One reason I wound up thinking I’ve had a pretty decent time watching anime over the past decade could be having enjoyed quite a number of new series just last year, a bounce back from three-fourths of the year previous to it having passed without managing to settle on anything new streaming. As I got closer to setting down a few words about each of the shows in that list I did get to wondering if some of them were a bit less profound than the series that had to surface from my memories, just perhaps connected to some of my top picksfrom years previous not having been seen at the time of airing. Still, at least a few titles from last year had a fair impact on me.

“Four or so high school girls hang out united by a shared interest” seems a familiar concept in anime for me; so too is teenaged characters getting involved in fantastic events. A Place Further than the Universemanaged to steer right down the middle between those categories, with four teenaged schoolgirls managing to come along on a Japanese expedition to the Antarctic, something plausible in the real world. My interest in the setting was sufficient to get me interested in the first place; the character development was a pleasant surprise. I did notice someone making direct comparisons between the series’ characters and the famous-or-infamous high school rock musicians of K-ON!; that does have me thinking back to the start of the decade and how my standout from then was regarded by a few more people as “K-ON! joins the post-apocalyptic army.” That juxtaposition’s effect might only be increased by admitting something about that original series went just far enough over my head to keep me from feeling as enthusiastic about it as those who’d been able to see it in its first days.

Planet With was a very strong runner-up. Notices the manga creator Satoshi Mizukami was involved in the production got my attention, and that interest paid off with a story featuring plenty of plot and character development packed into an ordinary length of episodes. It might be kept out of the top spot just because of the animation attracting familiar criticisms of computer graphics and, to try and get away from that well-worn complaint, its “fantastic” elements did seem a bit more “familiar” in general than the far-ranging realism of A Place Further than the Universe.

With that, I’m moving on to a mixed bag of honourable mentions. The “Netflix-exclusive anime series” that don’t manage to air over in Japan to then be talked up in English by people getting their hands on “fansubs” often seem to be dismissed when they’re not just forgotten in a twinkling, but in managing to watch A.I.C.O. Incarnation I did have a few pleasant thoughts of “the first anime series I saw knowing they were from Japan.” Being ignored, though, might still be a better thing than what happened to DARLING in the FRANXX, but there I have to face how I wasn’t offended straight off by it, and still seem to count it as one of the modern mecha series I at least feel sorry for. Harukana Receive was more pleasant, but part of that pleasantness was the cheesecake of its girls’ beach volleyball action. In admitting that I can contemplate how I’d also thought before High School DxD was just about as good as excuses for “fanservice” have ever got, but might have kept it just clear of my previous personal standouts because it was a lead-in to a continuing story where “all tease, no payoff” might become more evident.

At first glance, the fifth Lupin the Third series followed close enough behind the fourth that its simplified artwork became a sticking point. However, it did include some interesting plot arcs and some amiable nods back to the rest of the franchise alike, such that I can distinguish it from its immediate predecessor and even be tempted to find it more interesting. SSSS.GRIDMAN wasn’t quite a mecha anime with its air of adapting live-action special-effects series, but it was at least generally popular throughout, which did help me find its varied merits as well. Violet Evergarden looked gorgeous from the start even if being shown on Netflix might not have helped the reactions of some, but it did build from there for others and for me. Now, I suppose, I just have to hope it wasn’t the final accomplishment before the martyrdom of Kyoto Animation.