Most major outlets already published their “Best of the 2010’s” articles last month. We decided to sit with the question a bit and really mull it over a before crowning any shows “The Best.” We promise the delay was totally intentional and the result of our dedication to bringing you the best content possible.
(OK everyone, I think they bought it)
RWBY is an American anime created in 2013, following a group of children as the train to become warriors, with the aim to protect their city from the forces of darkness, ‘the Grimm’. It’s not the most original idea but it gives the perfect foundation to build on with interesting events and characters. The show from the very first episode had me gripped by the phenomenally stylistic computer animation. On paper it merely looks OK but in motion it is a visual delight. The action scenes are so meticulously planned and designed that they often leave you in awe. The characters are great and each have a pretty deep story behind them, expanded with each new season. I love RWBY and feel it deserves a spot on this list for the fact there isn’t anything else like it in the over saturated anime market. It’s made by a tiny team and their love for it pours out of everything. It’s one of those series which has sadly gone under the radar but keeps going with a quality and heart which many big, well known series lack. -Aaron Nash
The Amazing World of Gumball
A wild blending of several animation styles and consistently funny episodes makes this a no brainier. The Amazing World of Gumball takes the archetypal sitcom family (stupid dad, troublesome brothers, smart daughter and capable but perpetually stressed mother) and drops them into a surreal world. The blended art style alone is enough to get this show on the list. But, it is also genuinely funny with jokes and situations that will appeal to kids and adults alike.
The Legend of Korra
Avatar: The Last Air bender is unquestionably one of the greatest cartoon shows ever. Its mix of heart, action, and humor combined with an engrossing plot and well developed characters filled a void that had been left by the Bruce Timm DC animated universe. When it ended fans were crying out for more, even though the tale had been told. The show concluded with a rather perfect ending. Instead of milking it for all that it was worth the creators utilized the shows mythology to pick up the story in the future with the next Avatar. Thus, Legend of Korra was born. The show stumbled a bit in its initial season but, just like its protagonist, quickly became a worthy successor to the Avatar title.
Gravity Falls is kind of like the X-Files for kids. Twins Dipper and Mabel are dropped off with their Great Uncle (or Grunkle) Stan for the summer. Stan is a con man who runs a tourist trap, The Mystery Shack, in rural Washington. The Shack is filled with fake cryptids and rubbish mysteries. Which infuriates the intrepid Dipper, as the town of Gravity Falls is filled with real monsters and genuine mysteries. As the series progresses a single mystery begins to emerge, tying the rest of the episodes together in a brilliant thread. I also have to say that buying the Journal #3 book and reading it (and trying to crack codes) in tandem with the show really heightens the experience.
After the brilliance of Bruce Timm’s DC universe and so many mediocre follow ups it seemed unlikely that Young Justice was going to be anything other than another drop in the bucket of “meh.” But the team up of Justice League sidekicks showed the same depth and understanding of the source material as Timm’s series. While it was tragically cut short DC was wise enough to revive it on its streaming service.
She Ra and The Princesses of Power
I take a little glee at the amount of crap this show gets. Not because it deserves it but because it proves so many people of my generation grew up to be a bunch of stuck up grumps. I cannot conceive of a logical argument of how the original series is better than the reboot. Those who complain, in my experience, haven’t actually watched it. Noelle Stevenson’s (Nimona, Lumberjanes) take on the 80’s cartoon designed to sell toys is a perfect example of how and why to do a reboot. Stevenson and her team of writers and directors add depth and intrigue where it hadn’t been before. They also provide longer story arcs and writing sophisticated enough to hold the attention of adults and kids alike. All of this without sacrificing the action or mythology of the original.
This is actually my personal favorite on the list. Steven Universe is a boy who discovers his deceased mother was an alien leading a rebellion against her war mongering people. The show is gloriously deceitful. It looks cheap and silly. It’s fluffy character designs and minimalist approach betrays its depths. It seems so silly and the WHAM out of nowhere it hits you in the feels. This show covers coming of age, abusive relationships, toxic relationships, marriage, loss, love, and all of the complexities of intimate relationships (good and bad) from the unique perspective of a child trying to make sense of the world. It is beautiful, heartfelt, funny, and exciting. Despite being a kids show it has a more deep and honest understanding of the human heart than any other show I’ve seen in the past decade.
