It only seems appropriate for me, as compartmentalized my mindset is, to indulge myself in extravagant lists of opined flavor. I’ve seen numerous publications do “decade lists” that note the best of various subjects throughout this soon to be disintegrated ten-year stretch. That essence of finality is intoxicating to me, so I decided I want to do it, too. What better way to start than with the medium I have paid careful attention to (to various degrees over time) for the last seven-plus years? These are the twenty anime series I consider to be better than the rest. And as always, this is a personal list and I have not seen every anime ever. If an omission upsets you that greatly, make your own list.
Before moving on, a couple things to note:
- This list will not include films.
- Individual seasons count as one series. I will make this apparent in the list to come.
- A series has to have began airing in 2010 to qualify.
With that behind us, the list shall begin.
20. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭
Going through the list of potential contenders, this one stuck out for whatever reason. It has been many years since I’ve seen it, and to be frank, I’m a little taken aback by my even including it on this list. Almost a niche interest, it managed to invoke sentimental detail within a rather general story that plays with the archetypes of the industry (for better or worse). I recall enjoying it more than the first season, which I also gave a 7/10 on MAL, so I can only assume this is around a 7.5/10. My, I sound rather unsure for someone compiling a list of this caliber.
Jokes aside, my fondness for the characters and their ambitions are what make this series what it is for me. You may see this reasoning used often for this list. SaeKano Music Note managed to take what others could see as a vapid attempt at being “ironic” and make it endearing without alienating a less-than-attentive audience. And as previously noted, the first season is nearly as enjoyable, so I’d recommend at least giving it a shot.
19. Boku no Hero Academia (Season Two)
I fondly recall when most of the characters on the poster adorning this section were important to the series. Good times.
Shounen series typically aren’t my forté. Any longtime readers of The Visualist’s Veranda are already well aware of this, signified by my lack of any Shounen-related reviews or discussion. In recent years, I’ve been a little less rigid with my anime choices, and Boku no Hero Academia ended up being a good decision to make (initially). While recent seasons have been generally underwhelming, the second season is where the series hit its emotional peak. Tons of great characters with individual moments taking the screen seemingly every week, it displayed a colorful and eccentric series of heroism and fun.
18. Devilman: Crybaby
Please note that every series attributed to the (albeit blurry) cover image will be on this list. I’m not trying to dupe you, promise!
There’s something troubling to me about the “Netflix exclusive” label. Perhaps it’s a manner of PTSD revolving around other Netflix-exclusive series/films that have been less than stellar, but usually, if I see that moniker, I shy away. Devilman: Crybaby was one instance where I bit the bullet, then ended up having more bullets as the basis of my diet.
Raunchy, abject, chaotic. Sometimes there are no happy endings. Devilman is such a bizarre, twisted tale of things almost never shown in the anime medium… maybe for good reason? It’s dark and borderline gross, everything that would make company executives squirm and retreat to their market-tested cashcows. Perhaps that’s the quality I most enjoyed about it. An attempt to be something different in a desert of homogeneity. Also helps when the characters are adequately developed and the story is engrossing in a watching-a-bus-fall-off-a-cliff kind of quality. This is one to see if you want something with a sinister edge.
17. White Album 2
This selection is almost like an inclusion of the person I was in the past. Romance used to mean so much to me, knowing that it is something I lack in my personal life. While not as noteworthy to me now, back then, the magical aura of “soulmates” or “the one” was so intoxicating that I was willing to put up with a lot of garbage to get to that one, final, gratifying moment of love. Eugh.
White Album 2 employs this to a substantial degree, with one of the most emotionally enrapturing final episodes I’ve seen in any anime. However, it’s not one so cozy and sweet, which perhaps makes it better. Its mood is quiet and calm, rumbling only for moments of romantic splendor or impending drama, wonderfully paced and very rarely ruined by petty garbage. I used to like this series much more, and was at one point on my favorites list. After a re-watch, I felt it worth its (somewhat) high average rating, though not quite deserving of a favorite listing. Even so, it’s sure to make those fond of romantic dramas quite woozy.
