Originally published on 6th January, 2020.
With 2020 on the horizon, now is the perfect time to look back at the anime this decade has brought us. Thus, this listicle will list 50 titles – in no particular order, and including movies as well as series – from the 2010s that totally deserve to be watched.
Of course, a single viewpoint and a mere list of 50 won’t be able to account for all the great 2010s anime out there. If you feel that an unmentioned show should’ve been on the list, go ahead and mention it in the comments!
Without further ado, let’s begin.
#1. A Silent Voice (2016, Kyoto Animation)
A Silent Voice is a compelling redemption story about a socially anxious teen who tries to make amends with the deaf girl he once bullied. It looks beautiful, and the muted soundtrack by Kensuke Ushio is unique and immersive.
I remember the movie best for a simple yet clever shot involving an umbrella, but the uncomfortable bullying scenes are hard to forget as well.
#2. A Place Further Than The Universe (2018, Madhouse)
A Place Further Than The Universe is about four high school girls and their inspiring journey to Antarctica. The girls, each with distinct personalities and motives, begin the show as strangers.
But by the end of the show, they’ve grown close enough to not just laugh, but cry together. It’s a fun adventure, and an incredibly heart-warming depiction of friendship.
#3. Shirobako (2014, P.A. Works)
Aoi Miyamori is a production assistant at Musashino Animation, and the series follows the lives of her and her former high school Anime Club members as they try to survive, or break into, the anime industry.
The show is as much about five friends trying to achieve their dreams as it is about anime production, and that’s what makes it work.
#4. Monogatari Series: Second Season (2013, Shaft)
The best parts of the stylized and wordy Monogatari shows are arguably their character interactions and conversations. However, Second Season (it’s not actually the second season, though) also has some of the most compelling and exciting story arcs in the series.
It culminates with Hitagi End, where a sharp-tongued, self-proclaimed tsundere hires a gloomy conman to trick a vengeful girl-turned-god. Great stuff.
#5. Fate/Zero (2011, Ufotable)
Unlike Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero‘s Holy Grail War participants are mainly adults who know what they’re doing. That makes things a lot more fascinating, but it also helps that the original novel was written by Gen Urobuchi. Tragedy and grimness pervade the show, and happy endings are scarce. Fate/Zero doesn’t have the series’ most impressive Servant battles, but the final duel between “mage-killer” Kiritsugu Emiya and messed-up priest Kotomine Kirei is also one for the ages.
#6. Bloom into You (2018, Troyca)
Bloom into You’s gorgeous soundtrack evokes the feel of an old-timey romance movie. The show itself doesn’t feel as old-fashioned, but it tells a beautiful, if slightly unconventional, love story.
Yuu Koito is a freshman struggling to understand love, while Touko Nanami is a second-year student who loves Yuu precisely for her inability to love. With meaningful themes and complex characters, this is a great anime that needs a second season.
#7. Asobi Asobase: Workshop of Fun (2018, Lerche)
Asobi Asobase looks like a cute and innocent show about the game-playing “Pastimers Club”, but it’s actually freaking nuts. It’s hard to describe how crazy its characters’ activities and faces can get, so let’s just say that there also lines like “she’s doing her Chinese contortionist shit again”.
Its nutty brilliance is slightly off-set by the less amusing non-game-related segments and the early loss of blond-haired Olivia’s hilarious fake accent.
#8. Fate/Grand Order: Babylonia (2019, CloverWorks)
From a technical perspective, Babylonia is superb. Clashes between Servants yield magnificently crisp sounds, and the action animation and choreography are no less impressive.
Ushiwakamaru’s fight against the gargantuan Gorgon is an easy standout. Breathtakingly blistering yet comprehensible, it’s a fight that was realized by the contributions of multiple animators, and it serves as a stunning showcase of animation talent in a show already brimming with it.
#9. WWW.Working!! (2016, A-1 Pictures)
When Daisuke Higashida takes on a part-time job at the Wagnaria family restaurant, he finds that his new work life isn’t exactly normal. He meets a co-worker who unintentionally makes lethal chocolates, a usually emotionless girl with a devastating smile, and even the ghost of Saint Nicholas himself.
Wagnaria is populated by a quirky cast, and their comedic and romantic experiences will put a smile on your face.
#10. Stars Align (2019, Eight Bit)
At only 12 episodes, Stars Align tries to squeeze too many family issues into its sports story. While it makes the show feel unfocused and crammed, it deserves points for feeling earnest in highlighting said issues, and its ability to craft tense atmospheres in its characters’ homes is fantastic.
Elsewhere, it imbues its soft tennis matches and memorable ending dance sequence with convincing physicality, while openly approaching LGBT topics with empathy.
#11. Scum’s Wish (2017, Lerche)
Hanabi Yasuraoka and Mugi Awaya seem like a perfect couple, but they’re just using each other as “replacements” until they end up with their respective crushes. Scum’s Wish isn’t a character study tour de force, but it’s a captivating, morally grey story about people driven by loneliness and a desperate need for intimacy.
It’s not a bad adaptation either, using manga-like panels to create a unique presentation, as well as boasting a suitably melancholic and surprisingly beautiful soundtrack.
#12. Your Name (2016, CoMix Wave)
I prefer A Silent Voice, but I’ll also remember how Your Name did the near-impossible and reduced me to an emotional wreck several times throughout its runtime. Initially, I bemoaned how the body-swapping love story seemed more mainstream and uninteresting than previous Shinkai works.
Now, I have to admit that its combination of likeable protagonists, insanely emotional scenes, and instantly memorable RADWIMPS songs resulted in something special.
#13. In This Corner of the World (2016, MAPPA)
When In This Corner of the World begins in 1930s Hiroshima, it is a deceptively idyllic coming-of-age story with an oddly rapid pace. Soon, the 1940s arrive, and newly-married Suzu Hojo moves to nearby Kure.
Wartime life is depicted in detail, but the days still feel fairly peaceful and uneventful. Then, a terrifying air raid signals that the war has come to Japan’s shores, and Suzu’s life is forever changed in this powerful and unforgettable film. This film does a great job at balancing melancholy with tragedy set in such a tumultuous era of Japan.
#14. Fire Force (2019, David Production)
While Fire Force‘s plot took a while to find its footing, its layouts proved to be a consistent strength, with some inspired and aesthetic-looking shots being utterly captivating. The production staff pull no punches with the animation either, as fights are hard-hitting and explosive affairs that sound just as powerful.
It’s also got a charming and occasionally silly cast, although one character’s fan-servicey nature quickly gets tiring.
#15. The Tatami Galaxy (2010, Madhouse)
“Opportunity is always dangling in front of you,” advises a fortune teller to The Tatami Galaxy’s unnamed protagonist in almost every episode. But while this line is drilled into our heads repeatedly, the protagonist only hears it once, for the episodes are what-if scenarios set in alternate universes.
The Tatami Galaxy is an entertaining bildungsroman thanks to its surreal nature and insanely fast monologues. Through the repetitive failures of its protagonist, it also provides useful life lessons and food for thought.
#16. Kill la Kill (2013, Trigger)
With talking sailor uniforms, giant scissors, and an organisation called Nudist Beach, Kill la Kill is a wild action anime that has also been interpreted as a satirical deconstruction of fanservice and magical girls. Searching for her father’s killer, Ryuko Matoi arrives at Honnouji Academy.
There, students don power-imbuing Goku Uniforms, and student council president Satsuki Kiryuin rules the school with an iron fist. The second half expands the scope, but the school-based first half provides the most fun.
#17. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011, Shaft)
In exchange for having a granted wish, a girl can become a magical girl who must battle witches. However, Madoka Kaname and her friend Sayaka Miki discover that that’s not the only catch.
The series doesn’t rely on gore, but it leaves an impression with its juxtaposition between cute character designs and a dark psychological story that carries a sense of hopelessness.
The Rebellion movie, which has a fantastic gun-fu duel and a WTF ending, also deserves a watch.
#18. Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World (2016, White Fox)
After getting transported to another world, Subaru Natsuki discovers that he has the ability to “respawn” at an earlier point in time after dying.
With this ability, Subaru attempts to protect his new friends from the sinister forces of this world, but memories of previous tragic outcomes take a psychological toll on him. There’s a lot of suffering in this isekai anime, and the start of each new arc brings a welcome, but temporary, relief.
#19. March Comes in Like A Lion (2016, Shaft)
Rei Kiriyama is a young shogi prodigy, estranged from his adoptive family but acquainted with the kind Kawamoto sisters. Haunted by his past, the reclusive teen has to meet the demands of his shogi profession while learning to develop relationships with others. March Comes in Like A Lion is great because it’s not just about shogi or Rei.
A shogi player with chronic stomach pain steals the show with his backstory, while the ugliness of bullying is explored through one of the Kawamoto sisters’ experiences.
#20. Your Lie in April (2014, A-1 Pictures)
Your Lie in April may have ended in 2015, but it’s still hard to forget about its bubbly violinist, Kaori Miyazono. Her relationship with protagonist and pianist Kousei Arima is bittersweet and touching, but Kousei’s connections with his tutor, musical rivals, and other friends are no less meaningful.
Visually attractive, the show has plenty of classical music performances to enjoy, but at its core is a story about struggling with loss and moving on.
#21. The Eccentric Family (2013, P.A. Works)
Playful, shapeshifting tanuki co-exist with proud tengu and humans in Kyoto. One of these tanuki is Shimogamo Yasaburou, whose father was cooked in a hot pot and eaten by the members of the “Friday Club”.
Yasahiro’s adventures are fun, and he has an intriguing relationship with Benten, a human with tengu abilities. It’s an original and magical experience that also conveys the warmth and importance of family relations.
#22. Land of the Lustrous (2017, Orange)
In Land of the Lustrous’ fascinating distant future, genderless Gems are hunted by otherworldly people from the moon. Phosphophyllite is the youngest of the Gems, assigned to record the history of their world because of their fragility. The show is a fantastical coming-of-age story, brought to life by incredibly smooth 3DCG animation. The strong cast and setting are supplemented by the cinematic soundtrack, which is an absolute masterpiece.
#23. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! (2016, Studio Deen)
One day, hikkikomori Satou Kazuma dies from shock after thinking that he got hit by a truck. He ends up in a fantasy world under threat from the Demon King, with an arrogant but useless goddess, a hopelessly masochistic crusader, and an explosion-obsessed arch wizard as party members.
Kazuma himself isn’t exactly a model adventurer, and this combination of personalities makes for a series of entertaining misadventures in this unique isekai anime.
#24. Mobile Suit Gundam UC (2010, Sunrise)
The most memorable character in Gundam Unicorn is not its protagonist. Instead, it is easier to recall the touching bond between Neo Zeon pilot Marida Cruz and her father figure Captain Suberoa Zinnerman, as well as Earth Federation pilot Riddhe Marcenas’ descent into madness.
Amidst the epic mecha battles, intricate transformation sequences, and Hiroyuki Sawano’s goosebump-inducing score, humanity (or the side character portions, at least) and its struggle for a better future remain the most memorable aspects of the show.
#25. Colorful (2010, Ascension/ Sunrise)
An unnamed soul, given another chance at life, is placed into the body of 14-year-old Makoto Kobayashi, who recently attempted suicide. Throughout the course of the film, the soul has to remember the sin they committed in their previous life, while learning about Makoto and the reasons that drove him to suicide. My memories of Colorful are unfortunately rather foggy, but its existence and heavy subject matter have never left my mind.
#26. Tamako Love Story (2014, Kyoto Animation)
First introduced in the Tamako Market series, Tamako Kitashirakawa and her childhood friend Mochizou Ouji are both children of mochi makers. With their high school lives coming to an end, Mochizou decides that he should confess his feelings to Tamako before he heads off to study filmmaking in Tokyo.
How will she respond to his feelings? Tamako Love Story is a simple but sweet film that also encourages us not to be afraid of change.
#27. SSSS. Gridman (2018, Trigger)
SSSS.Gridman‘s quieter moments are just as enthralling as its energetic action scenes, if not more. The setting, a city surrounded by fog and immobile kaiju, feels simultaneously grounded yet surreal. Meanwhile, it’s not uncommon for the considered shots to give the show a slight avant-garde vibe.
I’m neither a fan of tokusatsu shows nor the original live-action series, but SSSS.Gridman‘s atmosphere and visual direction kept me engrossed. The strong character designs help too.
#28. Mawaru Penguindrum (2011, Brain’s Base)
Mawaru Penguindrum‘s plot follows twin brothers who are ordered to find an item called the Penguin Drum, for the sake of their sister’s life. There’s a good dose of comedy, bizarre events, and adorable penguins, with various metaphors and themes (that were often lost on me) as well.
It’s also an intriguing mystery-drama that gets increasingly serious. Complex, interconnected character histories slowly come to light, and a past event in the series draws parallels to the 1995 sarin attack.
#29. Symphogear AXZ (2017, Satelight)
All the while, they’re singing a J-pop song. AXZ’s ridiculous moments happen so naturally that it’s almost an art form, and its story is propelled by a satisfying sense of momentum.
#30. Wasteful Lives of High School Girls (2019, Passione)
With a character who’s nicknamed “Baka” (idiot) as the lead, this isn’t a show about plain high school girls. Wasteful Lives of High School Girls doesn’t hit its stride immediately, but when it does, it becomes an eccentric comedy that does a good job of filling the post-Asobi Asobase void.
Particularly enjoyable are the recurring consultations between chuunibyou Yamai (illness) and her increasingly exasperated but always deadpan homeroom teacher.
#31. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom (2015, Wit Studio)
Condensing the second half of Attack on Titan‘s first season into a two-hour package, the middle of Wings of Freedom is a breathtaking action set-piece split into two halves. The former is a heart-pumping chase where characters are beset by Titans in a wide plain, while the other a thrilling battle against the formidable Female Titan in a towering forest.
While the first recap movie’s pacing felt a little off to me, Wings of Freedom is a constantly intense ride.
#32. Love, Chunibyo and Other Delusions! (2012, Kyoto Animation)
Yuuta Togashi wants to forget his embarrassing middle school past, a time when he called himself the Dark Flame Master. Alas, a meeting with the eyepatch-wearing Rikka Takanashi, who believes she is a sorceress, dashes his hopes.
The first half is a fun high school comedy, but the second half is a serious and engaging drama about coping with grief. The second season and movie are less essential.
#33. Time of Eve (2010, Studio Rikka)
In a future where human-like androids serve humanity, the Time of Eve café welcomes both as customers, with the condition that androids are not to be discriminated against.
Like our two protagonists, you’ll be frequently wondering which customer’s a human, which is an android, and whether that distinction ultimately matters. The 3DCG backgrounds are rather impressive too.
#34. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018, P.A. Works)
Maquia is an epic fantasy movie with dragons and inter-kingdom conflict, but the main theme is motherhood. It’s not flawless – the central mother-son relationship doesn’t always capture the feeling of one, and there’s a subplot which doesn’t get the focus it deserves.
But when events head towards their climax in the third act, it’s hard not to feel invested in the show. Backed by Kenji Kawai’s masterfully-crafted score, Maquia is imperfect, but beautiful nevertheless.
#35. Wolf Children (2012, Studio Chizu)
Another movie about motherhood, Wolf Children shows the adversities faced by a young single mother as she raises two half-human, half-wolf children after the death of their werewolf father. While the daughter fits into human life, the son finds himself drawn to the wild.
Grounded despite the werewolf factor, it’s an engrossing movie about parental struggles and growth, and the grown-up daughter’s narration lends it a sense of nostalgia.
#36. Hanasaku Iroha (2011, PA Works)
When Ohana Matsumae’s mother Satsuki runs off to escape from debt, the city girl ends up living in her grandmother’s hot springs inn, where she must work to earn her keep. Initially at odds with the staff and her stern relative, Ohana learns to adapt to her new life.
It’s a satisfying story of growth and relationships both interpersonal and intergenerational. The Home Sweet Home movie, which focuses on Satsuki’s younger days, should be watched as well.
#37. Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions (2016, A1 Pictures)
In the isekai world of Grimgar, there’s no room for complacency in battle. That goes doubly so for our heroes, who form one of the show’s weakest parties. Grimgar is a bit of a slow-burner, but that emphasizes its “everyday life” nature.
The main characters aren’t rushing to defeat a demon lord, they’re just making a living and trying not to die in the process. It’s this grounded nature that simultaneously gives Grimgar its charm and sense of danger.
#38. Violet Evergarden (2018, Kyoto Animation)
While I’m fond of a couple of its episodes and the recent spin-off movie, I’m not a fan of Violet Evergarden in general, an anime about an ex-child soldier who becomes a letter writer.
Still, I had to mention it here because the production quality is unbelievable for a TV series, even by KyoAni’s standards. And while I thought some of the episodes were a bore, there are some incredibly moving standouts that have to be experienced.
#39. The Garden of Words (2013, CoMix Wave)
If Violet Evergarden was ridiculously good-looking for a TV series, then The Garden of Words looks absurdly stunning even for a movie. Every frame is just incredibly gorgeous, especially when there’s rain involved.
The story, about an aspiring shoemaker who meets with a woman only on rainy days, suffers a bit from the short length and occasionally overbearing music, but it’s still solid.
#40. Keijo!!!!!!!! (2016, Xebec)
In the fictional sport of keijo, contestants try to knock their opponents off floating platforms into the water, using only their breasts and butts.
It’s silly and lowbrow, and not everyone will like the fanservice. Yet at the same time, the show is essentially a shounen anime where our likeable characters earnestly train and compete against rival schools.
It’s just that they have abilities like the “Vacuum Butt Cannon”. It’s undeniably absurd, but Keijo!!!!!!!! makes its sport side compelling too.
#41. Harukana Receive (2018, C2C)
By fusing beach volleyball with a groovy, jazz-like soundtrack and relaxed slice-of-life vibe, Harukana Receive creates a surprisingly effective identity for itself.
Set in Okinawa, it follows cousins Haruka Oozora and Kanata Higa as they aim to qualify for the beach volleyball Junior Tournament. Like Keijo!!!!!!!!, it seems like a mere vehicle for fanservice, but the sports side is actually engaging.
#42. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010, Kyoto Animation)
I wasn’t a massive fan of both Haruhi Suzumiya seasons, but the Disappearance movie easily held my attention throughout its 2-and-a-half hour runtime. A few days before Christmas, the snarky Kyon discovers that things at school are a bit different – the SOS Brigade doesn’t exist, its members don’t remember him, and the eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya is nowhere to be found.
What follows is an intriguing mystery film that serves as a fine conclusion to the anime series.
#43. Tsuki ga Kirei (2017, Feel)
In their last year of middle school, Kotarou Azumi and Akane Mizuno become classmates, and then a couple. The show follows the young and inexperienced teens as they navigate through the waters of a relationship.
Tsuki ga Kirei isn’t very anime-ish in its direction, opting instead for a measured pace and realistic approach to romance. It’s that ordinariness that makes it special and relatable.
#44. Tsurezure Children (2017, Studio Gokumi)
Tsurezure Children explores the love lives of various couples/potential couples from the same high school. The episodes are short, but their sweet yet bone-tickling skits will stick in your mind for much longer.
Personally, the best bits revolve around close yet awkward Chiaki Uchimura and Kana Iijima, as well as the playful Yuki Minagawa and gentle Jun Furuya (along with Jun’s hilariously clingy younger sister).
#45. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai (2018, CloverWorks)
Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai looks like an ecchi show, but instead tackles real-world-rooted issues while delivering delightful dialogue and an instantly-endearing anime couple.
There’s a supernatural affliction called “Puberty Syndrome”, and protagonist Sakuta Azusagawa ends up helping various girls with their respective “Puberty Syndrome” problems. The premise is a bit like Monogatari, but Monogatari doesn’t have an awesome bunny girl senpai called Mai Sakurajima.
#46. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017, Science Saru)
A bold university student sets out in search of alcohol, which somehow leads to one wild and memorable night in Kyoto. Meanwhile, her senior attempts to overcome various obstacles in an effort to find her and win her heart.
Set in the same universe as The Tatami Galaxy, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl is an imaginative romantic comedy with colourful characters, outlandish events, and a lesson about taking chances and not leaving everything to fate.
#47. The Case of Hana and Alice (2015, Rockwell Eyes inc., STEVE N’ STEVEN)
After moving to a new home, Arisugawa Tetsuko finds herself involved in a bizarre school mystery that leads to her crossing paths with the reclusive Hana Arai. Together, they set off in search of answers. A rotoscoped prequel to a 2004 live-action movie, The Case of Hana and Alice is a charming film.
Though the girls never get into any real danger, you will still be engaged by their misadventures.
#48. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! (2015, Feel)
Cynical loner Hachiman Hikigaya’s self-sacrificial and imperfect problem-solving approach is the focus of this sequel, which also examines his methods’ effect on his relationships, along with other subjects.
More serious than the equally-great first season, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO! can be tricky to comprehend at times. However, it’s that complexity that makes the show so engrossing.
The often-heavy atmosphere is balanced by sufficient humour, and also Hachiman’s entertaining interactions with the sly Iroha Isshiki.
#49.Run with the Wind (2018, Production I.G.)
Charismatic university student Haiji Kiyose has one goal: to participate in the Hakone Ekiden marathon relay. Unfortunately for the residents of the Chikusei-sou apartment, including new arrival and former runner Kakeru Kurahara, they will have to be involved as well.
Featuring sublime running animation, Run with the Wind steadily builds towards its climactic event, using the time to acquaint us with its underdogs and get us cheering for them. It succeeds in doing so.
#50.Liz and the Blue Bird (2018, Kyoto Animation)
A standalone “side-quel” to the Hibike! Euphonium series, Liz and the Blue Bird centres on friendship, post-school futures, and the question of whether a person should be willing to let go of the ones they love most.
It’s a simple story, but the direction and storyboarding transform the movie into something special. Some of its best moments, like the beautiful orchestra scene near the end, are the ones with little or no dialogue.