The Best Anime of the Decade (Ranks 25-1) – Goomba Stomp

Posted: December 31, 2019 at 11:45 pm

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Ten years is a long time for anything. Its especially a long time for any industry that is seeing the explosive yearly growth that anime is. Over this past decade over 1500 anime series have premiered, not even including the countless more films! With that many shows behind us, its naturally time to do a little introspection and think about which series truly rise above the rest. Before we send off this decade and look forward to the next, check out these anime to see just what this wonderful medium is capable of giving. These are the best anime of the decade.

Studio: KyoAni Runtime: January 11th, 2017 April 6th, 2017

Dragon Maid is a wholesome slice-of-life that works in spite of its oftentimes overwhelming fanservice. It is, perhaps, indicative of KyoAnis charm, that such an egregiously horny show can manage to be so wholesome. Whether its because of the colorfully soft visuals, the playfully gentle background music, or the endearing cast of characters, Dragon Maid stands above its many, many competitors.

But what makes Dragon Maid more than a gimmicky SoL? Simple: family. The relationship between the titular Kobayashi and her equally titular dragon maid Tohru is one of sincere affection that gets explored as the series progresses. Its a slow change that we see in Kobayashi, one that she herself doesnt notice until its gone. Helping with groceries, visiting school, and going on picnics: Dragon Maid does what few other SoLs have and gives weight to the small moments, the doldrums of daily life that can only be found with family.

And I mean, cmon. That OP.

Chu chu yeah! Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

Studio: Studio 3Hz Runtime: October 6th, 2016December 26th, 2016

Animations true wonder is its lack of physical, earthly constraint, and yet too few series take advantage of the medium. Not so with Flip Flappers, which burst onto the scene in kaleidoscopic colors and with a visual freneticism that never abated. With the scant trappings of a magical girl series to barely maintain cohesion, every episode shifts genre and style crossing multiple dimensionsall to resolve maternal and interpersonal relationship issues.

There is a good story here, especially as the series plunges deeper and deeper into manifestations of psychological trauma, but its superseded by the beauty of the animation and the overriding sweetness of the friendship (with increasingly homoerotic implications) between protagonists Cocona and Papika. With bold lines and a density of detail across the screen, Flip Flappers is a tonic for those wishing that anime would push boundaries more often. In the world of Flip Flappers, there are no boundaries that cant be crossed. Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

Studio: White Fox Runtime: April 4th, 2016 Sep 19th, 2016

Re:Zero succeeds in how it takes two heavily-used anime tropes and makes it its own. It employs the basic set up for an isekai and the groundhog day trope as its key plot tool.

The shows story arcs range from slice-of-life to faux-medieval political drama to all-out fantasy-action. Its distinct yet still working in tandem for both world-building and more importantly character development, with main character Subaru Natsuki as the constant element. Subaru, whose character development is arguably the highlight of the show, is most interesting as the repeated tragedies start affecting his psyche, and how he does (and doesnt) cope. He is also flawed in his seemingly pure-hearted infatuation with Emilia the half-elf, and the show doesnt hold back in drawing out the ugliest parts of its protagonist. This only allows for redemption toward the very end of the season.

Re:Zero also takes time to develop its core supporting cast, creating fan favorites as their story arcs twist and turn around Subaru. The show even led to an enduring waifu war between Emilia and Rem, a testament in itself to the shows development of its supporting cast. Katharine Booth

Re:Zeros second season was recently announced for 2020.

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

Studio: P.A. Works Runtime: July 7th, 2013June 25th, 2017

Fittingly, The Eccentric Family occupies an odd space at the intersection of whimsy, magic realism, and character drama; there is no other series quite like it. Steeped in Japanese folklore, The Eccentric Family tells the story of a family of shape-shifting tanukis, and the precariousness of their existencealways under threat from being captured and thrown into a hot pot stew by humans. Combined with flying tengu overhead and the enigmatic magical human, Benten, whose mercurial relationship with protagonist Yasaburou is both alluring and terrifying, comes a wistful and moving meditation on existence. Yet the series is always pleasant owing to its eccentric delight in the fun of ephemeral life, and thus is a show worth seeing. Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

Studio: Lay-duce Runtime: July 6th, 2019September 21st, 2019

This is Mari Okadas most technically adroit melodrama, which is surely an odd thing to say about a series hinging on the irrational flood of feelings regarding sex and sexuality. But her decades worth of experience examining the teenage psyche in all its perceptiveness and irrationalities comes to bear in O Maidens.

For sure, only Okadas fine attunement to teenage minds could result in a character so empathetically written as Niina. Niina is fascinating and capricious, with her sexual maturity being both an asset and an isolating force amongst her friends, and her story an incisive exploration of the warping male gaze. All the characters in O Maidens are interesting in their own right, each unravelling various facets of their own sexuality, but there is no character in anime quite like Niina, and only Okada could have written her. Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on HiDive (subbed/dubbed)

Studio: Satelight Runtime: Oct 6, 2013 Dec 29, 2013

Despite anime being veritably flooded with series with romance as a core tenet, the amount of truly good romantic dramas are few and far between and even fewer still that dont rely on cheating to create cheap conflict. White Album 2 is part of that esteemed list.

Relationships are more than just the leadup to a confession, contrary to what many anime may lead you to believe. Theres the actual dating part and, sometimes, the fallout afterward. White Album 2 details all three parts of the dating process in all their nit-gritty glory. Characters are emotionally hurt, relationships irrevocably damaged, and fond memories smothered by bittersweet events.

The worst part and the part that makes the series so incredible is how no character was in the wrong for their actions. As corny as it sounds, they were true friends always thinking of the best for each other and that makes the outcome all the more painful. Few series are as beautifully tragic as White Album 2, and it is certainly one that will leave scrambling to pick up the pieces of your broken heart. Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

Studio: KyoAni Runtime: April 3rd, 2011 September 25th, 2011

Its hard to get the slice-of-life formula wrong. The genre, at its core, relies on highlighting the common experiences we all share: doing laundry, making dinner, hanging out with friends, etc. Narrative takes a back seat in favor of situational comedy and the characters caught in them. What puts Nichijou several cuts above the rest is just how absurd those situations are.

Nichijous brilliance is how it balances over-the-top exaggerated Japanese comedy with a genuinely comfy atmosphere. Deer wrestling and nuclear explosions are the order of the day, but how these moments are rooted in the mundane aspects of everyday life make them land so much better. All of this is helped by KyoAnis stellar animation team, who brings the wild nature of the comedy to a whole other level. One simply need watch Nichijous OP to understand exactly what theyre getting into. Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Funimation (subbed and dubbed)

Studio: Lerche Runtime: January 13th, 2017March 31st, 2017

Anime may too frequently take an emotionally and sexually neutered approach to romance in its idealisation, but sex, love, and happiness are separate entities in Scums Wish. The series seeks to display all three nude and unspun in all their explicit sensitivities, with no moralizing or punishment.

Fully capturing intelligent, hormonal teenagers standing on the precipice that is the edge of adulthood and the harsher romantic truths of adulthood through grown-ups themselves Scums Wish then submerges its characters and itself in social taboo. In doing so, it presents one of animes most realistic depictions of the pursuit of empty affection and the idolatry of the imperfect.

Chika Ansai gives a stellar, earnest performance as Hanabi navigating these murky waters, which emotionally tethers the series. On top of this, Andou Masaomis direction visually shows estrangement and entanglement in an engaging manner. Its everything somebody, scum or otherwise, could wish for. Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Amazon Prime (subbed)

Studio: TMS entertainment Runtime: April 6, 2019 September 21, 2019

At its core, Fruits Basket is a story about learning how to accept others for everything they are, as well as oneself. Such a simple-sounding concept is, in reality, difficult to realize, especially when trying to do so alone.

The Souma family circumstances are fantastical, to be sure, but each members plight touches upon the many forms of doubt and insecurity one may feel throughout various stages of life. The cast of Fruits Basket all have their own inner demons to grapple with and chances are youll find yourself sympathetic to at least one of them for one reason or another. Its in seeing protagonist Tohru unconditionally believe in that projection of yourself that has such a profound healing effect both inside and outside the screen. It also helps that the updated animation makes the high-emotion scenes hit all the harder.

Fruits Basket is a rare anime series that challenges the viewer, challenges them to be a better person. It shows how difficult it can be to be that person to soothe others pain, but it also shows the importance of at least trying. Mathew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

Studio: MAPPA Runtime: October 6th, 2014 December 29th, 2014

An anime series based off a mobile game has no right to be this good. Defying expectations, Rage of Bahamut: Genesis tells a compelling story that doesnt stray too far from your traditional Japanese take on Western fantasy. At first glance, it might even seem rather mundane for the genre. Grand conflicts between angels and demons, with humans caught in the middle; plot-driving MacGuffins that everyone desperately desires; an ancient god sealed away lest it destroy the world.

What sets Rage of Bahamut apart is its presentation. Thrilling orchestral scores, thrilling swashbuckling fights, and genuinely endearing characters create the perfect ingredients for a wholly engrossing adventure. The main trio of Amira, Favaro, and Kaisar establishes its core dynamic with refreshing alacrity. You immediately understand whats at stake and why each of the characters are driven forward. Spanning twelve episodes, the series covers a staggering amount of ground without feeling rushed.

Rage of Bahamut was one of the first series to come out of MAPPA and it quickly helped to establish the studios presence. MAPPA would go on to create such series as Yuri on Ice, Zombieland Saga, and Sarazanmai, showing that this relative newcomer was an animation powerhouse ready to make its mark. Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Funimation (subbed and dubbed)

Studio: Tatsunoko Production Runtime: April 11th, 2014 June 20th, 2014

Despite the name, Ping Pong is decidedly not about the sport. Rather, its about the people who play it and their reasons for doing so. Upon first watch, the most striking aspect about Ping Pong will be its art style. Its scratchy and somewhat off-putting, but a perfect fit for the incredibly stylized nature of the show. Director Masaaki Yuasa brings his signature flair to Ping Pong; dynamic motion and intense framing ensure that every second your eyes are glued to the screen.

By leaning into this heavy stylization, Ping Pong makes liberal use of metaphor and symbolism to get its points across. Yuasa and his animation team instill a palpable sense of fun into their work, making even the most mundane action seem grand and mesmerizing. At its core, however, Ping Pong is a journey of self-discovery, a hunger for purpose and motivation. Through the context of table tennis, the show dives into what exactly this sport means for its players and how they use it to not simply define their lives, but inform them. Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Funimation (subbed and dubbed)

Studio: A-1 Pictures Runtime: January 12th, 2019 March 30th, 2019

Kaguya-sama is a joy because it pokes fun at the ridiculous dance of high school romance while reminding us just how serious those situations felt at the time. Its immediately relatable; hesitating to confess ones feelings, not knowing how to exchange contact info without seeming desperate, trying to give love advice knowing full well youre not qualified to do so, etc. While everything is escalated to hilarious heights, its all anchored by a subconscious Yeah, Id be freaking out about that, too.

Aka Akasaka and A-1 Pictures manage to sidestep much of the saminess of other shows by leaning into the sketch comedy format la Aho-Girl. Instead of following around one character for an entire episode, each episode is instead broken up into vignettes featuring the cast in different scenarios. Kaguya-sama leverages this format to deliver sharp satire and fascinating glimpses into the lives of its characters.

Beyond the relatability, format, and smart writing, however, Kaguya-sama nails the balance between comedy and character-building. For as many laugh-out-loud moments as there are, Kaguya-sama hones in on each non-Kaguya/Shirogane cast member just enough to get viewers attached. Its never been a better time to enlist as a soldier of love. Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

Studio: TMS Entertainment Runtime: July 5th, 2019 Dec 13th, 2019

Dr. Stone presents a unique take on the end of the world, taking a heavily-used plot device and making it its own. The show takes time to develop its characters while presenting its overarching morality conflict pitting the first seasons two opposing factions against each other. However, the show convinces the viewer to root for protagonist Senku and his kingdom of science, just as the side characters warm up to him as well.

