The 2010’s Were Full of Great Titles!
There were so many great titles in the past decade, in fact, that I had a hard time only picking 10 of them. So, since we are entering 2020, I thought I’d expand the list to 20 titles! Before we dive in, I need to state that only shows I actually watched to completion were eligible for the list, so if a title is missing, I probably just didn’t watch it yet. Additionally, films will be included on this list as well since there were a few that came out and I saw that I really liked, but not enough for a separate list. Finally, these are my picks, so if you disagree, just make your own list, I’d love to see it!
Getting the list down to 20 titles was no small feat, but I just didn’t feel right with leaving a few of them off the list entirely. Here are 5 anime that fell just short of making the list along with my reasons for including them at all. Enjoy!
5. Dr. Stone
Unlike most of the anime on the list proper, I haven’t been able to give Dr. Stone a rewatch, and it is just a bit too new for me to consider for the best of the decade. Additionally, two other factors are keeping it off the list this time around and those are:
- The start of the show isn’t the best.
- It isn’t actually complete yet.
However, I do think this is a fantastic show worthy of attention so I figured it should get some recognition at the very least. If you want more of my thoughts, check out my review of Dr. Stone.
4. Flowers of Evil
The first time I watched Flowers of Evil, it was for my Anime ABC’s series. It was a fascinating show that I think gets a lot of flak due to the more unconventional rotoscoped animation style. For me though, that just adds to how unsettling it all was. What held this one back from making the list proper was the fact that it didn’t see completion. Still, the music and that episode are more than enough for me to solidly recommend that you give this grim anime a shot.
3. Love, Election, and Chocolate
This is more of an unconventional stance, but I think this show is really good. On the surface, it’s your generic semi-harem-fanservice-y-high school show, however, it has a lot more going on than first meets the eye. I mentioned Love, Election, and Chocolate in my article, “It’s a Terrible Day for Rain – Exploring the Storyteller’s Kit“, as it was actually my inspiration for that article. So yeah, I really liked it, but I wouldn’t call it one of the anime of the decade.
2. Wandering Son
I just didn’t feel right leaving this off the list. Wandering Son is one of those rare anime that tries really hard to tackle a serious topic as gracefully as possible. That includes both the good, and the bad. Even if you aren’t trans, I’m not, this should be a series you watch to gain some perspective on the topic. Plus, the show has a fairly unique visual style and just looks great.
1. The WIXOSS Franchise
Listen, as much as I like this show, there’s just no way it could ever make the list. Simply put, there are just too many other great titles ahead of all the WIXOSS entries. That said, you can catch my thoughts on the whole franchise, along with a collab I did with some other fans of the show, here.
The List Proper
Now onto the real list! These are in somewhat of a loose order, so take everything with a small grain of salt. It’s really tough to rank so many excellent anime like this. I hope you enjoy the list!
20. Bunny Drop
Really, this could be any father-daughter type show. It’s a specific niche that I’m sure most of you know I’m into by now. I mean, I wrote a whole article on it awhile back. That said, Bunny Drop ends up getting the prestigious named position since it is the show that started my interest. Additionally, it’s one of the more unique ones I’ve seen visually that keeps itself fairly grounded in its storytelling too. Not to say the other shows in this niche aren’t great, most of them are, but I really do like this one a lot!
When it comes to mystery series, actual mystery series, not shows with just mystery elements, where you can sit at home playing detective yourself, ariving to the correct conclusion from keen observation and logical deduction, many anime fail miserably at providing this experience. Not the case for our second entry on the list: Hyouka.
This decade I actually watched a few decent mystery titles, but this one stood out because it had so many of them across its 22 episodes. Not only that, but the characters were fun. I was never bored watching this one, even when the mysteries were too easy (which is a common problem for me, unfortunately), which sits it pretty much at the top of the list for mystery anime at least.
Why is it so low here? Well top 20 of the decade is no laughing matter! However, it’s mainly to do with the fact that the show ends right when it feels like it has so much more to offer. The interpersonal drama that acts as the series’ B plot was captivating, and I would have liked to follow that further. That said, this is mostly a “me” issue. Either way, Hyouka is well-worth watching.
