The gauntlet was thrown. A challenge was put out. And since it was issued on Imgur, there was no way we could shirk it. Could we rank the best anime, per year, throughout the 2010s so far? We claim no objectivity, but we did abide by the follow rules when selecting these most memorable outliers…
- No sequels.
- No series longer than 100 episodes.
- Only one per year, and the year marks when the anime started, not when it ended.
Now, as you reminisce about this decade we’re over halfway through, do consider these high points for anime.
2011 – Tiger & Bunny
Were it not for a title that really, really should’ve been localized, Tiger & Bunny probably would’ve been a much broader bridge between the needlessly-disparate camps of anime and American comics. It still stands out as one of the most accessible and soundly executed finite series; putting a fresh, character-focused spin on cape fiction’s tropes. The titular odd couple navigate waxing/waning celebrity status, the messy demands of personal life, and even the temptations of revenge in a way that’s colorful and endlessly entertaining. It’s an enduring reminder of how much fun superheroes can (and should) be.
2012 – Kids on the Slope
Anime legend Shinichiro Watanabe has famously eclectic musical taste, along with a true artist’s desire to never repeat himself. So, while this Truffaut-esque tale of a love triangle in the 60s jazz scene couldn’t be farther afield of Cowboy Bebop, it actually feels more fitting, and personal, to Watanabe himself. The tunes aren’t just an ingredient: they’re the focus. And as we watch a shy introvert and a brash troublemaker find an unlikely bond in playing jazz–even as they contend for the same girl’s affections–the show truly speaks to the unifying power of music.
2013 – Silver Spoon
Once again, a mangaka known for out-of-this-world fantasies confounds expectations by making a far more grounded and personal tale. In this case, it’s Fullmetal Alchemist creator Hiromu Arakawa. Drawing upon her upbringing in the dairy farms of Hokkaidō, she spins the yarn of a teenager who enrolls in a vocational school after flunking out of Japan’s infamous high school entrance exams. As the title alludes, there’s plenty of hilarity to be found as this “city mouse” adjusts to farm life–and plenty of pathos to match as he comes to empathize with those he once dismissed as country bumpkins.
2014 – Barakamon
Anime is known for many hot-blooded heroes, but this might be the only series expressly concerned with one such character learning how to mellow out. Indeed, the title roughly translates to “easy-going person,” and that’s what our lead Handa aspires to be. At the start, he’s a prodigious calligrapher who takes himself so seriously, he actually punches out an exhibition curator who critiques his work as “bland.” His family then sends him to a secluded island to cool off, basically; and there, the humble townsfolk not only teach him to relax, they also help imbue his work with more personality. Very few stories about the tempestuous artistic process are as uplifting and life-affirming as this little tale.
2015 – My Love Story
A huge part of anime’s appeal, of course, is seeing familiar genres freed of arbitrary cultural expectations. To that end, this show is almost immediately novel for its pairing of a boy and girl who are physically mismatched in a way you’ll never see in American romcoms. Takeo is big and stout for his age, and his pretty boy best friend always steals the attention of any girl he’s interested in. That is, of course, until he meets Rinko–a petite girl who actually finds him cute. Their courtship, with an easy 200% size difference, is heartwarming-ly fun and gutbusting-ly funny at equal steps. Simply a feel-good show here.
Obviously, some of you will disagree with our picks. In fact, we expect you to! Go on and drop your own best-by-year choices in the talkback. Maybe we’ll feature them later and truly set the record straight.
Image Credits: VIZ Media, FUNimation, Aniplex of America, Sentai Filmworks
Featured Image Credit: VIZ Media