Once the nichest of niche genres, anime has been rapidly gaining popularity over the past few years. Our top two picks on the list below (as voted on by weeb Paste staffers, editors, and writers) really speak to that. On the one hand, you have a highly anticipated series that hardcore fans have been excited for and devour week by week, but it’s not the most accessible (necessarily) for those looking to dip a toe into anime. As such, a gentler show took the very top spot by a wide margin in our poll, one that is not only beloved by regular anime fans, but is an easy entry point for those looking to start their anime journey. Because, regardless, it just makes us happy watching it.
But the story of anime in 2022 is woven throughout the list below. Once only found on streaming services like Funimation (RIP) and Crunchyroll, both Hulu and Netflix are not only hosting more anime series, but commissioning them. It has, in the past, been a polarizing style that had some trouble breaking into the mainstream, but with more of it than ever before (“more” being the operative word for 2022 TV) and more easily available, even normals are starting to check it out. Shock!!
10. Birdie Wing Golf Girls’ Story
Watch on Crunchyroll
An anime about golf doesn’t sound all that intriguing, but let me tell you, Birdie Wing Golf Girls’ Story is everything. A golf shark known as Eve goes around making money from underground golf games. She has a no-nonsense style of golf where she just forces her way through the course. Although she doesn’t play professionally, she doesn’t have an equal for her age. That’s until Eve meets the prodigy Aoi Amawashi, whose mastery of the game of golf is Eve’s greatest challenge. Besides her rivalry with Aoi, Eve is involved with the mafia and in the world of Birdie Wing, scores are settled on the golf course. Many of the featured golfers have their own special abilities—whether it’s lightning shots or pheromones that make players confused, this is not a typical round of golf. Birdie Wing doesn’t require you to know the difference between an eagle and a birdie, it’s more interested in showing an extreme version of golf. It’s in this utter nonsense that Birdie Wing excels. —Max Covill
9. My Dress-Up Darling
Watch on Crunchyroll
Wakana Gojo is determined to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and continue the tradition of creating beautiful hina dolls. But his unusual hobby has left him as an outcast among his peers. After a chance encounter with the beautiful Marin Kitagawa, Gojo is persuaded to help Kitagawa with her hobby: cosplaying as her favorite characters. The cosplay designs are of popular characters from Kitagawa’s eroge games, which means they are significantly more risque than Gojo is initially comfortable with. That often leads to embarrassing situations between the two young adults. My Dress-Up Darling has its fair share of gratuitous fanservice, but the heart of the story—two people who fall for each other while pursuing the hobbies that they love—is so genuine that even audiences who don’t love T&A can get something from it. —Max Covill
8. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 6: Stone Ocean
Watch on Netflix
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean, the latest entry in the influential action saga, is as wonderfully unhinged as ever. This time we follow Jolyne, a young woman imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit, as she works to carry out a jailbreak and save her father’s life in the process. In many ways, it delivers what we’ve come to expect from this series, realizing intricate fights between dramatically posing supermodels who wield convoluted powers and are basically all named after well-known musical acts. Its head-scratching heroics are as colorful as ever, and even if there’s been some noticeable dips in animation quality compared to previous episodes, its complicated puzzle battles are still absurd and deeply entertaining. Where else will you see spectral beings engage in duels with zombie alligators, meteorite-wielding prison guards, and optic illusion-manipulating babies? JoJo is one of the most frequently referenced works in all of anime and manga for a reason; its ostentatious style and idiosyncrasies are iconic camp.
Additionally, one of this installment’s greatest strengths is its heroine, who is arguably the best protagonist the series has seen yet. Her determination to save her father despite overwhelming obstacles, as well as her ability to punch people in the face very well, make her impossible not to root for. And while it is mostly just ridiculous fun, it also manages to convey that there are few things scarier than the American carceral system (and also the state of Florida). —Elijah Gonzalez
7. Mob Psycho 100 III
Watch on Crunchyroll
Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama is a psychic of unquestionable talent. Unfortunately, that’s about all he has going on in the skills department. Based on a web manga by One (One-Punch Man), Mob Psycho 100 is a psychedelic blend of coming-of-age tropes and Ghost Adventures , following Mob as he and his fraudulent mentor Reigen solve supernatural problems in Seasoning City. The show’s animation, courtesy of Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, My Hero Academia), maintains film-quality action sequences and trippy, technicolor style throughout, but what really makes it a cut above the rest is its seemingly forgettable star. Mob starts off as an unremarkable boy who just wants to be normal. His dedication to live everyday to the fullest is infectious, and by the end, he’s got a hearty cast of confidants and companions. Mob Psycho 100 might attract you with its wackiness, but its moments of emotional clarity will keep you coming back. —Austin Jones
6. Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun
Watch on HiDive
“Longing seizes people more powerfully than poison, and more deeply than illness. Once it grips you, there is absolutely no escape… For adventurers, a life without longing is more terrifying than death itself.”
