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The best action anime of 2022 so far

Anime has become far more mainstream in the last several years, but 2022 specifically has still been a worthy standout for the genre as a whole. On top of nearly every major streaming service under the sun packing its respective catalogs with beloved series, the year has already seen several new releases in both the film and TV spaces.

While the older-skewing seinen demographic has its share of noteworthy entries, shounen anime has unsurprisingly dominated the mainstream. On the theatrical front, the likes of Jujutsu Kaisen 0 and Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero have continued the upward trend of the genre’s growing influence in Western box offices, while series like Attack on Titan and Spy x Family have collectively proven to be TV sensations in their own rights.

Jujutsu Kaisen 0

Promo poster for Jujutsu Kaisen 0 featuring a collage of the main cast.

Animation studio MAPPA has likely found its flagship juggernaut in the form of Jujutsu Kaisen, as the first season of the TV series has already been released to plenty of plaudits. Blending traditional shounen tropes with exhilaratingly animated action, modern dark fantasy, and horror, Jujutsu Kaisen effectively makes wat are normally tired genre conventions feel exciting again.

The anime film adaptation of writer Gege Akutami’s prequel, Jujutsu Kaisen, expectedly rides that wave of success. Following the emotional story of protagonist Yuta and his overcoming of childhood guilt, the movie impressively executes a genuine coming-of-age story with nearly wall-to-wall action.

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

Attack on Titan season 4

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

The anime adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan was something of an anime revolution when its first season premiered in 2013. It helped propel itself — and the genre in general — to new heights in Western markets, with the series having become many anime newcomers’ first series. The final season has been stretching out longer than anticipated — with another part confirmed to resume next year — but this dark fantasy epic continues to ensnare audiences around the world.

What began as young Eren Yeager setting out for revenge against the Titans that murdered and ate his mother has turned into a rabbit hole of mysteries, centuries-old lore, gory action, and political intrigue that, at least on paper, are the things that glued Game of Thrones fans to their TVs for nearly a decade.

All seasons of Attack on Titan so far are available to stream now 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 skyocketed in popularity when the 2019 anime adaptation of Koyoharu Gotouge’s manga debuted, and even more so after 2020/21’s Mugen Train movie. In terms of story, 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 fight is depicted as a striking visual spectacle is nothing short of masterful.

It’s not every day that a series has individual episodes that reverberate in the anime community as a whole (season 1, episode 19, and season 2, episode 10), and make Tanjiro and company’s adventures engaging and fun. Season 2 came on the heels of Mugen Train‘s acclaim, with Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke being sent with the Sound Hashira to investigate the disappearance of the latter’s covert ninjas after investigating demon activity in a Tokyo entertainment district.

Both seasons of Demon Slayer and Mugen Train are available to stream on Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Hulu, with only season 1 on Netflix.

Spy x Family

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

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

The story follows Agent Twilight as he’s tasked with a highly sensitive diplomatic mission to avoid the breakout of war, but has to overcome his biggest challenge yet to do so — being a family man. Lovingly blending 1960s and ’70s aesthetics 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 sincere story about found family and anti-war sentiments. Punctuated by clever comedy, a lovable main cast, and some spy-thriller action, it’s a series that seems destined for the long haul.

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

One Piece

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

The last surviving series of Shonen Jump magazine’s era of the “Big Three” — and arguably the one with the most consistently high quality — Eiichiro Oda’s pirate series One Piece is still going strong in both the manga and anime arenas 25 years later. The series began with young Monkey D. Luffy setting out to follow in the footsteps of Red-Haired Shanks to become the world’s greatest pirate, and it’s since evolved into a sprawling and colorful odyssey.

Throughout its long run, One Piece has been lauded for its rewarding story arcs, an iconic cast of characters, expansive lore, and excruciatingly detailed worldbuilding. The anime adaptation has a jaw-dropping 1,031 episodes under its belt, and a highly- anticipated movie on the way this fall in the form of One Piece Film: Red.

One Piece is available to stream now on Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, and Netflix. Meanwhile, Film: Red will be playing in theaters in the West in October.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

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

The likes of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ballfranchise planted the seeds for the international mainstream hit that the anime genre would eventually grow into. It’s one of those series that the uninitiated recognize instantly merely by association, and given the success of the 2018 movie Broly, a follow-up was also bound to happen. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, like much of the franchise overall, isn’t a deep piece of media (nor does it pretend to be), but fans happily know what they’re signing up for — high-octane visual spectacles, slick character designs, and colorful new forms.

Super Hero finally gave a deserved share of the spotlight to fan-favorite characters Gohan and Piccolo by making them the outright leading stars. It delivers on 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 is now playing in theaters and will eventually stream on Crunchyroll.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean

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

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

The concept of Stands — otherworldly spiritual entities used as combatants — has transcended its own source material into other works like Atlus’ famed Persona video games. And to no one’s surprise, the latest season, Stone Ocean, has been excellently brought to life so far. Jolyne Cujoh and comapny’s stylish prison-breaking exploits have been thrilling as the second part of the season recently dropped.

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

Ranking of Kings

Ranking of Kings 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 former, but Sōsuke Tōka’s Ranking of Kings and Wit Studio’s anime adaptation might be one of the most emotionally profound shounen yet. this coming-of-age story is on a level of authentic intimacy alongside the likes of Mob Psycho 100 — which will see its third and final season premiere this fall as well.

This time, though, it’s set in a high fantasy world with the young protagonist Bojji, who is both deaf and mute, fighting to persevere and see the bright side of life despite being looked down upon by the public as being part of the royal line of succession. Bojji and his best friend Kage’s fantasy quest is among the most satisfying, rewarding, and heartfelt new anime available.

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

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