Friday, February 10, 2012

My Top 30 Favorite Anime Series

Here's the Japanese anime counterpart to my Top 30 Animated Series list that I promised.  This one may not be as long 'cause some of these anime, I don't even really, really like, I just find stuff in them good enough for them to land a spot.

But first, what you will NOT be seeing here:

- Bleach:  "Bleach" sucks, okay?  It was only decent up until the end of the Soul Society saga, whereas afterwards it went down the crapper.  Tite Kubo is a horrendously awful writer who does way too many stupid things in the plot, misuses his characters, creates too many characters that don't mean shit, and pads out everything, including the action sequences, which is so boring.  It's one of the dullest, most mind numbingly poor quality shonen series ever made, and not worth investment.  And yet it still has fans?

- Naruto:  Same reasons as the above.  It sucks.  It was only average at best before the timeskip and even then it had problems because Kishimoto is a terrible writer.  The plot is stupid, the characters are misused, the world-building is attrocious, everything's padded out to the point of boredom, the action sequences are lackluster, they explain how every damn chakra works, and all that shit.  For a series about ninjas, it's really not exciting or engaging.  And it's also been very undeservedly popular.

- Eureka Seven:  Beautiful series, good writing, neat world, nice plot that keeps building until it explodes into epicness halfway through...but I barely gave a damn about any of the characters.  These were characters that were often annoying, bland, or felt like characters I have seen before but with nothing really interesting done with them.  The only characters that really left an impression were the bad guys and they served the plot well, but when I couldn't care about the main protagonists, that really took away from the plot, the show, and the experience for me.

- Shaman King:  This series was just....really "meh" to me.  I enjoyed it in it's best moments, but it was nothing I really got into.  I liked the characters, I liked the action, but I didn't care too much for the plot.  In fact, the manga went in such an awful direction that I prefer the way the anime decided to end it instead.  But in either medium, it's an average shonen series.

- Revolutionary Girl Utena:  I'm a guy, I do not care for most shoujo series, and regardless of the epic quality of this one, I still don't like it because I have something of a bias against Kunuhiko Ikuhara, you'll see why somewhere on this list.  So, no, it's not for me. 

- Trigun:  It's a good, quality series but I've just never been that into it.

- Ranma 1/2:  Just...no.  Way too stupid, way too mean spirited, way too uninteresting for me.

- Baccanno or Durarara:  With the exception of two, I don't really follow anime based on Light Novels.  Especially not these two, where only a handful of characters or events interest or entertain me at all.

- All But One Gundam anime:  'Cause there's only really one Gundam anime that I really like.  Gundam is just so generic to me: giant robots, angsty prettyboy pilots, wars and pseudo philosophies, and often poorly written plots.  The franchise is boring and I don't have time for it.

- Most Shoujo anime and "kiddy" anime:  It's pretty self explainatory, isn't it?

- Wolf's Rain:  It's great...but so goddamn depressing.  I like depressing stories when there's something to offset it, but there isn't much here.  Sure it's better than "mature" crap like "Black Lagoon" or "Elfen Lied", but I don't enjoy it that much and it couldn't make it.  And before you ask about "Berserk", than yes; what applies for this applies for that one, too. 

So now we move on to what did make the cut!  Here they are:

  30. Tenchi Muyo!:  The original OVA "Tenchi Muyo", before it spun off into a hack franchise.  This anime actually told a decent story,  had a certain charm,  the romantic comedy was actually funny,  Tenchi Masaki was much more likable and relatable,  Ayeka and Ryoko were more reasonably portrayed,  the villain was awesome, and it combined old style Japan and it's spiritual mythology with weird anime sci-fi elements almost perfectly.  I suppose it's not technically a series but it was aired like one and though it's pretty short, it's fulfilling and enjoyable. 

  29. Rave Master:  This series doesn't make it very far on this list at all for the simple reason of it being a much better manga than it is an anime.  The anime version made some odd choices with the source material,  had pretty lousy pacing,  seemed to be trying too hard to be like "One Piece" but tanked in the ratings and got cancelled just as it was starting it's second story arc!  If the staff behind this show had been more competent, they would've given it a Gecko Ending to end it after the first arc before the anime was scrapped.  But the source material had such a strange but interesting storyline, a quirky, memorable cast of characters, an engaging world, and top notch action that it still came across in animated form.  If you were to watch this one, I reccomend it in Japanese first.  The dub had terrible scriptwriting under Bob Bulcholz's direction and made it alot more stupid than it originally was.  Then again, it does have those opening and ending songs that get stuck in your head...

  28. Code Geass:  Namely the first season, though R2 had a pretty spectacular climax and conclusion.  "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion" was a series with potential but it often came across as a shallow and pedantic cross between "Death Note" and a "Gundam" series and even in the first season, the story was not an entirely well executed one.  And it jumped the shark 22 episodes in with the horribly contrived and needless "Euphinator incident", which paved way for more forced melodrama and bad writing to come in the mostly wretched trainwreck of a second season, R2.  But what stands out about this series is the world and the characters.  The world is supposedly the product of an alternate timeline of history in which the American colonies lost the revolution and Brittain was invaded and conquered by Napoplean or something like that, and what's here now is an intriguing future indeed.  And there are some engaging, well developed characters to be found here too, particularly the central protagonist, Lelouch Lamperouge.  A Byronic Hero in every sense of the defenition; he's an arrogant, strategic, intelligent, manipulative, determined, self-confident youth who ends up at the right place in the wrong time and obtains the power of an evil eye known as Geass, which can control the minds and wills of others.  Lelouch sets out with pure intentions, intending to use this power to bring down the oppressive Brittanian empire and make the world a better place for his sister Nunnally, but exploiting the power of Geass darkens his mind and soul with each use of it, and each success it gives Lelouch comes often with terrible prices.  To see this tragic figure resort to more and more extereme measures, employ devious and underhanded tactics, and grow steadily more evil and unhinged as he does so, is the most compelling draw to the story.  But that's not to say he's the only one.  Really, I just enjoy seeing what could occur with these characters in this world.  Probably why I personally enjoy the manga adaptation of the series better: it compresses the story, removes needless stuff like the giant mecha fights and the bombastic overdramatics, and distills the esscence of the characters and their world and that is kept in focus as it should be. It also keeps a tighter focus on the comedy of the series, so you can take it's shallow and pedantic nature less seriously than the anime wants you to.  But the anime still has some advantages (particularly in it's pace and it's portrayal of Lelouch's character arc), so it's here.

  27. Gurren Lagann:  A most...unusual anime that pays homage to, spoofs, and imitates all those giant robot anime shows of the past. It's one of the stupidest shows you'll ever see; it's got underground colonies that live below the surface, an evil race of "beast men", a self conciouss teenager obtains a giant drill key that can unlock a giant mechas' power and even grows as he matures, a hammy, boisterous, and over-the-top crazy young man with spikey hair, wearing pointy shades, a red vampire cape, and no shirt on, a young girl with barely any clothes on and enormous breasts that bounce on their own,  space entitites known as Spirals and dialogue such as "Your drill shall pierce the heavens!", or "Believe in the me who believes in you!".  Sounds ridiculous?  That's because it is, and it's fully aware of it too.  But that's what makes it fun.  The series enjoys it's own stupidity and it's infectious.  Most of the characters like Simon, Kamina, Yoko, Nia, Leeron, Kittan and his sisters, and Viral among others are endearing and likable. And it even has some solid storytelling of it's own and uplifting, inspirational themes.  At least...it did.  The first half of the series was purely silly, hyperenergetic, hot blooded and wacky, with every action scene and plot point following that tone up until the very unexpected and tragic demise of one of the central characters.  The next half had a more interesting set-up to it, brought Nia into the mix, and actually achieved a great balance between silly parody and a serious plot with character development and incredibly intense action too.  The last half is where it started to suck.  The story was weak, the characters got less appealing,  the concepts were executed poorly, and the tone had changed to being darker, more self-important, serious, and boring.  Top that off with an out-of-nowhere ending that was so depressing it was stupid and so stupid it was depressing, not to mention a total betrayal of everything the series stood for until that point, and you get an anime that showed promise that ended on a major downer.  That's why I just can't love it as much and why I find the hype that surronds the show extra excruciating.  But the good stuff was good, and that's what gets it here.  BTW, this is another mecha series where I find the manga adaptation superior.

