Welcome to our Most Anticipated Anime feature for the Spring 2022 season. Below you’ll find our editorial team’s top (tentative) picks from the 46-odd shows slated to premiere in January. What are your favorite picks? Head on over to our poll and pick your top five. We’ll publish the results before preview guide launches on April 1. Also, if you’re still having a hard time choosing what to add to your queue, or you’re just down for a good time, do check out Anime News Network‘s Spring 2022 Trailer Watch Party with YouTube personality Geoff Thew (Mother’s Basement)!
Most Anticipated: Love After World Domination
Yeah yeah, I know this is likely interrupting a lengthy sweep of SPY x FAMILY top spots, but I’m more than happy to play the spoiler for this adorable-looking Super Sentai RomCom. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than a good romantic comedy anime, and this looks like a total treat. The premise is great, the character designs are wonderful, and based on the trailers the animation looks strong all-around. Like this past season’s Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department there’s the risk of it playing a little too much inside baseball with the tokusatsu angle, but that’s a small hurdle to clear for what looks like an absolutely adorable setup.
Runner-Up: SPY x FAMILY
That being said, yeah, I’m hyped for SPY x FAMILY a whole lot too. I’ve been reading the manga since it began, loving it just as long, and waiting for its inevitable anime adaptation to bring as many people as possible in for this wonderful, funny, and endlessly charming series. And going by the promos the production is seriously on-point. The secret sauce of this story is how it can effortlessly balance intense action and gut-busting humor without sweating a drop, and the trailers look ridiculously great at both. You probably don’t need me to tell you this one’s worth watching, but it’s good enough that I feel compelled to do it anyway.
Alongside those, I am going to be feasting this season. Kaguya-sama is coming back, and as one of the greatest modern romcoms ever made it stands to reason I’m going to devour it. In fact, there’s a whole block of romance-tinged series this season for me to chow down on between Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie, Aharen-san wa Hakarenai, and the potential disasterpiece of A Couple of Cuckoos. While I don’t know if it’ll actually have any romance, just the fact that In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki is from the creator of Teasing Master Takagi-san is enough for me to check it out. There’s even some fantasy series of different varieties that look appealing like Healer Girl and The Dawn of the Witch. And of course, this spring marks the beginning of back-to-back seasons of Love Live!, which means I’ve automatically won for the next six months.
Most Anticipated: SPY X FAMILY
I love a good comedy anime, and some of my favorite comedies of all time are those that revolve around character misunderstandings – shows like Gamers!, School Rumble, and Yamada’s First Time that are able to push misunderstandings to absurd lengths through unique circumstances for the sake of comedic payoff. So when I heard that SPY x FAMILY was basically that but with a spy, an assassin, and a telepath, you end up getting more than just my curiosity… you get my full, undivided attention. I marathoned the first six volumes of the manga and it is impressive how deftly the author is able to juggle all the unique abilities and over-the-top characters in such a serious setting. After watching some of the previews and being impressed by the above-average presentation for what is extensively a reactionary type of comedy, I look forward to seeing how some of these classic situations where the characters completely misjudge each other end up playing out.
Runner-Up: Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic
I will admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kaguya Sama: Love Is War at first. While the show definitely seemed to fall into my wheelhouse of comedy anime, I initially found it a bit too cynical for its own good. However, as time went on and the show managed to find its emotional foothold, I began to appreciate both its comedy and character writing a lot more. Season two especially allowed me to better appreciate these characters by giving us a better look at where that rather cynical worldview can sometimes come from. I have read a bit of the manga after season two and there’s a good chance that season three will feature even more of those intense character moments. Either way, I think there will definitely be a lot of good material to appreciate and I definitely can’t wait for another snazzy anime opening!
Most Anticipated: Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs
In 2020’s My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!, a young woman is reincarnated as the villainess in a stereotypical girl’s dating sim. The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs takes the same general idea and twists it. Instead of a young woman, it’s a young man. Instead of becoming the villainess, he is a random background character. Instead of a kind dunce, he’s a bit of a self-serving asshole. But that’s just the start of things.
As it’s based on the setting of a D-grade reverse-harem romance, the fantasy world is full of plot holes, most notably the absurd level of misandry that permeates society. Noblewomen have several lovers beyond their husbands (who are little more than slaves making money for their wives). Second and third sons are married off to elderly women, only to then be sent off to the front lines for an easy life insurance payout. Our hero wants to avoid this fate and is willing to do whatever it takes to do so. His plan is simply to have enough money and power to secure his own independence—too bad he somehow catches the eye of both the heroine and the villainess. It’s a hilarious ride where you can both cheer for the hero fighting against this half-baked world and laugh whenever karma smacks him upside the head.
