My Top 20 Anime of All Time

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Pretty sure the title of this piece speaks for itself.

Edit: There is now an updated version of this list HERE.

Needless to say, this list is based purely on my own personal tastes, and so I don’t particularly care whether other people agree with it or not. Of course, the specific order of at least some of these titles is probably reflective of the mood I was in when I wrote this, and I also won’t be keeping things up-to-date here. I don’t regard this as an ‘official’ list of any kind – I approached it as more of an interesting exercise in contemplation than anything else. However, for a more detailed explanation behind how I ended up choosing the titles I did, see this post.

(Note that I’m sticking to only televised works for the purpose of this list, as I tend to view films and even OVAs quite differently to how I view full-length shows.)

20. Death Note (2006-2007)

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Just narrowly making the cut (mostly because of the final third of the series, which was satisfying but still nowhere near as epic as the rest), Death Note was the one that scraped into my final spot mostly because there are very few anime that hook me as fast as this one originally did. I generally know what I like as soon as I see it, but it still often takes me a couple of episodes before I can make the distinction between ‘excellent’ and ‘I am completely obsessed’. Death Note, on the other hand, gripped me at some point during the first few minutes and refused to let go, even when things started to come ever so slightly unglued after episode 25. Otherwise, it’s a compellingly written and beautifully paced thriller that’s absolutely deserving of all the fan attention.

19. Wolf’s Rain (2003)

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Wolf’s Rain is all about the journey, in every sense of the word. Its narrative isn’t about the place itself (if such a thing even exists), or even why the characters are trying to reach it, but rather how they get there and what they – and by extension, the viewers – discover along the way. It’s a metaphysical journey as much as it is a literal one, yet Wolf’s Rain somehow manages to avoid coming across as confusing or pretentious; the plot isn’t bogged down in heavy exposition or intense psychological monologuing, making the story easy to follow despite some of the weighty themes. Aided by a brilliant cast of characters, a gorgeous soundtrack, and some lovely animation, Wolf’s Rain is a show that feels surprisingly down-to-earth while never compromising on what it sets out to do. It may not be a particularly happy ride, but it is a beautiful one.

18. Great Teacher Onizuka (1999-2000)

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Great Teacher Onizuka’s particular brand of slapstick comedy might not be for everyone. The whole ‘good teacher, bad students’ scenario has been done countless times before, and the episodic nature of the series may come across as repetitive to some viewers – particularly as the titular character is a hulking man-child whose nature never really changes even after 43 episodes. However, I’d be lying if I said that the sheer idiocy of GTO didn’t have me laughing until it hurt. A lot of the humour feels like it should be inappropriate, or even offensive, yet I can’t help but be charmed by its oddly heartwarming idiocy. There’s a good reason this title is considered such a classic, and it’s not because it looks amazing or is super deep and incredibly intelligent – it’s because it really is just that stupidly funny.

17. Eden of the East (2009)

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I don’t know about the two follow-up films, but the TV series is everything a decent mystery anime should be: gradual but solid in build-up, intelligently scripted, funny where it needs to be, and generally well-crafted without being convoluted. The fantastic artwork and fabulous voice acting are just icing on the cake compared to this show’s attention to detail and weirdly charming cast, who take the series in directions that are clever but also often lighthearted – it’s like Eden of the East knows that it’s slightly ridiculous, but has no trouble selling its story anyway. Everything just seems to fall into place on its own, never once coming across as though it’s trying too hard. Effortlessly cool and totally different in feel to any other anime series, I feel that this is an absolute must-watch for any fan looking for a change of pace.

16. Toradora! (2008-2009)

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You know, I didn’t actually like Toradora! at first. In hindsight, my mistake was that I initially attempted to approach the show as a comedy, when in fact it does far better at being a drama that just happens to have a few genuinely side-splitting moments scattered throughout. Critics seem quick to label Toradora! as a fanservicey title (in the most general sense of that term, not in the random panty shots kind of way) masquerading as a meaningful story, whereas I see it as a meaningful story masquerading as a fanservicey title. Yes, Taiga is the very definition of a tsundere, and yes, Yasuko is an air-headed MILF who works as a club hostess. There are also love triangles, misunderstandings, and Complicated Feelings™ galore. But there’s also a lot of heart to be found here, and some interesting twists on otherwise done-to-death themes – not to mention some great character dynamics. This is slice-of-life high school drama done right, and I honestly believe that Toradora! breathes new life into the genre.

15. Azumanga Daioh (2002)

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I don’t often love moe titles. I appreciate some of them, sure, but whole shows that are based around nothing but moe don’t usually thrill me. Azumanga makes it onto this list because even though it’s one of those ‘cute girls doing cute things’ types of anime, I genuinely find it funny 99% of the time… even when the logical part of my brain thinks I probably shouldn’t. It certainly helps that the girls aren’t drawn in a way that speaks of sexualisation to me – no earnestly sparkling eyes or lingering thigh shots here, much less anything more offensive. I also deeply appreciate that Azumanga doesn’t seem to be trying to make any deep and profound statements about the power of love or friendship, and never attempts to be something it’s not. It’s just a drama-free sketch comedy about a bunch of school girls being nothing but their own (often dumb but nearly always entertaining) selves – and sometimes, that’s really all I want.

