2019 is tough to beat with releases like Dororo, Beastars, and Given, but 2020’s anime season came out strong and gave it a run for its money with new series, like Jujutsu Kaisen, Akudama Drive, Dorohedoro, and many more. For me, there was something special about 2020’s series in comparison to other years, and even though this year has been unpredictable and difficult, it still gave us some amazing anime. For many of us, these series provided a much needed distraction and mental escape that was truly needed more so than ever before.
In this post, I’ll only be including new anime series, because for me, it’s hard to compare an already established anime with a new one. Still, I want to give a shoutout to some of my favorite continuing seasons that released this year, such as Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Season 2, Fruits Basket, Season 2, Golden Kamuy, Season 3, The Irregular at Magic High School: Visitor Arc, and Haikyuu!!: To the Top.
These were definitely at the top of my list this year in addition to the ones I mention below. Also important to note is that Attack on Titan‘s final season is part of the Winter 2021 anime season, so keep an eye out for this one on next year’s Best Anime of 2021 post.
With that said, here are the anime that made our best anime of 2020 list!
10. The God of High School
The God of High School is one my favorites of the year in terms of pure entertainment factor alone with fights that are cranked up to eleven and a fast-paced story that, while sometimes felt too fast, generally fit the speed of the events occurring in the anime. It isn’t the most profound anime to release on this list, but it is one of the most enjoyable and I really liked its lore.
As someone who isn’t familiar with the manhwa, I may not be aware of the pitfalls this series has. But, I’m honestly somewhat relieved that I went in completely unbiased, because I think it allowed me to enjoy this series more so than I originally would have. I didn’t have this luxury with other manhwa adaptations, like Tower of God. Unlike that series, which tried to be overly complex and at times lulled, The God of High School featured a simpler story with hardly any lulls–aside from that weird marriage episode–at all.
So far, The God of High School is my favorite manhwa adaptation to be released and this is mainly thanks to the incredible animation by MAPPA studio and visuals in the series, but I also found myself more invested in its characters as well. While it has its issues, the spirit and energy of this adaptation and its characters made it one of the most fun to watch this year.
Where to watch The God of High School: Crunchyroll
9. The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited
The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited is one that I haven’t seen on many Best Anime of 2020 lists, but for me, it was one of the better outings to release this year. While definitely not anywhere near the best, it provides for a unique viewing experience being that it was adapted from Yasutaka Tsutsui’s crime novel series Fugou Keiji.
Throughout the series, I really enjoyed the interaction between Daisuke and Haru, who have two very differing personalities and ideals, but these differences are what make them work so well together. They balance one another out with Haru, who does things by the book and has a more practical manner, whereas Daisuke uses money to overcome anything that stands in his way. For me, they were one of the most entertaining duos to watch in 2020.
With likable personalities, The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited is easy to get behind, but it further captured my attention with its mysterious plot and crisp animation. CloverWorks (The Promised Neverland) were the studio behind this series and they did an incredible job as usual. Apart from being visually-appealing, I really like the character designs and overall style of The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited as well; In addition, the sound and music is top-notch.
There are many reasons why I love this series, but what kept me watching most is the fact that it is fun to watch. It has serious moments that provide intrigue, but there’s something humorous about the way Daisuke does and goes about things with his crazy technology and seemingly unlimited financial resources that kept me thoroughly entertained over the course of the season.
Where to watch The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited: Funimation, AnimeLab, Wakanim
Deca-Dence started out making you think it was one thing, but it ended up being something else. Like many people, my first impression of the series gave me Attack on Titan if it featured brighter colors and had a quirkier design vibes, but there’s a twist that occurs early on that proves you should never judge a book by its cover, or in this case it’s first episode. I must admit at first I was put off by this shift in the story, but it grew on me as the series continued.
Sci-fi series have a tendency to fall into common tropes and while Deca-Dence definitely does at times, it differentiates itself from the rest with its interweaving storylines and interesting premise. Why it really succeeds though is thanks to the dynamic duo of Kaburagi and Natsume. In my opinion, these two are the heart and soul of Deca-Dence and it’s their relationship and interaction with one another that invested me in the series. These two are a joy to watch individually and as a unit and the way in which they challenge and push each other is heartwarming to witness.
It’s one that really excels in world-building as well. As far as landscapes and designs go, Deca-Dence was one of the more exciting to experience. The premise also allowed for a lot of action-packed moments that made for some gripping episodes and scenes.
But its characters and their spirit are the most powerful thing about Deca-Dence. You really root for these characters to overcome the unsurmountable odds that have been stacked against them and this more than anything keeps you emotionally invested in the series. While it has its faults, Deca-Dence‘s story is inspirational and powerful, and for this reason alone, it’s one of 2020’s best anime.
Where to watch Deca-Dence: Hulu, Funimation, AnimeLab, Wakanim
7. Somali and the Forest Spirit
In Somali and the Forest Spirit, you embark on an adventure with main characters Golem and Somali. As you travel with them, you will experience new joys and sorrows that will further invest you in their story. More so than anything though, I loved the series because it made me feel like a child again; Full of curiosity and with a want to learn and explore this new world.
You have these two unique characters with very different personalities. On one end of the spectrum, you have Golem, a watchman of the forest that is said to have no emotion. And then you have Somali, who is a playful and inquisitive child. He discovers her in the forest one day and makes it his mission to find her parents, but this proves to be tricky because humans are on the brink of extinction in this world. Their dynamic together and how they influence positive change in one another’s lives is moving to witness.
The story is about the journey, but also very much about the people they meet along the way. These interconnecting stories add even more to the core story by showing the issues that exist within this world. But they also bring out a lot in Somali and Golem as well. They learn much from one another, but it’s the interactions they have throughout their travels that allow them to learn more about themselves and each other.
Somali and the Forest Spirit is warming to watch as it tells the tale of a father and daughter. But what moved me the most is that it really focuses on the definition of family and how it’s not just something that’s defined by blood but something that you can choose for yourself. It is beautiful to watch these bonds forge and grow stronger over the course of the season.
Somali and the Forest Spirit features stunning visuals and interesting designs, and while it is really strong at world-building, it’s even stronger in storytelling. It’s emotionally stirring and one of the best fantasy adventure tales I’ve seen in quite some time.
Where to watch Somali and the Forest Spirit: Crunchyroll
6. Great Pretender
Great Pretender has striking visuals, complex characters, and unique storylines that made it one of this year’s most unforgettable works of art. From start to finish, it stands out with its bold colors and backgrounds, fresh themes, and flawless soundtrack. Aesthetically, Great Pretender is one of the best, if not the best of the year, but its story and characters are also a strong reason as to why this one shines so bright.
You venture across the world with these characters, who are journeying on on a new path together, but have unique personalities, struggles, and perspectives because of the paths they’ve walked on their own. The storyline itself introduces you to new cities and new people from LA to Singapore to London, but the core group of characters is also diverse, allowing you to experience different walks of life, unique perspectives and cultures, and the events that shaped them.
The way they weaved the characters backstories into the cons and overarching story was incredibly done. These moments gave us a chance to grow closer to the main characters as their past clashes with their present, but also gave each of them a chance to find closure and move on from the memories or people that are still haunting them. As a result, the storytelling in Great Pretender is nothing short of extraordinary.
There’s moments that really strike you emotionally, but there’s a lot of action and thrilling scenes to be experienced as well. The cons are thoroughly entertaining and keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s nice to see these bad guys who truly deserve what’s coming to them get a taste of their own medicine and witness some top-notch animation at the same time. But it’s the development of characters, like Aby, Makato, and Cynthia and the emotions they made me feel that made Great Pretender one my top anime of 2020.
Where to watch Great Pretender: Netflix
Kakushigoto‘s story follows single father Kakushi Gotou, who is trying to hide the fact that he’s a mangaka that writes dirty jokes for a living from his daughter Hime. It gives you a view into the life of a mangaka through a humorous lens, while at the same time telling a heartwarming, touching story about a father trying to give his daughter the best life possible. This anime made me laugh more times than any series on this list, but there’s also a tonal change throughout that gives it a serious note as well.
Kakushigoto is about two very different parts of Kakushi’s world–his work and his home life. But the series not only focuses on how they differ, but also how they at times can come together or influence one another. It strikes a perfect balance in not only how it combines these storylines together, but also in its ability to make you laugh as much as it will make you tear up.
From beginning to end, the story of Kakushi and his daughter Hime is beautifully told with supporting characters that add more to this endearing picture. It’s comical but moving as well and it develops in a way that, while unexpected, makes it truly special.
Where to watch Kakushigoto: Funimation, AnimeLab, Wakanim
Id:Invaded is like a puzzle within a puzzle in the way that smaller mysteries are solved in order to solve a larger one. Each episode as a result feels new with different murders to solve, but there are singularities throughout the series that connect them all together. This makes it an intriguing show that always keeps you on your toes, but it’s also one that’s not afraid to through a wrench into things as well.
Id:Invaded has a lot of elements and themes that remind me of one of my all time favorite anime series Psycho-Pass. At the surface level, they are both psychological anime that explore the criminal mind and the overall concept of justice. Both have systems that ascertain ones threat level to society or intent to kill. They explore darker themes and have MC’s that aren’t afraid to achieve justice at all costs, even if it means getting their hands dirty themselves. More so than anything though, they are both extremely thought-provoking series.