  26. Digimon Adventure 02 (Zero Two):  The sequel series to "Digimon Adventure".  This anime is, on almost every technical standpoint, an inferior sequel to a great original and a collosal failure of a show.  It was poorly paced, poorly structured, story and character development were sacrificed in favor of throwing around weird ideas, "cool" gimmicks, and bigger artistic value, the plot veered in various directions, and it made the mistake of taking place in the same continuity as the original and yet doing so many things that were contradictory to it.  Oh yeah, and it ended with a terrible anticlimax and an even worse epilogue.  God, so much of this series' writing and execution sucked!  And...I still enjoy it.  Enough to put it on here at all.  Why is that?  Well, nostalgia has something to do with it; I found it quite fun to watch when I was a kid.  And I still do because something about the way the show was directed and presented is damn entertaining.  The digimon and their world is as great to explore as ever,  I like the antics that go down in the real world at times, the new characters are likable and enjoyable, the ideas that got wasted had potential, the gimmicks were admitedly quite cool, and even the series storyline wasn't half bad whenever it was, well, good, which was most evident in the Digimon Emeperor story arc.  Also, it introduced more complex villains to the franchise, both of whom were human; Ken Ichijoji and Yukio Oikawa were both very compelling characters.  Ken's character in particular was realistically layered, sympathetic, richly characterized and developed over the series, as both a bad guy and a good guy.  He's defenitely one of Digimon's best, most memorable characters even now.  Yeah, the dub was hacked by Bob Bulcholz, who gave it the same treatment as "Rave Master" but like the series itself, I wouldn't take that too seriously.  All in all, this show is liked the ultimate mixed bag.  It gave me good and bad stuff, but I liked what I liked, and enjoyed the experience overall.

  25. Ashita No Nadja:  This anime is like a Victorian Age novel in animated form. It's a work of fiction in the vein of "A Little Princess", "The Secret Garden", "Little Women", and even Jane Austen's books.  It  has never been dubbed in English, but I understood the story enough to follow it and enjoy it.  With a well played story, character development, settings, and animation, this series provides a unique and memorable experience for those who watch it.  The main fault I can find is that the story arc takes quite a long time to get going and before it does, we get lots of whimsical, light hearted "filler" stories instead.  But in a way, that also has a charm to it.  It's a nice, episodic adventure around the world that culminates when thing are brought back around full circle.  Once the drama kicks in,  it does not stop until the end.  This is no ways an absolute favorite of mine but a show that I'm glad I saw and can really appreciate, thus why it's on the list at all.

  24: FullMetal Alchemist:  One of the edgier and more "mature" shonen seris' out there,  "Fullmetal Alchemist" is a master work.  I'm referring to the manga, the first half of the first anime adaptation, and the "Brotherhood anime series.  I was never that much a fan of the first anime when it tried to do it's own thing.  It's story was needlessly cluttered, the changes were unnessecary, and the tone got too dark and angsty for my liking.  The original mangaka's story, however, was much more satisfying.  Set during a war between a muslim resistance group and the State Military, it centers around the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric who've lost their mother in a tragedy.  Due to an attempt to revive her by using alchemy, Ed's lost half his limbs and Al's lost his entire body, his soul now stuck inside a large suit of armor.  Ed takes up the mantle of "the Full Metal Achemist" and along with his brother, has joined the military in hopes of claiming the philosopher's stone, which he believes can finally set things right.  But they soon get wrapped up in the horrors of war, killings, cult religion, government conspiracies, and abominations known as the Homonculi.  The story's okay for me but what I really like are the characters.  The Elric Brothers are endearing protganists, and characters such as Winry Rockbell, Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, Ling Yao, and Scar are well developed as well.  This isn't one of the ones I enjoy most, but the characters make the series worthwhile to me.

  23. Hellsing:  This one's limited to only the original manga and the "Ultimate" OVA, not that other stupid anime version.  A Japanese masterpiece of gothic horror, this series has everything a good work of horror should have; vampires, ghosts, zombies, psychopaths, blood, gore, graveyards, and Neo Nazis.  It centers around a supernatural hunting organization known as Hellsing, whose leader Integra has a vampire in her servitude and he's the group's top man.  But he's not just any vampire, he's an incarnation of Count Dracula himself named Alucard.  Alucard is dark, ammoral, sardonic, sadistic, and batshit insane.  He will scare the crap out of people before taking them out in nasty, gruesome ways.  And he's the protagonist, people!  He sires a new vampire, a young girl on the police squad named Seras Victoria, who is a much more moral person who goes through some great development of her own.  Being closely tied to the occult, Hellsing meets the ire of the Iscariot Catholic Church, who's mentally unstable but righteous intentioned priest, Alexander Anderson, takes it upon himself to bring Alucard down.  But they both end up with a common enemy in the terrorist group of Millenium, who seek to plunge the entire world into chaotic bloodshed and warfare.  Not much else to say but that this series is deliciously dark and freaky, but has a wicked gallows humor about it to.  If you're into that sort of horror, then it's reccomended.

  22. Excel Saga:  The ultimate in Japanese slapstick, off-the-wall, completely random and insane comedy.  This time I referr only to the anime directed by Shinuiche Watanabe, not the manga by Koshi Rikudo.  Often parodying common anime styles and tropes, this show was batshit insane and always having fun with it.  Nothing made sense, nothing was predictable, and nothing was ever dull.  The set-up was that the "secret idealogical organization" of ACROSS, led by Lord Ilpalazzo, a spoof on white haired prettyboy evil ovelords, seeks to take over the world in order to cleanse it of it's "corruption".  Unfortunately for Ilpalazzo, his organization is actually just two people and a dog.  Excel Excel, a hyperactive, energetic, insane, fast-talking and obnoxiously loud mouthed teenage girl who can pull off superhuman feats and has a mad, undying crush on her boss.  Her partner Hyatt, a pale, blue haired girl from Mars who's soft spoken, polite, and has the tendancy to die of blood loss at any given moment.  And their dog Menchi, who is also the "emergency food supply", much to it's never ending horror.  These quirky characters undertake the strangest tasks, and often get invovled with other stuff in the background.  Such as Excel and Hyatt's appartment neighbors, who are actually part of a hero organization that opposes them, a wandering dead hispanic man named Pedro who has to suffer watching his former life crumble before his eyes, and the utterly strange Nabeshin, a man with an afro who....yeah, I can't even explain it.  This show's just so wacky and hysterical that I have to hold it in high regard.  It's got hilarious humor, great lines, memorable moments, and endearing characters, and even gets a bit of a serious storyline towards the end of the series.  It's not for everyone, but for those it is for it's ike a strange but delightful acid trip. Watch it, then get the hell out, but it will never leave your brain.

