It has been a while since my last Top Anime post. What with work and studying catching up to me I have felt it hard pressed to even come up here and comment on people’s posts or make my presence known, and I have barely managed to keep to my promise of one post a week. To balance it all out, it has been the longest period that I haven’t been watching anime, and yet not feeling anything much about it i.e. no sense of emptiness, or feeling unfulfilled. As will seen from my list eventually, there are actually very few extremely recent shows up on here, and I see that as a worrying trend about how anime as a medium to me is changing its significance, little by little. On the other hand, I am pretty sure I would be revved up again if I rewatch any of the anime on my list, so perhaps the quality of anime has been seriously dropping in terms of its ability to wow me in a way that’s novel and sets it apart from its renowned predecessors.
But no matter what, I will still continue the elusive search for jaw-dropping, adrenaline-inducing anime, and what better than to start with …
#10 Kuroko no Basket (Seasons 1 & 2)
Type: TV Series
Genres: Comedy, School, Shounen, Sports
Episodic Count: 25 + 25
Year: 2012, 2013-2014
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/11771/Kuroko_no_Basket
… the third season of Kuroko no Basket. I am a little slow to the end of this series, but it was really because I was hoarding it up and waiting patiently till it has ended so that I could marathon the entire series at one go. I am slightly more confident in the third season’s ability to bring me back into the world of Kuroko and surround me with sudden plot twists (my favourite kind of excitement), over-the-top supernatural abilities that evolve and change in a typical shounen way yet, and Kuroko-adorableness that makes me melt into a puddle – simply because it has consistently induced these emotions for the past two seasons.
Kuroko no Basket could easily been a hit-or-miss series for me, given the fact that I actually dislike too little realism and too much unexplained jumps in ability or ‘power-ups’, yet Kuroko no Basket had developed this uncanny ability to bring down the stone walls surrounding my heart and made itself a comfortable place in the Top Ten. I only knew that from the first episode, I was helplessly hooked. Thinking about it again, it must have been Kuroko. It really has been a long time since I saw a main protagonist in a shounen that isn’t hot-headed, way too energetic, and actually more close to normal-tempered. Kuroko is a fresh perspective because his deadpan expressions and yet innocent looks at times are way too tickle-inducing, and it blends in well with the comedic aspect of the entire series.
I realise I don’t have much to say about the plot and story of Kuroko no Basket because I was just overwhelmed with mini explosions in the pit of my stomach and fist-pumping moments throughout, and I couldn’t care less about the existence – if there is – of plotholes and the like because I was too busy melting into a puddle and keeping up with the amazing speed of Kagami and Aomine to even think about it.
#9. Angel Beats!
Type: TV series
Genres: Action, Comedy, Drama, School, Supernatural
Episodic Count: 13
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/6547/Angel_Beats!
The shortest series ever to grace the Top Ten, and the first series that enabled me to see the ‘light’ of an anime world apart from the more serious genres of politics, war, military and mecha, Angel Beats represents something very significant to me in my anime journey. Without it, I probably also will not spend so much time trying out 12 or 13 episodic series or exploring series more tailored towards drama, romance and school life. As such, I have Angel Beats to thank for opening my eyes to a world from which I have managed to discover a plethora of other gems and hence, prolonged my anime journey.
And yet, aside from my personal attachment to this series, Angel Beats is a series to behold, a judgment which most anime watchers would agree with. The setting of the afterlife may not be one totally unheard of, and yet the story that develops amongst the characters and the impression it leaves on viewers’ hearts is resounding, and painful. Its strength and perhaps fatal flaw lies in the length of the series, enabling it to be unable to really fully develop some of the main core cast of its characters. Yet, Angel Beats to me is a series that has managed to achieve the illusion of drawn out, adequate character development, by creating backstories that are executed in a way that makes the viewers remember them. Now, one does not require a genius to create a unique backstory, but to tell it at the most appropriate and emotion-inducing time is most crucial to the lasting impression it leaves. Otonashi and Yuri’s backstories respectively make my heart ache, and the closure that some of the characters are given remain the sole individual events to crush me, which I can think of. Having watched many good, excellent anime, I cannot emphasise how important that is, three years and 200 anime series down the road.
Angel Beats is also a stellar example of laughter and tears mixed into a whirlwind of emotions, which given the length of the series, also compresses time and makes its emotional impact more heavy a blow. The production team certainly used its length to their advantage, no matter how tightly packed the story was.
#8. Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
Type: TV Series
Genres: Action, Comedy, Shounen, Super Power
Episodic Count: 203
Year: 2006 – 2010
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/1604/Katekyo_Hitman_Reborn!
