As anyone who even mildly enjoys anime knows, it’s an exhausting medium for fan to keep up with. Back in the olden days of the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s (ages ago, we know), American anime releases were mostly confined to whatever Toonami or a few other cable channels were playing, along with the odd DVD release. Now? At least 20 new series start up every month for fans to watch, due to the advent of streamers like Crunchyroll and HiDive which premiere new shows as soon as they air in their native Japan. That’s not even getting into the new anime series that are exclusive to Netflix, Adult Swim, or other streamers, making staying on top of everything new in the anime-sphere increasingly impossible.
It doesn’t help that there aren’t that many resources or recommendations available. Anime has boomed into a massive industry in the United States, with massive, very active fanbases for the biggest shows like “Jujutsu Kaisen,” “My Hero Academia,” and “One Piece.” But mainstream media coverage of new anime shows is rare, sometimes nonexistent, with coverage limited to specialty or fan sites. That’s a shame; some of the greatest artistic achievements in TV history are anime, but don’t receive the recognition or credit from critics that they deserve.
That’s where this guide comes in. Every month, IndieWire will rummage through streaming libraries and theatrical release plans to select some of the hottest anime series and movies to watch right now. For October, we’ve got a ton of returning series to catch up on, like action-horror sensation “Jujutsu Kaisen” or comedy espionage hit “Spy x Family.” Then there are some new shows that you might want to keep an eye on, including sad fantasy series “Frieren,” “Astro Boy” riff “Pluto,” and the bizarre-looking “KamiErabi God.app.” Don’t have time to watch a show weekly? There’s also theatrical releases worth looking out for, including the jazzy GKIDS release “Blue Giant,” or the rerelease of one of Studio Ghibli’s most beloved films — for those who want to pregame the highly anticipated “The Boy and the Heron.”
Whether you’re a hardcore anime fan, or someone whose only exposure to the medium is Studio Ghibli but wants to delve deeper into the overwhelming fandom, this guide is for you. Read on for the 10 anime shows and films to watch this October. Entries are unranked, and listed in order of U.S. release date.
“Jujutsu Kaisen” (Now streaming on Crunchyroll)
If you have even the slightest interest in anime or know somebody who does, then odds are you’ve heard of “Jujutsu Kaisen.” The manga by Gege Akutami is one of the best selling in history, and the first season of the TV series proved massively popular in 2020. It’s second season has been even bigger, furthering the story to adapt the manga’s most celebrated arc. Set in a world where curses are real and a race of spiritual beings seeks to destroy humanity, “Jujutsu Kaisen” focuses on teenager Yuji Itadori who ends up the unwitting host of the King of Curses Sukuna. Seeking to rid himself of Sukuna, Yuji becomes a Jujutsu Sorcerer in training, working to fight curses with Sukuna’s power. The show plays a ton of classic anime tropes straight, but feels fresh and original thanks to its lovable characters, unique powers, and slick action scenes. The ongoing season focuses on the “Shibuya Incident” arc, which sees Yuji and his friends combat an army of curses over one Halloween night — and takes the story to darker, ever more intense places.
“Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End” (Streaming on Crunchyroll)
Based on the popular manga series by Kanehito Yamada and Tsukasa Abe, “Frieren” is a show about what happens after fantasy heroes save the world. The title character is an elven wizard who once traveled with three companions on a quest to destroy a demon king. The wistful story follows what happens for the long-lived Frieren afterward as she reunites with her aged comrades and considers the nature of humanity, time, and death. It’s a sad story beautifully rendered, thanks to great animation from studio Madhouse.
“FLCL: Shoegaze” (Adult Swim on Sundays)
“FLCL” (pronounced Fooly Cooly, for the record) is an anime classic that hasn’t had the greatest success branching out of its initial, perfect first season. Created by Kazuya Tsurumaki, the original Gainax series focuses on an ordinary boy, Naota Nandaba, whose life turns upside down when a mysterious woman, Haruko Haruhara, uses her electric guitar to hit him in the head and create a portal that spawns giant robots. The show mixed its obvious and proud weirdness with sharp direction, a brilliant soundtrack from rock band the Pillows, and a surprisingly soulful coming-of-age story.
18 years after the original show’s 2000 release, Adult Swim revived the franchise without the involvement of Tsurumaki, airing “FLCL Progressive” and “FLCL Alternative” over the course of 2018. Both series received tepid responses from fans, but Adult Swim has continued with the franchise in earnest with two new series. “Grunge,” which aired this September, is a CGI series focusing on Haruko’s new adventures with an ordinary teen boy. Currently airing, “Shoegaze” focuses on two new characters who attempt to destroy a mysterious giant tower in their childhood town. Although no “FLCL” sequel has lived up to the original’s perfection, the franchise’s commitment to experimentation still makes it thrilling to follow. Plus it serves as a great reminder to watch the original show, if you haven’t already.
“KamiErabi God.app” (October 5 on Crunchyroll)
The weirdly named “KamiErabi God.app” has an equally weird pedigree. The show is the brain child of Yoko Taro, a Japanese video game developer best known for the “Drakengard” and “NieR” series: two loosely linked RPG franchises with relentlessly bleak tones, satirical and deconstructive bents, bizarre game design, and just general strangeness. Aside from Taro, “Soul Eater” manga artist Atsushi Ohkubo designed the characters, and “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters” director Hiroyuki Seshita helmed the show. The actual premise of “KamiErabi” — high school students fighting each other to the death in order to become gods — is (relatively) typical for an anime, but don’t be shocked if the execution has twists and turns you don’t see coming.
