Japanator's Top 50 Anime of the Decade: #10 to #1


We're at the end of the line, folks. You've been riding with us all week as we counted down our picks for the top 50 anime of the last ten years. #50-#41, #40-#31, #30-#21 and #20-#11 are all done. You might have some complaints to give, legs to break or horse heads to leave in my bed (it can fit about 4 with me in there), but you've stuck with us thus far.

So, are you ready to check out some of the greatest titles of the last ten years? Is your favorite at #1? Knowing you guys, probably not, but I think you'll be interested to see our choices anyways.

Before we begin, a little note: Some directors or studios are so potent that they surpass their mere title and become auteurs to their work. They leave a distinct mark on every project they touch, so that when you watch any of their works, you can identify it instantly -- not only in visual style, but in themes, impact and power. We felt it unfair to compete their own works against each other, and so we grouped their works together in a single ranking.

I'd like to thank Ben Huber for creating the template that you see on the charts, and the entire staff for helping to vote on these titles and give this list a sense of semblance. Most importantly, though, I'd like to thank you for sticking with us this far, discussing and sharing your ideas, and helping to build a better discussion. Hopefully in the weeks to come, I'll get to see your own top 10, 25 or even 50 anime of the decade lists.

Honey and Clover is serious business. Tackling a lot of issues like the complication of relationships and the difficulty of changing from one lifestyle to another, Honey and Clover provides something that's deep and different. We watch characters of all different stages of life try to deal with what's going on around them, each bringing their own perspective to the show's plot.

The way the show deals with everything -- with such aplomb and down-to-earth nature -- Honey and Clover comes across as something fundamentally different from just about every romance title that's out there. Characters don't have single-settings for their emotions: it's always a mix of fear, hope, humor and a half-dozen other things.

Honey and Clover managed to mimic real life much better than we ever expected to see in anime, and that's why it's taken a spot in our top ten anime of the decade.

The works of Satoshi Kon, in this decade, include Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Paranoia Agent and Paprika. His specialty is blending the line between fantasy and reality, for both the viewer and the characters. Coming out of the school of Katsuhiro Otomo, Kon created works that were hauntingly beautiful, emotionally heart-rending and complex without being Evangelion.

In a word, he was an illusionist. In his time working with the folks at Madhouse, Kon has produced four films and a TV series, in which we attempt to unravel a mystery: the life of a recluse actress or tracking down a dream-hacker, for example. Once we've entered Kon's story world, we get swept up in a blur of fantastical images -- delving into the past or into someone's dreamscape -- and are taken for a truly memorable ride.

For me, Millennium Actress is the film that has me break down and cry. The pursual of that one true love -- the one that will never be -- and the end result: "The part I really loved was chasing him." The story was so beautiful, the plot so engaging, and the way he blended fantasy with reality as the aged actress was interviewed is just unbelievable.

Satoshi Kon is a true genius of cinema, and he will provide some of our best anime films over the next couple of decades.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex did what the movie could not, interestingly enough: they presented a clear, coherent story. Unbelievable, right?

We watch as the GITS crew pursues the Laughing Man, a hacker terrorizing the population. All of the 19th century philosophy that was jam-packed into the original Ghost in the Shell movie was smoothed out and brought down to a much more reasonable level while still staying true to the original manga.

Much like Rebuild of Evangelion, you may just consider this a "remake," but there's such a different feel, and the impact that it has separates it completely from its predecessor. For all of you who have watched Ghost in the Shell, you owe it to yourself to watch this. It will change how you view the entire cyberpunk world of GITS.

In this decade, Studio Ghibli's works have included Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo. Because of the near-universal love for Hayao Miyazaki and his works at Ghibli, I actually have a hard time describing the emotions I feel when watching his works.

So, let me put it this way: He is the only director to recieve an Oscar for a commercial anime film. His films are the only ones that actually make it to theatres. If there is anyone to point to as a bridge between the Japanese animation world and the general American culture, Hayao Miyazaki is the man.

His works are timeless, plain and simple.

The greatest show we'll never see.

Macross is a franchise that is spoken about in hushed voices by some of the older members of the staff. They love the franchise, bemoan that it'll never truly see the light of day here in America, and curse Harmony Gold. That whisper turned into a loud roar after Macross Frontier.

Macross Frontier made so many waves because it was a quality introduction for another generation into the world of Macross. Coming 25 years after the original show, Macross Frontier sported a gigantic budget, top-notch voice actors, and a strong story that inspired people to love a franchise that they had never really known anything about.

As such, people have fallen in love with the show. Petitions started anew to kill Harmony Gold. Macross Frontier showed that people really do remember love, once you breathe new life into a legendary franchise.

As much as you might be sick of people doing the dance, cosplaying as the characters, or wearing their Haruhism badges with pride, you can't deny the impact that Haruhi has created. The show blew in suddenly, leaving a wake in its path that is still rippling out today.

Kyoto Animation's incredibly strong budget, paired with Yamakan's vision as director, created something that was mind-boggling as we tried to figure out just what was going on in the show, and we pieced together the story from these out-of-order episodes.

Debates still go on about Haruhi. The books, recently released here in the US, only fuel that discussion. And the marketing engine for it will churn, because they know that we can't get enough of the show's cast, especially the bickering between Kyon and Haruhi. Love it or hate it, this show is here to stay. You may as well start looking into it more deeply, because you know it'll be discussed as though it's this decade's Evangelion.

Gurren Lagann, to me, is a flawless execution of storytelling. In terms of the actual structure of a story, how events should evolve, situation changes, and all the other things taught in screenwriting classes, happen in Gurren Lagann perfectly. That, in my mind, is why the show elicits such a strong response from people.

What entranced me so greatly, and what had me cheering on the Gurren Brigade fight after fight was not getting to see giant robots fight each other, or hear them yell "Giga Drill Break" and blow someone to pieces. No, it was the pure joy and inspiration I got out of seeing these characters take on impossible odds, and through sheer will and determination, find a way to win out.

These are the stories that we see in epic legends. Gurren Lagann captures that energy and emotion, and it proves itself as an escape from our own daily lives: office work, classes, chores. It allows us to slip into this other world, one where a near-infinite number of things are possible. Perhaps we can join in if we show a little bit more determination and guts in our daily lives.

The show taught us how to row row fight the power.

The works of Makoto Shinkai include Voices of A Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days and 5 Centimeters Per Second. For me, in this decade, there is no director who can match up to the works of Makoto Shinkai. Just by seeing his name, and forcing myself to confront the emotions I've felt while watching his films cause me to burst into tears.

In a sense, "absolute despair" is the word I'd use to describe the feelings I have towards his work. The one that sticks closest with me is Voices of a Distant Star, where you watch a couple separated by light years grow and change, while they still try to hold onto their relationship. It's truly depressing.

But, at the same time, what you feel watching his films are those of you coming alive. Shinkai's pieces have the most brilliant and evocative art in anime today. Bar none. He elicits such emotion through the poor plight of his characters that your heart goes out to them, and refuses to return to you.

Watch his films. They will change you in profound ways. They will make you appreciate love in ways that you never realized before. They will make you a more complete person.

You know, when compiling this list, I didn't expect Azumanga Daioh to top out at #2. It's certainly one of my favorite comedy shows, but I didn't vote it particularly high. Yet everyone on the staff, save for one or two, had it on their list somewhere. And the show steadily grew through the ranks.

The show has a subtle power about it that's infected it's way into just about every otaku out there. Even people who aren't really that into anime have been exposed to Azumanga Daioh and loved it for its quirkiness, its random stories, and everyone has their favorite character.

Sakaki is mine, so back off.

Azumanga Daioh captures our #2 slot because of its universality. The show can appeal to so many groups without sacrificing a bit of its quality or humor, and that's pretty impressive. I'm sure we've all been in some of those situations in high school, or at least wish we had, and so we bought into it wholeheartedly. Azumanga Daioh rightfully holds the title of the most popular 4-koma ever.



Surely you didn't think I was serious, did you?

This is the anime. The one that, for just about every single otaku, proved to be a turning point in their lives. The show opened them up to so many new ideas, showed them the glory that is The Pillows, and forever cast them into the world of the anime lover.

I think what impacted so many people with this OVA was that it was a coming of age story. Gainax's titles usually are a story of this sort, but FLCL provided a different world: one without the same sort of gravitas and threat that was existent in Evangelion or Gurren Lagann. It also came out at a point when anime was on the rise, and people were looking for a show to grab onto as something more than the stock and standard fare.

And so, here it is. The show filled a role, and has become cemented as the show that your friend is going to pass to you as that one you must watch, because it's going to change your life. For many of you, it has. What really makes a show important to each of us is how it changes our way of thinking. Amongst us here at Japanator, FLCL is undoubtedly the show that's affected us as a staff the most, and has affected you guys just as much.

You are logged out. Login | Sign up


Click to open photo gallery:


Brad Rice
Brad RiceFounder   gamer profile

Brad helped found in 2006, and currently serves as an Associate He's covered all aspects of the industry, but has a particular preference for the business-end of things, more + disclosures



Filed under... #anime #Anime of the Decade #Japanator Original #top stories



You're not expected to always agree, but do please keep cool and never make it personal. Report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community team. Also, on the right side of a comment you can flag nasty comments anonymously (we ban users dishing bad karma). For everything else, contact us!