Category Archives: Top Lists

My Current Favourite Anime

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.

 

Honourable Mentions

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – This would be in the top 20 if not for the Ghost in the Shell movie, which I love so much more.

Hellsing UltimateHellsing 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

  1. Vision of Escaflowne

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.

  1. Initial D

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.

  1. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun

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!

  1. Shiki

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.

  1. Psycho Pass

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.

  1. Gundam SEED

Still love the ‘cosy’ feel of Gundam SEED. Nothing has changed about this one from the previous list.

  1. Nodame Cantabile

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.

  1. Cowboy Bebop

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.

  1. Death Parade

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.

  1. Death Note

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.

  1. Gungrave

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.

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

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.

  1. Steins;Gate

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.

  1. RahXephon

I covered this in the previous list, so I won’t repeat myself. RahXephon will never become old in my eyes.

  1. The Rose of Versailles

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.

  1. Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu?

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.

  1. Monster

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.

  1. Code Geass

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.

  1. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo

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.

  1. Legend of the Galactic Heroes

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.

What’s Missing?

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.

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My Former Favourite Anime

Before I figure out my current favourite anime, I want to look back at my favourites as they stood before I started this site. More than that, this is an opportunity to explore my progression in taste over the years, and perhaps it will make you think back on your own progression.

(I won’t be including movies.)

Honourable MentionsA few noteworthy titles from my past

Dragon Ball Z – Before I was into anime proper, I was obsessed with Dragon Ball Z as a teen on a level you cannot comprehend. This was before I knew these morning cartoons went by the term ‘anime.’ In fact, it was getting into the medium beyond the morning programs that broke me out of my love for this show. I realised there was so much better. Now, not even nostalgia can make me interested in Dragon Ball Z.

NarutoNaruto was my Dragon Ball Z replacement a year or two later. After I marathoned the first 50 episodes, I watched it week-to-week, eager to see what happens next as I discussed it with my friends at school. Then the filler started during the long wait for Shippuden. Episode after episode wasted our time with the crummiest writing, and without an end in sight, I dropped it. I would watch Shippuden in due course, but with that garbage filler packed between proper seasons, that too tell fell to the wayside around episode 200. I have yet to finish it.

The Twelve Kingdoms – I still love this fantasy epic and I am still waiting for a conclusion. It can’t be a favourite when so incomplete.

Orphen – one of my most watched anime that will always evoke fond memories. With age however, greater depth called to me.

Basilisk – this Romeo & Juliet tale of two lovers from rival ninja clans just missed the cut.

Cowboy Bebop – I didn’t love it enough at the time for a slot.

 

The Favourites in rough ascending order – only the final is my definite favourite of the time.

Oh! My Goddess (commonly known as Ah! My Goddess today)

My first romance anime. I didn’t intend to find this anime. It was a matter of restricted circumstance. I had a voucher for a store with a limited selection of anime and I picked up Ah! My Goddess the Movie because of Belldandy’s cover art. Loving the movie, I bought both DVDs for the 5-episode prequel series and fell in love. The sweetness of Keiichi and Belldandy’s romance filled me with the warmth of pumpkin soup. I would watch the series and movie whenever feeling down.

Initial D

If I close my eyes, I can still hear the hype-inducing eurobeat of Initial D. I must have listened to those soundtracks a thousand times, probably more, over many commutes, levelling sessions in World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars vanquishes. More than eurobeat, Initial D made me love cars (including the brilliant Top Gear). I was most impressed by how gripping this anime made the racing battles. One wouldn’t imagine that fights without a single punch could muster such intensity.

Vision of Escaflowne

I still remember the first time I saw the Escaflowne Guymelef animated on screen – coolest thing I had seen in anime. The mechanics of it all shows the creator’s love for world building. Again, the romance was a strong factor in my attachment to Vision of Escaflowne. I travelled with Van and company through the world of Gaea several times over the years.

Fullmetal Alchemist

Who didn’t love Fullmetal Alchemist? The creativity author Hiromu Arakawa infused into her world, characters, and alchemy still inspires me to this day. My reasons for favouring this anime are obvious.

