arc, Demon Slayer returns with heightened stakes. The Entertainment District Arc sees young hero Tanjiro and his friends Inosuke and Zenitsu following flashy Uzui, the Sound Hishara, as he goes undercover in the Entertainment District to sniff out a demon hiding in the midst. This arc starts out with more subterfuge than the typical Demon Slayer episode, as Tanjiro and his friends disguise themselves as courtesans and try to figure out where the powerful demon is hiding. The final battle takes up most of the arc, a devastating fight between the Demon Slayers and not one but two powerful demons. It’s all gorgeously animated, with twists upon twists and, most heartachingly, a brother-sister parallel between Tanjiro and Nezuko and the two demons. —Petrana Radulovic
7. Ranking of Kings
Ranking of Kings is a fantasy series where monarchs are measured by their deeds, and more importantly, their strength. Enter Bojji, a tiny, warm-hearted boy who is next in line to take the throne from his ailing father, who is king. Bojji isn’t physically strong and struggles to speak, thus leading him to communicate primarily through sign language. However, where his characteristics might lack in comparison to more traditional leaders, he makes up for it in heart. In the first episode, he literally takes the shirt off his back for someone in need.
Bojji is one of the most moving and compelling anime protagonists I’ve seen on screen. Ranking of Kings charges even the most banal of moments with the highest stakes; it makes a non-lethal spar between Bojji and his half brother somehow feel more important than a fight between gods. He makes for the perfect protagonist as his tiny stature and sense of awe make a sweeping fantasy land populated with golems, wizards, and giants feel all the more grand. That being said, Bojji is far from being the only character who stands out. Alongside him is his companion, Kage, who is the sole survivor of a once-persecuted clan, as well as his half brother Daida, who struggles to find a way to power that feels true to him.
Ranking of Kings works because I would die for Bojji. However, this series is more than an underdog story. Based on the manga written and illustrated by Sosuke Toka, the anime nails all the fixings of a great fantasy series: intriguing creatures, mystical and dark magic, palace intrigue, and an adventure that takes a little lad to the depths of hell. It’s an incredible series so far, and one that I can’t recommend enough. —AD
6. Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2
The final season of Attack on Titan may be the most contentious anime on this year’s best-of list. Much has been said and written on the final chapters of the Attack on Titan manga, from creator Hajime Isayama’s inferred pro-Imperialist sentiments to the series’ uncomfortable allegorical parallels to real-life historical atrocities. Bearing these criticisms in mind, it’s understandable to ask why Attack on Titan is on this list.
The answer is simple: Directors Jun Shishido and Yuichiro Hayashi and studio MAPPA have taken what is a messy and divisive conclusion and have produced (through 22 episodes) the best possible animated incarnation of it. The combined one-two punch of the season’s 20th and 21st episodes alone easily ranks as one of the most shocking revelations of any anime in recent memory, rendered through some of the most apocalyptic imagery seen in the series to date.
There’s nothing quite like being along for the ride of a Big Anime Event, where it seems everyone is watching (and dissecting) each new development in the series’ ongoing climax right alongside you. For all its controversies, the final season of Attack on Titan represents not only the culmination of one of the significant anime of the past decade, but undoubtedly qualifies as one of the must-watch anime events of 2022, flaws and all. —TE
5. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has secured its place as one of the breakout original anime of 2022. Produced by CD Projekt Red and Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Promare) and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi (Gurren Lagann, Promare), the series tells a stand-alone story set in the universe of Cyberpunk 2077 and Mike Pondsmith’s original TTRPG. It follows a young street kid named David Martinez and his rise from a novice greenhorn mercenary to a bona fide edgerunner on the cusp of becoming a legend.
With blistering action, memorable characters, clever callbacks to Cyberpunk 2077, a fantastic soundtrack, and a rich plot that expands on the promise of Night City in a way that Cyberpunk 2077 never quite did, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners isn’t just one of the best anime of the year; it might just be one of the best anime Trigger has ever produced. —TE
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners in available to stream on Netflix.
