With 2019 officially over, now comes the moment that many of you have been waiting for. It’s time for our annual foray into annoying everyone with our questionable opinions, the Best of Anime 2019 post! Unlike last year, and serving as a throwback to previous iterations, this will consist of a collaboration between writers. That would be me (Zaiden), Choya and Pancakes. We didn’t quite manage 100+ shows this year, but we heavily focused on watching entries that made a serious clamour within the anime community. This is a first for us, and we’ll inevitably get things wrong. So please feel free to be brutally honest while giving us constructive feedback.

Continuing from last year, there are numerous categories in the following areas: Production, Miscellaneous, Genre, and Notable Others. Due to lack of series candidates, and/or the belief that we may not have watched enough shows to make an informed decision about specific genres, some categories have been omitted from previous years. Though in the outro, I’ve attempted to explain the reasoning behind their removal. Added back to this year’s post are Studio, Plot Twist, Mystery, Sport, Underappreciated, and Exceeded Expectations categories. And we’ll welcome four new entries: ‘Betrayal’ being a reference to the online community meme, ‘Isekai’ and ‘Supernatural’ as their own separate categories from fantasy in recognition of their standalone popularity and differences from traditional fantasy, as well as ‘Greatest Trainwreck’ – which distinguishes itself from disappointment by being an hotly anticipated mess of epic proportions. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Disclaimer: As always, disclaimers abound. Please keep in mind that “best” is subjective. What’s best for us isn’t necessarily best for you, and that’s perfectly fine. This list shouldn’t be taken as some kind of inviolable truth, but rather the opinions of three chaps who had too much time on their hands and spent it conjuring up a list of picks based on all the anime they watched. Naturally, our choices will be influenced by our own tastes, experiences, and personal impressions. Before you go bashing one of our choices, please make sure you’ve at least seen it and know where we’re coming from. Finally, all we ask is that you respect our opinions and the opinions of others in the comments, just like we respect yours. Thank you.

Disclaimer #2: The choices in this post are not reflective of the opinions of all Random Curiosity writers. They are solely the opinions of myself (Zaiden), Choya and Pancakes, save for where otherwise noted. Thank you for your understanding.

Note: For a show to be considered, it has to have met the requirements outlined in the Reader’s Choice Poll. For OVAs/movies, the additional requirement is that it’s been either released on BD or DVD, so that viewers outside of Japan have had a chance to watch it.


Production

Visuals

Visuals and fluid movement. It’s all about the quality of what we see on screen and what impressed us the most. To a certain degree, character designs and overall art style fall into this category too.

Zaiden: Quick reminder that anime films are not eligible, even if some of them could have outright dominated this category. On the TV side of things, there were many excellent candidates this year: a kinetic and fiery approach from Enen no Shouboutai , a vibrant and psychedelic experience in Sarazanmai and a harmonious convergence between traditional and CGI styles with Kimetsu no Yaiba. Sunrise has also been pumping profits from their humongous mecha and idol shows into the final season of Symphogear and it has never looked better. But the prettiest of them all would undoubtedly be Mob Psycho 100 II. It consistently surpassed lofty standards set by a spectacular first season, in an industry where many sequels visually stagnate due to decreased budgets, and put the most visually impressive episode of 2019 onto the table in the form of Episode 5. In the words of Guardian Enzo from his final impressions, this collaboration of lead animators wasn’t just sakuga. It was pure art.

Winner: Mob Psycho 100 II

Honorable Mentions: Enen no Shouboutai, Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV, Sarazanmai, Kimetsu no Yaiba

Story

As the somewhat polar opposite to what’s on the surface, here we’re looking at depth and what captivated us from start to finish. You don’t need amazing visuals to tell a good story, so it’s about the original material (if any) and the screenwriter’s adaptation of it here. Good cliffhangers that keep you on the edge of your seat week after week suggest the series is doing something right, whereas filler-esque showings don’t.

Zaiden: I never knew I could become so invested in a bunch of university dudes running together, and I don’t think it will happen again anytime soon, so it comes as no surprise that Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru receives an honourable mention at the very least. Shingeki no Kyojin 3’s gripping story of people seeking to overcome the existential crisis posed by titans, while at political odds with humanity’s inherent darkness, proved to be an outstanding culmination of three seasons. And despite the fact that every JoJo part can be stand-alone, there’s no denying that Golden Wind stands on the shoulders of its predecessors, with a continued focus on platonic bonds tangling with inherited legacies to defeat great evil. However, if there’s one archetype that can break the bounds of what I deem to be typical, it would be the literary epic style – a genre which Vinland Saga comfortably nestles into. Its story took us on a historical tour de force through a transformative journey of betrayal and revenge featuring various larger than life figures, while occasionally dropping the Vinland motif as a slim fragment of hope through such a cruel and broken world. All in all, Vinland Saga presented a tightly woven narrative that was heavily driven by single-minded goals and ulterior motives from its cast of extremely compelling characters.

Winner: Vinland Saga

Honorable Mentions: Shingeki no Kyojin 3, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru

Soundtrack

What would a series be without the music to help set the mood and tone? A good soundtrack enhances the power and emotions behind scenes in such a way that you start associating imagery with the music unconsciously, regardless of whether it’s cheery, inspiring, or heartfelt. Lasting impressions say a lot, plus it just has to sound good too.

Zaiden: The other choices made for good listening. But they weren’t on this level of good. Alongside his previous projects such as the OST from Made in Abyss, it’s about time we acknowledged that Kevin Penkin as an absolute musical gem within the anime industry. We are blessed to have his talents at our disposal. His soundtrack composition for Shield Hero was yet another masterpiece, providing delightful and complex melodies that accentuated emotional moments while immersing viewers within its gorgeous fantasy setting. An honourable mention goes to Kono Oto Tomare! courtesy of Guardian Enzo’s insistence, since I didn’t get around to watching it and generally respect his opinions.

Winner: Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari

Honorable Mentions: Kono Oto Tomare!, Kimetsu no Yaiba, Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV, Machikado Mazoku

Opening & Ending Sequence

Whether for its originality or ability to showcase what a series has to offer, opening sequences are always fun to watch. We tend to look forward to new ones and the songs that will be featured in them, and sometimes get a glimpse at what’s coming up in the show too (for better or worse). Here, the focus is on the sequence itself, even though the song may play a part in making it memorable.

Unlike opening sequences, endings don’t strive to draw the viewer in and get them psyched up about the episode that’s coming up. Instead, they’re an outro to what you’ve just seen and may highlight a specific aspect/emotion of the series, though sometimes they’re completely irrelevant to the actual story and are just an outlet for sheer fun/comedic value. Whichever the case, there are certain sequences that we enjoyed more than others.

Winner: Carole and Tuesday OP 1 [Official MV]

Zaiden: While the visual sequence is undeniably important, I’m not Zephy and will judge by a different rubric. Songs are what make OPs memorable to me and will be my primary factor in determining a winner. I’m aware that my music tastes can be quite unique, but I firmly stand by my choice: Carole and Tuesday OP 1. It’s a complete package – brimming with graceful and fluid animating, immaculate image boarding and one heck of a feel good song from Nai Br.XX and Celeina Ann to go along with everything else. What’s more, the song had perfectly spoken English, entirely free of pronunciation and grammatical mistakes otherwise dubbed as “Engrish”. My honourable mentions generally went to OPs with delightful melodies that couldn’t quite beat out the cinematic value of Carole and Tuesday OP 1 – with the exception of the Beastars and Enen no Shouboutai OPs. Both paired unique cinematics extraordinarily well with wild and lively songs, but ultimately lost out to a more refined end product.

Honorable Mentions w/ [Official OP/Official OP]:

Winner: Sarazanmai ED

Choya: The Peggies were already in our good graces with “Kimi no Sei”, but their efforts with “Stand By Me” add a layer of mournful self-reflection to the band’s poppy alt-rock cadence. The lyrics resonate with Sarazanmai’s subject matter of salvaging broken or lost connections, causing them to hit even harder when an episode ends on a brutal, devastating, or shocking note. It became a habit to just have your jaw drop as soon as the screen cuts to black and you hear the first guitar chord land with a heavy distorted crash. The ED’s aesthetics are visually impressive by having the anime’s characters and neon lights superimposed over real-life images of the nighttime Asakusa cityscape, contributing to the themes isolation brought out by the events of the story. While Sarazanmai was a great enough show as it is, “Stand By Me” shows us the heart and soul of the series by giving us a moment to reflect on how precious our connections are with those around us.

