The day has finally come to do my last Top Anime post. I am both excited and yet sad that my series is over – but seriously, I shouldn’t have taken so long to write this entire series of posts, especially when my Top Anime has remained unchanged for so long. I am still looking for new anime that has potential to squeeze itself into my top 10, but to be honest, such gems are getting more rare. There seems to be a diminishing marginal utility of some sort as I watch more anime because each series that I deem ‘good’ then never gets past the ultimate question of: ‘So, what makes this different from all the rest of the ‘good’ series?’ So, unless that series manages to distinguish itself from the rest, which gets increasingly harder as I get exposed to a larger variety of concepts that less things seem to pleasantly surprise me.
Having said that, I believe what has remained my Top 5 do have very good reasons for being there. And also since this is the Top 5, I will be elaborating on more of my feelings in experience, which may give a clue to why they are Top 5 instead of say, in the Top 20s or 30s.
#5 Shingeki no Kyojin
Type: TV Series
Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Shounen, Super Power
Episodic Count: 25
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/16498/Shingeki_no_Kyojin
… not that I would actually think there would be any anime watcher that has never heard on Attach on Titan before. Sometimes I don’t know whether I disappoint myself, being someone who prides on liking a lot of non mainstream and not as well known anime, to put this highly acclaimed and singularly most well known title for recent years on the top 5 of my list. But I can’t deny the power that AoT holds over my five senses. With stellar animation and currently the only anime to be able to induce real fear in me, I consider this an excellent piece of cinematographic work. It will always remain a pleasure and wild engagement of every fiber of my being to indulge in any episode of AoT, and I am positive this will not change – seeing that this is the only series that I have rewatched within a month since I watched the first 17 episodes of and then decided the wait was too much, then re-marathoning the entire series after it was done.
I concede that there isn’t anything particular stellar about the plot – in fact, I think it is a pretty simple one. Yet perhaps its simplicity in progression is one of the appeals of this show in reaching out to both the crowd looking for instant gratification and overwhelming blockbuster-like disaster-movie effects, and also the one looking for something a little deeper. In fact, AoT has the ability to make viewers concentrate on the viewing experience without much of a care to plot or character development, and that has certainly ‘fooled’ my usually more discerning mind (or so I like to think) when it comes to evaluating how good an anime is. I am not sure how many people will scoff at the idea of depth in AoT, but AoT does actually present conflict in the human instinct of survival versus viewing oneself as having a noble mission larger than life to actually rid the world of these man-eating monsters as much as possible.
One of the negatives of AoT has also been its less-than-satisfying level of character development. However, such a minus point has been thankfully less than obvious due to quirks present in characters that have appealed very much to the gif-making anime crowd and the butt of all jokes (e.g. Eren and his everlasting anger, Mikasa with her barely concealed yandere side, Levi and his badass level of prowess, Sasha and her potatoes)
So why? I actually came into this show not expecting much especially since my less than satisfying experience with over-hyped shows -ahem- SAO -ahem- so the fact that it defied that expectation so much was a major plus point. Ultimately I would have to point to the entire viewing experience and its ability to draw the audience into that heart-gripping tension and fear that surrounds the entire story. The fact that Levi is the coolest, squeal-worthy badass character ever despite being short and er, not too good looking also really helps, damn.
Type: TV Series
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance, Shoujo, Slice of Life
Episodic Count: 47
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/877/Nana
The people religiously following my Top Anime posts (probably not many, but I bet most people would just click on all the links now to see what I am talking about) would probably have noticed that there hasn’t been any shoujo anime featured so far. While I actually hold shoujo genres to higher standards because of the limits they have or rather confine to, this is the first and probably the last shoujo that will feature in the Top 5 at least or even Top 10 for an indefinite period of time, simply because it is that good. I actually dropped NANA two times prior to my third experience where I just whizzed through 47 episodes without a clue about day and night, simply because at those times, I was quite conscious of the art, which I couldn’t get used to, and mostly also because that I probably knew it wasn’t the ‘right time’ to watch the series. When I eventually did, though, it immediately shot up to the top of my list, simply because of its uniqueness.
