So, it’s my turn now, huh? I don’t think the world is ready for my Anime of the Decade list, but here we are!
Just like the other two, I’ve chosen shows that I enjoyed the most and found the most interesting throughout the decade. No gimmicks; no “one anime from each year”; no rankings or any of that. These are solely shows that I most enjoyed from 2010 to 2019 in the order that I first watched them. That’s it; nothing fancy. I like to think of it as a sort of journey through my anime life, I suppose.
Anyway, I won’t hold back on the content in the picks themselves, so let’s jump into some of my favorite anime of the decade, hooray!
Yeah, this is exactly where we’re starting. There’s no better place to start, really, with my love for KyoAni, their staff, and their shows still forever strong to this day.
When I first watched Hyouka, I didn’t fully appreciate exactly how great of a show this was. It was only after reading a Hyouka article by an Ani-blogger known as “Frog-kun” that I realized how amazingly complex this anime was and spurred an immediate re-watch on my behalf to fully appreciate those complexities. Little did I know that I was going to try and create blog content in the same vein as that sometime in the future…
That aside, Hyouka is probably one of the best all-around greatest shows that KyoAni has ever created, in terms of everything just coming together to create an entire atmosphere that just worked so well with the material at hand. I say that knowing fully well that KyoAni has created a lot of great works in the past decade, and I wish that I could discuss all of them right now. However, when it comes to one that means the most to me and is the most stand-out among them all, it’s Hyouka.
If you haven’t seen this show, it’s a coming-of-age story about classmates that are discovering ways to live their life in the fullest way possible, whatever that may mean to them. For some, it may be just laying around all day doing what they want; for others, it’s striving to find the joy in life’s smallest mysteries. However, the show also has its own story to tell, stating that it’s okay if you don’t always want to live your life the way you’re living it now. Hyouka has a simple message that is told simply, yet in a poetic way that cannot be replicated. People can change, and that’s okay.
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou (2012)
There are plenty of classics and well-known titles that came from the year 2012. It was also the year I began watching anime for the first time and was my first introduction to seasonals. I honestly had never really taken myself as a fan of rom-coms before this point in my life, and I guess it’s safe to say that The Pet Girl of Sakurasou was my first major full-on rom-com anime. Boy, that was sure of a hell of a place to start, especially since it was also one of Mari Okada’s series compositions.
This show hits in a lot of ways that many other shows do not, something that can hit you right where it hurts constantly, solely because it has a wide cast of characters with lots of feelings and topics discussed that are relatable in some of the most emotional ways imaginable. The comedy is equally as gut-punching, creating a sort of dynamic that makes it feel like you’re also there with those characters with them feeling what they’re feeling at that point, whether that’s joy or grief.
It’s one of the few shows that just knows where to strike and hits hard when it does, and it still hurts reflecting upon the show to this very day. It’s one of the few shows I managed to marathon in an entire day, despite it being 24 episodes. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou was truly the beginning of me seeing the variety of shows anime had to offer for me, and with the show being top-tier itself, became one of the most integral anime to what has formed my tastes in anime today.
OreGairu S2 (2015)
Speaking of rom-com anime that hit you hard… OreGairu became a lot more than I expected it to become when it comes to the second season. Granted, it’s always been its own animal when it comes to what rom-com anime truly boil down to at the end of the day. While S2 is structurally different from S1, the second season does a lot more with the characters in my opinion. It takes the story beyond “quirky rom-com with a lone-wolf MC”, and into territory of “what even are friends and relationships?”, which keeps it in line with the entire idea of the series as a whole.
As a non-standard rom-com about loners trying to make friends and getting along with other people and attempting to understand them, OreGairu S2 has some very hard-hitting moments when it comes to personal baggage and muddling through these feelings. The character-centric drama involving “genuine feelings for their friends” is honestly one of the most memorable parts of the show for me. The beautiful rooftop scene where they all have this discussion and revelation of feelings for each other is probably one of the most cathartic and memorable scenes of the decade to watch unfold after the tension that was created for several episodes.
