Pat Baer is a comedian currently living in South Carolina who you may have seen at various PAXes with his panels Pat Baer’s Anime Club, The Improvised Postmortem, and League of Heels. You also may have encountered him on Twitch, where he builds Gundams and LEGO. He hopes to move back to NYC in 2021.
I didn’t play a lot of video games in 2020. So here’s my Top 10 Anime, because I watched A LOT of shows this year. Honorable mention to Black Clover, which brilliantly wrapped up a multi-year storyline but also featured tragic queer villains and is my BEST/WORST of 2020.
10. BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense
An anime about a VRMMO where the main character doesn’t get trapped in the game, BOFURI is about a nice young lady, Maple, who becomes the ultimate PVP and PVE gamer by maxing out her defense and playing in her own unique way. Along with her IRL friend Sally, Maple eventually forms a guild and encourages her new friends to play the game their way. Also Maple has a giant floating turtle.
9. Diary of our Days at the Breakwater
If last year you told me one of my favorite shows this year was about girls who go finishing after school, I would have totally believed you. In Diary of our Days at the Breakwater, crafting enthusiast Hina moves to a new town by the sea and hopes to make friends in the Crafting Club. By chance, she gets roped into joining the Breakwater Club and discovers how fun it is to fish. This show goes into a lot of detail about equipment and styles, but is overall light and enjoyable. And while I’m not here to award anyone with the Best Girl Award, the strong and quiet Makoto Ohno is a front-runner, certainly.
8. Kaguya-sama: Love is War? Season 2
On paper, this show shouldn’t work for me. It’s a romantic comedy where the main characters are too stubborn to admit their interest in each other. Most of the show is their elaborate plans to make the other confess, and thus give up power. But it’s also about surviving high school and trying your best. The laughs are earned, the supporting cast is given plenty of time to shine, and I spent the whole second season rooting for Kaguya and Miyuki and also hoping for it to all go wrong.
I’m treading lightly here with this description, because there are some big twists in this story. Deca-Dence is an original series (not based on a light novel or manga or video game) about the last humans on earth, who live in a city on wheels (the Deca-Dence) and fight monsters. Well, not all of them fight the monsters. Some humans work in the city. One such worker, Natsume, dreams of becoming a fighter. And maybe, just maybe, her boss Kaburagi can help her. This show has beautifully fluid animation, dynamic characters, and a plot that takes some turns.
I can’t believe I waited so long to check out this wonderful volleyball show. Haikyuu just wrapped up its fourth season, but I started with season one in April so it all feels new to me. I claim to not be a sports anime fan, but I can get on board if the series speaks to me. Ostensibly about the freshman freak duo of Hinata and Kageyama, every other volleyball boy gets a moment (or several moments) to shine and grow. And this series manages to make me root for the success of all the teams…. Except for those snakes at Nohebi Academy! They can go to hell.
5. Gal & Dino
OK, I’m just going to tell you four things:.
1. Kaede wakes up one morning to find a cartoonish, mute dinosaur in her apartment.
2. It’s produced by the same people who made Pop Team Epic.
3. Each episode is broken up into two halves. The first half is animated. The second half is live action.
4. The live action is a loose retelling of the animated version, and by loose I mean it goes in some wild directions.
4. My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
In a “normal” video game inspired isekai, the main character wakes up inside the game as the hero of the story. In this show, our main character is the villainess of a dating game. And the “best” outcome for her is exile. My Next Life is a refreshing take on the different world genre, where the main character isn’t overpowered, her harem is composed of men AND women, and Catarina’s best weapon isn’t her knowledge of how the game is supposed to go- it’s her caring nature.
By far the most brutal show on my list, Dorohedoro has a certain style that’s both unnerving and engrossing. There’s a surprising amount of heart and warmth in this post-apocalyptic world of magic and violence. I’m rarely interested in stories with amnesia as a plot point, but throughout the show I couldn’t wait to find out the mystery of Caiman, the lizard man with no memories of his past who is impervious to magic and loves gyoza.
Gotou draws manga for a living, but his writing and art are full of dirty jokes and he’s embarrassed about that. The series follows his many attempts to keep his job secret from his daughter. It’s mostly a very light comedy about a single father with a secret, and an inquisitive daughter trying her best. It’s heartwarming, but also heartbreaking. Throughout the show, we have flashes of a future event that changes everything. Several episodes end with an unpleasant feeling, like it’s all going to fall apart. As things begin to unravel, the comedy blends with drama and suddenly this charming show evolves in ways I hadn’t anticipated.
1. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
Who would have guessed that literally the first new show I watched in 2020 would top my list? Please please please watch Eizouken. It’s a love letter to creative works and youthful ambition, in this case specifically anime. When all you want to do is make anime while in high school, you’ll do what you need to do: start a short film club at school, fight the student council, make allies with other clubs, and get funding wherever you can. The art style feels like a Gorillaz music video, and I can’t think of a better medium than animation to tell this imaginative story. Also shout outs to the members of the Robotics club. Best minor characters of the year.