2019 was an interesting year for anime. A lot of mangas received their first anime adaptation, but there were also multiple second (and beyond) seasons of existing anime. Some of these continuations were very successful (Attack on Titan). Others received somewhat mixed reviews (One-Punch Man).
Unfortunately, 2019 was also a year in which disaster struck, with stories of unsustainable working conditions and the arson attack on Kyoto Animation.
It is undeniable that this year of mixed feelings saw a lot of high-quality shows. Time for an overview of the most popular animes of the year!
How the Ranking Is Determined
As this is a popularity ranking, it is not:
- My personal opinion (which I do give briefly at the bottom of the article, however)
- Based on average ratings
Instead, it is based on the average amount of votes each anime received per episode on social media site Reddit. These upvotes indicate how many people enjoyed the episode enough to engage with it. Using this method weeds out anime that are very niche. It also prevents the list from being filled with mainstream anime with mixed receptions (One Piece, Boruto, etc.) we would get with a list based on viewership numbers.
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to get started!
10. Vinland Saga
Vinland saga has a popular manga that has been running since 2003, so it has long been due to receive an anime adaptation. Featuring flawed protagonists, villains you love to hate and a lot of morally grey characters, this Viking centered story does not appoint. The animation is excellent, the voice acting is fantastic and the atmosphere delivers tension perfectly.
Perhaps the best way to describe Vinland Saga is semi-realistic, combining historical accuracy with superhuman feats. Vinland Saga may not show Viking strength in a fully historically accurate way but rarely goes too much over the top.
Action junkies may take issue with the long stretches between action-packed scenes. Fans of character development and tension leading up to action will learn to appreciate the show’s pace before long, however. Vinland Saga has a similar feel to The Promised Neverland in this regard. If you liked that anime, you are likely to like Vinland Saga as well.
9. The Rising of the Shield Hero
If you browsed around the site a bit before you landed on this article, you would know I am somewhat biased about this show. The Rising of the Shield Hero or Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari is an isekai that is different enough from the rest to feel fresh, yet similar enough to be familiar.
Objectively speaking, The Rising of the Shield Hero had a strong (yet controversial) start but lost people’s interest a bit near the end. After a suspenseful first half, things get a bit more lighthearted near the end. Repeated character flaws can also get a little annoying. I was okay with the change of focus, but I do understand it is not for everyone. The drop in popularity prevents it from landing near the top of the list, but still claims its deserved spot never the less.
The Rising of the Shield Hero was chosen to receive an anime adaptation with the Western audience in mind. The result may not be perfect, but if an isekai with a big twist near the start and a cast of adorable characters, it’s definitely worth a watch.
8. One-Punch Man Season 2
Another heavily featured show on this site, One-Punch Man returned in 2019 for a second season. After a critically acclaimed first season at the end of 2015, the show had a lot to live up to. The second season was not done by the same studio as the first, however, so people were also worried.
The result was a little lackluster. While nowhere near bad, there was a significant drop in quality compared to the first season. The animation was okay in general, but the show wasn’t able to convey the same feel as before. Maybe it would stand on its own if there was no fantastic first season to compare it to. Things being as they are, community disappointment is somewhat understandable, even if the comments are sometimes overly harsh.
Still, the story is fantastic and the quality delivered is enough to keep people engaged. Like many others, I am already looking forward to a possible third season. If you like Mob Psycho 100 or simply want to discover what’s so good about a guy defeating everyone in one punch (hint: it’s because of the surrounding elements of the show), this is a perfect time to catch up on both seasons.
7. Dr. Stone
Dr. Stone ranks only second to The Promised Neverland in terms of “first episodes that will blow your mind.” If this anime doesn’t convince you that science can be cool, nothing will.
Although its characters have feats that are not very feasible, the actual research behind things is actually reasonably accurate. The Dr. Stone manga is a labor of love and the same is true about its anime adaption. From the color palettes to its soundtrack, every scene is meticulously worked out.
There are different ways to recreate the modern world and the conflicting viewpoints really make you think. The characters seem a bit bland while acting over the top at first, but there is more to it than meets the eye. Even its protagonist, who appears very stoic at first, will grow on you.
6. The Promised Neverland
A group of six to eleven-year-olds live together happily in an orphanage. It’s not exactly a context that would make you expect this anime rivals Attack on Titan in terms of horror, but things aren’t always as they seem.