Honorable Mentions w/ [Official ED/Official MV]:

Song

With the sequences covered, the attention is now on the actual songs. Insert songs are also up for consideration, with the only real criteria being that it’s something we never got tired of listening to. There’s no bearing on if it was created specifically for a series or even if the series was any good, we’re simply picking some of our favorite songs that were featured in an anime.

Kawaki no Ameku – Minami (Domestic na Kanojo OP)

Zaiden: Now, I did say that my tastes in music are quite unique and that Domestic na Kanojo’s OP isn’t my cup of tea. I made it clear during my introductory post for Episode 1. It reminds me of ‘God Knows’, a previous winner of this category, which I’m not really fond of. But when asked, just about everyone I know unanimously reckon it’s one of the best songs from 2019. And who am I — a mere individual — to refute a relatively consolidated opinion from the masses of respectable folks? ‘Kamada Tanjirou no Uta’ from Kimetsu no Yaiba came really close, showing us that no matter what, even at the terminals of life and death, there is always something you have to protect and desperately fight for with your entire being. The adapted 2019 version of Mobile Suit Gundam: The OriginThe Origin Advent of the Red Comet – brings us two incredible ballades from Kaori Sawada: ‘Don’t Say Goodbye‘ [English Version] and ‘By Your Side‘, both belying the guttural futility and tragedies of war. This is also where Kono Oto Tomare! wins some last minute representation, because while I haven’t seen the series, Guardian Enzo recommended a couple of songs at the final hour before publication to me – with ‘Tenkyuu’ being my resolutely standout pick from the bunch, combining exquisitely beautiful layers of soulfully strung string melodies into a definitively unique expression. Word through the grape vines has led me to ‘Fuyu no Hanashi’ – Mafuyu’s pinnacle song from Given, carrying the emotional weight of losing a lover. And let’s throw in Cop Craft’s OP because its shoddy (albeit fun) visuals let it down for contention in the OP category, despite possessing an excellent song in ‘Rakuen Toushi‘.

Winner: Kawaki no Ameku (Domestic na Kanojo OP)

Honorable Mentions:

Kamada Tanjirou no Uta (Kimetsu no Yaiba Insert Song Ep 19)
Don’t Say Goodbye (Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Advent of the Red Comet Insert Song)
By Your Side (Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Advent of the Red Comet Insert Song)
Tenkyuu (Kono Oto Tomare Insert Song Ep 25)
Fuyu no Hanashi (Given Insert Song Ep 9)
Rakuen Toushi (Cop Craft OP),


Miscellaneous

Studio

While it can be argued that individual staff members play the largest impact in a series’ success and a staff may differ greatly between series made by the same studio, the argument can also be made that studios tend to have stylistic nuances that can be found only in series produced by that studio, and this category aims to recognize studios that have made themselves known in that regard—whether it’s in the staff they chose, the diversity of their productions, the consistency of their animation quality, or the quirks they’ve given their main characters.

Zaiden: As much as my heart wants to declare Kyoto Animation as the winner this year, for everything that they’ve gone through, it would be wrong to deny Wit Studio of an award that is rightfully theirs by virtue of merit. If it was only once, more significant credit would have been given to the senior staff involved in production. However, Wit Studio captured lightning in a bottle not once, but twice, producing two of the top contenders for anime of the year in Vinland Saga and Shingeki no Kyojin 3. There’s no coincidence in that. And as someone who’s familiar with both manga, Wit Studio added anime original touches here and there. Usually, this kind of executive meddling is a recipe for disaster. But these changes by Wit actually heightened the adaptations beyond the source materials, while preserving their spirit. You could totally believe these additions were something the mangaka would have come up with if they had more time and less deadlines on their hands. Wit Studio deserve every bit of credit here and may their excellence continue past the foreseeable future.

Winner: Wit Studio

Honorable Mentions: Kyoto Animation

Character

Branching away from strictly picking series and focusing on some specifics is the idea behind the miscellaneous section. The first one is our favorite character, who won his or her way into our hearts for whatever reason. The criteria here is somewhat loose, but with numerous options in a single series, multiplied by almost a hundred in the past year, it’s actually quite difficult to pick one above all others. Be that as it may…

Zaiden: Anime never seems to suffer from a shortage of awesome characters. In Shingeki no Kyojin, Erwin Smith gave rousing rallies, inspiring comrades with his truly epic speeches through the valleys of life and death. Legosi the Grey Wolf graced Beastars with his serene contemplations – asking existential questions about his inner conflicts that threaten to consume him, in a way reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The compassionate Tanjiro of Kimetsu no Yaiba provided a moving tale, overcoming unimaginable adversity to protect his sister while seeking a cure for her condition. Most older brothers can truly relate to this. And my boy Eugeo made for an arguably better protagonist than Kirito has ever been over the course of Sword Art Online: Alicization, demonstrating impressive determination towards saving Alice Zuberg from her fate. But none of them could be my winners for this year. Ultimately, I ended up picking a character that I actually dislike on a personal basis – Askeladd of Vinland Saga. Although I think he’s a rotten person with disagreeable methodologies, no one can deny he’s a glorious bastard. At first, he comes across as an evil and enigmatic mercenary. But as the series progresses, you realise it’s a lot more complex than that. We slowly learn about his past, as well as the hidden motives behind his actions that spur him onwards. He dominates Vinland Saga by imposing his ruthless ambitions, idealistic dreams and unfailing charisma onto the story. To become the quintessential driving force behind Vinland Saga is no mean feat, considering the plethora of strong-willed and impressionable personalities throughout the course of its narrative. It takes a truly remarkable character with unimaginable resolve to exceed them all.

Winner: Askeladd

Honorable Mentions: Eugeo (Sword Art Online: Alicization + War of Underworld), Erwin Smith (Shingeki no Kyojin), Legosi (Beastars), Tanjiro (Kimetsu no Yaiba)

Plot Twist

For plot twist of the year, we’re looking for a sudden unexpected turn of events in the story that caught us off guard and delivered sheer shock value. It’s that “WTF” moment that has people talking about it for the next few days, regardless of whether or not anyone found it agreeable.

Show Plot Twist ▼

Betrayal

Betrayal: The act of betraying one’s country, a group, or a person. This category was inspired by the ‘Top 5 Anime Betrayals’ meme and debuts as an experimental addition for the sake of fun.

Show Betrayal ▼

Death

This may be part of a plot twist or something you see coming a mile away, but we’re concerned about the impact the death has on the story and us as viewers. Well-executed screenplay leading up to it may play a big part, but there are also cases where a character dies so suddenly that we’re left in complete disbelief. In both cases, it’s the lingering impression we’re basing our selection on.

Show Death Picks ▼


Genre

Action

Action, action, and more action! The action genre ranges anywhere from shounen-crazed series to war-filled mecha shows. For battles, choreography plays a huge role, so that was definitely taken into consideration.

Zaiden: When it comes to action, you will notice that shounen franchises tend to dominate this category on a consistent basis. And this year proved to be no exception. It was a close one, but overall Kimetsu no Yaiba beat Enen no Shouboutai to the punch. Ufotable and Bones both did a marvellous job of animating extremely fluid fights with stellar choreography. Enen no Shouboutai demonstrated a lot of flare with combative flames and provided kinetically intense action scenes. However, Ufotable edged them out with impressive CGI integration, and that jaw-dropping Episode 19 ultimately pushed them to that top spot. Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV was hot on their heels with transformations and fights like never before in the franchise giving out one final swan song. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind came through with unique Stands and creative ability usages on a consistent basis. I also thought it would be appropriate to acknowledge that Dororo featured excellent swordfights – although I felt that it generally tapered off in the second half. And while it didn’t quite peak like the finale of X and Y, Pokémon Sun and Moon receives a much deserved shout-out for its litany of exciting battles and crisp implementation of Z Moves – making the overall action better on average compared to X and Y.

