Hundreds of new anime series come out every year, so it can be difficult to pick out which ones are actually worth watching. With each new anime season, The Verge tries to point fans to interesting new shows via seasonal previews. But it can be hard to judge a series by its cover — or at least by the first few episodes. Some of the best shows each year don’t always make it into those previews. To highlight all of the shows that stood out after a complete watch, we’ve assembled this list of the best new anime of 2019. While it won’t be entirely comprehensive — it only includes series we’ve watched and finished — everything on the list is something we can unequivocally recommend.
Shows on this list are based on the series / season of that series ending in 2019. So shows that started in 2018 (ie: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind) but didn’t end until 2019 appear on this list, not our 2018 list. If you feel like something is missing, please recommend it in the comments.
The Latest Additions
A few years back, I wrote a list of recent shows that would be great for a newcomer to anime. The recommendations in it were divided by genre to point people toward avenues they already liked. Vinland Saga has become the show I flatly recommend when asked for suggestions — a series so good it would get the same attention prestige dramas do, if only it were live-action.
For the animation studio behind the series, WIT, it feels like their capstone work for the decade. It demonstrates everything they learned from making action shows like Attack on Titan and Seraph of the End, to character dramas such as After the Rain and The Ancient Magus’ Bride. Vinland captures all of that experience and focuses it into a story full of memorable characters, amazingly animated action scenes, and great character drama in the midst of much bigger historical moments. If I had to pick a single best show of the decade, let alone the year, it would be hard not to choose Vinland Saga.
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
In Dr. Stone science is a superpower, but it is never used as magic to handwave away something complicated. Instead it relishes in the details, and in the trial-and-error and hypothesizing. At its core, the show is actually about being a scientist: the importance of knowledge, of being inquisitive about the world, and of being ethical in what you use technology to do. It makes science fun by demonstrating how magical it can be, and then shows you how anybody can become a wizard.
Ascendance of a Bookworm
Ascendance of a Bookworm is a charming show that forgoes the idea of wish fulfillment. Most shows that feature characters reincarnated in fantasy worlds give them amazing, unique powers. Ascendance instead focuses on an adult librarian taking over the body of Myne, the sickly five-year-old daughter of a poor city guard. It becomes more about the everyday struggles of Myne and her family as she uses her knowledge from our world to try and make books, but also improve the lives of her family and friends without arousing suspicion that she isn’t the real Myne. It’s a show that is ideal for the whole family, or as a way to relax. Even in its most stressful moments, Ascendance just feels nice to watch.
Streaming on Crunchyroll.
The Full List
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
It isn’t rare for the anime version of a manga to elevate the source material, as adaptations often rewrite characters or moments of the story with better foresight about later developments. And the addition of sound and animation can expand on and enhance moments in ways just not possible in the comic form. What’s rare about Demon Slayer’s adaptation is the consistency with which the animation and voice acting enhances the work, not just for specific important scenes, but every episode.
The spectacular action scenes are most noticeable — they’re stylish and easy to follow, even when seemingly impossible things are occurring. In smaller, subtler moments, the animation and voice acting breathe life into the characters and make them more endearing. The best example of this is the way protagonist and titular demon slayer Tanjiro looks genuinely sad when killing a demon. He has genuine pity for them, even though they’re terrible, irredeemable monsters. He has to continue to humanize them, so he can justify continuing to travel with his now-demon sister, looking to cure her. Small characterizations like this speak volumes by making the spectacular climactic moments more emotionally meaningful.
The concept of Fruits Basket — a girl starts living with two cousins who both turn into different animals from the Chinese zodiac when hugged by someone of the opposite sex — makes it sound like a comedy romance series in the vein of Ranma ½. But Fruits Basket isn’t so lighthearted. It’s more of an emotional gut-punch, episode after episode, as it reveals the terrible things that have happened to each of the characters. They’re never quite what you expect them to be.
But the show isn’t all sadness. It’s an amazingly hopeful story about finding acceptance, finding a family, and working through issues — not with quick solutions, but through sustained care. It finds a great balance between drama, romance, and comedy, which makes those devastating moments land particularly hard.
