The Best Anime of 2022, Ranked
Very similar to the year in video games, we were all winners when it came to this year’s anime. No matter your tastes, your preferred genres, or whether you typically go for a dub or a sub, 2022 delivered high-quality anime across the board. Not to be a broken record, but the fall 2022 season in particular is bound to go down as one of the best seasons of anime of all time. In a banger year for anime, it says a lot that most of my year-end bests aired during the fall season. Surely it’s a fool’s errand to subjectively rank an incredible year’s worth of an entire medium of entertainment. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I am such a fool.
Before we begin, I would like to shout out Pui Pui Molcar: Driving School, which aired in Japan during the fall 2022 season, but hasn’t (ahem, legally, cough cough) streamed in North America yet. In any case, Pui Pui Molcar forever, Pui Pui Molcar for life.
10. My Dress-Up Darling
My Dress-Up Darling quickly endeared itself to me for a very specific reason. During my time in Japan, I began to notice that the audiences for traditional Japanese arts—Noh, nagauta shamisen, bunraku, and others—did not typically overlap with the audience going to anime or gaming events. The former audience was, on average, significantly older than the latter. One of the protagonists of My Dress-Up Darling laments this to some extent in the first episode, believing he has nothing in common with his classmates. The show centers on a high school-aged duo: a boy who makes hina dolls—a specific, ornate genre of dolls for the Japanese holiday Girls’ Day, which dates back to the 1600s—and a girl who’s super into cosplay. And they find common ground. There’s quite a bit of fan service, but otherwise, it’s lovely.
9. Romantic Killer
Even if you don’t consider yourself the “shojo type,” you should try Romantic Killer. I definitely don’t consider myself a fan of shojo, or girly comics, but I enjoyed the hell out of this manga, and that joy has translated brilliantly to the anime adaptation. Our protagonist is Anzu, who just wants to play video games while cuddling with her cat and eating chocolate. In other words, Anzu is me living my best life. But without invitation, a fairy appears and rips away her games, her cat, and her chocolate, and throws her into a world full of hot guys—all part of a plan to test out a new program to deal with Japan’s low birth rate. It’s a delightfully absurd premise, and you get a delightfully absurd anime in return, chock full of shojo and romance parody. Romantic Killer is the kind of show where you suspect everyone had fun during the production process.
8. My Hero Academia
Look, I’ll admit it: Just like my favorite boy Todoroki, I’m historically hot and cold with My Hero Academia. The Joint Training arc very nearly lost me. But, just like my beautiful boy Todoroki growing accustomed to using his flames, I’m hot on MHA this season. Season 6 delivers some incredibly high stakes as the series heads towards its climax, and the results have kept me on the edge of my seat each week. Plus, Shigaraki is quickly becoming one of the most complex and intriguing villains in current anime, to the extent that he is often uncomfortable for me to watch—in a good way.
7. Pop Team Epic
Pop Team Epic might be one of the weirdest shows out there, which is precisely why you should watch it. Think of Pop Team Epic as Japan’s closest equivalent to Robot Chicken, except that it leans way more on blatant absurdity in the best way possible. Pop Team Epic‘s second season included everything from train battles to children’s show parodies and song and dance numbers, and it’s a blast to behold. The show has a fun, unusual casting habit, too: Each episode consists of two halves, which are the same segments featuring different actors, either male or female. And each episode has a different cast. In season 2, in both the sub and dub versions, this approach has lead to some incredibly delightful “stunt casting” (to borrow voice actor Reagan Murdock’s term), like Pikachu and Meowth (3a, subs), Edward and Alphonse Elric (2a, subs), Itadori and Fushigoro (3b, subs), and Denji and Aki (4b, dub).
6. One Piece
Since 2022 marked the manga’s 25th anniversary, it’s been a helluva year for One Piece fans. One Piece Film: Red, in particular, was a goddamn treat. My bias regarding One Piece is well documented, but that doesn’t stop me from celebrating how hard the anime killed it this year. Long gone are the days when One Piece manga readers could mock the anime for sub-par animation. When the Straw Hats landed in Wano, the animation quality dramatically increased. This year, as the Straw Hats and their allies reach the climax of the battle on Onigashima, One Piece has delivered some of the most striking animation of the year. Key moments in battles, in particular, tend to consistently dole out jaw-dropping and highly creative sequences, which is especially impressive when you consider this anime airs every single week.
Don’t believe me? Behold!
Furthermore, I still hold to the opinion that episode 1015, which aired in April, is one of the best single episodes of anime ever made. Sure, the pacing of the show is still sometimes quite slow. But the voice cast continues to be as incredible as always. This is, in my opinion, One Piece‘s best year in its 23-year history.
