In chaotic times when nothing seems normal and all that we took for granted has proved ephemeral, there is one institution that boldly continues on: the AniTAY seasonal anime recommendation collaboration. This article is the latest entry in our long-running series, this time covering anime airing in the Summer 2020 season. Join us as we obnoxiously make the case for what our pool of authors from around the globe consider the top anime to watch right now.
In previous seasonal posts, we have not included sequels in the shortlist for consideration for the final article as we generally consider sequels to be obvious choices; if you liked the original series, then you’ll like the sequel. If not, then you probably don’t have any interest in reading a recommendation for the sequel anyway. However, this season has managed to have both far fewer shows than previous seasons and also a surprisingly large amount of sequels to very popular anime. It’s the perfect time to clear out the ol’ backlog, and many people might be interested in finally taking the plunge on some of these shows that are getting sequels. As such, we decided to include sequel series on this list for the first time in several years. Only the truly great shows manage to pull off a good sequel season, and we all want to avoid watching bad anime by accident, right?
As always, I implore all of you internet goons to remember that these recommendations are, like all recommendations, subjective. This list is a result of multiple weeks of discussion and debate amongst an international community of regular anime watchers and bloggers, but that doesn’t change the fact that we all have our own personal interests and experiences that shape the kinds of shows that we like and respond to. What I’m trying to get at here is that if your favorite show isn’t on this list, it probably sucks. I don’t make the rules. (You’re welcome to make the case for your fave in the comments!)
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With that out of the way, here are a couple of final notes before we begin:
- We are including sequels in this article this time, but I still recommend that you check out our sequel guide below for information about sequels.
- Similarly, only shows available for legal streaming are considered. Netflix has complicated what the word “available” means, but we still consider limited-availability shows such as Netflix originals for this list.
- We included a “where to watch” section, but keep in mind that our listings are based off availability in the United States.
Written by: Reikaze
Genre(s): Action, Science Fiction
Where to Watch: Funimation
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Humanity has been driven to the brink of destruction because of lifeforms known as Gadoll; the remaining scraps of humanity now survive in the mobile fortress called Deca-Dence. Residents of Deca-Dence are split between Gears who actively fight against the Gadoll and Tankers, those who dwell within Deca-Dence. The story follows the events that surround two main characters: an optimistic Tanker named Natsume who desires to be a Gear after her father passes away and Kaburagi, a jaded armor worker who’s skilled at fighting the Gadoll.
Why You Should Be Watching: Deca-Dence is the kind of show that comes once in a blue moon, a sci-fi anime done so exceedingly well that it’s hard to find anything not to like. It nails everything you’d expect from this kind of show, with fantastic direction that unravels and changes the story in a compelling manner, stellar pacing, a likable cast with interesting and expressional emotions, and fantastic action scenes that highlights the incredible cinematography. We knew Studio NUT could do aerial fight scenes thanks to Tanya, but even so it’s amazing how well polished it is - the fight scenes make it worth coming back every week.
The show pulls off a risky twist in the second episode, and while I initially wasn’t a huge fan, the twist meaningfully contributes to the worldbuilding of the show and allows the work to explore themes that it wouldn’t be able to otherwise. A dystopian environment where everyone’s a replaceable product of the company, a world where enforcing order comes above all else and more, the way Deca-Dence unfolds is thought-provoking and compelling. This is one of the best shows of the season, and I definitely recommend giving it a watch.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Gugsy, Hip Hip Jorge, Kinksy, Koda, Protonstorm, Reikaze, Requiem, Stinolez, Tenshigami, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi, Viking
Written by: Doctorkev
Genre(s): Shonen action
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: 250 years after Earth was almost destroyed in a fiery cataclysm, the Fire Soldiers of the Tokyo Empire fight to keep their city safe from Infernals - burning monstrosities, victims of a mysterious spontaneous human combustion epidemic.
Why You Should Be Watching: Back for a second run, David Production’s (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Cells at Work) eye-poppingly pyrokinetic adaptation of Atsushi Ōkubo’s (Soul Eater) latest manga continues to wow with phenomenal production design, inventive direction, and colourful, dynamic action animation.