14. Sakamichi no Apollon (2012)

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I’ve seen a number of anime about music, but this is by far my favourite. I daresay this series would still be rather good without this aspect, because it’s got a certain charm and a down-to-earth realism about it despite the occasional indulgence in melodrama, and the setting is also extremely well done. However, it’s the music that makes Sakamichi no Apollon truly shine. The scenes revolving around nothing but this make my heart beat faster every time I watch the show, and I adore the fact that whole relationships are built up around it as the main foundation – not romance, not even bromance, but a shared love of jazz. All the hallmarks of what makes a decent drama are present, but first and foremost, this is an anime (and a gorgeous-looking and gorgeous-sounding one at that) about the shared beauty of music.

13. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (2004-2005)

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Gankutsuou is a spectacle – I can think of no better word to describe the show. Everything it does is grand and theatrical, from the unapologetically bold art style to the superbly over-the-top arm gestures. And yet, at no time do I find myself thinking of the series as cheap. Melodrama normally annoys the hell out of me, but Gankutsuou pulls it off with so much flourish and flair that ostentatiousness somehow becomes a good thing. Which isn’t necessarily to say that the title goes for style over substance; if you can look past all the flamboyance, this is actually an exceedingly finely-crafted show that hits all the high notes of a fantastic tale of revenge. Showy but smart, Gankutsuou is campy extravagance personified but manages to remain deadly serious from beginning to end. Now that takes both balls and talent.

12. Samurai Champloo (2004-2005)

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This series goes a long way in showing why Watanabe Shinichiro is the anime king of cool. Everything about Samurai Champloo oozes style – the sharp character designs, the sparkling dialogue, the smooth action sequences, and of course, the brilliant incorporation of an extremely unexpected subculture. Edo-period settings have been done to death in anime, and I don’t even like rap or hip hop (in fact, I usually detest them), but Samurai Champloo puts these things together as though it’s the most natural thing in the world. Needless to say, artistic license plays a heavy role in this series, but the spunk and enthusiasm with which it’s handled ensures that Samurai Champloo comes across as smart and funny as opposed to thoughtless or crude. It’s episodic and gimmicky nature might not be for everyone, but I found myself charmed right off the bat.

11. Eureka Seven (2005-2006)

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Eureka Seven is the epitome of brilliant characterisation. There’s plenty else going for it – in particular, its perfectly fleshed-out presentation of a hippie/surfer subculture and some parallel political and environmental movements – but if I had to pinpoint the best thing about this series, it’d still be the characters. Their actions, their motives, their fears and their secrets are all just so beautifully portrayed and revealed that I can’t not love Eureka Seven, despite the fact that I don’t generally like sci-fi or mecha and often have problems with anime that go over a certain episode length. My only quibble with the series is the not quite as fantastic ending (more of an execution issue than an actual plot issue), but that doesn’t detract from the magnificence of the overall story to me – a story that also has great visuals, an outstanding soundtrack, and one of the very best English dubs I’ve heard from any anime to date.

10. Mushishi (2005-2006, 2014)

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Mushishi is a quiet anime. It’s probably the quietest anime I’ve ever seen. It also showcases one of the best-crafted and most consistently stunning atmospheres I’ve ever seen. The fact that it does so with hardly a single voice being raised throughout the entire show is a feat in itself – and I haven’t even mentioned the visuals yet (but yes, they’re equally gorgeous). Mushishi is slow and dreamy, and highly episodic. There’s very little action and only one major character, and even he is more of a catalyst to the events of Mushishi than the main focus of the series. That just goes to show how thoughtful and well executed this show really is, though – in everything it does, Mushishi is simple and subtle, yet at the same time utterly mesmerizing, and that’s an incredibly rare thing.

9. Ouran High School Host Club (2006)

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As the only reverse-harem I’d ever even consider putting on this list, Ouran High School Host Club has a special place in my heart – though definitely not solely for this reason. It’s a brilliant parody of its own genre, yet Ouran isn’t without its serious side either, and ultimately succeeds in doing what most comedy-dramas fail at: being simultaneously hilarious and heart-warming. It’s also undeniably a smart series, since most of the characters are tongue-in-cheek caricatures of reverse-harem stereotypes but are also self-aware enough and interesting enough to make the whole premise seem weirdly sincere. The purposefully but affectionately over-the-top comedy aspects of the show tip things to the point where they come full circle, resulting in a series where the romance actually comes across as genuine despite all the self-mockery – and that’s a beautiful thing to behold.

8. X (2001-2002)

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This was one of my first major anime loves, and while I’m no longer the total X fangirl I once was, it’s still a title I’m proud to have on this list. Thankfully, the trainwreck of the movie I saw before the TV series didn’t put me off watching such a well-paced, excellently characterised, and lovingly crafted title. Unmistakably one of CLAMP’s finest anime adaptations, X is apocalyptic fantasy done almost to perfection; it skillfully combines supernatural action with just the right amounts of drama and romance, and doesn’t take any lazy shortcuts while going about it. I’m no bleeding heart, and tragedies often put me off for their predictable nature anyway, but it’s titles like X which serve to remind me that even there, anime can find a way to appeal to me on a very deep level.

7. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996)

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Critics will say whatever they like about this one: that Shinji is a whiny bitch, that Anno Hideaki is trying to be artsy and succeeds only in being pretentious and self-indulgent, or that the franchise has become a soulless cash cow. I say that however valid these opinions are, I’ve loved the Evangelion TV show since the first time I laid eyes on it – completely by coincidence and halfway through the series. I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about Evangelion, or that I understand it on a deeper level than anyone else who’s seen it, but it speaks to me in a profound way regardless. This anime doesn’t just have intelligence and complexity – it also has heart, and for all that the show can be interesting to analyze every which way, it’s that heart which I value most, every single time.

6. Cardcaptor Sakura (1998-2000)

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I’ve mentioned this one a couple of times before on Otaku Lounge, and no doubt I’ll be mentioning it again at some point, because this is unquestionably my favourite magical-girl anime in existence. Cardcaptor Sakura isn’t just a magical-girl anime though; it’s a beautifully-made and uplifting piece of work that’s far more subtle and far more ‘adult’ than the genre is usually given credit for. At face value, this is a children’s fantasy show. On a deeper level, this is a sophisticated series with some of the most charming characters and relationship dynamics I’ve ever seen in any title. Rarely do I finish an anime feeling so happily satisfied.

5. Durarara!! (2010)

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Durarara!! is basically everything I could ever want in a decent… I was going to say mystery series, but really this is so much more than that. It’s a smart, sassy drama. It’s a crack-tastic supernatural comedy. It’s got romance and a few other things going on – street gangs and shady corporations, high school students and really weird sushi. The characters are some of the most oddball I’ve ever laid eyes on, and the vast majority of them manage to charm the pants off me. And when you get right down to it, the way in which the lives of these characters intersect, whether they’re fully aware of it or not, is the main draw of the show; a show that’s as cheerfully and vivaciously energetic as they come. Putting it this way, it sounds like Durarara!! should be a clusterfuck of frenetic action and terrible pacing, but nothing could be further from the truth. There’s action, to be sure, but it takes its time in building up, and I have no complaints with the way everything’s eventually pulled together. Suspend your disbelief and just roll with it, because Durarara!!’s one hell of a fabulous ride.

4. Angel Beats! (2010)

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Of all the titles to make this list, Angel Beats! is probably the one most people will disagree with. And I get that – it’s not a series that works for everyone. I’ve seen people call it cheap, rushed, and perhaps most damming of all, pandering – an anime that works too hard to please otaku and ultimately results in a fanservice-stuffed freak show. But the thing is, this series does please me. I am emotionally effected by Angel Beats!, and very deeply so. Interestingly enough, I also find the show hilarious. It’s the only anime I can think of that makes me howl with laughter and reach for the tissue box both in the same episode. While I’ll readily admit that it would have been nice for some of the characters to receive more development/backstory, and that the pacing during the final couple of episodes leaves something to be desired, these issues don’t detract from my adoration of the show. I love it to be pieces, and I don’t particularly care if nobody else does.

3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-2010)

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And so we come down to it: the final three. Those shows that are as perfect as it’s possible for any anime to be, in my eyes. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is what the original series maybe could have been if the final third wasn’t a god-awful mess of a story. Only not, because even though I love most of the first series, Brotherhood is actually better in every way – not just for the final third (thankfully extremely faithful to the source material this time around), but also in terms of production values. The animation is smoother. The character designs are sharper. The soundtrack is flat-out excellent. The whole thing works like a well-oiled machine, but Brotherhood also has all the heart and soul that any anime fan could wish for. In short, very few titles manage to impress me this much – let alone ones of this length. Fantastic stuff.

2. Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)

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“And the work which has become a genre unto itself shall be called: Cowboy Bebop.” I’d accuse Watanabe Shinichiro of arrogance if I didn’t believe that statement to be 100% true. Long after the 90s have become an entirely forgotten decade, I’ll still be there with a bag of popcorn and a smile on my face. Sci-fi might not be my thing, and westerns might equally be not my thing, but Cowboy Bebop combines both and is somehow one of my favourite anime of all time. It always has been. Funny, smart, stylish… I really don’t have the words to adequately describe what the show means to me, as both an anime fan and on a more personal level. If these things have been said to death and everyone (well, everyone other than me) is completely sick of it by now, it’s only because Cowboy Bebop deserves every bit of praise it gets. Calling it a masterpiece is no exaggeration, and neither is my own respect and affection for the show.

