Finally, winter is over and spring has sprung. Too bad most of us can’t go out to enjoy it on account of the pandemic… On the bright side, we’ll have more time (or a better excuse!) to watch even more anime!
The 2020 Winter season was full of unexpected hits, trippy visuals, tons of animals, and left us thinking more often than not. It’s hard to watch everything that airs each season and to stay up to date with the anime charts and what each series is doing so consider this your Winter 2020 digest! We’ll go over the trends we noticed, sleeper hits, and the cheers and jeers in the most popular genres. Join us for a quick overview of the Winter 2020 season!
Animals Everywhere - The most noticeable trend of the season was kemonomimi and animal anime. The furry trend signaled—or started?—by BEASTARS really took off this season. Murenase! Seton Gakuen took the school animals theme but went the lighthearted comedy route and did so splendidly also including educational bits about animals. Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasen ka? and Nekopara went the kawaii iyashikei route and gave us adorable antropomorphic kitties and dogs as well as cute catgirls doing cute cat things respectively to relax at the end of the day. Though Nekopara raises some questions when looked at closely—check out the article on that below! And finally, Sanrio brought us a new installment of their super-cute music anime with Show By Rock!! Mashumairesh!! which took us on a sweet—thoguh very familiar—journey with our new bandmates.
Strong Women - Something that may have been a bit less noticeable than animals but certainly made itself known was the presence of strong female characters. From the headstrong and creative high school girls in Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! who won’t take no for an answer to Noi, the muscle-bound, powerful magic using cleaner in Dorohedoro, anime in Winter 2020 put women in charge and they took no prisoners. Unless they kinda had a thing for them… I’m looking at you Shuka (Darwin’s Game) and Kotoko (In/Spectre)! We also saw Maple and Sally rise to the top in NWO by just playing their own way no matter how weird others think they are. And the beautiful and dedicated girls in Runway de Waratte and 22/7 gave it their all for their dreams. Don’t mess with these ladies.
Social Themes - There was a lot of socail commentary this season. The Case Files of Jeweler Richard dealt with old stigmas like being a single mother or a lesbain and how they still affect people in certain countries and societies among other things. Even comedy shows like Seton Academy: Join the Pack! tackled topics like discrimination and closed-mindedness, bullying, LGBTQ characters figuring themselves out, acceptance, and most importantly, how no matter how different we are, in the end we’re all the same. The dark side of humanity was also explored, however; Pet showed how connectedness can affect our psyches and personalities and how given the power to, those with bad intentions could wreck havoc; ID:INVADED gave us a tour into the literally twisted minds of murderers while giving us a silver lining; and In/Spectre and Darwin’s Game showed us the power of the internet and technology and, again, how connected we are as a society and what influence that has in our realities, albeit with a supernatural/sci-fi twist respectively.
And then Dorohedoro gave us a look into a dark, grimmy world where those at the top take advantage of the ones at the bottom—imagine that!—and what it looks like when those from the bottom rise up. Whether positive or negative, these titles all took a good look at the world and got us all thinking. Interestingly enough, Dorohedoro might seem very relevant right now, but its source actually began 20 years ago!
The Visuals! - Boy was Winter 2020 a memorable season to behold! We had a combination of new and unique art and animation styles and trippy borderline psychedelic arrangements. As far as new and unique styles we had the gorgeous animated manga Toilet-bound Hanako-kun with a warm but dark palette and beautifully drawn moving panels that are unlike any other anime this season. Eizouken also has a unique style going for gender-neutral, rough-looking designs and sudden bursts into imagination-land, evoking things like space and mechs.
And then there are the trippy scenes. Many of the anime we’ve already mentioned fall under the psychological category so they lend themselves well to abstract scenes and locations like the trips into the peaks and valleys of the mind in Pet where we see people’s memories literally crumble, people turning into water and fish; or the minds of different murderers in ID:INVADED—a world broken into pieces, a tower where everyone is getting snipped, or a storm of the mind. But above it all, for both unique art style and overall WTF trippy nature, Dorohedoro brought it all with a very detailed dark, twisted world of magic with demons and mages, and other creatures Tim Burton would love to hang out with. It’s just imposible to look away from the designs, the environments, the details in each character and scene, the gallons of blood… Winter 2020 was quite a sight.