I never fail to look at this series fondly. It represents the better part of my first year of anime, and its glory of the 203 episodes that I have experienced with much joy and love will never be replicated. Its also one of the more unique longer series out of the ones I have tried (D. Grayman, Fairy Tail) and the ones I have never bothered, and will probably never because of the lesser and lesser amount of time I have left for anime as I ease into the life of an adult (i.e. the Big Four).
Admittedly, the first 20 episodes of this series were not easy. Those who have tried this series and have turned away before hitting, say, the 25th or 26th episode thereabouts would have been so bored out of tears by the exceedingly wimpy and gutless main character, Tsuna and slapstick humour which may not be to everybody’s liking at a first 20-ish episodic glance, especially when there are countless numbers of characters which have not been fully introduced. But as I realised, it really is hard for strong feelings to develop in, say, first 20-ish episodes of a long-running series like this, and KHR has managed to do it from episode 25 or so for me (and it took so much longer for Fairy Tail, ahem).
The one thing I love about KHR which other series has not managed to do is the presence of a combat system that is truly unique on its own. Its hard to describe as a general system, but its a mash of both magic and martial arts, making everything flow seamlessly and making evolution of powers and power-ups less of a deus ex machina or convenient plot device. No other combat system has managed to entrance me thus far, as I am really often bored by the overuse of a magic system without the rules explained (such as Fairy Tail and other shorter series), and the fact that the world of super powers here has been slowly unpeeled, demonstrated and explained through the eyes of Tsuna, a boy who was an utter failure in life and knew nothing about the existence of such things. I feel that as a viewer, I am slowly given an orientation of how things work, and from it I find my bearings and enjoyment of this series as well.
As much as I love this series, I can’t help but point out its most obvious flaws. For those looking for a character development focus, this series may not be for you, because character quirks for comedic purposes are overused, but we don’t get a sense of side characters’ motivations outside from the personalities they adorn in relation to their interactions with Tsuna, our main character. This has not managed to diminish the fun for me however, as the fact that there are plot twists and reasonably explained power-ups is a good enough source of entertainment. Also, the pacing is quite terrible somewhere in the middle of these 203 episodes, with plenty of filler and recaps in the front part and back part of episodes, leaving around only 8 minutes of new content, drawn out across 15 or so episodes and resulting in extremely prolonged fights, due to the usual issues of the anime catching up way too fast to the manga – needless to say, I still sat through everything extremely happily, though I doubt I would have the patience to do that nowadays, when I am more impatient and choosy in the quality of the anime I pick and watch, due to a lack of time in general unfortunately.
Despite the lack of character development, the cast here represents the most memorable cast of characters to me because of precisely the different characters, sporting entirely different personalities and bad tempers, fight all the time and yet have each other’s back in times of adversity or the presence of a common enemy. This differs from Fairy Tail because unlike the members of Fairy Tail, these characters don’t actually go on a monologue about how Fairy Tail is their family and how it is important to persevere because of their nakama (which can be inspiring, yet on the flipside, a tad irrational because you have even the most gruff of most members spouting such lines which can be inherently contradictory with their personality). Here, the characters don’t say mushy lines, and show their solidarity by action and perhaps a crazed desire to win and challenge somebody stronger than they are.
KHR may not be the best of its peers, and many would still gravitate to shows like Fairy Tail (which is undoubtedly better with its tighter pacing and quality fillers). But I strongly recommend those who haven’t to give this a try. You would be extremely surprised at how much you like it after 40 or so episodes, I daresay. Also, a shoutout to bishounen-lovers, this is a must watch for those who love bishounen in a shounen setting – seriously, just look at these swoon-worthy hotties! (I think this is probably the singular quality that has enabled me to love this series so unconditionally for so long)
#7 Zetsuen no Tempest
Type: TV series
Genres: Action, Mystery, Drama, Fantasy, Magic, Shounen, Psychological
Episodic Count: 24
Year: 2012 – 2013
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/14075/Zetsuen_no_Tempest
I move on to the top 7 series that have made such a long-lasting impression on me that my attachment to them is no longer just coloured by personal bias, but are also convincing as outstanding artistic works to make these series part of a burgeoning list of the top rated anime of all time for most people. And yet, I start with Blast of Tempest, a less well known series even during the time it was airing, and also highly underrated.
