Despite the fact that I am an admitted hack, more interested in self-indulgence than journalistic integrity, it occurred to me quite recently (literally five minutes ago) that I am a reasonable authority on the fine art of anime.
As such, I decided to give myself enough credit to sensibly construct a top 10 list of 2022’s best offerings. Earnest as I am in my attempts to be objective, I profess that sentimentality will almost certainly influence my final rankings.
10. Tomodachi Game
Coming in hot with an under-appreciated gem from the spring season that reached a feverish pitch and left me wanting more.
When we’re first introduced to Yuichi and his friends, we assume a level of innocence that makes them hapless victims in a cruel game. As we progress, it soon becomes apparent that they each have their own dark pasts and sinister secrets, shifting the question of who is the bad guy to whether any of them could actually be considered good guys.
In particular, once Yuichi lifts his veneer of amiable sweetheart, things really kick up a notch. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that he was my favourite lead of the year; a ruthless, callous prick with whom we are only aligned because he’s pitted against a corporation that is possibly even worse.
‘Enemy of my enemy’ kind of thing, you know? He’s icky and I wouldn’t want to hang out with him, but I would be much more upset to see him standing against me.
9. Dr. Stone: Ryusui
Continuing to think outside the box here, some might find it bold to include a one-off special in the year’s top 10. Maybe I’m just a sucker for this show, or perhaps it’s a testament to just how much they were able to fit into its hour-long runtime.
Serving as a bridge between 2021’s Stone Wars arc and the New World portion setting sail in April of next year, Ryusui’s stunningly self-aware understanding of its goal makes for critical viewing. Both from a narrative and an intrigue perspective, it plants the seeds by introducing us to a critical new character and the upcoming quest that lies ahead.
By telling this tale in the form of a special, it frees up not one but two episodes for New World to get straight to business. It should come to no surprise that an anime helmed by Senku Ishigami would be associated with such a cunning plan, and it’s really just a lot of fun based on its own merits, too.
8. Mob Psycho 100 III
The triumphant send-off for Shigeo Kageyama and his allies maintains the symmetry of solid world-building with an unorthodox style. Mob Psycho 100 has long felt like a conduit for EarthBound in that way, and in this season, we even had a cameo from actual aliens to hammer the point home. I dig that.
ONE has a real knack for down-to-earth, affable heroes, and Mob’s final chapter is a testament to this idea. While mass hysteria unfolds around him, he remains true to himself; grappling with his own feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty for the future, but putting it all aside for the greater good.
Even such admirable selflessness, however, has its limits. The fact that the critical fight culminates in appearances from the people in Mob’s life — friend, foe or otherwise — banding together to help him in his time of need, was exactly the correct choice for this story. I probably wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to Shigeo, Reigen and all the others, but if it had to happen, this was certainly an apt way to go about it.
7. Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2
It’s a bittersweet feeling to know that this journey is also about to reach its apex, but AoT’s penultimate season has truly set the stage for what promises to be an unforgettable showdown.
By now, hitherto series protagonist Eren Jaeger has fully transitioned into homicidal maniac, gifting him with godlike powers as he hovers on the precipice of complete world destruction. With mainstays like Captain Levi laid low for the most part, other members of the Scout Regiment have had to carry the narrative load — exposing us to the psychological wear and tear that has come as a result of years of bloody conflict.
It was also thanks to this season that I was able to write an article estimating the Titan property damage, which was an absolute blast that has even been quoted by other sources. That ‘absolute blast’ line was an unintended pun, incidentally.
6. My Dress-Up Darling
The notion that My Dress-Up Darling has been able to stand toe-to-toe with some juggernaut staples of the medium is a true reflection of how charming it is. This is an anime that punches above its weight, offering us one of the most genuinely likeable couples in years.
Marin Kitagawa is of course the star of the show, delicately balancing her outward confidence with raw vulnerability that make getting to know her as a character rewarding and heartwarming. Across from her, Wakana Gojou is equally as compelling; his reserved, sedate demeanour proves the perfect accoutrement as he diligently works to support her. His unheralded work behind the scenes makes the whole thing possible, and their on-screen chemistry works flawlessly.