  21. Zatch Bell:  For a "mon" shonen series aimed at kids, there's something about this one that propells it ahead of others of it's kind.  The premise seems offputting at first; a bunch of demon children from another dimension have been sent to Earth as part of a competiton to decide who will become the next king of the demon world.  To determine this, the demon must bond with a human partner who can bring out their power by reading from a spellbook and....yeesh, sounds pretty occult, doesn't it?  But it actually doesn't come off that way at all.  The main protagonists are the teen genius Kiyo Takamine, who bonds with the titular Zatch Bell, a blond kid with lightning power, who wears a dress and has no memory.  Together they take on the battle to become king and all the conflict it brings into the world in an effort to make Zatch king so he can change the ammoral rulings of the demon world at last.  The storyline goes from episodic at one point and then following an epic story arc the next, and it has some pretty exciting twists and turns every now and then.  But this is a series where the characters make it what it is.  Kiyo is a very amusing and likable guy, especially when he plays the straight man to all the weirdness that happens in his life.  Zatch is also likable, if not a bit overactive.  Other characters in the cast such as Kiyo's schoolmates like Suzy or Kane, Megumi and Tia, Parco Folgore and Kanchome, Kafk Sunbeam and Ponygon, Li-En and Wonrei, and Dr Riddles and Kido are all great and well portrayed too.  Sherry and Brago stand out, though; starting as straight-up antagonists, you soon see them go through their own character arc and they have the most interesting layers and motives of any other character in the series.  The flaws in the series are evident, though.  Whenever Kiyo and Zatch, especially Zatch, get emotional during a fight, melodrama ensues. Zatch's goal for wanting to be king is understandable, but how he reached the conclusion that it's what he wanted and the way he repeatedly brings it up are incredibly annoying, unconvincing, and weak.  The humor can sometimes be funny, but other times it feels like it's trying to rip off "Excel Saga".  And the plot gets alot weaker and less engaging halfway into the series after the defeat of Zofis.  But when it was great, I really did enjoy it.  The series had heart to it, and I'm glad to have followed it for a while.

  20. InuYasha:  Only the first two seasons of the anime and the "Final Act" OVA.  It's amazing that Rumiko Takahashi could be so creative as to come up with this and then be so much of a hack as to run it into the ground.  Back when it was still fresh, the series felt like something done by Miyazaki.  The set-up for the story was fascinating, the feudal Japan fantasy world that was created was appropriately mystical, and the characters were great.  Ordinary high school student Kagome stumbling back in time through a magical well and her destiny becoming tied to the shikon jewell and the story around it started a series that for a while, was really good.  The half-demon Inu-Yasha himself was an interesting character; snide, arrogant, and ammoral but also noble and wanting to do the right thing.  Kagome, being plucky, brave, cheerful, spirited, and smart, was a very lovable and engaging heroine.  Other unique and interesting characters included the lecherous young monk Miroku, the honorable female demon hunter Sango, the fox demon child Shippou, Inu-Yasha's sociopathic brother Sesshomaru, and the lord of evil, Naraku.  The story took a few good turns and really looked like it could go somewhere...before Takahashi refused to take it any further and instead kept the status quo, padded the plot out to ridiculous extremes, and made the audiences sick of everything that used to be good.  The Inu-Yasha/Kagome characterization and romance in particular became insufferable, consisting of nothing but badly written Takahashi jerk/tsunadare antics and the two characters shouting each other's names over and over again.  Nothing progressed, so almost everything in the anime became filler.  And until the manga finished and "Final Act" adapted the ending, we all lost interest. But back when it started out, it had quality.  And the quality it had will always be remembered and admired by me.

  19. Digimon Xros Wars:  A recent series in the Digimon franchise to hit Japan.  It brought the franchise back to popularity that it hadn't had in years.  Usually the even numbered Digimon seasons are weaker than the odd numbered ones, but this one broke that rule by being even better than the subpar flop that was "Digimon Savers".  This show has it's own unique rules, a cool representation of digimon and the Digital World, an intriguing premise based around a war between four different factions, a remarkable cast of characters, awesome moments of action, great animation, a strong storyline with a spectacular finish...and then a shitty, formulamatic, dumbed down sequel series that fucked it all up.  But for everything mentioned before that travesty, this was one of the good quality Digimon series'. What makes it great is the storyline and how the characters have an effect on it and develop through it.  Taiki is a very interesting protagonitst that you can get behind, being both an impetuous kid but a brilliant tactician and strong leader at the same time. His friends are likable, Kiriha and Nene are intriguing antagonists, and the various villains of the Bagura Empire are incredibly menacing foes.  The show's stakes are always high, and so is the action.  It's an enjoyable saga of epic porportions.

  18. Pokemon: Best Wishes:  The recent installment of the Pokemon anime.  Truly a miraculous series seeing as I did not ever think that this show could produce anything of truly good quality past the first series and believed it to be forever damned as a bland marketing tool.  But then this one came along.  This what the Pokemon anime should have been for the longest time now.  For over a decade now the show has been made of fail, the entire wretched "Diamond and Pearl" series being the pinnacle of it all.  "Best Wishes" is truly a new start for the show and a chance for it's salvation.  Iris and Cilan are the true stars of this show, and they're both delightful and interesting characters who add group chemistry and dynamics to the show that were much-needed after the dullness of Sinnoh.  And our reacurring villains, Team Rocket, are actually acting like villains again, taking a huge level in competence and badassitude.  They're also some of the biggest highlights of this series.  The pace has gotten quicker and more up to par with how it was in the original series, most episodes are enjoyable to watch with very few being worthless fillers. The stupid stuff has decreased, TR no longer appear in every episode, and the writing and direction for the show just generally has more heart to it now.  It's not perfect by any means: most of the big battles are as dull as ever, and the 3/11 disaster in Japan causing the "Team Rocket vs Team Plasma" two part spectacular to be postponed with no certain new airdate in sight is still pissing me off, and leaves a lasting scar on this show's legacy.  Come on, give us the good stuff, you foolish Japanse network people!  But while "Best Wishes" will never be as great as "The Indigo League", it is still the best the Pokemon anime has been since the days of Kanto. It is a genuinely good series, which makes me enjoy and appreciate it enough to have it on this list.

  17. Rurouni Kenshin:  A well know shonen series from the nineties.  This was a very stylistic, dramatic, engaging, and very charming and deep series as both a manga and an anime.  What stands out in memory is the main character, the titular wandering samurai Himura Kenshin.  He is one of the greatest protagonists in all of anime/manga.  With a dark past of being a cold blooded manslayer for hire during times of war,  Kenshin has now taken up his sword with the vow to use it to defend the innocent but never kill again.  He is a fierce, badass warriror but looking at him and his personality, you wouldn't be able to tell.  He's kind hearted, friendly, peaceful, clumsy, a little dorky and clueless, and effeminate to the point that he enjoys cooking and cleaing over sword fighting.  He is a good natured person, and so easy to like.  But when he gets serious, he gets really tough and he's always fighting the possibility that he could get into a conflict where bloodshed is unavoidable and he'll have to kill once more.  His character and what he goes through is just so compelling.  He has an endearing supporting cast too; Kaoru, Sanosuke, Megumi, Yahiko, Misao, Hiko, and even Saito all have their moments to shine and show greatness.  Kaoru not so much in the anime, but it's...still there.  The series' highest point was the Kyoto saga, which was a seriously epic story arc with an excellent villain in Shishio Makoto.  Things never got better from there, especially when the anime started making up lots of fillers that soon got it cancelled.  But as far as shonen goes, it still stands as one of the all time greats.

