Its time for #11-#15 of my Top Anime! Time flies by so fast that what I initially thought would take at least a few months to complete is now two more posts to completion. (For those who have yet to jump in on this series, see the previous posts of #25 – #21 and #20 – #16) Having said that, I think I could have easily catered for a Top 35-40 Anime List or even 50, now that I have narrowed down the number of Honourable Mentions on a list which never seems to end. I am currently thinking about how I would want to go about writing the Honourable Mentions post, it would probably be an even tougher feat than this Top 25.
But anyway, here goes nothing!
#15 Durarara!! (both seasons)
Type: TV Series
Genres: Action, Mystery, Supernatural
Episodic Count: 24 + 12
Year: 2010, 2015
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/6746/Durarara!!
DRRR!! is a refreshing urban tale whose ability to stand out amongst its peers lies in its uniquely disjoint narrative structure. Featuring a large yet distinct and highly individualistic cast of characters which only keep growing, the story arcs of DRRR!! are tightly woven around the activities, personalities and behaviour of this diverse range of personalities. The story is told in multiple perspectives at once, and it engages its audience by throwing hints, red herrings all around and getting its audience to locate and piece the plot puzzle together for themselves.
Set in the busy, vibrant district of Ikebukuro, where everything is connected and everybody is connected in a way to one another, the viewing experience associated with this series is nothing short of stepping your way through an entangled mess of an slightly tangled web of interpersonal relationships, seemingly disorganised but in actuality rather well-planned. I personally enjoyed the hunt of subtle hints that may be situated in the background in terms of buildings, or the significance of a seemingly mundane series of actions. Long-time die-hard otakus will also no doubt enjoy picking out anime references, lushly abundant in the form of signboards, big screens in the city backgrounds, and even as conversational topics between Erika and Walker, two extremely cool otakus whom we all surely identify with.
With topics spanning street gangs, the Japanese mafia, the Russian mafia, to the use of social media as a tool for amassing information and manipulation of large crowds, DRRR!! is the embodiment of the inter-connectivity of the modern world. As such, it presents a deeply realistic snapshot of a society situated in the bustling hubbub of a city, a factor that is close to my heart given that I live in one. The presentation also shines with characters talking over each other yet not unclear for the audience to figure out the various conversations. Interesting backstories in every arc and plot twists also give the series an addictive quality that one is hard pressed to find in too many other anime.
Of course, what anime is good enough without its characters? If there was any anime I actually want to live in, it would be in Ikebukuro with this crazy bunch of people because their lives are dangerously interesting and exciting. Most characters are not quite what they seem despite the facade of normality that they are thrown into at the start, especially with the high school main characters Mikado, Kida and Anri. We have characters whom have no doubt since become classic, like Shizuo and Izaya, the infamous duo perpetually at loggerheads and whose feuds rile up the entire city. There’s also Celty, the supernatural element thrown into the mix, and many others whom without their presence will take away an essential element of the melting pot of characters that this series is also known strongly for.
With such a potent combination, I strongly believe that DRRR!! deserves to be considered but any Top Anime list (or if you beg to differ, its historical counterpart Baccano!). If you haven’t seen this, you probably haven’t seen the extent of cray and creativity to which Japanese animation creators (and light novelists, since this was a LN adaptation) can go to in depicting highly urbanised societies, and with style, too.
(Also, can’t wait for the next season!)
Type: TV Series
Genres: Mystery, Drama, Horror, Police, Psychological, Thriller, Seinen
Episodic Count: 74
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/19/Monster
Monster is a masterful tale of mystery, suspense and thriller about a Japanese doctor who made a single mistake in his career, getting framed for a murder and then spending years trying to find the mastermind serial killer, supported by no one except his staunch personal belief in the eventual triumph of justice. A particularly haunting story which reveals the ugliest sides of human nature and the deepest, darkest recesses of the human mind, we see one man’s struggle with all the odds stacked up against him to reveal the truth of the matter, even while under the hot pursuit of the authorities, in a factual setting vaguely reminiscent of Jean Valjean and Javert in Les Miserables.
