The new decade is starting with over 35 new anime shows, and more than 15 continuing from 2019. In order to help you weed through all of these shows, I’ve put together a list of six that stand out as being the most interesting, whether you are a newcomer or long-running anime fan. Most of these shows are available for viewing internationally the day after they air in Japan, thanks to streaming services like Amazon, Crunchyroll, Funimation, Netflix, and Hulu.
Besides the series included below, three shows (My Hero Academia, Fate/Grand Order - Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia, and Blade of the Immortal) from our fall season preview are continuing into the winter, and one show (Beastars) should be getting an international release on Netflix during this season. We’ll continue to update this post as new information concerning where and when these shows are streaming is announced.
If you like Ghibli-esque fantasy
Somali and the Forest Spirit
Set in a fantasy world where monster-like races rule and humans are persecuted, a golem comes across an abandoned human child, Somali, in the forest. The child mistakes it for her father. With only a little more than a year left in the golem’s lifespan before it completely breaks down, it journeys to try to find a place where Somali can be safe.
This is a show I badly want to be good. The colorfully friendly but intricate look of the world and the people in it is utterly charming in the trailers. And since the show is about the golem and the child journeying through this world, the promise of getting to see more of it — and how cities and communities are interpreted when their inhabitants are monster-like — is greatly appealing. On top of that, this is clearly going to be a very heartstring-pulling story about family, which could make it a really good show for parents to watch with their kids.
Somali and the Forest Spirit started streaming on Crunchyroll January 2nd.
If you liked the animation in Devilman Crybaby
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
This is the newest anime from Masaaki Yuasa, the director of Devilman Crybaby, and his animation studio Science Saru. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is based on a comic of the same name, and follows three first-year high school girls as they attempt to make an anime together: one working as the director / writer, one as the animator, and one as the producer.
I saw a preview of the first ten minutes of the series at Anime NYC, and the involvement of Yuasa and Science Saru is enough to interest me, given their unique kinetic experimental style of animation. But that’s not all: seeing what that means for a show about animation is a whole other thing, with them trying out all sorts of techniques and ideas to convey how the girls develop their anime. Eizouken could potentially be the first great new anime of the 2020s decade.
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! will stream on Crunchyroll starting January 5th.
If you like classic fantasy anime
Sorcerous Stabber Orphen
This is a new adaptation to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the series’ original light novel. The story follows Orphen, a young but powerful sorcerer. Orphen left his home to find a way to save his sister, who was magically turned into a dragon and then disappeared. While searching for her and for a cure, he also has to protect her from other sorcerers looking to kill her.
From the trailer, it seems that this anime is keeping to a very classic late ‘90s style, but made with modern techniques and technology. With the animation being handled by Studio Deen (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, KonoSuba), it should look good both during action scenes and more character-driven dramatic moments as well. Perhaps most notably, the story has been adapted by Reiko Yoshida, who wrote the excellent adaptations of Violet Evergarden, K-On, and A Silent Voice for Kyoto Animation.
Sorcerous Stabber Orphen will stream on FunimationNow starting January 7th.
If you like fashion industry drama
Smile Down the Runway
Chiyuki Fujito dreams of becoming a fashion model in Paris for her father’s modeling agency, but she’s too short. At school she discovers that her classmate Ikuto Tsumura is a talented and aspiring fashion designer, but is putting off his dream so that he can help support his mom and so his three younger sisters can go to college. After Ikuto makes a dress for Chiyuki that goes viral, their dreams become intertwined.
The concept for Smile Down the Runway intrigued me enough to look more into it, and I read the first chapter of the manga (which is available to read for free). In that chapter, there is a good mix of drama and humor. The characters are clearly dealing with a lot of issues, but that isn’t the sole thing that defines them, allowing them to be more multifaceted. Because of this, along with its fairly unusual subject matter, I have high hopes for the show.
Smile Down the Runway will stream on FunimationNow starting January 10th.
If you want to care about volleyball
Haikyuu!! To The Top
After a three-year hiatus, one of the best sports anime ever returns. The series follows Shoyo, who is considered too short to be a volleyball player, and the other talented and scrappy players that make up the Karasuno high school volleyball team as they try to become the best team in Japan. This new season picks up with the Karasuno team training for their trip to Tokyo for the national tournament.
Haikyuu manages to stand above a lot of sports shows by not only having great volleyball action (that is beautifully animated and easy to follow even if you don’t know the sport), but also by having a large cast of characters that you come to care about. Every match isn’t just a sports contest, but an opportunity to explore a player or team’s storyline. It is full of moments that challenge the characters’ development and growth as players and as people. So while this season is probably not a great one to jump in if you’re new to the series, it is still a great excuse to start watching.
Haikyuu!! To The Top will stream on Crunchyroll starting January 10th.
If you like gritty as an aesthetic, but not a story descriptor
In a rusted-out post-apocalyptic city called the Hole, people live in fear of sorcerers who come to their dimension to test out their powers on humans. Caiman was cursed by one such sorcerer, and is now a giant lizard-man with no memory of who he really is. He searches the Hole for the sorcerer who cursed him, whom he can identify by the face that appears in his throat when he puts a sorcerer’s head in his mouth.
I’ve long heard friends sing the praises of the Dorohedoro manga which, despite its gritty setting, is more fun and comedic than it might look. And it’s in incredibly good hands with director Yuichiro Hayashi, probably best known for directing both seasons of the visually stunning Kakegurui; writer Hiroshi Seko, who did the adaptations for Vinland Saga and both seasons of Mob Psycho 100; and animation studio MAPPA, responsible for Yuri!! on Ice and Zombie Land Saga. Given the staff and source material, it seems likely this will be one of the best new anime this year.
Dorohedoro will stream on Netflix; the US airdate has not yet been announced, but should be sometime this year. If you are outside Japan, it will probably be available some time after the entire season airs. In Japan, it’ll be available to stream starting January 13th or 14th.
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