It’s all personal, so don’t get angry if I like/dislike a show you feel the opposite about. *Other generic top list pre-talk here* with no further ado, let’s begin! I care a great deal about everything on this list, each entry being dear to my heart. Some of the entries are super short and some are really long. It’s a bummer, but I just have really little to say about some shows. The script alone handily breaks 30 pages, and that should be enough.
It’s pretty weird putting what’s essentially an 11 episode TV anime hentai on my top 25. Hell, when I first watched Nisemonogatari, I was enraged. I felt like everything Bake worked for got stepped on. But recently, I started looking at it from a different angle: Nise is a deconstruction of what makes something attractive and appealing.
Nisemonogatari has an understanding of human sexuality how it relates to intimacy and even how it can drive people to break their own morals and ideals. Which is summed up perfectly in the 8th episode.
Being the alchemic formula for pornography isn’t all the fanservice is. Even more so than Bake, Nise uses fanservice as characterization. Hanekawa and Nadeko both have scenes that are less than 90 seconds long, of mostly fanservice, that tell us more about what they are feeling and what they are going through than a whole episode of any normal show.
Not only that, but Nise is constantly vibrant and colorful, with inventive action scenes and classic SHAFT weirdness. All 3 openings are addicting as can be, with them being main-stays in my playlist since the day I first heard them.
Even some of that good ol’ Bake emotion and heart shines through. Most notably in the first 4 episodes, and episode 7. While Kaiki is pretty terrible, he makes up for it in SS, so it’s forgivable. Props to the comedy, too. Monogatari comedy is always top-tier, but here, it’s even better!
On one final note, hearing Shinobu speak for the first time was catharsis incarnate. She later takes over the role of “Best girl” from Senjyogahara, so her introduction here is certainly important. I can’t say Nisemonogatari is a great sequel to Bake. But rather, it’s the “Carnival Phantasm” of the franchise.
“No matter what bonds you forge with others, time will tear them apart. Well... Doesn’t thinking about it make you sick?”
Recommendations: Carnival Phantasm
29. Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal
Samurai X is the most relaxing, soothing, crazy bloody action thriller I think I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ve seen another “relaxing, soothing, crazy bloody action thriller”, let alone one that’s better than this.
The action in this OVA is second to none. Yet, it manages to relax me at the same time. A lot of this series is two people sitting around, talking. Not really about anything interesting, or with that much flair. Just, talking. There are scenes of the moon, with wolves howling and quiet music humming in the background. Somehow, it all works. It might be a little unemotional, but the aesthetic beauty of the whole journey more than makes up for it. It’s an experience first and a story second.
Recommendations: Sword of the Stranger, Garden of Words, Rurouni Kenshin
Akira is narratively insane; the entire second half can only be understood on either a very basic level, or by people who have read the manga. Things just kind of happen, with little to no explanation. That’s all because this film is a vessel for the presentation and themes to take hold.
In my understanding, Akira is based heavily in Buddhist ideals and philosophy. The fusion of all, loss of individuality and friendship are all prevalent themes in the film. All of which lead up to the legendary final quote that I won’t spoil. Akira also contains a message about technology, and Japan’s reaction to WWII, but I really don’t want to get into that.
Even more important is the presentation. Visually, Akira is unmatched within the anime medium. Featuring very careful color design, which brilliantly uses red in every single shot , except for flashbacks. The city and background design is stunningly beautiful, and the movement in the final 1/3 is very fluid and horrifying.
Speaking of horrifying, Akira is, put bluntly, the scariest shit in the universe. This film is not for the faint of heart, and that warning should be taken to heart: This movie is fucking mortifying.
Recommendations: Ghost in the Shell, End of Evangelion
27. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
Shigatsu is not something that can be aptly described in a few words or sentences. It’s a rollercoaster of quality. Visually, Shigatsu uses a lot of silly, over the top faces during its comedy scenes, which we will get to. During the music scenes, the world is colorful and expressive, often representing the emotions of the character playing the song. Unfortunately, computer generated hands are used during these moments, which really kills the intensity.
Speaking of these music scenes, they’re extremely intense. The biggest moments of development for our protagonist, Kousei, happen during these scenes. Expressing your heart and soul through art is a major theme of the show, and the characters do just that. Though, the side cast is is still rather weak, Kousei and Kaori are solid characters.
Unfortunately, Shigatsu’s comedy absolutely destroys the tone. A lot of the great character moments and emotional baggage are cut short by someone getting really violent or pulling a stupid face.
The thing that brings all of Your Lie in April’s positives together, making it a great product, is the finale. Stunning and conclusive, using every directing trick in the book and wrapping up every theme and character tie the show has. The themes of “expressing emotion through art” and “moving on” all spiral into the final episode, along with a stunning rendition of an earlier song from the show. Amazing.
“You barged right in, without even taking off your shoes”
Recommendations: Toradora, Clannad After Story
26. His and Her Circumstances
Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou has quite possibly the best romantic pacing I’ve seen in anime. The speed at which our two protagonists get to the phase that most shows take 26 episodes to get to is perfect. Not too fast, not too slow. Because of this, the early few episodes are incredible, and really go to show how good romance anime can be.
In addition to the Goldilocks pacing, Kare Kano also has top notch characters. Miyazawa Yukino is one of my all time favorite female characters. She’s surprisingly flawed, but still really damn likable despite that. I can say the same for our male MC, Arima Souichirou, who looks like if someone said “What if we fused Takumi Usui and Ikari Shinji” and then made it a character design... He kinda acts that way too.
Unfortunately, the show itself is similar to Yukino. Deeply flawed. Despite the outstanding first third, the show then drags its feet for a little bit, and while it never becomes bad, it does weaken quite a bit for the early teen episodes. The two romantic leads are pushed to the side for 4 freakin’ episodes. While these episodes are good in their own right, the main romance is the lynchpin of the show, and I don’t want to see 4 episodes of side character shenanigans. Of course, when the couple returns, it’s glorious, and we get some truly realistic and touching episodes. That still remains that after Anno left, some of the episodes were rather weak. Speaking of Anno...
The animation in Kare Kano is, how do I put this??? What’s the word? Oh yeah, SHIT. While the directing is fantastic, and the artwork is divine, the actual movement is on par with a fan animation. It just seems like the director, at a very young age, gathered a bunch of friends and dicked around with like no money to make a show... Oh wait, they DID DO THAT and don’t worry, we’ll get to that one later. Anyway, back to Kare Kano. It looks unforgivably cheap. I don’t care how much skill Anno and his crew have, they can’t mask their ham-sandwich budget and lack of real experience. Even though they did it last time, 10 fucking years earlier. Even with all that, Kare Kano is still 75% Anno and 100% shoujo greatness.
“People who know how painful it can be to be alive, are fascinating.”
Recommendations: Lovely Complex, Everything by Anno
Hey, Clannad, do you want to see what legitimate emotion looks like? Well, here ya go! Toradora is thematically rich, lovably adorable and completely hilarious. The characters are immenently likeable, except for best girl Kawashima Ami, who doesn’t have her true genius revealed until later in the series. It’s about how love is about mutual understanding more than mindless admiration. It’s a beyond adorable comedy. Most of all, it’s a human drama. Quick mention to the soundtrack, as “Lost my Pieces” is one of my favorite anime BGMs.
“As long as there is at least one person who understands me, I’ll be okay.”
Recommendations: Clannad, Shigatsu, Non Non Biyori
24. Top wo Nerae 2: Diebuster!
Diebuster is the ethos of Gainax and everything they stand for. Both being confident and flippant, yet also crushing and poignant. Filled with passion, but seeming almost effortless.
The visuals in Top o Nerae 2 are frantic and clearly very expensive, using tons of special effects and detailed CGI. Everything dashes around the screen at light speed, as if it just inhaled a gallon of coffee, and the plot certainly never fails to catch up. It’s directed by Kazuya Surumaki, so what do you expect?
Don’t forget that Diebuster is a sequel, despite that so many do so. It’s chock full of references to Gunbuster, and the final episode relies entirely on it. As a bonafide Gunbuster fanboy, it’s certainly uplifting; Fanervice done right.
Speaking of fanservice, Diebuster has lots of it; and a little too much. While it’s all tasteful, sometimes the fanservice can be distracting, which is a problem that its predecessor never had.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a god. But if gods made wishes, too, who would they wish too?”
Recommendations: FLCL, Gunbuster, Gurren Lagann
I can’t say that Fate Zero is one of my “favorite” anime, but oh god is it impressive. It’s a 14 sided war of ideology with twists and turns every episode, a gritty urban atmosphere juxtaposed against fantasy looking characters, some beautiful animation and a choir soundtrack. It’s a classical epic, but more than that, it’s a classic Greek Tragedy.
Fate Zero is the easiest show to understand the appeal of on this whole list. It’s nihilistic and brutal, yet also brokenly optimistic. It asks philosophical questions that, while interesting, aren’t at all confusing. It has a large cast of unique, memorable characters. It’s the perfect anime for non-anime fans.
Of course, Zero has one major flaw. It is, for the most part, completely inhuman. While 3 character get amazing humanization, the rest get shafted. Legitimate emotion is only felt two or three times while watching this show, and that’s just not enough.
“I don’t think it’s possible to save everyone. I just want to save as many as I can.”
Recommendations: Fate Stay Night (Visual Novel, not those god-awful anime adaptations), Kara no Kyoukai, Parasyte.
22. Tokyo Ghoul
Just as it’s main character Kaneki has two sides, so does the anime adaptation of Tokyo Ghoul. One half a story of loss and defeat, the other a story of redemption and gain. Part character study, part atmosphere piece. Both halves split perfectly into two seasons.
Season 1 is the character study of the two. It’s a downward spiral narrative about losing your humanity, and what makes us human to begin with, told mostly through traditional means. Though, the first season still uses some directing tricks and subtle hints for characterization.
√A goes a totally different route. The plot is thrown completely in the garbage, and nothing is explained to the viewer. It is up to the viewer to follow the themes and the protagonist’s journey to redemption. However, that is backed by a calming atmosphere, created by the unique directing, winter backgrounds and no less than 3 soothing vocal tracks.
On a quick final note, both seasons have phenomenal endings. The type of ending that stays in your mind for decades to come, and completes the whole package.
“Why is it that beautiful things are entwined more deeply with death than with life?”
Recommendations: There ain’t much like this one. Sorry, Im out of ideas.
Berserk is anime’s fantasy epic. It’s a greek tragedy, in the vein of Fate Zero, but infinitely more timeless. It weaves a tale of desire, and how far it can drive people. The art is gritty and realistic, using harsh colors and detailed environments. The actual animation is rather lacking, often relying on speed lines and repeated animation, but the artwork and atmosphere is fantastic.
Berserk’s soundtrack was composed by Susumu Hirasawa. It’s booming and fantastical, yet sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard in anime. The best I can say is just go listen to it yourself. While some may not like it, I think Berserk’s soundtrack is phenomenal.
While the side characters are very weak, Berserk has a very strong main trio. They all contrast each other well, and walk the line between metaphor and character flawlessly. The villain, who I will not spoil the name of, is particularly fantastic, in his absolutely terrifying demeanor, and in how perfectly he represents the show’s themes.
Finally, I’d like to discuss the ending. Berserk’s conclusion is quite possibly the most mortifying thing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire short life. You may think you are prepared for the last two episodes of this series. You aren’t.
“Love, hate, ultimate pleasure, ultimate pain, life, death, all here to enjoy, right before our very eyes! The true nature of man and the devil is here and now.”
Recommendations: Claymore. Though it isn’t nearly as good.
20. Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
JoJo is a seriously fun show that manages to be legitimately clever at the same time. There isn’t much like JoJo, in anything. As a manga reader, I can tell you that this is only the tip of the iceberg, but for now, let’s talk about why this arc is just so good.
I can’t not mention how much fun it is to watch. And it really is. Episodes would blow by at some points, and I was loving it the whole way through. The last 8 or so episodes had me on the edge of my seat, sweating bullets and kicking shit. It’s that exciting. However, if hype and entertainment was all this one had, it wouldn’t be as acclaimed as it is.
The characters in Stardust Crusaders are, while some are rather poor in comparison, very well done. The villains and Avdol were pretty bad in particular, but everyone else was outstanding. Polnareff and Iggy both had really impressive development throughout the series. Jotaro and Joseph are a joy to watch in every scene they are in, but, in the end, it was Polnareff that stole the show. It was his moment that ended up making me cry, being the first show on this list to do so (and certainly not the last)
Also, THE OPENINGS! Sono Chi no Kioku is one of the most detailed openings I think ever. It’s my favorite opening of 2015, and quite possibly in my top 5 openings ever. The version in episode 47 was the craziest shit since all of EoE, and I just love it.
“You lost for one simple reason: You pissed me off!”
Recommendations: All the other JoJo parts.
19. Kara no Kyoukai: The Garden of Sinners
Kara no Kyoukai’s aesthetic is so jaw-droppingly beautiful that the actual narrative is pretty much meaningless. Never before have I seen an audio visual masterpiece that entrances me as much as KNK does. And, damn, does it entrance me. The first film’s shot of the splattering blood on a green background instantly hooked me on this series. And it only got better. The 5th and 7th films have directing on god level.
Not to say that the narrative is worth ignoring. Our protagonist, Shiki Ryougi, is a fantastic lead. She really carries the series, even in its weakest moments. The themes presented in each film range from interesting to pretentious, though mostly hit their mark. The emotional catharsis in the 3rd and 7th films is also of note. The villains, while 1 dimensional at times, work very well for their roles.
I could go on and on about how perfect the music and animation is, about how amazing the ending is and HOLY SHIT the fight scenes! Kara no Kyoukai is Ufotable’s best work, and I doubt that will change for a very long time.
“I was here”
Recommendations: Fate Zero, Parasyte, Tsukihime (Visual Novel)
18. Parasyte – The Maxim-
Parasyte is a slow, small story about very few characters. The few characters it does have, are all well developed. It’s no exaggeration to say that Parasyte’s characters are some of the best in the medium. The main character goes through a fantastic arc, that is unrivaled to my knowledge. Tamura Reiko, one of the parasites, also has a shocking but believable character arc.
Character development isn’t all it has. Parasyte is the only work of art to make me to seriously think about eating meat and how we treat not just animals, but each other. While many have tried, Parasyte struck a chord with me because of how respectfully it treats its audience. It presents its themes like it’s talking to a thoughtful adult, rather then treating its audience like small children. It has a very small scale, and keeps that scale throughout the whole narrative. The music, while controversial, I really enjoyed. The opening and ending songs are both incredible, and are some of my favorites in recent years.
The significance of the word “Parasyte” with a “y” is something that I really like, and will not spoil. It’s touching and clever, and, while not remotely subtle, still felt like a reward to discover. There aren’t many other things like it in other manga, or in most art I experience at all.
I’d also like to bring up the relationship between Shinichi, the protagonist, and Migi, the parasite who invaded his hand. They have very interesting chemistry, and their alternate outlooks on the world was one of the most interesting parts of the series early on. They have a unique cross-development that makes for excellent comparing at the end of the series.
Now we get to the flaws of Parasyte. Parasyte has brutally flat directing. Scenes that should be seriously intense are made much less poignant. The directing isn’t that terrible, but it’s not good by any stretch. And in a show this good, it stands out like a sore thumb.
The dialogue in Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu is extremely unnatural. Some recurring lines in the series are rather nonsensical, and I can’t say I ever felt like a conversation flowed naturally. It feels very forced and “written” which ultimately brings the whole thing down.
“When you feel your life’s on the line, your true nature surfaces.”
Recommendations: Fate Zero, Tokyo Ghoul, Kara no Kyoukai
17. Fullmetal Alchemist
The 2003 FMA is a compelling, close to home, human action drama. I feel that the original series has one of the best opening arcs I’ve seen in anime, or possibly film in general. Showing off its grim, subdued aesthetic, while revealing tidbits of information about its dystopian World War I setting, yet still keeping enough intrigue about the military to keep viewers watching. These early episodes set the tone for the whole original series, and are personally, my favorite part of any FMA story. The ending is absolute madness, and certainly is not a happily ever after, nor is the rest of this unique adaptation.
Aesthetically, 03 is very gritty and detailed. The character designs are more human and realistic versions of the versions from the manga, which fits very well for the story at hand. What goes unnoticed to many is the way lighting is used; often there are bloom effects during moments of heartfelt conversation, and dark shadows during moments of true brutality. Normally, atmospheric lighting can seem out of place or too blatant, but FMA 03 always does it subtly, which may be why it goes unnoticed.
The OST is slow and emotional. My favorite track is one called “Brothers”, which I guess doesn’t really matter, but I felt like saying it anyway. The openings don’t really fit with the show, but they are such catchy tunes, and have such well directed videos, that I can’t fault them.
“The world’s not perfect, but it’s there for us, trying the best it can; that’s what makes it so damn beautiful”
Recommendations: Hunter x Hunter, Trigun
16. Non Non Biyori
Non Non Biyori makes me happier than anything else in the world. It’s beyond adorable, comfy as fuck and presents a huge range of emotions yet still keeps me smiling. The linchpin of Non Non Biyori is Ren-chon. A 7 year old girl seeing the world for the first time. Her reactions to things, and how she learns about the world we live in is touching and realistic and uugguuuuuuuu. More importantly is her relationships with other characters. Mainly, Kagayama Kaede, “Candy Store.” The palpable camaraderie between these two is beautifully moving.
That’s what makes Non Non Biyori a good show, but what makes it a great show AND great SoL? The atmosphere. Non Non Biyori takes place in a small country side village where all the characters go to a one room school with 5 students. The open space, calmness and lack of general technology just calms me down to the core for some reason. I’ve spent my whole life in the city. I guess it’s just because I’ve never seen life like this before? No, that would be selling the show short. Non Non Biyori is a fantastic moe Slice of Life anime that will get you feeling every emotion and calm you down.
“This is it, the Legendary Sword!”
Recommendations: It’s damn near impossible to find something like Non Non Biyori, but I guess K-on?
15. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter. What is it, really? It’s an epic war story about relatable, complex characters. But wait, it’s also a fast paced thriller. And a game show. And the first trapped in a video game anime. And a tournament shonen where the protagonists are by far the strongest. And a political drama. Yes, it’s all of that. But more than everything, it’s a story about the bond between two teenagers. Gon Freecs and Killua Zoldyck. We’re far enough down on the list that I can use a little hyperbole. Gon and Killua have the most realistic friendship I’ve seen in shonen. And considering I’ve read/watched over 40 long running shonen (Yes, I counted) that’s a damn accomplishment. It’s hard to say more than that paragraph says. It’s a wide variety of arcs that all have different genres and themes, that is all held together by the friendship between two kids. Not my favorite long running shonen (that’s later), but a fantastic one none the less.
“Life isn’t about the big picture, it’s about the detours you take along the way”
Recommendations: Fullmetal Alchemist, One Piece, YuYu Hakusho
Shirobako’s ensemble cast is far and away the most relatable group of characters in anime. Miyamori Aoi, the protagonist, has a stunning inner struggle about the nature of passion that hit me right in the face. Because I will continue to mention what this show means TO ME, I need to clear something up. Obviously, it’s all my experience. What this show means to me might not matter to you in the slightest. To people similar to me, it might. This applies to any other time on the list in which I mention something being “relatable” or “hitting me right in the face”
The personal shit is just the tip of the iceberg. The animation of Shirobako is consistent and crisp. The character designs are moe, while still being respectable. Up there with FMA in design, even though it’s very different. The soundtrack, even though it sounds like freeware visual novel shit from the late 90s, still fits really well. The insane production value is twice as effective when watching the show teaches you how tough it is to make anime.
The entire second half is a non-stop emotional thrill-ride. The last two episodes have such high hype levels I thought I was going to explode. The fight with Boros, Last Stardust and the battle against the Minotaur don’t come close to some of these scenes. The ending managed to be completely satisfying, far more so than 90% shows I watch, yet still leave me begging for more.
“I just realized I love learning things that I don’t know anything about. It sort of feels like I’m one step closer to my dream.”
Recommendations: Bakuman. That’s it.
13. Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is a stunningly directed, paced and animated film, with very grey morality, somewhat subtle environmentalist themes, epic fight scenes and a fitting soundtrack. It’s hard to talk about this one. Just watch it for yourself.
“To see with eyes unclouded by hate”
Recommendations: Every other Ghibli film
12. Monogatari Series: Second Season
MSS really is a crazy one. It’s the culmination of the Monogatari series, with it having 3 damn character-arc conclusions! One of which, Nadeko Sengoku’s arc, blew my mind with its abrupt but almost fated feel. Of course, Nadeko Medusa isn’t all that makes this season great. The animation and directing work found a cool mix between Nise and Bake, and I think it works out well. The banter is as fabulous as ever, and the fanservice still stands far above every other anime.
The first arc, Tsubasa Tiger, is a first for the Monogatari series, as it’s from Hanekawa’s perspective instead of the protagonist. This creates a very interesting change in world view, but considering that there are still no freakin’ people in the world, it’s not that crazy.
The next arc, Mayoi Jiangshi, was a huge change in tone for the series. It’s pretty much a zombie action comedy. And it’s tons of fun. Monogatari has always been a good time, but this arc turns it up to 11. Shinobu and Araragi have such amazing chemistry, that it’s hard not to love seeing them talk.
The next 3 arcs are basically life-changing in just how much development happens. Two relationships are concluded, three previously-1-dimensional characters become fully 3-dimensional, many loose ends are tied and it does all of this without Araragi.
My only flaw with this season is the lack of interaction between Senjyogahara and Araragi. But considering Shinobu is here, it ain’t that bad. *Tosses hat into the air* bravo, Isin, bravo.
“Someone saying that they are happy doesn’t necessarily mean that they are happy, right?”
Recommendations: NisiOisiN’s entire library. That’s the only thing like it.
Bakemonogatari has so many reasons to like it, to the point that fans of the show disagree on what it’s appeal is. As for why I like it, well, it’s hard to describe in just a paragraph…
First, the style. The directing style of Bake is eccentric and expressive. Often times, it uses live action footage or still frames of text to get across messages subtly. The character designs are beyond beautiful. Featuring realistic, expressive, legitimately attractive characters.
Second, the dialogue. Bake’s dialogue is something I have only seen in other Isin works. Even then, it’s not as polished as it is here. Some conversations in the early episodes of Bake had me glued to my screen more than most battle series can do in their climaxes.
Third, the characters. The female characters in Bake are, by far, the best out of this top 20. *Yay, more hyperbole* and it really shows. Senjyogahara is eternal best girl for all shows for all days.
Fourth, and most important, the romance. Just… wow. Never before have I been so blown away by a fictional romance. Realistic, touching, heartfelt and so goddamn cute.
Bake is my favorite romance anime, my favorite second Isin work, my favorite SHAFT anime and one of my favorite one-cour anime. There isn’t much wrong with it, sans one 2 episode arc, and I really do love it with everything I got.
“I’m bothered by the very fact that people exist, but you’re an exception.”
Recommendations: There really is nothing like Bake. Even the other Isin works aren’t really like it. It’s a stand alone masterpiece.
Katanagatari has to be seen to be believed. It chronicles the tale of two lost souls, finding a path in life. Each episode being a beautiful standalone vignette that helps tell an overall narrative with scope far bigger than you could have predicted. Of course, this episodic style wouldn’t work if the recurring characters were uninteresting, but that could not be farther from the truth…
Our “heroes” Shichika and Togame, are some of my all time favorite anime characters. Shichika spent his whole life living secluded on an island, and the way he views the world after being basically alone for 18 years is fascinating. The way Shichika and Togame cross develop is intriguing and touching as well, which makes it all the more tragic when the true nature of this story is revealed.
The action scenes and dialogue make up the meat of Katana. The former being well animated and often clever and witty, and the latter being the greatest thing ever. And then there is the ending. Hot damn on a stick. Katanagatari’s ending is up there with the best of them. It’s an absolutely brutal beat down of the entire show. It’s the ethos of the narrative in 50 minutes, but damn is it painful. It’s my favorite Isin work, but barely.
“But by that point you will have been torn to pieces”
Recommendations: NisiOisiN’s entire library.
9. Ping Pong The Animation
Ping Pong is directed very strangely. Often, the screen is divided into different moving parts, or the camera is watching the game from a bird’s eye view. These cuts may distract from the fact that the animation is extremely fluid, and there is always something moving. The movement lines are very satisfying as well. The actual animation is pretty weird also, with the characters looking very abstract and silly. In the second half, the games become more and more etherial and godly in the way they play-out, going far beyond logic to work on the emotional and thematic level before working on the physical one.
Speaking of characters, Ping Pong focuses on the high school lives of 5 different table tennis players as they struggle with their ideals and what it means to achieve success, and why they continue to play this sport. Each character is very fleshed out, and their arcs are understandable, but are also huge character changes. The themes about ambition are presented well, but I don’t really have much to say about said themes, because it’s rather blatant what it’s trying to say.
None of that is the reason why Ping Pong is so awesome. The thing that pushed this show into the top 10 is THE HYPPPPEEEEEEEEE! The final 3 matches had me sweating bullets, fidgeting with keys, and sitting there ready to fucking explode. Quick mention to the music: Iz guud
“THE HERO APPEARS! THE HERO APPEARS! THE HERO APPEARS!”
Recommendations: The Tatami Galaxy, Kaiba, Cross Game
8. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Brotherhood is a bombastic, explosive action series that turns the scale up to 11, with huge orchestral anthems for it’s OST. Even with this jarring change, Brotherhood is just as good, if not better than the original series. The characters are, while less broken, are far more imminently likable than the cast of ‘03. Even though I am not a plot person, Bro in the Hood has a complex, intricately woven narrative that is insanely easily to appreciate. It manages to be just as enjoyable to young teenagers as adults, and children. The animation is stellar, with special mention to the fight scenes and creative use of Alchemy. The ending is one of the most cathartic, satisfying and well written conclusions to a TV Anime, infinitely surpassing the almost painful ending of the old adaptation. It has some horrible comedy, but it’s still my favorite long running shonen, and it 150% deserves it.
“I can’t tell you that… You have to figure it out. Stand up and walk. Keep moving forward. You’ve got two good legs. So get up and use them. You’re strong enough to make your own path.”
Recommendations: Hunter x Hunter, One Piece, Rurouni Kenshin
7. Perfect Blue
Perfect Blue is a mindfuck. You will not make it out of this movie the same person you were before you started it, I assure you. Scene transitions are always extremely unnerving, usually using some part of the environment to block the camera, then falling away to reveal a completely different scene. This leads into how the film is structured. It focuses around an idol turned actress named Mima, who slowly loses her mind. The film is split into reality, fantasy, and the films she’s acting in, and you can never tell the difference between the 3, until the very end.
Perfect Blue has things to say. A lot of things to say; about idols, about sexism, about psychology and about the media. And it says it all beautifully, at a blisteringly fast pace, in just over an hour.
The atmosphere of Perfect Blue is possibly the most important aspect. It’s chilling and unnerving, yet shockingly realistic. The character designs reflect this, with very earthy bodies and faces. It’s a mind-blowing ride, and one that will leave you gasping for air.
“How do you know that the person you were one second ago, is the same person that you are right now?”
Recommendations: Satoshi Kon’s other films
6. Cross Game
Cross Game is the magnum opus of a mangaka who’s been writing the same kind of thing for 40 years. Judging by that, you can expect it to be a pretty damn perfect version of that thing. What is said thing? Slice of life psychological sports dramas. For all the exciting baseball in Cross Game, it is not focused on that.
Very early on in Cross Game, major tragedy strikes. The next 49 episodes go through 8 years of reeling from the incident, which is looked at with unflinching honesty and realism. Yet, despite the insane affect this event has on the characters, said effect is conveyed subtly, rather than through silly melodrama.
Speaking of the death of silliness, the dialogue in Cross Game is my favorite in any anime series. While not nearly as engaging or insane as Isin’s dialogue, it also isn’t nearly as focused on. It’s just very natural and well paced dialogue, usually rich with nuance and humor. Even with the humor, it’s never over the top. Cross Game is funny in the same way that a silly conversation with your friends is funny, not the way something like One Piece is funny.
I mentioned the baseball earlier as if it were a minor part of the series, but it is still extremely impressive. The techniques used are grounded and have real-world applications, and the slope at which the characters grow in strength is pragmatic. The tension is high, and legitimately so. Cross Game is an absolute triumph. The fact that there are 5 shows I like more than it just prove how good these next 5 really are.
“You’re the pitcher, I’m the catcher, at Koshien Stadium, the stands packed full.”
Recommendations: Ashita no Joe, Ping Pong, Touch
5. Top wo Nerae: Gunbuster!
GUNBUSTAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!! The hype in this one is real. I counted 4 times I was shaking, crying, sweating and smiling all at the same time. No, that’s not an exaggeration. Noriko is one of the all time best female anime characters, because of just how fast she gets out of her funk.
The animation and music here is by far the best of the 80s and 90s. The opening is God’s will in 90 seconds. But, the best part is Anno’s directing. Unique, flippant, exciting, insane, beautiful. Two musical uses were so potent that I crawled up into a ball and cried about the mastery of it all.
The ending is, while simple, the most heartbreaking shit I’ve ever seen. The entire final episode has a little directing choice that I wasn’t fond of at first, but when the point of it is revealed, I was blown away. “I was blown away” really describes my thoughts of the whole show. Anno blew it out of the park with this one. And, as you should be able to tell from this list, I am a massive fan of Hideaki Anno.
Quotable, poignant and SO DAMN HYYYPPPEEEE, Gunbuster remains in my heart forever. It’s my second favorite anime, and I can’t think of anything else that fits the spot so well. Once again: GUNBUSTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!
Recommendations: FLCL, Gurren Lagann, End of Evangelion
4. The Tatami Galaxy
The Tatami Galaxy is a ride. The pure experience of watching TTG is enough to make the show worthwhile. Featuring an extremely unique visual style that constantly riffs on itself, and music that focuses on complimenting the show and not being catchy in general, Yojouhan’s directing is certainly notable. Of course, the directing isn’t all that makes this show a blast to watch.
The protagonist of TTG often (always) gets himself into wacky shenanigans. Including (but not limited to) getting his bike stolen by an underground bike-dealer, getting involved in a “war” that’s all petty pranks, joining a “criminal organization” that also mostly does petty shit and getting roped into a pyramid scheme. It’s tons of fun, and I wasn’t bored for a second.
Yet, with all the fun it has, the best part of TTG is how well structured it is. I’m not exaggerating when I say everything in the Tatami Galaxy is important, and gets a full explanation. Some later events are so well foreshadowed that the show basically spoils them, and yet no one ever figures it all out until the end. I can’t really think of a show better than this little bundle of love. The Tatami Galaxy refuses to hold your hand, but by the end, you’ll have pieced the whole thing together yourself. And that’s what makes it so damn beautiful.
“Grab the opportunity dangling in front of your eyes”
Recommendations: NisiOisin shit, FLCL, Evangelion, Ping Pong, Kaiba
FLCL may be the “most perfect” thing on this list. It’s coherent, thoughtful, poignant, beautifully produced and so fucking confident. Everything in it is deliberate. Every frame is a painting. It’s a Bildungsroman that just screams “ANIME” in big bold letters.
The presentation is so good, that it deserves its own paragraph. The directing is constantly original and unique, and the fluidity of motion is unparalleled. The visual gags are clever and woven throughout. While not as funny as Scott Pilgrim, it made me laugh more than enough to be considered part comedy. Anything else? The music is the greatest anime soundtrack of all time. Fitting 90s rock, that’s used perfectly. The pure spectacle of FLCL is awesome enough that it’d be nearly impossible for the themes and characters to equal it… but somehow, they pulled it off.
The coming-of-age story presented in Furi Kuri is magical. Each episode has the main character, Naota, learning a new lesson. It’s not at all forced down the audience’s throat, quite the opposite, in fact. Episode 4 has the most important lesson for me, as Naota learns to trust that he can succeed even though his gut tells him he might not. It really was big for me, and everyone has one episode of this show that got to them, Episode 4 was the one for me.
As much as Episode 4 means to me, I can’t put it as my favorite from this series. Why? Because the final episode, Episode 6, is just too perfect for me to say that. I can’t even begin to describe the euphoria that is watching this episode. Just watch it for yourself. It’s another one of those “culmination of all the themes and epicness packed into one episode” type endings (A.K.A A good ending) and it is really impressive.
Fooly Cooly doesn’t really have a story in the traditional sense. It has a mess of objects that the writers found in a garage wrapped into a Sci-Fi epic. However, all of these random garage objects serve as amazing symbolism, that you won’t catch the first 3 or 4 times around. I.e Left handedness being a symbol for breaking the rules and being unique, like Naota’s brother did and like this show does.
But I really can’t stress enough that my love of FLCL doesn’t come from one of these aspects. It comes from both. This seems obvious, but with FLCL specifically, I hate when people pretend that the themes are all that matter in this show. No. It’s an insanely fun ride, and that means just as much, if not more, than anything it has to say.
“It’s the climax!”
Recommendations: End of Evangelion, Gurren Lagann, Gunbuster
2. Cowboy Bebop
Putting Cowboy Bebop in my tops is a little bit of a cop-out, isn’t it? It’s not really fair, after all. “Oh, it’s a top anime list? Better throw Cowboy Bebop in the top 3 somewhere for being so fucking amazing and not aging a day in 18 years.”
Let’s start with the aesthetics. Bebop’s character designs are realistic and slick, with very attractive and “cool” bodies and movements. The fights are fluid and clever, with all of the martial art moves being modeled after real life fighting styles, and even Ein, the obligatory dog character, moving like a real dog. Did I forget anything? Oh yeah, the music is the most perfect blend of audio and visuals in the history of animation. I’m not being at all hyperbolic when I say that, I honestly believe it to be the truth. It easily beats out any TV anime, and even the vast majority movies and OVAs. The soundtrack consists of a lot of jazz pieces and saxophone, with a few english insert songs thrown in. Music is a big part of Bebop, from the cultural references to some of the themes themselves.
Each episode of Bebop is its own story. While the main crew stays the same, every episode has them meeting a new character, if not multiple, who we never see again after that episode. Usually this would lead to those characters being underdeveloped, but that is far from the truth. All of the episodic characters are fantastic and 3-dimensional, which is a product of the excellent characterization; Bebop doesn’t waste a frame. Each episode also presents a new idea or theme for the audience to think about, which all swirls into the main theme of the narrative: accepting the weight of your past and the inevitability of your future.
If the one episode characters are great, then how are the main characters? The best in anime, of course. First we have Spike, the charismatic, impulsive badass with a lot of cynicism in his heart, but also a lot of, well, heart. Next is Jet, the calm, thoughtful one of the original two. Faye is a bombastic gambler who usually causes the Bebop crew some trouble, but always pulls through in the end. She’s my favorite of the cast, because of her sympathetic past and somewhat lovable and entertaining nature. Even the comic relief characters, Ed and Ein, get solid development and a fantastic conclusion to their arcs, in addition to just being really good comic relief.
Speaking of comic relief, Bebop isn’t all uber serious philosophical quotes and subtle flashbacks. Not even close. Bebop can be buckets of fun, with it’s enjoyable and funny character interactions, some silly episodic plots, and occasional visual humor. Hell, one of the fan favorite episodes, Cowboy Funk, is completely silly. Don’t get me wrong though, when Bebop is serious, it’s the most mature and thought provoking anime out there, with incredible nuanced directing and dialogue, which leads for each re-watch to harvest new information and nuggets of genius.
Quick mention to the finale. Cowboy Bebop’s ending is absolutely stunning, as it brings together all of the show’s themes and ideas in one beautiful double length episode. The most powerful part of all is a single line in the last episode that is the ethos of the entire show in a single sentence, and when you see this short line, you know exactly what it means, and it’s so amazing. I won’t spoil it, so you’ll just have to watch the show for yourself, though everyone who’s seen the show already knows what I’m talking about. I want to put Cowboy Bebop at number 1 so badly, but I can’t. I only saw it very recently, and don’t know how it will stand up for me over the years, along with not knowing what its permanent effect on me will be. If this was a “best anime” list, we’d be done here, but it ain’t, so let’s move on to my all time favorite anime...
“I’m not going there to die, I’m going to find out if I ever really lived”
Recommendations: It’s hard to believe, but Bebop really is a genre to itself. There is truly nothing like it.
1. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Anyone who knows me, knows that this is my number 1. Sorry for ruining any suspense going into this. But really, I couldn’t put anything else here. Flippant and sophomoric, yet passionate and thoughtful, TTGL is a legend. But more important to me: Gurren Lagann made me who I am today.
The true ethos of Gurren Lagann, and hell, my current life, is as follows: You are you, and everyone else is everyone else. “Trying to be someone else will only cause failure. Rely on others, but don’t become them. Use those people you look up to as a springboard to who you truly are.”
Watching this has made me realize something. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. In the anime community, this is somewhat relevant actually. Don’t pretend to like something that you do not. If you love a show that everyone else hates, wear it on your shirt like a flag. Don’t feel bad about yourself because you like/hate something that everyone else hates/likes. Everyone has something that means the world to me, and this is mine.
You can’t be stuck in the past. You can’t be stuck on being overly reckless or being too careful. Neither is the correct answer, but neither is wrong either. It’s finding that mix that is who you are. Gurren Lagann asks questions that people have been asking themselves since the dawn of thought. How do I become who I truly am? Do I ever stop evolving? Is there a correct way to live life? And most importantly, should the past affect me?
TTGL is, ignoring any of the passion and themes, a fun action show with fucking awesome music and animation, explosive fight scenes and is quotable as hell. Just watching it once, I understood the main theme of evolution and letting your past go. On future watches I figured more and more about it. But the show is equally enjoyable every time. It’s funny, exciting and the most emotionally moving thing in the world for me. It would be my favorite anime even if none of the genius symbolism was there.
Gurren Lagann’s heart and soul are mine. I’ve never felt so connected to something in my life. I’ll never forget what this show means to me. The great twists, relatable characters, stunning unique animation and sound design may fade in my memory, but the impact it had on me will never die. I wouldn’t be surprised if TTGL is never replaced as my favorite anime, but who knows what the future holds.
“Mark my words. This drill will open a hole in the universe! And that hole will be a path for those behind us! The dreams of those who have fallen... The hopes of those who will follow! Those two sets of dreams weave together into a double helix, drilling a path towards tomorrow! And that’s Tengen Toppa. That’s Gurren Lagann!! My drill is the drill... THAT CREATES THE HEAVENS!!!”
Recommendations: FLCL, Gurren-Hen and Lagann-Hen.
For fun, let’s go through my top 10 opening songs as well.
10. My Dearest (Guilty Crown)
9. Summer Rain (Cross Game)
8. Let Me Hear (Parasyte)
7. Tada Hitori (Ping Pong)
6. Period (Brotherhood)
5. Active Heart (Gunbuster)
4. Maigo Inu to Ame no Beat (Tatami Galaxy)
3. Sono Chi no Kioku (JoJo)
2. Sorairo Days (Gurren Lagann)
1. Zankoku na Tenshi no TE-ZE (Evangelion)
This is my longest post yet, and I really hope you guys liked it (8000+ Words!) I hope to keep updating this until the writing gets really outdated, to the point where I need to make a new one. Here’s my Twitter and my MAL and here’s to a great 2016!