“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.
In some ways, this is the hardest part of the list to write. The stuff I liked pretty much without reservation, but which I still felt didn’t quite make the very top. But honestly, what else is there to say? At this point, you all know what you’re in for. Let’s get to the “solidly good to great” part of the list.
#17. The Case Study of Vanitas: Part 2
Remember 2022 as a banner year for the anime vampire. Two of the three shows on this list that involve them come primarily from the same hand, Tomoyuki Itamura, yet, they couldn’t be more different.
The Case Study of Vanitas, which entered its second season back in January, is fundamentally a dark fantasy series. It’s tinged with romance, drama, and sly humor, but everything is filtered through the church glass that composes its specific brand of vampiric fantasia.
Of course, the actual reason, so far as I can gather, that most people like Vanitas, is its shameless sensuality. Yes, this is probably the only thing on the list I’m going to outright praise for being horny, even as it ranks higher on the Problematic-o-Meter than most things I watch. Do you like men? Women? Both? Vanitas has a character or six for you to mercilessly simp for, and I do consider that something of a positive, if done in a way that makes emotional sense, as it does here. The vast reservoirs of easily-flustered bisexuals in the world are an untapped resource, some might say.
But on top of that, Vanitas’ second season also has a pretty compelling actual plot, featuring closed-off secluded worlds of snow, haunted by a twisted take on the already-spooky tale of the Beast of Gevaudan. The series’ gothic sensibility serves it well, here, as the sweetness that lightened up much of the first season turns decidedly sickly. (And even so, there’s still quite a lot of steaminess in the second season. Seriously, if you’re into that kind of thing you owe it to yourself to watch this.)
#16. ESTAB LIFE: Great Escape
If there’s a unifying thread for the anime of 2022, it might just be that a lot of them were really fucking weird. Novelty of premise is pretty easy to come by in anime, a medium that, moreso than many others, is pretty unashamed of its inherently pulp nature and will often race to the bottom to come up with the most bizarre thing possible to get more eyeballs on a project. Even so, Estab Life stands out for strangeness not just of premise but of execution. How many anime this year were both all-CG affairs and had an episode about the Penguin Stasi? As far as I know, Estab Life is the only one.
Sporting some strange mix of the traveler story genre, a droll-as-hell sense of humor, and decent action anime fundamentals, Estab Life surely stands out as one of the year’s most singular offerings, revolving as it does around a group of “extractors” whose job is to spirit away those unhappy with their lot in a bizarro future dystopia to one of the many other future dystopias—a collection of them now makes up what was once Japan. Even the stylistics and actual narrative aside, there simply aren’t too many anime with transgender yakuza magical girls and giant Facebook Like thumbs in them. But maybe you’re the sort who prioritizes character writing, in which case, I would point you to the fact that resident slime girl Martese is a curiously-compelling lesbian slime girl tomboy, team lead Equa is a quietly commanding presence, and even many of the show’s one-off characters are pretty interesting.
Estab Life is certainly not perfect (I am not huge on how Feres, my favorite of the main trio, is the one with by a fair shake the least amount of character development), but it’s compellingly weird and worth a watch. Incredibly, this strange little train hasn’t stopped rolling. We’re allegedly waiting on a mobile game, as well as a film with the tentative title Revenger’s Road. See you again soon, extractors?
#15. Do It Yourself!!
If the adage holds true that to build a city, one must start with a brick, surely the same is true for homes and the furniture that decorates them.
Thus, very broadly, is the premise of Do It Yourself!!, a gentle iyashikei—one of a few this year—about do-it-yourself crafts, mostly woodworking. The series is packed with enough goofy-pun character names that it might give you the impression that this is a slapstick of some sort. (The lead is named Yua Serufu, and her okay-they-don’t-say-they’re-in-love-but-they-pretty-obviously-are-at-least-crushing-on-each-other crush is a girl named Suride “Purin”, who attends a techy academy where she learns how to….3D print things. Goodness.)
There is an element of that; Serufu herself is pretty dang clumsy, and her pratfalls are treated as amusing slipups more often than not, but DIY!!’s real core is about how making things for yourself is irreplaceable, not just as a skill but as a passion. It’d be easy for the show to swerve from there into a rote “technology bad” message, but it never really even approaches doing so, and there are even a few scenes that showcase synthesis of cutting-edge technology and traditional crafts.
