Congratulations! You’ve made it halfway through the year! Happy July everyone!
Unless you live in the US, in which case enjoy seeing blatant state-endorsed targeted injustices on a massive scale just before the day you’re supposed to celebrate how proud you are to live in said country. I’d really like if this didn’t become a bi-annual tradition, but here we are.
Now you might look at this top ten of the year list and think “Wait, really? That one made it in?” And you’d probably be right, we only had 36 in the running this year, so you can expect to see more “by season” reviews in the future and possibly (hopefully) more opinion pieces to fill gaps. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve written any of those.
Anyway, you know the drill. These aren’t necessarily highest scored, or that came out this year, but stuck with me the most that I watched this year. Year being the start of July 2021 to the end of June 2022. Order is somewhat flexible, especially for spots 10-7.
Going to start things off here first this time. Makes a bit more sense that way, no?
- Dorohedoro – Amidst the wash of medieval fantasy world Isekai after medieval fantasy world Isekai and high school harem romcoms, it’s immensely refreshing to have a setting, story, and style that are so immensely unique. The worldbuilding, aesthetic, and general vibe are so intensely fascinating. A grungy urban cyberpunk crossing with Alice in Wonderland Dieselpunk and the Mafia of satanic flavored witchcraft users. And a lizardman who loves Gyoza. And women so buff they put JoJo characters to shame. It’s dark and gritty without being heavy, and you just don’t get that anywhere else. Hopefully season 2 hits, because the first season didn’t really have much of an ending.
- The trashy trio – Sometimes you watch a show and say “Man, that was pretty bad; I loved it.” That’s the case for Citrus, Eromanga Sensei, and How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift? Citrus was nice because the characters broke from the tired anime-mold of “flustered and oblivious/naïve/innocent about sexuality” and were instead, very frank. Spicy scenes were spicy without skin service, which was a welcome surprise. Eromanga Sensei had remarkable directing, (show, don’t tell style) and a fascinating dive into the creative process, be it for writers, streamers, or artists. Dumbbells was just hilarious on top of educational and is only really in the “trash” category because of the ecchi all-female cast.
- Evangelion 3.0 + 1.01 Thrice Upon A Time – Evangelion is done now and had an emotionally satisfying ending. Yeah, there was still a lot of “Okay, sure, I guess that works” flavored deus ex machina moments where you’re completely lost, but the emotional ride of the characters and their relationships with each other and themselves has a satisfying resolution.
Now, on the main dish.
Yeah, I’m a cheater, I haven’t put the review out for this one yet, and that’s because I finished it six days ago. Anyway, this was a refreshingly mature take on High School romance that doesn’t rely on typical anime nonsense hi-jinx (did you know that the officially grammatically correct way to spell that is two separate words: high jinx? Wild.) at all. It also isn’t a climax of “Now they’re dating and overcame miscommunications, everything’s great now!” but rather we get to watch the relationship grow after the “confession and start dating” moment. We get to see how each person affects the other, and those around them. It was a nice breath of fresh air.
I’m seeing a theme here. Again, a more mature anime that doesn’t feel like an obnoxious anime geared towards high school boys. This has that Cowboy Bebop flair of a sweet jazzy soundtrack and a mature edge (not just gore and boobies, but tone and theme) with fun con artist shenanigans. Animation style is bold and fresh, with great characters and writing. Particularly for the first season.
Oof. Man. Buckle in for some heavy times. Real human trauma is explored, investigated, and dissected here and it isn’t pretty. But it is accurate and somewhat cathartic to feel seen. Yes, the show has its issues that people are right to grumble about, but I feel the good it brings is worth it.
7. Somali and the Forest Spirit
Do you want to have a cry? A big ol’ purge of feelings? Then pick up this GORGEOUS fantasy piece where a robotic Golem learns how to emotions and how to Dad. But while going along for that process, take a deep dive into generational hurt, trauma, guilt, forgiveness, atonement, and long-held racial tensions. Got the job done for me, had a big sad cry, very good.
6. Zombie Land Saga Revenge (Season 2)
I thought that with the premise of the show being mostly used up for gags and what not that the second season would lose some of its edge. Boy howdy was I wrong. Somehow it manages to crank the quality of the writing, characters, and music up to make for a heartwarming (and sometimes heart wrenching) ride. Some parts hit a bit too close to home.
This here is a quality film. Also, nice to have there be something on here that’s more kid-friendly than the rest. Having music as a primary theme, the music is absolutely gorgeous, and the singing is executed flawlessly by the voice actors. There are some good solid themes and fresh experimentation with animation styles that I appreciated. This is the kind of anime movie that you show family and others who might not “get” anime.
4. Sword Art Online: Alicization
Now to be clear, this is for the First season of Alicization and the first season only. This does NOT include War of the Underworld. It was very nice to have SAO go back to roots of not just “trapped in a simulation/game” but the existential questions that stem from it. The questions of sentience, sense of self, morality vs. legality, authority, totalitarianism, and the struggles of finding the line of what wrongs and sins one tolerates of those they serve, be it employers, religion, country, or family. Animation was stellar as always with great moments, though not without some classic SAO uncomfortable sexual assault scenes. (The writer finally saw how horrifying these scenes are and personally apologized to the voice actors for having written such a scene for them to act, so that’s good I guess).
This was such a fun time. And not just because the main girl Marin is waifu of the year, (her smile is to DIE for) but because the writing, characters, and comedic timing were absolutely on point. Right in that sweet spot of “Learn a lot you didn’t know about a hobby” and “Still be an interesting story that is focused on characters.” Also, Harbour is like, 70% Marin (even her name) and 30% Gojo, so that was a good time.
2. Jujutsu Kaisen (and Movie)
It makes me happy to see that Shonen can still be good. Shonen and battle anime can exist without excessive awkward fan service or childish vibe-breaking jokes. Yes, it does make use of a lot of tropes – you can easily spot the Naruto and Bleach influence – but it feels fresh, modern, a comfortable but thrilling level of creepy, and oh so stylish and cool. Animation and fights are top notch, so this is definitely worth picking up.
There’s no good way to explain the magic of Gurren Lagann and do it justice. The absolute heart, pure love of the craft and story, and full commitment to everything in this are so endearing. The intensity and pump-you-up energy is unmatched, and by all metrics of measuring “what makes a good anime/tv show/story” it really doesn’t add up. The sheer charisma of this is so intoxicating and encouraging that we’d both be laughing at how ridiculous it is and crying from being legitimately touched and moved.
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