While Senku seems like a one an army because of his intellect, self-confidence and problem solving ability, the narrative still makes a point of showing his need to rely on the help of the other characters, thus making the story suspenseful as he wins them over to his side. Throughout the first season, Dr. Stone makes sure to keep technical science components light-hearted and easy to understand, which is essential for the side characters, but really meant to keep the viewer engaged and on the same page throughout the story.

Dr. Stone has just hit the ground running over the past several months and shows no signs of slowing down, with season two announced for 2020. Katharine Booth

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

Studio: David Production Runtime: October 5th, 2018 July 28th, 2019

This isnt the first time Ive discussedJoJos Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind. In short: its superb, and a must-watch for anyone passionate about creatively imaginative storytelling. In long: heres a rap I wrote about it!

Its bonkers and bizarre, the protagonist drives a car. Hes only fifteen so evidently hes not a law-abiding star. He runs with a gang in the streets of Italy, beating baddies with a beatdown bitterly. Employing peculiar powers to pimp out plant life and turn gravel into a tree.

This is the best season of JoJo, Arakis mind hasnt lost its mojo. Its the most narratively consistent iteration of an anime thats loco. So checkGolden Windif youre seeking fun, and off the walls action to get your head spun. And you can count on affairs to include ablonde-haired boy shouting Muda Muda Muda!. Harry Morris

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

Studio: White Fox Runtime: January 26th, 2010December 11th, 2010

Like most Nisio Isin creations, Katanagatari is clever. Wordplay, subversions of samurai film structures, metatextual commentary, thematically meaningful mundane objectsthis is a finely crafted sword hunt story (the title itself a clever portmanteau of katanagari and monogatari), where the ostensibly simple plot of searching for twelve legendary swords is enriched by literary accouterments.

What really sets Katanagatari apart, however, is the love story between Yasuri Shichika and Togame at its core. These mystical Deviant blades are corrupting and powerful, and so Togame only recruits Shichikas help on the condition that he does so for the sake of pure love. Shichika, having lived a secluded life, agrees. So begins an enveloping romance evolving through conversation about lifes oddities.

Yes, there are some spectacular and inventive fights each episode, but its rare to have an anime so quiet, with characters dissecting idiosyncrasies through discussion. Even with its atypical visuals and quirky dialogue, this is natural-feeling love story that is as engrossing as its sword hunt story. Declan Biswas-Hughes

Purchase on Amazon

Studio: Wit Studio Runtime: April 6th, 2013 September 28th, 2013

This first season of Attack on Titan sets the stage for what has become one of the most critically acclaimed and loved series of the past decade. The shows world-building and art direction create a setting unlike any other show to date, and the pacing covers a lot of ground with its plot development to make the show fast-paced without feeling rushed.

As the main characters become more entangled in the central conflict of their world, the show immerses viewers in its universe. Attack on Titan pulls no punches with its depictions of violence and terror from episode one, presenting the viewer almost immediately with just how high the stakes are for both the main characters and every single person living in this brutal world. The first season succeeds in both building up the three main characters development while also taking the time to share the spotlight with its secondary characters. This gives just the right amount of attention to everyone based on their future importance to the series. Attack on Titan hits the ground running, and demands your attention, getting the viewer hooked on this wildly popular thriller. Katharine Booth

Watch on Hulu (dubbed) and Crunchyroll (subbed)

Studio: Madhouse Runtime: April 22nd, 2010 July 1st, 2010

In many respects, Tatami Galaxy is self-indulgent. Director Masaaki Yuasa has made a name for himself with his insanely stylized and fluid animation, and its impossible to mistake this show as having any other person at the helm.

Lacking any real plot, Tatami Galaxy revels in the fantastic and the absurd. Its a distorted vision of college life, a narrative and visual mile-a-minute ride that takes viewers through a cavalcade of people and places.

The show knows exactly what it is and carries with it a meta sense of wit and humor without ever winking at the audience. Because the show effectively tells the same story in different ways, Tatami Galaxy benefits from a sense of freedom that allows it to explore a variety of different approaches. Through the conceit of parallel worlds, the show takes a charmingly cynical look at the fickle nature of youth that, by the end, settles on the notion that our mistakes and failures are simply a part of what drives us forward. Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Funimation (subbed)

Studio: Production I.G. Runtime: October 12th, 2012 March 22nd, 2013

A cyberpunk, crime laden city chock-full of sci-fi splendour; Psycho-Passs backdrop is instantly appealing. Centered around Dominators, weapons that can measure a persons crime coefficient (their mental state and likelihood to commit a crime), Psycho-Pass confronts viewers with an array of gripping criminality, all the while utilizing said crime coefficient concept to carve out its own identity. Its morbid, packed with futuristic creativity, and a shining diamond in its genre. Harry Morris

Watch on Funimation

Studio: Toei Animation Runtime: Oct 10, 2013 Dec 19, 2013

Anime and manga have always had a distinct fascination with Alice in Wonderland, often facelifting cues and characters directly into their own works. Enter Kuousou Giga, a distinctly Japanese take on the world-famous fairy tale thats as bombastically creative as it is heartwarmingly emotional.

Journeying through the city of Kyoto Through the Looking Glass is a visual joyride of flamboyant colors complemented by a boisterous orchestral soundtrack that all too easily matches the fantastical nature of the locale. Its wondrous scenery ironically exemplifies just how common and relatable the threads of the story are, though.

Characters in Kyousou Giga may be based on ones from Alice in Wonderland on the basest of levels but the numerous Buddhist and Shinto principles that permeate throughout make them nigh unrecognizable beyond their eye-catching designs. The story goes through its fair share of twists and turns, spanning time and space that sometimes gets a little too grandiose for its own good but it all ultimately boils down to one universal truth: the importance of family bonds. Its a melancholic, heartfelt tale thats sure to elicit memories of those warm halcyon days. Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll

Studio: Kyoto Animation Runtime: April 8th, 2015 December 28th, 2016

KyoAni understands people and relationships like no other studio. Hibike Euphonium is a tour de force of storytelling that strikes at the heart of what drives us as human beings. The show follows the journey of the Kitauji High School Concert band as they slowly improve and aim to become contenders in Japans national music tournaments. Hibike! Euphonium starts the band at the bottom so that their meteoric rise over the series progression is all the more impressive.

Passions, goals, and heartbreak stream forth from the show in a way that manages to consistently top itself. With each episode, stakes continually build as characters come to better understand both themselves and the others around them. These powerful emotions center around music, which tug at the core like nothing else; viewers are there for every painful step of the way. Each moment of self-doubt, each moment of triumph: Hibike! Euphonium masterfully showcases the insane amount of dedication and effort that it takes for a disparate group of individuals to come together and make beautiful music. Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

EDITORS NOTE: A special mention to the Liz and the Blue Bird movie which is part of the Hibike story. Only one author had watched it though and so it was unable to be placed on the list.

Studio: Asread Runtime: October 9th, 2011 April 15th, 2012

Writing a great thriller anime is no easy feat. They need to maintain a careful balance of suspense, action, and softer character-focused moments to give viewers an emotional break throughout the course of an entire season. The way that The Future Diary handles this while keeping the stakes of its killing game consistently high is inspired.

Yuki and Yuno are the primary protagonists, but their safety never feels fully assured. Yunos mental instability but undeniable combat prowess makes her a necessary liability throughout; her love for Yuki is strong, but its this same manic love that could easily lead to his demise at the turn of a hat.In many ways, watching The Future Diary feels like watching a nightmare. Its equal parts fantastical and gruesome, and is made all the more impactful because of how well the rest of the cast is fleshed out. Each absolutely shines with backstories so compelling that it can make rooting for Yuki and Yuno questionable at times.

More than anything, The Future Diary excels at asking the tough questions. Its hard to look at the expression unconditional love the same way after this. Brent Middleton

Watch on Funimation

Studio: White Fox Runtime: October 6, 2017 December 22, 2017

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The Best Anime of the Decade (Ranks 25-1) - Goomba Stomp

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December 31st, 2019 at 11:45 pm