The Best Anime of 2022: A Year of Grand Returns

2022 was a great year for anime, including the conclusion of several fan favorites and a return several years in the making. And now, here’s our list of the best anime of 2022, and where you can find them.
A graphic for the best anime of 2022.

Graphic: Pale Magazine | Credits: Various

by | Jan 3, 2023

What a year it was for anime, with the return of A series more than 10 years in the making, or the debut of some of the most anticipated anime in recent memory. The year started with a bang with the release of Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2, and is ending on an even higher note.

We can’t watch every anime that is released throughout the year but trust us, when we see the hype surrounding any new series, it goes on the watchlist. Not to brag, but I watched over 30 anime throughout the year, and it’s still not done! This list has been a year in the making, and with the 2022-anime season coming to an end, it’s time to share it with you all.

This is a list of our favorite anime of the year, and to be fair to these series, we’ve split the rankings into two categories: new series and returning anime. In ascending order, here are our picks for the best anime of 2022 (although some might have started in 2021).

Returning Anime That Left a Mark

8. OVERLORD IV

A poster for the 4th season of Overlord.

via Crunchyroll

GENRE: ISEKAI
RELEASE DATE: JULY 5
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL | DISNEY+

Overlord never fails to impress us with its overpowered protagonist’s conquest to build the greatest kingdom ever, all while instilling fear in his subjects. A character like Ainz Ooal Gown might not be threatened to face any being alive in a one-on-one battle, but even the greatest sorcerer alive cannot run a newly established kingdom without its fair share of struggles.

The season begins by introducing Ainz as the king of the newly established Sorcerer Kingdom, and how the kingdom is currently suffering from a lack of resources. This season was not all about battles, as it showed the diplomatic aspects of running a nation, as well as the looming threat that the Sorcerer King might face in the future.

With almost every other Isekai following the idea of an OP hero loved by everyone, Overlord IV was nothing but a breath of fresh air with its “anti-hero” aspects. Despite a four-year long distance between seasons III and IV, the show did not disappoint by any means. It certainly drew your attention from the previous season’s ending and got you hoping for the story to go on.

7. TEASING MASTER TAKAGI-SAN 3

A poster for the third season of Teasing Master Takagi-san.

via Shin-Ei Animation

GENRE: COMEDY
RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 8
AVAILABLE ON: HIDIVE

You will notice that many of the anime on this list are the “action-packed” kind, after all that is what anime is most known for. Still, sitting back and enjoying something like Teasing Master Takagi-san over a weekend has a certain appeal to it.

The first season began by introducing us to the everyday shenanigans of the young students Nishikata and his seatmate Takagi (along with the notable addition of Mina, Sanae, and Yukari). Just like every other guy in a rom-com, Nishikata is as dense as they come. The series progresses as the “couple” progresses their relationship to a cute friendship, although the short stories might be familiar to anyone who has watched their fair share of similar anime.

Season two of Takagi-san is more or less the same, with the two leads showing hints of romantic feelings towards each other, but nothing really coming to fruition. Takagi never gives up a chance to embarrass her “boyfriend,” while the latter is quite possibly the easiest target she could get.

What made the third season special, however, was the character development. Sure, Takagi is still teasing the hell out of Nishikata, but the latter is now getting hints that the girl might be interested in him. The two instinctively seek out each other, and the ending of what might possibly be the final season truly made you feel warm.

6. MADE IN ABYSS: THE GOLDEN CITY OF THE SCORCHING SUN

via HIDIVE

GENRE: SCI-FI, FANTASY
RELEASE DATE: JULY 6
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL | DISNEY+ | HIDIVE

Season 1 of Made in Abyss aired all the way back in 2017, and it was truly worth the wait of 5 years. As Riko continues to descend into the Abyss, we learn more of its layers, namely the Golden City.

The anime is as visually appealing as ever, but the moments that truly get you come out of nowhere, simply sending chills down your spine.

The second season involves Riko and her friends arriving at the sixth layer of the Abyss: the Capital of the Unreturned, after getting through the challenges of Idofront. It’s here that the party falls upon the ruins of the fabled Golden City, along with its strange-looking inhabitants.

While the show may be about children, the sorrow and misery spread across the series keeps you at the edge of your seat at all times.

5. ATTACK ON TITAN: THE FINAL SEASON PART 2

A poster for the third season of Teasing Master Takagi-san.

via MAPPA

GENRE: ACTION, FANTASY
RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 10
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL

A man looking to put the world on fire just to give his family a chance to survive, all the while battling against the clock. This more or less sums up the story of Attack on Titan, and the final season has the stakes higher than ever.

The series from Hajime Isayama has received a lot of criticism for its controversial choices, including a military general based on a World War II general, or some considering the work as antisemitic. A story by The New Republic even referred to Attack on Titan as “the Alt-Right’s Favorite Manga.”

This, however, does not take away the work that MAPPA has put into the series. The story seems to be progressing in a different direction at multiple points, and it simply has us on the edge of our seats right to the end. Rarely do we see an anime that attempts to put an idea into an animation that simply might keep you away at night, and the final season of Attack on Titan does that, and then some.

4. MOB PSYCHO 100 III

A visual for the third season of Mob Psycho 100.

via Bones

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL, COMEDY
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 6
AVAILABLE ON: NETFLIX

How can one anime have three near-perfect seasons? The One Punch Man writer surely knows how to get a laugh out of you, and mixed in with the epic fight scenes from Mob Psycho 100, you’ve got an anime that is nothing but binge-worthy.

Mob Psycho 100 follows the “mundane” life of the rather plain-looking Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama, a schoolboy with a bob cut who is quite possibly the strongest psychic in existence. Just like most teenagers, however, Mob is clueless at times, until he states his part-time job as an exorcist under his now mentor: Reigen Arataka. This leads to a slue of battles between psychics bordering on the insane, especially when you consider the hilarious art style.

Surely, the anime may have its ups and downs, with certain episodes feeling no less than fillers, but when it comes to presenting you with the most engaging stories, Mob Psycho 100 has you covered. Our protagonist showed the most emotional growth in the third and final season of the anime, from giving up one of his best friends to even attempting to finally confess his love.

3. DEMON SLAYER: KIMETSU NO YAIBA ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT ARC

Poster for Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District arc.

via Ufotable

GENRE: ACTION, FANTASY
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 5 (2021)
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL | NETFLIX

Demon Slayer ups the stakes with each season of the anime, and even leaves us devastated at times. I loved and despised the Mugen Train Arc at the same time, for introducing a beloved character to the series and simply taking him away within the span of 2 hours. Carrying the burden of many deaths on his back, Tanjiro now moves on to another mission, which involves infiltration and some hilarious makeup.

The Entertainment District Arc has the “Sound Hashira” Tenger Uzui serving as the leader of the group, with Tanjiro (with Nezuko on his back) and his friends Inosuke and Zenitsu infiltrating the Entertainment District to find the demon that has been murdering people in the dark.

While the season begins on a funny note, it rapidly moves in a direction where we realize the treat that is hiding amidst hundreds of humans, and a man on a mission to save his wives. The final battle of the arc was spread over 8 episodes, and every moment of the showdown was done justice by Ufotable. While the season ended on a slightly bittersweet note, you could not help but feel happy for the Hashira.

2. KAGUYA-SAMA: LOVE IS WAR -ULTRA ROMANTIC-

Poster for Kaguya-sam: Love is War -Ultra Romantic-.

via A-1 Pictures

GENRE: ROM-COM
RELEASE DATE: APRIL 9
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL

It may have taken the duo nearly three seasons, but Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya finally confessed their love for one another at the end of Ultra Romantic. The show had a simple premise – two proud and intelligent students who love one another, know they love one another, but want to make the other one confess first.

I cannot think of another anime besides Kaguya-sama and Haikyu!! that have you love the side characters just as much as the protagonists, but the larger cast in Ultra Romantic surely brought some fresh moments to a show that really never got monotonous.

The two main characters are always scheming to have the other one confess, and the way the bubbly Fujiwara intervenes and destroys these plans simply cracks you up. Despite everything, you can never stop rooting for the two, and always want to see one of them give in and say the words out loud. Well, Ultra Romantic gave you just that in the most extravagant manner imaginable.

1. BLEACH: THOUSAND-YEAR BLOOD WAR ARC

via Aniplex

GENRE: ACTION, FANTASY
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 11
AVAILABLE ON: DISNEY+ | NETFLIX

Bleach came to an abrupt end back in 2012, leaving the final and most intense arc of Tite Kubo’s manga left unadapted. After a gap of more than 10 years, Bleach returned with the Thousand-Year Blood War Arc, and it is all we ever hoped for.

The anime began by reintroducing us to Ichigo Kurosaki and his companions, along with a rundown of the post-Aizen state of the Soul Society. The anime did not have us waiting for major developments, introducing us to the biggest threat the Soul Reapers have faced until now – the Quincies. The series rapidly progresses to multiple gut-wrenching deaths, but that’s just the start.

I cannot talk about the final season of Bleach without spoiling some major developments that are to take place, but there’s one thing I can assure you of: this one is a must-watch.

Fresh Releases We Couldn’t Get Enough Of

7. BLUE LOCK

Poster for the Blue Lock anime.

via Eight Bit

GENRE: SPORTS
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 9
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL | NETFLIX

Japan’s run through the 2022 FIFA World Cup was one of the best experiences of a team’s rise in recent memory, despite the team’s eventual exit in round 16. Similar is the case with Blue Lock, an anime about a team of misfit strikers coming together to pave Japan’s way to the world cup.

The basic premise of the anime is certainly not one of the freshest ones, with elite students all across Japan coming together to decide once and for all the best current striker in the country, and the most egotistical.

The series follows Yoichi Isagi, a boy that was on the cusp of carrying his high school soccer team to the nationals but lost because of his inability to take charge.

The protagonist then follows a chain of events, eventually finding himself in Blue Lock, a world-class facility meant to create the best striker in the world. As you might expect, putting a bunch of eccentric characters under the same roof, and asking them to work together is far too tedious. Put in the threat of losing their dreams, however, and even the ants are ready to move a mountain.

The main appeal of Blue Lock is its animation and serious tone, with most anime based on soccer showing the lighthearted side of the sport. While it might not be the best anime on the list, it certainly rings the bells for any soccer fans.

6. LYCORIS RECOIL

Lycoris Recoil was surprisingly one of the best anime of the year.

via A-1 Pictures

GENRE: ACTION, SLIFE OF LIFE
RELEASE DATE: JULY 2
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL

Lycoris Recoil might seem slightly Black Widow-like on the surface, but there’s so much more to this anime. The series is about cute, orphaned girls raised to be assassins under the “Lycoris” program. And something that is extremely rare for the best anime of the season, this one is not based on anime manga or light novels.

The series begins as elite Lycoris Takina Inoue is dismissed from the DA (the organization running the Lycoris program) after disobeying her orders. As punishment, she is appointed at Café LycoReco, a front for DA. This is where Takina meets Chisato Nishikigi, her polar opposite who simply wants to live the happiest life possible while bringing others joy.

As the heartwarming chemistry between the two develops, you get more and more entangled with the idea that living your best life every day is what matters in the end. The story might not be the best out there, but the art and character development throughout the series make this a must-watch.

5. CHAINSAW-MAN

via MAPPA

GENRE: ACTION, FANTASY, GORY
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 12
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL | NETFLIX

Chainsaw-Man had the potential, and certainly the hype to become the biggest anime of the year. As it turns out, the anime failed to be as appealing to fans as other MAPPA offerings, such as Jujutsu Kaisen.

The show certainly has its flaws, but it still ranks among the best anime of this year. The beginnings of Denji, the series’ protagonist, leave you shaken to your core. And his rise to an (arguably) normal life makes you wish for the character’s success (even if it means the accomplishment of his lewd dreams).

Chainsaw-Man is certainly not your generic shounen series, and the anime does not hold off on killing any character at the most unexpected of times. All in all, Chainsaw-Man is a bumpy ride worth the experience, and we cannot wait for an even better second season.

4. MY DRESS-UP DARLING

A poster for the Avatar sequel, "the Way of Water."

via CloverWorks

GENRE: ROM-COM, SLIFE OF LIFE
RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 9
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL | FUNIMATION

My Dress-Up Darling is a rom-com with an anime spin on it, with horny high school kids going into hilarious fits at times, with a cheery tone that puts a smile across your face. And yes, there’s fanservice, tons of fanservice (perhaps too much).