 16. Monster:  An excellently written, absorbing, dramatic and horrifying psychological thriller written by a Japanese master of suspense.  I've not seen this one the whole way through but I intend to one day.  The set-up here is brilliant.  Taking place in Europe, it centers around a Japanese immigrant named Tenma who's become a well renowned doctor.  But one fateful night when he has to choose between saving the life of a child or an important figure, he chooses the child.  Tenma's life takes a downturn from there...and then as it starts to get better, mysterious things start happening.  A dangerous, heartless, psychopathic killer has gone on the loose; Johan Leibert, an evil force of nature, an inhuman demon, a monster...and the boy who's life Tenma saved that night, all grown up.  By saving one life, the good doctor inadvertedly doomed countless others.  And that's just the beggining of the moral dilemas and psychological drama that the series throws at you.  What you get here is a story of the nature of good and evil, how they are always at oods, what's right and what's wrong, how much value life has, and how far will one goes to stay true to his ideals.  While the themes are deep and thought provoking, the characters involved with this twisted tale really makes it work.  Dr. Tenma is a excellent example of a flawed but ultimately good human being, while Johan is the devil of a man who tries to break him down and see the futility of that goodness.  Other great characters such as Deiter, Nina Fortner, Eva Heineman, and Inspector Lunge all have their own stories to go through as well, making them all well-rounded, developed characters.  My main criticisms here would be that the art style really could've been better and the climax and resolution isn't entirely pleasing.  Yet you still feel satisfyed with the story once it concludes and it's one that will stay with you for as long as you live.  Despite all the horror and tragedy that's dished out, it ends on a feel-good note in which good ultimately triumphs over evil.  But the two ideologies will always be clashing and the monster shall always stalk you...beware!

  15. Mobile Fighter G Gundam:  Here's the only series in the Gundam franchise that I consider enjoyable and worth my time.  This is kind of what "Gurren Lagann" should have been the whole way through.  It's a cheesy as heck, over-the-top, hamfisted, hotblooded, and incredibly action packed super robot series that manages to be very entertaining about how sincere it is and how it pulls all it's punches with joy and love for the genre.  It actually has fun with it, which is what Gundam never really does in all subsequent series'.  Rather than centering around galactic nations at war with each other using giant robots to fight and back up their pretentious pseudo war philosophies, this one has all of humanity who inabit the "neo" nations of the Earth all tired of fighting wars and instead settling all their differences through "Gundam Fight" tournaments, which keeps the peace in the world.  In the annual Gundam Fight that the story takes place in, Neo Japan's fighter Domon Kasshu, along with his lovely mechanic and childhood friend Rain Mikamura, is on a quest to find his missing brother, who's tied to the series' main antagonist, the Dark Gundam, which is one of the most frightening and most original main villains in any anime series.  There are many twists, turns, action sequences, and surprisingly deep dramatic moments in this story.  But there's a comedy about it that's usually consistent.  This series is riddled with cliches and cultural sterotypes; Japanese and Hong Kong martial arts, American patriotic boxing champions, "honorable" Chinese monks, snooty French knights, fierce Russian commies, Italian mobsters, English gentlemen, even a Little Mermaid gundam for Neo Denmark!  And there's a...Sailor Scot gundam for Neo Sweeden for some reason.  Alot of these characters and their gundams are absurd, but oh so fun.  The main characters all get their share of development and growth, even the hammy antagonist, Master Asia.  The plot escelates from episodic adventures, to serious fights, to the main tournament, and to the climactic final showdown with the Dark Gundam.  And in the end, the power of love prevails!  Yeah, it's corny, but I enjoyed it from start to finish. Screw the rest of the franchise: this will always be THE Gundam show for me.  It know what it is and has fun with it, as it should be.

  14. Sailor Moon / Sailor Moon R:  Obviously, I'm not a guy with much care for girly shoujo series', especially not generic, girly "magical girl" shows that get spewed out every now and then.  (Okay, I do like "Powerpuff Girls Z", but that's due to my love for the original seris and thus my enjoyment of the different take on things from it.)   A big reason for this is...they're all just a bunch of imitators to the one that started it all..."Sailor Moon".  Concieved as a manga by Naoku Takeuchi with the intent of combining the magical girl genre-then with the Super Sentai genre,  this series was met with phenomenal success in Japan.  It got an anime adaptation with 5 series' that were only loosely based on the manga's plot, using the same characters, situations, and elements from the manga but none of the story.  It was made to be more episodic and stylistic, which actually made it more faithful to the "Sentai" angle.  This is one of those metaseries where the series' get weaker and weaker as it goes along, with only two of them were of high quality; the original and it's immediate follow-up, "R'.  (The next one was dissapointingly average, the following one was incredibly weak, and the final one was absolutely horrendous).  Those first two were good enough and meaningful enough to me to make it here.  The original series was very fun, very well presented, and surprisingly addictive for both a female and male audience.  The episodic adventures were entertaining, the action was impressive, the overarching storyline was told and paced out almost perfectly,  it had some greatly characterized heroes and supporting characters,  the Dark Kingdom were terrific villains, and damn were these chicks hot.  The biggest theme was love and romance, which grated at times but ended up being quite lovely and well done.  The series finale was an absorbing two-part epic that took risks in killing off the entire cast and giving the story a bittersweet conclusion.  The "R" series afterwards was only slightly less good due to the 13 episode filler arc that started it lagging heavily in it's middle, and then a new director, Kunihiko Ikuhara, taking over once the main plot actually got going.  The direction choices he made weren't all that good, such as an absolutely pointless, melodramatic, and headbangingly stupid subplot involving Usagi and Mamoru breaking up, an akward pace, fillers getting noticeably less meaningful, and the characters started to undergo Flanderization.  But the quality was still high, the story was fascinating and complex, and the finale was a grand one indeed.  After this, Ikuhara and his eventuall sucessor ran the show into the ground and it flopped in the ratings, but these series' are great, fun anime classics.  They're ones I grew up watching towards my childhood's end and...yeah, aside from some music and voices, the dub's an abominable butchery of the original, but I had fun watching it anyway.  (I still do, actually.  Guilty Pleasures, y'know?)  So that's why both the original "Sailor Moon" AND "Sailor Moon R" score this spot.

  13. The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya:  One of two series' to be based on a Light Novel series to make the list.  Delightfully strange, chaotic, and self-aware of the tropes it uses, this is truly a work of brilliance.  The anime series is in many ways just as good, and in certain areas better than, the original novels.  You don't get to hear as much consistent witty narration from Kyon and the episodic format doesn't allow for as much depth and space, but you do get to see all the visuals of the stories rather than be told of them, some of the plots are presented better, and after the initial story arc, the short stories are distilled and aranged in a way that keeps the focus where it belongs; on the antics of Kyon and Haruhi herself.  In chronological order that is, not the messed-up TV order.  I'm only considering the 14 episodes of the first season, the first episode of the second season, and the movie here; the repugnant "Endless Eight" and "Sigh" arcs can go to Hell and stay there.  This anime was a masterwork for many reasons.  One being the ordinary high school/ small Japanese town setting that clashes with all the unusual stuff that occurs on a regular basis.  Another being the premise of the ongoing story and how Kyon's an ordiary guy who gets sucked into this and then has to play a key part in it's outcome.  It's like, what would you do in this position?  If there was an SOS Brigade at your school, how would you handle it?   And if all the weird and fantastic things you thought not to exist and would never happen to you started to happen, but heppening in secret, with you as the secret keeper because the fate of the known universe depending on you not revealing it?   The dilemmas this series presents are so fascinating and so entertaining, and again, the clash between the abnormal and the mundane is played out so well.  Lastly, there's the endearingly quirky and memorable characters.  Kyon, our main protagonist, is an awesome lead character due to his dissilussioned, deadpan sarcastic attitude towards everything, his seeming apathy that actually evolves into a genuine care for what's going on around him, and his performance as the straight man to the weirdness that Haruhi brings.  Haruhi Suzumiya, being the titular character and centerpiece of the story, is fantastic; she's crazy, she's upeat, she's eccentric, she's rude and sardonic, she's obnoxiously energetic, she's self-centered, she's manipulative , she's bossy, pushy, and mean; she's just a total jerk with no empathy for others and does terrible, inappropriate things to get her way.  She wants everything to be all about her, which unbeknownst to her, they are!  But she's got such a passion and a lustful desire to make life interesting that she still comes off as likeable and interesting.  She actually wants everyone to be happy and recieves great chracter development in learning to not be so unpleasent and enjoy life for what it is and be more considerate of others...she's just a great character and I love her.  The other characters like Yuki, Mikuru, and Itsuki are fun too and all have their own layers to them but none of them can outshine the leads.  As far as the novels go, the series seems to have reached it's climax and is as good as over with now.  The anime's lost it's luster (and it's reputation) too due to the wrecthedness of the second season.  But how great it was to start with has made it a favorite, no matter how annoyingly the internet may hype and overblow it to death.

