The 5 Best Anime Premieres of Spring 2023, Ranked

TV Lists list

Anime! There is certainly a lot of it. After a somewhat quiet slate of shows last season, the anime spring 2023 premieres are a formidable bunch, with sequels to some of the best series in recent memory alongside a long list of exciting newcomers. We have a wide variety of genres represented, with promising rom-coms, period action dramas, calming slice-of-life, sci-fi yarns, fantasy escapades, and more. Beyond the top five, the honorable mentions are overflowing this time around, so let’s get into it.

Honorable Mentions (From Least to Most Recommended)

Based on its debut episode, Ranking of Kings: The Treasure Chest of Courage seems to be a loose collection of stories that occur in parallel with the first season of this fantasy fable. It may not have the narrative propulsion of the main show, but it’s similarly well-animated and makes for a generally pleasant reunion with these characters. That said, its second mini-arc ends with some perplexing messaging (which coincidentally mirrors the significantly worse final half of the previous season).

Hell’s Paradise is the latest high-octane Shonen Jump adaptation, and it features fits of impressive action animation that supports its pulpy premise: In Edo Japan, a crew of death row inmates are sent to explore a colorful land that has spelled doom for all who have entered. While it’s working within the realm of battle shonen tropes, there are some interesting undercurrents with its leading characters; a peerless assassin who has just realized he’s a wife guy and an executioner grappling with the act of taking lives.

Insomniacs After School is a grounded coming-of-age drama about a pair of kids with sleep troubles who find friendship in their shared circumstances. While it’s decidedly low-key, it’s done a great job capturing what it’s like to live with this condition and has already built a convincing rapport between its leading characters.

Dr. Stone is also back for a third season and continues to be so passionate and informative about natural science, engineering, textile work, farming, and just about every other subject of invention that I can mostly overlook its flaws. Its exploration of topics outside the realm of technology can feel shallow, and its cast is fairly one-note, but it’s so earnest in its love of human ingenuity that I’ll likely be along for the ride as long as they continue adapting the source material.

Demon Slayer is back with the Swordsmith Village Arc, and it’s clear that ufotable is continuing to dedicate the time and resources necessary to make their flagship show shine. All the good and bad of the series is on display here, from its wonderfully kind-hearted protagonist and lavish production value to its grating side characters and self-indulgent pacing. Even as someone who can be up and down on this one (I loved the end of Season 1 and Mugen Train but didn’t care for the most recent arc), the setup in this first episode has me intrigued about where the story will go next.

My Love with Yamada-kun at Lv999 has been delightful, largely due to its relatably disastrous twenty-something protagonist Akane, who is recovering from a tough breakup with her gamer boyfriend. So far, the series’ direction and imagery have deftly conveyed her feelings, and it gets bonus points for being a rare romance anime where the main character is old enough to drink.

Otaku Elf wins this season’s award for most dissonance between its silly premise and effective execution. As implied by its title, one of the main characters is an elf who is very into otaku culture (i.e., she loves anime, videogames, potato chips, and asking her retainer for more Red Bull), and she comedically butts heads with Koito, the teenage miko who watches over her shrine. While its premise seemed like gag fodder, the show has already delved into melancholic contemplations about what it’s like for Elda to outlive those around her while also building up Koito as a likable protagonist. Otaku Elf is funny, charming, surprisingly thoughtful, and a great reminder to never judge a book by its cover.

While many details around The Ancient Magus’ Brides plot have faded from my memory during the five-year wait for this follow-up, the show’s return immediately conjured the dynamics that made the first season so compelling. For one, its portrayal of the supernatural is striking, and this world’s mythical creatures are rendered with the same ambiguous tilt found in traditional folklore. Some of the beings we encounter are adorable, and others are offputting, but they are each afforded a sense of mystery and danger that can make their intent unclear, frequently operating outside the bounds of human morality. The other essential element is that despite much of its grim subject matter, this is a fundamentally caring tale that believes in people’s ability to heal from traumatic experiences. The story centers on Chise, a teenage girl who endured a gauntlet of misfortunes because of her rare ability to detect and attract magical beings. After finding some degree of solace in the English countryside, she is now headed to a hidden school for those with similar affinities. This first episode firmly places us back in our protagonist’s headspace as she grapples with social anxieties that extend from her past, and moments like when she struggles to open the door of her new dorm are made more palpable thanks to the dynamic shot compositions that capture her worries. At least thus far, The Ancient Magus’ Bride has been a pensive story about its protagonists’ quest for self-affirmation that has managed to present its heavy subject matter without sensationalization. Even though this adaptation has been taken over by a different team (Studio Kafka), that same sense of empathy remains.

5. Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story Season 2

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, and the first episode of the new season embodies these strengths. While it continues to threaten a plot thread that could ruin its central relationship if it comes to fruition, as long as it clears this hazard, it will likely remain an unmissable sports story. The act of hitting a ball with a stick has never been so wonderfully melodramatic.

4. [Oshi no Ko]

Watch on HIDIVE

[Oshi no Ko]’s film-length premiere was a rollercoaster that took me from repelled to emotionally invested, pushing through the upsetting elements of its initial setup into something with far more nuance and pathos than I expected. Considering how protective its fans are of revealing even its basic premise, I’ll just say that this first episode contains some of my least favorite isekai tropes (thanks to anime, I’ve seen more of adult men being reincarnated into baby bodies than any reasonable person should have to endure), alongside deservedly scathing critiques of the entertainment industry, a few nuanced characters, and an overwhelmingly resonant arc about finding human connection and love that reduced me to a puddle. I’m unsure if where we ended up justified the discomfort that had to be tolerated to get there, but its shift in focus near the end means that some of these unsavory bits seem to have been abandoned, hopefully leaving room for its other aspects to succeed going forward. This will likely be one of the most talked about anime of the season, and while my recommendation comes with a friendly “this show can be extremely weird” warning, its high points are second to none among this batch of premieres.

3. 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 premieres. Thus far, its sense of mystery is similarly enticing, and its tendency to nonchalantly introduce odd places and people sets up many interesting questions. All that said, considering that this is a post-apocalypse story, we can expect the typical sordid details that come with this setup, as its sinister allusions and graphic violence can attest. Having admittedly peeked ahead at the source material, there is some exceedingly thorny material coming up after these first two episodes that will likely prove a dealbreaker for some. While I’m not sure if Heavenly Delusion will do right by all its weighty subject matter, including its representation of characters who could be perceived as LGBTQ+, if nothing else, it is an aesthetic tour de force that has established some intriguing questions.

2. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury

Watch on Crunchyroll

Watch on YouTube

If the previously mentioned returning favorites weren’t enough, we have also been gifted a second season to one of last year’s best shows, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury. In this first episode back, we’re quickly reintroduced to this academy for corporate elites that revolves around duels fought with giant robots. The series’ greatest pleasures are still on display, such as its exciting battle sequences, relationship dynamics, and political intrigue, but the alarming twist from the end of last season adds additional complexity to each of these factors. For instance, a medley of seemingly triumphant robot fights are undergirded by a sense of unease due to how effortlessly our protagonist Suletta dismantles her opponents with powers potentially tied to some dark secret. She remains an excellent character who is eager to help ease her friends’ worries, but it’s clear that the tone of the proceedings has changed in light of recent events. In short, it doesn’t feel like the story is spinning its wheels, and its ongoing intrigue has complicated its previous storytelling tendencies in rewarding ways. Another interesting element is that its sociopolitical undercurrents are being increasingly brought into the foreground, leaving room for moral conundrums and antagonists who very much have a point. The Witch from Mercury continues to be an ambitious tale with many spinning plates, like its complex political circumstances, romantic relationship between its leading ladies, and ongoing mysteries, but thus far, it has proven it can handle all this multitasking.

1. Skip and Loafer

Watch on Crunchyroll

Skip and Loafer’s first episode glides in like a spring breeze, its warmth, lively animation, and down-to-earth performances resulting in the most charming premiere of the season. 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 already 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. The weekly wait for this will be rough, but thankfully we can fill that time watching its bubbly opening on repeat.

Elijah Gonzalez is a freelance writer and former Paste intern. In addition to playing the latest indie games, he also loves film, anime, lit, and creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to. 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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