The 10 Best Anime Series of 2023 (So Far)

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The 10 Best Anime Series of 2023 (So Far)

From excellent finales to promising premieres (anime seasons work differently y’all), 2023 is already off to a very strong start. Paste’s best and most knowledgable weebs have voted on their favorite recent series for our ranking below, which run the gamut from more well-known entries to the relatively obscure. But even the obscure is not so obscure anymore; thanks to their increased availability and visibility on U.S. streaming services, with each passing year anime series are becoming more mainstream. So join us in the revolution! And below, you’ll find our picks for the 10 best anime series of the year (so far):

10. Dr. Stone

dr. stone best anime

Watch on Hulu

Watch on Max

Dr. Stone is this generation’s Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye the Science Guy. What it lacks in practical science demonstrations you can do at home (with your parents’ permission), it more than makes up for with an adventurous narrative, characters you can’t help but care about, and an unfailing optimism that ingenuity and cooperation will always save the day. The manga series, written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Boichi, has been wrapped up for over a year now, but there’s still plenty of animated adventure to enjoy in the “New World” arc. (Crunchyroll and Adult Swim are your best options in the U.S.) So watch it from the beginning or jump in right now as super-scientist Senku and his crew speed through the technological advances of human history to solve the mystery of global petrification and rebuild civilization from the ground up. —Dave Trumbore

9. Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story

Watch on Crunchyroll

Oh, how I’ve missed this deeply unhinged television program. After nearly a year-long wait, we finally get the continuation of one of last year’s biggest surprises in anime: A madcap golf show that somehow transitioned from underground mafia death tournaments to more archetypical high school sports shenanigans without dropping a beat. Season 2 picks up right where the last run unceremoniously concluded, with our heroines Eve and Aoi in a climactic battle against the best golfers in their age bracket. Despite its switch from life-or-death stakes to more mundane circumstances, the series’ absurdity and humor are all still very much on display. Here the fairway is transformed into a battlefield as Eve unleashes various bullet-themed shooting styles alongside braggadocios one-liners. Despite being inherently silly, all these embellishments accomplish the near-impossible task of making golf seem extremely cool, and the narrative succeeds at wrapping itself in the mythos of this lynx-obsessed world. For instance, we learn that Eve’s mentor was a wandering golfer who traveled the globe dueling tough opponents like a legendary swordsman, mere mentions of his name inspiring awe and fear. So far, Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story has balanced humor and style with characters you root for on and off the green. The act of hitting a ball with a stick has never been so wonderfully melodramatic. —Elijah Gonzalez

8. Ranking of Kings

ranking of kings treasure chest best anime

Watch on Crunchyroll

Ranking of Kings: Treasure Chest of Courage isn’t a second season of the standout 2021-22 anime so much as an extension of it. These additional stories, most running around 10 minutes long, are a mix of prequels centered around different characters and in-between chapters that fit right into the first season’s plot. Mostly focused on the cuter aspects of the series (but with some forays into the darker side), it’s not essential viewing, but it’s all enjoyable, with the same great animation and sensitive characterization that made Ranking of Kings a favorite in the first place. The episode about Bojji and Daida’s reigns as king significantly enhances the ending of Season 1, and the stylistically distinctive paper-craft segment about Bojji’s parents is an artistic highlight. Let’s hope for an official Season 2 soon! —Reuben Baron

7. Trigun Stampede

trigun stampede best anime

Watch on Hulu

Watch on Crunchyroll

As a retelling of a beloved tale, Trigun Stampede had the difficult task of living up to both its manga source material and Madhouse’s formative 1998 anime adaptation, a challenge that this space western largely delivers on. Once again, we follow Vash the Stampede, a pacifist gunslinger who does his best to help those in need amidst the hostility of a barren alien planet. Much like the original adaptation, Stampede gets by on the chemistry and tensions between its core cast, as Vash’s affinity for non-violence clashes with the harsh realities of living on this desert world. And even more than its original adaptation, this latest version elegantly builds out its character’s backstories, establishing past motivations and raison d’etres that set the course for brutal conflicts. Oh, and did I mention it looks gorgeous? Between Land of the Lustrous and Beastars, Studio Orange has been at the forefront of utilizing 3D CGI in televised anime for quite some time, and this is likely their most impressive work yet. Between its expressive characters, beautifully framed shot compositions, and dynamic action sequences that would be borderline impossible with traditional animation, it’s an aesthetic feast that pushes boundaries. While this 13-episode series sometimes feels like it’s adapting its material at too brisk a pace (and there are some unsatisfying loose ends that may be addressed in a potential second season), Stampede delivers some tremendous highs as this studio continues to set the standard for 3D anime. —Elijah Gonzalez