  12. One Piece:  Yo ho ho, this be a pirate anime!  It's among the only new age shonen series' to start off really, really good.  Taking place in a world with a trecherous ocean continent known as the Grand Line, it stars a strange, hyperactive young man named Monkey D. Luffy as he sets sail to form a pirate crew of his own, seek adventure that will lead him to the legendary One Piece treasure, and with it, become the king of all pirates.  It's a simple concept on paper but has a lot of weight to it in execution.  The thing this series gets most right is an intriguing and unique world, hysterical comedy, and over-the-top, holding-nothing-back action.  Heavily influenced by Akira Toriyama's works such as "Dragon Ball",  we see Luffy and his crew get into lots of troublesome and hilarious misadventures, engage in many Tex Avery style slapstick gags, explore the Grand Line, meet new people, and have high octane action fights with superpowered villains on top of all that.  Add all that to a show about pirates and how can you not find it in some way appealing?  The characters are all unique and defined, particularly Luffy's crew members such as Zoro the swordsman, Nami the navigator, Usopp the marksman, and Sanji the chef.  Side characters are also memorable and the villains are awesome enemies such as Buggy the Pirate Clown,  Captain Kuro the butler, Saw-Toothed Arlong the Fish Man, and the incredible Sir Crocodile, hook-handed leader of the Baroque Works criminal organization.  The stories that got told told with these characters were well played and engaging tales, often being surprisingly complex and dramatic, particularly the Syrup Village, Arlong Park, Drum Island, and Alabasta arcs.  And the series had a great tone to it; one that was whimsical and wacky but intense and adventurous, too.  While it had flaws that become all too apparent upon serious examaniation, they could be forgiven because this was a series bursting with charm; rarely was it dull because often was it exciting.  But this was only true for two whole sagas, the East Blue Saga and the Baroque Works Saga.  The series reached it's high point there and was followed by the mediocrity of the Skypiea Saga, the overly-serious, melodramatic stupidity of the CP9 Saga, and the forgettableness of all that followed.  It's become as stretched out, dragged on, and padded as every modern "big" shonen series and has lost it's original charm and appeal.  The entire world is the Grand Line now, the old characters have gone stale, the new characters often disappoint, and the ongoing plot is no fun anymore.  Things looked to be getting interesting and epic again during the Whitebeard War Saga, but nope, it ended after the first true deaths in the series with the claim that this was the series' "halfway point".  And thus I gave up on it.  It was clear that Oda had sold out.  But the "One Piece" that I regard is the first two sagas, the ones that even the VIZ manga publishers branded as simply "One Piece" before going back and re-branding every volume published from now on.  That was the "One Piece" that was fun, and the one that I shall always "treasure."  (And yes, the 4Kids dub is going to go unmentioned here.  Except for that mention.)  

  11. Digimon Tamers:  The third anime series in the Digimon franchise.  After "Digimon Adventure 02" flopped, that continuity was no longer followed and the anime got rebooted with this one.  And it was a relief to once again have a Digimon series that was not only fun but well written and of truly good quality!  Clearly inspired by the works of Gainax, this was the deepest, darkest, edgiest, and most intense entry to the franchise. Taking place in modern day Shinjuku, the world it shows us is most similar to our own.  Digimon is a popular franchise too, with a card game, video games, an anime series, and everything.  The plot centers around a boy named Takato who's so into Digimon that he draws up his own digimon one day.  Through the power of a digivice and a mysterious blue card, the created digimon is brought to life as Guilmon, who becomes Takato's digimon partner and he must be his tamer.  These two soon cross paths with other tamers; the friendly, pacifistic Henry and the cold, antagonistic Rika.  All three tamers and their digimon soon become wrapped up in a plot concerning a secret government agency that's seeking to eliminate any wild digimon that strays from it's world in order to cover the digimons' existance.  And why are digimon real, anyway?  What's the link between their world and ours?  And where does the strange Calumon fit in?  The answers are slowly unravelled in a story that progresses in a gripping and interesting way.  The main characters are all teriffic, the human/digimon interaction is back to form,  the antagonists are complex, the action is exciting,  the turns in the plot are genuinely suspenseful, and it keeps a dark, mature tone to it that makes the series unique but at the same time, doesn't stray too far away from kids' show territory.  It got a bit close to it towards the end of the show, and that's not the only fault to be found here.  Some characters aren't developed to their fullest potential, or are flat out pointless in the case of Ryo and Suzie Wong, and this probably has the blandest, most unremarkable portrayal of the Digital World in any Digimon series.  But there are way more strengths over those weaknesses.  Great storytelling, character development, realistic themes, and action-packed Digimon goodness are plentiful in this series.  It's a deep experience worth seeing by any hardcore anime fan and viewers who are interested.  It does not disappoint.

  10. Death Note:  An incredibly dark shonen series and a unique one that's a supernatural horror story, a crime drama, and a psychological tragedy all at once.  How awesome is that?  It'll be clear that I actually don't like the anime of "Death Note" nearly as much as I do the original manga or live action movie adaptation(s).  The anime version just goes so over-the-top in how edgy and intense or "epic" it can be, all done with wide angle shots or jerky camera shifts, and just hamilly overdramatic direction in general. (The now infamous "potato chip" scene comes to mind)  It even changed the story's ending in order to be more overdramatic!  When I think of an intelligently written psychological thriller or crime drama that requires lots of focused thinking, I think it should be smart and subtle, not in-your-face, loud and bombastic.  What keeps even this anime an enjoyable series is what matters most; the plot.  It's a tragic and terrifying tale of how a Shinigami (a demon god of death), out of boredom, throws his Death Note notebook down to Earth as an amusing little experiment to see who picks it up and what's done with it as a result.  The human who finds it is Light Yagami, a police chief's son who has a fierce but childish sense of justice and who, himself, has become bored and disillusioned with life.  When he experiments with the notebook and discovers that it's power is to kill whatever human's name is written down in it (if it has a time, cause, and mental image of the person in mind, that is), he's terrified that he has taken lives.  Then he swears that he will use this notebook to kill all the rotten, corrupt people and criminals in the world in order to rid the world of evil.  Then he will bring about order to a new, ideal world and rule over it as God!  So yeah, this kid clearly isn't right in the head.  When his murders become worldwide news and he becomes known as the serial killer "Kira", an enigmatic great detective named "L" decides to take the case soelly out of a desire to beat Kira at his own game and prove that his way is truly justice.  And so the game out cat and mouse between two corrupt, self righteous geniuses begins, and what errupts is a compelling story that, like "Monster", is built around the nature of right and wrong and how far one human being can go in the name of his ideals.  With each dastradly deed he commits, Light becomes more and more corrupted by his own power and by the end is a pure evil, self centered, psychopathic murderer who will kill even good or innocent people just so they won't get in his way of cleansing the world.  He does so many terrible, despicable, sickeningly villainous things but is so crazy and arrogant that he believes he's a righteous hero who's doing good for the world, so he justifies himself every step of the way, which only adds to his tragic downward spiral.  That is a very interesting character to have as the protagonist! Aside from the psychology and scary stuff, the main draw is the intelligent strategies implemented by our main characters and seeing just how one can outmanuever the other.  It's very well written, interesting stuff, and gives you a certain respect for all characters involved.  Sadly, in both the manga and the anime, the story went off the rails when a contrived twist occured midway through and a main character died a pointless death.  Afterwards the plot got blander, the tone got bleaker, the events and tactics got more convoluted, the characters became less engaging, and I lost interest until the series story's final act, in which what's right triumphed over evil and Kira's reign of terror was ended.  But though I consider the live action movie(s) to be the definitive version of this epic story, the series itself is defenitely worth checking into in any medium. 

