My Top 20 Anime of All-Time – #20 to #11

Two years ago I finally put together my first top anime of all-time list because, after 8 years of being a serious anime fan, I thought I’d finally seen enough anime and my tastes had stabilized enough that it would be a meaningful reflection of what I considered the very best for other people to see. Also the first aniblog tournament was occurring and all the cool blogs already had Top 10/20/35/50 lists :) . I was proud of the result and figured that I wouldn’t need to update it for years to come.

How silly of me.

Less than six months later I was already vaguely embarrassed at how out-of-date this all-time best anime top 10 list had become and dying to gut it and fix it. Luckily, almost no one actually digs through the ‘about’ section in this blog, so, I didn’t have to really worry about people seeing it after it slipped off the first page of posts :) . I planned, pondered and pored over many possible contenders; and, after many months, I’m ready with this new list of my all-time top anime series – hopefully, this one will last longer.

My three criteria to decide which series are eligible remain largely the same from the last time, though there has been some tweaking.

1) For an anime to be eligible it needs to have been watched at least twice, though a multi-series anime like Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei needs only one of it’s distinct series to be watched twice to make the entire franchise eligible.

2) No movies are eligible except for those that are part of a larger anime franchise that has at least one anime series to it or if multiple movies for a single franchise are put together and behave like an anime series. For example, the Kara no Kyoukai movies and, one day, the new Evangelion movies are eligible by themselves.

3) For shows with multiple seasons, I could choose which seasons to include but I’ve come to prefer considering the entire series together, warts and all.

I also decided to double the amount of series on the list to 20. Expanding the list seems like the correct course of action to help reflect my exposure to many great (and not-so-great) anime series that I’ve had the chance to watch over the last two years (~160). I probably could have expanded it a little further more but I didn’t want to turn this into merely a listing of all my favorite series.

20 - Ghost in the Shell: SAC

Vintage: Fall 2002, Winter 2004
Director: 
Kenji Kamiyama
Studio:
Production I.G.
Times Watched:
4, 3
Last time watched:
2010

It’s sometimes easy to forget that at one time Cartoon Network was the primary way to get anime and that back then anime meant action, cyberpunk, more action, shounen, being cool, more science fiction, fan service, and even more action. I might have drifted from anime if I hadn’t discovered the rest of the spectrum to anime but I’ve never lost the desire to see anime that fits this mold. One of the best exemplars from that time period was Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex; it had everything and a smoking hot soundtrack. Some of the other series that I loved from that time period have not held up but almost a decade later GiTS:SAC still hasn’t lost a step; though, Production I.G. itself has struggled to produce another work as good as GiTS:SAC.

Speaking of Production I.G., to those who actually thought Guilty Crown was a good anime – stop reading right now and go watch GiTS:SAC right now. You’re welcome.

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19 – Potemayo

Vintage: Summer 2007
Director:
Takashi Ikehata
Studio:
J.C. Staff
Times Watched:
4
Last time watched:
2010

An oddball, absurd comedy about a boy and a creature made from expired food that accidentally attained sentience while in the back of his refrigerator. The creature, voiced by Kana Hanazawa at the start of her career, is quickly dubbed Potemayo by the astonished humans and so begins one of the funniest anime I’ve seen to date. Much like Milky Holmes, a more recent comedy series also from J.C. Staff, the animation style worked against it when trying to convince people to give it a chance and, as a result, Potemayo was largely passed over by anime fans. I’ve always hoped for a sequel but after all this time it’s probably never going to happen :( .

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18 - Kaiba

Vintage: Spring 2008
Director:
Masaaki Yuasa
Studio:
Madhouse
Times Watched:
3
Last time watched:
Summer 2011

Like the best of science fiction, Kaiba is not really about the SF; instead, like so many of the best stories, Kaiba is ultimately a love story. It’s not really about the cloning or the mind uploading or the body swapping or the interstellar empire or the interesting animation style, trust me. Kaiba was such an interesting series that it almost turned me into an episodic blogger and still might be the anime series that I’ve devoted the most space talking about here on The Null Set. It’s a shame that Madhouse doesn’t do series like this anymore.

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17 - Arakawa Under the Bridge

Vintage: Spring 2010, Fall 2010
Director: 
Akiyuki Shinbou
Studio:
Shaft
Times Watched:
2, 1
Last time watched:
Fall 2010

If asked to pick one work from the Shaft/Shinbou combo that best represents all of their other works I’d pick Arakawa Under the Bridge. The story of how a young businessman’s life is changed after being rescued from drowning by a woman, claiming to be from Venus, who happens to live under a bridge with an eclectic group of weirdos is quintessential Shaft/Shinbou. Other series skew heavier in one direction or another – slice of life, comedy, drama, oddball, ecchi fan-service, etc. – but Arakawa does it all in perfect moderation. I’m still holding out hope for a third season and if that comes to pass then I could see this moving much closer to the top.

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16 - Noein

Vintage: Fall 2005
Director:
Kazuki Akane
Studio: Satelight
Times Watched:
2
Last time watched:
Winter 2012

Noein is the newest (to me) entry to make it on this list. I probably would never have discovered this great anime but I got lucky and had Noein given as one of my suggestions during last year’s Secret Santa Project run by Reverse Thieves. An intelligent science fiction series using parallel universes and featuring several of the best choreographed / animated fight scenes I’ve ever seen in anime, I seriously kicked myself for overlooking this gem. And it turned out that I watched Noein just in time because it gave me a positive opinion of the animation studio which helped convince me to watch more of their work when Satelight began to suddenly pump out series like Aquarion Evol and AKB0048 this year.

