Image via Studio Ghibli
Animated has grown over the years. Whether you like action, supernatural or fantasy, there is a show for you. But what is interesting with anime is how each show or movie leaves an impact or resonates with the audience. Perhaps the show did more than entertain. There are so many factors that help describe the anime as “the best”.
There are a handful of anime shows and movies released over the years that deserve such a statement. Whether it’s because of their impact in the anime community or the historical significance of the series or movie, here are the best anime from each decade worth watching.
1930 – Benkei and Ushiwaka (1939)
Benkei and Ushiwaka is a short film directed by Kenzo Masaoka. It is the very first anime known to be produced and tells the story of a legendary encounter between Saito Musashibo Benkei and Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Many early Japanese stories were based on the country’s legends and folklore, but were realized through art and still images. This story – adapted into an animated image – became the first step in what anime would become in the future.
1940 – The spider and the tulip (1943)
The spider and the tulip was described as one of the greatest animated productions of all time in 2001. It depicts a spider that tried to lure a beetle to its web by singing but was saved by a tulip. During a thunderstorm, the tulip protected the beetle, which allowed it to survive. This old anime has been restored by Funimation and was released on Blu-ray with Momotaro – Sacred Sailorsso surely this old classic still resonates with anime historians.
1950 – mole’s adventure (1959)
mole’s adventure was a sci-fi short described as the first Japanese broadcast on television. The film tells the story of a mole that left Earth on a rocket and discovered unusual flora and fauna. This anime made history as Japan’s first full-color television anime while being an original in its own right.
1960 – Astro Boy (1963)
Astro Boy is one of the very first anime to be an adaptation of a popular manga series, which would soon become a constant trend in future anime. This anime adaptation of the 1952 manga series aired in 1963 and told the story of a young android boy created to replace Dr. Tenma’s son, who was killed in an accident. The anime introduced viewers to a world where robots and humans co-existed and led to the rise of the mech/robot anime genre.
1970 – Gundam mobile suit (1979)
After Astro Boymecha, and robot-themed anime were on the rise in the 70s. But nothing can compare to the impact that Mobile Suit Gundam left on the mainstream compared to the other mech anime that was released at the time. Mobile Suit Gundam became one of the genre’s biggest staples as it told the story of mankind trying to win a war using large mech suits. But it’s not just the hobby that has made Mobile Suit Gundam iconic. The show itself was about humanity trying to win a war using large mech suit robots. This type of fight would later influence other anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion.
It’s not just the storytelling that made this anime great. It spawned a community of Gundam builders – people who build Gundam models – and the hobby has grown so big that there are official competitions for building Gunpla (Gundam plastic models). This inspired fans of the series to build their own models and, if they were bold enough, modify them to their liking.
1980 – Akira (1998)
The 80s were known as the golden age of anime. It featured great storytellers of the genre such as Hayao Miyazaki and major production companies such as Studio Ghibli. But if there’s one anime that defined the era, it’s Akira. Akira is described as one of the most influential anime before the animation genre became popular in western countries. The film not only influenced Western cartoons with its action-packed scenes – most notably: the Akira slide – but it also told a story about a world after World War II. This film popularized the genre outside of Japan and is described by several film critics as one of the best science fiction films of all time.
1990 – Pokemon (1997)
Pokemon was most people’s first anime and it’s still going strong to this day. The anime showcased the colorful world of Pokémon seen in the mainline games and how each region is different from the others. This anime series has gained popularity in Japan and the United States, spanning over 20 seasons, movies, and spinoffs, both of which aired on TV and online. But it wasn’t just the shows that were memorable. Even the theme song and the PokéRap were also iconic for Pokemon and anime fans.
The fact that this show is still ongoing – with fans wondering if Ash will ever become a Pokemon Master – shows that there is still strong interest in this series.
2000 – Taken away as if by magic (2001)
According to fans and criticsTaken away as if by magic has to be the best anime released in the new millennium. It was the very first anime that won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003 after The Walt Disney Company acquired the film’s distribution rights in America and Western countries. But not only that, if you mention Studio Ghibli to someone, the first anime that will especially come to your mind is Taken away as if by magic.
This film introduced the Japanese supernatural to a new audience. It introduced them to spirits and offerings, which is common when visiting shrines – and sometimes memorials and haunted places – in Japan.
The public is about to wonder how this little girl is going to save her family. Hayao Miyazaki is considered one of the best Japanese storytellers of all time.
2010 – Sword Art Online (2012)
Sword Art Online came out when esports and video games were becoming mainstream. 2012 was the year Twitch started live-streaming eSports competitions, and for the younger generation, it was the year Club Penguin launched its biggest in-game event – “Operation Blackout”. But it wasn’t just a great year for video games. Prior to the release of SAO, Crunchyroll became a legal anime distributor for Western countries, giving fans more access to Japanese content.
Sword Art Online was considered the very first anime for new and younger fans because it was accessible, the plot resonated with online trends, and had a promising premise that hooked viewers. It was an isekai show that had an emotional impact on the audience. And while some stories are hit and miss, you have to admit there are some good characters you could relate to.
While it’s still too early to decide which anime could define the 2020s, there are a few contenders who could receive the title of “best anime of this decade.” With Jujutsu Kaisen breaking records and Spy x Family catching the attention of both veteran and new audiences alike, it’s time to decide which anime is considered the best of its time.