“Ranking Every Anime” is a yearly, multi-part column where I rank every single anime I finished from a given year, from the very worst to the absolute best. Expect spoilers for all anime covered.
You’ve met the bad, and you’ll meet the good starting tomorrow. Meet the ugly. The weird, the flawed, and the under-sung.
Let me give you a peek under the hood, friends. To break this list—the whole thing, I mean—up into manageable chunks, I conceptualized it, as, essentially, four broad categories. The first part of the list was those few shows from this year that I genuinely disliked. This chunk? A motley assortment of the flawed but interesting, the under-loved and underrated, and a handful of things I still more liked than didn’t but was too frustrated with to put higher on the list. (I try not to think too much about this kind of thing when writing these lists, but if there are any truly Controversial picks here, I’m betting two in particular from this chunk of the list will be them.)
Without further ado, let’s get to this particular collection of weirdos.
#30. Miss KUROITSU from the Monster Development Department
It’s janky, it’s obscure, and it occasionally cracks problematic jokes. Nonetheless, Miss KUROITSU From The Monster Development Department is the first entry on the entire list that I can truly say that I like without too much in the way of further qualifiers.
Now, being a doofy comedy anime based on the premise of following a scientist who works for the evil organization in your average toku show, Kuroitsu is also undeniably really niche, at least as far as Anglophone audiences are concerned. But what can I say? I started watching it on a whim and found a lot to love between the deep-cut toku references, the absurd character comedy, and from time to time, some actual no-shit feel-good moments, such as an episode where the titular mad scientist helps one of her creations, a zombie girl, become an idol in spite of the fact that she can’t initially sing (or even speak) at all. Between that and the cameo of a character who is pretty obviously Minky Momo, I can’t help but have a certain only slightly-begrudging affection for this show.
Now, the gags about Wolf Bete, a male wolf monster accidentally put in a cute anime girl body, maybe those I could do without. But, hey, no show is perfect. Next!
#29. My Dress-Up Darling
Ah, young love. It can be sweet to the point of cloying, it can be horny to the point of awkward. In that sense, maybe no anime so far this decade has yet captured the feeling so well as My Dress-Up Darling.
You can distinguish MDUD from the bottom of the barrel romcom by virtue of both of its leads having tangible personalities. Honestly, Gojo and Marin make a pretty sweet (and believable!) couple the vast majority of the time, and it’s easy to intuitively understand how their overlap in interests—making clothes for dolls on his end, cosplay on hers—would push them closer together. On top of that, MDUD has a real love of otaku culture; Dress-Up Darling is almost certainly the anime this year with the most fictional anime, manga, games, etc. within it, and we learn enough about Pretty Cure ersatz Flower Princess Blaze that I was able to wring an entire april fools’ article out of the subject.
So why isn’t it higher on the list? Well, let’s circle back around to that “horny to the point of awkward” point. The series is fairly salacious; I’ve gone back and forth over how much of a flaw I think this really is. One must after all remember that this show is aimed at teenage boys, and teenage boys deserve good anime, too! Still, I think the series’ sometimes overbearing fanservice crosses the line of good taste a bit too often and it unfortunately hurts the show more than it helps. Maybe the inevitable second season will tone that down a little bit? Eh, let’s not ask for miracles. Ultimately, MDUD is an otherwise good show that just needs to learn to keep it in its pants better. Or maybe I’m just a prude, who knows.
#28. TOKYO MEW MEW NEW
The cat came back! 2022 was a great year for anime all around, but I was personally saddened by the lack of much that fits the broad “battle girl” mold. There were a few magical girl anime, but not terribly many that fit the wider idea of the supergenre, with even most of this year’s mahou shoujo being decidedly less fighty than normal. In the broader battle girl field there was of course Lycoris Recoil, but if you weren’t super keen on that show, or just wanted something that involved fewer guns, what exactly did you have to fall back on if you wanted to see a troupe of girls in themed outfits kick some ass?
Well, Pretty Cure. But! If you wanted a second choice, Tokyo Mew Mew New wasn’t a bad one.
