Top Ten Anime, Manga, and Movies of 2020

Jujutsu Kaisen

I’ve heard about Jujutsu Kaisen, but I thought it was just another demon manga/anime series. Considering my history with anime (Yu Yu Hakusho and Demon Slayer), I should have known not to prejudge based on tropes. Regardless, I Iove this series. It’s still in the middle but I like the world building, characters, and animation so far.

Jujutsu Kaisen Episode 1: Recap and Review


Tower of God

Manhwa (Korean comics) has become an important source for anime adaptation. Tower of God was my first exposure to the series by Lee Jong-hui. The story centers on Twenty-Fifth Bam. Trapped with his friend Rachel underneath the mysterious Tower, he follows her into the Tower. Bam encounters challenges on each floor of the Tower as he searches for Rachel. The first season is phenomenal, ending in a shocking cliffhanger.

Is Tower of God Good?


Deca-Dence

Deca-Dence is a series set in the distant future, insect-like creatures called Gadoll have forced humanity towards extinction. I had no expectation for this series, so it was a surprise when Deca-Dence turned out to be far more sophisticated. The series was full of twists and turns, while making a critique of capitalism. Its themes are topically for 2020, and it was one of the most original anime of the year.

Deca-Dence Episode 1: Recap and Review


Pokemon: Twilight Wings

One of the biggest surprises of this year was Pokemon: Twilight Wings. A seven episode limited animated series, set in the Galar Region, the short anime series follows the citizens of Galar. Despite the short length of the series and each episode, Pokemon: Twilight Wings was impactful. All seven focused on side characters expanding the Pokemon universe through the eyes of Galar citizens. Pokemon: Twilight Wings was an emotional series with great animation.

Pokemon: Twilight Wings, a short anime series based on Sword and Shield games


The God of High School

I was excited about The God of High School from the moment they announced it. I wasn’t disappointed. Like Tower of God, it based on the series created by Yongje Park. While the series doesn’t reinvent the wheel, there are enough surprises to keep you interested. The God of High School balances humor with high octane action.

‘The God of High School,’: An instant hit


Burn the Witch (Manga/Movie)

The most expected manga for me was Tite Kubo’s Burn the Witch. The series also released a movie of the same name. Both cover the same material, but I preferred the anime. We’re introduced to the principal characters, “Noel and Ninny, the world of Reverse London, and it all ends with a battle with an ancient dragon, Cinderella.” With the addition of music, sound effects, and explosions, Burn the Witch is a unique experience when animated.

Burn the Witch Episode 1–3: Recap and Review


Kimetsu no Yaiba : The Movie – Mugen Train

Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie–Mugen Train is the first film from the Demon Slayer series. A direct sequel from the anime series, the film retells the Mugen Train arc. Tanjiro, Zenitsu, and Inosuke join the Flame Hashira, Kyojuro Rengoku in investigating disappearances on the Infinity Train. The movie centers on the themes of humanity and accepting death. Once again, Tanjiro emotional intelligence stands out.

Kimetsu no Yaiba: The Movie–Mugen Train Review


Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep

I can’t wait for the Made in Abyss series returns. In the meantime, Abyss has produced three movies. The first two were recap movies, with Dawn of the Deep telling the Ido Front Arc. Made in Abyss continues to flush out the harsh universe, as Nanachi, Reg, and Riko head down towards the center of the Abyss. Like the Demon Slayer movie, using a film to tell an arc is proving to be a wonderful decision.

Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul, Recap and Review


Dorohedoro

Dorohedoro follows Kaiman, a man with a lizard head, as he tries to find the one magic user that cursed him. Kaiman also has amnesia, making his search even more difficult. Dorohedoro is an odd series with a strange world. Each character has unique designs and powers to match. Dorohedoro is a stylised violent series with a intriguing mystery at its center.

Dorohedoro Episode 1 Recap & Review


Haikyuu!! To the Top

I wasn’t into anime sports series until Yuri on Ice. I was so impressed with the series I wanted to give another popular sports anime a chance. Haikyuu!! To the Top is the fourth season of the volleyball anime. It separates Hinata and rival Kageyama as they develop apart. Hinata learns more about volleyball without playing and Kageyama sharpens his skills with Japans best. Once reunited, Hinata, Kageyama and the rest of Karasuno battle in the Spring Tournament.

