My Top 40 Anime!
I’ve put off compiling this list forever and a day, mainly because I know I’ll never in a month of Sunday’s be happy with it! Still I’ve managed to settle on 40 series I know I love and feel are deserving of a place in my favourites – their ranking is something I’m still tempted to play with, but enough is enough! Lets just say the numbers attached aren’t fixed and series go up and down the rankings according to my fickle mood 😛 It has to be said that I have very mainstream tastes on the whole, while I like quirky artsy series, and appreciate them on an intellectual level; they rarely make it into my favourites. Also I tend to cheat by lumping sequels in together with the original series – but its my list so meh 😛
Lets get started then – long post is long!
40. Inuyasha / Inuyasha: The Final Act
Starting off with a nostalgia kick! Inuyasha was one of the first shows I picked up when I got interested in anime again after graduating from Uni, and as such its one of the series that got me back into the fandom. Inuyasha was also one of the first series that I went looking for the manga version of since the 1st anime ended with no closure. As such the series has a special place in my heart – it may have went on forever, but I loved the characters to bits and the setting was excellent. Now if only Lord Fluffy could get his own spinoff……
39. Rurouni Kenshin & OVA’s
Another show riding high on the wave of nostalgia. Rurouni Kenshin was another show that I picked up quite early on in my rediscovery of anime. I’ve always been a bit shounen fan and Kenshin really is a great example of the genre. I loved the characters to bits and the Kyoto arc of the TV series along with the Betrayal & Trust OVAs have to be among the best arcs of any series I’ve seen.
38. Eden of the East & Movies
A more recent entry now, Eden of the East was among my top picks of 2009. It started off incredibly strong but got a bit out of control towards the end of the series, however it never went into an all out downward spiral. The series turned out to be a different creature by the end of the movies than I originally thought it would when I first watched that inspired 1st episode. A different creature, but still a great one. The characters, intricate plotting, excellent production and witty script were what made Eden of the East a favourite of mine, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
37. BECK: Mongolia Chop Squad
BECK really impressed me when I watched it a few years back. The characters are so real it’s almost like this series is a documentary of their lives! I was completely sucked into this show, I think I finished it within a few days because I couldn’t tear myself away. I also really liked the soundtrack for the show and still listen to it pretty regularly. I watched the japanese dub in all its engrish glory, but I hear that the english dub is pretty solid so may have to give that a whirl at some stage; BECK is a series I’d really love to rewatch soon.
36. Hunter X Hunter & OVA’s
I remember that I avoided HxH for years because the character designs and greenness of Gon’s outfit completely put me off when I stumbled across pics of the series. However a good friend was adamant that I needed the show in my life, so I gave it a go last year…….and loved it. HxH really surprised me with how dark and unflinching it could be – people die and they stay dead! Gon is a fairly standard shounen protagonist, but his maturity and good nature make him much more likeable than many of his ilk. The York Shin arc is probably my absolute favourite in this series, solely because it was so different to what I was expecting from this show. Excellent series, it’s just a pity the manga-ka is unwell causing the manga to go on hiatus so often.
Another recent addition to my favourites list. I loved Drrr!! to bits; which was a good thing since it was the first 2 cour series I decided to blog! It was so much fun to watch and write about this show every week – speculating about what was the deal with Celty, how far Izaya’s manipulations would go, just how many Shizaya doujins the series could spawn……all good times! The characters are brilliant, the casting superb and the production was excellent – if ever there was a series that needs a sequel, Drrr!! is it…..how about it Brains Base!?
34. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
One of GONZO’s finest – seriously, this is why they should be remembered as a great studio! Gankutsuou is a visual feast; I’d never seen the likes of the animation used here – colour, texture and patterns everywhere! However glorious as the animation is, it’s the plot and characters that really make this such an epic series. The Count is such a brilliant charismatic character, you get utterly sucked into his pace and motives as he sets about destroying people’s lives – gripping stuff. Really Gankutsuou is a series everyone should experience.
33. Naruto / Naruto: Shippuden
Yes I like Naruto, so kill me 😛 As a long running shounen series, Naruto is a bit more inconsistent than most. Unfortunately one of the most memorable aspects of the series is the abysmal filler that afflicted the original series and soured a lot of people’s opinion of the show. I was among those that suffered through the weeks and months of godawful filler and lamented how shitty the series had gotten…..but when Naruto is on course, it’s very good! The plot is all over the show, and completely ridiculous at times these days; but early Naruto and particularly the Chuunin Exam and Sasuke Retrieval arcs, were pretty damn good shounen! I’m nostalgic for the series and still enjoy it, so it would be a crying shame not to have it in my Top 40.
