Ranking Every 2022 Anime I Actually Finished from Worst to Best – Part 4: The Top 5 Anime of 2022

Here it is, the top 5.

I have to be honest, for whatever reason, much more than the past two years, I feel actively nervous about posting this. I’m not sure why? It’s not like my picks for last year were uncontroversial. Regardless, after a very extensive regime of writing, re-writing, editing, and re-re-writing(!), I have settled on a form for this list that I am mostly happy with. Hopefully you enjoy it, as well.


#5. SHINEPOST

Yeah, I like SHINEPOST more than BOCCHI THE ROCK. I almost feel the need to apologize for that opinion, but I can’t lie to y’all. Between the two, I liked this one just the slightest bit more, despite it being arguably the more conventional of the two. It is what it is, I could’ve gone either way. (And as mentioned yesterday, I did. SHINEPOST and BOCCHI switched places on this list several times.)

But enough handwringing, why’s it actually good? Well, SHINEPOST is rather unlike its genre-fellows on this list. It’s not utopian and relentlessly pleasant like Love Live, and it’s not a candy-surreal kids’ anime dream sequence like Waccha Primagi. Instead, SHINEPOST‘s best and most defining moments chronicle the stomach-flipping knots of anxiety that come from being a performing artist, the demons that can eat a performer’s psyche alive if left unchecked, and the very real camaraderie to be found in those fields anyway, in spite of all that. (In that sense, it’s actually slightly more of a piece with BOCCHI, although they, too, are fairly different.) SHINEPOST, in its brisk single cour, manages to touch on the pressure to succeed, how even modest fame can both weld new friendships together and cleave old ones apart, the fear of never being good enough and the burden of being too good, plus the ticking clockwork of the industry itself. The goal is simple and straightforward from episode 1; TINGS, the protagonists, must fill Nakano Sunplaza to its pleasantly symmetrical 2,222-person capacity for their first anniversary concert. If they can’t, their time with their agency, and as an idol group, is over.

I’m loathe to even float the word “deconstruction” in my writing, especially in its latter-day TVTropes-y usage. But it’s worth pulling up here, not because it describes SHINEPOST but because it neatly defines what it isn’t. All of this, frankly, pretty heavy shit, comes not from some desire to criticize or pull away from the girl group idol anime genre, but from a real love of it. Something that was trying to put distance between itself and its genre’s foundational texts would not be mythologizing something as mundane as a venue in the way SHINEPOST does. 

More than that, though, the series’ real strength is that by laying its characters bare; showing their insecurities, their weaknesses, the complexes that gnaw away at their very psyches, it can really make you root for them in a way that something comparatively fluffy (such as again, Love Live) can’t manage to the same degree. If anything, SHINEPOST reminds me a lot more of that series’ perennial rival, Idolmaster, whose 2011 TV series remains the definitive golden standard for this genre. SHINEPOST is a true underdog; a scrappy series about a scrappy idol group from a still relatively-young studio (Studio KAI. Their second entry on this list after Fuuto PI), and all of those hardships, no matter how serious or melodramatic, are buildup to the absolutely electric immediacy of its finale. Even the absolute corniest plot details, like the etymology of the show’s very title (it’s a portmanteau of “shining guidepost”), hit like pure bolts of lightning.

And that kind of momentary transcendence, where you forget that you’re watching a silly cartoon and feel the energy? That is why it’s the best idol anime of 2022. TINGS kill it; accept no substitutes.

#4. CYBERPUNK: EDGERUNNERS

Few anime come with this mixed a pedigree. Sure, Cyberpunk Edgerunners is a TRIGGER series directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, a fact that comes with a hell of a lot of goodwill, but pretty much everything else about this thing would give anyone good reason to be skeptical; start with the fact that it’s a tie-in to the rightly-polarizing open world game Cyberpunk 2077, skip over to the fact that it’s got a Franz Ferdinand song as its OP theme, and roll on from there. I won’t lie, there’s a part of me—and it’s not a small part!—that wanted to boot Edgerunners from the list entirely. I considered deliberately putting off watching it until next year so I wouldn’t have to rank it, and even now that I have seen it, there remains a temptation to dock points less for what it is and more for where it came from. I’m not sure I want many anime to be globally-released tie-in promos for broken-on-release AAA video games. Certainly, the fact that you still, months after the anime’s been out on streaming platforms worldwide, can’t reasonably watch the Japanese audio track with English subtitles (well, you can try, but the sloppy dubtitle track doesn’t really work with the JP audio at all. Thankfully the dub is excellent; this is the only release on the list I watched dubbed, in fact!) is case enough that this probably isn’t how anime should be made.