Mew Mew New is a pretty naked nostalgia play; it aired in an otaku time slot, so it wasn’t really trying to compete with Pretty Cure or any other kids’ anime. Instead, it aims to be a distilled and concentrated version of the original Tokyo Mew Mew anime. A somewhat breezier adaptation of the manga that the former is based on, perhaps. I can’t say how well it succeeds in that specific regard—being unfamiliar myself with both the original Tokyo Mew Mew anime and the manga source material—but I can say that it’s an enjoyable and, more than anything, just downright fun twelve episodes of classic magical girl silliness. It was beat in even that category this year, as we’ll get to, but that doesn’t make Mew Mew’s attempt not worthwhile.
Speaking of which; of all the anime on this list that have gotten second season announcements, this is probably the one that surprised me most of all. But hey, I’m going to tune in, will you?
#27. Spy x Family
Once upon a Cold War, there lived a man named Twilight who, to fulfill a mission, found himself with a “fake” family consisting of an adopted daughter and a hastily fake-married wife. I think time and the show’s popularity have obscured just how weird Spy x Family’s premise is, but it’s worth bringing up because that strangeness is what makes the show worth following. When SpyFam dials things down into normal “shonen comedy” territory, you get bores like the episode of part two that is entirely about how bad Yor (the wife, if you somehow don’t know) is at cooking. When it remembers that it takes place in what is effectively East Germany during the Cold War, the show suddenly springs to life.
I’ll be honest, I debated long and hard where, precisely, to stick Spy x Family on this list. Because in its best moments it can be ridiculously funny—and it’s not just a parade of strong Anya Reaction Faces that’s making me say that—and even surprisingly heartfelt, but enough of it drags that I don’t really feel comfortable putting it particularly high up, either. I’ve written more about SpyFam than most anime on this list, and yet, I am still thoroughly undecided as to what I actually think of it “on the whole.” Ultimately, though, what I think doesn’t really matter here, SpyFam is easily the most commercially successful new face on this list, with its first season (broken up into two non-consecutive cours. Confusing, I know) raking in a truly rare amount of viewership not just among otaku but among the general public, probably owing to its fairly accessible nature. (There’s not a ton of “anime bullshit” in Spy x Family if that’s something you care about.) With a second proper season and a theatrical film on the way, Spy x Family will probably return for next year’s list. Maybe by then I’ll have a better idea of what the show means to me.
#26. Shinobi no Ittoki
Here’s a hypothetical for you; can you call something “okay” and mean it as a compliment?
No, I’m serious. Shinobi no Ittoki feels like a self-conscious throwback to an older kind of action anime, where The Sakuga™ was not necessarily guaranteed and was more of an intermittent thing when it did show up, where the character designs were mostly interchangeable, and the entire thing was entertaining but not really about much of anything beyond maybe some nebulous spins on big ideas like determinism vs. free will and cycles of violence. The series’ unflashy charm has all but guaranteed that it hasn’t and won’t ever develop a large fanbase (although, I should be careful about saying that ever since The Detective is Already Dead had its second season announced. Maybe you never really know.), but I’d argue it doesn’t really need one. Stuff like this is almost meant to fly under the radar, there was no way that this was going to pick up some huge following in the season that featured both Chainsaw Man and the return of Bleach, but that it has any fans at all is no mean feat, given the circumstances.
As for why it feels like a show out of time, I have a pet theory; a running theme in 2022’s anime was the knowingly retro. Miss KUROITSU is arguably an example as well, and we’ll run into a few more throughout this list. Of these, Shinobi no Ittoki might just be the one that realizes those mid-00s ambitions the most fully. Surprising, for an anime most people probably wrote off from its key visual alone.
