I was not planning on taking this long to finish this part of my top 10 anime but as I tried to write something for each anime, I found it increasingly difficult to do so. Some of the anime on this part I could write thousands of words about and still not get everything said I want to say about them which made writing only a paragraph or two about them extremely challenging. I finally finished, though, and present the second half of my top 10 anime of all-time now.
Vintage: Summer 2005, OVA1 – Spring 2007, OVA2 – Winter 2009
Director: Takuya Sato
Times Watched: 4
It’s only been a year since I first watched Ichigo Mashimaro, aka Strawberry Marshmallow, which makes it the newest-to-me anime on this list. I avoided it for several years because it just didn’t look that interesting to me but I finally decided to give it a try after I realized it was made by the same studio that did the first season of Minami-ke, my favorite anime comedy. I realized almost immediately that, underneath the cute, slice-of-life feel to Ichigo Mashimaro, the characters and their roles in the show were deeply thought out and expertly put together allowing it to excel in many of the same ways that made Minami-ke so good. Miu, much like Kana in Minami-ke and Haruhi in the Melancholy of Haruhi, is the spark plug that directly or indirectly creates and drives the show; take her out, and there’s no show. Chika plays the straight-man, Ana and Matsuri play the victims (Ana wants to hide the fact that she no longer remembers English even though she was born in Cornwallis, England as well as her last name and Matsuri is an innocent soul willing to believe anything that’s told to her), and Nobue plays the lazy authority figure that allows everything to happen and sometimes is the facilitator of the action.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a show being cute, having a relaxing slice-of-life feel to it, or the ability to lighten the viewer’s mood. Last fall, after my younger sister’s guinea pig died, I used Ichigo Mashimaro to get her to smile again after days of crying and being completely crushed. And I used Ichigo Mashimaro to help get through this past February when it snowed practically every day and the sun totally disappeared for the month.
Vintage: Fall 2007
Director: Masahiko Ohta
Times Watched: 4
Squeaking past Ichigo Mashimaro is Minami-ke which I was just saying is my favorite anime comedy. As many of you know, the second and third seasons of Minami-ke were handled by a different animation studio and since those seasons were so glaringly deficient, I’m not including them here. The difference between them boils down, I think, to two key differences. The first was that Studio Daume was able to handle the large cast to Minami-ke, never spending too much or too little time with the various characters, and the second was Studio Daume had great comedic timing.
One of the reasons why Minami-ke is my favorite anime comedy and my number 4 top anime is because the show is built around three sisters and the family comedy on display here reminds me of my family growing up. I’m the oldest of 6 siblings but after me came 4 sisters and the first 3 younger sisters have personalities that the Minami sisters emulate pretty closely.
Vintage: Summer 2000 – Spring 2001
Director: Kazuya Tsurumaki and others
Times Watched: at least 9
FLCL was another series that Cartoon Network introduced to me but unlike Paranoia Agent I never stopped watching FLCL; it’s like an itch I need to scratch every so often. As a result, it’s been a constant companion as I’ve grown in my anime fandom and it seems like every time I watch it, there’s still something new to appreciate about it. I still remember the first time I actually got the Lupin references in FLCL and recently, the realization of how old South Park is dawned on me when I saw it referenced in FLCL.
When I first watched FLCL, I didn’t give much thought to it’s uniqueness; I thought it was a typical anime show and that I could find many more shows like it. I eventually learned otherwise; FLCL showcased Gainax at it’s creative best, with everything – story, plot, characters, animation, animation style, music, and voice work – working together perfectly and there’s almost no one that can come close to competing. Even having Gainax hitting that same level of perfection is exceedingly rare, by my count it’s only happened one other time, though the near perfect efforts by Gainax (like Magical Arcade Abenobashi) are still treats.
FLCL is unique to me in another way. It is, so far, the only anime that I enjoy the English and Japanese dubs equally as much.
Vintage: Spring 2003
Director: Ryutaro Nakamura
Studio: Studio Wombat
Times Watched: 4
Outside of being one of my favorite shows, Kino’s Journey also became quite influential in turning me into the anime fan I am today and helped ensure that I would stay an anime fan. Before Kino’s Journey I had only watched and been exposed to shounen/action anime like Yu Yu Hakusho and Kenshin and I thought this was what anime was. If I would have continued to operate under this impression, eventually I would have grown tired of anime but I happened to give Kino’s Journey a shot and it opened my eyes to what’s possible with anime. From there, I started discovering the many various types of shows anime offered, especially if one removed the filtering agent known as R1 DVD companies, and now I’ve taken the search one step further and try to watch everything, relishing the moment when I find a great anime show in an unlikely place.
Kino’s Journey remains one of the shows I most want to see a sequel of, though I realize with each passing year it becomes less-and-less likely as are the chances of every getting to read the light novels that Kino’s Journey is based off of. I remain hopeful, maybe once the current crop of anime fans start getting tired of the current big action/shounen shows and start wanting something different there’ll be a chance to introduce a show like Kino’s Journey to them. Which reminds me of the most recent time I rewatched Kino’s Journey. It was with my youngest sister and I’d been waiting until she seemed old enough to appreciate the show. I wasn’t surprised that she really liked it; nor was I really surprised when she told me afterwards that she’d watched a couple of episodes over my shoulder, years ago, and didn’t like it one bit.
Kino’s Journey also remains, due to it’s ability to be very entertaining and very thought-provoking, part of my gold standard when evaluating new anime.
Vintage: Spring 2007 – Summer 2007
Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi
Times Watched: 5
Drilling through the past favorites and kicking all new competitors to the curb is my top anime – Gurren Lagann.
By rights, Gurren Lagann should have failed at some point; it took so many risks with it’s story (character deaths, characters being introduced late, time skips, plot twists, etc.) that it seems inconceivable that Gainax pulled every single one off. It made for a very thrilling and memorable viewing experience that first time because no one, except the Gainax staff, knew what was going to happen. Watching Gurren Lagann the first time the way I did, having to wait a week for the next episode to air and be fansubbed, also allowed me look at the series in a much deeper way then watching it on DVD ever could. I couldn’t marathon the whole series in a few days or even watch multiple episodes at one time or go read spoilers; instead, the only way to feed my desire for more Gurren Lagann was to watch the episode multiple times, pick it apart, and try to guess what was going to happen next. Of course I bought it when it came out on DVD but, much like Haruhi, if I hadn’t been a fan of Gurren Lagann before the DVDs came out I don’t think the reviews over here would have convinced me too.
One of the reasons I really liked Gurren Lagann and think it’s deeper than many people give it credit is it’s portrayal of heroism and the costs heroes have to pay to become heroes. It’s not something that’s seen too often on American television anymore or discussed about in society so I liked when Gurren Lagann focused on it.
Did anyone figure out the hint? I used a screenshot from the latest Evangelion movie because it felt like Gurren Lagann was definitely on the minds of the creators of Evangelion when they put together the second movie. See also the screenshot below for another example.