Yatta-Tachi folks (9 writers and staff members) have been busy working together on this since December 2019! We voted internally on shows we would recommend, tallied them, and wrote summaries for each of the winning top 5. We then used that to compile a master list of anime we would recommend for y’all to watch based on their debut year. Over the course of the next couple of months, we will be releasing year based spoiler-free recommendation articles for shows from 2010-2019!
Kicking things off is the beginning of the decade, 2010.
#1: Angel Beats
Studio: P.A. Works
Genre: Action, Drama, Comedy, Afterlife, Amnesia, School Life, Supernatural
Synopsis: “Death and reincarnation are inescapable, but what happens in between? Without warning and without his memories, a boy who only recalls his last name – Otonashi – wakes up next to a girl named Yuri who offers him a gun and tells him to shoot an angel. Assuming it must be a misunderstanding, Otonashi is then almost killed by the angel and is drawn into Yuri’s army to battle to delay the beginning of his next life. Immortality is within reach, but if Otonashi remembers how he died, will he keep fighting or allow himself to vanish?” – Anime-Planet
Where You Can Watch Angel Beats: Crunchyroll, VRV, Funimation, Netflix
Why do we recommend Angel Beats:
MDMRN: Angel Beats was a complex series that tackled death, relationships, and our emotions. As each character in Angel Beats copes with a range of emotions, I saw my own struggles in some of the characters. Putting others first to my own detriment like Otonashi; angry at the world over it’s darkness like Yui; and sometimes suppressing my emotions like Kanade. This is why I recommended the series.
It’s fantastical world setting and terrific music are amazing; however, the way it hits on emotions and productive ways of coping I feel are almost more important. Don’t get me wrong, I love the story they created in this limbo-esque world setting; but character development kept me coming back for more.
William: I’ll always stan any Jun Maeda/Key related works that pop up every now and then. With animation done by P.A Works, Angel Beats is a perfect anime combo of fun character melodrama and just a pinch of fantasy. At the end of the series, I won’t be surprised if you cry because Angel Beats will take you along a roller coaster of emotion. All the while, a lingering mystery hides in the background of the story and will keep you intrigued all throughout the anime.
Do I even need to mention the amazing opening and ending credits as well? It matches the tone of the anime so well and is definitely one of its charms. All in all, prepare for some tears to shed and smiles to be made.
Adele: Angel Beats is great for people who like to have their hearts ripped out, stomped on, and then placed gently back into their chest with a kiss. It has AMAZING music to it (seriously, some of the best in episodes songs ever!) If you aren’t a fan of sad shows I wouldn’t recommend this, but if you want something that is going to make you think about life and what you do with yours then pick this one up! I love this show for its deeper meaning of, “even the smallest actions can have the biggest consequences”.
Andrew: Angel Beats is a series that hits on many fronts. It has a beautiful yet complex story that deals with a variety of character backgrounds and emotions. That is then bolstered with well-executed comedy through character dynamics and ridiculous situations. All of that is finally topped off with great music. Seriously, go listen to one of the albums by Girls Dead Monster. Going into the series knowing that it was written by Jun Maeda of Key definitely gave me some expectations for a hard-hitting and moving story and, in my opinion, the series definitely delivered on so many elements.
#2: Baka and Test: Summon The Beasts
Studio: SILVER LINK
Genre: Comedy, School Life, Magic
Synopsis: “Fumizuki Academy is divided into classes ranked based purely on ability; Class A has laptops, reclining seats and ultimate comfort whereas Class F has to settle for a rundown classroom with rotten cushions and rickety coffee tables. Akihisa Yoshii has recently taken the placement exam and finds himself relegated to the lowly Class F along with many of his friends, and they’re far from impressed with their draughty facilities. Luckily, not all is lost as at Fumizuki, classes can declare war on each other to swap rooms by fighting with summoned characters whose strength is based on the users’ test scores. As they dream of escaping their decrepit circumstances, the ‘idiotic’ students of Class F will try whatever they can to reach the dizzy heights of Class A’s luxury, even if it means taking on the entire school in an all-out summoning war!” – Anime-Planet
Where You Can Watch Baka And Test: Hulu, Funimation
Why do we recommend Baka And Test:
William: Baka and Test is a loud, stupid, fun school comedy that will leave you laughing for days. Every character has a special quirkiness to them that makes them memorable and they work off of each other so well in various situations. It’s one of my favorite Shin Onuma productions at Silver Link and every episode has a distinct look and feel, similar to a Shaft anime.
Plus, the anime has its own unique take on the school battle story by using grades to measure power stats. If you ever felt like boasting about that one subject in school you were good at, then I think you’ll find this anime both enjoyable and with a lot of heart.