O Maidens in Your Savage Season
O Maidens in Your Savage Season is stressful, hilarious, awkward, heartwarming, melodramatic, cringeworthy, and absolutely brilliant. The show follows the five girls of a high school literature club as they collectively start thinking about sex and adult relationships for the first time. They’re all individually attempting to figure out their feelings and sexuality, and their stories interconnect as they collectively support (and sometimes impede) each other.
O Maidens in some ways is similar to a show like Pen15, except without the focus on nostalgia and cringe humor. Instead, the show goes for drama with dashes of comedy. It ranges from more lighthearted, cute romantic fare to frank discussions and storylines about queer romance, teen pregnancy, and possibly inappropriate (and sometimes definitely inappropriate) relationships with adults. It’s a testament to the writing that it manages to deftly navigate tricky subject matter without being problematic or preachy.
Rilakkuma and Kaoru
Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a show about Karou, a young single office worker, and the strange lazy bear Rilakkuma who comes to live in her apartment. While Rilakkuma is something of a freeloader, he effectively earns his place in the apartment by teaching Kaoru how to relax from the stresses of her work and relative lack of social life, by finding enjoyment in everyday things. That makes it an incredibly relaxing show. And the amazing stop-motion animation work adds a charming tactility. Most of it is physically real, which makes it marvelously smooth and lively.
Streaming on Netflix.
Mob Psycho 100 II
The second season of Mob Psycho feels as though there wasn’t a three-year break after the first season. The show continues to be an amazing animation showcase, and watching it often feels like the animators at Bones, the studio that animated both seasons, are showing off and having a lot of fun with what they get to draw. But what makes both seasons great is the sense of humor and heart on display.
This new season goes to some darker places than the first season. It’s less focused on testing the incredible psychic powers of middle-schooler Mob and more focused on testing his empathy and maturity as he grows up and becomes a person rather than an ultra-powerful psychic force of nature. Even with the darker tone and themes, a wonderful sense of absurdity and humor still grounds the whole series and keeps it from losing its relatability.
Some anime series start off with such strange conceits that they either completely put the audience off or become utterly captivating to understand. Sarazanmai is that sort of show. It follows three middle school boys who get turned into mythical creatures called kappas. They’ll only become human again if they steal a fictional desire-organ from inside the butt of a spirit monster that’s magically stealing items from the city to serve an evil empire of otters.
The real crux of the show, which is hidden beneath all the strange kappa and otter mythological imagery, is personal and human. It’s about exploring the ways we connect with those around us and what those connections mean. It’s a great follow-up for fans who watched Neon Genesis Evangelion when it hit Netflix and are looking for something conceptually similar. But despite how weird it can get with all the kappa butt stuff, anyone could enjoy this show. It’ll likely be talked about for years to come, not just for the writing, but for the animation as well.
Run with the Wind
Early on, Run with the Wind feels like it’s writing a check it has no chance of being able to cash. It seems unlikely we’ll get any significant character development for the 10 different main characters, and their transition from not even amateur runners to one of the top college-marathon teams in Japan seems like it would be fantastical at worst and dubious at best.
Yet, over the course of its 23 episodes, the series presents a convincing story by being less about the sport than about these college students figuring out their lives in the present and future. The running acts as a constant that forces them all to interact, confronting issues in their lives while coming together as a group. This all climaxes in the show’s final episodes: as they run their section of a competitive two-day relay, they reflect on everything that’s happened. The ending only works because of how much the audience knows and cares about the characters, having seen so much of what they’ve gone through.
The Promised Neverland
The Promised Neverland’s anime adaption is incredibly faithful, but it’s also a fascinating interpretation of the source material about the oldest kids at a secluded orphanage learning that they are actually being raised as food for demons. The manga is fundamentally more of a thriller, while the anime takes on a more horror-like quality. It’s not because they changed anything in the text of the work; it’s because of the way series director Mamoru Kanbe visually approached it. Conversations as the kids secretly plan or try to work out what new information they have, are shot in an almost voyeuristic fashion, like the camera is spying on them from around a dark corner. The style adds to the creeping dread of these scenes in a way that isn’t found in the manga.
