2022: The Year Anime Took Over My Screens

With 2022 in the rear-view mirror, I can safely say one thing; 2022 was a weird year for me. I left my job of 5 years in health insurance to go back to college, my writing has hit a frustrating block after the invigorating screenwriting heights I reached in 2021, and I’m currently taking an extended sabbatical from my new-found home of Chicago and staying with family back in Michigan.

Well, that and how much anime I’ve watched this year.

How much you ask? Well, that’s a fair question. While it’s not the outright majority of what I’ve watched this year, it’s easily the largest bloc. If my tally is accurate, that number is 37 out of 128 seasons of tv. If I include rewatches, then that number climbs to over 40. Plus, anime has consistently been the only type of show I’ve followed weekly releases of since January. To put it another way, I think I’ve watched more anime shows for the first time in 2022 than I have in all the years combined going back to 2017 when I first started dabbling in the medium.

As for why, well that could take up another article, but I have a hard time imagining that’s why you’re here. So gather round and listen as ol’ Uncle Joe reflects upon/rambles at you about the anime he’s watched this year.

A few things I’d like to note. First, Since all of these have great animation and scores, I decided to focus on prominent genres of the content I watched. Second, everything I mention here is absolutely worth checking out, runner-ups included. Third, this is just for content I’ve seen for the first time in 2022 since the rewatches would massively skew the results otherwise and, to be honest, there weren’t that many anyways. Lastly, other than my special mention at the bottom, everything on this list can be watched through either Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and/or Crunchyroll, so don’t hesitate to check them out if you’re interested.

But enough about rules and clarifications, let’s get to the real meat of my rambling.

Best Sci-Fi

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

To start off this article, I thought I’d start off with sci-fi. I figured that, along with being one of my favorite genres of storytelling, these were also the most varied out of everything I watched this year, so I figured why not start off with a bang. And speaking of starting off with a bang, after much consideration I decided that my favorite sci-fi anime of the year was Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

I’m low-key surprised about this myself. While I was a huge fan of the animation and the action, I didn’t think too much of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners immediately after watching it. It didn’t push the boundaries of cyberpunk like Steins;Gate did for time travel; I felt like the anti-capitalism themes and the world of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners were pretty familiar to anyone with a cursory knowledge of the subgenre. Nor was it as unique as the post-apocalyptic slice-of-life Girls’ Last Tour. I just thought that Cyberpunk: Edgerunners was a fun distraction filled with over-the-top violence.

But over time, my mind began to change. As for the why, I attribute this to the characters. To be more specific, the tragic quality each character has: the role of cyber-psychosis in the ends of David and Maine; the relationship between Lucy and David, ending in Lucy’s misguided attempts to protect David, and the cost of achieving her dream of going to the Moon; but most of all the arc of David, from starting as a kid dealt a losing hand with the death of his mother to his inevitable demise due to his refusal to address his addiction to cybernetic implants. They just stick with me more than any other new sci-fi anime I’ve seen this year, which is why I decided Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is my favorite of the bunch.   

Sci-Fi Runner Ups

Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate

Girls’ Last Tour

Girls’ Last Tour

Best Isekai

Sonny Boy

For this category, I think I owe a bit of an explanation for what it is, seeing as there’s no direct Western-genre counterpart. For the uninitiated, think of the isekai as a Narnia story. A normal person, usually either a high school student or a middle-aged office drone, mysteriously finds themselves transported to a mysterious realm, often either fantastical, sci-fi, or both – the increasingly common reverse is where a magical being is transported to modern-day Japan, like in The Devil Is A Part-Timer – and numerous adventures and fish-out-of-water shenanigans ensue. Since only one fantasy show I watched this year wasn’t an isekai, I figured why not make this category isekai instead of fantasy.

Well, that’s not exactly true. My choice for the best isekai of the year, Sonny Boy, is not a fantasy. Compared to the rest of the isekais I’ve seen, it barely follows genre conventions. If anything, it aggressively avoids them; rather than a Narnia story, Sonny Boy is a Robinson Crueso-story where a class of high schoolers find themselves adrift in an increasingly surreal series of alternate realities, all with newfound superpowers. That’s not to say avoiding genre conventions is explicitly better. No, the reason why I think Sonny Boy is better than Re:Zero and That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime is that it is straight up the most imaginative piece of media I saw all year. I challenge you to find something more imaginative. I still think about that monologue in episode four about the tragic story of the umpire in the invisible monkey baseball game. And that’s just episode 4 of 12. Not since FLCL have I seen something so enthusiastically out there, which helped endear Sonny Boy to me. Well, that and I loved the animation and the score, but those seem less important

Though, if I’m being honest, out of all the isekais I’ve seen this year, I remember details about Sonny Boy the least, especially after the hard-hitting drama of Re:Zero and the peak action comedy of That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime. That said, I still stand by Sonny Boy being the best since there’s so much to it that, like FLCL, you could rewatch Sonny Boy numerous times and pick up new things each time. Plus, unlike those others – late Spring through mid Summer was the season of the Isekai for me – I watched Sonny Boy last February, and then half the time I was just trying to figure out what the hell was going on. So I guess that means I should just go rewatch it now and enjoy the mind and reality-bending odyssey once again.