NANA is radically unlike any other shoujo anime, except perhaps the amount of drama present. Nevertheless, the drama isn’t as cliched or as superficial as what is featured in most shoujo i.e. ‘problems’ that can be solved with better communication, even the better ones with more hints of realism. NANA presents a tale that is steeped in real-life struggles of those in pursuing dreams, and even the not-as-noble characters or the ones that are deemed ‘selfish’ can garner massive amounts of sympathy and empathy for those who have ever felt disillusioned or jaded by reality. NANA is far from an optimistic tale for people looking for one, and it sure takes the road less taken in anime/manga – maintaining realism even if it does not go down a clearly depressing path. Such realism is counterbalanced by comedy more prevalent at the start, which is contrasted by its receding moments to the status of precious memories as shit starts to get real. To me, the musical part in this series, which actually constitutes a rather large part of it, is more symbolic of dreams and how blind pursuit of it without much care to other important things has a potential to blow things out of proportion.
NANA is about as dark and gritty as a shoujo anime can get, and is highly recommended for those who love serious drama. It is also rated R17 for a reason because of the themes dealt within the series. Personally, I feel that such themes are not unique to NANA alone. If only more anime like this can be produced or more josei manga produced as anime!
So why? NANA represents a powerful message about reality and how sometimes life can be extremely unfair to certain people. Also, how the pairings worked out contains more reason beyond the superficial or those romance messages about romantic pairings we are so used to getting from romcoms or basically any medium that tells a story about romance. NANA is probably an exemplary example of a story that holds a better chance of being told in a TV series or movie, but exceeded expectations anyway in anime form.
#3 Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Type: TV Series
Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Magic, Shounen, Military
Episodic Count: 64
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/5114/Fullmetal_Alchemist:_Brotherhood
Most people who have seen this would probably agree with me on this one. FMAB presents one of the most solid stories with complete depth on a wide range of thought-provoking themes in all of anime, and I would think it would not be easy to find somebody who deems this series as merely mediocre. The premise is deceivingly simple as with all good anime (aha!) , but somehow the story expands into a tale that touches the hearts of all that has watched it, what with its position on themes like racial discrimination, prejudice, the recesses of the human mind, and amongst others, the Law of Equivalent Exchange (one of the most important life lessons).
To be honest, I am not entirely sure on how this series managed to squeeze its way here, but the impact it had on me was tremendous given how I was actually quite disappointed in its predecessor, Fullmetal Alchemist. Perhaps its appeal to the masses and me lies in the diversity of issues it covers and how these issues are still posing problems for us in the real world. Yet, FMAB doesn’t lose that focus of optimism, and the light at the end of tunnel is brought to us, made possible only by the growth of its main characters, the Elric brothers. Every character suffers pain and loss, and I would probably never forget that numbing dull ache I feel in my heart when the end of the series approached, where everything culminated in an explosive bang.
So why? Every character had more depth than initially thought, even with all the ‘side-stories’, which probably weren’t meant to be secondary at all. One could see the influence the experiences the Elric brothers had impacted on their mindsets and similarly, how they as mere individuals impacted the wider world in FMAB and vice versa. I guess it was this circularity and balance that really hooked me. I consider FMAB to be a true classic that will probably last beyond its time.
#2 Shinsekai Yori
Type: TV Series
Genres: Mystery, Drama, Horror, Sci-fi, Supernatural
Episodic Count: 25
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/13125/Shinsekai_yori
Sometimes, I wonder how any anime can still manage to surpass such a wonderfully complete anime such as FMAB, but this one really did. Perhaps it is my bias towards beautiful, haunting atmospheres done well, for Shinsekai Yori really is a story with a slant towards the building of a dystopian world that has retained the traditional village feel and that unmistakable feeling of dread that is bubbling beneath the surface of this picturesque landscape. Shinsekai Yori may not touch on such wide-ranging issues as FMAB, yet the issues of humanity, technology and morality intertwine together in such a way that gives much intellectual satisfaction to viewers looking for closure.
What Shinsekai Yori does exceptionally well is the technique of “show not tell”. It is a masterpiece of symbolism, foreshadowing, and the combination of different societal elements of culture, behavioural aspects to bring across messages to the viewers about the kind of dystopian society that the protagonists are situated in. The stunning yet desolate camera views only contribute to the effect of a sacred, sacrosanct portrayal of this unique world setting, where the traditional is juxtaposed with modernity to produce a harsh beauty that is not often achieved by most other anime. By choosing a group of children as protagonists and telling the story through different phases of their lives, Shinsekai Yori does an excellent job at showing us how that world’s societal views may be different from what we know today, and even seem more advanced in certain aspects, but ultimately revealed to be based on inherent prejudices and discriminative biases that the human race feels as a species and the way humans treat others they deem to be lesser than their own.
