Because the world needs yet another “Top __ Anime” list, right?
So why a list of favorites? My reasons are completely personal.
- What better way to judge someone’s tastes?
- I have opinions on most of the shows I watch, but most of them are not comprehensive enough to warrant an entire review. So, this is the perfect place to put them.
- To look for patterns in what I used to enjoy from media, in what I currently like, and hopefully predict what kind of shows I’ll enjoy in the future. This seems idealistic, but it’s my best justification for personal rankings at this moment.
The anime series here are the ones I enjoyed enough to consider them “a cut above the rest” (whatever that means). They are presented in increasing order of personal enjoyment. Because my tastes are fuzzy and constantly-evolving, I will not even pretend these rankings are objective. Therefore, please consider any adjacent two (heck even three) places interchangeable. The point here is to celebrate these shows’ achievements, not to split hairs.
Also I try to keep spoilers vague enough that anyone unfamiliar with a franchise won’t have enough context to be spoiled. Nevertheless, use caution.
Let the fun begin!
Sound of the Sky
In a nutshell: a post-apocalyptic military slice-of-life featuring a tank battalion of five teenaged girls in a remote fortress.
I won’t deny the negatives: I care nothing for the moe antics, I pretend episode 8 doesn’t exist, and the solution to the final conflict seemed slightly contrived. But the show’s strengths are enough to keep me hooked: from the charmingly mundane post-apocalyptic setting, to Kanata inspiring change in the squadron with her unstoppable optimism, to Filicia and Noel learning to cope with their past traumas. All in all, a very charming watch.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex
In a nutshell: a crime drama in a society where cyber-technology is highly developed and people exist on various parts of the human-cyborg-robot spectrum.
I first got into anime wanting to watch the classics with deep philosophical contemplation, so I was entertained with the show’s sci-fi premise blurring the human and the machine (the cool technology and action didn’t hurt either). What struck me the most, however, was the portrayal of humanity developing in the Tachikomas, to the point where what they achieve at the end of the series brought a lump to my throat. As a person who never cries watching anime, that is a major achievement.
In a nutshell: Kino rides a talking motorcycle to explore countries with a variety of “what if?” premises.
I remember liking Kino’s Journey back when I watched it because I was into shows with thought-provoking themes. The different societies that Kino meets while travelling certainly provided food for thought. I liked Kino’s attitude: she aims to learn, not to judge, taking in every strange cultural practice with a calm “ahh, I see”. In the end, I think what cemented Kino’s Journey on this list is the second episode that left me speechless. If you enjoy plot twists and betrayals of expectations and questions of moral responsibility, watch this episode.
Noragami + Noragami Aragoto
In a nutshell: Yato is a forgotten god managing to scrape by with odd jobs that include slaying demons; he is assisted by a human who he befriends and a wandering soul who he takes in.
I have a soft spot for stories about good intentions gone wrong, or about stories of forgiveness involving fundamentally good people. This made the Yukine and Bishamon arcs stand out to me, and is the reason Noragami is on this list.
In a nutshell: a prince has shattered his heart to seal away an evil raven. A duck is given the power to turn into Princess Tutu to help him restore his heart.
I appreciated this a lot more on my second watch, and wrote some thoughts here. Briefly, the episodic moments were repetitive and dull, but the climaxes with its messages of love and defiance of fate were heartwarming enough to justify the series as a whole.
The Tatami Galaxy
In a nutshell: a young man is stuck in an endless groundhog day loop as he searches for the perfect university life
This took me two watches to fully appreciate. I can’t exactly enjoy wacky experimental visuals and narratives without a relatable emotional core of themes or characters (in addition, I can’t enjoy anything if I’m confused by the plot). During the second watch, however, I think I understood and resonated with the core message: the perfect campus life doesn’t exist; stop blaming others for your problems, and make the most of what you have in front of you.
In a nutshell: a battle royale where seven mages summon legendary and historical figures to duke it out.
I watched this back when I was into dark shows, so I was entertained by its battle royale premise and clash of philosophies. The show sets up the characters’ idealized positions and challenges them through circumstances: from Saber’s and Lancer’s chivalry to Kiritsugu’s idealistically pragmatic utilitarianism. Even the weird philosophies of Gil and the Caster-Ryuunosuke team were entertaining in their earnestness. Besides the philosophies, I also enjoyed the growth of the bond between Waver and Rider. And all this is without mentioning the crisp, flashy visuals or the heart-racing orchestral score.
In a nutshell: Kureha lives in an all-girl city that has built a wall to keep out the bears, but unbeknownst to them, several bears have infiltrated the city disguised as humans, and it seems that two of them have taken an attraction to Kureha.
The first three episodes were dense and tedious, but a brilliant and hilarious episode 4 warmed me up to the rest of the series. Ostensibly a biting critique of the systematic oppression of sexual minorities, it can be extended to include minorities in general. To top it off, it even manages to pull off a star-crossed love story that had me cheering by the end.
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