Winner: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Honorable Mentions: Enen no Shouboutai, Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Dororo, Pokémon Sun and Moon

Romance

Emotion-filled romance at its finest. The relationship between characters and the emotions involved are the appeal, and the main criteria for selecting a series here. A sentimental story is always good, with tear-jerking scenes being a plus. This is the series that had the best romantic mood from the character interactions to the big confession.

Choya: Sex can be exciting, thrilling, and terrifying all at once, but the latter quality manifests the most when we’re younger. Puberty places all of us in the awkward and messy position of finding out what our sexuality means during an age where our decisions are ruled by our impulses. And when sex ends up becoming another irrational impulse you have to control by your own accord, how do you keep yourself in check? Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo. captures the complexities of having the concept of sex thrown on your lap at a young age and having to deal with comprehending how it applies to your own actions, motives, and urges. The anime gives us a harrowing take on handling puberty through the perspectives of five girls whose plucky school-lives are further complicated when their Literature Club material starts delving into sexually-charged content. While one girl is frightened by the possibility of rushing into sex if she asks out her childhood friend, another battles with their insecurities as their headstrong, prudish personality forces them to face their fears of being seen as undesirable. As if personal fears and insecurities weren’t difficult enough to take on in high school, puberty also threatens to cause a rift between the girls as their conflicting views on love and eroticism drive them down a path of sabotage and self-destructive behavior. Whether it be infatuation with a best friend’s crush, unrequited love for a friend of the same sex, or sexual curiosity driving one to desperately chase after the wrong person, the anime tackles the multiple struggles that can rattle through our minds while we’re young and controlled by our impulses. Above all else, Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo. directly engages the concepts of intimacy and romance by demonstrating how powerful, passionate, and destructive they can be when they first creep up on us during our early years.

Winner: Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo.

Honorable Mentions: Fruit’s Basket

Drama

A lot of good series out there depict an emotion-filled story where the romance comes secondary, if at all. Strong depictions of friendship and in challenging situations can really draw a viewer into the story and start making them sympathize with the characters. It’s a bit of an all-encompassing genre, but only a handful of series really pull viewers in with their screenplay.

Zaiden: Perhaps it would be wrong of me to deny Vinland Saga and Shingeki no Kyojin, when they would both be equally deserving winners in this category. The former presented a mesmerising narrative about a son avenging the unfair death of his father, with a historical dollop of politicking between Danish royalty. The latter continues the fretful depiction of meagre humans courageously standing up to the wake of titans, with a mind-numbing plot twist changing everything as we know it. But as a pure drama, viewing it through the lens of a classical literary perspective, I feel compelled to crown Beastars as my winner. From the get go, I found myself enthralled by the mystery of the murder at Cherryton High School. And we had the perfect dramatical lead to take charge. Legosi is an eccentric grey wolf who goes about life like a modernised, furry, second-coming of Hamlet. Which is to say he is torn by inner conflict, graceful and contemplative. He genuinely means well, and desires to bring about a world where carnivores and herbivores can peacefully co-exist, although the threat of his inner predator always threatens to erode his ingrained sensibilities. And to see everything play out around him, at times out of his control, as he confronted the harsh truths of the world he lives in, really made for great dramatised viewing. Honourable mention to Fruits Basket for being a highly quality romantic drama and Domestic na Kanojo for being an exceedingly messy romantic drama that completely flipped the entire house upside down.

Winner: Beastars

Honorable Mentions: Shingeki no Kyojin 3, Vinland Saga, Fruit’s Basket, Domestic na Kanojo

Horror/Thriller

The best horror shows are those that incite visceral feelings of shock, fear, and pulse-pounding dread. Gore is not a necessity for this genre, as there’s always psychological thrillers that are just as gripping if not more. However, those that can provide both an unsettling atmosphere and a good scare are even better.

Zaiden: Yakusoku no Neverland captivated people with a thrilling tale about orphans destined for death, raised as livestock for supreme aliens to consume, seeking to escape their tragic fate of being ruthlessly killed via consumption. Through its run, we saw the children play a twisted game of mental chess against psychopathic nurses, where their very lives hang in the balance. That sense of looming dread remained pervasive from beginning to end, and for once, it’s nice to see horror executed through foreboding build-ups as opposed to quick jump scares. Nothing else came quite as close for horror and thrills. Boogiepop made me thoroughly wince at times, but nothing more than that. And the horrors and thrills behind Shingeki becomes predictable old hat when you’ve had three seasons of similar stuff.

Winner: Yakusoku no Neverland

Honorable Mentions: Shingeki no Kyojin 3, Boogiepop wa Wawaranai

Mystery

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Thought-provoking storylines that keep inquisitive viewers watching and speculating on where things are headed? Yes, please. They don’t necessarily have to have a horror element to them either, as all we’re looking for here is a blend of detective/crime fiction.

Zaiden: Lord El-Melloi II Case Files gave us a snapshot into Waver’s adult life, solving cases for the aristocracy as a reluctant wannabe Sherlock Holmes, when all he wants to do is chase Iskandar’s legacy while focusing on magical research. In Mo Dao Zu Shi 2, Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan continue trying to figure out the culprit behind the demonic hand that’s been laying waste to rural villages, as well as seeking to clear Wei Wuxian’s name of the allegations about wrongdoing levied at him for unleashing unprecedented swathes of undead and suffering into the mortal world. Shingeki no Kyojin 3 finally let the cat out of the bag — perhaps leaving us with even more questions than we began with in the process. As for the winner, I’ve heard that Boogiepop Wa Wawaranai is a lacklustre adaptation of its novels. Nevertheless, the fascinating intrigue wowed my socks off, with every single thread of mystery repeatedly hitting the mark for me. The relation between Boogiepop and Miyashita, the reason why Kirima Nagi is so special, assessing Imaginator’s delusional Messiah complex and fathoming the Towa Organisation’s mysterious motives left me with boundless questions on a weekly basis and none the wiser every single time, pending the arc resolutions themselves. There might have been shows that were better overall. But if we’re evaluating purely on how mysteries were approached at a conceptual level, Boogiepop wins outright in my books with its genuinely compelling hooks and beautifully complex intricacy.

Winner: Boogiepop wa Wawaranai

Honorable Mentions: Shingeki no Kyojin 3, Mo Dao Zu Shi 2, Lord El-Melloi II Case Files

Supernatural

Supernatural is undeniably a sub-genre of fantasy. But where you’ll typically see dragons and wizards in traditional fantasy, a supernatural story usually has a greater footing with our reality — which also includes realistic historical setting. It typically takes on a darker tone and specifically highlights supernatural creatures or happenings as being far from the accepted norm.

Zaiden: Ye old Japan and youkai crossover in both Kimetsu no Yaiba and Dororo. People train their inner spiritual strength and physical body so that they can stand against the swathes of undead ensuing from Wei Wuxian’s foul legacy, in the supernatural martial fantasy presented by Mo Dao Zu Shi 2. Yakusoku no Neverland provided a thrilling dystopian take of what the world might be like, if mysterious and powerful aliens surpassed humans on the food chain. And finally there are urban supernatural fantasies like Boogiepop Wa Wawaranai, where Boogiepop and Kirima Nagi try to save the world from a threat within the shadows. As well as my winner for this category, Mob Psycho 100 II — which seamlessly synthesized paranormal elements into a highschooler’s daily life, complete with epic and vibrant encounters with the supernatural. The cherry on the icing? A wholesome story about how supernatural abilities don’t get you everything you want in life, often come with heavy responsibilities, but can be used for great good depending on the individual in question who wields it.

Winner: Mob Psycho 100 II

Honorable Mentions: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Dororo, Mo Dao Zu Shi 2, Boogiepop wa Wawaranai, Yakusoku no Neverland

Sci-Fi

When it comes to science fiction, a futuristic world with advanced technology, robots, space travel, and superhuman abilities is the usual connotation. However, that’s not the only setting that fits this genre. Sometimes all a series has to do is play up a single sci-fi aspect and do it well to go down as an excellent sci-fi series.

