The 25 Best Anime Series on HIDIVE

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The 25 Best Anime Series on HIDIVE

Since the Crunchyroll-Funimation merger and the closing of other outfits like Amazon’s Anime Strike, HIDIVE has become one of the only major anime-focused streaming services left standing. Although its catalog may not match the size of its biggest competitor, it still has the rights to several excellent series, including difficult-to-find classics and many of the most memorable recent simulcasts. After combing through these offerings, we’ve come up with a list of the best shows on the service. We tried to represent a sampling of the wide variety of genres and demographics that make up this medium, including everything from hot-blooded action series to calming slice-of-life stories. As it turns out, there’s a lot of good anime out there, and HIDIVE has a surprisingly decent chunk of it. Here are our recommendations for what you should check out next on the platform:

1. Land of the Lustrous

Original Run: 2017

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While anime that primarily uses 3DCGI gets a bad rap, Orange’s gorgeous Land of the Lustrous adaptation demonstrates this form’s strengths. Between its colorful compositions and dynamic action sequences that would be nearly impossible without 3D animation, the studio brings Haruko Ichikawa’s creative, coming-of-age manga to life. We follow Phos, a “jewel person” searching for purpose in a world where sentient gems are under constant attack from the Lunarians, mysterious beings from the Moon that look ripped straight from Buddhist iconography. Although this premise sounds entirely fantastical, it taps into the existential ennui of its protagonist with such precision that it captures what it feels like to be an unmoored young person searching for meaning and belonging. We watch as Phos is literally and figuratively broken and remade, their deeply felt desire to become “useful” to their compatriots driving them to increasingly desperate lengths. And even as its material is undeniably hefty, there is plenty of joy to be found as our lead forms bonds with the other castaways of this community. Through its evocative imagery and thoughtful exploration of topics such as existential yearning and gender, it remains one of the most memorable series in recent years. If it has a flaw, it’s that this is an incomplete adaptation, only tackling the start of Ichikawa’s masterful manga. Hopefully, Orange will someday gift us the rest. —Elijah Gonzalez


2. Vinland Saga

Original Run: 2019-2023

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Based on the long-running manga penned by Makoto Yukimura of Planetes fame, Vinland Saga is a Norse tale told through a humanist lens. It follows Thorfinn, an Icelandic boy living in the early 11th century, who—after enduring a personal tragedy—sets out on a tale of revenge. Or at least, that’s how things initially appear. Despite resembling traditional Scandinavian poems about bloody quests for comeuppance, Thorfinn’s journey is less vainglorious and more tragic. Here warriors aren’t framed as valiant heroes battling for a place in Valhalla, but as sadists and butchers inoculated into a culture of pointless violence. Perhaps the greatest trick this story pulls is that even though it never shies away from human cruelty, it isn’t shot through with cynicism, instead suggesting a better way is just out of reach.

Sure, there is some tonal weirdness in its first half, as it enacts a series of fights that feel less like indictments of bloodshed and more like battle shonen duels between borderline superheroes, but Wit Studio’s animation chops are on such display here that it’s easy to forgive some of the amped-up, meathead shenanigans. By its second season, these inconsistencies are smoothed over as it transforms into a full-throated condemnation of the inhumanity of this period, delving into the hardships these characters face due to cruel belief structures and political systems. Between its powerful articulation of its protagonist’s emotional journey and its ability to immerse us in this fraught depiction of Middle Ages Europe, Vinland Saga is a gripping treatise on violence, revenge, and the distant hope for a better world. —Elijah Gonzalez

[Note: Only Season 1 (of 2) is available.]


3. Kino’s Journey

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Original Run: 2003

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Drifting in like the longing guitar riffs from its opening sequence, Kino’s Journey feels at once intimate and grandiose, a solitary drive that takes us through a hodgepodge of high-concept societies. We follow Kino, a traveler whose main rule is that they only stay in a given country for three days before heading for the next, experiencing as many cultures as possible while riding on the back of their trusty talking Motorrad, Hermes. Together, the pair see things — some of which are beautiful, many more of which are upsetting, almost all these nations governed by borderline absurd rules or circumstances that make them some amalgamation of fairytale and dystopian sci-fi short story. Nearly every tale is a one-off, but together, they paint the contours of human experience, a swirling miasma that only occasionally offers breaths of fresh air.