1. Usagi Drop (2011)

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This isn’t yet the classic that Cowboy Bebop is, and it’ll never have the same kind of influence or legacy that Cowboy Bebop does, but in its own way, Usagi Drop is no less deserving of either. It’s not that I love Usagi Drop – it’s that Usagi Drop is love, in and of itself. I really can’t put it any better than this, because putting into words how much I adore this series is impossible, as is putting into words just how adorable the series itself is. Luckily, Usagi Drop is an anime that’s all about showing rather than telling – and every piece of it is gorgeous. From the watercolour-like artwork and the subtly detailed surroundings, to the unseen bonds of trust slowly growing between two once-strangers, everything about the show pulls me in. There’s very little drama here in the usual sense of the word, and that’s part of the magic, because the depth of feeling I have for Usagi Drop surpasses every other title – and I cannot possibly give any higher praise than that.

And now, a few general conclusions I’ve come to based on the titles I ended up picking:

– Nice artwork and animation isn’t the be all and end all for me, but nonetheless, I do very much enjoy an anime that looks good.
– I also take a lot of notice of the music. Not just OP and ED themes, but the overall soundtrack, is an important factor to me, and I often think much more highly of an anime if I can tell that a lot of thought and effort went into that.
– If I absolutely had to choose between an intricately plot-driven series and a deeply character-driven series, I’d likely go for the latter.
– Most likely because even though I can certainly appreciate a really well thought-out story, I prize emotional impact over pretty much everything else.
– And as a result, I’m a bit more inclined towards stories on the more serious side as opposed to straight comedies.

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51 thoughts on “My Top 20 Anime of All Time

  1. Wow, excellent picks =D About half of these would likely be on my top 20 too, but I like most of the others as well (the only series I haven’t seen here are X, Samurai Champloo, and GTO). Good to know another fan of Wolf’s Rain (easily among my top 5 favorites), and wow, Angel Beats! at #4? I think it would be around #4 on my list too! I thought I was the only one who loved that anime so much – glad to hear that someone else does. I remember back when it first aired, pixiv (a very popular Japanese fan art site) was flooded with great AB! fan art all the time…so obviously the Japanese fans loved the series. Maybe it just didn’t hit the mark quite as well with English-speaking anime fans. Like you, I can certainly see its flaws but it just happened to resonate really well with me regardless.

    I need to rewatch Eureka 7 one day. I’ve been saying that for years but it’s hard to find the time/motivation when it’s such a long series 😄

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    • Yeah, Angel Beats! ended up being incredibly popular among the Japanese fandom. I think in a lot of ways, the English-speaking anime fandom tends to quite a bit harsher when it comes to their critiquing. As for me, at the end of the day I just always try to remember that no matter how much I like or dislike any given title, very few anime are designed with Western tastes in mind.

      Eureka 7 is one of those titles that just didn’t grab me at all on first watch. I think it’s because when I tried waching it the first time around, it was airing weekly and for whatever reason, that just didn’t fit with the series very well. It was only after returning to the show a few years later and watching it at my own pace that I fell in love with it.

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  2. Interesting that the only picks here I’d put in my top 10 (Azumanga, Toradora) you put much lower. Well, the fact that of the hundreds of shows we’ve both watched, that they made both our top lists does say something, I guess.

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    • It is interesting, but I’m not especially surprised. As a 27-year old woman, I think I’d probably be a lot more surprised if our tastes happened to be really similar.

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  3. As a reference I’m male, 32, black american and have been watching anime for about 4 years. I haven’t watched HALF your list, I’m at an intermediate stage of watching! (i.e. around 50 series watched) Not watched –> Wolf’s Rain, Great Teacher, Toradora, Azumanga, Eureka 7, FMA, Sakura, NGE, X and Ouran.

    Of these I’ve repeatedly tried NGE and couldn’t do it. I found it boring–I can deal with pretentious (Serial Experiments Lain/Ergo Proxy) if I find something else I like. I didn’t in my many tries watching NGE, plus I couldn’t bear watching Shinji. Everyone swears by it though.

    I also agree with you that good art is not the be and all. Subpar art and animation can be made up by witty dialogue (Black Lagoon–I could listen to the foul-mouthed lead character talk all day), an interesting premise (Planetes–best depiction of what early life in space would be like) or a story that hits hard (Gunslinger Girl–child assassins and the psychological effect on their bosses).

    Other miscellaneous comments:

    – For me once I’m doing a top 10/20, the ranking doesn’t even matter. They’d all personally be worthy 🙂 My current top 8 (no particular order): Saint Seiya Lost Canvas/Hades Sanctuary, Steins; Gate, Gunslinger Girl, Darker than Black, Baccano!, Nana, Samurai Champloo and Gungrave. Are they the most technically perfect anime? Probably not. They’re just the ones I found most memorable and think about the most. My classics if you will.

