To say 2022 was a great year for anime would be a massive understatement. There are stellar shows across almost every genre, and not a single season could be considered a dud thanks to a steady stream of long-awaited new seasons, brand-new adaptations, and long-awaited newcomers to the fold. And yet, when all is said and done, some shows still proved themselves to be more exceptional than others. Of this cream of the crop, these are our picks for the best anime of 2022, ranked from laudable to legendary.
10. Ranking of Kings
It’s hard to describe why Ranking of Kings works as well as it does, and not because it’s lacking in any specific department.
Host to a fairytale-esque art style and charming characters, the series uses these elements to its full advantage. Through a story filled with political maneuvering, secret plots, and lingering traumas, it forces viewers to experience challenge after challenge alongside the characters in a way that runs counter to the lighter visual tone.
However, this only serves to make the triumphs of the cast all the more exhilarating when they occur. This is definitely the case with the series’ protagonist Boji, who perfectly encapsulates the term “Little Cinnamon Bun.” A bundle of innocence and determination in the face of adversity, he serves as a driver for the series’ messages of keeping strong and always pushing forward toward one’s dreams. Most anyone will be dying to see him succeed and all the more invested emotionally in the show as a result.
It’s a show that needs to be viewed to be understood, and if not for the exceptional quality of everything else on this list, it would have risen even higher in the ranks.
9. Bocchi the Rock!
Bocchi the Rock! earns its place on this list handily, though not for the reasons most people might expect.
To be sure, it’s an exceptional show by the usual metrics. Its animation is fluid and engaging, jumping between calmer moments and zanier comedic bits that both take full advantage of its art style. Its sound design is likewise a cut above the rest, bringing the adventures of Bocchi and her friends to life through both its voice acting and its music.
What really brings the show up in our eyes, though, is the writing. Each interaction between the show’s characters, and the way they respond, thanks to their distinct personalities, feels genuine in a way that can be hard to find in the anime medium.
Case in point: While it does use Bocchi’s social anxiety for comedic bits ad nauseam, it’s done in a way that makes Bocchi feel relatable to anyone who has dealt with anxiety in some way, shape, or form. It’s not long before one is laughing at themselves as much as they are Bocchi and her friends and become that much more invested in their hijinks as a result.
It’s exactly what a Slice of Life show should be, and will likely remain a benchmark in the genre for years to come.
8. Spy x Family
Spy x Family is the show the anime community didn’t know they needed but are all the better for having.
The reasons why are abundant. In addition to being an incredibly appealing series visually — With just as much attention and love given to calmer moments as there is time spent making the action look spectacular — there’s also a tenderness present that many other shows lack. Small moments like Loid being a caring father to Anya, or Anya doing what she can to assuage Loid and Yor’s fears regarding their unusual family situation, are enough to warm the heart of even the most jaded anime fan.
This remains true even as the show drifts further away from its initial plot hook. While Loid and Yor still have plenty of adventures due to their occupations as a spy and an assassin respectively, the show has been just as fun when they take extended breaks from these activities. Just seeing these characters interact, and getting to experience the heartwarming moments they share, are their own reward.
It’s likely this show will be hanging around among people’s lists of favorite anime for some time to come, and we’d be hard-pressed to say that we won’t do the same from this year onward.
7. My Dress-Up Darling
All memes about Marin being the One True Waifu aside, My Dress-Up Darling remains one of the best romantic comedy shows to release this year.
Host to one of the most loveable pairs in recent memory, the show’s simple plots become all the more enjoyable thanks to their dynamic. Marin’s extroverted love for what she cares about, Gojo’s introverted diligence toward bettering his skills in different areas of creativity, and their adolescent awkwardness regarding their feelings for each other make something as simple as going down to the beach or spending an afternoon together a blast to watch.
This is to say nothing of the show’s aesthetic. Bright and bubbly with a surprisingly high-quality animation style, the show is visually appealing in a way that makes each episode fly by. The music and sound design help this as well, with musical cues and voice acting lending themselves perfectly to the chemistry and dynamics at play in even the most innocuous scenario.
Is it a little pervy? Undeniably. And yet, we can’t help but hop aboard the meme-fueled hype train that this show very much deserves.
6. Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2
It should really say something that Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2 made it as high as it did in our rankings despite being a set-up season.
While it didn’t offer the kind of jaw-dropping moments that past seasons did, Part 2 still had plenty to offer to established fans and anime fans in general. Its fights were as visceral as they were dire, with each hit animated and portrayed in a way that lent it weight and heft. Viewers could feel the pain, anguish, and desperation behind each blow by Titans and humans alike and were kept watching thanks to the emotional weight behind each fight.
Speaking of which: Eren’s continued descent into madness while striving toward his own goals continues to be one of the most compelling stories in anime, and this season only upped the stakes for those facing him down. The major reveals, while a little out there, played into the wider plot quite well and continue to keep the story engaging.