I’ve been a fan of Ikuhara ever since I watched Penguindrum, having seen most of his work at this point, I was excited when this title, Sarazanmai, was announced. His stuff is just so… weird, but in a captivating way that always manages to deliver some food for thought at the very least. However, I didn’t expect this show to be as good as it was.
The anime is presented almost like musical theater, which is just unheard of when it comes to this medium. Not only in structure, but by having the actual musical component as well. I watched this dubbed, and to my surprise, even the songs were translated and adapted in English as well! Even more surprising, is that it sounded really good. So much so, that a lot of folks even prefer the English singing. A rarity in deed!
Don’t just take my word for it, give it a listen!
Unfortunately, the show has a LOT holding it back from being something I can easily recommend. Yes, it has the usual Ikuhara weirdness, but it’s taken a step further by being steeped in some additional cultural aspects that may not resonate with a general audience. Still, I find this to be a happy middle ground for Ikuhara, not overly straightforward like Yuri Kuma, but not so mired in obscurity as to lose the audience. It seems that Ikuhara learned well from his pasts works and made something that is close to being an ideal single-core anime from him.
Here’s something I never thought I’d get to watch, much less in English. Planetarian is a series of ONA’s that adapts the kinetic novel of the same name. It’s a Key work, so it’s sad of course. It really blew me away because of how it took advantage of its unique time format. Being a net animation, it didn’t need to adhere to strict broadcasting schedules, meaning that each episode was the length it needed to be. Some are quite short, while others are on the longer side, but you never really feel it.
Of course, it had some stunning animation with a great story to boot. I particularly liked the way they used a Christian song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” as a main motif. That was both an interesting and unexpected choice that I’ve not seen in another anime before. If you are into any of the other stuff that came from Key, you shouldn’t skip this one.
I should also mention that this had a film that is partially recap and continuation. While it’s not as strong as the main series, mostly due to the recap, I also recommend that. You can read more about the film here.
16. Space Dandy
Love it or hate it, the reason that Space Dandy is finding a place on this list is for how it celebrates the medium of animation. Brainchild of famed Shinichiro Watanabe, this series is practically an anthology series that showcases different animators and directors across each of its 26 episodes. Yet, it comes together in the end to form a cohesive narrative.
Many folks are likely to disagree with me on this one, as Space Dandy was a more contentious series, but how could I not put something that celebrates the stuff we love so much on a list like this? It’s unique in more than that way, with the English dub actually airing before the Japanese. Leaving a mark on history that is still talked about to this day. It’s a unique experience that you should go through at least once.
Who said that cute girls doing cute things couldn’t be… horrific? Wait, what?!?
Whoops, no must be my mistake
This is one of those entries that you are just going to have to take my word for. If you haven’t seen it, go in blind and give it a watch. Really stick with it, at least for the first episode or two. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, you may actually find yourself surprised!
It’s difficult to talk about School-Live! without totally spoiling why it’s such an excellent series. The juxtaposition between what the show appears to be, and what it is actually about is brilliant. What brings it all home is solid direction and well-integrated music. I hope that this series will see a continuation some day now that the manga is further out. I liked the way the anime chose to adapt things and want to see it fully realized.
14. Death Parade
I wrote and re-wrote the blurb for this entry many times before finally settling on this. Death Parade isn’t easy for me to fully describe without diving into all the nuance that brings it to the 14th position on this list. What happens after we die and how are we judged for the lives we’ve lived thus far? To some extent, this is what the series explores, but it is more about the many faces of humanity. The happiness, anguish, good, and evil of it all.
Each story is different than the last, eventually coming to a head with a powerful message and one final story. All beautifully told and animated, Death Parade tackles its somber material in an upbeat way that ultimately holds a positive message. Perhaps it can be seen as a bit pretentious, or even overly sentimental, but it’s a unique story that deserves every ounce of praise its received.
Unlike some other entries on this list, I am only referring to Psycho-Pass season 1. I love crime dramas, philosophic discussion, and something I can really dive deep into. That, in turn though, makes talking about the series kind of tricky for me. There’s just too much for me to talk about when it comes to this series.
Practically every second of this show communicates something about the world, its characters, and the themes that flow through the story with little effort. Gen Urobuchi manages to deliver his signature style while offering something a lot deeper than some of his other works. This is up there with his best stuff, and one fans of his shouldn’t skip out on.
