AD Top 10 List #1: Top TV Anime of the 2000s

It’s 2010. A new year. A new decade. Amazing how time flies, doesn’t it? In celebration of this historical event we, your anime-loving couch potatoes here at Anime Diet, have painstakingly compiled a list of what we feel are the cream of the crop, the very best anime of the past ten years.

This was not an easy task. Just think of the wealth of animation that has poured from Japan’s shores since the first day of the year 2000. From Aria to Zatch Bell, over the past ten years we have seen anime of all shapes, sizes, flavors and consistencies. There have been oodles of old genre stand-bys with plenty of giant robots, awkward teenage boys and the many women who love them, and space battles galore. There have also been odd little shows that break the mold about talking bacteria, a teacher constantly trying to kill himself, and an odd teenage girl who seems to have the powers of a god, just to name a few…

From this fountain of animation gold we (as far as you know) have laboriously watched every single series that has come out in the last ten years* and from this we managed to put together the perfect list of nominees and from these nominees voted and tallied to the result of the following list you are about to read.

And by the way, we can already hear all you chronology-loving, fact-checking sticklers out there. “Well, technically, since there was not a year zero, then officially the decade didn’t start till the first day of 2001 and doesn’t end until the first day of 2011, so having a top ten anime of the decade going from 2000 till the end of 2009 is inherently flawed.” Shut up and enjoy our hard work.

So without further ado, here is Anime Diet’s Top Ten Anime of The Decade 2000 – 2009.

*The Anime Diet staffers writing this may be lying about watching every single show from the past ten years.

DISCLAIMER: This list only pertains to shows the staff watched all the way through. It was tabulated by a point system, drawn from top 10 lists submitted by the staff. Some staff will be submitting their individual lists with explanations shortly.


10. Full Metal Alchemist

Full Metal Alchemist, if the number of cosplayers at conventions is a sign of anything, is one of the linchpins of modern anime fandom. It is also one of the most heartfelt depictions of brotherly affection in anime, something that is rare in an age dominated by harem comedies and, to a lesser extent, female camaraderie (see: Azumanga Daioh, K-ON!, Lucky Star, Candy Boy….). For a mainstream title, it is willing to go to intense, dark places and is never less than emotionally sincere–though it is, more often than not, hilarious. Well-developed characters and an engaging plotline make this a contemporary classic.


9. Honey and Clover

Honey and Clover stands out simply for being real: real in its depiction of the emotional lives of twenty-somethings, real in its understated yet eloquent monologues. Canny use of insert songs, pastel-like art, and outstanding writing takes the viewer on a rich journey through the inner lives of these art-school students. You’ll laugh out loud at the antics of characters like Morita, empathize deeply with the everyman struggles of Takemoto, and squirm in recognition as they make their way through the more awkward and troubling aspects of life and love. It has been adapted twice in live action form, but neither is as successful as the JC Staff anime which, all things considered, is the best anime they’ve made in the past decade.

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8. Rahxephon

Can there be an introspective giant robot show better than Evangelion? Rahxephon‘s director, Yutaka Izabuchi, threw down the gauntlet at Hideaki Anno and made a show that, while perhaps not the most original, is arguably a more polished, balanced, but still-intelligent one than Anno’s masterwork. “Better” may not be the right word to use, but Bones’ fine animation, numerous emotional moments, and a patented elliptical ending still satisfies those looking for classic mindscrew anime. It arguably killed the subgenre, with the possible exception of Bokurano, but it’s still a memorable piece of work that took the formula to its highest stage of refinement.


7. Black Lagoon

It’s not often you hear a stream of profanity discharge like a machine gun in your typical anime. Well, Black Lagoon is not your typical anime. It is, however, one of the best damn pure action shows… ever. If Cowboy Bebop were rated R, or possibly even NC-17 for language and violence, it would be Black Lagoon. A badass cast of characters, working too hard to pay the bills (on less than ethical jobs), that can go toe to toe with anyone in a fight: that’s Black Lagoon. Especially Revy, who’s quite possibly the toughest woman ever to be drawn by hand. With a mouth that could make a sailor blush, and wielding two guns like a character in a John Woo flick, Revy kicks ass and takes names, leaving only broken or dead bodies in her wake.

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6. Azumanga Daioh

There have been quite a few comedies featuring an all-female cast of oddballs since, but the charm of Azumanga Daioh is unique. A gag-driven comedy that somehow manages to make you care about the characters deeply by the end, Azumanga Daioh features an extremely likable, quirky cast filled with spaced-out, awkward, prodigy, irresponsible, and genki sorts that mesh perfectly. The frequent bouts into daydream-like surrealism (see the ending sequence) are a paean to the innocence and carefree nature of youth, a feeling that lingers even after the show has finished. Can a show that features not one moment of tearjerking pathos still make you cry a little at the end anyway? This one just might.

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5. Haibane Renmei

One of the most original and quietly profound productions of the decade, Haibane Renmei takes simple elements and gives them echoes of transcendence. Whether one interprets it as a fantasy tale about angel-like creatures, a spiritual parable about the soul’s journey from birth to death, or a winsome story about two main characters, Haibane Renmei works mainly by being unassuming and unpretentious in its presentation. (Especially compared to other ambitious anime, or arguably even compared to aBe’s previous Serial Experiments: Lain.) Its gentle mood has been echoed by iyashikei shows like Aria and the more recent Sora no Woto, but Haibane Renmei has a depth that has yet to be matched.

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4. Lucky Star

The first time you watched Lucky Star, you probably scratched your head saying, “Did they really just spend ten minutes talking about chocolate pastry? The second time you watched it, you probably giggled a lot (don’t deny it). The third time, you snorted loudly as you laughed when Konata triple hurricane kicked Street Fighter’s Guile in the head, making everyone else in the room look at you funny. Lucky Star is the ultimate otaku anime, brilliantly and at times esoterically funny, wonderfully animated, and endearingly cute. (And let’s not forget…the source of our mascot.)

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3. Gurren Lagann

Say what you want about Gainax, but you can’t argue that they are the kid in the class who always shows up at show-and-tell with something from completely way out in left field: something that usually completely changes how many look at anime. Their animation, from Neon Genesis Evangelion to FLCL to Diebuster to The Wings of Honneamise, brings together interesting thought-provoking ideas, fantastic animation, memorable characters, and story lines that usually make you say “What the f…” Gurren Lagann is no exception, and it is absolutely brilliant MANLY fun. As hilarious, heart- wrenching, and inspiring as any anime we have ever seen, Gurren Lagann makes it into the final 3 of the top ten easily.

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2. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

Despite recent criticisms, few can argue that the pop culture phenomenon known as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was all hype with no substance. This show changed the game in the anime community. With choreographed dances, jumbled up episodes, and an intriguing/funny story of a girl who may be more than she seems, Haruhimania caught on like a California brush fire and quickly climbed the pedestal to becoming the standard to which other future anime were compared. Of course this inevitably led to the disappointments of the 2nd season, but nonetheless Haruhi still stands tall with her fans still salivating for more. And you can’t tell us you aren’t eagerly awaiting The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya this spring just like we are…

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1. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Mamoru Oshii’s original Ghost in the Shell film is one of the pillars of modern anime. Considered a classic, a modern masterpiece, it’s inspired many other works both in Japan and in the United States. It evolved not only how many people see modern animation, but science fiction as a whole (see: The Matrix).

So what happens when you take something that honored, breathe new life into it, and make it better–more watchable and action-packed, without sacrificing its intelligence? You get what we are calling the very best anime of the decade.

Both seasons of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex do just that. They take a classic and makes it better. Production IG pulled no punches delivering a stellar series, bringing in the best animation, direction, cast, music and story together into a seamless anime work of genius. This anime is as close to perfection as one can get, and that is why it tops our list.

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Honorable Mentions

  • Full Metal Panic –a blend of comedy and action that succeeded particularly well in the comedy department. Fumoffu and The Second Raid showed off some of KyoAni’s best, non-moe work too.
  • Samurai Champloo–anime and hip-hop culture meet in one of the most fascinating hybrids created in the decade. The director of Cowboy Bebop doesn’t lose his flair for great music and fluid action.
  • Welcome to the NHK–a harrowing, darkly funny drama about shut-ins and otakudom. A work of brutal self-examination for the darker side of life and fandom.
  • Aria–one of the most notable and famous of the “healing” shows, its art direction, winsome characters, and deliberate pace offers a genuine respite and richness away from the often frentic anime of today.
  • Heroic Age–a grand space opera in the mythic, Star Wars tradition, but with more reflection. High adventure doesn’t get much better than this.

8 thoughts on “AD Top 10 List #1: Top TV Anime of the 2000s

  1. As a very short list of the popular and well-regarded anime of the past decade, this hits all the major ones, except I feel there is one that does not belong. Lucky Star? Really? It’s a nice show, but not top tier like the others. If there was a need to include an otaku-humor based anime, I would’ve considered Genshiken or NHK, which are much more revealing and reflective of the subculture than Lucky Star.

  2. Like Kadian said, “As a very short list of the popular and well-regarded anime of the past decade, this hits all the major ones..”

    Though i do see why Lucky Star made the list, Haibane Renmei suprised me. Its not to say it doesn’t deserve a spot, its just that most people forget or haven’t seen that series.

    Azumanga Daioh seems to clash with Lucky star though :/
    (EDIT: love how i totally said this and then you have a blog about it right there xD Sorry i’m one of those people that thought the opposite :/)

    Some of the titles that suprised me in that they didn’t make it:
    Code Gaess
    Wolfs Rain
    Terra E / Towards the Terra
    Yukikaze (was i the only one to watch this?)

    But then again, i understand this is only a top 10 of what you all watched and personally felt fit on it xD

  3. I will fully defend Lucky Star. I admit it’s a love/hate anime for a lot of people outside of Japan but It is a pinnacle in slice of life. Slice of life has become one of the most important genres in anime in the past 10 years. And in a lot of ways Lucky Star surpassed Azumanga with it’s setting by taking it to the next level and pandering to the very crowd it was made for.

  4. I was one of the people who chose Lucky Star because I felt it represented the Times of the Anime Fandom. It gave fans, especially in Japan, everything they wanted and managed to not bombard people with junk. Or so I’d like to think. Also, even non-hardcore fans can find something to smile about. But yes, it was a difficult toss-up between Azumanga Daioh and Lucky Star.

    I did wish I watched Code Geass all the way through. For some reason, it wasn’t something that tickled my fancy.

    As for Genshiken, maybe I was stone drunk? I can’t believe I didn’t even think about that one! I guess I was trying to be fair because Genshiken is a bible for Otaku, but for people who are not as hardcore, they may not appreciate it as much.

    I don’t know how the rest of the AD staff felt, but that’s my two cents.

  5. I didn’t forget Genshiken at all. It was good… the manga was fantastic. I almost want to go out on a limb and say it was more popular overseas than it was in Japan. I enjoyed it, but there was too much that surpassed the power of both it’s seasons in my mind.

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