But what makes it all come together and avoid feeling outright cynical is Ryūtarō Nakamura’s (Serial Experiment Lain) contemplative direction, as these extreme circumstances are rendered with a thoughtful tenor that would fall flat in lesser hands (frankly, like with the 2017 adaptation). Nakamura and his team oscillate between tactile details, like the mechanical click-clacking of automatons, and dreamlike backdrops, such as the blindingly white, washed-out desert where Kino begins their quest, efficiently characterizing these myriad settings in each episode’s brief runtime. And punctuating its turns is an understated calm that mostly only dissipates when a rare good thing happens, moments of joy and connection breaking through like a sunbeam. It’s a brief journey but one that’s impossible to forget. —Elijah Gonzalez


4. Lupin III


Original Run: 1971-2018

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Lupin III is anime’s most iconic gentleman thief—a rakish criminal genius who first showed up in manga runs from the late ’60s while Sean Connery was defining James Bond. Lupin’s approach is similar: He fights, he fucks, he steals things, and he’s the grandson of the OG gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin. Lupin III’s adventures now span a half-century franchise, but what’s more notable is how many anime series claim the character, originally created as contract work, as an influence. Cowboy Bebop’s Spike Spiegel flat-out wouldn’t exist without Lupin’s character as a model. Hayao Miyazaki wouldn’t have had his first shot at directing features without the intricately detailed movie The Castle of Cagliostro. “At the end of that three months, it became popular and I continued drawing it for 10 years,” the creator Monkey Punch has said. The rest is history. —Eric Vilas-Boas


5. Bloom Into You

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Original Run: 2018

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While many anime and manga fall into negative tropes in their depictions of queer romance, Bloom Into You avoids many of these stumbling blocks, largely portraying the burgeoning relationship between its leading heroines with care. The story begins after Yuu, a freshman in high school, runs into Touko, a popular girl in line to become the next student council president. As the two begin falling for each other, things become complicated by Yuu’s confusion over what it means to be in love and Touko’s survivor guilt over a personal tragedy. One of the series’ greatest strengths is how its direction extrapolates the mental state of its characters, using visual metaphors to capture Yuu’s alienation regarding her perceptions of romantic feelings and Touko’s unresolved grief that pushes her away from others. These two working through the dissonance between external expectations and how they truly feel ties in with the series’ broader exploration of the social stigmas faced by those in queer relationships. Additionally, its representation of multiple LGBTQ+ pairings, including one between adult women, provides a greater range of perspectives while also pushing back on longstanding harmful stereotypes in anime that portray being gay as an “adolescent phase.” There are a few blunders, but this story captures the authenticity of Yuu and Touko’s love, its strong aesthetic identity making their feelings hit home. While the show doesn’t fully adapt the source material, the manga has a perfect conclusion and is a must-read if you enjoy what’s here. —Elijah Gonzalez


6. Princess Tutu


Original Run: 2002-2003

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Over the last couple decades, magical girl anime has been re-examined, deconstructed, and bastardized to death to the point that nearly any anime featuring a young female lead can qualify. Princess Tutu sets itself apart from the pack by breathing life into one of anime’s most formulaic genres while maintaining what it is that brings us back to cute mascots and magic wands again and again. As much a magical girl show as it is a fable, the story is centered around a duck-cum-human attending a ballet academy. Duck’s existence is constantly in question—not only is she a duck, she’s also Princess Tutu, a storybook character who must compete with the Raven and his daughter, Princess Kraehe, who attends Duck’s academy. Princess Tutu is consistently humanizing, a vigorous dance of reclaimed agency and sacrificial love, and stands above genre trappings as a riveting and timeless tale for children and adults alike. —Austin Jones


7. Aku No Hana


Original Run: 2013

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You probably won’t like Aku No Hana. At least not on your first viewing. Proudly perverse, the show makes consistent references to Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (of which it takes its name) as well as his contemporary Rimbaud. Among his Romantic peers, Baudelaire was the most troubled, struggling with alcoholism, aggrandizing debts, and syphilitic insanity. Somehow, a young middle schooler named Kasuga in modern day Japan found him relatable. Sensing his stranger-to-society tendencies, a fellow outcast named Nakamura catches Kasuga giving into his bawdy desires and blackmails him into a twisted friendship. The story never plays this for comedy, however—in fact, Aku No Hana is a sickeningly disgusting bildungsroman, a story about teens unable to conform and our disconnects between personal desires and social currency.

Animated with a divisive rotoscope technique, Aku No Hana flirts with drab imagery for the sake of enhancing its cast’s despair, nauseating in its flashes of uninhibited beauty and restrained repugnance. Aku No Hana will leave you feeling disquieted, but also rather seen; its revelation lies in what we want to hide about ourselves, about the dark side of our psyche that creeps in shadow. There’s something life-affirming about that darkness. —Austin Jones


8. K-On!

Original Run: 2009-2010

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K-On! has been incredibly influential in the modern anime scene, spurring a wave of copycat “high schoolers start a band or join a club” series that still make up a sizable chunk of seasonal releases. Like many other takes on this setup, it seeks to massage your brain with fluffy hangout antics and low-stakes drama. However, what sets it apart from a flood of seemingly similar material is the degree of craft involved. Kyoto Animation has built a reputation as one of, if not the most, impressive contemporary anime studios, and K-On! helps demonstrate this via fluid character animation, a well-conveyed sense of place, and thoughtful direction. Although other slice-of-life stories have brought us through a menagerie of near-identical classrooms, the halls of Sakuragaoka High School feel distinct thanks to specific landmarks and recurring shots that gradually build a nostalgic portrait of youth. In her directorial debut, Naoko Yamada’s framing of these characters imbues them with a similar depth, using the camera to capture body language and tease out extra layers of personality. But perhaps its greatest strength is how it slowly captures their growth as musicians and people as they face the trials and tribulations of being in a band. Its last few episodes capitalize on its slow-burn investment, crescendoing in a sentimental goodbye to its cast and this phase in their (and our) lives. —Elijah Gonzalez


9. Non Non Biyori

Original Run: 2013-2021

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Through its genuine depictions of growing up and patient portraits of nature, Non Non Biyori is a soothing ode to a specific time and place. It follows the shenanigans of a group of kids living in a countryside village, and while it’s certainly not the first story to tackle adolescence, one of its greatest accomplishments is how accurately it conveys that children can be deeply weird. The precocious Renge is a perfect example of this, whose bizarre comments paired with voice actress Kotori Koiwai’s spontaneous performance are a constant source of hilarity. She and her friends, who span a large age range due to the lack of non-adults left in this increasingly depopulated town, get up to a variety of low-stakes adventures that demonstrate sibling rivalries and lead to the types of wildly incorrect or oddly piercing assumptions that kids tend to make. A highlight is the wholesome pseudo-big sister relationship between the gremlin child Renge and the prickly Kaede, a 20-year-old who heads up her family’s struggling business. Even though it mostly focuses on light-hearted fun meant to transport the audience back to when their lives were less burdened by responsibility, the series also empathetically captures the pains of getting older. It portrays the passage of time with bittersweet melancholy, the changing seasons accentuating how its characters are getting increasingly close to the day when they’ll have to decide to leave their dying community or stay and nurture it for the next generation. Non Non Biyori not only works as a relaxing detour from the stress of everyday life thanks to its calming tone and scenic backdrops, but is also a hilarious and affecting snapshot of childhood. —Elijah Gonzalez


10. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Original Run: 2013-2020

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Defined by its witty repartees and nuanced characterization, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a whip-smart coming-of-age tale that communicates the interior lives of its cast. At its center is Hachiman, a cynical high schooler who finds himself the newest member of his school’s Service Club, joining Yukino, a fellow social outcast, and the bubbly Yui. Together, the three work through their classmates’ problems while addressing their own, helping fix friendships and untangle convoluted student body politics. Despite its fluffy title, the series is deft at portraying social dynamics and character psychology, digging into various low-key problems with the same type of thorough analysis that would befit a mystery yarn. This depth foregrounds an interest in people, slowly peeling back the layers of its initially misanthropic protagonist as he attempts to form genuine bonds with his classmates, resulting in slow-burn romance and goofy teen hijinks. Although the wordiness of its writing can be a tad imposing at times, it all comes together in a cathartic conclusion that makes good on all its internal monologues and complicated relationship dynamics, communicating these people’s growth with overwhelming emotion. —Elijah Gonzalez


11. The Dangers in My Heart

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Original Run: 2023-2024

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The Dangers in My Heart got off to a somewhat rocky start due to its main character’s edgelordian inner monologues, but quickly blossomed into an unexpectedly heartwarming tale. It follows two junior high students, Kyoutarou Ichikawa, a seemingly gloomy kid who scares others away with Hot Topic-fashion sense and an apparent love of gory true crime, and Anna Yamada, a tall model who’s the most popular girl in class. Although this setup initially reeks of wish-fulfillment due to its “dreary boy” and “bubbly girl” pairing, it transcends this thanks to how specific both characters come across. We find that Ichikawa’s awkward chuuni tendencies are a shield meant to deflect disappointment, while Yamada is a messy, non-idealized dork. Through cute vignettes, it conveys the burgeoning relationship between these two with fluffy delight, and, mercifully, its leading pair are capable of actually communicating with one another instead of letting misunderstandings linger for the sake of dramatic convenience. Small incidental moments slowly accumulate until you’re ready to ugly cry along with its cast, who have already come a long way in being increasingly honest with themselves and others. Through its second season, The Dangers in My Heart remains as engaging and adorkable as ever. —Elijah Gonzalez


12. Oshi No Ko

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Original Run: 2023

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After bursting onto the stage with a gut-punch of a premiere, Oshi No Ko continued to successfully portray both the magic and ills of the entertainment industry from a clear-eyed perspective. It’s difficult to provide an overview of this one’s plot without giving away key elements of the first episode, but the story follows the famous idol Ai, an ascendant talent in the music group B-Komachi, as well as her children Aqua and Ruby, who are also attempting to break into show business. One of the series’ greatest strengths is its ability to represent the joys that this field can bring while also revealing the exploitative underbelly that defines these spaces. We witness the type of backroom deals, casual misogyny, and brutal labor conditions that plague those attempting to make a living doing this work, but we also see the personal satisfaction that comes from an inspired performance, and how music can brighten people’s lives. The cast is similarly nuanced and features many women whose goals and backstories are respectfully handled, from Ai’s quest to find genuine connection through making music, the former child actor Kana’s insecurities due to past disappointments, or Miyako’s presence as a supportive stepmom. Although elements of its “reincarnation” premise make for some uncomfortable moments early on, and there is a storyline that arguably bears too much resemblance to a real-life tragedy, Oshi No Ko generally does justice to its heavier topics, delivering a well-considered critique of entertainment spaces alongside triumphant moments that foreground the power of art and performance. —Elijah Gonzalez


13. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun

Original Run: 2014

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Today is the big day. Chiyo Sakura has finally built up enough courage to confess to her crush, Umetarou Nozaki. She walks up to him, meets his eyes, and says “I’m your biggest fan!” Nozaki doesn’t interpret that as a love confession—he thinks Sakura is just a fan of his art. So, he signs an autograph for her. You see, Nozaki is secretly an acclaimed shoujo manga artist and confesses to Sakura that he’s always had his eye on her. What he meant was that he was interested in her talent as an artist. As one of the funniest shoujo anime, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is filled to the brim with misinterpretations. Once Sakura opts to help Nozaki with his manga, she becomes acquainted with other schoolmates, who often serve as the inspiration for Nozaki’s stories whether it be the jocks or the student council. One of the clever elements of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun is the series’ ability to explore the tropes of shoujo anime. In one instance, Nozaki and Sakura are talking about how romantic it can be for a couple to share a bike ride. As a stickler for laws, Nozaki tries to imagine how two people could share a bike without someone sitting on the back. He comes up with the idea of riding on a tandem bicycle, decidedly not the romantic outing Sakura was imagining. There are countless instances of the characters exploring and then decimating tropes which help make Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun one of the best shoujo anime available. —Max Covill


14. Clannad / Clannad After Story

Original Run: 2007-2009

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Clannad originally started as a Japanese visual novel by the acclaimed videogame developer Key, whose work has been adapted into some of the most memorable, heartbreaking anime including Air and Kanon. Clannad and its sequel After Story exceed the drama of those series, with a story that remains one of anime’s most memorable romances. In the game, players assume the role of Tomoya Okazaki, a young man who comes in contact with his female classmates whose problems he’s tasked with solving. The anime keeps the same basic story, with Tomoya helping these girls as a friend, instead of falling in love with them like in the videogame. The series boasts a diverse group of female characters: the twins Kyou and Ryou Fujibayashi, the genius Kotomi Ichinose, the transfer student Tomoyo Sakagami, the childish Fuko Ibuki, and the shy Nagisa Furukawa. Each girl gets their own arc where Tomoya helps them with their problems, some of them with a supernatural twist involved. It’s in the sequel, Clannad After Story, that this series really evolves and showcases why it’s so memorable. Tomoya marries one of the girls from high school and transitions from the carefree days of his youth to providing for his family. Clannad After Story gives the audience a narrative that isn’t often explored in anime—themes of fatherhood, pregnancy, and loss. It’s one of the best tear-jerkers in all of anime. —Max Covill


15. Azumanga Daioh

Original Run: 2002

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Possibly the progenitor of the whole “cute girls doing cute things” anime subgenre, Azumanga Daioh is up there with Nichijou as one of the best shows of its kind thanks to its gleeful silliness and excellent comic timing. It’s the definition of a comfort watch—outlandish enough to be genuinely funny but grounded enough that you want to be friends with all of the characters (except for Mr. Kimura, the one creepy part of this otherwise wholesome show). From Sakaki’s stoic quest to befriend a kitten that won’t bite her to Osaka’s galaxy-brained investigations into the nature of Chiyo-chan’s pigtails, Azumanga is filled with classic comedic bits. Watch it now and you’ll understand why every AMV editor in the 2000s was obsessed. —Reuben Baron


16. Run with the Wind

Original Run: 2018-2019

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When we think of sports anime, we generally imagine larger-than-life dramatics that exaggerate the bounds of human capability to capture the emotional swells that competition can bring out. While Run with the Wind also uses impressive animation to accentuate its athletics—long distance running in this case—it takes a more naturalistic tact than most of its peers. This approach works out because the series endears us to its rag-tag group of college students who find purpose and personal growth through marathoning. As the eclectic members of this dorm settle into their new home, they banter, bicker, drink, and eventually come together in a way that captures the specifics of college life with the same authenticity that defines the best hangout movies. We gradually learn their secrets, like how Kakeru, the protagonist, has a fraught past due to his anger issues or that Haiji’s dreams of running the Hakone Ekiden marathon stem from previous disappointments. Eventually, addressing these underlying conflicts becomes as important as shortening their lap times. It may be more subdued than some of its genre counterparts, but Production I.G’s adaptation of Shion Miura’s novel nails its climactic moments, communicating the physical strain and inner struggles that its cast fights through as they run. Even if you don’t think long distance marathoning sounds particularly interesting, Run with the Wind’s complex characters and creative animation make it worthwhile. —Elijah Gonzalez


17. Ya Boy Kongming!

Original Run: 2022

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Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a big deal throughout East Asia, as it’s among one of the most cherished stories in Chinese history. Now what if an anime took a historical figure from that period, Kongming, and transported him to the modern age? Not only that, but what if his purpose is to use his genius IQ to help a young woman named Eika realize her dream of becoming a popstar? That’s Ya Boy Kongming in a nutshell, but it’s also so much more hilarious than that. Kongming has no problem adapting to the new situation he’s in and using his brilliant mind, he re-uses military strategies in order to increase Eika’s popularity. There’s some fantastic music, and the opening sequence will surely have you trying to memorize the dance, but the secret weapon of the show is Kobayashi, owner of the club Kongming works for. He’s a Three Kingdom fanatic and his knowledge helps the audience to contextualize the great genius of Kongming. Ya Boy Kongming is certainly one of the hidden gems of 2022. —Max Covill


18. Flying Witch

Original Run: 2016

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15-year-old Makoto Kowata is horrible with directions. Sometimes she doesn’t know her right from her left. That’s why it’s a little strange that she’s taking a big step in life by leaving home to live with her cousin Kei and his family. Kei’s little sister Chinatsu has reservations about this stranger who’s come to live in their house—Makoto talks to her cat, has an interest in apothecary, and flies on a broom! It would seem that Makoto is a witch in training who is living on her own as part of her witch trials. Now her relatives and friends are about to get a first-hand introduction to the world of magic. Even though Flying Witch deals with magic and fantasy, its pacing is more akin to a slice-of-life anime. Each episode features two stories where Makoto shares some strange and peculiar secrets of her life and culture. It’s in these oddball moments that Flying Witch can bring about its greatest laughs, as in the premiere, when Makoto locates a rare Mandrake root. This particular root is known for its healing properties, but it also has its share of irregularities, such as its humanoid appearance and ear-shattering scream. Makoto intends to give this precious resource to her new friend Nao, but Nao politely declines in slight terror. There are plenty of mysterious and weird characters that show up in Flying Witch, as Makoto reveals the joys of witchcraft in this delightful anime. —Max Covill


19. Tsurune

Original Run: 2018-2023

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Tsurune is a striking reminder that few studios besides Kyoto Animation can create television anime with such a gorgeously realized sense of movement. This series about a high school archery club painstakingly portrays the act of shooting a bow by capturing the weight of motion, subtle distinctions in form, and unique twang of each shot. But more than just evoking an impressive degree of realism, this dedication to detail helps connect us to its kyudo-obsessed characters by communicating the beauty of their craft. Its cast grapples with personal hang-ups through their hobby, and even as the overarching narrative is relatively subdued, deft direction conveys their inner turmoil. These conflicts are used to explore the reasons people care about sports in the first place, like how it’s a method for finding community or a means of discovering a personal style and sense of self. Compared to the hot-blooded action found in many popular entries in the genre, Tsurune is defined by an introspective grace that befits its chosen pastime. —Elijah Gonzalez


20. 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 each of their anxieties as they face whatever they’ve been running from, whether it’s peer pressure or manipulative parents. In particular, the story hones in on what it’s like to grow up with the internet, exploring social media self-consciousness, ego-surfing, idol culture, and more. The group’s growing bonds, including queer ones, culminate in big-swing dramatic moments that are elevated thanks to Ryouhei Takeshita’s confident direction and studio Doga Kobo’s consistent production. Although the show has a bad habit of wrapping up some of its messy arcs a little too cleanly, when everything else aligns, this musical act is tough to beat. —Elijah Gonzalez


21. Akiba Maid War

Original Run: 2022

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Akiba Maid War’s first episode is an absolute sucker punch, an absurd 20 minutes of television that showcases violent dark comedy in a ’90s Akihabara, Tokyo where rival maid cafes partake in yakuza-style turf wars. While its premiere is a trip, I had no idea if it could maintain these unhinged antics for a full run. I’m happy to say it mostly stuck the landing thanks to its deeply weird escalating episodic adventures, taking our heroines through high-octane poker matches, underground fight clubs, and perilous games of baseball that somehow always conclude with a massive body count. Its humor remained razor-sharp, never failing to accentuate the dissonance between its cutesy affectation and blood-soaked gun duels.

However, perhaps its biggest surprise is that despite its occasionally mean-spirited gags, it also manages to build up the aspirations and wants of its characters, as our starry-eyed protagonist Nagomi attempts to break cycles of violence and revenge that define these maid syndicates. Like any successful parody, it at least partially conjures the gravitas and weight of the works it’s aping; moments of crime epic tragedy hitting far harder than they should considering this story prominently features a person permanently wearing a panda costume. Similarly, its action set pieces are smoothly animated and effortlessly cool, demonstrating the stone-cold badassery of Ranko the killer with grace, further solidifying this as a genre pastiche. My only real complaint is that it suffers from a somewhat awkward transition in its last two episodes. Here, it goes from its weekly escapades to a more serious serialized format, and its final beats don’t quite have enough room to breathe. Still, amidst an anime landscape defined by adaptations and sequels, Akiba Maid War is a wholly original mad vision brought to life with style and heart. —Elijah Gonzalez


22. Pop Team Epic

Original Run: 2018-2022

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Pop Team Epic is an odd experience packaged neatly into 10-minute intervals which then loop back with the exact same script but opposite-sex voice actors. In each episode, the main duo—Pipimi and Popuko—are voiced twice by completely different voice actors, drawing on seiyuu recognizable to anyone who’s ever engaged with anime in any form. It all adds to the strange yet comfortable vibe the show manages to achieve. Based on a 4koma (4-panel comic) of the same name, Pop Team Epic fits the descriptor “a show about nothing” far better than Seinfeld. With its Robot Chicken-esque attention to surrealism, dark humor and pop culture, the show builds on iconic slice-of-life comedies such as Azumanga Daioh and Nichijou to foster an immediate and deconstructive playground of insane situations and industry in-jokes. —Austin Jones

[Note: Only Season 1 (of 2) is available.]


23. Endo and Kobayashi Live! The Latest on Tsundere Villainess Lieselotte

Original Run: 2023

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Acting as another twist on the increasingly common “what if I got transported into a dating visual novel, but as the villainess?” sub-genre, Endo and Kobayashi Live! is a cute romance series that riffs on the ways fiction can affect us. It follows the titular Endo and Kobayashi, two members of a high school broadcasting club who begin practicing their craft while commentating over a videogame, only to find that some of its characters can hear their voices. From there, they set out to avert the tragic fate of Lieselotte, Kobayashi’s favorite figure from the game, by getting her to reconcile with her long-time crush that she keeps inadvertently pushing away. We witness a procession of delightfully adorable exchanges as the pairs in and outside this digital world try to understand each other. It all works on multiple levels; Kobayashi’s enthusiasm over her favorite visual novel is infectious, their efforts to change this story act as a loving ode to fan fiction, and it moves at a relatively brisk pace compared to many painfully slow-burning romance stories. While its conflicts are sometimes resolved too quickly, and its side cast can be a tad flimsy, the relationships at the center of this tale reach satisfying conclusions that make it all worth it. —Elijah Gonzalez


24. Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss: Why Now Is the Time to Catch Up with This Unique Anime Adventure

Original Run: 2017-2022

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“Longing seizes people more powerfully than poison, and more deeply than illness. Once it grips you, there is absolutely no escape… For adventurers, a life without longing is more terrifying than death itself.”

These words, laying bare the true heart of the adventurer, come from Episode 12 of the anime Made in Abyss. An unquenchable thirst drives those who seek to explore the unknown, to experience the unfelt, to reveal the unseen. It is true of heroic epics dating back to Homer’s Odyssey, and is equally true in Akihito Tsukushi’s Made in Abyss.

Any exploration yarn worth its salt will succeed in establishing a mysterious world that the viewer, like the hero, can’t help but be drawn into. Made in Abyss constructs a world that immediately leaves an impression. But despite what the cute character designs might make you think you’re getting into, the series fully earns its TV-MA rating. Made in Abyss doesn’t shy away from the terrifying vistas and bouts of madness one would expect from a Lovecraft story. The world of the Abyss delivers unto our heroes abject cruelty, forcing unfathomable decisions and placing them in a constant state of danger. Learning the secrets of the Abyss and piecing together the dissociated knowledge comes at a great cost.

Simply put, Made in Abyss is a show you need to catch up on. There isn’t anything like it in anime. It is a compelling adventure into the unknown that delivers emotional gut punches with absolute precision. —Michael Lee

[Note: Only Season 2 (of 2) is available, but HIDIVE has both recap films that portray the events of the first season]


25. Insomniacs After School

Original Run: 2023

Watch on HIDIVE

Insomniacs After School is a gentle romance story that focuses on two teens, Ganta Nakami and Isaki Magari, who end up meeting due to shared issues with getting a full night of sleep. While on the surface, the two seem quite different, as Ganta’s constant exhaustion makes him appear irritable while Magari keeps these feelings hidden under a bubbly persona, they quickly form a bond after crossing paths at their school’s premier nap spot, a cozy observatory. To ensure they can keep coming back to this getaway, the two are forced to revitalize the school’s astronomy club. Although this apparent pairing of a sullen boy and a bubbly extroverted girl who will “fix him” is a somewhat tiring anime cliché at this point, the series distinguishes itself from these tropes by thoughtfully depicting these characters’ struggles with insomnia and how they’re affected by stigmas around this condition. We come to see the root causes of their anxieties and how they help each other address these concerns, making it crystal clear why they’re falling for one another. The result is a heartfelt love story that conveys the adorable details of this burgeoning connection. —Elijah Gonzalez


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