A few childhood favourites aside, this is the decade when I started watching anime. When I caught up on all of the great titles from the past that I’d missed and started watching seasonally to keep up with the medium to the best of my ability. In these past ten years, anime has also become more widespread and internationally available than ever before, and the line-up across genres, subject matter, and visual styles became exponentially more diverse and unrestrained.
Powerhouse studios like Madhouse, Shaft and Kyoto Animation continued to deliver super high-quality adaptations, but newer studios like Orange and Trigger also established their place via signature visual styles and/or brand-new, original content. Urobuchi is arguably the most influential writer of the 2010s, bringing brutal storylines such as those found in Psycho-Pass, Fate/Zero, and Madoka Magica to our screens. In terms of music, Spyair is probably my favourite anime-associated band; the high-octane OPs/EDs of Haikyuu!! and Gintama are among the decade’s best.
The biggest trend was far and away the isekai genre, which was popularized (Sword Art Online), deconstructed (Re:Zero), and parodied (KonoSuba) countless times. Fortunately, another trend saw renewed interest in old series, such as Parasyte and Hunter x Hunter, thanks to incredible, modernized adaptations by major studios. Some would argue otherwise, but I believe that the medium is on an upward trajectory, with a greater selection of fresh and classic stories being told in much higher abundance than the previous decades.
I wanted to take the time to reflect on my top 100 anime of the 2010s. In doing so, I considered only anime that started airing no earlier than Winter 2010, and only made exceptions for sequel seasons that aired in 2010-2019 if they really stood on their own. In addition, I split seasons into separate entries only if they were distinct enough from one another, i.e. different settings, casts, stories, etc. For example, I split JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure up into individual parts because all of these criteria are satisfied.
Without further ado, here are my favourite anime of the 2010s.
100. YOWAMUSHI PEDAL (2013)
Studio: TMS Entertainment | Source: Manga | MAL: 8.18
Some anime strive to shake up the status quo and redefine their target genre, while others simply provide a straightforward, enjoyable return to familiar tropes and story beats. Yowamushi Pedal is very much an example of the latter, following the meek Sakamichi Onoda’s time in his school’s cycling club and his ambition to master the sport. The cast and interactions are a strong selling point, while everything else is as solid as can be. Even the CGI-rendered bicycles look great in motion (which is no small feat) and the soundtrack is a success as well. Though it’s nothing as sophisticated nor revolutionary as Haikyuu!! or Chihayafuru, this anime is a strong sports title that knows what works and what doesn’t, and delivers both character development and emotional moments when the time calls for it.
99. YURI!!! ON ICE (2016)
Studio: MAPPA | Source: Original | MAL: 8.07
This ice-skating anime was quite the phenomenon back in 2016, arriving on the scene with glorious presentation and a more character-driven sports narrative. It’s also notable for being one of the first authentic representations of same-sex romance in an anime where it isn’t the primary focus. At first, the on-ice performances are splendidly animated and choreographed, but they noticeably go downhill in the latter half. This is a shame because these sequences are the main appeal of the series, and they become borderline unwatchable at a point when the show should be showcasing the very best. By the end, even the narrative and character development feel sort of aimless and I left feeling quite unsatisfied. Still, the combination of a unique sport with a likable cast, strong representation, and an emphasis on artistry makes Yuri!!! On Ice a decent title.
98. DR. STONE (2019)
Studio: TMS Entertainment | Source: Manga | MAL: 8.49
Awesome premise, no doubt. Dr. Stone still adopts a shounen structure but it’s driven more by scientific innovation and ingenuity than physical training. Senku’s ambition to take on a prehistoric world and arm himself with all of the wonders of modern science makes for a genuinely cool and creative story. Every few episodes, his experiments yield some sort of important result, and I love when these are punctuated with heartwarming developments (i.e. Suika’s glasses). While I like the deviation from standard shounen storytelling, I can’t help but feel that some aspects of the writing were underwhelming. Senku is pretty one-note most of the time and his interactions often serve to set up his “science is the solution!” moment, which gets old after a while. Also, the shounen-esque excitement is simply missing for the majority of episodes, as they’re seriously bogged down by info dumps and excessive narration. I also would’ve appreciated an effort to get me to better understand or sympathize with the members of the enemy faction a bit more. Though it touts itself as a “smart” shounen, Dr. Stone still amounts to simple, unpretentious fun.
97. TAMAKO MARKET (2013)
Studio: Kyoto Animation | Source: Original | MAL: 8.07
Tamako Market isn’t a very strong series. Its protagonist is quite forgettable, the story isn’t anything you haven’t seen from episodic slice-of-life anime before, and the mascot character, Dera, is a grating waste of screentime. But everything changes once you get to its sequel, a movie adaptation known as Tamako Love Story. By shifting focus to Mochizuki (who is an infinitely more interesting protagonist than Tamako) and his concerns about the impending future, as well as his feelings towards Tamako, the movie elevates the series like no other anime film I’ve seen before (except possibly End of Evangelion). The animation is as ridiculously beautiful as one would expect from Kyoto Animation and the excellent character writing and romantic payoff of Tamako Love Story make this anime an overall success.
96. WANDERING SON (2011)
Studio: AIC Classic | Source: Manga | MAL: 7.79
Few anime dare to explore themes out of the reach of mainstream culture in a manner as genuine and unabashed as Wandering Son. The story follows a pair of childhood friends, one a transgender boy and the other a transgender girl, as they navigate the ups and downs of junior high and early adolescence. The exploration of gender identity and transgenderism is nuanced and respectful, and blended with a pleasant dose of slice of life. Visually, the show is a great success, employing a soft colour palette and ethereal, storybook-style backgrounds. My one main gripe with the writing is that the main characters, considering their ages, are a little too mature to come across as real middle schoolers; it is rare to see kids of that age so comfortable and firmly established in their own identities. Nonetheless, Wandering Son takes on the challenge of a complicated and delicate premise and executes splendidly.
95. HOOZUKI NO REITETSU (2014)
Studio: Wit Studio | Source: Manga | MAL: 7.92
More workplace comedy than fantasy adventure, Hoozuki no Reitetsu functions as a parody of bureaucracy and Japanese folklore, with a very unique setting: hell. Hoozuki is deputy to Enma, the King of Hell, and employs a ruthless, cold-hearted modus operandi in his daily duties. Referential humour abound, this series is certainly best enjoyed by somebody with a baseline knowledge of politics, mythology, etc. Anime’s comedy offering has always been incredibly diverse, and this show takes a slower, more calculated approach to its humour; it rarely made me laugh out loud, but was still entertaining nonetheless. The art is also quite nice, vibrant and quirky just like the many denizens of the underworld. I wouldn’t rank this series anywhere near the top of this decade’s comedy titles, but hats off to it for finding its own niche and settling into a smarter, more mature brand of humour.
94. KOI WA AMEAGARI NO YOU NI (2018)
Studio: Wit Studio | Source: Manga | MAL: 7.60
Many will discredit this anime or avoid it altogether because of its misleading premise. Koi wa Ameagari no You ni (or “Love is Like After the Rain”) is about high schooler Akira Tachibana and her one-sided infatuation with a middle-aged man (who also happens to be her boss). Despite how it all sounds, this show handles its subject matter tastefully and subverts expectations by using Tachibana’s crush as a springboard for further development for both characters. You see, Akira and Kondou both share similar regrets about their pasts and inspire one another to rekindle lost relationships and discarded ambitions. Attention is paid to the nature of their feelings and how it helps them grow into better people, not on a romantic relationship per se. Aimer delivers one of my favourite ending songs of all time, the reflective beauty of rainy days is conveyed brilliantly by Wit Studio’s top-notch visuals, and the story itself hits all of the right emotional notes along the way.
93. CELLS AT WORK! (2018)
Studio: David Production | Source: Manga | MAL: 7.80
Almost like anime’s answer to Osmosis Jones, Cells at Work! takes place entirely within the human body, weaving its story out of the day-to-day tasks and struggles of the various cells that call it home. The biological concepts translate well and offer an informative yet enjoyable viewing experience. The main characters, namely Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell, do come across a bit gimmicky and their single-mindedness makes them quite shallow and uninteresting as characters, but luckily there’s an entire cast and a whole lot of episodic storylines to fall back on. The strongest point of this anime is undeniably the Cancer arc, which presents the affliction as a terrifying force of destruction and yet urges us to be hesitant in our moral judgements, and maybe even consider sympathizing with the antagonist’s lack of control over his very nature. Cells at Work! doesn’t exactly knock it out of the park with its writing, but the educational backdrop and a whole slew of interesting ideas keep the show fresh and entertaining across all 13 episodes.
92. HUMANITY HAS DECLINED (2012)
Studio: AIC A.S.T.A. | Source: Light Novel | MAL: 7.84
Serving up one of the most innovative takes on a post-apocalyptic setting I’ve ever seen, Humanity Has Declined boasts a level of originality rarely found in the light novels of today. The anime revolves around an unnamed protagonist (referred to as “Watashi”) and her duties as a mediator between a dwindling human population and the fairies that are quickly displacing them. The cheery colours and juvenile designs perfectly match the giddy mischief of the fairies whom Watashi constantly finds herself at odds with. The social satire is quite sharp and entertaining, carried by Watashi’s quick wit and biting sarcasm. I also liked the decision to present events out of chronological order, mirroring the chaos of the story and society and shedding light on the various facets of Watashi’s origin and personality one thread at a time. Just like with many of these light novel adaptations, I wish we could’ve gotten a full adaptation as the unadapted material seems pretty interesting from what I’ve read.
91. NICHIJOU (2011)
Studio: Kyoto Animation | Source: Manga | MAL: 8.50
Considered by many to be one of the best comedy anime of all time. While the sense of humour doesn’t exactly align with my own as much as I would’ve hoped, this is one of the progenitors of the “high school girls doing dumb things” subgenre, and easily the best rendition. While the character designs may look dumbed down, the animation is very strong and consistently keeps in step with the ridiculous, high-energy gags and over-the-top facial expressions. It’s hard to place the quality of this one since humour can be very subjective, and my overall enjoyment of the comedy didn’t necessarily come down to whether or not it was well-executed (since it was), but rather that it just wasn’t exactly my cup of the tea most of the time. In comparing it to something like Gintama, which has a joke for nearly every type of humour, Nichijou falls somewhat short of the “comedic masterpiece” benchmark.