The definitive list of the best Anime of 2019
If you can believe it, we're already over halfway through 2019 which both feels like the shortest and longest year of all time.
It's been a wild ride with multiple tent pole entertainment releases and critically acclaimed films. This piece isn't about those, though. Our purpose here is to discuss some of the more under the radar releases and cult hits which have been unleashed on the pop culture landscape via the marvelous medium of anime. Japanese animation has long been one of the trailblazers in the field, and this year has been no different with a stellar roster of releases featuring everything from sophomore seasons of huge hits to the reimagining of classic anime series and even unusual stop motion offerings. So without further ado here are the best anime films and series from the first six months of 2019.
Fruits Basket (Funimation)
One of the most eagerly awaited anime releases this year, Funimation's adaptation of Natsuki Takaya's beloved shoujo series definitely delivers. The surreal series centers on Tohru Honda, a strong willed orphan who, after a series of unfortunate events, ends up living alone in a tent. But after a chance meeting with a handsome young man from her class called Yuki, she finds a home with the enigmatic Soma family. If it seems like Fruits Basket is about to descend into your average slice of life romance, then you couldn't be more wrong, as Tohru discovers that her hosts are cursed and each one is a living representation of the 12 animals of the Zodiac. Any time that they lose control of their emotions or get hugged by someone of the opposite sex the Somas turn into the animal that they represent. Fruits Basket is a wild ride through teen crushes, dark magic, and ancient folklore.
One Punch Man (Hulu)
One Punch Man's satirical dissection of superhero tropes made it the break out anime hit of the last few years. This year saw the return of the hyper-popular show—and it's better than ever. The series breaks down the idea of what it means to be a hero and the concept that every superhero story, whether in comics or film, essentially comes down to who can punch the hardest. The answer to that question in the world of One Punch Man is always Saitama. The instantly recognizable baldheaded protagonist of the series does his best to deal with the existential crisis that being almost invincible brings whilst fighting massive monsters and making friends with other superpowered members of the Hero Association. The second season has been divisive, but it's the perfect time to catch up on One Punch Man and the brutal-yet-hilarious slapstick battles and comic book satire that it brings.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru (Netflix)
It might surprise you to see this sweetly animated series included in our lineup, but Rilakkuma and Kaoru is among the new wave of excellent stop motion anime coming out of Japan. If you're not familiar with the fuzzy bear known as Rilakkuma then this is the perfect introduction to the kawaii mascot turned TV star. With the voice talents of Lana Condor as the other part of the titular duo you might be mistaken for thinking that Rilakkuma and Kaoru is fluffy teen fare, but actually the roommate comedy is far more focused on the day-to-day realities of living under capitalism and trying to stay afloat when most of your waking life is spent working. Luckily for Kaoru, Rilakkuma is lazy to the point of radically dissecting the idea of "needing" to do, well... anything. If you need a peculiar pick-me-up then Rilakkuma and Kauro is the perfect choice.
Mob Psycho 100 II (Crunchyroll)
The story of a middle grader with massive psychic powers (think Charles Xavier as a teen but probably a little stronger) became a huge hit when the first series dropped in 2016. It returned this year with a sophomore season that expanded on the lore of Mob and his massive ESP skills. Where the first series established the strange status quo of Mob's world—his school has a Telepathy Club and ghosts are the norm—the second builds on the drama and bombastic battles of Mob Psycho 100's debut. The show sits somewhere between X-Men and Ghostbusters as Mob and his roguish mentor exorcise multiple spooky spirits whilst the young man tries to pass his classes and maybe even go on a date with his crush. It's supernatural slice of life with a whole bunch of awesome action.
Ride Your Wave (July release at Fantasia Fest)
A heartbreaking meditation on grief and letting go, Ride Your Wave is an unexpected sports anime movie that hums with emotion and will leave you moved and ultimately uplifted. Directed by Masaaki Yuasa, the film follows a young woman, Hinako, who unexpectedly falls in love with a firefighter, Minato, who saves her during an apartment fire. The pair pursue their shared hobby of surfing and the film luxuriates in its gorgeous representation of the ocean, but their happiness doesn't last for long as Minato dies whilst saving someone from the very sea they both love. As this is a fantasy film, though, soon Hinako discovers that she can still connect with the man she loved when she revisits the ocean and surfs. It's a sweet and thoughtful flick that will appeal to fans of Studio Ghibli and romantic tragedies with a strong message at their heart. Ride Your Wave hits North American screens at Fantasia Fest next week.
The Promised Neverland (Hulu)
Easily the most horrifying entry on our list, The Promised Neverland is a gothic chiller that pits a group of young orphans against a most horrible fate. Life at Grace Field House is close to idyllic for the children who live there, it's a life of luxury that seems unusual for the often forgotten and marginalized group. Sadly for Emma and her friends who live there, it turns out the orphanage is actually a farm where human children are reared as delicacies for demons. The Promised Neverland offers up horror, adventure, and found family as the children fight for their lives. Imagine an animated version of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go but directed by Guillermo Del Toro and you're about halfway there.
Vinland Saga (Amazon Prime)
This historical fantasy take on the viking lore is based on one of the most popular modern manga series of recent years. Like much "based on real life" historical drama, it takes a granule of truth and turns it into an epic yet intimate revenge saga set against the background of a fictionalized account of the rise of a real Danish royal, King Canute. If you like your anime filled with battles, political machinations, and stylish hair, then Vinland Saga will likely suffice. This series could also fill the Game of Thrones filled hole in your life with a period drama stuffed with brutal action and an intricate narrative that follows a young man, Thorfinn, seeking vengeance for the murder of his father as he tries to survive the harsh realities of the early 11th century.
Boogiepop Never Laughs (Crunchyroll)
Another returning legacy show is this 18-episode series that reimagines the classic Boogiepop Phantom series by Kouhei Kadano and Kouji Ogata. Playing with ideas of folklore, vigilantism, and the supernatural, Boogiepop Never Laughs centers on an urban legend known as "The Angel of Death" and a spate of suspicious deaths at a local academy that seems to hint that the legend is real. A dark take on procedural crime drama with a unique twist, Boogiepop Never Laughs is a stylish offering that updates an already great story and shoots it into 2019.
Saga of Tanya the Evil (Crunchyroll)
War stories can sometimes feel stale but Saga of Tanya the Evil definitely does not have that problem as anyone who has watched the 12-episode anime or read the manga can confirm. In case you haven't been lucky enough to discover the wild misadventures of Tanya Degurechaff, then you're in for a treat as the series follows a maniacal child soldier in a historical alt universe. Tanya is imbued with the soul of a modern day salaryman, meaning that she has many of his memories and much of his knowledge. She also just so happens to be a villain who's fighting on what would have essentially been the German side of WWI. Now that you're all caught up you can jump right into this feature film continuation of the series which was released earlier this year and centers on Tanya as she faces a whole bunch of new military challenges including a new antagonist called Mary Sue. If you always empathize with the bad guy and enjoy epic historical war tales with a little bit of magic thrown in then Saga of Tanya the Evil will be right up your street.
Dororo (Amazon Prime)
Based on the manga by the iconic Osamu Tezuka this supernatural thriller packs a huge punch. Not only does the story of a wandering samurai who has to battle a series of ever escalating demons to retrieve his stolen body parts is a reimagining of the classic black and white 1969 anime series of the same name. Set in Sengoku-era Japan, Dororo acts as both a historical anime and a supernatural samurai thriller as the titular hero attempts to break the horrific curse that has befallen him. Dororo offers up a unique, daring, and fun narrative with a radical twist that you likely won't see coming.
[via Esquire US]