Now that I completed my Top Ten Anime from the 80’s and 90’s list, I thought that I would tackle the early 2000’s and then the 2010’s. While I think that the decade wouldn’t have the same impact that the 90’s did, every decade is going to have the own profound anime series. I’m not sure how I would characterize this decade. However, I did notice that swordsmen were more popular than the previous decade.
Honorable Mention: Bleach, Fairy Tail, Inuyasha, Jo Jo Bizarre, Digimon)
10. Inuyasha – 2000/2009
The series is about Kagome Higurashi, a teenage girl that is transported form modern day Tokyo to the Sengoku period. While there she meets a half dog demon named Inuyasha. Together they try to regain the shards of the Shikon jewel, to prevent the demon Naraku from obtaining it. They gain a number of allies, as they fall in love. I personally have a love hate relationship with this series.
Basically, I loved it now I hate. Or at least hated. Part of this was due to the separating of the series in two five years apart. The series felt circular and I was waiting for it too end. That said, I enjoyed it this series, especially the movies. Inuyasha had a love story that I wasn’t use to. In addition to this it had humor and action. The dynamics of the Inuyasha and Kagome love story and the collection of the Shikon Jewel shards got tedious at times. However, the series is still one of the highest regarded anime series.
9. Hellsing – 2001/2006
Hellsing is an adapted anime series from Kouta Hirano. The series focuses on the secret Hellsing Organization as it fights against the vampires, ghouls, and other supernatural beings in Great Britain. The anime was different from the manga in terms of plot, though it kept the characters. At the beginning of the series a vampire is turning villagers into ghouls. The head of the Hellsing Organization, Integra Hellsing, sends Hellsing most powerful agent, a vampire named Alucard. The series explores themes like the meaning of being human and religion. It has a overall dark tone and a bittersweet ending. If you like bloody, violent battles with an immortal hero that’s probably a sociopath, Hellsing is for you.
8. Afro Samurai – 2007
A seinen manga series that was adapted into an anime in 2007, Afro Samurai, is the brainchild of Takashi Okazaki. Afro Samurai is a largely typical action anime series, except that it focuses on an black protagonists. The anime three years to make. At some point Samuel L. Jackson learned of the adaptation and together with Takashi Okazaki and Japanese Studio Gonzo decided to work together. In addition to this, The RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, created the musical score. Afro was inspired by Okazaki’s fondness for hip hop and soul music, and the legendary black samurai Yasuke.
Set in a futuristic feudal Japan, Afro Samurai, is the holder of the Number 1 headband. He possess god-like powers and is the best swordsmen as a result. The headband grants immortality to the holder of the number 1. However, the holder of the number 2 headband can kill the number 1. This creates a target of the number 2. As a child, Afro witness his father (Rokutaro) a former holder of the number 1 headband, being killed by the gunslinger Justice. Afro vows revenge. The series is mainly straight forward, but highly stylized. The animation is top notch with fight scenes and music that are epic.
7. Sword of the Stranger – 2007
I don’t remember how I stubble upon of Sword of the Stranger, but I was glad I did. Directed by Masahiro Ando and animated by Bones, Sword of the Stranger, follows Kotaro. He escapes from a mysterious pursers with his dog, Tobimaru. Kotaro meets Nanashi, a wandering swordsman inside a decaying temple. Throughout their travels, Nanashi fights Luo-Lang, a skilled swordsman that’s powered mad and craves a strong opponent. Nanashi proves to be that opponent.
It is revealed that Kotaro is believed to be a “prophesied child,” who’s blood can be used for an “elixir of immortality.” Nanashi is revealed to have been a child killer an act that forced him to stop using his sword. In order to save Kotaro he finally unsheathes his sword. This results in a final duel between Luo-Lang and Nanashi. This scene is hands down one of the best animated sword fights ever. I would recommend this movie just to watch this scene.
6. Naruto – 2002
Naruto is one of the greatest anime/manga series of all time. However, I prefer the manga to the anime. This is largely due to the large amount of filler and inconsistent animation. Otherwise, Naruto would rank much higher. The art style of Kishimoto didn’t really translate well. However, the peak aspects of the show are among the best. Particularly, fights like Rock Lee vs Gaara. The animation improved with Naruto: Shippuden, but the filler remains an issue.
Naruto follows the life of Naruto Uzumaki, a young orphaned ninja. He seeks to gain the recognition of his peers and aims to become the Hokage (the strongest ninja). Like most shonen anime the combat is the most enjoyable aspect of the show. However, Naruto does have character development and interesting story-lines.
5. Samurai Champloo – 2004
Samurai Champloo is an anime series from the creator of Cowboy Bebop, Shinichiro Watanabe. Set in the Edo period, Champloo blends elements of action, adventure and comedy. Like his use of Jazz in Cowboy Bebop, Watanabe uses Hip Hop in this series. The animation is well choreographed and fluid. Like Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo focuses on three main protagonists, vagabond Mugen, Ronin Jin and waitress Fuu. It is Fuu that convinces them to aid her in her search for the samurai who “smells of sunflowers.”
The world of Samurai Champloo is deliberately designed to reflect international hip hop culture. The score features hip hop beats from Japanese artists. Mugen’s fighting style even resembles break dancing. Samurai Champloo touches on themes from government corruption, class separation, discrimination and crime. Shinichiro Watanabe continues to create top quality work and while Samurai Champloo doesn’t surpass Cowboy Bebop it’s worth watching.
4. Death Note – 2006
Light Yagami is a teenage genius the accidentally finds a notebook called the “Death Note.” Belonging to Shinigami Ryuk, the book gives the holder the ability to kill anyone that name is written in the book. Light uses this book to attempt to kill those he deems unworthy of living. Under the name of Kira, he begins his tyranny as he tries to exterminate criminals to get to the utopian society he craves. What results is a cat and mouse battle of wits between Kira and L. An strange genius international detective, L tries to apprehend Kira using his smarts.
This isn’t the type of series that I normally gravitate towards, but it was an amazing series. Death Note ask us to explore whether anyone should “play God,” and is power corrupting. Light is initially a presented as a well behaved young genius, however, once he gains the death note he becomes a homicidal maniac. Is this the result of the death note or was light always this way? The audience starts out on Lights side then we hope that he receives the justice he thinks he administers.
3. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – 2007
Gurren Lagann is a visually marvel from Gainax. The animation never waivers from it’s high quality. The show is an action packed series that increases the size of the robots with nearly every battle. Incredible imaginative, emotionally impactful and full of awesome mecha battles, Gurren Lagann is a must watch series. Taking place in a future world where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King. Lordgenome forces mankind to live underneath the ground. They have no contact with the surface and are under threats from earthquakes.
Simon a short digger and his “brother” Kamina, have a dream of reaching the surface. Armed with a “core drill” and a small mecha, Simon, Kamina and the rest of their gang, rise from the subterranean village to outer space. As they do they bring humanity form oppression to freedom.
2. FLCL – 2003
FLCL or Fooly Cooly is a series that’s hard to describe. A 6 episode OVA, follows Naota, a 12 year old boy. Bored with his life, his life changes when he encounters the manic Haruko. A intergalactic police officer looking for a Pirate King, she wields a bass guitar. After this encounter, Naota’s forehead begins to spawn giant robots when it becomes an intergalactic gateway for them. What follows is a sporadic Space Opera, that plays with the fourth wall, with dynamic animation to match.
I don’t think that FLCL is for everyone, but I would recommend it to anyone. However, you might need to re-watch it multiple times before it makes sense. If it ever does. With studios like Gainax and Production I.G at the helm, FLCL excels in almost every way. The music is phenomenal and the use of color is visually stunning. Naota finally get’s the adventure he wanted and we are along for the ride.
1. FullMetal Alchemists – 2003/2009
Edward and Alphonse Elric’s arrogance and disregard for the rules of alchemy results in Al losing his body and Ed loses an arm and a leg. The brothers go on a journey to restore their bodies. Along the way they join the government military, with Edward becoming a State Alchemists. Ed, AL and many others search for the Philosopher’s Stone that grants it’s holder anything they wish. The brothers learn the hidden truth of the world they inhabit.
Fullmetal Alchemists is a complex story that explores many difficult themes. Some themes like genocide, the meaning of life, war and lost, result in series that is both action packed and though provoking. Fullmetal balances these dark themes with good action and humor. This is the reason Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most beloved anime series of all time.