Skip to main content
Anime & MangaAnime Features

The best anime of 2022 so far and where to watch them

By November 8, 2022March 29th, 2023No Comments16 min read

For anime fans and newcomers alike, there’s been plenty to offer this year in terms of new and returning series. From the kinetic and pulsating mayhem of Chainsaw Man to the sweet hilarity of Spy x Family, there’s been no shortage of series that will have a certain crossover effect. The start of the year saw populist favorites such as Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer make explosive comebacks, while Netflix hosted some of the more under-the-radar gems such as slice-of-life charmer Komi Can’t Communicate and space, coming-of-age odyssey The Orbital Children from the mind of Mitsuo Iso who was also behind the underrated Den-noh Coil. 

From bloodshed to romance, betrayal, and warfare, and sometimes something that falls in between it all, 2022 has been an enormously gratifying year for anime fans. These are just 18 of our favorites so far this year. 

Attack on Titan

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu
The back half of Attack on Titan’s Final Season has been a labyrinth of revelations, futility, and narrative-defying expectations. The quick succession of twists may leave longtime viewers polarized in seeing how their favorite characters have fallen from grace and left deformed, and least of all, left with animosity for the series protagonist turned antagonist, Eren Yeager. The series has returned intermittently for nearly a decade, with studio changes and prolonged breaks between seasons— beginning as a fairly archetypal, albeit dismal drama of slaying the beasts who decimated the world. However, since that initial season, the storytelling has subverted past tropes, submerging into a chaotic descent of conflicting morals, family prophecies, and the general ending of it all. It remains to be seen if there is any levity or resolution for Attack on Titan’s characters. With storytelling so notoriously forlorn and with the forthcoming series finale, it’s futile to overlook the judgment of the Founding Titan. [Dylan Griffin]

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story 

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Some anime exist to entertain, others to push forward animation. Many of the greats are compelling stories with unforgettable characters. However, some exist because no other medium can contain its power. Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story is one such anime. Street urchin Eve uses her absurd skill with a golf club to hustle in a society that seems to run primarily on golf. After a chance encounter with friendly Aoi, a prodigy whose talent may be the result of some soft eugenics. These women begin perusing each other through their shared hobby and encountering trials such as settling mafia territory disputes in a death match against a vampiric snake woman. Totally normal stuff, That’s before the series goes full Yu-Gi-Oh! and introduces VR golfing on top. Birdie Wing is pretty absurd, but it’s a great example of the kind of material that Western animation would never deliver even with how much it cribs from anime these days – and only a little bit because of how enthusiastically queer everything is. [Travis Hymas]

MAPPA/Chainsaw Man

Chainsaw Man

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu
A faithful but also decadently unique adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s wild manga, Chainsaw Man is a horror action-comedy brought to you by the directors and writer veterans of Jujitsu Kaisen’s first season. The buzzy series displays the same kind of rebellious irreverence of both a Sam Raimi feature, and a studio Trigger production, and yet despite being a full series has the same kind of gloss and polish of a feature expected from a Makoto Shinkai feature film. 

That’s a lot of comparisons that ultimately boil down to Chainsaw Man go brrr, touching boobs makes him vroom vroom.

While my enthusiasm comes from a place of knowing just how wild this series will escalate, this animation team just gets what Fujimoto was going for, and if the pace continues to click through the way we think, this show will certainly be on everyone’s lips as we bridge between seasons one and into season two. [Evan Griffin]

Cyberpunk Edgerunners

Where to Watch: Netflix 
It says a lot that the video game Cyberpunk was never truly punk at all, and it took an anime studio known for busting the glass ceilings in media like Trigger, and director Hiroyuki Imaishi (Promare, Kill La Kill, FLCL, Gurren Lagann) to make a series so overwhelmingly good that it brought new players to the lackluster video game in record-breaking droves. That said, the world of Night City, an adaptation of the tabletop game also named Cyberpunk as well as William Gibson’s Neuromancer, is an environment dense with detail, strife, money, and crime. It is a perfect sandbox for the fundamentals of a series by Trigger to play in, and the ten-episode limited series uses those details to its advantage, not only in the visual details that resemble the video game but also in the brutal lifestyle it takes to resist the mega-corporations that run the city. 

