15. Fire Force
Fire Force, created by Atsushi Ōkubo, who gave us Soul Eater, might be the only animated series on this list I recommend with a warning. It’s a great adaption of the hit manga series, but unfortunately, it is a little too faithful and has retained a lot of its unnecessary lewd scenes. After a great calamity leaves most of the world covered in fire and most of the planet uninhabitable, increased incidents of humans randomly combusting and turning into entities labeled “infernals” has been plaguing society. In order to combat these infernals, special fire brigades have been formed of humans who can not only create fire but also have an extraordinary ability to control it. The action scenes between the fire brigades, the infernals, and the use of fire in such creative ways are gorgeous. The only animated series to even come close to the way the fire and action scenes are animated in this series is Avatar: The Last Airbender. In heart, Fire Force relies on its action scenes to capture its audiences, backed by an enticing story of why people are turning into infernals. It may not excel in every area, but in its approach to animation, it has few rivals.
14. Big Mouth
Big Mouth was my number one animated series of 2018, opening up the discussion of sexuality, puberty, and being horny in a way that was surely needed this decade while still reminding us of how hilarious and awkward it is to grow up. So why the drop this year? For the most part, Season 3 was great with a few key episodes worthy of award nominations, but then there were episodes that clearly showed the lack of awareness and diversity of the writing room. For example, the show’s explanation of what being pansexual is about is cringe-worthy and lost the show quite a few fans amongst the LGBTQ community. The series managed to bounce back with a phenomenal finale, but the lack of awareness in the writing room still lingers and causes concern for the next season of the series.
13. Carole & Tuesday
Shinichirō Watanabe, creator of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Space Dandy, is a living legend, with most of his work considered the pinnacle of modern animation. So imagine everyone’s surprise when his latest series, Carole & Tuesday, came to be a massive departure from his previous work. Make no mistake, Carole & Tuesday is one of the most touching and unique works to release this year. The story centers on runaway teenager Tuesday Simmons, a politician’s daughter who dreams of being a musician, who runs into pianist Carole Stanley, another aspiring musician. Carole & Tuesday takes place in the future on a terraformed planet Mars, but the core of the show resides in the humanity of Carole and Tuesday and the people they come across. As the two form a band together and begin writing songs, their music and performances touch the hearts of their listeners and viewers. What makes the series even more fascinating is how they sing their songs in English.
12. Fruits Basket
Based on the hit manga of the same name by Natsuki Takaya and a more faithful adaptation to the source material compared to the first anime made in the early 2000s, Fruits Basket is a marvelous palette cleanser amongst the more graphic anime that dominated 2019. Tohru Honda, a high school teenager, finds herself homeless after the unexpected death of her mother in a car accident. With her extended relatives unable to take her in, Honda meets the Soma family. But the Somas have a secret that is inadvertently discovered by Honda: when hugged by the opposite sex, they turn into an animal — for, you see, certain members of the Soma family are possed by spirits of the Chinese Zodiac. Fruits Basket is a touching story of how a stranger enters the home of a family and through her kindness repairs broken bonds and emotional wounds left by bearing the burdens of being possessed by spirits. As Honda becomes a part of their family and they a part of hers, their bonds strengthen. Fruits Basket is not flashy, nor does it feature intense action scenes, but its heartwarming moments and cuteness make it stand out.
11. The Promised Neverland
It is no surprise that Kaiu Shirai’s breakout hit manga series, The Promised Neverland, would be adapted into what is now a hit anime. But what is surprising is how unsettling this series is for a shounen. The story centers on a group of orphans raised by their caretaker, simply known as “Mother.” Besides the one rule of never venturing outside the gates of the land they live on, the children have complete freedom. But on one fateful night, after trying to return a toy of one of her newly-adopted friends, 11-year-old Emma discovers an unimaginable horror. This horror turns her perfect world upside down as she realizes that the paradise and dreams of the future don’t exist. Realizing that her world is a prison, Emma, along with two of her close friends, plans to free all of the orphans and escape. I am careful with how I describe The Promised Neverland because it is one of the few series on the list that should not be spoiled. I will say that The Promised Neverland is a captivating cat-and-mouse game with enough intrigue and mystery to make Sherlock Holmes shiver with excitement. With Season 2 on the way, it is highly advised that you watch this series before someone ruins the surprise, but do keep in mind that despite the main characters being children, this is one of the most twisted series on the list.