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Best 2023 Anime

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insomniacs after school episode 1

 

Highlights

  • Insomniacs After School explores mature romance with characters who evolve realistically over time in a beautiful friendship turned romantic story.
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You impresses with hilarious comedy while also creating wholesome and heartwarming friendships among the girls.
  • The Eminence in Shadow’s blend of humor, action, and silly yet complex storylines represents isekai at its peak, with an overpowered troll as a protagonist.

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As 2023 has ended, it is time to reminisce on what was a great year for anime. Each season had at least a couple of memorable shows across a spectrum of genres and themes. Romance, comedy, isekai, action, horror, sci-fi, and drama all produced their share of new representatives, and while most of them were not all-time greats, the good generally outweighed the bad.

However, the best 2023 anime were far better than just “good,” and these series could very well be remembered as modern classics in a decade. As the Winter 2024 anime season continues, let’s take a look at its predecessor’s standout shows.

Updated February 24, 2024 by Mark Sammut: 2024 is well underway by this point, but that does not mean last year’s output should be forgotten. As it is nearly impossible to watch every show as it airs, most people likely skipped a few great 2023 series that they might wish to check out. Consequently, this article has been updated with a couple more recommendations.

  • Only anime shows or sequels that started in 2023 will be considered. Therefore, neverending stories like
    One Piece
    do not qualify.
  • No movies or specials, including
    Attack on Titan Final Season Part 3
    .
  • Fall 2023 anime that extended into 2024 will only be ranked based on episodes that came out last year.
  • While each show’s MyAnimeList score is mentioned, these ratings are not the sole determining factor of the final rankings.

Honorable Mentions

2023 was such a strong year for anime that highlighting every worthwhile show would be nearly impossible. The following series came very close to earning a spot among the best anime of 2023:

  • The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten
  • Baki Hanma 2nd Season
  • Buddy Daddies
  • The Dangers in My Heart
  • Dr. Stone: New World
  • Heavenly Delusion
  • Horimiya: The Missing Pieces
  • Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? 4 Part 2
  • Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Season 2
  • Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead

12 Insomniacs After School

MyAnimeList: 8.08

Insomniacs After School

Japanese TitleKimi wa Houkago Insomnia

StudioLIDENFILMS

Based OnManga

CreatorMakoto Ojiro

Streaming Service(s)HIDIVE

2023 was a good year for romance anime. Partially due to the fantastic Winter 2024 sequel, The Dangers in My Heart was the genre’s best debut of the previous year; however, Insomniacs After School should not be overlooked either. Based on a beloved manga, the anime follows two high school students who connect over a shared struggle: sleep does not come easy to them. One day, Nakami heads to his school’s unused observatory and finds Magari fast asleep, a chance encounter that sparks a mature and beautiful friendship that gradually turns romantic.

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Best Winter 2024 Anime, Ranked

Solo Leveling, The Dangers in My Heart, and Classroom of the Elite are all contenders for the best Winter 2024 anime.

Although fairly slow-moving, Insomniacs After School does a great job of establishing its leads as individuals while also reinforcing their chemistry, allowing their eventual coming together to feel earned and natural. Nakami starts as somewhat unlikeable, but his demeanor changes realistically throughout the series; meanwhile, Magari is endearing from beginning to end.

11 The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You

MyAnimeList: 7.85

100 Girlfriends anime
The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You

Japanese Title:Kimi no Koto ga Daidaidaidaidaisuki na 100-nin no Kanojo

StudioBibury Animation Studios

Based On :Manga

Creator :Rikito Nakamura

The best harem and comedy anime of 2023, The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You is a laugh riot that begins with the appearance of a god and just ramps up the absurdity from there. Parody stories will always be acquired tastes since they usually require familiarity with the source, and 100 Girlfriends is no exception. While constantly poking fun at harem tropes, the anime is still a firm member of the genre, albeit one that pushes the concept to its absolute limit.

