With Winter 2019 packed full of fantastic anime, it can be difficult to find the best series to watch. While 2018 delivered many fantastic anime series, 2019 might top it if the quality keeps pace with the shows released during the first few months of the year.
Despite the anime streaming world beginning to feel the effects of the momentous split between Funimation and Crunchyroll, Crunchyroll’s streaming slate proved to be hard to beat. All but one of the shows on this list streamed via the platform. Future new releases this year might present compelling arguments for viewers to migrate to other platforms, but for now you can stick with Crunchyroll for almost everything new coming out this season.
Related: The 10 Best Anime Series of 2018
To help sort through the incredible amount of anime this season, we’ve put together a list of the six absolute must-watch anime series released during Winter 2019. Here’s what’s worth watching while cozied up from the cold during your precious free time.
- This Page: The Price of Smiles and Dororo
- Page 2: The Promised Neverland and My Roommate is a Cat
- Page 3: Kaguya-sama: Love Is War and Mob Psycho 100 Season 2
6. The Price of Smiles
What is it: Uncontroversial statement: War is awful. However, despite the truth of that simple statement, anime can often approach war in a way that makes it look fun or exciting without lingering on the aftermath. The Price of Smiles focuses on a war between The Kingdom of Soleil and the Grandigan Empire. The kingdom, led by Princess Yuki, struggles to survive as the war drags on. The empire advances through Soleil’s territory episode after episode as the princess and her retainers attempt to counter their moves, teach the princess how to lead, and the basic costs of war in lives, territory, and morale. It’s an anime about growing up and learning to live in a hostile world.
As a foil to Princess Yuki, the audience gets to know Stella, a young woman belonging to a unit of mecha pilots fighting for Grandiga. Stella lacks social standing, has experienced devastating loss, and constantly wears a smile. This portion of the anime deals more with the effects of the larger scale conflict on the ground for troops and refugees. Hers is the story of someone lacking agency, who, given few choices in life, makes the decision to smile through the pain; her smile being one of the few things she can control.
Why it’s great: The Price of Smiles earns its place on this list by consistently subverting expectations. What starts out as maybe an idyllic and otherwise generic anime about conflict with a focus on mecha battles quickly turns into a more thoughtful series with ideas about compassion, loyalty, and moving forward during dark times. Major characters die unexpectedly as a result of the war, their ghosts lingering with the characters they leave behind. Actions done out of kindness quickly turn sour when the bitterness of the destruction war leaves behind sinks in. Noble sacrifices turn into meaningless gestures, and heroes are the first to pay the price of smiles. All of this happens under the deft direction of Toshimasa Suzuki, previously directed the underrated anime The Pilot’s Love Song, so viewers can be confident that the narrative’s crescendo actually has an end goal in mind.
What is it: Dororo was originally created by the legendary Osamu Tezuka, the man often credited for the creation of what would be recognized today as anime and manga. If you have an idea of what an anime eye looks like, that would be a small contribution from his distinctive work. Tezuka is best known in the West for his creation of iconic figures like Astro Boy and films like Kimba the White Lion, but he also created Dororo, a story about a young man whose body was sacrificed to a legion of demons as a baby and left for dead, only to be raised by a kindly doctor with powerful healing magic.
After growing up and learning to cope with his disabilities, the nameless warrior begins traveling the land to kill the demons that stole his life from him, reclaiming the various parts of his body in the process. That puts him on a course to cross swords with his father, the man who sacrificed him in the first place. Early in his journey, he encounters the charismatic Dororo, a child who claims to be the best thief in the world. The two bond and journey the land together, fighting a wide variety of imaginative demons that have taken hold throughout the land. Oh, and because his body was taken, he possesses magical prosthetic limbs with swords for forearms with a fighting style that has to evolve as he regains limbs, skin, and organs with each demon killed. It's a unique take on the "learning to be human" trope that feels fresh over 50 years after the original anime released.
Why it’s great: The original Dororo anime ran from 1967-1968 and it was loved at the time, but hasn’t necessarily held up. The cute art style Tezuka developed for Astro Boy didn’t really apply as well to Dororo’s darker story. However Dororo 2019 alters its style to fit the material, offering a look at a gorgeously realized world crushed under the thumb of darkness and evil. The nameless warrior makes his way through a world where there are no easy answers. One of the early episodes deals with a town controlled by a demon and the townspeople support the demon because without it, they wouldn't be able to survive. By killing the demon, the Dororo and his companion essentially doom the town. It’s a complicated and clever reimagining of a classic with inventive fight scenes, dramatic visuals, and a high production value that makes sure to present very few moments where there’s clear cut right and wrong. The singularity of the warrior's vision makes him a compelling figure in a world full of people willing to compromise and negotiate.