Cyberpunk Edgerunners works because it trifles with addiction and crushing hopelessness in a company town and how it leads to struggles and addictions, and through it, all find the spark of romance and rebellion that you know you’re always looking for in a project by the studio. It’s the kind of show that will set a fire in your stomach in the classic way Trigger knows how to do, and the result is one of their most thematically mature turnouts yet. [Evan Griffin]

Demon Slayer Entertainment Arc

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Hot off the heels of one of the biggest movie releases ever, Ufotable returns to make sure we don’t forget how good the studio is at building hype. This arc takes Tanjiro and friends to a swanky, indulgent, and more populated region and the Ufotable team steps up to the task, naturally. The team knew right out of the gate how popular the new character, Hashira Uzui, was going to be and doubled down hard on the rule of cool. Despite the stakes being raised, the series also leans way further into its humor than last season. Animation is way more flexible, on model, and exceptionally fluid when it needs to be, but is not afraid to break the model in service of more lighthearted moments and jokes. That flexibility helps continue to sell Demon Slayer’s themes of hope in the face of hopelessness. There’s a tendency to forget about returning series like this, but don’t fall behind on Demon Slayer. [Travis Hymas]

Wit Studio/The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún

The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún 

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll 
Directed by Yutaro Kubo and Satomi Maiya, the film The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún is a delightfully introspective and gothic tale of connections and loneliness with some of the finest animation of the year. Based on the manga written and illustrated by Nagabe, the world depicted has been divided into an inner and outer land, with protected people fearing the outer land which they believe to be contaminated with mysterious creatures who bear a heavy curse. On the border is where we meet our two main characters, a girl named Shiva (Rie Takahashi) who has been found near abandoned bodies and is awoken by a “being” referred to only as Teacher (Jun Fukuyama).

At only 70 mins and already balancing the narrative and character complexities of found family and the compassion and relief that comes with being seen, the greatest strength of its ambient atmosphere is the impeccable animation style that so perfectly befits the story being told. Reminiscent of works such as Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya or the French animated film Ernest & Celestine by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, and Benjamin Renner, the film, which plays with so many shades of black and white, positively enriches itself with its moments of color, arriving in fits of spellbinding pops. It’s visual poetry, as these characters and their stark worlds begin to slowly provide warmth. [Ally Johnson]

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll 
Perhaps the best place to start to showcase the sheer quality of work going on in the slice-of-live, romance anime Kaguya-sama: Love Is War is in the ending credits of season three. With visual homages to a Hayao Miyazaki short film On Your Mark to Starship Troopers, the ending montage of moments – both cataclysmic and euphoric – are as enormously expressive as the series gets, and it’s not even a part of what’s driving the story forward.

Perhaps, the greatest compliment I can give the show is that three seasons in, it’s managing to get funnier with each episode. In large part, especially when it comes to the third season, this has to do with how the story has become much more than just the will they/won’t they romance of student council president Miyuki Shirogane and vice president Kaguya Shinomiya, but also the friendships they share with other council members and the other member’s romances as well. Visually punchy and narratively quick-witted, season three, even with what must be a hit to the budget with more static shots and expressionless faces in the background, manages to elevate the greatest elements of the series thus far and ends on a note as charmingly heartwarming as it is potentially world-building for the characters and their (potentially shared) future. [Ally Johnson]

Komi Can’t Communicate

Where to Watch: Netflix 
Anyone lucky enough to happen across the Netflix adaptation of Komi Can’t Communicate will agree on (at least) one thing: this is one of the sweetest shows in ages. Currently nearing the end of its second season, the series follows Komi as she continues her quest of making 100 friends, despite her extreme social anxiety, with the help of her closest friend, Tadano. While the heart of the anime is in her overcoming her difficulty in communicating with others, there’s no denying that the show has built up the potential relationship between Komi and Tadano in a way that’s split grin, butterfly-inducing. A textured, and patient character study with no shortage of visual and written gags (not to mention a spectacular vocal performance from Rie Murakawa as Tadano’s childhood friend Nanjimi) Komi Can’t Communicate is pure escapism and an example of what the romantic geared, slice of life genre can execute. [Ally Johnson]