Why does it nail that aughts-core authenticity? Well, in of itself, it’s hard to pinpoint anything “special” about Shinobi no Ittoki, but that very semi-anonymity is exactly what makes the show tick, a curious case of something being obviously nondescript but nailing the fundamentals so well that it manages to breathe a bit of new life into some pretty old tropes. The doofy high school protagonist who’s ripped from his ordinary life and inherits a secret legacy, ridiculous gee-wiz techno ninja gadgets, the scheming and sinister Tsuda-voiced villain, the death of the village chief, the final suicide mission, the all-in finale with excellent animation, it’s all here.
For bonus points: The blonde twintail traitor Kirei serves as an outside pick for one of Aoi Yuuki’s stronger—and weirder, dig that scratchy, nervous timbre—roles, if you’re into that sort of thing.
#25. The Demon Girl Next Door Season 2
Returning from way back in 2019, the anime more commonly known as Machikado Mazoku is the other other other magical girl anime on this year’s list. Although you could be forgiven for not really thinking of it that way, given that The Demon Girl Next Door focuses more on charming character-driven antics and general goofiness than it does fighting the forces of evil. (That’s really all in the rearview for co-protagonist Momo anyway. She’s retired.)
To be honest, in terms of “objective” merits and flaws, this is one of the rougher shows on the list. Machikado Mazoku’s second season has a real problem with overdrive pacing; some of the gags aren’t given quite enough room to breathe and it does hurt the show a bit by suffocating some of the more subtle character work. On the other hand, though, when it remembers to slow down there’s a real sense of approachable personality here, one that holds through equally well when the show delves a bit more into its proper plot with elements like journeys into lead Shamiko’s troubled mindscape as when it’s in more lighthearted pure-antics territory, as when she gets a job at a restaurant owned by a baku.
Machikado Mazoku will probably never top popularity polls, but managing to stick the landing on a second season several years later proves that it’s maintained its dedicated fanbase for a reason.
#24. Lycoris Recoil
Oh, LycoReco, what are we ever going to do with you? With the hype cycle some months in the rearview this feels like less of a #HotTake than it did at the time, but to me, what Lycoris Recoil is, before it is anything else, is an illustration of the difference between having good characters and telling a good story.
Here’s what it does get right. An extremely strong cast; not just Chisato and Takina, whose uneasy partnership blossoms into what anyone with eyes will be damn ready to call romance by the end of the show, but also Chisato’s father Mika, Mika’s villainous ex Yoshi, the playful hacker Kurumi, etc. They all feel like real people, and it’s a joy to watch them work through the winding tunnels of espionage that comprise the show’s plot. LycoReco does intuitively understand that a connection between two people, if it’s strong enough, can get anyone through even very dark times. This is a theme that showed up in several anime this year, including a few we’ve yet to get to, and it’s a strong core for something like this to have.
But, the same can’t be said of everything about LycoReco, which is why it’s not higher on this list. Too many of the actual plot points simply don’t survive any scrutiny, and I remain offput by the assumptions the show’s world is built on. Fiction that stars what are essentially cops develops more and more problems the closer it gets to reality. Lycoris Recoil’s galaxy brain spin of “it’s bad that cops shoot people but it would be fine if they used rubber bullets like the protagonist” is so utterly ridiculous that it’s not worth seriously engaging with, despite being a spin on a real thing some people think. The series’ commitment to exploring the idea is so minimal and half-assed that it scans as simply brainless rather than an active defense of the concept. But it is still pretty bad, and the show suffers for it.
Because of all this; how much of LycoReco’s downsides someone is going to be willing to forgive because of how charming the characters as written actually are, not to mention the show’s rock solid action anime fundamentals, is going to vary wildly. Especially because how good the show is at a given moment tends to be tied pretty directly to how much it’s focusing on its characters vs. how much it’s focusing on its boneheaded central narrative. I feel like an indecisive centrist putting LycoReco in this spot, of all places on the list, but as summer changes to autumn and autumn to winter, and LycoReco moves further and further into the past, I find myself totally torn between appreciating LycoReco for what it is and being disappointed in what it isn’t. There are worse ways to end your series than a sunny sky and crystal blue waters, so I can’t dislike the show and indeed, I don’t. The “retired in Hawai’i” ending doesn’t even entirely feel unearned. Even so, it still feels like something is fundamentally missing. So, when you get down to it, do I actually like-o ‘Reco? Well, at the end of the day, yes, but with a fucking lot of caveats. Hence its appearance here rather than a fair bit farther up. There’s only so many ways I can say that I love the characters but am not crazy about how they’re handled. It is what it is.