As with many others, this show is just one that I hold in high regard and even reflecting on when I initially watched this show, there’s just so few anime that have the level of impact that OreGairu S2 did to me. It’s an unforgettable anime about the realization of feelings and acceptance of others and I can’t wait to see what sort of difficulties S3 will bring to the table regarding those same ideals.
Shakugan no Shana III (Final) (2011)
As the third season of a long-running shounen/romance anime based on a series of light novels that have been out since 2002, it’s not exactly something that caters to my brand normally. However, Shakugan no Shana III (Final) nailed down what I wanted out of this series from the beginning: a variety of characters with varying levels of narrative depth and a resolution that felt like it meant something and would last years after the story was over.
When I started watching this series, I never imagined I would have enjoyed it enough to go through 78 episodes, a movie, and a 4 episode OVA. It seemed like a huge barrier of entry at first, but the story has a natural progression that keeps it in-line with the universe surrounding the characters. The supernatural elements of the show have a level of narrative cohesion that it feels like many shorter shows nowadays tend to lack, and also causes the show to value its narrative making “sense” instead of doing something over-the-top and crazy. Kou Ootani also put some of his best work into making this soundtrack sound amazing and generating as much hype as possible for the grand finale of this show. Honestly, the entire Shakugan no Shana series is worth watching just for the soundtrack alone.
It’s an unforgettable classic in my eyes with narrative twists that have an impact and an entire cast of characters that will remain to be memorable long after the show is finished.
Ever had a moment in your life where you were like “Damn, I messed up my high school life pretty bad, I wish I could go back in time and fix it!”? What if that meant re-living through high-school once again. Would that be worth fixing your current life problems?
Well, ReLIFE explores that entire concept with great strides to make it so that you’ll want to consider how much you value your current life over how much you want to relive through high-school once again. Our main character Arata chooses to relive his high-school life to avoid some worse situations that he’s gotten himself into as a form of “escapism”, however by doing this, he gains a different perspective by having the mind of an adult in high school and learning from the students as much as he teaches them.
What makes this show great is how the show takes place in a normal “high school” setting, with scenarios like what you would expect from any show within the genre. However, with Arata’s perspective as an adult, he’s a bit more aware of how much high school matters after the fact and tends to be helpful in scenarios that typically would result in some pretty forced drama scenarios. At the same time, he learns some things from the high schoolers as well, to sort of give him mental guidance to get his life back on the right track after his time of reliving high-school is up.
In my mind, ReLIFE is a show that’s worth noting when it comes to Anime of the Decade, as it honestly comes as a shock of how good the show is despite what it seems like from the cover. It’s quality stuff, for sure.
Blast of Tempest (2012)
After hearing some very good things about this show from others in the anime community, I decided to see what sort of show that Mari Okada had gotten herself into this time… and boy, did I not see this one coming at all.
Blast of Tempest is a story about how two best friends, Yoshino and Mahiro, try to save the world from being overtaken by magic by working with a witch, while also trying to figure out how Mahiro’s sister (also Yoshino’s girlfriend) was mysteriously murdered around the same time.
I honestly had no idea what to expect from a show like this, as it seems so chaotic that you would end up with loose plot threads dangling everywhere you looked. However, the overall tone of this show and the structure of this show made it work incredibly well with its narrative and theme, and honestly became more than a show that I appreciated for its narrative and characters, but also for its style and delivery of the story itself.
Every episode of this show, it seemed like something new and crazy was happening, with that same “chaos” actually playing to Blast of Tempest’s narrative strengths. It became a story that engulfed me very quickly, and I massively enjoyed being caught up in the madness and chaos of what plot point was going to drastically change the story next. Plus, with its overall love for Shakespeare works and references, it feels appropriate in that it’s striking at a “larger than life” sort of story for these characters, which becomes the main feeling of the characters in the story as well.
This is one that I’d have to highly recommend to everyone, as there’s enough to captivate pretty much whoever wants to watch the show. It has a bit of everything and it’s wild.
White Album 2 (2013)
As a well-established fan of romance works, it’s only fair that after 5 years of watching anime and being a romance anime connoisseur that I watch the utterly (in)famous White Album 2. If you haven’t seen it and you don’t know why I said “(in)famous”, then that just means you need to go and watch it to find out!
White Album 2 is what I would consider the love triangle anime of the decade, in terms of its content and outcome, at the end of the day. Many aspects of the story revolve around maintaining friendships while trying to deal with romantic feelings for those friends in question. It’s not necessarily a story that makes you feel in a situation of relatability to the main character but does make those feelings that he has relatable, knowing that if he pursues his desires, then the friendships that he’s created and cherishes will disappear.
The show becomes just as much about preserving friendships through all costs as it is about the romantic aspects. It’s a web of romance and feelings that this trio of characters have to figure out for themselves, and it’s quite a beautiful sort of mess that can only result in tragedy at the end of the day. White Album 2 asks questions such as “What is more valuable to you, a friendship or a romance?” and “How long until this beautiful dream-like group friendship falls apart?”.
White Album 2 is truly a story that showcases the wonders, the adventures, and the disparity of romance and friendships unlike any other.
In recent years, as the isekai anime began to trend, one show by Ei Aoki caught my attention solely based off of the concept within the PV and the inclusion of Hiroyuki Sawano’s OST. As an anime that was focused on telling a character story by pulling characters from in-universe media into the real world, you may expect the show to turn into a complete disaster somewhere along the line, especially if you consider Ei Aoki’s previous works like Aldnoah.Zero.
Re:CREATORS is different though. Starting as a show that was primarily action-focused with characters from all sorts of different anime genres fighting against one another, ended up being fleshed out into an excellent character narrative about how media changes us and how pursuing artistic passions can be difficult. Our main character Souta gets to experience first hand the results of creating something of his own, showing the difficulties that come with that. Furthermore, the show puts heavy emphasis on how society as a whole can react to those artistic works. It gets into the aspects of fandom that show how they can be a great ego-booster for yourself or how they can destroy your entire drive to create media.
With these acting together throughout the narrative of the show, the show ends up being a work that can be appreciated by everyone, whether you’re just a passive fan consuming different works of media, or one that creates those works that people can enjoy. Re:CREATORS is one that I will never forget and will always encourage any anime fan to watch for themselves.
By this point in 2017, I wasn’t a huge “club anime” watcher anymore as I felt that many of them become repetitive and tend to recycle some of the same jokes during their run-time. It is a shame, as someone that started watching anime on shows like K-ON! and GJ-bu, I was just looking for the same feeling of enjoyment from a simple club show like those, but with a more modern feel to it.
Enter Anime-gataris… where I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I first started the show. As a comedy anime based around anime-lovers, there was plenty of potential for the show just to reuse the same jokes from other shows, just as plenty other anime have in the past. This show starts the same way, albeit with some… oddities that sort of stuck out from time to time. Typical jokes referencing other anime, going to totally-not-Comiket, interacting with different kinds of anime fans from different countries; there was plenty to enjoy in the first few episodes, but something was always… off.
About halfway through the show, the show began taking some turns unique unto itself. The anime became transformative into making fun of anime production aspects, turning the audience and characters into the gags themselves. Anime-gataris started breaking the fourth wall with itself, to the point where the character had begun to realize that they were always the thing that they loved and enjoyed, an “anime”. The characters struggle to deal with the reality of this throughout the latter half of the show, still with the plentiful comedy gags and general theme of anime appreciation that the beginning of the show had.
It’s likely not a show for everyone, but if you enjoy the sort of “meta” humor of the show itself and enjoy jokes about how anime is produced, then definitely give it a try. It’s a life-changing anime in my book.
Zombie Land Saga (2018)
Zombies and idols… not exactly something that I thought would mix as well as it did.
Zombie Land Saga is an anime that takes a crazy idea like “turning zombies into idols”, and manages to both parody the sorts of idol shows that have become crazy popular throughout the years, and also appreciate those shows for what they are. Although the scenes from this show may seem like Idolm@ster from beyond the grave, the show delves into a lot more than that with its characters.