Pancakes: True sci-fi was unfortunately on the down low again this past year, but quantity was more than made up for by quality. With old school mecha largely taking a backseat (Revisions being the only real offering) we received not one but two new Index-verse adaptations (Index III and Accelerator), Steins;Gate’s progenitor YU-NO, and the third season return of dystopic cyberpunk Psycho-Pass. Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu’s remake also finished up its current adaptation with its theatrical episode releases, although it (like the rest) must lose out in this year’s pick for best sci-fi to fellow genre-mate Kanata no Astra. Featuring a fully adapted story and excellent progression, development, and executed plot twists, Kanata no Astra exemplified everything that makes pure Star Trek-esque sci-fi tick, and with few of the accompanying hiccups to boot. It may not have been as visually impactful as some other sci-fi series this past year, but Kanata no Astra and its reception shows there’s still plenty of appetite for series willing to venture beyond Earth, explore the vast unknown, and play to those motifs we’ve been sorely lacking in for the past while.

Winner: Kanata no Astra

Honorable Mentions: Dr. Stone, Kemurikusa, No Guns Life

Fantasy

Where science fiction seeks to explain the remarkable happenings of its universe via technology and logic, fantasy is less concerned with that. Wizards, dragons, and Tolkien-esque adventures are what usually come to mind, but those aren’t mandatory. As long as the focus is less on what makes the world tick and more on using magic and wonder to tell a story, it’s probably a fantasy tale you’re looking at.

Pancakes: Ignoring the omnipresent isekai deluge, fantasy was well represented this year between the likes of Shingeki no Bahamut side story Manaria Friends, the latest Type-Moon adaptation with Lord El-Melloi II, and the eagerly awaited (if slightly disappointing) sequel to Danmachi. While it would be easy to give the category title to the latest Shingeki no Kyojin (it is technically fantasy after all), this year’s best fantasy pick must go to UchiMusume for pretty much being the fantasy version of Usagi Drop. The show might have lacked the more serious aspects generally expected from the genre these days, but UchiMusume provided a short and sweet slice-of-life tale with plenty of adorable cuteness and fantasy backdrops for weary audience eyes—and which like its “real-world” counterpart shrewdly cut off before reaching the more questionable material. Whether or not it was another weak year overall for fantasy (and that’s debatable), there’s no denying there were plenty of shows this year proving very entertaining.

Winner: Uchi no Ko no Tame naraba, Ore wa Moshikashitara Maou mo Taoseru kamo Shirenai

Honorable Mentions: Granbelm, Granblue Fantasy 2

Isekai

As an extension of the fantasy genre, isekai is a concept that has taken the anime industry by storm, revolving around a normal person from Earth being transported to, reborn, or trapped in a parallel universe — usually in a fantasy world.

Pancakes: Considering the prevalence of isekai these days it would be wrong to judge its offerings alongside fantasy, and from this past year it’s not hard seeing why. Every season featured multiple isekai series, from winter’s Shield Hero to spring’s crossover short Isekai Quartet, summer’s ara ara fest Okaasan Online, and winter’s Konosuba stand-in Kono Yuusha. Without a doubt though the best isekai pick this year must be SAO: Alicization (especially season 3) for pretty much nailing the best arc of the SAO-verse to date. Thanks to some amazing animation and the always divisive Kirito deigning to share the spotlight with a broadened and varied cast, we received one of the tightest and best produced isekai stories to date, and with only the promise of more SAO goodness to come in the new year. Isekai in all its fantasy and VRMMORPG forms may be growing long in the tooth for some, but this year definitely provided in spades for those firmly in love with alternate world adventures.

Winner: Sword Art Online: Alicization

Honorable Mentions: Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken, Honzuki no Gekukujou, Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne!, Cop Craft

Comedy

The ability to make you laugh until you cry – that’s probably the number one criteria when selecting a comedy of the year. From everything to sheer stupidity, quirky characters, and timely comedic pauses to perverted fun, elaborate setups, and witty jokes, it’s the lighthearted nature and humorous entertainment value of these series that we love.

Choya: Someone thinks Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai is one of the best comedies this year? How cute. But in all seriousness, it never gets old trying to see Shinomiya Kaguya and Shirogane Miyuki goad one another into confessing as each exchange plays out like an overindulgent game of Cat & Mouse. The trouble-making Fujiwara Chika and the aloof gamer Ishigami Yu also contribute to many of these hilarious situations as we also follow their experiences with studying, athletics, and event-planning in the Student Council. It’s a quick-witted comedy that also respects its characters beyond funny gags by having the story ultimately be about two out-of-touch children of wealthy parents trying to find normalcy within their status. Both have been unable to naturally behave as your average teenager, with Kaguya suffering from the most cruelty with her negligent upbringing. As a result, Kaguya-sama gives us a profoundly transformative comedy that is both hilarious and evocative.

Winner: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai

Honorable Mentions: Ueno-san wa Bukiyou, Africa no Salaryman, Hataage! Kemono Michi

Romantic Comedy

The romantic comedy genre separates itself from the individual romance and comedy ones by teasing us with potential relationships but never quite settling on one. Instead, the enjoyment comes from the character interactions themselves, often – but not always – in harem-like scenarios.

Choya: If Season 1 was meant to be a playful comedy that introduced us to Takagi-san and the Machiavellian schemes she would come up with to tease Nishikata, Season 2’s intention is to evaluate the reasons why the two are attached to the hip. It’s always hilarious to see how Takagi manages to outwit Nishikata’s multiple attempts to finally one-up her. But underneath the surface, it is a sentimental, coming-of-age story about two friends contemplating whether they should take their relationship to the next level or stay comfortable with where they are currently at. Because of this season’s focus on romance, it offers far more depth to the show’s content by giving us insight on the thoughts racing through Nishikata’s head as his perception of Takagi-san shifts from being a cunning nuisance to the girl of his dreams. Similarly, Takagi-san’s thoughts begin to change as she finds herself being taken aback more often when Nishikata lets his feelings slip out. Season 2 still retains much of what made the first installment a cheeky comedy. But the tension that builds up throughout the season as to how far their relationship will progress, culminating in a climactic, intense, and heartfelt finale, is what made Season 2 of Takagi-san both a worthy sequel and one of the best romantic comedy anime of 2019.

Winner: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san S2

Honorable Mentions: Go-Toubun no Hanayome , OreSuki

Slice of Life

A laid-back series with no reliance on heavily gimmicky plot devices nor a constantly progressing storyline is what this genre stands for. The character interactions themselves in an otherwise “normal” setting are the highlight, along with any incidental humor that results from them. A lot of times, they’re just really cute and innocent happenings, and that’s exactly what makes a good slice of life series.

Choya:: Your standard slice-of-life would involve cute things doing cute things, but how about cute girls lifting heavy things? Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru? make an impressive effort to give its characters time to bond with one another and offer fitness advice at the same time. It accomplishes a tremendous feat for a slice-of-life by giving each of the characters a reason to hang out with one another, providing a unique degree of chemistry with just about any of the characters that are paired up together. With its hypermasculine beefcakes and celebrity likenesses, there is also a plethora of comedy centered around the ultra-serious world of weight-lifting that the girls find themselves drawn to while they aim to slim down and gain muscle.

Winner: Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru?

Honorable Mentions: Rilakkuma to Kaoru-san, Hitoribocchi no Seikatsu, Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue.

Sports

This category seeks to celebrate the competitive past times many of us cherish—at least, the animated equivalents of them. Chances are you’re no Roger Federer or Lebron James, but that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine ourselves as him or enjoy watching people like him play, and this category seeks to include those series that gave us a great take on a particular sport, with bonus points given to quality animations, insight into mental aspects of the game, and other athletic intangibles.