Adapted at a blistering clip that outpaces other similar genre staples, Fire Force averages out at around four manga chapters per episode (as opposed to the standard one or two). This sometimes results in rushed plotting, but to Fire Force, filler and dull are foreign words. With a lively cast of goofballs complete with distinct personality quirks, this isn’t the place to look for nuanced character drama. Bright and breezy fun, Fire Force doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I’m happy to report that season one’s egregious and intrusive fan service is mostly absent, bar only one inconsequential scene so far.
With the latest episodes, protagonist Shinra travels outside of his relatively safe home city and, along with the viewer, learns about the state of his post-apocalyptic world. This new focus on uncovering secrets drives the plot in new and interesting directions, even though the two newest characters are a talking mole and crow. Yeah. I’m unsure what to make of that so far.
If you weren’t a fan of season one, this new season probably won’t convert you. However, if you were only turned off by the fanservice, it’s worth giving Shinra’s latest episodes a shot. They’re hardly award-winning material, but they’re entertaining and fun. Sometimes that’s all you want from an anime.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Requiem, Stinolez, Tenshigami, TheMamaLuigi
Written by: Hip Hip Jorge
Genre(s): Heist, Drama
Where to Watch: Netflix
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Makoto Edamura believes he’s Japan’s greatest swindler;
that is, until the day he attempts to pickpocket a French foreigner, only later realizing all his money was stolen instead. The swindler has become the swindled…(swindlee?), and Edamura is thrown into a world of high stakes heists and expert confidence men (and women).
Why You Should Be Watching: Do you like all things Lupin (I sure do) and James Bond movies (Sean Connery best Bond)? Maybe you’ve seen Ocean’s Eleven more than once? Even if the answer is no, Great Pretender is definitely worth your time. Within this type of premise, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but just be interesting enough to stay engaging - Great Pretender easily fits this description.
Not only is Great Pretender a fun, well-paced ride, it’s notably stylish and visually stunning. Brimming with flair, the backgrounds are so rich they appear like oil paintings behind the expressive characters, and I love the subtle artistic decisions like the streaks of red light coming from cars during a chase scene. The same way French super-confidence-man Laurent Thierry pulls in petty grifter Edamura to the con-man big leagues, the show pulls the viewer in with its vibrant colors and aesthetic, fast pace, and gorgeous, exotic locations.
The cityscapes truly come to life, too. Los Angeles looks and feels exactly how it should, with an aerial view of the downtown skyline as iconic and realistic as any movie set in LA. Beautiful modern Singapore, which was also a backdrop for season 3 of Westworld, is just an incredible setting, and London’s there looking as London as ever. Case 4 releases in Japan on September 21st with the crew traveling between Shanghai and Tokyo - the second half of the season cannot be freed from Netflix jail fast enough. Wit Studio (Attack on Titan, Ancient Magus Bride, After the Rain, Vinland Saga) and Director Hiro Kaburagi (91 Days, Hoozuki no Reitetsu) succeed in what they were aiming for - a beautiful, highly stylized, and exciting show.
As for the characters, Edamura (or Edamame like Laurent likes to call him) becomes likeable by the 2nd episode. By revealing more of his backstory and disposition, you quickly realize he’s not a bad person. Laurent Thierry, additionally, is played perfectly by Junichi Suwabe. The addition of characters switching between English, French, and the occasional hint of Spanish strengthens the show’s global vibe. Throw in strong female characters like Aby and Cynthia, the confidence women, and some great minor characters, like the Movie Producer Eddie Cassano, and you have a well-rounded, lively cast. To add to this show’s already impressive pedigree, these aforementioned characters all come from renowned character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto of Evangelion, FLCL, and Gunbuster fame.
