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The Best and Worst Anime of Summer 2022

by ANN Editorial Team,

The leaves are changing colors and the summer heat is finally subsiding. The summer season felt pretty sparse for a lot of us but it wasn't a told anime desert. Creepy mysteries abounded in the second season of Shadows House and Made in Abyss proved it still has the chops to break our hearts. Here are the series of the season recommended by our editorial staff (and the ones you should probably avoid).

Kim Morrissy

Best: Lycoris Recoil

The surprise hit of the season—but as a long-time fan of director Shingo Adachi, I always knew he had it in him. On the surface, Lycoris Recoil might look like a "girls with guns" show with niche appeal, but its cheerful willingness to embrace silly Hollywood-esque action setpieces made it a very easy watch every week. Chisato and Takina are undoubtedly the couple of the year, with their buddy cop dynamic that very quickly blossoms into genuine closeness and intimacy. The macro plot might be a little too glib to take seriously at times, but every emotional beat around those two girls lands with perfect marksmanship.

Runner-Up: Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

Made in Abyss may be a tough watch at times, but there's no denying that it's a modern anime masterpiece. Overall, I didn't like the second season quite as much as the first—I preferred the story when it was regularly taking the viewer to weird and wonderful new places instead of staying too long in one location. But the big moments in this season were among the best examples of storytelling in this entire series. In the end, there's nothing quite as effective as Made in Abyss at balancing mystery, whimsy, gore, and pathos.

Worst: Classroom of the Elite Season 2

I was really hoping the Classroom of the Elite anime would redeem itself for its missteps in the first season, but I am sad to say that the adaptation has only doubled down on its flaws. Not only does the anime continue to suffer from pacing issues, the visual production is in its absolute nadir. Several episodes have made it to air without basic video editing polish, and the character art looks consistently mediocre throughout. The anime is approaching some of the best parts of the novels, but I just can't bring myself to care about it anymore, and that's a darn shame. Classroom of the Elite deserved better than this.

Richard Eisenbeis

Best: Uncle From Another World

Despite the numerous COVID-related production delays it suffered from, there's no anime I've enjoyed as much this season as Uncle From Another World. Why? Because it's hands down the funniest anime of the season. A twist on the isekai genre, it features a protagonist who had a coma-inducing encounter with Truck-kun and has now returned to the real world 17 years later. As half of the story shows his past adventures in the fantasy world and the other half shows him in modern Japan, we are presented with a double dose of fish out of water comedy as Uncle is forced to acclimate to not one, but two worlds far different from the early 2000s that he remembers. Much of the humor comes from the combination of Uncle's dense nature and the simple fact the fantasy world seems designed solely to cause him pain. Then there's the constant video game humor. (Uncle is the hardest of hardcore Sega fanboys.) It's a laugh riot, pure and simple.

That said, beyond the gags is a fantastic cast of surprisingly nuanced characters—be that the Tsundere Elf and the lazy Ice Princess in the fantasy world, or the Uncle's Nephew and his childhood friend that's crushing on him hard. And each of these characters is used to explore relatable themes like empathy or the fallibility of memory. Add on to all that an all- star voice performance and you have a winner.

Runner-Up: Call of the Night

On the surface Call of the Night is a rom-com about a middle school boy and a vampire girl (who are both hopeless when it comes to love) hanging out together night after night. And while that is a solid setup for a lot of silly, slice-of-life comedy, that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this anime.

Call of the Night is a story about growing up—i.e., figuring out your own wants and feelings. Ko is a fairly popular, hard-working kid. Yet, every day is spent simply going through the motions. He has no dream for the future, no passion that drives him. Spending just one night wandering around the city is enough to change him. There is an innate excitement in doing something you're not supposed to do, and finding a partner to share your time with is doubly enchanting.

Humans crave novelty—that's the idea at the core of Call of the Night. So many people feel forced into a monotonous life they aren't passionate about just because it is safe and stable. And really, that novelty is what both Kou and the vampires are looking for. They want something to keep things exciting, something to make their lives worth living. Deep down, that's what all of us are searching for and all too few of us have found. TL;DR: Give this anime a watch. You might just learn something about yourself in between fits of light- hearted laughter.