32. Darker than BLACK / Ryuusei no Gemini / OVA
Stylish – that’s the first thing that springs to mind when I think of Darker than BLACK. It’s such a great looking series – really dark with brilliant character designs (Hei!) and a really interesting world setting. The original series was very interesting but pretty episodic and the finale was quite confusing. The sequel was much better at telling a story, but I missed the original characters – the OVA’s managed to make the plot make sense, but the series still lacks closure. But despite all these mixed feelings, I still loved Darker than BLACK and sincerely hope that there is another series in the pipeline – preferably with much more Hei!
Ah SHAFT + NisiOisin = match made in heaven. This show and its colourful characters really impressed me when it was airing, and even though the Tsubasa Cat web releases took the piss with how long they took to be posted, my final impressions of the show were very favourable. The way SHAFTs quirky animation worked with the verbose script to make the lengthy dialogues interesting and memorable, was excellent. Shinbo was the prefect choice to direct Bakemonogatari – in all seriousness I can’t imagine any other studio/director managing to do this series justice!
30. Nodame Cantabile / Paris / Finale
Nodame and Chiaki are awesome characters. There is never a dull moment watching these two very different, yet wonderfully compatible people interact. Following Nodame and Chiaki through school and into their professional lives was a great journey and I was really gutted to see it end. The music was also glorious in Nodame Cantabile (as you would expect from a series about musicians!) and the concert scenes were fantastically animated. However the show’s strength was its characters and wonderful script – a great jousei series.
29. Honey & Clover / II
I put off watching Honey & Clover for ages before I finally felt in the mood for it at the beginning of the year……and once I finished it I was majorly annoyed that I had denied myself the experience of this series until then! Honey & Clover is a wonderful series that evoked a strong emotional reaction in me – I couldn’t help but project myself onto the characters at different stages of the show; their personal drama’s were really well portrayed and easy to relate to. Honey & Clover’s strength lies in how balanced it is – there’s lots of comedy to offset the drama, and it all works wonderfully well – fantastic series and a must see.
The world setting of Planetes was superbly crafted. I really liked how grounded the sci-fi in this series is, it makes everything so much more believable and completely sucked me into the show. I’m not a great one for slice-of-life, it tends to bore me and my attention drifts really quickly; that never happened with Planetes. I wanted to know all about the characters and was completely invested in their drama – the writing was just wonderful in this show; it was just so well paced and thought out!
27. The Vision of Escaflowne
Escaflowne was one of my gateway anime – I originally watched the rather crappy dub on TV way back when I was still at school! Butchered as the dub was, it still sparked an interest within me and made me go in search of the original japanese edit a few years later, and its this version that has wormed its way into my affection. Escaflowne is a mishmash of my favourite genre’s – its got mecha, romance, sci-fi, high fantasy and action; what more could my Inner Fangirl ask for? Even with my nostalgia clouded mind, its hard to see many flaws in Escaflowne, it’s just a wonderful classic series.
26. Black Lagoon / The Second Barrage / OVA
Ah Black Lagoon! Whenever I feel like watching some awesome action I usually end up loading up some Black Lagoon, the show just never gets old! An entire cast of anti-hero pirates and mad misfits, I defy anyone to watch this show and not grin at their antics! I’ll admit to having a soft spot for characters who live in the moral gray area (or just out-and-out black zone!) and since Black Lagoon’s Roanapur is entirely populated by this type of characters, its was fairly inevitable that I’d love this show. The rest of the OVA series can’t come out quick enough!
25. Macross (Franchise)
Now here’s a massive bit of cheating 😆 There’s enough common ground in each incarnation of Macross that I felt that just lumping my enjoyment of the franchise into one position would free up some additional slots! I haven’t seen all there is to see of Macross yet (currently stuck at the start of Macross 7), but I really loved each of the shows I’ve seen so far (SDF, Zero, Plus, Frontier). The fantastic setting of these huge Macross vessels, alien threats and the way music is such an integral part of the franchise, is really memorable stuff – everyone needs a bit of Macross in their lives!
24. Revolutionary Girl Utena & movie
If ever there was an anime that you could never get bored of discussing, Utena is probably it. It’s a fantastically multi-layered series and positively drowning in symbolism – I don’t think there will ever come a day when someone somewhere won’t come up with some new meaning behind some of the motifs employed. I quite enjoy reading others thoughts on Utena even if I don’t have anything to really add to the speculation. For me I just loved Utena’s strong direction, gorgeous animation, original soundtrack and powerful (and sometimes trippy) storytelling. You just don’t see series like this very often; a real must-see for any die-hard anime fan.
