Everyone has one and there’s no surer way for other people to figure out loads of information about a person then from a person’s personal top 10 list. The genre of shows the person likes, the length the person has been a fan of anime, if the person is an elitist fan or a populist fan, what the person thinks about old anime being superior to new anime and vice-versa, if the person watches anime with fan-subs or dubs are just some of the things people can glean from a top 10 anime list. Even using some other number then 10 can be illuminating; a person doing their top 75 anime shows is saying something completely different then a person that only has a top 4 or top 6 list.
I knew this when I started blogging and I also knew that I didn’t have the breadth of knowledge needed to make such a list without being deeply embarrassed of it a year later. Therefore; I waited, read other people’s lists and consumed as much anime (current and old) as possible. I refused to rough out a list until I was done considering what important conditions I should set-up for the list because I didn’t want potential picks to influence my thought processes. The conditions that will constrain this list are three.
- For an anime to be eligible, I needed to watch it at least two times.
- No movies would be eligible.
- For shows with multiple seasons, I could choose which seasons to include but no one show could be listed more than once.
The first constraint made a lot of sense to me. I’ve often encountered a show where the second time watching it yields a different response – either positively like Lucky Star or negatively like Azumanga Daioh or Witch Hunter Robin. Watching an anime that second time also reinforces the experience in my memory and helps ensure that imperfect recollections of a show don’t improperly help or hinder a show’s chances. The flip side of this constraint is that there’s a large number of shows that I can’t consider at this time that I’d love too. Kaiba, Natsume’s Book of Friends, Baccano, Cross Game, Clannad, Kanon, Kemono no Souja Erin, Spice & Wolf, Ga-Rei:Zero, Sora No Otoshimono, Hanamaru Kindergarten, Blue Literature, Hidemari Sketch, and Bakemonogatari are just some of the shows that I think could be competitive in making this list but have only been watched once.
The second constraint is there because I think series and movies are just too dissimilar to put into one list together; it would be like creating a top 10 list of the best cow and dog breeds. It might be possible but it wouldn’t be meaningful. And by carving movies off, I can make a companion list at some point of the my top ten anime movies. 🙂
Since most seasons (not cours) of anime are produced separately, I put in the third constraint in because it didn’t make sense to me to penalize an earlier season if future seasons stunk and were made just to bilk money from the fans or if later seasons improved from the earlier seasons.
Now with that out-of-the-way, let’s get to the list.
Vintage: Winter 2009
Director: Kazuki Akane
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Times Watched: 2
The first season of Birdy was a good show, one of the bright spots in a pretty weak summer season but there were weaknesses that prevented it from being great. I can be a very optimistic person so when the second season rolled around I had very rosy hopes. Imagine my shock when even these rosy hopes couldn’t match how good the second season was. The wooden characters from the first season were replaced with characters that oozed personality and depth. The story was grittier and more real; the building destroyed in the first season remained destroyed and the people who lost their homes were still homeless in the second season. No punches were pulled, the super-powered character with an understandable desire for revenge kills in a way you’d expect an angry individual out for revenge would. And I loved the animation style they switched to for the fights; if I had to describe it in one word that word would be “kinetic”. The characters looked like they actually weighed something and the sense of motion was unparalleled. It ended at a good point but one can just tell there’s still untapped potential with the bigger story so I’m still fervently hoping for a third season.
Vintage: Summer 2007
Director: Takashi Ikehata
Studio: J.C. Staff
Times Watched: 4
The set-up for Potemayo (sentient unearthly creatures coming to life in a refrigerator) would have been the start of a horror film in probably every other country in the world but in the hands of J.C. Staff, we get a cute comedy/slice-of-life show with a very messed up sense of humor. Calling it unique would be an understatement and trying to make an accurate judgment about the show based solely on it’s animation style and characters is impossible.
I really didn’t expect Potemayo to make my top 10 list but the show holds up so well every-time I rewatch that I need to just accept that Potemayo is a great show.
Vintage: Winter 2004
Director: Satoshi Kon
Times Watched: 3
I first watched Paranoia Agent when I was a freshly minted anime fan on Cartoon Network way back in the day when Cartoon Network ran animated stuff all day and wasn’t afraid to show anime before midnight. The realistic setting, the mystery behind Lil’ Slugger, the examination of the psychological effect Lil’ Slugger would have on the populace, the oddness that I’d later learn to be Satoshi Kon’s trademark and the interesting – often quite twisted – characters fascinated me and helped open my perception of what anime could do. Several years passed and I grew hesitant to watch Paranoia Agent again because I worried that it wouldn’t stand up. That had happened with Witch Hunter Robin and I didn’t want to lose another early anime favorite but my youngest sister stated bugging me about watching it. I pushed it off for a while but I eventually relented and we started watching Paranoia Agent. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have worried since I adore every other work of Satoshi Kon I ever watched and Paranoia Agent is no different. Many mystery type shows are only good the first time through but even knowing how Paranoia Agent ends doesn’t diminish how enthralled the show left me.
An interesting tidbit, Paranoia Agent is the only show on this countdown that I’ve never listened to the Japanese dub of it.
Vintage: Summer 2007, Winter 2008, Summer 2009
Director: Akiyuki Shinbo
Times Watched: 3, 3, 1
Having to bend my rules to include the whole series of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei has left me in despair! 😉
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei really is an acquired taste. Looking back, I needed that first season and the months between it and the second season to really get the show and it’s sense of humor situated in my brain. And it eventually clicked because I instantly, and completely, fell for the second season and later rewatches of the first season left me with a better opinion of it. I’ve also learned the best way to watch Despair is to watch each episode twice; once with my finger posed over the pause button so I can read all the text in the background and the second time without pausing so I can focus on the foreground. This leads me into putting much more effort into getting this show than any other anime but I think it’s worth it.
Vintage: Spring 2006
Director: Tatsuya Ishihara
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Times Watched: 6
At one time this would have been my #1 or #2 pick for top anime and seeing it drop this far makes me a bit sad even if I fully believe it deserves this diminished level. It’s very difficult to get into the old mind-frame for this show when the renewed Melancholy of Haruhi (2009) employed the Endless Eight stunt. It’s not that I particularly hated Endless Eight but back in 2006, I decided not to read the novels Haruhi were based on because I didn’t want to be spoiled before watching the future seasons of anime and I’ve been waiting for more of the story ever since and thought that time had finally come. I know this is a mend-able feeling, though, all I need is Kyoto Animation to animate a couple of seasons of Haruhi, reaching the quality level of the 2006 series, and chances are I’d be pushing this back up.
One of the interesting things about The Melancholy of Haruhi (2006) was observing how hype effected fan reception. At the very beginning when there was no hype for the show, everyone (and I mean everyone) loved the show. I remember watching Haruhi work it’s way to number 1 on ANN’s top 10 anime list. As time and the hype increased, though, I noticed more and more new viewers react negatively towards it, wondering what the hype was all about. This trend continued and intensified when Haruhi was licensed in America and the non-fansub fans finally got to watch what the fansub fans had been incessantly talking about for over a year. Their reactions were even less positive and reading what these people thought of Haruhi made this fan’s blood boil on numerous occasions.
That ends part 1. I’m curious if anyone can guess my top 5 before I post it in the next day or two.