Despite the worldwide pandemic, 2020 somehow managed to be an absolutely amazing year for anime. While there were many returning series, we also received a fair amount of new anime that were well worth my time. This list will be focusing on those new releases that more people should be watching. With that in mind, here are my top 10 anime of 2020!
10. The Day I Became a God
P.A. Works and creators Jun Maeda and Na-Ga are notorious for making some of the best tear-jerker anime, and The Day I Became a God is no exception. The Day I Became a God is a somewhat simple story of a boy becoming a man through the emotional connection he develops with Hina, the “god” mentioned in the title. Having been warned by her of the “end of the world,” Yota lives each day to its fullest, only to realize that Hina did not mean the literal end of the world, but rather the end of her own, knowing that she cannot remain a god forever. While a bit slow in the beginning, the last few episodes made me waste multiple tear-soaked tissues.
When I first heard about Beastars, I was worried it would feel like a darker version of Zootopia with loose messages alluding to a faulty class system. While those themes are definitely present, Beastars ended up being a story about not letting your appearance define who you are. Legoshi and Haru both learn this lesson throughout the first season, and it is the primary reason their relationship works so well despite them being a wolf and a rabbit. Orange’s 3D animation is incredibly expressive. Between this and MAPPA’s Dorohedoro, I see a bright future ahead for 3D animation in anime. I cannot wait for the second season to hopefully hit Netflix, but with COVID and Netflix’s notorious lateness when it comes to releasing anime in the west, who knows when it will be available to stream.
An animated period-piece drama, Arte came out at the perfect time for me, giving me inspiration during the toughest parts of my college semester. This series does not shy away from period accuracy either. Arte constantly struggles as she attempts to become a professional artist during the Italian renaissance. Her working relationship with Leo is quite heartwarming, with her perseverance further inspiring Leo, and the rest of the secondary cast, into taking action to attempt to capture even just a fraction of Arte’s drive. If you are a fan of classic period-piece television, this is the anime for you.
7. Tonikawa: Over the Moon for You
Possibly the cutest anime I have ever see, Tonikawa: Over the Moon for You flips slice-of-life romance tropes on their head by not just having the main couple get together in the first episode, but having them get married as well. Nasa and Tsukasa are easily one of the cutest couples to ever be animated. Their chemistry shines in every episode despite their short time knowing each other. It is hard to watch Tonikawa without having a stupid grin on your face the entire time. The wholesomeness of their relationship is just too powerful.
6. The Misfit of Demon King Academy
You ever just want to sit back and watch an anime protagonist absolutely body the competition? Welcome to The Misfit of Demon King Academy, where the protagonist is so powerful he is able to kill a man with his own heartbeat and then resurrect him only to kill him again. Anos is quite possibly the most fun anime protagonist to come out of 2020, while also supplying a fair amount of heart due to his interactions with the rest of the cast. Characters like Misha, Sasha and Lay supply Misfit with a fair amount of heart as well, while showing how, despite his title as the Demon King of Tyranny, Anos is more kind and understanding than most of his peers. This difference in character is what makes his over-the-top actions throughout the series feel so fulfilling. The first season of The Misfit of Demon King Academy is an entertaining ride from start to finish and I cannot wait for the second season.
5. Jujutsu Kaisen
Before you brush off Jujutsu Kaisen as just another big popular shonen action series, I suggest you give it a chance. There is a reason Jujutsu Kaisen is as popular as it is, and it is due to the combination of MAPPA’s amazing animation and the fantastic character writing. Yuji Itadori might seem like your typical happy go-lucky shonen protagonist, but his human flaws shine through constantly throughout Jujutsu Kaisen’s first 13 episodes. While I also love the super powerful characters like Gojo and Nanami, it is Itadori’s friendship with Yoshino, a disgruntled high school student who has experienced more pain and tragedy than anyone should, that made me love the first cour of Jujutsu Kaisen.
If you love Christopher Nolan films (especially Inception and Tenet), then you will absolutely love Id:Invaded. Id:Invaded is a sci-fi thriller series following the brilliant detective Sakaido as he infiltrates the minds (or id wells) of serial killers to solve their murders before they occur. The entire main cast is written exceptionally, with Sakaido being an especially tragic character whose motivations become increasingly sympathetic the further down the rabbit hole the series goes. Id:Invaded will blow you mind with its visuals, while supplying a truly unique mystery series that is only topped by the next entry.
3. The Millionaire Detective – Balance: Unlimited
Daisuke Kambe is more James Bond than James Bond himself. The Millionaire Detective – Balance: Unlimited is the thrilling buddy-cop detective drama I never knew I needed in my life. This millionaire detective has more than his fair share of suave thanks to the brilliant acting (both in Japanese and English), Clover Works’ stylistic animation and Yugo Kanno’s exciting score. Daisuke and his reluctant partner, Haru Kato, make for a highly entertaining pair, being forced to deal with each other’s differing morality. Most of the tension in Millionaire Detective‘s writing comes from the constant squabbles between the two rather than the larger plot of the series. When I first started watching it back in September, I assumed it would end up being my anime of the year. However, there are still two anime that I loved even more than Millionaire Detective.
2. Great Pretender
Wit Studios and Production I.G.’s Great Pretender is an amazing crime drama series that masks itself as a comedy before hitting you hard in the feels with the last two cases. Makoto “Edamame” Edamura grounds the series with his understandable qualms with the other members of the cast, as well as the emotion he brings with him through each case. However, Makoto is not the only member of the cast that develops significantly throughout the series. Each main character receives dedicated time to make you care about their feelings and motivations. This is especially true of Laurent, the sly Frenchman who seems to find joy in forcing his “friends” to confront their pasts. However, when forced to confront his own past, we see what type of person Laurent is. Yutaka Yamada’s spectacular score even changes to represent the shift in tone. Makoto and Laurent play off each other perfectly, and are the primary reason Great Pretender is one of the best anime I have ever seen. Yet, it is still not the best anime of 2020.
1. Akudama Drive
I am not going to lie; it was really hard picking between Akudama Drive and Great Pretender for the top spot on this list. However, Akudama Drive gets the pick because it feels like the more complete show. Every second of Akudama Drive is spent furthering the characters and developing them alongside the story. There is not a single wasted moment. Watching Swindler, Courier, Hoodlum and Pupil develop throughout the course of Akudama Drive‘s 12-episode run was incredibly fulfilling. The last four episodes are especially great, finishing so many amazing character arcs in a flourish of red fireworks, much to Cutthroat’s liking. The stylistic animation from Pierrot makes this series a true spectacle to witness. It is a crime that Swindler didn’t get nominated for best protagonist at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards. If you haven’t watched Akudama Drive, then you are missing out one one of the best single-cour anime ever made.
Is there an anime that debuted in 2020 that you love that didn’t make my list? Comment below!