Is there a not-cliche way to open a retrospective? I don’t think so, but I’m going to try to avoid using such tired shibboleths as “another year of anime has passed” and “with 2022 drawing to a close”. Oh, is this your first time hearing the word shibboleth? You’re welcome, use it often.
This is only my second full year waxing poetic on anime on the internet, and only my third attempt at crowning an anime of the year, so I don’t quite have an established format for how I pick AOTY. In 2020, I just threw everything at the wall and hoped it stuck, while in 2021 I was a tad more methodical and ran down my favorite series until I got to Horimiya, my personal favorite.
This year, in the spirit of improving on my technique, I will actually implement a system. There were four seasons this year, and each had its own contenders. I will nominate my personal anime of the season before proceeding to what anime truly stood above the rest.
And you know the drill. This is my opinion, and the only consideration for an anime here is “how much did I like it”. Sorry if you came here because Chainsaw Man deserved to win or lose, according to your pre-existing biases, but when you start the blog, you get to make the rules.
It’s always cheating to put sequels in here, so as I go over Winter 2022, cast thoughts of Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan out of your mind. They were amazing as usual, but an anime of the year has to begin in that year to qualify.
With that said, our list of honorable mentions here is surprisingly short. My Dress-Up Darling was a superb adaptation of a good manga, as well as a phenomenal love letter to cosplay. Salaryman’s Club was the rare take on adults in sports anime, this time as the corporate badminton team for a beverage company. Both deserve your attention, if you like rom coms and sports, but there was really no beating Tokyo 24th Ward.
If you’re unaware, I have made it my personal crusade to get more people to watch Tokyo 24th Ward. I already wrote a lengthy essay telling people why they should (which you can read here), and frankly, I don’t have the space here to reiterate as much of that as I’d like to.
It is a brilliant exploration of complex social issues, while remaining a heartfelt story tackling grief and relationships. Even counting darker futuristic sci-fi series like Psycho-Pass and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, Tokyo 24th Ward stands apart by deftly examining topics we struggle with today through the lens of how technology will change them in the future.
Duh, spring’s winner is Spy x Family.
I’ve already avoided sounding like a complete normie by saying Chainsaw Man wasn’t automatically going to win the top prize, but I’d be undermining my credibility if I didn’t give spring’s crown to Spy x Family.
I loved Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie for giving a saccharine rom com a bit of a femdom edge, and Dance Dance Danseur for being responsible for some of MAPPA’s best animation in years. I’d love to also talk up Summertime Render, but even now, Disney is still holding that series hostage, so yeah, Spy x Family wins.
As someone who has been reading Spy x Family since it first began, this anime is such a treat. It is already one of the sharpest manga currently running in the (digital) pages of Shonen Jump+. The only thing that could improve it is a lavish production by Cloverworks and Wit Studio, two of the hardest hitters in anime, and helmed by veteran director Kazuhiro Furuhashi.
The anime adaptation of Spy x Family keeps all the wit and charm of its source material, elevated by some stellar performances, the best MILF in anime, and rock-solid production values. The only compromise made is that the Anya reaction images in the manga are just a bit better. If I were to give it a rating, Spy x Family is waka waka out of 10.
Another season, another obvious winner. Lycoris Recoil snatched the summer title away while Call of the Night and Uncle From Another World were still putting on their shoes.
It doesn’t help that Engage Kiss, a strong early showing with its petty love triangle drama alongside a strong flair for action, lost the plot the moment that it actually needed to find a plot. Or how Uncle from Another World can’t even qualify to win because its production was such a nightmare that we’re still waiting for the last few episodes to crawl out of development hell. But, uh…I liked Call of the Night so much that its main problem was that it is only on Hidive in the states.
Lycoris Recoil is not just a phenomenal action joint, nor is it a sweet and simple moe club show. By being both of those things at the same time, balancing beautiful gunplay and wholesome character writing, LycoReco is more than the sum of its parts.
It doesn’t hurt that it is genuinely one of the best-looking shows of the last few years. Yeah, Ufotable can throw a bunch of particle effects and get every “animation expert” on Twitter to lose their minds, but the love and care poured into every frame of LycoReco has elevated it from a good anime to a great one.
While the weather may have cooled down as summer gave way to fall, anime only heated up in perhaps the most packed season this year.
Chainsaw Man easily takes the seasonal crown, though not the overall. I say this as a diehard fan of the manga, but while MAPPA has blown it out of the park in every aspect of production, a 12-episode season was not adequate to give Chainsaw Man the number one spot.
Blue Lock was good, but I’m a little disappointed to say it wasn’t great. Looking back on my review now, I think that I didn’t give the manga enough credit for looking as good as it does. Blue Lock’s visual identity is incredibly important, and while I’d love to put its name forward, the anime’s presentation just wasn’t enough.
I will say that I wasn’t expecting More Than a Married Couple, But Not Lovers to be a personal favorite, but it’s a surprisingly sincere romance. I know ecchi anime don’t have to be soulless vehicles for fanservice, but it’s nice to have that point proven again in the same year as My Dress-Up Darling.
And Bocchi the Rock! gave our winner quite the fight. It’s a challenge being one of the funniest shows in a year with both Spy x Family AND Kaguya, but Bocchi is all that and a bag of crippling anxiety that hits just too close to home. Even so, looking back on this year, there was one show that deserved the crown.
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is my anime of the year. That may come as a surprise, seeing as I didn’t even review it, but that’s just one weird thing about how much I love this series; I didn’t want to review it.
There is something so profound and personal about my enjoyment of Edgerunners that I really didn’t want to break down in a review. I knew why I loved it: the characters are complex and tragic, the story doesn’t let you go for a single episode, and my only gripe with it was that I didn’t have a little more time before I had to say goodbye.
There are great anime, and then there are anime that speak to you. Edgerunners isn’t perfect, but there is a painful beauty to the world of Cyberpunk, and in saying that despite our insistence on erecting systems intent on crushing us, that there is plenty worth fighting for. It’s not new or groundbreaking, and director Hiroyuki Imaishi has perhaps done this story to death, but every time, he finds a way to make spunky kids fighting to change the world hit hard.
And the fact that David Martinez cannot change the world only makes it hit that much harder. He can’t change his fate, or the hellhole that is Night City, but he can save one person he loves, and that has made all the difference.
That aside, the real reason Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is my Anime of the Year is that This Fire is a certified banger, and every anime opening should be done by Franz Ferdinand.
With that, 2022 has come to a close. Really, it is a fantastic time to be an otaku. There has never been more amazing anime coming out than right now, and there only seems to be more as time goes on. I mean, just next season, we have more Vinland Saga, Nagatoro, Danmachi, and Tokyo Revengers, with new series like the Trigun reboot, Kubo Won’t Let Me be Invisible, and the NieR: Automata anime.
So, check back in a few weeks from now to see reviews of those shows I’m eagerly looking forward to. Check me out on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress for notifications when all those reviews go live, and I hope the anime of 2023 will prove to be everything you wanted. Until next time, thanks for reading.