All this in mind, it’s almost painful how fucking good this thing is. Edgerunners burns so bright that it leaves scorch marks: black as melted plastic and twice as toxic, pure neon, grime and dirt.

David, our protagonist, is a person stripped of his humanity both systemically, and, eventually, with violence. He loses his mother, his home, his status as a citizen, his sanity, his humanity, and, eventually, his life. In one sense, Edgerunners is a gradual sanding-down of his personhood until nothing is left.

Lucy, his co-lead, is an unscrupulous hacker who runs with a mercenary crew. Secretly, she harbors a dream of visiting the moon. It’s a poetic hyperbole; the stars we hang in the sky to keep ourselves going made very literal.

To home in on one specific example, no single moment in anime this year conveys the sheer amount of blasted-out trauma as episode six, which sees the character Maine completely lose his mind as a side-effect of his cybernetic implants. The result is harrowing; all gunfire and blood on the floor. That point is where I realized that putting this anywhere outside the top five would’ve required me to do some major mental gymnastics.

On the whole, the series is deeply discomforting and utterly visceral to watch in action. If this isn’t how anime should be made from a production pipeline point of view, it definitely is how they should be made in terms of having a strong creative vision and following it through to the end as thoroughly as you possibly can. RIP David Martinez; reduced to a tale for the next dreamer.

#3: Chainsaw Man

Forget, for a moment, everything else. Forget the rest of this list, forget that there ever was a Chainsaw Man manga, forget the very notion of ranking and reviewing and processing, debating, analyzing. Focus on one image; a chainsaw, covered in rust, and in blood – which itself will be rust soon enough. Now focus on the boy holding it, the boy who became it. And think, for a moment, about what it takes to travel the vast canyon between those two images.

I have called Chainsaw Man many things on this site, but if you strip everything away; the need to intellectualize the art we love, the fanbase, even the original material itself, you are left with those two images and the gap between them. A boy and his dog; a boy and his instrument of bloody fucking murder. Love twisted up and turned violent in the name of protection, in the name of needing to escape, in the name of trading bad for worse because you don’t know what better looks like. A frizzy-haired punk kid with a drawn knife; that, essentially, is Chainsaw Man.

A lot of other things are Chainsaw Man too, of course. Everyone Denji meets during his journey is or becomes part of him. In some cases, in ways the anime itself has yet to reveal. Death is ever-present, and any insinuation otherwise is a facade.

So, what form does this take? Well, young Denji is a devil-hunter, a professional mower-down of wicked monsters that spawn from humanity’s own fears, from the trivial to the deep-seated. He’s raised by a coldhearted yakuza, only to end up in the care of Public Safety, Japan’s own government-controlled devil-killer force. Along the way he strives for any kind of human connection, gleefully oblivious to his own desires. A recurring refrain from the character is that all he really needs or wants is a roof over his head, three meals a day, and maybe, ambitiously, to touch a girl’s chest before he dies.

Consciously, he probably does think that’s true, but it’s obvious from very early on that he’s looking for something deeper, and that un-articulated desire for true human connection lands him squarely in the palm of Public Safety’s obviously sinister head, Makima. This plot goes unresolved in the first season, but it is already obvious that she doesn’t have his best interests in mind. In this way, Denji is all of us, a hardworking guy being ruthlessly exploited by the system that provides him the few things that he can truly call his own. He makes and then loses his very first friend over the course of just these twelve episodes; how much more is in store for our boy, and how much more can he take?

That’s without even getting into the tangible specifics of the CSM anime as an adaptation. It is a markedly different experience from the manga; slick and polished but never sterile, engaged wholeheartedly in a deep emulation of the live action film that informs so much of original mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto‘s work. It also probably has the best soundtrack of anything on this list, with a truly ridiculous twelve separate ending themes—one for each episode!—all of which go ridiculously hard in their own way. On the whole, we can easily say that, yes, this is the best-case scenario for adapting this material. Season 2 cannot come soon enough.

So yeah, all that poetic nonsense and it’s still only at #3. Look! I hate feeling like I have to justify every placement on this list, but this one does warrant at least a little explanation, I think. Part of it is that the show does have a tiny amount of minor flaws—a handful of very minor production gripes in a few specific scenes in a few specific episodes. On a narrative level you could also maybe make the case that Himeno dies a little too soon—but mostly, it’s just that incredibly, the Chainsaw Man anime has not actually gotten to the truly unhinged parts of its source material quite yet, and I’d feel a little bad for putting the cart before the horse. What point is there in giving out a gold medal to a rookie athlete? Even the very best have room for improvement. If I’m going to rank Chainsaw Man as the best anime in a given year, I want it to be a season where it is at the absolute fucking apex of its powers, something I can’t deny. Until then, it can settle for the bronze.

