My Top 20 Anime of All-Time – #10 to #1

The danger of putting together a list like this is the sudden temptation to rewatch the series that one mentions instead of trying to finish writing up said list. A quick look at what I’m watching confirms that I don’t even have the room to fit in Planetes, Haibane Renmei, or Paranoia Agent. To name but three series that I really want to rewatch right now, maybe over the quieter summer season I’ll find the time. (It might be a quiet season but there’s still Moyashimon season 2 to get excited about.)

10 - Ichigo Mashimaro

Vintage: Summer 2005, OVA1 – Spring 2007, OVA2 – Winter 2009
Director:
Takuya Sato
Studio:
Daume
Times Watched:
5
Last time watched:
Spring 2010

I avoided Ichigo Mashimaro for a long time because I decided it was a certain type of anime after looking at the promo images and I was not interested in a series like that. My resolve held steady for many years but, incrementally, my resolve wavered as I saw clips of it used in AMVs or read positive things written about it from blogs I personally liked. The final straw was when the people who worked on the first season of Minami-ke did not return for the second and I started looking to find something else they had done previously to scratch the itch for more real Minami-ke. I was surprised to see that Ichigo Mashimaro fit the bill and reluctantly gave it a shot. The rest, as they say, was history. Turns out that Ichigo Mashimaro was impeccably constructed to be the perfect character-driven slice-of-life series. Seriously, if one professes to love watching characters play off one another then I can’t think of a better series then Ichigo Mashimaro to watch.

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9 - Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Vintage: Summer 2007, Winter 2008, Summer 2009
Director: Akiyuki Shinbou
Studio:
Shaft
Times Watched:
3, 3, 1
Last time watched:
Summer 2009

To pick up where I left off, if Arakawa is the best at presenting a balanced look at all that Shaft/Shinbou can offer and Hidamari Sketch displays the very best that Shaft/Shinbou can do with a pure slice-of-life series then Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei showcases the best of Shaft/Shinbou in a comedy series. The unique trials and tribulations of a teacher with a very bad outlook towards life along with astute observations about society and filtered through the Shaft/Shinbou filter was the recipe for comedic gold. As I get older, though, I don’t know if I should be happy or depressed that I understand more and more why the teacher would despair over all the things he did.

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8 - Baccano

Vintage: Summer 2006
Director: Takahiro Omori
Studio:
Brains Base
Times Watched:
3
Last time watched:
Winter 2012

Somehow I missed Baccano when it first came out – probably thought it didn’t look interesting enough or Haruhi was inhibiting too much space in my brain at that time – and it was only several years later that I went back and corrected my initial oversight. By then I knew Brains Base well and I knew what to expect, or so I thought. Broken into smaller scenes and shown out-of-order, the epicness of Baccano wasn’t fully apparent until the last couple of episodes and it was then I was struck dumb. It seemed easier to use the Large Hadron Collider to invent time travel and form a secret world controlling organization  then to figure out how Brains Base did it. Bravo Brains Base, now can we get a sequel?

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7 - Steins;Gate

Vintage: Spring 2011
Director:
Hiroshi Hamasaki , Takuya Satou
Studio:
White Fox
Times Watched:
2
Last time watched:
Fall 2011

A couple of years ago there was an anime series based on a visual novel called Chaos;Head and I instantly fell for it. I have a few types of series that I consider my type of series and this anime was squarely in one such type which made the implosion that it suffered at the end all that more painful. I didn’t want that to happen again so I began watching Steins;Gate, the next visual novel from the same people, like someone waiting for the inevitable while on a Scare Walk during Halloween season. I hated that I was once again getting drawn into Steins;Gate but I couldn’t help myself – time travel, parallel universes, powerful shadowy organizations, mad scientists and stellar vocal performances by the seiyuu and a well laid out plot and great storytelling – it was again my type of series. The gotcha never happened, thankfully, and when the dust cleared I realized Steins;Gate has easily become one of my favorite SF stories and animated series.

