I put together the most involved ranking of my favorite anime a year ago. I provided a link in the end notes. Why a revision? I watch a lot of new anime, a lot of old anime, and rewatch my favorites from time to time. Thoughts of ranking them occur naturally for me, and I think a yearly revisit is just about right. Why is it important to rank and publish my favorites? I think it’s part of the clothes I wear as an anime fan and how I represent myself to other fans. It serves to provide a sense of consistency and purpose given the role I play as an advocate of anime (and manga). Here are some criteria that guide me (in no particular order):
- Compelling stories
- Charismatic characters
- Drama (something important is at stake for the characters)
- Well-animated action
- Crowning moments of awesome
- Crowning moments of heartwarming
And, a secondary tier:
- I’m not hung up on plot, but an intricate plot can astound me.
- I’m not hung up on scale, but I in awe of grand scale over small.
- I’m not hung up on music, but a great soundtrack will delight me.
- Rewatching the show increases my affinity for it, I like it more than the last time I watched it.
Okay, here’s the the countdown to the End of the World:
30. FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
I watched this show in 2010 because I felt I was missing out on something truly great. I was right. It is truly great. I feel it is a perfect exercise of long story-telling, building a fantastic setting, and delivering it with such consistent high quality animation. It now serves not so much as a benchmark, but as a shining beacon of the possibility of anime for TV.
At 64 episodes it’s one of the longer shows I’ve seen but I honestly feel that it could have gone longer. I find the story very tight and well-paced. The characters are very distinct and endearing in their own ways, and are given the space to be fully drawn, as well as having spectacular moments, usually delivered as great action scenes. What’s telling though, is how I choose to write about it here: anyone who’s followed this blog closely can tell by what I wrote that I am not a fan of the show.
It’s on this list, because it is very good and I feel remiss if I don’t acknowledge how its excellence moves me.
29. Hanasaku Iroha
I suffer from recency bias. So be it.
As I write this, the show isn’t even finished. But given how much I like both Aria: the Origination, and K-On!! I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I don’t find a place for this show on this list. I find that while it’s less focused than either of the shows I mentioned: Aria for its narrative of change taking place in a stunning atmosphere, and K-On!! for its excellence in delivering moé, leading to a heightened feel of drama in such mundane circumstances… Hanasaku Iroha is more scattered, or capricious as a show, with a more frank and straightforward approach to sexual fanservice.
This to me, actually liberated it to pursue anything it wanted and not worry about trying to appear as a serious dramatic work, which includes what occurs to me as insightful telling of the working of family-run businesses, the rural economy, and a delicate understanding of finances in general. It also portrays a very interesting dynamic of strong women across three generations. I ate all of this stuff up. There’s also of course, the exquisite cruelty of adolescence to one of its characters that I’ve found I had quite the taste for.
But perhaps what attracts me too to this show is how it reflects We Remember Love quite well. The show, this blog, isn’t quite for everyone… but it tries to give you EVERYTHING. Hehehe.
28: Lucky Star
This is the show that introduced me to contemporary otaku culuture, the one that revolves around moé, as I now know it. I was familiar with the phenomenon, but the character of Konata updated it for me in a strikingly educational way. This was an interesting view – perhaps a cautionary tale of what I found myself could possibly become.
I never ended up being an galge-playing moé fanboy, but I appreciated the introduction, along with what I genuinely found as funny sketches that I rewatch over and over. I have this show, along with K-On!! and now Hanasaku Iroha as my random episode rewatch set. I could now just start from almost anywhere and just enjoy myself for 20 minutes. Among the three shows, however, Lucky Star plays the role best.
You see I don’t regularly rewatch mecha shows randomly… the plot-emphasis fills the time with moments I can’t or don’t want to care about in any given afternoon. What I’m left with is watching clip shows of action scenes which lose their impact when I do get around to rewatching the shows in full. I don’t want that. I want something disposable, and I can’t make my mecha battles disposable. Thus, Lucky Star.
27. Toppu o Nerae! Gunbuster
Watching this show was love at first sight for me. Not even knowing about Ace o Nerae! – the show it remembers love for, I found the goofy school drama involving Noriko, her bullies, and the onee-sama she idolized riveting stuff. This world is something so new to me, having known pretty much zero shoujo up until robot anime introduced me to it via Gunbuster.