Gundam SEED

Gundam SEED is still my favourite Gundam series (The Origin may usurp the throne however). There is a certain type of story I love. I don’t know what to call it. You have a group of people, almost like a family, yet with internal conflict as well as the external, travelling together is some form of vessel whether it be car, ship, or plane as they ward off enemy forces. They struggle together, always on the run from something, but they have each other. And during quiet times, they can retreat to their beds inside the vessel. Cosiness permeates this story type and Gundam SEED nails it.

Full Metal Panic

Few stories, let alone anime, have managed to balance action and comedy as well as Full Metal Panic. Full Metal Panic Fumoffu is responsible for a lot of pain to my sides from laughter. Damn that anime is funny. Furthermore, Sagara is one of my favourite characters in all fiction.

Death Note

No anime kept me in suspense like Death Note had. The pacing, direction, uncompromising brutality of character, and plot forced me to watch one episode after the next. I remember everything about my first viewing, right down to my friend recommending it to me at the Olympic Park. Even the poor second season didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for Death Note.

RahXephon

RahXephon, RahXephon, RahXephon… Of all the anime on this favourites list, RahXephon is the most important to my anime fandom. Sitting down in the viewing theatre at an anime convention, watching the first episode to merely pass the time while I waited for friends, buying the first DVD with the box to fit future discs, the free t-shirt that faded over the years, the anticipation of the next DVD each month at $30 per, the delays that made the wait agony, that one volume with only 3 episodes, and the rush home to dive into the next chapter are all as clear as day. I had rewatched several anime many times each before, but RahXephon was the first I studied, dissecting every character, every motivation, and every action. The wait between volumes led to many rewatches, and even more once I had the set. This dissection is probably why I love RahXephon more than anyone and why I understand how niche it will forever be.

Code Geass

Code Geass is the last anime I watched on this list. If I recall correctly, I only watched this because it was something to watch. I acquired several live action series, films, and an anime or two off a friend, Code Geass included. As I charted the entire world of Guild Wars one day, I started on the anime to ease the tedium of rubbing my character’s face against every wall and mountainside of Tyria. It wasn’t long before I stopped playing and gave all attention to Lelouche in his quest for revenge. Like Death Note, Code Geass was edge-of-your-seat intense that kept you guessing to the end (and what an end it was). I did not watch much anime for several years following.

Gungrave

Why was Gungrave my favourite? It was a combination of factors. First, it took great effort for me to acquire the episodes with no legal means, when torrenting was in its infancy and data caps made the wrong download a month-long error. Second, the grit and style gave a mature tone I hadn’t seen at the time. Most of all, the dynamic between Brandon and Harry and the tragedy of their friendship resonated with me. The turmoil they and the rest of the characters go through engaged me so. I’m sure everyone has that one story you connect to in a way you can’t explain. It’s what makes the oddest story, the most niche story, or even perhaps the worst story somebody’s favourite.

 

On Reflection

Looking at this list, I notice two recurring themes: romance and righting a wrong. Gungrave, Code Geass, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and RahXephon all fit the latter, while every entry has a strong romance element save for Death Note (though it still plays a twisted role) and Alchemist, whose romance I wanted more of (wouldn’t flesh out until the remake).

The romance interest is obvious. I was a teenager looking for love, (I found it, but that’s a story for another time) and the romance genre, one I considered dumb and, to own the truth, for girls, was a new avenue. It’s was like discovering a new type of music I hadn’t considered before. Now I can’t get enough of romance across all mediums.

As for the prevalence of plots about righting a wrong, often portrayed as revenge, I guess it appealed to my sense of justice. I abhor an imbalance of justice and seeing people get even is engaging. However, should the means of getting even be illegal, then there must be consequences. And that’s what these anime did well – they didn’t let their characters get even by any means necessary without consequences.

You may have noticed that there are several notable absences from this list. Where’s Evangelion? Didn’t you give Monster your highest rating? For the sake of all anime gods, high and trash, what about Gankutsuou? Well, Evangelion wasn’t a favourite (full review coming soon as to why), Monster rather bored me – believe it or not – and Gankutsuou fell to the wayside for some mysterious reason. We shall see what has changed since then in my New Favourites article.

So, now I ask you, what were your favourites years ago (or currently, if you are new to anime)? Remember, there are no wrong answers.