Isekai Runner Ups

Re:Zero S1-S2

Re:Zero

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime S1-S2

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime

Best Rom-Com

My Dress-Up Darling S1

Believe it or not, this category gave me the most trouble when deciding the rankings. This is because the rom-com, especially the slice-of-life rom-com, has been the most influential in terms of my viewing habits later into the year (and reading habits for that matter). There was a period of time, starting in March and extending through April, where anime rom-coms were exclusively what I watched (barring a live-action show or two). While I grew fatigued by the sheer number of saccharine shows that started to blend together due to how similar they all were, I still watch rom-coms if I’m looking for something lighter and/or for an emotional escape. That, and out of the three animes I regard as the best of the year, two of them were rom-coms.

I’d ask you to guess which one that is, but we’re three categories deep and you’ve seen how I structured the post, so you know the winner was My Dress-Up Darling S1. Other than Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, nothing else really came close; for real, I agonized over which one I liked more, especially after Kaguya-Sama’s impeccable third season. At best, the shows that stood out had to differentiate themselves from My Dress-Up Darling in story elements and characters. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is an excellent example of this by both having distinct protagonists and adding magical realism to the narrative. Conversely, if they didn’t do enough to separate themselves from the story and character elements of My Dress-Up Darling they would get overshadowed. Shows like Komi Can’t Communicate, Toradora, and Horimiya are in this boat.

There are two big reasons why this is the best rom-com of the year. The first is that it is an impeccably well-put-together anime. Look no further than episode 8, which turned an impulsive trip to an empty beach into one of the most beautifully shot and animated scenes of any anime any year. The second was that it kickstarted the aforementioned rom-com spree. Maybe it just hit me at the right time, but god the drama-free wholesomeness of Gojou’s and Kitagawa’s friendship and burgeoning romance was addicting. If it were any sweeter, the show would be canceled for inducing diabetes in all its viewers. Sometimes, you just need a good story about lovable characters who just embrace each other’s interests and support each other to achieve each other’s dreams.   

Rom-Com Runner Ups

Kaguya Sama: Love Is War S1-S3

Kaguya-Sama: Love Is War

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Best Horror

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – The Entertainment District Arc

To round off the last of my categories, I decided on horror. Like sci-fi, it is one of my favorite genres of media. But unlike sci-fi, these horror selections gave me some pause, since none of these, other than Parasyte: The Maxim, are explicitly designed to scare. Rather, most are action shows that are based on horror concepts. That said, there was no question that the second season of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba was the best. In case you’re wondering why the rest of the show isn’t included, it’s because I started watching season 1 and the Mugen Train movie in December of 2021, so only the second season, known as the Entertainment District Arc, was eligible.

There’s a lot worth discussing why this season of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba was so great: the peak action choreography was complimented by the movie-quality animation; the dynamics and growth of the main characters Tanjiro and Nezuko, especially in comparison to the brother-sister team of villains Daki and Gyuataro; and the emotional rollercoaster of following the nearly season-long action scene week to week. That said, if you’re even tangentially knowledgeable about anime you’ve probably heard about all this. But for real, watch the second season, if not the whole show. It is a true sensory and storytelling feast, especially the last two episodes of the season. There is a reason why the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba manga, even though it’s complete, is still currently one of the best-selling series on top of being one of the most watched anime currently on the air outside of maybe Attack on Titan.

No, the reason for me why Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba beats out stellar horror offerings like Parasyte: The Maxim and Chainsaw Man was because, as My Dress-Up Darling did for rom-coms, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba was what kickstarted the explosion of anime viewing this year. It also kickstarted my picking up the manga for shows I really liked, which also led to manga becoming, by sheer volume, the largest bloc of my reading material for 2022. Really, if it weren’t for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba, my 2022 would have looked a hell of a lot different. 

Horror Runner Ups

Parasyte: The Maxim

Parasyte: The Maxim

Chainsaw Man S1

Chainsaw Man

Special Honorary Mention

Perfect Blue

As you’ve no doubt noticed, this post has so far been exclusively about anime series. This is because I watched very few new anime features. Three to be precise; Perfect Blue, Paprika, and Bubble. But since I loved Perfect Blue so goddamn much, I couldn’t not write about it. If I were to include it in the rankings with the series, it would not only be the best horror piece I’ve seen all year but the best anime as a whole. Hell, I’d maybe even put it as the best new movie I saw all year.

As for why, the answer is simple. Out of everything I’ve seen, Perfect Blue is the only horror media in years that legitimately terrified me. Usually, when I watch horror media, I can appreciate the rising tension and the imagination behind horrifying imagery and concepts, but I never get scared. Just knowing it’s a fictional story removes that for me. Instead I just sit in silence and appreciate the artistry and craft of what I see on the screen or page. With Perfect Blue, that passive viewing was thrown out the window. I was constantly yelling at my tv for Mima, the protagonist, to either run or for someone to help her as her sanity begins to slip due to the traumatic transition from a child pop star to an aspiring actress while being pursued by a nightmarish and murderous stalker. Plus, being high at the time made the collapse of her sense of reality all the more terrifying. It felt like I was losing my mind with her. Literally, nothing else came close to topping that experience, and that’s something I’ll remember for years, if not the rest of my life.

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