    – That said, I usually like almost every anime I watch as I know ahead of time what I don’t want (Mecha, Moe, Comedy, Sports, etc) so I ignore them. On the rare occasion that I get a dud, I drop it after 3 episodes, that has worked for me 🙂 I

    – You mention music anime. You’ve seen Beck and NANA, right? I don’t understand how I like NANA, but I do

    – I’m delighted to see Samurai Champloo and Durarara! get some love. They ooze style. I love hip-hop and the way it fit in with Champloo was memorable. Thank god that Durarara is getting a second season.

    – I’m very big on music IMO, it can make an ok anime a super anime for me.

    Thank you for sharing your list–as fans we always want to know what others are watching, and this is how we in turn either think of what makes it memorable for ourselves, or we might end up watching something new.

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  4. Nice list! Plenty of shows here I like, plenty of shows I hadn’t watched and are on my plan-to-watch list. Some shows I haven’t watched and don’t intend to, and some shows I’ve watched and actively disliked. But this is your list, and it covers a variety of genres, styles, moods, and you like different shows for different reasons – just like all of us.

    It’s a nice list, because it is your list. Sometimes I poke fun at some lists that are 100% ecchi or 100% shounen fights, but then I add on the most important bit, “And good for them for knowing what they like, and going for it.”

    I am surprised you didn’t mention the journey in Samurai Champloo, after mentioning it with Wolf’s Rain. It’s not as overt as a theme, but it’s the one that to me makes sense of it all in the end.

    I also laughed out loud in Angel Beats! a few times, especially in that episode with the tests. It’s physical gags and not character or situation-based humor, but that often is what makes me laugh out loud, just like the baseball episode in Samurai Champloo where I laughed so hard I cried for 20 seconds, during my lunch break at work 😉

    Speaking of laughter, it’s always somewhat weird to me to see GTO described as a comedy, or people laughing out loud at it. I liked it, but I don’t think I’ve ever really laughed at it. Well, humor is probably one of the most personal things there are 🙂

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    • Thanks! And I really couldn’t agree more – people like what they like, and for all kinds of reasons, all of them valid ones. One of the greatest things about anime is the sheer scope, after all. (I probably couldn’t help but smirk at top 10/20/whatever lists that contain absolutely nothing else but ecchi or shounen battles or any other single thing, but that said, I also think people are entitled to liking whatever happens to grab them.)

      I think if I was to watch GTO for the first time now, by myself, I’d probably still like it but not as much. Sometimes the ‘how’ of experiencing something can hugely affect the general experience itself – and I first watched GTO at 1am with a couple of friends on the couch while being somewhat tipsy. Luckily, the extremely happy (and hilarious) feel of the show didn’t wear off with either time or the booze, but I think it’s a safe assumption that these factors made me appreciate GTO much more than I otherwise may have.

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  5. I really don’t nitpick but I do want to defend the first Fullmetal Alchemist. I also want to say that I wasn’t able to finish it because I was watching it when I was a kid and wasn’t able to finish it for some reason. First of all, you should say that when the first FMA came out, the original source, which was the manga, was still ongoing at that time, so of course the producers had to make their own ending for the show. And even though I didn’t finish it, I hear a lot of good feedback from people about the ending, saying it was bittersweet and a nice break from the regular happy endings that we get. Second, while I do agree that I like FMAB better, it wouldn’t surprise me that it would blow the original away in some points or two because there were years between the production of these two, which makes it obvious that improvements were surely made, an indicator of which is the art, obviously.

    What I’m trying to say is to cut the original FMA some slack for doing it some justice even with an original ending and with the technology or whatever they had at that time. Because frankly a gun is better than a sword.

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    • I’m well aware that the manga was still ongoing at the time the first anime series came out, and also that the second anime was bound to have some advantages simply because of the progress of technology. But I can’t and will never judge an anime based on its source material – I can only ever judge an anime based on itself. And while I actually quite enjoyed the first FMA series for the most part, it’s my personal opinion that the final third of it was pretty damn terrible. I’m being blunt here not because it’s my intention to offend people, but because when it comes to subjective preferences, there’s absolutely no point in saying something if I’m not being completely honest. So no, I won’t cut the original FMA anime some slack. I think I’m being perfectly fair on it, but more importantly, I’m being truthful.

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  6. Well since no-one else has commented on it I feel I have to throw in Hunter X Hunter as my top recommendation to the writer as well as the readers. HxH is now at 135 episodes which is quite off-putting to most anime fans and for good reason. Shounen animes of this length are plagued with poor animation, filler arcs (storylines), endless backstories of insignificance and fights/actions without consequences.

    What Madhouse has done on a weekly basis for HxH has been beyond anything I have seen in anime. The incredible production quality, true to the manga adaptation and variety in their story arcs makes this a show that gets better each episode. Yoshihiro Togashi is the author of the manga and takes long breaks to expertly craft each arc of the show to give us more insight into this dangerous world and its fighting system which is more complex than any other I’ve seen.

    The story follows Gon Freeces whose father has abandoned him to pursue his elite hunter obligations. Instead of hating his father for this he is intrigued by a life that is so great it was worth abandoning his son. Thus begins the tale of Gon (12 at the start?) becoming a hunter and setting out to find his father. Each story arc shows us a different side of the world, as more mature themes are introduced each season (the show had to move to a late night time slot in the Chimera Ant Arc because there was no way it could have been made true to the manga otherwise).

    One of my favorite aspects of the show is the heavy narration. Tired of people having lengthy discussions while fighting? The show subverts this by having the narrator fill in the gaps while important things are happening on screen. The fighting is about knowledge instead of brute strength and our main character is weaker than almost every opponent he encounters. Gon’s limitations and lack of experience place him as one of the weakest fighters we see in the show but the payoff for his accomplishments even make the most veteran of hunters envious of his seemingly limitless potential.

    I hope more Americans/Europeans give HxH a try. It is the second most watched show in Japan and its manga has sold over 60 million copies in Japan alone (by mid 2013, I could not find a more recent figure). If you are looking for a highly intelligent fighting show look no further! HxH is on cruncyroll and releases on tuesdays of each weak.

    PS: the first arc of HxH is the Hunter exam and by far the least mature and interesting storyline of the show. Please do not by turned off by the first few episodes as it is in no way an indicator of what is to follow

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    • Whew, long comment there just for one show! I know you’re not the only person to feel so passionately about Hunter x Hunter though – its generated plenty of discussion among the English-speaking fandom, and is extremely popular here in Japan as well. And I may well end up seeing it one day (because as of right now, I confess I haven’t seen a single episode), but it’s currently not especially high on my to-watch list. Long-running shounen titles tend to put me off in a really big way – although if and when I do get around to watching, I’ll try not to hold that against it.

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  7. I haven’t seen most of these, but now I have a list of anime to see. I agree that the final third of Death Note was a mess, but MAN was the first part good! And Usagi Drop is a great choice for best anime; it’s not my personal favorite, but it’s definitely up there. I recently watched Ano Hina (I swear I’m butchering the title) based on a thing you did about the show and that’s on my top-10 as well. Haven’t seen Cowboy Beebop; need to see what all the hype is about.

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    • Haha, good luck with that to-watch list! Mine is huge and only seems to grow longer the more I try to chip away at it.

      Have you seen the live-action Death Note movies? I really love them as well – and the ending (different from the anime) feels a lot better than the anime version of events. The CG is kinda awful at times, but the acting (particularly for L’s character) is truly phenomenal.

      Ahh, I’m glad you enjoyed AnoHana. Though I didn’t end up putting it on this list, its a title I very much like as well.

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  8. Toradora is sooo beast! One of the few anime I have ever watched more than once and it was awesome. Although my list of best anime consists of much more violent and darker animes like Berserk, Zeta Gundam or Ghost in the Shell. lol

    One anime girls seem to like a lot is Darker than Black, so I find it weird is not in this list. 😉

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    • I liked Darker Than Black, but I didn’t love it. I know it’s pretty popular, but for whatever reason it just didn’t end up completely sticking for me.

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    • Haha no way – I’m just not that much of a masochist. Besides, going by some of the god-awful anime I’ve seen over the past decade or so, I’m really not keen to relive the experience in any way.

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      • The other problem is that when one watches a series they dislike, they stop watching it, that is, if they’re like me.

        It would be interesting to make a list of shows you really didn’t like but watched to the end anyway, to figure out just why the hell you watched it. I’m tempted to try this myself.

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        • Yeah, there aren’t many shows at all that I’ve hated yet somehow kept going with right the way to the end anyway – maybe it’d have to be a top 5 list instead of a top 20. I’d be mighty interested to see what titles you come up with for this if you end up writing a piece.

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  9. A bit of crossover indeed! This was a pleasant list, and I admit there are some anime on this list that I’d glanced over for one reason or another – I’ll have to go back and give them a shot (particularly Usagi Drop – even knowing they didn’t adapt the second half, I side-eye that plot turn something fierce). I am surprised you picked X! While CLAMP’s body of work holds an eternal soft spot in my heart, and the grandiosity of X was great tragic-fun, I always thought the anime was a bit rough in spots (particularly to do with pacing at some points). And alack the day that we shall never know how that story canonically ended.

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    • Usagi Drop is one of the sweetest anime I’ve ever seen. It’s not even a matter of not adapting that second half – it’s that it’s just such a truly gorgeous, beautiful, deeply heartfelt series that still gets me teary-eyed even now. I know that because I re-watched it just last week and quite literally started sniffling to myself all over again. ❤

      I do wonder if X would be on this list if I watched the anime for the first time today. I won't deny there's some deep feelings of nostalgia there – it was one of the first anime shows I bought on DVD. Still, I think its an overall pretty solid production, albeit not a perfect one by any means.

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  10. Not a bad list at all. Half of it I haven’t seen yet, though(But definitely mean to after hearing all the praise for shows like Usagi Drop, Kids on the Slope, and Angel Beats), and of the other half only 6 of them are in my own Top 20(Brotherhood, Bebop, Champloo, Eden, Mushi-Shi, and Durarara!!).

    But that is ok. Anime is not static and there are literally hundreds of anime released each year, and even if only a fraction of them are Top 20-worthy shows(As in someone sees it in a Top 20 list and goes, “You know, not the choice I’d make, but I can understand why you picked it, cause it is a good show.”), that still means the pool of possible candidates will just continue to grow every year. So there is never going to be a “correct” Top 20 anime list. You like what you like.

    That being said I am definitely like you, I prefer character driven shows above all else. I can totally enjoy other kinds of anime, though. But you give me a good character study series and I am glued.

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    • I absolutely agree – there’s really no “correct” or “incorrect” possibilities when it comes to making such a personal list, and there’s just such a huge scope of anime and styles of anime out there that it’d be downright weird if everyone liked/disliked mainly the same things.

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  11. Wolf’s Rain is certainly about the journey. The destination is pretty much non-existent.
    Samurai Champloo does ooze cool. Think these two are the few from your list actually seen and did enjoy heavily.
    Neon Genesis Evangelion ,as well, but I say I like and dislike both at the same time, if that is possible. I still do hold admiration for it but wouldn’t say so much. Ah, Death Note, I really have to finish one of these days. Keep telling myself I’ll get to it but never do. I am so hopeless.

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    • I think it’s definitely possible to both like and dislike an anime at the same time. I know there are at least a few titles which I admire but don’t necessarily like, and a few more that I like but at the same time think aren’t very good. And since any given anime very rarely matches up to whatever our ideas of ‘perfect’ are, there are probably nearly always things we would change about even some of our favourite titles if we could.

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  12. A number of your picks would be on my Top 20, and certainly most of them would be on a list of “good” anime I complied. It is interesting to see how the closer I come to your absolutely favs the closer our tastes merge. If you replaced Cowboy Bebop with Samurai Champloo and then swapped it with Durarara!! you would probably have my Top 5!

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  13. hmm that’s interesting. i can’t say that i’ve ever watched one of these animes. I”ve started bebop but other than that no. I’m surprised that Clannad/Clannad After Story didn’t make it. nice artwork, music a serious character driven anime. where would you put it? (if youve seen it)

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  14. Nice to see shows like Toradora, Sakamichi no Apollon and Samurai Champloo on the lists, which totally made it on mine too 😀

    I, for some reason, always hesitate to put up newer anime in my favorite list, but Sakamichi no Apollon in the end, still takes the cake. Even without the music, the slice of life and coming-of-age segment of the story is great, and the wondorous jazz music is like an icing on the cake, and a very sweet one at that :3

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    • I know what you mean about hesitating to put newer anime on the favourites list – I always like to give titles a good amount of time to settle, find out if the re-watch is as good as the first experience, see whether they can stand their own against the more classic shows, etc. But yeah, I think Sakamichi Apollon is a really solid one.

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  15. Also, want to add that Angel Beats is indeed an interesting addition to the list. I will admit that it does induces feels, just like how Key is so well known for. And I like it’s concept too. Overall, I think Angel Beats is a great anime but as far as Key works, I personally think it’s somewhere on the bottom :p

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    • Weirdly enough, I don’t generally like Key at all. Angel Beats! is the only one of theirs I do like – whereas their other really popular titles, like Air, Kanon, and Clannad, didn’t appeal to me in the least.

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  16. Pingback: 5 Good Anime Based on Light Novels | OTAKU LOUNGE

  17. Great list. I might give Usagi Drop a try. I’ve heard many good things about it but I kind of put it on the back burner for a while. This might be a good time to start it.
    By the way, out of pure curiosity and totally not as a butt-hurt Code Geass fan boy, where would you place Code Geass if this were your top 50? While the show does have a ludicrous amount of plot holes and flaws, I still found it to be **the most** enjoyable and memorable anime I’ve ever watched.

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    • If this list were my top 50 anime of all time, Code Geass still wouldn’t be on it to be honest. Probably. Which definitely isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the series – I actually did, very much. But I’ve also seen several hundred other anime shows now, many of which would most likely steal the spotlight in Code Geass’ place. That said, I can easily see how Code Geass is such a popular title; despite some of the flaws that you yourself point out, I likewise found it a very fun, engaging, and altogether memorable series.