The best part was that it departs somewhat from the shoujo story and becomes a full-fledged robot anime, combining real-robot sensibilities but portrayed with super robot awesomeness. Incredible stuff. The time dilation science fiction touches – which would be revisited by acclaimed film Voices From a Distant Star is a great bonus. And still, the heart of the show is the power of love and friendship, a theme I will never, ever, ever tire of.
It’s funny how, as an adult male (I was at least 28 when I saw this OVA) I found no awkwardness watching two girls validate their friendship across unbelievable expanses of space and time. It prepared me to enjoy similar shoujo works that would truly affect my enjoyment of anime in profound ways.
26. Turn A Gundam
It took me two tries but I finished this show. The second time couldn’t be more different from the first because when I previously saw random, confusing, ugliness, I suddenly saw whimsical, pastoral, beauty. It was Gundam as I never could have imagined it. When the image of Kihel Heim making this little leap in her garden and the show just pauses as if time stood still, to let us take in the beauty of that moment… I realize how this show is just capable of anything.
Indeed it accomplished much, not least how it remembered love not only for the franchise it celebrates two decades for (as it was the 20th Anniversary show for the Gundam franchise), but for robot anime in general with its strange Itano Circus and DIY Rocket Punch. Unlike amazing downers like Mobile Suit Gundam, and the downer of downers Mobile Suit Z Gundam, and the ugliest of downers Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, a happy Tomino Yoshiyuki can be quite inspiring and make anime magic.
25. Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
I have never met a meme so cruel, but so inoffensively apt as that of a Hamburger and this show. There are shows within the Gundam franchise that excel at being Gundam shows, at presenting the core themes using larger than life characters as befits a space opera. This show does something different. It presents the core theme: war is hell. It does so in the context of a boy coming-not-quite-of-age, but never as a puffed up pilot, but instead a figure of a generation of Gundam viewers who may have yet to cross that threshold into the reality of war 10 years into the franchise (yes, this show is the 10th Anniversary offering of Gundam).
It does so magnificently, in a subdued, poignant, but heart wrenching way. For me it is a work that transcends not only Gundam, but the animated medium as well. As viewers we are denied the fulfillment of what seems so wonderful for the characters, but instead we are treated to acts of dignity. I love other Gundam shows more because they service my needs and desires as a fan, just as how this show imagines its viewers to be… but far be it for me to fail to acknowledge how this little OVA stands out as a lord among the many works in the storied Gundam franchise.
24. Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
As if to prove a point, here’s a show I favor over the thematically superior War in the Pocket due to well, mecha battle pr0n. This is a show filled with annoying characters, the most careless security in the Federation, a love triangle out of nowhere forced with a thousand shoehorns, but it doesn’t matter.
Before the Gundam franchise will embrace digital animation, this show gave me the very best kind of action anime could offer: giant robots fighting each other in large numbers. It had truly long, desperate fights, incredible scale, and leveraged the history of the Universal Continuity superbly. One incredible thing about the fights is the speed at which its shown. It also gave what I strongly feel is a fair accounting for a combat ace with superior weaponry does in a fantasy battlefield. I wouldn’t appeal to realism at all, but what this show does feels right, feels good, and is a great credit to the Gundam franchise.
23. Macross Frontier
Whatever I could want, need, from anime this show has it. It doesn’t do any one thing on a God-tier level (except the musical battles, not that there are any other shows that try to do this) but it tries to give EVERYTHING. It’s kind of like how I appreciate Hanasaku Iroha as I’ve mentioned earlier. High school hijinks, space opera, idol rivalries, shoujo-esque love triangles cum cooperative/dependent female rivalries, slick dogfights, sexy transforming robots, romance, LISTEN TO MY SONG… TO THE ENDS OF THE GALAXY, science fiction, big ol’ space battles, and allusive Easter Eggs by the shipload.
This show! I could blog every episode and not run out of things to say. Oh wait!
If it does anything well, it serves as a comprehensive introduction for new viewers into the Macross franchise. It won’t give overblown expectations as Macross: Do You Remember Love? and Macross Plus have been known to do.Macross Frontier is enough of a nutty, scattered, and cavalier towards logic kind of show that even Macross 7 can be accounted for.
