For this list, we are counting down what we think are the best original anime of the 2010s. As to how we are defining the world “original” for this list, it relates to anime titles that aren’t based on any particular pre-existing manga, visual novels, and/or games. Since a large percentage of anime tends to be adapted from these other forms of media, almost everyone can agree that finding anime that is original can be quite a difficult task. However, after careful research and consideration, we wish to present to you readers what we feel qualifies as the Best Original Anime of the 2010s!
10. Death Parade
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 10, 2015 – March 28, 2015
If you’ve seen Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the titular duo challenges the Grim Reaper to a series of games (such as Clue, Battleship, Twister, and an electronic football board game) in order to come back to life. When you watch (or if you have seen) Death Parade, it re-tools that notion to something a little different. So, when you die in Death Parade, instead of going to Heaven or Hell, you end up in a place that looks like a bar and you challenge the bartender to a game. If you win, you’re reincarnated. If you lose, then you’re gone forever. What makes Death Parade stand out isn’t the intensity of the stakes, but how the experience makes the person reflect on who they were in life, and the experience gives them opportunities to try to make peace with themselves one last time regardless of the results.
While we can’t speak for the actual dead, Death Parade does give viewers the chance to think that when we die, are we truly at peace with ourselves? Take, for example, you suddenly die in an accident while listening to your favorite song on the radio. If you died that way, do you think you would be at peace with yourself? Unfortunately, for some people who depart from this world no matter how they pass, leave with unfinished business, and the setting of Death Parade offers the chance for its cast to settle with their baggage, and give the audience time to reflect on their own lives as if they could die at any moment’s notice.
9. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: April 15, 2011 – June 24, 2011
Five years prior to the start of Anohana, Mieko, a sixth grade girl, tragically passed away in an accident. Since then, Jinta, one of Mieko’s friends, chooses to live as a hikikomori, or a shut-in. Then suddenly, the ghost of Mieko, who assumes the form of a teenager, appears before Jinta telling him she can’t move on until she fulfills her wish. Not knowing (or remembering) what her wish is, Jinta reunites with the rest of his old friends to help her.
Anahana shows not only how the loss of a loved one can affect someone, but what such an event could do to children. In this case, it does drive a group of friends apart as they go on to live their own lives for the next five years when, in fact, they should’ve been there for each other. Despite the appearance of Mieko’s ghost, getting the group back together is a difficult yet realistic journey in itself. The characters are initially full of doubt and jealousy, but they have to confront their past in order to move towards the future.
8. Plastic Memories
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 15, 2015 – June 28, 2015
Tsukasa Mizugaki is your typical underachiever in the world of animation. He was unable to get into college but manages to gain employment through SAI Corp, the world’s largest providers of androids. In the world of Plastic Memories, androids have a lifespan of 81,920 hours. Once the androids reach their expiration date, they lose not only their memories but also their self-control and can become violent. Tsukasa is partnered with Isla, another android, as they work together to find androids reaching their expiry date and shut them down before it’s too late. Unfortunately, upon Isla’s introduction, she only has 2000 hours left and, in that time, Tsukasa and Isla’s relationship becomes something more.
OK, so the whole story of boy meets cyber-girl has been done in anime before but Plastic Memories gives it a different spin. What Plastic Memories does best is using the notion of the time you have left to make some unforgettable memories. While Isla will eventually lose her memories, for Tsukasa, it’ll be the most impacting experience he ever had. What Tsukasa and viewers can take from this series is that even though the time they spent together was short, it’ll forever mean something to both of them, and Tsukasa can go on with his life having a better appreciation for himself and with a more positive outlook.
7. Ookami Kodomo Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children)
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Aired: July 21, 2012
Wolf Children, directed by the acclaimed Mamoru Hosoda, is probably one of anime’s most relevant films as its an accurate critique of some aspects of modern Japanese society. Hana was just an average college girl living in the city when she meets and falls in love with a man who happens to be a werewolf. Despite his true form, she continues her relationship with him and they have two children together. Unfortunately, Hana loses the man she loves in an accident and is forced to raise her two half-wolf children alone.
While single parenthood (whether by choice, divorce, or being widowed) can be difficult and rewarding, Wolf Children excellently shows what it’s like to be a single parent in Japan. Wolf Children shows that Japanese society looks down on single parents as Hana struggles to raise them on her own. In addition to the external portrayal of society, Wolf Children positively shows the audience that single parents make sacrifices like no other to take care of their children.
6. Kill la Kill
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 4, 2013 – March 28, 2014
Like Jojo and Persona, Kill la Kill is another series that feels like a psychedelic experience with its vibrant visuals. Ryuuko Matoi, a teenage trained killer, is searching for the man who killed her father. Her quest leads her to Honnouji Academy, which is ruled by the iron fist of its student council. In order to boost their abilities, student council members wears special clothes called Goku Uniforms. Thankfully, Ryuuko’s unique weapon has the ability to cut those uniforms. Due to her situation at her school, Ryuuko’s quest for vengeance is put on hold.
Putting all that aside, through Ryuuko’s journey of vengeance, the viewers aren’t treated to a mere fest of panty shots, skimpy clothing, and high-octane action sequences, but a young lady’s struggle against the system at her school. When you take into account inequality between men and women around the world, most especially in Japan (despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts in encouraging equality for women in the workplace), Kill la Kill shows that women are more than capable. When you see Ryuuko take on her school, the audience is treated to a fight that is universally relatable as a teenage rebel goes against struggles that have been going on for generations. While equality between men and women have progressed in many parts of the world, Kill la Kill shows that Japan is more than ready for empowered women to take over!
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 12, 2012 – March 22, 2013
As we have shared in other articles in relation to Psycho-Pass, it’s the anime for those that love cyberpunk, especially those that are based on the works of Philip K. Dick. Dystopian futures have long been a theme in cyberpunk, but Psycho-Pass takes it to a whole different level that makes the viewers think in a different way. While most Western media tends to look at issues in black and white, the world of anime is willing to look at the shades of gray. Through Akane’s journey in Psycho-Pass, the audience is going to get that. Try to imagine a society where the authorities use technology to analyze a person’s intent based on their emotions and/or psychological state. If that system determines an individual is a criminal, law enforcement has the authority to arrest or execute that person.
When Akane learns the truth about how law enforcement in her world works, she does react in disgust. In most Western media, she would go rogue and shut it down. However, she has to deal with the reality of the society she lives in. She comes to see that the system her government uses as a necessary evil, but she still wants to find a way to protect basic human rights and keep her job. The distinguishing way Psycho-Pass explores the moral issues that have long been presented in cyberpunk will probably not make audiences reevaluate their principles, but it’ll still make them wonder how they would act if they were in Akane’s shoes.
4. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Puella Magic Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 7, 2011 – April 22, 2011
In the 90s, the magical girl genre had a big boom thanks to the international popularity of Sailor Moon. Shortly after, many other magical girl anime came out riding off its coattails. However, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magic challenges the traditional tropes of the genre and yet still stays true to them. Like your typical group of junior high school girls, Madoka and her friends are chosen to be magical girls by Kyubey, a cat-like creature. While they may think it may be the coolest thing that ever happened to them, little do they know that they’re in for a rude awakening when Akemi, a transfer student, warns them the dangers that could come with such a role.
Yes, it may be cool for a schoolgirl to get magical powers to fight the forces of evil, but Madoka shows that having such powers in order to fight otherworldly threats can be disastrous. The titular Madoka is still very much in-tune with the traditional magical girl hero, however, the fresh approach the series takes explores her choices and journey is an effective re-evaluation of the genre’s tropes. By no means does it insult the genre and its predecessors, but gives its themes a much more realistic and gritty portrayal. To be honest, if any teenager wants to be a hero, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and when facing supernatural beings, someone is going to get hurt or killed.
3. Yuri!!! on Ice
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 6, 2016 – December 22, 2016
Thanks to the rising popularity of Hanyu Yuzuru, one of Japan’s top male figure skaters, MAPPA can now provide audiences an anime with a figure skating theme, Yuri!!! on Ice. Yuri Katsuki is a talented figure skater, but is one of the sport's biggest underachievers. All of that changes when his idol, Russian sensation Viktor Nikiforov retires and becomes Yuri’s coach. With Viktor now serving as Yuri’s coach, all the attention is focused on him now more than ever.
The story allows their relationship to progress naturally in a manner that relates to all audiences regardless of their orientation, and it gives one of the most positive portrayals of LGBTQ relationships in all forms of media. The intimate moments they share together can be awkward, but at the same time, not make those scenes feel like fan service as the audience can see what they’re feeling is truly something real and blooming. Yuri!!! on Ice excellently shows how Viktor and Yuri slowly come to terms with their feelings for each other in both a professional and personal manner. In addition to their relationship, Yuri!!! on Ice has some amazing visuals and music that do an excellent job of portraying the artistic sport of figure skating.
2. Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name)
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Aired: August 26, 2016
At a close second, we have Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, one of Japan’s highest-grossing films. Your Name is the perfect film on how a sarcastic comment can lead to one of the biggest adventures of a lifetime as Mitsuha, a shrine girl from the mountains of Gifu Prefecture, just wishes she could be a city boy. The following morning, she wakes up and gets her wish as she switches bodies with Taki. With this mysterious switch in identities, they do their best to not only experience each other’s lives, but also help each other out.
Despite the movie’s positive reception, Shinkai personally feels he could’ve done better if it weren’t for budget restraints. Regardless, Your Name does a great job of combining comedy, romance, religion, and a little bit of sci-fi for one of anime’s most unique stories ever told. Thanks to their shared experiences, both main characters and the audience can get an idea of what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes and how we could benefit from such mentalities. Thanks to Your Name’s accurate portrayals of certain landmarks in downtown Shinjuku and the countryside of Gifu Prefecture, many fans have visited these locations to take pictures by reenacting key scenes.
1. Carole & Tuesday
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 11, 2019 – October 3, 2019
At number one, we have to give it to Shuuichi Watanabe’s latest hit, Carole & Tuesday. In the future, mankind has migrated to Mars. While technology is advanced there, many modern problems that we see today are still happening on Mars such as income racism. However, the titular duo, Carol and Tuesday, who come from different worlds, form an unbreakable bond forged by their common dreams. After moving in together, they put in the hard work and dedication to become Mars’ next big hit!
While a lot of the themes and other elements portrayed in this series are consistent with Watanabe’s other works, Carole & Tuesday takes them to a whole new level. This anime is universal with its cast of characters, its themes and messages, and most of all, its powerful soundtrack. With all the problems going on in the world, Carole & Tuesday is the one anime that teaches us that instead of looking at what makes us different, we should look at how we’re all the same.
While a lot of great anime titles these past decades are based on a manga, a game, or a light novel, watching an anime that is original on its own can also be fun. Without an original source material to rely on, viewers can enjoy an anime with a much fresher perspective without any preconceived notions. In addition to what we have listed, what are some other original anime you think should be acknowledged? If you have any ideas, feel free to share your personal list in the comments.