Honorable Mentions: Lycoris Recoil, Kakegurui twin, Overlord IV

Most Disappointing: RWBY: Ice Queendom

RWBY: Ice Queendom was my most anticipated anime heading into this season. The first two episodes are a solid adaptation of the first arc of the original RWBY and SHAFT put their best foot forward with some downright stunning animation at points. Unfortunately, once it moves into the original, anime-only story, things start to go a bit downhill. In the broadest sense, Ice Queedom is an in-depth character examination of Wiess. The problem is that she's not all that complicated. Simply put, she's a classist and a racist who is being forced to confront her prejudices for the first time thanks to recent personal experiences—i.e., getting to know Blake. This internal conflict is obvious even before going into her dreams—which is, of course, an extended visual metaphor of these issues.

While going into Weiss' dreams isn't an inherently bad plot hook, the issue is in how the story is told, and Ice Queedom spins its wheels to the extreme. Our heroines travel through the dreamscape, fight Weiss, lose, and basically start over again and again. The drip-feed of details we get each loop is not enough to stop the series from being rather boring most of the time—and the high-quality action scenes from the first few episodes are almost completely absent until the final climax. All in all, what we have with RWBY: Ice Queendom is a plot that would have worked for three or four episodes—not nine. And while RWBY diehards might find it watchable, it's doubtful that your average anime viewer will find much to keep them interested.

Rebecca Silverman

Best: Shadows House Season 2

Although this is really a tie for me between Shadows House and Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, I decided to go with the former because it's closer (as of this writing) to being done, although to be perfectly honest, both shows would have to screw up epically to ruin their runs at this point. But Shadows House in particular has done a wonderful job of working with its own mythology and building the story from what we already knew – or thought we knew – about the Shadows family and their relationships with their living dolls. While there were some particularly astounding reveals about some of the characters that I won't get into here, the investigations that Kate and her sometimes-reluctant allies undertake lead to a lot of really interesting bits of information, such as the mystery behind Christopher, a former Star Bearer who grew up only to disappear, like one of Peter Pan's lost boys. (In J. M. Barrie's books, specifically.) Christopher, Maryrose, Barbara, and Kate all have particularly interesting similarities that lead them in very different directions, and the foundations upon which Lord Grandfather built his legacy are, if not shaky, at least reliant on people not asking too many questions. Kate, as we all know, is like Lewis Carroll's Alice: always looking and noting what's curiouser and curiouser.

If I seem to be making a lot of references to classic children's literature, that's because the show is doing much the same, taking its hints from Hans Christian Andersen's literary fairy tale The Shadow from the previous season and dialing it up a notch. The opening theme frames the season as a looking- glass world, and details like the way the numbers on the clockface and the writing on the wall are all backwards drives this reference home, while the Neverland of the children's wing underlines the perils of growing up into an adult Shadow – at least, for good little boys and girls. But not everyone is ready to make that journey, and when more of them learn what the truth on the other side of the bridge is (specifically Patrick, who knows he's in love with Emilico and not Kate), there could be a major shakeup to Lord Grandfather's order. Even if that doesn't happen in the yet-to-air final episode, this will have been a remarkable adventure down the rabbit hole.

Runner Up: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? IV This season of DanMachi covers some of the darkest territory of the series thus far: Hestia Familia's ill- fated assignment from the Guild down to the water levels. This ups the ante for them drastically, and it's going to take everyone's strength to get through – even if one of them has a power that comes with a hefty curse attached. Cassandra's prophecies of doom are damned never to be listened to in her source mythology, and that makes things much more tense, something that's very well used here. Poor Cassandra is desperate to make everyone listen to her warnings, but when Ryu is accused of murder, it becomes difficult to get the others to override their need to figure out what's really going on. Add in a mermaid, a monster based on the Lambdon Worm (a dragon from British mythology), and a truly disgusting villain who seems intent on blaming Ryu for disasters he brought upon himself, and this is both tense and one of the goriest entries into the animated version of the franchise. While it doesn't have the pathos of Wiene's storyline, it's still absorbing viewing, and rest assured that the story only delves further into its own world in the subsequent novels, which I hope to see animated.