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6 - Haruhi Suzumiya (2006, 2009, Movie)

Vintage: Spring 2006, Spring 2009, Winter 2010
Director:
Tatsuya Ishihara
Studio:
Kyoto Animation
Times Watched:
6, 1, 2
Last time watched:
Winter 2011

One of the fun things I like to do with anime blogs (and my own) is reread their seasonal preview post after that season has ended to see how the predictions and knee-jerk reactions held up. For the most part, we bloggers make weather forecasters look good and one of my favorite examples of this was the first season of Haruhi. It’s becoming difficult as the years stretch by and the blogs slowly die out but back then Kyoto Animation was an unknown studio (crazy to think what a difference a mere 6 years can mean) and light novels just didn’t get translated officially or unofficially. So all one had was the rather trippy promos, which were live action, and a very generic synopsis that made Haruhi sound like a generic, cookie-cutter school comedy. Predictably, most previews didn’t even mention Haruhi and the few that did were mostly cool to it’s prospects. Then the first episode aired and anime changed forever, only by incremental amount but it definitely did. Now the question is how long KyoAni will make us wait for the next series/movie.

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5 - FLCL

Vintage: Summer 2000 – Spring 2001
Director:
Kazuya Tsurumaki and others
Studio: Gainax
Times Watched:
12
Last time watched:
Summer 2011

With the recent exodus of talent from Gainax and subsequent weak offerings I wonder if it’s time to begin mourning the fall of Gainax. I hope not but at the very least Gainax no longer has the ability to produce something as unique and wonderful as FLCL. Just how unique and wonderful was not readily apparent to me when I first saw FLCL on Cartoon Network; I thought all anime was like FLCL. I make up for the lack of similar feeling, animated, paced, plotted series by watching FLCL at least once a year and marvel how an anime series that more than a decade old still looks current and cutting-edge.

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4 - Kino’s Journey

Vintage: Spring 2003
Director:
Ryutaro Nakamura
Studio:
Studio Wombat
Times Watched:
4
Last time watched:
2009

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the English is only a secondary market for anime and manga but then a franchise like Kino’s Journey comes along and painfully remains English-speaking fans of their place on the hierarchy. Kino’s Journey is a rare jewel in that it entertaining and very thought-provoking which makes the realization that most of the anime is adapted from the first light novel of Kino’s Journey and fans such as I will probably never get the chance to read the other nine volumes of the light novel because it’ll never get licensed and translated. If three years of Spanish class in high school hadn’t already shown that I stink at learning a new language, I’d seriously consider learning Japanese just for this.

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3 - Natsume’s Book of Friends

Vintage: Summer 2008, Winter 2009, Summer 2011, Winter 2012
Director:
Takahiro Omori
Studio:
Brains Base
Times Watched:
3, 2, 1,1
Last time watched:
Winter 2012

Natsume was already an exquisite slice-of-life series by the end of the first season and every season since then has piled it on even higher, leaving Natsume bereft of competition for being the best slice-of-life anime series. (There is two manga series that I think could realistically challenge Natsume if either where ever turned into an anime series by the right staff.) A summary of the series is easy to make – a boy who can see spirits inherits his grandma’s book that contains the true names of numerous spirits and this will thrust the boy into trouble as these spirits want their names back and other spirits want the book – but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of all this anime offers. Nor has Natsume run out of new ways to enjoy it; one of the realizations that struck me after the fourth season was how the series has gone from being very sparse with it’s characters to having a very large cast of reoccurring characters. With the trajectory it’s set for itself and the questions it still hasn’t answered, Natsume could definitely be back for another season or two and I definitely wouldn’t complain if it was.

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2 - Tenga Toppan Gurren Lagann

Vintage: Spring 2007
Director:
Hiroyuki Imaishi
Studio:
Gainax
Times Watched: 7

Last time watched:
Fall 2011

Two years ago it was just a formality when I easily picked Gurren Lagann to be my number one anime because I had known since the moment it’s final episode finished airing that, without a doubt, Gurren Lagann was my favorite anime. I almost wrote for the last list that only a very, very special series could ever unseat Gurren Lagann and I wasn’t all that sure if such a series existed; but, I didn’t know if that thought was a positive compliment about Gurren Lagann or a despairing thought about the anime industry so I left it out. That very, very special anime finally appeared, though, and Gurren Lagann didn’t so much fall to second place as it suddenly had a challenger that was just a whisker better than it. Gurren Lagann is still more than ready to kick potential competitors to the curb and blocking anyone else from drilling past it.

