The Best Anime of 2022 (So Far)

The latest, greatest anime series from this year.

demon slayer, nezuko
'Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc' | ufotable
'Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc' | ufotable

Looking out at the year ahead in anime, 2022 will be a big year, full of highly anticipated new projects, the long-awaited return of dormant series, and, of course, whatever fun surprises that pop up in between. Luckily, watching these titles has never been more accessible, with free tiers on Crunchyroll and Funimation, Hulu's simulcasting deal, and Netflix producing its own originals. We'll be keeping track of the best anime of the year right here—stay tuned as we'll be updating this throughout 2022.

ALSO READ: The 20 Best Anime of 2021

demon slayer entertainment district

7. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba: Entertainment District Arc

Release date: December 5, 2021
Director: Haruo Sotozaki
Animation production: ufotable

While it feels redundant and obvious to say this about an anime adaptation, the main attraction of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is undoubtedly its animation, full of vibrancy and pulse-pounding emotion as its fight sequences unfold. The written narrative is, by all intents and purposes, perfectly serviceable, straightforward and perhaps leaning too hard on goofy comedy at inopportune moments. The characters still simply boil down to the loud one (the boar-headed Inosuke), the cowardly one (Zenitsu), and the infallibly kind one (our sweet boy Tanjiro). With this second half of the second season—the first essentially being a retread of the Mugen Train theatrical film—the three are drawn into a mission in Yoshiwara, the era's historical red light district, in search of a demon disguised as an oiran. Most of this season is a single fight, but the animators put their back into it with dazzlingly kineticism that perfectly manage the pacing of each round of its royal rumble. As with the 19th episode of its first season, these brawls culminate in a genuinely astonishing, propulsive 20 minutes where Demon Slayer truly makes a case for itself.
Where to watch: CrunchyrollFunimation

healer girl
Studio 3Hz

6. Healer Girl

Release date: April 4
Director: Yasuhiro Irie
Animation production: Studio 3Hz

Beginning from the whimsical premise where songstresses cure ailments and injuries through the power of song—referred to as healers—Healer Girl funnels all of its curious inspirations, including Macross Plus and G Gundam, into an original that feels like a genuine rarity: a full-on musical anime. Many of its episodes directed and storyboarded by series director Yasuhiro Irie (best known for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, of all things), Healer Girl also features songs performed by a choir unit made up of the main voice actresses. There’s a unity of concept and performance that’s clear on the show’s face as it follows the stories of its magical first responders. Curiously, it commits to medical detail just as much as it does the technical ones of how the girls sing, treating the vocal healers as regular doctors who have to manage accompaniments and key changes as well as keeping patients in stable condition. Despite its fantastical premise and the goofy antics of its main trio, it feels down-to-earth and healing, peaceful and sweet without being saccharine, told with an endearing sense of fun as it explores its premise almost procedurally through the perspective of a group of novices. Full of visual quirks that are as cute as they are surprising, Healer Girl doesn’t only fulfill a niche, but excels at it.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, VRV

kaguya-sama love is war season 3

5. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War –Ultra Romantic–

Release date: April 9
Director: Shinichi Omata
Animation production: A1-Pictures

The back-and-forth, will-they-won’t-they, will-they-ever-just-admit-defeat routine of Kaguya-sama: Love iI War still proves side-splittingly funny in the show’s third season. As student council peers Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya continue their cold war of attempting to provoke a confession of love out of the other, the show’s creators find increasingly absurd and always visually creative ways to call back to long-running jokes while finding new patterns to its acerbic high school romantic comedy. There’s also a deep satisfaction in recognizing the rhythm of instigation, escalation, and comeuppance as the two try to scheme their way out of having to admit their feelings. Shirogane and Shinomiya are, slowly but surely, maturing, realizing the “war” of the title is only with themselves. It’s a joy to see the show evolve along with them, proving more diverse and dynamic in its presentation of the manga’s meta-humor as well as the roundabout ways in which the two get closer to being honest about their feelings. With its long-awaited return, the writers and animators find a delightful combination of familiar beats—such as Masayuki Suzuki, Japan’s "king of love songs," crooning over the opening credits—with a new bag of visual tricks and creativity to spare. It’s quite easily one of the funniest, most idiosyncratic anime series around, one with an acerbic wit that is equally matched by its consideration for its oddball cast's various insecurities.
Where to watch:Crunchyroll, Funimation, VRV

spy x family
Wit Studio & Cloverworks


Release date: April 9
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Animation production: Wit Studio X Cloverworks

Spy X Family assumes many faces in a very short amount of time in this highly anticipated anime adaptation. Based on the Shonen Jump+ series of the same name by Tatsuya Endo, it carries forward the mangaka’s intoxicating combo of slice-of-life comedy and hard-boiled spy fiction—mixing the conceits of Mr. & Mrs. Smith with the Cold War deceptions and secret agent homemaking of The Americans. What’s more is that the creative team, beyond making the animation look wonderful, has already proven incredibly adept at finding fun and organic ways to expand on the manga, turning just a couple of pages into entire episodes or finding visual flourishes to add that little bit of extra character.