However, the similarity to Les Miserables actually pretty much ends there. Doctor Tenma’s quest is a long, drawn out one over 74 episodes, a daunting number which made me hesitate before starting this series. However, those who are patient enough to see the hidden potential of this series are definitely well rewarded. Though starting slow, the series picks up its pace at around episode 25 or thereabouts, and you would find that you simply cannot stop. I daresay one won’t rush through the entire series at a breckneck speed, but you would want to see what happens in the end. The slow revelation of one piece of information a time with the most impeccable timing also helps to curb boredom at any one point.
Monster also features one of the most brilliantly and beautifully crafted villains of all time whose ability to manipulate people and turn the situation to his favour is so otherworldly that I had to repeatedly check the genres stated for this series for the ‘supernatural’ tag because I was so sure he wasn’t human.
For lovers of mysteries and psychological thrillers, this series is a must watch, for it is heralded as one of the greatest masterpieces of anime of the thriller and mystery genre and I do not think this label is in the slightest bit exaggerated at all.
#13 Mobile Suit Gundam Seed and Destiny (both seasons)
Type: TV Series
Genres: Action, Drama, Mecha, Romance, Sci-fi, Space, Military
Episodic Count: 50 + 50
Year: 2002-03, 2004-05
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/93/Mobile_Suit_Gundam_Seed
Gundam Seed and Destiny are by far the only Gundam series that I am extremely enamoured with. Though my love for this series may have been due to the fact that I watched it quite early in my anime watching series, I have no doubt that it was a combination of mecha, war, military, and characters which behave with more caution and who are more emotionally attached to the significance of fighting in a war that has made the show a dealbreaker for me.
It is probably no coincidence that Kira Yamato, the protagonist of Seed, is also hailed as Kira “Jesus” Yamato in the online anime community (though it is questionable whether this was meant as a compliment or not), due to his overwhelming capacity for love of humanity and the people he cares for. This is unlike the other more brainless, hot-headed protagonists or those overwhelmed with blind hatred that have plagued most shounen shows and other spin-offs in the Gundam series. Kira is a manifestation of a more humane, realistic reaction to war. The fact that he has to fight against his best friend, Athrun, who is on the other side, causes him immense pain. Seed and Destiny are also known for their romantic pairings, and Cagalli and Lacus Clyne and strong female characters that hold their own and serve as great partners to the respective male protagonists.
Gundam Seed and Destiny represents my favourite genre combination of sci-fi, military, romance and drama and is a very good introduction into the non-purely-romance focused world of anime. I scarcely think I would have been able to move on from Code Geass and/or Death Note without the help of Gundam Seed. (However, I would have to say that Gundam Seed surpasses Destiny by miles. Shinn was a highly irritating protagonist and he was only more tolerable because everything else that made Seed awesome was still excellently retained in Destiny.)
#12 Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi (Sunday Without God)
Type: TV series
Genres: Mystery, Fantasy
Episodic Count: 12
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/16009/Kamisama_no_Inai_Nichiyoubi
A hidden gem lost and forgotten within the chaos of Summer 2013 anime, Sunday Without God’s lush and gorgeous setting in a world full of autumn and evening colours is highly deceiving. The warm tones and beautiful scenery conceal a harsh truth – that humanity was gradually descending into a state of non-humanity (or the Undead) instead of being able to truly die or reproduce. The only way that the dead’s souls can truly be put to rest is if a gravekeeper digs them a grave.
Ai, a twelve year old girl, is one of the gravekeepers tasked with the job of preparing graves of the people in the village she lives in. With such a solemn and ultimately depressing vocation, Ai’s optimistic spirit, even if said to be naive, presents a fresh perspective to the extremely dire world situation. Though Ai comes across as stubborn at times, she soon learns as she travels through the world, how people really are different and have different wants and needs. She quickly adapts, never failing to serve as a warm beacon of guiding light for those who souls are on the fringe of tumbling into darkness. I personally admire her ability, at such a tender age, to hold onto her inner strength despite encountering adversity and life-changing situations (which I shall not reveal for fear of spoilers), in being able to strike a balance between being able to make a positive difference to others’ lives and yet hold back from unnecessary struggle when there is no more to be done.