Despite these similarities, Id:Invaded is unique and stands apart on its own. It too features much of the same elements that made Psycho-Pass so successful, but it has its own twists and turns. Still, I felt it necessary to compare the two, because if you have yet to check out this series and are a fan of Psycho-Pass this is one you’ll definitely want to give a shot.
Comparisons aside, Id:Invaded features one of the best stories on this list with script by Maijō Ōtarō, who is a well-known crime and thriller novelist. It’s a rather chilling and heavy series with serial killers involved, but it also contains some dark humor at times as well. It’s mysterious, so it’s one that will have you theorizing, but more so than anything, its the way in which these mysteries are solved that makes this series so different.
Through the use of the Mizuhanome System and cognition particles left behind by criminals at the scene, Brilliant detectives enter the killer’s unconscious mind i.e. their “id well”. What they enter though is a bizarre and strange world and they’ll have to put together the bits and pieces to uncover the identity of the killer.
These scenes in particular provide for a peculiar viewing experience that is fun to witness. The modes in which these cases are solved are fascinating, but even more fascinating are the people who dive into the wells to solve them. It’s amazing to watch characters like Narihisago aka “Sakaido” and Hondomachi do what they do best.
Id:Invaded is an anime original that is nothing short of that, original. Even though it’s one of this year’s best, it’s one that still somehow fell under a lot of people’s radar. How? I’m not quite sure, because this one is a stellar series all-around and it is one that kept me interested from start to finish.
Where to watch Id:Invaded: Hulu, Funimation, AnimeLab, Wakanim
Dorohedoro is different than any other anime that released this year, let alone ever in anime, thanks to its individual style and its one-of-a-kind story, world, and characters. It’s an extremely fun, bloody watch that’s absolutely absurd, and as a result, nearly impossible not to love. Everything in Dorohedoro, including its characters are cranked up to the extreme, and while most series would fail if they took this approach, Dorohedoro not only excels, but thrives.
As an adaptation Dorohedoro is one that was bound to be difficult to pull off. MAPPA took the challenge head on and did the series justice. What they produced not only pulled you into the gritty and grimy environment of The Hole and the Sorcerer’s World, but brought the series to life. The anime features a mixture of CGI and 2D animation, and with this combination, Dorohedoro‘s unique style shined through.
Outings like Dorohedoro and Beastars are leagues above others and they set the standard for how animation presented in this format should be done. I personally hardly noticed the CGI at all and found it to be the least jarring I’ve seen to date, because it leant itself so well to the designs and scenes in the series.
While it’s visually appealing and has a compelling story, the thing I like the most about Dorohedoro is the fact that it’s chaotic, but it never loses focus. Even more so, I enjoy the fact that it holds nothing back and waters nothing down. Although, I do have to say that while the series is violent, this is balanced out by the fact that it’s humorous as well.
This series made me laugh more than most. Of course, the source material is much to thank for the anime’s success, but I really appreciate the fact that they celebrated these aspects of Dorohedoro rather than toning them down for the adaptation. They really did the manga by the wonderful Q Hayashida justice, and for me, this was a huge feat to overcome.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dorohedoro‘s manga, it may take some time before you find yourself emotionally invested in the characters. They are likable throughout, but the backstories that give these individuals more depth don’t occur until around halfway through the season. Once you learn more about the events that shaped them to become who they are, their actions will make more sense and you will find yourself more connected to their stories.
Much of Dorohedoro‘s appeal is the mystery that surrounds some of these characters, such as Caiman and Nikaido and their connection with one another. But really the whole character list is full of intriguing and likable characters. There’s a whole mix of people with different personalities and not a single one of them bored me.
I think that’s perhaps the biggest thing about Dorohedoro that really hooked me; I never felt bored while watching it. Even though it’s not afraid to make fun of itself, there are still a lot of issues explored in the series that give this one a lot of substance and depth as well. It’s one of the best anime to release in 2020, but it’s also one of the best to release in recent years.
Where to watch Dorohedoro: Netflix
2. Akudama Drive
If you think Akudama Drive is just another action anime, you’d be wrong, because once you get past the surface level of the first few episodes, you realize it’s something much more deep and profound. Every year there’s an anime that completely surprises me; This year that’s Akudama Drive. If you are someone who dropped the series early on I implore you to give it another shot, because there’s a tonal shift that occurs halfway throughout the season that makes it one of this year’s absolute best. It’s emotional, visually-striking, and it leaves a lasting impression.