6. Skip and Loafer

Watch on Crunchyroll

Skip and Loafer glides in like a spring breeze, its warmth, lively animation, and down-to-earth performances resulting in one of the season’s most charming anime. We follow Mitsumi Iwakura, a high-achieving student who leaves her remote town to attend school in Tokyo. She carries a lot on her shoulders, both because she’s at the top of her class and because she’s piled a life’s worth of expectations and plans on her plate. One of the most immediately noticeable elements of this slice-of-life rom-com are its visuals, with endearing character designs and a soft color palette that perfectly match the cheery but contemplative tone of its story. This vibe is perfectly demonstrated in an early montage where we see characters carrying out their morning routines, their motions animated with a degree of specificity that succinctly keys us into their personalities and interior lives. Similarly, the show does an excellent job portraying our protagonist Mitsumi’s strengths and hang-ups. We see her drive, such as when she perfectly recites an opening day speech from memory, alongside her hilarious overconfidence and inexperience with living outside her rural home, which rears its head when she gets hopelessly lost on the subway. Thanks to these quirks, she feels like a multi-faceted character, and it does a good job presenting her flaws in a way that doesn’t feel patronizing. The same goes for Shima, a kind and popular boy who helps out Mitsumi on her first day but who seems to be carrying a heavy past. While there are plenty of high school rom-coms out there, Skip and Loafer has differentiated itself through its nuanced characters, generous animation, and delightful tone. –Elijah Gonzalez

5. Heavenly Delusion/Tengoku Daimakyo

Watch on Hulu

From its opening minutes, Heavenly Delusion’s sense of place is stunning. We switch perspectives between a hidden technologically advanced society and a post-apocalyptic landscape, both worlds rendered via visual storytelling and economic dialogue that avoids the kinds of exposition dumps found in so many less confident stories. At one point, the camera lingers on two figures walking down a dilapidated highway until it pans out into a sweeping wide angle of a city overrun with vegetation, the solemnity and odd beauty of this image keying us into both the state of this place and the tone of the proceedings. We primarily follow this pair of travelers, Maru and his bodyguard Kiruko, two young people looking for a mysterious place referred to as “Heaven” in this near-future Japan. As they prod at the ruins of a suburb, we’re treated to a series of painstakingly crafted images: a living room in a state of disrepair, flowers blooming in a weathered bathroom, a pair of emaciated corpses, their hands locked in a final gesture of warmth. If it wasn’t clear, this is a gorgeous production from top to bottom, sporting arguably the most impressive storyboarding, direction, and action animation of this season’s offerings. –Elijah Gonzalez

4. Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga: Why You Need to Start Watching the Best Viking Story on TV

Watch on Netflix

Watch on Crunchyroll

After a painfully long wait, we finally have the sequel to one of the most compelling anime in recent memory. The first season of Vinland Saga was a triumph that managed to depict the cruelties of history without ever giving in to outright cynicism, offering a soaring plea that we can somehow be better. We witnessed as our protagonist Thorfinn’s quest for revenge took him down a dark path in a warring 11th-century England, a journey full of crushing moments and memorable scenes. If it had one sticking point, it was the odd contrast between its script’s condemnation of bloodshed and its admittedly very cool fight scenes, which occasionally showcased heroic behavior. However, if there were ever any ambiguities in how the series depicts violence, the long-anticipated second season doubles down on its pacifist themes, almost entirely abandoning the pitched battles of its predecessor for something more contemplative. Our protagonist grapples with his previous thirst for revenge, slowly regaining the will to live as he moves on from his life as a soldier.