Blast of Tempest is a little of an oddball, and yet it is the juxtaposition of such starkly different elements that makes the entire series both a viewing and intellectually satisfying pleasure. The core of the plot is steeped in a mystery of a death that has already happened at the start of the series, and this soon spins a tale of intrigue including a family mystery, plausibly romantic incest, century-old legacies with hints of the supernatural with the unsheathing of the existence of magical powers, and a plot of world destruction. Even with such an ambitious outlook, Blast of Tempest does not fail in its execution, what with BONES’ excellent animation bringing out the best in action scenes, beautifully drawn characters, and mountains of quotes from Shakespeare works, especially from The Tempest , a work which the story of this series is symbolically modeled after.
Personally, I have never seen such a unique anime that has managed to combine elements of such contrast and weave a convincing and exciting story that manages to keep one on the edge of one’s seat with a slight tremor. There is simply no way of predicting what is going to happen next simply because this story is a novelty that is unlike most other anime and the paths that anime usually take. To top it off, the series features one of the most unique character casts brought together at the brim of tragedy. We have Fuwa Aika, one of my favourite female characters of all time, with her cool, snarky, confident and extremely feminine demeanour. Yoshino, as one of the main male protagonist, captures my heart with his quiet observance, stubbornness to certain principles, his undying love for Aika, and an intelligence which resembles Light Yagami. Mahiro and Hakaze are also lovable characters that stand by their own ideals, especially when it comes to the people they love.
Blast of Tempest is a real eye opener for anybody who is already more than a little bored and miffed by anime cliches, and it is a reminder of why I am still searching for hidden gems in anime even at this current state, when I have been growing increasingly disillusioned at the lack of a fresh approach to story telling or character development in recent anime I have tried.
#6 Fate Zero (both seasons)
Type: TV series
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Supernatural
Episodic Count: 13 + 13
Year: 2011, 2012
More information at: http://myanimelist.net/anime/10087/Fate_Zero
The recently concluded Fate Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Second Season) was excellent, but Fate Zero will always be the masterpiece out of all Fate adaptations. Both are beautifully animated and there really is no saying which is better than the other in this aspect, except to say that of course, in 2014 and 2015 animation technology seems to have further improved yet again, as shown in the flawless, swift and smooth-cutting action scenes of UBW. And yet, Fate Zero will always remain unique due to its larger focus on all characters and the development of a multitude of thought-provoking themes that span wide and far, including views on how a good king should be, whether ends justifies the means, the effect of traumatic childhood experiences on behaviour and how such a bloody, inherently harsh competition whips away at one’s principles, plunging those who, consciously or not, chose to take part in the Holy Grail War into darkness.
Fate Zero is an inherently dark tale which outlines the Holy Grail War ten years before UBW. We see the story mainly through Kiritsugu, a man with a sense of ideals of justice that are slightly warped and different from the typical anime hero, and seeks to pursue destruction before creation in a way that makes people cheer for him. His coldness and ruthlessness blend in together with the traumatic experiences he had, making him one of the most pitiable characters of all time. And yet, not only Kiritsugu shines in this series. Other characters, whom did not appear to be most memorable in other adaptations, really outdid themselves in this series, including Gilgamesh and his otherworldly and badass principles, and also Saber, in all her struggle to best herself, her despair, and her motivation. Even one time characters like the Waver – Rider combination, strike a chord in my heart because Rider personifies the loud, gruff and yet brutally honest king and an ideal of a hero, with Waver, the ‘weakling’, and yet complementing each other to no end as seen from their interactions, which I recall fondly.
I admit that I am probably attracted to darkness in a story to choose Fate Zero over its more beautiful and upright counterpart, Unlimited Blade Works. But Fate Zero has a magnetic quality about it that I simply cannot overlook simply because of the tragedy inherent in the story from the start. Time and time again I think about Kiritsugu and my heart contracts, and the same reaction is caused in me whenever I watch the second OP of the series, with ‘to the beginning’ by Kalafina as its theme song. All I have to say is that Fate Zero is quite unbeatable unless the same set of characters are reproduced, which is probably an impossible feat.
I didn’t expect such a long post, but I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised given my tendency to ramble and proclaim my love for these series, which I had the freshest impressions about and have basically captured the essence of my love for anime but never got a chance to blog about. I apologise for the long post, but this is my favourite anime I am talking about, so I am sure anybody who has anime they are absolutely in love with at all times would be perfectly understanding of this. Till the next post, which is the last post in this series! 🙂 (For those who have missed the previous posts, they are at #25 – #21, #20 – #16, and #15 – #11 respectively.) Hope you enjoyed reading this, and I look forward to knowing your thoughts in the comments below 🙂