4. My Dress-Up Darling
High school students Wakana Gojo and Marin Kitagawa both have uncommon hobbies: Gojo likes to make hina dolls (traditional Japanese dolls), and Marin is largely into anime and gaming, with an affinity for cosplay. Marin, a bubbly girl who dresses in gyaru fashion, asks Gojo to use his crafty skills to help make her cosplay and from there, a fantastic duo is born. Marin’s bubbly and kind personality mixed with Gojo’s reserved-but-determined mindset makes for an interesting relationship that breaks free of the usual setup of a gyaru girl with a quiet boy (in which the gyaru girl simply teases the boy relentlessly while hiding her own feelings for him). Marin obviously cares for Gojo and isn’t doing anything to purposely hurt him or stress him out, even if he ends up getting embarrassed while taking her measurements. My Dress-Up Darling does have an uncomfortable amount of fan service that makes me unsure if I can really recommend it, but the story itself is so refreshing that I had to include it on this list. —Julia Lee
3. Spy x Family
Now nearing the end of its 25-episode run, Spy x Family has secured its place as one of the best anime of 2022. The show follows Loid Forger, a spy who’s tasked with a top-secret operation to stop the leader of the National Unity Party from harming peace relations between two neighboring countries. His plan is to get close to the political leader by meeting him through an event hosted at a super-elite elementary school. There’s only one problem: Loid is a bachelor.
Enter his adopted daughter, Anya, and new wife, Yor. While the two don’t know of Loid’s real identity, they have secrets of their own. Anya is a telepath who can read minds, and Yor is an assassin. The family’s story starts with them living under the same roof, all trying to maintain the facade of family while juggling their respective secrets.
Anya forms the emotional and comedic core of the show. The short, pink-haired child’s earnestness (and, to be frank, sheer stupidity) brings the show together in a series of charming character moments. Upon learning Yor has literally murdered people for a living, Anya reacts with starry eyes, “I’m so excited!” Despite these goofier moments, you get the feeling that Anya is just a girl who wants to be loved. It’s funny, it’s sweet, and the show has provided a much-needed balm from the woes of the world. —AD
2. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War -Ultra Romantic-
Three seasons in, Kaguya-sama: Love Is War’s setup still feels fresh. For those not familiar, Kaguya-sama follows class president Miyuki Shirogane and vice president Kaguya Shinomiya — two ambitious, proud, and intelligent students — who’ve decided to play a game where they get the other person to confess romantic feelings. The only problem is that somewhere along the way, they both fell head over heels for each other but now refuse to be the first to budge. As the cast grows — inviting in colorful characters like peppy Fujiwara, gamer loner Ishigami, and goody-two-shoes Miko, just to name a few — so does the hilarity. Every week, Kaguya-sama manages to surpass itself in sheer secondhand embarrassment and every week, that somehow turns from something devastatingly cringey into something deeply heartfelt. The romantic relationship between Shinomiya and Shirogane is still at the center, but the friendships between all of the student council members and the other people in their lives become just as compelling and moving. —PR
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War -Ultra Romantic- is available to stream on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu.
1. Chainsaw Man
With source material as strong as Tatsuki Fujimoto’s hit manga, studio MAPPA’s latest release was sure to make a big, bloody splash this season. Chainsaw Man follows Denji, an orphan who lives in constant poverty and fear of dying. One day, he makes a deal with his pet Pochita, a “Chainsaw Devil,” that allows him to transform into a demonic being with chainsaws protruding from his hands and get a well-paid job at government office as a Devil Hunter. While the series has already garnered a dedicated fan following, the question remained of how this gory, gooey mess of an action series would translate to animation.
So far, the animated series has taken on a quieter tone. There is action, for sure, and Denji’s chainsaws purr and roar as they shred through the bodies of his enemies. But what sticks out about the series so far is the way the animators have focused on characters’ day-to-day lives. Whether it’s the pointy-ponytail-wearing Aki washing clothes and smoking a cigarette on a quiet morning or Denji cuddling his adorable Chainsaw dog Pochita at night, we’re getting to see a more sullen side of Fujimoto’s world. —AD
Chainsaw Man is available to stream on Crunchyroll and Hulu.
The best of the rest
The anime that just missed the cut, but nonetheless rank among the best 2022 has to offer:
Tatami Time Machine Blues
Over the past decade, Shingo Natsume has established himself as one of the best directors currently working in the anime industry, if not a bona fide generational talent. It should come as no surprise then, given his work on such celebrated productions as the first season of One-Punch Man and last year’s critically acclaimed Sonny Boy, that he’d be tapped to direct the second spiritual sequel to The Tatami Galaxy. It should come as even less of a surprise that Tatami Time Machine Blues is not only a worthy follow-up to Masaaki Yuasa’s 2010 magnum opus, but also one of the most best anime to come out this year.
