Well, we have come to the end of the 2010s, a decade where I actually was much more on top of watching new anime each season – more or less – in part because the rise of streaming made it possible to actually do that in an affordable manner. This past decade also saw me get my Bachelor’s degree, and go to Worldcon for the first time, in a semi-vain attempt to get lit-SF fans to give anime the time of day.
So, I’m going to do a run-down of my favorite Anime of the 2010s that I’ve seen. I will be doing one series per year – and again, this is show’s I’ve seen. Just because a show is not included doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch it or didn’t like it. Additionally, I have a massive List of Shame, so just because a show didn’t make the list doesn’t mean I wasn’t interested.
I’m choosing one show per year, that I watched, and that I generally enjoyed. Each show will have links to where you can watch the series, and affiliate links to where you can buy it – buying anything through those links helps to support the site.
I didn’t see a lot of shows from this year, but the shows I did watch were generally solid. Durarara was an incredibly engaging show with some interesting characters, some of whom I still see cosplayers dress as to this day. Legend of the Legendary Heroes was a title that was much stronger than its clunky title (which the Japanese version still possessed) would imply.
However, Gundam Unicorn felt like it put a strong capstone on the saga of the UC era and the Earth Federation/Neo Zeon war, and would lay the groundwork for the UC era to move on to revisiting and re-adapting stuff like Gundam F91 and Crossbone Gundam (along with the upcoming adaptation of Hathaway’s Flash). It’s not a good introductory series by any means – jumping in here is a bit like jumping into the Star Wars saga with Return of the Jedi or even the Thrawn Trilogy. However, on its own, it makes for the right kind of fanservice.
Fate/Zero is the series that has, quite possibly, one of my favorite episodes of television and characterization – the Council of Kings, with Gilgamesh, Iskandar, and Arturia Pendragon, sitting down over drinks and talking about their philosophy of what it means to be a monarch. It’s an incredibly well-written episode and sold me very much on the show, and ultimately got me to dive into the larger Nasuverse.
Fate/Zero very much gets into the idea that this conflict of wizards is, ultimately, a conflict of worldviews as well – from Kiritsugu’s cynicism that masks someone who very much wants to be an idealist (which is half of why he can’t make the Grail work for him), Waver Velvet’s half modest/half grand goal of reshaping wizard society to get more respect for less major houses like his own, and Kirei Kotomine’s lack of direction opening him up to corruption by Gilgamesh.
It’s a wonderful, though very dark, show. I’m not sure if it’s the right gateway to the Fate universe, but it worked for me.
2012: Bodacious Space Pirates
This is the show that lead me to tilt at the windmill of trying to get Lit-SF Fandom to give anime the time of day. It’s a space adventure anime series with women in lead roles, a clear and undeniable queer relationship in the series, and no fanservice – (except maybe if you’re a leg person).
It reminded me of the young adult wish fullfillment science fiction novels of the ’50s and ’60s except clearly aimed for modern female audiences with a much more feminist view. The cast was almost exclusively made up of women and girls, the men played second fiddle to the women, and no character drama was dependant on men. It’s a series that passes both the Bechdel Test and the Mako Mori test with flying colors. It’s a show that everyone should be talking about, and… nobody is.
I blame the title. It gives the series a tremendous hurdle to clear, as it forces whoever is selling the person on the series that no, this isn’t a fanservice series, it’s not a dumb series. Quite the contrary, it’s fanservice free and very smart. The Japanese title (translated as “Miniskirt Space Pirates”) doesn’t help either.
2013: Kill La Kill
If Fate/Zero is the series that put the Nasuverse on my Radar, Kill La Kill is the show that put Studio Trigger on my Radar. Well, to be fair, Little Witch Academia came out the same year, so, really, 2013 is Trigger’s coming out year. While both Little Witch Academia and Kill La Kill are both incredibly strong showings, Kill La Kill was an incredibly strong outing and one which very much got people talking. Kill La Kill told a very intense, story with incredible fight scenes, great comedic action, and the introduction of what I’ve come to consider “Trigger Typography” – where on-screen captions aren’t just there to convey information, they’re elements that the characters can interact with, and how they interact with them can, in turn, speaks to their character.
My review of Shirobako says a lot about why this show is on my list – it’s an anime about making anime, and one which inspires to be both funny and educational – a thing that a lot of movies about movies (or musicals or TV shows) don’t necessarily succeed at. As I said in the review – How a Book is Made and Digging Up Dinosaurs by Aliki were formative books in my childhood – and I think this show plays into those influences.
It’s also one of the first anime series that I watched with my parents as I started getting them into anime.
2015: Lupin The Third Part IV
Lupin the Third Part IV basically brings Lupin back to for the 21st century in a much larger way than any of the earlier TV movies or even A Woman Called Fujiko Mine was. It took the conventional structure of a Lupin series, and adapted it to the modern hybrid of serialized and episodic storytelling. A Woman Called Fujiko Mine had done that, but that was also done as an origin story, with the classic Lupin character dynamic being mostly absent from the story. Here, this felt like the perfect gateway to Lupin, even more than Castle of Cagliostro. You get the characters, you get the way they interact, and you get the normal array of stories that is told with them.
2016: Your Name.
Anime fans have known about Makoto Shinkai for a while. Maybe it was for Voices of a Distant Star, or 5 Centimeters Per Second. However, after Your Name came out – everyone knew Shinkai. It’s the film that should have made him the first non-Ghibli affiliated director to get an academy award nomination for Best Animated Film. It’s a movie that got major critical attention from critics like Mark Kermode. It’s the highest-grossing film in the history of Japan.
But the recognition didn’t quite happen. Shinkai’s next film, Weathering With You, gets a wide US theatrical release next year, and it’s a film that has gotten serious Academy Award nomination buzz. We’ll see if it actually pans out.
There was some great stuff this year – HeroAca season 2, Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family, and Katsugeki Touken Ranbu. However, Gamers! was the anime that made me bust a gut laughing as it came out. Even better, it avoided the issues that I had with Dragon Maid with Lucoa which made me on multiple occasions maybe wish I hadn’t picked that series to show to my parents.
The humor just lands, and it lands in a way that doesn’t require you to be knowledgeable about video games to necessarily work, especially because a lot of the games are made up for the show. Instead, the anime is effectively a Shakespearian level comedy, with very deliberately prepared and timed misunderstandings designed to just crank up the humor in ways that just work.
It’s a wonderful show, and is definitely worth picking up.
2018: Laid-Back Camp
On the one hand, I’m a person who loves science fiction and fantasy, and revels in geek culture. On the other hand, I love to just chill out and relax, and I have enjoyed every time I’ve gone camping, and probably wouldn’t mind going camping a little more often, especially the social experience.
So, Laid-Back Camp spoke to those parts of me a lot, with the gorgeous scenery, the wonderful writing and characters, and the super chill music. Watching that show just made all the stress drain out of my body. It was a series that was everything I could ask for, and I’m incredibly glad I watched it.
Laid Back Camp as of this writing has not been licensed for a physical release as yet, but the Manga is available for purchase from RightStuf, as is a Nendoroid of Nadeshiko with (among other accessories) the Gyoza Hot Pot from episode 2.
2019: The Magnificent Kotobuki
There was a lot of great anime that came out this year, so it’s hard to choose just one. What pushes The Magnificent Kotobuki over the line is that it was a show that I was watching as it was airing with my parents, and which they still ask me if there are plans for another season. I think that gives marks for an excellent series – and I do hope this gets a physical release (and maybe even a dub) soon.
So, what anime are your picks for the past 2010s? Let me know in the comments!