It’s been an incredibly trying year for everyone. Thankfully we have made it to the end and here’s to hoping that there’s less chaos in the near future. We hope that you and your loved ones are keeping safe. Keep wearing those masks! While you are trapped inside trying to zoom call people to look social, take some time out to enjoy our Color Award picks of 2020. Thank you as always for coming to our website and continuing to enjoy our content.
|Scott – Red Awards|
|Best of 2020||Maoujou de Oyasumi
There was no show this year I looked forward to more than this one. Cute and funny, this story of a captured princess turning her prison into the best possible bedroom while charming her demonic captors is simply the best.
|Most Pleasant Surprise of 2020||Otome Game
Isekai is a pretty crowded genre these days, so when a new show was pitched with “but this time it’s a girl, and she’s the villain!” there was no way of knowing if it would be any good. As it turns out, Otome game isn’t just good, it’s great, with lots of fun characters and pleasantly ridiculous scenarios.
|Worst of 2020||Majo no Tabitabi
The first episode of this show promised a heartfelt tale of a young witch traveling the world, seeing its wonders, and learning about herself. By the end, it was clear that Elaina was never going to learn anything, and plots had ranged from mawkish tragedy to insipid comedy(?) to one episode with a plot revolving around body-swapping and aphrodisiac gas. What a disaster.
|Most Disappointing of 2020||Somali and the Forest Spirit
For a show as beautiful as this, with a plot as charming as “ancient golem tries to be a dad for precocious child”, this show just lacked… focus. With only a vaguely defined objective, the characters wander from place to place, learning a little but ultimately not accomplishing anything. Yes, the golem character develops a little, but by the end I didn’t really feel invested. The show also teased a kind of “unreliable narrator” situation with the history of conflict between humans and monsters, but it never paid off. The show felt empty.
|Most Characters named Flegg||King’s Raid: Ishi wo Tsugumono-tachi
It was a tight race this year, but only one show could take the crown. Good work, King’s Raid, and RIP Flegg.
|Most Charming||Gal and Dino
A little slice of life, a little mixed-media, and a lot of heart. If you just want to feel a little better, this show is perfect. Also, the live-action segments have a surprisingly interesting story you won’t see coming.
|Best Twist|| Deca-Dence
Obviously I’m not going to spoil it, but Episode 2 of Deca-Dence completely reframes the show, and it’s bizarre and awesome.
|Best Execution of a Cool Concept||ID:Invaded
A lot of anime have great ideas and completely flub the execution, like Majo no Tabitabi, and also Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina. ID:Invaded has the incredible idea of “Inception, but also Minority Report” and just completely nails it. Dead-serious drama with inventive investigative sequences and some really intense emotions. It doesn’t hurt that it looks great and has a killer ending theme.
|Hardest Title to Pronounce||Magatsu Wahrheit Zuerst
I can understand why even the title card of the show is just “MWZ”. Interesting enough show, if you can get past the relatively low production values.
|Cutest Sidekicks||Three way tie – Maoujou de Oyasumi, BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense, Kami-tachi ni Hirowareta Otoko
When Teddy Demons, Eggplant Seals, Syrup the flying laser turtle, and a bunch of bouncy slimes compete, cuteness is the winner. These are some top-notch sidekicks, and I want all of them.
|Most Likely to Generate “Anime No Context” Posts||Hypnosis Mic Division Rap Battle – Rhyme Anima
Ever since a robber held a microphone to a hostage’s head while wearing a bomb vest’s worth of additional microphones, and threatened that hostage with too many vibes, we had a winner. And that was like Episode 2. Since then, MAD TRIGGER CREW, Matenrou, and the other rap trios participating in a turf war rap battle tournament have simply never stopped causing ridiculous but also incredibly awesome situations to watch.
