The following titles are my favourite anime as they stand today. I won’t include movies, for I see them as vastly different entities (like comparing cars to planes) despite sharing an artistic medium and will create a separate list in future. I will avoid repetition to the Former Favourites list, so read that one for more information of shared titles.
I have heard it said that one’s ‘favourites’ of any given medium will consist of about 10% of viewed titles, which would give me ~40 slots to work out of ~400 unique titles completed. However, making a list of 40 is too easy; it requires no sacrifices. And what do I always say about great conflict? It requires sacrifice! As such, here are my 20 favourite anime with a few honourable mentions.
Hellsing Ultimate – Hellsing Ultimate is an awesome anime, no doubt. Sadly, it lacks a corner of the holy trinity – multi-layered plot – to stand alongside the greats.
Baccano! – I do love Baccano. It has my holy trinity of storytelling, but its structural flaw interferes with everything. A re-edit would likely move Baccano up in my estimation.
Rumbling Hearts – If only Rumbling Hearts had better visuals – style, technicals, camerawork, etc. – to complement the crippling drama. Don’t misunderstand, I still highly recommend this anime, though there’s something to be said for aesthetic quality affecting the dramatic appeal.
Ah! My Goddess – Of all titles on this list, Ah! My Goddess fell furthest in my esteem. Nostalgia will forever keep this anime alive, though most of my favouritism leans on the movie, which I do consider great to this day.
The Favourites in rough ascending order – only the final is my definite favourite
I still love Escaflowne, but… But, when I have seen similar fiction that’s better in every way, I cannot help but compare the two, thus limiting how high this anime can rank. I suspect nostalgia keeps this one higher than intended.
My sentiments are largely the same as before on Initial D. My one change in opinion would be a greater disappointment towards its flaws, particularly the drama between Takumi and his girlfriend. It’s a true shame that Initial D’s romance is the scraps of other titles on this list.
What a fun anime! Everything about this anime makes me love it. From the protagonists to the supporting cast, the humour to the stupidity, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun is one hell of a ride. I want more!
Shiki’s striking character designs remain some of anime’s best. They are so memorable and distinct in that special ‘anime’ way without making me cringe as I would from most colourful casts. Oh yeah, and there’s the whole business of having tense vampire horror through to the end. Shiki rose on my list after a rewatch.
Psycho-Pass exemplifies the science-fiction genre, posing a hypothetical question that makes you think long after the credits roll. Would you trade all freedom for perfect security? The world design is brilliant as well. We shall not speak of the second season.
Still love the ‘cosy’ feel of Gundam SEED. Nothing has changed about this one from the previous list.
I fell in love with this immediately. Nodame and Chiaki’s chemistry is top notch, reminiscent of Full Metal Panic’s main couple (and sharing ma boi Tomokazu Seki). On top of that, Nodame Cantabile understands what it takes to be a successful artist in a manner rarely seen in fiction. Plus the music is perfect.
If you recall my former favourites, Cowboy Bebop didn’t rank. Now however, my appreciation for the anime has matured, for closer examination and an ability to enjoy each episode as a standalone story differentiates it from other titles. Many anime have tried to emulate the story-lite, character-heavy style of Cowboy Bebop. Few succeeded.
This was a surprising find. I had Death Parade in my collection for years before witnessing its greatness. Little did I know of the gem that sat in storage. Death Parade is little more than my holy trinity – complex characters, unforgiving conflict, and multi-layered plots – distilled into short stories pitting dead souls against each other as they reflect on life’s mistakes. The second episode is still atrocious though.
Death Note remains a favourite of mine for how well crafted its first season is. There is so much to learn about pacing, point-of-view, and conflict in Death Note. Even the weaker second season can teach you plenty about what not to do with a fantastic story.
Gungrave seems to have dropped many ranks, hasn’t it? In truth, I don’t love Gungrave any less than I once did. Rather, my ceiling of preference has increased, making room for new titles. Harry and Brandon’s arc is as great as it has ever been.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood replaced the original Fullmetal Alchemist among my favourites. The more complete packaged with a superior ending makes this replacement inevitable – giving more screen time to the best character, Roy Mustang, certainly doesn’t hurt either. The original’s best moments remain excellent, but one should never underestimate the satisfaction of a complete story.
