With the 21st century having been in full swing for nearly two decades, quite a lot has changed in various perspectives of human culture, but of course, we’re here to keep you updated with anime culture, regardless of the era! That being said, recent times seem to have spawned some of the most exciting titles in a while and for many, they just haven’t been the kind of shows that fade to black in people’s minds. We’re talking anime that’s influential, incredible and, at this rate, soon to be essential. A lot of amazing anime has found its way onto our screens and, despite being only just over halfway through this decade, we knew we had to put together a list of some of the anime we believe will still be making the world turn, hearts burn and many viewers return – the Top 10 Unforgettable Anime. These are shows that not even amnesia could erase, so make a mental note!
There are spoilers ahead that you definitely won’t forget, so tread carefully!
10. Ore Monogatari! (My Love Story)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2015 – September 2015
At a staggering two meters tall, Gouda Takeo is by no means a regular high schooler, let alone a high school freshman. Admired by his peers for his brute strength, he should be enjoying an amazing high school life; however, his sheer size and brutish looks do not offer him much help in the romance department. His best friend, Sunakawa, on the other hand, enjoys ample attention, even from the girls Takeo has liked. Despite falling in love with Yamato Rinko after saving her from a molester on the train one day, Takeo is convinced she has feelings for Sunakawa and decides to cheer on his best friend, while quietly wishing that the flowers of Spring would bloom for him too.
Ore Monogatari is different. While bearing some of the tropes and themes common to Shoujo anime, Ore Monogatari seems to stand out and stand tall amongst its peers – whether or not that is due to the sheer size of the protagonist is up for debate, but the protagonist is a fairly big reason why Ore Monogatari won’t be forgotten very easily. Takeo isn’t the conventional eye-candy, “ikemen” main character that we have grown accustomed to in Shoujo anime and even better, his relationship with Yamato Rinko, who eventually becomes his girlfriend (spoiler alert?) is one of the most adorable and heart-warming things we’ve seen in a long time.
Ore Monogatari boasts very likable characters and does have various side-splitting moments with Takeo and Rinko taking centre stage throughout most of them, but all comedy aside, what many people who highly enjoy anime with themes of romance will definitely remember is how Ore Monogatari completely ignored the very anime-like idea of having characters take forever to confess their love for each other and instead, the ship had sailed within four episodes. If that isn’t iconic, we don’t know what is.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 2010 – June 2010
When Ryuugamine Mikado is invited by his childhood friend, Kida Masaomi, to live in Tokyo, he finds the offer too tempting to refuse. Fuelled by the potential excitement of city life as well as stories of a mysterious headless rider frequenting the streets of the Ikebukuro District, Mikado takes to Tokyo. Upon arriving in Tokyo, Mikado comes to the realisation that city life is as exciting as he would’ve expected, as Ikebukuro is full of supernatural phenomena and interesting characters.
Durarara!! is a concoction made up of many different characters who, at first glance, seem to be doing very independent and random things that bear very little significance to the rest of the plot; however, one of the greatest aspects of the show’s layout is the fact that it doesn’t lose its novelty – Durarara!! does not get boring. In the cultural, social and supernatural melting pot that is Ikebukuro, each one of the characters’ stories manage to be captivating and very quickly etch themselves into memory. Stories aside, the characters themselves are quirky and unique and, since money makes the world go round, it’s quite difficult to ignore a show that has “the Dollars” as one of its central factions. Ikebukuro is a concrete jungle indeed.
8. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
Nine and Twelve are two teenage boys who are secretly the terrorist duo known as Sphinx, the entity responsible for an attack on a nuclear facility. The only clues the authorities have in catching the perpetrators is the word “VON”, painted in red letters on the floor of the facility. As Sphinx, Nine and Twelve upload a video to the internet as a statement of their intent to challenge the Japanese authorities and cause widespread chaos across Tokyo. Desperate to apprehend Sphinx and prevent immense damage throughout Tokyo, Detective Shibazaki Kenjirou and the rest of the police have to scramble to find leads to put an end to the madness before it leads to the city’s eventual ruin.