  9. El Hazard: The Wanderers:  An anime TV show based off of the OVA "El Hazard: The Magnificent World", from the makers of "Tenchi Muyo!".  Opposite of "Tenchi" though, I actually find this TV spin-off to be superior to the original OVA in almost every way.  The premise is the same: mild mannered Japanese schoolboy Makoto Mizuhara, along with his perky, business-savvy friend Nanami Jinnai,  her egocentric, megalomaniacal brother Katsuiko Jinnai, who hate Makoto's guts, and their boisterous, alcoholic teacher Mr. Fujisawa, get sucked into an alternate dimensional and end up in the magnificent world of El Hazard.  Once there, Makoto, Nanami, and Fujisawa gain unique, supernatural abilities and become heroes for the capital kingdom of Roshterria, while the evil Katsuhiko becomes the general of the invading armies of the Bugrom race.  What makes it work is the set-up of this world, it's characters, and the events of the ongoing storyline.  It's often hilarious, interesting, and fantastical, like something out of pulp fiction.  The episodes are fun to watch, it's got nice aniamtion and music, and the characters are really entertaining.  I love the likes of the sweet, insecure teenage princess Rune Venus, the cheerful Alielle, the three elemental priestesses (partiuclarly the cocky, fiery, hot-tempered, and just plain hot Shayla-Shayla), and even that obsessive old scientist who's name I can never remember or pronounce.  The main characters' antics, like Nanami's get rich quick schemes and Fujisawa's drunken frenzies, are always great to watch too.  My favorite character would have to be Jinnai, though, because he is so enjoyably over-the-top, full of himself, diabolical, and quirky, that he's one of my all-time favorite anime villains.  He's a great comedic character that you can either love to hate or just plain love, and his high pitched maniacal laughter will not ever leave your heard after you'd heard it for so long.  The strengths this show has over the OVA are that the unlikable Princess Fatora, and thus the plot point of Makoto having to cross-dress in order to impersonate her, has been dropped, Alielle's lesbian sexuality was played with more ambiguity, Rune Venus being younger makes her more interesting, her romance with Makoto is great, that stupid Ayeka vs Ryoko ripoff feud between Nanami and Shayla-Shayla isn't present, the Bugrom are portrayed better, and the character of the demon goddess Ifurita was changed for the better, in my opinion.  As Jinnai's clumsy, ditzy, and happy-go-lucky servant, she's a much more appealing character.  On the downside, the Phantom Tribe was pointlessly cut from the story and Jinnai's threat level was decreased, meaning there's a lack of menacing antagonism in the series,  Nanami's more useful ability that's tied to the Phantom Tribe was also removed,  the animation and scope of the world was less beautiful, and the story arc took a long time to really take off since the middle portion of the series was mostly filler.  But all in all, I still say this is the best "El Hazard" experience, so I value it as a great "harem anime" done right. 

  8. Cowboy Bebop:  Alot has been said about this one, so I'll make it as quick as I can.  This was a excellently written, greatly animated, well paced and well presented show.  The world it takes place in is fascinating and fun to explore,  the characters are all well rounded and likable, and the action, soundtrack, and style of this show is charmingly "western".  It kept an upbeat and groovy feel about it on most occasions but wasn't aftaid to get serious and frightening when the plot called for it.  It's a show with an episodic nature and no real plot to speak of; just the Bebop crew living their lifes and getting into different adventures.  But there's a myth arc to it that's tied to the lead character of Spike Spiegel, who is trying to run away from his past but in the end, it all comes back full circle as he has to face it in the series finale.  The story arc is intense, dramatic, and executed beautifully whenever it takes center stage.  This show was great at telling stories with interesting characters.  About those characters: Spike himself is a laid back, self serving, smooth, vaguely effeminate jackass and total badass.  He's like a western gunslinger version of Jack Sparrow.  His friends are also great:  Jet Black, a large man with a kind, sensitive soul and Faye Valentine, a greedy, selfish, hot-as-hell femme fatale who desperately wants to find where she belongs in life.  Oh and there's also Ed, a totally insane teenage girl who's good with mechanical know-how and always cheerful and content with living her life.  There's also the reacurring villain of the piece, Vicious, who is just about the most ominous, threatening, and cold blooded gangster you'll ever see anywhere.  This anime, while it lasted, had great writing, a good amount of heart to it, and feels like a true masterpiece.  It has successors like "Samurai Champloo" and "Wolf's Rain", but none can quite compare to this.  It's got something that can appeal for everyone. 

  7. The Slayers / Slayers NEXT:  The other anime to be based on a Light Novel series to make this list, and like "Sailor Moon", this anime's original series and it's immediate successor both earn this spot.  "The Slayers" is a brilliant affectionate parody homage to the fantasy genre and all the RPGs it inspires and probably the best anime comedy you'll ever find.  Set in a well crafted medieval fantasy world, this series told fantastical tales of sorcery, swordplay, adventure, epic battles, and constant greed for wealth and food.  Like most that made it this far, what makes this series great is it's characters.  The titular Slayers are a lovably flawed and comedic bunch of people.  Lina Inverse, the central protagonist, is a selfish, scheming, greedy, ill-tempered, bratty, destructive, almost sociopathic teenage sorceress who does everythingu under promises of a reward.  Her partner is the warrior Goury Gabriev, a soft hearted, strong, courageous, but dumb as a brick young man who has dellusions of chivalry and honor.  There's also Amelia, a spunky, energetic, clumsy, overactive princess who is insanely obsessed with fighting for JUSTICE!,  and Zelgadiss, a deadpan, overly-serious, self centered chimera who suffers much abuse and comedy at his expense.  In the "NEXT" series, this group is followed closely by the mysterious "trickster priest" Xellos, a quirky, cryptic, sly, troublesome, and untrustworthy character who always has his own agenda that he never gives away to others, his catchphrase being "now that is a secret!"  He's hands down one of the show's most memorable and hilarious characters.  All of these characters are well developed for what they are and all of them, despite their flaws, have good hearts and will rise to the occasion...well, maybe not Xellos but even he has his moments of heroism.  The story follows a continuous narrative but one that veers in different directions all the time.  The first series follows the story of these characters coming together for the first time and fighting against the evil plans of the mad priest, Rezo, who serves the dark lord Shabranigdo.  The second series has them searching for the legendary Claire Bible, which is also sought after by two feuding demon lords: Gaav the demon dragon king and Hellmaster Phibrizzo.  All the adventures that are had along the way are great, well played out, and filled with whimsical gag humor, and the quality of entertainment is consistently fun.  You follow these endearing characters on a grand and often hilarious quest, and once it's done, you're glad you did.  Simply put, "Slayers" is a great anime classic and while it's no longer relevent today, the first two series' will always be favorites to fans like myself. 

