The Best Anime of 2022
The Worst Anime of 2022 + The Mega Poll Results
© Natsuki Takaya・Hakusensha／Fruits Basket Production Committee
You may call me a prude, but if there is one sort of love story I cannot abide above all others, it is a teacher/student romance between an adult and a minor. No matter how mature the child is or how gently the adult treats them, it never looks like anything but grooming to me. Fruits Basket presents the audience with all sorts of problematic relationships between messed up people, but the relationship that produced Tohru proved to be the only one where I had to put my foot down and say, “Absolutely not.”
Not that it came as a surprise since I've read the entire manga, but seeing it animated with swelling romantic music and flying seagull motifs was more than I could stomach. I spent the whole film (besides the thirty-minute clip show at the start, that is) thinking about all those recut Twilight trailers that recontextualized Edward as a creepy stalker and how Katsuya and Kyoko's relationship called for a similar treatment. I was horrified about how his family described him as not caring about anything and how nobody seemed to think that was a red flag for him scooping up an extremely vulnerable 15-year-old and marrying her right as she gets kicked out of her parents' home. Katsuya deserved a spot on the sex offender list, not romantic hero status. I love Fruits Basket, but it was better with this part of the story cut out. It's a shame that -prelude- had to put it back.
© 2022 Akatsuki Games Inc. / Tribe Nine Project
Sometimes, even the most talented players strike out. I had high expectations for the Danganronpa team's foray into anime after the jaw-dropping heights of Akudama Drive, but Tribe Nine is a much more subdued affair. Unfortunately, that's not by design. Tribe Nine sold itself as an over-the-top sports anime about Xtreme Baseball. Still, after the scene-setting opening episodes, the plot was never anything but an extremely average sports anime. It doesn't help that Blue Lock came along months later, nailing what should have been Tribe Nine's appeal. Tribe Nine was far from the year's worst anime, but it was unbearably mid.
© Hajime Isayama・Kodansha／Attack On Titan The Final Season Production Committee
While I indeed sat through shows that were duller, more insulting, or all around crummier than this middle chapter of Attack on Titan's final saga, when I honestly asked myself what show felt like the biggest chore to get through, it was the awkwardly sub-tilted Final Season Part 2. Part of that comes down to contrast. While it wasn't always a favorite of mine, Attack on Titan has been reliable, compulsively watchable television for nearly a decade. Whatever its faults, it always knew how to deliver thrilling action set pieces that could keep you glued to the screen. It was loud, bold, and at times incredibly clumsy with its political allusions, but I was always excited to see more of it.
But in this season, we finally got our answers, and they were decidedly not worth the wait. Or at least it felt that way after having to wade through endless torrents of convoluted exposition and flashbacks trying to make sense of all the gnarled foreshadowing that came before. It certainly didn't help that the Final Season's shift in art style made this the worst-looking segment of the show so far, burying every frame in a sea of washed-out sepia that tried for gritty but just made every bit of imagery look like mud.
Yet the biggest crime was just how little momentum was left to any of the story, as the anime did its damnedest to pad things out for one last final (we promise this time) season next year. Characters spend multiple episodes on plot cul-de-sacs with no satisfying conclusion. The impending apocalypse ostensibly starts halfway through the season, only to actually start seconds before the final credits, with little to show for the time between. There was so obviously nothing left to do, but by God, we needed another season to keep sales up, so beat that dead horse until you're stomping on piles of bone!
It wasn't entertainment, but an obligation I had sunk-cost-fallacy'd myself into sticking with. It took something that was once a joyous and exciting experience and turned it into the anime equivalent of sticking out the last few months of your lease with a lousy roommate. That, for me, is enough to justify calling it the worst of the year.
© Asami Koseki・Poplar / Yokohama Minato High School Badminton Club
I rarely get as far through a series as I did through this one before throwing up my hands in frustration and walking away. But this damn show was good enough at first to make me think, “Oh, it'll get better,” for week after week after week before I finally just dropped it with two episodes to go. Credit where it's due; it did a much better job with the coaching aspect of school sports than almost any other show I can think of. Still, the pacing felt incredibly off, sometimes flying through things that should have been lingered on and other times dragging a plot line out far beyond its recommended usage. It seemed oddly reluctant for a sports show to actually show, you know, sports. It had its moments, but not enough of them, and it's one of the few times I have thought I would really like to get back the hours I invested.
© BOKU NO HERO ACADEMIA © 2014 by Kohei Horikoshi / SHUEISHA Inc.
