I’m always leery of writing top all-time posts because I realize that I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge that a decade long anime fan might have so I always worry about missing obvious picks. And I’d probably skip them all-together if I didn’t realize that such lists give readers and potential readers a large amount of information about a writer (as was pointed out elsewhere just recently). Before I tackle an overall top all-time list, I want to start with an easier list that I’m more sure upon – my picks for top anime comedies.
The reason I’m more confident is twofold. The first is that of all the shows I watch, it’s the comedies that get rewatched the most so I know how well a show will hold up. After all, if a comedy is only funny one time then it’s nothing more than a flash in the pan. And every show on this countdown has been watched at least twice and a few have been watched more than that. The other reason I’m more confident is because I don’t think I’ve missed too many older series that should be on this list. When people talk about comedy animes, I don’t see many titles that I’ve never watched. I’m sure there’s some out there (and if one wants to point them out – please do) but I’m fairly confident that this is a good list and it does reflect what I consider a good anime comedy.
(5) – Azumanga Daioh
I just know that my ranking of Azumanga Daioh at only number 5 will get a sizable percentage of anime fans out there angry. And I could try to deflect these comments by saying that just getting on this list an honor but even I want to rank this show higher. The problem is that when I rewatched Azumanga Daioh recently, I still found myself laughing at it but at times I felt a bit bored and wanting the show to get to the parts of the story I especially liked. I think Azumanga Daioh might be suffering from the same fate that individual songs sometimes do – they’re overplayed by everybody and one gets tired of hearing that song over and over again. So, I don’t think there’s a flaw with the show itself and it remains funny enough that it definitely deserves it’s spot.
In case there’s readers out there that have not heard of Azumanga Daioh, let me say that you’re missing out on a very hilarious show. The main characters are an eclectic band of high school girls – very memorable as individuals and their relationships are even more memorable. The show follows them through all 3 years of high school life as they tackle the common pitfalls of school life – immature teachers, mean cats, low test scores, and placing first in the classroom athletic competitions. The show was done by J.C. Staff (Hayate Season 2, Toradora, Honey & Clover, Aoi Hana) and remains one of the best shows that they’ve done.
(4) – Lucky Star
Where a recent rewatch hurt the previous show, a recent rewatch significantly raised my feeling for Lucky Star. And for the record, I’ve always considered this a comedy and not a slice-of-life show.
Controversy, drama, and sky-high expectations have dogged Lucky Star from the beginning and as a result, it became very difficult for someone to just watch the show and react to it as if it was a normal comedy anime. Collectively, I feel this contributed to many people coming to dislike the show and I’d probably be in that boat if I hadn’t stuck it out long enough for the characters to really grow on me (about 8 episodes). Once I hit that point, I liked the show in ever-increasing amounts; I still wouldn’t have had Lucky Star here if it wasn’t for the rewatch. I realized the second time through that the early episodes where just as funny as the later episodes and the lone defect of these episodes was how long it got the viewer to like the characters. Once the viewer gets to know the characters, the entire show is a stellar comedy and is even better the second time.
For those readers that have not heard of Lucky Star, it follows the not-so-typical lives of 4 high school girls (including a pair of twins). Of the four; the visual novel and MMORPG playing Konata is the main focus, troublemaker, and engine that drives most of the show’s comedy. The show was done by Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) and the director of the first four episodes went on to work on Kannagi (which I was disappointed with) and the rest of the episodes were directed by Yasuhiro Takemoto who did the hilarious Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. (Which almost made it on and speaking of FMP, there really needs to be a new season of that).
(3) – Potemayo
This is probably the least well-known or more accurately – the least watched show on the countdown because many people looked at a couple screenshots and decided a “moe blob” show couldn’t possibly be worth the time and didn’t stick around. And it’s a shame because these people missed a truly funny show.
Potemayo is a cute little thing that appeared one day out of the main character’s refrigerator and took up residence in his household. He didn’t seem to mind, naming her after the potatoes and mayonnaise that where in the fridge, and allowed her to come with him where he went. She had the vocabulary and apparent mental capacity of a year old baby but that wasn’t the only source of humor. For one, the show had a twisted sense of humor that came out every now and again, for instance I still can’t get enough of the scene that shows a bird eating a piece of fried chicken.
Something that separates this show from the others is that it occasionally swings from being a comedy to being somewhat serious. Never for a long time but it’s enough to get this show a slightly different feel. These transitions are always handled perfectly and never feel out-of-place (the wonderful closing song helps). This show was also done by J.C. Staff which makes them the only studio with 2 shows in the top 5.
(2) – Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Take one teacher prone to despairing over anything and everything, mix in a classroom of oddballs, and flavor with “Shaft being Shaft” and you end up with a very hilarious show. In particular, the second season is (to date) the strongest all-around season and was what pushed this up to number 2. That’s not to say the other seasons were bad but the first season had to introduce the show and it wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders yet and the third season had to split time with Bakemonogatari so it’s animation was a bit lacking.
There’s so much to enjoy with this show. I love to see what Mr. Despair will despair over. I love when the item that he despairs over is actually something I despair over because oftentimes it’s things that I thought I was the only one that did so. I love the societal commentary that shows up in the show. I love the students and their quirks. I love the high quality voice work and the unique animation. I love the songs used. I love how there’s a whole layer of comedy in the background signs (even if that means I have to pause numerous times to catch them all). And I love how it’s a perfect vehicle to allow Shaft to be Shaft.
It’s probably the hardest show I watch fansubbed (between having to read the signs and trying to understand the 15% of jokes that are really Japan culture centered) but it’s really worth the effort.
(1) – Minami-Ke (Season 1)
I needed to call out only the first season of Minami-Ke because production of the second and third seasons was given to another animation house (for some reason) and they were know where near as good as Studio Doumu that did the first season.
This show follows the everyday lives of the three Minami sisters – one high school aged, one middle school aged, and one in elementary school and their social circles. The eldest sister is the mature one, the middle one is the trouble maker, and the youngest is the smart one that can’t stand stupidity. One of the exceptional components is how effortlessly Studio Doumu was able to handle the rather large cast and the various ways the different people added humor to the show. And trust me, there’s so many ways to find humor in this show that I won’t start listing them because I’m sure to leave several out. My favorite single character is Hosaka and his fantasies.
I still hold out hope that whatever prevented Studio Doumu from doing the other seasons will get fixed and we get a true sequel worthy of this season.