2022 was a great year for anime. I don’t think I’ve experience a year this good since the phenomenal 2018 which gave us shows like:

What 2022 gave us was both some wildly popular mainstream shows, and a fair number of excellent shows that came in out of nowhere or were just plain happy to exist off the beaten path. One thing that made me extra happy this year were the number of shows centered around music and personal creativity.

Here’s the shows I enjoyed most in 2022:

Police in a Pod – This police slice of life anime that sprung from the mind of a former real life Japanese patrol officer somehow manages to be both amusing and all too real. It follows the lives and happenings surrounding two patrol officers working out of a small neighborhood police station and features a wide variety of on the job and off the job situations the two must tackle.

The show mixes the joys of rescuing victims of abuse and catching criminals who think they are too clever to be caught with the real challenges and hardships officers go through in an effort to live their lives and keep their sanity while working in a system that doesn’t always have their best interests in mind. Everything from simple patrols, to search and rescues, to responding to troubling calls like domestic violence and suicides is represented here. The dialogue is witty without being annoying or “Marvel snappy”. And the institutional knowledge on display is fabulous, even if the animation budget was a size or so too small.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – As discussed at length in my review, this show is a modern classic. It’s an animator’s anime that takes joy in depicting the motions and emotions inherent in young teenager Komichi Akebi’s life as she goes to school, plays sports, and makes lots and lots of friends.

While it may never be as outwardly flashy as the effects-heavy combat animations in popular action anime, the artwork and artistry this show has to offer is, in many ways, second to none. The way the show combines that with a full class of interesting characters and a great soundtrack makes me think it will long be remembered.

My Dress-up Darling – Cosplay, dressing up as your favorite characters from tv or games or movies, is a popular pass time. But also one that is expensive and takes a good deal of skill to pull off successfully. Energetic, outgoing hipster Marin Kitagawa knows this all too well when her efforts to design a costume in an effort to become her favorite game character fails miserably. But then she meets the reserved Wakana Gojo at her high school one evening. His talents at designing outfits for tiny hina dolls for his family business sees him get roped in to be her cosplay costume designer.

What follows is a remarkably wholesome budding romance between these two lead characters, even though Marin’s greatest wish is to dress up as some surprisingly provocative figures from her favorite games and tv series. Respect, recognition of effort, and acknowledging one another’s boundaries and dreams play just as large a role in this romance anime as the crazy, and often revealing, costumes Marin commissions from Wakana.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – There’s a genre of anime called “Isekai”, a word which means “different world”, which revolve around the core premise of a normal guy or girl from our modern world being transported to some kind of alternate fantasy world where they often gain impossible abilities and become the hero destined to save the day. There’s a lot of these. So many that copy cats and uninspired efforts sometimes give bad name to the good examples of the genre.

This show is one of those good ones mostly for the way it flips the concept on its head. In this particular fantasy world, people from our modern day Japan get summoned across dimensions and gain great magical powers, but those powers are just as often unbelievably dangerous as they are helpful. So, there exists a whole sect devoted to finding these would be heroes/villains/natural disasters and ending them before they can become a threat to themselves or others.

Our main character, priestess Menou, is tasked with killing newly transported innocent schoolgirl Akari Tokitō whose new innate powers of time manipulation are so dangerous they threaten everyone and everything. There’s just one problem: Akari is so powerful that she cannot be killed. Even a successful surprise assassination from Menou early in the series just sees Akari’s time powers turn back the clock on her own body so her fatal injuries are undone.

In order to save the world, these two characters come to form an unlikely friendship based on the mutual desire to find a way to kill Akari before her powers spiral out of control and break time itself. The show features fun characters and a good plot twist or two that make it all worth watching.

Healer Girl – In our modern day, the science of musical healing is beginning to join more traditional medical techniques for treating patients. We follow three up and coming musical healers as they apprentice at a local clinic and seek to earn their professional licenses.

This show is fun, colorful, and surprisingly musical. The three main character, of course, sing to do things like heal minor injuries or support surgeons during surgery, but singing is so innately a part of their lives that they do it all the time. This leads to fun segments of the girls singing out their life-long motivations or singing out technical musical terms for an upcoming exam while they clean their clinic. While it doesn’t have the biggest budget and there’s no particular conflict to keep you glued to your tv, this show provided me with enough wholesome musical fun to keep me watching week to week.