The OP, “G.P.” by Yutaka Yamada, is jazzy with Cowboy Bebop vibes, and the art style reminiscent of the great opening to Catch Me If You Can, with both seemingly influenced by the legendary art of Seal Bass, embracing that retro, mid-century feel. Lastly, let me make sure to mention the ED is Freddy Mercury’s cover of the Platters’ song “The Great Pretender”, and the first time any Mercury or Queen song has been featured in an anime. Oh and it contains cats. Very cute cats.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Hip Hip Jorge, Koda, Tenshigami, TGRIP
Written by: Stínolez
Genre(s): Action, Demons, Magic, Fantasy, School
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Anos, the Demon King of Tyranny, has defeated every enemy and grown tired of neverending wars. Hoping for a more peaceful life, he decides to die and reincarnate. Two-thousand years later, he discovers that the world became too peaceful in his absence and resolves to reclaim his former glory. He enrolls at the Demon King Academy and is labeled as a misfit due to his immense, unmeasurable magical power. Thus begins his path to climb up the demon ranks!
Why You Should Be Watching: Misfit isn’t deep. On the contrary, it’s a show where you can (and should) turn your brain off. Every now and then, the show mixes mindless comedy into the action, which simply works in the show’s favour. If I had to compare Misfit to something, it’s The Irregular at Magic High School in a demon world with the same techno-babble while being on crack and still having tons of fun.
In the past, we’ve had many overpowered protagonists that always dragged their respective show into the deepest pits of the viewer’s despair, but Anos is one of the rare cases of actually making his show better. It’s not the fact every aspect of his character is taken to absurd degrees, but that he knows he’s above everybody else and has fun with it. Where else would you find a scene where the main character spins an actual castle on his finger like a basketball?
To balance Anos, we have sisters Misha and Sasha. Each is the polar opposite of the other, the yin to the other’s yang - it makes much more sense when you actually watch the show, trust me. To top this up, Anos has loving parents - cringy for some, sure, but definitely a rare sight in an anime, where usually parents are nowhere to be found, always busy or away.
To sum it up, if you want a fun show which for 25 minutes a week lets you forget about 2020, The Misfit of Demon King Academy has you covered and more.
Recommended by: Requiem, Stínolez, TheMamaLuigi
Written by: TheMamaLuigi
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll, HIDIVE
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: “Youth is a lie. It is nothing but evil”; disillusioned and cynical, Hachiman Hikigaya lives his life on the sidelines, observing the social spheres of adolescent life with a pessimistic and critical eye. All this changes when Shizuka Hiratsuka, his teacher, volunteers him for the Service Club run by Yukino Yukinoshita, a similarly mannered classmate and school beauty. Hachiman and Yukino, together with Yui Yuigahama, must now navigate the particulars of high school life both as observers and direct interveners through the Service Club.
This third season picks up immediately after the second as relationships are strained and harsh truths begin boiling over. Can a prom save the members of the Service Club from drifting apart? Can Hachiman find something genuine? Tune in to find out!
Why You Should Be Watching: Recommending the final season of an already-beloved series is an exercise in redundancy. Instead, let’s re-examine why you should watch My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU through the lens of this third season and why SNAFU remains a modern anime classic.
No show better encapsulates the modern teenage condition of belonging and becoming more accurately and cogently than SNAFU. Through the harsh and self-sacrificial lens of our beloved Hachiman, SNAFU explores how we exist alongside each other in our most formative years and, in its intense focus on high school, speaks to the broader issue of finding, crafting, or stumbling into relationships and what those relationships ultimately mean. The first two seasons were instantly impactful when they both premiered in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and despite the five-year gap, Studio feel. doesn’t miss a single beat in yahello-ing us back into this familiar world.
Like many finale seasons, SNAFU Climax! works to simultaneously comment on, re-contextualize, and build upon the previous seasons. The second season ended with unspoken promises of catharsis, growth, and heartbreak as our characters move beyond living for each other as a collective to living for each other as individuals. It is a subtle, yet major difference and the space in which the series lives. As Hachiman grows to see the error in his martyr-like tendencies, Yukino from under the shadow of her sister, and Yui towards the honesty that begets genuine relationships, the series grows, too — both in artstyle between the first and later seasons and in its shift from sharp comedy to gentle drama.