Indeed, the focus is on that spirit of craftsmanship itself, apropos from another visual treat from the studio Pine Jam, whose strong central staff seem to have developed a habit of putting out a show that simply looks amazing about once a year. (Whether that show is any good otherwise is another question, see Gleipnir near the bottom of the 2020 list.) This is apropos too for the year that brought machine art to the public sphere of discourse. It’s a topic that is probably not going away any time soon, but DIY neatly sidesteps any similar question with its own answer; isn’t there plenty of joy to be found in the process of creation itself?
#14. My Master Has No Tail
Is Rakugo having a bit of a moment? Probably not, but My Master Has No Tail airing in the same year that brought us the unexpected Jump hit Akane-banashi made me think. The two aren’t really terribly similar, but they share a key piece of subject matter in the traditional Japanese comedic storytelling art.
Our protagonist, Mameda, is a tanuki infatuated with the art form, since inspiring strong emotions via telling tales is a form of “tricking” people. But what begins as a fairly straightforward comedy / niche interest manga reveals itself to have a beating heart focused on Mameda’s own place in the world, and that of other beings like herself. (Her master Bunko is a kitsune, for example.) In the process, it places not just specifically these stories but, in a broader way, all popular stories, in a specific cultural context. Specific episodes deal with the process of passing artistic traditions on from master to pupil, and with Japan’s transitional Taisho period as a time when old things—both old ways and creatures like Bunko and Mameda themselves—are being lost to the tide of modernism. In this sense, there’s a surprising edge of slight melancholy to My Master Has No Tail.
Even so, this is primarily a comedy, and it’s a pretty good one. Both the rakugo itself and Mameda’s own antics are a light brand of amusing that never feels like it’s overstaying its welcome, even with the series’ absolute dumbest jokes. (One of the character’s nicknames being “Butt”, anyone?)
#13. Princess Connect! Re:Dive Season 2
It often comes across as a backhanded compliment to say that an anime’s best trait is that it just looks really good. It feels like you’re implying a deficiency in some other area. But if that’s ever the case, it certainly isn’t so for the second season of Princess Connect! Re:Dive, which thundered back after a year’s absence way back in Winter to blow basically every other isekai anime that aired this year out of the water. (It’s the last example of the genre you’ll find on this list, in fact.)
That said; this doesn’t mean that the story isn’t also worthwhile—it’s actually quite interesting, a novel take on the genre that manages to make it feel meaningful and substantive again in a year that was absolutely swamped with mediocre isekai. But, of course, the visuals and the writing go hand in hand. Princess Connect’s sideways spin on the genre means nothing without its phenomenal visuals; in particular, the fight scenes give a real weight to its fantasy heroics in the series’ latter half. What you have with Princess Connect is the Proper Noun Machine Gun on full autofire; the series builds on so many classic tropes, both from isekai and from fantasy adventure in general, that it risks drowning in them. But that never happens, it just builds and builds and builds, until its final stretch lights up into a blazing, spectacular show of fireworks. More than anything, this one is a treat for the chuunis out there. All spectacle, but pure killer, a whirling show of pyrotechnics that is never less than a total blast.
#12. Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club Season 2
The dream lives on! While its younger sister Superstar floundered in the season that followed, Nijigasaki High School Idol Club made a strong return this year. Its second season wasn’t the blow-the-doors-open affair that its first was back in 2020, but the anime’s personable sense of purehearted sincerity remained even as it dipped into ever so slightly more dramatic territory. Old characters paired up into duos while new ones took the spotlight as solo stars, in a turn that somehow managed to do what Superstar failed to despite the higher character count overall. Most notably, two equally-fun polar opposites; the queen diva / secret idol otaku Lanzhu, and the introverted Shioriko, who has to be convinced to not prematurely give up on her fledgling dream of being an idol. Smaller character arcs like “Nana” finally giving up the facade and revealing to the whole school that yes, she is Setsuna, provide a nice cherry on the sundae, tinged with a slight bitterness not rooted in the series itself, but in the news that her voice actor won’t be returning to the role. If she had to leave, this was a good note to end on.
Nijigasaki’s remains a world where anyone can be an idol. There’s a kind of beauty in that, and the show’s strength comes from playing it very well. Even still, 2022 was home to more than one legitimately great idol anime, and I hope you do like idols and other girls who make music, because these aren’t the last ones on the list by a long shot. But first, something a little more….violent.
#11. Akiba Maid War
Is it a yakuza series? A deeply ridiculous comedy? Why not both? In a year of anime making the most out of completely absurd premises, Akiba Maid War might’ve gotten the most blood from its particular stone. On the surface there’s not anything terribly special about something deciding to subvert the old moe’ tropes by making the girls that embody them engage in mob war violence, and if that’s all AMW were doing it would be way farther back on the list.