It’s everything the latest cour of the Final Season needed to be and helped the series to remain one of the best the anime medium has to offer.
5. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc
Even when considering the high pedigree the Demon Slayer anime carries, it’s hard to believe that the series’ second season rose as high as it did in our rankings.
And yet, one needs only watch a few minutes of any given episode to see how it did so. A masterpiece of visual entertainment, the show drips with style through every second of its runtime. It blends color, Sakuga, and the show’s own art style and aesthetic together for an experience that enthralls any who see it.
Only bolstering this is the fact that the Entertainment District Arc does everything an adaptation should. Turning what was a strong arc from the manga into a once-in-a-lifetime visual experience, the anime takes full liberties with expanding on the source material to outstanding effect. Fights between the Demons and Demon Slayers carry a weight and movement that could only be achieved through animation and are all the better for it.
Topping off all of this is the fact that the series did this with only a handful of episodes compared to its competition. It made the absolute most out of what it had and sits comfortably in the middle of our rankings as a result.
4. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners did not need to be as good as it is. Intended to be a piece of tie-in media for Cyberpunk 2077, the show only really needed to sell people on the premise of the game’s world.
Instead, it became so much more than that. Telling the stories of characters that would otherwise be left in the game’s background, the series digs down into the Cyberpunk franchise’s themes of poverty, class struggles, found family, and fighting back against a world that will inevitably crush you. It made lovable characters out of its protagonists and side characters alike and found ways of making viewers care about them with minimal exposition.
And damn if the presentation isn’t just as good. Its animation, art style, sound design, and overall aesthetic combine into an experience that stimulates one’s senses like few other shows could hope to. Everything from David and Lucy sharing an intimate moment in their home to Cyber Psychos duking it out as civilians are caught in the crossfire is a treat to experience, and these moments are only made better by the emotional weight the story lends to them.
It’s little surprise, then, that the show has arguably become as, if not more, recognizable than Cyberpunk 2077, even fueling its revival in prominence among gamers. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of show and an easy addition to the upper ranks of this year’s best anime.
3. Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun
The long-awaited second season of Made in Abyss finally released this season, and it was more than worth the weight.
A powerhouse of storytelling, the latest cour in the series leaned fully into the strengths of its storytelling. Exceptional time and care were given to fleshing out the tragic tales of its characters, new and old, Whether that meant the core party being faced with their past mistakes and weaknesses or new characters like Faputa struggling against their fate to find a new path through life.
Bolstering this was the art style and animation. Like the previous season and films, this season evokes a sense of imagination and wonder in the most twisted way possible. Bright colors, cheery character designs and delicate animations are blended masterfully with gore, brutal battle Sakuga, and creatures straight out of a Chthulian nightmare, resulting in an experience that is as jarring as it is novel and impactful.
To be sure, it’s the most likely out of everything on this list to leave one emotionally drained by its conclusion, but it’ll also be an experience that any anime fan will be glad to have in their life.
2. Mob Psycho 100 III
There’s no question that Mob Psycho 100 III is one of the best anime of the year and arguably one of the best anime of all time.
The final season of the Mob Psycho 100 series, this cour provided everything fans could have wanted. The animation is a step above, with Sakuga dripping out of every frame and scene no matter what the characters are doing. Mob breaking down into tears is given just as much love as a battle between two god-like entities, and the series’ art style only makes this more apparent.
The writing, meanwhile, is just as top-notch. Though this season might not have had as many philosophical exchanges and musings as past seasons, it makes better use of the few that it does have for an even bigger emotional gut punch. Even if one hasn’t seen the full series, they’ll still feel the full impact of Reigen sharing a deep-held secret with Mob or a forgotten side character realizing the answer to their yearnings was inside them all along.
It’s everything it needed to be as a finale, and when taken alongside the rest of the series, there’s little question the show will go down in history as one of the best anime of all time.
1. Chainsaw Man
Chainsaw Man is hands-down the best anime of the year and on its way to being one of the greatest anime of all time.
A lovingly crafted labor of passion, the series is everything an anime adaptation should be. it brings the source material manga’s story to life with cinematic and jaw-droppingly good animation that creates desktop screensavers with every frame. Existing moments and interactions are adapted in a way that makes them feel real, and new moments are added to give the story and its characters more depth.
Its writing is also some of the most engaging and entertaining in recent memory. Characters can and do speak to each other like real people, and when they don’t, it’s in perfect service to the wider experience or some sort of comedic bit. Not only that, but they don’t dump exposition on viewers and let the story play out in a more natural fashion.
What sets the series out most of all, though, is its originality. While it may draw influences and inspirations from several different sources, the end product is something all its own. Chainsaw Man is a one-of-a-kind experience and stands atop the mountainous pile of 2022 anime as the undisputed king.
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