So, on that admittedly shaky logic. Yeah, still just third place. I could have put it at #1, and I would’ve felt just fine about doing so. To be honest, I like this, my #2 and my #1 pick about equally (I could maybe even argue for Edgerunners back in the last entry). But the following two anime are a little more undersung, and they’re also more self-contained, two things that do matter to me. I have to confess a certain irrational fondness for the underdog, too. So just wait, Chainsaw Man. Your day has yet to truly come.

#2. Vampire in The Garden

To be honest, I so badly want to just tell you to read my review of this, where I was reduced to clumsy poetry in an attempt to convey, if not necessarily describe, what this series means to me. But for one thing that’s lazy, for another thing, would it really help? I am still not done processing Vampire in The Garden, an achingly beautiful piece of fiction, and perhaps an important one as well.

The real truth of the matter is that queer stories that treat queer characters as people are still far rarer than you might assume. There are plenty that are cute, or that use us as tear-jerking props in a cynical way, but there aren’t really that many that feel lived-in, studied, like they were made to resonate with an audience of proper fucking queers first and foremost, with anyone else as a secondary concern. Vampire in the Garden really does feel that way. Is it intentional or just a staggering coincidence? If it is intentional, as far as I’m aware, no one’s ever said as much, so ultimately, I can’t really say so. What I can say is that Vampire feels important, if not to “queer people” as a group, then at least to me, personally. Somewhat frustratingly, though, it is such a shining, glistening thing that it falls apart like gossamer if you try to grasp it too tightly. You can describe its plot, but describing why it’s great is much harder.

In basic terms, Vampire is a story about two people who fill a void in each other’s lives. Both protagonists, the human factory worker Momo and the vampire queen-on-the-run Fine, have lost someone close to them. Through the struggle of eventually connecting with each other and healing through this shared loss, they are beaten down again by the world around them; both the vampires that seek to return Fine to her throne and the humans who hunt Momo down as a traitor, to be returned to her dreary existence in the city-tower-prison that much of humankind now resides in. Along the way, they seek an ineffable “paradise”, somewhere they can coexist in peace. Will it surprise you to learn they never find it? Not really, anyway. They pass through Fine’s own dilapidated manor, a segregated town where vampires and humans live side by side in only the most literal of senses, a village run on blood sacrifice, and so on. Fine ends up dead long before they find this mystical paradise, and there is more than a little suggestion that it doesn’t really exist.

But does that render Fine and Momo’s time together moot? Absolutely not. And that is what makes Vampire feel so vital (and so vitally queer) to me; the world sucks, and it often conspires to rip us apart whenever it can. It is absolutely crucial that we appreciate our time together, while it lasts.


So! That’s most of the list. There’s only one entry left. As with last year, I put up a tweet about a month before this went up, where I asked people to guess what they thought my number 1 pick would be.

This year, two people got it right.

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What can I say? Congratulations to Blue Dash. And hell, I’ll throw in a shout out to my good friend Josh, too, since he mentioned it out loud while were talking at one point.


#1. Healer Girl

I am keenly aware of just how transient what I do here at Magic Planet Anime truly is. Anime criticism as a medium is still essentially in its infancy—most of us aren’t much more than consumer advocates, telling you to either spend or not spend your precious leisure time watching some particular series or another—and it would be very, very naive to assume that anything I write here will ever persist throughout the ages. If anyone writing in this field now makes anything that endures, it’s unlikely to be me.

I write anyway because when something really does touch me on a deep, personal level, I end up feeling like I have to scream it from the mountaintops. This doesn’t happen often—I like most anime, but the amount that I truly love, in the way where I know I will come back to them five, ten years from now, is much smaller, and rarely does a given year produce more than one or two such pieces—but when it does, I really feel like little else in the world matters to me, in those moments. 2022, astoundingly, produced four, and we’ve just met three of them. This is the fourth. Healer Girl, my favorite anime of 2022.

It is a font of genuine, deep light and warmth. It’s really all in the name; Healing. The iyashikei genre rarely gets the credit it’s due over here in the anglosphere, but in Healer Girl, the genre has found its best representative in many years. 

