The Best Anime Of 2019

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

2. Promare

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

The Witcher Books: Reading Order And Which Stories Inspired The Netflix Show

What order should you read the Witcher books in?

As many fans know, The Witcher isn’t just a series of hit video games. Those games are actually sequels to a series of short stories and novels that were written decades ago by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. And it’s those original books on which the Netflix show The Witcher is based.

Specifically, the show is mainly based on the books that are considered number one and two in the series: The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, respectively. However, these books are actually collections of loosely related short stories that, together, serve to introduce readers to the world and characters of the Witcher, while gradually bringing the main players together and setting up the story that would be told in the later novels.

That’s largely the same purpose served by the first season of Netflix’s version, which, despite its complex multiple timelines structure, many fans seem to be enjoying. With Season 2 already announced, now is the perfect time to experience the original stories. If you simply want to know what order to read the books in–something that can be slightly confusing, thanks to the fact that the second short stories collection hadn’t actually been translated into English until recently–here’s the ideal reading order:

  • The Last Wish (short stories 1)

  • Sword of Destiny (short stories 2)

  • Blood of Elves (novel 1)

  • Time of Contempt (novel 2)

  • Baptism of Fire (novel 3)

  • The Tower of the Swallow (novel 4)

  • The Lady of the Lake (novel 5)

  • Season of Storms (novel 6)

However, we wanted to dig a little bit deeper. For those who watched the Netflix show and enjoyed it, we thought it might be fun to break down exactly which original stories and books each episode draws from. Keep scrolling down for the breakdown, and let us know what you thought of Netflix’s Witcher in the comments below.

1. Episode 1: The Lesser Evil

Episode 1, “The End’s Beginning,” is largely based on the short story from The Last Wish, “The Lesser Evil.” In the story, Geralt must choose with whom to side in a battle between a violent princess and a paranoid old wizard. The show adapts it mostly faithfully, minus some changes to the final confrontation.

2. Episode 2: “The Edge of the World”

The show’s second episode, “Four Marks,” tackles the short story “The Edge of the World,” also from The Last Wish. The show changes this to serve as the introduction between Geralt and Jaskier/Dandelion; in the original story, they already knew one another and were traveling companions.

3. Episode 3: “The Witcher”

Episode 3, “Betrayer Moon,” pulls from the short story “The Witcher,” also in The Last Wish. Like the episode, the story concerns Geralt’s assignment from King Foltest to kill the Striga haunting his halls. (Note: Yennefer and Ciri’s storylines up to this point have been largely made up for the show, or constructed from backstory that’s described but not explicitly shown in the source material).

4. Episode 4: “A Question of Price” and “Sword of Destiny”

Episode 4, “Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials,” borrows from two of the original stories. Geralt’s storyline is from the Last Wish story “A Question of Price.” It involves the feast in Cintra where he invokes the law of surprise, which causes his destiny to be tied with Ciri’s. Ciri’s storyline in this episode, which takes place years later, is a significantly altered version of her adventures in the forest Brokilon in the short story Sword of Destiny.

5. Episode 5: “The Last Wish”

The show’s fifth episode, “Bottled Appetites,” continues to draw a bit from “Sword of Destiny,” but is mainly focused on the short story titled “The Last Wish,” in which Geralt and Jaskier/Dandelion wrestle with a djinn and encounter Yennefer for the first time.

6. Episode 6: “The Bounds of Reason”

Episode 6, “Rare Species,” sees Geralt, Yennefer, and Jaskier/Dandelion all on the same adventure for once. It’s based on the short story “The Bounds of Reason” from the collection Sword of Destiny, which plays out nearly exactly the same as it does on the show.

7. Episode 7: “Something More”

The Netflix show’s final two episodes, beginning with “Before a Fall,” both draw mainly from the same short story: “Something More,” from Sword of Destiny. In the story, Geralt lies injured and feverish in the back of a wagon, recalling important events, many of which are portrayed in Episode 7, including his journey to Cintra to claim his “child surprise” (although in the book version, this took place years earlier, not shortly before Nilfgaard’s attack). Geralt also thinks about the aftermath of the Battle of Sodden Hill, which is teased in this episode and shown in the next.

8. Episode 8: “Something More”

Like the previous episode, Episode 8 is based mainly on “Something More,” to which the episode title–“Much More”–alludes. We never saw the Battle of Sodden Hill in the books–only its aftermath. But the Geralt part of the story, in which he finally reunites with Ciri, is mostly the same.

Halo: TV Show Production Has Begun, And New Infinite Concept Art Released

Halo is gearing up for a big year in 2020, with the Halo Master Chief Collection continuing to release for PC and the planned launch of Halo Infinite alongside the Xbox Series X. In a new update on Halo Waypoint, developer 343 Industries has dropped some information about everything on the Halo slate, including the upcoming 2021 Showtime TV series.