Dropped: Love All Play

While I didn't actively hate the second half of the badminton show Love All Play (at least, not as much as I hated those fangirls in Phantom of the Idol, but that seems to be unique to my sister and I), it definitely did not know what to do with its time on the air. Even in the first half the show struggled to balance badminton with character development, but in the second half it just seemed to flounder completely. Matches were reduced to one or two volleys, the whole story with Matsuda and Sakaki becoming pals faded away, and the fangirls served less and less purpose. (I guess I don't like fangirls? Maybe this was just a bad season for them.) By the time we get to the all-important tournament at the end it barely feels important anymore, because the entire purpose of the show has meandered away to pet the cat, and even the animation quality dropped. I hesitate to call this unequivocally bad, but it became the show that I kept nearly dropping and only didn't because of the good old sunk-cost fallacy. I've seen worse, but that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Nicholas Dupree

Best: Love Live! Superstar!! Season 2

The first season of Superstar!! was excellent all around – a stellar return for the team behind the original series, a strong evolution of the franchise's established formula, and just a gorgeous and funny show in its own right. Season two is perhaps less remarkable in quality, but that's only because the show has not missed a beat upon its return and has kept skipping along at the same level. Introducing a new quartet of characters to mix with our established cast could have caused issues with group chemistry or pacing, but if anything, these new girls just helped to bring out the best in the old guard, and their slow-rolled introductions allowed for some of the most organic group-building in the franchise. By just the halfway point, it was almost impossible to imagine how Liella! functioned with just five members – that's just well all these new personalities fit together comedically. And along with our new heroines comes a supremely striking rival who somehow straddles the line between high school musical antagonist and Enemy Mech Pilot so perfectly I half expect she'll also star in the next Gundam series too. Meshing all these new elements on top of the already fantastic foundation made Superstar!! must-watch TV for the second season running, and represents some of the best this franchise – and the idol subgenre – have to offer. At the time of writing there are still a few episodes left to air, but that just means it's got more time left to be the ridiculously funny, endlessly charming treat it's been thus far.

Runner Up: Cyberpunk: Edgerunners

Going in, I wasn't sure if Edgerunners would be able to live up to its own pedigree. Sure, I'm a mark for Studio Trigger's brand of irreverent action, but this was also a licensed promotion for one of the most infamously mismanaged video game projects in the last decade. Would the vigor and attitude that Imaishi and co. are known for survive within the strictures of a totally different company's world and tone? Well, turns out it didn't just survive – it thrived, with the restrictions of Night City acting as a rifle barrel to concentrate and direct all that creative energy into a piercing shot straight through my brain meat. Edgerunners is fast, vicious, and bleak, but carries itself so confidently that it never feels weighed down by the inherent cynicism of its setting or ultimate tragedy. Its cast is simple and archetypal, but come to life through their expressive animation, instantly striking designs, and the immaculately delivered soundtrack that matches every moment with the perfect needle drop. Furthermore its mid-season climax is one of the most jaw-dropping pieces of animated cinema to come out since, well, the last time Kai Ikarashi got to helm an anime episode. Whatever lingering stigma the Cyberpunk franchise might have just falls away while watching this, and that alone is enough to be a minor miracle.

Worst: Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

I really did not expect to be writing this entry. Up until the last minute I figured I'd be putting Engage Kiss or Rent-A-Girlfriend here. Those two were easily the most boring things I watched all season, and I figured whichever one turned out to be more of a chore to finish would get the booby prize. Then, just to be sure about my Best Of picks, I made time to catch up on Made in Abyss in case it managed to usurp a top spot. Then something wholly unexpected happened. As the episodes crept along I felt a distance opening between me and the show, and by the time credits rolled on the most recent episode, I couldn't shake the feeling that Made in Abyss had let me down way harder than either of the obvious picks.