23. Neon Genesis Evangelion & End of Evangelion
EVA is often hailed as one of those series every anime fan should see, and I’d have to agree as the series is so iconic. It’s a series that even if you don’t fully understand it, you’ll never really forget. Watching EVA is an experience. My enjoyment of the series stems from the mind-fuckery and ever escalating wtf-ness in the show and the brutal action scenes – I quite enjoy watching the characters break! It’s a show that has so many imperfections and things that you can deride as ‘bad’; yet when taken as a whole Evangelion shines in a weird way – its regarded as a classic for a reason, and I always find something new to appreciate every time I go back to the show.
22. Azumanga Daioh!
It took me two months on and off to watch AzuDai – not because it was hard to watch, but because I wanted to savour it! The show is a riot from beginning to end with characters its impossible to forget; the wonderfully spacey Osaka, the child genius Chiyo, the ADHD afflicted Kagura, the perverted Himura and the woman-child Yukari…….such a brilliant colourful cast. AzuDai is the pinnacle of 4-koma comedies.
Monster is another show that it took me a while to work up the motivation to watch – it’s a series that you really need to be in the mood for since it requires your complete attention for much of its run….but my god is it worth it. Absolutely superbly crafted narrative, Monster is fraught with tension and intrigue from beginning to end. It does have some pacing issues and is a bit overlong, but really those extra episodes just add to the inspired character development that’s the main strength of this series. The characters go through so much, and change quite a lot over the run – it’s a twisty thriller and definitely something that deserves its reputation as a classic.
20. Aoi Bungaku
This was my top pick of 2009 simply because it was such an ambitious project and masterfully executed by Madhouse. Six pieces of critically acclaimed literature, six different high-profile directors and six different styles of animation – there really is something to please everyone in the stories of Aoi Bungaku. For me ‘No Longer Human’ closely followed by ‘Run, Melos!’ were the standout arcs, but none of the stories were lacking. If you haven’t tried this series I’d highly recommend you give it a look – one of the arcs is bound to appeal to you.
Mushishi is another show that took me an age to finish, mainly because I liked to savour each mini-arc. Since Mushishi is so episodic it was quite easy to dip in and out of the show, and that added to its charm – I could watch an episode or two whenever the mood hit me, and liked the way it made me think. I loved the way the world of Mushishi is painted in shades of gray; neither the mushi nor humanity is portrayed as inherently good and right. Ginko is the thread that weaves the series together, his never-ending journey through the different locales and the fact that he believes everything has a right to life made him a very intriguing character. It’s very difficult to fault Mushishi and I’ve yet to met anyone that actively dislikes it.
18. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni / Kai / Rei
I remember dismissing Higurashi originally because it looked like one of those moe harem things that I rarely enjoy, so I skipped it during its original airing. However I heard increasingly good things about the show so ended up marathoning it shortly before Kai started airing – Higurashi is a prime of example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The series became a fast favourite, I loved the repeating story arcs, tense atmosphere and the brutal violence; but I also like the slice of life comedy stuff too – the characters are actually very likeable and the series is well crafted. This is how you do VN adaptations.
RahXephon is a stunning series. It took me quite a while to get into it, but when I was hooked that was it – the show became one of my all time favourites. The Evangelion comparisons are hard to avoid, however RahXephon has a really strong identity of its own and think it’s a much better series than EVA (if not just as iconic). The striking animation and mecha designs, the gorgeous and atmospheric soundscapes and the very simple central love story all come together to create a wonderful anime. I don’t think I’ll be falling out of love with RahXephon any time soon.
16. One Piece
I’m a fairly new convert to the cult of One Piece; I’m quite annoyed that I denied myself the pleasure of the series for so long! One Piece was a show I dismissed out of hand many years ago when I caught a few episodes and hated the art/voice acting/concept and refused to touch the show again…..until a friend swore blind that I’d love it and sent me 300 episodes to try; I’ve never looked back. There’s nothing quite like getting completely sucked into Luffy & the Straw Hat crew’s adventures – its a drug. I’m nowhere near up to date with the series, I like to have a good backlog to charge through; but One Piece is a series that will ride high in my favourites for many years to come.
15. Crest / Banner of the Stars (I-III)
The Stars meta-series really impressed me when I marathoned it last year. The setting is vast, beautifully developed and painstakingly crafted; yet the focus never shifts too far away from our central relationship of Jinto & Lafiel. At its core the Stars series is all about these two and their budding romance, and I found that it’s this simple focus that most impressed me about the show. The backdrop of the war and the culture clash of the Landers and Abh provided the drama, but Jinto and Lafiel provided the warmth – a fantastic series.