  6. Yu Yu Hakusho:  One of the richest, highest quality shonen series you will ever find, this anime is utter awesomeness.  It tells a great saga that combines modern day Japan with the supernatural, mystery, and martial arts action.  The show begins when our main character, 14 year old delinquent Yusuke Urameshi, gets hit by a car and dies.  Yes, he's dead by the first few seconds of the first episode.  And that's only the start of this story and it's weirdness.  Things escalate from Yusuke going to Spirit World and taking an ordeal to return to the world of the living, becoming appointed as the "spirit detective" of earth once he does,  forming a team of allies that assist him on the cases, getting pulled into a demon fighting tournament organized by human gangsters, and fighting to save all of humanity from a psychic psycho's plan to carve open a tunnel to the Demon World and release armageddon upon the earth!  This is alot of exciting shit, and the series pulls it all off brilliantly. (The anime version moreso than the manga)  The writing and imagination for the series was great: unlike "Dragon Ball" where the fights are generic hitting and ki-attacks,  the fights here have different unique styles, abilities, and procedures to them.  And the characters are all an interesting, developed bunch: Yusuke Urameshi is, like Lina Inverse, a heavily flawed hero but with a good heart and lots of determination to settle whatever fight he starts.  His friend and rival street fighter, Kazuma Kuwabara, is a rowdy, hot blooded, hilarious character with a strong code of honor and a kind, good natured soul who can take many beatings and still endure it.  Kurama is a well mannered, intelligent, and fascinating character; a demon fox trapped in a human body and one who hides a ruthless nature.  And Hiei is a great anti-hero: a cold, snarky demon with a perpetually foul attitude but many layers to him and great development over the series' run.  The other supporting characters are terrifically potrayed: from Koenma, to Botan, to Keiko, to Genkai, to even the blue ogre Jorge, they all leave a great impression.  The animation, action, music, and presentation of this show was simply stellar.  The one biggest stain on it's name would be the stupid Three Kings Saga at the end, but if you overlook and disregard that, you have a great shonen experience from beggining to end.  I've watched in many times in summer and it always holds up, feeling like something special that I loved investing myself in.  

  5. Neon Genesis Evangelion:  One of the most famous anime series' ever produced.  Made by Gainax and written by a man named Hideko Anno, this is a series with high artistic value, a complex storyline, a multidimensional cast of characters, epic giant robot vs aliens battles, and perhaps the most awesome Japanese theme song put to any anime.  This series is simply phenomenal; it was huge in Japan and inspired a large franchise of various products and medias inspired by the original work.  With the original work itself, it has many strengths and weaknesses.  The biggest strength is the story.  Taking place in a futuristic civilization in Japan that's controlled by secret government organizations, it follows the NERV society as the employ their Evangelion robot units to combat alien beings known as "the Angels", who seek to bring about the apocalypse.  An even bigger conflict is that all of the "children" designated to pilot the Evas are all psychologically troubled teenagers who, no matter how strong they are, struggle continously with the inner battles within themselves.  And it's not just the kids: all the adults behind the group are psychological wrecks with dark pasts as well, and the higher ups actually have agendas even more insideous and horrific than what the Angels are out to do to the world.  This is a conflict with the entire human race at stakes, and it hinges on the humanity of the characters and if they can rise above their problems in order to protect all life as we know it.  It's one of the most gripping,. compelling, and absorbing premises to any Japanese work of fiction I've ever seen.  I love the characters created for this show, too.  Shinji Ikari is a very polarizing figure but to me, he's an excellent, almost disturbingly realistic portrayal of how a troubled teenage loser of a boy would really deal with being put into a situation where he must be a giant robot piloting hero.  He's not going to be a hot blooded badass: he's going to be scared out of his mind.  Rei Ayanami is a fascinatingly strange and creepy yet beautiful character whose lack of emotion gives her little to no personality to speak of, but she still has plenty of depth as she comes to terms with her growing humanity.  Asuka Langley is one of the best bitchy characters ever, with an arrogant, insultng, obnoxious, mean-spirited attitude that's played so extreme that it's amusing but at the same time she's got deep psychological reasons for behaving this way, and she ends up one of the most sympathetic, developed, and endearing characters for it.  Misato Katsuragi is also a great female lead; a compassionate young woman with severe emotional issues, drinking problems, and a fragile psyche stemming for a painful past, but she's always working to better herself and others as the plot thickens.  And all the other characters like Gendo Ikari, Ryoji Kaji, Ritsuko Akagi, Kaworu Nagisa, and Shinji's classmates are all greatly defined as well.  The biggest fault in the series lies in the Creator Breakdown and all the misery that followed it.  Halfway through the show, Anno fell into a deep psychological depression and as a result, the show got darker, more depressing, disturbing, convoluted, serious, and an unnessecary downer and mind screw at every freaking turn.  The characters got grating, the story was difficult to follow, and the show just threw out all these weird visuals and psychobabble and needlessly cruel, angsty moments and events that made the experience just plain unpleasesnt.  After Kaji bit it, things started to pick up again but then after the climax, the series lost most of it's budget and gave us an ending and resolution to the conflict that was literally a therapy session within the joined minds of the entire cast.  An ending that left many things hanging and didn't close the story properly at all, though its's at least a hundred times more satisfying closure than that dreadful alternate ending movie they came up with afterwards.  But overall, the show was a great work.  The many other works that it spawned is a testement to the legacy that it's left.  Like "Code Geass" and "Gurren Lagann", this is a series why I much prefer the manga adaptation of the story and characters.  But the original anime is still highly reccomended who want the full experience of Evangelion

  4. Yu-Gi-Oh! / Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monster:  Like "Sailor Moon" and "The Slayers", two "Yu-Gi-Oh!" series' tie for this spot because let's be honest, no animated "Yu-Gi-Oh!" could ever match the greatness of the original manga, which was as close to perfection as a shonen series can get.  But the original two anime shows starring Yugi Moto and his alter ego were really, really good and enjoyable to watch.  If you don't think that a show about people playing children's card games to decide to fate of the world is stupid, wait until you see it in execution, because it's actually truly great.  The first "Yu-Gi-Oh!" anime made by Toei may seem offputting due to it's cheaper animation and coloring that looked like it was by magic markers, but it was a quality show.  Taken from the stories told in the first three story arcs of the manga,  this show was presented episodically with a different shadow game against a different antagonist featured each week.  The way it was styled and scored, it's actually like the Japanese equivelant to a Disney Afternoon cartoon show.  The plots were well adapted and the characters were all very endearing and expertly voiced, with the exception of Yugi himself, who was given a totally wrong voice and performance by Megumi Ogata.  The show also had a reacurring story arc involving arch-enemy Seto Kaiba's plans to take his revenge on Yugi for beating him at his own game, which concluded in the series' climactic episodes, which also led into the series finale in which the evil Bakura traps the gang in a twisted role-playing game and the Other Yugi must face him on his own.  For what it was, the series was great; it's a shame it's never been dubbed in English.  The following series, subtitled "Duel Monster" due to the card games elevation in prominence at this point, was produced by Studio Gallop (who did "Ruronni Kenshin") and it kicked off with an entirely self-contained first episode which threw together plot elements from Kaiba's previous manga appearances before it moved on to adapting the latter arcs of the manga; Duelist Kingdom, Battle City Tournament and Finals, and Memory World.  It was animated better than it's predecessor, the stories were told in a more intense fashion, and the voice for Yugi was a much better fit.  The way the duels were potrayed on screen was much more exciting than how they appeared on the manga pages, and so much that came out of the storylines and characters was entertaining and meaningful.  But at other points, it did things with the material that wasn't so meaningful.  Filler arcs, filler plots, needlesss padding, adaptation decay of very noticeable proportions, excessive marketing of the children's card game, and worst of all, elevating Kaiba to the series deuteragonist and repeatedly shilling him in the narrative despite never allowing him to undergo any lasting development whatsoever.  That got more and more insufferable with each season, especially when it came at the expense of Joey, the series' intended deuteragonist.  However, the good stuff was so endearing and had such a draw to it, that it oughtweighed the flaws and kept me watching 'till the end, which was very moving and satisfying.  As in the manga, the story and character development of Yugi and his Phaoroh alter ego, which effected all those close to them too, was the heart of this series, and the reason it stands out as a work of greatness.  Following that story from the manga, these series' gave you the real "Yu-Gi-Oh!".  So you can just forget about those dumb sequel series' in this marketablle Franchise Zombie.  