As a rule, I only have time to watch good anime. I watch an episode of each show for the preview guide, and if it doesn't grab me, I'm done. However, my choice is surprisingly easy if you want to talk about the most disappointing anime of the year.
It's honestly shocking to me how much I've disliked this season of My Hero Academia, especially considering that several past seasons have ranked among my favorites. But here we are. There are two main reasons why I feel the way I do: The first is a pacing issue. This season is constant high-tension. There is no time to stop and catch your breath. It's an endless, life-or-death battle between two fronts and countless last-second reversals. It's exhausting to watch, and there is never any real payoff beyond more fighting.
But what gets me even more, is the simple fact that the series managed to shatter my suspension of disbelief. Don't get me wrong, in a world filled with crazy superpowers like those seen regularly in My Hero Academia; I'm more than willing to believe an awful lot. But it's not the powers on display that are the issue—instead, it's the exact opposite. This world has a set of established rules. And according to those, without their powers, people are supposed to be the same as normal, real-world humans. Yet this season, we're supposed to accept that a thin-yet-muscular teen, cut off from his superpowers, can jump hundreds of feet in the air and then punch the air hard enough to dodge super speed attacks, explosions, and blasts of fire. Being “genetically altered” to be the peak of human conditioning is one thing, but this is just magic. And it turns what could have been an exciting anime experience into a mess of eye-rolling, sighs, and exasperated cussing on my end.
...I'll still be tuning in next season, though.
© 2021 Yusagi Aneko／Kadokawa／The Rising of The Shield Hero S2 Production Committee
When season 1 of Shield Hero came out, it was controversial, to say the least. Some people paraded it as a shining example of how lying women can ruin men's lives. Other people liked it because it seemed like a uniquely edgy take on the isekai genre. I thought it was OK, with some really good music and a pretty solid character arc for our protagonist. The show was bogged down by somewhat questionable worldbuilding elements that seemed to be there just for the sake of being there, but there was room to expand that world in a follow-up season, especially since the main emotional character arc was finished. So imagine everyone's surprise when this continuation not only did none of that, it even went so far in the opposite direction to the point where fans of the show felt like they were duped.
Man, where do I even start? How about the fact that our main character, the most interesting thing about this whole show, was relegated to a background element that barely had any lines of dialogue up until the very end? Maybe it was how the show kept introducing interesting ideas but needed to figure out what to do with any of them? Or was it that I had to rewatch specific episodes multiple times to ensure I had all the plot points lined up? This season wholly botched the source material by moving around story elements and truncating the exposition integral for understanding the plot points. I know we're getting another season soon, but I have no idea how a sequel will recover the damaged goodwill this season has incurred.
© Team24／Tokyo 24th Ward Project
You all probably thought my Worst Anime of the year would be Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World, but aha, haha, it really was the stupid-ass Trolley-Problem simulator that was Tokyo 24th Ward! This wasn't even really a hard choice. Harem Labyrinth was an infuriating series to review, sure, but once I was finally through it, I thankfully didn't have to find myself thinking about it much again. Conversely, every couple weeks, like a Manchurian Candidate activation phrase, I would feel the line "The KANAE System is something that can destroy the humanity that makes humans human" bubble up and burst into my brain.
Tokyo 24th Ward was just so goddamned stupid, y'all. It's a quote-unquote political quote-unquote thriller that was exceedingly convinced of its brilliance through its obnoxious commitment to anti-intellectual centrism. It's astounding since, at the beginning of its airing, I recall the main issue looming over Tokyo 24th Ward was production problems. Yet the biggest twist this desperate attempt at a suspense series delivered was its writing imploded before its animation ever managed to.
©LINK・Kotaro Shono／Shueisha・World's End Harem Production Committee
I had a decent time with a good chunk of World's End Harem. The transparent wish fulfillment of its porno plot rubbed against its sex-averse protagonist in many funny ways, aided unintentionally by the show's ugly and intrusive censoring style. While ineptitude alone doesn't make a bad show amusing, World's End Harem has moments of transcendent stupidity (e.g., the random bear attack).
Unfortunately, once the series' B-plot takes over, it blots out the dumb sexy sci-fi intrigue with its fetid incel politics and fantasies of nerd revenge. The show becomes actively unpleasant to watch as it valorizes its nebbish Übermensch's journey through sexual conquest. Instead of laughing at the show, I started rooting against it. The saving grace is in its compounding incompetency, which accelerates towards a barely scaffolded nonending teasing a continuation that will surely never arrive. It's a failure only for the most morbidly curious.