14. Detroit Metal City
DMC has to be one of the funniest shows in recent memory. Its shallow, crude and loaded with profanity; but it could reduce me to tears of laughter with alarming frequency! Negishi’s dual personality, the mad fans and their rampant imaginations, the batshit insane manager and the whole depiction of the death metal music industry – it all adds up in a weird wonderful way and makes DMC fecking hilarious. Go to DMC!!
13. Last Exile
The world of Last Exile is beautifully realised. It so easy to get sucked into this series – I actually had to stop myself from watching it all in a single sitting; I wanted to take my time with it but found it hard not to get swept up in the story. The pacing of this series really impressed me – it took its time setting up the world and developing the characters before the meat of the plot landed and completely stole the show. Last Exile has everything going for it – its shows like this that GONZO should be remembered for.
It’s a rare show that can actually set me into proper tear inducing laughter, but Gintama is one such show, and it managed to be hilarious consistently for over 200 episodes! But Gintama can not only make me laugh, it also has the potential to make me cry – and that’s what makes it such a special show, its got a brilliant balance of comedy and character development. This series also has one of the best ensemble casts in anime – even characters that are only about for a short time are memorable in their own way. The series is bursting with creativity – there’s always something new and stupid around the corner and I adore the world setting. It’s just an all around great series.
Moyashimon is a gem of a show. Really, more people need to see it! I remember watching the entire show in a day and half dying of laughter – it’s just so much fun! When I first heard the concept I was dismissive of the series and as a result I skipped over it when it was airing. However there were quite a few positive reviews, so I picked it up later on – and never looked back! Who knew bacteria could be so cute!? Who knew the adventures of an Agricultural college could be so madcap and entertaining!? Who knew alcohol could make everything funnier!? (actually scratch that – I learnt that 1st hand at Uni myself). There’s nothing really complicated about Moyashimon, it’s simply just fun to watch. Lets Brew~!
Now this is how you make optimal use of your air-time. Other series could learn a thing or two from Baccano’s storytelling and pacing. Not a single minute is wasted in this show, its only 16 episodes long yet manages to tell three different stories set in different times and locations – that’s impressive stuff. The constantly changing and overlapping timeline could have been terribly confusing, but somehow it just added to Baccano’s entertainment value! Baccano is also notable for having a huge cast for such a short series, yet all of them got their time in the spotlight and no one got short-changed. Fantastic series with fantastic characters.
9. Eureka Seven
Eureka Seven has everything I love about anime – a great concept, fantastic visuals, great soundtrack and memorable characters; I fell completely in love with the series. For all its high-octane action and multi-layered plot, Eureka Seven has a very simple central core – it’s all about growing up, finding your place in the world and falling in love. I really like series that keep a very simple core theme – it’s all very well building up an intricate web of plot threads, but without a solid grounding and likeable characters, a series can feel cold – such was never the case with Eureka Seven. Renton & Eureka’s journey was a joy to follow – multiple rewatches can only yield more rewards.
8. xxxHOLiC / Kei / OAD’s
I doubt this will surprise anyone. I adore xxxHOLiC, and although I’m a bigger fan of the manga, I still really loved the anime adaptations. It was wonderful to see Yuuko and Watanuki animated and given a voice (Sayaka Ohara and Jun Fukuyama were perfectly cast) and the series managed to capture the atmosphere that drew me to xxxHOLiC to start with. Production IG did an excellent job with the TV series and the OADs – my CLAMP fangirl side is very pleased.
7. Gundam (Franchise)
And here’s yet more epic cheating! I found that I was including too many Gundam series in the list and having to cut series that I really wanted to leave in – so to solve that I decided to add up all the entertainment value I get from Gundam and award the franchise one spot on the list; makes sense in my head 😛
As with Macross I’ve yet to see all there is to see in the Gundam-verse – I am working my way through it though (next on the list is Victory & Turn A). If there’s one thing that Gundam has, its high re watch potential – there’s always some new snippet to find entertainment in on each revisit. Wing and Zeta are my favourite standalone Gundam series – Wing for nostalgia, Zeta for plot. What I love about Gundam is how it blends politics, action and a well fleshed out world with larger than life characters and fantastic mecha. My Inner Mecha Fangirl is undoubtably a Gundam fan first and foremost.