|Strongest Improvement||Tonikaku Kawaii
As the first few episodes went by, it was only the theme song’s promise of a stuck up rich girl showing up that kept me interested enough to continue. But then this show about two characters married at first sight and figuring out how to live together afterwards really found its stride. Feeling a bit like a tutorial on how married relationships work, it’s also funny and occasionally heartfelt. Also the rich girl did show up, and it was great.
|Best Looking||Princess Connect! Re:Dive
I don’t know why Cygames decides to use its gatcha-game money to make gorgeous anime about those games, but I hope they never stop. It’s a real testament to their work that I’ve never played a single one of their games but I’ve seen all of their anime. Princess Connect! Re:Dive, despite a name that would win you Anime Title Trope Bingo, has great action, fun characters, a delightful focus on one RPG guild’s quest to eat lots of delicious food.
|Best Nicknames||Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
In addition to being an all-around great show that anyone who enjoys animation as an art form should watch, this show also has, just, the best nicknames for Kamamori, aka Kanamoney, aka Thugbelina. I don’t know who was on localization for this show, but a big thumbs up!
|Su – Green Awards|
|Best of 2020||Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
This show is a love letter to hand drawn animation, but leaving the description at that doesn’t do it justice. There’s fantastic/funny characters, deep creativity and passion, and the greatest boss you’ll never have: Thugbellina. Seriously though, I love this show. My husband and I looked forward to it every week with the same glee as kids before Christmas morning. We learned so much about anime, animation, and what it takes to put together a mere ten minute short. The writers knew their stuff in and out and wanted you to experience and love every minute in learning this process. Also, can we just dwell on how much the creators of this show want to thwart moe culture?! The year started out strong with Eizouken and it never left my number one spot. Watch it now!!
|Most Pleasant Surprise of 2020||Arte
There’s nothing about Arte that should make it special. It’s art is middle of the road and there’s no intense action or deep drama in its storytelling. Despite this I was charmed by this show, whole hog. It puts in a lot of effort where it needs to (the in-world sketches Arte does are beautiful), and I love Arte as a person. She’s strong willed, willing to put in the effort to become a great artist, and is a feminist without the desperate need to wave whatever the renessaince version of an SJW flag is. If I had a daughter I would have her watch this show so Arte could be one of her role models. Watching Arte’s journey to become a master artist is both compelling and fun. The show taught me a little about art creation in 16th century Italy, and I came away with a deep appreciation for how hard the craft was at that time. By the end of the show, I felt sad that I’d no longer see these characters, and I desperately wanted a Season 2.
|Worst of 2020||Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
Let’s make more Madoka Magica they said… Let’s make it based off a spinoff mobile game they said… And then everything went horribly wrong…. Watching this show spin so widely off the rails was the very definition of watching a train wreck in motion. I simply could not look away. This show has cast bloat for days, yet none of them are compelling characters. The writers took nothing from the original Madoka Magica except its Salvador Dali art influence for the witch mazes (and they still screw up the usage of that somehow). The town the girls live in makes no sense, and the show has a blatant disregard for the original rules of Madoka Magica. To add to all that, characters from the first show appear in ways that don’t line up with any seemingly sensible timeline, and the show ends with mini Hitler in cute girl form. That’s right…mini…Hitler…This show is garbage. Stay away from it.
|Most Disappointing of 2020||Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina
Episode 1 was a lie. I repeat: Episode 1 WAS A LIE! This show stars a self-absorbed, selfish brat named Elaina, and we are supposed to feel privileged to go on a journey with her. The writing in this show is so dull. Elaina goes to a place, a thing happens, and Elaina usually flies away and makes sure to give as little damns as possible about everyone involved. This show had so much promise and delivered so much…nothing.
|Runner up for Best Show||Fruits Basket Season 2
I loved this season. The emotions were high and the drama was heavy. It was hard to watch a lot of these characters suffer, but man is this show so well written. Hopefully you were following along with us as we reviewed this, but if you aren’t already onboard with this remake, get on it. You won’t be disappointed.