I have to confess; I spent much of 2022 so, so, so tired, and so, so, so sick. I have gone through more than one total emotional breakdown, caused at least in part by a ten-car pileup of illnesses I have been battling and continue to battle. I won’t go into details because to be honest it’s not anyone’s business but my own, but know that it has sucked. Many days, I have gotten up and wondered if I’d really be able to continue writing like I have been, even though this site, for better or worse, is the project I’ve started in my life that means the most to me, by an order of magnitude. Without embellishment, 2022 was a profoundly shitty year for me. Probably the worst I’ve had since moving to Chicago in 2018.

Through it all, Healer Girl, perhaps improbably, has remained a source of genuine comfort. In a year where I had been having less of a bad time overall, maybe I would’ve been more comfortable putting something darker at #1. But I didn’t, and I can’t truly see into those possible parallel presents. So Healer Girl it is, because I need it—because we need it.

Part of it is the music; the opening notes of “Feel You, Heal You”, tap into some deep, rarely-touched part of my psyche, perhaps it’s the part that used to fall asleep listening to Wilson-Philipps and Faith Hill on a grainy radio when I was very young, perhaps it’s the same part that, when I was a younger anime watcher, cemented Kamichu!, which I saw on a bootleg streaming site that no longer exists, as one of my very first favorite anime. Whatever it is, and no matter how corny I’m sure it may seem to anyone who isn’t me, that connection is real, and extends not just to the music, but to the series built around it.

Healer Girl’s premise promises a cross between a “magical girl“ series of a variety unknown ’til now, a medical drama, and a slice of life anime. In practice, it’s all of these and none of them. It has all of the magical girl genre’s storms of massive feeling and emotion, a medical drama’s focus on literal lifesaving, and the school life genre’s easygoing warmth, but even as it feels born of these genres, it stands apart from them. Its great visual trick is the “image song;” literal conjurings of the magic music that the series’ world runs on. This is not something that would exist in a lesser series, and I’ve seen similar things only a handful of times. Almost on its own, this is what elevates Healer Girl into a truly rare artistic achievement. (The show is so good that while it has probably the year’s single best episode, its fifth, the Night on the Galactic Railroad-referencing “Blue Skies, Green Mountains, River Battles and the Galactic Station“, this is almost an afterthought compared to its more general brilliancies.)

Healer Girl’s magnetism is difficult to explain in this way, because the series was not—is not—an event. There is no “Healer Girl fandom”, or at least, not a particularly large one. The show inspired no complicated thinkpieces or vigorous debates on its nature and true meaning. The impression I get is that the show was mostly liked, but just liked, by those who saw it, and I am something of an outlier for loving it as much as I do. Fundamentally, it’s a very simple anime, and whether or not it resonates with a given person is, I imagine, largely down to the old intangibles of feeling and mood. In this sense, I can imagine picking it as my #1, putting it in The Top Spot, might be contentious. (I doubt nearly as much as my #1 pick for 2021, admitttedly, but that’s another conversation.)

To me, Healer Girl doesn’t even really feel like a contemporary anime. It feels at once like a relic from a lost past and a transmission from some far-off, idyllic, solar future. A broadcast from a different universe; a softer world, one where the soothing tones of gentle music really can heal the sick. It is the endless everyday implicitly promised by all slice of life anime warmed with a gentle heat and decorated with floral blooms; an outstretched hand, whenever you need it. That, to me, is 2022’s best anime. If you feel it, it’ll heal you, a panacea in the darkness and the sickness.


Thus, the list—and the year here at Magic Planet Anime, although by the time you read this it’ll already be the first day of 2023—comes to a close.

I am very curious to hear your thoughts. Did you love it? Did you hate it? Were your picks similar or wildly different? I’m interested to know, so don’t be afraid to drop a comment or hit me up on any of my many social media locations below, I recently re-did my article footer with links to basically every site I maintain a presence for this blog on. Feel free to look around!

Let me take a moment here to also thank everyone who’s read this list—or any of my articles here over the past year—it really, truly means the world to me. While I’m at it, let me thank my good friends on the following Discord servers with funny names; The Magic Planet Anime server, the original The Magic Planet server, the Satellite Night Anime Block server, the Secret Scrunkly Server, Mugcord, and the Lesbian Radiohead Fans server. All of you have made ’22 so much better than it would’ve been alone, and I appreciate y’all a lot. I need to also give a shout out to my repeat commenters: you guys are the best, and make this blog feel so much more alive than it would if it were just me writing with no responses.