22. Macross Plus
A treat: an adult story in the Macross universe. I use adult very specifically: it takes a certain level of maturity to truly have regrets in life. If you make a story about regret using too young characters you get awkward and lame bawlfests like Ano Hana. It’s really cool how these troubled, not really strong nor upstanding adults who are clearly held back from growing into responsible and functional human beings find themselves in a Macross love triangle that serves as the narrative excuse to pit two rival mecha manufacturers and their splendid prototypes against each other.
The result is not only the most glorious dogfight in mecha anime, but also one of the most touching scenes about manly love and friendship. So yes, an interesting irony: it takes a mature show with adults to portray authentic puerile immaturity. It’s a great bonus to go with the awesome variable fighter pr0n.
21. Toppu o Nerae 2! Diebuster
It took everything that was awesome from the first one, and then liberally added elements from Revolutionary Girl Utena thanks to Enokido Yoji plus some really wild animation and direction from Tsurumaki Kazuya with adorable Sadamoto Yoshiyuki character designs and you have something that not only exceeds the “beyond the impossible” nature of the first OVA, it also provides one of the most awesomely satisfying and BAAWWWW-worthy endings to anything ever.
The show embodied the positive, uplifiting spirit that characterized robot anime as exemplified by Gunbuster that GAINAX themselves sucked out of the sub genre by making the seminal Neon Genesis Evangelion. The moment I finished watching this sequel, I wondered how the hell can GAINAX or robot anime itself ever top the crazy stunts pulled off here. [SPOILER: GAINAX DID WITH TTGL (oh god)].
I thought I’d refine how I presented my guideline criteria at this point. I think it’s very important to say that while I love characters, drama, crowning moments, etc. It is perhaps even more important to say that character design, mechanical design, and how these are animated are critical to my appreciation of anime. After all, I’m not talking about my favorite things in all of media – albeit my passion for anime exceeds that of the rest of film and television. I don’t consider the very best of anime to be as good let alone superior to the best of television and cinema (let alone printed literature).
Thus, you can have superb characterization, an interesting plot, great scale, superlative music and all, but if the illustrations in your anime aren’t good, and are not in motion in a way that makes love to my eyes then I will have difficulty favoring your show. Some of you may think this is a superficial means of appreciating anime. I say to you that you are wrong. Anime is nothing without moving illustrations and for me to favor a show I demand to be satisfied at some level regarding this element.
For this same reason, I welcome remakes, retellings, and rebuilds of past anime. Many of the shows I love suffer in some way from budgetary and/or time constraints during production and the results speak for themselves: characters go off-model, previously shown footage gets reused, characters conversing with each other are shown as dots on an escalator viewed from a hundred meters away, characters conversing with only their mouths moving, and so on.
The most spectacular things to animate are battles, showing the dynamism of the human form in the most exciting of ways. Expand this to the proportion of giant robots and you’re looking into the core of what gets me hot-blooded about anime. Older shows are often limited by budgets and the technology of the time. When such shows are remade, retold, rebuilt, we never lose the shows we’ve seen. We get a net of two works, and get to remember a whole lot of love with all the power and effort of new blood, new eyes. Back to the list!
20. Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
How could I rank a show that’s barely halfway done (as of this writing)? There’s two ways to think about this:
- I’m so starved for Gundam that I’d take any new show set in the Universal Century and make babies with it; or
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn satisfies the very possibilities that attracted me to Gundam as a mecha anime franchise in the first place.
I mean, I did write all of 7 blog posts corresponding to a whopping total of three episodes right? I really must be crazy about this show, and I am. While not an ideal introduction to the franchise, and even less for the Universal Century, it brings with it everything I’ve wanted to see in the franchise as the standard bearer of real robot anime. This is a show for the big boys, and doesn’t apologize for it. What do I mean? A romantic context further explored for the conflict that swept the Universal Century; an incredible exploration of the Newtype concept — once an albatross around Gundam’s neck as far as I was concerned; and perhaps most importantly incredibly choreographed and animated mobile suit battles. The stuff here is the best in the franchise, and I can’t be happier. For the love of God Gundam make the next episode come sooner!
19. Macross: Do You Remember Love?
“I’m not alone anymore, now that you are with me” the dissonance of these lyrics, with what the song is doing to countless giant aliens, and the context from which the song came and is performed with… It’s an unmatched brilliance. Yes, there’s an 8 minute stretch of this film that constitutes for many, one of the finest moments of animation history.