A great adaptation of a brilliant comic series. (If you haven’t read Luke Pearson comics of the same name make it the next thing you do. They are stunning) Hilda is a little girl who has lived in a cabin in the woods most of her life. She knows lots about trolls, elves, giants and other magical creatures but very little about humans,. The juxtaposition allows for wonderful storytelling and observations of how we as a people can be better, without being didactic or judgmental. It is a sweet empowering story told with a dignified artistry I’ve not seen outside of a Jim Henson production. The imagination and sense of wonder put into the creatures and fantastical elements is unbelievably clever (and often adorable). The series takes great pains to recreate the look and feel of Pearson’s comics. I do worry about the next season as the show is about to over take the comics (and we saw how well that worked for Game of Thrones). But season one is a must see.
My Little Pony
Friendship is magic, and so is this show. Look, I get it. My Little Pony?! But yeah – My. Little. #$%&ing. Pony. It kind of rocks. There is no denying that it is saccharine sweet with a little cheese and totally geared towards little kids but – its infectious and well made. There is enough mystery and talent present in each episode that elevates it beyond “just a kids show” Heck, my kids and I started doing My Little Pony tabletop RPGing because of this show – boys and girls alike, and we are all loving it.
My love for the new duck Tales cannot be overstated.In fact, I’ve already written about it before. If you want to know why its on the list check it out here.
Teen Titans GO!
So many people were butt-hurt about the end of Teen Titans that they never gave Teen Titans GO! a proper chance. GO is a fun comedy series for all ages. People who’ve never read or watched many DC titles will still get a kick out of some of the silly plots and running gags. However, the writers are clearly well versed in DC lore and can’t help but play with established characters and comic tropes. There are tons of clever jokes hidden throughout the show that work on extra levels if you are in the know. Having the original Teen Titans cast return to their roles is just an extra cherry on top.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)
It just struck me how many reboots are on this list. But, I’m ok with that. For, while the “Hollywood has run out of ideas” mantra still rings true from time to time, there are legit reasons for a reboot and TMNT (2012) is more proof. I grew up in the 80’s, watched every show, read the comics, got to see the first movie early as part of the Fox Kids Crew and came out of the theater with my friends Kung Fu fighting. So I want you to understand my full meaning when I say:Outside of the original run of the comics, this is far and away the best representation of the Turtles. We aren’t going to bore you with a summary of the plot – its TMNT. What we will say is that this iteration used smart storytelling and character arcs in a way that other series hadn’t bothered with. There is an obvious love for the characters behind the scenes. Actor and veteran Ninja Turtle Rob Pauslson (who plays Donatello this time around) confirmed as much when we spoke to him last year.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
The Clone Wars is the show that saved the prequel era Star Wars. George Lucas’s much derided prequel trilogy was a trilogy brimming with brilliant ideas that struggled to hit their mark. In particular, the fall of Anakin Skywalker felt awkward and stunted. However, Clone Wars did some heavy lifting giving Anakin the arc he deserved. On top of that the show had some brilliant episodes, complex story arcs and introduced some of the greatest characters in Star Wars history like Ahsoka Tano, Cad Bane, Hondo Onaka, and Asajj Ventress.
It is not hyperbole to say this show revolutionized cartoons. While it isn’t the first to utilize split episode format, it showed what could be done with it. Adventure Time follows the adventures of Jake; a magical, shape shifting, talking dog, and his adopted little brother Finn, that last Human on the planet Ooo. Their adventures use video games and fantasy tropes with modern surrealist sensibilities creating a style and sense of humor that is both fresh and irreverent as well as classic and familiar. The show is a grab bag of emotions. Sometimes funny, sometimes exciting, other times it is deeply emotional. It is, however, never mean or ugly. It is a masterpiece of modern television – for any age group.
Honorable Mentions: Star Wars Rebels, Clarence, We Bare Bears, Voltron, OK KO Lets Be Heroes. Star Vs Forces of Evil, Dragon Prince and Yonderland