Silly as I am, I hadn’t even foreseen that a love story would eventuate from this pairing, and then when it began to form, I was absolutely delighted. I knew that I already loved these characters, so it makes perfect sense that they would begin to love each other.
5. Ranking of Kings
One of the biggest points of contention for this list was how I would qualify anime with seasons that overlapped between one year and another. Though my first instinct was to restrict the qualification solely to those that premiered in 2022, when it was all said and done, the inverse logic won out. How could I fairly opine on a season that was, as of yet, incomplete?
As such, I was glad to return Ranking of Kings to its rightful place among the top 10. The whimsical adventure of Bojji and Kage is instantly very unique and special, portraying sensitive issues such as disability with sympathy and optimism.
Despite its unassuming appearance, Ranking of Kings does not shy away from drama or bloodshed, and by the time the final episode has finished, you may be left with haunting memories of the depravities you just witnessed. Heavy though this anime be, it remains the most uplifting tale all the same.
4. Bocchi the Rock!
The quickest riser on this list, Bocchi came out of nowhere to knock me for a loop with its outstanding characters and thematic interplay.
Introversion is nothing too uncommon in anime, however for my money it has never been so accurately encapsulated as it is here with Hitori Gotou. It’s not just that every interaction is hard, it’s about the internal struggle that makes it so insurmountable. Hitori will either do everything in her power to prevent an awkward situation, or wildly overcompensate for her self-perceived inadequacies and unwittingly create an awkward situation herself.
It’s an exhausting thing to go through, and Bocchi’s pain is our own. Add in the dynamic personalities of Kessoku Band around her — from bubbly dreamer Nijika to the uproariously deadpan Ryo — and you’ve got a recipe for one of the strongest anime premieres of the year.
3. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc
Demon Slayer found itself in a prestigious and yet somewhat unenviable position in winter 2022, having to somehow top the groundbreaking Mugen Train arc. How could it possibly hope to rival one of the most emotional, rollicking thrill rides in the history of anime? Put simply, by having to raise the stakes once again.
The Entertainment District saga differed from Demon Slayer’s first season, containing itself to a singular location as Tanjiro Kamado and his colleagues are enlisted by the Sound Hashira to investigate the rising demon activity in a glitzy township.
Following the electrifying heroism of the fallen Kyoujurou Rengoku, Tengen Uzui is no less dynamic in his own way, somehow being inspirational and obnoxious in equal measure. The final battle is a peerless display of animation brilliance, capping off a breathtaking season and serving as a reminder that Demon Slayer is really in a class of its own.
2. Chainsaw Man
As the first anime I have watched after reading the source manga, I was curious to see how the experience would compare. Would my awareness of the events yet to come put a damper on my excitement? As it turns out, it actually amplified it.
Vulgar, stylish and unrelenting, Chainsaw Man earns its place as one of the top dogs in 2022. Despite its brash exterior, the narrative flow is contemplative and understated, guiding us on a journey while leaving its deeper meaning up for interpretation.
It boldly, even cruelly, introduces fascinating characters, only to dispatch of them in short order. This isn’t to say that they feel cursory; you don’t entirely see it coming, and the fact that anyone could be next leaves you fidgeting in nervous anticipation.
Additionally, it may be decades before this balls-to-the-wall OP is ever topped. Anyone who claims that they skip it is a filthy liar, and you have permission to cut out their scandalous tongue. At the very least, throw up in their mouth a little to show them you mean business.
1. Spy x Family
Truth be told, I had machinations of listing the exploits of Loid Forger and family twice. I honestly feel as though each cour stands tall on its own, but ultimately I concluded that separating the two would prove too confusing in the end.
So if either of them alone would qualify for consideration, it seems logical that they would come out on top when applied as a whole. Spy x Family is one of the most legitimately hilarious anime I have ever seen, bolstered by its lively writing and ensemble cast. Each of the tritagonists could feasibly be considered the pinnacle, so when the narrative shifts between the double lives of Loid and Yor to Anya’s escapades at Eden Academy, you know that you’re in for a good time, regardless.
Ostensibly a shounen anime at heart, it borrows liberally from other genres with effortless ease, never missing a beat and frequently producing a result that is unlike anything else on the market. Waku waku!