Runner-Up: Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie
So many stories end with the main couple getting together. However, this is where Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie begins. Shikimori is cute and popular, athletic and intelligent. But her boyfriend, Izumi, is none of these things; worse still, he is unlucky and accident-prone to a dangerous degree. However, because of this, he is one of the few to see the other side of his girlfriend. Whenever he is in trouble, be that physical or emotional, her cute veneer fades away and she becomes a suave badass that oozes coolness from every pore.
What I love about this change is that it’s accompanied by a shift in Shikimori’s character design—her chin becomes sharper, as do her eyes. She looks elegant and dangerous, capable of sweeping anyone off their feet. And while there is an obvious swapping of stereotypical gender roles between Shikimori and Izumi in this story, it’s important to remember that Shikimori isn’t just the cute girl or the badass; she’s both. Shikimori and Izumi simply bring out the best in each other across the board, as any good couple should.
Most Anticipated: Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie
You can blame My Dress-Up Darling for rekindling my romcom torch just in time for Kaguya-sama
season 3 and Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie. Since I like to highlight non-sequels here, however, I’ll defer
my focus to Shikimori, which comes with the blue-ribbon premise of “what if Utena Tenjou was your
girlfriend?” If romcoms live or die by their gimmicks, then I can hardly think of one more ripe for virality
than the one about a handsome tomboy coolly kabedon-ing her doe-eyed boy squeeze. Online wasn’t
quite ready for Witch Craft Works and its perpetually princess-carried male protagonist—a fact towards
which I will forever be bitter, because that show rules—but I hope, in 2022, Shikimori can at least find
some justice. Plus, the previews are bursting with color, and Doga Kobo know how to put together a
good-looking anime. Maybe this will be the year of sakuga-rich romcom supremacy.
Beyond that, I have my eye on Vampire in the Garden. No doubt this looks and sounds pretty generic at
first blush, but its staff has a good pedigree, and more importantly, I like vampires. Vanitas is nearly
over, and Call of the Night doesn’t air until the summer, so perhaps Studio Wit can slake my spring
bloodthirst. Bubble, also on Wit’s docket, will be premiering this season, and I will be heartbroken if the
chaotic dream team alignment of Gen Urobuchi, Tetsuro Araki, and Takeshi Obata somehow manages to
be boring. I couldn’t care less about it being good or not, but it had better be loud. Finally, the only thing
I know about SPY x FAMILY is that there’s a funny-faced little gremlin girl, and that’s good enough for me.
Most Anticipated: Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic
Some ongoing shows can struggle with diminishing returns as they accumulate more seasons,
but Kaguya-sama: Love is War seems just a bit more ambitious than that. It’s still probably the
funniest, most laugh-out-loud anime comedy of the modern era, yes, but recall all the other stuff
its second season was able to get up to. The series showed an impressive penchant for pulling
off dramatic turns too, which is no small feat when you consider how most of these characters
are necessarily stupid as hell. That’s the trick though, that this series has endeared these
doofuses to me. They’re idiots, but they’re my idiots, and that even includes Ishigami. Plus, I
can’t not admire the stones on this series to announce its third season by putting out a whole
bonus episode, featuring the characters joking about the very notion of third seasons! Now
that’s confidence, and if you, like me, have been won over by Kaguya-sama this far along, you
know it’s earned confidence.
Runner-up: Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club 2nd Season
There are actually a fair amount of returning faces in this forthcoming Spring season, some
more surprising than others. A new Black Rock Shooter? A new Ikki Tousen?! What year is it?!
But the other follow-up I’m really looking forward to is the return of those girls in the Nijigasaki
High School Idol Club, coming back for another go at what was one of Love Live!‘s more atypical
iterations. I’m specifically hopeful for this second round since, after the first season necessarily
loaded itself up with specific character-focus episodes, having all those now covered means the
opportunity for some more complex or ambitious plot-lines featuring all these girls. Of course, I
already know that several new members are going to be added to the club this season as well,
but given that I’m not a devotee of the mobile game they spawned from, I’m looking forward to
getting to know them on my own time. And seeing how they get wrangled into things by the
unstoppable swag of that sentient can of Monster Energy known as Yu Takasaki.