On top of that, this is also another entry that feels unstuck in time. People don’t really remember this whole trend anymore, but there was a wave of these anti-moe comedies around the turn of the new millennium, where much of the joke was simply that the characters enacting the absurd hyper-violence were cute girls. Most of them weren’t really particularly funny and have accordingly lost their charge now that the thing they were parodying is simply the norm. Fortunately, because Maid War clearly loves all of its influences, it manages to paradoxically pull off being that kind of slapstick-with-firearms comedy, a fairly played-straight yakuza series, and even sometimes genuinely cute, all without really even breaking a sweat.
The sheer amount of small touches in this thing helps, too. My favorite example being the fact that most of the one-off maid characters who (spoiler alert, here) tend to get killed at the end of their episode are voiced by famous seiyuu. The crowning example being Aya motherfucking Hirano in the show’s penultimate arc. You don’t get anime that are this singularly their own thing super often. Despite its fairly obvious influences, and the several other interestingly retro anime that aired this year, Akiba Maid War stood in 2022 as an army of one, and accordingly, and this might just be the most underrated anime on the whole list.
#10. Waccha Primagi
The language barrier does strange things to relative popularity between Japan and the anglosphere. For the most part, the anime that are popular over there are popular over here, and vice versa. But there are exceptions, and kids’ shows are a wealth of them. Pretty Cure is the most obvious example, but one of that series’ main competitors, the Pretty Series—no relation—is up there, too. Waccha Primagi, like the other anime in the series before it, is ostensibly a promotional tool for an arcade game. Does this matter at all when evaluating the series? I’d say not really. I’ve never even seen the game in action, but despite that, I love this anime to pieces.
It’s fair to ask why. The fact of the matter is that Waccha Primagi is not the most polished anime on this list by any means, and its nature as a promotional tool means that it can at times feel repetitive. But there is really just something about it. The strange magic-filled world it conjures, where humanity and the animal “magic users” live in parallel to each other but come together to put on magical “waccha” idol concerts? That’s step one. Step two is the sheer amount of heart this thing has; its characters are candy-colored archetypes, but most pop with a rare amount of personality, be they the smug Miyuki, the anxiety-riddled gamer / idol otaku (yes, another one!) Lemon, the sporty Hina, or the princely Amane. Even Matsuri, the comparatively ‘generic’ lead, has an important role to play both as the audience proxy and as the lead for her partner, Myamu, yet another of the show’s most endearing characters.
But a broader picture than all that is Primagi’s actual plot. Waccha Primagi goes to some truly buck-wild places over its four cour runtime. Individual episodes contain straight-up gay confessions, simmering tensions between the human and magic-user worlds that threaten to erupt into full-on war at any moment, light satire of reality TV, a big bad who’s an entertainment and social media mogul, and carefully studied pastiches of the ancient “Class-S” genre of yuri, something with which its young target audience is wholly unlikely to be familiar. By its final stretch, one hardly bats an eye when Jennifer, the local Beyonce analogue, ascends to vengeful Sun God-hood to try to free her girlfriend from a magic diamond prison. And yet, the last two episodes strip all of that back away in an instant, and are hearteningly sincere instead. Waccha Primagi truly can do it all.
There were better anime in 2022, perhaps, but none hit higher above its weight class.
Well, alright, that’s a lie. One did. But we’ll get to that.
In the meantime, in spite of all of its strengths—and more than one kickass OP—Waccha Primagi was still not quite the best idol anime of 2022 either, as we’ll get to. Like I said, it’s been a hell of a year for the genre.
#9. Kaguya-sama Love is War! -Ultra Romantic-
Shot through the heart, and who else could be to blame? Love is War! makes a swing for personal notability by being the only anime to rank in the top ten both of this year’s list and of the one I did back in 2020. Why? Because it’s never stopped being just really fucking good.
The mind games that gave the series its title finally die down here in the last act of the first half of the series (the second, which goes in some pretty out-there directions, has already gotten off the ground via a theatrical film that we probably won’t get over here in the US for a while). But the show itself doesn’t really slow down for even a second. If anything, the third season is defined even more strongly by fun, stylish visual work, with all of its old tricks acquiring a heart motif that serves as the central symbol of the school festival arc. (In terms of filtering a fairly conventional story through delightfully out-there visual work, it really only had one competitor this year. We’ll get to that.)