Haikyuu!! Fourth Season, Episode 1: Recap and Review

Haikyuu!! To the Top Episode 24: Recap and Review

Hinata and Kageyama put it all on the line in episode 24 of Haikyuu!! To the Top.
Hinata and Kageyama put it all on the line

Episode 24 – “Monster Ball”

Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 24, “Monster’s Ball,” concludes the dramatic game between Karasuno and Inarizaki. In the last episode, Hinata put Karasuno up 26 – 25 when he scored with an instinctive foot save. Up match point the team is eager to finish the match. The competitive match has garnered attention from other teams in the stadium. Anabara at Johzenji High comments that “it is almost certain that Karasuno’s receivers must felt an intense amount of pressure at this point.”

Atsumu delivers a jump float to Daichi. He cannot get the reception and Inarizaki get to match point. Daichi and Coach Ukai point out “how they seem to go through the same thing anytime they have been in a similar situation against another team.” The team relaxes. Atsumu tries to over power Daichi with his next serve. However, he digs the ball up. Kageyama rushes to set the ball to Hinata who scores. They tie the game at 27-27.

Tsukki gets exhausted

Hinata moves back to serve, while an exhausted Tsukishima moves onto court. Despite this, he’s able to get the block off a spike from Suna. He relies on Hinata to take advantage and get the spike. Hinata doesn’t disappoint. Tsukki is struggling to stay alert, being annoyed that his “body is falling behind his mind.” He almost falls over attempting to return a spike. In the next point, Asahi hits a powerful block-out, overwhelming the triple block. Karasuno is once again at match point. In the next series of points, Inarizaki can score on Suna and Aran’s consecutive spikes. Inarizaki now has match point. Osamu moves to serve, but Asahi receives the serve and Kageyama surprises his opponents with a setter dump. Karasuno speeds up, despite Coach Ukai’s concern. He sees that their desperation has resulted in more concentration. Hinata sends a first touch high into the air.

Anabara explains that “the high toss being one that is easily forgotten but can actually be of great importance during a chaotic match as it will allow a player and his team to gather themselves.” Focused, Karasuno launches a synchronized attack. They cannot score but avoid losing any points. The Miya twins attempt a minus tempo quick attack. It fails, as Karasuno is prepared, Hinata and Kageyama block it. They win after the ball lands in at the back of the court. I wasn’t expecting this episode to centered on the end of the game, but it worked.

Haikyuu!! To the Top has always been good at showing the mental and psychical stress sports can put on the players and audience. It also effectively simulates the dynamics found in sports. For example, the back and forth that the deuce scoring system allows is occasionally this dramatic. Finally, I liked how this episode used Anabara as a stand in for less knowledgeable viewers. He was important to understanding the nuance in volleyball.

Haikyuu!! To the Top Episode 23: Recap and Review

Kageyama focuses down match point in episode 23 of Haikyuu!! To the Top.
Kageyama focuses down match point

Episode 23 – “The Birth of the Serene King”

The twenty-third episode of Haikyuu!! To the Top begins with the Inarizaki up 18-17 on Karasuno. Suna quickly scores, telling Tsukishima that “he lacks stamina.” In the next point, Tsukishima and Kageyama fail to implement a synchronized attack, resulting in an error. They each take the blame for the failure. In the following point, Tsukki gets the spike past Aran and Omimi. Asahi prepares to serve and the commentators note that he’s only been getting 50% of them in this game. With Inarzaki with a 20-17 point lead, he hits a powerful service ace in the corner. The Miya twins get excited. Kita can receive Asahi’s next serve. Aran gets the spike but Tsukki gets the one-touch. Asahi then fails to get his spike through Atsumu. Suddenly, Osamu and Atsumu attempt the knew quick attack but they’re off. Daichi receives the next ball and joins the sync attack.

