Can you believe it?! We’re less than two months away from 2020. Soon there’ll be a Spotify playlist for music from these past ten years (if there isn’t already). This decade has seen the rise of the app age, the birth of social media influencers, and the fall of Vine. So much has happened, and so many anime have come out…
Hello, you devilishly good looking dashing nerd, you. We’re glad you’re here with us as we wind down the last teen year of this century, so we’ve decided to bring you the cream of the crop, the anime that’ve made waves, won fans, or achieved superstar status.
Our only restrictions are that we will not include continuing anime that first aired before 2010, we will determine each year’s hit based on MyAnimeList’s membership rankings, and not count sequel seasons. So without further ado, I present to you the ten most popular anime from each year this decade.
2010 – Angel Beats!
Otonashi awakens dead. A rifle-slinging girl named Yuri explains he’s in the afterlife, and Otonashi realizes he can only remember his name. Yuri tells him about a group she leads called the Afterlife Battlefront that wages war against a single girl named Tenshi.
Otonashi decides to join the Afterlife
Battlefront and battle Tenshi, but he can’t help being drawn to her. While
trying to regain his memories and understand Tenshi, he gradually unveils the
mysteries of the afterlife.
Angel Beats! stands 1.2M members tall. For reference, that’s just 100,000 people shy of enlisted U.S. military servicemen. It’s the 10th most popular anime of all time. If you need a short series to binge in 5 hours and you’re in the mood for a heartfelt time, this series is for you. It has perhaps the most touching surprise ending of all time and a killer soundtrack to boot.
2011 – Steins; Gate
Also clocking in at 1.2M members is Steins; Gate, the 2nd highest-ranking title and 7th most popular anime of all time on MyAnimeList, having become a classic must-watch series almost the second it finished airing.
Steins; Gate follows eccentric mad scientist Okabe Rintaro who commonly refers to himself as Hoouin Kyoma. Okabe rents out the top floor room of an old building in Akihabara, where he indulges himself in inventing “future gadgets” with his childhood friend Mayuri and hacker genius Daru. The lovable trio passes the time by tinkering with their newest contraption, the “Phone Microwave,” which morphs bananas into green goop. And it can do one more impressive thing: send emails to the past.
Anyone who enjoys conspiracies will find their mind stimulated by Steins; Gate. Unlike other pre-WWIII stories, this series takes a unique approach to the world at war. Instead of any one nation seeking world domination, a European science organization, CERN, is at the center of the crisis. What’s more? CERN is real. YUP. The organization employs the large hadron collider, the machine responsible for helping scientists discover the “God particle” earlier this decade.
2012 – Sword Art Online
With 1.6 million members, Sword Art Online is the 3rd most popular anime of all time, and a game-changer at that thanks to its broad influence on the isekai genre. If you’ve been putting off watching this series, or you have a gripe with it making this list, visit our post about SAO right here.
In the year 2022—
Oh, guacamole. Just, give this old geezer a breather for a second. This futuristic series takes place three years from now. Feeling old yet?
*Ahem* In the year 2022, virtual reality has advanced immensely. A massive online role-playing game called Sword Art Online (SAO) is launched. With the aid of “NerveGear,” a technology that connects to the brain, players can control their avatars using nothing but their thoughts. Over 10,000 players log in to the world of Aincrad. However, in a cruel turn of events, the players soon realize they cannot log out; the game’s creator has trapped them in and unless they complete all one hundred levels of the game, they’ll be stuck there forever. To make matters worse, if anyone dies in Aincrad, that person dies in real life. The story follows solo beta player Kazuto Kirigaya, nicknamed “Kirito”, as he learns to work together with allies and foes to make it out of this virtual hell alive.
I’m gonna make a somewhat daring move here and call this the original “Ready Player One”. If you liked that movie, you’ll be sure to love Sword Art Online. Love and hardship are ahead of you, but it’s one of the most entry-level friendly anime series around. If you have a friend interested in anime but they don’t know where to start, give them Sword Art Online.
2013 – Attack on Titan
1.7 million members is a lot for one show, but currently, Attack on Titan is the second most popular anime of all time. Since 2013, the series has been nothing but a critical success. More than 6 years later, it’s still going strong, with a final season already announced for October of next year. For the second year in a row, we have one of the most popular anime of all time, and perhaps the most popular one this decade.
Centuries ago, monstrous creatures called titans sent humans to the edge of near extinction, forcing them to hide behind enormous concentric walls. Worse still, titans don’t eat humans because of dietary restrictions; they do it purely for pleasure. One hundred years have passed safely within the walls when a colossal titan manages to breach the supposedly impregnable outer wall. Titans spill into the human sanctuary and the fight for survival begins. Can humanity save itself before the last wall is breached?
Attack on Titan surprised fans with a gruesome horror early on in its first episode. This show has a dark edge, so if that’s your slice of pie, just know it’s gonna have humans in it.
2014 – Tokyo Ghoul
1.3 million members makes Tokyo Ghoul the hottest new anime of 2014 and the 6th most popular anime of all time.
Tokyo has become a merciless city filled with vicious creatures called “ghouls” that live alongside unwitting humans. People live in constant fear of these bloodthirsty, human-eating savages who look human themselves.
Tokyo Ghoul follows a shy college bookworm
named Ken Kaneki who is immediately drawn to Rize Kamishiro, an avid reader
like himself. However, Rize is not exactly who she seems, and this unfortunate
meeting pushes Kaneki into the center of the ghoul world. In a twist of fate, an
enigmatic waitress saves Kaneki and thus begins his new, secret life as a
half-ghoul/half-human who must learn to assimilate into both societies.
Tokyo Ghoul features one of 2014’s most hair raising fight scenes and best OPs. In a transformative, no turning back moment, Kaneki finds the resolve to achieve impossible feats. If you enjoy watching pure of heart, introverted protagonists lose their sanity, this one’s for you.
2015 – One Punch Man
One Punch Man reclines comfortably at 1.4 million members and is presently the 5th most popular anime of all time.
Just mega hit after mega hit! Talk of One Punch Man did not quiet down for a long time. It came at a time when anime was experiencing a historic surge in viewership. Gen Z started entering its teen years, and it’s they who have, by far and large, propelled anime into the mainstream consciousness it experiences to this day. One Punch Man was the first time I heard even anime allergic people talk about an anime with invigorating enthusiasm. Who hasn’t heard of this show by now? But just in case you haven’t, here’s the synopsis:
Average everyday shmuck Saitama has a rather unique hobby: being a hero. In order to pursue his childhood dream, he trained relentlessly for three years—and lost all of his hair in the process. Now, he’s so powerful that no enemy can defeat him in battle. In fact, all that’s required to take them down is one punch. But now there’s a problem. Saitama no longer enjoys the thrill of fighting. Can he find an opponent who can level with his prowess?
If you love nonchalant comedy that never takes itself seriously, this show is for you. Despite his power, Saitama’s commonplace personality and demeanor will make you feel like you too can eventually win a fight in one punch.
2016 – My Hero Academia
One million members for all!
Naruto’s successor leveled the shounen playing field back in 2015 as Shippuuden’s story came to a close. We’re living in a world where superhero movies get pumped out of Hollywood like nobody’s business. Then it’s fitting My Hero Academia is an apt response to that trend while maintaining the rites of its ancestral predecessor Dragon Ball Z. My Hero Academia has a unique modern twist accessible to anime audiences new and old.
The series calls superpowers “quirks,” a development new to the capabilities of the human race and which has steadily increased in recent years. Now 80 percent of humanity possesses quirks, leaving the remainder of the world completely powerless. Unfortunately, aspiring hero Izuku Midoriya is quirkless.
Midoriya has been dedicated to the world of heroes from a young age, leaving him only able to admire rather than participate. One fateful day, his dedication bears fruit. Izuku meets the best hero and his personal idol, All Might. After some bizarre interactions, All Might reveals his quirk is inheritable, and he’d like to pass it on to Izuku. With All Might’s budding power, Izuku enrolls in UA, the most prestigious academy for heroes. Does Izuku have what it takes to become the hero he’s always dreamed of?
If you love superheroes and shounen like DBZ, then My Hero Academia is for you. It’s so popular that you can find everyone and their mother talking about it. Okay, maybe not their mothers, but… or, well, I did actually meet a mom who loves the show. Yay, anime moms!
2017 – Made In Abyss
Resting at 500,000 members, Made in Abyss has a smaller audience than some of the other entries, but for the right viewer, it is well worth your time. The series also happens to be Crunchyroll’s 2017 Anime of the Year.
The Abyss is a gaping chasm in the world filled with mysterious creatures and relics that reach into the farthest depths of the earth. No one knows what lies at the very bottom, or at least none have returned alive to tell the tale. Courageous daredevils known as Divers seek answers from the Abyss, descending layer after layer. The best of these Divers, White Whistles, are hailed as legends by surface dwellers.
Riko is an aspiring Diver and the daughter of a missing White Whistle, Lyza the Annihilator. When a robot boy with no memories saves her in one of the upper levels of the Abyss, Riko realizes this is her chance to start her journey. She names the robot Reg and together, they begin to uncover the secrets of the Abyss and Reg’s lost memories. What harsh reality awaits them as they arrive closer to the bottom?
This show comes with a warning label. Made In Abyss features gore so gruesome you’ll wince. There’s even an infamous scene depicting damage so crippling it results in urination. The series makes Attack On Titan look like a kiddie show. Forget being eaten alive. It’s far more uncomfortable watching someone suffering slow, near-death body trauma. Aside from that, if you don’t mind some discomfort while watching, then buckle up for a thrilling adventure through a fantastical, dark world with characters you’ll root for.
2018 – Violet Evergarden
I was so certain Darling in the Franxx would push its way to the top last year, but Violet Evergarden quietly took first place, having corralled together a community of 600,000 large.
Former child soldier Violet Evergarden struggles through her new life as a postal service worker. The Great War split the continent of Telesis and took away the one person she held dearest, leaving her with only his final words and no comprehension of what they mean.
After a falling out with her adoptive
family, Violet becomes enamored with the work of Auto Memory Dolls, workers providing
a dictate to transcription service for people, many of whom wish to send
letters to family and loved ones. The more Violet transcribes, the closer she
comes to piecing together the clues behind the meaning of the words her nearest
and dearest left her with.
This series may very well be the first anime loosely based on the Great War, more commonly known to younger generations today as WWI. Fortunately for us, the show’s setting has a healing quality to it that makes it feel like a living, breathing character as much as Violet herself. So, if you need some nurture, look no further.
2019 – Demon Slayer
Tanjirou Kamado became the man of the house at a very young age after his father’s death. Although poor, he and his family have been able to live a happy life in their mountain home. One day, Tanjirou goes into the village at the base of the mountain to sell charcoal in the evening, making one last stop at a customer’s place before nightfall.
The man warns him of evils lurking at night and asks him to head back to his house in the morning. Tanjirou obliges and heads home the next morning only to find a horrific tragedy had struck, killing his family except for his sister, Nezuko who has been turned into a demon. Tanjirou vows to do whatever it takes to avenge his family and protect what remaining humanity his sister might have left.
Although other series from earlier this year such as Rising of the Shield Hero or Promised Neverland are likely to win anime of the year, none have excited fans like Demon Slayer. Its animation alone has been heralded by fans as some of the best around. It’s a Ufotable series, after all, the same studio that brought us brilliant titles such as Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Bladeworks.
Demon Slayer may not be a trailblazer in the storytelling department, but the amount of excitement it rallies up definitely makes it the most noteworthy series this year by far. With nearly 500,000 members, you know there are some great discussions to join in on especially since it finished airing in September. Get on board if you like high density, high intensity action!
That’s it for this list! Next year, we’ll get the first winter of the new decade. We know we’re excited for long-awaited titles such as Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0. Which series are you pumped for? Which ones do you think will make it big? Leave a comment below!