First up, The Master Chief Collection and Halo 5 are both offering double XP from now until the end of 2019. You’ll also be able to unlock the Ugly Sweater nameplate in The Master Chief Collection by completing one of these two objectives by January 6, 2020:

  • Complete (without quitting) 10 matchmaking (Multiplayer and/or Firefight) matches on snowy maps
  • Beat the par score on any two snowy campaign missions

Updates are also coming to improve performance across the PC and Xbox One versions of the game.

343 Industries provides an update on Showtime’s upcoming Halo show, which will star Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black’s “Pornstache”) as Master Chief. Production on the show has begun, and a behind-the-scenes shot makes it clear that Halsey will feature in it.

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The show will be directed, at least in part, by Black Mirror’s Otto Bathurst.

An update is also given on Halo Infinite, alongside some new concept art (below). The team currently has split-screen running internally, according to the post, and the game is confirmed as taking place after Halo 5. Forge will also return, and for the first time it will feature undo and redo buttons, making it easier to edit together levels.

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Halo Infinite is coming to Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC. It will support LAN play and will feature extensive armor customization options.

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The next major Halo release will be the Anniversary edition of the original Halo for PC. It will enter beta in early 2020.

Half-Life: Alyx Off-Screen Gameplay Footage Shows How VR Gunfights Work

Half-Life: Alyx, which was surprise announced back in November, is coming in March 2020. We’ve dug up plenty of details about the game so far, but one thing we haven’t seen much of is actual gameplay footage. Now, thanks to Adam Savage’s Tested, we’ve got a much better sense of what playing the game will look like.

In the video below, recorded at Valve’s offices, we see how Half-Life: Alyx plays across eight different VR kits, including the Valve Index. Beyond showing off the various benefits and downsides of these kits, though, this video also gives us a few looks at how the game actually looks when a regular person is playing it.

In this video, we see how warp movement works in the game, and an few glimpses at how the guns work. We can see the player steadying the gun in their right hand using their left hand a few times, and interacting with elements of the environment. Thus far, all we’ve had to go on is the game’s trailer.

The off-screen gameplay footage is spread out over the video, but we get some interesting looks at a variety of actions, like gripping a doorway with both hands to pull it open and navigating UI elements with your hands. The video will also give you some insight into how the game will handle on your VR set of choice.

Half-Life: Alyx is being developed by much of the team that was originally working on In the Valley of Gods. It will only be playable in VR.

Silent Hills Hacker Finds Their Way Into The Town In The P.T. Demo

Silent Hills, despite having been cancelled back in 2015, continues to serve up new mysteries and reveals years later thanks to the work of one enterprising YouTuber. The town of Silent Hill appears briefly in the final cutscene of the game’s demo, P.T. (short for playable teaser,) and game hacker Lance McDonald has found a way to walk through director Hideo Kojima’s version of it.

McDonald, who previously revealed that Lisa follows you throughout the game and that you’re playing as Norman Reedus the whole time, was able to connect the map for the town to a doorway from early in the demo, but there was an initial problem–because the town was not designed for the player to walk through, there’s no collision, and you fall through the ground immediately.

Incredibly, Lisa pops up and grabs you if this happens, allowing the game to reset any player who manages to clip through the environment (which also gives the video below a proper jump scare.)

To counteract this, McDonald had to patch the game to make the player float slightly above the ground, which allows him to explore the town without issue.

If you’ve finished P.T., you’ll recognize the trail of blood on the ground–McDonald follows it, but it doesn’t lead anywhere too exciting. In fact, Silent Hill, quite eerily, feels like a regular town in many ways. There are a lot of low-poly assets, but also lots of attention to detail–the air conditioners and staircases have been hand-placed on each building to avoid repetition, for instance, and potted plants are placed realistically.

As McDonald notes, the town feels simultaneously under construction and abandoned, which is a hallmark of the Silent Hill series. It also stretches back quite far, and features a mysterious bridge that you can walk under right in the middle of the street at the edge of the map.

There are no major revelations or reveals here, but it’s a very interesting look at how Silent Hill itself might have looked if the game was ever completed. Instead, Kojima and Norman Reedus went on to create Death Stranding.

Kojima has recently hinted at a return to horror, and while we won’t be seeing him work on the Silent Hill franchise any time soon, it’s possible that he’ll return to some of his ideas for the game in the future.

Watch Loadout Episode 3: How Warhammer 40k’s Bolter Was Created

Whether it’s video games, movies, or TV shows, entertainment is filled with iconic tools of warfare, and much of the stories we love are defined by them; the Pulse Rifle is synonymous with the Aliens franchise; the Man With No Name’s mystique and effortless cool is heightened by the revolver he whips out in the squint of an eye; and the sound of a bullet from the Intervention hitting an enemy immediately conjures up Call of Duty-flavoured nostalgia.