These words, laying bare the true heart of the adventurer, come from Episode 12 of the anime Made in Abyss. An unquenchable thirst drives those who seek to explore the unknown, to experience the unfelt, to reveal the unseen. It is true of heroic epics dating back to Homer’s Odyssey, and is equally true in Akihito Tsukushi’s Made in Abyss.
Any exploration yarn worth its salt will succeed in establishing a mysterious world that the viewer, like the hero, can’t help but be drawn into. Made in Abyss constructs a world that immediately leaves an impression. But despite what the cute character designs might make you think you’re getting into, the series fully earns its TV-MA rating. Made in Abyss doesn’t shy away from the terrifying vistas and bouts of madness one would expect from a Lovecraft story. The world of the Abyss delivers unto our heroes abject cruelty, forcing unfathomable decisions and placing them in a constant state of danger. Learning the secrets of the Abyss and piecing together the dissociated knowledge comes at a great cost.
Simply put, Made in Abyss is a show you need to catch up on. There isn’t anything like it in anime. It is a compelling adventure into the unknown that delivers emotional gut punches with absolute precision. —Michael Lee
5. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury
Watch on Crunchyroll
As a Gundam neophyte, I was surprised by how much the latest entry in the franchise bowled me over. While I’m generally a sucker for stories about giant robots, what’s made the show work so well thus far is its ability to juggle political intrigue and coming-of-age school drama. We follow Suletta Mercury, a 17-year-old transfer student who finds herself at an academy meant for corporate elites. Here social clout and company assets are wagered in duels fought with mobile suits, robots used in war and industry. Much of the series’ charm extends from its protagonist Suletta, a lovable dork whose complete lack of social skills is more than made up for by her kindness, bravery, and proficiency at beating the crap out of rich kids while piloting her Gundam Aerial. After accidentally getting betrothed to Miorine, the daughter of the man running a corporation that essentially controls the galaxy, the two work together to fight back against this powerful entity.
Thus far, it has crafted a well-rendered world where labor is exploited by uncaring militarized companies, executives scheme to have each other assassinated, and tensions simmer between those living in poverty on Earth and those who colonized the stars. Its central cast is wonderful, full of characters poised to potentially stand against the current dismal status quo as Suletta accidentally gathers a growing pool of admirers. Based on the runtime of other Gundam shows, it will likely go for another 39 episodes next year, but if it can continue balancing its critiques of capitalism, queer romance, and exciting mecha duels, it will be one to remember. —Elijah Gonzalez
4. Ranking of Kings
Watch on Crunchyroll
Ever see a protagonist who is just so damn genuine that it elevates the whole story? That’s Ranking of Kings. The show follows Bojji, a little prince who is deaf. He excels in defensive tactics rather than offense, as he is bullied by his half-brother and ridiculed by his subjects, and his naivety makes those around him doubtful of his eventual succession. After the death of Bojji’s father, King Bosse, the court decides to install Bojji’s younger half-brother Prince Daida on the throne instead. Bojji then resolves to become a worthy king so he can take his rightful crown, and sets off on a quest to gain experience and grow stronger, but while he’s away from the kingdom, a mysterious force takes control.
