When I was asked to make up a top 10 list, I won’t say it was necessarily easy, but I was surprised at how many new anime I’d watch this decade and which series came out this decade since time is hard to keep track of. Personally I’d say this decade was good for anime, and I legitimately can’t wait to see what comes in the next one, even if I think I’ve outgrown watching multiple anime every season. Lot of these might not be surprising picks, but I loved them all the same, so here they are:
1. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (2012)
JoJo was a series I was aware of for a while but never got around to the manga, so when this new adaptation was announced, I was definitely on-board. Little did I know that it was become appointment television for all 5 seasons that have been produced and aired so far! JoJo is a show that I love similar to the reason I love HxH: it constantly changes, except in this case, author Hirohiko Araki will do things to completely change the status quo like killing off the main character and starting the story anew! Which he’s able to do because the story exclusively follows the Joestar family bloodline throughout many different generations. Some stories take place in one location like in the Japanese suburbs or in Italy, and others can be a globetrotting adventure made up of a motley crew of different characters. JoJo also has some of the most gripping, thrilling fights in all of anime and manga, ones that require characters to do more than punch a thing really hard. For anyone who’s curious, I would have to say Part 4 is probably my favorite arc. A slice-of-life story with an underlying mystery starring a group of really likable characters who live in a small town that's just as lively. I could keep but JoJo’s is the kind of the thing that has something for everyone, so if you haven’t started it yet, start from Episode 1, I promise you won’t regret it!
2. Descending Stories (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju) (2016)
This is the one show on my list that I may have the hardest time trying to sell, since no matter how I describe it, it's the kind of show you need to see in order to get the full spectrum of what it has to offer. On paper, it's a character drama that's also a generational period piece about the art of rakugo, which I would personally describe as watching a play where all the characters are played by one person except they’re sitting the entire time, and sometimes the story usually ends in a punchline, kind of like old timey stand up??? It's an art that's existed for centuries. See, it's the kind of thing that sounds really boring, but part of what makes this show special is that it portrays how rakugo is performed through such a masterful combination of voice acting and specific character animation. Basically if you find the rakugo performance by Yotaro in particular near the halfway point of the first episode at all interesting, then you’ll enjoy the rest of the show. Besides that, the show is also just a gripping tale of how young man who started off hating rakugo came to be a master of the craft and how he suddenly obtains an apprentice. Again, I’m bad at selling this one in particular so just go watch it on Crunchyroll.
3. Space Dandy (2014)
“He’s Space Dandy. He’s a dandy guy...in space”. That's it. That's the show! Okay, if you really need to know more, it's a space adventure comedy anthology series from the creator of Cowboy Bebop that landed a simultaneous dubbed broadcast on adult swim back in 2014, and then it just kind of faded away. I don’t see too many people talk about this show, which is a shame, cause it's seriously one of my favorite anime in general! I really enjoyed catching its initial airing every week and really appreciated how this show served as an animator’s playground with each episode being overseen by a different director, and the results are always interesting! Whether our characters are in a high speed race, starting and then immediately disbanding their own band, or just trying to find somewhere to eat ramen, this show has it all. As long as you don’t go in expecting another show on the same level of Bebop, and think of it more as a show that could exist as show you’d watch on TV in the Bebop universe, you’ll have a good time.
4. One Punch Man (2015)
From webcomic, to highly acclaimed manga, to a beautifully animated 12 episode extravaganza, One Punch Man is yet another superhero series, this time about a character named Saitama, who trained so hard and got so strong that he can take out his enemies with one punch. Now at first you may wonder how much mileage you could possibly get out of this idea, and you’d be surprised. The first episode alone is great in how it explores the depression and isolation Saitama feels after gaining such massive strength. What use to be his passion now comes so easy to him that nothing feels like a challenge anymore. You almost actively want him to lose! Outside of Saitama himself, the world of One Punch Man, while it's more cynical then that of My Hero Academia, is still an interesting look at what a bureaucracy of superheroes would look like and how flawed such things like a ranking system for heroes can be. This show is also arguably the best animated show of the decade. Period. Like, it's on Netflix, go watch it.
5. My Hero Academia (2016)
For most people, this would probably be their series of the decade, cause it's HUGE!! MHA is a story about a normal kid named Midoriya living in a world where 80% of the population has some kind of power, so obviously there are superheroes. Our young lad faces all kinds of trials and tribulations because in spite of not having any powers, he still wants to be a hero, and although he eventually gains his own powers with the help of the #1 hero, what he really wants is validation. Someone who believes in him, which is a big reason why I originally fell in love with the manga before the anime. From then on, it becomes the best blend of battle manga and superhero comics that I think we’ll ever have (at least other then the next thing up on my list). I’m honestly not sure what to say to someone who hasn’t already watched this show. It has great characters, great animation, and interesting things to say about its hero centric society and how it either lifts them up or pulls us down.
6. Hunter x Hunter (2011)
It's really hard to describe HxH on paper because it would sound boring and bland, as it starts off with a kid who goes on an adventure to become a hunter just like his deadbeat dad. Now you may be asking, “What is a Hunter and what are they after?” And the answer to that is whatever author Yoshihiro Togashi wants them too. Some people hunt for ancient artifacts, tasty food, body parts, etc. In my opinion what makes HxH so great is that it takes place in a world that is essentially Togashi’s sandbox where while he makes the rules, anything goes. Some stories involve characters taking on criminal gangs and chimeric monstrosities, while others involve them playing video games or engaging in political debates. Admittedly, some people say its willingness to change things up make the show feel unfocused, but to me it keeps the show fresh and exciting, sort of like JoJo, of which Togashi is a fan.
7. Death Parade (2015)
Go watch the opening for this show and tell me that it doesn’t make you want to immediately check it out, because that’s essentially what happened to me. The show is a somewhat episodic series where people play different kinds of recreational games and activities like bowling, darts and even video games to judge a person’s character in order to either reincarnate them or send them to oblivion. The biggest draw of the show in my opinion is the on-going character arc of Decim, a bartender who also performs as the arbiter making these judgements, and how he learns to understand emotion. Though at first that may not seem apparent as there seem to be many strange things going on behind the scenes in Quindecim, which unfortunately aren’t fully resolved by the end, so if you’re into conspiracy and lore, you may be a bit disappointed, but if you’re looking for a really gripping study of human beings and how far they’re willing to go, this is the show you’re looking for.
8. Sket Dance (2011)
This show is about group of high school kids known as the SKET Dan, an after school club who dedicate their time helping both students and faculty alike in order to make their school a better place for everyone…at least on paper. I watched this show in my pursuit of finding ANYTHING to quench my Gintama thirst after catching up at the time, and I’m so glad I made the plunge! I initially heard many good things about this series, but was a bit skeptical about much I would actually enjoy it. Skip forward to now, and not only do I love it, but the manga in particular has become one of my favorite comics of all time! Sket Dance at first may seem like “the poor man’s Gintama” with how much mangaka Kenta Shinohara was influenced by working for Hideaki Sorachi, but it eventually becomes its own entity, with stories that’ll make you laugh and cry. Stories that I think sometimes even surpasses Gintama’s. All I’ll say is that there’s a reason why Switch talks through his laptop, and it's a tragic one! The anime never got to adapt all of its manga, but even so, I’d still say it's worth your time.
9. Tiger and Bunny (2011)
Before My Hero Academia and One Punch Man, and even before the first Avengers film would take the world by storm, there was Tiger and Bunny. A superhero buddy comedy in a world where heroes compete for points and fame on national TV in which a single father and veteran hero gets lumped with a young, rich, rookie who became a hero in order to avenge the death of his parents (in other words, someone who you’d expect to be the main character in a show like this). This X-Men and Batman anime fusion was one of the most gripping things I’d watched at the time and will always have a place in my heart somewhere, but the fact that we eventually got other superhero anime that I enjoy way more then it keeps it lower on my list. If you aren’t tired of superheroes yet, check it out.
10. Daily Lives of High School Boys (2012)
Just as the title implies, it's a slice-of-life comedy about all the dumb hi-jinks high school aged boys get into, be it trying on your sister’s bra with the bros, or playing pretend, or even just having the most nothing conversations. At the time I mostly watched it to hear all my favorite actors that I initially discovered through Gintama, who of course all bring their A game to the table and are probably the biggest reason I enjoy this show, but now I can only wonder how nostalgic it might feel to watch after spending so many years out of high school myself.