Set in a city that's occupied Berlin in all but name, it sees the spy codenamed Twilight take on the identity of a family man in order to get close to his elusive target. Usually a loner, it’s delightful to see Twilight contend with the difficulties of fatherhood as well as the regular obstacles of spycraft. But the real fun begins with the sham marriage required of his mission, as unbeknownst to him his wife is an infamous assassin known as the Thorn Princess. The only person fully in-the-know is his telepathic adopted daughter Anya, whose absurd reaction faces might be one of the series' secret weapons. Spy X Family’s unlikely found family is adorable, and under the guiding hand of Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Hunter X Hunter, Ranma 1/2), the collaborative animation production between Wit Studio and Cloverworks has so far proven just as stylish as it is cute.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Hulu

my dress-up darling

3. My Dress-Up Darling

Release date: January 6
Director: Keisuke Shinohara
Animation production: Cloverworks

There’s a specific, unmatched joy in getting to share the hobbies that you love with someone. The slice-of-life anime My Dress-Up Darling is built around the discovery of that feeling, as the reclusive first year high school student Wakana Gojo meets the popular and outgoing girl Marin. After Marin sees Wakana making doll costumes, she asks him to create the costume of a character from a video game that she loves, the two forging a companionship over Wakana’s love of Hina doll-making and Marin’s love of cosplay. There’s one further twist in their relationship: This particular cosplay is based on a character from an ecchi (erotic game), leading to some hilarious misunderstandings from anyone within earshot of the protagonists’ conversations. That only adds to its charm, as the show and its artists wring all the pathos possible out of its bizarre opposites-attract premise. That’s done in part through its detail-oriented character animation, lavishly drawn and keenly observant in how it adds personality through even the smallest flourishes of movement. Hopefully the team can keep it up, because it’s an early winner in what’s so far a fairly quiet Winter season.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation

the orbital children

2. The Orbital Children

Release date: January 28
Director: Matsuo Iso
Animation production: Production +h

Marking the end of a 15-year absence from anime for the beloved director Matsuo Iso, his new work The Orbital Children (released as a film series in Japan, but as episodes internationally) reunites him with animation superstar Toshiyuki Inoue, who's perhaps best known for his work on the big Asuka fight from The End of Evangelion. As such it looks gorgeous, personable and full of life in its portrayal of the extraterrestrial kids. The story is set in 2045 in a future that doesn’t feel all that far off from ours in the increased prevalence of social media, though the fancy AIs and common spaceflight is still fairly fanciful. It follows Touya and Konoha—the titular orbital children—born on the moon and in the midst of emigrating to Earth. Disaster quickly strikes the space station where they’re based, and along with another group of children from Earth they end up stranded without hope of rescue. Using the few digital tools that they have on-hand with the assistance of an AI, they come to make a startling discovery, a prophecy foretold by a hyper-intelligent machine known as Seven.

Like Dennoh Coil before it The Orbital Children is particularly prescient about the effects of digital technology on a personal level as well as on a wider scale. Despite its space age setting, familiar hallmarks of our world remain, such as its Apple Store-esque living spaces and the branded spacesuits the main characters wear on their journey, modeled after Google and Uniqlo. It’s equally thoughtful and playful about its imaginings of what that relationship might become.
Where to watch:Netflix

ranking of kings
Wit Studio

1. Ranking of Kings

Release date: January 6
Director: Yōsuke Hatta, Makoto Fuchigami
Animation production: Wit Studio

Like some of the most lasting fairytales, its storybook appearance disguises a hidden darkness to it, and once Ranking of Kings peels back that first layer, it only continues to reveal more and more. Like the young protagonist Bojji, every single character is much more than they first appear, all treated with a fascinating multi-dimensionality which each new episode views from a new angle. Queen Hiling and Bojji’s antagonistic brother Daida’s severe appearances disguise a much more sensitive soul, the seemingly shady “master of snakes” Bebin turns out to be steadfast in his loyalty. As Bojji continues to discover his unique strengths, the story has begun to focus in on various mysteries surrounding the “return” of Bojji’s deceased father, Bosse, and the Magic Mirror that manipulates proceedings in the kingdom from the shadows.

Not only is Ranking of King’s characterization so delightfully complex, but its animation is uniformly outstanding. The aforementioned storybook art style immediately sets it apart from its peers, though it contains a little Akira Toriyama in its DNA in its outstanding fight scenes and cartoonish, perhaps Dragon Quest-ish art direction. In a continuation of the show’s story being full of surprises, the animation even swerves into psychedelia as one of its characters essentially enters the equivalent of the Sunken Place from Get Out. I particularly love the attention to detail in visual communication within the world of the story itself—particularly in the characters’ conversations with Bojji through sign language. With Part 2, Ranking of Kings is continuing its hot streak into 2022.
Where to watch: Crunchyroll, Funimation

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Kambole Campbell is a contributor to Thrillist, on Twitter @kambolecampbell.