SNAFU never professes itself as a one-to-one representation of “the” high school experience. Rather, it uses melodrama to invoke the hormonal anxiety we all felt in our adolescent years. It uses deliberately obtuse dialogue not only to invite critical analysis but to remind us that, frankly, teenagers often don’t make sense. And in that, SNAFU reminds us that that is okay. We don’t have to make sense; none of us do, after all. In that confusion breeds connection, and as those connections bend, strain, and break, we find what we’ve been searching for all along: something genuine.
And that, I think, is what makes season three and the larger work of SNAFU so incredibly special. It does not expect everyone to enjoy it, but asks you to empathize with it. Watch My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and empathize with its characters, its world, and with your younger self that, much as you deny it, acted much the same as Hachiman, Yukino, Yui, and the gang. The only real SNAFU, after all, is the one in which we pretend to act as someone we are not. Remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?
Recommended by: Arcane, Reikaze, Protonstorm, TGRIP, TheMamaLuigi
Written by: Requiem
Genre(s): Sci-fi, Neo-noir, Guns for Heads
Where To Watch: Funimation, Hulu
Spoiler-Free Synopsis: “Extendeds” are people whose bodies have been modified, particularly those who were modified for the War. They can be dangerous, especially the most powerful: the “Over-Extended.” In the City, Juuzo Inui, an Over-Extended with a gun for a head and no memory of his life before the War, is a Resolver, a Private Eye of sorts who specializes in cases involving Extendeds. He is often assisted by Mary, a young but brilliant back-alley engineer for people with extensions, and stuck as the guardian of a young boy named Tetsuro with many secrets of his own. In a dark, corrupt, dangerous city full of yakuza, anti-extension terrorists, and dominated by the mysterious Beruhren corporation, if you need help, Juuzo and team are the ones to find. Did I mention he’s got a gun for a head?
Why You Should Be Watching: No Guns Life is worthy of recommending to anyone; we did so ourselves when season one made the collab last year. But it should especially appeal to viewers with a penchant for that endangered species of a genre, the gritty sci-fi/cyberpunk neo-noir. In the Before Times the great sages call “The Nineteen Eighties and Nineties,” this kind of show was a key foundation of anime, with some of the coolest, most enduring stuff coming from the genre — shows like Appleseed, Armitage III, Goku: Midnight Eye or even the tragically forgotten Cyber City Oedo 808. At its core, No Guns Life is really a modernization of the themes and feel of these older classics, and it does a fabulous job of it.
Season one was a damn fine show, but it had to spend a good deal of time worldbuilding, introducing the various factions and alliances, and getting to know the characters. It did a fine job of this, but the narrative thrust naturally suffered as a result. This is not an issue in season two, which features much improved pacing and overall narrative cohesion, even as it does stop occasionally for a one-off tale here and there. The show has transitioned into a slightly darker, more melancholy tone as more of the characters’ histories are revealed and they have to reckon with their pasts, which highlights one of the show’s core themes: are you your past, or who you are now? Can you be someone other than who or what you were before? To what degree are you responsible for the you of yesterday, especially when there’s been radical change, like memory loss or, um, having a gun for a head? The writers mix these in with classic themes like the lines between man and machine and the dangers of dehumanizing technology, resulting in a show that like an ogre: it has layers. That’s not to say the show has lost its sense of humor; as evidenced by the image above, it’s still a masterclass in hilarious facial reactions, which is pretty impressive when half your cast doesn’t really have a face.
The animation isn’t spectacular, but it gets the job done and fits the larger aesthetic of the show and genre. Fight scenes are usually brief but frequently look pretty damn cool, and the sound track does its duty well. This season’s OP and ED are both quite good, with the OP song being a real banger and the ED’s CGI fistfight looking nifty, even if they decided to have Mary twerking in the background for some reason (seriously Madhouse, what the hell?).
