Let me first say that as much as I tried to put these in order, many of them are clumped together in piles of I-don’t-know-how-to-separate-these. Some of them are on here for nostalgia; others are on here from my biased favorites list; but for the most part, these are my top 30 for anime.
This list is also subject to change as I continue watching both old and new series and movies.
30. Tokyo Godfathers
Tokyo Godfathers was my 3rd Satoshi Kon film, and my favorite. The setting and characters were unique in themselves…I mean, how many stories can you think of that follow the lives of a few homeless and finish with a heartwarming tale of unconventional families? Well? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I plan on watching this every Christmas.
29. Cowboy Bebop
Memorable characters, jazzy music, and plain silliness are presented in this now classic series of the escapades of a group of space cowboys/bounty hunters. I preferred the show when it was less serious and episodic in nature, as opposed to when the plot of Spike’s history takes over and the tone dramatically changes from light to dark. My favorite characters would definitely have to be the duo of Ed and Ein, since they embody everything that I love about this anime.
28. Neon Genesis Evangelion
To be honest, I’m not really that big a fan of NGE. That does not mean, however, that I do not appreciate the many controversial issues that it addresses. This is the single most discussed anime that I remember in a variety of my undergraduate, even graduate, classes. I’m impressed at the amount of analysis that this one anime can undergo and always notice something new after a re-watch.
27. Black Lagoon
An anime from my early days into anime watching, Black Lagoon felt very similar to Cowboy Bebop in style. The characters are diverse and have depth to them, and the setting feels both exotic and very real. What attracted me to this anime, though, was how different it was from the ones I had seen before it; it had none of the fantasy or science fiction that I had started to associate with anime. The world is ours, and ugly in the people’s actions born from a necessity to survive in a world determined to stifle them. I was also completely seduced by Revy’s wildness and strength–very different from the soft and fluffy girls from previous anime experience. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to seeing the 2nd season.
I give a lot of thanks to Mononoke for expanding my horizons in terms of art style. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at the start, but I stuck it through and let the stories and art slowly work their magic upon me. With the exception of Gankutsuou, I’m not sure that I’ve seen another anime with quite so much patterned images jumbled all together across all canvases. My eyes were overwhelmed. But with each episode and introduction to yet another mysterious occurrence, I began to appreciate the art style for what it did to lend an otherworldly and eerie atmosphere.
25. Usagi Drop
Not often do you stumble across an anime so thoroughly centered on family with none of the fan service to which almost all others conform. From the very first episode it’s evident that Bunny Drop is in a league of its own and is a classic that will still be talked about after many of the others of its season and year are already forgotten. The story is one that many Americans like me readily recognize as that of the dysfunctional family, and one that also re-defines those preconceived notions of what it takes to be a successful parent. Daikichi and Rin may or may not be blood related, but there’s no denying the sincerity of their feelings for one another.
24. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
For the longest time, this was my favorite Ghibli film–despite having been maybe the 3rd or 4th one that I had seen. When put up against the crisp colors of Spirited Away and the haunting music of Princess Mononoke, it surprised me how much Nausicaa stayed with me. I found myself suggesting it over others, despite its age. A good portion for why I love this movie so much is due to its protagonist, Nausicaa. She’s strong of spirit and body, and I found her love for her people and for all living things beautiful, albeit idealistic. Both her and the overall story of the film remind me a lot of Princess Mononoke, with their dual themes of human destruction and the environment’s uncanny ability to adapt.
22. Dennou Coil
21. Azumanga Daioh
17. Samurai Champloo
13. xxxHOLiC (and xxxHOLiC kei)
12. Nodame Cantabile
11. Last Exile
10. Spirited Away
8. Juuni Kokuki
1. ARIA (the Animation, Natural, and Origination)
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
This show took a while to grow on me, but grow on me it did. HNKN focuses on the lives of Maebara Keiichi and his friends in the isolated village of Hinamizawa. Maebara quickly becomes suspicious that there are sinister intentions afoot behind the sweet exteriors of his female classmates, and this suspicion is mixed with plenty of self-doubt and questions of sanity.
- Hana Yori Dango
The first ever shoujo anime I watched, HYD is a large reason for why I love anime as much as I do now. And as much fun as I have with the series of events cataloging Tsukushi and Domyoji’s love story, I’m not so nostalgic as to ignore the show’s cyclical comedy and overly dramatic nudges. But if there’s one thing about HYD that still places it up there among the best, it’s its memorable protagonist, Makino Tsukushi. She was and remains one of the best leads I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. You can read more about her in my entry about my top heroines.