We all have our favourite anime out there. We all have anime that we can all agree is great, some which are OK and others which are utter garbage. At least in our own opinion. As somebody who has reviewed anime for a few years now, I have seen more anime than the average anime fan might have seen. I remember doing a top ten anime list video in 2010 when I first started and it was panned for being plain and uninspired [it DID have Naruto on it to be fair. I’m not saying that Naruto is bad but there are better anime out there.] and so I wish to provide a more current list. Please note, these are anime that I have watched and some shows might not be here but feel free to leave a comment and tell me your top ten or what you think about this one.
This list has now been up dated as of September 2014. Some shows have moved down the list and one has been bumped off entirely! These changes in position have been labelled with the title of each show. Harsh, but that’s what you get when a new anime comes along and makes that sort of impact! Onto the list!
#10 – Azumanga Daioh  [UNCHANGED]
Azumanga Daioh is one of the first anime I watched in its entirety when I first properly got into anime in 2005, around the same time I got into voice acting. The story of a group of high school girls growing up and having adventures is a simple one but an endearing one. It’s not a complicated tale as it mimics its 4-koma [short comic] origins and has 2 or 3 self-contained stories per episode. The overarching story of school though is there though and the way that the characters interact is not boring as you might expect at the beginning. The surreal humour and touching plots are enough to warm the hardest of icy souls. It can be described as boring by people with short attention spans but it’s a story about real life. We all can’t be piloting giant robots or slaying massive beasts; unfortunately. Also, the message about friendship and camaraderie is a message I can get behind! It’s a charming series with oodles of character and depth despite its bite-size narratives.
#9 – Kämpfer  [UNCHANGED]
This is a contentious entry as Kämpfer is incredibly stupid and vapid. The main character is a dullard and the plot wafer thin but in this situation – I don’t give two hoots. I don’t care if it’s a Ranma clone with a tenuous plot; it’s a show with bucket loads of charm and comedy [despite some of said humour being quite predictable]. I abridged this show after doing the same with Naruto and fell in love with the show over the course of writing for the parody. It’s a little braindead but the characters are quite distinctive and the artwork is pretty. It’s not the best anime out there; not by a long shot; but darn it, it’s a lot of fun and it got my interest [and not because of the ladies in it!]. It made me smile and I’ll always watch it. At least the first season. Don’t touch the second season.
#8 – Urusei Yatsura  [-1]
People assume that Ranma or Inuyasha are the shows that got Rumiko Takahashi [famous manga artist and writer] recognised, but they’re wrong. Urusei Yatsura is the first story of hers which got an anime and it was one of the first anime I saw on VHS; its significance was palpable. It made me realise that anime had been around for decades and wasn’t a new thing. At the time it was the oldest anime I’d ever watched and at first I was put off but then I quickly shook that preconception. The story of a below-average student named Ataru and a bikini-clad space demon named Lum and their misadventures and mis-matrimony is a hilarious tale and laid the foundations for Takahashi’s narrative style and visual characteristics. Its place in the history of modern anime is well deserved and its place in my memory is assured.
#7 – Dragonball Z  [-1]
It had to be here. I love this show and have seen it inside and out. Sure the story [at least in the original ‘Z’ version] is looooooong and dragged out with power-up sequences but to me that doesn’t matter. I love it regardless. Akira Toriyama’s world is a small one [North, West, East and South City] but it’s full of character, charm, energy and unique designs and concepts which established itself in my psyche for years to come. Not only that but Goku is my favourite male anime character and my playing him in various internet series, projects and fan-works is something I truly enjoy and embrace. The image of the Super Saiyan and what it stood appealed to my fourteen year old self and still does to this day. Dragonball will always play a part in my life and I cannot imagine a life without it. However there are of course better anime out there when it comes to plot and originality. In its defense though, it set the standard for many shonen [anime aimed at boys] and many shows ape/copy/find inspiration from DBZ. Quite understandable.
#6 – Outlaw Star/Cowboy Bebop  [-1]
Outlaw Star is heaps of fun and zany adventure. Its story of two mechanics who happen a state-of-the-art vessel and in turn travel across the galaxy against evil space pirates is a novel and exciting one. Pirates aren’t original, but Zen Buddhist pirates with magical powers are! Gene Starwind is your archetypal badass with a huge amount of luck behind him and everytime you watch him, you know you’re in for a wild ride and despite his lack of knowledge about espionage and tact, he is able to steer the situation to something which ends up in his favour. That’s a mark of a true protagonist; a James Bond for space. A guy who is practically invincible, able to talk himself out of almost anything and look good doing it as well as being a hit with the ladies. Or at least tries to be. Every time I watch this show, I’m left bouncing with excitement. Then we have Cowboy Bebop. It, like Outlaw Star, is set in space and is a huge adventure in which the characters grow, adapt and discover themselves. They both share a jazzy characteristic and style whilst also having their serious moments with Cowboy Bebop being more copious with the seriousness. I love both of these shows and the reason why they tie for fifth place is that they are so similar. They have the same basic plot, are made by the same studio AND came out at roughly the same time. That in my book makes them sister anime and justifies a joint position.
#5 – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya  [-2]
This show, man. So beautiful. Such splendour. Wow. To some, Haruhi Suzumiya may seem excessively grating and incredibly rude and her ‘minions’ humiliating and bland but to me the show’s cast of characters are all unique and have their own place in the show and that makes it for me. Haruhi is one of those characters that despite her shocking and brash personality, you can’t help but feel intrigued about her. Her place in the world is established early on and makes your head spin but it also has a noteworthy subtext to it. It’s about how we all consider ourselves to be the centre of the universe and everyone bends to our will; however upbringing and education have taught us otherwise and we think not such thoughts of grandeur and pomposity. Haruhi missed those classes and her ideas have manifested into her actually becoming a god. The world around us is tied to her happiness and she is always striving for fun and enjoyment and always escaping the benal, bland and boring. You’d think that Kyon, our main man, would grate Haruhi’s ideals; but no. He intrigues her and their dynamic is compelling and unusual. Mikuru and Yuki are also their own people. They have their own origins and places in this universe and often get to exhibit their strengths as well as their weaknesses. You don’t feel that any of the main cast are ignored or glossed over. Each of them gets their own story or narrative arc. In fact, Yuki is one of my favourite characters. She confirmed that my favourite type of anime girl is the stoic, silent type who slowly warms over time.
But back to Haruhi, it was one of the first series I watched on a weekly basis and before the hype started; back when it was a small show on a local Japanese network. I like to say I was part of the fandom before it became epically popular. Like I was part of a small club who knew where the trend for the next four years was going. Also, this show got Kyoto Animation on the map. A game changer of a show.
#4 – Mysterious Girlfriend X  [UNCHANGED]
OK, there’s saliva swapping in this show. There, I said it. Now we got that out of the way, Mysterious Girlfriend X is one of the most endearing, thoughtful, adorable and touching series out there. It’s about a girl named Urabe who has recently transferred to a school where our main male character called Tsubaki and his friends are placed. She immediately makes an impact with Tsubaki and her ideas about emotional connections through a common trait that we humans and most animals have and sometimes share. We share saliva when kissing and the same principle, only it’s more indirect but FAR more meaningful. Urabe believes that the saliva of a significant other contains emotions and health of the originator providing vitality and empathy for the recipient. It may seem disgusting to the uninitiated but once you look past it, it’s quite philosophical. Also, instead of witnessing a twelve episode long game of cat and mouse with the main couple, we witness how that couple grows and warms to one another. It’s a tale of teenage romance through unconventional means and practices and it’s all the more unique. The presentation may seem a little basic in comparison to some other shows but that means that simplicity in art style and visuals helps the story stand out further [Still, the show does have its moment where it looks very beautiful and artistic.]. I love this show to bits and is the first series I have bought on Blu-ray and I religiously follow the manga. I am so happy that this show came into my life and I just wish people could disregard the initially gross idea of ‘spit-swapping’ and value this immensely under-rated series.
#3 – Mahoromatic  [-1]
Like Azumanga Daioh, this was one of the first shows I bought on DVD after finding it online and watched from start to finish. I love the concept but am also saddened by it. Mahoro, an android who has served her time with a private military outfit, only has a set amount of days to live in her current spec. To eke out her time on this mortal coil, she can be stripped of most of her armaments and become a normal woman and lead a normal life – what does she do? Become a maid. Yeah. Unusual. However, when you watch more of the show, you slowly understand why she chooses to become a maid and why she chooses Suguru [the main male character] and then things become far more profound. The minor characters that populate the universe of Mahoro feel alive and genuine; true blue buddies. It all feels real and sweet. Their relationships with one another hooked me in and I felt part of it and like I was in the world with them. Another sting in the tail though is that at the end of each episode, you are reminded that Mahoro will die. It’s a sobering end to an otherwise placid environment. It is an ecchi show and sexual themes do pop quite regularly but Mahoro’s sensibleness and desire to clean up Suguru’s act and make him less perverted is amusing and heartwarming at the same time.
It was also one of the first shows where I collected and completed the manga – all eight volumes are in my possession and I love the art style of Bow Ditama [the illustrator of Mahoromatic] and it saddens me that the only other notable series that has his artistic mark on it is KissXSis. Oy. Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching Mahoromatic and kick myself for having not recently watched it again. What’s wrong with me?
#2 – Knights of Sidonia  [NEW]
This is what Attack on Titan should’ve been. Knights of Sidonia got the supernatural threat against the last of humanity plot right with the addition of deep space as a bleak and helpless backdrop. It had been years since I had seen an anime which got me this invested and so hooked from the outset, especially one involving giant robots. I think what really endeared this show to me was because it was a brave gamble. The animation is produced by Polygon Pictures, famous for doing cel-shaded 3D animation to make the end result appear as it were hand-drawn. Of course, this technique is relatively new when compared to standard animation practices, but Polygon did a great job! The art style of Tsutomu Nihei lends itself to the technique; plus it helps that most mechs in anime are animated with CGI anyway so the choice to make it all 3D makes the product all the more seamless.
It helps that the characters are fantastic. Simple, but fantastically presented. There are so many plot twists in the second half and what you think will happen totally doesn’t – Nihei did well to hide any trace of the future dealings of all the characters. The soundtrack is amazing, the atmosphere is tense and the enemy is genuinely frightening; psychotic space blobs with no real face to identify itself; essentially you cannot see your enemy and that makes things all the more unnerving. This mastery of plot and occasion makes for a brilliant mecha show for the modern age and marks as a turning point in how anime is produced. The 3D anime market has now come of age and I say bring it on!
#1 – Martian Successor Nadesico  [UNCHANGED]
So. Number 1. This is a show which has so captured my heart and mind that I reckon is next to impossible to shift. Martian Successor Nadesico was recommended to me by my brother who had seen it and I instantly fell in love with it. Its ideas and characters captured my gaze for hours and I remember nights where I’d watch nine episodes in one sitting without caring. I miss those days. In essence, Nadesico is a satirical spin on the mecha/giant robot genre of anime. In the early and mid nineties, mecha anime had become stale and repetitive and it was time for a comedic slant on the trope. Nadesico answered that call so well that it became a giant robot anime in its own right and not just a spoof. I’ve watched this anime six times [four times with subs and twice with the dub] and never find it dull or like I’m wasting my time. I find something new every time I play it. It has also asserted that I’m a fan of mid nineties music that Japan seems to do oh so well. So very well~
The anime itself is a gem. The main character, Akito Tenkawa, is a man who is wrenched from his Martian home [Man has colonised Mars] by some unknown force and has to find his way back to Mars by any means necessary [by becoming a cook]. Along the way he bumps into his childhood friend Yurika [well, SHE thinks they were friends but Akito remembers otherwise…] and from there, the story goes on a wild ride and Akito ends up embracing his circumstances instead of hiding from it. The supporting characters are all unique and stand out a lot. They all have their place in the crew and get their chances to shine and be recognised by the audience. There is a major plot twist halfway through the show which throws the series into an exciting and intense spiral which is totally different to the first half and really conveys how the crew of the Nadesico develops from being a rag-tag group of civilians into a credible and respected part of Earth’s defenses.
Then we got Ruri Hoshino, the ship’s operator and poster child. Ruri is my FAVOURITE character. Her nature and stoic personality were so entrancing when I first saw her and I warmed to her immediately and was enthralled in her development from the outset. She has three episodes in which she REALLY stands out and if I were in a room of like minded people, we would all think the same thing – ‘Awwwwwwwww’. The times when she gets a chance to shine are moments to cherish. Her place in the crew is a little odd given she’s a child but her wisdom and logic make her more than an equal for her peers. She runs things aboard the Nadesico. Of course, Yurika and Akito’s plot is pretty amusing as well and also full of comedy and touching moments although at first it seems a little forced and predictable but you really start to see the two becoming genuine partners.
It’s that which makes Nadesico, at least for me, my favourite show ever. Until the end of time, most likely. I can’t imagine another show taking its place. I discovered the show in a transitional period of my life and it left a mark which will never be erased. Never.
Seriously, I will recommend this show until my very last breath and until your ears bleed.
So there we have it, my top ten as of S 2014. It’s of course subject to change over time but that’s where things are as of now. Do you agree with some of my choices or do you disagree? Do you have shows I should check out and could make a push for my top ten in future? Leave a comment.