Kageyama sends him the set and Daichi spikes it. Kita attempts to receive, but it bounces off into Inarizaki’s banner. The teams are tied at 20-20. Asahi is up to serve again. It clips the net. Akagi gets it back over but Tsukishima smashes the ball before Atsumu can return it. However, the lead is short-lived as Omimi immediately scores. The Miya twins try another quick attack but they pivot at the last minute allowing Aran to score. Inarizaki goes up 22-21. Tsukki steps up to serve. Due to his weakness in serving Karasuno is alert especially Hinata. Suddenly, Atsumu performs a setter dump. Daichi quickly tries to get his team to move past the point. In the next rally, Inarizaki reaches the match point.

Karasuno save match points

The Aoba Johsai High members watch cheering for Karasuno to make a comeback. Asahi receives Aran’s serve, Kageyama sets for Tanaka who attempts a cross-shot. However, Omimi blocks it. Nishinoya gets the save and Kageyama sets to Hinata. Aran manages to pop the ball up, the ball is too low but Atsumu makes the set anyway. Kageyama gets another chance to set to Tanaka. Ukai notes that “Inarizaki’s blockers have been more cautious of Tanaka ever since he managed the cross-shot that won the first set and how the blockers have been subtly cutting off the path for Tanaka in case he were to attempt it again.” However, another path is left open, straight up the line. Karasuno is excited and Inarizaki is shocked. Regardless, Inarizaki is still up a match point. 

Kageyama prepares to serve. He makes a powerful serve but Osamu receives it. The power of the service causes the ball to go over the net landing out. The teams are now timed at deuce. Kageyama uses a powerful serve the next time, surprising Inarizaki. They still get the ball over but Hinata gets the spike, giving Karasuno match point. Ginjima saves match point after Atsumu sets in the next point. Deuce. In the next rally, Kageyama barely manages to reach the ball before Suna. When the ball falls straight down, Hinata kicks it over the net. Karasuno has match point again. Episode 23 of Haikyuu!! To the Top ends on a cliffhanger. This episode was successful at building tension and anticipation. It was intense. The match was notable for its focus on characters other than Hinata and Kageyama. At first, I was resistant to it but I think this series was effective. Ending the episode at match point is an odd choice. However, I’ll reserve judgment after I see the next episode. 


Haikyuu!! To the Top Episode 22: Recap and Review

Hinata makes an important save in the game in episode 22 of Haikyuu!! To the Top.
Hinata makes an important save in the game

Episode 22 – “Pitons”

Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 22, “Pitons,” Inarzaki becomes inspired by the set from Atsumu. Riseki starts with a service ace. Coach Ukai calls a time-out. He tells the team that “Riseki’s serves should be manageable for them to receive and stop.” After Aran scores on a Tanaka receive, the team’s tie at 11. Riseki’s final serve is successfully countered by Tsukishima. Asahi misses a powerful serve but can return Osamu’s. Kageyama sets to Tanaka, who fails to score on a crosscourt shot. Omimi insults him by calling him a “weaker version of Bokuto.” Inarzaki takes the lead. Inarzaki begins to dominate with the Miya twins performing a “reverse minus tempo quick attack.” Karasuno starts to panic as their lead slipped and the face an unexpected move from the twins. 

Hinata returns

Hinata returns to the rotation, injecting some hope in the team. He is quickly able to get a point for Karasuno. During the next play, Hinata and Tanaka block a shot from Atsumu. However, they were overeager, blocking the shot before the setter could set and the ref calls the point for Inarazaki. Atsumu serves next, and together with his brother, they’re able to set for Aran, who lands a clean spike. However, to everyone’s surprise, Hinata keeps the ball alive with a perfect receive. Karasuno begins a five-person sync attack. When the is deflected after a block it appears to be heading out, however, Hinata once again makes an impressive save. He sends the ball to Kageyama. Hinata rushes back into the court calling for the set. With Hinata distracting the blockers, Tanaka can get past Osamu and Suna. 

Despite this effort, Karasuno loses the next point after the ball clips the net and Inarzaki scores. Ukai attempts to get the team past the last point after another time-out. The team still questions if they can win. Hinata breaks the bleak moment, resulting in the team laughing. Hinata is often praised for his on-court plays but it’s often his behavior off the court that inspires his team. Karasuno is going to need that energy if they’re going to make a come back. 


Haikyuu!! To the Top Episode 21: Recap and Review

Episode 21 – “Hero”

Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 21, “Hero,” depicts the start of the third and final set, between Karasuno and Inarizaki. Karasuno maintains its lead after Kageyama blocks Aran. Inarizaki’s Suna makes a quick attack, Tsukishima attempts to block but Suna twists his body to make the spike. However, Daichi receives the spike shocking Atsumu. Asahi slams the spike past Suna and Osamu, putting Karasuna up 4-2. The successful play is largely due to Tsukishima who takes the point brought up by Ukai that “it’s not just the spiker versus the blocker but rather the spiker versus six players.” Tsukki believes that “the belief of a kill block being the only type of block to scare a spiker is outdated.” Kuroo explains that if Karasuno attempted to “fully block Suna one-on-one, Suna would be able to manipulate things to his advantage.” Suna realizes that Tsukishima has been deliberately forcing him to hit crosscourt. 

The Hero

Kinoshita steps up to serve. He’s aware that the is his final chance to make an impact in the game. He’s focused and drowns out the crowd and his teammates. He serves and the ball heads toward Osamu, who then receives the ball allowing Aran to score. Kinoshita leaves the court for the last time disappointed that he couldn’t score. He still hoped that he could be “the hero.” Kinoshita originally struck me as a strange character to highlight. However, Haikyuu!! makes a point of reminding us that for the third year, a loss would be their last game. With the stakes so high the players all have tremendous pressure on their shoulders. Hinata scores with a quick attack, maintaining the two-point lead Karasuno earned. When Kageyama serves next the ball clips the net but tips over scoring. Sensing that they’re losing momentum, Coach Kurosu calls a time-out. 

Nishinoya’s fear

On the bench, Nishinoya finally admits that he’s afraid. He recalls how he was “terrified of many things when he was a child.” His grandfather helped him overcome those fears. He remembers that his grandfather told him “it was a waste of time to be scared.” With Atsumu next to serve, he once again targets Nishinoya. This time, however, Nishinoya uses an overhead receive instead of his usual underhanded ones. Karasuno performs a synchronized attack and Asahi lands a spike. Karasuno is up 10 -7. The next half of the episode focuses on the Miya twins. In a flashback, we see when they first meet Aran, how they come to admire setters, and why Atsumu became hated. The flashback is designed to explain what makes the twins so special. In the present, Karasuno can get the ball over but it’s intercepted by Akagi. The return is too low and Akagi is worried it won’t make it over. Suddenly, Atsumu bends low enough to get under the ball and makes an overhand set to Osamu. Karasuno may have gotten the lead but they still have to contend with the formidable Miya twins. 


Haikyuu!! To the Top Episode 20: Recap and Review

Episode 20 – “Leader”

In episode 20 of Haikyuu!! To the Top, “Leader,” Inarizaki’s team captain Shinsuke Kita enters the game. Kita is blunt. He immediately intimidates his teammates. Once the game continues, Kita is up to serve. Daichi receives then Kageyama gets the set to Asahi. When Asahi thinks he made the block-out, Kita dives to keep the rally alive. Osamu and Akagi get the ball over. Karasuno responds by using a synchronized attack. Despite getting the spike past the blockers, Kita makes another save. The game is now 23 – 15 in favor of Inarizaki. Kita’s presence has a powerful effect on his team. He’s known for being straightforward and not wasting any movements. Kita is through, and he doesn’t make mistakes. Yamaguchi serves for Hinata. Kita shocks everyone by returning the serve. Ginjima lands a spike that puts Inarizaki up set point. They win the set on a Suna spike.

Nishinoya is having difficulty. Asahi promises that Nishinoya will get an opportunity to score. The third set begins with Atsumu serving. The serve appears to be going out before it curves and lands inside. After missing that serve, Nishinoya releases that he’s scared. Daichi serves, and Aran makes the first touch. Osamu fails to get the spike because Tsukishima blocks him. Ukai changed the rotation so that “Tsukishima can commit to Osamu and Suna more during this set as he is the one who will most likely stop the twin’s copy of the freak quick attack.” Asahi hits past a double block, but Atsumu makes the receive and calls his brother to make a set. Osamu instead chooses to set, Aran makes the spike. Kageyama can block, maintaining Karasuno’s lead. 