  3. Pokemon (The Indigo League):  Ah, here it is.  The original Pokemon anime series.  The one, true Pokemon cartoon.  The only part of the Pokemon anime show that can stand on it's own as a great series that tells a great adventure story, complete with a beggining, a middle, and an end.  I don't really care for the "Indigo League" subtitle for it, but that's beside the point.  This series was initially concieved as being around 80 episodes and running for a year and a half before it concluded.  As written by Takeshi Shudo, directed by Masamitsu Hidaka, and executed by all the rest of the staff, the fact that this was supposed to be a self-contained show still shows even when it became merely the first "season" of a larger anime that only got weaker after it had concluded.  And for nostalgic Pokemon fans and people who can appreciate quality entertainment, it is truly something to behold.  In fact, this was one of my "gateway anime"  that I really got into during the late 90's when it premiered in the US and became the phenomenon.  It's very fun to watch and overwhemingly nostalgic for me to this day.  The plot centers around 10-year old Ash Ketchum, a likable, energetic, but clueless underdog who was just starting out as a pokemon trainer and dreamed of becoming a pokemon master.  He was a loser, but had such a burning determination and ambition to become number one that you rooted for him and almost believed he could do it one day if he really tried.  The show chronicled his travels in the land of Kanto alongside his gym leader friends, the tomboyish water pokemon trainer Misty and the sensitive but horny pokemon breeding specialist Brock.  And of course, there was Ash's best pokemon companion, Pikachu, whose portrayal here made it the series mascot.  Along the way, our heroes came to have many different pokemon related adventures and faced off against the insideous but bumbling Team Rocket trio of Jessie, James, and Meowth, who were always pursuing them in hopes of stealing Pikachu and causing all sorts of trouble on the side.  So much of this was just well-written and entertaining.  Almost every episode was filled with off-the-wall humor and exciting, adventuerous, and perilous situations.  It was hilarious, heartfelt, and not afraid to take risks and do things that could frighten the kids in the audience.  The World of Pokemon was portrayed as the magical and wonderous place that it should be and, aside from various filler locations, was true to the spirit of the games.  The characters, both major and minor, were all very endearing and memorable, with the Team Rocket characters being the undisputed stars of the show, being some of the all time great comedic villains ever.  Now the series did suffer from some minor drawbacks down the road, namely the padded stretch between Fuschia City and Cinnibar Island, that pointless Primeape, that damn Togepi, and the infamous seizure incident that came from the now banned Porygon episode.  Eventually it got back on track by the time the Mewtwo arc was started, a storyline that tied into the First Movie and it's TV movie follow-up.  The series itself finished with Ash enterting the League Tournament...and losing because the show had to go on.  Damn.  All flaws aside though, this series was fantastic! Watching any episode of this and comparing it to the rest of the anime shows a difference in quality.  That's 'cause this is the series with the most heart and most care put into it; the one most worthy of being "Pokemon".  It's the late Takeshi Shudo's masterpiece. So no matter what, the ol' Season One is the only great series in the show; one of my favorite cartoon shows and undisputedly the best that the Pokemon anime has to offer.

  2. Digimon Adventure:  Digimon fares better than Pokemon as an anime franchise but one thing's the same between them: the first series can never quite be matched.  "Digimon Adventure" is the original Digimon anime in the franchise and the one that most captures what Digimon should be about.  It had the most wonderous and fascinating renditon of the Digital World, the tightest, most well written, paced, and executed story, the most character development between seven kids, their digimon, and even their families, and the heart and soul of it all; growing bonds between the kids and their digimon partners.  The story begins with seven preteen kids attending summer camp all obtain mysterious "digivices" that open up a rift into another world, where they are befriended by good digimon who can evolve, fight, and protect them from bad ones.  The title is not wasted on this series; it really feels like an adventure.  What starts as merely exploration of the Digiworld turns into a struggle between the forces of good and evil in a quest to save the entire world.  The children soon discover that they were chosen to be sent to this world for a reason; a destiny they have to fulfill, and things become more intense and personal when the conflict in the Digiworld begins to spill into their own world on Earth.  All that unfolds in this story is gripping, involving, heartfelt, and pleasing on almost every level.  The characters involved are all fantastic and the development they go through enables them to do many things that leave an impact.  We also got the best cast of Digimon villains in this show, particularly the magnificent vampiric overlord, Myotismon, who sought to conquer both worlds.  It's presented with nice art, great action, and a memorable musical score (in both languages).  The dub script suffered from lots of Nimoy/Bulcholz hackery and bad translation errors, but the dub was overall still entertaining and faithful to the spirit of the original that I can forgive it.  Like the abovementioned Pokemon show, this was a gateway anime for me, a nostalgic anime classic, and a favorite now and always. 

But now for my number one favorite anime....

  1. Dragon Ball:  "Dragon Ball" as in the original "Dragon Ball" anime, the original "Dragon Ball Z" anime, the modern "Dragon Ball Z KAI" recut version, and even some of "Dragon Ball GT".  This (or at least the hacked dub of DBZ at the time) was my first anime.  It opened the gateway to an interest in many more but even today, this remains my most cherished.  I could go into a long discussion about what makes this series so great and why it's still the best shonen manga/anime ever written, but I won't.  I'll just give the basic summary.  It's about a boy named Goku who's really an alien from another world as he and his friends fight with martial arts, compete in tournaments, battle the forces of evil, and search for the seven mystical dragon balls that have the power to some a dragon god that can grant any wish.  And that's it, really.  Nothing too complex in concept and the series isn't even very expertly written either.  It's all about the execution.  Akira Toriyama was a master at making things up as he went along and implementing them into the story in a way that made them work.  Rarely ever did the narrative of the various unfolding sagas feel like an asspull, even when it technically was.  The plot points are well written and the story is well told.  It also has the advantage of never having one consistent story in the narrative.  Many modern day shonen series feel long and dragged out because they're always telling one big story that goes on without ending, thinking that the readers will have patience and love enough for the story to keep following it.  But this was always moving from one saga to another, each bringing something new to the table, from a simple treasure hunt quest story loosely based on a famous Chinese folk tale, to a martial arts tournament, to terrorist armies, demons, aliens, time travellers, androids, wizards, and gods.  The genre and focus of the work was never consistent, and that's what made it fun.  It's just hard to get bored with this series.  It creates a very large, vast, and unsual world with it's own strange cosmology, it features a varietive and wonderful cast of characters,  it's always throwing out hard hitting action,  it's incredibly funny and exciting with it's own wacky style, and it tells epic stories of the good guys' struggles and their triumphs over their enemies.  And really, that's what it's all about; it's epic mythology.  It's a single flowing narrative that tells you of the heroes' exploits; just their lives.  When you get down to it, it's all about life in this universe and often life can tell the most interesting stories.  Now there are a big amount of flaws to be found here, the one I can most remember being that the last third of the Buu Saga, the final story in the whole series, was severely lacking in how it was written and was just really stupid,  and then the series ended not with a bang or on a whimper, but with a "......the end?"  But again, I could be here for a whole discussion if I tried to weigh it's pros and cons.  For me, the good in this series will always trump the bad and it shall always be my most enjoyed, well regarded, all-time favorite manga/anime series to ever come out of Japan...DRAGON BALL!

1 comment:

  1. Grrr, Greg just recently dissed "Dragon Ball" on his recent entry about "Cowboy Bebop." While I know that "Bebop" might just be technically the best anime on this list, and the best one ever made, that doesn't make "Dragon Ball" any less valuable or any bit "sucky". But that's just my opinion, of course.

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