The past two seasons of anime haven’t been as strong as previous years but in between the isekai nonsense and underwhelming rom-coms have been a few gems that have stood out. The heavy-hitters of the year such as Jujutsu Kaisen, Bleach and Attack on Titan are only scheduled to arrive in the second half of 2023, though a few hits like the second season of Vinland Saga or Hell’s Paradise have managed to make a good impression so far. Here’s the top 10 must-watch anime series from the first half of the year.
Before jumping in, this list is arranged from 10-1, ranking shows depending on their quality, ratings compiled from websites such as MyAnimeList, must-watch status and some of our own opinions thrown into the mix. We couldn’t watch every single show that streamed over the last six months but did our best to list ones that had a good reputation or garnered great ratings.
10. KonoSuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World!
KonoSuba is arguably one of the funniest anime shows of all time, constantly finding ingenious ways to poke fun at isekai and RPG video game tropes while having a lovable cast of characters. One particular character, the explosion-addicted witch Megumin, received her own show and it’s, for the most part, pretty good. While the comedy lacks the gut-punch of the main series and the animation isn’t consistent, Megumin’s misadventures in this light-hearted origins story is worth a watch if you’re a KonoSuba fan.
9. Nier Automata
Nier Automata‘s troubled production is no secret. Despite originally airing in January, it’s only nine episodes deep due to production being hit with COVID-19 related issues, delaying newer episodes and putting the series on indefinite hiatus. We finally have confirmation that will return in July, though. It’s hard to really gauge the full scope of this ambitious anime adaptation of PlatinumGames’ beloved 2017 video game, but from what we’ve seen so far, some dazzling animation and a faithful narrative should please die-hard fans.
8. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Season 2
Considering that the first season of The Ancient Magus’ Bride was so well-received, it’s strange to see its second season be met with a lukewarm response and viewership. This might be due to the original animator, Wit Studio, handing over season 2’s production to Studio Kafka, that understandably resulted in less enthusiasm. Nonetheless, this follow-up still presents an imaginative fantasy world, compelling characters and some dark themes despite its shorter episode count.
7. Dr. Stone: New World
The first season of Dr. Stone exploded into mainstream popularity a few years ago and managed to put some unique spins on the typical shonen formula. It’s latest season, New World, is a solid continuation that, despite now falling into some of the shonen trappings it actively avoided in its first season, entertains with its lively animation and great characters. If you’re a Dr. Stone fan, this should be high up on your radar.
6. Heavenly Delusion
Good sci-fi mystery shows in anime are a dime a dozen. Some tend to overstuff its plot with exposition and needlessly complicated lore dumps while others feel underbaked, so for an anime to come along that actually finds a good balance is rare. Heavenly Delusion does just that. The show’s premise feels familiar – humanity seals itself behind walled-off communities due to a strange invasion of man-eating monsters in the world – but it’s the curiosity of the main characters that slowly unravels a pretty fantastic mystery beneath it all.
5. The Dangers in My Heart
A disturbed main character with dangerously homicidal tendencies doesn’t sound like it would translate to a good rom-com but The Dangers in My Heart somehow works. It’s a very original set-up that could be disastrous if not handled with great writing. The show starts off relatively safe before it slowly becomes a surprisingly moving romance. Furthermore, the dark comedy actually lands. If you’re in the mood for one of 2023’s more endearing shows, give this one a shot.
4. Hell’s Paradise
The manga for Hell’s Paradise is terrific, presenting an incredibly engaging story about a prosecuted ninja who is given a second chance when he is tasked with travelling to an island to find the immortality-granting Elixir of Life. Of course, the island houses many supernatural dangers that stand in his way. It’s a fascinating set-up with some great pay-offs, though those exposed to enough shonen might be able to see the story’s turns coming from a mile away. Regardless, the anime adaptation is exciting and well worth your time.
3. Demon Slayer: Swordsmith Village Arc
Demon Slayer is easily one of the most popular anime of its time and it’s placement on this list is no surprise. The long-awaited Swordsmith Village Arc that this season covers is yet another masterclass in jaw-dropping animaton from Ufotable, though the storytelling and character development does stumble a bit, especially when compared to the well-received prior arcs. If you’re here for the hype fights and sizzlingly good animation alone, look no further.
2. Oshi no Ko
Arguably the most controversial anime of 2023, Oshi no Ko is also one of the best. It’s careful dissection of the darker side of the entertainment world and horrors of celebrity life doesn’t always make it an easy watch but it’s a quintessential one for its well-handled themes and unexpected revelations. At face value, it seems harmless but behind its multi-layered characters and story is a brilliant show that juggles comedy, drama and some thriller aspects surprisingly well.
1. Vinland Saga Season 2
Vinland Saga was a massive hit when it aired a few years ago and now we have the second season (animated by MAPPA instead of Wit Studio this time). While notably short on action compared to its first season, season 2 of Vinland Saga offers a more introspective look into its characters that was very refreshing. While that doesn’t sound too interesting, superb writing and direction make even the most dialogue-heavy moments stand out and hit as hard as any explosive action scene. It’s a frontrunner for Anime of the Year.
Special Mention – Attack on Titan: The Final Chapters Part 1
Attack on Titan‘s anime adaptation is nearing its conclusion and part 1 of The Final Chapters (which continues on from The Final Season) aired as a one-hour special instead of a traditional episodic series. For this reason, we’re sliding it into a special mention. Part 1 delivers breathtaking action, strong emotional moments and some satisfying pay-offs for fans – it’s only going to go bigger once we get part 2 later this year.