Bad year. Good anime. Let's talk about it.
As we near the end of this ... very interesting year, we here on the Crunchyroll Editorial team are taking some time to reflect on all of the excellent anime that has aired this year. While there were plenty of reasons this year to be sad, stressed out, or worse, anime was there to help us through. Our editorial team has members all across the globe, and we came together to celebrate the anime that kept that fire of hope burning inside us all through 2020.
This year, due to many different circumstances, I wasn't able to keep up with nearly as much anime as I would have liked to, but there are a few shows I managed to watch that really left an impact on me this year. The year started off with an explosion of color and imagination with Keep Your Hands off Eizouken! Anime is something so special to all of us and this series about three girls coming together and learning to animate captures the power this medium has to inspire us. Later in the year, we got the first half of Re:Zero Season 2. While it had some ups and downs, the episode that brought us Subaru's fleeting reunion with his parents was a high watermark for the year. Finally, My Teen Romantic Comedy Snafu Climax capped off one of my favorite series of the last decade with one of the most successful, emotionally resonant ends I've seen in a while. I'm so grateful to all of the creators who brought these stories to life for us in a year where we desperately needed them.
- Cayla Coats, Editor-in-Chief for English regions
There are too many cliched phrases to apply to 2020, but despite every hurdle this awful year had, the endurance of those who create our favorite shows was still present. Even in the best of circumstances, these productions are strenuous, but it’s thanks to the work of every animator and staff member who is part of the process that let us enjoy every show this year. For that, I cannot thank them enough. With that, here are the best anime I saw this year.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! - While Eizouken is “an anime about making anime,” it’s far more about animation as an art form and the physical/emotional energy it takes to make ideas into something tangible. An intimate look into what drives artists and one of the truest presentations of “it takes a village,” Eizouken is a love letter to much more than anime as a medium, and a series that aims to share that inspirational magic between viewer and creator.
Beastars - What Studio Orange continues to accomplish with 3D animation is nothing short of incredible, and an ever-increasing shining example of what is possible in the space. Along with the stellar visuals, Beastars’ intricate worldbuilding and story of opposite ends trying to understand each other was one of the most gripping and emotional dramas I watched this year.
March Comes in Like a Lion - This year I found myself, perhaps like many others, finally checking out shows on my “to-watch” list. I can’t tell you why I chose March Comes in Like a Lion from that list exactly, but I can tell you that the 44 episodes of the shogi drama contain some of the best television I have ever watched. What starts as a series about navigating trauma and pain turns into a powerful journey of recovery and self-introspection of finding one’s path to happiness.
- Kyle Cardine, Editor for English regions
This year has been a complicated one, but it also delivered some great moments with anime. January started strong with Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, a series in which its protagonists unleash an overflowing imagination and creativity trying to create ... an anime! It's a great story of effort and struggle for something that seems almost impossible, and also allows us to know a little better how the mind of a highly creative person works — particularly the mind of Masaaki Yuasa, who directed this series.
This year we also enjoyed Haikyu! TO THE TOP, the new series starring our favorite volleyball team, which showed us that no matter how many episodes go by, the series' passion and great characters do not decline at all. The evolution of the protagonists, the wide and varied cast of characters, and matches capable of keeping you glued to your seat in tension (only to finally get you excited and stand up screaming) make it not only one of the best series of the year but one of the best spokons in the history of anime.
Finally, I cannot forget to recommend Golden Kamuy, whose mixture of historical facts, interesting vision of Ainu culture, charismatic characters, action, plot twists, and of course, memorable comical moments, put it in a very high position in the history of anime. It's a wonderful story that nobody should miss, as few anime manage to mix the seriousness, comedy, fiction, and story in such a masterful way like Golden Kamuy.
- Sergio Vaca, Spanish News Lead
As a longtime comedy fan, my favorite anime series this year couldn't be any different. Starting in April, we followed Catarina's misfortunes in My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! while she tried avoiding the destruction flags in order not to be either exiled (or even killed)! Throughout the series, due to her unique charisma, Catarina gradually wins the hearts of everyone around her (and she won mine as well).
On the other hand, we have Rent-a-Girlfriend's Kazuya ... Since I've already read Reiji Miyajima's manga, I knew exactly what to expect from it. If you like a good old rom-com (and also don't mind getting constantly angry at your TV), give it a shot. But seriously though, you will want to throw your remote on the TV several times. Be strong, resist.
And in this last quarter, as someone who absolutely loves bunnies, I cannot deny how happy I was when I heard Is the Order a Rabbit? was coming back for a third season (highly recommended for those who like cute stuff and coffee). It's so relaxing and fun to watch the day-to-day job life in the Rabbit House café, following all the characters as they play around through the streets and water canals from their small town inspired by Colmar, France — it's really a lovely place, it will be on your “fictional places I would like to visit” list. If you want to relax after a busy day at work (or school), this is the anime to go.
- José Sassi, Portuguese News Lead
While 2020 as a whole was certainly improvable on many fronts, it also brought me the most positive of bamboozles: remakes of some of my favorite properties that are actually sequels in disguise. Not only did Final Fantasy VII Remake pull the rug from under everyone, but Higurashi When They Cry Gou repeated this feat just a half-year later and let me enjoy one of my favorite pastimes: Jokingly shaking my fist at the sky in anger and yelling a Japanese creator's name, be it Nomura or Ryukishi! Everyone who has had to suffer through more than 30 seconds of conversation with me knows of my fondness for the When They Cry franchise and after getting a new anime that might act as a bridge between Higurashi and Umineko (as of this writing, this is just a theory), I could hardly be more excited to see where this might lead in the future — maybe even a full-on Umineko reboot that finally lets me enjoy Erika Furudo shouting "<Good>" in anime form?! With Ryukishi becoming more and more prominent in the Japanese development sphere (he is currently working on an entirely new visual novel with renowned developer Key of Clannad fame and more of his works receive English translations like the recently released Iwaihime), I expect the next few years will be a promising future for 07thExpansion fans.
Apart from losing it over singular frames in Higurashi's opening, I also very much enjoyed our very first Crunchyroll Original In/Spectre, with Kotoko's and Kuro's chemistry and the final battle being particular highlights for me (possibly because Kotoko fighting the internet itself not only reminded me of the debates in Umineko but also of my work as a community manager). If we manage to forget about reality for a moment, 2020 was a fantastic year for anime and I can't wait to see what next year has in hold for us (apart from, you know, more Higurashi episodes)!
- René Kayser, Public Relations & Community Manager, Germany
Despite the anime delays that occurred this year, the industry managed to come out with unforgettable shows. My watch list consisted mostly of sequels of my favorite anime which included Chihayafuru Season 3. It's difficult to categorize Chihayafuru as it's a distinguished series that defies the stereotypical themes, and this particular season saw big developments in terms of story and characters. It was a memorable and passionate journey told through an admirable trio.
As for the anime that completely captured my interest this year, Golden Kamuy came back this year with Season 3. The power of narration along with an engaging and dramatic plot told through a unique set of characters made Golden Kamuy one of the best I've watched. Golden Kamuy is more than just an exciting series, but also a fulfilling experience, which Season 3 very much showcased.
As for the newcomers, I myself am surprised that I've picked TONIKAWA as one of the best shows I've seen this year. I didn’t expect that I would fall in love with the show when I first saw it, however, I was absorbed the minute I started watching. It's a simple anime yet holds many beautiful and serene moments. Nasa and Tsukasa are both what I liked the most: they were like a cube of sugar in a warm cup of tea. I loved how clear and honest their relationship is and I can’t wait to see more of them.
- Reem Ali, Social Media Coordinator & Editorial Lead (MENA)
This year has been peculiar, mostly for the negative reasons we know well. One of my solaces during 2020 was the wonderful anime that exceedingly impressed me. Ever since I found out about Jujutsu Kaisen, I immediately started looking forward to it since I love horror stories, especially if flavored with exotic mysticism. After the first episode, every feeling was confirmed and every detail of the series turned out to be a jewel. The characters are well defined and combined with a detailed and solid setting that looms in front of the audience. The Curses' character design is a masterpiece and shows all their temper, even before they start to act.
I am also biased when it comes to Re:ZERO. I was waiting for the series to come back for a long time and I feared that my hopes would prove to be misplaced. A few minutes after the beginning of the first second season's episode, I found myself tangled by the unraveling events. It's been a crescendo ever since. Even though one of my favorite characters is missing in this arc, the storytelling kept me glued to that screen.
For a long time, I didn't want to watch Dorohedoro because something about its style didn't sit well with me. But I fell in love after finally giving it a watch. MAPPA managed to portray a foolish but plausible world, filled with absurd, but believable characters. They can turn even the most weirdo plot set in a crazy place accomodating through the world of men, The Hole, and the world of the sorcerers. I got lost in Dorohedoro's urban landscape is filled with so many small details alongside the great Caiman and Nikaido.
- Francesco Ventura, Italian News Lead
Most of all, this year I remember the emotional roller coaster from watching Kakushigoto. Kouji Kumeta first shoots you witty gags in the Sayonara Zetsubo-Sensei style, mocking himself as the protagonist drawing obscene comedy manga (read Katte ni Kaizou to learn about the dark and incredibly funny past of Kumeta-sensei), and then tells the unexpectedly touching history of a relationship between father and daughter. Kakushigoto teaches a lesson for both little Hime and the audience: being sad is just as important as having fun. For me, this is the best anime of 2020.
Although, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! came out this year, a farewell ode to the art of animation by Yuasa Masaaki. Surely my colleagues and many anime fans already love Eizouken and want to celebrate this series this year, so I better take this opportunity to tell you about the existence of the Puparia by Shingo Tamagawa. It is an independent animation created only by the passion, hard work, and talent that Eizouken celebrates. Take a break from the mainstream, find this anime on the author's channel, and enjoy every shot of this three-minute masterpiece.
- Azaly Zeldin, Russian News Lead