How the Most Famous Anime of 2011 Hold Up Today

Less than two months of 2021 remain, making it the ideal time to look back at the anime everyone was talking about 10 years ago. Some of these shows have faded into obscurity over time, but others made such an impact that it's likely their influence will still be around in another decade from now, either in how it redefined a genre and/or secured its place in audience's hearts. Here are five of the biggest anime from 2011 -- and how they hold up today.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Author Gen Urobuchi's contribution to the magical girl genre was one of the biggest influences of subversive storytelling going into the next decade. While magical girl anime such as Revolutionary Girl Utena were no stranger to tackling subjects such as abuse and psychological torment, Puella Magi Madoka Magica's cute opening sequence and animation style were meant to fool the audience in a way Utena never did.

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By allowing the audience to believe for a few episodes that Madoka really was going to be a normal magical girl anime, the sudden switch to complete despair was overwhelming and extremely effective. Anime rarely manage that level of shock factor and inventiveness when it comes to raising the stakes and for that, Madoka Magica is one of the most influential anime of the past decade and continues to not only hold its own, but also hold the standard.

Future Diary

Death games are all the rage right now, and many anime have used them as a way to kick off a story. Future Diary is the quintessential death game, where 12 participants battle it out for the right to become a god. The casualties are heavy, the morals are nonexistent and the bloodshed is plentiful. The structure of many other death games to come can be found in Future Diary, making it very influential in its kind.

Not only is Future Diary a template for the death game, its female lead Yuno Gasai has been hailed as the 'Yandere Queen,' a perfect example of the character archetype that flips between sweet and psychotic due to an obsessive love. The anime itself has not held up as well as the death game concept, however, with male lead Yukiteru Amano often accused of being boring while his relationship with Yuno is an abusive and codependent mess. So while Future Diary has failed to retain its impact over the last decade, pieces of it are still scattered in modern day works.

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Steins;Gate

While many anime science fiction classics involve spaceships, special powers and epic adventures, Steins;Gate tackles time travel with a microwave and a cellphone, using larger-than-life characters to invoke humor into what quickly becomes a desperate rewind of events in an attempt to prevent catastrophe.

Okabe Rintaro is a ridiculous protagonist, a so-called 'mad scientist' whose grandiose airs allow some levity into the story until the consequences of his time travel begin to make themselves known. Steins;Gate remains intriguing, amusing and heartbreaking 10 years later, and the sincerity of its characters and genuine longing for knowledge keeps the 'science' in science fiction feeling genuine in its own genre.

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Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Anohana cemented a spot among the saddest anime of all time for a reason, and Menma's return as a ghost to help heal the wounds her death caused for her friends is certainly tear-jerking. However, the reason Anohana has and will continue to hold up is not because of Menma's initial death. The story is painful because of how grief is reflected in each character, whether it's by attempting to change who they are, hardening themselves to prevent being hurt again or carrying sadness around for years without knowing how to let go.

While not many viewers can claim to have been visited by a dead childhood friend, the entire audience can relate to grief, no matter what it's about. Therefore, watching these characters work through their individual style of grief and come to terms with their loss can be incredibly cathartic. Anohana created a sad but meaningful and healing experience that will undoubtedly continue to withstand the test of time.

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Fate/Zero

Gen Urobuchi once again played a hand in altering the anime landscape, this time by jumpstarting the Fate franchise's domination of the past decade. Fate/Zero was written as a prologue to the Fate/Stay Night visual novels, and following Fate/Zero, Ufotable went on to adapt Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven's Feel.

Zero remains relevant for what it did for the Fate franchise, but also for battle anime as a whole. The action-heavy show was the perfect chance for Ufotable to showcase the CGI the studio would become known for, and the soundtrack, characters and animation are superb. Fate/Zero set a new standard when it came to the quality of the battle anime, demanding something other than power-ups and secret ultimate techniques in a way that pushed for excellence over the following 10 years.

Looking back a decade later, 2011 was an amazing year for anime. It produced works that challenged conventions, upped standards and led to the creation of many anime beyond these five. Gosick, Mawaru Penguindrum, Deadman Wonderland, Guilty Crown, Blue Exorcist, No.6 and Persona 4: the Animation are but a few individual titles from 2011 with near-cult following for some, not to mention Hunter x Hunter began its latest adaptation in 2011 as well. Given the way they've shaped storytelling, the influences of these works can be found everywhere in anime today. While most of these series continue to hold up, even those that don't were significant for long enough to make a mark on current works, making 2011 a truly exceptional year for impactful shows that still hold influence today.

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Lara Adams (63 Articles Published)

Lara is a writer for CBR. She received a Bachelor of the Arts in English from Millersville University in 2015. Her rabbits like to help her write by sitting on the keyboard.

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