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The best anime of 2020 on Netflix, Crunchyroll and more streamers

Dorohedoro
(Image credit: Netflix)

2020 was a difficult year, but entertainment stayed with us through thick and thin. Even though many anime productions were temporarily halted, it was a good year for fans, with exciting new productions and old favorites making a triumphant return. 

This is the ultimate list of 2020 anime you shouldn’t miss, whether it’s the new season of a popular series or a completely new show proving that somehow, studios and artists still come up with fresh ideas. We’ve featured a wide variety of genres, too, so there’s something for everyone, no matter your tastes. All of these series are available to stream, so if a particular show tickles your fancy, we'll let you know how you can watch it.

Keep your hands off Eizouken!

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

Science Saru’s anime about three girls who want to make their own anime is surprising in many ways, one of them being how little anime-making is actually involved. Protagonist Midori Asakusa is a girl who just can’t sit still, and her hyperactive personality and imagination drive this show about starting a passion project and following through all the way.

Eizouken is breezy, weird and just runs with any weird plot twist without asking questions, to fun results. The sequences in which Asakusa and her friends imagine their creations and enter dreamworlds of their own making are inspiring, wonderfully animated and a great way of visualizing true creativity – if Eizouken doesn’t make you want to start a new project, we don’t know what else will.

Dorohedoro

Watch it on: Netflix

This is a story really only anime can not get away with, but also pull off well. Caiman is half man, half reptilian – as if that wasn’t strange enough, he ended up in this predicament due to being experimented on by black magicians who entered his dimension looking for test subjects. Since he would understandably like to have his human appearance back, Caiman starts hunting for magicians with the help of his friend Nikaido.

This simple but offbeat premise is executed with aplomb - Dorohedoro is brutal at times, funny, and judging by its many references, it was made by someone with a genuine love for all kinds of anime. It also features one of the best representations of villains and their motivations in years.

The God of High School

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

From its very first minutes, the God of Highschool is dizzying – there’s shouting, a chase, slapstick comedy and just sheer speed, and the show doesn’t really calm down from there. That’s good, because the craft behind this webtoon-turned-Crunchyroll exclusive, especially when it comes to animation, elevates it above what’s otherwise little more than a standard shonen anime. Like Dorohedoro, this is the work of studio MAPPA, once again showing off their chops, but the studio is about the only thing these two shows have in common.

In The God Of High School, several contestants come together in an arena to participate in a last man standing tournament – the winner gets to ask for anything they desire. There is eventually more to the story than just the tournament, but it’s really the exciting fights that keep you watching.

Deca-Dence

Watch it on: Funimation

From the director of Mob Psycho 100 and the studio behind the recent FLCL sequel comes Deca-Dence, an anime with a seriously interesting setting. 90% of humanity lost their lives with the appearance of the Gadoll, an eclectic mix of monsters of all shapes and sizes. The rest moved into the walking fortress Deca-Dence, which roams earth like Howl’s Moving Castle. Protagonist Natsume lost one of her arms in a Gadoll attack, but still wants to become a member of Deca-Dence’s elite fighting squad in order to protect her home.

Beyond the slowly developing bond between Natsume and her dour superior Kaburagi, this show’s charm is difficult to explain without giving too much away. It features a large, unforeseen plot twist that takes things into an entirely different direction, offering more than one interesting setting to explore. Beyond that, fights with the Gadoll are exciting, but Deca-Dence also takes the time to highlight the real human cost of every fight you see.

Jujutsu Kaisen

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

High schooler Yuuji Itadori has a pretty good life: he’s well-liked, amazing at sports, and he spends his afternoons hanging out with his friends at the Occult Studies club. All goes well until one day, a curse haunts his school, taking the shape of a demon looking for a powerful cursed artifact. In order to face the curse and save his friends, Yuuji makes the decision to become cursed, and from then on he not only takes on various demons, but also the cursed entity within himself.