Ya Boy Kongming – Speaking of music, this show with its concept of ancient Chinese military strategist Zhuge Liang Kongming reawakening in modern day Japan in order to devise clever marketing strategies for an unknown club singer named Eiko Tsukimi just seemed far too odd for people to give it a chance. And then everyone saw it’s glorious opening with it’s crazy, upbeat music and outstandingly artsy animation and we were all hooked.

Spectacular, fortune-changing opening aside, this show kept its audience around by being a surprisingly well put together story of an unknown talent climbing the music charts to starhood while making friends and changing lives for the better along the way. If you liked Carole & Tuesday, you’ll like this too. It’s got music. It’s got heart. It’s got better art than I initially expected. It’s got one of the best anime openings of all time. What more do you really need?!

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – Imagine the perfect golf anime. Stunningly detailed lakes and sand traps and fairways and brilliant blue skies. Extremely well animated swings. Intense on course rivalries. That perfect clinking sound of sinking a long, difficult putt. Now… mix in a hefty does of the extremely over the top gambling anime Kakegurui and add a dash of… I don’t know, something insane like Kill la Kill or Gurren Lagann… then stir vigorously. That’ll just about get you to Birdie Wing.

This is a crazy story of a female golfer named Eve who yells out the names of powerful secret swing techniques taught to her by a departed golf master. She plays illicit rounds of golf against wealthy, overconfident would-be rivals who bet against her often in opposition to the wishes of the cutthroat international golf mafia. She does this so she can humiliate everyone involved and pocket large sums of money so she can continue to protect her bar where she and her friends take care of a needy group of orphans. All of which goes well until Eve finally meets a true rival in the endlessly calm and collected Aoi Amawashi who herself is the offspring of two golfing legends. Aoi has become enslaved in corporate sponsorships thanks to her overbearing CEO of a mother and she too is in the sights of the golf mafia. Eve and Aoi become infatuated with each other’s skill and personality the first time they meet and soon join forces to take down the golf mafia and the invasive corporate powers ruining their lives.

Uh… yeah, this show is out of its mind. Which probably makes it the best possible golf anime that can be made!

Summer Time Rendering – High school aged Shinpei Ajiro is returning home to his small Japanese island town in order to attend the funeral of his similarly aged adoptive sister Ushio Kofune who recently died in a drowning accident.

Except, maybe it was no accident. And maybe the supernatural was involved. By the end of the first episode Shinpei ends up getting murdered only to awaken a few days earlier back on the ferry he rode in on… and the expansive, intersting story goes from there. The animation is excellent. The characters are great. The story is well plotted. And I’m not gonna talk about any more of it… Just go watch it, already!

Lycoris Recoil – Modern day Japan is a nice safe place because it is a country of nice, caring people. Well, that, and because the government runs a miniature army of “Lycoris”, highly trained assassins disguised as schoolgirls, who are constantly on undercover patrols killing any and all bad guys before they can threaten anyone.

The show follows top Lycoris Chisato Nishikigi and her recently demoted partner Takina Inoue as they work out of a small cafe and help everyday people solve larger than life problems. Chisato is what made this anime great. She is upbeat, excitable, and very nearly hyperactive. Her refreshing outlook on life sees her try to fully enjoy her each and every moment but also sees her unwilling to kill because she does not wish to take similar precious moments away from anyone… even bad guys. It’s a philosophy she spends the entire show imparting on her new, grumpy, by the book protégé, Takina.

Highly enjoyable characterizations and some excellent animation made this a must watch series, even if the entire concept was a bit odd.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – Marketed as the first of the long running Gundam series to feature a female lead character, Witch From Mercury is not your typical Gundam show in more ways than one. It starts with a hard hitting prologue and then switches gears to something of a space high school setting where our lead character, Suletta Mercury, seems like the outer space version of a country bumpkin dropped into an odd mix of petty school cliques, intense Earthian vs Spacian economic rivalries, and high stakes corporate politics. Oh, and Suletta and her mother at first seem to know nothing of the tragic prologue they were both very much a part of!

This show features awesome giant robot fights, a suspiciously idealistic main character, and a plot that seems to know what it’s doing but at the same time plays its cards very close to its chest. It’s up to the viewer to pick out the little discrepancies strewn about the episodes that makes this outwardly happy show into something much more intense and horrifying that it first appears.

Admittedly, this show is only at its halfway point, and it could totally take a bad, unsatisfying turn in its second half this Spring. But, for now at least, it’s a hands down smashing example of a show that trusts its audience to dig into its story and find the hints that it is constantly dropping. I love that kind of thing!

