My Top 50 Anime – Updated
Well it’s been nearly two years since I last updated my Top 50 Anime list – a ridiculous amount of time to leave it untouched really. I decided to completely redo the list, it is remarkable how you can completely change your mind about a show after a while – some shows went up in my estimation, some went down and I had two years worth of new shows to cram in somewhere too! But I did it and now my Top 50 is updated!
But I didn’t want to lose some of the entries so here’s what’s out and what’s in.
The Twelve Kingdoms
The Twelve Kingdoms is one of those series that just completely sucks you into its world. I’m a complete sucker for high fantasy, I love it when shows create an entire world that’s familiar yet completely different and The Twelve Kingdoms does exactly that. It’s a series that starts as the standard kind of ‘stranger transported to another world’ kind of story, but as the other arcs come in its much more about exploring the world of the 12 Kingdoms and learning about its inhabitants – it’s got some brilliant character development as well as world-building. I think I managed to watch this entire series in a few days, and was so engrossed in the world that I went and bought the original novels the series is based on (pity there’s only four available in English at the moment).
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.
Arakawa Under the Bridge / x Bridge
Another SHAFT show, and it’s just as weird and wacky as you’d expect from the studio. However Arakawa has a lot of heart and it’s that aspect of the show that really made me fall in love with it. The characters are just so interesting, a stranger bunch of misfits you’d struggle to find anywhere else, but each of them has a lot of things to love about them. However for me it was the budding romance between Nino & Ric that made Arakawa special – watching Ric soften and change as he slowly adapted to living under the Bridge and witnessing Nino gradually open her heart to him was a thing of joy. The second season was not as good as the first as it moved its focus to the other characters, but the series remains a firm favourite – knowing SHAFT there will be more from the Bridge residents in the future, I hope they don’t run the series into the ground!
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!
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.
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.
Detroit Metal City
DMC has to be one of the funniest shows in recent memory. It’s 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!!
44. Aquarion EVOL
Aquarion EVOL is cheese, adolescent hormones and Fabulous~! condensed into anime form – nothing about this show is subtle, but it knows exactly what it’s doing and plays up to that fact. The result is a series that is just pure entertainment. Sure the plot is a bit lacking, but who needs plot when you have such a fantastic assortment of colourful characters and a never ending parade of libido powered combining mecha entertainment!? Aquarion EVOL is delicious cheesy goodness wrapped up in a gorgeous colourful package and I loved it to pieces.
43. Sailor Moon
Really notching up the magical girl shows here! Sailor Moon is a proper classic which combines the sentai, mahou-shoujo and action genres to create a show that everyone is familiar with. Sailor Moon was a gateway drug for me, I loved the show to bits because it was so much fun to watch. I really adored the character designs and the whole setup for the show – sure Usagi is an incurable idiot, but the other Sailor Scouts were awesome and she really improves over the course of the series. Plus the whole battle against the forces of evil is the kind of classical plot that never really ages. Sailor Moon is a show that all anime fans have to have seen at least a bit of at some point!
37. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Another magical girl show with a twist – SHAFTs original series is notable for its creative use of different animation styles and for tackling the grim-dark side of being a magical girl – being Meguka is suffering. The series is stuffed full of wham moments designed to throw the viewer (and the girls in the show) for a loop – it’s a show where nothing is as it first seems, scratch the surface of that gleaming near future city and you find a world filled with nightmare fuel. Beware of cute mascot characters offering to grant you your deepest desire – nothing comes without a price, things are too good to be true, and with great power comes great responsibility and suffering.
24. Infinite Ryvius
Infinite Ryvius is not an easy show to watch as it drags you to the darkest places humanity can go and you truly suffer along with the characters due to them being so well written. The main strength of Ryvius is its characterisation; the ship feels alive and populated with real people and not just caricatures (although given how huge the cast is, there are some characters that suffer from insufficient development). The series does have a lot of techobabble during its action scenes that I mostly ignored, but that only really adds to the sense of urgency & desperation that permeates the entire show – these kids are really thinking on their feet and making shit up as they go along. In general though Infinite Ryvius does practically everything right, and I would definitely recommend it.
20. Samurai Champloo
Samurai Champloo is one of those shows that are constantly hailed as classics that I had skipped over because I doubted it could be that good – but I finally got round to it, and yes, there is a good reason Samurai Champloo is considered a classic – it is damn good. A triumph of style with its hip-hop aesthetic, Champloo is probably Manglobe’s best show as it is well written with highly memorable characters in addition to just looking amazing. It is pretty episodic, but each adventure Mugen, Jin & Fuu find themselves in is interesting and memorable in its own way. I should really know by now that the shows that people remember years down the road are usually the shows that are well worth remembering!
19. Attack on Titan
Thank god shows like this are being made – they’re one of the main reasons I’m an anime fan. A massive blockbuster of a show, Attack on Titan is the kind of series that you cannot help but get swept up in – and I love that feeling. Sure it has pacing issues, and since the manga is ongoing we get a rather inconclusive ending, but all that is over-ruled by just how much fun Attack on Titan is to watch. The action is fantastically animated – that 3D Manoeuvre Gear makes for jaw dropping action scenes – but it is the constant twists and gut-wrenchingly brutal ends some of the characters meet that kept me gripped throughout the show. Series like this make me happy to be an anime fan and I am really delighted that Attack on Titan has proven to be such a massive hit both in Japan and in the Western fandom – I just hope they don’t rush into a sequel, that would be disastrous and it would be so much better to wait for a few years to allow the mangaka to finish up the story.
7. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
I love shounen shows. I love hugely overblown shows. I love super stylised art. I love everything ridiculous that anime can fire at me. I love Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure because it gave me all that and so much more – like an inspired dub-step soundtrack, cyborg Nazis, vampire squirrels and characters named after 80s bands. Jojo’s oozes style – from the flamboyant Vogue poses the characters constantly contort themselves into, to the technicoloured rainbow colour palate employed it is an amazing show to look at – every frame is a work of art. Sure the character designs aren’t exactly traditionally attractive, but that doesn’t mean the show isn’t visually appealing – and the characters larger than life actions and personalities are the real draw. I really can’t praise Jojo’s enough – it was just an amazing trip and I really want to go on another Bizarre Adventure soon – second season please!?