This year has been one of the most jam-packed years for anime releases in recent memory with the return of fan favorites like Jujutsu Kaisen and the release of new shows like Netflix’s Pluto. While not every show was a memorable work of compelling fiction, 2023 provided us with a bunch of fantastic shows.
Curating a list of the best anime of 2023 was exceptionally challenging compared to last year, as this one was full of bangers. Limiting myself to just 10 shows felt like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. Nevertheless, I persevered and assembled a list for your end-of-the-year online weeb debating pleasure. Honorable mentions to Tomo-chan is a Girl, Skip and Loafer, The Apothecary Diaries, Insomniacs After School, and Trigun Stampede. All of you were great but I had to be cutthroat on this one .
Baki Hanma is the most unserious and wildly compelling battle anime I’ve watched since JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. This show somehow blew past its predecessor’s outlandish “death match with a caveman” storyline with an even better one about protagonist Baki finally squaring off against his father. i. I have no earthly idea where else the series can go from here, but I’ll be the first in line to find out should it continue. I’ll be checking out the manga in the meantime.
9. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury
Giant robot anime rock. Lesbian love stories are fantastic too. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury blends these two awesome concepts and sprinkles in some meaty space politics and 2D-drawn mecha battles for good measure. G Witch is a good entry point for folks who are new to the expansive Gundam series. Its mecha girlie protagonists, Suletta Mercury and Miorine Rembran, are worthy of praise whether or not Bandai Namco acknowledges that they’re gay.
8. Heavenly Delusion
Heavenly Delusion was one of this year’s biggest surprises. The Hulu sci-fi anime follows two kids as they venture across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of heaven, fighting monsters and bandits with supernatural powers with a beam pistol that runs on batteries along the way. What’s more, each episode of Heavenly Delusion’s The Last of Us-esque anime adventure drip-feeds viewers with tantalizing nuggets of information fleshing out the state of their dystopia, which leaves you constantly wanting more. Hopefully, we’ll get those questions answered in a future season.
7. Jujutsu Kaisen
Jujutsu Kaisen season 2 was handily the most anticipated show of the year and I salute anyone who managed to duck the fandom’s not-so-subtle hype over the show’s Shibuya arc without getting spoiled. Admittedly, I’ve come to the point where I prefer watching the anime over reading the manga because of how much easier it is to follow its complicated supernatural battles which can be hard to make out thanks to the manga’s rough illustrations. Studio Mappa knocked it out of the park adapting the emotional highs and blisteringly fast action sequences of Jujutsu Kaisen, which is also the only show this season with the privilege of having daddy–I mean Kento Nanami— in it.
6. One Piece
One Piece’s recent Wano arc episodes have called into question whether or not Luffy’s new Gear 5 form dethroned Goku’s infamous Super Saiyan transformation. While I personally don’t think it has, it has cemented the long-running series as the best shonen anime of its generation. Each of the Straw Hats’ battles against warlord Kaido’s crew has been juiced with excellent and colorful action sequences. But the most phenomenal fight scene of the season has to go to Luffy’s final battle with Kaido. The Looney Toons-esque fight practically broke the internet with how much of a delight it was to finally witness Luffy’s fun new transformation in motion. Can we get much higher, my friends?
Netflix’s Pluto is the kind of adaptation anime fans dream of. The show is an adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s manga adaptation of fellow creator Osamu Tezuka’s beloved robot series Astro Boy. Pluto follows a detective named Gesicht as he investigates a string of murders. The serial killings are all tied to a mysterious robot named Pluto, who aims to defeat the world’s best robots, including Atom (Astro Boy). Instead of being a run-of-the-mill battle anime, Pluto has a meaty commentary about artificial intelligence’s place in a world filled with hatred. My only hope now is that the show’s message will resonate with tech bros pumping out AI gimmicks for cheap tricks.
4. Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
When I glossed over Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End’s plot summary, I felt in my soul that it was a must-watch, and that gut feeling is regularly justified after each new episode debutsUnlike other fantasy anime that follow a hero party’s journey to defeat some evil demon lord, this show picks up at the end of its heroes’ tale. Frieren, the party’s elf mage, has lived for a thousand years and will outlive her friends a thousand times over. Instead of wasting the rest of her eternity away lazing about, Frieren sets out on a journey retreading her party’s past adventures with pupils of her own.
The show has been such a satisfying week-to-week watch that I couldn’t help but read ahead in the manga a wee bit on the Viz app. If you can make time to watch any anime on this list, do yourself a favor and watch Frieren.
3. Kaguya-sama: Love is War – The First Kiss Never Ends
I’m a sucker for anime rom-coms. Unfortunately, not a lot of shows can ensure I laugh with them rather than at them, as they tend to be as trashy as the worst American reality dating show. But Kaguya-sama: Love is War is the best rom-com I’ve ever watched. I’d go so far as to say that it’s the Fullmetal Alchemist of its genre.
The show follows two tsundere class representatives who are totally in love with each other but are too prideful to admit it. Insisted, the pair goad each other into confessing their feelings by putting them in compromising social situations. Whether in subs or dubs, Kaguya-sama has left me in stitches for the better part of a decade, and its film, The First Kiss Never Ends—which sees the pair finally admit their feelings—had me clutching my chest and pumping my fist in the air the whole way through. Now comes the challenge of finding a new rom-com anime to hyper-fixate over.
2. Mob Psycho 100 III
By far the most consistently high-quality animated and narratively driven show of the decade has been Studio Bone’s adaptation of Mob Psycho 100. The show follows a mild-mannered esper named Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama as he struggles to become his own person without leaning on his superpowers. But the final season doesn’t have Mob battle fearsome espers in death-defying battle like he has in the past. Instead, season three sees Mob finally confront his bottled-up emotions. We love a show that challenges anime’s glorification of emotionally stunted men.
1. Vinland Saga Season 2
Vinland Saga season two wasn’t a lot of anime-watchers jam when it first came out. Unlike its action-packed first season, the second season sees protag Thorfinn as a slave farming for his freedom. It’s a meditative season that gives Thorfinn time to reflect on his ruthless actions as a Viking, offering an arc that finally makes Vinland Saga a good series. I can’t wait to see how the show adapts Thorfinn’s character arc in the future. I say this knowing full well that I’ve already caught up on the manga and consider it to be the best piece of media I’ve read alongside Vagabond. It’s peak.
There you have it, my top 10 favorite anime ranked. If I neglected to mention any of your favorites that you think people should check out before the next season of anime eats away at our collective free time, be sure to drop those shows below.
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