And lastly, just before I go, and as mentioned back in Part 1 of the list. If you can do so, and found the list worthwhile, please do contribute (either on Ko-Fi or Patreon), it was extremely effort-intensive. For your reference, I am writing this at about 8PM on the 30th. Crunch in writing is real, friends! Be careful out there! I’ve certainly learned some lessons about how I’m going to handle this for next year, now that I know there’s a real audience for the end-to-end breakdown rather than just a simple top 5. And for those who have already recently contributed, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Again, it’s hard to articulate how much that means to me.

As for the site itself, I don’t plan to do regular seasonal coverage for the upcoming season, but I may drop occasional articles here and there on the more interesting stuff and will probably do at least a small few first impressions. (I’m very interested to see what’s up with the Nier: Automata anime, for example.) More than that, I have a lot of commissions to get cracking on! Hopefully you’ll enjoy those reviews when they go live.

Until next year (which is already this year for you) Magic Planet Anime fans!


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8 thoughts on “Ranking Every 2022 Anime I Actually Finished from Worst to Best – Part 4: The Top 5 Anime of 2022

  1. Pingback: Anime Orbit Archive – The Magic Planet

  2. Pingback: Anime and Manga Blog Posts That Caught My Eye This Week (January 6, 2023) – Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner

  3. Healer Girl is the only one of these that I have seen, so I can’t comment on the others, but I think it deserves the spotlight. Even for an Iyashikei, it is so earnestly warm and gentle that I’m not surprised that it flew so under-the-radar. But there’s definitely something special about it, and I’m glad it was such a literal healing experience for you 🙂

    I have been putting off Chainsaw Man (mostly because I didn’t feel like watching it weekly), but it’s been on my watchlist, and your praises of it do make me more confident that it’ll be worth watching and reading.

    I have been a lot more hesitant about Edgerunners, but my resistence has worn away a little, and the fact it finished #4 on your list is a strong argument in its favor.

    I’m less experienced with idol anime, but you did make ShinePost sound cool. I already put Vampire in The Garden on my watchlist after you reviewed it, but of course its place here is high praise.

    My comments aren’t as insightful as I would like, but I want you to know that your coverage and writing on this blog means a lot to me. Thank you for all your hard work in 2022, and on this list of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. @terranceacrow Wow! Thank you for the super detailed comment, reading it was very interesting. I actually haven’t seen Buffy (i’m woefully under-familiar with American TV in general) but I understand the sentiment. I also hope your Healer Girl fanfic goes well should you decide to write it.

    Again, thank you very much for the comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners was a show that hurt to watch. Not because it was bad; but because I felt for the characters. Pretty much everything you said! I don’t want to watch it again. It’s like Penguindrum in that regard. I’m not saying it’s as good as Penguindrum; I’m not saying it’s not. I am saying a) I’ll need a few years to decide with any objectivity and b) both series left me glad I’d watched them, but in no hurry to subject myself to the emotional trauma of watching them again.

    You’ve convinced me I need to watch Vampire in the Garden. That’s about the highest praise I can give a review!

    I wish I would have guessed Healer Girl would be number 1. I was tempted; but I rarely participate in public events like votes, so I held back. But for what it’s worth, I absolutely endorse your selection. I won’t say more than that; I think your review (in this post and in your previous reviews of the episodes) say what needed to be said.

    I often gauge how much I liked a series by how much fanfiction it generates in my imagination. Did you watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series)?

    Buffy spoiler follows!

    Remember the scene in season 5, episode 22 where Buffy defeated Glory? Glory reverted to Ben (long story)? Ben was weak and begged Buffy to spare him. Buffy did. But Giles understood something Giles did not. Giles understood that Ben would heal, regain strength, and become Glory again – and come after Buffy once more. So, Giles calmly smothered Ben to death. He said that he did so because Buffy had to remain good and pure; and to achieve that, Giles accepted his role of doing the dirty work.

    Healer Girl hit me so hard and so deeply that it generated an entire universe. In that universe, there are men and women who have the same powers as Kana and Ria. Some of them want to dominate others with that power. The fanfiction would follow the people who dedicate their lives to using that power to thwart the others, both to protect the common citizens, and so people like Kana and Ria can develop on their own, honing their skills, to heal others.

    So thanks for choosing it as number 1! I think it deserves it.

    And great selection of a closing image!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally get why you chose Healer Girl as your number one anime! It’s such a wonderfully happy feel good anime. The songs are so sweet, and the characters are so likable! With so many bloggers choosing darker anime like Chainsaw Man as their number one anime of the year, I’m so glad you chose an series on the polar opposite of the anime spectrum! I think that’s what made 2022 such a great year for anime, because it didn’t just have great shonen anime, it had great anime for everyone not matter if they were a fan of bloody anime or sweet and bubbly anime.

    Liked by 3 people

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