“Undead Unluck” (On Hulu October 6)
Sometimes you watch anime hoping for something weird as hell, and “Undead Unluck” aims to offer exactly that. Based on the manga by Yoshifumi Tozuka, the show focuses on two people with superpowers that are more curses than gifts. Fuuko Izumo is a young woman with the “unluck” ability, which brings bad luck to anyone who comes into physical contact with her and leads to an incident that kills over 200 people. The mysterious Andy is a beefed up immortal who craves death and has the power to use his regenerated body parts as weapons — up to an including firing his finger as a bullet. It’s a perfect power set for ridiculous anime battles, and “Undead Unlock” has the same production and creative team as Season 1 of “Fire Force,” an anime that was completely ridiculous but also kind of awesome. Hopefully, “Undead Unlock” can scratch that same itch.
“Spy x Family” Season 2 (Crunchyroll, October 7)
One of the more popular comedy anime series in recent memory, “Spy x Family” (the “x” is silent, confusingly) was the buzziest new anime series of last year, and now it’s back for a second season. Based on the manga from Tatsuya Endo, the Wit Studio and CloverWorks series follows the convoluted story of a fake family living in a world defined by the rivalry between fictional nations Westalis and Ostania. “Twilight,” a Westalis spy, infiltrates Ostania under the alias Loid Foiger. To aid his cover, he adopts a young orphan, Anya, and marries a woman named Yor Briar. What he doesn’t know is that Yor is a professional assassin, who is similarly oblivious about her new husband’s true identity. And neither of them know that Anya is actually an experimental human test subject with the power to read minds and therefore knows all of her new makeshift family’s secrets. It’s a fun dynamic that leads to both smoothly animated espionage and farcical sitcom plots, but what really makes the show a sensation is its genuinely sweet relationships between the three leads, who slowly but surely learn how to be an actual family in spite of all the baggage they bring to the arrangement. In addition to the second season of the show, feature film “Code: White” will release in Japanese theaters this Decemeber. (Its U.S. release date has yet to be announced.)
“Blue Giant” (In theaters October 8 & 9)
Based on the manga by Shinichi Ishizuka, “Blue Giant” focuses on Dai Miyamoto, a high school basketball player who unearths a deep-seated passion for the art of jazz. Determined to become one of the greats, he takes up the saxophone and recruits a pianist and drums to form a jazz trio that quickly garners attention with local audiences. The movie adaptation was directed by Yuzuru Tachikawa, best known for his work on popular series like “Mob Psycho 100,” and will receive a limited release by GKIDS on October 8.
“Dr. Stone” Season 3 (October 12 on Crunchyroll)
One of the weirdest and most inventive ongoing shonen anime, “Dr. Stone” focuses on a distant future that looks a lot like humanity’s past. In the year 2019, all human life on Earth is abruptly turned to stone and remains that way until 5738 A.D. Then, 16-year -ld scientific genius Senku Ishigami gets abruptly revived in a world where human civilization has been wiped out, using his biology and chemistry knowledge to revive more humans and reform society. But disagreements between Senku and the people he revives kickstarts a war between factions looking to reshape human civilization in their own images. The nerdy, surprisingly informative science focus of the series distinguishes it from other action anime shows. Plus, its interesting and unconventional protagonist is a delight to follow through various arcs. The anime has been running since 2019; the third season aired its first part this April and debuts new episodes starting this October.
“Pluto” (October 26 on Netflix)
Naoki Urasawa is one of the most acclaimed manga artists of all time (Bong Joon-ho is a massive fan), but aside from his serial killer thriller “Monster,” most of his best work hasn’t received much in the way of adaptations. That changes with “Pluto,” a long overdue anime version of Urasawa’s 2003 sci-fi classic. Essentially “Astro Boy” flipped on its head and reimagined as a murder mystery, “Pluto” focuses on robot detective Gesicht as he investigates a string of murders against the seven most advanced robots in the world. The mysterious murderer also ends up targeting boy robot Atom, who was created as a substitute of scientist Professor Tenma’s dead son and abandonded when he began acting like his own person. Like most of Urasawa’s work, “Pluto” is a suspenseful, thrilling, and complicated, taking on the age-old topic of the nature of humanity in a high-tech world with a ton of nuance.
“Spirited Away” (In Theaters October 28)
There is never a bad time to watch “Spirited Away,” Hayao Miyazaki’s universally beloved fantasy epic about a girl looking to save her parents from an evil witch. But this fall is a better time than most, because it doubles as a pregame for the highly anticipated release of Miyazaki’s final(?) film, “The Boy and the Heron.” You can of course rent or stream “Spirited Away” online, but you can also catch it in theaters this October via GKIDS’ annual Studio Ghibli Fest — produced in partnership with Fathom Events. “Spirited Away” will run in theaters October 28 through November 1, giving fans four days to catch Chihiro Ogino’s adventure of a lifetime on the big screen.