We’ve made it through another year. This was an interesting year at the very least thanks to the first half not being the strongest in recent years. It wasn’t a first half without any good shows. I enjoyed watching and talking about a fair number of them. But it was more that the first half of 2019 was quantity rather than a few high end quality shows that made for easy top 10 selections. Still, I have to say the second half was downright excellent. It was actually pretty tough to determine which shows should slot in where for the top 10. But that was mostly in the bottom half of the top 10. A lot of really good shows that more or less were even to each other. For the top end of the year…I didn’t have nearly such a tough time. The great shows just separated themselves.
It is a great deal of fun to look back on the past year. I find that every year gives just enough great shows to keep me a total fan of this medium. The chance to look back on the past year and remember great shows that just slipped my mind is the best part of this kind of thing. Naturally everything that had a chance to air between the latest Winter season and Fall will be on the table for this. And that will include OVA and movies that I’ve had the chance to see.
As always this is a completely subjective list. I’m sure someone could breakdown a top 10 list of the most technically proficient shows or movies with the best quality of writing. But I’m not going to be that person. This is completely about what left an impact on me. This is both about remembering the variety of shows we got this season and letting people know about series they might have simply missed.
10. Hitoribocchi no Marumaru Seikatsu (Spring)
There are just some shows that surprise you or steadily build up into something really good. This show was just one of those. There were some elements that didn’t quite work for me, but the overall experience was top 10 worthy in my mind. It had some hilarious musical elements (like Bocchi’s school of laughs or Aru’s personal theme song) and likable characters. It did make me care about this hilariously awkward main character and the friends she steadily acquired along the way. Everyone felt distinct and memorable and the comedy held up. This was just a show that I found easy to enjoy. Some shows I’m good with them being a one and done kind of thing. But with this show I’d be fully invested in another season of it.
9. Shinchou Yuusha (Fall)
Some shows do not start out as the kind that you expect to be anywhere near your top 10 for the season. And sometimes timing is a big deal. If a show can hit a high point at the proper time that can leave it as an extremely memorable series. And that was the case here. This show was just fun in the first few episodes and kept my attention. But as it went along it both managed some good action, enjoyable main characters, and a story that made me stop and re-evaluate the entire show to that point. It didn’t end up as utterly impactful as the shows above it. But, it did end up a show I had a great time watching and most definitely felt it earned its way into my top 10 by the end of the season.
8. Kanata no Astra (Summer)
This show was refreshing in a lot of ways. You just don’t get that many space adventures these days. The focus has gone heavily in the direction of the isekai which leaves a show like this well appreciated for just existing. That it fills a nice space adventure nice is nice, but what really made the difference for me was how darn well done it was. They did everything needed to make this show thrive. A double length opening episode so the atmosphere of the show could settle in? We got that. They made the most of the time they had. Even if that at times meant the plot was moving quickly, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the pace. I was invested in the mystery hanging overhead and how things were going to play out for the cast. Not so much whether they’d find their way home, but how they’d resolve everything by the end of the story. Absolutely top 10 worthy for me.
7. Endro (Winter)
This show was a total surprise for me. I expected a very simple show about cute girls going to an adventurer’s school and having little adventures of minor consequence. Instead this was a pretty awesome show about legit legendary heroes that challenged a demon lord and for reasons ended up thrown back in time (along with that demon lord) to their school days with the girls not remembering their previous exploits. The show had twists and turns that had me curious to see what would happen. At times I believed myself to have figured the plot out and then it surprised me again. This was a strong self-contained original story that didn’t need more than 1 cour and used that time effectively. For me a definite top 10 show.
6. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka??: Sing for You (Fall)
There’s no doubt that I love this franchise. But even franchises I love can disappoint and wouldn’t warrant a top 10 finish on the year for that reason alone. This OVA was just downright fun and excellent. It did a wonderful job continuing to flesh out Chino as a central figure in this franchise, but also it gave some deserved focus to her family. Her father got some of his best moments with Chino in this OVA and we really got to know her deceased mother better with this. The characters were their lovable selves and added to the story being told. Even if it was just effectively a single episode, it was just that good that I can’t help but give it a slot in this year’s top 10.
5. Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl (Fall)
This movie was worth waiting later in the year to see. It was an intense emotional rollercoaster ride that I’ll remember for quite a while. It isn’t easy for a movie or OVA to crack a top 10 list (despite the numbers on this list) since that one experience does have to contend with entire series. But this movie was extremely good and a great follow-up to the first season last year. I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out and got really concerned about the futures for various characters. The movie did everything it needed to do and even if nothing else was done with this franchise I’d consider it an excellent stopping point. Whether I was focusing on Sakuta’s emotional journey, Mai’s concerns, or the mystery of Shoko, this film kept me invested.