Do It Yourself – Set in a slightly more high tech Japan filled with helpful AI pet robots and quadcopter drones that fill the skies each day as they deliver orders to people’s houses, this show is actually a celebration of putting love and attention in to making things by hand.

The show opens with klutzy, high schooler Serufu Yua finding herself at odds with her childhood friend and neighbor Miku Suride. The two are being spit up as they are about to start their first day at different high schools. Serufu is going to a traditional school, while Miku is going to be attending a high tech academy. In an effort to fix their ailing friendship, Serufu ends up joining her school’s Do It Yourself club and starts in on rebuilding a wooden bench that used to sit between their houses.

Along with the injury prone Serufu and her slightly stuck up friend comes a delightful cast of characters all who join the DIY club for different reasons. By the end, they are all participating in making some excellently envisioned arts and crafts to promote their club.

In addition to fun characters and a nice, low-key story, this anime has also gotten a lot of praise for it’s somewhat stylized approach to art and animation. It’s nowhere near flashy as some shows, but apparently a lot of work went into creating and maintaining its complex shot composition and semi-watercolor look.

Bocchi the Rock! – At first glance, this show has been done before. Four girls joke and laugh and bond as they throw around tons of witty dialogue whilst forming a band? This show is just K-On! Except, it isn’t. Not at all. Instead, what this fascinating anime provides is a feast of crazy animation and film making techniques that explore the inner thoughts and worries of lead character Hitori “Bocchi” Goto as she is dragged outside her incredibly lonely comfort zone when she is invited to join an after school band.

Without Bocchi as its lead character, this woud be a show very similar to K-On!. Just one with its characters much more focused on actually forming a band instead of listlessly goofing off and drinking tea. But with Bocchi as its lead, the show is instead this weird, wild, detailed and all too relatable portrayal of how someone with lifelong crippling social anxiety acts and thinks. Bocchi is prone to getting lost in her overwhelming worries and delusional flights of fancy whenever she has to interact with others. The animators put a ton of time and energy into finding ever more inventive ways to portray her inner turmoil with a shockingly wide array of art styles ranging from courtroom sketches and film noir scenes to claymation, puppets, and even brief, jarring moments of live action.

Beyond its inventively artistic portrayals of Bocchi’s often panicked mental state, Bocchi the Rock also boasts a decent knowledge of how bands and clubs operate. And it has a great core cast of primary and secondary characters. And it tuggs at you with great moments of friendship and bonding. And it features a surprising number of fully animated on-stage full length song performances. And it is consistently very strong on the art and animation side of things even outside of Bocchi’s freakout moments.

Yeah, this is a complete, unique package. It’s kinda no surprise it quickly became one of the most talked about animes of the year.

Cyberpunk Edgerunners – There’s an old, ongoing joke that anime studio Trigger’s over the top style, luscious animation, and dedication to each of their projects is just what anime needs… that they saved anime… and it’s not really a joke, because it is also true!

This show was seen as a weird, too long delayed afterthought cash in to the Cyberpunk 2077 video game. The game had suffered an extremely troubled production and had come out with so many bugs, crashes, slowdowns, and flaws that Sony took the drastic step of removing the title from its online store for several months while the worst of the problems were being fixed. The game was almost condemned to failed project status by gamers, so having an anime set in the same world come out more than a year later seemed very odd. But, yeah, Trigger did it again.

As something of a sidestory in the 2077 universe, Edgerunners follows a crazy crew of Cyberpunk mercernaries as they cheat and steal and hack and fight their way to success in a retro futuristic world that offers zero comfort or solace. You either go big or you die trying. Somehow, Trigger took this wild world and filled it with a new stories and new characters that are arguably more compelling that those within the game itself. Add in a stellar soundtrack and shockingly good animation and this show is an absolute winner. The show was so well received, in fact, that it pushed the game back onto the top of the internet’s most played charts for a few weeks more than a year after it had been abandoned by gamers.

So, once again, Trigger saved anime. Oh, and they saved gaming this time, as well!

All The Rest – You might notice this list is missing some of the biggest big name hitters. There’s Spy X Family, Chainsaw Man, and Kaguya-sama: Love Is War‘s 3rd season that I simply haven’t gotten to yet. Attack on Titan is in like part four of its final season and I don’t want to watch it until it is finished. And those are just the ones I can think of…

Yep. 2022 was a great year for anime!