The Best Anime Of The Winter 2022 Season

(Welcome to I Didn't Know What Seasonal Anime to Watch, So I Asked /Film for Help and They Gave Me a List, a semi-regular column dedicated to helping choose what anime shows to watch each season.)

More anime is being made today than ever before. In fact, there's a strong argument to be made that too much anime is being made at the moment! With the sheer number of shows out there, it's hard to even know where to begin. But we, Adam and Rafael, are anime experts. We know that while the winter 2022 season isn't the bonanza of original series (for good or ill) that 2021 was, there's still plenty of worthwhile media to check out.

Here are our personal recommendations that ended this winter, ranging from movie length to year-long TV series. They range in topic and theme from children's entertainment to classic tragedy, hilarious hijnx to shocking violence. There's science fiction, down-to-earth drama, music videos, artists both old and new, and even a giant mushroom apocalypse. In other words, something for everybody.

Ranking of Kings

One of the best anime not only of the season, but of the year (including 2021, since the first half of the season premiered back in October), "Ranking of Kings" is a fairy tale classic in the making. Wit Studio uses the medium of animation as a cover to the show's book, encouraging the audience to judge the anime by its old-school, simplistic, childish art style before revealing a complex, kinetic, gruesome, gorgeous anime about a young prince with a disability who tries to take back his kingdom.

Keeping with the book and cover analogy, each character is initially presented as simplistic and two-dimensional, before being revealed to be emotionally complex and fully-fledged. Nowhere is this more evident than with the young protagonist, Bojji, who is lovable and endearing without feeling helpless, and his mighty smile hides a deep trauma and sadness. The show is constantly throwing plot twists left and right, introducing political intrigue, dynamic fights, and gruesome deaths. It's like "Game of Thrones," but cuter and better. Though the show does unfortunately employ some very problematic imagery of Japan's colonialist history for a flashback that feels uncharacteristically simplistic compared to the rest of the show, it still manages to deliver a unique fantasy story we won't soon forget. (Rafael Motamayor)

Streaming on: Crunchyroll, Funimation

Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2

At this point, what else is there to say about "Attack on Titan" that hasn't been said already? This is the show that kickstarted my regular anime column on this site, and now in its final season, "Attack on Titan" is better than ever.

With the endgame in sight, the show has been on an apocalyptic roller coaster ride through hell, with huge revelations that re-contextualize everything we thought we knew about the show, the start of the Rumbling, which threatens to flatten the Earth, the formation of an ultimate alliance of old enemies, and more. Studio MAPPA has vastly improved their work on the first half of the season, finding a near-perfect balance between 2D and 3D-CG animation to give us some of the best action the show has ever seen, while the writing and voice acting continue to make the action meaningful because of the emotional impact it has on the characters. This is arguably the biggest show of the season, and it did not disappoint. (Rafael Motamayor)

Streaming on: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation

My Dress-Up Darling

Cosplay, the art of designing and wearing outfits from your favorite movies and shows, is one of the best-known hobbies in fandom. So it's surprising that more anime series haven't tackled it. "My Dress-Up Darling" is an exception, a romantic comedy about a secluded teenage doll-maker named Gojo who joins forces with Marin, a super stylish geek, to recreate her favorite characters. The series does an excellent job at capturing the vibrant expressions of the characters, the tactility of clothes-making, and the wild hormones of teenagedom. It also does a great job at conveying the weirdness of nerd hobbies, and how liberating it can be to find somebody willing to share your enthusiasm. If you can meet the show on its level, "My Dress-Up Darling" is this winter's sleeper hit, a very good adaptation of a well-liked comic by animators giving it their all. 

That said, I have two serious caveats. First, that the series sexualizes Marin constantly through Gojo's bewildered gaze, which not all viewers may be comfortable with. Second, that the tenth episode seriously stumbles in addressing the ethics of light-skinned people cosplaying darker-skinned characters. It's a blemish on the series as a whole and enough to keep me from recommending it to some. (Adam Wescott)

Streaming on: Crunchyroll

The Orbital Children

In the near future, a mysterious asteroid strikes a commercial space station, stranding five bratty kids. The only way for them to survive is to learn to work together. But that's only the beginning of "The Orbital Children," a science fiction thriller that within its brief runtime tackles artificial intelligence, corporate conspiracies, social media, ecofascism, and the ethics of having children in space. Written and directed by Mitsuo Iso, one of the greatest Japanese animators in history, and featuring some of the medium's best artists, "The Orbital Children" is an overstuffed passion project with more ideas per episode than some anime have in thirteen. It's not nearly as elegant a construction as Iso's earlier masterpiece, "Dennou Coil." But then, what is? 

