2023 was a good year for anime. The past 12 months were packed with some absolutely sensational shows from both long-running fan-favourite franchises and fresh-faced newcomers alike, and there was truly something for everything.
We enjoyed a lot of anime last year, and here are our top 10 shows from 2023.
10) NieR:Automata Ver1.1a
Yes, the NieR:Automata, the multi-award-winning game, considered to be an absolute masterpiece, with multiple endings, a rich, complex story, and incredible action and writing condensed into 12 episodes of anime. It shouldn’t have a hope in hell of working, but the show does an impressive job of bringing together the game’s best bits, albeit in condensed form.
Set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic distant future (aren’t they all?), it follows androids 2B and 9S as they are dispatched to Earth to assist in the resistance against Machine Lifeforms. That’s us massively oversimplifying a deep, layered plot that throws a lot of very strange things at you and, if you haven’t played the game, keeps you guessing all the way through. It’s got action, a lot of mystery and plenty of straight-up weirdness, for want of a better word, and it’s definitely worth a watch.
9) Hell’s Paradise
Hell’s Paradise hit us with a premise we couldn’t ignore: Edo-period Japan – Gabimaru the Hollow, a man who cannot die, is on death row, which might make for a very boring show were it not for the fact that he will be pardoned if he can retrieve the Elixir of Life from a mysterious island. And he’s not the only one who’s been invited, with a whole bunch of condemned convicts also on the hunt, and only one of them will be let off the hook. Also, the island is creepy as all hell, and watching the show is like a really bad trip. We’re talking giants, deadly bugs with human faces, and horny, gender-swapping gods.
What follows is 13 episodes of blood-soaked slice ‘n dice goodness, as the convicts and their appointed executioners go at each other and everything the island can throw at them. It’s massively gory, with some awesome action sequences and surprising depth and emotion too. The OP is also a massive bop that we’re still humming to this day. Hell’s Paradise has a lot of good stuff going on and a lot going for it, and we really enjoyed it, but it just doesn’t quite stick the landing. A second season is on the way, though, and we reckon that’s when it’s really going to hit its stride.
8) Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Part 2 Cour 1
Mushoku Tensei returned for its second season this year, and after its action-packed opening offering back in 2021, the first half of season two is a much more laid-back affair. Rudeus Greyrat, who was a 34-year-old shut-in in our world and reincarnated as a baby in a magical fantasy land and became a powerful mage, is now a teenager and heads to the Ranoa University of Magic. Oh, and he also can’t get it up, which is quite a big focus of this season…
It’s a much more slow-paced affair that focuses on Rudeus’ relationships, world-building, and his lack of activity in the downstairs department rather than relying on big action scenes, though there are still a few of those to enjoy. With season two, Mushoku Tensei almost slips into a slice of life, and while it feels a lot smaller and more subdued than its sprawling first season, which took you on a huge adventure, we enjoyed it. Fingers crossed, the second cour kicks things up a notch and gives us more of what season one delivered.
7) Demon Slayer: Swordsmith Village Arc
A year without Demon Slayer is like a weekend without a takeaway – almost unthinkable, and you’ll feel a bit sad if you don’t have one. And, much like a takeaway, you know exactly what you’re getting with Demon Slayer.
MC and Demon Slayer Corps member Tanjiro Kamado is back (sans fellow show regulars Zenitsu and Inosuke), this season teaming up with Mist Hashira Muichiro Tokito and Love Hashira Mitsuri Kanroji to kick demon ass in, you guessed it, the titular swordsmith village. Cue some larger-than-life battles filled with fancy magical moves and truly eye-popping animation that shows off what ufotable’s animators are capable of. And, of course, there’s a healthy helping of flashbacks and more inner monologues than you can shake a katana at.
It’s classic Demon Slayer, and it serves up all the action and drama you could hope for and want. And while the show has, as of yet, not managed to match its incredible first season, we will never turn down the opportunity to enjoy some more Demon Slayer.
6) Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead
In most shows and movies, when a zombie apocalypse strikes, it’s bad news for all concerned, but in Zom 100, it’s the best news Akira Tendo could have received. Y’see, his dream job turned out to be a nightmare, and he’s been stuck at the company from hell for three years. So when the zombie apocalypse strikes, it means no more work, and it gets the show started with one hell of a bang. Akira starts to make a list of 100 things he wants to do before becoming a zombie and sets off across Japan, along with a colourful cast of characters, to make it happen.
Zom 100 is an absolute blast – it’s fun and funny, and the visuals are a treat. But it also has a whole lot of heart, some powerful messages and positive vibes, and delivers some really heavy, emotional moments, effortlessly switching between making you crack up and cry from scene to scene. We loved every minute of Zom 100‘s frenetic ride, and it’s a show that you’re sure to enjoy.