I’m not typically a fan of zombies as a gimmick within media in general, but this show makes it work so well, as the aspect is only really brought up to drive the narrative forward through the characters and for a few comedy bits here and there. The characters themselves and the stories that they tell are really what Zombie Land Saga is about. Touching on fears from the past life, trying to let go of things that happened in the past, and even just coping with the general idea of living a new life as a zombie-idol. There’s just a lot the show has to offer from its narrative and it’s easy to find all of the characters likable, including our own manager/producer Koutarou Tatsumi (voiced by Mamoru Miyano, by the way, which did a fantastic job with the role).
Overall, it’s just a solid show with a premise that can be both wacky and fun, and also dramatic and meaningful. It’s one that has a lot of personality beneath the surface, especially for its characters.
Your Lie in April (2014)
As a show that several people have recommended to me in the years past, I finally decided to cave and watch the show, despite knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. It has a lot going on, both visually and internally as a narrative.
Your Lie in April is a bittersweet story told in one of the most interesting ways, using the music and the colors to do a lot of the background work so that the narrative could just simply be the narrative. There are plenty of romance elements within the show but unlike some of the previous shows on this list, that was not the sole appeal of this series for me. The appeal of the series was a lot of the interpersonal elements with Kousei struggling to regain his music career and passions after losing his mother ended up becoming the main focus of the series for me. The series is a very powerful one if you’ve ever been in a bad spot in your life and you’ve lost your passion to do what you love the most, which is what the series is mainly about.
It has a lot going for it in a lot of different areas, and while it does become a hard show to mentally deal with at times, it’s one that’s worth it, as one of the main threads of the story is moving past the grief and using that to create a better life for yourself. For these reasons, it’s a must-watch in my book.
I was almost a decade behind on getting to this show, but I managed to squeeze it in within the last couple of months of 2019. I honestly wish I had gotten to it sooner, as Shiki is an experience.
The easiest way to explain Shiki as a show is that it’s about a small rural village that is being attacked by creatures that are non-human and continue to run rampant attacking other villagers, causing them to lose their human nature as well. It starts as a sort of mystery story and tries to be one in full, however, the story becomes a lot more meaningful if you look at it the show as a story about what “humanity” really is.
There’s plenty of questions that the show asks about “can we consider these sentient creatures as ‘human’?’”, and “what actions can cause humans to lose their humanity?” when it comes to trying to stop these sentient creatures from over-taking their own. It’s by far one of the most thought-provoking shows I’ve seen in a while, with the plot being rather simple to follow. Many stories that try to tell the narrative from this perspective tend to be convoluted or get bogged down by their own philosophical “smart” statements, but Shiki does none of that. Instead, it simply tells its story and leaves all of the question-asking to the audience itself as the story approaches these topics.
There’s a lot to get out of Shiki no matter what kind of story you’re looking for, which makes it great group-watch material as well if you have friends that like entertaining anime with a twist of horror to it. It’s a show that makes you think without really forcing you to, which is exactly the type of show that’s always interesting to get additional perspectives on as well.
Astra Lost in Space (2019)
As a show that’s pretty much an elongated space adventure, it ended up far better than I could have ever hoped for in terms of telling a story and then wrapping up as cleanly as possible. It leaves you with a satisfied, complete feeling that seems rare among anime these days.
Astra Lost in Space, as an anime that is about as sci-fi as you can get, manages to cram a lot into its small narrative space and makes it successfully work. The characters are one of the best parts of the show, and their interactions with each other make the twists of the show that much greater when they do happen (and boy, are there a lot of twists). The narrative starts as “a bunch of high-school kids go on a space-field adventure to train team-building skills”, and eventually turns into an entire full-fledged space voyage encountering different planets, species, interpersonal troubles, and… a secret plot involving their school. These students learn quickly that life is a lot more than their “school life” initially entailed.
As a sort of rarity to find a true sci-fi anime that isn’t just mecha or part of a genre-tag of a harem, this show gives you the full idea of what can be done involving traditional sci-fi elements within the anime medium. It’s a show that involves a lot of dramatic twists that will keep you on-edge until the anime is over, which is always something I can appreciate from a show.
I hope that everyone enjoyed our showcase of Anime of the Decade!
We managed to cover a lot between the three of us, but if you want to share your lists or choices that you thought were great anime from the decade that you would like to be appreciated, drop them in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!