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15 - Planetes

Vintage: Fall 2003
Director: Goro Taniguchi
Studio:
Sunrise
Times Watched:
3
Last time watched:
2010

When you think SF series set in space you think space ships and phasers and green women or at least mini-skirted space pirates not trash collectors but Planetes proves that trash collectors are every bit, if not more, interesting then clean-cut space adventurers. And few months ago I would have been lamenting at this point that there’s never been another anime that even remotely feels like Planetes but the wait appears to be over with the appearance of the anime series aptly named Space Bros. One of the reasons that I liked Planetes so much was the future it depicted at the end of the 21st century has a realistic amount of problems (which get expertly woven into the show) but that didn’t dampen the hope humanity civilization has for the future or stop people from employing all it’s tools to work towards a better future.

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14 - Birdy the Mighty Decode

Vintage: Winter 2009
Director:
Kazuki Akane
Studio:
A-1 Pictures
Times Watched:
3, 2
Last time watched:
Winter 2012

One of the reasons why I kick myself over needing Noein pointed out to me before I watched it was because many of the people who worked on Birdy had previously worked on Noein and that should have been a tip-off to go watch Noein. Oh, well I’ll learn someday. One of the things that has always bothered me about shows that feature city-leveling destruction is how the city would be miraculously rebuilt in the very next episode; that was not the case with Birdy. The second season actually made a point to explore what happens after the climatic battle in season 1 leveled a good size chunk of the city. I loved it and I loved the fluidic animation style used during the fight scenes. This animation style helped make the fights a great deal more interesting and engrossing; it was like I could feel the action, something I rarely see elsewhere in anime. This is another series I’ve given up seeing a sequel made for it, even though, there’s plenty of potential story left to explore.

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13 - Hidamari Sketch

Vintage: Winter 2007, Summer 2008, Winter 2010
Director:
Akiyuki Shinbou
Studio:
Shaft
Times Watched:
3, 3, 2
Last time watched:
Fall 2011

If Arakawa is the best representation of all that Shaft/Shinbou can offer then Hidamari Sketch displays the very best that Shaft/Shinbou can do with a pure slice-of-life series. The premise is a simple one – the daily lives of four (and later six) high school girls living by themselves in an apartment building across the street from their school – but in the hands of Shaft/Shinbou it becomes a series that entertains and relaxes in equal and generous parts. With the Hidamari Sketch franchise covering the time period from 2007 to 2011 (2012 when the fourth season drops later this year) it’s also the best place to watch the evolution and refinement of Shaft/Shinbou style as they go from underfunded and overworked small fry to influential industrial giant.

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12 - Haibane Renmei

Vintage: Fall 2002
Director:
Tomokazu Tokoro
Studio:
Radix
Times Watched:
3
Last time watched:
2010

Every now and again people talk about which anime titles belong on a list of titles that need to watched before one is considered a true anime fan. Various titles get thrown around with very good reasons attached to them but I think the premise is flawed one. Watching Utena was not a prerequisite for liking Mawaru Penguin Drum or Cowboy Bebop for some newer space SF series like Bodacious Space Pirates. If, however, there is a list compiled of anime series that every person that’s remotely interested in anime should see I feel Haibane Renmei should rank near the top. In fact, if there’s one anime series on this Top 20 list that I wish everyone reading would go watch (if they haven’t already) its Haibane Renmei.

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11 - Paranoia Agent

Vintage: Winter 2004
Director:
Satoshi Kon
Studio:
Madhouse
Times Watched:
4
Last time watched:
2010

At the very minimum, over the last decade there has been no other anime director that could compete with Satoshi Kon’s brilliance, creativity, and sheer awesomeness but the time period is almost assuredly a much longer one and it will probably be a far distant year in the future before we see someone like Satoshi Kon again. The world truly is a grayer place without him. He created several movies and one TV series – Paranoia Agent – which was about what happens when a city is terrorized by a kid known as Lil’ Slugger. I came across Paranoia Agent early on as anime fan back when Cartoon Network was all one needed to follow anime and it blew my mind. It helped remove any chance that being an anime fan would prove a temporary thing because it showed what was possible with the medium.

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That’s it for part 1; I’ll post the top 10 later today. I’m curious if there’s anyone that can guess what my top 3 will be. It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out which three series but the order might be slightly more difficult.

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8 thoughts on “My Top 20 Anime of All-Time – #20 to #11”

  1. nice list. a lot of great ones. wait, is it bad to have a top ten list that are all pre-2000 or something?
    i think i’ve seen everything on this list except for hidari sketch and planetes.
    i’m curious at your number 1 now. XD

    Like

  2. Man, Paranoia Agent haunts me to this day. It was definitely great but for reasons unknown my memory of it seems more like a fever dream than solid recollection. I watched it in the doldrums of my last free summer so perhaps it’s due to that.

    Like

  3. Bleach is cool and all but ive gotta go with Vampire knight. Its so thrilling with comedy/romance/bad-ass fighting and a twisting mystery that gets you hooked, and you can never stop watching it. The last few episodes will blow your mind not knowing that a thrilling new secret has been revealed!

    Get ready for season 3!!!!!

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  4. I have to say I liked Bleach alot more than Vampire Knight, Bleach can be pretty bad with filler and such but when Bleach is at it’s best, Vampire Knight doesn’t really compare to it. But I guess everyone likes different things about anime, I prefer series like Fullmetal Alchemist and Evangelion.

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  5. :) i m not into so much of anime but, i have seen a few, but not from this list.
    As per me ruroni kenshin (samurai x), cowboy bebop, slam dunk and a few more are the ever green anime. they r old but i would like every anime fan to watch them sometime :) ENJOY Anime!

    Like

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