The anime follows high school students Wakana Gojo and Marin Kitagawa have less than common hobbies, with the former having a love for making Hina dolls (traditional Japanese dolls). The latter is the vivacious high-school girl we’re all familiar with, but with an interest in cosplay.

It turns out the two have been unknowingly seeking out someone like each other. Marin asks Wakana to help her create costumes of her favorite characters, and this gives Marin the chance to hone his craft to one they reach the same level of craftsmanship as his grandfather.

The duo form an unlikely bond, with Marin’s eccentric personality bouncing well off Gojo’s meek self, with moments of laughter and romance intertwined in multiple instances. The refreshing stone makes this a great series to binge.

3. CYBERPUNK: EDGERUNNERS

via Netflix

GENRE: ACTION, PSYCHOLOGICAL, SCI-FI
RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 13
AVAILABLE ON: NETFLIX

A spinoff to CD Projekt Red’s disarrayed Cyberpunk 2077, which in turn is based on the tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 2020 created by Rafal Jaki. While the setting of the anime seems nearly identical to the video game, you will not be following the same characters. Despite the weird title for the series, this one came out to be so much better than I expected.

Firstly, the art and music for this anime are simply astounding, and certainly among the most gorgeous series produced this year. The series is set sometime before the event of 2077, and shows a young boy’s rise from the absolute bottom of the economic ladder to an “edgerunner.”

David Martinez lives in poverty, with his mom’s wages being far from enough for a decent life. Events in the protagonist’s life lead him to a car crash, which leaves him with a robotic spine allowing him to travel at super-fast speeds in exchange for slowly losing his mind.

With his newfound abilities, David vows to take revenge on those who have made his life miserable. This leads to his involvement with a gang and a group of loyal friends, and a race against time. This show has one of the best endings to any anime ever.

2. SPY X FAMILY

The Spy x Family film will arrive sometime in 2023.

Just a sneak peek at what to expect from the future of Spy x Family. | via CloverWorks/Wit Studio

GENRE: ACTION COMEDY
RELEASE DATE: APRIL 9 (PART 1) | OCTOBER 1 (PART 2)
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL | NETFLIX

Spy x Family might be the most popular anime of 2022, and it’s not the action-filled kind you might expect. The series follows the legendary spy Twilight (who dons the alias of Loid Forger), who’s been tasked with the job of maintaining peaceful relations between the neighboring countries Ostania and Westalis.

Loid plans to achieve this by getting close to the political leader of the National Unity Party, the one behind all these stirring. To get close to Donovan Desmond, Loid plans to meet him through an elite school, for which he adopts his daughter, Anya Forger, and fakes a marriage with Yor.

The father of the family isn’t the only one with secrets, however, as Yor is an elite assassin, and Anya is, well, a hilarious telepath, and pretty much the life of the show. The series follows the family’s antics as each tries to support one other while hiding their “true identities,” often creating a comedy of errors. The lighthearted tone of the series with the charming yet gleeful moments of Anya is what put this show so high on our list.

1. RANKING OF KINGS

A promotional poster for the anime Ranking of Kings.

via Wit Studio

GENRE: ADVENTURE, FANTASY
RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 15 (2021)
AVAILABLE ON: CRUNCHYROLL

What more can we say about Ranking of Kings besides giving it the top spot on our list.

An anime that has moments that simply strike a chord with you – that’s the easiest way that I can explain Ranking of Kings. The show follows Bojji, a child with the warmest of hearts, but one who’s deaf and unable to clearly speak. The older son of the kingdom’s king, Bojji is next in line for the throne, and it does not seem like a distant future with his sickly father.

Bojji primarily converses through sign language, and while he might seem weak and frail, he more than makes up for it with grit. Bojji is called “The Useless Prince,” and is not supported even by his family members as the heir to the king’s throne. Despite these facts, the young boy aspires to be the greatest king.

This anime has everything, from heartwarming moments to instances of absolute terror, and above all a story that has you rooting for the hero at all times.