Rentarou will meet 100 soulmates, and he must satisfy them all. Consequently, most episodes revolve around the introduction of a new girl, most of which slot seamlessly into popular archetypes. On paper, this pattern should pave the way to a shallow tale that offers little more than fanservice, but 100 Girlfriends makes it work. Confident and direct, Rentarou is the perfect protagonist for this type of story, and he is sidelined by almost universally great waifus. While deeply in love with the male lead, the girls also develop friendships with each other, leading to a surprisingly wholesome overall situation.

10 The Eminence In Shadow Season 2

MyAnimeList: 8.41

Shadow vs Blood Queen
The Eminence In Shadow

Japanese TitleKage no Jitsuryokusha ni Naritakute!

StudioNexus

Based OnLight Novel

CreatorDaisuke Aizawa

Streaming Service(s)HIDIVE

Overall, 2023 was a solid year for isekai anime, in terms of both quantity and, to a lesser extent, quality. While most shows were rather middling, the theme’s output was consistently watchable, with just a handful of terrible outliers. The same can be said for the other end of the spectrum, as only two series achieved greatness. Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation continued to be its typical polarizing self with season 2, producing a cour with stellar world-building, an interesting story, and a potentially infuriating protagonist.

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Every New Isekai Anime Announced For 2024 (So Far)

2024 has plenty of isekai anime, and here are all the new shows announced for the year.

The best 2023 isekai anime was The Eminence in Shadow, and the year was nicely bookended by the dark comedy series. Season 1 aired its final few episodes in January and February, while season 2 was a constant highlight of the Fall 2023 quarter. Blending humor, action, and surprisingly complex (albeit frequently silly) storylines, The Eminence in Shadow represents isekai at its peak powers, provided someone enjoys an overpowered troll as a protagonist.

9 Skip And Loafer

MyAnimeList: 8.13

Skip And Loafer anime mitsumi iwakura
Skip and Loafer

Japanese TitleSkip to Loafer

StudioP.A. Works

Based OnManga

CreatorMisaki Takamatsu

Airing in the fairly stacked Spring 2023 season, Skip and Loafer quickly won over hearts with its sweet and relatable characters. Based on a respected manga, the story follows Mitsumi Iwakura, an ambitious teenager who leaves her small town to attend high school in Tokyo. Not quite ready for a large city’s pace, Mitsumi has a chaotic first day at school, although she does manage to strike up a friendship with the amiable Sousuke.

Initially coming across as a slice of life anime but eventually proving a better fit for the drama genre, Skip and Loafer is very much a coming-of-age story that emphasizes the intense emotions and growing pains of adolescence. Mitsumi is a force of nature, and she is supported by one of the better collections of secondary characters of 2023. Sousuke is a wonderful male lead with an intriguing backstory that is steadily revealed throughout the season. Mika, Yuzuki, Makoto, and Mitsumi’s aunt are also fully-developed characters.

8 Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – The Separation

MyAnimeList: 8.70

Renji Using His True Bankai Against Mask De Masculine In Bleach The Thousand-Year Blood War
Bleach: Thousand Year Blood War – Season 2

Japanese TitleBleach: Sennen Kessen-hen – Ketsubetsu-tan

StudioPierrot

Based OnManga

CreatorTite Kubo

Streaming Service(s)Hulu

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War has been nothing short of a resounding success. The anime returned in a big way in 2022, and that season’s 2023 sequel largely maintained the same standard, only losing some points due to lacking the excitement of its predecessor’s big return.

Focusing almost exclusively on action, The Separation has barely anything resembling a dull moment. Furthermore, Pierrot delivers some of its cleanest animation ever, ensuring each fight is a visual spectacle. The war between the Quincy Clan and the Soul Society still has a long way to go before reaching an end, and it has so far produced nothing but victories.

