The best anime series to watch on National Anime Day

Image via Crunchyroll

April 15 is National Anime Day, and you know what that means.

A day rife with lore and tradition, some say its origins lie within the annals of the popcorn-scented cons of yore, while others suggest it was Hayao Miyazaki himself who scheduled the annual event into our calendar apps. Some celebrate by publishing fan art, AMVs, and fanfic on the timeline, while reformed weebs observe the holiday by dusting off their bookshelves of bootleg VHS fansubs.

Subs or dubs, shonen or shojo, filler or, well, you get the point, National Anime Day is a time for all of us to come together and watch our anime in peace (or not, and a bunch of fast food brands will just tweet about anime for the first time in 365 days while we all continue to collectively fawn over Anya).

Regardless, here are our favorite shows for getting into the anime spirit on National Anime Day.

Tsurune

Image via Kyoto Animation

Based on the light novel series by Kotoko Ayano, Kyoto Animation’s Tsurune is a sports anime that trades physicality for fortitude. Named for the sound a bow makes when plucked, the series follows the boys of a high school archery team that is more concerned with overcoming the mental challenges of anxiety and motivation than physical feats. Released in 2018, Tsurune is the directorial debut of Takuya Yamamura, a key animator on the studio’s feature films Liz and the Blue Bird and A Silent Voice, an episode director on series like Sound! Euphonium and Violet Evergarden, and a key animator on most of the studio’s series since K-On!. Extending that lineage, Tusurune iterates on KyoAni’s signature blend of high school slice of life and unconventional sports anime in a beautiful and moving 14-episode season. 

Tsurune is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

Shirobako

Image via P.A. Works

On the subject of anime about x thing you didn’t realize could be so dramatic, there’s even anime about anime. P.A. Works and director Tsutomu Mizushima’s Shirobako follows four women navigating their early careers in various fields across Japan’s anime industry. The protagonist, Aoi, is a production assistant at a studio struggling to finish producing a magical girl anime, while her high school-anime club friends work in voice acting and animation alongside her. It’s somewhat informative, very comedic, and a bit romanticized, to say the least, but there’s nothing quite like watching how an entire anime-within-an-anime comes to life from the very human dysfunction of a bunch of overworked fans-turned-professionals who all feel out of their depth. 

Shirobako is available on home video via Sentai Filmworks.

The Heike Story

Image via Science SARU

The Heike Story is the epitome of synergy. The series pushed at what serialized animation can do as Naoko Yamada, the young director behind K-On!, A Silent Voice, and so much more, departed from her longtime residency with Kyoto Animation to direct a unique adaptation of a historical epic at legendary director Masaaki Yuasa’s Science SARU. She’s accompanied by her longtime collaborators, veteran screenwriter Reiko Yoshida and rising composer Kensuke Ushio. Combined with the artistic force of Science SARU’s animators, The Heike Story unfolds like the delicate flowers Yamada is so fond of speaking through to tell an epic story about real people, the women in Japan’s history, and how we tell their stories.

The Heike Story is available to stream on Funimation

Ranking of Kings

Bojji
Image via Crunchyroll

If you haven’t watched Ranking of Kings yet, do it. Not for me, but for Bojji — the indisputable best boy of anime (even Crunchyroll said so). Bojji is the best, the greatest, but not everyone knows it. As a young, deaf, and unimpressive prince, Bojji winds up as the center pawn in a game of 4D chess to save his kingdom from power-hungry witches, evil gods, and a parade of zany kings. With perseverance and friendship, Bojji conquers all across a two course of episodes that may as well all be titled “Oops All Sakugo” for their stunning spectacle of unique and emotive animation from beginning to end. Ranking of Kings is impressive in a way that deserves the title of modern classic, and we’ll be yelling at everyone to watch it until we can’t even say it’s modern anymore.

Ranking of Kings is available to stream on Crunchyroll.