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  18. Though it’s strange to congratulate someone on their opinions, I’ll do it anyway. This is probably one of the most solid Best of Anime lists that I’ve come across. Like you mention, a lot of times strong emotional ties to the show or how/when/who you watch it with can really affect how you remember it. I had a similiar experience to your GTO with Full Metal Panic:Fumoffu, which if you haven’t seen before I’d say is worth checking out if you’re looking for comedy. It wouldn’t crack my top 20, but would certainly be an honorable mention. Were I to make my own list, it’d probably go a little something like this:

    1. Cowboy Bebop
    2. Steins;Gate
    3. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
    4. Durarara
    5. Usagi Drop
    6. Hajime no Ippo
    7. Samurai Champloo
    8. Gintama
    9. Eden of the East
    10. Kino no Tabi
    11. Eureka Seven
    12. Trigun
    13, Sakamichi no Apollon
    14. Wolf’s Rain
    15. Katanagatari
    16. Monster
    17. Planetes
    18. Neon Genesis Evangelion
    19. Mushishi
    20. The Eccentric Family

    Honorable Mentions: Zankyou no Terror (airing now, written by Shinchiro Watanabe), Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu, GTO, FLCL

    Based on what you seem to like I would strongly recommend checking out Steins;Gate, Kino no Tabi, and Planetes if you haven’t seen them. And if you have, what’d you think?

    Sorry, this somehow became a novel. Making lists like this gets me fired up.

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    • Making lists can definitely be fun. I like yours too, by the way – I’ve seen everything you’ve mentioned other than one (Hajime no Ippo), and nearly all the other titles you mention would likely make it onto a somewhat longer list if I cared to make one, e.g. a top 50. You have good taste. 🙂

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  19. Glad you think so. Hajime no Ippo tends to get written off since it’s a sports-based anime, but it has some pretty incredible writing and characterization, and the boxing is more just a plot device than the actual focus. Anything you’re watching right now that’s worth checking out? I watch a decent amount but it’s tough to find new anime that are truly great, other than Zankyou no Terror nothing is really captivating me. Though I was entertained by No Game, No Life.

    MY CRESTA!

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  20. Good read! I dropped Tokyo Ghoul as well, which was disappointing since I was excited going into it. I keep up with Space Dandy, SAO II, and Aldanoah Zero. My feelings on each pretty much line up with yours, although I enjoy Aldanoah Zero a little bit more and SAO II just isn’t doing it for me lately. The others I’m keeping up with right now are Akame ga Kill, which is entertaining but uneven, and Haikyuu!!, which I’ve really been enjoying (love Taku Kishimoto’s writing and pacing).

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  21. Pingback: My Top 5 Worst Anime of All Time | OTAKU LOUNGE

  22. Ran across your site from your comment at Dr. Watson’s. I’m not sure how to rate all the anime I’ve watched. There are some favorites that I have.

    Hyouka is obviously high on my list. Not only the romance and how it slowly builds over the show, but how your obligations affect your life and how frustrating it is to have an aspiration that may be out of your reach no matter how hard you strive (Ibara) are things that raise this above a simple set of mysteries.

    Toradora is probably the first one I really rated highly and for some of the reasons you stated. While it starts out as a SoL comedy by the time the Xmas arc happens it transitions to a romantic comedy drama. Taiga is tsundere done right. My only problem with shows like this is that all the girls would be good fits for Ryuji in their own way. Oh, and while Hyouka had the most romantic confession, Toradora had the most romantic first kiss.

    Girls und Panzer. Amost certainly not your cup of tea but for me cute girls and accurately drawn WWII tanks make it a sleeper hit.

    Gin no Saji: Never would have expected a show about an agricultural high school and a “fish out of water” would be so good. Hiromu Arakawa wrote Full Metal Alchemist and drew on her youth on a dairy farm in Hokkaido for this story. Seeing a story in a rural setting instead of Tokyo gives you a feel for another part of Japan, the lives of farmers and doesn’t shy away from some of the harsh realities of farm life. SoL at it’s best. And the horse Maron is a riot.

    Kimi ni Todoke: While it takes forever for the main couple to get together, the FL, Sawako, is so ernest and naive it’s impossible not to like her. The main cast ranks with Toradoras for likability.

    Monogatari: A half vampire with a weakened vampire living in his shadow, oddities, ghosts, a girlfriend that uses stationary supplies as weapons. What more can you ask for? How about a literate story that the animators also manage to make visually interest.

    Yahari Ore no Seishun: Anti-hero cynic who along with his two club mates slowly grows out of his cynicism while winding up helping others in spite of himself. The best character of this type I’ve ever watched.

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    • Interesting selection there. A lot of these I really like too, even if they didn’t quite make my list, and a couple I haven’t yet seen. I know Monogatari is really popular, and for whatever reason I still haven’t gotten around to watching that one. No matter how much I chip away at it, my to-watch list only seems to grow longer by the day…

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