Jujutsu Kaisen is another big shonen anime of the year, meaning that it’s mostly about an idealistic hero fighting others for the common good. It’s a theme that never gets old, certainly not if it looks as good as this. The animations are amazing, thanks, once again, to Studio MAPPA’s great work. The supernatural element of curses and the resulting horror is reminiscent of great anime such as Parasyte, and in between all the action, there is still enough time for Yuuji’s humanity to shine through. Overall, Jujutsu Kaisen makes another great addition to anime’s most popular genre.

Haikyuu: To the Top! season 4

Watch it on: Crunchyroll, Funimation

Sometimes all you need is to see your beloved characters return to screen. It’s been four years since Haikyuu’s last season, but it really feels as if the Karasuno volleyball team has never really been away. The new art style introduced with this fourth season is closer to the original manga, and may take some time getting used to, but the rest of the show really feels as familiar as ever.

Hinata, Kageyama, and the rest of the team have made it to the nationals, so more thrilling volleyball matches await – if you’re looking for a series that exemplifies the unwavering belief in others and pure fighting spirit, you will be taken with Haikyuu: to the Top, both as a long-time fan or new adopter.

Tower of God

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

The second Crunchyroll original of 2020 is another adaptation of a Korean webtoon, but Tower of God couldn’t be more different from The God of High School. The premise is quickly told – a boy called Bam enters a mysterious tower, a tower said to grant any wish to the person who makes it all the way to the top. Bam’s friend Rachel went up, and his sincere wish to reunite with her made it possible for him to follow her. Now he has to overcome a variety of tests (read: mostly battles) to have a chance to reunite with Rachel.

Tower of God is more enjoyable if you know the original manhwa it’s based on, mostly because the series doesn’t have much time for worldbuilding. In its execution, it’s similar to popular anime like Demon Slayer, where a hero overcomes any trial with just the strength of his conviction, but there is an almost fairytale-esque quality to Tower of God’s story that makes it worth watching.

Golden Kamuy season 3

Watch it on: Funimation, Crunchyroll

The story of Golden Kamuy is intricate and believable enough to sound real. As if that weren’t rare enough for an anime, it’s also pretty difficult to assign a genre to the show: despite the visuals suggesting a JoJo-like action anime, this is actually a story about the Ainu, the original inhabitants of northern Japan.

Through what’s ostensibly the story about a race for a large gold treasure, you will learn a lot about the Ainu, their customs, and their treatment at the hands of the Japanese, which makes Golden Kamuy not only one of a kind, but an important, educational piece of work.

Somali and the Forest Spirit

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

It will likely only take you one look to become enchanted with Somali’s wondrous world, where you can encounter everything from ghosts to anthropomorphic animals. The star of the show, however, is undoubtedly little Somali, a girl abandoned in the forest who mistakes a forest golem for her father. The golem in turn decides to return her to the last remaining humans of this world.

It’s lovely to see not only how much Somali and her new dad come to care for each other, but also how many wondrous creatures they encounter, and what their motivations and place in the world are. This is simply the kind of thoughtful, heart-warming anime we all needed in a year like this, and it’s beautifully crafted to boot.

Tonikaku Kawaii (TONIKAWA: Over the moon for you)

Watch it on: Crunchyroll

If you’re looking for a great romance anime in 2020 and you’ve already watched all of Kaguya-sama, Tonikaku Kawaii is for you. Nasa Yuzaki is a very smart young man, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that he agrees to marry Tsukasa after just having met her. Once they’re married, there’s just that pesky getting to know each other part, and the lingering awkwardness around suddenly having a partner.

Is Tonikaku an absolutely unashamed trope-fest? Yes? Is it pretty goofy? Absolutely. But it’s always sweet, earnest, and it’s actually a pretty accurate representation of what some relationship milestones usually look like, complete without the by now pretty annoying and dated fanservice.

Great Pretender

Watch it on: Netflix

Many have tried, but Great Pretender may actually have done the trick of delivering a worthy Cowboy Bebop alternative. From the jazzy soundtrack to its eye-popping colors, a lot of this Netflix anime exudes a certain breathless energy, but it’s more than a comedy featuring charismatic anti-heroes.