And of course, capping it all off, is that scene. Spoiler alert, but not really, right? A first kiss raised to such ridiculous, whirlwind heights of idealized romance that it could get just about anybody’s heart pounding. In Kaguya‘s case, it was enough that it called for a really fucking funny Gundam homage. (Mute that video, just as a heads’ up.) Truly, the character there—Karen, a minor character in Kaguya-sama proper but the lead of one of its spinoffs—is all of us. The real question is what Kaguya and Shirogane are going to do now, with the entire direction of their lives solidly changed?
We’ll find out before too long, I’m sure. The first kiss never ends, you know.
#8. Call of The Night
If The Case Study of Vanitas was a little too gothic for you, and My Dress-Up Darling’s particular brand of steaminess didn’t really get you going, maybe this particular ode to nocturnality, originally from the pen of Dagashi Kashi author Kotoyama, would be up your alley, as an interesting and unexpected midpoint between the two.
In Call of The Night, we have a romance that doubles as an apply-as-you-please metaphor for the outsiders of society. Normal people do not walk around their city in the middle of the night and get entangled with vampires. This is your first clue that CoTN protagonist Kou Yamori is not, in fact, a normal person. What kind of “not normal” is a sort of grand, moving-target metaphor that resists any single easy interpretation; I’ve seen him described as neurodivergent, as a closeted queer person, and as several other things beside. The fact of the matter is that, as a living symbol, he’s all of these and none of these. His relationship with Nana is certainly charged, but charged how is kind of an open question until the series’ final act, where it turns on its head and reveals that, more than anything else, this is a simple “you and me against the world” sort of tale. The kind I’m a sucker for. The fact that it all takes place almost entirely at night—daylight is a rare intrusion reserved for flashbacks and a tiny handful of other moments—makes it look amazing. This is certainly the most visually impressive series LIDEN FILMS have ever made, and wouldn’t you know it, much of that is on director Tomoyuki Itamura, who not only also did The Case Study of Vanitas a number of spots back, but in years past has done an absolute ton of work on the storied Monogatari series. The guy loves his horny vampires; I can only respect the hustle.
And hey, Call of The Night is probably also the year’s only anime to make compelling use of Japanese hip-hop for its soundtrack, Teppen’s OP theme notwithstanding.
#7. Birdie Wing -Golf Girls Story-
SolidQuentin was a prophet, because Birdie Wing -Golf Girls Story- is some hitherto-unknown kind of genius. 2022 was stuffed with anime that leaned heavily on sheer WTF factor; Estab Life, Akiba Maid War, etc. None could swing as much iron as Birdie Wing. More than anything, the golf girls’ story just doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks, which in a lesser anime could be a weakness, but here, it makes the show’s many disparate elements—illegal underground golf tournaments with morphing golf courses, characters who want to be good at golf with an enthusiasm that would put the average shonen protagonist to shame, a huge amount of rich girl/working class girl yuri subtext between its two leads, an incongruous fixation on referencing Gundam—feel whole. Birdie Wing feels like a dimension-hopper from a timeline where “irony” as a concept was just never invented. Every single thing it does is completely sincere; it knows it’s funny, but it’s not a joke. It’s camp, in its purest form.
And truly, the only real point of reference for things that feel like this is stuff like Symphogear. The main difference is that by downsizing that genre’s enormously campy energy to be about something as deeply trivial as golf, Birdie Wing makes the argument that maybe everything is this trivial, and maybe we deserve to have huge feelings about it anyway! Maybe our world isn’t so different from one where people play ludicrously high-stakes golf games with lives and pride alike on the line!
Every time I’ve written about Birdie Birdie, I’ve brought up “Nightjar“, its utterly insane choice for an ED, which carries a full-throated, big-hearted sincerity that, juxtaposed with a show that were even the tiniest smidgen more self-aware, would scan as a deliberate joke. But no, that is the beauty of Birdie Wing; this shit is as serious as your life, do not make any mistake. The only reason Birdie Wing isn’t even higher on the list is that it’s not finished yet. Season 2 airs in Spring, are you ready to tee off again? I, personally, cannot fucking wait. If it hits as many holes-in-one as the first season did, there is a very real chance that it will top the list next year. That’s not a threat; it’s a promise.
#6. BOCCHI THE ROCK!
Here it is, the hardest cut from the Top 5. I did not labor over a single decision on this list more than whether to include this in the Top 5 or put it down here as the “highest honorable mention.” Fun fact; by the time you read this, I have swapped it with the show at #5, by my own count, four times. This was a hard decision. Not the last of those on the list, but probably the one I’ve thought about the most.
