Sometime in the 2010s, anime went from a niche interest to an integral part of the pop culture zeitgeist. In short, anime is cool now in addition to being more accessible than ever outside of Japan, especially with streaming services taking it seriously. 2019 was a killer year for anime, but the content flow never stops: from blockbuster movie releases to a slew of projects from renowned director Masaaki Yuasa to the highly anticipated Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0, 2020 is shaping up to be just as big of a year in anime. Whether you’re here for the adrenaline rush of a volleyball match in Haikyuu!! or ready to sit back and binge every Studio Ghibli film after HBO Max launches in May, we’ve compiled the 25 anime titles and events we’re most excited for this year.
January 15, in theaters The highly anticipated new film from Your Name. director Makoto Shinkai, Weathering With You brings the same kind of whimsical energy as its predecessor. After a stellar Japanese box office run in 2019, the film finally debuted stateside on January 15. The film follows Hodaka, a teenage runaway who moves to a perpetually rainy Tokyo, and Hina, a "sunshine girl" who has the unusual power to stop the rain. The two team up to start a business marketing Hina’s ability to bring the sun back, which results in a ripple of unforeseen consequences that signals commentary on climate change.
January 10, Crunchyroll simulcast Karasuno High’s volleyball club is back in the heavily anticipated return of the sports anime Haikyuu!!, which has been off the air since 2016. The newest arc of the series picks up after Karasuno won a spot in the national tournament by defeating powerhouse rival high school Shiratorizawa. During preparations for the Spring National Tournament, the high flying, but inconsistent, spiker Hinata starts to feel left behind after fellow first-years Kageyama and Tsukishima are invited to national and regional training camps, respectively.
January 6, Crunchyroll simulcast The newest animated series from Devilman Crybaby director Masaaki Yuasa, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is a lighthearted, goofy comedy adapted from Sumito Ōwara’s manga series of the same name. Centered around the art of producing anime itself, a trio of three high school girls form a club to, well, make an anime. The catch is that socialite Tsubame Mizusaki’s parents have forbidden her from joining any kind of anime club, given that she’s on the path to becoming an actress. In turn, the group creates Eizouken -- a live-action film club that’s a front for their true ambition.
February 19, theatrical event Another project from director Masaaki Yuasa (but not the last one on this list), Ride Your Wave is a feature film that premiered in June 2019 in Japan and is finally getting a stateside release. The film follows Hinako, a college student and surfer; when her apartment catches on fire, firefighter Minato saves her. They fall in love, but soon Minato is killed by an accident at sea. Hinako can’t bear to even look at the ocean until she realizes that she can summon Minato in any body of water by singing their song.
February 26, in theaters The most recent My Hero Academia film, Heroes Rising takes class 1-A to a new setting called Nabu Island for hero training in the wake of All Might’s retirement. Of course, things fail to go to plan, and a group of villains -- including one with the power to steal quirks -- storms the island. Without any pro heroes to save them, it’s up to Class 1-A to protect the island’s citizens, even in the face of a terrifying power that feels eerily similar to All For One.
March 13, streaming on Netflix Based off of the manga series of the same name written by Paru Itagaki, Beastars was one of 2019’s most interesting anime titles. The comparison to Disney’s Zootopia is inevitable given that Beastars takes place in a world populated by anthropormorphic animals. Tensions rise between predator and prey when an alpaca student of Cherryton Academy is murdered, and the timid wolf Legoshi has to navigate a new set of complex feelings for Haru, a dwarf rabbit. A Netflix original anime, Beastars is finally hitting the platform after airing during the Fall 2019 anime season in Japan.
Food Wars: The Fifth Plate
Spring 2020 Over the past four seasons, cooking series Food Wars! has risen to the top of its class with some of the most mouthwatering food animation the format has to offer. Past that, it’s unabashedly fun, making it feel just as much like a sports anime as a celebration of food itself. Set at a fictional, cutthroat culinary academy in Japan, the series tracks a generation of young chefs competing with each other in cooking showdowns known as shokugeki. The series recently wrapped up its fourth season in December, and The Fifth Plate is set to conclude the adventures of Yukihira Soma, Nakiri Erina, Tadokoro Megumi, and everyone else at Totsuki Academy. Food Wars!: The Fifth Plate will air as part of the Spring 2020 anime season and will likely be simulcast on Crunchyroll, as was the case for previous seasons.
Fruits Basket Season 2
April 2020 A remake of the 2001 anime series based off of Natsuki Takaya’s manga series of the same name, the first season of Fruits Basket, from TMS Entertainment, was one of the best anime of 2019. Now, the series is coming back with a second season to begin airing during the Spring 2020 programming block. Beloved for its colorful characters, Fruits Basket has long been a mainstay of the shoujo genre and was long due for a redux. While the original anime series diverged from the manga and capped at 26 episodes, the 2019 series more closely follows the original storyline. Fruits Basket Season 2 will begin airing in April and will likely be simulcast on Crunchyroll and simultaneously dubbed on Funimation, as was the case for Season 1.