Related: Here’s the best anime from each decade on We Got This Covered
5. Attack on Titan
If you’re just going on plot and world-building and our feelings about certain major characters, Attack on Titan is an almost unrecognizable show from what it was in the first season. What remains the same is the high-quality level of animation—elevated to even higher heights now that the show switched to MAPPA—and the fact that it’s one of the most enjoyably stressful half-hours in current TV. Much to my delight, I often audibly gasped or even screamed during this year’s season. Even though someone in PR heavily botched up the messaging on how many seasons “the final season” would actually involve—“the final part” is coming in 2023—that doesn’t take away from the triumphs of Part 2 (and the image of a head spinning in the air in slow motion, which is embedded in my brain forever).
4. BOCCHI THE ROCK!
Every year of anime has its dark knight—the show that comes seemingly out of nowhere and blows you away. For me, BOCCHI THE ROCK! was that show in 2022. It’s the tale of a group of high school girls starting up a band in Shimokitazawa, a real-life town in Tokyo known for having even more “live houses” (i.e., small music venues) than thrift shops. Its protagonist, known by the nickname Bocchi, suffers from deep social anxiety. What sold me on BOCCHI THE ROCK! is that, whereas poking fun of extreme introversion often comes across as mocking or mean-spirited, Bocchi’s comedic moments are genuinely empathetic. The show is funny, charming, and heartwarming. Everyone should watch it.
And to any musicians out there who are reluctant to watch shows about musicians: Let me assure you that I, someone silly enough to have gone to music school for college (for guitar), absolutely adore BOCCHI THE ROCK!. Largely because high school-me was pretty much Bocchi.
3. Spy x Family
Before the fall season started, Spy x Family was my favorite anime of the last few years—which says a lot about the caliber of the list ahead. Spy x Family, which is made by both CloverWorks and Wit Studio, is everything you could possibly want in an anime. Whether you want action, slice-of-life, comedy, school drama, or romance (?!?)—it’s all here. But what I really love about Spy x Family is how its premise—a family in which everyone is lying to each other about their “true” identities—could easily have translated to a cynical show. Instead, the protagonists genuinely care about and try to help each other. It’s a laugh-out-loud series that constantly makes me feel warm inside. Add to that the show’s uncanny ability to twist stereotypical expectations and a very good borf boy, and you’ve got a classic.
2. Mob Psycho 100
Mob Psycho 100 is one of my all-time favorite anime, and its final season showcases everything the series excels at, all while ripping your heart out. Mob Psycho cleverly builds emotional development into its take on the shounen formula, with our protagonist Mob only going “all-out” when he receives enough stress or emotional stimulation to send him overboard. Mob continually struggles with not relying on his psychic powers to attain meaning in his life, instead trying to focus on being a genuine and kind person. In doing so, the show not only wears its heart on its sleeve, but it provides a pretty damn important counter-message in a social culture where we’re constantly told our skills are what make us special. Even the bros are heartbreakingly kind in this show.
Meanwhile, I maintain that Arataka Reigen (seen stripping in this season) is one of the best anime characters of all time. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll audibly say “aw!” This final season is the perfect cap to Mob’s growth throughout the series. We’ll be lucky if an “action show” this sincere comes around again.
1. Chainsaw Man
Chainsaw Man is perhaps not for everyone. It can be creepy, gory, dark, and grotesque. I had a friend who quipped that Tatsuki Fujimoto’s original was “as if Quentin Tarantino made an manga.” As such, the show is way more fast-paced—and, yes, outright gory—than your typical Shounen Jump fare. But it does so while being blisteringly funny and absurd. What more can you expect from a show that modeled its main female protagonist after Eric Cartman?
However, it’s precisely because of its dystopian, coarse, and bloody backdrop that Chainsaw Man really shines in depicting how genuinely heroic it can be to show kindness and care towards another human being. The series centers its characters in this harsh world in such a way that we feel their pain and even mourn for them. MAPPA made a conscious choice to bring the characters of the manga to the show’s foreground, rather than depicting “gore for gore’s sake,” and the results are incredible. We are treated to an entire gorgeous sequence (which is not in the manga) of one character simply going through his morning routine, and it’s maybe one of the best things I have ever seen on a television. It also suddenly made hand-ground coffee very attractive to me.
Anyway, add the absolutely astounding animation and the banger performances from both the sub and dub casts, and Chainsaw Man is not only the best anime of the year—it’s quite possibly one of the best anime ever made. Hell, maybe some of the best television.
(featured image: Crunchyroll)
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