The best anime of 2023

2023 has been another spectacular year for anime fans. Coming off of the anime-packed year that was 2022, this year has boasted a wealth of returning favorites and highly anticipated premieres that have made 2023 one to remember. With series like Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Jujutsu Kaisen, Pluto, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, Trigun Stampede, and Heavenly Delusion, it’s been a busy year for anime fans trying to stay on top of the best of the best.

If you haven’t been keeping up with everything that’s come out this year, don’t sweat it — we’ve got you. Below is Polygon’s list of the best anime of year and where you can watch them. From our top 10 ranking of the best anime series to our curated list of runners-up, there’s plenty to watch and enjoy as we bid adieu to 2023 and look ahead to what exciting new premieres the new year has to offer.

How the Polygon best anime list works

As always, we’ve assembled Polygon’s biggest anime aficionados to submit ballots for their favorite anime of the year. After collecting and tallying all the votes, we’ve assembled our list of the top 10 best anime of 2023, as well as our favorite anime that just missed the cut. For clarity and convenience, this year’s top 10 list is ranked in ascending order, while the “best of the rest” runners-up are ordered by premiere date, from most recent to least.

The top 10 anime of 2023

10. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Swordsmith Village Arc

A red-haired anime boy (Tanjiro) holding a flaming sword with the ghostly image of another swordsman with a similar scar and hair in Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. Image: Ufotable/Aniplex of America

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba returns for an all-new season, picking up from the momentum of Entertainment District Arc’s intense finale to deliver a story that, while beautifully animated and an entertaining watch from moment to moment, nonetheless feels overlong and minor in the grand scheme of the series’ ongoing plot.

The third season of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, titled Swordsmith Village Arc, follows series protagonist Tanjiro Kamado and his sister, Nezuko, as they journey to a secret village in order to repair his sword following his battle against the Upper Rank demons Gyutaro and Daki. Upon arriving, Tanjiro finds himself once again ensnared in a battle with two more Upper Rank demons, fighting alongside the Mist Hashira Muichiro Tokito, the Love Hashira Mitsuri Kanroji, and his taciturn ally Genya Shinazugawa in order to protect the village’s inhabitants.

To tell the truth, there’s much to dig into as far as the plotline of this season is concerned, both at the risk of spoiling one of the most touching moments of the series at the end of this season and for the fact that there’s not really much in the way of a plot to speak of. As far as the strengths of this season are concerned, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Swordsmith Village Arc is first and foremost a spectacular visual experience, packed with the sort of breathtaking sword fights and action sequences fans of the series have come to expect from anime studio Ufotable. As far as the season’s writing is concerned, the third season of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba offers little in the way of genuine twists or shocking revelations to chew on.

Even still, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Swordsmith Village Arc is a satisfactory installment in the long-running series, performing the unenviable task of bridging the divide between two of the most consequential arcs of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and setting the stage for an exhilarating future going forward. —Toussaint Egan

9. Scott Pilgrim Takes Off

All the main characters in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off stare at the camera while standing in a crater. Image: Netflix

Where to watch: Netflix

Scott Pilgrim is still the same dude — dating a high schooler, enjoying his precious little life, and falling for the new girl with hair like this. Only this time, that’s all we see of him. By episode 2 of Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, Netflix’s anime adaptation, Scott is gone and the rest of the cast is left to pick up the pieces.

Which is genuinely cool as shit: Takes Off confidently charges forward into the same world without its titular hero, and it rules. In his absence, the show manages to not only provide fun avenues to explore the characters we all love, but to remix, redefine, and reengage with the heart of the story itself. This is a new Scott Pilgrim story, but it’s also an old Scott Pilgrim story, still concerned with the same issues of love, care, growth, and vegan powers as the old one.

What’s more, Takes Off makes full use of its medium, letting the now-anime world flow the story out in bolder, more creative directions visually. Where Edgar Wright’s visual lexicon once packed enough punch, Science Saru’s animation now lets Matthew Patel fight Gideon across a building, and Wallace stunt doubles take on Ramona (as Envy Adams). When taken with the plot, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off clearly makes the most of its gift of time and maturity. As Bryan Lee O’Malley told Polygon, he didn’t have an interest in purely revisiting the story. And we’re all better for it: Here’s the time-tested story of Scott Pilgrim, as we know him and made totally new. —Zosha Millman

8. Blue Lock

A low-angle shot of a soccer player calculating the trajectory of his next kick with ghostly projections of his opponent’s next move in Blue Lock. Image: Eight Bit/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Every now and then an anime comes along that I won’t shut up about, even to my non-anime-watching friends. This year, Blue Lock was that show. Maybe I should apologize to everyone who was forced to listen to me rant about how great the animation is, how the story subverts typical sports anime tropes, how much I love the thorny but empathetic players, or how the matches were so stressful it reminded me why I can’t handle real sports. But I won’t, because I stand by every word.

Blue Lock blends the best parts of near-superpowered sports anime like Kuroko’s Basketball with the cutthroat competition of Squid Game, yet the result feels exhilaratingly fresh. Now, I’m just left counting down the days until season 2, when I can start my “Have you watched Blue Lock yet?” campaign all over again. —Sadie Gennis

7. Spy x Family season 2

(L-R) Yor, Loid, and Anya Forger sitting in the passenger car of a train overlooking a window in Spy x Family season 2. Image: Wit Studio, CloverWorks/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu

Anya and the rest of the Forger family return as charming as ever in the second season of Spy x Family. The series follows a seemingly quaint family of three where each has a hidden secret. The father, Loid, is a government agent. Yor, the mother, is an assassin. Anya, the daughter, is a telepath. Together, the three navigate juggling home life and keeping their alternate lives hidden. (It’s like Hannah Montana but times three!)

The second season picks up after the events of the first, as Anya continues her work to become an imperial scholar and win an audience with political leader Donovan Desmond for her father’s secret mission to save the country. What I love about Spy x Family is how the most mundane moments can become top-secret missions filled with tension. A date might not just be an outing, but a dire situation where Yor must hide a gunshot wound, or a school assignment might turn into a grand adventure to find macaroons. Meanwhile, characters like Anya and her exaggerated facial expressions and goofball antics imbue the series with a kind of heart rare to series like this. It might seem trite, but it goes to show that forming a family might be the grandest adventure all along! —Ana Diaz

6. Tengoku Daimakyo (Heavenly Delusion)

A blond-haired boy (Maru), a brown-haired boy, and a brown-haired girl (Kiruko) stare at a fish creature with multiple arms through the window of a ship in Tengoku Daimakyo (Heavenly Delusion). Image: Production I.G/Disney Platform Distribution

Where to watch: Hulu

While watching Production I.G’s Tengoku Daimakyo, the new sci-fi mystery anime based on Masakazu Ishiguro’s manga series (which is known as Heavenly Delusion in English), I couldn’t help but think of Katsuhiro Otomo and his 1988 magnum opus, Akira. Both center on a generation of children who, brought up in the wake of an apocalyptic disaster, must fend for themselves in a world that has all but given up on the future while finding their own purpose in life. Tengoku Daimakyo does enough to distinguish itself from Otomo’s work by focusing on a relationship between two characters that touches deeply on the themes of friendship, gender, and adolescence.

Set 15 years after the fall of civilization, Tengoku Daimakyo alternates between two stories: that of Maru and Kiruko, two children who journey through the ruins of Tokyo in search of a mysterious place referred to only as “Heaven,” and that of a group of schoolchildren with strange powers living in a high-tech underground research facility, one of whom bears a striking resemblance to Maru. While searching for Heaven, Maru and Kiruko are attacked by vicious otherworldly creatures that only Maru seems to possess the ability to destroy. How are these two stories connected? What is the origin of Maru’s strange power, and how are these strange creatures related to the end of the world? Half of the fun of watching Tengoku Daimakyo is figuring that out! The other half is immediately rewatching the series to catch all of the clues hiding in plain sight you missed watching it the first time.

With a memorable cast of interesting characters, beautiful animation, an engrossing post-apocalyptic mystery plot with twists that are as profound as they are personal, and a terrific score, Tengoku Daimakyo is one of the must-watch anime of 2023. —TE

5. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury

The XVX-016 Gundam Aerial reaching its right hand forward and glowing with purple and pink highlights in Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury. Image: Sunrise/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Simply put, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury is a show that has everything. Put aside the storied and intimidatingly complex franchise it’s a part of for a moment — Witch From Mercury does an astounding job of standing on its own two feet, with plenty to offer if you’ve never seen a Gundam and never will again. (I hope you do, though.) Equal parts romance, comedy of manners, sci-fi mech brawler, political thriller, and slice-of-life boarding school drama, The Witch from Mercury succeeds by wearing all of its influences on its sleeve in a mashup that’s thrilling for both the fact that every episode has something new in store and also for the care it takes in developing its entire cast.

The Witch from Mercury starts out full of Gossip Girl-type snobs in a military school and slowly makes them all confront the reality they’ve been sheltered from, forcing them to consider the cost of the games they play and bringing the socioeconomic strife they benefit from to their doorstep. Through its protagonist, the naive, sweet, and gifted pilot Suletta Mercury, the series deftly explores cycles of abuse and oppression, with an interest in how power protects itself, and what it takes to disrupt that power. And yes, it’s also a killer Gundam show, one that constantly has homages to and remixes what came before in a way that’ll please new fans as it hooks a new generation of them. —Joshua Rivera

4. Pluto

Astroboy flying using his rocket boots in Pluto. Image: Studio M2/Netflix

Where to watch: Netflix

Pluto isn’t the first story about robots having feelings, but it’s one of the best to ever do it. A miracle of adaptation, Pluto takes the acclaimed manga by Naoki Urasawa — itself an adaptation of Osama Tezuka’s Astro Boy — and imbues it with dramatic heft, a murder mystery, and a biting Iraq War metaphor.

In telling a story about a mysterious serial killer out to destroy the world’s greatest robots and the human activists who advocate for their rights, Pluto contemplates humanity from the perspective of machines experiencing its extremes firsthand. Robots learn to love, hate, and grieve for the first time, and it’s almost too much to bear. How raw they are, compared to the humans they share the world with. Humans can simply forget. Maybe they shouldn’t. —JR

3. Skip and Loafer

(L-R) A blonde-haired anime boy (Sosuke), A black-haired anime girl with pigtails and glasses (Makoto), and a brown-haired anime girl (Mitsumi) stare forward at their picture being taken in Skip and Loafer. Image: P.A. Works/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

The best part of Skip and Loafer is that the romantic lead is just an incredibly nice guy. Yeah, he’s cool and popular and handsome — but he’s also just a good dude!

The show follows Mitsumi Iwakura, an ambitious girl who moves from her small town to attend a prestigious high school in Tokyo. Though she’s a hardworking overachiever, she’s a little unprepared for the hustle and bustle of city life — and attending a school where the class size is more than six people. Confused by public transit on her first day, she runs into Sōsuke Shima, a very go-with-the-flow sort of dude, who is also running late. He’s remarkably more calm about it, and takes her under his wing.

The two spark up an unlikely friendship: Shima quickly becomes the hearthrob that all the girls have crushes on, while Mitsumi’s spunky go-getter attitude and unfamiliarity with social norms often lands her in awkward situations. But Shima is just big-hearted and patient, and he clearly likes to spend time with Mitsumi. It’s not a one-sided relationship, however. Mitsumi’s passion and dedication rekindle something in Shima, whose mysterious past is only beginning to be revealed in the show.

The rest of the cast bolsters the show (especially Mitsumi’s cool stylist aunt, Nao), but they never eclipse the main characters and their connection. Their friendship is the foundation of not just any romantic relationship that must blossom, but their own individual character growth and also the show itself. It’s just thoroughly charming to watch these two very different people connect and build a friendship (and possibly a romance?). —Petrana Radulovic

2. Trigun Stampede

A yellow-haired anime man (Vash the Stampede) in a red coat with orange circular glasses smiling and staring off into the distance. Image: Orange/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu

There’s a lot of history to Trigun Stampede, but the moment it starts — with a spectacular disaster in the stars that comes crashing down to a bleak desert under an impossibly blue sky — that doesn’t really matter.

Studio Orange’s reimagining of Trigun, the seminal ’90s manga and anime, stands on its own two feet with tremendous confidence and more than enough swagger. It’s an immediately compelling introduction (or reintroduction) to Vash the Stampede, a legendary hurricane of trouble with an enormous bounty on his head. None of that makes sense, though. For one, he’s kind of a doofus? And for another, he’s an incredible gunslinger who just refuses to kill people. The more time the viewer spends with him, the less he makes sense — because he should have succumbed to despair by now. Everyone should have.

Trigun Stampede is an apocalypse that is desperate but not despairing, a wasteland of broken people figuring out how to persevere and find things worth fighting for after the world is already broken and there isn’t any fixing it. Its blundering protagonist hides enormous tragedy, and its dazzling action rewards repeat viewings on the biggest screen you can play it on. It’s not just one of the best anime of the year — it’s simply one of the best shows. —JR

1. Jujutsu Kaisen season 2

A Sukuna-possessed Yuji Itadori aiming an arrow made of fiery energy in Jujutsu Kaisen. Image: MAPPA/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Following the success of its first season and the theatrical release of Jujutsu Kaisen 0, Jujutsu Kaisen came roaring back this summer for its second season. The next installment of the series consisted of two cours (i.e., broadcast seasons), with the first five episodes devoted to a nostalgic tale of youth and the tragic falling-out between Gojo Satoru and his best friend, Suguru Geto, while the second cour jumps back to the present to thrust its cast into an absolutely feral string of fights during the Shibuya Incident Arc. Together, it makes for what has been my favorite season of the show so far.

Although the first cour still contains its fair share of action, the show allows us to see Gojo interact with friends and evokes a sense of levity that came in his younger years. This story, in turn, contrasts with the absolute ferocity of the conditions portrayed in the rest of the season. In it, Yuiji Itadori and his peers from Jujutsu High and the larger sorcery world must stave off an impending plot from a cabal of monsters known as cursed spirits. Maniacal, feral, and utterly devastating, the fights shared between characters show studio Mappa going full-flex. This season pulses with emotional intensity and high stakes. It’s excellent and — as fans have pointed out — gets pretty horny at points, so give it a watch if hot anime men are your vibe. —AD

The best of the rest

The anime that just missed the cut, but nonetheless rank among the best 2023 has to offer:

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End

Frieren standing in a field of flowers with a flower crown on her head in Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End. Image: Madhouse/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

I knew that Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End had already won my heart and earned its place as one of my favorite anime of the year during its first handful of episodes. Based on Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe’s fantasy manga, the anime follows the story of Frieren, an elven mage who, along with a group of fellow adventurers, slayed a maniacal demon king and saved the world. After journeying together for over a decade, the group parts ways, with Frieren venturing off on her own in pursuit of deepening her knowledge of magic. As months turn into years and years turn into decades, Frieren witnesses the world change around her as her friends die of old age and pass into the annals of legend. With a new understanding of the nature of mortality, Frieren embarks on a personal journey of self-discovery for a new calling in life.

Directed by Keiichirō Saitō (Bocchi the Rock!), Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is a stunningly beautiful meditation on life rife with action and humor aplenty. It’s an intensely character-focused fantasy adventure that eschews expectations of grandiosity in favor of poignant and heart-wrenching episodes of Frieren’s life as she learns to more deliberately nurture and deepen her relationships and her appreciation for the world. For all those reasons and more, it’s an anime worth seeking out and making the time for. —TE

Oshi no Ko

(L-R) A blue-eyed anime boy (Aquamarine Hoshino) and a red-eyed anime girl (Ruby Hoshino) dressed in high school attire in Oshi no Ko Image: Doga Kobo/HIDIVE

Where to watch: HIDIVE

From the writer behind Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Aka Akasaka, comes Oshi no Ko, another brilliant series, though in a different way. While Kaguya-sama is good at making you cringe, laugh, and cheer for the young lovers, Oshi no Ko is pretty good at making your stomach churn from the coverage of real topics that plague the entertainment industry. Every episode of Oshi no Ko introduces a new twist, paired alongside stunning animation by studio Doga Kobo.

It’s really hard to describe the premise of Oshi no Ko without spoiling any of the twists, but it starts with a young promising idol named Ai Hoshino moving to the countryside due to an unplanned pregnancy. Her doctor, who is a fan of Ai, is mysteriously killed and reincarnated as one of her twin children. The other twin is reincarnated from one of the doctor’s former patients – who is also a huge Ai fan. While not knowing who the other is, they’re trying to figure out what’s going on while navigating the entertainment industry.

It sounds weird, I know. But if you love mystery and drama, you will need to give Oshi no Ko a watch. It’s a series where you just have to finish the first 80-minute(!) episode to really understand the hype and it’s best watched while knowing very little beforehand. —Julia Lee

My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999

Akito Yamada and Akane Kinoshita tentatively holding hands in My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999. Image: Madhouse/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

If Wotakoi: Love Is Hard for Otaku is the perfect nerd adult romance anime, My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv999 is like its little sister that isn’t quite there, but still pretty good. Akane Kinoshita meets pro gamer Akito Yamada in an MMORPG after going through a tough breakup. After using the MMO as a coping mechanism, she slowly starts to develop feelings for Yamada.

The series is an extremely traditional shoujo series: Akane is clumsy and naive, Yamada is stoic and seemingly unfeeling, there’s side characters rooting for our two protagonists, romantic rivals appear — it’s what you’d expect from a typical romance series for young women. The accuracy of the MMORPG struggles is what makes it extra charming, but it’s an all-around cute watch, especially if you love shoujo anime. —JL

Hell’s Paradise

(L-R) A brown-haired anime woman with a ponytail in a white and red kimono wielding a sword (Sagiri) stands behind a white-haired anime man (Gabimaru) dressed in black ninja attire in Hell’s Paradise. Image: MAPPA/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

If you’re looking for a cool dark fantasy action anime in the vein of Jujutsu Kaisen, this supernatural ninjutsu horror thriller based on Yuji Kaku’s popular manga is absolutely worth your time.

Set in Edo-period Japan, Hell’s Paradise centers on the story of Gabimaru the Hollow, an infamous ninja assassin with the ability to withstand immense amounts of pain and physical damage. After being betrayed by his clan and sentenced to be executed, Gabimaru is given an offer to be pardoned for all his crimes and return home to his loving wife in exchange for finding a magical elixir of eternal life located somewhere on a dangerous exotic island known as Shinsenkyo. Alongside a group of other death row criminals, Gabimaru and his assigned executioner Sagiri must brave the dangers of this hostile island and its inhabitants to return home safely.

While a bit slow to start, Hell’s Paradise proves itself to be a thoroughly entertaining dark fantasy anime with outlandish characters wielding strange and unique powers, all with occasional moments of fantastical body horror sprinkled about. The premise is fairly basic, and it takes a while for the story to ramp up into full gear, but the action sequences and backstories of the main characters are more than enough to stick it out and see where the series leads. —TE

Aggretsuko season 5

haida’s overbearing father, a large hyena in a robe, stares down angrily at haida and retsuko, who both look up fearfully in Aggretsuko season 5. Image: Fanworks/Netflix

Where to watch: Netflix

This year brought us the fifth and final season of the Netflix original anime based on the Sanrio mascot Aggretsuko. Although the series started as a workplace rom-com about an anthropomorphized red panda named Retsuko, the showrunners have since led its protagonist to surprising places. In her ongoing journey into adulthood, Retsuko has done everything from being the girlfriend of the heartthrob CEO of a tech company to becoming an idol and a pop star.

The fifth season continues the series tradition of sending the young office worker to unexpected places by showing her run for public office. Although the series has a somewhat whimsical nature to it, it still continues to express a surprising tenderness that is sure to strike a soft spot in any 20- or 30-something who is trying to figure out how to balance family, love, life, and work with all their messiness and complications. Because of this, Aggretsuko’s final season is a very easy recommendation for seasoned animation fans and general viewers alike. —AD

The Fire Hunter

A long, dark-haired anime girl sits across from a wolf-like dog clutching a sickle between its teeth coated in a sickly yellow-like substance. Image: Signal.MD/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Junji Nishimura (Ranma ½) and Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) combine forces once again after 2021’s Vlad Love to bring us a new anime based on Rieko Hinata and Akihiro Yamada’s post-apocalyptic fantasy novel series.

Set in a world where any proximity to natural fire causes spontaneous human combustion and Japan subsequently has reverted back to a feudalistic isolationist society, the series follows the parallel stories of Touko, a young girl from a remote village who journeys to the nation’s capital to repay the family of the slain Fire Hunter who saved her life, and Koushi, the son of Touko’s savior who endeavors to unravel the mystery behind the otherworldly “fiend fire” humans now rely on for warmth and energy. The series boasts a generous wealth of talented animators and longtime Oshii collaborators such as composer Kenji Kawai and animation director Kazuchika Kise, as well other notable talent including Outlaw Star character designer Takuya Saito.

The Fire Hunter is an unquestionably beautiful series with well-executed animation and interesting character designs that makes inventive use of intertitle cards, digitally painted “postcard memories” still frames, and cutaway panel reactions for dramatic effect as well as expository efficiency. It’s the definition of a “slow-burn” anime, what with the main story only just now ramping up into full gear seven episodes deep. Don’t let that dissuade you, though, as The Fire Hunter is more than worth the investment and shines through as one of the winter season’s brightest new series. —TE

Vinland Saga season 2

A close-up shot of a long blond-haired, brown-eyed man with visible cuts on his face and hair stubble on his chin. Image: MAPPA/Netflix, Sentai Filmworks

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Netflix

After nearly four years, director Shuhei Yabuta returns with season 2 of Vinland Saga, a historical action adventure following Thorfinn, a young man raised by Vikings that killed his father. Interestingly, season 2 is such a sharp pivot from its predecessor that the new season could be considered more of a historical slice-of-life show than an action anime.

While the first season of Vinland Saga had nonstop action and character growth (quite literally, in fact: Thorfinn ages from 6 to 22 years old over the course of the season), the second season so far has focused on Thorfinn’s guilt and grief from living a childhood consumed by revenge, as well as developing new characters, such as Einar, a former slave who meets Thorfinn on a farm. After the fourth episode of this season, which featured a pivotal moment of Einar and Thorfinn having a heart-to-heart, Yabuta tweeted, “Even if it slows down the pace, I really wanted to take time to draw [Thorfinn and Einar’s] relationship.” Along with the tonal and pacing shift, the studio behind the series has changed from Wit Studio to MAPPA; the same staff of animators from season 1 remains.

If you haven’t watched Vinland Saga yet, come for the Viking fights and stay for the emotional bonding. —Christina Gayton

Buddy Daddies

A blond-haired anime man in a light blue sweater and sweatpants fleeing from gunfire in a park while holding a brown-haired anime girl imitating a plane and a black-haired anime man in a black hoodie and tracksuit aiming a rifle. Image: P.A. Works/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

For those wanting more of Spy x Family, I would suggest watching Buddy Daddies. The show follows two single men, Kazuki Kurusu and Rei Suwa, both of whom are deadly for-hire assassins. Kurusu is a bubbly but lonely couch-crasher and Suwa is a degenerate gamer who can’t cook or keep his own place clean. One day while on a job, they find a 4-year-old girl named Miri Unasaka. One thing leads to another and the two end up taking her in.

I have some gripes with the show — Unasaka’s mom’s plot plays out in a strange, unexpected way — but it has its own charms. Mainly, you’re watching it for the adorable family interactions. Suwa holding Unasaka gently in his arms after a day in the park is enough to melt the coldest heart. The show isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but if you want a show that will give you cute daddies doing cute daddy things, well, Buddy Daddies is your show. —AD

Nier: Automata Ver. 1.1a

A platinum-haired anime woman wearing a blindfold in a gothic lolita outfit and a broadsword on her back holding the unconscious body of an anime man in a similar outfit with a plume of smoke and visible rain in the distance. Image: A-1 Pictures/Aniplex of America

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

2017’s Nier: Automata is one of the best video games of the last 10 years, a meditative and genre-defying action game that demanded players directly confront, in a way that only video games can, the all-consuming existential dread that one can face when tallying up the many dooms humanity faces here in the early 21st century. Strange, frustrating, baffling, and tremendously moving, Automata is such an argument for video games as a medium that adapting it for television seems almost like a violation of the game’s whole deal.

In its first episode, Ver. 1.1a almost confirms these fears, with a straight adaptation of the game’s opening moments that does little to sell why it’s special to the uninitiated, or justify the investment by the already converted. Then it pivots on its heel to suggest that the series might ultimately be doing something else entirely. This is part of the fun: There’s no way of knowing for sure until the end.

For now, the base appeal is the same as what drew unsuspecting players to director Yoko Taro’s game in the first place: a strange sci-fi far future where warrior androids fight an endless war on behalf of humans that have abandoned the Earth. Taking over the planet in humanity’s absence are crude machines, who war mindlessly against the androids in a perpetual stalemate. This is how it goes, until some of the machines suddenly lose interest in war and begin to grow flowers, and some androids begin to question their mission and purpose.

The mysteries of Ver. 1.1a and how different it may ultimately end up being from its source material have unspooled slowly since the show’s Jan. 7 premiere, after production delays resulted in a roughly 1-month hiatus between episodes 3 and 4. It’s a ride worth getting on, though — few creators leave it all on the floor the way Yoko Taro does. —JR

Summer Time Rendering

A close-up shot of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl’s funeral portrait surrounded by flowers. Image: OLM/Disney Platform Distribution

Where to watch: Hulu

If you’re looking for a binge-worthy mystery that will leave your head spinning, Summer Time Rendering is a top-tier choice to go with. To be even more specific with the genre, it’s actually a supernatural mystery thriller with a dash of romance and slice-of-life. So there’s probably a little something for everyone!

The story starts with protagonist Shinpei returning to his hometown for a close childhood friend’s funeral. He initially hears that his childhood friend, Ushio, died by drowning, but Shinpei eventually starts to suspect that Ushio’s death was not as simple as it seems. I assure you, though, Summer Time Rendering is more than just a whodunit mystery. There’s much more the show has to offer to keep you guessing and confused (in a good way).

Each episode ends with a cliffhanger, which forced me to binge the entire season in a night and miss my bedtime by several hours. Thankfully, there are only 25 episodes, so if you do start watching and can’t put it down, it’ll only be eight and a half hours. Easy! —CG

[Ed. note: Summer Time Rendering aired in Japan from April to September 2022, but was only made available to stream in the United States as of January 2023.]

Tokyo Revengers season 2

Image: Liden Films/Disney Platform Distribution

Where to watch: Hulu

After leaving us on an incredibly tense cliffhanger, Tokyo Revengers put my pounding heart at ease when it returned this winter to reveal how Takemichi got out of his latest brush with death — and how he’ll hopefully stop that deadly showdown from ever taking place again. Now unable to return to the existing future for fear of winding up in jail, Takemichi decides to reveal the truth about his time-traveling mission to Chifuyu, leading to a sweet friendship between two himbos in way over their heads.

When rival gang Black Dragon enters the picture — and threatens the lives Takemichi and Chifuyu’s friends in the present and Tokyo Manji’s very soul in the future — the pair put all their energy into taking its bloodthirsty leader down. They’re so set on destroying Black Dragon that not only do they go against Mikey’s orders to do so, but they even agree to work with Kisaki, whose last actions in the future were murdering Chifuyu and attempting to murder Takemichi. The resulting partnership complicates our picture of Kisaski, revealing who he is beyond the “villain” in Takemichi’s story and the unexpected ways their pasts are intertwined. —SG

Tomo-chan Is a Girl!

A freeze-frame shot a young red-haired anime woman in a green school uniform punching a brown haired anime boy in a matching uniform. Image: Lay-duce/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll

Tomo-chan Is a Girl has delivered us one of the winter season’s strongest female protagonists, literally. This romantic comedy follows Tomo Aizawa, a tomboy who has a crush on her childhood friend, Junichiro “Jun” Kubota. Well liked by her friends, confident, and physically strong, Tomo has a lot going for her. There’s just one problem: Tomo has trouble getting Jun to see her as a romantic interest and not just another one of the guys.

Over the course of the show, Tomo enlists her girly-girl friends to help give her advice on how to be seen as a woman. Whereas some stories can reinforce the idea that their protagonist is “not like other girls,” Tomo finds strength in both femininity and her more masculine traits. The show handles its characters with care and doesn’t cast judgment on women — regardless of how they present themselves. Even Carol, who is sort of initially introduced as a blond bimbo, gets her own loving portrayal. It’s good, lighthearted fun that’ll charm anyone looking for a bit of romance. —AD

My Hero Academia season 6

Izuku “Deku” Midoriya standing with his fist raised in front of his U.A. High School classmates under a clear sky in the opening credits for My Hero Academia season 6. Image: Bones/Crunchyroll

Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu

The sixth season of My Hero Academia was not exactly a “fun” watch, but its unrelenting darkness was more than earned. After the devastating war between heroes and Shigaraki’s Paranormal Liberation Front — one punctuated by Dabi sharing his true identity to the world — society turns on their once idolized protectors. A resulting hopelessness infects humans and heroes, but it’s Midoriya’s despair in the second half that’s most painful to watch.

Knowing he’s All for One’s target and afraid of endangering his friends, Deku isolates himself completely — and even proves willing to battle Class A when they refuse his goodbye. The stark contrast between Dark Deku and the once idealistic young kid leaves a profound impact on viewers, who, alongside Midoriya, have slowly seen the shiny veneer of heroes’ faultless public image be chipped away to reveal a far more complex reality. While at times I longed for the days when Class A’s big challenge was prepping for the school festival, all of the years MHA spent building toward these climactic arcs paid off masterfully and left my face stained with tears more than once. —SG