April 2020, streaming on Netflix The latest installment in the Ghost in the Shell franchise, SAC_2045 is Netflix’s 3D CGI take on Major Motoko Kusanagi and the rest of Section 9. While the animation style starkly contrasts the early adaptations of author Masamune Shirow’s seminal manga, there’s some fidelity to prior works: the main voice cast of the 2002 Stand Alone Complex will return, including Atsuko Tanaka as Motoko Kusanagi, Akio Otsuka as Bato, and Koichi Yamadera as Togusa. Per Netflix’s summary, the series will follow the former members of Section 9 as they grapple with the appearance of a “Post-Human,” a being with tremendous intelligence and physical capabilities.
Streaming access to the Studio Ghibli Library
May 2020, streaming on HBO Max HBO Max’s acquisition of the full Studio Ghibli film library was one of the platform’s biggest grabs. Titles ranging from 2002 Oscar winner Spirited Away to the studio’s 1986 debut film Castle in the Sky will be available exclusively on HBO Max, streaming for the first time. Studio Ghibli’s films have historically only been available to watch via physical copies and screening events put on by North American distributor GKids and Fathom events. Now, in addition to most Ghibli titles being available on HBO Max at launch, the full collection is available for digital purchase. HBO Max will launch in May 2020 for $14.99 per month.
Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0
June 27, in theaters in Japan Perhaps the most anticipated -- or at least anticipated the longest -- item on this list, Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 is the long-awaited fourth installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion reboot film series, first teased in 2012. Later, it was confirmed to be in production in 2016, and finally a date was set for a June 2020 release (at least in Japan). One of the biggest anime moments of 2019 was when Neon Genesis Evangelion finally became available on Netflix, giving the series its first legal streaming home and finding a whole set of new fans. Given that it's one of the most renowned franchises in Japanese animation, anything Eva is going to make a stir, and Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0 is no exception.
July 5 Demonic spontaneous human combustion is the wildly chaotic central problem of Fire Force, which premiered to much acclaim (and some controversy) during the Summer 2019 season with its seamless high-octane action sequences. David Production, known for series like Cells at Work! and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, is putting out the series' second season following the fire brigades of Tokyo's Solar Era, chiefly the rookie Shinra Kusakabe, a third-generation pyrokenetic with the unwieldy ability to shoot fire from his feet. Season 2 will likely simulcast on Funimation and Crunchyroll.
The Promised Neverland Season 2
Fall 2020 Another of our favorite anime series from 2019 is coming back with a second season rumored to come out in October. And make no mistake: this isn't as sweet as its cute character designs might have you believe. This is a dark show. The kids, led by Emma, are orphans growing up comfortably -- until they discover the truth of their existence and make plans to make a break for it. The second batch of episodes will see the escaped group in the outside world for the first time. If 12 new episodes isn't enough, there's also a live-action ThePromised Neverland movie scheduled for December.
Fall 2020 Anime fans have a complicated relationship with Attack on Titan, to say the least. Its tense first season and stark premise made it an instant mega-hit when it first began airing in 2013. But then its plot started to feel more and more outlandish, and then it started showing some pretty fascist subtext. In any case, it was still one of the biggest anime titles of the 2010s and had a massive cultural impact. Season 4 will be the series’ last, and whether you’re an avid follower of the series or are just ready for it to be over, that’s a big deal. Attack on Titan Season 4 will air during the Fall 2020 anime season and will likely be simultaneously broadcast on Crunchyroll as was the case with previous seasons.
Japan Sinks: 2020
Coming later this year, streaming on Netflix Based on Sakyo Komatsu’s 1973 novel Japan Sinks, Japan Sinks: 2020 is director Masaaki Yuasa’s latest project at Netflix. The film adapts the novel to the present day and is set directly after the Tokyo Olympic Games that will take place in July and August, following the four members of the Muto family as they attempt to navigate a country beset by disaster. While Japan Sinks: 2020 likely won’t be quite as viscerally hedonistic or brutal as Yuasa’s previous Netflix project Devilman Crybaby, it’s sure to be just as much of a spectacle.
Coming later this year, in theaters The latest feature film from Studio 4C and director Ayumu Watable, Children of the Sea is a lush dive into the fauna of the ocean itself. Adapted from Daisuke Igarashi’s manga of the same name, the film follows Ruka, a young girl whose father works at an aquarium. There, she meets Umi and Sora, two boys who were raised by dugongs and feel just as drawn to the sea as she does. However, it’s only the children who hear the call as adults like Ruka’s father are caught up in the mystery of the world’s fish disappearing. Featuring music from frequent Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi, it’s sure to be an emotional journey. Children of the Sea was released in Japan in 2019, and per distributor GKids’ website, it will hit theaters in the United States soon.
