10. My Hero Academia
Western animation is often influenced by animation from the East, but the past decade has seen a reversal of this, with My Hero Academia being a shining example. Heavily inspired by Western comics and characters, My Hero Academia is the superhero show to beat and the most well-rounded anime on the list. In the world of My Hero Academia, people are born with powers called “quirks,” but there is a small percentage of those who are born quirkless, such as the hero of the story, Izuku Midoriya. When his best friend is attacked by a villain, Midoriya instinctively steps in to save him, which touches the heart of All Might, the number one hero of Japan. Due to an incredible wound from a long-ago fought battle, All Might chooses Midoriya as the successor to his power, All for One, a quirk that can be transferred from person to person. Now that we’ve got that backstory out of the way, let’s talk about why this is one of the biggest hits in both Japan and North America. People love heroes. It’s true, people love to root for a hero who represents their perfect ideals; it’s why the superhero genre is so popular, and fictional heroes such as Batman and Spider-Man are prominent across the world. But what makes My Hero Academia different is that it grapples with what would happen to society if most of the population had the power to be superheroes or villains. As young Midoriya begins his training as a hero, we are introduced to a fully-fleshed-out world brimming with characters worth rooting for and against. By all accounts, My Hero Academia is the people’s anime, filled with wholesome and memorable moments and dialogue that leaves its fans talking for months.
9. Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life
To be honest, I took a random chance with this anime, and, to be honest, no animation has made me cry more this year than Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life. Amongst similar music-based animation, it is rather simple in narrative. A high school Koto club, dedicated to playing a traditional Japanese string instrument, aims to compete in the national competition, but to simply sum it up to that would be a huge disservice to the actual content of the series. Each member of the Koto club joins for their own reasons, but just as their skills of playing together grow powerful, so does their bond. What makes Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life stand above other slice-of-life and music animations is the emotional character arcs each character goes through and the payoff of watching their trials and tribulations. You watch these characters fail time and time and again but when they succeed and have a breakthrough, tears will rush down your face. But nothing compares to the music scenes. I had no idea what a Koto was or how one would even play it, but by the end of both seasons that aired this year, I have newfound respect for the instrument. Like the music featured in the anime, Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life is a work of art that transcends language barriers and cultures.
8. OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes
Like My Hero Academia, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is an animation wherein its society is based on becoming a superhero, to the point that each person has a ranking card that displays their power level. And like My Hero Academia, it serves as a commentary on the superhero tropes we must know and expect. And that is where the comparison ends. OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes in its rawest form is a tribute to Saturday morning cartoons. Consisting of wacky animation, bizarre characters, and, of course, hijinks, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes is the perfect show to revisit time and time again, especially due to its short episodes. The series was first released in 2018, but it wasn’t until 2019 that it hit its stride, which is unfortunate because, like Tuca & Bertie, it was canceled despite having a very vocal fanbase.
7. The Amazing World Of Gumball
Everything I have to say about The Amazing World of Gumball, aka the pinnacle of creativity in Western animation, can be found in my best of the decade list. But even now, I find myself thinking about the episodes that just won’t leave my mind, and just how much went into each bit. What is even more fascinating is how each episode can be watched at random (like Seinfield), but just like any other sitcom, the more you watch the ongoing gags, the more you appreciate the humor. The series ended in 2019 with a conclusion that won’t make everyone happy, but even then the episodes that led up to it are some of the series’ best. If you can’t find a place to stream or rent it, just watch a few clips on YouTube and discover The Amazing World of Gumball for yourself.
6. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind
Each season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is entirely unique when it comes to its animation, main characters, and villains, yet every time a new season premieres, it dominates the animation list of that year. Most of this is thanks to the brilliance of Hirohiko Araki, creator of the manga series. Seeing these characters and their powers in animated form is a work of art. The only downside is that in order to truly appreciate JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind, which is part five of the overall story, you have to have watched the previous parts or you will be left quite confused by a few of the powers and characters. But despite not being accessible to a large audience, Golden Wind is at the peak of 2019 animation, featuring a unique animation style that makes the characters feel like they were ripped right from the very manga panels themselves. The detail doesn’t just stop with the animation; Araki keeps introducing crazier and crazier powers, yet he provides such complex battles between the characters that nothing feels like he just came up with it on the spot. Complex in animation and writing, JoJo’s Bizarre Advenure is at its surface sure to bring fans of animation in, but once you delve deeper in you will discover a series that is worthy of being called one of the best animated series of each respective year a new season premieres in.