The 2010’s were as awesome a decade for anime as they were terrible for pretty much everything else. The arrival of streaming changed the game completely, and there are now more awesome anime coming out now than ever before. Digital animation is mind-blowingly good now, and tons of shows have really pushed the envelope in terms of story and character development. So I wanted to write about some of my favorites.
Just to clarify: I’m only doing TV series that started in the 2010s. (I love K-On and FMA: Brotherhood, but they don’t count.) Also, these are just my opinions, so please don’t freak out because *insert popular anime here* wasn’t on it, OK?
10. Re:Zero (2016-)
Isekai has gotten extremely popular in the 2010’s, and yeah, it’s probably oversaturated at this point. But for my money, no isekai has nailed it quite like Re:Zero. It takes all the clichès that had been done to death – the overpowered protagonist, the harem, the whole “wish fulfillment” aspect of the genre – and completely turned them on their head, creating a psychological thriller that brilliantly depicts how cruel and violent most of these fantasies truly are. The characters were all great (even though I wanted to smack Subaru several times for being such a dumb-dumb), the fights were a ton of fun, and Episodes 15-18 just left me a pathetic, weeping mess by the end. Now give us Season 2 already!
9. Kill la Kill (2014)
OK, OK, I know the outfit looks bad, but I swear this anime is amazing. It’s got all the over-the-top, insane action and humor of classics like Gurren Lagann and FLCL, which makes sense because it was made by a lot of the same people! The characters are all great, the soundtrack is top-tier, and it actually has a lot to say about issues like consumerism, class struggle, autocracy, and how women are portrayed in media. Kill la Kill is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it kind of anime, and not one I’d recommend to everybody, but damn if I don’t get hyped as hell every time I watch this. Don’t lose your waaaaaayyyyy!
8. Little Witch Academia (2017)
Two Trigger anime in a row. What can I say? I love their animation. While most of their anime have a ton of action and fanservice, Little Witch Academia shows that the studio is just as good at making a wholesome and heartwarming magical girl/slice of life show. It’s basically Harry Potter: The Anime, but tells a complete and satisfying in just 25 breezy episodes (instead of, you know, 7 books and 8 movies). The all-female cast is just a delight, and there’s tons of chemistry between lead characters Akko and Diana. It’s just a fantastic anime, great for just about anyone.
7. Symphogear (2012-2019)
Two words: WATCH SYMPHOGEAR
OK, I guess I should explain a bit more. This anime is goddamn fantastic and it’s baffling how few people have actually seen it. It’s a magical girl anime (a running theme here, I know) where the girls all wear robot suits designed after mythological weapons and fight aliens with abilities that let them shoot like 50 rocket launchers at once or ride a motorcycle that is also a sword. And they sing the entire time! It’s a series that runs almost entirely on “rule of cool”, and I’m obsessed with it. It’s like Evangelion meets JoJo’s, with a ton of yuri thrown in for good measure. And it ran for FIVE seasons! If you like anime, you should watch Symphogear. I can’t stress this enough.
6. Vinland Saga (2019-)
Even in the wild, weird world of anime, Vinland Saga is a different beast than most. It’s not an action-packed hype fest: it’s an epic, much like the historical sagas it’s based on. The pacing is deliberately slow, to truly give depth and nuance to the story and world it takes place in. The character writing is phenomenal, and really brings you into the mindset of people who lived almost a thousand years ago. The art is – I mean, look at it! It looks like a friggin’ painting! I sincerely hope Studio Wit doesn’t take too long to give us a follow-up because, well… you know how people say Attack on Titan is like the Game of Thrones of anime? If the manga gets a full adaptation, this could very well be the Lord of the Rings of anime. It’s that damn good.
5. My Hero Academia (2016-)
I can already hear the complaints. The number one Shonen Jump anime, this generation’s Dragon Ball, only at number 5? But that only speaks to how amazing all the anime on this list are, because My Hero Academia is a shonen classic in every sense of the word. Deku’s journey from a Quirkless nobody to the world’s greatest hero has been thrilling and inspiring every season. The music and animation are phenomenal (of course – it’s Studio Bones), and it’s great to see a new spin on the classic superhero genre, but what really makes this anime special is how much it makes you love and care about all its characters. From icy-hot bad boy Todoroki to the adorkable Froppy, everyone in this anime is unique and wonderful in their own way. (Except Mineta. He’s gross.)
4. A Place Further Than The Universe (2018)
The “cute girls doing cute things” subgenre of anime has both its fans and detractors, but I never heard anyone have a bad word to say about A Place Further Than The Universe. It’s a slice of life adventure story that perfectly captures the sense of majesty and wonder that can only come from going way out of your comfort zone and exploring the great unknown. The girls are all fantastic and have a lot more to them than they let on at first. The story made me laugh, cry, and feel inspired all at once. And like, PENGUINS! Who doesn’t love penguins?
3. Violet Evergarden (2018)
Kyoto Animation is too good for this world. All of their anime are amazing, but Violet Evergarden might be my favorite of all of them. Maybe I’m a bit biased, because it is, in the end, a story about writing and how the power of language can heal old wounds and bring people together. But I just love everything about this anime. The setting, story, characters, all of it. It got me back into anime after stopping for many years. It’s made me cry more than any anime I’ve ever seen. It’s just brilliant, and honestly, I’m having a hard time even coming up with the words to describe it.
2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011-2012)
With all the magical girl anime on this list, it’s only fitting that I throw in the big one of the 2010’s, Madoka Magica. But this series is the furthest thing from the light and fluffy shows like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura that made the genre explode in the 1990’s. This series is dark, depressing, and achingly beautiful. Sure, subverting magical girl tropes is clever and all, but what really made this series special is how much it endears you to its characters – and how much it fills you with dread when you realize what’s at stake for all of them. And all that tragedy and despair makes the girls’ desire to hold onto hope and save everyone all the more inspiring.
Before I continue, a few honorable mentions:
Made in Abyss (2017): Outstanding worldbuilding, two lovable main characters, and a gorgeous OST – shame the author is such a creep.
Zombieland Saga (2018): Who would have thought that a comedy show about zombies in an idol group has some of the realest moments in anime this decade?
Fruits Basket (2019): A beloved 90’s shoujo classic, finally getting the adaptation it deserves.
Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (2015): Saber is the one true Best Anime Girl.
And finally, my favorite anime of the 2010’s is no surprise at all to anyone who knows me and my tastes…
1. Hunter x Hunter (2011-2014)
I wrote an entire blog post fangirling about this anime, so I’ll try to be brief. Hunter x Hunter is a 10/10. The characters are some of the most well-written and fleshed out I’ve ever seen. Even the side characters and villains are fascinating. The story is epic and only seems to get bigger and better with each arc. It’s got action, comedy, drama, horror, and even slice of life moments, and nails all of them without missing a beat. It’s 148 episodes long, and the worst thing I can say about it is that I want more. Hunter x Hunter is one of the first series that comes to mind whenever I think about anime, and it is my favorite anime series of the 2010’s.
So, that’s it for this decade. I hope that the 2020’s bring as much amazing anime as this one did! What are some of your favorite anime of the 2010’s?