Based on the light novel of the same name by Tomihiko Morimi, the series follows the time-hopping misadventures of a nameless Kyoto University student and his group of friends. The group is put in a bind when the remote control for the sole air conditioner in their dorm is broken in the dead heat of summer. Discovering a mysterious time machine hidden away in a hallway closet, the students attempt to go back in time to retrieve the remote before it was broken, setting off a chain of events that threaten to destroy the fabric of time and space if not set right.
Boasting the same lightning-fast narration and eccentric visual style of The Tatami Galaxy, as well as choice instances of mind-bending 3D animation, Tatami Time Machine Blues is a brilliant, beautiful, and genuinely hilarious anime comedy that succeeds as both a sequel and stand-alone series in and of itself. Whether or not Shingo Natsume is the “next” Masaaki Yuasa is a claim better left borne out by the years to come, but this much is certain: He is most certainly the Shingo Natsume of his generation. —TE
Tatami Time Machine Blues is available to stream on Hulu.
Akiba Maid War
This year has boasted more than its share of anime with outrageous one-sentence premises: A man made out of chainsaws fights demons in order to get laid (Chainsaw Man), an ancient Chinese strategist is reincarnated in present-day Japan and becomes the manager of an aspiring pop star (Ya Boy Kongming!), etc. Even still, Akiba Maid War, a hyper-violent action comedy about yakuza-owned maid cafes, ranks among the strangest and most hilarious to come out this year.
Directed by Sōichi Masui (Heaven’s Design Team) and produced by P.A. Works (Shirobako, Hanasaku Iroha), the series follows Nagomi Wahira, a bubbly 17-year-old girl who just landed her dream job working at a pig-themed maid restaurant called Oinky Doink Cafe. It’s only later that Nagomi realizes her new workplace is owned by a criminal organization vying for control over Akihabara. Were it not for Ranko, her stern-faced 35-year-old co-worker with an aptitude for violence, Nagomi would be dead in a dumpster on her first day. Together, the girls of Oinky Doink Cafe work desperately to pay back their ruthless yakuza bosses, all while inadvertently igniting a long-dormant turf war.
While the climax of the first episode is worth watching on its own, Akiba Maid War on a whole is a remarkably entertaining black comedy with memorable characters constantly fumbling into ever more precarious and nonsensical situations. It’s easily one of the best anime of the year and an easy recommendation for anyone who loves yakuza crime dramas. —TE
Akiba Maid War is available to stream on HIDIVE.
Do It Yourself!!
If you’re hankering for a cozy, lighthearted slice-of-life comedy that also happens to make a case for the value of artisanship in the age of automation, Do It Yourself!! is the anime for you. The series centers on Serufu Yua, a bubbly klutz with a knack for inadvertently injuring herself, and Miku “Purin” Suride, her straight-laced and tech-savvy childhood friend. When Yua is rejected from the elite Yuyu Girls’ Vocational High School and instead accepted to the neighboring, smaller Gatagata Girl’s High School, she soon finds her calling in the school’s small “Do It Yourself’’ carpentry club alongside Kurei, a third-year upperclassman.
As the club begins to gain more members, Yua and co. begin to learn more about themselves and each other through the experience of building their own dream projects to share with those who mean the most to them. Directed by Kazuhiro Yoneda (Gleipnir), produced by studio Pine Jam, and featuring character designs by Yuusuke Matsuo (Encouragement of Climb), Do It Yourself! is a charming anime with a strong premise and endearing characters that’s so good, it might even inspire you to get to work on your own DIY project. —TE
Do It Yourself!! is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Mob Psycho 100 III
After a roughly two-year hiatus, the One Punch Man creator’s goofy action series about a child psychic finally returned for its third season. Mob Psycho 100 follows Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama, a somewhat clueless schoolboy who just so happens to have incredible psychic powers. Listless and directionless as a prepubescent boy, Mob ends up meeting a regular guy who runs a local exorcism business: Reigen Arataka. Arataka ends up taking Mob under his wing as a mentee, and the adventures ensue.