Want to learn more about Urobuchi and why I’m such a fan? Here’s some additional suggested reading for you: Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom.
12. Happy Sugar Life
When I first finished Happy Sugar Life in 2018, it left quite an impact. I even stated that it was my second favorite anime series of all time! While I’m not sure I can really say that’s true now, I can say that this is one of the best anime in its genre to come out in some time.
Hiding behind a veneer of vibrant colors and cheery smiles, Happy Sugar Life is anything but the rose-colored world the pastel imagery would have you otherwise believe. It’s subject matter is dark, and in a lot of ways, this is a show that is bound to leave most folks deeply uncomfortable.
It’s certainly not for everybody, but I’m one to advocate that this is exactly the kind of thing that media exists for. You should dive into things that make you uncomfortable and explore these darker topics.
I linked my review at the start of this blurb, which I encourage you to read. I go into a lot more depth as to why I find this to be such a meaningful experience that I just don’t have room for here. Happy Sugar Life is a show I won’t be forgetting anytime soon!
11. Steins;Gate Franchise
I imagine that this isn’t really an unconventional pick, I’m almost certain that Steins;Gate will appear on a lot of lists like this one. What I don’t expect, is for people to lump Steins;Gate 0 along with with. To me, both are excellent series that I recommend equally. Well, mostly equally. I do think the original 2011 series is the stronger of the two, I still connected with the followup season pretty strongly.
I always tell folks that this is the single best time travel story I’ve ever experienced, in any medium, because its grounded in the plausible while being completely fantastical. Steins;Gate as a franchise is exciting, thought provoking, and emotionally charged in just the right way. I simply couldn’t leave this off the list.
10. March Comes in Like a Lion
Starting up the top-half of the list is March Comes in Like a Lion. Figuring out where exactly to put this one the list was a challenge since the first season, while excellent, wasn’t as good as I expected. However, when season two rolled around, it reached the heights I had hoped for, and then some.
On the surface, this is a series about Shogi, the Japanese version of chess, but in reality, it’s about the bonds we make with people and how vital they are. Exploring themes of depression, self-worth, and a whole lot more, March offers a relatable experience regardless of where you are in life.
Beyond the meaningful messages and powerful stories across its two seasons, March Comes in Like a Lion features some breath-taking visuals with strong direction. The music is great too. In just about every aspect, March is a feast for both body and soul.
9. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Film)
Taken as a whole, the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise is pretty great. There are some rough patches, but the impact the series has had on anime since its debut is unquestionable. However, today we are just celebrating the film that tops off the two seasons before it.
When it comes to franchise films, this is hands down the single best one. You can’t change my mind on that. Technically impressive, stunning in both art and direction, boasting an excellent soundtrack, all while expanding, and most importantly, concluding a great series.
If I had to level any complaints toward the film, it would be that it is very long at nearly 3 hours, and it all but requires you to have seen the actual series. Still, to say that The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is anything short of a spectacular film would be a disservice.
8. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto
Comedy anime is always one of those things that is going to be super hit-or-miss. I fully expect a lot of people to disagree with this entry as a result, but for me, Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto, was the funniest anime of the decade. In addition to delivering on the laughs front, this series also managed to bring solid discussion. There were several fan theories about the titular Sakamoto, all of which were interesting to say the least. My personal favorite is that Sakamoto is actually an alien. Watch it again and tell me he isn’t.
If you somehow missed out on this 2016 anime, you should definitely give it a watch. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto was my favorite show of its season, so it has my full endorsement. Plus, I’m not usually this keen on comedy shows, so that’s saying something!
7. The Great Passage
Of the two novels by Shion Miura that received an anime adaptation this decade, most of you are probably familiar with Run with the Wind. That one seemed to sweep people up, and I was excited for it as well. That was largely due to this entry: The Great Passage.
While Run with the Wind failed to really draw me in like I would have liked, the one with a seemingly bland topic did wonders. In case you didn’t know, The Great Passage is about making a dictionary, well that, and so much more. Unfortunately, due to the mundane sounding subject matter and the fact that this was an Amazon exclusive, not a lot of folks watched it. A real shame.
If you aren’t convinced, I’ll just leave this short video here for you.