6. Dragon Ball / Z / Kai
Undeniable classic and monolith of the shounen genre, Dragon Ball is a franchise that s dear to my heart as it was another of my gateway series. I’ve seen DB/Z so many times, and I’m enjoying watching it yet again with Kai at the moment – somehow this series never gets old! I still cheer when my favourite scene’s roll by, and sit on the edge of my seat even though I know exactly whats going to happen – it’s a sign of a great show when you can watch it over and over and never get bored! By no means is DB sophisticated – its full of ridiculous power-ups, cheesy dialogue and OTT characters, but my god is it entertaining!
5. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Yes it’s probably over-rated and way over exposed at this stage, but I still love The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya to bits. Its one of the shows that has a permanent place on my iPod, as I find myself constantly coming back to it at random times. I was late to the bandwagon with this show – the initial hype during its airing passed me by, and it wasn’t until a few seasons later that I attempted the show. It’s probably just as well that I waited – Haruhi came at a time when I was just discovering the world of ongoing series and downloads (it was all about classic shows and streaming before that). The show kind of marks a turning point in my personal fandom and has a special place in my heart as a result. However the show itself is excellent – it’s not just nostalgia that makes it a favourite. I loved the out-of-order airing of the episodes, Kyon’s wonderfully sarcastic narration, Haruhi’s boundless energy and the way Tsuruya made it into my favourites lists despite her limited screentime. It’s a great show – it’s just a pity its been somewhat ruined in people’s memories by the Endless Eight fiasco KyoAni decided to pull in ‘Season Two’.
4. Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann
It’s very hard not to love TTGL – its just a very feel-good series that wants to do nothing more than entertain you. And by god was I ever entertained! TTGL takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, once you’ve committed to the series you can’t stop yourself from going along for the ride. Full to bursting with awesome larger than life characters, epic speeches, eye-popping action and a plot that kicks reason to the kerb – TTGL is a series that only comes around once in a blue moon. It’s very hard to get that balance of absurd and awesome right, but TTGL manages it. It was hard to see how the series could go on after ep8, but it surprised me by just getting better and better! In my eyes TTGL is awesome in its purest form.
3. Code Geass / R2
Ah Code Geass. My adoration of Geass is completely irrational – I know its full of plotholes and inconsistencies, but its such an entertaining series that I just don’t care! The whole Fabulous package of Code Geass seems to be custom-made to appeal to me – its got the pretty CLAMP character designs, smooth stylish Sunrise animation, roller skating mecha, anti-hero lead with magic eye powers, fantastic voice cast, and brilliant music; really there’s nothing more I could really want out of a series! Code Geass caught my attention with its very first episode, and I was completely sucked into the series throughout. Its a series that may be flawed, but they just add to its charm in my eyes.
2. Death Note
Yeah, yeah – I know that Death Note is over-rated and flawed, but feck it – I love the series to bits! I had read the manga a while before the anime started airing, so knew the story and what twists to expect. Despite this I was still gripped by Madhouse’s adaptation. Really, the direction and animation that this series displayed was something special – completely overblown (eating crisps and writing in a notebook will never be viewed the same way again) but absolutely perfect for building the tension required to make Death Note work. However it’s the characters are what really make this series one of my all time favourites – I tend to gravitate to the anti-heroes and gray area characters in anime; in Death Note nearly the entire cast occupies that gray moral ground – and the anime perfectly captures that with some truly outstanding vocal work. Death Note’s popularity may attract lots of over zealous fans and haters, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s a very well made, intelligent series – it will stay in my top 5 for a very long time to come.
1. Fullmetal Alchemist / Brotherhood
I’ve included both FMA incarnations here because they both have something to contribute to why this series is my #1. The original FMA was my first taste of the series, and even though it was mostly anime original, it was a very well crafted show and excelled at creating believable drama. However, the recently finished FMA: Brotherhood series, completely blew the original out of the water on nearly every level. Following the manga very closely, Brotherhood’s plot is bigger in nearly every sense. There are more brilliant characters, more locations to explore and the stakes are a lot higher. For me Brotherhood was as close to perfect as anime is capable of getting! Clearly a lot of money had been thrown into the series because the animation was of a ridiculously high standard for the majority of the 63 ep run, t he acting was brilliant, the soundtrack superb – FMA:B was a wonderfully polished production. However that’s all just icing – its the story and characters that are the real winners here, and I can’t see another series toppling Fullmetal Alchemist from its perch any time soon.
So there we have it – my personal Top 40 Anime series. Took a hell of a lot longer to compile than I thought it would……..good god this is a long post! If you’ve made it this far I salute you – reading my fangirly ramblings can’t have been easy 😀
I’m sure I’ll want to review the list in a few months as tastes change and new series always find their way into my fickle heart!