Here we go. In this list, I will drop my ten favourite series of the past ten years. This is my list, meaning that there are series that I know will definitely end up on other lists, that won’t be on mine. Meaning that there will be series on this list, that won’t end up on other lists. These series aren’t perfect, but no list will be. Just know that what I look for in a good series is 1) well written (and adapted) characters 2) good pacing and 3) animation and soundtracks – which play a smaller role in my judgement. This list will also not be ranked, as finding ten anime that I consider the best of the decade, is hard enough. I also want to drop down a disclaimer here that, I tried watching JoJo, I tried reading the manga in 2007 too – didn’t like it then either. JoJo is arguably the biggest meme anime of the decade but I digress. OK, I’m emotionally ready to get flamed for my taste on anime.
3-Gatsu no Lion (March Comes in like a Lion) (2016)
Drama, Slice of Life
Remember, when I said that this list isn’t ranked? Well, if it was, which it isn’t – 3-Gatsu could be number one. Visually speaking, the animation and dream sequences are absolutely breathtaking and it’s not to be outdone by the soundtrack. Most importantly, 3-Gatsu tells stories really well. The stories between major characters, secondary characters, and background characters are incredibly organic and thorough. All the characters that receive backstories get a “colour” or theme (however you want to describe it), and for the few episodes surrounding that character, those episodes are painted by that colour. It’s hard to explain, but when you watch 3-Gatsu you will understand what I mean. Every time I watch this series it becomes better and the stories seem more interesting and real. I also haven’t seen a series portray mental health – anxiety in particular, so well. I really do feel 3-Gatsu is something that should be viewed by all anime viewers as it really just tells stories incredibly well. I love this series and I think that in ten years from now, we’re going to be talking about it, as if its one of the greatest series ever produced.
Action, Comedy, Sports
I’m just going to say it, Haikyuu is the best shounen sport series since Slam Dunk. I love Eyeshield 21, Kuroko no Basket had its moments, and there are others – but think about it, really think about it. Has there ever been a sports series that has created as much buzz as Haikyuu, that wasn’t Slam Dunk? How many defining moments were there in Haikyuu? Haikyuu has created defining moments in anime, more than many other series this decade. Just look at the third season, when Karasuno takes on Shiratorizawa – how many moments were there in that one season, that were just unforgettable. Listen, if you want to talk about what sports anime should be, Haikyuu is a perfect example. It’s got flashy animation, well developed and interesting characters, emotional sequences, and everything in between. The soundtrack is amazing as well, as it just hits every freaking beat, as do the comedic parts. In fact, I can guarantee you that if Haikyuu was not a volleyball series and was a slice of life series, it would be still be amazing due to the production and writing. Haikyuu is a legendary shounen series that we will be telling our kids about one day.
Mystery, School, Slice of Life
Visually stunning. Hyouka is visually stunning. When Hyouka aired, I remember thinking about how much better this series looks compared to other slice of life series. And then you watch it a couple more times, and then you realize how much fun you are having while watching this series and that schools in North America ain’t shit compared to school in Japan. Hyouka has the best school cultural festival arc ever – ever. It also reinvents the classic mystery series by toning down the aspects of what makes standard mystery series, mystery. It’s not a serious story, but it tries really hard to be and it comes off as charming. Like listening to your little cousin explain their day at school. You know it’s just a day of elementary school, but it’s really important to them – so it’s kind of cute how serious they’re being. The relationship between Chitanda and Oreki is also well written and it comes off as very organic. I feel like, writing about this series doesn’t really help with putting in perspective how good it is. Hyouka is just incredibly smart and I do believe it belongs. It’s one of the ten best series that I have watched this decade.
Kaza ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Run with the Wind) (2018)
Action, Drama, Sports
I feel like, if there were any series on this list, that others wouldn’t have on their own best of lists, it would be Kaza ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru. I also understand that a huge reason to why this belongs on my list is because this is a selfish choice but hear me out. This past year, I finished my undergrad and like many fresh graduates I was lost. I didn’t really have a plan for the future and I knew that I was going to lose many friends through distance. I also went to Japan to reward myself for graduating and went alone. I was there for two weeks and while traveling, I was watching this series. Watching this series made me cry. This series has one of the best under dog stories that I have ever seen in fiction. I think it’s a better underdog story than Slam Dunk, Haikyuu, or any other sports series I have watched. The team in this series is a college cross country team and I happen to also have been an athlete in university. Most high school sports anime, follow the same tropes – this one does too, but it’s more mature. Because they’re in college, they’re worried about not being to compete again, worried about injuries accumulated through time, and their futures. As I was alone in Japan, far from my friends, I realized how important the friendships I made were while I was an athlete in university. I really resonated with this story. I think that this series also has some of the best character development, ever. None of these characters have super powers and most of them aren’t even runners when the story began. If you don’t believe me, I highly recommend that you watch this. According to MAL it’s not a very popular series but it should be, it definitely should be.
Kimetsu no Yaiba (Demon Slayer) (2019)
Action, Fantasy, Thriller
This is the most recent series on the list so maybe it hasn’t gone through the ringer of discourse revolving great anime but I definitely think Kimetsu no Yaiba belongs in the top ten anime of this decade. I can’t think about any other action series that I have enjoyed as much as Kimetsu no Yaiba for the past ten years either. Where do you guys want to start? The animation? Fantastic. The soundtrack? Fantastic. The well written characters? Fantastic. And of course – the pacing, which is also fantastic. This is my favourite series of 2019. And sure, I might be riding the hype train and trapped in recency bias but come on. How good does this series look. How beautiful are the fights. How charming are the main characters. I don’t think that any of the hype surrounding this series was undeserved. Kimetsu no Yaiba is one of my ten favourite anime of the decade and I will start reading the manga very soon.
Made in Abyss (2017)
Action, Fantasy, Thriller
This series is a gosh darn trap. It lulls you into believing that it’s a story about traveling and cute times but it’s very not. It has one of the most shocking reveals in anime and it just throws you through a loop. I can’t re-watch the entirety of this series because of certain dark elements in the narrative. You have to understand that a big reason why the shocking parts of the show seem so shocking is that the direction and pacing of Made in Abyss are really freaking good. They build suspense so well and as a viewer you watch and think, “please don’t let anything bad happen to these kids,” and bad things happen anyway. Out of all the dungeon crawling series in this world, Made in Abyss hits the nail on the head. If you like suspense and being kept on the edge of your seat, you have to watch Made in Abyss.
Mob Psycho 100 (2016)
Action, Comedy, Fantasy
When I watched season one, I didn’t get the hype. I liked it but I didn’t see why it was so liked. I think that the action and animation were very solid and some of the best I had ever seen. However, I didn’t love Shigeo as a character. In the second season though, I totally bought in. The technical portion of the series was great. It was paced and directed well, the animation was phenomenal and the music was good. The addition of Shigeo having his own personality, and the interactions between the other characters and him were what made season two, so much better than season one. Obviously this is a popular show, I don’t have to say much, but to improve on an already fantastic season one is a remarkable feat. I only wish that season one was more like season two. However, if you were to just look at the series as a whole, Mob Psycho is wonderful. It’s the story of adolescence and trying to find your footing in the world, it’s a great coming of age story.
Ping Pong the Animation (2014)
Action, Drama, Sports
I’ve already written about Ping Pong the Animation which you can read here. Besides having a really cool animation style and artistic direction – the transition between the first half of the story to the second half is also amazing. It’s just one of those series where everything feels good. Like everything about it is different and refreshing and it gets things right. The characters are well written, all with their own arcs to fully flesh out who they are, who they were, and who they will be. And again, it is the best true sports anime. The sports anime mentioned in this a article are great but the personalities of those character would still feel very much the same with or without their sports I’d think. The series gets into the mind of these ping pong players. It’s no nonsense with ping pong in this series. They don’t water it down with comedy or anything too dramatic. Everything in this series happens organically, as it pertains to ping pong. Although it’s not my favourite sports anime, I do recognize Ping Pong the Animation as maybe the best sports anime.
Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope) (2012)
Drama, Historical, Music
Sakamichi no Apollon is storytelling done right. Good stories don’t tell their audience what’s happening, they reveal it. And that’s what this series does. Even though the series doesn’t necessarily explain to you what setting they’re in, the world building is done incredibly well. From what the characters in the background are wearing, the social issues happening within the world of the narrative, and the cultural events occurring, it just reveals things so well. This series almost reads like a novel. It’s as if the town and the time period that the characters exist in play a whole different character. And that the story revolving the three main characters of this series feels like it was cut short considering that it is a 12 episode series. It’s sad. It’s sad because you grow attached to them and when bad things happen to them, you feel it for yourself. This series is not flashy or crazy eventful or large in scope. Rather it decided to focus on a few things and ace all of them. Sakamichi no Apollon is the music series that Your Lie in April wishes it was. It’s a series that is based on relationships and friends, without feeling corny or over the top.
Sora mo Tooi Basho (A Place Further than the Universe) (2018)
Slice of Life
This is the feel good series of 2018. I loved it. It’s beautiful, well paced, well written, and well directed. Each character has their own colour and we get to understand what every character is going through. It tells the story of friendship well and captures the essence of youth. This story will move you. It will make you feel joy, sadness, motivation, and everything in between. I love this series so much, but I also don’t think that it’s a series that a casual anime viewer would appreciate, which is a real bummer. It’s not a complicated story or a flashy one, but it is a unique one – it’s one worth telling. It explores the themes of fleeting youth and taking chances at life. This story represents how people from all different backgrounds can all still have the same goal and work together. But most importantly, this series is about taking chances because you will regret not taking them more than you will regret any mistake that may happen from taking that chance.
And that’s a wrap. I understand that your favourite series may not be on this list. I understand that you may genuinely not like certain series on this list. I get that, and it’s OK. I am one man, one busy man. I want to watch more and more and I will get to them and maybe one day, I’ll write a best anime of the past 25 years list. Until then, drop what I missed in the comments and I’ll give that series a chance if I hadn’t seen it yet. I know that this next decade will have more amazing anime to watch! I’m sure that there will be a “next” Haikyuu or a next 3-Gatsu – or even a series that will change the world! Thank you for reading and happy new year!
By the way, if the Gintama anime didn’t start airing in 2006, it would be better than any series on this list because Gintama is a GOAT series and tells the best stories ever.