Studio Bones/Mob Psycho 100 III

Mob Psycho 100 III 

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Mob Psycho’s long awaited final season has brought with it a full range of emotions already in the few episodes released at time of writing. This season promises resolution in Mob’s emotional growth as he is faced more directly with impending adulthood and the inevitable changes that come with that – both in himself and those around him. The “Divine Tree” arc that makes up this season also has some of the best action set ups of a series that has already featured some of the best sakuga work from Bones, a studio that has some of the most iconic action scenes in the business. On that note, Bones clearly understands how noteworthy it is for them to have been able to see this story all the way through, judging from the emotional look backs in both the opening and ending credit sequences. These really highlight how much of a journey this quirky little series turned out to be, and it will be sorely missed once it is done. [Travis Hymas]

My Dress Up Darling

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation
The real secret to My Dress-Up Darling’s quality is in its mundanity – there has never been an anime with such detail paid to its sewing animations before, and maybe likely never again. Marin and Wakana’s budding relationship plays out naturally and with a very familiar air of high school awkwardness. While on its face moments like this are meant for laughs, the ways that My Dress-Up Darling plays things as normal and unassuming as possible makes its leads endearing, everything from Marin’s fondness for less-than-savory video games to Wakana’s interest in doll crafting is treated with respect and a desire to convince the audience that there’s nothing wrong with someone’s joy. That sense of normalcy also challenges actual norms – particularly gender norms. Though both of My Dress-Up Darling’s leads present pretty traditionally in their gender, even cis-presenting people could stand to have, what they presume to be a traditional norm, challenged. While that doesn’t seem to be My Dress-Up Darling’s main goal, that it does so with such casual understanding is itself sort of groundbreaking. [Travis Hymas]

My Hero Academia Season 6 

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu
While season five of the popular series My Hero Academia suffered from dividing their time ineffectively between storylines, the setup it centered itself on makes sense from the moment go of its sixth season. Possessing unrelenting energy as the heroes face off against the Meta Liberation Army and Shigaraki’s League of Villains, season six bypasses any beat of relief, instead throwing viewers full-throttle into what is essentially the first few mourning notes of an out-and-out war. Unrelenting and hyper-energized by amped-up kinetic animation, the episodes have been as grueling, heartbreaking, and thrilling as the highest moments of the series so far, from Miriko’s sheer power and acrobatic physicality in single-handedly taking on a group of Nomu, to the devastation of Twice and Hawks’s duel of hearts and minds, to the earth-shattering revival of Shigaraki that demonstrates a new level of destruction. Season five was our moment to catch our breaths because we’ll be holding it for the remainder of this arc. [Ally Johnson]

Netflix/The Orbital Children

The Orbital Children

Where to Watch: Netflix
With only a six-episode count (it was released as two feature films in Japan) Netflix’s The Orbital Children hits the ground running with a thrilling, action-adventure set in space. Created by Mitsuo Iso who was also behind the underrated anime series Den-noh Coil (as well as a key animator in End of Evangelion for that battle scene with Asuka), the series contains his penchant for grounding grandiose science-fiction through youthful eyes who see as much as they’re able to comprehend. Kenichi Yoshida provided the character designs while Toshiyuki Inoue is the main animator, and the overall effect is a visual spectacle that matches the non-stop motion of the series. There’s no time to waste and as we watch five children – two born on the moon, the other three on earth – as they try to survive after an accident on their space station leaves them stranded. [Allyson Johnson]

Pop Team Epic 

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Possibly the most unlikely season two ever, teenage shitposters and possible chaos gods Pipimi and Popuko bring their absurd yonkoma back to animation and haven’t missed a step. In fact, the time away from screens may have only sharpened the edge on these jokes in the best ways possible. Pop Team Epic 2 pulls no punches in its various parodies from educational anime, video game development, and even Gurren Lagann all while delivering perfectly timed punchlines out of nothing but bizarre animation and hilarious dual voice acting. An anime so funny it’s worth watching twice just to see what the swapped voice actors will ad lib into already hilarious bits. A particularly fun recurring bit is “Pop Team Epic B-Side,” which recasts the two girls as romantically linked high school boys with the tagline “the highly anticipated segment,” a joke setup that takes most of the season to pay off and is completely worth it. [Travis Hymas]

Ranking of Kings

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
One of Ranking of Kings greatest and most consistent achievements has been its ability to continually up the ante on a week-to-week basis, especially in its second cour. The story of a young, perceived to be powerless prince who must overcome adversity to prove his worth and protect his kingdom from unknown dangers, the series easily could’ve traveled well-worn paths. Instead, the series has taken the time to dive into the past and current psyche of all its characters, committing fully to demonstrating their inner complexities of them, even the ones who, in the first introduction, seemed like they’d be the easy villain or punching bag. The reality is much more interesting, with every character having their driving forces and convictions. 