Coming later this year, in theaters in Japan A direct continuation of the story from the 2019 breakout series Demon Slayer, Mugen Train will adapt the Infinite Train arc of Koyoharu Gotoge’s manga series of the same name. In the film, Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke board the Mugen Train in pursuit of master Demon Slayer Kyojuro Rengoku. Once they find him, however, they learn of the passenger disappearances that have beset the train and join Kyojuro in investigating.
2020, four-part miniseries on Toonami Junji Ito's masterful works of horror manga have been translated to screens in the past, but Adult Swim's latest effort is the most exciting yet. Directed by Hiroshi Nagahama (Big WIndup!, Flowers of Evil, Mushi-Shi), with music composed by Colin Stetson, and made in partnership with Production IG, Uzumaki is an adaptation of arguably the creepiest horror manga of all time, Ito's series of the same title that finds a town mesmerized by creepy spirals, people-shaped holes, and lots of other supernatural body horror. We can't wait to get all freaked out.
Winter 2020, streaming on Netflix Adapted from Q Hayashida’s popular manga series of the same name and produced by Studio Mappa (Yuri!!! On Ice), Dorohedoro takes place in a post-apocalyptic cityscape called the Hole, where humans reside only to be preyed on by sorcerers who experiment on them with magic. Caiman, a man with lizard-head and no memory of his life or identity, embarks on a mission to find the sorcerer who cursed him, killing a number of other bad wizards in the process. Dorohedoro is currently airing in Japan as part of the Winter 2020 anime block and will be available in the United States on Netflix later this year.
Coming later this year, streaming on Netflix The newest original anime series from Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Promare), BNA: Brand New Animal is poised to bring all of Trigger’s characteristic charm and action to Netflix. Directed by Yoh Yoshiinari (Little Witch Academia) and written by Kazuki Nakashima (Promare), the series takes place in a world where humanity has just become aware of the existence of humanoid animals. After high school student Michiru suddenly turns into a raccoon-person, he seeks sanctuary in Anima City, a metropolis where humanoid animals gather. As Michiru attempts to unravel her newfound identity, she gets wrapped up in a larger conspiracy. BNA: Brand New Animal will air in Japan during the Spring 2020 season with a Netflix release later in the year.
2020, streaming on Netflix An original, four-episode series created Justin Leach (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and directed by Yasuhiro Irie (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), Eden takes place on a future Earth inhabited solely by robots. Humanity is presumably extinct, until two farming robots discover a human baby on the outskirts of the city “Eden 3.” In turn, they raise her together, forming a home outside the boundaries of Eden. Eden will be released on Netflix globally sometime in 2020.
Aggretsuko Season 3
2020, streaming on Netflix Everyone’s favorite death metal red panda is back in the third season of Aggretsuko, Netflix’s breakout hit based off of Sanrio character and beleaguered office worker Retsuko. The series has garnered praise for its relatability and handling of concepts like sexism in the workplace as Retsuko navigates dealing with her chauvinist pig of a boss (no, really, he’s a pig) and a series of complex relationships with her friends and coworkers. The series hasn’t lost its steam since debuting in 2018, so Season 3 is sure to pack an emotional punch.
Pacific Rim: The Anime
2020, streaming on Netflix The only entertainment that 2020 really needed was more Pacific Rim, the best giant-mech-punches-a-giant-kaiju film that 2013 had to offer. One of Guillermo del Toro’s many wild genre universes, the world of Pacific Rim is ripe for spinoffs, and its Japanese monster influences and mecha technology make it the ripe for anime adaptation. This anime series from Netflix, Legendary Entertainment, and Polygon Pictures has already been confirmed for two seasons, and follows a pair of siblings who pilot an abandoned Jaeger mech in search of their parents. Pacific Rim: The Anime will premiere on Netflix sometime in 2020.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
2020, streaming on Netflix Netflix’s adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novel series was one of the weirdest and fun things the platform has ever produced, but it was a smash hit, so of course Netflix is absolutely going to milk it for all it’s worth, announcing an anime movie barely a month after its debut. Nightmare of the Wolf is an anime film produced by legendary Korean animation studio Studio Mir, which has worked on a number of American cartoons, including Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra and Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. The Witcher producers Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and Beau DeMayo are also on board. While we don’t know much about the plot past the fact that it will feature “a powerful new threat facing the Continent,” the film is sure to be visually stunning and feel at least a bit like the current Netflix series. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf will likely premiere on Netflix sometime in 2020.
2020, Pre-order Studio Trigger’s Promare was one of the brightest, loudest, and most spectacular anime films of 2019. The film takes place in a world where some humans have gained the ability to manipulate flame; called the “Burnish,” they’re persecuted for their identity and in turn light fires that are quenched by specialized firefighters known as the “Burning Rescue.” Some of us can’t wait to get our grubby little hands on HD physical copies of Promare so we can watch it in the comfort of our own homes again, and again, and again despite having already seen it five times in theaters. Promare is slated for a Blu-Ray and DVD release in Japan on February 5, and it’s currently available for pre-order in the United States. There’s no definitive release date, but it’s coming.
Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.
Palmer Haasch is a contributor to Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @haasch_palmer.