From firefighters to superheroes, 2019 was a great year for anime.
Over a number of recent years, anime has gone from a relatively niche obsession for audiences outside of Japan to a full blown global phenomenon. This probably isn’t surprising, especially as it becomes easier and easier to watch anime on streaming services like Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix. 2019 only continued the upward trend in anime’s domination with brand new series and movies that stood out in the extremely competitive crowd.
From reliable shonen all-arounders like My Hero Academia continuing to dominate our hearts and minds to brand new original series like Stars Align pushing the emotional boundaries of the sports anime sub-genre, we managed to narrow down a list of our eight favorite anime of 2019. And when you’re done looking back, don’t forget to take a look at what’s coming up in our most anticipated anime releases of 2020.
What was the best anime you watched this year? Let us know in the comments below!
1. My Hero Academia Season 4
It’s not uncommon for something to be lost in the translation from manga to anime, especially with a series as fast-paced and bombastic as the ones found in the Shonen Jump magazine, yet somehow the My Hero Academia anime keeps pulling the transformation from page to screen off flawlessly. 2019 saw the anime enter its fourth season and there’s yet to be a dip in quality or faithfulness to the source material. The perfect mix of western superhero tropes and shonen anime conventions, My Hero Academia also serves as the best possible bridge between fans of both genres. If you’ve never watched an anime before but love the MCU? Congratulations, here is your perfect jumping-on point. — Meg Downey
Studio Trigger’s theatrical debut, Promare, is a wild ride, opening with a scene where random people around the world suddenly develop pyrokinetic abilities and cause most of the Earth to be burned to a crisp. Fast-forward 30 years and the mutants have been labeled “the Burnish” and persecuted as monsters, when most are just trying to live normal lives. The story picks up here, with protagonist Galo Thymos embarking on his first mission as a special firefighter that physically combats Burnish-created disasters, where he meets the terrorist Lio Fotia.
Promare never stops to catch its breath after that and, honestly, that format works to the film’s benefit–quickly replacing its implied hetero romance for a much better gay one, dropping its early implications that this is a mech action anime to delve into an intriguing conspiracy plot, and meshing together both traditional 2D and not-so-traditional 3D CG to create wonderfully extravagant movements with its characters. — Jordan Ramée
3. Fruits Basket
The original Fruits Basket anime ran for 26 episodes back in 2001, loosely adapting the earliest chapters of Natsuki Takaya’s classic manga of the same name. And while the original show was beloved for its time, enough time has passed to allow for a second chance. The Fruits Basket reboot is aiming to provide a more faithful adaptation with more modern animation and, so far, it’s doing exactly that. This season feels like a welcome return for classic Fruits Basket fans and with Season 2 already confirmed for 2020, we can’t wait for the story to keep going. — Meg Downey
4. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba
Demon Slayer is yet another shonen story I’d classify as one of the newer narratives helping to further evolve the genre. Taking place in a fictional Taishō-era Japan, it follows the life of Tanjirō Kamado, a young boy who returns home one day to find his mother and three youngest siblings slaughtered by a demon. His younger sister, Nezuko, is the only survivor, but the attack has left her transformed into a demon herself. Tanjirō decides to join the Demon Slayer Corps so that he’ll have the strength to stand his ground against the monsters that may hide the secret to a cure for his sister.
Demon Slayer is one of the most emotionally powerful anime I’ve seen, shonen or otherwise, for how it deftly imbues the central theme of each fight through the symbolic nature of the combatants’ fighting styles, all of which are beautifully animated and emphasized through the music of the anime’s stellar soundtrack (singer Nami Nakagawa’s lovely performance of “Kamado Tanjirō no Uta” in episode 19 is a notable highlight).– Jordan Ramée
5. Mob Psycho 100 Season 2
It’s been three years since Mob Psycho 100 first hit the small screen, but the wait was oh-so-worth it. The quirky, super stylish, shockingly wholesome, and hilarious anime based on a webcomic about a fake con-man medium and his genuinely psychic assistant has earned itself a sort of cult-classic status among anime fans and Season 2 just solidified that status. With gorgeous (and frankly, sometimes completely bizarre) animation by Studio Bones, Mob Psycho 100 is a must-watch. — Meg Downey
6. Dr. Stone
2019’s been a fantastic year for Shonen Jump manga series and their anime adaptations, and Dr. Stone is no exception. A mix of traditional shonen tropes and post apocalyptic, sci-fi stylings, Dr. Stone is the story of a world in which the entire population has been turned to stone–and one hero who is able to escape petrification on a mission to free humanity from their statue-like prisons. It’s over-the-top, as all shonen series ought to be, but still grounded in gritty, scientific reality, making Dr. Stone a series you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on. — Meg Downey
7. Stars Align (Hoshiai No Sora)
Sports anime has become a tried-and-true favorite subgenre, which means it can all start to feel a little predictable after a while. Enter Stars Align, a brand new (seriously, it just premiered this October) original anime about a boys’ tennis club that actually manages to feel like a completely new idea. With its soft, beautiful animation style and protagonists who feel exceptional for how unexceptional (by sports anime standards) they are, Stars Align is a breath of fresh air. — Meg Downey
8. The Promised Neverland
Who doesn’t love a touching story about scrappy orphaned kids growing up in a suspiciously bougie orphanage slowly discovering that they’re actually stuck in a sort of “farm” being raised up to be eaten by demons? It’s a tale as old as time, honestly, and exactly the sort of fairy tale delivered by The Promised Neverland, yet another Shonen Jump series that made its anime debut this year in spectacular fashion. — Meg Downey