It certainly captured my imagination, and its influence is something I’ll forever feel even in a matrix of meaninglessness that I wade through in my appreciation of this work – related to how this film is the prime example of how a continuity fan like me cannot approach my favorite franchise the way I want to, the way that feels natural to me. Whatever. I can look upon this movie as a pseudo-free and independent work that tries to get away with being unencumbered by continuity and at the same time remembering love for it.
And Minmay, I can keep looking at Minmay.
18. Macross 7
I never tire of dealing with the hate Macross fans have for this show, the sequel in the franchise that I favor above all others. It’s interesting how casual anime viewers will never hate this. They will drop and dismiss it, but the activity of hating Macross 7 is a pastime of the passionate Macross fan. I don’t blame them, because they are ignorant and lack spirit. They seem to think of Macross as some beacon of excellence and purity at some level… perfect in some ineffable way of being both taken seriously and not taking itself seriously.
But they’re not prepared at what not taking itself seriously looks like in Macross 7. Granted, for its time the production values suck monkey butts after a banana buffet and the whole exercise is that of getting a show out every week in a 4-cour TV series. But those who really let Macross into their hearts experience something truly incredible at some point. Just like how enemies turn into allies by the power of song, we are all in awe of the Power to the Dream that is Macross itself, and Fire Bomber sings it out to us across the stars.
17. Giant Robo: The Day The Earth Stood Still
This show remains one of the most exhilarating anime experiences I’ve had, or can imagine. Everything about it is devoted to a presentation that is as awesome as possible. The integration of the OST with the action scenes is incredible, but not only that… the bombastic and dramatic score punctuates every dramatic moment giving it a gravity that feels far impressively heavier than the actual story is.
I once sat through an 11-hour queue with the complete OSTs as my only company. It gave my pathos a dramatic dignity that entertains me when I look back upon the ordeal. But the music is great too because it is more than matched by the stunning animation filled with extreme POVs which make everything bigger, deeper; move faster, with more power, and generally just be more awesome that if you’re not moved by the excellence of all this, then you have no emotion.
16. Sekai no Senki II
Banner of the Stars is a great space opera franchise, notable for its unique fleet battle dynamics. The use of inter-dimensional (fantasy) physics is a brilliant coup in creating believable, and incredibly exciting space battles. It is also notable for making the “bad guys” be the protagonists. The human lead, can also be easily read as a collaborator, a turncoat that serves the interests of the conquering “space elves” of the Humankind Empire Abh.
But this isn’t why I truly love this show. I love it because of the love story between Jinto and Lafiel. It had its beginning in Crest of the Stars, pushed along in Banner of the Stars I, but it’s in this OVA that it’s demonstrated in full. Jinto gets to be awesome without changing his character. Lafiel gets to be vulnerable despite being the one who saves the day. And Beneej Spoor steals the show in her usual spectacular fashion (and how!). So many little scenes that burned in my mind: Lafiel asking Samson for advice on how to face Jinto… Soobash taking over negotiations for a seething Lafiel and talking about Abh Hell… these are my most favorite moments in this franchise.
15. Summer Wars
A film like Redline will amaze and astound me, in incredible ways even. However, it takes something like Summer Wars to go beyond pumping me up like crazy and truly move me. This film has both crowning moments of awesome and crowning moments of heartwarming. Maybe it helps that I too come from a big ‘ol’ family with colorful gatherings, albeit we are neither landed nor have samurai histories that figure in notable battles in the Sengoku period (nor Japanese for that matter).
Also, I really enjoy how it’s almost present-day in its futurism. That sounds incredibly illogical but bear with me here. The interconnected world of OZ isn’t that big a leap for me to imagine, as it’s kind of like making payments and generally running your day-to-day lives using social media like Twitter and Facebook. Of all these I like Google+ the most, and it’s not terribly difficult for me to imagine how such a big bully of the internet can put all the pieces together at some point — albeit its current stance on avatars and real names. I suppose one must use real names on OZ.
Google goes Koi Koi! in my face.
14. I Can Hear The Sea/Ocean Waves
This film is unique to my list because there is no spectacle here in any way. Even its most dramatic moments are executed with a lot of restraint, which is wholly not in keeping with the stories of how this production went over schedule and over budget as a showcase of what would’ve been the “future” of Studio Ghibli. What it is, is a high school love story in the countryside — complete with the appropriate slow pace and fine attention to detail.
