Sci-Fi is certainly one of the most creative genres in literature, film, and video games. For as long as anime has been around, it has also done an excellent job of contributing to the expansion of Sci-Fi and, in some ways, been ahead of the curve. For starters, Sci-Fi in anime helped pioneer the mecha genre from Tetsujin 28 to the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, and anime has creatively given audiences a lot of unique space operas as good alternatives to the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars. Some notable examples of space opera anime include Space Battleship Yamato and Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
Just how Jules Vernes’ novels, such as From the Earth to the Moon, were ahead of their time, the original Ghost in the Shell film achieved such a distinction with how it predicted that the internet would affect society and individual identity. For the last decade, Sci-Fi in anime still manages to break new creative boundaries. For this list, we would like to share with you our Top 10 Best Sci-Fi Anime of the 2010s.
10. Dr. Stone
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: July 5, 2019 – December 13, 2019
kicking off this list, we have Dr. Stone. Due to its story and setting, it takes the notion of Sci-Fi back to basics as humanity has been petrified for thousands of years. During that time period, the Earth reverts back to its natural primitive state and modern society and technology instantly collapse. However, teenage science enthusiast Senkuu Ishigami, who has broken free from his stone prison, uses his knowledge and passion to help rebuild the world. By using the most primitive of tools, he can do more than just reinvent the wheel! He can bring back electricity, communications, and modern medicine (and ramen and cola)!
In addition to its distinguishing setting, what makes Dr. Stone a worthy selection for this list is how the series goes out of its way to educate viewers on how Senkuu’s experiments work. When Senkuu wants to make antibiotics to treat pneumonia, the series provides a flow chart and an explanation (courtesy of Mecha Senkuu) of the process. Some of the experiments look applicable to the layman, and there are others where the anime also warns the audience to not try them at home.
9. Uchuu Kyoudai (Space Brothers)
- Episodes: 99
- Aired: April 1, 2012 – March 22, 2014
Compared to the rest of the entries on this list, Uchuu Kyoudai is more on the side of actual science but still captures the spirit of Sci-Fi. As opposed to using giant mechs, cyborgs, or flying cars, like Dr. Stone, Uchuu Kyoudai provides the audience with something more realistically educational as it portrays what it takes to be an astronaut and what space is really like. Uchuu Kyoudai shows that when astronauts go to space, the smallest mistake can mean instant doom! What makes this anime universal to all audiences is that it’s about never giving up and being true to oneself. It shows we can all make our dreams come true, but we have to put in the hard work and make sacrifices.
The anime does an excellent job of equally showing the good and bad that comes with pursuing one’s dreams and at the same time, demonstrates that we have to deal with failure. It also portrays how certain sacrifices can have negative effects, most notably with one’s relationships. Through the hard work and perseverance of the Nanba brothers and the rest of the cast, viewers of all backgrounds can learn what it takes to truly be the best we can be.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 6, 2014 – September 21, 2014
In the world of Aldnoah.Zero, Elon Musk’s dream of mankind migrating to Mars has come true thanks to the use of teleportation devices found on the moon. Those who went to Mars created their own nation and declared war against those who stayed on Earth. After a tragic calamity, a ceasefire was declared and everyone left each other alone for the next 15 years until Mars’ princess falls victim to an assassination plot. While there is no denying that mecha anime taking place in space are a dime a dozen, recent events while drafting this list made us realize that what is portrayed in Aldnoah.Zero is now more relevant than ever.
With the recent tensions in the world, it’s natural that people are concerned that a war could start (especially with all the World War III memes). Aldnoah.Zero shows how war can affect people, most notably teenagers. While all anime fans know it’s rather common for mecha anime to use teenagers as pilots, Aldnoah.Zero does a great job of showing how it can affect their development and outlooks.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 6, 2011 – September 14, 2011
A lot of Sci-Fi properties have explored time travel such as The Time Machine, A Sound of Thunder and most notably, Back to the Future. Steins;Gate, on the other hand, takes the notion of time travel as it relates to a future where the world collapses due to World War III and it’s up to Rintaro Okabe and his friends to save it. Despite Rintaro’s childish antics when it comes to expressing his passion for science, deep down inside, he’s a very caring person. What makes this anime a great addition to this list is how it explores modern social problems in Japan, and how technology is beneficial and consequential to them.
Most notably, through the modern use of cell phones, viewers can see how they have helped and hindered communication (as they play a role in the time traveling). In general, we see how people can be connected more than ever thanks to cell phones. On the other hand, we see how it can negatively affect face-to-face communication as it’s portrayed through Moeka who prefers to use text messaging even in-person. When it comes to the worst of extremities, the series portrays how technology can cause greed and, in effect, cause wars. When the series continues in Steins;Gate 0, the audience can see how the events of the first series negatively affect Okabe as it introduces new themes regarding memories and what defines reality.
6. Sidonia no Kishi (Knights of Sidonia)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 11, 2014 – June 27, 2014
In the past few years, Netflix has provided viewers with original anime content. However, do any of you readers know what the first original Netflix anime was? It happens to be Knights of Sidonia! It’s a Sci-Fi series that masterfully combines mecha, space opera, and post-Apocalyptic genres for something that is still unique! For the last few thousand years, humanity has been living in fear not knowing that today could very well be their last as they hide from an extraterrestrial threat. In order to cope with their situation, humanity has adapted in a manner that they can only survive by cloning themselves.
Despite the population control portrayed in this series, it is still very character-driven both individually and with their interpersonal relationships. Through the cloning aspect, it gives the audience an idea of what it means to be an individual. Even if the world allows human cloning, would a clone just be a copy of the individual? Or is it really a distinct human in itself? Last, putting aside all the changes humanity has forced upon itself portrayed in Knights of Sidonia, it shows that in humanity’s darkest hour, they will never give up and will keep fighting. While people can really be cruel to each other, when they share a common goal (or struggle), they can truly achieve remarkable things.
5. Koukaku Kidoutai: Arise Alternative Architecture (Ghost in the Shell: Arise -Alternative Architecture)
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: April 5, 2015 – June 14, 2015
In this soft reboot of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, viewers are given a new origin story of Makoto and her journey into how she was recruited into Section 9. Just like its predecessors, Arise largely explores the concept of individual identity in a world of advanced technology. Similar to how the original manga and movie predicted that the internet would be a part of everyday life, Arise redirects the original themes into how people can convert themselves into machines. Through Makoto’s journey in Arise, the organization she initially works for is the legal owner of her body. Naturally, this causes a conflict of interest, but we do have to wonder what could happen when people can get a cybernetic body in who knows how many years from now.
Take, for example, you buy a house with a mortgage. Until you pay off the mortgage, the house technically belongs to the bank and if you can’t pay it, then the bank takes the house. Arise, in a way, addresses such a situation through getting a cybernetic body. Let's say 50 years from now, we can take out loans to get ourselves a cybernetic body. If such an instance happens, is that body truly ours? Or does it belong to the bank or company until the loan is paid off? Thanks to these thought-provoking notions, Ghost in the Shell still knows how to be ahead of the curve when it comes to the rise of technology and its (highly likely) effects on society.
4. Uchuu Senkan Yamato 2199 (Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: May 25, 2012 – October 25, 2013
Some of you may accuse of cheating by using a remake from a 1970s anime but, as we have reviewed, this remake proves how far Sci-Fi has gone in the world of anime. For generations, Sci-Fi properties in America such as Star Trek have been used as a vehicle for progressive ideas. The remake of Uchuu Senkan Yamato not only faithfully retells the story of the original anime, but injects a lot of modern-day progressiveness into it. In the original series, Yuki (and a bit of Starsha) serves as the ONLY female character and a good portion of the time, she is subjected to Analyzer’s sexual harassment that wouldn’t fly in a post-#MeToo world. The remake provides new female characters who serve a significant role as they are portrayed as equally important as the male characters.
In addition to more female characters, the remake does away with what modern society calls toxic masculinity, which was prominent throughout the original series. In the first Yamato series, Koudai (and his brother) was mostly driven by toxic masculinity with how he conducted himself. His attitude was that he would only do things that a real man would do. In the remake, Koudai is a much more passionate character and leader, showing that nobody should do things for the sake of just proving their manhood. Whether any of you readers are new to or familiar with the Yamato franchise, these changes were very necessary to show how far society has come with how gender equality has progressed in Japan and throughout the world.
3. Kanata no Astra (Astra Lost in Space)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 3, 2019 – September 18, 2019
If you could combine Lost in Space with The Breakfast Club, then you’ve got Kanata no Astra. In the not too distant future, mankind has migrated to space and high school students can go on a camping trip to distant planets! As the main group arrives on the planet, they’re engulfed by a mysterious sphere and transported light-years away from where they started! Thankfully, they find a functioning spaceship that can take them back to their home planet.
While this series debuted towards the end of the decade, what makes Kanata no Astra a great selection is that it teaches us that if everybody works together, they can overcome all adversities. Not only that, no matter what one’s skills are, they can always be of contribution and a little help goes a long way. However, they are still subject to giving into raging teenage hormones, and it’s only natural that tension can and will happen between crew members.
As the series progresses, it takes a turn where it becomes a mystery when they discover that their situation is no accident and the audience can see how it affects their relationships. However, Kanata’s faith and optimism helps bring them all together so they can come home. In the end, it teaches the audience that even if humanity migrates to space, there is still no escaping our nature but when we come together, we can achieve great things and exceed expectations.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 12, 2012 – March 22, 2013
If Sci-Fi dystopian author Philip K. Dick could make an anime (or if an anime were ever inspired by his work), it would certainly be Psycho-Pass. Try to imagine something like The Minority Report (which was written by Dick) as an anime and that’s what Psycho-Pass is in a nutshell. Instead of precog, the dystopian Tokyo uses the Sybil System to read human emotions and the moment it detects any kind of criminal intent, law enforcement is instantly allowed to detain them, or in some cases, kill them. Akane, the main character, becomes an officer because she wants to uphold justice.
When she is confronted with the truth of how justice is conducted in the world she lives in, that is when this anime truly shines as a Sci-Fi series as it explores conflict in both an internal and external sense. Internally for Akane, it’s dealing with the fact that human rights are being violated. Externally, she sees it as a necessary evil as she has to compromise in order to continue her work as a police officer. Ultimately, Psycho-Pass is about what people value more, security or freedom. Considering the scandals with Eric Snowden and the NSA during the Obama administration, we have to wonder if governments are considering such a system to control its citizens.
1. Kidou Senshi Gundam: The Origin (Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: April 24, 2015 – May 5, 2018
We have to give the number one spot to Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, which largely serves as an origin story for Char Aznable, the anti-hero (and sometimes anti-villain) of the UC Gundam timeline. Like a good number of the anime listed here, Gundam is another space opera, one of the dominating sub-genres of Sci-Fi. Thanks to the designs of Yasuhiko Yoshikazu (who even designed the original Gundam series), it shows that the quality of his art still holds up after 40 years. While advancements in technology have helped the quality of anime since the debut of the original Gundam, the designs of the characters, mobile suits, clothing, and environments remain unchanged in Origin to remain consistent with the original series and yet appeal to new and old audiences.
In comparison to other space operas such as Yamato and Macross, the conflict in Gundam isn’t between humans and aliens, but amongst humans. While humans have migrated to space in the world of Gundam, the series demonstrates that despite these advancements, discrimination, war, and destruction still exist. While many are quick to blame the advancement of technology for some of humanity’s present problems, Gundam masterfully shows that, regardless, greed and the lust for power will always exist regardless of such inventions and that it’s still our responsibility to better ourselves.
Ray Bradbury, a legendary Sci-Fi author, once said that fantasies are about things that can’t happen, and science fiction is about things that can happen. With our top 10 selections, we feel that they embody that very saying. In the next decade, humans may finally visit Mars. When Elon Musk gets to Mars, will he claim it as his own planet? Or will he share it with the rest of humanity? In 2018, Spike TV hosted a Japan Vs USA contest of who made the best robot proving that mechas are already here! And it’s not just the progress of technology that comes with it, but the positive and negative effects it has on the world as well.
As we previously stated, the original Ghost in the Shell correctly predicted how the internet would affect our perceptions of identity and reality. Now that we’re in a world of social media, people ponder the image that others project on such sites if they’re real, or fake. With advancements in medical technology, it’s only a matter of time until we can exchange an organic body for a mechanical one. When that happens, would those bodies still be our bodies? If you have seen (or ever get the chance to see) our selections, we feel that the themes presented in them strongly represent what Sci-Fi is all about, things that can happen.