Kaley: If you love comedy, romance, adorably unique art, school life stories, and GUNDAM, then Baka and Test is right up your alley. This is a laugh-out-loud show that takes the typical school life/teenage romance genre, flips it on its head, and then makes it breakdance. Then we watch it strap into a giant robot and fly off. (I’m only partially joking here.) I’ve watched this show at least four times all the way through, and I still find new things in the background. And while I normally prefer watching subs, the dub for Baka and Test is so good that I actually prefer it to the Japanese. This is easily one of my go-to shows when I’m in need of a good laugh or ten. With fun characters to get behind, unique twists on cliche tropes, and art that still blows me away, it’s well worth a watch.
Adele: Baka and Test is for those of us who did not have the best High School years. Where studying is hard and getting good grades is harder, Baka and Test puts a hilarious spin on classroom drama. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to battle other classrooms for better desks, material, and privileges? This comedy will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. It has a cute art style and great English and Japanese voice actors. I recommend Baka and Test because it’s just a fun anime.
Dazza: When Shin Onuma left Shaft – after working under Akiyuki Shinbo on many Shaft productions like Ef: A Tale of Memories – he made a name for himself at Silver Link, bringing that quirky animation style to the new studio. This alone is the reason you should be watching Baka and Test. As Onuma’s first work at Silver Link, he was able to let loose and enjoy himself, and it shows in a production that was way ahead of its time, and funny to boot! Each episode builds on the story, emotion, and artistic style from the one prior, bringing forth a series that, while probably wouldn’t turn heads these days, was groundbreaking in its day.
Andrew: It is a great school comedy series that I think still stands up to the test of time. The story is a typical school battle shonen anime, but it has a unique take on it that I think would do well in the current era. Not only was the story unique, the cast has so many unique and likable characters. The comedic situations and gags are very well-done and the character interactions rarely fail to make me laugh. I definitely recommend this anime if you’re looking for a fun and solid comedy anime to watch!
#3: Princess Jellyfish
Studio: Brain’s Base
Genre: Comedy, Josei, Fashion
Synopsis: “Tsukimi is an otaku and jellyfish enthusiast whose only means of coping with the world is to reject it: she and her friends live in a house they declare a man-free zone, generally avoid ‘stylish people’, and spend their days blissfully bonding over geeky rituals. As misfortune would have it, their convenient existence is about to be turned on its head by the arrival of Kuranosuke, a seemingly beautiful young woman who is actually a beautiful young man. While he may be strange even by their standards, Kuranosuke embodies everything Tsukimi secretly dreams of being – a princess as ethereal as a floating jellyfish – and promises the kind of mind-boggling adventures only possible when geek meets chic!” – Anime-Planet
Where You Can Watch Princess Jellyfish: Funimation, Amazon Video, Funimation’s YouTube (Dubbed), Funimation’s YouTube (Subbed)
Why do we recommend Princess Jellyfish:
Katy: I honestly can’t praise this show enough. If you love rom-com, fashion, slice-of-life, and just straight up wanna have a good time, I couldn’t recommend Princess Jellyfish more. The show gives you an interesting perspective into the world of introverted otaku, and how they navigate around the busy and bustling city of Tokyo. It redefines what society considers “standard” or “normal” in different facets, including fashion, gender/identity stereotypes, social interactions, and more. If you are an introvert, you can find yourself relating to the characters and the struggle they encounter. The chemistry of the two main characters is refreshing, and something I truly wish happened more often in shows. Oh, did I mention they do hilarious pop culture references all throughout the show?
If you are a fan of the fashion in Nana (bring Nana back, you cowards!) and/or any CLAMP shows like Card Captor Sakura, or the comedic atmosphere of Ouran Host Club (sans the reverse harem), then you should treat yo self by giving this show a try!
Bill: Princess Jellyfish is basically perfect. The visual style and character designs are immediately identifiable and super cute. The music is excellent, especially the very underrated OP with all its movie references. It even has what I consider to be one of Funimation’s best dubs, but the real star is the plot. It works as both a cute romance and an ode to the weirdos and losers. At its core it’s about how it’s actually extremely cool to not be “normal.” Being “normal” leads to a terminally “normal” life, but wholeheartedly loving what and who you love and living how you want will lead you to unique and fulfilling experiences. It’s also a fantastic entry point into anime for non-nerds who might balk at more popular shouting and fighting shows. I’m constantly trying to get my friends and family to watch anime, and the one show that always goes over well, whether my victim is a jock friend, my mom, or one of the dudes in my hardcore band, is Princess Jellyfish. Everyone loves it, and that includes you.
Studio: J.C. Staff
Genre: Comedy, Romance, School Life, Shojo
Synopsis: “President of the Student Council at the almost-all-boys Seika High School, the hard-as-nails Misaki Ayuzawa works every day to make life easier on the small population of co-eds who have enrolled there. Though an unholy terror to all things male during school hours, in order to provide for her impoverished family, she secretly works after school at a maid cafe in Akihabara. However, when campus hottie Usui Takumi wanders into the restaurant during her shift, suddenly she finds her reputation in school at his mercy…” – Anime-Planet
Where You Can Watch Maid-Sama!: Hulu, Netflix
Why do we recommend Maid-Sama!:
Kaley: I am such a sucker for rom/coms and I can easily remember Maid-Sama releasing and how my heart about burst from the tsundere-lovey-dovey-cliche scenes. If you’re like me and can’t get enough of those budding romance stories (and you like guarding your ship like a crazed Jack Sparrow), Maid-Sama will give you all that and more.
The characters are adorable and the reactions they have to the bizarre and over-the-top situations they’re in can have you giggling in your seat. And for those of you that live for romance, there are more than enough moments to give you that doki-doki feeling you crave, and too many moments that’ll have you screaming at the TV, “JUST KISS ALREADY!” Or is that just me? Either way, this is an enjoyable all-ages rom-com that does exactly what you want it to.
Adele: Maid-Sama is one of those romantic comedy anime that will lift your spirits after a long day. The main character and her love interest are wholesome loving characters that you just can’t help rooting for. This show will make you laugh, laugh some more, and then laugh so hard you’re crying into your ramen. Plus there are cute girls in cute maid outfits! What more could you ask for? I like to recommend this show to people who aren’t sure what to watch next. You need to watch Maid-Sama and then when you are done watching it go out and find the manga for it too; you won’t regret it!
#5: Durarara!! (TIED)
Studio: Brain’s Base
Genre: Action, Comedy, Supernatural
Synopsis: “Looking for a change, Mikado moves from the countryside to bustling Ikebukuro to attend the same high school as his best friend, Masaomi. Though navigating a new school and friendships can prove tough by itself, Mikado also finds an overwhelming number of new delights and dangers in the district he now calls home. From a friendly Russian sushi bar to the violent color gangs, to even an urban legend in the form of a black motorcycle rider, each resident of Ikebukuro is unique and frightening. But the town is smaller than it seems at first, and these strange events appear to be connected. Will the growing storm sweep up the transplanted country boy and his friends or will Mikado find himself at the center of a dramatic change for Tokyo?” – Anime-Planet
Where You Can Watch Durarara!!: Crunchyroll, VRV, Hulu
Why do we recommend Durarara!!:
Kaley: Durarara!! is one of those shows that you can’t really explain or figure out but somehow it’s a classic and everyone is saying that you have to watch it and they’re kind of right. It’s a big ball of mystery wrapped around yakuza-esque groups, teen kids, mythical beasts, and a narcissist. You’re not sure how they’re connected, and every episode will leave you questioning what you actually just spent thirty minutes watching until, eventually, one tiny piece clicks and it feels like you’ve unlocked the secrets to the Matrix. And at that point, you’re in too deep and you know the only way out of this addiction is through.
I’ve never seen an anime quite like Durarara!! and that’s part of the allure. While it can be overly confusing at times (what with so many branching stories that are somehow mostly all connected), and with enough characters to populate a small town, it can take a few watches until you actually understand what’s going on. But it’s so, so easy to get attached to a character or two right from the start, and once you do, you’re stuck. But you come to realize you’re pretty okay with being stuck as long as they keep the episodes coming.
Dazza: Durarara!! was another breath of fresh air. With such interesting storytelling methods, mixed in with the gritty realism of Ikebukuro, Durarara!! told many stories at once, intertwined by the city the characters lived in. While I don’t know how true the yakuza roots are in Ikebukuro now, after living in the area for 8 months when I first moved to Tokyo, Takahiro Omori and the rest of the team at Brain’s Base (later Shuka, where the staff of Durarara!! moved to finish the series) perfectly recreated the city. I felt as if I knew the layout of the streets of Ikebukuro before I’d even visited. Sadly now with the new construction surrounding Tokyo 2020, a lot of that is gone, but it’s still there in my heart, damnit!
Deep in its soul, Durarara!! is a character drama, driven by its large cast that aren’t afraid to grow as the dollars fall, mixing in urban legends and street style.
#5: The World God Only Knows (TIED)
Genre: Comedy, Fantasty, Romance, Shonen, Demons, School Life
Synopsis: “Dating sim master Keima Katsuragi wants nothing more than to immerse himself in the 2D world, chasing digital girlfriends. But when the so-called ‘Capturing God’ answers a mysterious email from an unknown sender, Keima finds himself chasing down real-life ladies in an attempt to help the peppy demon Elsie de Lute Irma capture ‘lost souls’ escaped from the depths of hell. Now, lest the explosive collar around his neck detonate, Keima must convince various girls to fall in love with him in order to scare out the souls hiding in their hearts.” – Anime-Planet
Where You Can Watch The World God Only Knows: Crunchryoll, VRV
Why do we recommend The World God Only Knows:
William: The World God Only Knows offers an interesting take on the romantic visual novel anime trope. The main character, Keima Katsuragi, is so obsessed with playing these types of games to conquer girls that it influences how he interacts with them in real life. Funny enough, the anime serves as a nice parody of such tropes when it’s handling its own story arcs. Like any visual novel, certain endings in the anime have a bittersweet feeling to them while others conclude on a pretty good note.
There’s a nice mix of fantasy that enters the story, giving the relationship between Keima and his demon companion, Elsie, enough depth and chemistry. Overall, The World God Only Knows is a perfect romantic comedy that draws upon the influence of games when it comes to relationships. While some may think this may invite tons of cringe-y moments, it manages to avoid that and stay true to its wholesome themes.
Dazza: Even though visual novel adaptations (or visual novel-like) are for the most part groan-worthy, The World God Only Knows upends all these trends and makes for a heartwarming anime series that’ll tug at the heartstrings. At the start, the series starts as the usual rom-com with a silly, annoying protagonist, but when the world is opened and the concept is explained, the show doesn’t stop drawing you in.
By far the best arc in the series, and one of the best arcs in anime, the Goddess Arc, takes place in the series’ third season, and even the lead up to that arc is worth it.
#5: High School Of The Dead (TIED)
Genre: Action, Ecchi, Horror, Zombies, Shonen, Mature
Synopsis: “When the infected approached Rei and Takashi’s school, it led to a gruesome blood bath that left the majority of students and staff dead or turned into the zombie-like monsters that have spread throughout the world. Together with a handful of other survivors, Rei and Takashi set forth to find their families in a world that is rapidly deteriorating. Governments have collapsed, the killer disease is out of control, and people everywhere are trying their best to simply live through each day…” – Anime-Planet
Where You Can Watch High School Of The Dead: Hulu, HIDIVE, VRV
Why do we recommend High School Of The Dead:
William: I think it’s important that High School of the Dead made it on this list because it’s one of the few zombie anime people think of that represents the genre. It’s also probably the most requested show to get a second season. Alas, it’s unlikely that will happen, but let’s talk about it anyway.
I love how High School of the Dead revels in its fan service. It’s almost laughable to see how proportioned the female characters are in this anime, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s also a guilty pleasure of mine. Most of the standard zombie apocalypse tropes are present, along with some violent, bloody moments. The cast is driven by a bunch of angsty, naive teenagers, slicing and shooting the daylights out of zombies. There’s also lots of boobs and panty shots, so High School of the Dead is perfect dumb fun for both horror and ecchi fans alike.
Kaley: High School of the Dead is one of those anime that’s best explained like this: imagine a train full of trash, and that train is going 100mph and starts to derail only to be met with a dozen garbage trucks, and they’re all about to tumble down a hill into–you guessed it–a dump. Then it all gets set on fire, and you can smell the stench from miles away. It’s a burning, fiery mess that you can’t look away from, and I love it. From the first episode’s insane amount of fan service all the way to the utterly unbelievable last few scenes of the series, High School of the Dead will suck you in like a drug and spit you out when your mind has dispersed into the ether.
The characters are textbook definitions of their tropes and the story doesn’t do anything spectacular, but when you’re watching the show, you don’t really mind. You’re too focused on seeing just how far the author will take the show. How much fan service will they fit in? How many tropes can they add? Just how long can they make a shower scene last before the rating ticks over to AO? So if you like some awesome art, zombie apocalypse stories, and utter trash that you can bury yourself in like a bunny in her warren, watch it.
Andrew: High School of the Dead is a zombie apocalypse survival series taken to the next level. It’s not a deep or compelling series but it’s definitely a fun one. That’s one reason I think it deserves a watch. In the never-ending quest for amazing anime that makes us think deeply or shed tears, I think series that are mindless and fun are needed.
The series is incredibly self-aware about the type of series it is, allowing it to take things like fan service and even physics to the next level of ridiculous. The easiest way to summarize this series is: Zombies, guns, and boobs.