It is in these details, that you’d find in a show like K-On!! but not with the same level of restraint and (somehow, gravitas) that this show truly shines. It’s a mundane story about young love, but even if we could not relate to it (my high school and university experience is certainly quite unlike it) it gives me a sense of the universal. It’s a movie to fall in love with.
13. Whisper of the Heart
This film is even sillier and more child-like than any of the previous films, but I watched it relatively recently and I was spellbound by its charms. Certainly the ending would have gone down rather startlingly rough had I not been enchanted by Ghibli magic. It’s a funny place to look, here in these quiet urban story of a little girl discovering love in a rather unusual way for a high school romance. Perhaps what got me about this story is the simple, heartfelt music.
The dissonance of a city girl singing “Country Road” in re-interpreted Japanese verse is strangely affecting for me. There is a longing for an existence she knows little about, having grown up in the city… but she writes about a “Concrete Road” that will take her home… but she has never left! This leads to two different kinds of journeys, buy I don’t want to give too much away. Talk to me when you’ve seen it.
12. Aria the Origination
One thing that never fails to strike me about this installment is how it doesn’t lose the slow, pondering way that allowed us to take in the air of Neo Venezia over the previous 39 episodes and yet make us feel the weight of a ton of bricks on our chests for how we are seeing it for the last time, as if rushing to this end being set up so carefully and for so long.
The passing of things is to me so bitter — not so much the career turns of the vaunted trio primas, but with the ascension of the friends means the passing of their days spent together. But was it not for this end? It always was. But the show made us forget it as is the work of the undine themselves: they’re not there to be the attractions, they’re there to show us Neo Venezia. But of course they would be the attractions too, as if they could help it. They’re the humans that humanize the place, and Aika who is the most human of all, steals this show is its dramatic best.
11. Honey & Clover Second Season
I did not expect anime to come up with such a remarkably heart wrenching and relatable show. I too, was in university once, and was frustrated by love in an even more bitterly fought triangle caught up with heady notions of all the art I’ll do in life. The first season was damned good, but it’s the finality and resolution that this installment brings that sends the show home for me.
The bigger questions were all asked here, and while some time was spent with characters I care less about, it’s how it all points towards the big compromise at the end that makes the show unforgettable for me. I mean, how can I ever be satisfied with anything that happened in the end?
But it is exactly this, how Honey & Clover went out of its way seemingly to frustrate me, to deny me the wholesome feeling I craved that I appreciate so much. It makes me be at peace at how the character I like the least gets to narrate the show, as if this was his own story. I don’t accept him even if he gets to eat those sandwiches. I just console myself that whatever sweetness is there between those slices of bread is turn to ashes in his mouth by the burning tears falling like a firestorm from his eyes. Wait, why am I crying too?!
As you’ve probably begun to notice, the friends that I’ve brought over to comment on the different shows are stars of their own respective shows on the list. I needed to rely on their being to articulate things I have trouble saying myself, despite my variable abilities of appreciating anime. It’s also strange to me how the animated films kind of bunched together at 15-13 excluding DYRL at 19; it kind of just worked out that way.
It takes a view of the whole list to characterize myself as a fan of anime. An observant reader pointed out that ranks 27-17 is an uninterrupted streak of robot anime. The relative absence of which up higher in the list shouldn’t be indicative that I am less of a robot anime fan, only that I have a lot more in common with other fans who love good anime in general.
In the end I really think that the more anime we watch, the more diverse and varied our taste becomes and we will tend to favor the shows that while incredible for their subgenre, are transcendent of them so much so that we enjoy them despite our lack of affinity with such subgenres. How else would I explain how high Revolutionary Girl Utena is on this list, or K-On!! for that matter?
It’s for the same reasons I know people who adore Turn A Gundam without liking the Gundam franchise as a whole, or mecha anime for that matter. I know you Neon Genesis Evangelion fans can be like this as well. Ditto for Eureka SeveN, or even Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. All of these shows I love precisely because they are mecha anime, but other people love them too, albeit they do so despite the mecha element no matter how significant it’s featured.
Does this make the exercise of anime appreciation any less arbitrary or subjective? No, not really. It only goes to show that there are ways of appreciation that apply for different kinds of shows for different kinds of people, with different kinds of purposes all under the larger circle of hobby in this universal Venn diagram of entertainment.
10. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig
While the plotting is less intricate than the previous installment, it is no less perfect in my eyes. It delivers everything I could ask for in a show that invites me to take it seriously: superb production values, contemplative and introspective moments taking on very interesting themes; expertly planned, choreographed, and directed action scenes (with robots too!), crowning moments of both awesome and heartwarming (at times the same moment!); and ultimately a very human story.
It’s that parallel between The Major’s anxiety that with her full prosthesis she is losing whatever there is left that makes her human, and the growing complexity of the AI of the Tachikoma that provide me the most meat to chew on in this show. It’s particularly great how this all plays out in a spectacular battle in the end. I love anime.
09. Legend of the Galactic Heroes
This show is one of those things, and perhaps the best example of what I consider better than perfect. There’s so much in it that I’d fault a lesser series for: from the off-model character designs, the annoying close-range rifle battles where battleaxes beat rifles every time, Reuenthal doing back flips, and the general lack of female characters whose roles aren’t auxiliary to the males.
These things don’t really matter because this show is so incredible. It is epic in the old-school sense of the world. What I feel is different from enjoying the show despite these faults, or even forgiving the show for having or lacking these things. I just think that the awesomeness it does provide over such an expansive amount of material for such a long time goes beyond these things that would otherwise be complaints.
I actually feel petty for writing them as if they matter so much. So here is where you get galactic scale, a phenomenal set of characters great and minor, scored by chamber and symphonic music by masters (Mahler, Beethoven, Mozart, and a whole lot more), and a superb level of strategy (political and military), tactics, and scale of space battles portrayed by moving illustrations.
08. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
One thing I remember about the first time I watched this show is how it became part of a wave of incredibly enjoyable experiences that got me so excited about anime I had to go to the internet to look for people talking about it. This led to Mechafetish and me starting our own anime blog which thanks to luck, hard work, and guts, still exists to this day as the site you’re browsing now.
This show is Epic in the internet sense of the word. It has a level of frenetic energy that existed in shows long, long gone but was never presented at this level of consistent volume and playfulness. It was also the love song to robot anime as a whole, as the major arcs of the show corresponded to styles and movements within the robot anime tradition beginning somewhere between Mazinger Z and Getter Robo, passing through the darker days of mass-produced mecha in shows like Mobile Suit Gundam, and culminating somewhere between The End of Evangelion and Diebuster (and Getter Robo again). It committed to a theme of ‘going beyond the impossible,’ and went for it with the force of galaxies spiraling through time and space… and drills, very big drills. It is EPIC.
This shouldn’t be here. I didn’t want it to be here. Let me tell you though, when the show finished (and yes I am talking about the second season) I wanted to put this show as high as number two on this list. That’s how much it got to me. There is something about the mundane that can capture the imagination – so much of creative writing class time is spent working with the mundane memories of childhood, of family, of school into something akin to literature. The remarkable thing in this show is that in its treatment of the most mundane of things it created for itself a fantasy world where there’s nothing to get hung about.
John Lennon wrote about such Strawberry Fields where nothing seems real. This is that same world, almost completely devoid of anything that reminds you of your physical self. There are only these girls who spend their time preoccupied with cake and tea and somewhere in between create moments of absurd emotional power. It’s because perhaps, of the bubble surrounding this fantasy world that I can be free to feel all those things I felt during the show’s run. That’s the real joke perhaps, how I could feel so much for characters whose best quality is their exceeding excellence at being with each other.
06: Mobile Suit Z Gundam
I believe in the sign of Z and let it into my heart. This show isn’t like Unicorn in that it represents everything awesome I would like to see in Gundam. In fact I actually see in here something of a betrayal of what made Mobile Suit Gundam the apotheosis of real robot anime. I started seeing the rise of the individual pilot making more of a difference in the theater of war. I started seeing the variable and arbitrary damage of beam weapons hitting plot armor. I started seeing the rise of the annoying young side character fated to fuck things up for the main cast. I saw really, really, really ugly mobile suits (some of which even transform!). I saw a legit trainwreck of a plot line that would’ve derailed the whole thing so close to the end if not for the end itself that was just oh-wow-did-this-show-just-do-that-oh-damn-me-to-hell-it-sure-did kind of awesome.