Going from cute to scary in the first episode, it leaves quite an impression but may give a somewhat incorrect expectation of what to expect. While the (mostly not gory) horror elements are important, The Promised Neverland’s primary focus is the mind games between its characters. This can make the pacing feel a little slow at times if you’re a fan of action.
As said previously, those who like Vinland Saga are likely to like this show as well. If you haven’t checked out either show yet, I highly recommend you do.
5. My Hero Academia Season 4
The production value of My Hero Academia (Boku no hero Academia) remains high. Even its first episode, a mix between a recap and filler, was so well-done it received an overwhelmingly positive response.
With the strongest hero now retired, protagonist Midoriya now has to prove not only to himself but to the whole world he is capable of following in his footsteps.
While many animes suffer from a lowered suspense factor in later seasons, My Hero Academia is still going strong in this regard. The world feels more in danger than ever and there are even some fairly graphic deaths.
If you have disregarded this show before because it’s “just another show about heroes”, because it’s too mainstream or because there are some cliché elements, I suggest you reconsider. Midoriya is not Naturo and Bakugo is not Sasuke. It just takes a little while for the anime to show its own unique identity.
4. Demon Slayer
Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba) is unique in that it gets more and more popular the longer it goes on. The first twelve episodes already received positive reviews, but the next twelve were simply spectacular.
Kimetsu no Yaiba masterfully adapts the source material throughout each episode but isn’t afraid to expand on it when called for. Its 19th episode, based on a crucial moment in the anime, was so skillfully done that it even made the manga’s artist emotional.
The protagonist of the show is unique in that he learns to understand his enemy early on and feels for them, while still showing no hesitation at all to kill when necessary. Side characters of the show, only properly introduced after the first few arcs, hold the record for the fastest transition from hated characters to beloved characters.
3. Mob Psycho 100 Season 2
Unlike his other work One-Punch Man, ONE’s Mob Psycho 100 received a second season that was at least as good as its first.
Featuring awesome character development and stellar animation, you simply shouldn’t miss out on this show. Unlike in One-Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100’s art is done by storyteller ONE himself. It’s not objectively gorgeous and so might be offputting to some, but it would be a shame to pass on the show because of this. ONE excels at atmosphere creation, scene composition and character expressions.
In this show, episodes focusing on running a school marathon have almost as much as depth as episodes focusing on saving the world. It’s part of its charm that will quickly win you over if you allow it to.
2. Kaguya-sama: Love is War
Kaguya-sama, admittedly, is the only show on this list I couldn’t get into myself. It is very unique, however, and I do understand its appeal. The adaptation of the source material is of very high quality, as well. It may not be my cup of tea, but it deserves its place on the list.
Looking at its full title will already give you a good idea of what this show is about: “Kaguya Wants to be Confessed to: The Geniuses’ War of Love and Brains.” It features two protagonists crazy about each other but too proud to admit this themselves. What follows is over the top psychological warfare with the goal of making the other confess.
1. Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2
Everyone’s favorite horror anime returns in full force. Boasting the same superb animation of previous seasons, it is pack-full of thrilling action sequences following a more quiet period.
As its manga nears its conclusion after periods focusing on intrigue rather than suspense and action, we will have to see if Attack on Titan can keep its top spot. For the time being, however, the competition isn’t even close. Attack on Titan received a whopping 40% more average upvotes per episode than runner-up Kaguya-sama.
My Own Top 10
This is just a short, informative list in case your tastes match mine. I will only write an explanation when the anime did not already feature in the general list. Please note that I am reading the manga (and as such, ahead of the anime story) of Attack on Titan and One-Punch Man. That automatically makes their anime adaptations a little less interesting to me.
- The Promised Neverland
- Mob Psycho 100
- The Rising of the Shield Hero
- Vinland Saga
- Hitori Bocchi: a show about a girl suffering from social anxiety. Its characters act totally over the top on a regular basis, but some situations are remarkably relatable.
- Dr. Stone
- Demon Slayer (Kimetsu no Yaiba)
- Oresuki: Are You the Only One Who Loves Me? This is somewhat in the same genre as Kaguya-sama but I personally could appreciate its twists more. You may struggle to get through the first ten minutes as it seems like a bland cliché harem until that point. Suffice to say things really change after that.
- Black Clover. Black Clover gets a lot of slack for the amount of fluff per episode, its shounen clichés and elements it seems to borrow from other shows. Once you get through the first few episodes and get to know characters besides the two protagonists a bit better, things get a lot better. If you’re one of many to be bothered by Asta’s shouting, then don’t worry: this eventually gets better too.
- My Hero Academia Season 4