Zaiden: There were quite a few sports shows this year. But one indisputably stood above the rest. Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru started off at a pedestrian pace. We had this weird dude called Haiji gathering a bunch of random people who didn’t even want to run, using questionable methods to coerce them into joining his initiative. His forceful and inconsiderate attitude rubbed me the wrong way admittedly. However, when things hit a stride, which is to say when everyone found their personal reason to run, participating in the Hakone Ekiden together proved to be a once in a lifetime journey. Seeing these realistic individuals from all kinds of backgrounds come a long way by pushing themselves past the limits of human comprehension for each other’s sake is an inspiring story of sportsmanship and brotherhood that deserves the utmost recognition. That they would literally die in order to make that finish line, even when faced with near impossible odds, brought tears of awe to my eyes a couple of times. For this reason, Kaze ga Tsuyoku emphatically dominates this category. Hoshiai no Sora had some mark of potential but fell off due to production issues. And while it was a fun and unique series, Dumbbell wa Kilo Moteru lacks the substance that would make it a true contender.

Winner: Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru

Honorable Mentions: Hoshiai no Sora, Dumbbell Nan Kilo Moteru

Category Defying

Also known as the Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita Memorial Award, this is the category for those shows that deserve to be on this list, even if we don’t have a clue where they should go. Many series cross into multiple genres, which is why you see shows being featured in multiple categories in this section. These series defy genre. They twist and squirm, evading our attempts to label them and are just themselves, as well as good. This is the category for shows that deserve recognition, even if we aren’t rightly sure what they were.

Zaiden: With Ikuhara storyboarding, you’ll certainly be getting something bizarre and special. Sarazanmai is the latest show to continue this trend, finally netting a win for Ikuhara in this category. Maybe Kemurikusa deserves some recognition? It was certainly a bizarre and category-defying experience, though it couldn’t be described as the second coming of Kemono Friends in spite of stylistic and spiritual similarities that naturally arise from having the same director. Nevertheless, Sarazanmai has it completely beaten for weird and wonderful any day of the week, with the conflict between evil, murderous otters and belligerent, deceitful kappas running as an exceptionally category-defying undercurrent to one crazy and heartfelt exploration of sexuality.

Winner: Sarazanmai

Honorable Mentions: Kemurikusa


Notable Others

Most Underappreciated

There are numerous shows out there that people don’t watch or continue watching because they’re so fixated on what’s unanimously popular. We make a point of watching and covering series that tend to be overlooked, so this is intended to highlight the series that more people should have checked out but probably didn’t.

Zaiden: I came close to crowning Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru winner. Then I saw that it polled relatively well in the Reader’s Choice, indicating people (myself included) watched it after all the episodes aired, so I can’t say it really went under the radar. Consequently, Cop Craft won out. Bringing a wonderful cop duo and their various misadventures to the table, packed full of award-worthy dialogue between characters, it polled considerably low for the sheer panache it managed to offer. Definitely give it a chance when you can! An honourable mention goes to Hataage! Kemono Michi. I imagine that a lot of people were put off by the furry aspect. But the comedy was something else, continuously leaving me gasping for breath as Genzo’s animal loving degeneracy knew no bounds. Mo Dao Zu Shi is a series that has broken into the Top 50 on MAL at various points in time. Unfortunately, a widespread stigma resulting from Chinese animation being generally poor has definitely kept it from receiving the attention it deserves. But while the first season might have won this category in another year, the second season took a foot off the pedal – meaning it didn’t reach previous heights. So an honourable mention will suffice.

Winner: Cop Craft

Honorable Mentions: Haatage Kemono Michi, Mo Dao Zu Shi 2

Biggest Disappointment

The pitfall of excessive hype and anticipation for anything is the disappointment that results when things don’t meet expectations. With regards to anime, this is doubly true when a series has precedent established by its original and a sequel falls incomparably short. At times it’s only a small letdown, but sometimes we’re left wondering what we did to deserve sitting through it. We’re not looking for the worst series of the year here, but the biggest disparity between expectations going in and way the series turned out.

Zaiden: After Psycho-Pass 2, I expected nothing from Psycho-Pass 3 and still came out disappointed. This year, JC Staff claimed One Punch Man 2 and Index III as pitiful victims of their lacklustre, cash-grabbing hackjobs — to the utter dismay of these respective fanbases. That said, it wasn’t totally out of the question for these failings to occur. J.C. Staff have a historic proclivity for taking big fat sharts over sequels. But when you have some of the biggest names of the anime industry coming together under one one of the most prestigious studio in Bones – with Shinichiro Watanabe leading them as one the most elite anime directors of all time, it’s a complete travesty when that inherent potential failed to materialise. I thought he was the chosen one. He was meant to bring balance to the anime industry, not leave it in darkness. Outside of the OP themes, visuals and one or two songs, I thought Carole and Tuesday was absolute trite. If you liked it, I’m sorry. But really, I’m not sorry. The storyline and characters felt mostly flimsy and superficial. Don’t even get me started on Angela going Stockholm Syndrome over Tao. Most of the soundtrack and insert songs were not amazing enough for me to suspend my disbelief. The show’s attempts at political commentary were poorly conceived and one dimensional. The 20 second miracle prologue at the beginning of each episode made me cringe every single damn time. And when that miracle moment finally arrived in the final episode, it was a letting down beyond epic proportions. Unfortunately for Watanabe, you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain. An honourable mention also goes out to Kemono Friends 2. The franchise and Tatsuki both deserved better. Amen.

Winner: Carole and Tuesday

Dishonourable Mentions: One Punch Man 2, To Aru Majutsu no Index III, Psycho-Pass 3, Kemono Friends 2

Greatest Trainwreck

When you expect something to be good, only for it to turn out bad, that’s one thing. When you expect something to be messy, and it embraces said messiness in spectacular fashion – be it extreme technical production issues or overarching storyline, that’s when you know you’ve got a trainwreck on your hands

Zaiden: When Arifureta was delayed for a year because the production studio called it quits, meaning a new and unproven one had to be found at a moment’s notice. You could just smell the impending disaster waiting to happen. And oh it was glorious. On a different token, it’s both disingenuous and hilarious that any promotional material for W’z failed to indicate it was a sequel to the infamous Handshakers — suckering many poor fools into watching the first episode thinking it would be something new. Only it wasn’t. Imagine being so bad that when a sequel comes out, you have to pretend they have absolutely no relation whatsoever. Warning: Spoilers for Domestic na Kanojo full steam ahead. For our winner, anime was already going too far with all the incestuous baiting, through the likes of Eromanga Sensei and Oreimo in previous years. To finally see Domestic na Kanojo actually break the boundary at supersonic speed — where we see a protagonist frivolously loses his virginity with some random girl, only for her to become his step sister the very next day, is nothing short of remarkable. And as if that wasn’t enough, you see that teacher at school he’s always been in love with? She also becomes his older step sister. AND she’s having an affair with a married man who was once her teacher. AND the protagonist later proceeds to have sex with his older step sister too – which ultimately causes her to be fired from school. These catastrophic trainwrecks just continued mounting on top of each other, propelling Domestic na Kanojo to an unstoppable victory. Go figure, Sasuga Kei.

Winner: Domestic na Kanojo

Honorable Mentions: Arifureta Shokugyou de Sekai Saikyou, W’z

Exceeded Expectations

Naturally, there’s the exact opposite of disappointment, where we go into a series with low or little-to-no expectations and it turns out much better than we anticipated. This could easily be considered finding diamonds in the rough, which is only possible if you tend to give new shows the benefit of the doubt. Our picks here don’t necessarily mean they’re blockbuster hits in disguise, but that the disparity between expectations and the actual series goes in the favorable direction.

Zaiden: Who could have guessed that a show where some poor chap gets reincarnated as a slime would take the anime community by storm? Or that a non-conventional cop show from a no name studio with animation gaffes and a bizarre fantasy touch would become a sleeper hit? Certainly not me. But if I had to go with a show that utterly exceeded expectations, it would be Pokémon Sun and Moon. Going into the anime adaptation of Gen 7, morale was low within the fanbase since Ash barely lost out on a league title for extremely bullshit reasons, and the new art direction looked pretty stupid. However, not only did the new art grow on people, it actually really suited the carefree and fun nature of Alola. Not to mention the new characters and Pokémons were awesome, bringing fun in abundance on a weekly basis — and Ash finally won the Pokemon League too.