In the end, No Guns Life’s second season is all of what made season one a standout but more focused and with more depth to the storytelling. If you haven’t jumped onto this cyber-train yet, we suggest you do so immediately. Oh, and don’t forget: GUN. FOR. A. HEAD.
Recommended by: Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Kinksy, Koda, Requiem
Written by: Koda
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Isekai, Mystery, Psychological
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: After multiple grueling attempts, Natsuki Subaru, along with his friends and allies, manage to overcome the greatest threats they have met so far. The peace they fought so hard for is short lived, however, as new foes reveal themselves and cause new turmoil in their wake. Now, Natsuki must face trials and tribulations that not even his unique powers can handle easily.
Why You Should Be Watching: In 2016, Re:ZERO took the anime world by storm, ending up one of the year’s biggest hits and a crown jewel of the isekai genre.. The wait for the next season has been a painful one for fans ever since the first season ended with one of the biggest cliffhangers anime has seen in years. I am ecstatic to say that it has been worth the wait and then some, as Re:ZERO Season 2 has the series on the warpath to reclaim its crown.
Since the first season got much of the worldbuilding and lore out of the way, Season 2 has turned inwards, focusing more heavily on character building. Not only does Subaru continue his gradual improvement over the course of all that he goes through but supporting characters such as Otto, Beatrice, and Crusch get fleshed out in some genuinely surprising ways that they never would have been in a weaker series. Re:ZERO Season 2 doesn’t just rest there, however, as it further bolsters the great roster of characters with new villains and allies, many of whom have instantly become fan favorites, such as the character Frederica, who was previously seen in a flashback but finally makes her grand debut.
Of course, one of the key things that makes Re:ZERO so fascinating is the various mysteries and traumatic events that become a puzzle for Subaru, with his unique abilities, to solve. Needless to say, season two also delivers on this front in spectacular ways. The way this season implements these challenges is invigorating and keeps both Subaru and the audience on their toes with every twist and turn. Isekai stories have exploded, for better or worse, in the years since the first season came out, but Re:ZERO Season 2 is proving to yet again be a fantastic reminder of what isekai can deliver at its best.
Recommended by: Arcane, Dark Aether, Doctorkev, Kinksy, Koda, Protonstorm, Requiem, Stinolez, Tenshigami, TheMamaLuigi, Viking
(Note: Our honorable mention section is reserved for shows that had significant support but at the same time significant pushback during our debates. In order to represent both sides, we include both “for” and “against” opinions for our honorable mentions.)
Written by: TGRIP (for), Dark Aether (against)
Genre(s): Action, Fighting, Shonen, Tournament Arc
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
Spoiler-free Synopsis: “The God of High School” is a massive martial arts tournament seeking out the strongest highschoolers all over the world. While it may be held by a shady corporation with mysterious aims, the prize is whatever the winner desires, no questions asked. South Korea is the location of the latest iteration of the tournament, attracting the world’s strongest (and strangest) fighters. Said strongest fighters are our three main leads: Han Daewi, Yu Mira, and Jin Mori. The former two are fighting for personal goals of either keeping their family legacy or friends alive, while the latter is simply there for the thrill of the fight. As the tournament goes on though, it starts to become increasingly clear that the “god” in the title might not be as metaphorical as it would first appear...
Why You Should Be Watching: I know, I know, this show was massively overhyped. It has writing that shows why you really should have an editor look over your stuff before you finalize it. Being nothing but a tournament arc, there isn’t a whole lot for the story to do, even though outside of the titular tournament, the show does attempt to add some intrigue to why exactly a shadowy organization is having teens fight each other. You could say this show is everything bad about shounen, to which I say, it also has a lot of stuff the genre does well. There’s no denying that this show has some of the best fight scenes and overall action of not just this season, but probably the entire year. If you’re someone who’s enjoyed stuff like Dragon Ball Z, this is right up your alley. That’s the thing with God of High School: as riddled with faults as it is, it’s just fun.