7 The Apothecary Diaries (Episodes 1–11)

MyAnimeList: 8.83

The Apothecary Diaries Episode 4 Lady Lihua Maomao Jinshi
The Apothecary Diaries Episode 4 Lady Lihua Maomao Jinshi
The Apothecary Diaries

Japanese TitleKusuriya no Hitorigoto

StudioOLM, TOHO animation STUDIO

Based OnLight Novel

CreatorNatsu Hyuuga

Set to continue into Winter 2024, The Apothecary Diaries made up for a late start by dropping three fantastic episodes simultaneously. Since then, the anime has barely set a foot wrong, and that should not change in the future considering the consistent quality of the source material.

Kidnapped and sold to the Royal Palace, Maomao wants to stay out of trouble and pay her debt to earn her freedom; unfortunately, her inquisitive nature and background in medicine compel her to get involved in a strange case involving two sick babies. Her actions attract the attention of a concubine, who quickly promotes Maomao and makes her the court’s unofficial investigator.

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The Apothecary Diaries has plenty of selling points – intriguing cases and a unique historical setting with fascinating internal politics, just to name two – but the anime is made by its protagonist. Maomao is intelligent, funny, realistic, and charmingly cynical. She is also proactive while also being acutely aware that a wrong move could lead her down a dangerous and dark path.

6 Oshi No Ko

MyAnimeList: 8.70

Oshi no Ko E8 Ai Akane
Oshi No Ko

StudioDoga Kobo

Based OnManga

CreatorAka Akasaka

Streaming Service(s)HIDIVE

Potentially the year’s most highly anticipated new show, Oshi No Ko was destined to be either one of the best anime of 2023 or one of the most disappointing. While an argument could be made that it did not completely live up to the hype, the fact the show came close at all speaks to its quality.

Launching with arguably the best opening episode of the year, Oshi No Ko sets up its story’s main driving force: Aqua wants to find the killer who murdered his (idol) mother. It is far more complicated than that (for instance, reincarnation is involved), but the show is framed as a murder mystery that follows Aqua as he infiltrates the entertainment industry in search of information. The anime uses this premise to shine a light on different facades of show business, highlighting both the passion and corruption that define every part of the industry.

While Aqua is entertaining, Oshi No Ko is at its best when focusing on other characters. Kana and Ruby’s efforts to start an idol group lead to many brilliant scenes, but the first season’s strongest episodes revolve around Akane, a highly talented actress who becomes the target of online bullying. This storyline produced one of the most distressing and uncomfortable episodes of the year, and it was followed up by an uplifting but still realistic chapter that was just as impressive. Oshi No Ko season 2 is confirmed to be on the way.

5 Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 (Episodes 1–21)

MyAnimeList: 8.86

jujutsu-kaisen-37-yuji-choso-standoff-2
Jujutsu Kaisen

StudioMAPPA

Based OnManga

CreatorGege Akutami

Following up a tremendous first season and prequel movie, Jujutsu Kaisen had all the potential in the world to craft a masterpiece, especially since season 2 adapts two of the manga’s best arcs. While most news regarding the shows’ production has not been particularly positive, the actual content has been consistently top-notch.

At this point, Jujutsu Kaisen is the standard-bearer for action sequences in shonen anime, even eclipsing Demon Slayer and Bleach‘s 2023 output. Following a short but eventful flashback story, season 2 dived into the Shibuya Arc, a saga that quickly removed the Jujutsu Sorcerers’ safety net and dropped the heroes deep into a conflict that goes well beyond their abilities. Each fight comes with high stakes and real consequences, all building toward an exhilarating final act. Admittedly, the show fell short in the characterization department, relying almost entirely on action; however, it is still fun.

4 Pluto

MyAnimeList: 8.54

Pluto Montblanc Brando Hercules During the War
Pluto

StudioStudio M2

Based OnManga

CreatorNaoki Urasawa

For the longest time, Naoki Urasawa’s Pluto seemed destined to remain unadapted, a fate that has befallen most of the mangaka’s works. However, in 2023, that all changed with the release of Netflix’s 8-part ONA series, an adaptation that more than does justice to the source material.