Then again, we get the most entertaining angry emo kid ever in Kamille Bidan. Future copies of this template will fail miserably (Judau, Shinn) but Kamille’s perpetual intense rage (often powered by Karate) is nothing short of amazing. The Titans as enemies are less impressive as menacing threats but rather as incredible assholes – truly remarkable jerks. Quattro Bajeena and Haman Karn deserve their own shows (and both got them seperately, to varying degrees of disappointment), but while they were in Z Gundam, they were perfection. And I will never ever forget Jerid Messa, for being the ultimate in unrelenting, never-give-up, obsessive rivalry and for his indestructible space hair. I will shed the Tears of Time.
05. Eureka SeveN
When you think of music or movies, instead of remembering what they are about you’re more likely to be reminded of the memories you have of that time and the people you knew then.
I almost perfectly agree, until I force myself to remember so much more because I want to write posts like this one and generally am in the hobby of remembering love. Thus I remember so many things about this show that dares not only be thrilling with its aerial exploits and intense fights, but also charming not only with its adolescent love stories but with the general free-spirited feeling that rises above the world-ending threats and the cruelty of war and the people who foment it.
The love I felt for this show was not immediate. I dropped it the first time I tried watching it. But eventually I got it, and got into it. It rewarded my willingness to take all it had to offer because I took it on its own terms: I didn’t ask for it; I went and won it on my own. That’s why I succeeded, and why I remember so much love for this show and its incredible cast.
04. Cowboy Bebop
I am currently ticking off an item on my bucket list by blogging this show the way I’m doing it. The very idea that doing something anime related exists on my personal bucket list should indicate my love and regard for this show. I watch this show over and over because I want to feel the blues. I want to carry that weight. Life is hard enough, so why look for such misery or melancholy in entertainment?
I don’t know for sure, but I’m a very happy guy; I have the emotional hit points to take in Cowboy Bebop. Besides, it’s not like it’s heavy all throughout. For the most part it is quite lighthearted and humorous (then it hits you). And it’s also important to remember that it’s all executed exceedingly well. Each episode is filled with so many tricks from visual presentation to storytelling that’s derived from such diverse sources of film and television. It’s subject matter is filled with secular joys that re-present so many elements or even traditions of popular culture that it’s a treasure trove for viewers who are willing to observe closely.
Also, it will be very, very rewarding to listen.
03. Neon Genesis Evangelion
When I first discovered Japanese cartoons as a child, it had always meant giant robots. In high school this had changed since the Philippines did not show any anime from the 1980s during the 1980s and 1990s. Thus I discovered shounen battle anime, shounen sports anime, shounen cooking anime, Ranma 1/2, etc. When anime started showing up on cable, and started getting called anime in the early 2000s, I hadn’t seen a single robot show since Robotech and Macross Plus. Vandread came and was kind of fun, but it wasn’t until I finally got to watch Neon Genesis Evangelion in 2003 (after watching the first few episodes on VHS in the 1990s) that all was right in the world.
I want you to imagine how mind-blowing this was for me. I started out knowing little else but robot shows, then the supply of these shows ran out; Then I kind of faffed about watching all these shounen shows that while being entertaining enough, didn’t quite ignite my burning passion. I started watching Eva (dubbed LOL) and suddenly I was this kid again, only that the robots looked weird and slick and moved like humans; then the monsters weren’t quite robots and were all weird.
But it was all good because it was how robot anime was for me as a kid, only different. Then it started getting very, very weird… until its stunning end. At this point I had not seen anything like this. Sure I had seen “intelligent” anime like Akira, and Ghost in the Shell, but again nothing on the TV anime level – which is my preferred format. Needless to say, I was profoundly impressed by what this show tried to pull off, and many rewatches later including the one I did a year ago, I think it is a glorious venture overall. This is the show that got me interested in anime beyond being just a viewer who wants to watch more. I needed to know about things now. I started going to the internet to read about anime around 2004 and it was really because I finally got to watch Evangelion.
02. Revolutionary Girl Utena
I loved it the first time I watched it. Out of a whim I rewatched all of it over the course of a week and it is pretty much the reason why I am doing this ranking exercise. It was the very reason (along with K-On!!) why I listed a top 30 last year, becoming my fifth most favorite show instantly. It has an abstraction to it that feels appropriate for anime, that it uses to turn a fairy tale on its head and tell a story with startling misery and wretchedness for its characters that it makes fun of almost as much as it sympathizes with. The simplicity and lucidity of its abstractions is an achievement in itself.
