It feels strange that I haven’t done any sort of anime related list ever. Let’s fix that.
One of the reasons why I don’t do these (especially “top n” lists) is because I can never really decide on what’s better than what. I feel like each and every feature has its own set of qualities, and it’s really just up to us to decide which quality appeals to us the most. So this isn’t so much a Top Ten, but rather, this is going to be Ten at the Top – regardless of where they fall in the numbers, whether its 10 or 1, no one title is superior.
Now before we do the run-down, I guess it won’t hurt to point out that since this is a list of my favorite anime, enjoyment actually plays a huge part, more so than other criteria for ranking/rating anime (i.e. plot, character development, etc.). I’m well aware that the list of all-time greats in anime/manga already has within itself a couple of more-or-less staple titles (say, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood or Neon Genesis Evangelion, to name a few). And yeah, they’re masterpieces in they’re own right, but the best anime shouldn’t automatically be everyone’s favorite – and vice versa.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is going to be an immensely biased listing on my end, but I am in no way claiming that the titles below are the best shows ever. I just happened to enjoy the heck out of ’em. 😀 (*But, if you’re interested, I wrote a piece a while back about 10/10 shows)
So, with all that said and done, let’s have at it. Starting with –
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
[ We are all from Kawaiso / We are all Pitiful /
The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior ]
Whenever I stop and look back at Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou, I always attribute it’s success in my eyes by being just a neat, little, and compact package of goodness. Bright, vibrant, and fun – Kawaisou will make you forget about your previous favorite KanaHana character, because Ricchan is sure to claim that title when everything’s said and done. It’s not perfect (could’ve fared better with a more conclusive ending), but it does a lot of things right as a romance-comedy feature. Plus, the show is a literal feast for the eyes. I especially liked how they used camera pans and type-set gags to full-effect.
Lasting 12 episodes, along with an OVA, short and sweet is the best way to describe this series (but I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel). Kawaisou is my go-to feel good anime whenever I need a romance hijinx fix.
[ Swing Big! / Big Windup! ]
Big Windup! is just one of those shows (for me at least) that once I play an episode, I absolutely have to finish it. It has a way of pulling you in and immersing you into the adolescent world of Japanese high school baseball, and it’s just a fun watch overall really. I like Big Windup! over other baseball anime titles mostly for its realism. No crazy pitches or feats of the sort, but just pure technique and strategy. I understand that real life baseball is very slow paced, hence the need to add something to it in anime to make it more exciting to watch, but Big Windup! went a different, more seinen route – giving emphasis on the growth, team dynamic and relationships within the team (B-L bait), which actually works just as well, of not better than flashy moves and stand-out star characters.
[ Saki, Saki : Achiga-hen, Saki : Zenkoku-hen ]
Wait, wait.. what?
You read it right. Moe and Mahjong go together better than you’d expect – add to that a dash of surrealism in the form of insane luck/chance manipulation, and you end up with a surprsingly entertaining premise. That said, everything else is what you’d normally see in the cute-girls-doing-x variety, but to me the selling points of Saki are the matches. The matches are just intense, and in the same feeling as Big Windup!, I just can’t stop when I start watching. You’ll look at mahjong under a whole new light after just the first episode. Never has a show compelled me to actually learn how to play a game until Saki with its over-the-top riichi mahjong (I even have a Saki mahjong app on my phone!). That’s how much I enjoyed watching this series.
But to pigeonhole Cross Game as just a baseball anime is nothing short of criminal. One of Cross Game’s strengths as a romance feature is that it had time to work with what it had (being 50 episodes long). Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t always a direct relationship between the total length of the series and how good of a romance it is *cough*Shinkai Makoto commercial*coughcough* (the vid actually has English subs if you enable ClosedCaptioning. Enjoy!). However an allowance of time also allows for a more scrupulous development. But even then, some features have shown the tendency to overcook their romances to the point where it becomes stale (Nisekoi, as a popular, yet far-flung example).
Cross Game strikes the balance between the two really well. Fans of Adachi might notice an all-too familiar formula in play, probably the only complaint I can see being raised towards this feature, but all in all, it was worth the build-up regardless.
Garden of Words
[ Kotonoha no Niwa ]
As the only Shinkai Makoto piece here (I don’t hate Makoto, lol), Garden of Words has a special place in my heart – and no, it’s not because I’ve been on either end of a student-teacher relationship. I remember seeing a trailer for it and immediately I fell in love with almost everything about it. The aesthetic definitely plays a huge part in how much I enjoyed Garden, and why shouldn’t it? It’s a Makoto piece after all.
There really isn’t any special reason why I like Garden over every other Makoto work. I’m sure a lot of peple would agree that they’re all more or less thematically similar (dealing with separation, moving on, coming of age, etc.), but Garden.. I dunno.. Garden just makes it all seem so natural.
I watch a lot of American TV shows on occasion. Specifically, I watch a lot of crime drama – shows like CSI, Law & Order, Castle (though I’m slightly more interested in the romance for Castle than I am for the actual cases, lol). The first thought I had when I watched Psycho-Pass was that it felt VERY much like what you’d expect from those types of features. It was dark, edgy, and everyone didn’t really know what to expect from it at the time – well, other than it was going to be different owing to the presence of Urobuchi Gen.
Urobutcher was coming off of the Madoka train by the time Psycho-Pass came ’round, and suffice to say his success in subverting the anime “mold” of moeblobs carried over. Psycho-Pass, in my opinion, served as a reminder for people that even anime as a visual medium can take on something more mature if it wanted to, and as a result deliver something at a level even most live action shows can’t pull off.
Sadly, and I feel I should state this – I don’t share the same sentiments for Pyscho-Pass S2.
[ From the New World ]
Shinsekai Yori is an epic (literary form, not the adjective). A coming-of-age story of children becoming adults in one of the best sci-fi backdrops in recent anime memory. A story veiled underneath a layer of mystery and a false sense of familiarity. In the moments when you think you follow all the in-universe mysticism and lore, it dips and dives and takes you for a loop – until you realize that in reality its really just a story about people. It’s right around that point when you start to appreciate its depiction of the nature of human society.And it’s haunting (in a good way, really).
Arguably one of the heavier shows in my list, in terms of pure brevity of content, I applaud Shinsekai Yori for beind odd, obscure, and for the most part un-anime-like.
Admittedly, part of my fascination with the universe as well as the narrative of Shinsekai stems from my having read (and subsequently admired) Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter J. Miller Jr. (give ’em a read!).
[ Fate/Stay Night (all iterations), Fate/Zero ]
Fate (and Type-MOON in general) will always be one of, if not the major catalyst of my becoming an anime fan. As such, I will always and forever will be biased towards it. The nostalgia of being the first anime I saw with Japanese audio aside, I really just fell in love with the universe from the get-go. It almost feels like cheating, that I’m grouping all the Fate series as a collective, but yeah, if were not to do that, half of this list would be Fate stuff, and even then it’d still be a fairly accurate list on my end.
I suppose the overarching lore (to me at least) is what made me view the different shows under the Fate banner as parts of a whole – that is to say, anything and everything that happens in any iteration of Fate is connected, at some level, by the Nasuverse.
Fate is far from perfect (although the coupling of Type-MOON x ufotable is definitely getting there); it has its flaws, and by its being based on a very expansive visual novel, there will always be something left to be desired in the anime adaptation. However, as a very learned man once said, “Just because you’re correct, doesn’t mean you’re right” (lol) – and what F/SN gave my fourteen year-old self, although possibly incorrect in many ways, was a grand experience I’d be hard-pressed to forget.
[ Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari, Nekomonogatari (Black), Monogatari Series Second Season, Hanamonogatari, Tsukimonogatari, Owarimonogatari, and so on ]
Something about the Monogatari Series makes it seem likes it a cut above what everyone else is doing. Monogatari, to this day, is the only feature that can make me watch (and enjoy) a twenty-four minute bath scene.
Dialogue is definitely Monogatari Series’ strong point (though some might make a case for the signature Shaft handiwork), and I’m a true sucker for a well-written back-and-forth. It doesn’t matter if they’re talking about something dumb like the implications of the word courage, or how to find out if you’re in love, or even the combustible properties of Rubidium when mixed with water – it’s, for a lack of a better word, amusing. Credit goes to the masterful NisiOisiN and his way with moonspeak, but there’s also some credit to be given to Shaft and director Shinbou patricularly. A story that is driven literally through talking doesn’t make for an interesting visual feature, but Monogatari makes it work.
Kara no Kyoukai
[ Boundary of Emptiness / Garden of Sinners ]
I really can’t put it into more words than simply – I love Kara no Kyoukai.
Well, that was fun 😀