To celebrate my 900th blog post, I decided to make my top ten anime of all time lists. When coming up with the top ten I focused on series that had the most impact on me. At the same time I also choose anime that can and have stood the test of time (even from an animation stand point), and I would recommend to anyone. I don’t think any of these series are going to be surprise anyone, as most are mainstream to an anime audience.
[Note] One Piece, Naruto and Bleach aren’t on the lists because I prefer(ed) the manga.
10. Dragon Ball Z
If this was a list of the series that I was the most nostalgic about Dragon Ball Z would be number one. Most of my childhood was centered on DBZ . The Cartoon Network would torture me by repeating the same arc’s over and over again. I must have watched the Radditz arc at least 50 times before they moved on to the saiyan arc. The series has come to define anime for many anime fans and non-anime fans. It’s hands down one of, if not the most popular anime series of all-time. Dragon Ball Z has been often mocked for it’s constant screaming and it’s “inaction sequences.” My mother would often comment “did they start fighting yet” as she would walk past the t.v. Despite it’s iconic status, DBZ as a series had a lot of problems. This is mostly due to running up against the manga. DBZ had many bad fillers, dragged out fights and at one point took ten episodes for planet Namek to explode. Even with this, the series had some of the most epic fights and has clearly left a mark on anime in general. Dragon Ball Z still remains an anime series that I consider a must see.
9. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
A mecha anime series by Gainax, Gurren Lagann focuses on mankind’s rise from a subterranean existence to the galactic exploration. Taking place in a future where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King, Lordgenome, a young digger named Simon and his “brother” Kamina dream of reaching the surface. As they and Team Gurren make their way to the skies, they engage in epic, over the top mecha battles. Gurren Lagann features high quality animation, surprising deaths, fanservice, theme music power ups and cool mecha designs. Gurren Lagann resulted in another anime classic for Gainax.
8. Made in Abyss
My favorite anime genre tends to be shonen, but Made in Abyss made me appreciate the seinen genre more. Made in Abyss plays with expectation, if you think the adorable characters are going to have a fun adventure, you are wrong. While only having one season under it’s belt, Made in Abyss had a profound impact on me. Exciting, ruthless, filled with body horror, tear jerking moments and has a intriguing mystery to discover. Made in Abyss is not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth the emotional scarring.
7. Hunter X Hunter
For some reason I kept avoiding Hunter X Hunter. After running into a little bit of an anime drought, I decided to give the series a try. I wasn’t disappointed. On the surface Hunter X Hunter feels like a typical shonen series, but it’s more than that. Gon Freecss, the main protagonists, is a prime example of the undermining of shonen tropes this series does. I loved it’s complicated power system (Nen), character development, action and the uses of a narrator. Narration seemed unnecessary at first but I think it is an amazing addition to the series that adds to it.
6. Mob Psycho 100
An anime from web-comic creator ONE, Mob Psycho 100, is about a 14 year old boy named Shigeo Kageyama. He aims to be ordinary despite the fact that he’s extraordinary with telekinesis. He is a complicated young man struggling with his emotions and fear of his power harming others. Mob Psycho 100 main moral lesson is that despite having an extraordinary abilities you still need work to improve yourself as a human. Mob in particular embodies this theme. Despite his psychic powers he doesn’t think he’s better than anyone. That said, Mob Psycho 100 is still a shonen series with fluid animation, bright colors, humor, funny characters and epic battles.
5. One Punch Man
The creator of Mob Psycho 100 is also the creator of One Punch Man. The title is to be taken literally, as the main protagonist, Saitama is capable of defeating most monsters with one punch. One Punch Man is a parody of the shonen superhero series. It makes fun of the over the top and somewhat silly nature of the typical shonen anime, that results in the main character always defeating the bad guy. It’s surprising how satisfying you find Saitama’s one hit victories. The series does have interesting action, usually it’s other less powerful characters are doing the fighting though. Despite this the series does manage to keep us wondering, which monster can make Saitama hit it more than once. The first season is considered perfect, the second one, not so much. Still, One Punch Man remains an important series for anime fans to watch.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
The story of the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse is a sad, tragic tale. Born into a world that practices alchemy, the brothers arrogance leads them to believe that they can break one of the most important rules of alchemy. Trying to resurrect their mother, Ed loses his right arm and left leg and his brother loses his entire body. The brothers go in search of the “philosopher stone,” so they can transmute without consequences. While maintaining a sense of humor, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, is full of themes like sacrifice, death, selfishness, what is truth, and the value of life. If you want to watch an anime series that balances dark themes, comedy and great action, FMA is it.
3. Attack on Titan
If you read this far it’s clear that I love anime series that manage to successfully combine dark, mature themes with great action and top animation. Attack on Titan is a series that lives up to those standards. What separates Attack on Titan from typical series is the level of dreariness. While the main characters are largely safe, you’ll never certain. Secondary characters and any other character are fair game. With characters that are constantly underdogs, failure is the most likely outcome. Often in anime you feel that everything will be fine, in Attack on Titan your surprised that half the squad is still alive. Attack on Titan has mystery, what are titans (weird giant humanoids) and why do they eat humans? Conspiracies, what is the government doing? As they fight for human survival, the scouts deal with trauma, lost and death.
2. Cowboy Bebop
For many Cowboy Bebop is the greatest anime ever. Considered to be a masterpiece, Shinichiro Watanabe blends elements of westerns with elements of film noir. The classic anime series Lupin the third was a visual influence and the three main characters of Cowboy Bebop are inspired by Lupin, Jigen and Fujiko from Lupin. The overall story is influence by Japanese cinema. Cowboy Bebop also uses a jazz heavy soundtrack that is iconic on it’s own, marking a major departure from the common use of J Pop. Cowboy Bebop focuses on mature themes like loneliness and difficulties escaping the past, it’s well animated, well (voice) acted and generally entertaining. Cowboy Bebop is considered a “gateway series” for anime, and I couldn’t agree more.
1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
When I first began watching Neon Genesis Evangelion it was for the epic and violent mecha battles. I couldn’t comprehend the more complex themes and imagery woven into the narrative. Evangelion is credited with revolutionizing anime as a medium. Set in the year 2000, a global cataclysm called the “Second Impact,” changes the world. Antarctica is destroyed and the planet’s axis shifts, causing flooding and a altered climate. After nuclear war, half the worlds population is wiped out. Teenagers, Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langley Soryu and Rei Ayanami pilot massive mecha called Eva’s. Their enemy are physic altering monsters dubbed Angels.
Evangelion explores complex themes like depression, human subjectivity, and child abuse. The series makes many references to philosophical, psychoanalytic concepts, as well as references to Kabbalah, Christian and Jewish religions. Evangelion even uses religious texts like the Book of Genesis within the series and the Angels share names found in religion like Sachiel. The series has been described as both a ” both a critique and deconstruction of the mecha genre.” On the surface, Neon Genesis Evangelion, is a mecha anime with distinctly designed robots that engage in brutal battles. However, the series has levels of deeper and more sophisticated themes that makes Evangelion one of the most well regarded series ever.