This is one of the few times when it has seemed right to side with the terrorists; Zankyou no Terror is expert at deconstructing the traditional roles that we see in anime protagonists and antagonists. Audiences end up feeling like rooting for the terrorists and hoping the police don’t apprehend the criminals, in terms of traditional “good guy/bad guy” roles, Zankyou no Terror thrives on confusing the audience. The anime also includes a heavy dose of references to mythology and it is the most satisfying thing when everything is explained as the story progresses. Plot devices aside, the soundtrack is an incredible and surreal score and the artwork is excellent. No one will ever forget how they felt when Zankyou no Terror first burst onto the scene and as a result, it has a much-deserved place on our list.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2012 – March 2013
In 22nd century Japan, people’s lives as well as the law are all decided by a supercomputer called the Sibyl System, which uses a means of psychological evaluation in order to determine a person’s likelihood of success in various vocations, as well as their likelihood of committing crimes. In law enforcement, a person’s “Psycho Pass”, an indicator of their mental state and likelihood of committing crimes. It is in this department that Tsunemori Akane and her partner, the enforcer Kougami Shinya, encounter many issues that bring them to the realisation that the Sibyl System may not be as all-knowing as they once thought.
Let us begin with the premise: Psycho-Pass is absolutely gripping from start to finish, but what makes it so amazing is the fact that it asks relevant existential questions of the characters and in a way, one could liken it to the Ghost in the Shell franchise. The fact that technology is rapidly becoming a more integral part of human life makes this series that more compelling because it makes us ask ourselves if we will be headed in the same direction as the characters in the series, with a false sense of security in technology’s ability to dictate our lives. Tsunemori undergoes rapid character development throughout the series as she realises that the “perfect society” that the Sibyl System sought to create, is riddled with imperfections and moral dilemmas.
Visually, Psycho-Pass was appealing as the futuristic setting was slick, dark but also very beautiful and the technology in the series was unbelievable and very well thought out, the most notable being the Dominator that the authorities use to neutralise or execute suspects at Sibyl’s discretion; the Dominators were exciting and intricate weapons that had devastating capabilities. Long story short, years from now, when regulatory technology like the Sibyl System come into existence, a faction of anime-lovers will remember Psycho-Pass and know exactly how to live in a world where whole lives are prescribed by a computer.
6. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 – April 2011
When regular middle schoolers Kaname Madoka and Miki Sayaka meet the new transfer student in their class, Akemi Homura, they’re unaware of the drastic changes that they’re about to experience as, coupled together with Homura, a strange cat-like creature named Kyuubei makes them an offer: Kyuubei will turn them into magical girls, with the power to fulfil their dreams. Being a magical girl herself, Homura tries to talk them out of it, but with her advice falling on deaf ears, Madoka and Sayaka become magical girls, unknowing of the difficulties that lie ahead.
At first glance, Madoka Magica is your classic magical girl anime with adorable characters and costumes; however, unbeknownst to many who first watch the show, it is actually a deconstruction of the magical girl genre as a whole. Where most anime of this nature thrive off of “moe moe kyun” aspects of magical girl life, Madoka Magica is more of a behind the scenes of the life of a magical girl. In that regard, it is a uniquely dark magical girl anime that brings up many questions that simply do not appear in traditional anime of this genre. When it comes to art versus content, Madoka Magica is utterly deceptive as the artwork does not reflect the true nature of the show. It is indeed as they say, everything is not as it seems.
5. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 – September 2013
Isoyama Hajime’s Attack on Titan follows the story of Eren Jaeger, a teenager living in a world where humanity’s place at the top of the food chain was taken by giant humanoid human-killing creatures known as the Titans. Brought to the brink of extinction by the Titans, humanity built a series of walls in order to protect the last surviving humans – a plan which preserved peace for a century, until a 50-meter tall Titan tore a hole in the outermost wall. In the ensuing chaos, Eren Jaeger’s home village of Shiganshina was overrun and his mother killed, prompting his quest to avenge his mother by slaughtering all the Titans and helping humanity reclaim what was lost and end the Titan threat.
An anime which blew up in Japan and abroad in 2013, Attack on Titan has become a major phenomenon and a title which seems to have spurred the emergence of more post-apocalyptic anime titles. Attack on Titan is a brilliant action-packed emotional rollercoaster with very cool characters, amazing animation, an intense musical score composed by Sawano Hiroyuki and an iconic first opening theme song.
The anime has managed to establish itself as a must-see. The antagonistic Titans are, much like the characters, vastly different in looks and nature, and definitely make an impression: they are scary. It is for several reasons that Attack on Titan can be labelled unforgettable, from art, to music, to characters and, most of all, the immensely gripping storyline, Attack on Titan is what many anime fans have craved and has become a phenomenon in and of itself. Wir sind die jaeger!
4. KILL la KILL!
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2013 – March 2014
When Matoi Ryuuko’s father is murdered by an unknown assailant wielding a scissor blade, she decides to commit herself to avenging him. Wielding the half of the scissor blade she found embedded in her father’s back, she makes her way to Honnouji Academy, a prestigious high school, run by student council president, Kiryuuin Satsuki. Honnouji Academy is a school where high-ranking students don ability-augmenting clothes known as Goku Uniforms and, after losing thoroughly to a student in possession of one of these uniforms, Ryuuko stumbles across Kamui Senketsu, a sentient uniform which unlocks latent capabilities upon exposure to Ryuuko’s blood. With Senketsu in tow, Ryuuko returns to Honnouji Academy to truly begin her search for her father’s killer.
With talking clothes, ability enhancing school uniforms and a faction of characters who seem to denounce the concept of clothing entirely, KILL la KILL! is fashionably in 4th place on our list. Beyond the superficial factors, the sheer pace at which the plot advances and the way in which KILL la KILL! executes some of the most ridiculously hilarious situations with ease make it one of the top unforgettable anime of the decade; some might even go as far as say that in a few years’ time, KILL la KILL! will still be highly relevant, despite not being the most popular anime of 2013.
What is most surprising about KILL la KILL! is the way it seems to incorporate elements of comedy and action into its plot, given the quirky nature of each character on the show, most notably Ryuuko’s best friend, Mankanshoku Mako, an eccentric and bubbly character who is one of the most animated of the bunch. All things aside, people will probably never forget this anime because everyone secretly wishes that their wardrobes could speak, it would save us a whole lot of fashion disasters.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
23-year-old calligrapher and narcissist Handa Seishuu found himself in boiling water after punching the well-respected director of an art gallery at an exhibition where his work featured, after being told that his work is “bland” and “boring”. With encouragement from a famous calligrapher, Handa leaves for the Goto Islands in Nagasaki, not knowing about the eccentrics he will meet, in pursuit of a calligraphy style he can call his own.
While not especially popular, Barakamon deals a lot with themes of companionship and the value of reflection on one’s own actions. In many aspects, as a slice-of-life anime, Barakamon is a brilliant example of simplicity yielding ultimate sophistication. With a small cast, a range of hilarious situations come about and the anime is seen as a breath of fresh air. Barakamon is not the type of show you will find being aggressively recommended, but it is immensely enjoyable and perfect for easy watching.
What makes Barakamon worth remembering; however, is the way in which it seamlessly establishes and builds upon the relationships between very unlikely character pairings, such as Handa and his frequent visitor and, to his chagrin a friend as well, six-year-old Kotoishi Naru. While not completely happy about a frequent trespasser, Handa takes a liking to the very outgoing youngster and together, they create some of the most comical moments. And, to make remembering that much easier, Barakamon is followed by the incredibly quirky 2016 series Handa-kun, which deals with Handa’s misadventures as a high schooler. Given time, like Handa, Barakamon will write its own name down in the annals of history in some of the most beautiful characters ever put together on a Japanese island.
2. Tokyo Ghoul
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2014 – September 2014
In a world where humans live alongside human-eating creatures that can integrate into human society known as Ghouls, 18-year-old Kaneki Ken’s life is changed forever when his date with a cute girl with whom he shares the same tastes in literature ends up becoming a life-or-death situation when his date turns out to be Kamishiro Rize, a very dangerous Ghoul known for binge-eating. When it seemed like Kaneki’s final resting place would be a local construction site, steel beams fell on both he and Rize, killing her. Having sustained heavy internal injuries from his contact with Rize, doctors saw it fit to transplant her organs into his body, creating unforeseen changes: Kaneki became a Ghoul himself, finding himself in a very violent world where it is survival of the fittest.
Tokyo Ghoul based on Ishida Sui’s manga of the same name is an anime that became rapidly popular because of its stunning characters, animation and overall badass nature. As one engages more and more with the world of Tokyo Ghoul, they begin to realise that it was written much like a novel, with several motifs, dark themes and most importantly, some of the greatest character development we have seen in recent times.
While many are sold by the sheer aesthetic of the Ghoul universe (rightly so), the anime’s greatest asset is the protagonist, Kaneki Ken. Kaneki undergoes very heavy changes in mind and body over a very short period of time and as the story progresses, we see how pain and agony changed a mild-mannered young man into a ruthless monster. Tokyo Ghoul has etched itself deep into the anime community and will probably never be ignored as an anime. It poses existential questions and themes which relate to different people as they are presented. On a more superficial level, Tokyo Ghoul is violent, gory and at times (read “Season 1, Episode 12”), it showed what some would call the limits of cruelty that can be inflicted by one being on another.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2011 – September 2011
Steins;Gate follows the story of mad-scientist wannabe Okabe Rintarou and his friends who spend their time tinkering with items that they dub “Future Gadgets”, their latest creation being a microwave that can morph bananas into mysterious green goo. While not an entirely ground-breaking invention, after a series of strange events, the device becomes the eventual triumph: the Phone Microwave, a Future Gadget capable of sending text messages to the past. Now armed with the ability to alter the flow of time, Okabe finds himself lost among diverging strands of time, forced to understand first-hand the true meaning of what it is to be able to alter time itself.
What many fans could call one of the greatest time-travel stories ever told, Steins;Gate is a compelling anime that challenges various notions of what it means to travel through time; however, the anime’s true stand-out feature is the immense amount of character development that the protagonist, Okabe Rintarou, undergoes as a result of continuous time-travelling experiences. Fuelled by the grief that grips him when he witnesses the death of his best friend, Shiina Mayuri, at the hands of the mysterious organisation known as SERN, Okabe travels through time endlessly in order to save her life. Of course, it isn’t a seamless task and he ends up witnessing her death countless times, a fact which destroys him mentally.
Steins;Gate is an intense journey into the age-old scientific concept of time-travel, but what will keep the series timeless is the amazing way in which presents some of these scientific concepts, all while rooting itself in relative reality with the presence of characters such as John Titor, a person with interesting real-world significance. Steins;Gate will definitely be remembered for the way in which Okabe challenged the flow of time in order to save lives and for as long as time-travel is a relevant concept in reality, Steins;Gate will remain just as relevant. El. Psy. Congroo.
While many different anime evoke different emotions in different people, sometimes there is a general consensus, regardless of how people perceived a certain show, sometimes an anime will find itself deeply entrenched in the anime community for various reasons. What can be said for sure; however, is that there is a plethora of shows that could bear the tag of “unforgettable”, which is why in order to further ensure that they are never absent from people’s minds, we create lists such as these, but also allow readers to put some of their favourites down too. So hurry, drop a comment below and tell us which anime of the 2010s was unforgettable in your eyes – quickly before we forget!