In the beginning, you get the impression that Akudama Drive is this wild, action-packed series. That’s not to say it isn’t, but it is much, much more than people are giving it credit for. It surprises you time and time again as it evolves into something completely different than you once thought it was. Over the course of the season, Akudama Drive delivers episodes that pull from all sorts of genres in the industry from sci-fi to thriller to horror and it nods to cult classics, like The Shining, Reservoir Dogs, and War Games.
Each episode is named after a movie that the creators are inspired by and the scenes within them include easter eggs that are fun to discover. Akudama Drive is an interesting combination of influences and they all come together to create a familiar yet completely new experience. But while the series takes note from others, it’s completely unique and stands on its own. There’s something nostalgic about it, but also something very fresh and modern as well. At first, I was worried the series would get lost along the way because of this, but the story never loses focus and it not only works, but excels.
The series is very character-driven with compelling personalities and some of the best characters of the year, including Swindler, Courier, Brother, and Sister. These characters develop amazingly over the course of the season. All of the characters have their own motivations and agendas, which made for interesting dynamics and interactions between them, but these four in particular are much stronger than the rest as they are shaped and molded by the events that occur within the season. Overall, the character designs are some of the best I’ve seen, but this comes as no surprise with Rui Komatsuzaki (Danganronpa) involved.
Then there’s the dystopian cyberpunk world they live in, which is a marvel to witness. The visuals are stunning and the way they play with the lighting in the series to create mood and atmosphere is truly incredible. The viewing experience you get with Akudama Drive from its visuals to its sound is one of its major appeals, but its story and its characters will keep you watching as well. I can’t rant and rave about the story enough, which really highlights the issues within this society.
There’s more than meets the eye to Akudama Drive. It’s simple yet complex with dark moments that will chill you to your core and others that will thoroughly entertain you and are extremely fun to watch as well. It has one of my favorite fight scenes in 2020, which takes place in the rain and is amazingly animated; In addition, it has one of the biggest twists and tonal shifts of the entire year. And more than any anime I’ve watched this year, it made me feel something. And if all that wasn’t enough, it also ends perfectly.
Akudama Drive has everything I could ever want in a series and it’s a job well-done all around. Don’t let the naysayers stop from giving this anime a proper chance. Anyone who thinks its just a baseless and substance-less action series clearly didn’t get into the thick of the story or watch past the fourth episode, which is a shame, because the way in which it unfolds is beautiful and its one that I’ll be thinking about for quite some time.
Where to watch Akudama Drive: Hulu, Funimation, AnimeLab, Wakanim
1. Jujutsu Kaisen
Without a doubt, my favorite anime of the entire year is Jujutsu Kaisen. And I know, the first season has yet to be completed, but from what we’ve been given so far, this adaptation is extremely well-executed and it has me wanting more each week. But when it really comes down to it, Jujutsu Kaisen is my favorite because it’s the anime I’ve been waiting for. Yes, it’s extremely hyped, but it’s hyped for good reason.
As far as anime series go, Jujutsu Kaisen has everything I look for. For one, I like the world it is set in, which has shaped the people in it for better or for worse. As a result, it is full of moments that will break your heart just as much as it will mend it.
It has characters that are extremely likable and an MC that wants to protect and help others at all costs. And to top it all off, it is chocked full of action and features intense battles with fearsome enemies. The abilities showcased are also some of the most interesting I’ve seen in quite some time and it contains moments that gave me chills, like when Satoru Gojo took off his blindfold for the very first time.
The fights are some of the best I’ve seen all year and this is no surprise with MAPPA studio at the helm. They are known not only for their clean and crisp animation, but also for their ability to create dynamic, fluid fight scenes. This is something that they showcase time and time again and is further solidified by their work on other action-packed series like Dororo and The God of High School.
With the manga already being amazing, Jujutsu Kaisen was set up for success, but they exceeded all of my expectations with this adaptation. In the end, what made this one my favorite of the year really just came down to how Jujutsu Kaisen makes me feel when I watch it. It’s an excitement I only experience when I watch anime like Attack on Titan for the first time. Good anime series come around often, but series like Jujutsu Kaisen only come around once in awhile, and when they do they make an impact.
Where to watch Jujutsu Kaisen: Crunchyroll
2020 was an amazing year for anime and it looks like 2021 is going to follow in its footsteps. The Winter 2021 anime season is about to kick off and we are excited for what’s in store. See all of the anime you have to look forward to next year!
Tags: Akudama Drive, DECA-DENCE, Dorohedoro, Great Pretender, Id:Invaded, Jujutsu Kaisen, Kakushigoto, Somali and the Forest Spirit, The God of High School, The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited