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New anime that'll blow you away in 2020

2019 was a good year for anime fans worldwide. One-Punch Man returned with a second season full of spectacle and sass, Dr. Stone set out across a post-apocalyptic landscape as hilarious as it is horrifying, and Demon Slayer made us all fall in love with a fanged fourth-grader. We laughed, we cried, we sympathized with Aggretsuko's desire to marry her way out of mundane middle management. Most notably, the continued reign of streaming services saw us watching more anime than ever before, a trend that shows absolutely no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Good thing, too, as 2020 brings with it a bumper crop of anime goodness fans across the world will love. Are you ready for a series about historical warlords in the bodies of modern Tokyo lapdogs? How about the story of a girl who realizes she's the villain in a romance-minded video game? Join us as we explore the anime set to blow up in 2020, from dragon-hunting airship crews to wannabe runway models.

Uzumaki

Junji Ito is horror manga's undisputed king, from infamously viral short works like The Enigma of Amigara Fault to longform tales of undead seductresses like the 15-chaptered Tomie. If anything from his vast library of work can be considered his magnum opus, however, it is Uzumaki: the slow, sordid chronicle of one small town's descent into madness, it encompasses everything from cannibalistic body horror to isolation-induced psychosis. Ito's always had a gift for balancing absurdism with horror, but Uzumaki takes it further than ever before — reader, you will believe snails, lighthouses, and wooden bathtubs can be just as terrifying as rotting zombies.

Uzumaki has been adapted before, most notably as a series of video games and a 2000 live-action movie. Nothing, however, has managed to equal its source material in sheer intensity — until now. In partnership with Adult Swim, Production I.G. has produced a four-episode adaptation that will air concurrently in Japan and the United States. Ito's densely-inked style is a massive challenge to animate — 2018's lackluster Junji Ito Collection exemplifies this — but teaser trailers reveal uniquely detailed visuals that should intrigue newbies and seasoned fans alike. Just make sure you watch this one with the lights on.

Evangelion: 3.0+1.0

It might have taken five years longer than expected — though who can blame Hideaki Anno for putting everything aside to work on Godzilla — but at last, the finale of the Rebuild of Evangelion series has a premiere date. These films have always been unique: Though they're most widely known as a retelling of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series, they've grown steadily different from the source material with each installment. Entirely new characters like Mari Illustrious Makinami have taken center stage, wild card Kaworu Nagisa was woven into the narrative far earlier than in the original series, and a completely different ending is promised to close out the series.

Evangelion has been a juggernaut for decades, of course, making 3.0+1.0 a sure thing in terms of popularity — but the Rebuild films have never been content to rest on their laurels. If the previous films are anything to go by, 3.0+1.0 will be an innovative invocation of everything that makes Evangelion the touchstone it is, from dazzling animation to a clear-eyed look at what trauma on the precipice of adulthood. What little has been revealed of the film promises a breathtaking example of why anime matters — and why Evangelion won't be fading into fandom memory any time soon.

Drifting Dragons

Dragons are one of the few things that truly unite people worldwide. Despite our differences, our legends, movies, and anime agree: they're just really, really cool. We tell stories about people riding them, slaying them, learning from them, and hatching them. What else brings together media as disparate as adult drama Game of Thrones, all-ages fantasy The Dragon Prince, and gentle-hearted rom-com Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid? They're big, they fly, they shoot fire — truly, what's not to love?

Drifting Dragons continues this tradition with a twist — dragon-hunting for food. Centering the experiences of the crew of the Quin Zaza, a massive "draking" airship dedicated to taking down these behemoths of the skies, the anime will be something of a cross between Cowboy Bebop and Attack on Titan. The crew, a ragtag bunch from all walks of life, live from hunt to hunt, using all their ingenuity to conquer beasts hundreds of times their size and ensure full bellies and coffers. The anime's use of CG promises to retain the lush detail of the manga while providing its own spin on the Quin Zaza's cloud-dappled world — early footage is positively sweeping. By air or on land, Drifting Dragons is ready to impress with a whole new type of dragon-slaying.

My Next Life as a Villainess

Isekai (or "different world") anime has dominated the scene for years now with its tales of everyday people dropped into fantasy worlds. Sometimes they're reincarnated as low-level slimes, sometimes they're allowed to bring their smartphone, and sometimes they're simply stranded, with no memories, allies, or particularly special powers. One thing unites them all: making escapism totally literal.

My Next Life as a Villainess follows this formula... for the most part. Upon sustaining a head injury, our heroine realizes that she, Duchess Katarina Claes, was once a high school girl obsessed with the game Fortune Lover, in which she now resides. Even more shockingly, she remembers that Katarina is rival to the player character for the prince's affections, and thus the bad guy. Like most isekai, My Next Life is all about the wonder and strangeness of a different world — but this one is more obstacle course than playground. What ensues is a delightfully wry look at a well-worn genre with as much humor as it has heart. Viewers are sure to fall in love with Katarina, whose dogged determination to survive in a world built to destroy her yields fascinating plot twists and genuine emotion. She might be the bad guy, and she might know that better than any of the characters who surround her, but that doesn't mean she can't become a hero in her own right.

Smile at the Runway

Fashion has long proved to be a fertile source of subject matter for anime. Samurai Flamenco follows the adventures of a part-time model, Paradise Kiss takes a look at the struggling beginnings of a career in fashion design, and Kill la Kill imagines clothing as control. This makes sense, as the building blocks of haute couture – dramatic physicality, bold declarations of self, flamboyant aesthetics — are, really, the stuff anime dreams are made of.

Smile at the Runway is set to continue this proud tradition with DIY flair. Chiyuki, born into a family already embedded in the fashion industry, has dreamed of becoming a model for years. Unfortunately, adolescence only saw her grow to 5'2" — far too short to walk the runway at even the most obscure Fashion Week. Then she discovers Ikuto, a shy classmate, has a tremendous talent for fashion design he has no idea how to explore. Together, they decide to take on the world of fashion despite their various handicaps and manage to find that what's held them back might actually be assets in disguise. Smile at the Runway's whole-hearted love of the arts promises to impress — especially when explored through such dauntless, lovable characters as Chiyuki and Ikuto. They might be short, shy, and underfunded, but as Coco Chanel once said, success is most often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable.

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045

What a long, strange trip it's been for Masamune Shirow's landmark science fiction manga. It's been adapted into several award-winning anime series, influenced art as culture-conquering as The Matrix, been made into a variety of video games, and most recently, transformed into a live-action feature starring Scarlett Johansson. Yet even now, the well of inspiration Major Kusanagi and her sleek, sleazy world provides has not run dry. 2020 will see the premiere of yet another Ghost in the Shell adaptation, this one subtitled SAC_2045, and it promises to be another take on the story well worth watching.

Uniquely, SAC_2045 will use CGI animation of a style rarely employed in anime. The trailer, released by Netflix in October, reveals a look at the series that is as brief as it is breathtaking: Major Kusanagi, rendered in three dimensions, appreciating the quiet of a desolate landscape. Though the visuals are a departure from Ghost in the Shell's long adaptational history, they make immediate sense: What better series to use techniques that blur the line between man and machine than the one centered around androids and artificial intelligence? SAC_2045 looks to be a groundbreaking blend between an anime standby and new frontiers in animation — exactly what a story set on the bleeding edge of progress should be.

Hands Off the Motion Pictures Club!

Art about art tends to be a gamble. On one hand, you can end up with something ponderous and navel-gazing. On the other hand, sometimes what results is a heartfelt tribute to human expression. Hands Off the Motion Pictures Club! Aims for the latter result — and if promotional material is anything to go by, it's going to get there.

The titular club consists of three high school girls looking to make their mark on the world of animation. These aren't the doe-eyed maidens of K-On!, however — the members of the Motion Pictures Club are bona fide weirdos who like army surplus equipment and obscure animation trivia. Director Masaaki Yuasa, the visionary behind Ping Pong and Devilman Crybaby, isn't just the perfect choice to adapt the oddball manga — he might just be the only person who could truly do it justice. Our heroes inhabit a world that shifts from the mundane to the magical as they explore their imaginations, city streets by their high school rendered as fantastically as the rocket launches they are depicted as literally standing beside as they debate how best to portray its cone of fire. That sort of magical realism is precisely what Yuasa excels at capturing, and likely what drew him to the manga in the first place. Like his previous work, Motion Pictures Club aims for the heights of what is possible in animation, and will likely get there in high, strange style.

Dorohedoro

Dorohedoro has been held in high esteem by manga fans since its 2000 debut. A post-apocalyptic saga of violence, magic, and unlikely alliances, its hero is Caiman, a man stripped of his memories and left with a reptilian head after a run-in with a sorcerer. His world is split in two: There is the Hole, derelict home of humanity, and there is the world of the sorcerers. Those of the latter camp visit the Hole to practice their abilities on its vulnerable denizens, Caiman being one of that unfortunate number. This cruel dichotomy is disrupted when Caiman sets out to find the sorcerer who disfigured him — and discovers newfound abilities that will help even the odds between him and those with magic at their disposal.

Quite a lot of 2000s anime aimed to capture Dorohedoro's signature blend of horror, humor, and fantasy — yet even within that field of imitators, it has always stood out as singularly confident, visionary, and gloriously strange. Trailers and promotional spots reveal an anime adaptation every inch as stunning and cheeky as its source material, leaving fans with only one unanswered question: How did it take this long for Dorohedoro to get an anime of its own in the first place?

Oda Shinamon Nobunaga

Oda Nobunaga, a feudal lord of 16th-century Japan, casts a long shadow over the nation's history. Regarded as one of Japan's great unifiers, his reign was as marked by free trade, innovative art, and advances in military strategy as it was by suppression of his opponents. Unsurprisingly, his fictional portrayals number in the hundreds: Nobunaga has appeared in everything from Pokemon (wielding legendary monsters, naturally) to the Sengoku Basara video games. Sometimes he's the villain, sometimes he's the hero, and sometimes he's somewhere in between — but over and over again, he is used as a font of storytelling.

Despite all this competition, Oda Shinamon Nobunaga will still manage to provide a new twist on the tale... by portraying the legendary lord as a dog. In this anime, Nobunaga's death in the infamous Honno-ji Incident was immediately followed by his reincarnation as a modern-day shiba inu named Cinnamon. But Nobunaga isn't alone — it turns out that a plethora of figures from Japan's Sengoku, or "warring states" period, have been brought back to life as pet dogs. Legendary tactician Date Masamune is now a French bulldog. Fearsome commander Takeda Shingen is now a Pomeranian. Whether you're a longtime Japanese history buff or a curious fan looking for something new, Oda Shinamon Nobunaga will offer one thing for certain: an anime unlike anything else on the air.

Brand New Animal

It's not every anime series that can release a single piece of key visual art and inspire ardent discussion, but anything made by Studio Trigger tends to get that treatment. It's no mystery as to why — since its 2013 debut with Little Witch Academia, Trigger has produced smash hit after smash hit. Its most recent work, the psychedelic action fantasia Promare, managed to make $1 million on only 30 screens in North America, prompting a return to theaters few anime films have ever been granted in the English-speaking market. But hey, when you're the people who produced heavy hitters like Kill la Kill, Darling in the Franxx, and Little Witch Academia in less than a decade of existence, you get to break all sorts of rules.

Enter Brand New Animal. All fans have to slaver over is a single image: what looks to be an anthropomorphic wolf in a trench coat and a basketball-toting girl with squirrel-like features, standing against a neon-splashed backdrop of skyscrapers and billboards. If the upright cheetah in athleisure behind them is any indication, theirs is a world of humanoid animals a la Zootopia or Beastars, albeit one rendered according to Trigger's highly saturated, ultra-modern aesthetic. So far, those are the only details fans have to pick apart — but Trigger has inspired the confidence to make even those scant clues enough to make Brand New Animal an anime to watch.

The Promised Neverland season 2

There are series that take a while to find their footing, and then there is anime like The Promised Neverland. Season 1 wastes no time stranding its fans alongside its heroes in a truly disorienting premise: a world ruled by demons, in which oblivious children are raised as meat. Emma, Ray, and Norman, whose lives have been lived entirely within the confines of the sun-dappled orphanage that is, in fact, a farm, stumble upon this horrifying fact by accident. The first season sees their daring quest to escape take shape and ultimately succeed, climaxing in their first sunrise beyond the walls of the orphanage in the season finale. 

It was an immediate sensation, hooking fans left and right with its potent blend of horror and heart, all brought home by a kid's-eye view. The second season promises more of this, at an even more startling level of intensity: Though the kids have escaped their captors, they have become completely alone. What does the world beyond the walls even look like, if demons who eat children command such power within it? Who of their number will survive it, and how? What structures of power maintain the orphanage system, and what will it take to rend it asunder? Some of these questions might be answered in season 2, some might not — but we'll all be watching to find out.