Winner: Pokémon Sun and Moon

Honorable Mentions: Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken, Cop Craft


And Finally…

Best Anime 2019

The be-all, end-all of the year. This pick is always a hotbed of controversy, so here’s the exact criteria we used to make it: if we were to meet an anime fan for the first time and they were to ask us to recommend a show that aired in 2018, what would it be? Without knowing the person’s tastes, we would naturally default to the show that did the most things right, one that had wide appeal and deserved it, that had superb animation and told its story well, and above all else, that we enjoyed. The winner of this category should be a high anticipation show that supremely deserved it, or a dark horse that blew everyone out of the water. This is subjective as hell, but you can find a list of our best picks below.

Zaiden: The best stories typically come out as the ultimate winners. And once again, it was a battle between Vinland Saga and Shingeki no Kyojin for the title of RandomC’s Best Anime 2019 – with the former coming out on top. After conferring with my colleagues, worried that recency bias was disproportionately affecting my judgement, it was reassuring to receive validation and confirmation that most folks were on the same page as me. So you can also treat this as something of a consensus between the writers representing this blog. To surmise, Vinland Saga proved to be one heck of an epic journey — with its characters enduring through life, death and the unexpected in an attempt to arrive at their personal goals, as well as grapple with legacies left behind by those who had passed on. While it can be said that Shingeki no Kyojin 3 has set up the stage for much greater things, the substance of its third season heavily revolved around the basement reveal. Although extremely satisfying, it felt less awesome to me with such a long gap between the seasons, whereas the production behind Vinland Saga continuously struck without break while the iron was hot. Meanwhile, Golden Wind fell a step short by finishing off with an extremely late appearance from the endgame villain who possessed poorly explained, cheat-like superpowers. Mob Psycho 100 II and Kimetsu no Yaiba abosolutely peaked in their respective standout episodes but lacked in providing sustained narratives, and Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru was held back by a slow and questionable start — even if it was necessary exposition to get the series rolling.

Winner: Vinland Saga

Honorable Mentions: Shingeki no Kyojin 3, Mob Psycho 100 II, JoJo’z Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, Kimetsu no Yaiba, Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru

Best OVA/Movie 2019

The same as above, except for the not-regularly-broadcasted offerings. These aren’t covered very often on the site, but we’ve each had the pleasure of watching enough to find some that really caught our eyes.

Zaiden: Ufotable is up there as one of the most technically astute animation studios, and Heaven’s Feel is widely considered the best route, providing an alternate and complex path that challenged Shirou’s beliefs and ideologies regarding what it means to be a true hero. Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel II.lost butterfly is the second part of a trilogy that seeks to bring this story to life. That said, because the third and final movie is in the works, it’s difficult to properly assess Heaven’s Feel with a true sense of finality – although I really did enjoy this movie. We also received Code Geass S3 in movie form with Code Geass: Fukkatsu no Lelouch — which is always nice even if the original series had already ended on a satisfactory note. However, the shounen fanboy within me prevailed. Dragonball is one of the most popular franchises in the world and definitely contributed to putting anime on the international map. And when it comes to the movies featuring Broly (Note: Not including that imposter known as Bio-Broly), we can expect a completely different beast that is guaranteed to deliver beyond expectation. Sure, in Dragonball Super: Broly, there isn’t much story past the first half an hour. It’s not like Goku and Vegeta are faced with difficult and heartbreaking choices like Shirou. Or sacrifice themselves to try and change the world like Lelouch did. They’re pretty selfish bastards after all. Yet seeing them duke it out with an infinitely strengthening Broly non-stop for an hour, in what could only be described as true Dragonball action porn (a.k.a. some of the best action in this decade), convinced me to pick it as my winner. Acknowledgements go towards Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai, a film that beautifully ties off the widely acclaimed TV series by delivering an excruciatingly bittersweet resolution full of heartbreak and trascendental love to Shoko’s mysterious story.

Winner: Dragonball Super: Broly

Honorable Mentions: Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel II.lost butterfly, Seishun Buta Yarou wa Yumemiru Shoujo no Yume wo Minai , Code Geass: Fukkatsu no Lelouch

Reader’s Choice – Favorite Anime 2019

Your choice for 2019. With everyone allowed to pick up to five series, we have a pretty nice spread of results. In exchange for finding out if there was one series that everyone would’ve picked with a single vote, we have a much better idea of the other ones you enjoyed. The top choice is still pretty unquestionable though, since it was good enough to make it into the majority of your top 5 picks.

The Top 5:
Kimetsu no Yaiba – 10.37%%
Mob Psycho 100 II – 5.54%
Vinland Saga – 5.20%
Dr. Stone – 4.94%
Shingeki no Kyojin 3 – 4.88%
Here are the full results.

I’m not a Maths person, so my data analysis will be superficial at best. But the votes have been tallied and Kimetsu no Yaiba comes in as the unanimous Reader’s Choice for Best Anime of 2019, smashing the poll by nearly doubling the votes of a second place Mob Psycho 100 II. No surprise really, considering Shounen Jump franchises tend to dominate our reader votes whenever they receive adaptations — Vinland Saga being the only non-shounen member out of the Reader’s Top 5. And even then, a semantic argument can be made that seinen is quite literally just an M rated version of shounen. Beyond that, the Top 20 as a whole was saturated with shounen adaptations — claiming 12 of the available spots. Light novels absolutely took the backseat, comparative to previous years. So my takeaway from these results are that shounen magazines thoroughly understand their target audience and know how to work their magic. Or the light novel adaptations are losing popularity here in the West. OR RandomC’s readership primarily consists of shounen fans who love shounen shows — which could always be a possibility given consistent correlations with previous years. Perhaps it’s an eclectic mix of these various factors. On a side note, haters rejoice. I’m extremely surprised that Sword Art Online failed to crack the Top 5 — let alone Top 10, since I would agree with Pancakes that Alicization is the best arc to date for the franchise in terms of cohesive and high quality story-writing. Perhaps this demonstrates the downside of split cours, and while it gives production teams a break, letting the hype die down will invariably hurt popularity. The rest of the list came within the realms of my expectation, excluding Carole and Tuesday — which placed considerably higher than I expected. But that won’t stop me from standing by my decision – it’s still my biggest disappointment of 2019.

Reader’s Choice – Favorite OVA/Movie 2019

Your OVA/Movie choice of 2019. As mentioned in the disclaimer above, the choices here were restricted to what’s been released on BD/DVD so that viewers outside of Japan have a chance of watching them and making an informed decision. It didn’t make sense to restrict such offerings to a small pool of voters this year and not have it up it for consideration in 2013, so if you wanted to vote for anything that premiered in theaters, you’ll get your chance next year.

The Top 5:
Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – II. Lost Butterfly – 10.91%
Code Geass: Fukkatsu no Lelouch – 8.07%
Boku no Hero Academia the Movie: Futari no Hero – 5.93%
Dragon Ball Super Movie: Broly – 5.27%
Youjo Senki Movie – 5.26%
Here are the full results.

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – II. lost butterfly. garnered a similar proportion of votes to Kimetsu no Yaiba from the previous category, which is to say it dominated our polls – though the runner-up came a lot closer this time. And its burgeoning success is evidence that the Fate franchise continues to exponentially grow from the days of Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works when the usual trend is regression — in addition to popular spinoffs like Prisma Ilya, Fate/Grand Order and Lord El-Melloi II Case Files. Heaven’s Feel is the creme de la creme in terms of routes, significantly adding to the established mythos within Fate/Stay Night’s universe. Moving on, even after a whole entire decade has passed since the conclusion of Season 2, the Code Geass franchise remains as popular as ever, with its sequel movie comfortably securing a second place spot after revealing that the original ending was just a convoluted prank. Boku no Hero Academia: Futari no Hero muscles its way into third, flexing a following as the biggest and hottest Shounen Jump intellectual property at this moment. Their proverbial cash cow of the moment, so to speak. And I felt extremely happy to see Dragon Ball Super Movie: Broly make it into the Top 5 — since it somewhat validates my decision to make it my best movie. That said, I was surprised to see Youjo Senki Movie rank just beneath it. Then again, the show is undeniably popular, even if I never brought into the anime series while it aired. And the movie only sought to build and improve upon existing material. Other than that, I would like to observe that Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara (Ride Your Wave) was unusually mediocre for one of Yuasa’s works, which would explain why it placed so low despite being a Science Saru movie.