5) Undead Unluck
Undead Unluck isn’t just one of the most unhinged shows of 2023, it’s one of the most outrageous anime we’ve ever watched.
Episode one effortlessly blends animation styles as it switches between past, present, and Fuuko Izumo’s manga. She’s a girl whose very touch causes people to experience horrific luck, with deadly consequences. She can’t live like this and decides to end her life… Except that she’s caught the attention of a man (whom Fuuko names Andy) who can’t die, and he wants to use her unluck to counter his undead powers to achieve the most awesome death ever. Before long, they’ve teamed up, and joined a squad of other Negators, each with their own powers, and are fighting evil Unidentified Mysterious Animals (UMAs).
Everything about this show is ridiculous, and just when you think it can’t get any more outrageous, it always manages to outdo itself. And it’s so good. It’s some of the most fun we’ve had watching anime, and while it is completely bonkers, it has some deep and complex world-building that will suck you straight in, a lot of weird and mysterious things going on that will keep you invested, and, when you least expect it, it smacks you right in the feels, and leaves you blubbing with emotional scenes that pull no punches.
This is, without a doubt, one of the most underrated and slept-on shows of the whole year, and anyone who’s not given it a go is seriously missing out. Just watch it.
4) Heavenly Delusion
Heavenly Delusion is an anime that demands you engage your brain from the very first episode, and it never lets up. It spends its time constantly switching between two stories – the first, of strange children in a sheltered school, with no knowledge of the outside world, being raised and taught by humans and robots. The second is that of Maru, who, with the aid of his hired bodyguard Kiruko, is travelling across post-apocalyptic Japan, following cryptic messages, searching for heaven, and fighting horrific monsters and equally horrific humans along the way.
Heavenly Delusion gives very little away, drip-feeding you only the tiniest slivers of information as it goes along, slowly letting you stitch the two timelines together and leaving you desperately hungry for more. It’s a weird, creepy, gory, unsettling show with a twisting, turning plot, and it’s so good. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s so worth your time. We are manifesting a second season so hard…
3) Jujutsu Kaisen Season Two
Jujutsu Kaisen was always good. The story of Yuji Itadori, who gets caught up in the world of Jujutsu sorcerers, fighting against nightmarish curses, the first season took its time to get going, but when it hit its stride, it didn’t miss. The prequel movie was solid and helped to develop the story. But now, with season two, JJK has achieved true greatness.
The story is the best it’s ever been, giving the characters so much more substance, the humour is on point, the emotional moments hit you squarely in the feels, and the fights… the fights are just on another level. The animation, the action, the intensity, the scale of them, it’s unreal, and it’s MAPPA doing what MAPPA does best.
JJK S2 is peak shounen: it delivers everything you could possibly want and does it with so much flair and drama. It’s nearly flawless in its execution and takes a very deserving third-place finish.
2) Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
In any other year, Frieren would have taken the top spot, and she almost did – it was an incredibly tough decision, and so close between the top two spots for us, but, in the end, Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End must settle for a still superb second place.
As huge fans of the manga, we couldn’t wait to see Frieren brought to life on screen, and MADHOUSE has done an incredible job of animating the award-winning adventures of the titular elf. Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is a slow-paced, introspective adventure that takes place after the demon lord has already been defeated and follows mage Frieren on a new adventure as she learns about humans and reflects on her past adventures.
Everything about this show is just beautiful: from the score, which sounds like it came straight from the Lord of the Rings, to the animation, scenery and the story itself. It’s a show with so much heart, its characters feel so real, and it’s such an emotional journey. And while the action might be fleeting, when it arrives, it’s intense and epic and delivers goosebumps every time.
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is an absolutely breathtaking show with so much to offer, and it’s simply wonderful.
1) Attack on Titan: Final Season – The Final Chapters Part 2
And so we come to our Anime of the Year, which might be a slightly controversial choice, but the finale of arguably one of the greatest anime of all time was simply too significant for it to not take the top spot.
After 10 years of watching the story of Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, Armin Arlert and their friends and colleagues fighting against terrifying, man-eating Titans, we can’t quite believe that Attack on Titan is over. It’s been an incredible journey, an amazing story that has taken so many twists and turns, that has shocked us, left us in tears and awe, and gave us some of the greatest moments in anime – in all media – of all time.
Was the ending perfect? No, but when a show has been going for this long and has been placed on a Titan-sized pedestal by its fanbase, it feels almost impossible to end it in a way that will please everyone. Ultimately, it was a flawed finale, but it was also an absolutely epic and incredibly emotional end to an absolutely incredible anime.
We’ll never forget Attack on Titan, and we’ll always remember its epic conclusion. Shinzou wo Sasageyo!
Check out more anime news and features at SciFiNow