It focuses on specific tactile details, its compositions highlighting chapped lips, gritted teeth, and poorly healed scars to reflect the physical realities of this brutal world. It further interrogates how ideologies of violence can take hold, how social conventions make room for unfathomably cruel structures like slavery, and the ills of autocratic rule. If there’s one downside compared to its former run, it’s that MAPPA’s production isn’t quite up to the level of WIT Studio’s work with the past season, but the de-emphasis on action spectacle means this is less egregious than it would be otherwise. In spite of that, the show’s latest run has already made its hiatus well worth the wait. –Elijah Gonzalez

3. My Hero Academia

my hero season 6 best anime

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Watch on Crunchyroll

It’s hard to believe that an internationally successful series like My Hero Academia can be seen as flying under-the-radar. However, after an underwhelming fifth season, it seemed that the hype around Season 6 was particularly muted. Was Season 5 a sign that the series was now on the decline? Was MHA going to be spoken about in the same way pundits discuss the modern day Golden State Warriors: a dynasty in the midst of fading, now having to make space for new players vying for the throne for which it had occupied for so long?

Following the series’ mantra, “Plus Ultra,” Bones abolishes any thought that MHA best days were behind them, producing a season that is arguably the best in the anime’s entire run. Opening with an epic conflict between the heroes and The Paranormal Liberation Front that takes up almost half the season and closing with the heroes (and the society that has been built around them) shattered seemingly beyond repair, MHA‘s darkest season delivered everything that people had grown to love about this series: intense and beautifully drawn action scenes, a world that continues to stand out in an era where we all are saturated with superhero content, and individual moments that showcases the depth and growth of our young heroes. With the disappointment of Season 5 now in the past, MHA‘s sixth season propels it back to its rightful place as one of anime’s elite shonen series. —Christopher Inoa

2. [Oshi no Ko]

Watch on HIDIVE

[Oshi no Ko] kicks off with a feature-length behemoth of a first episode, clocking in at 90 minutes of one of the most turbulent emotional rollercoasters I’ve had the pleasure of riding. The episode never lets you get comfortable with what you think the show is, kicking off on an intriguing (and then uncomfortable) note with a premise that seems to embody some of the most obnoxious anime tropes. But over the course of the episode, it slowly warms you up to its lovable and compelling main characters, and its increasingly captivating animation—all before pulling the rug out from under you with a cruel sucker punch, revealing the true nature of what you’re watching.

The premiere sets the tone for what the rest of the series provides: a constantly unpredictable plot that never lets you know its next move, a balance of lighthearted fun and emotional turmoil as it delves into the darker side of the entertainment industry, and the sharp character writing original manga author Aka Akasaka (also known for Kaguya-Sama: Love is War) has made a name for himself with. Akasaka returns to and expands upon themes which he established in Kaguya of defining the self, and questioning the line between the version of you that you put up for the people around you and whatever constitutes your true self—“where the lies end and the truths begin.” The characters are all trying to figure each other out, and you come right along for the ride, trying to pick out what makes these complex, and often deeply scarred, individuals tick.

Oh, and the opening and ending themes are absolute bangers. —Hope Pisoni

1. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury

Watch on Crunchyroll

As a Gundam neophyte, I was surprised by how much the latest entry in the franchise bowled me over. While I’m generally a sucker for stories about giant robots, what’s made the show work so well thus far is its ability to juggle political intrigue and coming-of-age school drama. We follow Suletta Mercury, a 17-year-old transfer student who finds herself at an academy meant for corporate elites. Here social clout and company assets are wagered in duels fought with mobile suits, robots used in war and industry. Much of the series’ charm extends from its protagonist Suletta, a lovable dork whose complete lack of social skills is more than made up for by her kindness, bravery, and proficiency at beating the crap out of rich kids while piloting her Gundam Aerial. After accidentally getting betrothed to Miorine, the daughter of the man running a corporation that essentially controls the galaxy, the two work together to fight back against this powerful entity. Thus far, it has crafted a well-rendered world where labor is exploited by uncaring militarized companies, executives scheme to have each other assassinated, and tensions simmer between those living in poverty on Earth and those who colonized the stars. Its central cast is wonderful, full of characters poised to potentially stand against the current dismal status quo as Suletta accidentally gathers a growing pool of admirers. Based on the runtime of other Gundam shows, it will likely go for another 39 episodes next year, but if it can continue balancing its critiques of capitalism, queer romance, and exciting mecha duels, it will be one to remember. —Elijah Gonzalez

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