Haikyuu!! To the Top Episode 19: Recap and Review

Episode 19 – “The Ultimate Challengers”

Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 19 returns to the match between Karasuno and Inarizaki. Karasuno is down 7-14 as Atsumu serves. He delivers a float serve toward Nishinoya who is unable to return it. Atsumu scores a service ace. Daichi realizes that Inarizaki has tried to avoid Nishinoya except for Atsumu. Suguru explains that “Atsumu is most likely doing this because it will cause the rest of the team to become uneasy with receives if their best receiver is left useless.” When the teams return to the court, Atsumu serves again to Nishinoya. He fails to return it. Nishinoya begins to do finger push-ups as punishment. Atsumu serves against Nishinoya one more time, however, this time Nishinoya can receive the ball. Tanaka sends the ball towards Asahi. The latter isn’t able to hit a powerful spike but manages to get the ball over. 

Get Inarizaki off their game

The Inarizaki team can get the return past Tsukishima. With a ten-point lead, Atsumu serves again but it’s out. Karasuno now serves. Asahi hit a powerful serve, Aran can receive it but the ball was so powerful that it returns to Karasuno’s side. Asahi serves again and Aran can receive it. Osamu and Suna make the return and Suna can get the ball past Tsukishima. Atsumu states that “Suna has an easier time getting past blockers the more talented they are.” Daichi encourages his team to get “Inarizaki off their game.” Ginjima serves up next. Nishinoya makes the receive and Kageyama sets to Tsukishima. Suna can get a “one-touch on the spike.” Karasuno and Inarizaki have a spirited rally that results in Aran slamming the spike. Karasuno hopes to put pressure on Aran, Sugawara aims his serve at the ace. After another spirited rally, Karasuno hits an error. 

Pinch server, Heisuke Riseki, subs in for Suna. He serves, but Asahi gets the receive, and Hinata and Kageyama score with a quick. Its Karasunos turn to serve and they score an ace. Kageyama’s powerful serve draws attention. Hinata comments that he’s become “Kalm Kageyama.” He explains that Kageyama has “entered a calming state in which he is performing at his very best and mostly happens when he is playing against a powerful opponent.” Kageyama gets another service ace, followed by an Inarizaki error. Aran can stop the string of points from Karasuno. Osamu hits a wild serve. Suddenly, the Inarizaki team captain is subbed in surprising his team. 


Haikyuu!! To the Top Episode 18: Recap and Review

Kenma is exhausted

Episode 18 – “Trap”

Sarukawa Tech High takes the lead in the second set against Nekoma. Lev approaches the net, while Kenma sets to Fukunaga, who scores. Kenma begins to show signs of exhaustion. As his stamina decreases his set gets lower. Sarukawa has the advantage and the lead, 23-21. Their plan to tire Kenma out is working and Kenma even falls. Nekoma’s Kuroo and Yaku plan to do their best to adapt. Kenma tells his teammates to “purposely make sloppy receives at opportune times.” Nekoma’s new plan works and they tie. Sarukawa Tech believes that they were doped. They assume that Kenma was pretending to be exhausted so they would let their guard down. After a series of rallies, both teams prove their defensive abilities, reaching 28-28. 

When Yamamoto receives a short ball from Kanazawa he sends it Kenma’s way. Kenma prepares to set the ball towards Fukunaga assuming that he would be “the best choice since he would still be able to get the ball past any blockers.” Kenma’s decision pays off, Fukunaga gets the spike and Nekoma wins the game. Kenma is praised by his teammates Yaku and Kuroo for his effort. Kenma notes that if they had to play a third set “it would have been the end of him.” Together they watch as Karasuno plays against Inarizaki High. In my last review, I thought the break from the Karasuno match was a mistake. However, since Haikyuu!! To the Top followed the match to the end, it feels like a good decision. Regardless, I’m excited to see what Hinata and the rest of Karasuno will do. 

Haikyuu!! To the Top, Episode 17: Recap and Review

Episode 17 – ‘Cats vs Monkeys”

Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 17, ” Cats vs. Monkeys,” pivots from the Karasuno match. Mika and Suguru arrive to watch the first set between Nekoma and Sarukawa Tech High. We get a flashback of the third year discussing Kenma Kozume. Kuroo tells Kai and Yaku of when “Kenma would become sick after difficult practices or matches during their time in middle school and confesses that he felt guilty about it.” Kuroo wonders if Kenma is ready for the Spring Tournament. Kenma has so far is a character that isn’t in love with Volleyball. He comes across as actually not even liking the sport. However, as Kuroo points out and Kenma confirms, “if he did hate volleyball that he would have left it.” Kenma maintains his neutrality, noting that “he has no reason to stop playing but also doesn’t have a reason to keep playing and while he dislikes sweating and being out of breath, he does enjoy leveling up.” 

Kenma’s Stamina

What they do acknowledge is that Hinata has had a profound impact on Kenma. Back in the game, Iori Kanazawa can get a feint shot over Kenma and Kuroo. Kai makes the save, Kenma makes the set to Fukunaga. The spike from Fukunaga is deflected. Both teams are defensive-minded. Suguru notes that Sarukawa is “deliberating not trying to score quick points.” He believes that this is in service “ruining Nekoma’s rhythm.” Kenma’s stamina comes into question as he’s always had this limitation. In another flashback, we see how difficult Kenma found training. During this period Yamamoto and Kenma develop a rivalry. It’s largely negative with Yamamoto often dismissing Kenma’s help. They even get into an alteration. Fundamentally, Yamamoto and Kenma are different personalities. Yamamoto gets too intense when it comes to volleyball and Kenma is too laid back. 

In the present, Sarukawa takes a two-point lead in the second set. Coach Shishio still thinks his strategy will continue to break down the Nekomata defense. It seems that the plan is working. It’s a little jarring for Haikyuu!! To the Top episode 17, to shift towards another team. I was critical of the series focusing on other characters before, and that criticism remains. It’s not bad to focus and develop secondary characters, but it feels inconsistent. Furthermore, I hate the break up of action. Regardless, Haikyuu!! is attempting to make the players more three dimensional. It may feel distracting but might be important. 

Fire Force Season 2 Episode 17: Recap and Review


Haikyuu!! To the Top, Episode 16: Recap and Review

Episode 16 – ‘Broken Heart’

“Broken Heart” is the 16th episode of Haikyuu!! To the Top. Yamaguchi scores a service ace. However, Aran retrieves Yamaguchi’s next serve. Ren Omimi smashes a spike. Yuto Kosaku subs in for Omimi, and his serve overpowers Daichi, resulting in the ball flying over to Inarizaki’s side. Surprisingly, Kageyama runs under the net and sends it back over towards Karasuno. Asahi executes a block-out, taking the point for Karasuno. The dynamic between Karasuno and Inarizaki has shifted in Karasuno’s favor for now. Regardless, they have won the last two points. Karasunp and Inarizaki are tied at 24-24. 

Tanaka takes center stage for the worst reasons. Underperforming, he becomes the weak link and main target for Inarizaki. Tanaka notices that he a target and is prepared for the challenge. Karasuno manages to score on a back-row attack from Daichi. Karasuno has a set point with Asahi serving. The two teams engage in a spirited rally. Tanaka is given the chance to spike and take the set. However, he barely misses as he’s blocked by three Inarizaki. With the score now tied again at 25-25, Tanaka feels guilt. If Tanaka wasn’t feeling bad enough, when he calls for the ball, Tsukishima sends it to Asahi instead. 

Tanaka comes through

Karasuno is now up another set point. Tsukishima can be harsh on his teammates and many might assume this was another moment of that, but I think that Tsukishima made the right decision for the team. Volleyball is a team sport, so if one member is a liability his feeling and ego shouldn’t take precedence. Hinata in typical fashion gives Tanaka a peep talk. In the next rally, Tanaka comes to the aid of Hinata as he tries to block Osamu. With no options left, Osamu hits the ball towards Daichi. As the ball soars through the air, Tanaka has a flashback on his potential. He calls for the ball and spikes it crosscourt, winning the set. 

Fire Force Episode 16: Recap and Review