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A thoughtful sci-fi drama revolving around a serial killer targeting powerful robots and also humans, Pluto uses its core murder mystery to tackle themes dealing with identity and prejudice, among other subjects. While the main narrative is engaging, the anime’s smaller-scale personal stories are far more memorable. Viewers get to know the victims and the detectives assigned to the case, all of whom are shaped by their designs, limitations, regrets, and commitments.

3 Bungo Stray Dogs Seasons 4 & 5

MyAnimeList: 8.45 (Season 4)

fukuchi-fukuzawa-bungo-stray-dogs
Bungo Stray Dogs

Japanese TitleBungou Stray Dogs

StudioBones

Based OnManga

CreatorKafka Asagiri

While not quite as well known as the most popular battle shonen stories, Bungo Stray Dogs has quietly become a fixture of the industry in the last few years. Although never terrible, the series started on a fairly forgettable note; however, every new season has been better than the last, culminating in 2023’s excellent two-parter.

The Armed Detective Agency is framed for a horrific assassination, turning the public and government against them. Constantly finding themselves on the back foot, the heroes have to outthink rather than outpunch their enemies, a situation that pushes the show’s most interesting characters, Ranpo and (eventually) Dazai, to the forefront.

An intense roller coaster ride that balances a massive roster of characters and believably presents a global threat, Bungo Stray Dogs seasons 4 and 5 are masterclasses in suspense. While the action is stellar throughout, these seasons are driven entirely by mental chess matches that are constantly unpredictable.

2 Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End (Episodes 1–15)

MyAnimeList: 9.14

featured frieren: beyond journey's end part 2 release date
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End

Japanese TitleSousou no Frieren

StudioMadhouse

Based OnManga

CreatorKanehito Yamada

Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End is Madhouse’s best anime in a long time, and it might very well go down as the decorated studio’s crowning achievement when everything is said and done. Decades after defeating the Demon King, the hero party’s elf, Frieren, decides to retrace their legendary journey with a few new faces. Due to her long life and stoic nature, Frieren tends to struggle to fully connect with humans, which was the case with her former party. Now, she wishes to make amends while remnants of their adventure remain, all the while journeying toward a mysterious place simply known as “Heaven.”

Frieren has everything. The main characters are not only lovable but also multi-layered, stemming from long histories that have shaped their identities. Although it takes place in a relatively typical fantasy universe, the setting is elevated by subtle world-building that often emphasizes the passage of time. While not an action anime, Frieren‘s fight sequences are all outstanding. While not a comedy, the anime is responsible for some of the biggest laughs of 2023. Melancholic but also hopeful, Frieren demonstrates life’s complexity and beauty.

1 Vinland Saga Season 2

MyAnimeList: 8.81

vinland saga 2 thorfinn and einar
Vinland Saga

StudioWit Studio, MAPPA

Based OnManga

CreatorMakoto Yukimura

Streaming Service(s)Amazon Prime Video , Crunchyroll , HIDIVE

Vinland Saga not only had to succeed one of the best seasons of all time, but it also had to do so with a storyline that directly opposes its predecessor. Set years after Askeladd’s death and Canute’s rise to the throne, Thorfinn is now a slave working on a farm. Haunted by the many, many people he killed in his quest for revenge, the once one-note protagonist is a broken shell of a man who has all but given up on life; however, his mentality begins to change when he befriends another slave, Einar.

Vinland Saga season 2 chronicles the start of Thorfinn’s journey toward redemption and peace, a goal that is near impossible to achieve in a world defined by violence and death. Considerably more slow-moving than the original season, the sequel tells a contemplative story that dives deep into its characters’ psychologies, and that goes beyond just Thorfinn. Haunted by the past and burdened by the road ahead, King Canute has come to believe that a better future can only be built on the corpses of many, although he wishes to be proven wrong. Einar complements Thorfinn’s extremely well, and their blossoming friendship injects a touch of warmth into a cold and isolating world. Then, there is Arnheid’s tragic story, which will stick in the minds of viewers for a long time.

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