The character exploration is met with gusto by the expansive world-building, which makes the universe in Ranking of Kings feel impossibly large while still finding a way to unite each thread so that, by the time it culminates in the still ongoing finale, there’s a deep catharsis to seeing all the characters we’ve grown to care about uniting. With simplistic designs that are contrasted with stunning and visceral action pieces, where the violence and brutality, though often bloodless, are shockingly unsettling, Ranking of Kings could easily go down as one of the decade’s best anime – and one of the year’s best shows, period. 

It also has the best OP in ages. [Allyson Johnson]

OZ/Sabikui Bisco

Sabikui Bisco

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Sabikui Bisco feels like an anime out of time with a 90’s music video aesthetic and a plot that reads more like a fever dream. Despite – or maybe because of – the bizarre plot structure, Sabikui Bisco is never uninteresting thanks to its dual best boys Milo and the titular Akaboshi Bisco. Both men have a lot more going on underneath their initial introduction to each other, which leads to a surprising place that most series like this would never dare follow, much less verbalize. Special attention should also be paid to the needle drops in this series; with a punchy heavy-rock focused soundtrack ready to pump another banger into the regularly occurring action scenes. Sabikui Bisco is ready at any time to get your head bobbing along to whatever weird adventure these mushroom brothers have gotten themselves into next. [Travis Hymas]

Sasaki to Miyano

Where to Watch: Funimation
Compared to some of the action-packed anime that have dominated the first quarter of the year, Sasaki to Miyano is a breath of fresh air. This slice-of-life BL series based on the manga by Shō Harusono focuses on the titular characters Sasaki and Miyano as they grow close after an altercation leads them to each other one day after Miyano watches Sasaki step in to stop a group of bullies from targeting his friend. As their relationship develops and Sasaki realizes he has romantic feelings for the other boy, Miyano questions his feelings and preconceived notions of romance. The character designs are charming and the score filters in light and loose, dancing around the central duo dynamic. Perhaps the greatest aspect though, beyond the main relationship, is how well the animation style captures the mood and tone of the story. With soft yet vibrant colors, the show makes sure that light is captured to reflect how their emotions waver and shift over time. [Allyson Johnson]

Spy × Family

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Easily one of the year’s breakout hits, for new and old anime fans alike, that status is well deserved. The series’ premise is well suited for the broad appeal it is going for and perfectly adapts a 60s spy aesthetic. The real secret is easily Anya Forger. Child characters are incredibly hard to nail at the best of times, much less in a magazine vertical known for pioneering the “Jotaro Kujo effect” – something that Spy✗Family wastes no time roasting to ashes. Anya is incredibly believable, written, and portrayed as a genuine “six” year old; especially in the Japanese audio. The found family concept is not new territory, of course, but Spy✗Family takes joy in bringing the Forgers together through its wacky yet grounded escapades. [Travis Hymas]

Drive/To Your Eternity

To Your Eternity Season 2

Where to Watch: Crunchyroll 
Continuing its plight to drown viewers in their tears, season two of To Your Eternity picks up nearly 40 years past the events of its first season, the last time Fushi has been seen. He emerges from his self-inflicted solitude to help stop any more bloodshed to occur, once again finding friends through humanity. The excellence of the anime adapatation stems from the brilliant minds behind the scenes, from director Kiyoko Sayama to writer Shinzō Fujita who help balance the bittersweet melancholy of Yoshitoki Ōima’s original story with the effervescent whimsy of the animation style. Perhaps that adds to the overall heartache, the soft lines of this world so often bloodied and hardened by the inevitable loss of life that comes with being immortal. [Ally Johnson]

Featured Image Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2022

Allyson Johnson

Based in New England, Allyson is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of InBetweenDrafts. Former Editor-in-Chief at TheYoungFolks, she is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. Her writing has also appeared at CambridgeDay, ThePlaylist, Pajiba, VagueVisages, RogerEbert, TheBostonGlobe, Inverse, Bustle, her Substack, and every scrap of paper within her reach.

No Comments

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: