Best 2000s anime, clockwise from top left: 'Samurai Champloo,' 'Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,' 'Gurren Lagann,' and 'Death Note'

The Best Anime of the 2000s

Y2K BABY!

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Remember when Y2K was about MORE than simply experiencing budding queer feelings for a certain green ogre? Or Smash Mouth? Or Mean Girls? Or any of the other things that The Last of Us characters missed out on? Remember how the very phrase “Y2K” struck ABJECT TERROR in the hearts of everyone born before 1980? I don’t, I was too busy picking my nose and wiping boogers on things but that’s BESIDE the point.

Y2K was once briefly a synonym for “apocalypse.” People thought that the new millennium would cause all the world’s computers to reset their double digit internal clocks to the year “00”, which would cause them to simultaneously CRASH and bring the planet to a screeching halt. Planes would fall out of the sky, they said! Economies would collapse! The world would end! And did it? Yes and no. No because nothing bad happened, but YES because the while the regular world survived, the old world of anime was destroyed, and a NEW GOLDEN AGE of anime was ushered in.

The 2000s had some of the very best anime in history. Don’t believe me? Feast your millennial eyes on these:

15. Naruto

Image from Naruto
(Pierrot)

Why is Naruto, one of the Big Three anime and perhaps the second most influential shonen anime (after One Piece) ever created. Because I’m petty. I have a love/hate relationship with this show. I think that Naruto – the story of a young ninja with undiagnosed ADHD and his rise to greatness – is one of the worst best stories ever told. The series features iconic character designs, unforgettable fight scenes, and one of the most bangin’ anime scores ever written. However, the show’s PACING makes me want to tear my hair out and eat it. What’s that? A character just did a dope-ass jutsu and gained the upper hand in a critical fight? Let’s CUT TO THEIR BACKSTORY THAT WE’VE ALREADY SEEN FOR THE FIFTIETH TIME.

14. Clannad: After Story

A man hugs a child at sunset in "Clannad: After Story"
(Kyoto Animation)

Fans of the original Clannad remember it as a goofy slice of life comedy harem anime of middling quality. A good laugh, but nothing more. Clannad: After Story shows what happens after the high school hi-jinks are over and the happily-ever-after couples struggle to stay happy after all. After Story is a notorious tear-jerker of an anime, whose mature themes place it at a much high level of esteem than afforded to its silly predecessor. All part of growing up.

13. Nana

Nana stares at Nana smoking a cigarette in "Nana" while on a train

Nana is the story of two twenty something girls both named Nana who form an unlikely friendship while trying to navigate their professional and romantic lives in the big city. If you’re looking for the Skins of the anime world, Nana is as close as you’re ever gonna get. Fair warning: Nana and Nana do NOT end up together despite the belligerent sexual tension between the two of them. If you’re looking for a girl x girl anime, I figured I should crush your hopes now.

12. Afro Samurai

Afro Samurai prepares to draw his sword in "Afro Samurai"
(Gonzo)

Afro Samurai features Samuel L. Jackson and Ron Pearlman to make one of the coldest anime dubs ever. The story is about the titular wandering samurai, who holds the coveted #2 headband. His goal? To kill the man holding the #1 headband. The problem? Every warrior worth and not worth their respective salt is trying to take Afro’s #2 headband away from him… through murder.

11. Mononoke

The medicine seller smirks calmly in a hotel while two confused patrons look on in "Mononoke"
(Toei Animation)

Mononoke is part horror and part spiritual detective anime, as well as a ten course visual feast. The wandering Medicine Seller travels from town to folklore-era Japan town ridding the populace of the harmful yokai (traditional Japanese spirit-monsters) who afflict them. The anime is visually stunning, mature, and a total after-hours vibe. The only critique I have of the show is that it should be longer.

10. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

The cast of 'The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya'
(Kyoto Animation)

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is a lesser known but well-loved series about a high school student named Kyon who gets entangled with an eccentric girl named Haruhi Suzumiya. Haruhi has the power to change reality with her mind, and Kyon discovers that she is actually a mini-god! Together, Kyon and Haruhi form the SOS Brigade with a cast of other characters to search for supernatural phenomena! Part comedy, part sci-fi, and part slice of life, this anime is an everything bagel of genre, and just as delicious.

9. Monster

Johan Liebert in 'Monster'
(Madhouse)

Monster is without a doubt the best psychological thriller anime ever made. It follows Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a talented young brain surgeon working in Germany. Tenma saves the life of a young boy named Johan, but when a series of grisly murders occur shortly after, he begins to suspect that Johan may be responsible. As the years pass, Tenma discovers that Johan has grown from creepy little kid to mastermind serial killer, and he’s dead set on tying up loose ends from his shadowy past. Tenma becomes determined to stop Johan and begins a dangerous journey across Germany to catch the murderer.

8. Mushi-Shi

A man walks in a forest with a toothpick in his mouth in 'Mushishi'
(Funimation)

Mushi-Shi is set in the rural Japanese countryside, where a self-identified mushi master named Ginko wanders from town to town healing people from maladies inflicted by spirit-like beings known as mushi. Mushi are not malicious, they’re hardly even conscious! They are basically spiritual organisms with unique life cycles. Most are harmless, but some mushi (such as the ones that burrow inside your brain and eat your memories) are not. The series is part “country doctor” drama and part body horror freak-out fest.

7. Elfen Lied

Lucy from Elfen Lied
(Arms Corporation)

You either love this series or you hate it, there is no in between. Elfen Lied tells the tale of Dicolnius, human-like creatures that resemble young girls with horns on their heads. Cute, right? Wrong. They also have invisible psyche “arms” called “vectors” that they can use to rend people limb from limb! One Diclonius named Lucy has been captured by the government and is being held in an underground research facility, but after slaughtering the staff, she escapes. She then meets a young boy in a town close to the facility and begins to depend on him for protection. Little does he know that shady government agencies and even some other Dicolnius are trying to hunt Lucy down.

6. Samurai Champloo

Characters from Samurai Champloo
(Funimation)

From the mind of Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe comes my favorite anime EVER. Samurai Champloo follows vagrant warriors Jin and Mugen as they wander an anachronistic, hip-hop-inspired Edo-period Japan. Jin and Mugen make a living using their formidable sword skills to separate men from their ghosts, but after a case of mistaken identity, the pair face off against each other. Before they can kill each other, Jin and Mugen are captured by authorities and sentenced to death. Just before the axes fall, a young girl named Fuu rescues the pair on the condition they travel with her to find the “Samurai Who Smells of Sunflowers.”

Related: The 10 Best Genshin Impact Characters Ranked on Attack of the Fanboy

5. Ouran Highschool Host Club

The cast of 'Ouran High School Host Club'
(Bones)

Ouran High School Host Club is a laugh out loud comedy anime about a tomboyish-girl named Haruhi whose high test scores allow her to enter the prestigious Ouran Academy. After stumbling into what she thinks is an empty classroom, Haruhi meets a group of handsome, affluent boys who are members of the school’s one and only host club, which provides companionship to the school’s female population. After Haruhi accidentally breaks an expensive vase belonging to the boys, they make her work off her debt by masquerading as a host club member. The genderqueer Haruhi proves to be a natural, earning the love of every girl in school—and a few host club members themselves. Drama ensues.

4. Gurren Lagann

'Gurren Lagann' anime
(Gainax)

You like mech anime but think Neon Genesis Evangelion takes itself too seriously? I’ve got just the series: Gurren Lagann. In a distant future where humanity is forced to live underground, a young boy named Simon discovers a the key to an ancient fighting robot. After teaming up with the hot-headed Kamina, the pair make their way to the surface and wage war on the animalistic Beastmen who rule the planet using giant robots of their own. Eventually they come in contact with a group of human rebels on the surface, and are able to combine forces in their fight for freedom.

3. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Villetta Nu from Code Geass
(Sunrise)

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion is set in a not so distant future, when Japan has been conquered by the Holy Britannian Empire and their unstoppable force of mecha robots known as Knightmare Frames. The nation has been reduced to a ghetto, where the Japanese are forced to do the bidding of their oppressors. One day, a young Britannian prince named Lelouch is exposed to a mysterious power called Geass, which allows him to command a person to do anything—once. Lelouch decides to use this power, along with his strategic mind, to overthrow the Holy Britannian Empire and liberate Japan.

2. Death Note

L with Ryuk lurking in the background in 'Death Note'
(Madhouse)

The ultimate emo anime, Death Note centers on a brilliant and bored young student named Light Yagami who discovers a mysterious black book on the grounds of his school. After touching the book, a god of death (who is dressed like a fabulous Hot Topic model) greets Light and tells him that the book is a Death Note. Anyone whose name is written in the book will die. Light decides to use the book to become the god of a new world of peace and prosperity, and will kill anyone who stands in his way, including a brilliant young detective named L who is trying to stop him.

1. Fullmetal Alchemist – Brotherhood

Edward Elrich and Roy Mustang in a promotional image for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
(Bones)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is without a doubt the greatest anime of the decade. Part sci-fi, part political drama, and part fantasy, this story follows brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, who decide to use the mysterious magics of alchemy to revive their dead mother. Their spell does not go as planned, and the pair are left disfigured. Edward and his brother Alphonse embark on a quest to recover their missing body parts that were stolen in the alchemical ritual, and soon uncover a political conspiracy in their home country of Amestris that will shake the nation to its core.

(featured image: Funimation / Bones / Madhouse / Gainax)


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Image of Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.