The 2000s were a very interesting decade of anime with many new franchises being born that will define many generations of anime to come. Here is my personal list of the top 10 animes of this decade, which covers tv shows, movies, and OVAs, and a mix of popular and less recognized animes. Feel free to talk about my picks in the comments.
10. Death Note- Although the second half isn't quite as good as the first half and despite the sometimes repetitive stories, this is quite a great cat and mouse detective show. Light Yagami is still a great villain I hate with a fiery passion and the interplay between him, L and the police is all very well done and tense the entire time. It's morally gray message about where the line between hero and monster is located is also is a highlight, forcing the viewers to think about what really is happening in the grand scheme of things.
9. 5 Centimeters per Second- This is the first purely romantic anime movie I've ever seen, and surprisingly it is a fantastic love story. The characters of Tagaki and Akagi have real chemistry together and you truly understand why there is such strong emotion between the two. The story is very interesting, covering the years following their relationship in high school and how both have evolved and met new people over time. The ending is bound to make some people very upset, but at the same time it's one of the most realistic I've ever seen in this kind of series. It's a great movie that really should get more attention than it has gotten.
8. FLCL (Fooly Cooly)- This show is quite literally insane. At only 6 episodes long and a plot that isn’t even revealed fully until the final episode, it would be easy to dismiss this as utter nonsense. However, its at its heart a coming of age story, just with robots that come out of the main character Naota’s head. Yeah… Haruko is one of the best anime heroines in recent memory, always doing what she feels like and never letting anybody bring her down or tell her otherwise. The action scenes are fantastically animated, the entire show is hilarious, and even if the plot doesn’t quite make a ton of sense in the end (it doesn’t 100%), the coming of age story combined with the sheer weirdness of the whole thing makes it unforgettable and fantastic anime.
7. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex- An offshoot of the fantastic Ghost in the Shell movie and manga series, GITS: SAC is a really intriguing sci-fi series about our growing dependence of technology and how it is in some ways a blessing, and in others a curse. All the characters from the 1995 movie return in this prequel series, and their personalities are as well defined and iconic as always. Major Mokoto Kusanagi still retains her crown as the single greatest anime heroine ever made, with her strong convictions, determined attitude, and above all else pure badassness. The stories told here are all very methodical and intriguing, dealing with everything from government corruption, to terrorism, to our reactions to the world changing right in front of us. Its combination of unique sci-fi storylines in an fascinating future, cool characters and film-quality animation definitely makes this series worthwhile to people who loved the film and newcomers alike. If anything, it will create new fans of the 1995 film, which is to this day one of the best animated films ever made.
6. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (Season 1)- This anime literally convinced me not to give up on anime comedies. Here we have an anime series that actually wrote jokes that were not only funny, but worked on many different levels; some were sarcastic, some were subtle, and some were laugh out loud jokes. The storyline is one of the most unique in all of anime, combining high school life with a bizarre sci-fi universe only possible in Japan. All of the characters were believable (given the context of the story) and most importantly likeable. I would hang out with everyone in this show; Haruhi, Kyon, Mikuru, Yuki, and Koizumi would all be great people to be friends with, despite the weirdness that surrounds them. This mixture of comedy, likeable characters, and so weird its great sci-fi makes this a great anime in general. Despite a somewhat lackluster second season, here’s hope to the movie out next year rebounds Haruhi back to the top where she belongs.
5. Spirited Away- One of the best examples of pure movie magic ever in recent memory, Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece is a celebration of imagination. The story, while very simplistic is quite applicable to people of all backgrounds and ages, kids and adults. The visuals are some of the best ever put into an animated picture, with new creatures and ideas being shown literally in every frame of animation. It’s the Wizard of Oz for the modern generation and makes everyone who ever had an over-active imagination happy to experience its wonders. This is the kind of anime you want to show to people who dismiss anime in general in order to convince them otherwise. More than likely, this one movie more than any other will convince them to give the medium a second look.
4. Casshern SINS- The best sci-fi anime of this decade is also the most criminally underrated series of the decade. Literally coming out of nowhere, this remake of the 1960’s anime Neo Human Casshern is one of the most thought-provoking and philosophical animes I have ever seen. It’s bleak setting and nature is bound to turn off some fans from the get go, but its ideas and outlooks on life and humanity are so rich and textured you will be addicted. It also doesn’t hurt that the animation is beautifully done, with more simplistic and interesting character designs than most shows, and fight scenes that look effortless crafted. The entire cast is rich with depth and complexity uncommon in most anime in today’s market and their journey is one of the most compelling I’ve ever seen, despite it not being as stereotypically epic as other shows. This is the anime for people who want to think and be entertained at the same time. It is strongly recommened to anybody who wants a little bit more out of their standard anime fair.
3. Rebuild of Evangelion Film Series- This might be considered cheating since this is a remake of my favorite anime of all time, Neon Genesis Evangelion, but this is much more than a simple remake. It’s a complete reimagining of the classic series, exploring radical new ideas and directions the original never looked at, and succeeding in every single one of its gambles. The first movie, You Are (Not) Alone is basically an HD remake of the first 6 episodes, but still introduces new ideas in the end. It’s the second film however, You Can (Not) Advance, that really elevates the Rebuild series into perfection. It takes so many radical new directions and introduces ideas that sound ludicrious on paper, but in practice create something that is equal to the original series. This is the future blueprint of how to remake anime series; take the concepts of the original and introduce fresh ideas that work effortlessly in a new context. The animation and music are also top notch along with the new story, elevating the Rebuild of Evangelion from pure remake to second coming of a unbelievably fantastic anime universe.
2. FullMetal Alchemist- How many series do you know that have had two amazing animes in one decade? Probably not a lot, but FMA somehow managed to do so. The original series, while it radically departs from the manga at the halfway point, tells its own interesting story that tackles the same themes as the original manga but in different ways. It still retained the spirit of the manga and managed to create its own unique interpretation of its themes and characters and is unquestionably one of the best and most unforgettable animes of the decade. The new FMA series, Brotherhood, looks just as fantastic. This time, Brotherhood follows the manga story, which already was great, and manages to addict the viewers in the same way the original series did. FMA tackles many diverse themes such as the nature of war and science vs. the power of God, and both series show the complexity of these two issues and the depths in which humanity will go to prove its righteousness. These themes never overshadow the story of the Elric brothers though, which at its heart is about two brothers trying to fix their past mistakes, and by extention humanity’s. It’s too early to decide whether the original series of Brotherhood is superior, but both FMA series are terrific action shows that have much more depth and complexity than most animes can ever dream of.
1. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann- No series this decade made me this excited about anime in general than Gurren Lagann. It is not as emotionally or philosophically challenging as other animes on this list, but at the same time it doesn’t matter; Gurren Lagann provided more entertainment per minute than almost any anime I have ever seen. The animation is crazy like FLCL’s, but that just makes the giant robot battles that much more exciting to watch and the characters more interesting to watch. You would be a fool to dismiss Gurren Lagann’s story though as childish, it does explore themes rarely seen in anime, such as the nature of evolution and man’s reaction to it. How does one react when you realize we have reached the top of the food chain? Where does humanity go once he has evolved to its highest potential? Most important though, Gurren Lagann is a show “about believing in the me that believes in you”. It’s about rising up from the past to see a better tomorrow. It is about achieving the impossible even if you don’t think you can. It is about doing what is right for not only yourself, but for others as well. The crazy animation elevates the fights to astronomically epic levels, with the final fight making the word “epic” sound miniscule. The characters are all timeless archetypes that resonate within all of us in some form or another. The story is uplifting and emporwering, the themes are quite interesting in retrospect, and overall Gurren Lagann is in one word, satisfying. There is nothing that could possibly add to this series; it is simply, PERFECT.
That is my list of the best animes of this decade. Here’s hoping for more fantastic anime in the future. What are some of your favorites from last decade?