The best action anime of 2022 so far

Anime has become much more mainstream in recent years, but 2022 in particular is still a worthy highlight for the genre as a whole. In addition to nearly every major streaming service under the sun packing their respective catalogs of beloved series, the year has already seen several new releases in both the movie and TV space.

While the older demographic has its share of notable entries, shounen anime has dominated the mainstream. On the theatrical front, like Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero have continued the upward trend of the genre’s growing influence in Western box offices, as series like Attack on Titan and Spy x Family have collectively proven that they are TV sensations in their own right.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0

Animation studio MAPPA probably found its flagship in the form of: Jujutsu Kaisen, as the first season of the TV series has already been highly acclaimed. A mix of traditional shounen tropes with exciting animated action, modern dark fantasy and horror, Jujutsu Kaisen effectively makes the normally tired genre conventions exciting again.

The anime film adaptation of writer Gege Akutami’s prequel, Jujutsu Kaisen, is expected to ride that wave of success. Echoing the emotional story of protagonist Yuta and overcoming his childhood guilt, the film impressively executes a true coming-of-age story with almost wall-to-wall action.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 will be available to stream September 21 on Crunchyroll.

Attack on Titan Season 4

Eren Yeager in key art for Attack on Titan season 4.

Hajime Isayama’s anime adaptation Attack on Titan was something of an anime revolution when the first season premiered in 2013. It propelled itself — and the genre in general — to new heights in Western markets, with the series becoming the first series of many anime newcomers. The final season has lasted longer than expected – with another part set to resume next year – but this dark fantasy epic continues to ensnare audiences around the world.

What started as young Eren Yeager seeking revenge on the Titans who murdered and ate his mother has turned into a rabbit hole of mysteries, ancient lore, gory action and political intrigue that, on paper at least, are the things glued together. Game of Thrones fans on their TV for almost a decade.

All seasons of Attack on Titan so far are now available to stream on Crunchyroll, Hulu, Funimation and in a more limited capacity, Netflix.

Demon Slayer Season 2

The Sound Hashira in Demon Slayer key art with a collage of the cast.

demon slayer surged in popularity when the anime adaptation of Koyoharu Gotouge’s manga debuted in 2019, and even more so after 2020/21’s Mugen train movie. Story wise, it’s a pretty typical and safe shounen series, but what elevates it in the anime format is Ufotable’s stunning animation and overall art direction. The way each battle is rendered as a striking visual spectacle is nothing short of masterful.

It’s not every day that a series has individual episodes that reverberate throughout the anime community as a whole (Season 1, Episode 19 and Season 2, Episode 10), making Tanjiro and the company’s adventures engaging and fun. Season 2 came on the heels of Mugen train‘s acclaim, sending Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke with the Sound Hashira to investigate the disappearance of the latter’s secret ninjas after investigating demonic activity in a Tokyo entertainment district.

Both seasons of demon slayer and Mugen train are available to stream on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu, with season 1 only on Netflix.

Spy x Family

Yor, Anya and Loid Forger celebrate with confetti in Spy x Family.

While it’s certainly not one of the most action-oriented shounen anime series out there, the Wit Studio and CloverWorks joint venture in adapting Tatsuya Endo’s Spy x Family has proven to be a viral hit. For fans reading the manga since 2019, the sentiment has always been that the writing on the wall said an adaptation was inevitable and so far it has brilliantly captured the upbeat and heartwarming atmosphere of the source material.

The story follows Agent Twilight as he is tasked with a highly sensitive diplomatic mission to prevent the outbreak of war, but he must overcome his greatest challenge yet: being a family man. Lovingly mixing the aesthetics of the 60s and 70s with the modern age, Spy x Family avoids the over-the-top cheesy tropes of stereotypical sitcoms, while also being influenced by them, to tell a tasteful and heartfelt story of found family and anti-war sentiments. Interspersed with clever comedy, a sympathetic main cast and some spy thriller action, it’s a series that seems to be destined for the long haul.

Spy x Family is now available to stream on Crunchyroll, Hulu and Netflix, with the second part of Season 1 airing in October.

A piece

Key art for One Piece featuring the cast of the Straw Hat Pirates crew,

The last remaining series from the Shonen Jump era of the “Big Three” – and arguably the one with the most consistently high quality – Eiichiro Oda’s pirate series A piece is still going strong in both the manga and anime arenas 25 years later. The series started with young Monkey D. Luffy following in the footsteps of Redhead Shanks to become the world’s greatest pirate, and it has since grown into a sprawling and colorful odyssey.

During its long run, A piece has been praised for its rewarding storylines, iconic cast of characters, extensive knowledge and excruciatingly detailed world construction. The anime adaptation has a whopping 1,031 episodes to its name, and a highly anticipated movie coming this fall in the form of One Piece Film: Red.

A piece is now available to stream on Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, and Netflix. In the meantime, Movie: Red will hit theaters across the West in October.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

Promo still of Piccolo and Gohan battling Gamma 1 and 2 in Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero.

People like Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball franchise sowed the seeds of the international mainstream hit from which the anime genre would eventually grow. It’s one of those series that the uninitiated will instantly recognize, purely by association, and given the success of the 2018 film Brolythere was also to be a sequel. Dragon Ball Super: Super Herolike much of the franchise in general, isn’t a deep piece of media (nor does it pretend to be), but fans like to know what they’re signing up for: high-octane visual spectacles, slick character designs, and colorful new forms.

superhero finally gave a deserved share of the spotlight to fan-favorite characters Gohan and Piccolo by making them the outright leading stars. It delivers all the action fans would hope to see, and it also serves as an impressive showcase of what CG animation can achieve when handled properly.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero now in theaters and will eventually stream on Crunchyroll.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean

Jolyne and the rest of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: the main cast of Stone Ocean.

Hirohiko Araki’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure more than lives up to its name, with the manga gaining a well-deserved reputation in anime form thanks to studio David Productions’ consistently great adaptations. The series is delightfully ridiculous in premise, action and irresistible sense of style as it follows the generational battles between the Joestar family and various prophetic evils.

The concept of Stands – alien spiritual entities used as combatants – has transcended its own source material in other works such as Atlus’ famous Persona video games. And to no one’s surprise, the last season, Stone Ocean, has been excellently brought to life so far. The stylish prison-breaking exploits of Jolyne Cujoh and the company were exciting as the second part of the season recently dropped.

All seasons of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure are now available to stream on Netflix and in more limited capacities on Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, Peacock, and Amazon Prime Video.

Ranking of Kings

Ranking of King's anime key art featuring Bojji and the shadow creature Kage.

It’s another case of an action anime that puts more emphasis on emotion than the first, but Sōsuke Tōka’s Ranking of Kings and Wit Studio’s anime adaptation is arguably one of the most emotionally profound shounen to date. this coming-of-age story is on a level of authentic intimacy, along with that of Mob Psycho 100 — which will also see its third and final season premiere this fall.

This time, however, it is set in an imaginative world with the young protagonist Bojji, who is both deaf and dumb, fighting to persevere and see the bright side of life despite being looked down upon by the audience as part of the royal line of succession. The fantasy quest of Bojji and his best friend Kage is one of the most satisfying, rewarding and heartfelt new anime out there.

Ranking of Kings is now available to stream on Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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