Most Anticipated: SPY x FAMILY
This was a no brainer – one of my current favorite manga titles getting an adaptation? Yes, please! Not
that that’s really any different from my usual criteria for whether I’m anticipating a show or not, but it
really felt even easier this time around. That’s because the Cold War-set spy spoof is the kind of story
that I could see making excellent use of the additional elements anime can provide – music and
movement could really work to enhance the way the humor works in the story of the Forger family’s
semi-secret missions, and giving Anya specifically a voice could help to make her an even more delightful
character. Since she’s arguably the beating heart of the series, that’s especially important. Anya’s the
only person who knows what’s actually going on with pretty much everyone else, because the little
dear’s a psychic…which no one else has the least clue about. So her adoptive father Loid has no idea that
she knows that he’s really the master spy Twilight and her adoptive mother Yor is in the dark about the
fact that Anya knows she’s actually an elite assassin. Mostly poor Anya uses her power to ensure that
she gets to keep her happy family without getting sent back to the orphanage, but while this does add
an element of pathos, it never overwhelms the zanier aspects of the story. SPY x FAMILY in manga form is
a near-perfect blend of goofy spy parody and heartfelt family tale with one of my favorite dog
characters (Bond could easily be this season’s best boy), and unlike with other manga-to-anime
transitions, I have very few worries that this one won’t make the leap to anime very well.
And while I’m hoping that those aren’t going to be famous last words, I’m also harboring hopes for two
other favorite manga titles to make a successful transition: Love After World Domination, which should
appeal to fans of Miss Kuroitsu From the Monster Development Department, and Ya Boy Kongming!, and
not just because it brings my poetry-was-the-rap-battle-of-the-ancient-world teaching method to life.
(But okay, mostly because of that.) But my true second pick for most anticipated show this spring is
Dance Dance Danseur, surprising precisely no one. While it isn’t likely to be Swan or Princess Tutu, the
angle of a male dancer in classical ballet isn’t one we see all that often, and done well, there’s a lot of
room for an exploration of the stigma boys face for taking up ballet and the beauty (and pain) of the art
form. If the animation lives up to it, this could be a treat.
Most Anticipated: Kaguya-sama: Love is War Ultra Romantic
This year so far has been a relatively strong contender for romantic comedy anime. Komi-san,
My Dress-Up Darling, Sasaki and Miyano, hell even a show like Fantasy Knockout really
surprised me. And this new season seems to be shaping up to continue to the streak with Kanamori’s Not Just a Cutie already piquing my interest.
There’s a lot of top contenders, but when this anime walks in the room everyone else needs to
step aside and let the real champion do the fighting. It’s time for the big guns, it’s not just love,
it’s war! Kaguya-sama is back baby and she’s ready to throw down!! Season 1 was filled with belly-laughing over-the-top punchlines as we watched the two smartest idiots in the room tip-toe-tango around their mutual bludgeoning feelings for each other. Then season 2 delivered a real wallop while being able include the same hilarious jokes
and teasing heart pounders, with some real drama! For a character most people didn’t even like
at first, no less! I was laughing and sobbing, and it’s all thanks to the wonderful animation and
direction brought by the team to bring out just the maximum amount of emotion. And I expect
nothing less from season 3 after two strong showings. Kaguya-sama is a contender not to be
Runner-up: SPY x FAMILY
Not a rom-com but equally strong AND cute, is the much awaited adaption of the Shonen Jump spy
thriller and family comedy, SPY x FAMILY. I’ve been a fan of this manga since the beginning.
Keeping up with the Forgers is always a good time with the cool undercover spy Loid, the
powerful assassin Yor, and the precious and precocious psychic-powered daughter, Anya.
Together they make up one family of misfits tied together by a common goal to keep the two
neighboring countries at peace. Or at least the best a six-year-old can handle!
It’s a good read, and one of my favorite currently running manga in Jump, with enough material to make a
compelling show. I can’t wait to see people watch it! The trailer looks smooth and colorful with
animation by Studio Wit and CloverWorks. Just look at Anya’s face! Isn’t she such a cutie?! .
She’s full of great reactions that I can’t wait to see animated. Yor and Loid look equally good as
a power couple, you can tell they adapted the designs well. The action and music also seem
promising from what I can see. I’m hoping for everything cool, cute, and comedic to be in full
force here. It’s a fun time for the whole family with the SPY x FAMILY!