I love the first season of MiA, even more now than I did when it first aired. And on paper I should be down for more of this fascinating, macabre world of wonders and horrors. But somewhere in this second season, the graceful balancing act that made it all so compelling fell apart. Maybe it's that our main trio feel like barely relevant observers of a story largely divorced from them, loading all of Reg's character development into a flashback he doesn't even remember and relegating Nanachi to a half-season-long nap just so we can retread their goodbye to Mitty. Maybe it's the fact that the slow-burn mystery of the titular city feels as hollow as its main residents, ramping up its increasingly aimless body horror to the point that it starts to feel like an Aristocrats joke that's gone on way too long. Or maybe it's just that the season took far too long to find its emotional center, and by then I was so weighted down by exposition and disappointment that I couldn't get invested in Faputa's tragedy.

Whatever it was, when I finally caught up to the most recent episode all I felt was the unpleasant realization that nothing this story was doing was working for me anymore, and that's ultimately why I had to choose it as my worst. The sense of wonder and discovery that made all the cruelty of the Abyss worth enduring is gone, replaced with increasingly over-the-top attempts at shock horror that crescendos with a concept so ludicrous it stops being horrifying and starts being embarrassing. And I acknowledge that for a lot of other people, it's still working – but when the show's uniformly fantastic soundtrack could not muster a tear from me at its most theoretically heartbreaking moment, I knew that both the show and its world had lost its alluring magic. The Golden City is not a bad season of television – it's still expertly produced and competently presented – and there are objectively crummier shows that I watched this season. But for me, it fell the furthest from grace, and the momentum of that drop left it splattered on the ground in a squishy, soupy puddle of its own innards.

James Beckett

Best: Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

I will admit that I had my reservations. When Made in Abyss: Golden City of the Scorching Sun premiered, I knew that this particular arc of the manga had a somewhat mixed reception with the fanbase, largely due to its very inconsistent pacing and release schedule. I also knew that, for as harrowing and off-putting as Dawn of the Deep Soul became in places, the Village of the Hollows was going to be just as intense, and in many ways even worse than everything that came before it. The first season of Made in Abyss may be one of the best seasons of anime I've ever seen, but it's the very definition of a “problematic fav,” and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pick up whatever Akihito Tsukishi's twisted little brain was putting down, this time.

So, naturally, Made in Abyss' second season has turned out to be another goddamned masterpiece, even managing to surpass the first in some respects, and I'm almost annoyed at how much I love it. Reg, Riko, and Nanachi's journey down to the Sixth Layer and its mysterious Village of Hollows has been filled with a lot of messed up and disgusting material, don't get me wrong, but its story and themes and execution are just so obscenely well done that I just can't help but be in awe of what it has accomplished, once again. At the time of writing this, its double-length finale has yet to air, so I suppose—actually, you know what? The season finale could literally be a forty-minute-long montage of random boat footage set to B-sides from Kevin Penkin's OST, and it would still probably make me cry. I may not be able to recommend this series to any person under any circumstance, but I won't even pretend that there's any chance of another show surpassing Made in Abyss as my favorite series of the summer.

Runner Up: Parallel World Pharmacy

My pick for favorite anime of the summer may have been the least surprising thing imaginable, but even I am shocked that my runner-up is a show that is literally titled Parallel World Pharmacy, one of the least pleasing combinations of words that could have ever possibly been used to describe an anime in the year 2022. And yet, somehow, this ended up being the most enjoyable show I watched all season (which is to say that it didn't make me retch with horror and sob with all-consuming grief in order to appreciate it). Farma is one of the most likeable and genuinely compelling protagonists to come out of this whole isekai light novel content mill, and it's often entertaining and educational to watch him hit the Ludicrous Speed button on his new world's whole scientific and technological infrastructure. Our boy has cured tuberculosis, promoted affordable and equitable healthcare for the common citizen, and he also managed to casually revolutionize women's rights and introduce the concept of maternity leave to his culture. If that isn't a hero for our times, I don't know what is.

