The 10 Best Anime Series of Spring 2024, Ranked

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The 10 Best Anime Series of Spring 2024, Ranked

These last few months gave us an impressively deep lineup of anime, and regardless of which genres you’re into, there was almost certainly something for you. We had long-awaited sequels, exciting originals, hits in the making like Delicious in Dungeon, and a whole bunch of stories about bands. And while there were disappointments along the way, like repeated failures to follow through on implied queer relationships (during Pride Month, no less!), overall, it’s usually a good sign when it’s tough to narrow things down to only 10 picks. Without further ado, let’s break down our favorite shows of the spring.

Honorable Mentions

Whisper Me a Love Song: Severe production issues held back this adorable and unabashedly queer love story. While its central relationship is great, and there’s lots of interesting drama around the extended cast, the last two episodes have been delayed indefinitely. At this point, I’m just going to read its well-regarded source material instead. Kaiju No. 8: It’s a very fun action romp, but it is admittedly a little less interesting than its opening episode implies. Demon Slayer: Hashira Training: Ufotable did a good job spicing up this training arc and hyping up the upcoming film trilogy, even if this is admittedly the calm before the storm. My Hero Academia Season 7: This latest season has been solid thus far, but it is strangely paced and doesn’t quite match the series’ high points.

10. Spice and Wolf: Merchant Meets the Wise Wolf

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The 2008 adaptation of Spice and Wolf is quite fondly remembered, and while the latest take on this light novel series doesn’t entirely live up to this nostalgia, it’s still a solid retelling that embodies this story’s strengths. We follow Kraft Lawrence, a traveling merchant, and Holo the Wise Wolf, a several hundred-year-old deity taking the shape of a girl, as the two journey to the latter’s homeland. On the way to their destination, the pair make deals and sniff out schemes to stay afloat, and although you would think learning about medieval tax incentives and gold embargoes is boring, human drama and banter pull us into this mercantile gamesmanship. And, of course, the heart of this series is the relationship between our kindly merchant and Holo, whose wit and sharp tongue have made her a deserved fan-favorite for over a decade. Voice actors Jun Fukuyama (Lawrence) and Ami Koshimizu (Holo) return to their roles from the original series and deliver these entertaining repartees without missing a beat.

That said, this adaptation isn’t perfect. I don’t love many of the aesthetic changes compared to the original, like the decision to make Holo less intimidating in her wolf form or the brighter lighting, which feels less dramatic than the chiaroscuro look of the original. Also, outside of a few lovingly rendered scenes, there are occasional off-model characters and dips in animation quality (although that was certainly true about the original, too). My biggest issue, though, is that it feels they’ve defanged our acerbic heroine somewhat, making her come across more like an adorable mascot than a bristling god. Still, even with these differences (which, according to some, makes things closer to the source material), it gets across enough of what made the original adaptation special, including its high-stakes bartering and central relationship.

9. Tonari no Youkai-san

Watch on Crunchyroll

There will always be underappreciated gems that fly under the radar, and so far, Tonari no Youkai-san very much fits the bill. Taking place in a world where humans and creatures from Japanese folklore live side-by-side, this thoughtful series seamlessly combines the mundane and fantastical. It focuses on the residents of a small town, each of whom are navigating grief, familial trauma, and growing pains, such as Buchio, a cat who was recently reborn as a Nekomata youkai. While this story seems entirely chill at first blush due to the breezy charm of this rural community and its peaceful denizens, it also digs into more frightening undercurrents as its characters grapple with dangerous spirits and heaps of baggage. For instance, there’s Mu, a young girl dealing with her father’s disappearance, and Jiro, a centuries-old tengu whose pleasant demeanor hides unhealed wounds. Still, even with these grave turns, the pervading vibe is a good one, best embodied by Buchio, an incredibly earnest little guy who’s quick to shed tears on other’s behalf. Overall, Tonari no Youkai-san is a creative and sympathetic series that very much deserves a bigger audience.

8. Jellyfish Can’t Swim in the Night

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Delighting in emotionally hard-hitting turns, Jellyfish Can’t Swim in the Night is a musical coming-of-age story bolstered by sharp direction and timely commentary on internet culture. It follows four girls, Mahiru, Kano, Kiui, and Mei, each facing problems in their personal lives that are at least partially alleviated when they come together to form the online music group JEELE. One of the series’ standout elements is how effectively it gets inside the personal hangups of its central cast, exploring their anxieties as they face what they’ve been running from, whether it’s peer pressure or manipulative parents. There is a frankness that comes across beautifully, and even if some of these arcs wrap up too tidily, I appreciate the series’ ambition. The group’s growing bonds culminate in big-swing dramatic moments that are elevated by Ryouhei Takeshita’s confident direction and studio Doga Kobo’s consistent production.

Unfortunately, there’s a catch—this one simply doesn’t stick the landing. Its overarching conflicts don’t have satisfying resolutions, and despite repeatedly teasing a relationship between two girls in the band that would have underscored this story’s themes about breaking free of societal expectations and finding a reason to create art, it doesn’t follow through. Still, even with these drawbacks, this one has some of the most memorable episodes of the spring, and when everything aligns, it’s a tough act to beat.