I’ve seen what could arguably be a more mature and complex anime in Tatami Galaxy but its abstractions in both illustrations, storytelling, and content do not impress me the same way as Utena’s. It takes something like Evangelion to take on themes of identity, relating with other people, and keeping integrity and give it the same gravity and breadth as Utena. This Utena does without leaving what would be a confining setting.
I’ve seen shows likeBakemonogatari confine its story in its very local environments and the effect is quite different. Somehow, Utena made me believe that the most important thing in the world was transpiring within a junior high school. It’s a world I’d never want to belong to. I have no wish to be any of the characters nor would I find them good company. However I could look at them all day and would see their stories play out over and over again. It’s not that hard, because the Be Papas alumni keep remembering love for it in the shows they made after and are still making.
01. Super Dimension Fortress Macross
I am very glad to have rewatched this show recent enough to make me feel confident that Revolutionary Girl Utena is not my favorite show. The recent rewatch also gave me an opportunity to blog this show in a way I never thought I’d ever get done. So that’s another one off the bucket list. The fact that the exercise isn’t on the same level of effort and intensity as my current Cowboy Bebop project is indicative of how I feel about the show.
The experience of making those posts however, is tied with the core purpose of this blog, as I got to rewatch the show with fans both old and new – and I fancy myself contributing to their appreciation of my favorite show all my life and for all time. So what have I learned from this rewatch with all these new eyes I shared it with? The show is as awesome as I remembered it. Furthermore, it is a whole lot more grim than I gave it credit for. Sure it’s rightfully remembered as a sillier, takes-itself-less-seriously show that remembers love for Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam. But for those willing to look closely, it’s hella grim, though not as dark as the robot anime shows that took hold of the 1980s.
To explain further is to spoil, so I’ll leave it at that, and reinforce that any grimness or darkness is either secondary or entwined with how the show is a love story set against the backdrop of great battles, warping my silly 8-year old mind with a taste for fictional love triangles for life.
I never will. This lists ends with a table. So here it is:
*Shows that are still ongoing as of this writing, but I’ve convinced myself they could tank the rest of the way and I’ll still love them (at least until I watch more anime).
Endnotes (I had to shoot bullets because I want to keep the line spacing under control).
- Introduction: These criteria I developed when I did my list in 2010.
- FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood: I thought the drawn-out finale episodes were masterful indeed.
- Hanasaku Iroha: It took me 13 episodes to confirm for myself that this show is doing what my favorite shows did.
- Interlude 1: The appeal of animation finds its zenith in Gundam.
- Interlude 2: Michael, Low on Hitpoints suggests that understanding fans leads to better understanding of how or why shows are appreciated. I suggest the same.
- GitS: Sac 2nd Gig: I explore the idea of sapience and the Tachikoma here.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes: A blog-readers’ companion to watching the episodes.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: It’s the Hero’s Journey. No, it’s not.
- K-On!!: The Plot.
- K-On!!: A Plot!?!! It’s that Michael again. There’s too many of them blogging about anime.
- K-On!!: Moments that are made available because the plot arranged them so.
- Mobile Suit Z Gundam: Spoilers, because this show is a celebration of death.
- Cowboy Bebop: Bucket list posts start here. We Remember Love starts here.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: The rebuild of my viewing experience.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena: I want to believe that this show got the very best out of me.
- SDF Macross: I changed my mind. I used to think when I wrote about the show that it was dark but not grim. I was wrong. It was not dark, but quite grim. After all, —— lost!
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For me SDF Macross is probably #1 too, despite some cheesey aspects like any cartoon from that era, it was one of the most touching, utterly surprising, etc.. the art was fantastic. I loved it. The music, great, original.
My other favorite is just for comedy I’ve always liked the comedy of Ranma and it’s one of the few anime’s out there where an English voice is actually better than the Japanese (in my opinion) the English Kuno is HILARIOUS. His voice is perfect.
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There’s definately a lot to know about this issue. I like all the points you have made.
JAJA, you really are a Mecha Fan. But I Agree with your opinion on almost every one.
Uh Judau was never trying to be Kamille. If anything they were trying to have a reasonably likable outgoing person rather than the angsty punk
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