DECADE IN REVIEW | KBD’s Top 25 Anime of the 2010s
Without question, the 2010s was when anime was finally accepted into the mainstream entertainment realm. As same-day streams and big-named companies jumping onboard the anime train have become the norm, it’s apparent that anime as a whole has become the biggest rival to roughly the entirety of Hollywood. And unlike the video game industry, it’s stayed true to its core values and styles without big money influencing the final product in any way, shape, or form.
As we enter a new decade, let us look back at the top twenty-five anime series that I felt not only shined the brightest, but also helped to shape what’s to come in the 2020s!
25. One-Punch Man (Madhouse/J.C.Staff, 2015)
The first part of One-Punch Man — a superhero show about a too-damn powerful hero — is one of the most perfect seasons that I’ve seen to this date. Great action, comedy, and some of Madhouse’s best animation of the decade. Sadly, a move to a new studio and a second season adaptation that was technically filler somewhat downgraded the power and tenacity that Saitama’s story held. Nevertheless, it still deserves some attention for what Season One accomplished, which — at the time — managed to outshine even the Western superhero market.
24. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun (Doga Kobo, 2014)
Shojo romances can be filled with such tripe. Thank the powers that be for Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, a series that points out every single thing wrong with the genre. Despite Chiyo wanting her feelings for Nozaki to be heard, his dense personality makes such a task almost impossible. (Hilarious, considering he’s one of the best shojo comic writers around!) From making tandem bikes a laughable situation to the dumbest prince character imaginable, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun made sure that no one could ever take a romance manga seriously anymore!
23. Flying Witch (J.C.Staff, 2016)
Imagine taking that feeling of being wrapped in a warm comfy blanket and injecting it into an anime. Flying Witch is just that: a comfortable watch that truly defines what an iyashikei should be. While the focus was on Makoto’s growth on becoming a witch, it was the everyday life antics she experienced that delivered the best amounts of joy. With seasonal harbingers, screaming mandrakes, and even a floating whale in tow, Flying Witch was that perfect sigh of relief everyone needed after a tiring day.
22. Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? (J.C.Staff, 2015)
A fantasy adventure like Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? comes once in a blue moon. Yes, the title is questionable depending on your situation, but the adventures of Bell and his goddess Hestia knew how to make you both cheer for the fights and swoon for the heartfelt moments. And as the Hestia Familiar grew, so did the journeys. It’s fun, humorous, action-packed, and — most important of all — a reminder of why the best heroes are the ones who work hard and have a noble spirit!
21. Bloom into You (TROYCA, 2018)
If there’s one yuri series that got everything right this decade, it’s Bloom into You. Instead of it trying to shove fan-service like most shows did, it focused primarily on character growth and the internal conflicts of both Yuu and Touko. As they tore down the walls their inner demons built, the closer their two hearts became one. Bloom into You wasn’t just a cute romance; it was a lesson about being your true self, even when others push you to being someone different. (Special nod to TROYCA, who hit it out of the ballpark with its amazing animation!)
20. NEW GAME! (Doga Kobo, 2016)
Video game development has never looked this cute and enjoyable. As the girls of Eagle Jump craft either Fairy’s Story 3 or PECO, the antics that go into making these titles were filled with great laughs and adorable reactions. But it was the heart of these characters and their passion for gaming that made NEW GAME! an endearing anime, especially with the relationship between Ko and her coworkers (specifically Aoba and her possibly future wife-y Rin). But man, can those games they made be real? Pretty please?
19. Asobi Asobase -workshop of fun- (LERCHE, 2018)
Have you ever choked from laughing too hard? Asobi Asobase guarantees you’ll do that with every single episode. Disguised as a “cute girls doing cute things” show, Hanako, Olivia, and Kasumi instead play games that result in the most horrifying situations for the trio. From pool games in-class and a terrible knockoff of Pokémon GO to Maeda’s explanation of shogi and a board game of disturbing to-do’s, Asobi Asobase made the South Park kids look like saints with the girls’ antics.
18. Attack on Titan (Production I.G, 2013)
The monsters. The loss of human life. The basement. The tension. The action. If there’s one show you can credit for anime slowly becoming mainstream, it’s Attack on Titan. Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and the rest of the Survey Corps’ quest to save humanity was one shocking plot twist after another. Although it took some time to get its popularity going again after a four-year break in-between its first two seasons, Attack on Titan went full throttle with its epic fights and haunting story about why the real monsters are the ones we see in the mirror each day.
17. Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt (GAINAX, 2010)
What many may consider GAINAX’s last great anime (before the talented ones went off to form TRIGGER), Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt was a vulgar love letter to American Saturday morning cartoons. The two fallen angels — with the watchful eye of an afro-haired preacher — would kill monsters to earn coins that’ll bring them back to the pearly gates. But when the monsters weren’t around, Panty let her legs loose while Stocking wolfed down sweets. The dynamic resulted in some stellar comedy and fantastic nods to past shows, with the only tragedy to befall it is the fact that it left everyone on such a middle finger-gesturing cliffhanger.