The story is broken into arcs, with the first dealing with Ai’s past and identity, which also helped to entirely shift her future perspective and her mission in life. Later on the arcs are mostly told of new characters she meets while travelling the world and how the difference is made. Personally, I felt that this was no ordinary journey, because the little adventures she has are certainly unique plot-wise.
Sunday Without God encapsulates a closed in world where one can find breathtaking beauty in the midst of overwhelming darkness. It is hard to describe what a profound impact this series continues to hold on me despite leaving some questions of the world unanswered, being atypical of a long light novel crammed into a one- cour anime. However, tears are largely guaranteed, and up till now I don’t think I have quite fully recovered. (My avatar is actually Ai by the way, for those who have no idea where it originates from)
#11 M3: Sono Kuroki Kagane
Type: TV series
Genres: Action, Drama, Mecha, Sci-fi, Psychological
Episodic Count: 24
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/23133/M3:_Sono_Kuroki_Hagane
M3: The Black Metal looks like any typical dark mecha anime at first glance, with yet another hopelessly depressing context where humanity is doomed to extinction. This here comes in the form of a Lightless Realm, a reality where the darkness literally swallows everything and aberrations prowl. As it slowly encroaches upon the space that the last of humanity can breathe in, it devours all things full of light and hope, leaving despair and darkness in its wake. Technology has scarcely developed at a pace sufficient enough to outrun the growth of the Realm, and it is only due to the special abilities or biological make-up of our protagonist, a rather sullen, angsty at first glance teenage boy where things start to at least look slightly better.
The premise outlined above probably will not be anything new to sci-fi, dystopian or even certain mecha fans. The entire series adopts a very dark, greyish colour palette which reflects this depressing reality in full, and it also takes no time in outlining right at the start how bleak the future of humanity is. We have the ‘group of friends fighting together’ premise here, except that they don’t actually start out as friends. As we all know, throwing eight frightened emotionally scarred teens, who were abandoned by one way or another by society together, give them giant metal robots and everything implodes, though not in the physically explosive sense. Yet, what separates this series from other mecha series is its heavy reliance on exploring and expounding the effects of childhood memories and scars on teenagehood. In this series, the tag ‘action’ barely manages to hide the essence of what this series represents – whatever physical action that ensues is but a culmination and representation of a clash between warring emotions.
Putting the action aside, there are numerous plot twists which may seem outrageous to some assuming that this series follows any sort of a formulaic approach, but they served as fuel and ignition to my largely jaded mind. Each of the characters are a lot more twisted when they actually seem in the first place in various unexpected ways, further enabling it to be singled out amongst the commonality of the other more mediocre anime. I personally liked the romantic couplings here though I have found that few on the interwebs agree with me.
M3: The Black Metal appears to be appealing to few. In fact, I consider it highly underrated given its low rating of 6.78 on MAL for reasons that I cannot fathom. My guess is that M3 has presented a novel angle to the psychological-mecha anime mix that falls out of the both ends of the tolerance spectrum – with longstanding fans of fanservice-mecha-action anime versus the Neon Genesis Evangelion series on the other. However, given that I belong on neither end, its possibly why I am so comfortable with the way M3 dives into such themes without entirely removing the entertainment factor or being too cryptic for mere mortals like me to understand.
M3 will always also mean a lot more to me than to any other anime fan for a reason: for such a dark series, it ironically served as the flash of hope which I still cling to now at a time when I was completely convinced that (a) anime no longer presented any surprises to me, and (b) any series that falls below a 7/10 rating on MAL will surely not be a series I will be emotionally attached to. M3 has served to remind me that it is still possible to me to be excited enough to fully marathon a series from episode one (it has however, been the last series ever since) and that I should never judge a series by its rating, a trap I often fall into to maximise the utility of my anime time.
So that’s it for #11-#15! It seems that this post is full of the dark and dreary, but it represents an important cornerstone of what type of anime appeals to me the most, and it also shapes what I continue to choose to watch in the near future. I am pretty sure that the next five will probably contain titles that appeal to both female and male audiences alike, so look forward to the next Top Anime post, and hope you enjoyed reading this. Feel free to leave a like or comment on anything I have mentioned, and thank you for reading!