Most Disappointing: Yurei Deco

I'm sad to even have to write this one. Science SARU delivered one of anime's recent bona fide classics in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, and while I know that I can't blame the recent departure of the brilliant Masaki Yuasa as the reason for Yurei Deco's failure, it sure does seem like a bad omen, in retrospect. Director Tomohisa Shimoyama definitely has a lot of ambition on display in his attempt to bring Tom Sawyer Island to life with vivid colors and bouncy animation; and writer Dai Sato has no shortage of big ideas and social commentaries to bring to the table (not to mention a ridiculous trove of random Mark Twain allusions). Sadly, none of it comes together in the end. The characters never evolve beyond flimsy archetypes and shallow mouthpieces for the show's increasingly muddled attempts at “satire,” and the story is a jumbled mess all the way up to its crummy finale. I wanted to love this show, but I don't even think I can even say I liked it very much now that the ride is over. What a shame.

Christopher Farris

Best: Lycoris Recoil

It's only a little funny that I've wound up in much the same place as I was picking my favs all the way back in Summer of 2017: With a toss-up between Made in Abyss and a slickly-produced original series about cute girls specializing in some sort of espionage. And while I've yet to see it actually stick its landing as of writing this, I think Lycoris Recoil has earned my belief in its staying potential. I'll relent and say that this season did turn out to be stronger than it looked at the outset, and even then this out-of-nowhere original anime has turned out to be the surprise of the summer. Reviewing LycoReco on a weekly basis has been one of the more delightful of my recent assignments, and I've already poured out so many words on what makes the show work there that I almost feel a little daunted trying to sum it up for a seasonal send-off here. But I can try!

The thing is, LycoReco is hardly a perfect anime. The socio-political elements powering its setting and gimmick can seem half-formed in their design and limited in the scope of their analysis. It means you're getting an oddly-lacking amount of exploration for a story that casually utilizes things like child soldiers and clandestine government death squads. The secret is that the show knows how to focus on what it does want to do and how to do that best, primarily limiting its focal characters to an aside, ostensibly more apolitical agency, and having them spend just as much time on community service and cute lunch-dates as they do gunning down arms dealers. LycoReco has bigger ideas therein, communicated in the concept of living for oneself compared to others, and what constitutes time best spent. It's a strong story-driving philosophy, a heartening one illustrated by brilliantly drawn and acted characters, and that's how it draws us into its storytelling and away from its clunkier framing elements. That's some very keen skill shown, writing-wise, and even as it closes out its season, it leaves me invested and interested in where this fresh-feeling take on a genre as well-worn as 'Girls With Guns' could go in the future.

Runner Up: Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

And so as it did in summer 2017, Made in Abyss winds up in second place here, but only barely, and we'll see where it lands after that big, hour-long finale. That said, I do feel like this season of the series is perhaps less of a stone-cold stunner than that inaugural one, possibly because I've so acclimated to the show and its stylings, but also perhaps on account of The Golden City of the Scorching Sun just being a bit more uneven, a bit messier in a series always characterized by visceral, stomach-turning messes. The solitary Hollow-village setting means we don't get the same sense of ongoing, awe-inspiring discovery as in the initial season's trip through multiple layers. And as it always threatened to do, the dams separating the series' purposeful grossness with its more fetishistic indulgences might have finally burst and spilled into each other in full view of everyone. More than ever, Made in Abyss is a series I can only recommend with every asterisk available.

And yet, as this season and its odd journey into the past of this part of that perverse pit and all those people/things populating it persisted, a lot of that old, odd Made in Abyss magic started to rekindle. The true horror of what the village is, why it is, turns out to be even more grotesque than I could have imagined, but dammit, they still manage to make it land with purpose after everything. I'm not entirely sure whether that purpose is supposed to be getting me unilaterally agreeing with Faputa that the wretched place deserves to be razed to the ground, but then again that's the kind of raw, emotional reaction that Made in Abyss has always sought to provoke, regardless of which side of the issue you take. It's an uneven, often-unpleasant journey that proves that, for better and for worse, there still isn't anything else like Made in Abyss, and I can't not recognize it for that.