|The Quarantine Champion We All Need||Princess Syalis (Maoujou de Oyasumi)
You know who wouldn’t have a problem staying home when the nation declares a lockdown? That’s right. Good old Princess Syalis. While tons of people are out and about, perpetuating the exponential math that threatens to kill us all, Princess Syalis is ULTRA NAPPING. Girl just wants to complete her RPG quest to have the ultimate bedding, so she can sleep all day. Princess Syalis is truly the role model we all need in today’s world.
|Biggest Tone Shift||Somali and the Forest Spirit
In Episode 06 the show goes from being a slice of life fantasy with some dark hints to being…HOLY MOLEY TRAGIC. You ATE HER MOM?!?! What the hell show?! Tone ends up being a problem for this show throughout its run, but nothing beats out this terrible moment.
|Most Unique Art Style||Tower of God
I may not love everything about Tower of God, but I do love the art style. Everyone in the show just feels more “solidly animated” than a regular anime. There’s bold line work and a method of coloring that makes the characters look heavy, as though they came out of a painting.
|Sushma’s OP/ED Playlist of 2020||List Below (in order of enjoyment)
“Easy Breezy” (OP – Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!)
|Best Harem||Katarina and her Entourage (My Life as Villainess, All Routes Lead to Doom!)
Oh Katarina…your aloofness and aggressive kindness brought about a fine quality harem. I loved everyone in Karatina’s harem and more importantly, I loved watching them all fall for her. Poor Katarina had no idea what’s going on, since she’s so consumed with preventing her own doom. That makes it all the more charming because despite her stupidity, she really was just trying to be a good friend to everyone.
|Most Painfully Tragic||ID: Invaded
This show hurts…a lot. Christopher Nolan presents: Minority Report written by Dick Wolf, is a rough ride. Nobody wins, everyone is in pain, and you come away from each episode feeling progressively worse. I am not used to a show that heaps on the sadness and doesn’t relent. I was hooked from the first episode and if you take this journey, be prepared for unforgiving tragedy.
|Game of Year||Persona 5
I know what you are thinking. Su…this came out in America 2017. What are you doing?! Well guess what? I never played the game in 2017. I played it this year when I bought it on sale during Golden Week for $20. It was worth ALL THAT MONEY and then some. I loved this game. I was hooked onto the story of the Phantom Thieves and I was super addicted to learning as much as I could about all the characters/listening to this soundtrack over and over. This game oozes style from every angle. Each of the menu splash screens could be a piece of art on your wall for crying out loud. I was also amazed at the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways that the show pointed a finger at the Japanese justice system. There’s some harsh criticism in this game and so much of it was thought provoking. I think all successive Personas are going to have a hard time beating this one.
|Dan – Blue Awards|
|Best of 2020||
Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
This year started off incredibly strong with this knockout showcase of gorgeous animation and the effort it takes to produce it. If you’ve ever struggled with an ambitious project as a student or as a professional, this will likely hit you right in the guts, and even if you haven’t the heart and passion poured into the series is still more than worth it.
|Most Pleasant Surprise of 2020||
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
Is this the highest quality show of the year? Probably not, but damn, I looked forward to every new episode. It was consistently funny to watch someone constantly try to outwit their fate, only to discover that their best defense was simply being a decent person and making ALL THE FRIENDS. This series is absolutely worth a watch if you’re in the mood for genre-savvy comedy.
|Worst of 2020||
Yes, I’m carrying this over from 2019, dammit! This show started out with a neat hook and some interesting animation tricks that made me think it would actually use its medium to explore some morally complex territory around suicide, law, and social order. Instead it went absolutely absurd as our Japanese hero cop flies to that libertine hotbed of social progress, Hartford Connecticut, and joins the U.S. Secret Service on a mission from the honest-to-god POTUS. Wow, I had honestly forgotten how bafflingly the last arc of that show was.
