I never got around to making a poll for 2019 for reasons but I figured I could at least write down my own Top 10 anime for everyone to read and acknowledge as the best.
Did you ever watch cartoons or read stories as a child with mostly (or only) animal characters and wonder how they felt about eating burgers, or where their ears rested on their head, or how carnivores resisted the urge to eat the others? Beastars actually tackles those questions in a Japanese high-school set in a world where every animal has been domesticated to some degree, yet they are constantly struggling with their urges. The dwarf rabbit struggles not to screw everyone who shows kindness to her. The wolf struggles not to eat the rabbit or get violent with the others. The golden deer struggles with his own insecurities about being an herbivore despite being the most beloved student at school. The tiny animals struggle not to get stepped on all the time despite attending the same school with species much bigger than them.
Story aside, the presentation is great. Studio Orange shows off their amazing ability to take 3DCG imagery and make it incredibly expressive, as they did in Land of the Lustrous last year. I don’t know what devil magic they summon to do this, but to do it twice in a row is impressive.
Also a fun fact: the original writer of Beastars is the daughter of the writer behind the Baki series (also on Netflix!). Unlike her father, she prefers to avoid the spotlight, often wearing a furry mask when she does give interviews.
2) Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
He’s a hard-working student council President who has clawed his way to the top of the school from his relatively blue-collar origins. She’s the student council VP and an uber-rich daughter of a powerful Japanese family. Both of them try to make the other fall in love with them first. It’s a nice twist on a very simple rom-com premise, but the way they present it is amazing. Every single episode has something in it to make you laugh, and a couple even get emotional. Chika is the wild card in every episode where she appears, and usually the best character.
3) Carole & Tuesday
A poor girl who has trouble holding down a job teams up with a rich girl running away from home to become the greatest musical act that Mars has ever seen. From the subtle pokes at the class divide and the increasing reliance on AI to do things for us until humans are overtaken to the more direct story of two young artists struggling to make it big even as the world keeps kicking them down, Carole & Tuesday doesn’t let up for a moment. On top of that, the show has the old Cowboy Bebop team of Watanabe, Studio BONES, and Yoko Kanno, so there’s an excellent soundtrack with real artists from across the globe involved.
A bunch of little girls piloting magical mechs with a story that mixes the fighting Magical Girl stylings of Lyrical Nanoha with the increasingly darker twists of Madoka, all the way to the ending that actually made me feel sad for the “winner” for a bit. Some of the staff from Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans lent their talents to this show and you can see it in the mechs and some of the sound design.
5) O Maidens in Your Savage Season
I’m not sure how to say this without sounding very creepy, so bear with me here...five girls in a Japanese school literature club start to notice both subtle and not-so-subtle erotic messaging in the stories they read, setting off a chain reaction that involves each one dealing with puberty in their own way. From dealing with boys at school and in the neighborhood, to an awkward attempt at writing an R-18 novel, and a lot more. It’s funny, serious, awkward, sad, and charming all at once. Not for everyone, but if it is, you’ll love it.
A village leader makes a deal with the devil, literally selling his firstborn son down the river to keep his land prosperous. What follows is an adventure story with a handicapped protagonist traveling across Japan with only a young, energetic guide (the titular Dororo) leading him along and serving as a moral compass. The fight scenes are great, and the variety of old demons that Hyakkimaru must battle to regain his form provide several interesting small stories that loosely connect into a larger tapestry.
7) Vinland Saga
A manga I never thought would be adapted until it was. Vinland Saga is loosely based off the life and times of real Vikings, with a kid named Thorfinn who is forced to grow up quickly after losing his father and joining the people who killed him in hopes of one day getting revenge. The story also puts him into the path of Cnut, the future ruler of Denmark. Might’ve been higher if I watched more of this show, but what I have seen so far stays true to the manga and works pretty well.
8) No Guns Life
A hard-boiled detective story with a cyberpunk setting is definitely my jam, but this show has an amazing twist: the protagonist is literally a walking, talking, smoking gun. Who can punch a train. Also notable that the staff used the latest Unreal Engine to help emphasize the lighting/shading effects in this show.
9) Gundam the Origin: Red Comet
A story that goes over the origins of the original Char and how he might’ve been a budding sociopath living in exile in space-Montana, biding his time for revenge Count of Monte Cristo style, before he became the prolific rival of Amuro in the og Gundam series. They also show the origin of that dumb white mask he and several spinoffs of him wear throughout the Gundam-verse, which was unnecessary but I'll take it.
10) Cop Craft
From the writer behind Full Metal Panic! and Amagi Brilliant Park comes another story adaptation in Cop Craft. An homage to ‘90s Western buddy-cop movies where a no-nonsense not!Elf knight teams up with a racist Japanese vice cop who’s a loose cannon with nothing to lose as they try to hunt down an evil wizard. Kind of like that Will Smith orc cop movie but better written. Unfortunately, the studio tasked with adapting this story was only given a budget of 1000 Yen and a bus pass, and multiple action-heavy episodes suffer for it, meaning I can’t rank the show much higher than this.