While clearly compromised by its short episode count, "The Orbital Children" is a must-watch for fans of old-school science fiction as well as a breath of fresh air for anime fans. Just don't watch it all at once, or you might get a headache! (Adam Wescott)

Streaming on: Netflix

The Heike Story

"Heike Monogatari" is one of the most important works of Japanese literature, the historical tale of a powerful family that attempts to claim the power of the Emperor for themselves and is destroyed in the following conflict. "The Heike Story" is a greatly compressed version of that tale, told from the perspective of a child named Biwa who watches the tragic fall of the Heike family from within. Like "The Orbital Children", this story can't help but feel overly abbreviated in squeezing its narrative to fit just 11 episodes. But director Naoko Yamada is one of the best of her generation, and her take on the material strips away the martial grandeur to focus on the core — the stupid cruelty of violence, the trauma sustained by its victims, and the means by which ordinary people may continue living regardless. (Adam Wescott)

Streaming on: Funimation

Kotaro Lives Alone

This is, without a doubt, the saddest, most gut-wrenching anime of the season, and it is also the most adorable. Like "Ranking of Kings," "Korato Lives Alone" gives us a precious child as a protagonist, one that is as adorable as he is deeply scarred. The show follows Korato, a four-year-old child who moves into an apartment building by his own, without parents. There, he meets his neighbors, who start taking guidance roles in his life, vowing to protect this child from the horrors of the world.

The episodes are short, comprising of two or more sketches about Korato going on about his daily life while acting like a grown-up, like going to the bath house or shopping for groceries. The comedy mostly revolves around Kotaro's incredibly well-mannered feudal lord-like behavior, but the more we get to know Kotaro, the more he reveals about his past, the more you will feel like your heart is being stabbed. Why is this child gifting tissue paper boxes to his neighbors? Well, it's because tissue paper is quite useful is you are a neglected child without any food. Cue the waterworks. "Korato Lives Alone" is equal parts heartwarming, laugh-out-loud funny, a rather nuanced exploration of child abuse, and one of the biggest surprises of the season. (Rafael Motamayor)

Streaming on: Netflix

Tropical-Rogue! Precure

While Sailor Moon was once the magical girl de jour, the current queen of the genre is the ongoing "Pretty Cure" series, whose heroines fight evil not just with magic, but with their fists. While each entry in the series varies in theme and quality, the recent "Tropical-Rogue! Precure" (which ended this January) makes for a fine starting place. First because it's one of the weirdest seasons of the show ever, featuring a prideful mermaid named Laura, papaya laser eye-beams, and a non-stop stream of ridiculous jokes. But also because Laura's relationship with Manatsu, the charming heroine of the series, makes for a strong emotional foundation. "Tropical-Rouge!" is first and foremost a kids series, but their parents might find themselves laughing along (and crying) too. (Adam Wescott)

Streaming on: Crunchyroll

Adam by Eve

For the past several years, the musician Eve has been releasing animated music videos on his YouTube channel in collaboration with indie artists like Mariyasu and Waboku. "Adam by Eve" stitches together fragments of these animations with live-action footage into a vaguely coherent narrative. If you're an anime fan, you may have heard some of these songs before, including the theme song of the recent hit "Jujutsu Kaisen." But "Adam by Eve" also features original segments, like an excellent piece at the midpoint directed by Hibiki Yoshizaki, the creator of the infamous animated short "ME!ME!ME!" 

Those who have the time to do so might be better served by digging through Eve's YouTube channel for the full-length videos, like this banger by "Adam by Eve" director Nobutaka Yoda and company. But for those looking for a succinct introduction to his work, or even for those nervous that Eve has been absorbed by the very corporate forces his videos once rebelled against, there's plenty of great material here. (Adam Wescott)

Streaming on: Netflix

Sabikui Bisco

Combine the cartoony chaos of "Looney Tunes" with the apocalyptic mayhem of "Mad Max: Fury Road" and you get pretty close to the colorful, imaginative madness that is "Sabikui Bisco." This show — about a post-apocalyptic Japan overwhelmed by rust, where mushrooms are found everywhere, bringing both doom and possible salvation — has a lot going on, but it is never overwhelming and it is never boring.

"Sabikui Bisco" follows two unlikely allies fighting their way through the wasteland looking for a mythical mushroom that can be synthesized to eat away the rust that has been plaguing humanity for years. The best part about it is seeing the weird and wild world-building, like cops riding iguanas, weaponized hippos with mounted machine guns, and planes that are really just flying snails. There is also a pretty poignant story about how people would rather demonize those trying to help because of some dumb coincidence that is easier to believe than trust that someone is actually doing something good for mankind. This is one of the most original shows of the season, and an anime that is best seen to be believed. (Rafael Motamayor)

Streaming on: Crunchyroll