(And if you’re a super-fan and it makes you feel any better, this is another case where maybe you shouldn’t care what I specifically think. The show did just top a popularity poll over in Japan.)
#23. Fuuto PI
Every year, I watch a few shows that are solidly quite good, but have a few central flaws, or even just don’t hit quite enough high notes to make it into my personal best-of’s. 2022 was a damn good year for anime, so even the stuff that is merely decent, is, in a vacuum pretty good. Fuuto P.I. is one of those, combining a novel premise (transforming hero shenanigans + a somewhat silly pastiche of ‘gritty detective’-type stuff) with an impressive pedigree (it’s a sequel to 2009’s Kamen Rider W, which, full disclosure, I haven’t seen), and an unusual production team from Studio KAI, who are not really known for punchy action anime like this.
Upgrading to an older audience (remember; W is over a decade old. All those 8 and 9 year olds who watched it when it was new are adults by now) means that Fuuto P.I. acquires a bit of a sleazy streak, and while this feels like a flaw I should be nailing the series for, I found it hard to be seriously upset by the show’s more openly leery tendencies. Mostly because of the fact that it has a shameless amount of camp that really makes the jump from live-action tokusatsu to an adult-aimed action anime feel totally natural.
Because of where it lands in terms of character building, our heroes—Shotaro and Phillip—have already had their long journey wherein they learned to trust each other long ago. Here, they’re just two cogs in a well-oiled machine, with newcomer Tokime, the female lead and the focus of much of the fanservice, providing a twist on what is presumably the old formula. The result? A solid six hours of lightly trashy fun, combining action anime flash, the particular campy sensibility that only toku can deliver, and a few interesting, meatier points to chew on by its conclusion. And hey, the ending strongly suggests more on the way in the future. (Which makes sense, given that it’s an adaptation of an ongoing manga.) I’d watch it.
#22. The Executioner and Her Way of Life
The year is 2022, and isekai has reached a point of true saturation. Every single season, we are inundated with new tales of featureless potato-boys being whisked away to generic JRPG-style fantasy worlds and given heaps upon heaps of special powers which they use to fulfill idle fantasies of banging as many dubiously-drawn Hot Anime Women ™ as they can find while lazily hacking up goblins. The Executioner & Her Way of Life sees all of this, and it is not impressed. But to avoid going too far down the path of “this anime isn’t like other girls,” it should be noted that the main reason that Executioner is, shockingly good, is what it does with the basic conceit of an isekai in the first place. It doesn’t stand out because it rejects the premise, it stands out because it does something interesting with it.
To wit; our protagonist is not the otherworlder—isekaijin, as said in the show, which I don’t think is a term unique to Executioner but is one I am very fond of—Akari, who serves as more of a secondary lead. Instead, it’s Menou, an assassin employed by the local church whose whole job is finding these crazy-powerful elseworld drop-ins and killing them before they can cause too many problems. There’s just one issue; Akari is way more powerful than even she realizes, and Menou quickly develops a hard-to-place liking for the girl. I won’t spoil too much, but suffice it to say that what’s going on here is a lot more interesting than the stereotypical “guy gets a huge harem and looks at stat screens” plots that litter this format. (In fact, there isn’t a single stat screen at all, so far as I can recall, which is kind of amazing in its own right at this point.)
What this boils down to is that Executioner’s main strength lies in its ability to pull its parent genre apart into its constituent building blocks and then reassemble them into an intriguing new shape. Not just in its core narrative but also interesting worldbuilding details that show us just how the isekaijin have shaped Menou’s world. (Note, for instance, that literally everyone seems to speak only one language; Japanese. And yes, that detail is intentional. It’s pointed out explicitly at one point.)