So why?: Apart from the fact that character development is sufficient and Shinsekai Yori chooses my favourite way of telling a story – through a group of protagonists of which the main protagonist is a female, the thoughtful nature of this series rivalled perhaps only by series such as Mushishi is what makes it particularly memorable. If any anime series can be said to be representative of the capacity of the medium as a literary masterpiece, Shinsekai Yori is the only one deserving of such a title. If FMAB is a wholesome package of themes, emotions, and character development, then Shinsekai Yori is the essence of inspiration, creation and balance.
#1 Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (both seasons)
Type: TV Series
Genres: Action, Mecha, School, Sci-fi, Super Power, Military
Episodic Count: 25 + 25
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/1575/Code_Geass:_Hangyaku_no_Lelouch
If Shinsekai Yori and FMAB were exceptionally well done stories, Code Geass is absolutely everything, and I emphasise everything, that we look for in an anime. There is simply no end to the range of genres that it traverses as it offers something for everybody. For the intellectual ones, there is background of war and justice, excellently done with one of the best endings ever to grace anime. For the philosophical and the psychological, there is a substantial amount of introspection and moral ambiguity as there is no end to the amounts of arguments that one can have over the actions of the different representatives of global factions. Set in a world that contains so many different worldviews and perspectives reminiscent of the world powers of World War II that clash in a battle of military and psychological prowess, anybody looking for some serious world-building would no doubt be impressed. For those looking for entertainment value, there is some amount of comedy, crazy badass action, strategic moves on par with Death Note’s mind sparring, fanservice for the heterosexual, yaoi and yuri vibes, and an extremely fast paced plot that never ceases to make your mind work. It is no easy feat that Code Geass manages to take everything into the mix and draw the links between various subplots such that it flows – not seamlessly, but in a highly entertaining way that is closer to over-the-top yet not enough to call it illogical. Code Geass succeeds in being overly ambitious and yet emphasising and giving importance to what is more important – the overarching plot, yet still managing the squeeze in humour where there is some leeway (though there is indeed less of this in the second season).
The characters are also a majorly important reason of why Code Geass is the number one on my list. Lelouch is not only highly intriguing, but is also the most wholesome intelligent anime character, making humane mistakes, being highly emotional and extremist at times. His charisma both as a character and on stage with much theatrical flair in adopting a double persona. His values are also admirable, though twisted at times, but they originate in good faith but are thrown into disarray after various circumstances. Suzaku is his best friend, and representative of the other spectrum of the values of justice, war, and what it means to rule. The ‘best friends trying to kill each other’ plotline has never been so sufficiently drawn out in any anime than in Code Geass. The other main characters, C.C, and Kallen, are Lelouch’s helpers. I was always drawn to female characters with personalities like C.C – intelligent, seemingly cold, withdrawn, and almost cruel, but who adorn such a mask and a way to protect themselves after experiencing misfortune, and she ranks as my next favourite character of all time after Lelouch. Kallen is the best knight any ruler can ask for, loyal, steadfast, always believing in him, both mentally strong and not lacking in femininity. Code Geass’ large cast of characters make all-rounded character development a rather impossible feat for most of the supporting cast, but because they represent subplots that contribute to the overall plot in their own ways, they are never forgotten.
So why? This is probably the most difficult question to answer because Code Geass represents something that surpasses what all other series mean to me individually. Code Geass was the anime that got me into seriously watching anime, because I had never been so interested in this medium of entertainment before even if I had watched some anime before. Without exaggeration, the first time I saw the first episode of Code Geass I felt like a door had been opened, full anime-style, into a world I had never known existed. It was like I was looking for something all my life which I never knew what it was, and then Code Geass was the last puzzle piece that fell from the sky and everything clicked into place and became crystal clear …. sounds really imaginary and cliched, but it really is something like that for me. Even when I rewatched Code Geass after watching a good amount of anime, that feeling has never disappeared even if I was aware of all the plot twists and how it was going to end.
Whew! So that is my entire list of my Top 25 anime. Out of all the posts, which got increasingly hard to write as I got to the top of my list, this was naturally the hardest to write because I feel like I am no longer able to evaluate these anime objectively; they are a part of me (especially Code Geass for this) so much so that there probably is a lot of subjectivity involved. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed doing this series of posts, and I hope you guys enjoyed reading this too! For those who have missed the rest of this series, check out #25-21, #20-16, #15-11 and #10-6. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment about any of my choices here. (: