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The Best Anime of 2019

What are the best anime of 2019?

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As the year draws to a close and presents are boxed and wrapped, it’s time to unbox our own feelings and reflect upon this past year of anime. As always there have been a plethora of shows that have aired this year but which ones come out on top? Here are the shows that the GoombaStomp anime section think have a reason to be watched. These are the Best Anime of 2019.


10. My Hero Academia Season 4

My Hero Academia Season 4 Deku

Studio: Bones
Runtime: October 12th – Present

There’s good reason for My Hero Academia’s continued acclaim and popularity. After 2018’s stupendous third season, the king of modern shounens enters its Shie Hassaikai arc. With a new villain in Overhaul, more Mirio magic, and the usual dollop of awe-inspiring action and character-driven drama (all conveyed through Bones’s top-notch animation); there’s no better time to embrace the most entertaining anime on the market, especially with our ongoing superhero fanaticism (see Marvel’s box office dominance).

Honestly, that’s all I have to say. You’ve just gotta watch this show! (By Harry Morris)

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

9.The Rising of The Shield Hero

The Rising of the Shield Hero Naofumi

Studio: Kinema Citrus
Runtime: January 9th – June 26th

There is an unsurprisingly low amount of isekai shows on our list this year despite there having been, at minimum, three per season. It’s fairly simple to generate an isekai story that stimulates on the most basic of levels but it’s rare to see one like The Rising of the Shield Hero that, well, “rises” above the rest.

The thing about Shield Hero is that it’s not particularly unique in its setting or premise; a college kid is summoned to a fantasy-game world to defend it from evil. It’s how the show executes on those foundations, though, and tells a story beyond just being an isekai that sets it apart. 

Naofumi is run through the mud, in every sense of the phrase, right from the outset, resetting both his and the viewer’s expectations of the world to the negatives. This isn’t an isekai story where everything will just work out in the end. Naofumi needs to scrape and claw his way to survive despite the pain and anger he feels inside and that creates a compelling protagonist that you want to root for. Not a hero, but not quite an anti-hero either.

It’s the fact that Naofumi knows when it’s ok to forgive and when it’s not that makes him more than just a rage-beast, though, and that’s due in part to his companions. Despite the somewhat controversial method in which Naofumi and Raphtalia encountered each other, that encounter tests and emphasizes the bond between them in beautiful ways akin to watching a family.

Kinema Citrus has done an excellent job of animating this world and conveying a sense of scale often absent from other isekai not to mention the excellent fight choreography even including a rare team fight not often seen in anime (usually 1-on-1 duels or 1-on-many). The mesmerizing score by Australian composer Kevin Penkin, meanwhile, amplifies the emotions of both tender and frantic moments to the nth degree. The presentation and story combined make for one of the most grounded isekai to date, and a series to keep close eyes on in coming seasons. (By Matt Ponthier)

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

8. Fruits Basket

Fruits Basket Remake

Studio: TMS Entertainment
Runtime: April 6th – September 21st

I said it in my preview during the Spring Viewer’s Guide but I still can’t believe this remake exists. The fact that enough people saw the original Fruits Basket, a series that is about as shoujo as one can get, and thought it was important enough to give a remake treatment over the plethora of other classic shounen out there is absolutely mind-boggling. That’s just it, though. This is an important series that teaches lessons that are just as meaningful today as they were over a decade ago.

At its core, Fruits Basket is a story about learning how to accept others for everything they are, as well as oneself. Such a simple-sounding concept is, in reality, difficult to realize, especially when trying to do so alone. 

The Souma family circumstances are fantastical, to be sure, but each member’s plight touches upon the many forms of doubt and insecurity one may feel throughout various stages of life. The cast of Fruits Basket all have their own inner demons to grapple with and chances are you’ll find yourself sympathetic to at least one of them for one reason or another. It’s in seeing Tohru unconditionally believe in that projection of yourself that has such a profound healing effect both inside and outside the screen. It helps that the updated animation makes the high-emotion scenes hit all the harder and knowing that we’ll be getting into never before animated scenes next season makes my heart quiver in anticipation of being wrecked all over again.

Fruits Basket is a rare anime series that challenges the viewer, challenges them to be a better person. It shows how difficult it can be to be that person to soothe others’ pain, but it also shows the importance of at least trying. (By Matt Ponthier)

Watch on Funimation

7. Aggretusko Season 2

Aggretsuko Season 2

Studio: Fanworks
Airdate: June 14th

What makes the second season of Aggretsuko work so well is the same charming concept and wacky characters that made the first season work. Retsuko is still endlessly relatable as she struggles through the annoying grind of 9 to 5, while looking for worthwhile reasons to keep going on.

Where this season doubles down, however, is in the nuance it adds to her character. While Retsuko has long been fixated on things like finding a husband or landing her dream job, now we see her coming to realize that authentic happiness and contentment must come from within, rather than from without.

Other characters get added layers in this season as well, with even characters that are almost never taken seriously, like Kabae, given some depth. Finally, the new additions of Anai and Tadano beef up the cast considerably, making for a richer, and funnier, slice of life with each episode. If Aggretsuko can maintain this growth into its 3rd season, it will be a must-watch anime. (By Mike Worby)

Watch on Netflix

6. O Maidens in Your Savage Season

O Maidens in Your Savage Youth

Studio: Lay-Duce
Runtime: July 6th – September 21st

When O Maidens first aired, I was initially hesitant. The series’ writer, Mari Okada, has a history of scripting projects that lean rather hard into melodrama. Not that melodrama is bad. Rather, the danger of writing on such intense emotions in anime is that it can quickly become uncomfortable or lack the appropriate cultural context to make it impactful with foreign audiences.

What makes it work for O Maidens is the subject matter. Unlike many other dramas about high school kids, O Maidens focuses on the most universal truths to being a teenager: things like love, sexuality, betrayal, body image, and friendship. It offers an honest look at the pain and anxiety of growing up and learning not just how to be an adult, but what it means to no longer be a kid.

Much like FLCL, O Maidens uses the outrageous to highlight aspects of humanity that are very much real. Things like train masturbation jokes and excessively flowery erotic prose garner unexpected laughs in a series where you never really know what’s going to happen next. Taken off guard by the show’s brazen demeanor, it leaves you vulnerable and receptive to the uncomfortable nostalgia it exudes.

The characters possess a charming naive innocence that draws out laughs and grimaces in equal measure. Mari Okada has tapped into a deep well of shared adolescence unbound by culture. We often look back on our teenage years in disdain, scornful and embarrassed of the children we once were. Perhaps for good reason. Rather than shy away from these unpleasant aspects or romanticize them, Okada puts them plainly on display.

O Maidens loses a bit of its way in the latter half, with a few too many vague conclusions and loose ends. Understandable enough, given that it was only a twelve-episode run with a cast of five main characters. Yet, those twelve episodes are a wild ride of heartbreak, desires, and passion that truly marks this period of life as a “savage season”. (By Kyle Rogacion)

Watch on HIDIVE

5. Mob Psycho 100 II

Mob Psycho 100 II

Studio: Bones
Runtime: January 7th – April 1st

With its second season, Mob Psycho has gone above and beyond expectations. The first season did an excellent job of setting the world’s tone: equal parts zany, kickass, and heartfelt. In establishing Mob’s powers, his friends and family, and the vast landscape of psychic abilities, season one set up the perfect framework for a deeper dive into this universe.

The world of Mob Psycho 100 is one of camp, exaggeration, and utter ridiculousness. It revels in bright gags and noisy colors, moving from joke to joke with a deft alacrity. Yet through all the slapstick and witty dialogue, Mob Psycho’s greatest attribute is its heart. Season two covers a fascinating trajectory by charting Mob’s character development through dark and murky waters.

Mob’s greatest conflict this season comes from himself. Now comfortable with using his formidable powers, he nevertheless fears what might happen should he lose control. He begins to question what role espers like him play in society and whether or not the spirits he exorcises are inherently evil. 

Opposite Mob is his master, Reigen. Reigen is the same as ever in season two: sleazy, self-serving, and manipulative. As Mob develops a greater sense of moral agency, he comes into direct conflict with Reigen’s own ideals and agenda. The rest of the returning cast all have their moments to shine, but season two is undeniably about Mob and Reigen growing both as individuals and as friends.

Of course, this writeup would be remiss not to mention the stellar animation work done by Studio Bones. Mob Psycho 100 is a visual feast, powering through its action sequences with a colorfully wild kinetic energy. There isn’t much reason beyond “rule-of-cool” for how esper powers work in this series, but Bones does such a fantastic job animating these psychic battles that you really don’t mind. 

Rare is the anime that can be called an instant classic; Mob Psycho 100 would be a more than worthy pick. (By Kyle Rogacion)

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

4. Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga Thorfinn

Studio: Wit Studio
Runtime: July 8th – Present

That Vinland Saga is the title of a series concerned with the Danelaw, and Viking piracy in England and France, suggests a lot about its metaphorical leanings. Vinland may be the bountiful wine land of North America, but for young Thorfinn, it’s a near-mythical representation of wholeness and tranquillity the harshness of war and cruelty of life rob him of.

What sets Vinland Saga apart from simply being a historical war drama series with elegantly-animated combat is the thematic weight each blow carries. Every cut of the sword tears into the soul and is a probe into the forces that shape the emotionally ravaged Thorfinn. This is an immensely philosophical series, casting Thorfinn’s development from innocent child to weary warrior in the shadow of his pacifist father’s teachings.

Cleverly weaving Thorfinn’s story in amongst apocryphal and substantiated history, Vinland Saga has an elegiac quality to it, not just on a personal level for Thorfinn, but Viking society as a whole. Inasmuch as Vinland Saga explores the deceptively complex idea of what it means to be a great warrior—and the many answers to it—through Thorfinn’s tribulations, this is a series about finality: the death of people, the death of morality, and the death of culture.

The metaphysical introspection and inevitability of demise textures everything. This is Attack on Titan animator Wit Studio’s finest work so far, because the depth the tapestry of Viking conquest lends to its protagonists, creates some of the most human and nuanced characters anime has to offer.

This is one of the best anime series of 2019, but it’s also one of the best pieces of fiction this decade, if not longer. Vikings still capture the imagination centuries later, and there is little doubt that Vinland Saga’s uniquely pensive drama will linger in memory well after it finishes airing. (By Declan Biswas-Hughes)

Watch on Amazon Prime Video

3. Kaguya-sama: Love is War

Kaguya-sama Love is War

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Runtime: January 12th —March 30th

Kaguya-sama succeeds not only because it pokes fun at the ridiculous dance of high school romance, but because it also reminds us just how serious many of those situations felt at the time. What Kaguya and the gang experience are immediately relatable; hesitating to confess one’s feelings immediately, not knowing how to exchange contact info without seeming desperate, trying to give love advice knowing full well you’re not qualified to be doing so, etc. While everything is escalated to hilarious heights, it’s all anchored by a subconscious notion of “Yeah, I’d be freaking out about this, too.”

That said, school-based romantic comedies are, frankly, a dime a dozen. Aka Akasaka and A-1 Pictures wisely manage to sidestep much of the saminess of other shows by leaning into the sketch comedy format à la Aho-Girl. Instead of following around one central character for an entire episode, each episode is instead broken up into several vignettes featuring the cast in different scenarios. From the self-serious narrator bellowing about the war of romance to the “winner” of every battle of wits being evaluated at the end of each sketch, Kaguya-sama leverages this format to deliver sharp satire and fascinating glimpses into the lives of all of its characters. 

Beyond the relatability, format, and smart writing, however, Kaguya-sama simply nails the balance between comedy and meaningful character-building. For as many laugh-out-loud moments as there are (and there are many), Kaguya-sama hones in on each non-Kaguya/Shirogane cast member just enough to get viewers attached. With a massively successful first season in the books and a second one already greenlit, it’s never been a better time to enlist as a soldier of love. (By Brent Middleton)

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

2. The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland

Studio: CloverWorks
Runtime: January 10th — March 29th

The success of thrillers rests primarily on tense tone and pacing. The most captivating of premises can be undone by languidness. The Promised Neverland has a simple premise: children are reared and harvested for feeding unknown monsters, and now three children who have uncovered the truth are trying to escape. The Promised Neverland proceeds to then wring genuine fear and anxiety from that idea through taut execution. No anime series this year was so addictive, nor as emotionally exhausting, for its audience.

Set in a wooden manor—now prison—Director Mamoru Kanbe ensures that the viewer truly feels the claustrophobia experienced by the children, rarely cutting away from their perspective, and even as going as far to pan through the house’s halls from a first-person point of view to emphasize the walls keeping everyone in captivity.

Limiting the viewpoint to just that of the kids is inspired, because not only does it induce greater empathy for them, but also makes their process of uncovering knowledge and deductive reasoning all the more riveting. Their unknown variables are ours too. As characters, Norman, Ray, and Emma are a complementary and engaging trio, with their varying degrees of logical planning, emotional perceptiveness, and physical prowess counterbalancing one another. Each protagonist is necessary to everyone’s survival, and watching them discern information and trying to outwit the matriarch of the house, Emma, through careful consideration, is incredibly satisfying.

It’s then impressive that Emma is such a formidable foe. This is psychological thriller, but it draws upon horror’s visual language—most evident in the series’ approach to Emma. She is a terrifying boogie-woman for the children; her caring bedside manner belies the truth of her role. The series isn’t so facile though, and has much to say about complicity in mundane evil through her.

There has not been an adroit anime thriller that is genuinely scary for years, but The Promised Neverland retroactively has made the wait worthwhile. ( By Declan Biswas-Hughes)

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

1. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Kimetsu no Yaiba

Studio: ufotable
Runtime: April 6th — September 28th

In an age where very few traditional shounen are still making waves, Kimetsu no Yaiba took the industry by storm with the most delicate blend of visceral action, pitch-perfect pacing, and compassionate storytelling since the 2011 Hunter x Hunter remake.

There’s simply so much Kimetsu no Yaiba gets right. For one, Tanjirou’s rise in skill is gradual and earned through constant training and battle experience. Save for one instance, there are no sudden all-powerful moves that materialize out of thin air; he only uses and improves upon techniques that he’s learned.

Then there’s the fact that, instead of burning through the strongest adversaries in the first season, most of the show’s truly daunting foes haven’t even been encountered yet. From the authentic and heartwarming friendship that develops between Tanjirou, Zenitsu, and Inosuke to the over-the-top humor that keeps things lighthearted amidst all the death and darkness, Koyoharu Gotouge’s manga has absolutely thrived in its transition to animation. 

Beyond the supreme coziness of the season’s final episodes and ufotable’s absolutely gorgeous combat sequences throughout, it’s the way Kimetsu no Yaiba humanizes its villains that ultimately sets it in a tier above the rest. Every demon was a human once, and illustrating their descent into losing hold of that humanity allows viewers to sympathize with them as much as Tanjirou does. The love in his heart for these unfortunate souls is palpable, and it’s this underlying foundation of empathy that makes the show such a success. (By Brent Middleton)

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation


And that’s a wrap for 2019! Do you agree with this list? What shows do you think deserve to have made the cut? Let us know in the comments and be sure to keep a lookout later in the month for when we publish the top anime of the decade!

Heralding from the rustic, old town of Los Angeles, California; Matthew now resides in Boston where he diligently researches the cure for cancer. In reality, though, he just wants to play games and watch anime, and likes talking about them way too much. A Nintendo/Sony hybrid fan with a soft-spot for RPG’s, he finds little beats sinking hours into an immersive game world. You can follow more of his work at his blog and budding YouTube channel below.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mike

    December 23, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    I love this list. Every year I find a couple of new shows to watch that I was previously unaware of.

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Anime

How Rimuru Tempest Changed the Game for Isekai Protagonists

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime shines within the vast sea of generic isekai thanks in no small part to protagonist Rimuru Tempest.

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that time i got reincarnated as a slime

The core premise of the isekai genre–a character being transported from their everyday life on Earth to a parallel universe–has become wildly popular for a reason: it’s an immensely appealing fantasy. Just as audiences everywhere fell in love with the seminal Spirited Away in the early 2000s, it’s still exciting to fantasize about discovering a new world and going on all manner of crazy adventures. However, the incessant flood of new isekai every season to capitalize on this trend has resulted in some of the most generic, overly-manufactured protagonists in any genre.

Though this sea of formulaic main characters is vast, it makes it all the easier to recognize when one bucks the typical conventions and actually proves that there’s room for unique takes on the genre. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime adheres to a few cliches, but it also manages to set a new bar for what a captivating isekai protagonist can be.

Rimuru in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Breaking the Mold

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as wholesome and optimistic an anime as they come. The tone can be deceptive at first; when Satoru Mikami is suddenly stabbed when trying to protect his junior, his dying wish is for his computer’s hard drive to be destroyed. But after being reincarnated as a slime–and gaining the new name Rimuru Tempest–his true desires become clear: world peace and a simple, comfortable life with friends.

What’s immediately striking about Rimuru as the main character is that he starts off as an average 37-year-old man. He spent his life working hard and appeasing his higher-ups to climb the corporate ladder. Shady hard drive aside, he lived a respectable and long life compared to the vast majority of protagonists in the genre. This significant age difference is evident in nearly every action and major decision Rimuru makes; he looks at situations practically before jumping headfirst into conflict.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

When Rimuru gets a drink poured on him by a noble in a bar, for instance, he quells his anger in consideration of the bar and the friends around him. When someone asks for his aid in an impending battle, he pauses to go over all the available information and reaches a consensus among everyone before agreeing. And when protecting a goblin village from a pack of wolves, he doesn’t just mindlessly slaughter all the wolves; he looks for the way of least resistance (killing the leader of the pack) before ultimately integrating them with the goblins as equals. Though his human form looks young, it’s the wisdom behind his actions that makes those around him respect his leadership.

This is especially impressive considering just how overpowered Rimuru is. His transformation into a slime came with resistances to fire, cold, electric currents, pain, paralysis, and the ability to absorb, analyze, and take the form of anything he wants. In other words, he could go down the path of the typical shounen protagonist and solve his problems with his fists, but he never lets his overwhelming power dictate his decision-making process.

Rimuru meeting with his commanders.

Leading a Nation

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as much about Rimuru’s adventures as it is about the rise of the independent monster nation he helps establish. Instead of running off in search of adventure, the little slime decides to nurture the goblin village he protected at the outset. He helps the goblins and wolves “level up” by naming them, shows them sustainable ways to gather food and build makeshift defenses, and even brings back dwarves to introduce blacksmithing and carpentry.

Through expansion, industrialization, and conflict, Rimuru manages to orchestrate the creation of his country in a way that’s genuinely believable. His ambitions for a peaceful and integrated world play out in his willingness to accept other goblin tribes, ogres, lizardmen, and even friendly humans in his country. Being able to rationally read situations makes forging alliances and negotiating with neighboring nations possible. When a major calamity threatens all life in the forest, Rimuru wastes no time in holding a summit and allying with other forest dwellers over a common interest.

None of this would be possible without the uncanny, Luffy-like ability to inspire a sense of trust and reliability in those he comes across. Just like the members of the Straw Hat Pirates follow Luffy out of respect and loyalty, Rimuru’s commanders follow him because of his sound judgment and dedication to seeing everyone in his nation be happy. It’s satisfying seeing members of Rimuru’s guard take personal offense when others talk poorly of him because it’s clear that he’s earned the respect he’s given.

If isekai is to continue growing in popularity and thriving long-term, room must be made for different types of protagonists. Be they depraved, refreshingly honest characters like Kazuma or upstanding yet easygoing leaders like Rimuru, both demonstrate how valuable it is to shake up the formula and try new approaches to the genre. If the constant barrage of isekai has bittered your tolerance to it as a whole, That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime is well worth giving a shot.

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Anime Ichiban 23: New Decade, Same Questionable Tastes

Hatsune Miku at Coachella? Mangadex getting targeted for legal issues? People defending OreImo? 2020 is off to a crazy start!

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Welcome to 2020, Anime Ichiban listeners!

Lots of things have happened in the past few weeks, not the least of which is Hatsune Miku making her Coachella debut. After catching up on industry news, we take a look back at some of our more questionable choices in anime and how on earth we manage to defend them.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introduction and what we’ve been playing
17:46 – Hatsune Miku to Perform at Coachella
25:29 – Crunchyroll’s “Most Watched Shows of the Decade”
30:03 – Funimation’s Popularity Awards
38:13 – Wages in the Japanese Animation Industry
45:38 – Miki Yoshikawa’s New, Fan-Picked Serialization
47:08 – Legal Trouble Brewing for Mangadex
57:02 – Highest Grossing Domestic Anime Films for Japan in 2019
59:33 – What shows surprised us and which ones do we struggle to defend?

TRACKS

Intro – “Dream X Scramble!” by Airi (Keijo!!!!!!!! OP)
Outro – “Lucky☆Orb feat. Hatsune Miku” by emon(Tes.)

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Anime

The Best Anime of the Decade (Ranks 25-1)

Our list of the best anime of the decade continues with some series that are true paragons are what the medium is capable of creating!

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Best Anime of the Decade

Now we arrive at the second part of our list for the best anime of the decade. This is where we really had to start killing our babies in the voting process to narrow down to this lean lineup. If you missed it, be sure to check out our first part of the list as well!


25 – The Saga of Tanya the Evil

The Saga of Tanya the Evil

Studio: NUT
Runtime: January 6th, 2017 – March 31st, 2017

The Saga of Tanya the Evil is a master class in character study, cataloging the trials and errors of Tanya, formerly a “salaryman” in modern-day Japan, transported to an alternate war-torn world inspired by elements of both WWI and WWII. Through a blend of fantasy and historical fiction, viewers watch as Tanya works to rise the social ladder within the military.

The story has moments of dark humor, as Tanya tries, and often fails, to apply the disciplined mindset of a modern-day corporate social climber in this alternate fantasy world. Her motivations are challenged as she balances her status in the middle of the military hierarchy. On one hand interacting with her underling soldiers, while on the other also answering to the military commanders who control her future. Finally, Tanya is in an ongoing conflict with “Being X,” the supposed god who transported Tanya in the first place. The two show unbridled defiance towards each other, which serves as a larger background plot for the series. However, while important overall, this plotline is restrained enough to not take away from the bulk of the world-building and plot progression in the immediate, concrete world Tanya finds herself in. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Crunchyroll

24 – Durarara!!

Durarara

Studio: Brain’s Base
Runtime: January 8th, 2010 – June 25th, 2010

Durarara!! draws its strength from its sprawling, quirky ensemble cast as their story arcs intertwine in the show’s heavily sensationalized interpretation of modern-day Ikebukuro. The show’s many story arcs fall under three categories: everyday life (both in high school and the city streets), gritty behind-the-scenes conflict, and the fantastical and supernatural.

It’s a credit to the series that these vastly different story archetypes work together. This is done by humanizing every character, while also presenting them as each having a darker, unexpected side. Even the show’s main trio — three high school students — are shown over time to be not as innocent as they seem, each very much “in over their head” in the goings-on of Ikebukuro.

Durarara!! works so well because it deftly ties together its quirky ensemble cast with its setting, a city defined by its breakneck everyday pace and its larger-than-life mysteries. Finally, pulling it all together is the music. Some songs are perfect for the awkward innocence of early adolescence, others unsettling for the darker back-alley conflicts, and some more fast-paced for the most exciting scenes. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Crunchyroll

23 – Yuri!!! on Ice

Yuri on Ice

Studio: MAPPA
Runtime: October 6th, 2016 – December 21st, 2016

Japan, love it as we may, drags its heels on LGBTQ+ issues. Still being a predominantly Conservative society, the use of homosexuality as a source of ridicule in comedy isn’t uncommon. That’s why Yuri!!! on Ice, which respectfully explores a gay relationship between two male figure skaters, is a breath of fresh air. Positive representation of marginalized communities is a wonderful thing, and Yuri!!! on Ice is a testament to this.

The show is more than just that, though. MAPPA went the whole nine-yards to accurately represent the sport of figure skating with some truly jaw-dropping animation emphasizing the fluid and sweeping movements the sport is known for. It even managed to attract the endorsement of professional figure skaters! — Harry Morris

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

22 – Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga Thorfinn

Studio: Wit Studio
Runtime: July 8th, 2019—December 30th, 2019

Vinland may be the bountiful wine land of North America, but for young Thorfinn, it’s a near-mythical representation of wholeness and tranquillity that the harshness of war and cruelty of life rob him of as he battles in England. What sets Vinland Saga apart from simply being a historical war drama series with elegantly-animated combat is the thematic weight each blow carries. Every blade is a probe into the forces that shape the emotionally ravaged Thorfinn. This is a philosophical series, charting Thorfinn’s development from innocent child to weary warrior.

Weaving Thorfinn’s story in amongst apocryphal and substantiated history, Vinland Saga has an elegiac quality to it, not just on a personal level for Thorfinn, but Viking society as a whole. The narrative explores the deceptively complex idea of what it means to be a great warrior—and the many answers to it—through Thorfinn’s tribulations, but this is also a series about finality: the death of people, the death of morality, and the death of culture. Set against the tapestry of Viking conquests, Vinland Saga reveals some of the most human and nuanced characters anime has to offer. The decade has saved one of its best series for last. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Amazon Prime (subbed)

21 – Fate/Zero

Fate Zero Saber

Studio: ufotable
Runtime: Oct 2, 2011 – Jun 24, 2012

For all the crap the “Fate” franchise gets nowadays for being a convoluted, gender-bent historical figures, mess of affairs, it wasn’t always that way. Fate/Zero is a demonstration of the kind of story the Holy Grail War setting is capable of telling when its firing on all cylinders and is arguably the catalyst for the franchise’s success to this day.

Fate/Zero is remarkably darker in tone compared to other Fate entries thanks in large part to its mature cast. That maturity carries over into its storytelling as character goals and motivations are decidedly cut-throat and pragmatic. Kiritsugu Emiya, in particular, is a downright fascinating anti-hero of a protagonist whose decisions throughout the story, while practical, leave a bitter taste in your mouth over the implications.

Then there’s ufotable’s phenomenal presentation who is also responsible for the recent hit, Kimetsu no Yaiba. Every fight between these heroic spirits are beautifully choreographed that expertly illustrates the power they wield along with unreal sound design. Every clash of a sword, every cast of a spell, every shot of a gun reverberates throughout every bone in your body and makes a strong case for some of the objectively best animation anime has to offer. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

20 – My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Studio: Brain’s Base (S1); Feel (S2)
Runtime: April 5th, 2013—June 26th, 2015

This show contains the only hotly debated anime relationship “waifu war” worth a damn, because these characters actually feel like people, and the series makes it clear how Yui, Yukino, and Hachiman all complement one another in ineffable and essential ways. But the competing romantic prospects of Yui or Yukino eventually pairing with Hachiman are secondary to one’s desire for the trio to ultimately be happy with themselves and their at-times fraught friendship to last. This is because the series is really about the jaded cynicism of socially outcast teenagers, and the self-sabotaging aspects that temper the awareness of social forces that contribute to their loneliness. The viewing experience can be raw and painful as one sees these awkward teens spiral, but one never loses sight of the hope that, regardless of how the romances pan out, they will eventually be okay surviving in society as happier people. That, regardless of schoolyard politics, these three teenagers will find their places in life eventually. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and HiDive (subbed/dubbed)

19 – Death Parade

Death Parade Decim

Studio: Madhouse
Runtime: January 9th, 2015 – March 27th, 2015

Death Parade offers a unique take on the concept of a person’s judgment after death, following a plot structure that is at once episodic while continually building upon the show’s broader themes. The story finds its thrills in the high-drama, high-stakes death games it forces its pairs of recently departed to play, with equal parts physical and psychological violence.

While the literal end game of each deathmatch is a seemingly straightforward choice of which of the two participants will be sent for reincarnation and which will be sent to hell, the show makes a point of never leaving the characters’ morality as black-and-white. This makes it hard for the viewer to decide which characters should be sent where, in turn connecting the viewer to the difficult but inevitable choice required of arbiter Decim and his human assistant Chiyuki. As Chiyuki develops her opinions on the flaws of Decim’s judgments of human morality, Death Parade makes a point of presenting her as a useful counterpoint without having her become preachy or too predictable. For all its terror, the show’s art direction creates mesmerizing settings and even its most terrifying, disturbing moments are be both surreal and beautiful. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Funimation

18 – One Punch Man

One Punch Man Saitama

Studio: Madhouse (S1), J.C. Staff (S2)
Runtime: October 5th, 2015 – December 21st, 2015

One Punch Man shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. The idea of an all-powerful protagonist who’s able to defeat anyone with a single punch doesn’t exactly sound like a promising premise, but it’s ONE’s masterful execution that brings it all together. 

Saitama is a surprisingly nuanced character; he follows a rigorous daily training regimen to become a superhero, but he doesn’t base his worth on how the people he’s saving perceive him. This underlying message of working hard to fulfill one’s own goals no matter what others think permeates the entire show. Be it Mumen Rider selflessly pushing himself to his limits or Genos fully dedicating himself to being Saitama’s disciple in the pursuit of greater power, One Punch Man is as motivational as it is visually stunning. 

On that final note: this anime has easily played host some of the decade’s most gorgeous, bombastic battle sequences this side of Kill la Kill. While Bones pushed the medium forward with its unique melding of different animation styles with Mob Psycho 100, Madhouse translated Yusuke Murata’s painstakingly detailed illustrations into pure eye candy. If nothing else pulls you in, the fights alone warrant a watch. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll and Netflix

17 – AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Anohana Menma

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Runtime: April 15th, 2011—Jun 24th, 2011

Experiencing the mortality of loved ones is an unfortunate curse in life that affects us all, but unexpected deaths are some of the hardest to mourn because the void appears out of nowhere. Processing that can change somebody and their relationships, not just because of longing or regrets related to the now-absent person, but it’s as if part of their own existences are torn away without forewarning. People either learn to move forward with reality, or let inertia take hold, hoping to stop the pain.

That is the driving conflict of Anohana—a group of teenagers learning to reconcile with the accidental death of their friend Menma five years earlier, and not remaining in the stasis that has deteriorated all their friendships and lives. But the reappearance of Menma as a ghost, who needs help from her old friends to pass through to the afterlife, provides a narrative thread for everyone’s emotions to hang off of, and unlike often in life, engenders cathartic resolution. Scriptwriter Mari Okada and director Tatsuyukai Nagai craft a simple story that leaves plenty of room for the characters to unpack their feelings, and consequently, Anohana’s contemplativeness resonates years later. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

16 – My Hero Academia Season 3

My Hero Academia Deku

Studio: Bones
Runtime: April 7th, 2018 – September 29th, 2018

My Hero Academia’s first season made it one to watch…

My Hero Academia’s second season propelled it into the league of greats…

And My Hero Academia’s third season continued said rise, hitting viewers with its most ambitiously iconic moments to date. From Izuku’s heart-pounding showdown with Muscular, to All Might’s face-off with arch-nemesis All For One; topping the phenomenal second season of this superhero extravaganza was no easy feat, but My Hero Academia smashed its sky-high bar with a One For All: Full Cowl, delivering one of the most sublime seasons this decade! — Harry Morris

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

15 – Zombie Land Saga

Zombie Land Saga

Studio: MAPPA
Runtime: Oct 4th, 2018 – Dec 20th, 2018

We live in a post Love Live! world meaning the popularity of idol shows has skyrocketed. Despite that volume, Zombieland Saga is the only one to truly carve out its own unique identity. I never thought zombies and idols were ever a thing I wanted in my life but MAPPA came along and showed just what we’ve been missing out on. 

Zombieland Saga never misses a chance to poke fun at just how absurd idol culture can be. Top-quality gag comedy is already there, but its when the show really leans into the undead cast to carry out jokes only possible utilizing their macabre nature that you’ll find your own sides cracking. Bones creaking and flesh squelching provide positively skin-crawling entertainment.

At the same time, however, Zombieland Saga is a time capsule of sorts that provides a glimpse into both idol related and non-related topics throughout Japan’s history. When the show puts the brakes on the comedy, it’s impressive how much respect it pays in exploring these topics such as social media oversaturation. This combination of comedy and discourse with a one-of-a-kind presentation is what makes Zombieland Saga such an incredibly memorable series. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

14 – Devilman: Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby

Studio: Science SARU
Runtime: January 5th, 2018 (all episodes released)

This beautifully animated, over-the-top action thriller weaves together a story that blends dark fantasy and high school slice-of-life. Within its limited ten-episode run, Devilman takes the time to develop its core characters (mostly high schoolers) through relatable moments, while also running full-throttle through eye-popping fight sequences. By the time the show’s conflict spins out of control, the viewer is tied to the cast enough to root for their survival, while also primed and ready for the all-out war between demons and humans that takes over the show in its last few episodes.

The fact that Devilman balances both so well is crucial to the ending—the show’s fight scenes are always exciting, but it’s only as the humanity of the characters are shown do these fights become exciting and emotional. By the show’s end, the battles are hard to watch because of the viewer’s connection to the characters involved.

Pulling it all together are the questions posed about the vices and virtues of humanity. Devilman: Crybaby accomplishes much within its short running time, never rushed, and always thrilling to watch. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Netflix

13 – March Comes in Like a Lion

March Comes in Like a Lion Rei

Studio: Shaft
Runtime: October 6th, 2016—March 31st, 2018

March Comes in Like a Lion’s real beauty does not come from the wonderfully stylized animation by Shaft; rather, it is that the characters’ incremental evolution is noticeable. The gradual personal growth of protagonist Rei Kiriyama is so rewarding because the audience can see how different he becomes, able to be openly compassionate for his friends —those same friends who helped him in his hour of need — as his own pain debilitates him less. In this way, March Comes in Like a Lion has an immensely strong message and illustration of empathy between people in overcoming individual strife, depression, and loss. It’s subsequently one of the most powerful series about supportive relationships and the emotional load that is borne between loved ones. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Netflix (subbed/dubbed)

12 – Hunter x Hunter 2011

Hunter x Hunter

Studio: Madhouse
Runtime: October 2nd, 2011 – September 24th, 2014

Madhouse’s 2011 reboot of Hunter x Hunter redefined what it means to be in the upper echelon of shounen. Yoshihiro Togashi’s story of a young boy who dreams of becoming a professional Hunter and finding his long-lost father is one full of heart, nuance, and some of the best arcs in anime, period. Though a good deal of Hunter x Hunter’s appeal is in its grand set-piece battles and iconic villains (Hisoka in particular), it’s the enduring friendship between Gon and Killua that subtly steals the show more often than not. In a series full of endless twists and subverted expectations, their unabashed love for and reliance on each other is the only constant.

Or it would be if the writing wasn’t so consistently top-notch across the board. The sheer variety and depth of characters here can only be compared to One Piece itself. Whether it’s the notorious Phantom Troupe, the King, or Ging, the narrative somehow manages to humanize its most esoteric, unlikable figures with ease. If you want to see Madhouse at what’s arguably their best, don’t sleep on one of the greatest anime of all time. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Netflix (dubbed)

11 – Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju 

Show Genroku Rakugo Shinju

Studio: Studio Deen
Runtime: January 9th, 2016 – March 25th, 2017

Rare is the anime that warrants the label of “masterpiece”, but the two-season epic Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju more than earns it. Fitting for a series about theatrical performances, Rakugo’s narrative is one that takes from the classical themes of comedy and tragedy. There’s a dry wit to the show that gives it a much-needed sense of levity at times, as it often treads uncomfortable territory. Shakespearean drama pervades Rakugo’s writing and themes, where emotions are fully worn on sleeves and pushed to their limits.

Rakugo is a story about storytelling and frames it within the life and work of Kikuhiko, a master rakugo artist. As a performative art, rakugo draws upon the human condition in order to inform the craft. Mirroring what happens on stage, Kikuhiko’s story is one that spans decades; decades of laughter, tears, triumphs, and betrayals. Though Rakugo spends much of its time focusing on a single person on-stage telling a story, the show does a fantastic job of making you feel as though you’re right there in the theater, listening to these tales in person. — Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)


Now we’re entering the final stretch of our list and easily the fiercest part of our voting process with shows winning by the smallest possible margins. These are the anime that will stand the test of time and are paragons of what the medium is capable of accomplishing.


10 – Steins;Gate

Steins Gate Okabe and Kurisu

Studio: White Fox
Runtime: April 6th, 2011 – September 14th, 2011

Adapted from the wildly popular visual novel, Steins;Gate is a slow-burn that masterfully weaves together a deep narrative with a strong cast of characters. As one of the few pieces of media to have a nearly air-tight depiction of time travel, Steins;Gate is a show that demands your attention. It makes sure to build its world deliberately and carefully; each detail is accounted for, setup, and paid off.

But what truly pushes Steins;Gate into being a remarkable series is the juxtaposition between its serious subject matter and the more lighthearted elements. For the first half of the show, Steins;Gate plays out like a standard slice-of-life mixed in with a healthy dash of mystery and intrigue to get the story rolling. Set in and around the otaku paradise of Akihabara, there is absolutely no shortage of weeby goodness. From maid cafes to chanboard references, Steins;Gate revels in its dorky trappings. 

But, much like the series’ protagonist, Rintarou Okabe, looks can be deceiving. Steins;Gate is a story with international conspiracies, science fiction, dumb jokes, and hard moral questions. What it’s about, however, is what’s most important to Okabe: love. — Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Funimation (subbed and dubbed)

9 – Kimetsu no Yaiba

Kimetsu no Yaiba Zenitsu

Studio: ufotable
Runtime: April 6th, 2019 – September 28thth, 2019

In an age where very few traditional shounen are still making waves, Kimetsu no Yaiba took the industry by storm this year with the most delicate blend of visceral action, pitch-perfect pacing, and compassionate storytelling since the 2011 Hunter x Hunter remake.

There’s simply so much Kimetsu no Yaiba gets right. For one, Tanjirou’s rise in skill is gradual and earned through constant training and battle experience. Instead of burning through the strongest adversaries in the first season, most of the show’s truly daunting foes haven’t even been encountered yet. And the authentic and heartwarming friendship between Tanjirou, Zenitsu, and Inosuke does a brilliant job of balancing out some of the monstrosities they come across.

Beyond the supreme coziness of the season’s final episodes and ufotable’s absolutely gorgeous combat sequences throughout, it’s the way Kimetsu no Yaiba humanizes its villains that ultimately sets it apart from the rest. Every demon was a human once, and illustrating their descent into losing hold of that humanity allows viewers to sympathize with them as much as Tanjirou does. The love in his heart for these unfortunate souls is palpable, and it’s this underlying foundation of empathy that makes the show such a delight. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation 

8 – Mob Psycho 100

Mob Psycho 100 Reagan

Studio: Bones
Runtime: July 11th, 2016 – September 27th, 2016

The second season of Mob Psycho 100 showcased Mob’s growth from a gullible, naive child into a confident young man, but it was the show’s premiere season that made Mob and Reigen some of the most likable characters in the medium. Mob’s complete faith in the endlessly charismatic Reigen often leads to him being taken advantage of, but it’s always clear that Reigen has nothing but his best interests at heart. Knowing this makes it all the easier to crack up at Reigen’s ridiculous schemes and marvel at his people skills; in many ways, he’s just as much a draw as Mob is in the first season. 

All of this is to say nothing of Bones’ stunning animation, of course. Going for a style closely resembling ONE’s original webcomic, Mob Psycho 100’s visuals are both easily recognizable and dynamic. Any scenes involving psychic powers or ghosts are a treat to behold, especially Mob’s 100% scenes that exude a raw, emotionally charged energy rarely captured by traditional animation. The studio’s use of different artistic styles–the Paint-on-Glass ED deserves particular recognition–elevates ONE’s sharp writing to create one of the most unique anime out there. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

7 – Little Witch Academia

Little Witch Academia

Studio: Trigger
Runtime: January 9th, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Trying their hand at a Harry Potter-like tale, Trigger delves headlong into a world of witches. Further establishing their prowess for genius, Little Witch Academia is overflowing with charm and delight. It also fits the ‘Pixar’ demographic, being suitable for younger audiences, but with enough substance for adults to have a blast alongside them.

Kicking off with a short film in 2013, Little Witch Academia’s debut received such impassioned feedback that it opened the gates to a followup fifty-minute endeavor in 2015’s extremely excellent Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign). But where these treaded water, 2017’s eventual 25 episode series brought the magical potential of these fictitious witches to glimmering life.

Akko’s struggle to succeed in a magical world due to having no magic of her own may raise the red flag of ‘a bit formulaic’, but Trigger swerves from conventions elsewhere and hits all the right story beats to make Little Witch Academia work like a charm. — Harry Morris

Watch on Netflix

6 – your name.

you name

Studio: CoMix Wave Films
Release: August 26th, 2016

Makoto Shinkai’s Achilles heel is sticking too rigidly to his ‘star crossed lovers with a supernatural twist’ formula. Whilst your name. is no exception to this, it sees the director and writer in total mastery of his craft. Refining his artistry and striking the perfect balance between style and substance, your name was a gargantuan success, doubling Japan’s box-office revenue of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2016, easily dominating the number one spot and earning rave reviews globally.

I stepped into the cinema upon your name’s limited UK release knowing only “It’s a body swap film”. I’m glad I went in blind, because it absolutely astounded me (and became one of my favorite films ever)! — Harry Morris

Purchase on Funimation and Amazon

5 – Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill Matoi Ryuko

Studio: Trigger
Runtime: October 4th, 2013 – March 28, 2014

Trigger’s larger-than-life full-series debut showcases many qualities they’d later become renowned for. From creative animation to brain-bending surrealism, the plight of Ryuko Matoi as she wages bloody war against the Life Fibers is bombastically entertaining! 

Kill la Kill is an endearingly weird beast of explosive action and surreal humor. On the surface, it’s gleeful dumbness to the extreme; but even gleeful dumbness can start a conversation, with Kill la Kill’s having debate about the context and intent of its nudity. Is said nudity (which becomes narratively relevant over the 24 episodes) metaphorical for personal empowerment and liberation from society’s norms, or is it fan service for the sake of fan service? The debate divided many, but one thing’s unanimous: this high octane cacophony of eccentricity is a shining standout this decade. — Harry Morris

Kill la Kill is sheer fun, and cemented Trigger as a studio with boundless potential!

Watch on Crunchyroll and Hulu

4 – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Mami

Studio: Shaft
Runtime: Jan 7th, 2011 – Apr 22nd, 2011

Many attest the popularity of Puella Magi Madoka Magica to its dark nature, but that is far from the only reason it still sticks in our minds today. 

Madoka Magica doesn’t rely purely on its tone to engage its viewers. It’s psychedelic visuals and shocking scenes with horrifying implications may be what grab its audience’s attention, but it’s the finely tuned narrative that’s all-killer, no-filler that keeps them around. Its juxtaposition of hope and despair keeps the viewer constantly on edge as they yearn in vain to avoid the inevitable worst possible outcome. Characters’ passions, ideals, and motivations are presented with crystal clear clarity, making their struggles hit all the harder.

Madoka Magica’s biggest accomplishment, however, is how it manages to do all this while still being distinctly a magical girl show. This isn’t just a shounen with the skin of a magical girls show like many of its contemporaries, but a loving deconstruction of all aspects that make the genre what it is. It’s a true magical girl show enjoyable by more than just magical girl fans and no show has replicated that to the same extent. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

3 – The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland

Studio: CloverWorks
Runtime: January 11th, 2019 – Mar 29th, 2019

The Promised Neverland is one of the most suspenseful anime of the past decade, even with a mere twelve episodes. The stakes are high after the end of the first episode, shattering the initial image of the show’s deceptively calm, peaceful and idyllic orphanage setting. What follows is a great escape anime with a twist—the escapees are children. The main trio are highly intelligent and strategize cooperatively at the best of times, while also being distinct in their points of view and their own ideals for how to escape and what comes next. The show is a thrilling battle of wits, focusing on the planning and escape of the children and the terror of the orphanage’s Mother (and, later, the Sister), while providing just enough insight into the world beyond the orphanage to keep tensions high and the tip-of-the-iceberg worldbuilding a fascinating and terrifying mystery. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

2 – Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss

Studio: Kinema Citrus
Runtime: July 7th, 2017 – September 29th, 2017

Made in Abyss is one of the very few anime I can comfortably recommend to anyone regardless of preference. It’s as much a story about Riko’s journey to meet her mother as it is about the horrific, ambivalent ecosystem of the Abyss itself. Instead of traveling around the world and discovering new lands, Riko and Reg travel down into the earth armed with nothing but Reg’s mechanical body, Riko’s years of research, and a heartbreaking determination that makes their sacrifices all the more painful to witness. 

And yet, for as cruel as the environments and creatures of the Abyss are to these kids, it’s a wonder to witness how quickly they’re forced to grow and adapt together. Riko and Reg balance each other out perfectly; without Reg, Riko would be powerless against the harshness of her surroundings, and without Riko, Reg would have no idea how to survive or where to go. Their ingenuity and selflessness when faced with protecting each other has truly made them one of the most likable and well-balanced duos in quite some time.

Whether it’s the show’s gorgeous environmental design, terribly cruel plot, or adorable main cast, Made in Abyss is a must-watch by all metrics. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Amazon Prime Video and VRV 

1 – A Place Further Than The Universe

A Place Further Than The Universe

Studio: Madhouse
Runtime: Jan 2, 2018 – Mar 27, 2018

We’ve all been there and no, I don’t mean we’ve all been to Antarctica. I mean that we’ve all been in the shoes of Mari “Kimari” Tamaki and her friends in some shape or form during our lives, possibly right this very moment. The desire to accomplish “something”; the nagging fears of letting life become stagnant; the romantic ideal of being able to single-mindedly pursue a goal and see it through — no show better encapsulates these kinds of emotions so tenderly than A Place Further Than The Universe.

Making Antarctica the ultimate destination is not only wonderfully unique, but also lends both a fantastical and grounded nature to the story of these young girls as it is a location hardly explored in media in general, much less anime specifically. The journey of Kimari and co. to the titular place further than the universe is one of deeply personal introspection and growth. How their individual motivations for joining the expedition intertwine and push them to grow is remarkably touching while also hitting on lessons rarely seen in anime such as when it’s not alright to forgive someone.

What seems like at first glance as a simple “cute girls doing cute things” show with an Antarctic flare, Madhouse instead decided to take this land both alien and familiar to nearly everyone, and craft a story that is relatable to nearly everyone. A Place Further Than The Universe is a downright inspiring tour de force and a sordid reminder of how the biggest obstacle to breaking out of the “norm” and doing something “different” is often in our own heads. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll


And there you have it, GoombaStomp’s curated list for the best anime of the decade. Do you agree? Disagree? Of course you disagree, so let us know what you think in the comments! The worst snubs, the underrated, the overrated, or –dare I say — something you actually agree with; let us all know down below! If you’re lookig for more retrospectives check out the last episode of our Anime Ichiban podcast where we discussed the most influential shows of the decade.

One thing is certain, though, and that is the incredible progress anime has made in a mere ten years and it’s positively exhilerating to think of where it’ll be in another 3650 cycles of the sun!

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