With another GLORIO year in the books, it’s time once again to look back at our picks for the best anime of the year. If this is your first time joining us, we had all our writers vote using a weighted scoring system to determine the ten best series that aired in 2019. Here’s what we came up with.
10. (tie) Demon Slayer
Manga adaptation by ufotable
Director: Sotozaki Haruo
Series Composition: Kondou Hikaru
Euri: I think there are a lot of people that watched an episode or two of this and were left wondering what all the fuss was about. To me, this show is something of a fifteen year old time capsule, a shounen show that ticks all of the same boxes that shows like Bleach did back in their heyday. You have a cast of genuinely likeable characters (and that includes Zenitsu, even if he treads a fine line) on an easy to understand quest, tied up in a bow with ufotable’s irrefutably gorgeous artwork. Even the pacing of the show, which is the largest issue I have with the series, is very reminiscent. But I think this is why this show took off the way it did – we just don’t have that many classic shounen stories these days, besides One Piece of course and its… 916 odd episodes. It landed in the right place at the right time, but on top of that it’s a genuinely fun show and I’m personally pretty excited for that upcoming movie continuation.
10. (tie) Run with the Wind
Novel adaptation by Production I.G
Director: Kazuya Nomura
Series Composition: Kohei Kiyasu
Artemis: While Run with the Wind wasn’t my favourite title of 2019, I firmly believe it was the most underrated. There’s a real sense of down-to-earth realism about this series that most sports anime titles simply don’t have – after all, it’s not a show about energetic, determined and passionate teenagers dedicated to their sport, but rather about a group of university students, mostly with initially little to no interest in sport or fitness (and many of whom are also struggling with the process of finding jobs, making ends meet and generally dealing with depressing real world shit), all while living together in a run-down boys dorm. Run with the Wind is clearly more interested in the complexities of its characters and their situations than in loud melodrama; accordingly, the show has an extremely true-to-life feel that extends all the way down to the background art, paired with an atmosphere that’s refreshingly understated. It’s also extremely consistent in terms of quality, from the writing and direction to the animation – no small thing when dealing with any series slated for more than a single cour. In short, whether you have any interest in competitive running or not, Run with the Wind is well worth your time.
8. The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II
Light novel adaptation by TROYCA
Director: Makoto Kato
Series Composition: Ukyo Kodachi
Iro: Over the past decade, we’ve somehow entered a universe where the Fate property’s international success is an inescapable reality. 2019 alone had three separate anime installments. Grand Order tops the app charts; I know people who don’t watch anime at all but play the game on a daily basis. As someone who was indoctrinated in the late 00s, the franchise has spiraled downward further and further from the elements I once enjoyed. Despite being a spin-off of a spin-off of the original, The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II has come the closest to recapturing the magic, depicting a world where the events of the Holy Grail War – while important to the lives of the characters – are merely part of a larger whole. It’s the smallest, weirdest version of Fate to come out in 2019, and I suppose I can tolerate the rest if we keep getting stuff like this.
7. Mob Psycho 100 Season 2
Manga adaptation by Bones
Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa
Series Composition: Hiroshi Seko
Marlin: Proving ONE actually can write a good story and isn’t just a vehicle for ridiculous animation setpieces, Mob Psycho 100 came back with an engaging look into the evolving psyche of our titular Mob as he deals with ghosts and humans that make him question his convictions as a pacifist psychic. Is it truly okay to obliterate ghosts for mildly inconveniencing people? In a world where the dead can remain just as cogent as the living, why is their existence less valuable? And when a villain who refuses to see reason comes before you, can you really afford to let him live? What good is justice when it needs to be protected by crude power? Mob is forced to tackle all of these heady ideas on his path to learning what it means to be an adult. Granted, that’s not saying it didn’t look good too: Bones turned it up to 11 again with its amazingly kinetic and fluid fight scenes. With quality animation becoming more and more found solely in the increasingly popular movie sector, it’s refreshing to see big budget detail hasn’t been lost on the small screen. When both these parts come together, Mob Psycho 100 Season 2 surpasses its already impressive introduction to become the best ONE work to date.
6. Pokémon Sun & Moon
Game adaptation by OLM
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama
Series Composition: Aya Matsui
Zigg: It might seem surprising that show that’s been running for more than 20 years could still have any new ideas to give, but departure from the norm was exactly the reason why Sun & Moon ended up so highly on this list, and indeed lists from years prior. Rather than the ever roving, highly episodic nature of all previous Pokémon series, Sun & Moon anchored itself in a single place and used that to sketch out a much more detailed and strong cast of supporting characters around eternal hero Ash Ketchum. Combine that with a setting with a much richer visual and cultural identity than any we’ve had before, and some sparkling scripts that remembered Pokémon works best as a boisterous comedy, and you had pretty much the perfect slice-of-life show. Whether racing against the Red Comet, fishing Kyogre, or answering the Ultra Guardian alert, Sun & Moon never failed to make my day a little brighter, and you can’t ask for much more than that.
5. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
Manga adaptation by A-1 Pictures
Director: Omata Shinichi
Series Composition: Nakanishi Yatsuhiro
Euri: It’s Death Note except the protagonists are actually aware of the feelings they have for each other. Both Shinomiya Kaguya and Shirogane Miyuki are overachievers, and as a result have found themselves competing in the pettiest of things, despite being head over heels in love. Pride is a terrible thing you see, and thus the person who eventually confesses is the loser. Throw in Fujiwara Chika, the best character of 2019 (fight me) and professional shit stirrer, and things become fantastically chaotic. There’s also a terrific ensemble of side characters, including the narrator, that bring the best and the worst out of these two idiots, and honestly I love them all. Kaguya-sama was an absolute joy to watch from start to finish, and is easily the best comedy of the year on top of that. Catch up now before season two airs next year.
Manga adaptation by Lerche
Director: Hikaru Yamaguchi
Series Composition: Yuniko Ayana
Jel: There are certain expectations that anime fans, myself included, may have when they hear the words “Boys Love”. Please put aside whatever that means to you and appreciate that Given is a really good anime. At it’s core is one of the best romance stories in recent memory, built on an adorable and healthy relationship that defies genre conventions. The show strikes a great balance between laid back, funny, slice of life comedy and intense, heartbreaking drama. This is all done with some great dialogue writing and directing choices that really stand out. If you’re looking for comedy, drama, and romance, Given has some of the best 2019 has to offer.
3. The Promised Neverland
Manga adaptation by CloverWorks
Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Series Composition: Toshiya Oono
Artemis: The best shows are always the hardest to write about, and that goes doubly so for The Promised Neverland – a psychological thriller/horror in which execution is absolutely everything. In fact, the series is everything which, in my opinion, any title of its genre should be in order to do its job effectively, particularly in animated format: ominously suspenseful without relying on cheap jump scares, quietly terrifying while not tipping over into lurid melodrama, undeniably gruesome yet curiously devoid of almost all violence and gore. Too clever and finely-crafted to give in to scenes merely present for the shock value, The Promised Neverland is confidently directed, smartly scripted and vocally on point. If the exposition is a little clumsy at times and the lead-up to the reveal at the end of its premiere hardly surprising (after all, it’s pretty hard to be subtle when all the child characters are wandering around with tattooed numbers on their necks), these issues do not detract from the exceedingly well-balanced atmosphere – the real heart and soul of the show.
Original by Nexus
Director: Masaharu Watanabe
Series Composition: Jukki Hanada
Gee: Of all the anime on this list, Granbelm is the darkest horse, the underdog story, the little anime that could. While Iro knew all along that this 2019 original mecha anime was going to be something special, the years of cynicism pounded into me as a mecha fan had me skeptical. Turns out that Granbelm was made exactly for people like me. A defiant cry against the conventional wisdom that mecha anime is dead, Granbelm doesn’t necessarily break the mold like the generational greats such as Mobile Suit Gundam or Evangelion. Instead, it takes a hard look at the genre, what made it great, why we fell in love with giant robots, and constructed an artifice so pure in its execution, I still cannot believe something like it can exist in our time. It’s mecha anime in its most distilled essence. Human drama drives mech fights which drive human drama. Escalate. Rinse and repeat. This is what mecha was made to do, and there are few finer than Granbelm.
Manga adaptation by Orange
Director: Shinichi Natsumi
Series Composition: Nanami Higuchi
Gee: At its core, Beastars is a story about people and how compelling they can be in spite of how messy our relationships often are. It’s also a story about a surreal kind of spectacle, where a society tries to opaquely ignore its very real social injustices, individuals are in fact not born equal, and other parties exploit these negligent oversights. It’s also about a wolf who wants to fuck a rabbit and will endure almost comical amounts of emotional and physical torture to make that a reality. The animated adaptation of Paru Itagaki’s unorthodox manga had every reason to fail. The difficulty of the source material, the all CG production, the Netflix publishing format, and more. As a result, the lengths Orange went to capture the tonal intricacies of the manga and the excellent visual directing choices they made to enhance the adaptation are praiseworthy. We didn’t learn of Beastars’ season 2 announcement until we had already put this list together, but know this, Beastars was our highlight of 2019 and it might very well reach the same heights in 2020. You’ve all bought admission to a wild ride.