This story of three grifters feels like peeking behind the curtain of a meticulously planned magic trick, detailed enough in showing how they set up a con that it feels unexpectedly real sometimes. It even has something over Cowboy Bebop – episodes are genuinely connected, allowing you to get to know the protagonists and their motivations over time.

Beastars

Watch it on: Netflix

Series with anthropomorphic animals do get a bad rap as something unduly weird, but Beastars might just be the show to do away with this sort of prejudice. This is the story of Legoshi, a shy wolf going to school with both herbivore and carnivore classmates. There he meets Haru, a white dwarf rabbit, who is shunned for being too promiscuous. Legoshi feels drawn to Haru, but there’s just the one question – is it love, or are his predator instincts at work?

The interesting thing about Beastars is really that it doesn’t feel like a series about animals, and more like a story about humans who try to deal with their animalistic traits in a way that allows them to live peacefully. Several characters want to be seen as more than their animalistic instincts, others see their race as the defining trait they need to live up to. This way, Beastars is a surprisingly deep exploration of what makes us who we are.

BnA

Watch it on: Netflix

From a Studio Trigger anime you can usually expect bright colors and fast-paced action, and BNA is no exception. Michiru Kagemori belongs to a race of anthropomorphic humans called beastmen. Shunned by humans, beastmen had to give up on coexistence and instead established a district called Anima City where they can live in peace amongst themselves. Michiru, a racoon, is a special case – she turned from a human into a beastman, and thus offers a unique perspective on the fighting that still continues between both races.

A no-brainer for fans of series featuring anthropomorphic characters, BNA is interesting because it investigates the tension between races from several perspectives, including that of beastmen who have never seen humans before. Apart from introducing a whole host of whacky characters, BNA of course eventually moves to the great mystery at its core – how did Michiru turn into an animal, and is turning back even worth it?

ID: Invaded

Watch it on: Funimation

A good year wouldn’t be complete without an anime offering a good dose of psychological mystery and futuristic gadgetry. ID: Invaded is that anime, reminiscent of Psycho-Pass in that it gives a future police force a new tool to fight criminals with. By entering a the mind of some of the worst criminals imaginable, Akihito Narihisago, himself a criminal, can deduce their location and motivations.

Admittedly, it’s mostly technobabble at first, but the unique idea behind the show and the slowly unravelling overarching mystery will glue you to ID:Invaded until the end.

Kakushigoto: My Dad’s Secret Ambition

Watch it on: Funimation

Anime often focus on outstanding heroes or teenage protagonists or a mix of both. Not Kakushigoto. Instead, this anime delves into a father’s paranoia-riddled mind. Since Kakushi Goto’s wife died during childbirth, he’s been absolutely devoted to being the best dad to his daughter Hime. But for understandable reasons, he needs to hide his job as a erotica manga artist from Hime.

The fact that he has to work and can’t check up on Hime, who’s curious by nature, also causes Kakushi (his name literally translates to ‘secret’) continuous anguish: he both has to try and keep her from finding out his secret, an keep her safe from the many dangers of modern life – in both respects, kakushi turns out to be less successful, to both comedic and sometimes unexpectedly sad effect.

Appare-Ranman!

Watch it on: Funimation

Temporarily cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Appare-Ranman took a break just when it was about to get interesting, and this may be the reason a lot of people simply missed out on it altogether. 

That's a great shame, because this anime boasts a great premise – two men enter into a fictional trans-American race taking place during Japan’s Meiji era. Appare’s two main characters, eccentric genius Appare and obedient samurai Kosame go about as well together as oil and water, and yet various circumstances make them take part in the race together.

Before Appare-Ranman paused over the spring, its episodes had focused almost entirely on backstory – how Appare and Kosame met, why they decided to enter the race – but the best part of the show is seeing the oddball duo travel across America. If you like hilarious hijinks and protagonists completely at odds with each other, this is certainly the anime for you, but the idea of setting such a race in the Meiji era also makes Appare-Ranman stand out from the crowd.