Ranking of Kings takes place in a fairly classic fantasy world (it resembles Dragon Quest in both style and vibe), but is rendered in beautiful watercolor. Its gorgeous fights and fluid, freeform take on fantasy channels the whimsical worlds of Jacques Demy, and its heartwarming story gives way to a classic epic adventure. Did we mention that Bojji’s most reliable ally is Kage, a creature who looks like an evil black puddle, but who learns to love Bojji? Ranking of Kings is special not only for its adventure, but because Bojji is the best boy and well worth following on his great journey. More than any of that, though, it’s a truly sensitive depiction of disability, empowering yet challenging in its dedicated portrayal of Bojji. The show features sign language advised by the Tokyo Federation for the Deaf, which is a huge step forward for media—we should be making these essential languages more appealing, and Ranking of Kings does a lot to make signing cool. —Max Covill and Austin Jones
3. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Watch on Netflix
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is an unabashedly juvenile splatterfest, a culmination of Trigger’s ability to produce iconic imagery that elevates familiar genre beats through raw, hyperbolic cuts of animation. While this crime caper may not break from the core issues of its franchise or cyberpunk more broadly, it manages to hit more than a few emotional highs—and look very good in the process. Perhaps most importantly, its chaotic violence delivers heart-wrenching turns as it plays with the fates of its oddly likable cast. There is an authenticity to these characters’ relationships that sells a sense of pathos, and it’s hard not to root for this crew despite all the, you know, murder.
In particular, the burgeoning romance between its central pair, David and Lucy, is given enough texture to feel convincing, making it clear that underneath layers of hard-boiled genre fiction, this is fundamentally a love story that uses the same grandeur of emotion found in its action sequences to deal out brutal twists. And frankly, whenever it goes guns-blazing, it’s hard to look away from its inventive visuals that use exaggerated proportions and bold color combinations to create an escalating sense of spectacle. Edgerunners conveys the tragedy of Night City with crushing melodrama, the type of thing a bleary-eyed protagonist in a cyberpunk novel would watch on a flickering screen at 3 AM. [Read our full review here]—Elijah Gonzalez
2. Chainsaw Man
Watch on Crunchyroll
Watch on Hulu
Going into the fall, it’s fair to say the most anticipated show in a stacked season was MAPPA’s adaptation of Chainsaw Man. As someone who recently devoured the manga (as well as almost everything else written by author Tatsuki Fujimoto) and whose brain was subsequently filled with a chorus of revving chainsaws, I shared that borderline unreasonable degree of anticipation. Thankfully, this adaptation has largely captured the soul of Fujimoto’s work so far, providing nearly everything fans of the series and first-timers could have hoped for. It’s transgressive, hilarious, and brutal, frequently all of these at once, and is defined by flawed but frequently lovable characters who exist in a bleak alternate-universe ‘90s where powerful monsters called devils wreak havoc.
Although studio MAPPA’s highly polished aesthetic seems like it would clash with the scratchy, off-kilter sensibilities of its source material, its cinematic flourishes feel in line with the author’s obsession with movies. And more importantly, the fluid character animation helps convey that in this world, tenderness and humanity exist within a razor’s edge from heartbreaking violence. When the scales tipped in Episode 8, and it was made clear this tale is a tragicomedy, one where death can strike anyone at any moment, MAPPA proved they have the chops to deliver what makes the manga so special. While this story won’t be for everyone due to its protagonist’s immature aspirations and its penchant for extreme violence, Chainsaw Man is a wholly unique ride. [Read our review of the premiere here] —Elijah Gonzalez
1. Spy x Family
Watch on Crunchyroll
Watch on Hulu
Spy x Family is an action-comedy that has quickly taken the anime world by storm, largely thanks to the adorable antics of one Anya Forger. We follow Loid Forger, an undercover agent in the Cold War-esque city of Berlint, who is forced to form a “fake” family and infiltrate an enemy country’s political circles to avert war. He ends up adopting Anya, an orphan with telekinetic mind-reading abilities, and—at least on paper—marrying Yor, an assassin working for a rival government. While its premise may sound similar to self-serious prestige TV like The Americans, Spy x Family is a (mostly) light-hearted spoof of the nuclear family that is deeply hilarious, often cool, and sometimes touching.
So far, Wit Studio and Cloverworks have gone above and beyond to bring this adaptation to life, and the first season is full of well-delivered gags that I still find myself randomly chuckling over months later. While Loid is technically the protagonist, Anya is the star of the show, as she oscillates between being a little goblin and a precious bean attempting to help her dad with his mission of avoiding a war. And in addition to the many goofs, it convincingly portrays a found family who find solace in each other. Thankfully, the second season once again demonstrates the series’ ability to operate as both a tense spy-thriller and family comedy. As long as its production doesn’t run into issues (something which is unfortunately quite common given the state of labor in the anime industry), it will continue to be must-watch television. —Elijah Gonzalez
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