4. Boku no Hero Academia S4 (Fall)
That this show isn’t in the top 3 doesn’t mean it hasn’t been great thus far. I do think that things might have shifted if it was a Summer show though and had the Summer and Fall seasons to fully show itself off. The fourth season has been more of a slow build. But while I enjoy seeing Deku continue his journey to being the #1 hero, this season didn’t deliver the same kind of “holy smokes” epic moments often enough to straight up beat the others rated ahead of it. But, I still love this franchise and this season has been one of the top 5 shows of the year for me. The music, animation, and characters remain key parts of why I enjoy the heck out of it. This season has been great thus far and can’t wait to see the rest in 2020.
3. Kaguya-sama: Love is War (Winter)
This show was a ton of fun. It really nailed what can make romantic comedies special. They do such a good job of making the characters both really likable, but also flawed. You want to see them end up together, but you can appreciate how they can be their own worst enemies in getting what they want. But beyond that the show quickly moved beyond just repeated “Shirogane vs Kaguya” stuff that could have gotten repetitive over time. Instead it expanded the cast a bit, focused on developing the characters, and even delivering some great emotional moments that wasn’t just about the potential romance. Beyond that, this was a show that showed incredible love from the staff. You could feel the passion for this series and they went above and beyond to make it great. Easily a top 3 show of the year for all of these reasons.
2. Fate/Grand Order: Zettai Majuu Sensen Babylonia (Fall)
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when this got announced along with the Camelot movie. Part of me still wishes they had gone ahead and adapted the whole darn thing even if it would take years with a completely understandable amount of breaks to make happen. But, regardless of that Babylonia stormed out of the gate with extremely high quality and entertaining episodes. They even went so far as releasing that sizable episode 0 just to help ease people in as best as they possibly could. I can only guess at how the show has gone for those coming in fresh. But for me getting to see this story adapted so well has been a total thrill. The action has been great, the story has been well told, and this has already become one of my favorite Fate-series anime. Just a great anime.
1. Senki Zesshou Symphogear XV (Summer)
It’s kind of thrilling that I can put this show here without any hesitation. There wasn’t a show this year that thrilled me every week or was as much fun to watch as Symphogear. This is likely the end of the franchise and it went out with utter style. This was a season that was incredibly entertaining and tied up so many loose ends that I’m amazed the story didn’t suffer as a result. On top of wrapping up all these seasons, giving great action, excellent music, it even redeemed GX which was the weakest season overall. So much happened in this fifth season of one of the best original anime franchises I’ve watched. This is a season and franchise I can’t recommend hard enough. Over the top and fun shows can have great messages and this franchise has that. Happy to say this is my top show of 2019!
There are plenty of shows I’d give a nod to as honorable mentions. I really enjoyed: Sword Art Online: Alicization, DanMachi S2, Azur Lane, Tate no Yuusha, Mahou Shoujo Tokushusen Asuka, Nanatsu no Taizai – Kamigami no Gekirin, and others. Everyone’s tastes will differ, but these were some shows that I wouldn’t have minded throwing onto the top 10 list but I just couldn’t justify it ahead of the shows that did make it. A lot of that comes down to entirely personal reasons and I’m sure for others some of these shows were easy top 10 picks.
For the sake of openings and endings, I did want to give a nod towards a couple shows. Kaguya-sama may have had the best opening I’ve seen in a long time. The song was incredibly catchy, the visuals really stood out, and it had a ton of style. It wasn’t one that I fell in love with immediately, but didn’t take long to reach that point. Beyond that though I really enjoyed the openings for Symphogear XV and Fate/Grand Order. Both had a great amount of action that very nicely represented what you could look forward to in the shows. Didn’t hurt either that songs had good pace and were enjoyable to listen to each week.
The endings were not quite so easy. Bocchi had some great unique endings like the “Bocchi School of Laugh” ending. Kaguya-sama also had a good one about Chika dancing which definitely stood out. Symphogear XV probably had the ending that stuck with me the most on the level of a good song and one where the visuals held up nicely. It always left me with a feeling of “they are going to overcome this crisis.”
This was an interesting year. I wasn’t loving the early part of 2019. There were good shows, but overall those seasons didn’t quite grab me like they usually do. The second half really carried the day. But in some ways that was likely to always be the case. A majority of the shows I was hyped for in 2019 were set to air in the second half. Just anticipation alone had me more excited for what was coming later on. Regardless, I loved how well my top shows of 2019 turned out. Every week Symphogear was airing I had a great time watching it. No matter how busy life got, those episodes really pulled me in. And while I hoped Babylonia would be good, I never expected it to be as good as it has been. Same goes with the pure love the staff of Kaguya-sama put into it.
I don’t know how 2020 will turn out or how it will compare to this year. It does have a nice advantage in Boku no Hero and Babylonia carrying over into the Winter season. But, I’m confident that 2020 will be a great year. Every year has great shows that make it worth watching anime. Working on a top 10 list like this just reminds me of that. There are great shows you can just kind of forget came out this year since it’s been months since you last saw them. It is nice to reflect and consider what fun we all had watching what came out. Hopefully if nothing else this was a good chance for people to remember some shows they forgot about. And if anyone decides to give a show they passed on a chance after reading this then that would be great. Can’t wait for 2020.
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