© Natsuki Takaya・Hakusensha／Fruits Basket Production Committee
I've only seen the first third or so of the 2019 Fruits Basket reboot, so I might have different feelings about the 2022 prequel film if I saw it with the full context of the original series in mind. Then again, several trusted friends and colleagues of mine who have seen and/or read all of Fruits Basket (including my wife) assure me that Fruits Basket -prelude- still sucks pretty hard, no matter which way you slice it. When I asked my wife if the other 90 minutes of the movie were worth it for the single scene after the events of the anime where Tohru and Kyo hang out, she merely laughed bitterly and refused to ever speak of the movie again.
Here's the thing: I don't think this thinly scripted prequel was destined to be such a disappointment, even though such stories are constantly fighting an uphill battle. I don't even think the very questionable romance at the heart of the film, shared between the emotionally compromised and depressed teenager and her flagrantly manipulative high school teacher, is the cause of all the movie's problems (though it doesn't help). The biggest failure of Fruits Basket -prelude- is that Tohru's parents, Kyoko and Katsuya Honda, are dull and irritating. They both lack any of the interesting inner turmoil or agency that you need for a soapy romance like this to work, which means that the vast majority of Prelude's runtime is devoted to watching two deeply unlikable people faff around and waste their lives together before both of them are unceremoniously killed off to lead into the events of Fruits Basket.
It is, in other words, a total waste of time and commits the greatest sin that a prequel can be charged with: It makes the original story seem that much worse by association.
© Sōsuke Tōka・Kadokawa／Ranking of Kings Anime Production Committee
Last year, I made a mistake. I put too many eggs in a basket for a show that wasn't finished yet, and now I feel like I have a little bit of egg on my face. I won't take back anything I said about the first part and try not to let myself regret it when a show ultimately disappoints me or doesn't follow through in the way I wanted. There are still many amazing things about Ranking of Kings. The animation is stellar, the second opening is an all-time masterpiece, and the friendship between Bocchi and Kage and the warmth within all the characters is genuinely touching.
But the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Like a giant hitting the ground, the few little letdowns feel big for me; it's still mostly a good show, but the way it fumbles and falls on how it resolves some of its central conflicts, stretches out some of the later fights, and shifts its sympathy in ways that are frankly unearned costs some of the earlier magic that made me fall in love with the series. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and heavy is my head for giving one before it's ready.
© Alifred Yamamoto・COMIC Meteor／Rikekoi 2 Production Committee
I was really hoping to have a series to tear apart this year, but there wasn't much I watched that was irredeemably horrid. Except for Science Fell in Love, So I Tried to Prove It. r=1-sinθ. This anime was never going to set the world on fire. It's a middling production visually and it treads a well-worn rom-com path. It was more of an "inward chuckle" show than uproariously funny. But it was my show and I enjoyed watching it weekly with my husband. The second season decided to swerve in its final story arc in a futile attempt to give the audience self-insert character some sort of life-changing trauma. I wrote more about the specific events in the show for our Best and Worst of Spring if you want detail but suffice to say, I didn't sign up to the rom-com about quantifying attraction for threats of gang rape.
The Best Anime of 2022 Mega-Poll Results
Well, you guys weighed in and the results were heard loud and clear! The anime community's top (and bottom) 10 series and movies from 2022 are:
- Chainsaw Man
- Bocchi the Rock!
- Kaguya-sama: Love is War -Ultra Romantic-
- My Dress-Up Darling
- Lycoris Recoil
- Mob Psycho 100 III
- Attack on Titan The Final Season Part 2
- Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
- Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun
- Laid-Back Camp The Movie
- One Piece Film Red
- Kaguya-sama: Love is War -The First Kiss That Never Ends-
- Sword Art Online The Movie - Progressive: Scherzo of Deep Night
- Fruits Basket -prelude-
- The Quintessential Quintuplets the Movie
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime: Scarlet Bond
- Odd Taxi: In the Woods
- Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero
- Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer
- Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World
- Rent-A-Girlfriend Season 2
- The Rising of The Shield Hero Season 2
- World's End Harem
- Peter Grill and the Philosopher's Time - Super Extra
- Don't Hurt Me, My Healer!
- A Couple of Cuckoos
- Housing Complex C
- I've Somehow Gotten Stronger When I Improved My Farm-Related Skills
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