The past decade of anime from Sentai Filmworks comes out to well over a thousand releases, though obviously there’s some duplicates in there. And we scratched the surface of it over our looks at what came out with a hundred titles that are easily in our best of the best each year and worth checking out. I’ve talked in the past about how I grew up where I didn’t want to be stuck in a particular genre of something as the only thing I liked. My father liked science fiction and that was it, just a certain kind of science fiction. I’ve engaged with storytelling from so many genres, cultures, backgrounds, and creatives over the years that I’m game for almost anything. It’s why I can go from silly to serious to sweet and sexual in a heartbeat. It’s why I treat hentai as seriously as every other work out there.
2020 is behind us but we had a lot of great things come out throughout the year from Sentai and I encourage you to check out pretty much everything on this list.
Mysteria Friends: This series was a delight through and through as it left me just really enjoying its smaller focus on the lead characters of Grea and Anne. I had a wonderful time revisiting it in this form after the simulcast that I knew what it was trying to be and the kind of narrative it wanted to have. We did have some other characters poke in from time to time, and a little bit of “action” about midway through, but the bulk of what we got was tentative relationship material between two young women that felt a bond between them. It was wonderfully executed and handled with some beautiful animation and solid voice acting to bring it all home in an engaging and smile-inducing way. I want more, but only if it can be done as wonderfully as this was done.
Space Brothers #0: With the TV series making the list earlier in the decade, finally getting the film this year was one of the best parts of 2020 for me. The film goes back to some of the earlier periods of the characters’ lives and explores things from there but it’s a great addition to a story that I can’t get enough of and want another hundred episodes of. I could get that and wouldn’t be bored in the slightest by it. Hibito and Mutta’s journey here are ones where we know where they go based on the series but seeing more of the lead-up and the why of it all definitely helps to further solidify an already fantastic foundation.
After the Rain: Sometimes a series really clicks for you in a way that’s hard to pinpoint, especially when aspects of the story are hugely problematic to say the least. Honestly, even if the story isn’t one you’d normally seek out, it’s one I recommend just from an animation and storytelling perspective. It’s beautifully done with its color design, character work, and how it immerses us into that “clean and beautiful” striking version of Japan that you get in anime. It’s not dreamlike but it has those moments where it’s easy to get caught up in it all and to understand the emotions the characters are going through. And these depths are well-explored and at least give insight as to why it goes as far as it does and gets you to understand it.
O Maidens In Your Savage Season: Though things wrap up a little too tight and cleanly by the end, it’s the journey and not the destination that matters. Watching these characters reveal who they are as they come to understand themselves a bit better, and engage with each other about one of the hardest parts of being a teenager is growing up into sexuality, is very well done. It’s an incredibly hard period of life and creator Mari Okada writes it from a great perspective with several different angles that will let a lot of viewers come away from it with different impressions and hopes. There’s a lot to like here and each character brings something welcome to the table to engage with and it’s very well done. It’s a great-looking series with a neat style to it that comes through as well and fits the larger themes and ideas.
Domestic Girlfriend: I love series that focus on the actual acts and the complications that come from sexuality, especially since so many still avoid having the leads even kiss. With this series, it wants to go for a quiet approach that’s appealing as it delves into some really complicated relationships – which may sound like they’re out of porn but do happen throughout the world, just not with any great regularity. It plays to some of the familiar slice of life school elements but there’s this disturbing storyline playing out throughout it that really colors it in a fascinating way. The show has a really good look about it and it holds up well throughout, finding the right way to present the saucier material without being too gratuitous but also making it clear that these characters are engaging in adult situations when they’re truly not ready for it.
Fragtime: While I wish Fragtime would have gone a bit further in terms of the relationship between the leads, what we get here is exactly the kind of summertime dreamlike material that we need more of in general. It’s a wonderful little OVA that delivers an interesting relationship with an amusing gimmick that’s not really overplayed and serves to help the characters grow. The animation is solid, the character designs fantastic, and it hits that sweet spot that feels like gets overlooked these days in favor of longer-running projects.
Ao-Chan Can’t Study: While I do lament that this is another show that essentially ends with a kiss as the best material should come afterward, what we do get here works really well. We’ve got lots of build-up, the payoff for the moment itself, and then some comedy afterward that puts Kijima in a real pickle that he’s also delighted by. For Ao-chan, she’s also clearly overthinking things but it tracks with how her mind works and aspects of her own family life and upbringing that would make one understand how she’d end up that way. I really like these two in general and as a couple and it would be a real treat to see them explored more, to get beyond this moment of will they or won’t they kiss and become something more.
7 Seeds: The first of two seasons that I’ve seen so far has the problem of a really large cast but it delves into a world that’s definitely engaging and interesting to watch unfold. I do enjoy the way it weaves the stories and experiences of a couple of groups we follow (which in turn split at times for a while themselves) so it’s a busy story with a lot of plots to follow as they acclimate to this new world. There are the obvious central focus characters but it really doesn’t feel like it’s a story about a single character as the true focus, which helps to make it an engaging ensemble to watch and there’s a lot to like as more of the world reveals itself to them and to the viewer. The show has a pretty solid look to it and I really like the general ideas behind its visual design and approach.
Senryu Girl: Senryu Girl starts off light and charming and maintains that feeling throughout, even if it could have used just a bit more weight to it with its two leads. Nonoka’s well-handled with her issue and it plays into the club side of things but it’s really Eiji that steals the show. As we get to see more of him across the series and he emotes more than anyone else you find yourself really liking him and this pairing since they’re cute together. The path and journey for this relationship can have some obvious ups and downs ahead of it but the opening episode sets it up nicely and has me looking forward to seeing more of it since it has a kind of cute approach to everything.
Val X Love: The Val X Love property is one that I really liked upon seeing the original manga surface a few years back as it has a distinct and interesting look about it, even if I never read any of it. The anime adaptation has an interesting undercurrent of sexuality and fanservice the bubbles up more throughout into more obvious areas, but with its focus on the power of love to boost our leading ladies, that’s no surprise. The show doesn’t quite win me over as I kind of cringe from properties that focus on this many characters in this form as it’s never able to give them enough attention, but they do a pretty good job here overall to use it in favor of the plot itself.
Chris has been writing about anime, manga, movies and comics for well on twenty years now. He began AnimeOnDVD.com back in 1998 and has covered nearly every anime release that’s come out in the US ever since.