6. A Silent Voice (Film)
This film is important. You may know that I advocate that folks watch things that may make them uncomfortable. Exploring these topics can help you discover more about yourself and aid you in processing things in your everyday life. However, with A Silent Voice, it starts a conversation on something a lot folks aren’t comfortable bringing up: suicide.
I used this trailer because there was no talking in it, I felt it was fitting
I’ve mentioned this before, but I did a whole youth lesson using the film to broach the subject during suicide prevention month earlier this year. That’s how important I think the film is, and how good of a vehicle it is for starting that conversation. While the film can certainly be sad, and even painful to watch, it is ultimately one with a positive message. One of hope that encourages people who may be in similar positions to reach out.
Beyond that, you’ll find a film with lavish animation and sound. Taking full advantage of the medium. If you watch it in English, they even got a deaf actress to play the female lead, which is just unheard of in anime especially. It’s not like A Silent Voice is a perfect film, but it’s impactful. A film that you shouldn’t skip out on.
5. K-On! Franchise
I know, I know… season 1 of K-On! didn’t air in the 2010’s, but season 2 and the film did. That’s really the reason this makes the list at all. While S1 was good, it wasn’t until the second season and movie that it really elevated itself to being one of the best anime I’ve watched. On the surface, K-on! is a show about cute girls, but beneath all that it’s so much more!
A story about growing up, self-discovery, and all the highs and lows that come with it. When the girls have to leave Azusa behind when they graduate, you really feel just how far all of the characters have come and how much they mean to each other, and probably to you as a viewer.
Season 2 brought with it improved visuals, but kept the great direction and energy of what came before it. Compared to the flat, and frankly, lifeless manga, the K-On! anime is among the best examples of how to do adaptations right. It’s a very funny show filled to the brim with cheer, with just the right amount of bittersweet added to the mix. Plus, great music, which is always a win!
4. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
This is the second OP for Rakugo and it is amazing!
It’s rare for a show like Rakugo to come out of the anime industry, and if this were the only anime I had watched in the past decade, I would not have been disappointed. In fact, quite the opposite! While some criticized the show for its slower pacing and carefully conceived narrative, that’s exactly what makes the show so good.
Rarely do you see a show rooted in both historical and cultural context that is easy for both insiders and outsiders to understand. Even if you aren’t Japanese and have never heard of the art form that is Rakugo, kind of a mix of traditional storytelling and stand-up comedy, you’ll still be able to immerse yourself in this rich story spanning decades itself!
A personal tale of drama, betrayal, love, and loss. Rakugo is the one title, above all others, that I implore you to give a look. While it’s not exactly underrated, it was one a lot of folks passed on, which was a real shame. While you can still watch this (for free) digitally, and even purchase it that way, it didn’t get a home release and that’s telling. A real shame, this title deserved a lot better.
3. Wolf Children (Film)
Surprise, surprise! Wolf Children, on this list? I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, this is probably my favorite film that’s not tied to an existing franchise. You all should know by now that I love anime that explore the theme of family. Mamoru Hosoda made a lot of excellent films this decade, most of which could have easily made the list, but this one just can’t be topped. So for me, it’s the only one I felt needed to be included. If you haven’t seen Wolf Children already, you owe it to yourself to give it a look!
2. Violet Evergarden
Everything you need to know about why this took the #2 slot can be found in my “letter” about Violet Evergarden. Just click the image below to give it a read.
1. Mawaru Penguindrum
If you are newer to the site, then this may be a small surprise, but long-time readers probably saw this one coming. This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about Penguindrum, and it certainly won’t be the last. Maybe one day I’ll actually review it?
Anyway, Penguindrum is my favorite anime because it is everything I like about anime all in one package. It’s absurdist, serious, goofy, full of color, music, draws on historical context, has cultural context, and a whole lot more. Plus penguins! Could the number slot really go to anything else?
That’s a wrap folks! My 20 anime of the decade. Did your favorites make the cut? Were these the titles you expected from me? Let me know in the comments below. If you enjoy my work here and want me to keep improving things as we move into the new year, please click either of my donation buttons and chuck a few dollars my way. Seriously, every bit helps! Thanks for reading and I look forward to seeing you even more in the new year.