Mob Psycho 100 leans into the absurd, and it finds its footing as a shonen series that explores the inherent comedy that can come with a child protagonist who possesses godlike powers. This season picks up after the seemingly universe-shattering fight that concluded season 2. As it turns out, the giant clash between psychics in the second season didn’t end up destroying the entire city, and Mob is once again concerned about impressing his crush. If you want a silly and light viewing, this is probably for you. Mob Psycho 100 has a bit of it all — a cult that worships a giant broccoli, weirdly hot office workers, and if things go well for Mob, maybe even a little bit of romance. —AD
Mob Psycho 100 III is available to stream on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury
The first question with the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise is always the same: Where do I start? This is completely understandable; the franchise has been around since 1979 and there are multiple continuities spread across many more series with varying degrees of English-language availability. So, a big part of the appeal of The Witch From Mercury is logistical: If you want to know where to start, this is about as good as it gets. The Witch From Mercury is the first new Gundam series in seven years, and it’s entirely stand-alone at that.
This elides what makes it good, though. Toward the end of its initial seven-episode wave (with more to come), The Witch From Mercury is a remarkably effective blend of modern anime tropes and the sociopolitical intrigue the Gundam franchise is known for. On one level, it’s a story about a girl, Suletta Mercury, who transfers to a school in space that’s run by a powerful conglomerate, and where disputes are settled in duels between giant robotic mobile suits. It’s also a comedy of manners, as an unlikely friendship between Suletta and a princess forms when Suletta blunders her way into a duel that results in their engagement.
Bubbling under the surface of all this is the political strife between the humans of Earth and the “Spacian” space colonies, as the technological enhancements made by the latter are banned by the former — ensuring the economic disparity between the two. As the series goes on, slice-of-life storytelling takes on heavy political weight, making The Witch From Mercury one of the most fascinating iterations of Gundam yet. —Joshua Rivera
Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Pop Team Epic season 2
Anime’s greatest duo, Popuko and Pipimi, have blessed us with another season of one of the best comedy anime of all time. All the shenanigans you saw in the first season return: special voice actor duos for each episode, meta jokes, and suspiciously well-animated segments that are so good I don’t actually think they’re bits anymore. So far this season, we have a mecha anime and a dating sim parody that both capture the genres so well that I’m convinced that Pop Team Epic might be the best anime of every genre ever. —Julia Lee
Pop Team Epic season 2 is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure returns after the premiere of its fifth season last year, picking up immediately following the events of Jolyne Cujoh’s successful attempt to secure one of the two discs necessary to resurrect her father, Jotaro Kujo. Consisting of 12 episodes, the second part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean sees Jolyne and her allies square in the crosshairs of the villainous Enrico Pucci and his cadre of enemy Stand users in their plot to resurrect Dio, the Joestar family’s most hated nemesis.
Boasting gripping battles against necromancing gangsters, meteor-flinging security guards, and feng shui-practicing assassins, Stone Ocean part 2 proudly carries on the legacy of the series as one of the most outlandish, gruesome, visually audacious, and conceptually adventurous action anime to come out any year, but especially in 2022. —TE
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean is available to stream on Netflix.
The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún
Originally released as an feature-length original animation DVD (OAD), and subsequently re-edited into a three-episode short series released on streaming, The Girl From the Other Side follows the story of a Shiva, a small girl abandoned in a forest filled with “cursed” beasts. The girl is discovered and adopted by a mysterious human-like beast known as “Teacher,” who proceeds to care for her as he searches for a way to reunite her with the rest of her kind.
An abbreviated adaptation of Nagabe’s 2015 Gothic fantasy manga, The Girl From the Other Side is a beautiful series brought to life through brilliant expressionist-style animation replete with watercolor hues, wispy outlines, and gorgeous muted earth tones. If you’re looking for a short anime capable of stunning your senses while stirring your heart, The Girl From the Other Side is a must-watch. —TE
The Girl From the Other Side is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Opinions are mixed when it comes to Tekken: Bloodline, the Netflix anime adaptation of the long-running fighting game franchise. Produced by Larx Entertainment and Studio Hibari and directed by Yoshikazu Miyao (Hellsing, Gad Guard), the six-episode series adapts the plot of Tekken 3, telling the story of martial artist Jin Kazama’s quest to avenge the murder of his mother by training under the tutelage of his ruthless grandfather, Heihachi Mishima, before participating in the King of Iron Fist Tournament.
For what it’s worth, as someone who’s not especially passionate about fighting games but nonetheless passionate about anime, I quite enjoyed my experience with the series in spite of its foibles. From the outrageous characters to the impact visual effects and fight scenes, Tekken: Bloodline is an entertaining and inoffensive, albeit redundant, take on one of the most enduring fighting games of all time. It’s an enjoyable watch if you’re looking for something light on story but high on action to throw on and watch in the background. —TE
Tekken: Bloodline is available to stream on Netflix.
Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure
The only thing you really need to know about Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure is that in the second episode, the titular bear-suited character cannot ride a rollercoaster because the bar will not go over his big bear head. For those who enjoy such high stakes as “oh no, we left our lunchbox on the bus!” and “dang, can we complete this stamp rally in time to earn the pancake special?” — this one is for you.
The gorgeous stop-motion animated show follows the bear and his friends as they enjoy a day at a theme park. So much of the humor and cuteness comes from Rilakkuma and his friends’ physicality. The little bird hops around, trying to wrangle his friends. Rilakkuma lumbers forward, undaunted by caution barricades. It’s utterly delightful. Beyond being adorable, the show is just a huge flex in animation, with some segments shifting the style to convey flashbacks or characters telling stories. It’s one of the most visually stunning shows out there. —PR
Rilakkuma’s Theme Park Adventure is available to stream on Netflix.
Tokyo Mew Mew New
Tokyo Mew Mew New is the modernized and condensed version of the magical girl classic from 2002. The series centers on Ichigo Momomiya, a young girl who becomes an alien-fighting magical girl after she is infused with the DNA of an Iriomote wildcat. Teaming up with four other girls (who were also given endangered species DNA), she has to deal with invading aliens while also juggling her love life and secret identity.
While the story may not seem particularly new, the original Tokyo Mew Mew helped pioneer the magical girl genre and it remains a staple classic. With greatly designed anime girls, an adorable cafe aesthetic, and a love triangle between the high school heartthrob and the invading alien, what’s not to like? It’s the perfect show for reliving your childhood Saturday mornings (though you don’t have to deal with awkward English dubs and name changes this time). —JL
Tokyo Mew Mew New is available to stream on HIDIVE.
Uncle From Another World
In a fiendishly clever twist on the genre of isekai (see: “other world”) fantasies, Uncle From Another World follows the story of Takafumi Takaoka, a young man who cares for his disheveled 34-year-old uncle, who has miraculously awakes from a 17-year coma. The twist: Takafumi’s uncle was in fact mentally transported to a fantastical world of monsters and magic, honing his skills as a powerful warrior for almost two decades before being whisked back to the mundane world of modern-day Japan with his magic abilities intact.
Now, along with the help of his childhood friend Sumika and his uncle’s old comrades, Takafumi must help his uncle acclimate to a strange, inhospitable world where Sega has lost the console wars, while making a living as a YouTuber performing dazzling feats of supernatural prowess for the amusement of bored shitposters worldwide. Irreverent, inventive, and surprisingly well-animated at points, Uncle From Another World easily ranks as one of the most memorable anime comedies of the year. —TE
Uncle From Another World is available to stream on Netflix.
Directed by first-time series writer-director Shingo Adachi, known for his work as a character designer on Sword Art Online, and produced by A-1 Pictures, Lycoris Recoil centers on Takina Inoue, a high school girl working as a member of an elite all-female organization of assassins known as Lycoris. Dismissed from her unit for disobeying orders, Takina is transferred to one of Lycoris’ covert branches — a unassuming cafe named LycoReco — to work alongside Chisato Nishikigi, an indefatigably bubbly Lycoris agent known for her formidable fighting abilities and paradoxical aversion toward killing. Together, the two perform odd jobs and contracts around Tokyo on behalf of the cafe, all while growing closer together as they devise a plan to get Takina reinstated.
A prime example of the “moe girls with guns” anime subgenre à la Gunsmith Cats and Gunslinger Girl, where Lycoris Recoil lacks in originality it more than enough makes up for in plentiful laughs, blistering shootouts, impressive character animation, and a strong central dynamic between its two protagonists that keeps the action going. Lycoris Recoil stands out far and away as one of the standouts, if not the standout original title of the 2022 summer anime season. —TE
Lycoris Recoil is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Komi Can’t Communicate season 2
This slice-of-life anime follows a regular high school student named Tadano who learns his incredibly beautiful and seemingly popular classmate Komi actually has debilitating social anxiety, to the point where she can’t talk to anyone. While everyone thinks she’s a gorgeous and aloof ice queen, she’s actually agonizingly shy and has a hard time connecting with others. Tadano takes it upon himself to help Komi make 100 friends by graduation — starting with him.