Concluding Thoughts

Excerpt by

Best of Anime 2009 was my introduction to RandomC as a wee little elementary school kid. And as a result, I was able to meet my favourite anime: Clannad After Story. For that, I am eternally grateful to Omni and Divine for massively changing my life in a better way. So it’s always been a dream of mine to write up one of these posts. Ten years later, guess who ended up in the pilot’s seat? Never in my wildest dreams did I think this opportunity could happen, and I would like to thank my colleagues who helped make it a reality. To begin, I would like to thank Choya and Pancakes for their profound assistance. I could not have completed this vast undertaking without them by my side, contributing with expertise to categories where my knowledge was inadequate. And I profusely apologies to Stilts for the delays — and thank him for whipping me into publishing form. I’ve never written a Best of Anime post before and hadn’t watched enough shows before embarking on this venture, which is to say I vastly underestimated what was required. I also want to give huge props to PiC for sorting out the new HTML required in light of the recent site overhaul – which borked the traditional formatting used in previous posts. And praise be Zephyr for churning these out year upon year, to an incredibly high standard too, as well as helping me out every single step of the way – particularly with the Reader’s Choice polls. Love y’all.

Next up, about some of the decisions that went into making this post. Why add new categories? I remembered preferring to see more of them when I was a reader, so I included more of them for the sheer sake of fun. Why omit specific categories then? Here’s my thought process, which will hopefully answer questions and provide some transparency. For Seiyuu, none of us really pay attention to the technical details of voice acting. At least we didn’t feel qualified enough to write about the subject. For Music, those involved simply didn’t get around to finishing the two extremely important series that would have competed in this category — Kono Oto Tomare! and Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV. So we chose to leave it out. Sorry about these omissions. If people have any further ideas or suggestions about what could be included in future Best of Anime posts, or constructive feedback about the newly implemented categories, let them be known in the comment section down below.

Anyway, what will the anime community remember when they look back on 2019? First and foremost, the KyoAni arson attack. Even now, it hurts to think about the suffering and lives lost because KyoAni has touched lives in unimaginable ways. It’s reasonable to hope an event like this never happens again. That society and governments will take steps to address underlying problems which contributed towards this tragic incident. We can only hope that KyoAni can eventually recover — although we must be prepared for the worst case scenario that they never will. For the meantime, until better news comes about, Random Curiosity’s thoughts and prayers continue to stay with KyoAni.

Secondly, and with a much happier tone, Ash finally won the Pokémon League after persisting through 18 years of constant failure. Moral of the story? If he kept at his dreams and finally achieved them, then so can we. Life might have kicked you down multiple times and the going might be rough. But there’s no shame in getting back on your feet to repeatedly rise against the face of adversity — something Confucius proclaimed as being mankind’s greatest glory. And you know what? I totally agree. Also, it’s great to know that your friends are the real treasure you make along the way.

I’ll be honest, there weren’t that many memorable shows this year compared to previous ones. But people will certainly remember shows that provided a solid foundation for their sequels. I’m sure that people will look back fondly at the 24 episode as the starting point for Vinland Saga. If it receives another season in the upcoming decade, with Wit Studio returning to take care of matters, there’s an extremely good chance it will contend for top anime of the decade. The same can be said for Shingeki no Kyojin when it gets around to a fourth season — with recent developments in the manga elevating the series to unprecedented heights. Season 3 should also be remembered for reviving the franchise’s fortunes, after a downturn in Season 2. Over at A-1 Pictures, Alicization and War of Underworld’s first cour have laid down the groundwork — and it will be awesome to see how this saga of Sword Art Online wraps up. Hopefully better than a certain sequel trilogy.

Other than that, it’s pretty clear that the anime industry has become more open towards outside investment from the likes of Crunchyroll and Netflix, whereas previously, manga and light novel publishing companies completely dictated everything. For all its controversy, Shield Hero proved to be a successful hit with the Western audience — which is why a second season was quickly greenlit. So it’s fascinating to consider how Western consumers might finally have a say or impact upon the anime industry, compared to before where they would strictly focus upon their domestic audience. As such, I think these investments should be beneficial for the anime industry overall — though the quality of collaborations can be rather hit or miss.

But I want to briefly touch upon the economic implications. While trickle-down economics suggests that this increase in funding should coincide with increased earnings and an improvement towards your average animator’s quality of life, my inner pessimist reckons that corporate fat cats will eat up most of that profit. Unfortunately, this is a basic tenet of supply and demand. It is a natural consequence when aspiring animators vastly exceed what the industry needs. They don’t need to pay animators a better wage if other animators are willing to work for less. The harsh reality is that we as Westerners can do little to influence this situation. Only a societal shift or governmental intervention from within Japan can alter this trajectory, and who knows when that will happen. If ever.

When looking ahead at 2020, we’ve entered a new decade and have bid farewell to the previous one. It’s exciting and frightening to consider how it might play out as the next chapter in our lives — and a new chapter for the anime industry by extension. I can only look forwards to the established sequels, promising premises and pleasant surprises that will come our way. To conclude, we’d just like to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who continues to visit Random Curiosity. We hope that the new year and new decade brings with it your continued visits and good fortune. Peace out!

43 Comments

  1. Even as a manga reader that already knew everything about the story, that last episode of Vinland Saga still blew me away. What a way to end the 1st season and tease a 2nd season that might or might not materialize. Kimetsu no Yaiba is good, and the visual blow everything out of the water, but nothing is better than Vinland Saga last year. Askeladd winning character of the year was no surprise to me, you’ll not often see a character so complex and so well created like him.

    I also agree with how Dragon Ball Super Broly being chosen as the best movie of last year. The shounen inside me is still not dead, and watching how they finally made Broly into the canon was so good.

    damnt512
  2. Kimetsu no Yaiba is something I will look back on as the sleeper hit of 2019. I didn’t even consider watching it at first as I didn’t look up any promotional materials on it. But it blew me away, and it deserved all the praise it could get.

    1. 100% agree about Kimetsu no Yaiba. As an older brother, the whole show just hit me in the raw feels. And the technical qualities possessed by Ufotable really created something special, even when compared against other shounen adaptations. In fact, I was just reminded about Kamado Tanjirou no Uta just now, and have included as an Honourable Mention in Best Song, alongside ‘Don’t Say Goodbye’ and ‘By Your Side’ from Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Advent of the Red Comet.

  3. Wait, Maou-Sama, Retry! didn’t make any list?! I don’t believe it!
    How ’bout best OST? Come on, how many OSTs use a recorder?
    Best animation – voice acting – had to be overlooked; a mistake!

    Dr.Stone was a fun watch even if you had to really, really stretch
    you beliefs in his ability to handle advanced technology with very
    primitive tools and culture.

    Are You Lost?, although a short, was actually one of my favs with
    a very unexpected and happy ending…

    Anyway, great list this year!

    Also, can’t wait for Slime S2 sometime this year, I think.

    mac65
    1. For reference, best Animation is consolidated under visuals.

      As for voice acting:

      Why omit specific categories then? Here’s my thought process, which will hopefully answer questions and provide some transparency. For Seiyuu, none of us really pay attention to the technical details of voice acting. At least we didn’t feel qualified enough to write about the subject.

      If I had to pick a winner, I really enjoyed Tsuda Kenjirou’s performance as Matoba Kei in Cop Craft. But I suppose he didn’t have enough performances for shows considered within this calendar year to compete.

      1. This has to be said: The site reformatted my paragraphs so the line
        Best animation – voice acting – had to be overlooked; a mistake!” was
        meant to refer to my Maou-Sama, Retry! meander. It’s no wonder
        you assumed I was talking about this page itself (although the voice
        actresses did a good job – the dialog sometimes made no sense — not
        this dialogue, the Maou-Sama, Retry! dialogue ).

        mac65
        1. Oh right. No worries! I get what you mean now. Personally didn’t get around to watching Maou-Sama Retry but I do believe that Tsuda Kenjirou voiced their tall Maou dude as well. Let me know if he did alright!