Perhaps precisely because of their unique nature, there were series that some weren’t expecting much from and ended up being season favorites! And in fact, we’ve been talking about some of them already! Toilet-bound Hanako-kun was one such anime we didn’t expect to be that good (perhaps the title was a turn-off?) but it surprised all of us with its charming characters and adorably spooky plot. Dorohedoro is based on an old manga, the art is very dark and rough-looking, and it has a big lizard right up front which may turn some potential viewers away but once you are in its world, it’s impossible to leave without wanting to know more about its mysteries and odd characters.
We were even surprised by slice of life dramas Runway de Waratte and Housekishou Richard-shi no Nazo Kantei which had beautiful art and life lessons, both bringin in a bit of mystery throughout. And 22/7 surprised us by fleshing out each and every character, giving the whole series more depth than the usual idol anime. It’s always good to give new things a try! You never know what jewel you may find.
Comedy - The comedy genre brought us mature themes in jewels like Science Fell In Love So I Tried to Prove It where two college science students try to scientifically quantify love which was surprisingly funny. Dorohedoro, which thrives in its use of gallows humor (check out our article about that below!); and the controversial Interspecies Reviewers which is just absolutely sideplitting—given you are 18+, of course.
On the lighter side, If My Favorite Pop Idol Made It to the Budokan, I Would Die was a refreshing look at idol-themed anime as we follow not only the idols but their unhealthily obssessive adult fans and hilarity ensues. Eizouken is also a good comedy, though much more lighthearted than the ones previously mentioned, this one is good to relax to.
Action - Yes, video game and isekai anime are still a thing for some reason. We got lucky and BOFURI redeemed the genre by mixing an OP gamer waifu with girl power and very well-timed comedy! Which cannot be said for Infinite Dendrogram which felt a bit like another SAO wannabe with its “in-game death is real death” theme. The action winners would have to be Dorohedoro, Darwin’s Game, and In/Spectre, coincidentally all with mysterious, dark plots that somehow involve magic or some supernatural thing going on. Plunderer turned out to be little more than a trope-filled fanservice fest and Orphen had a following mostly because fans of the original were waiting for it. Unfortunately, even fans were less than impressed.
Sci-Fi - Games ruled the sci-fi world this season with BOFURI—taking the SAO route and making it hilarious and cute—Darwin’s Game and its AR battle royale premise and beautiful art style and animation; and ID:INVADED was more about games of the mind as detectives jump into murderers’ heads to solve mysteries.
Slice of Life - Somali and the Forest Spirit was a clear winner in the slice of life genre by perfectly balancing fantasy and beautiful art with deep, dark topics to pull us into its moving story. And on non-fantasy side, Runway de Waratte took it home with an anime about modeling that is more reminiscent of a sports anime than a josei—it is a shonen after all!
Of the returning titles, some were long-awaited and celebrated while others let their fans wishing for more. Haikyuu!! TO THE TOP, Chihayafuru 3, and My Hero Academia 4th Season were complete hits and kept up their momentum and none of them seem to be nearing the end. Heya Camp was great for fans but left a bit to be desired because of its short runtime of 3 minutes, and long-awaited A Certain Scientific Railgun T filled fans’ hearts with its beautiful art and focus on old favorite characters. Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story, however, didn’t have the same fate and instead left a lot of fans down by sticking too much to its mobile game gimmick.
Winter 2020 felt like a grown-up season somehow. Lots of good Seinen and Psychological anime and good Iyashikei that take real, daily-life things and make them adorable for us to relax to. It’s always refreshing to see creators push the envelope in their art and animation styles, and the same goes for controversial and social topics that are relevant in our world today.
It’s exciting to see how our favorite medium changes each season. The images become more vibrant, more imaginative, the stories more interesting, the plots more relevant, and the characters more relatable. Here’s hoping for a great Spring 2020 anime season! Especially since we have so much time on our hads at the moment… How did the Winter 2020 season treat you? Share your thoughts below!