Even with all that, Emma, who is effectively the lead protagonist, is a breath of fresh air. She exudes a caring and optimism that serve as the driving force for keeping the characters moving forward, while affecting the way they think about approaching problems. She’s never presented as too naïve or not smart enough to understand her dire situation, though, which keeps the show from getting too dark or despairing to enjoy.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime initially looks like it’s going to be a wish-fulfillment power fantasy. It’s about a middle-aged Tokyo man who dies while protecting his co-worker from being stabbed. But before completely dying, he awakens in a fantasy world as a low-level slime monster in a cave. Thanks to some strange abilities given to him as part of his transference to this fantasy world, he’s able to absorb items and creatures, allowing him to use and combine their abilities. After befriending a powerful dragon and receiving its blessing, he sets out to learn more about the new world he’s a part of.
The subsequent story could just be about him using his cool new powers in a fantasy world to get everything he ever wanted. Instead, the show is full of empathy. Rimuru is incredibly overpowered, but they understand that while they are possibly indestructible, others aren’t. So they end up using that power like a well-meaning middle manager, knowing how to delegate, and when and how to correctly protect and support others. This all adds a charm to the show, as the drama and story becomes less about Rimuru and more about those around them.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
Kaguya-sama: Love is War has the intensity and mind games of Death Note, except it’s a bizarre rom-com about two people who like each other and are trying to get the other one to admit it first. Kaguya is vice president of the student council at a prestigious private school and heiress of a rich and powerful family. Student council president Miyuki is from a less auspicious family but is one of the most popular students at school.
The concept is an interesting twist on a high school rom-com, but that alone isn’t enough to put it on this list. The show’s animation adds so much to the tension and emotional stakes of each scene, with incredibly stylized shots and exceptionally well-animated moments. These shots often elevate the absurdity of the dramatic confrontations, which are comedically great when you remember how trivially stupid the stakes are here, with both characters scheming to get the other person to ask them out. This isn’t a will they / won’t they show. It seems obvious that they’ll eventually come together. It’s just about watching the bizarre antics as these two would-be lovers stumble over their pride.
My Roommate Is a Cat
From the previews, My Roommate Is a Cat gives every indication that it’s going to be a cute show about a guy who adopts a cat. Instead, it’s a humorous, heartfelt show about social anxiety, trauma, and depression. It doesn’t just explore this through the secluded author Subaru, who’s dealing with the sudden death of his parents; it explores the same things with Haru the cat, who has her own issues from trying to take care of her siblings when they were abandoned.
The series shows almost everything from both Subaru and Haru’s perspectives, which helps contextualize Haru’s reactions to what Sabaru sees her do. Mainly, it shows how the growing connection between the two helps them find a better balance in their lives where their issues aren’t a constant impediment. It’s not a flashy show with amazing animation, but it tells a poignant story about mental health with the right amount of humor.
Streaming on Crunchyroll
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
Where to start in talking about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? It’s such an odd combination of action, body horror, fashion, and meta-referential musician references. For fans who’ve watched the series since part 1, it might all seem pretty normal now. But coming into this latest series fresh could be jarring. Still, this season, the fifth part of the series, works as a standalone piece since it’s narratively separate from the previous chapters. Golden Wind turns the show into a story about internal strife in an Italian mafia full of people with ridiculous psychic abilities.
The series is ostensibly built on putting its characters in incredibly melodramatic and increasingly ridiculous situations. For instance, the main crew gets stuck on a train with someone who is trying to kill them with his ability to make people age quickly in enclosed spaces. So they hide in a living room created by a psychic turtle inside its shell. Golden Wind makes the characters so appealing that wondering how they’ll get out of these situations matters more than the completely incomprehensible nature of their problems.
Golden Wind manages to really distill this aspect of the series by offering up a small crew of people the viewers really want to root for. They’re gangsters, but their camaraderie and backstories, which reveal how they came to be so close, make them engaging. So does the constant danger they experience, especially since they usually don’t make it out unscathed. The audience’s constant concern for their safety feels justified. It isn’t just manipulative melodrama without consequences.