|Most Disappointing of 2020||
Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina
I have rarely felt so misled by a first episode as I have by this show. Wandering Witch’s tone and messaging is all over the place, squandering some gorgeous visual designs and worldbuilding potential with a shallow plot and characters that fail to live up to the promise of their introduction. This one hurts, folks.
|Best Studio Turnaround||
BNA: Brand New Animal
On balance, I’ve really enjoyed Trigger’s work, so this should probably be less of a surprise. Still, after completely bouncing off Darling of the Franxx, it’s nice to see the studio returning to something more straightforward. The fun and energetic protagonists and use of cartoon physics for action sequences make it a joy to watch, and I could keep that opening on loop all day. Definitely worthwhile, though I have some misgivings about the ending.
|Character I Need Most in my Life||
Kanamori (Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!)
Our girl Kanamori is a lovable, money-obsessed thug that I would hire in a heartbeat if I needed a ruthless producer to keep a project in line. Easily my favorite character of the year, she balances out the creative drive of her friends with some cold, hard realism without becoming a complete joykill. Keep blackmailing your way to success, you brilliant disaster!
|Most Frustrating Yet Compelling||
Tower of God
Tower of God is incredibly challenging to watch because of an utter potato of a protagonist and a tendency to create and abandon its own rules on a whim. Despite that and a thoroughly unpredictable tone, revelations in the last couple episodes grabbed me and pretty much obliged me to watching a second season, if and when it arises. So… good work?
God of High School
This wasn’t the show I’ve dropped the fastest (I’m pretty sure last year’s Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka still takes that one), but this show squandered every ounce of goodwill it had earned the moment some dude in his 30s proposed to a high-schooler in the first moments of episode 4 and she doesn’t respond by punting him into the stratosphere.
|Brendan – Beige Awards|
|Best of 2020/Most Pleasant Surprise of 2020||Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
It was a small pool this year so Eizouken takes both. Had no idea what to expect. Received art about art. It just oozes charm and enthusiasm and ambition and hope and all kinds of other good things.
|Worst of 2020||Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina
The more I think about this show, the more baffled I am by the level of apparent effort that went into animating this mess of ideas. It’s now just another data point supporting my policy to not watch anime based on light novels.
|Most Disappointing of 2020||The second cour of Welcome to the Demon School, Iruma-kun!
After an amusing, engaging, and endearing first half (in 2019), Iruma-kun slowed to an agonizing crawl for the school festival, and then undermined its pleasant conclusion with a disconcerting snapshot of things to come. It’s not like the show doesn’t have numerous plot threads waiting to be resolved – adding another one in the stinger a full year before the second season is just being transparently manipulative.
|Most Disturbing Antagonist||Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul
Bondord (or Bondrewd, which is how I assume his name was Romanized before anyone heard it spoken out loud) is terrifying. And horrifying. He is an intelligent and devious schemer, unbound by conventional morality, with untold resources at his disposal. He’s spent years entrenching himself in the outpost which stands in the way of our intrepid band, and, if you thought the experiments recounted by Nanachi in the series were bad, you might not want to know what he’s been up to since.
|Most Subtle OP/ED Shift||Fruits Basket Season 2
Blink and you’ll miss Kureno’s reflection in the OP of episode 13 (and only episode 13) of FruBa2 – this detail definitely added another layer of suspense to the infiltration sequence three episodes later.
|Literally the Only Other 2020 Anime I Finished||Asteroid in Love
Cute girls do after-school science. Yuri bait is kept appropriately subtle. Thumbs up.
A note from Brendan: Would I have liked to have watched more stuff? In principle, yeah – a lot of shows looked (and still look) good, and I’ve been spending an unprecedented amount of time at home. Have I had the energy, though? Not really. Maybe some of y’all have had trouble maintaining devotion to your own hobbies. Don’t judge yourselves (or each other) too harshly. It’s been a rough year. Do your own thing at your own pace.
Do you agree with us? Disagree with us? Drop us a comment! See you (Space Cowboy) in 2021.