  4. I was waiting for this! Thank you very much for your hard work. This has always been my favorite “awards” post since I discovered this site in 2011, and it always delivers lots of variety and fun categories. This year was no exception!
    My tastes are weird, but I would say my favorites from 2019 were definitely: Kemurikusa, Mob Psycho II, Sarazanmai, Hitoribocchi and Hoshiai no Sora. They were so much fun and interesting to watch.

    Flyingcow
    1. I felt similar to you… I’d rate it high on something like “freshness” or “ambience” but not story, really. Of course, that’s just us, and Random Curiosity writers have their own opinions.

      Player
      1. (Pardon me if I replied to the wrong comment… The formatting is bad with my browser I guess, still can’t tell if André or Flyingcow was the one who mentioned Vinland Saga.)

        Player
  5. Vinland Saga for story? It barely had a plot. And what it had was pretty much a giant cliche. It was somewhat fun to watch, but it was 100% predictable and there was zero originality in it. The story in that is the most perfect definition of mediocrity,

    André
  6. Happy to see that Boogiepop and SAO were acknowledged. They’re my two favorites of the year, for sure. (Shaft, when will you start adapting the Off Season material??)

    I can understand Tensura not quite beating SAO because its ending was quite weak. But I feel there’s a good chance season 2 will “win” the Best of Anime 2020 isekai category next year. And maybe (if I’m lucky/delusional) a theoretical season 2 of Kumo desu ga will be the isekai pick for 2021…

    Cop Craft as most underappreciated, huh… I’d have looked to Boogiepop, if a writer hadn’t already shown their appreciation by picking it. I dropped Cop Craft halfway in because it felt like the character dynamic wasn’t progressing at all. But it’s true that a lot of people might not have realized how good the overall writing was. Gatou Shinji is very talented.

    Looking at the readers poll, I wonder if there might be a bit of recency bias. Because I would expect Vinland Saga and Dr. Stone to be a little lower, and Kaguya-sama to be (even) higher.

    Amazing job with these yearly posts as always!

    Player
  7. MFW there’s not a single mention of Machikado Mazoku anywhere. Despite the fact it appears to be a generic CGDCT, it’s a surprisingly wholehearted and yet witty slice of life/comedy hybrid with the latter more pronounced than other similar shows. I expected to see it mentioned in the “underappreciated” category.

    Same gores for Hi Score Girl S2. I think it is a very strong rom-com contender which unfortunately is beyond overlooked in the Western otakudom. Whilst quite a lot of folks seem to have chosen to go swashbuckling to watch Beastars, they almost completely forgot there’s another show worth recognition trapped in Netflix jail

    Perithron
  8. Overall, fine list.
    Only thing that stung is calling Psycho-Pass S3 an even bigger disappointment than S2.
    Only valid reason is that it ended unresolved but that doesn’t take away it was a big improvement upon S2. We are never going to get something on the level of S1 anyway.
    Only conclusion I can draw is that you just don’t care for the setting.

    Seph
    1. For clarification, I did not mean that S3 was a bigger disappointment. Just that S2 was so bad, that I had no expectations for S3, and still felt disappointed that it turned out relatively jumbled without a resolution in sight.

    2. Very few anime shows have conclusive endings. By their very design anime is designed like regular TV shows to have an open ending so they can do more seasons if there’s a demand. Something which is rather irksome because a lot of shows dont last past a single season because they bomb at retail lol.

      Lyfe
  9. So I watched Beastars after seeing this list, and i was blown away. Beastars really deserved to win best drama. This is also why I like seeing list such as these, would allow me to discover a gem that I failed to discover during its airing time and I can just binge watch it.

    damnt512
  10. In the Isekai category runners-up listing, Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! is linked to Violet Evergarden, for some reason.

    Also, Honzuki no Gekukujou is linked to Overlord for some reason.

    And the entire comments section has some funky formatting problems.

    David
  11. Nice read, though I still find it funny Quanzhi Gaoshou (The King’s Avatar) S2 was even voted for in the reader’s poll considering the show still hasn’t aired (hopefully this year).

    I agree with most of the picks/honorable mentions with the major exception of Carole & Tuesday which I absolutely loved (been listening to the 2 vocal OST’s nonstop.

    My biggest disappointment would have to be Lord El Melloi (Adventures of Waver) with Seven Deadly Sins S3 coming in a close 2nd (jesus that animation downgrade).

    Chisel
    1. Yeah, it ended up on the Reader’s poll because it was previewed the season it was supposed to air prior to delays. I suspect some people might have confused it with some OVAs/movies released around a similar time to when the second season should have aired.

      It wasn’t Fate/Zero, but I actually liked Lord El-Melloi II Case Files. Sure, mystery might have been somewhat lacking because of the formulaic approach. But it did Waver’s characterisation justice and demonstrated incredible moments like Rhongomyniad. I can’t quite say the same about C&T. As for Nanatsu no Taizai, that hasn’t finished yet (still airing Winter 2021) so wouldn’t have been eligible for nomination – though the animation standards in that one has been extremely awful.

  12. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection should be nowhere near anyones “best movie of 2019 list”. Not because it was a bad movie, it wasn’t, it was good. But rather it’s a movie that didn’t need to exist and felt more like a shameless cashgrab.

    If they wanted to expand the Geass franchise they could have done an all original story based in an alternate universe with all new characters. Lelouch didn’t need to come back, and he certain didn’t deserve a happy ending lol.

    Lyfe
  13. What an effort by Zaiden to put this out (and nice to see a fellow Brit on here).

    Great overview of the year, helped me discover a few series I had overlooked Solid category picks and well justified regarding your choices.

    Thanks for all your hard work!

    grayne
    1. I like to think our picks are well-justified. But I won’t deny there were many shows that myself, Choya and Pancakes simply didn’t get around to watching which could have been worthy contenders if given the chance.

      But thanks for your praise! It means a lot to us and I’m glad you found our post helpful and informative.

  14. SWORD ART ONLINE is not an isakai.
    And Carole and Tuesday was not that bad. Honestly i’m really disappointed with this list. Sao season 3 should have been the major disappointment, with the lack of plot and trashy story. And Carole and Tuesday was in my case pretty heart felt and TOTALLY underrated. I ecpeted way more from this list, but with Vinland saga being the best of 2019. That was well deserved.

    Tora
  15. >”a show that aired in 2018, what would it be?”

    Should be “2019” obviously. There was a 2nd year typo somewhere, but I can’t find it anymore, so maybe you fixed it in the meantime.

    Very happy with your Vinland Saga and Askeladd choices. Also a great 3rd place for a Seinen in the reader’s choice.

    Kimetsu no Yaiba winning reader’s choice was the expected outcome, though I’m surprised by Mod Psycho’s 2nd place. One of these days I’ll continue watching season 1.
    My honorable mention would go to Cautious hero since I didn’t expect anything from this show seeing how at first glance it seemed like a Konosuba rip-off. But I laughed a lot and the final 2 episodes sure were surprising, so job well done.

    Thanks to you and the team.

    boingman
  16. This has been one of my top new-year highlights since 2013, and it never disappoints! Thanks for all of your hard work—I can tell how much time and care you put into making this year’s review amazing. I’d be heartbroken if these ever stopped happening, so please keep up the great writing! You did an amazing job on your first time, Zaiden—looking forward to reading future posts 🙂

  17. Beastars HAS to be hidden gem of the year. Talk about being slept on… I dismissed it out of hand initially as some weird furry anime, but man could I have been any more wrong! A genuine contender for Anime of the Year for me. Best Drama of 2019 is a well-deserved award.

    Having read the source manga since watching the anime, I can safely say that the Beastars anime is a true masterpiece; it elevates its already truly excellent source material to amazing heights.

    Land of the Lustrous and now Beastars as a studio’s last two projects is very impressive – will definitely have to keep an eye on Orange studio from now on.

    If you haven’t yet seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it (also coming out on Netflix March 2020).

    grayne

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