Worst: Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World

Production limitations and reduced budgets have ensured that the slickly-produced, multi-volume hentai OVAs of yesteryear are but a distant memory. Modern entries in the saucy subgenre serving that sector are condensed, often limited, one-or-two-episode affairs. In this environment, one show dares to postulate: Maybe it isn't simply a case of time and money, maybe some of the 'stories' surrounding this content simply don't need to be filled out to a full, season-length run. It's the old adage: Incompetent or even unpleasant media can have its value, but the worst thing a story can do is be boring. Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World is the damnable kind of hate-watch show that's a challenge to even criticize in an entertaining way, a struggle I strained against all season. Its dedication to meticulous mathematics at the behest of its main character's path to poorly-explored sex-slave ownership clearly demonstrates why so many actual hentai series these days opt to simply open with a few text boxes laying out the premise, before they can cut to the parts they know everyone is here for.

Harem Labyrinth doesn't even have that much respect for the dedicated degenerates that keep these particular wheels so gratuitously greased, and that's even apart from the fact that 90% of it's actual adult antics are vanilla variants of the same kind of scene with the same (admittedly well-designed) girl. You all don't just deserve better anime than Harem Labyrinth, you deserve better porn than Harem Labyrinth. Take the money you would've splurged on those uncensored Blu-rays, and put them towards a proper hentai video or game or visual novel of material people have some actual passion for. Commission a horny artist to draw the exact kind of smut you want. But don't reward this kind of time-wasting production grift that only serves to take up space that could be better filled by material from either side of the beaded curtain.

Steve Jones

Best: Call of the Night

In spite of how nebulous a criterion it is, “vibes” are an important factor when it comes to appraising any work of art. There's lots of great stuff out there I simply don't vibe with, and then there's plenty of flawed, subpar work that I vibe a lot with. To put it simply, Call of the Night hits my vibe sweet spot. It's very well put together, and I vibe harder with it than anything else that was on the summer docket. And that matters, because Call of the Night is, for the most part, a series about vibing. Insomniac vibes, vampire vibes, truancy vibes, hot girl vibes—even when the show starts playing with and critiquing those vibes, it still manages to exude new and incredible vibes. It's full of thoughtful hedonism and women who look like they need to sleep for at least a month straight. It's chill without settling into complacency. It transmutes the city nightscape into a glittering El Dorado for drunks, scamps, and bloodsuckers. I could go on, but the simple fact is: I just vibe with it.

Runner Up: Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun

Season 2 of Made in Abyss had to fight an uphill battle to get in my good graces. While I was blown away by the first season, the Bondrewd arc covered by the intermediary film soured my disposition towards the series. I don't think it worked well as a movie, and I think it dipped too far back into a torturous well the first season had already drank perhaps too deeply from. So I want to give The Golden City arc, and its stellar adaptation, credit for catapulting the franchise back into my esteem. Make no mistake; this is still the same Made in Abyss that loves to pair grandeur with gross-out material, so it's not by any means transformative. Here, however, the abject horror is applied both more broadly and more purposefully in pursuit of big questions. What does it mean that we're all just tubes of meat possessed by yearning? And if that's the case, what do we struggle for, and how do we do it? Made in Abyss is, to put it in unfairly reductive terms, about stuff. It's weighty. It's chewy. I finished most episodes feeling sick to my stomach and impatient for the next installment. There's nothing else like it. It's a big hole, but it's made for me.

Why Can't You Be Better?: Engage Kiss

I don't know if I'd call Engage Kiss the worst anime I saw this season (Tekken: Bloodline was pretty bereft of merit), but it was definitely the most frustrating. Because it has potential. I know I've already mentioned this in every episode review since it occurred, but this is a story in which the hero coats his dick with neurotoxin in order to poison the combat nun he's sleeping with so he can run off and forge a kissing contract with a distant demon relative of his. This show should not be as boring as it is. And to be fair, it delivers a handful of truly transcendent moments that lean hard into the smutty angst between its main cast of bedmates. But it dilutes all that fiery NTR-suffused material with dull secondary characters and uninspired worldbuilding. While this could have been a fun throwback to the edgy anime classics of yore, it instead took too many cues from all the edgy anime that nobody remembers anymore.


Best: My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex

While it's not perfect, My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex ended up being one of the more unique character stories that I've watched in quite some time. Yes, the show does make some jokes about the discomfort brought about by the situation described in the title in the first two episodes, but after that, the characters and their emotions are treated seriously. This is ultimately a story about adolescents contextualizing what love means to them, and getting over heartache in one of the most uncomfortable ways possible.

How would you feel if you were forced to be in close quarters and on friendly terms with your ex after a bad breakup during a time in your life when you're trying to either reinvent and distance yourself from who you used to be? My Stepmom's Daughter Is My Ex takes a surprisingly mature and grounded approach to the situation, with two flawed characters that are on a journey to discover exactly what positives and negatives they might be contributing to the other's life. They begin to recognize their mistakes, and take off their rose-colored glasses to take a nice hard look into the pain they feel alongside the pain they've inflicted. The biggest slant against the show is its rather boring presentation. The character designs are plain, the direction passable at best, and the soundtrack might as well not even be there half the time. Despite that though, the character writing is so good that it mostly makes up for those shortcomings. I understand if nobody watched this show because they thought it was going to be uncomfortable based on the title, but I'm saying that you should watch the show because it might make you feel uncomfortable for all of the right reasons.

Runner Up: RWBY: Ice Queendom

Love it or hate it, you can't deny that RWBY: Ice Queendom was an interesting experiment. A spin-off/potentially canon anime entry to a popular web series that was at least partially inspired by anime? There are so many different ways that something like that would just collapse in on itself. While the series doesn't stick the landing in some areas, it ended up becoming a favorite of mine this season based on the franchise fan's experience alone. There are so many nice little callbacks and references to certain events that I am already privy to as a fan, but I also think in some ways, Ice QUEENDOM does a better job of recounting events than the original series did because of that hindsight. The fight scenes and soundtrack do fluctuate in quality at times, and some of the appeals from the original series got lost due to the change in medium. But Ice QUEENDOM makes up for that with its visual style, subtle foreshadowing, and moments of gorgeous animation. While I think it stops just short of fully going all out and accomplishing what I think it initially set out to do, I still feel like it's a solid attempt and I hope that we get more experiments like this for other franchises in the future.

Least Favorite: Rent-A-Girlfriend Season 2

It's funny that one of my favorite shows of the season was a deeply-layered character study of two characters exploring unorthodox relationship dynamics, and my least favorite show of the season just happened to be a show in the same genre that fails to achieve those exact same things. Even if you were a fan of the first season of Rent A Girlfriend, this season felt like filler in almost every single way, from the stagnated character progression to the drawn-out plot points that could've been removed whole cloth. In fact, some characters almost feel like they've regressed from the little character development they got from the first season. By the time the show gets to any meaningful romantic chemistry or character insight, I'm already so numb to everything that I'm watching that I can't even tell if the writing is actually good or if my standards were just shot that deep into the ground. I wanted to drop Rent A Girlfriend so badly, but the one positive thing I will say about it – outside of the really cute character designs – is that it does a very good job of tricking you into thinking that things are going to get better, and I kept falling for that trick over and over and over again. I guess I am the idiot in this situation.

Monique Thomas

Best: The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún

While not a seasonal series, I really couldn't leave this one out of my selections. This is a gorgeous adaption of one of my favorite manga in recent years, and it's wonderful in every aspect of its making. This crowdfunded project with WIT does Nagabe's original work a ton of justice in a way that I couldn't have ever imagined or dreamed of if it wasn't for all the passion that went into it. This short OVA series (or a movie split into 3 parts, if you prefer) takes the phrase “every frame a painting“ literally and uses it to render the heart-wrenching story between the young innocent Shiva and her cursed Teacher in the most fitting way possible. This series only adapts a fragment of the full manga, but it's clear that whoever worked on this understood the assignment. It tells a full story about love and finding connection in a cruel and unforgiving world, one that serves as a love letter to an already great work that's near and dear to my heart without sacrificing any of its own identity. Every part of The Girl from the Other Side exists as a fully realized piece of expression, and it's rare to see a work so precise and perfect that there's nothing I would change about it. And what's more, it's really something that I think most people who love art and have open hearts can enjoy. While so much of its imagery is abstract and mysterious, harkening to old fables about getting lost in the woods and the monsters that lurk in them, what lies beneath the shroud of branches is something universal, human, and natural. There's plenty of scary elements but there's no need to be afraid. Within the dark there's an oasis of comfort and warmth awaiting your embrace. Please show this series as much love as you can!

Runner Up: Shadows House Season 2

Okay, so here's an actual series. And a sequel to one of my favorites. I once mentioned that even the prospect of watching sequels can be anxiety-inducing because there's always a chance that something could go wrong or fall short of expectations, but Shadows House continues to be on-point in most aspects. They also managed to sweep up the anime original ending from the first season without much commentary. It's not as captivating as the first season for me because it's fallen more into a Status Quo with some of the major mysteries now revealed and no longer upholding the suspense, but the elements that season 2 evolves from season 1 are still interesting. For one, Kate gets a lot more agency and screentime. Season 1 was mostly Emilico's perspective with Kate serving as support, but in Season 2 their dynamic has switched. Kate is now a proactive sleuth trying to figure out the mystery behind the happenings of the house, which emphasizes her ability to work with others as well as the many areas she needs to improve if she and Emilico were to succeed in overcoming the oppressive system set up by Lord Grandfather and obtain freedom for everyone currently trapped under it. Visually it's less moody to fit the more active nature of the plot, but it's still consistent and charming. The characters are highly expressive, and the direction knows when to allow for moments of solace and joy between companions amidst all the high-stakes drama. There's a greater focus on the returning cast from last season and we even get many new and interesting characters that expand our understanding of the tensions between humans and shadows. Overall, it was intriguing to see everything as it unfolds and I was so happy to see all of my little gothic children again. I can't wait for more!

Worst: Tekken: Bloodline

Sometimes the anime that “feels” the worse is the one that offended or disappointed me most, and the "worst" moniker is not simply a marker of a show's constructive qualities, but whatever evokes the most negative response in me. But Tekken: Bloodline doesn't exactly make me feel anything, and that's the problem! Normally I try to leave things that are “mid” off my lists because they're simply not interesting or worth discussing. It was hard to pick between this and Engage Kiss until I realized that as much as I despise Engage Kiss' trash protag and messages, it at least tries to be interesting and had some entertainment value. In Bloodline's case I couldn't really think of anything redeeming about it (other than being short).

I'd be content if this was simply another Netflix CG original from the content mill that I'm supposed to forget about, but learning what I did about the Tekken games series, any adaptation that was simply “mid” or “meh” was a slight. Everything about Tekken screams “over-the-top”! This anime makes some attempts, but none of it approximates the impact of the games it spawned from. The CG animation isn't expressive enough to let you feel the hot-blooded fury of mashing even the most basic combo, and the writing is too self-serious and empty to let you feel anything about the characters. Very little about Bloodline is fun or memorable. Whoever produced this obviously didn't think about getting enough budget or talent to show what exists beyond convention, so what we got is a very safe and ultimately constrained product. Which is a deep shame! There are tons of fun, silly, and crazy details about the Tekken universe that this anime fails to foreground. I could imagine a ton of different ways of making an adaptation that could hold the attention of fans and newcomers like myself just by emphasizing the sheer audacity of some situations. Tekken: Bloodline does little justice for the people watching and its best attack move was almost knocking me out due to boredom. It deserves to be tossed into an active volcano.

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