16. Made in Abyss
Remember how fuzzy I was on how much I really liked SaeKano Music Note? Same can apply here with Made in Abyss. To be frank, a lot of this series is a blur. I remember liking it a lot, but what strikes me is that the why is missing. Characters were probably pretty good, as Bunny-chan (whose name I cannot remember; bad sign) was my waifu for a few weeks after the series ended. I also quite liked that creepy masked woman… she was masked, right? Y’see what I mean?
Despite this, what I still hold onto is the “oomph” that grips me whenever I hear the name or see the promotional art. Sometimes it’s better to let the emotions take over and leave the intellectual reasoning for when you want to inevitably lessen the score (that tends to happen with me often). Made in Abyss had, from what I recall, great pacing, enormous stakes, and world-building to die for. Visually glorious and adventurous all the more, I would recommend it without hesitation… after I re-watch it. Probably.
15. Working!! (Season Two)
I could be precise and add that stupid apostrophe in the title, but I think it’s stupid and not deserving of it. But the third exclamation point for the third season? Hell yeah, I’ll do that anytime. (The third season will not be on this list.)
Working!! was one of the earliest series I had ever watched, appearing in the very first Summer of Anime block, back in late 2012. I watched both seasons at the time, so their quality blurs a tad for me, but I recall liking the first season just a tad more (hint, hint). It’s a goofy, screwball comedy about eccentric workers… working. Insane as that idea is, it worked tremendously well in anime format, with all the bounce and wackiness necessary to make an entertaining and surprisingly heartwarming anime series.
Now, if the series had decided to stick to the comedy as a foundation instead of dumb petty romance, perhaps the third season and finale OVA wouldn’t have been garbage (not linking out of respect). From a point where the series was amusing and cute, I will always recall fondly the days when I watched this for the first time. That, and Satou (See? I remember names!) is great. Love him.
14. Working!! (Season One)
Bahahahaha! This is kind of a cop-out, I’m aware, but the difference in quality is so slight that it made sense to me to put them right beside one another.
There’s not much else I can say that’s already been said above. Just read my “full thoughts” linked above. It explores both seasons (but you’d already know that if you actually clicked the link).
13. Kyousou Giga
“It’s about family!” – Some character in some film I don’t remember.
There is such a charming absurdity to Kyousou Giga that managed to implement a great moral string of finding a familial connection. And like with Made in Abyss, this series is a bit blurry to me. I remember kind of not liking the ending episodes, but I also remember being entranced by how weird it was. Protip: if an anime is weird, I will want to watch it above anything else. Weird is good as a selling point. Always.
What makes this series good is the attention to detail. It tells a story, one that can be relative to just about anyone with a fondness for human connection and blood ties. It simply chooses to do so in the most fantastical way imaginable. I appreciate the way the direction this series took, with an oddness that was simple at its core. Also visually colorful, which never not helps. See how I did that? Make an oddly-phrased statement to mean something simple? That’s Kyousou Giga. Except they do it better. Trust me.
Really, you could take what I said about Kyousou Giga and apply it here, too. A lot of absurdity to say something pretty simple. Only differences is that Tsuritama is (debatably) less weird (taking place in an actual, realistic setting) and Kyousou Giga has far more action bits. Here, the moral lessons lie within visual storytelling more than anything, with a lot of mental stimulation through piecing together what it could all mean. I love that shit.
Like with a few of these choices thus far, I wasn’t super fond of the ending, which felt much like the “End it with drama for the hell of it” trope that anime always does. Still, one can argue that here it applies more so than “Random club anime where they might shut down the club if nothing is done” scenario. Even with it, Tsuritama is a zany puzzle that I had great fun trying to solve. If that sounds appealing, go and watch it now and write me a DM on Twitter afterwards telling me how it changed your life (for better or worse).
11. Demi-chan wa Kataritai
Fun fact: a friend of mine (whose opinion I trust deeply) dropped this after a few episodes and gave it a 4/10. I finished it, gave it an 8/10, then scoured the internet for the manga to indulge in MOAR CONTENT. Sometimes you gotta try things out for yourself.
In earnest, I’m floored by how much I adore this series. It’s so simple: a middle-aged teacher is interested in things called “Demis,” fantasy creatures from age-old tall tales that inhabit the earth as normal members of society. Three of his students are Demis, and together, they talk about how their differences affect their lives and just… hang out. Wow, Oscar-worthy, indeed.
Again, in comes down to characters. Hikari is adorable. Kyoko is admirable. Yuki
is more fleshed out in the manga has a sneaky charisma to her. And our male lead, Tetsuo, is… fine. These names and more make the series what it is, with a strange camaraderie that works with its almost historical (and pseudo-scientific?) framing. It seems to hit on a large number of interesting facets that make it incredibly watchable. And it’s little more than a slice of life! Highly recommended, though the reasons may be more personal to me than others.
10. Monogatari: Second Season
Here we go—top 10. Clench your teeth.
In the time since I’ve seen this (premiered in 2013; haven’t watched it since), I’ve become a lot more strict on the use of sexual fan service, especially of those depicting loli characters. The Monogatari series employs this quite a bit, occasionally for narrative reasons, but usually for the sake of doing so. I don’t condone this and I never will, yet I wanted to throw that out there as a disclaimer for those wanting to go into this confusing, wonderful franchise.
It’s weird. It’s complex. It’s pretentious. Everything that can be said of a series can be said for the Monogatari series, which was written by a dude who uses a fucking palindrome as a pseudonym. And in 2013, when Second Season hit the anime community, it was a blast to follow. Captivating, disorienting, and entertaining as can be, it made for great content. People fought over its impact, whether anything made sense, or if Mr. Isin was high off his rocker. The answer is yes, to anything that could be asked. That’s the magic he brings to his series, with this as no exception. Notice how I’ve said next to nothing substantial about the series? That’s because I don’t remember a god damn thing. It was so good that it erased my memory completely.
9. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
The repetition of the phrase “fondness for the characters and their ambitions” was promised early on, but it seems another adjective has received more attention: “Weird.” I like weird stuff, the kind of stuff that you would never shown someone wanting to get into the anime medium, lest you get them to expect the unexpected. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is a series that doesn’t really conform to anything except what it wants. By that, I mean it just does whatever for the hell of it.
And it does it very well! The female lead, whose name isn’t even a name (It’s just “Watashi,” meaning “I”), guides the very into a half-informational/half-fantastical viewing of the world she inhabits, which has had a serious decline in humanity… y’know, like the title suggests? In their place, fairy-tale-esque creatures have spawned and turned the world into a bundle of silliness and whimsy. And with their straightforward nature, it becomes easy to note the series’s intention with each episode, providing social commentary on general human nature.
Definitely not for everyone, as it leaves very little satisfaction for those who only wish for a general, linear story. For those looking for a little mind-trickery, give this one a go. Come for the zany plotlines, stay for the subtly great characters.
8. Kill la Kill
This is Trigger’s baby. I don’t care what comes after or how well-renowned it becomes, this will always be pinnacle Trigger. It is, after all, what “saved anime” when it first released.
Kill la Kill is good in the same way some of my favorite music is good: it has a lot of energy and heart-pounding detail. From the very beginning, the series employs Imaishi’s signature style of being super spontaneous and fast-paced. The primary appeal to Kill la Kill is in a quality hard to describe with mere words. Its bombastic approach, strange-yet-logical characters, a larger than life plot, and constant building of themes until it all comes together in a climax worth the constant pressure. Enough aggression leads to diamonds, or so they say using other words that mean other things.
It’s the best Trigger has produced since then, as well. For now, it’s hard for me to consider the studio one of consistent quality, as nothing has ever come close to Kill la Kill‘s level. Yet for a while, the studio has effectively made its mark on the industry, and all the potential for them flourished with it. This is proof of that, and all the accolades are (mostly) true. This is a great series.
7. Hyouge Mono
I can’t even fathom how I can recommend this show. It’s a rare 39 episodes long, it’s about a-e-s-t-h-e-t-i-c-i-s-m, and it stars a bunch of old, ugly lads who are kind of warring over power in a satirical fashion. Weird, but in a way that doesn’t necessarily translate the same way as the other kind of weird that is embodied through fantasy smuggling. This is weird in a sort of uncanny valley vibe where it’s realistic, but also off in a very slight way.
What do I even say? Characters are developed to some extent, though most purpose each is given is satirical. While serious in some respects (especially near the end, because anime), a lot of it is followed by a dude making a wacky face because he got a nice-looking teacup. This is only slightly exaggerated for what makes up a good portion of this anime: “A bunch of guys fight over shiny shit.” That’s it, and it’s awesome. I couldn’t stop past a certain point. This anime itself is a-e-s-t-h-e-t-i-c.
6. Mob Psycho 100 II
It’s become kind of cool to go, “One Punch Man? Pssh, the author’s real quality is shown in Mob Psycho.” To be fair, I did enjoy Mob Psycho‘s first season over One Punch Man‘s first season, though the difference was only through a volume of nagging faults. When a sequel was announced for Mob, I was passive in my interest. “Sure, I’ll watch it.” And I did. I sure did. Let me tell you all… I watched it.
This particular author has a way of making the world feel very small. When it gets to that point, every action, every moment, and every battle feels crucial. People are more transparent, colors are more vibrant, pain is far more severe. Mob Psycho II is a very visceral, and some ways cathartic, series about wanting to live, whether through minor short-sighted goals or committed personal ambitions. All wrapped up in a series with giant, otherworldly battles that eradicate the existence of reality. Yes, I watched it. You should, too.
A lot of people like to talk about how great of a portrayal of making anime this anime is. I get that. For me, the best parts were when the characters were getting all angry with one another for not putting in their fair share of work. I feel that.
This is not an anime about making anime. This is an anime about people making anime. These people are the reason we care, because otherwise, this would just be an underwhelming studio tutorial exercise. It’s the people that make the anime good, despite how same-y all of the women look. Honestly, look at that promo image… A thankless position it is to be in the anime-producing industry, where tons of people work billions of hours to make some of our favorite stories on the air. We feel that love through this series.
More of an interesting series than an emotional one, I think, it compounds the intriguing with the sentimental and gives it a proper form fitting of the average score it has within the community. At times fun, at times all too real, it chronicles the “life” part of “slice of life” amazingly well, without the pandering garbage the occasionally comes with it.
4. Ping Pong The Animation
I really need to re-watch this.
For context, this is not an indication of my not knowing how much I really enjoy this series. Absolutely not—I adore this series. It is a personal desire to watch this phenomenal series once again, because it is very good and makes me very happy.
People see screenshots of this anime and think one thing: “Wow, this is really ugly.” And it is! I will not fault one for thinking that way. However, think of it this way: Maybe life is ugly? Maybe life isn’t the color-coated, perfectly-crafted, picturesque existence we know it in a typical anime series? Life is full of grays, browns, and most of all, triviality. Ping Pong makes me think that life is kind of dumb and pointless, and we’re all just wandering around waiting for something to happen. So why not do something? Why not play some ping pong and get ridiculously good at it in the meantime?
The competitive flair to this series is awesome. Incorporating typical, but effective character goals builds into this artistic fever dream of high-stakes matches where the opponent turns into a giant monster and whacks the pong with the ferocity of Goliath, leaving blazing trails of flame. Contestants faster than the human eye can travel, leaving several afterimages in place and having the ball create a gap in the space-time continuum. How much of this is actually in the series and how much am I making up? What’s amazing about this series is that it overwhelms you so feasibly that it all becomes expected. Definitely worth watching at least once.
3. Shinsekai yori
The top three should come as no surprise if you visit my MyAnimeList profile (not linked to increase suspense), as they’re on my favorites list. Shinsekai yori was also partly inspired to watch from said “friend” in the description for Demi-chan above, whom absolutely adored this series. The punchline is not the same as then: I watched it and loved it, too.
To be fair, I think this series is kind of messy. There’s a lot that they try to do that may come off as pretentious or half-baked to many. I even vividly recall this title causing controversy for showing two male students kissing. Homophobia, am I right? There are sequences within its story that I feel are best observed in parts to a larger whole: the innocent, youthful days, the aftermath of the turning point, and the eventual resolution. One could almost compare it to an epic tale; roaming from past to future, each character thrown by fate into every direction, and a looming darkness that shapes the course of history.
I adored the social commentary with it, especially towards the end. If we do not learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it. I hear this phrase often, and yet it’s still so common to fall victim to it. Shinsekai yori is yet another reminder that we shouldn’t play with power so frivolously. It takes some time to find itself, but the end result is extraordinary.
2. Sora yori mo Tooi Basho
In the time since this series aired, I’ve been hearing a lot of valid complaints about it. The later episodes aren’t as strong as the earlier ones. It indulges in a lot of melodrama later on. The characters, while properly developed, are little more than common archetypes. I have actually heard a similar argument used for Toradora!, where one claimed that Taiga cannot be taken seriously as a character because she was the epitome of a tsundere archetype. To that, and to some extent this, I would’ve argued the following: If I care for them despite that, that’s all the more impressive.
What makes Sora yori mo Tooi Basho so special to me is how relatable I find the cause of these young girls. No, I have no desire to travel to Antarctica. What I do desire is something that is seemingly out of my reach—it’s up to me to make that reality happen. I loved seeing that process of a faraway dream, motivated by a central figure, take form. A gradual process that takes luck, encouragement, and commitment to bear fruit. It helps when the main cast has such great chemistry with one another, and seeing them take that journey was sheer joy.
I have a lot of sentimental feelings towards the central plot, which likely makes me cherish this series more than others. I have dreams of my own; to see others take the plunge and succeed, even in fiction, makes my heart whole. Every emotion attributed to the journey and the realization that the goal has been met and there’s nothing else to strive for is one I have always found fascinating. It’s sweet, tragic, and immeasurably fun.
There was no debate. Filling out this list in the draft stages, I had my top three set in stone immediately. For Katanagatari, which premiered in January of 2010, it just barely made the cut, and I am really happy that it did.
I have gone on about this series in multiple facets on The Visualist’s Veranda, whether aspects of its whole that inspire me, its fight to the top with Toradora! as my all-time favorite (it won), or how Nisio Isin writes good shit. I’ve nearly exhausted everything I could say about the series and why it’s amazing, but I’ll do my best for one last jam-packed paragraph.
Story is self-aware and tries to subvert expectations while also telling a fulfilling narrative. Characters are complex and amusing in a way that is rarely seen in this medium. The two leads actually touch each other a lot, which leads to a natural trust and affection between them (oh my god my christian eyes fdsjhvbdjf). Artistic design is wholly anime, yet different in its overall look to distinguish it from others. Funny, emotional, romantic, heart-severing, ambitious, mind-bending, and weird—oh, so weird. The only thing to note that would turn some away is the amount of talking. Nisio Isin enjoys writing dialogue, so prepare for a lot of wordplay and corny jokes along with giant chunks of discussion. Otherwise, it’s pretty much perfect and you should take my word for it.
Let’s make the next decade one to remember!
The ratings for these titles and all other can be found on MyAnimeList.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.