Studio Mappa wasn’t dealt a good hand with this show, but dammit they’ve polished what they were given to a mirror shine, further solidifying their reputation as a successor to Madhouse. There are moments in this show that don’t just impress, but amaze, invoking experimental short films and straight-up arthouse projects. God of High School is also helped out by its tone in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, with characters who aren’t thinking too hard about what’s going on around them effectively incorporating a good sense of humor. And the soundtrack is pretty great, too, giving it a sense of punch, fitting its fighting style where contestants move at mach 3 and hit with the force of bullet trains.
If you were expecting 2020’s equivalent of One Punch Man, I am sorry to say that this isn’t it, despite the first three episodes giving many viewers a sense of hope that came crashing down by the fourth. But you know what? It’s simple, it’s a visual marvel, and you really can jump in at any moment without getting lost. Sure, this is the anime equivalent of Waffle House: you know it’s not good for you, and there are many, many better options when it comes to fine dining. But Waffle House is fucking delicious, and, seven episodes in, I’m still enjoying the shit out of God of High School.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Watching: The God of High School had a lot going for it in the weeks prior to its debut. Backed by Crunchyroll as their latest “Crunchyroll Original” and produced by MAPPA following the excellent Dorohedoro, GOHS started off on the right foot with its pilot episode, promising high-octane fights and over-the-top encounters, with a dash of comradery and friendly rivalries to accompany its high production values. Taken at face value, this should have been a clear knockout. But, once the gloves come off and the characters try to do anything outside the ring, GOHS’s redeeming qualities cannot conceal the latest Crunchyroll Original as anything more than another paid advertisement, running the gauntlet off a never-ending checklist of bland shonen tropes, rushed pacing, and weak narrative cohesion to make up for its baffling writing the moment anyone opens their mouth.
If GOHS was simply aiming to be another “dumb” action show in vein of Baki or Kengan Ashura, I’d end this conversation now. Hell, I would welcome it! Yet, the show continues to lose track of its main objective, the fighting tournament, in favor of cult nonsense, new character introductions, and deaths with little to no emotional impact. Moreover, convenient or missing plot holes undermine character moments that could propel the show beyond knocking the shit out of each other. Protagonist Jin Mori’s signature line is “Do whatever you want,” which might as well be GOHS’s official slogan because that seems to be the approach it’s taking. Outside the ring, characters frequently make spur of the moment decisions, ignore previous story elements, and in one underwhelming episode, drops an entire character’s backstory and their reason for fighting to rip that purpose away with the barest of momentum. And that reason was…. friendship? I couldn’t tell you, not just for spoiler reasons, but because the show certainly forgot to in the middle of a cool fight scene.
These are just a few of these deadpan moments that ultimately amount to nothing beyond some great animation and fight choreography, all of which the show severely undermines t each time it tries to build towards anything resembling a story. Nowhere is this more apparent than its three main leads. GOHS wants you to believe in Mori, Mira, and Daewi’s motivations and supposed “best buds’’ status, but continues to tell rather than show at every opportunity through condensed flashbacks and enabling Mori’s absurdity as the sole voice of reason. If you look at some of the greatest fighting games of all time that heavily inspired the manhwa (notably Street Fighter, Tekken, and The King of Fighters), most would tell you that memorable characters are just as important to a series as the technical components. But when you look at The God of High School and its complete lack of focus, electing to dump new, irrelevant plot elements, and failing to develop its cast behind its high budget visuals, all that remains is another successfully mediocre shonen punching below its weight.
This article was a collaboration by many members of the AniTAY community. Some wrote part of the final article, and several others took part in voting and discussion over the past couple of months.
Contributors in Alphabetical Order:
- Dark Aether
- Hip Hip Jorge
If you enjoyed this article, please check out our collaboration from last season here:
You’re reading AniTAY, the anime-focused portion of Kotaku’s community-run blog, Talk Amongst Yourselves. AniTAY is a non-professional blog whose writers love everything anime related. To join in on the fun, check out our website, visit our official subreddit, follow us on Twitter, or give us a like on our Facebook page.