Shamefully, I confess that my 12 Days plans have fallen through almost completely. Another embarrassing year. I hope to get my shit together and post one or two projects I had intended to get out this December in January but whatever else I don’t manage to do, thankfully at least I can say I have my Best of the Decade anime list done.
And here’s the first part of it!
30. Flip Flappers (Fall 2016)
I’ll admit it’s been some time since I saw Flip Flappers, and I didn’t even livetweet it so my thoughts on it are a little underdeveloped compared to some other things further down this list. But Cocona and her Papika’s journey through effervescent dream worlds filled with villains, action spectacles and a whole lot of young lesbian self-discovery remains one of the most striking productions in recent memory.
29. Shirobako (Fall 2014-Winter 2015)
As anime go, Shirobako is truly as win-win as they come. It’s a goofy comedy with extremely moe girls, some incredibly out there dream sequences, and an all-round charming cast; but for every drop of that it is just as much a harrowing, stressful-as-hell workplace drama that refuses to take it easy on its cast or its audience. It can’t go wrong. It won’t go wrong. Win-win.
28. Oregairu (Spring 2013, Spring 2015)
Oregairu is one of those painful shows about growing up that are often too close to home to unabashedly love but simply too good to dislike. Hachiman is every teenage boy who finds himself unable to click with his school environment, and his constant struggle to act in his and his friends’ best interests while maintaining his own disinterested facade often hurts to watch. People are difficult. Growing up is hard.
27. K-on! (and its Movie) (Spring 2009, Spring-Summer 2010, Fall 2011)
Okay so I started crying as I was trying to write this up so instead I’ll just leave you with some of the lyrics from my favourite K-on!! song and make you cry too.
I think I’ve been spoiled too much
Because you’re too good to me
All you do is give and give to me but I can’t give you anything in return
I always thought that having you by my side was just something ordinary
I thought that days like these would go on forever
I’m so sorry, I’ve realized now
That the time we shared was truly special
Please let me deliver these words to you
Will my feelings reach your heart?
I’m not so sure of myself right now but
Don’t laugh, okay? Please listen to me
‘Cause I’m gonna put all my feelings into this song
I would like to give you every ounce of my gratitude
And send it to you through this song
This is a feeling I will never, ever forget
Oh feelings, please get through
26. Mayoiga (Spring 2016)
Mayoiga is incomparable. I’m at a complete loss as to how to describe it. Fueled by Mari Okada’s pathos and Tsutomu Mizushima’s excellent comedic direction, Mayoiga is an epic tale of mystery and facing your fears… and also the most ridiculous romp in all of anime since Garzey’s Wing. It’s a masterpiece.
25. Carole & Tuesday (Spring-Summer 2019)
The first Shinichiro Watanabe show I’ve had a chance to enjoy (with the exception of Terror in Resonance, not counted here because I have precisely zero memories of it), Carole & Tuesday is simply good. One of the most visually beautiful anime of all time, it mostly shines with its burning passion for music and the people who make it, and with a determined rejection of nationalist politics to wrap up the package. Carole & Tuesday is ambitious; I would almost call it too ambitious, as it doesn’t quite manage to unify its goals for the finale, and its failure to truly stick the landing knocks it down several spots on this list. It’s still absolutely worth the trip.
24. Shinsekai Yori (Fall 2012-Winter 2013)
Shin Sekai Yori has issues, chief among them its relatively bland cast and frequently disastrous pacing. Getting the bad parts out of the way, Shin Sekai Yori is also pretty much the holy grail of worldbuilding in anime and almost unquestionably the greatest piece of speculative fiction I have seen animated. The show is an utterly damning look at the cruelty and paranoia of a society with too much power over others, and our protagonists, the flawed, weak-willed “moderates” that they become after long years of growing up in this inhumane system, only serve to highlight the cruelty we enact on the oppressed when we try to determine what their emancipation should look like.
23. Aikatsu! (Fall 2012-Winter 2016)
Aikatsu is a show that does everything. From surprisingly subtle anxious and depressive ruminations over solid interpersonal drama to being a straight-up Mecha Action Comedy that one time, its usual, casually goofy self allows the show to be anything it wants to be whenever it wants to be; there’s a reason “Is this really aikatsu?” is such a well-known phrase. More importantly than that, Aikatsu is fun and its main theme of inheriting your predecessor’s passion and inspiration and making them your own ring universally true, no matter which of its many, many characters we are following.
22. Yuri Kuma Arashi (Winter 2015)
While often and arguably rightfully overlooked in favour of Ikuhara’s more prominent works, Yurikuma’s brevity offers a strength of focus in return that none of his other shows to date are capable of truly matching. This strength of focus has its own downsides in turn (this is probably Ikuhara’s least human cast) but for a gorgeously aesthetic joyride through the trials of social exclusion faced by young lesbians it’s hard to find a series that is as committed to exploring the topic. Yuri Kuma is way, way better than it is commonly given credit for.
21. Fruits Basket (2019) (Spring-Summer 2019)
When Tohru said the above line, I almost cried right then and there. Fruits Basket is a little messy at times, and a little dated at others, and it sure is frightfully heteronormative, but… more than anything else, Fruits Basket is kind. Fruits Basket understands that people are complicated, life is hard and so many of us are flawed beyond easy recognition when you look just a little beyond the surface, and in the face of these flaws, Fruits Basket responds with love. Love will not fix all your problems, it says… but love starts the healing. Be kind to each other. If someone means anything to you, treat them with love.
Continued in… tomorrow’s post which will be linked here.