I am mad scientist! Steins;Gate was a surprise. A reader requested I review this anime and it blew me away with its intense story and, more importantly, phenomenal cast of characters. Okabe (in English) is a special sort of character – and I don’t just refer to his insanity. I wouldn’t be surprised if I love this one more in a few years. If you can go into Steins;Gate blind, then do so.
I covered this in the previous list, so I won’t repeat myself. RahXephon will never become old in my eyes.
If you read my review for The Rose of Versailles, you’ll know that the first act and false start almost quashed my interest in the story. It’s a testament to how strong the latter acts are that they erased all negative sentiment towards the first act. The French Revolution is a rich moment in history, ripe with storytelling opportunities that I hope to revisit.
My ultimate love of Full Metal Panic shifted from the original to the pure-comedy spin-off, Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu. Damn hilarious. To become a favourite of mine, a story must have the trinity of components. The one exception is being hilarious. If a series is hilarious with fun characters, it goes straight to my heart. As it happens, Fumoffu has great characters and surprising turns in the story while remaining hilarious all the time.
To this day, Johan is still one of fiction’s greatest villains. The cold, calm psychopathy beneath his prim exterior create an unsettlingly unforgettable character. Every step in Monster’s winding mystery urged me onwards. If the quality were any less, I would not have made it through this lengthy series.
My thoughts on Code Geass haven’t changed from my Former Favourites list. If anything, my greater experience in anime since has made me appreciate the skill with which the character arcs and conflict weave together. It has its share flaws, no question, but it’s my sort of story. “Kill all the Japanese,” will forever rest in anime’s most haunting moments.
I should have loved this series from the start, back when I watched a few episodes at initial release. Gankutsuou is a better Gungrave. I figure that my lack of interest stemmed from Gankutsuou’s subtlety. Much of its characters’ complexities and motivations come from subtext, which Gungrave only has in its two main characters. When I make a best character list, the Count will be up there.
If you’ve read my review for Legend of the Galactic Heroes, it should come as no to see this title as number one. No anime executes the holy trinity better than Legend of the Galactic Heroes. It took me a long time to finish this series not because I lost interest, but because the plot and characters are so involved that I required free time without distractions. I wonder if any anime will beat this…
So, What’s Changed?
The most obvious change to any of you who read the Former Favourites list should be the slide in Gungrave’s rank. As I say above, I don’t love it less; I love others more. The other notable change is Ah! My Goddess. I have seen so much romance, across all fiction, that Ah! My Goddess no longer serves the purpose it once did.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood replaced the original adaptation, which should be no surprise, and several titles usurped Death Note’s bronze medal. I would attribute this to the weaker second season.
What hasn’t changed is my love of revenge plots. Near half the anime on this list have a revenge element of some sort. What can I say? I love the conflict it brings.
If you sort my reviews by rating brackets, you’ll notice a few ‘Very High’ rated anime absent from this list. With Parasyte, I believe Shiki takes all the real estate for that type, even though Parasyte is probably the better anime. Again, the visual component makes the difference.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica being moe has the odds stacked against it. I will eat a moe plushie if a moe anime ever makes it as a favourite of mine. Still, it says a lot about its quality to receive that rating with a moe face.
There are other titles I surprise myself at having not included: Berserk (needs completion), Free (super fun!), From the New World (first act inhibits any inclination to rewatch this), Nana (if not for the final act), Princess Jellyfish (too unfinished), and Golden Boy (best harem nonetheless) to name a few. A distinct lack of sports titles also leaps out at me. Even a top 40 list would have two, maybe three, sports entries right now. My quest continues in that genre.
Lastly, there is the anime I have yet to watch, which has some 200 unique titles on the list. Odds are something will climb the winners’ mountain. Giving the list a glance and judging by the cover, I see potential in Gintama, Gundam the Origin, Mushi-Shi, Toradora, Space Brothers, Hunter x Hunter (would be the first battle shounen to make it), and Katanagatari. Then again, many potential-filled titles fell far short of greatness in the past. Here’s to hoping for the best with the next 200 anime.