It was not the only surprisingly good isekai anime this year (aside from another which will appear farther up on this list, there’s Reincarnated as a Sword, which apparently got quite good only a few episodes after I wrote it off. You can take my mentioning it here as an apology), but it was the only true anti-isekai this year. A story stitched together from the ripped-up shreds of a genre that many people, myself included, are very tired of by now. The show isn’t perfect, of course. Its flaws are few but fairly obvious; it ends in a noncommittal “go read the books, stupid” kind of shrug, it’s maybe occasionally a bit too edgy for its own good. That kind of thing. Still, all in all, in a year that had fewer “lesbians kicking ass” anime than I might have liked, you really do have to hand it to Executioner for holding it down.
#21. Delicious Party♡Precure
Ah, here it is. The exception, the thing I carved out a specific little niche of its own for. Delicious Party Precure—DePaPre, for short—isn’t actually finished airing, which on its own, makes scoring it a different, and much more difficult, prospect than ranking anything else here.
Yet, the fact remains that I really just utterly fucking love Pretty Cure. Delicious Party feels like it’s already being written off as a “weaker” season of the series before it even ends, and while that might be true in some grand rank-your-faves sense, it’s awfully rude to the show itself, which has maintained an effortless charm from its premiere up to present while dodging production issues and the deeply unfortunate Toei database breach earlier this year.
Certainly, that resilience shows itself off better in some corners than others. Amane, alias Cure Finale, is almost inarguably the character who’s most developed. Seeing her face turn is one thing, but the real meat is in how she copes with feeling like she isn’t quite a good enough person to be a Pretty Cure. Even that aside; there are all sorts of fun little details that only an anime afforded a full four cours—rare in this day and age—could indulge in. The gentle light that is the grandmother of Yui, the lead Cure, the quiet-girl introspection that Kokone is prone to, the zany antics of Ran (who, as Cure Yum-Yum, might hold the record for the silliest Pretty Cure alias), and even the ever-present B-plot about Mary, the girls’ mentor figure, and his disappeared former partner. This thing’s even got a time travel episode. Really, can you complain when even a “weak” Pretty Cure season is this good? I certainly can’t.
#20. The Ranking of Kings
You may be a touch surprised to see this here! Ranking of Kings (Ousama Ranking at home in Japan) started airing late last year, but only finished up back in the ‘22 winter season. The entire way, it forged a strong visual identity that looks like absolutely nothing else that aired this year and spun that visual charm into a fully realized fairytale world of princes, knights, and monsters.
Our heroes? Bojji the little mute prince and his roguish blob of a best friend, Kage. Together they set out on a truly classic adventurous tale, the kind that makes you wish that this sort of thing got such lavish treatment more often. Really, it’’s one of Wit Studio’s best-ever anime from a purely visual standpoint, with enough characterful sakuga to bring a smile to even the most cynical animation enthusiast’s face.
Ranking of Kings’ ending sees Bojji spurn his original goal, only to set out on a brand-new adventure, so it seems likely that we’ll return to this fairytale someday in the not-too-distant future. (A spinoff is definitively in the works. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a second season greenlit.) Like many anime on this list, I’d happily watch that second season, and I doubt I’m alone.
#19. TEPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laughing ’til You Cry
Comedy anime get no respect. Whether classics like Nichijou or Azumanga Daioh or modern offerings like TEPPEN!!!!! here, pure comedy anime just never seem to quite pick up the followings that their more dramatic compatriots do over here in the Anglosphere. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that comedy is fairly cultural. Maybe people just don’t respect the power of a hearty chuckle enough. Whatever the reason; TEPPEN!!!! Deserves more credit than what little it got. If absolutely nothing else, it’s the only anime on this list whose air schedule was directly impacted by the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. That’s weird and notable enough to stand out all on its own; it helps that the show’s pretty good, too, featuring bizarre, absurdist shaggy dog tales concocted around everything from haunted inns to Bitcoin schemes.