16. Non Non Biyori (SILVER LINK, 2013)
On the surface, SILVER LINK’s Non Non Biyori doesn’t seem like anything special. But as the show progressed, the adaptation of Atto’s original manga wound up being a wonderful break from the action-heavy series that would often surround it. The slice-of-life iyashikei followed the lives of four girls of different ages who share one classroom, as they’re literally the only kids in their village. Renge’s imagination, Hotaru’s adjustment to her new surroundings, and the sisters Natsumi & Komari’s constant bickering made Non Non Biyori a joy to visit each week.
15. Kill la Kill (TRIGGER, 2013)
Remember when I mentioned the talented folks who left GAINAX? This was TRIGGER’s first official attempt at making their own anime series. A tale of clothing and revenge, watching as Ryuko took down all the brutes at Honnouji Academy was a completely bonkers visual spectacle. Kill la Kill was funny, dramatic, action-packed, and unlike anything else that had come before it. Fashion may never be this deadly in real-life, but TRIGGER made the art of the cloth more exciting than any season of Project Runway ever could.
14. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (CloverWorks, 2018)
What if Judd Apatow did a sci-fi anime comedy? Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl gave us anime’s answer to Paul Rudd with its protagonist Sakuta, as he journeyed to figure out how Puberty Syndrome affected those close to him. The dialogue was straight out of a Seth Rogen-scripted comedy, but its dramatic elements knew how to tear into anyone’s heartstrings. (And let’s not forget about the quick-witted Mai Sakurajima, one of the best “best girls” anyone can ask for!)
13. Erased (A-1 Pictures, 2016)
Each week, the mystery in Erased grabbed hold of viewers. Who killed Satoru’s mother? How was it connected to the murders when he was a child? With Satoru traveling back in time to solve these murders and attempt to stop them, the tension and emotional beauty that Erased gave to its viewers is still some of A-1 Pictures’ best work. But it was Satoru giving the young Hinazuki a chance to enjoy life that made this anime one of the best of 2016. (Try not crying when you see Hinazuki have her first home-cooked breakfast. I dare you!)
12. Nichijou - My Ordinary Life (Kyoto Animation, 2011)
A confession: I wasn’t a fan of Nichijou when I first started watching it. But years later, the nonsensical insanity grew on me, to the point where I often find myself going back to the anime and finding new jokes that I missed the last time. The series went crazy with the trio of Yūko, Mio, and Mai, who would experience high school life in the zaniest of ways. But often, their spotlights were stolen by the robot girl Nano and her creator Hakase, whose antics had the right mixture of cuteness and silliness. Though we may never get a second season of it (blame the earthquake from that year), Nichijou stands as one of the brightest and funniest visual spectacles around.
11. Hinamatsuri (Feel, 2018)
Hinamatsuri answered a question no one ever thought to ask: “What if Elfen Lied was a comedy?” The end result is the story of a yakuza bonding with an alien girl who’d rather laze about than do, well, anything. But when another psychic girl named Anzu enters, Hinamatsuri becomes a tale of two ladies growing up in different environments. One has everything and does nothing to show for appreciation; the other works her tail off and shows her kindness at every waking moment. But within the touching moments lies some of the funniest scenarios, especially when it involves poor Hitomi. Watch for the comedy, stay for the feels, and — for the love of God! — watch the English dub for all of the “Owies!!!”
10. Haikyū!! (Production I.G, 2014)
Out of all the sports anime that came and went in the 2010s, nothing wowed audiences quite like the volleyball series Haikyū!! Hinata and Kageyama’s journey to bring Karasuno High to the championship was filled with team highs and lows, capturing the evolution of a team finding its groove. The look, the feel, and even the sound of the games would make anyone jump out of their chairs with excitement, with Production I.G delivering shocking detail with every point scored. Haikyū!! is the type of anime that high school coaches should be showing their players, as it demonstrates the importance of teamwork, growth, and — above all — the love of the game.
9. Girls’ Last Tour (White Fox, 2017)
Rarely has there been an anime that felt so calming yet haunting. Girls’ Last Tour on the surface didn’t look like much, with the two friend Yuuri and Chito traversing through one lifeless land after the next. But as the wool was slowly pulled off of our eyes, viewers were treated to one of the finest examples of anti-war storytelling anime has pulled off in ages. Girls’ Last Tour may have its laughs and cutesy animation, but the overall tone gave anyone watching chills and a feeling of uncertainty for these two friends. Fingers are crossed that White Fox finishes animating the manga, which...oof!
8. Laid-Back Camp (C-Station, 2018)
Laid-Back Camp may very well be the greatest iyashikei ever made. Watching as Nadeshiko learns how to camp properly while Rin roughs it up solo gave way to a lot of educational aspects and some lighthearted affairs. But what made Laid-Back Camp such a gem to watch was C-Station’s unbelievable animation. Its mixture of bubbly characters and serene scenery made for one of the most fun and relaxing shows of the 2010s. Dare I say, it’ll make you crave for the great outdoors by the time its first season comes to an end.
7. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (SHAFT, 2011)
Magical girl shows sometimes had their dark moments, but add a little Kafkaesque storytelling to the mix, and you’ve got one of the most nail-biting tales to hit the genre. Puella Magi Madoka Magica demonstrated the dangers of being a magical girls, be it from battling enemies to making pacts with familiars. SHAFT’s gorgeous visuals perfectly aligned with the deep philosophical elements that spewed through the battles and Madoka’s own internal conflicts. You might lose your head with some of its metaphors, but Puella Magi Madoka Magica nevertheless gave you all the right reasons to scream “WHAT THE [expletive]!!!” during its run.
6. Mob Psycho 100 (BONES, 2016)
ONE may have gotten the world’s attention with One-Punch Man, but it was his other creation Mob Psycho 100 that proved him to be no mere one-trick pony. Mob’s journey wasn’t just about learning how to control his powers; it was about finding his own happiness & purpose. At the same time, his kindness affects those around him, including his brother and psychic rivals. But it was his relationship with Reigen, the kindest con man since Fagan, that made the show extra special, with their journeys and battles leading to some of the deepest (and funniest) moments in anime this decade. Oh, and props to BONES for perfectly emulating ONE’s visual style, which lead to some of the most memorable battles they’ve ever put to paper.
5. Dr. STONE (TMS Entertainment, 2019)
Dr. STONE ended the decade with a new how-to manual on properly adapting a shonen manga. Senku fights to bring the world back to the forefront of the 21st century, with some of the most eye-popping experiments and scientific discoveries that would make any kid want to be a scientist. Senku’s big brain brought forth one wow factor after another each week, though it was the likes of Chrome, Kohaku, and the precious little Suika that made Senku’s quest all the more fun to experience. A prime example of edutainment, Dr. STONE was the smart man’s shonen, with the educational parts equally weighed out by its impressive action and side-splitting comedy.
4. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Kyoto Animation, 2017)
When I look at Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, I see the Kyoto Animation that I fell in love with in the early 2000s. The tale of a lesbian dragon and the computer programmer that saved her life started out with some of the best laughs of 2017. But as it progressed (and more dragons arrived), the anime became a heartfelt tale about finding a family you might not have known existed. Lovable characters, fun plots, and some deep emotion, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid stands as a true highlight in anime for the 2010s, showcasing the power of love, togetherness, and tenacity that Kyoto Animation is known to craft flawlessly. Chu chu yeah, indeed!
3. My Hero Academia (BONES, 2016)
Kohei Horikoshi is the Stan Lee of the 21st century, and there’s no point in arguing with me if you think I’m wrong. With just one series, he was able to craft a superhero universe that’s just as big and vast as Marvel’s and DC’s. Bones’ anime adaptation may have gotten off on a slightly rocky start, but by its second season, My Hero Academia became a jaw-dropping spectacle that no one could turn away from. While the story may focus on Deku’s quest to earn the pedestal that his hero All-Might stands upon, it’s the rest of these superheroes-to-be (and some villains) that make this world of truth & justice a stunning piece of action-packed and emotional goodness. Although there may be a time where Deku’s journey could come to an end, My Hero Academia has the potential to continue onward for many generations to come.
2. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! (Studio DEEN/J.C.Staff, 2016)
When you look back at comedy in anime, nothing could light a candle to what the isekai series KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! was able to accomplish. The story of four asshole adventurers — a NEET, a useless goddess, an adorable pyromaniac, and a sadomasochistic Crusader — delivered the biggest laughs of the decade. Borrowing elements from BlackAdder, Red Dwarf, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, KonoSuba showcased a fantasy comedy that went many lengths to bring its viewers a rip-roariously good time, even at the expense of its characters. No giant frog or crazy church follower could stop the (sometimes literally) explosive hilarity that Kazuma, Aqua, Megumin, and
Lalatina Darkness managed to give to its fanbase. KonoSuba is, without a doubt, a blessing from the gods of comedy that laugh at and with us from above.
1. Made in Abyss (Kinema Citrus, 2017)
Have you ever felt like you’ve experienced a show firsthand? Every flutter of joy? Every shattering moment of pain? Kinema Citrus’s Made in Abyss is one of those shows where just mentioning it gives you goosebumps and heartache. The journey of Riko and the mysterious Reg was not for the faint of heart, as it never sugarcoated the hardships one must go through to survive and reach a destination. Despite it starring two kids, the turmoil, dangers, and frightful situations that were showcased were some of the hardest things anyone could watch. And yet, Made in Abyss’s beauty and deep character building made it impossible to look away. It’s not for everyone (children especially), but those who dive deep into the abyss with Riko and Reg will be rewarded greatly with the most emotional and — above all — best anime of the 2010s.
Any series we may have missed? Comment below, and share some of your favorite anime of the last ten years!
Promotional consideration provided by Ellation and Section23 Films