7. Wind Breaker

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For a show about delinquents punching each other, Wind Breaker demonstrates a shocking amount of empathy. Things center on Sakura, a kid who has been ostracized his entire life due to having heterochromia. In his isolation, he pursues personal strength above all else and transfers to Fuurin High School, known for having beefy students, intending to take the top spot. But instead of finding a dog-eat-dog hierarchy, it turns out his peers are a bunch of kindhearted bros who protect the local townspeople at any cost. While it initially seems to have a fairly standard “I’ve gotta become the strongest guy”-type setup, this story quickly becomes something else as Sakura finds camaraderie and a sense of purpose he’d been sorely lacking. The series is excellent at hammering home this undercurrent, following our blushy hero as he busts heads alongside his fellow protectors and slowly opens up to those around him in the process. Although its middle stretch has some pacing issues as it gets bogged down in an extended brawl and the show doesn’t do a great job differentiating its fighting styles or combatants, thanks to its likable cast and abundance of pathos, this tale has a lot of heart.

6. Laid-Back Camp Season 3

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In its third season, Laid-Back Camp continues to exude comfiness as it captures both the wonder of the outdoors and the pleasure of sharing these sights with others. We continue to follow Rin, a once-reclusive camper who befriends the bubbly Nadeshiko and the rest of their high school’s camping club. In the latest run, the gang goes on a series of charming trips that encourage us to admire nature as the group tours the countryside and samples tasty cuisine. They also get a little bit silly with it this time around, particularly when it comes to a hilarious multi-episode sequence where two of the girls inaccurately recount their latest adventure—fourth wall breaks, and all. Although I’ll admit that the switch in animation studios from C-Station to 8bit came with several artistic changes that I found distracting upfront, like the altered character designs and more hyper-realistic background art, ultimately, the new staff maintained what made the first two seasons work so well, capturing a calming atmosphere, the chemistry between this friend group, the joys of going outside, and the anticipation and come down from a big trip. They can keep making this show until the end of time, and I’ll keep coming back for more.

5. Dead Dead Demon’s Dededede Destruction

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Inio Asano was one of those legendary mangaka whose work had inexplicably never made the leap to animation, but that’s all changed with Production +h’s adaptation of Dead Demon’s Dedede Destruction. Originally released as a two-part film, these flicks have been sliced into 22-minute episodes that work seamlessly in this new format, simultaneously functioning as a bonkers sci-fi tale and painfully real coming-of-age narrative. The story is told from the perspective of two certified dumpster fire high schoolers, Ontan and Kadode, besties living in Tokyo amidst a slow-mo alien invasion. We’re only five episodes into this one because it started airing late, but in that short time, the series has already honed in on adolescent angst and used its speculative backdrop to probe into fears of the future.

At the heart of its success is how specific, weird, and messy our leading pair of terrible teens come across. While 90% of anime protagonists fall into this age group, these two feel so much more authentic and intriguing than most. And beyond the well-portrayed senior year blues, there is a tremendous density to everything happening in the background as well: the Japanese government behaves with a xenophobic gusto that endangers its citizens, while America goes full imperialism mode and uses Japan as a testing ground for its anti-alien weapons. On top of this, there are face-stealing visitors from another world, strange technologies, and lots of compelling questions.

This one’s biggest issue has nothing to do with the show itself, but how it’s being presented. Apparently, Crunchyroll’s subtitles for the Japanese vocals are from a third-party company, and they are fairly bad at the moment. On top of the subtitles being a direct transcription of the English dub that doesn’t match the cadence of the character’s speech, heaps of written Japanese text, from text messages to location chyrons, are not translated, which is a huge oversight. Watching the English dub fixes all of these issues, but as a sub-enjoyer, it’s a pain to switch back and forth every time on-screen text appears. Hopefully, these problems will be fixed as we enter the summer season because this one deserves a lot more buzz.

4. Train to the End of the World

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From its first episode, Train to the End of the World has brimmed with creativity and chaos, resulting in the type of weirdo anime original we see too little of these days. After the botched rollout of the “7G cellular network” warps reality into an unrecognizable wonderland, Shizuru and her buddies set out from their hometown to find their estranged friend Yuko, who, before the disaster, was headed to the big city of Ikebukuro, Tokyo. As the group co-opts an abandoned train, they engage in episodic hijinks as they’re repeatedly waylaid along the way. It’s in these encounters where much of the series’ originality lies, and it’s an exercise in futility to guess what’s in store any given week: malicious mushrooms, zombies allergic to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and children’s cartoons come to life are just a few of the strange sights they witness.

And beyond these wacky adventures, the whip-sharp dialogue and characterization from veteran screenwriter Michiko Yokote (Shirobako, Princess Tutu, Mononoke, etc.) makes the lightning-fast interactions between this group of teen girls feel both honest and hilarious. The bizarre happenings may draw you in, but it’s the overarching relationship drama between Shizuru and her distant best friend that pulls everything together, both literally and figuratively. Thanks to this focus, Train to the End of the World is able to maintain its insanity without going off the rails.

3. Girls Band Cry

Not Available on Streaming

I’m not sure who needs to be held responsible, but it’s a high anime crime that Girls Band Cry, one of the best series of the year, isn’t being distributed to watch legally in most regions outside of Japan. However, if you find a way to see it, you’ll be treated with delightful animation and lovable disaster characters that make this another banger in the increasingly crowded “girls start a band” sub-genre. The story centers on Nina, a teen who drops out of school to move to Tokyo and crosses paths with her favorite musician, Momoka. Before long, Nina finds herself not just admiring from afar but making music for herself as she comes together with a group of fellow misfits to form a band.

The most immediately noticeable element here is the intensely expressive 3D animation, as characters stretch and bounce to sell physical comedy and genuine emotion. While a lot of anime’s 3D CGI looks stiff or awkward, there is a fluidity here that lends itself perfectly to both big musical performance sequences and playful banter between these bandmates. And as for the main cast, they’re an absolute mess in the best way possible, crashing through the streets of Tokyo as they flip people off, struggle against each other and themselves, and find purpose in music. Nina makes for a compelling protagonist who alternates between being painfully sincere and a chaotic gremlin, ripping true feelings out of her compatriots as their music helps them address old hurts. Not to be upstaged, the other band members all have their own well-defined concerns that leads to authentic drama, such as Momoka’s fears of repeating the past or Subaru’s family issues. While our central cast may be a bit of a trainwreck, between this series’ affecting turns, striking look, and somewhat open-ended conclusion, I’m hoping we get more of this performance.

2. Sound! Euphonium 3

best anime premieres spring 2024

Watch on Crunchyroll

It’s been more than seven years since Sound! Euphonium was last on the small screen (although there were some movies in between), and the latest season of Kyoto Animation’s masterfully animated music story demonstrates what a loss this absence has been. Things pick up where they left off with Kumiko in her last year at Kitauji High School, as she and the rest of the concert band aim to win Gold at the national competition. From the opening moments, it’s clear that the studio’s rigorous approach to portraying everyday life is in full form, as they render some of the most impressive character animation you’ll see on TV. This thorough attention to detail captures the intricacies of subtle motion, such as playing instruments, and works perfectly with a narrative similarly obsessed with the minute emotional turns of its cast as Kumiko attempts to hold together the egos and concerns of their fraying band.

You wouldn’t think a grounded account of a high school club could be so dramatic, but through its sustained hyper-focus on the little things, it has so intensely put us in the room with these characters over the years that returning to this group after this extended absence feels like being back among old friends. We’ve come to care deeply about things that would seem trivial to outsiders, like drama over college applications or if Kumiko will get to play a final duet with her definitely-not-girlfriend Reina.

Kyoto Animation has earned a reputation by creating many of the most gorgeously produced TV anime we’ve ever seen, and Sound! Euphonium’s third season is no exception, but what really puts it over the edge is how all this technical craft makes us feel the full weight of this extended goodbye. After spending years with these characters, their last desperate march towards winning Gold is filled with triumphs, heartbreak, and callbacks. It’s hard to part ways, and this season drills in on this sentiment with percussive force, memorializing every passing moment in stunning displays of visual craft.

1. Delicious in Dungeon

delicious in dungeon best anime winter 2024

Watch on Netflix

Delicious in Dungeon juggles a lot and juggles it well. Through gut-busting humor, savory cooking sequences, impressive worldbuilding, colorful animation, and increasingly affecting character development, this series is a well-balanced meal that’s only gotten tastier with time. We continue to follow Laios (the Tallman warrior), Marcille (the elven mage), Senshi (a monster meal-obsessed Dwarf), and Chilchuck (a halfling locksmith), as they cook up creatures while journeying to save a lost party member from this dungeon. Although I was impressed with this fantasy tale from the jump, over its 24-episode run, the story has gone from amusing to outright devastating, as it has expertly built up its characters alongside all the mouthwatering meals. These dorks are the key to the show’s success, and it’s a delight to watch them prepare tasty dishes that seem like they’re from the fantasy Food Network as we slowly uncover their backstories.

And it’s not only the cooking and cast, but just about every element of this anime based on Ryōko Kui’s manga that lands successfully as well; Kui’s creative spins on high fantasy tropes make this world feel unique and flavorful, and Studio Trigger captures these details via a slightly toned-down version of their trademark maximalist presentation. Oh, and did I mention it’s funny—like really funny? There aren’t many shows that, within 10 minutes, can seamlessly jump between a brutal backstory concerning potential cannibalism and a brilliant visual gag where a character is transformed into a doofy-looking dog, but Delicious in Dungeon does so with ease.

Elijah Gonzalez is an assistant Games and TV Editor for Paste Magazine. In addition to playing and watching the latest on the small screen, he also loves film, creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to, and dreaming of the day he finally gets through all the Like a Dragon games. You can follow him on Twitter @eli_gonzalez11.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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