At the end of the day that is why Teppen is higher on this list than a number of things I have “more to say about.” It was just fucking fun! Deriving a wide variety of zany slapstick from its central conceit of a group of teams competing to be the best comedy group in Japan (the titular Teppen competition) is in some ways the obvious route, but it worked for Teppen, and I can really only dock points for a couple off-color jokes I didn’t really like. Two sets of bonus points for you: along the way it found the time to squeeze in probably the year’s single best time travel-related episode (its fifth) and engineered an insanely catchy rapped OP theme. Put some respect on its name.
#18. Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story Final Season -Dawn of a Shallow Dream-
I have to confess; I develop a not-entirely-logical attachment to anything I cover for long enough. I have written about Magia Record in various places a number of times since it originally premiered back in 2020. It is, as of this entry, the only anime that’s showed up here, on my 2020 year-end list, and on my truncated top 5 last year. There is an admirable strength to that persistence, even as I have to admit that what MagiReco tried to do as it closed out its final season, Dawn of a Shallow Dream, is a pretty niche thing. I’m actually not sure between this and RWBY: Ice Queendom, which was the more-watched SHAFT battle girl show of the year. This was certainly the better of the two, but anecdotally, I saw almost no discussion about it at all. Have people really written the Madoka Magica extended universe off that hard?
If so, that’s sad, but all too apropos. This particular corner of the dark magical girl subgenre pulls off an interesting trick of thriving best when ignored, and Magia Record itself ends with the white-gloved hand of Madokami herself shutting the book tightly on this particular story, as its protagonists lament that no one will ever know what they did here. Will it even remotely shock you, coming from a woman who’s eagerly defended both Day Break Illusion and Blue Reflection Ray, that I thought this was pretty good? It’s not just the metatextual angle, but that does help.
Now that’s not to say it’s a perfect finale, not by any means. For one thing, it’s really more of a movie, with any notion of it being a “season” being put to a serious test by the fact that it dropped all at once. (Not that this is inherently a problem, but it does suggest some behind-the-scenes issues.) For another, it is visually all over the place. It never gets as unsightly as the ugliest parts of Ice Queendom, but there is some pretty wonky character art in spots, here. But, by contrast, there’s also a lot that’s really lovely to look at, and in general the ‘season’ has a mesmerizingly surreal look to it that, in its best moments, does ably recall the heights of The Rebellion Story, still the strongest single articulation of Madoka’s core themes and aesthetic concerns. I am also still a little sad that they felt the need to kill b-character Kuroe, who took an unexpected leap from being totally off my personal radar to one of my favorites in the second season last year.
Still, despite its shortcomings, I find it hard to argue that this isn’t a solid end to an intriguingly strange alternate take on the Madoka story. I’m glad we got to take this particular ride.
And that’s all for today’s chunk of the list. See y’all tomorrow.
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5 thoughts on “Ranking Every 2022 Anime I Actually Finished from Worst to Best – Part 2”
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@Neptune’s beard Yeah! You get where i’m coming from with both shows, I’d say. I do still like both and I’d probably watch more if they made more (which is kind of my ultimate “at the end of the day, do I like this or not?” yardstick) but the flaws are pretty noticeable in both cases. Ah well.
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Lycoris Recoil is definitely a case of an excellent main character, more than solid character concepts, art direction and animation let down by an incoherent story. I think I like it despite all that because of how lovable the main characters are. (And because Chisato and Takina love each other so much…)
The Executioner and Her Way of Life is much better written, in basically every way except one. I think the one great flaw is that the main four don’t have enough “texture”; that we only get a very limited picture of their personalities. Maybe having more meaningful interactions with supporting characters could have helped, I’m not sure.
And of course, the thing you said about the structure. The anime really ends right after the characters’ adventure begins in earnest. The anime is still a vast improvement over the source LN, which tends to over-explain the feelings and thoughts of the characters (a lot of words without providing any further insight).
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Hey, you watched Fuuto PI! Almost no one has posted about that series, which is a shame, I kind of liked that one. It really needs a second season, too many questions were left unanswered.
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