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1 - Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Vintage: Winter 2011
Director:
Akiyuki Shinbou
Studio:
Shaft
Times Watched:
6
Last time watched:
Fall 2011

I should have known that if anything was going to squeak past Gurren Lagann it was going to be something from Shaft/Shinbou. I’m a little surprised that it was one of their structured plot-centric series instead of something like Hidamari Sketch or Arakawa Under the Bridge because they had been very weak with this type of series before. (Dance in the Vampire Bund anyone?) From the production side of things, the success of Madoka was due, in no small part, to the earlier series Hidamari Sketch and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei giving Shaft/Shinbou the space to experiment and refine their skills. From the personal side of things, the ability for Madoka to earn the top spot was due, in no small part, to how I watched it. Mirroring my experience with Gurren Lagann and the first season of Haruhi, watching it weekly as it aired in Japan provided the best environment to appreciate it. First, being forced to wait a week meant that I rewatched each episode more than once during the wait and each viewing deepened what I got out of the episode. Second, since no one knew what was going to happen, it was worth unlimbering one’s brain to guess and figure out what will happen next instead of just giving into temptation and peeking at the wiki article. Third, because it is impossible to inadvertently read a spoiler, one can read as many blogs and forum posts and engage the anime community about this anime without having to worry about ruining their own viewing experience. And fourth, because no one knows how it’ll ends, it’s near impossible for a series like Madoka or Gurren Lagann or Haruhi to become over-hyped beforehand and that prevents the viewer from being disappointed, when they ordinarily wouldn’t, because of the over-hyping.

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So there we go. For the present moment this list does a very good job of reflecting what I believe makes a good anime and what anime I enjoy watching. For fun I should make a Top 5 All-Time Worst Anime list.

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15 thoughts on “My Top 20 Anime of All-Time – #10 to #1”

  1. Glad my favorite anime (Haruhi) got #6 on your list =D Also liked seeing Ichigo Mashimaro as #10. I think it’s a bit underrated compared to similar shows like Azumanga Daioh.

    Heh, Madoka has certainly made it to some people’s top 10 lists, or even their #1, after only being around a little over a year now. Not that I’m complaining since I think it’s a series deserving of its praise. I don’t think it would be among my top 10 but definitely top 20 or even 15 =)

  2. @TPAB~ : thanks

    @Yumeka: Before Gurren Lagann came along Haruhi was my favorite anime and I think there’s still a chance to see it work it’s way even higher on my list, assuming KyoAni makes more Haruhi in the future.

    Madoka hit a lot of my sweet spots when it comes to anime and TV shows/movies in general – actually, Gurren Lagann hit many of the exact ones as well – so I don’t begrudge someone when they don’t quite feel as strong towards it.

  3. In Eve Online, they practice the Art of War, including propaganda. The purpose of propaganda is to demoralize your opponents and reinvigorate the morale of your allies: the will to fight. Since an MMO is inhabited by essentially immortal players, death is not a permanent closure or end to a conflict. But breaking someone’s morale, will make them leave and allow you to easily take over their territory.

    Unlike instanced PvP where one team “wins” over the other team by capping a flag or some objective, there is no specific limitation on wars in Eve Online, except one’s wallet of course.

  4. I’ve watched a few episodes of Hetalia axis powers. The Japanese really do know how to do their anthropomorphisms. uppote has guns for the gun nuts. I wish they would do one about martial arts. That would be hilarious.

    Also the reason why America is portrayed as schizoid is probably because of our Presidential elections. Half the time we’re led by an anti-American proto fascist. The other times by people who are clueless about the internal evil brewing in America.

  5. Kinda disagree actually. Madoka is perfect for one sitting, and I find that when you watch it in one burst, it gives the series a momentum and flow that aren’t there in gradual watch

  6. Madoka also had the wonderful talent of Gen urobuchi’s writing , which defintely made Madoka an anime unlike anything else . Overall i think your list is great ! and diverse enough to be enjoyed by most anime fans .

    I recommend you give Fate/zero a try , it’s beyond amazing ! :D

  7. For me, Paranoia Agent is easily the absolute #1 anime I’ve ever watched. PMMM and Gurren Lagann come shortly after, though they’re now threatened by Revolutionary Girl Utena, which I would probably place as my number #2.

    Really, when people talks about classic anime with a lot of symbolism and a bit of mindfuck thrown in everyone thinks of Evangelion (which was good but not nearly that good for me), and RGU is overlooked. But I think RGU managed to do what Eva never did: insert every tiny bit of symbolism it employed in a single statement, stretched over the entire series, on whose meaning no doubts can be raised and for understanding which no crazy fan theories or supplementary materials or ending movies are required. It’s smart, it’s fun, it’s often meta, it never takes itself too seriously, yet it can also go some dark places when it dares. If you haven’t watched it, I’d advise you to do so ;).

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