Features and Columns · TV

The 20 Best Animated Series of 2020

With their fantastical escapes and beautiful worlds, these shows served as much-needed reprieves from a dark year.
Best Animated Series 2020
By  · Published on December 16th, 2020

15. Adventure Time: Distant Lands

Adventure Time Distant Lands best animated series 2020

This was the year of beloved series coming to an end, only to be resurrected into spinoffs that go even deeper into their complex worlds. While Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time had its series finale in 2019, Adventure Time: Distant Lands brings the viewer back to the Land of Ooo to focus on other side characters. For years, the series has followed Finn the human and Jake the Dog, and now it’s time to expand the scope of Ooo.

So far, the show has covered the origin of BMO and the evolving romantic relationship of Princess Bubblegum and Marceline the Vampire Queen. The second episode in particular expands upon what was confirmed in the series finale: PB and Marceline are indeed in love. Adventure Time: Distant Lands explores their relationship past a quick kiss and a happy ending to show a more complicated vision of romantic love.

The show still utilizes its bright, colorful, and strange style to create the kingdoms and places that exist outside of Ooo, painting the universe of Adventure Time as a spectacular and strange place.

14. Brand New Animal


This was the year that Netflix brought audiences hot animated animals investigating conspiracies and learning about themselves. Brand New Animal, or BNA, takes place in a world where Beastmen (humanoid animals) and humans live on Earth, but Beastmen are segregated to Anima City, as they are seen as monsters to humans. When Michiru Kagemori spontaneously changes from human and Beastman, she hurries to Anima City to figure out what has happened to her.

Anima City is a gorgeous amalgamation of neon colors, emulating a cyberpunk aesthetic that often comes with stories of futuristic dystopian cities that are falling apart. BNA is able to create a lush yet claustrophobic city while also creating an impressive sense of scale that portrays the gravity of events, particularly as the season reaches its end.

13. Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn best animated series 2020

Harley Quinn has had quite the resurgence in the last year, between Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey film and the new animated series from DC. The series, appropriately named Harley Quinn, follows the iconic Gotham villain after her break-up with the Joker. But, this is not a DC animated series for kids as Harley Quinn is full of blood, colorful language, and sexuality.

Harley decides she wants to be the city’s crime lord. She makes her own crew of criminals and works to prove herself as a supervillain. This is a show full of DC favorites, from Batman and the Joker to Scarecrow and Mr. Freeze. This is in fact the world of Gotham that DC diehards will recognize and love.

But, it is not just about violence and explosions. It is also a show about Harley’s own struggles to prove herself and how alienating that task can be. Most importantly, Harley and Ivy’s romantic love for each other is confirmed. Since Harley’s introduction to the DC Universe in Batman: The Animated Series, fans have shipped her and Poison Ivy, but it was never confirmed. They are close friends who often work together, but this series finally shows them explicitly falling in love. 

12. Beastars


In 2020, while we were confined to the indoors due to a pandemic, Netflix released an animated show that oozed sexual tension and rippling muscles. These muscles did not belong to humans, but to anthropomorphic animals. In the world of Beastars, predators and prey supposedly live in harmony, but there is no denying the power dynamics between carnivores and herbivores. Think Zootopia, but way sexier. 

The story follows Legoshi, a shy grey wolf, as he navigates high school dynamics and his own appearance as a threatening predator. It also follows Haru, a white rabbit taunted for her sexuality and often contemplates how she is used by men. Their paths cross and he begins to fall for the tiny herbivore.

Outside of their relationship is the typical drama associated with high school taken to the extreme as lives are constantly at stake. Simple problems can turn deadly. The rising tensions between groups are emphasized with CG animation, which creates depth during fight sequences and moments when Legoshi is reflecting on who he is as a predator. The animation style also lends itself to beautiful and rich lighting paired with intricate backgrounds. 

11. Haikyuu!! To The Top

Haikyuu best animated series 2020

After a four-year hiatus, the beloved volleyball anime Haikyuu!! To The Top has returned. The show’s fourth season follows Shoyo Hinata, a boy who just wants to play volleyball even though he’s short. Not letting his height deter him, he is able to join the team of an esteemed high school.

Yes, this is a sports anime that features gorgeous game sequences that make the viewer truly appreciate the sport. But this is also a story about friendship, teamwork, and coming together to achieve a shared goal. It is a classic underdog tale that will have viewers standing up and cheering at their computer screens.

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Mary Beth McAndrews thinks found footage is good and will fight you if you say otherwise. When she's not writing, she's searching for Mothman with her two cats. Follow her on Twitter @mbmcandrews. (She/Her)