In general, there were a solid handful of really fucking good music anime in 2022, let’s just lay that on the table. We’ve already seen a couple, and this isn’t the last one we’ll see on this list, but BOCCHI THE ROCK! might be the most unexpectedly successful. Not in purely commercial terms—although it did well in that regard, too—but in terms of setting up an artistic vision and then following through expertly. Few anime this year not only had this much style but used it to such compelling ends; it might actually beat out the third season of Love is War! on that front. No mean feat, considering how easily that anime turns its own medium into putty in its hands, too.
I will be honest, BOCCHI placing this high on the list is something of an act of course-correction, as well. I liked BOCCHI throughout more or less its entire run, but I really only started appreciating what it was trying to do—and thus, really loving it—pretty late, episode 9 or 10 or so. By that point, the Fall 2022 season was on its way out and I felt that I hadn’t even remotely given the show its well-earned due. But if Kessoku Band are a fill-in act, they’re a pretty damn amazing one, so don’t make the mistake of assuming I don’t love them or that this is a pity award, nothing could be farther from the truth.
BOCCHI THE ROCK!’s main point is to watch the title character, Hitori, alias Bocchi, herself grow as a person. She begins as an anxious wreck in the vague shape of an internet-famous guitarist and, by the end of the season, she’s still that, but she has not just a band but friends now. The thing is, if BOCCHI had simply adapted its manga straight, we would not be talking about it very much at all. Instead, BOCCHI THE ROCK’s real strength comes from the utterly absurd stylistic tricks it pulls out to pave the road along Hitori’s emotional journey.
Essentially, BOCCHI THE ROCK is unafraid to treat its characters as props. It’ll stick them on popsicle sticks and wave them around like this is His & Her Circumstances. It’ll render Hitori in chunky 3D and hurl her at a wall of gray blocks. It’ll turn her into a slug because sometimes when you’re this wracked by anxiety you really do just feel like a slug. It’ll have her slip out the bounds of her character outline like Jimmy from Ed Edd N Eddy just so she can look how a panic attack feels. Incredibly, at no point does it feel like BOCCHI is mocking Hitori herself. This is a relatable, we’ve-all-been-there sort of humor, one for the true otaku. This emotional power chord resonated with so many people that BOCCHI eventually overtook even long-anticipated shonen manga adaptation Chainsaw Man on MyAnimeList, in a come-from-behind victory for the socially anxious everywhere. (It doesn’t beat that series out on this list. But what is my blog compared to the will of the people, really?)
At the end of it all, you realize that Hitori is nothing more than an ordinary teenage girl; nerdy, talented but incredibly anxious, in serious need of a shoulder to lean on. And the series’ biggest trick is the ability to roll all that wild craziness into a gentle push on her back; before you know it, she’s shredding onstage. They grow up so fast.
I stressed a lot over that BOCCHI cut in particular. Hopefully the cult of the box of oranges won’t be too upset.
Tomorrow; the best of the best, the top 5 proper.
Like what you’re reading? Consider following Magic Planet Anime to get notified when new articles go live. If you’d like to talk to other Magic Planet Anime readers, consider joining my Discord server! Also consider following me on Twitter, Mastodon, Cohost, Anilist, or Tumblr and supporting me on Ko-Fi or Patreon. If you want to read more of my work, consider heading over to the Directory to browse by category.
All views expressed on Magic Planet Anime are solely my own opinions and conclusions and should not be taken to reflect the opinions of any other persons, groups, or organizations. All text, excepting direct quotations, is owned by Magic Planet Anime. Do not duplicate without permission. All images are owned by their original copyright holders.
5 thoughts on “Ranking Every 2022 Anime I Actually Finished from Worst to Best – Part 3”
Pingback: MAGIC PLANET ARCADE: 2023’s Game of The Year (So Far) is a BOCCHI THE ROCK! Web Toy – The Magic Planet
Pingback: Anime Orbit Archive – The Magic Planet
Pingback: Anime and Manga Blog Posts That Caught My Eye This Week (January 6, 2023) – Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner
I have seen six of these twelve entries (#16-13 + #7-6), and I like them all. Though maybe this makes perfect sense, since part of the reason I picked them up was the nice things you wrote about them originally.
I almost dropped My Master Has No Tail around ep 4-6 because of the creepy yakuza guy. But I’m glad I didn’t; he appeared very sparingly after that, and the show totally found its groove, with the last third or so being actually great.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Ripe mangos do not forgive. Ripe mangos do not forget.
LikeLiked by 1 person