These weapons are the focus of Loadout, a new show that will identify some of pop culture’s most influential armaments and explore them in-depth. Each week, host Dave Jewitt will tackle a different weapon, delve into its origins, examine how it has been used, and lay out the impact it has had on pop culture.

In Episode 1, Loadout takes hold of the revolver, a legendary weapon that has been present from the earliest days of cinema to the current era of video games. Why is it so popular? For Episode 2, Dave takes a look at The Intervention, a weapon that Call of Duty players will be intimately familiar with and, given its status as arguably the most meme-able video game weapon, you may know it even if you haven’t played the shooter series. For Episode 3, Dave delves into the world of Warhammer 40k to explore the history of an iconic sci-fi weapon.

New episodes of Loadout will air every Saturday and you can find them on GameSpot’s YouTube channel–make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

Episode 3: The Bolter

Episode 2: The Intervention

Episode 1: Revolvers

Watch Dogs Legion – Phil Hornshaw’s Most Anticipated Game Of 2020

2020 is almost here, so we’ve asked GameSpot’s staff to share which games they’re looking forward to most in the new year. New consoles are going to dominate the headlines, but at the end of the day it’s all about the games, and there are a ton of exciting ones to look forward to. When you’re done reading this entry, follow along with all of our other end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub and our Most Anticipated of 2020 hub.

Though the first Watch Dogs never grabbed me, I was delighted by Ubisoft’s tack with the second. It centers on a young, diverse, and mostly well-drawn group of characters, it’s a smart send-up of tech culture, and it has a lot of interesting things to say–while being a fun open-world game that utilizes Watch Dogs’ interesting hacking gameplay ideas in a story that’s actually engaging. After playing Watch Dogs Legion at E3 2019, I’m even more excited for the third entry in the series, which appears to be expanding on all the good things of its predecessor, while adding some truly engaging and innovative gameplay mechanics and story conceits.

The crux of Watch Dogs Legion is that you can play as any character in the game: all the NPCs are recruitable to your ever-growing underground hacker insurgency, and each character has a unique backstory and set of perks and drawbacks. It sounds like a pie-in-the-sky idea about the capabilities of procedural generation that will immediately collapse under close scrutiny, but after playing Legion, I was blown away by how well the game actually does integrate the idea of pulling characters from its future London into your group, and how well-realized they feel. You add characters to your group by helping them deal with the problems in their lives, almost all of which are caused by the draconian, fascist surveillance state (one that’s an outgrowth of our real-world political climate) in which they find themselves. So Watch Dogs Legion feels like you’re completing a series of loyalty missions specific to the characters.

Once they’re on your team, you can switch between your characters on the fly, making use of different people’s particular skills to complete your missions. When you get into trouble and the authorities are closing in on you, it’s the other characters you’ve recruited that come to your aid with special passive abilities, like setting up roadblocks to divert police that give you time to escape. While “any NPC is playable” sounds like a gimmick, the complex systems at work in Legion do well to make all those characters feel distinct, rather than just a series of random attributes attached to a random character model. Legion sees the return of Watch Dogs’ long-running scanning ability that lets you see into the lives of people on the street, but for the first time in the series, that ability is essential to the game as you recruit characters, and helps create a London that feels populous and alive.

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The character recruiting system goes beyond gameplay, though. Legion’s random NPCs actually feel like bespoke characters created for the story as you play through its campaign, and each has their own voice actors and dialogue pieces that slot seamlessly into cutscenes. Ubisoft didn’t hire thousands of actors, obviously, but there are enough that, at least in our preview and in gameplay footage, we haven’t yet heard the same voice repeated on two characters. It all works together to create a feeling that you’re creating a unique take on the game’s story through the people you choose to bring into Ded Sec, and who you choose to take on missions. What’s more, you find yourself caring about these characters because of the history you have with them and the time you’ve put into them–which makes it all the more devastating when they’re arrested or killed.

Though we got hands-on with Watch Dogs Legion at E3, Ubisoft recently delayed the game from its original March 6, 2020 release date. As of now, Ubisoft is expecting to launch Watch Dogs Legion in the second half of the year. Given the level of complexity in the game (not to mention its politically charged story, which deals with the repercussions of Brexit), the development team using that extra time is probably for the best. We also know that Legion will be one of the first Ubisoft games to appear on the PS5 and Xbox Scarlett, so it’ll be interesting to see how Legion will leverage the capabilities of new hardware.

For a brief rundown on everything you need to know about Watch Dogs Legion, be on the lookout for our explainer highlighting all the essential details.

See Watch Dogs Legion at Amazon