One of the best parts of Komi Can’t Communicate is how it never makes fun of Komi’s anxieties. For Komi, something that seems small — like ordering a coffee or asking a classmate for a pencil — is a huge and terrifying thing. The show is incredibly gentle about validating Komi’s fears and gives her the perfect friend in Tadano, who patiently helps her and nudges her along so that she can eventually take these steps and connect with others. Komi Can’t Communicate is super sweet and celebrates the mundane in life. Komi experiences the joys of friendship and connection for the first time, and it’s just heartwarming and really makes one appreciate the little things.
And if you’re here for a romance, let’s just say Tadano and Komi have the slowest of slow burns and the sweetest friends-to-lovers and it is great. —Petrana Radulovic
Komi Can’t Communicate season 2 is available to stream on Netflix.
Between the mysterious underground game the teens of Tomodachi Game are roped into, the capitalistic debt that keeps them playing, and the life or death stakes that moor every episode, it’s easy (too easy) to compare this to Squid Game. But while the latter deals in economic anxiety, the former uses that merely as a cudgel. The friend group is initially tricked into playing a few rounds of the “tomodachi game” with the dangling promise that doing so could rid one of their friends of debt. But with a handful of episodes under our belt it’s clear that the central currency of Tomodachi Game isn’t yen, it’s friendship. And with that camaraderie comes a lot of secrets.
Tomodachi Game isn’t a wower in its animation, and its pacing can be a bit baffling. It’s the kind of anime that can make you want to pick up the manga just to see where the hell this story is going already. But if you’re anything like me — hopelessly nosy for the drama that comes with people ping-ponging off each other — then it’s irresistible. Where can all these considerably sizzling threads lead? Nowhere good, and I cannot wait. —Zosha Millman
Tomodachi Game is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
Ya Boy Kongming!
Ya Boy Kongming! tells the story of Zhuge Liang Kongming, a third-century Chinese statesman and strategist who wishes on his deathbed to be reborn in a more peaceful time. Drawing his last breath, Kongming gets more than what he bargained for when he wakes up in an alley in present-day Shibuya on Halloween night. Believing himself to be in hell, Kongming is lured by a pair of partygoers to visit a nightclub, where he meets Eiko Tsukimi, a part-time bartender and aspiring singer. Moved to tears by the beauty of her singing voice and at a loss for what to do in this new life, Kongming volunteers to become Eiko’s manager and use his legendary skills as a military tactician to help guide her young career.
Every episode of Ya Boy Kongming! is a blast. From using ancient war stratagems to draw in new audiences and foil underhanded rivals to recruiting reluctant allies with his freestyle rap skills, Kongming proves himself a shrewd manager and a savvy decision-maker. The heart of the show’s appeal is in seeing its characters bond through their mutual love of music and the gut-busting comedy of watching Kongming adapt to modern life in spite of being several centuries out of sync. That’s not even mentioning the series’ meme-worthy title track, a Japanese cover of the Hungarian pop song “Bulikirály,” which aside from being beautifully animated is a total bop. —TE
Ya Boy Kongming! is available to stream on HIDIVE.
If, hypothetically, we were living through a year that felt at times interminably bleak, then one could be glad for a show like Healer Girl out in the universe. The original anime directed by Yasuhiro Irie (who also directed Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the GOAT), follows three young girls training to be “vocal medicine” healers. They treat their patients’ ailments with the power of songs, crafted specially for the individual.
Healer Girl occupies a similar space in my anime rotation. It is small, contained, nourishing, and warm-hearted. And while that may not be the exact selling point everyone is looking for in their shōjo adventures, trust that the art direction of the show offers its own rich rewards. Irie’s eye is careful to pull out the most expressive angles on any given scene, expertly alternating between the finer details and the wider scope. Couple that with lush, magical singing montages set to new bops every episode, and Healer Girl is easy (and essential) charm in a cruel, cruel world. —ZM
Healer Girl is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
The Orbital Children
After nearly 15 years since his last original anime, Dennou Coil director Mitsuo Iso returns with The Orbital Children, a six-episode anime (released in Japan as two feature-length films) following the story of five children stranded aboard a commercial space station on the brink of a cataclysmic disaster. Through a dizzying tapestry of rich world-building brought to life through beautiful animation, Iso and co. weave a coming-of-age story that takes the lives of five unsuspecting children and places them at the precipice of humanity’s expansion into the vast unknown of space. It’s a brilliant anime with dense, beautiful visuals that rewards both attentive first-time viewers and repeat watches alike. —TE
The Orbital Children is available to stream on Netflix.