From Netflix’s killer new line-up to Attack on Titan’s farewell, 2023 was one of anime’s best years ever

Blue Eye Samurai
(Image credit: Netflix)

2023 was a pretty good year for anime, right? Heavyweights Attack on Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen may have caught the headlines, but there have been several new series vying for our attention – and room on our watch-lists. There’s an argument to be made – and, spoilers, it’s one we’re about to make – that the past 12 months have been one of the very best for the medium. From Netflix making waves in the streaming space to anime once again showcasing its cinematic potential, there’s every reason to celebrate the last year – and celebrate it we shall. Join us as we run through what has been a stellar, surprising, and significant year for anime in our year-in-review.

It flew under the radar slightly, but one of anime’s biggest wins came earlier this year – on the very first day of 2023, in fact. On January 1, Netflix quietly added Monster, the psychological thriller featuring a brain surgeon hunting down a patient-turned-serial killer, and cult classic boxing anime Hajime no Ippo.

A pair of 2000s TV shows being added to an on-demand service would typically not raise any eyebrows. However, these two anime series – particularly Monster – have been largely out of print, instead only hunted by those hearty enough to sail the salty seas of piracy, or burned onto a disc that you haven’t seen this side of 2010.

Netflix, then, has low-key continued to be a force for good when it comes to anime preservation in 2023. In a landscape that sees studios routinely canceling movies for tax write-offs and lost media becoming more and more common, the streamer is ensuring that these masterpieces are there for everyone to see. Lest we forget, Netflix snapping up streaming rights to Neon Genesis Evangelion in 2019 enabled a whole new generation of fans to experience childhood trauma with a sprinkling of mech action. Let’s hope Monster and Hajime no Ippo get similar attention over the next few years.

A year to remember

Demon Slayer

(Image credit: Ufotable/Aniplex)

From there, 2023 showered us with several big-name releases. Vinland Saga season 2 kicked off the year, wowing us with exploration of pacifism in a medium that’s typically surrounded by sharp tongues and even sharper swords. That was closely followed by Demon Slayer season 3 that may not have reached the heights of its prior Entertainment District arc, yet still delivered on the animation and action front as Tanjiro battled another of the Upper Moons.

In March, Attack on Titan rumbled on with the longest final season ever, premiering the first of two ‘Final Chapters’ that followed Eren’s descent from fiery protagonist to the hit anime’s Big Bad. It eventually stuck the landing in November, too. Its final episode was a bittersweet farewell, tinged with a sense of sadness and melancholy that could only come from a show that audiences have followed for the better part of a decade now. It was well worth the wait.

Those desperate to fill the Titan-shaped hole in their lives, though, didn’t need to look far. Jujutsu Kaisen season 2 has provided enough heartbreak and heart-pounding action to make it stand out as arguably anime’s currently greatest ongoing anime (though it would be remiss of us to bring up the show without mentioning the work of animation studio MAPPA, which has been the subject of allegations surrounding overworked employees and a toxic work environment).

It’s here where we return to Netflix. Not only has it been making waves in the preservation space, it’s also launched a killer lineup that puts even the premiere anime services to shame.

Pluto, Blue Eye Samurai, and Scott Pilgrim – yes, that was produced in Japan by Science SARU – are best-in-class offerings from a streaming service that’s fast becoming the major player in the anime space. With the ripples of Crunchyroll and Funimation’s merger last year still being felt, the significance of Netflix offering up this much choice and accessibility cannot go unnoticed. 


(Image credit: Crunchyroll/Sony Pictures)

Anime at the cinema delivered in abundance, too. Suzume and The First Slam Dunk each become two of the top five highest grossing anime movies of all time in 2023, continuing a trend laid down by One Piece: Red, Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and Jujutsu Kaisen 0; namely, if you put high quality in theaters, fans will flock to it in their droves. Spy x Family is also set to hit cinemas. Might another big-name property – say, a Chainsaw Man – follow suit? It’s looking increasingly likely that anime could be the next surefire bet some studios will bank on as the hype around comic book movies continues to die down.

If anything, 2023 proved there might be too much of a good thing. 2024, right now, is lacking big names and, while there’s bound to be plenty of niche slice-of-life dramas and doubtless surprise releases to tide us over, there’s a lingering feeling that this could be anime at the peak of its powers. Let’s hope it’s not. Instead, let’s hope 2023 the start of anime getting bigger, better, and – finally – cracking the mainstream.

For more, check out our picks for the best anime and the latest on Demon Slayer season 4, AKA the Hashira Training arc.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.