Here is a fairly accurate list of my 15 favorite anime. No deceive.
To some extent, I’m lumping franchises together into single entities on the list. The entry either represents the peak of the series, or the series as a whole – it should be pretty clear.
Everything’s in a somewhat deliberate least to most favorite order. More or less.
School Rumble is a romantic comedy primarily focused on Harima Kenji, a delinquent hopelessly in love with the airheaded Tsukamoto Tenma, who happens to have the hots for the aloof and elusive Karasuma Ouji. Among the rest of class 2C, there is a nightmare of a love polygon, and the show follows the antics surrounding the large cast and their interwoven love troubles.
From beginning to end, the show is immensely funny, especially with some of the more ridiculous events such as the school play. While secondary protagonist Tenma can be annoying more often than amusing, she doesn’t detract from the series too much – it’s a great romantic comedy, and even when it delves into slightly more serious situations, it’s handled well and is still very enjoyable.
The “third season,” which bypasses the final third of the manga and instead consists solely of the very end of the story, leaves things on a bit of an awkward note because of a plethora of skipped material. Altogether, it’s better to just pretend these final two episodes don’t exist.
Non Non Biyori
Set in a small mountain town in rural Japan, Non Non Biyori is the story of five classmates and their daily lives. The main character of interest is Hotaru, a fifth-grader who moves to the town from Tokyo, as she experiences culture shock warming up to the differences out in the sticks.
As a fairly straightforward slice-of-life, it’s an excellent show. The music and setting lend themselves to a wonderful and relaxing atmosphere, the comedy is nearly always effective, and the characters are highly likable and fun to watch. It all comes together into a great package perfect for a calm and uplifting experience.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
After blundering a confession to her high school crush, Chiyo instead finds out that he’s a serialized manga author. While left romantically wanting, she volunteers as Nozaki’s assistant to become closer to him, and in the process becomes acquainted with his circle of friends, many who contribute to his work behind the scenes, both by example and assisting with his art.
Another romantic comedy with a charming cast, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun’s strengths lie in its realistic situations spun into running jokes, visual gags, and a constant barrage of effective humor. From beginning to end, this is the kind of show to make you smile from everything that’s happening on screen.
This show follows Chihaya, a high school student whose main interest is karuta, a Japanese sport/card game hybrid that is generally a foreign concept to those outside the country. As she tries to bring together a school club, she looks forward to her primary goal – overcoming the obstacles in her way and achieving the title of “Queen” of karuta.
The show explains the game well, and it is used effectively throughout the series – rather than simply accepting what the characters claim as fact, the viewer will likely be able to understand what they’re saying and how it relates to the topic at hand. Along with this, it employs drama well through effective pacing and good characters, never lingering too long or rushing past an issue. While the initial concept can seem daunting, the reward is an excellent and fun show.
In modern day Akihabara, Tokyo, a group of friends accidentally discover a method to send messages to the past with an invention crudely titled the “Phone Microwave (name subject to change).” Led by Okabe Rintarou, a self-described mad scientist, they try to understand exactly how the device works all while becoming tangled up in an even greater dilemma.
The show uses realistic sci-fi in a contemporary setting and with actual scientific theories and a supposed time traveler’s claims supporting the base concepts. While the tone of the two halves is substantially different, the show is persistently interesting, especially as the main conflict unfolds. Once it grabs the viewer’s attention, it doesn’t let go.
The visual novel that the anime is adapted from is well worth the read, particularly to see the alternate endings to the story. Unfortunately, the sequel movie is a complete waste of time, adding nothing of value to the original story, all while cramming the majority of the plot into the final ten minutes – it reeks of a cash grab trying to rake in more money after the series’ success.
A prequel to Fate/Stay Night, Fate/Zero is about the 4th Grail War, where mages and their partners, “Heroic Spirits,” work together to claim the omnipotent Grail to fulfill their own desires. Rather than focusing on a single pair, the show spreads its attention to all involved with the battle, exploring their reasons for fighting and how their ideologies conflict among each other.
Aesthetically, this is one of the best anime to exist – the animation is astounding, and the soundtrack is both gorgeous and powerful. By keeping the spotlight moving from character to character, the story is able to explore all of the involved parties adequately, presenting a clearer picture of everyone’s mindset as they move closer to their goals. This is the kind of show that is interesting both through the characters and the action, creating a consistently engaging experience.
Clannad After Story/Tomoyo Chapter
Clannad After Story is the sequel to 2007’s Clannad, and it picks up with the “true route” from the source visual novel, where Tomoya and Nagisa are dating. The story continues where the first season left off, following through graduation and into their adult lives together.
While the first season was an enjoyable comedy/slice-of-life, After Story avoided the laughable melodrama that came with a few arcs, instead creating a heart-warming (and sometimes heart-wrenching) story. And then, there is the Tomoyo Chapter OVA, which covers Tomoyo’s route from the visual novel in a single episode. While not as good as the full story provided by the VN, the episode still manages to be one of the best parts of the show.
As far as the visual novel is concerned, the only huge advantage it has over the anime is the other routes, although most of them are somewhat disappointing – even the ones that aren’t are buried under a monotonous writing style that takes far too long to get to the point.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Unlike 2003’s Fullmetal Alchemist, Brotherhood is based directly off the manga, adapting it faithfully and effectively. The story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, brothers who made the mistake of attempting human transmutation as children. In an attempt to reverse their mistake, they aim to find the Philosopher’s Stone, an alchemical material not bound by the laws of equivalent exchange. In their journey through the country, their search leads them into far darker territory than they could have imagined – a situation with the survival of millions at risk.
One of the best things about Brotherhood is the huge cast with plenty of likable characters, including plenty of strong female characters. But above all else, its strength lies in the story – from beginning to end, everything builds up to the ending in some way, and the final result is both rewarding and gripping.
High school student Oreki Houtarou is content to slide through life with as little effort as possible, deeming others’ “rose-colored” school lives as something beyond his interest. However, after being pulled into joining the Classics Club, he meets his polar opposite, Chitanda Eru. From their first meeting, she is able to draw Oreki’s interest, immediately changing his perception of the world around him.
Visually, this anime is stunning, second to very few in terms of eye candy. While the story is generally slice-of-life, the show truly shines with its mini-mysteries, where the members of the Classics Club examine seemingly normal events, somehow turning the mundane situations into some of the most interesting inquiries imaginable. It’s honestly a bit baffling, but it’s done so well that it’s hard to worry about it.
A Certain Scientific Railgun S
The second arc of the light novel series A Certain Magical Index was referred to as the Sisters Arc. Railgun S, the second season of the spin-off series, examines this arc from a different perspective – rather than focusing on Index protagonist Kamijou Touma’s role in the situation, Railgun follows the story from Misaka Mikoto’s point of view. Set in Academy City, where the majority of the population consists of students working to bring out their esper abilities, Misaka becomes involved with a situation beyond her comprehension – one involving thousands of clones of herself.
Compared to the lackluster arc from Index, the Sisters arc in Railgun S is unfathomably better. By showing the story from Misaka’s perspective, the situation actually holds weight for the viewer – she is directly involved and tries to overcome the problem by herself. Along with this, Touma’s role in Railgun is much better than Index. Rather than seeming like an obnoxious moron shoving his face in others’ business to fulfill his own exceedingly idealistic dogma, he is effectively portrayed as a voice of reason and a helping hand. Basically, everything is executed not only better than Index, but excellently as a whole, forging an awesome show.
The short arc at the end is forgettable anime original content and doesn’t add much to the series. Without it, this would probably be a 10 out of 10.
In ancient Japan, the shogunate’s “strategian” seeks out the help of Yasuri Shichika, a man trained in a swordless sword-style, in the hopes of reclaiming twelve mysterious katana infused with supernatural power. They join together to track down and recollect the swords to shift power back to the shogunate and ensure peace for the future.
In many ways, this show is unusual – the art style, character design, and storytelling are all atypical, and it aired with 12 50-minute episodes while the standard length is about 25. Although it can be a bit dialogue-heavy it also has the advantage of some of the most interesting fights in anime, and an excellent story with a healthy dose of trolling. Watch the episode previews.
The Monogatari Series
After becoming involved with a mysterious vampire over his spring break, Araragi Koyomi becomes tied up in more supernatural dilemmas, starting with Hanekawa Tsubasa, a girl he claims saved his life. As he and the knowledgeable Oshino Meme work to help out more afflicted by similar problems, he meets the elusive and “weightless” Senjougahara Hitagi, a girl who ends up changing his life.
The peak of the series would be the Second Season, particularly Nekomonogatari (Shiro), Hanamonogatari, and Koimonogatari, as they all benefit from the variety provided by fresh narrators. The series has a lot going for it. While not a comedy, it can be very funny, the characters and narration are always interesting, and the visual style is very unique, both with the background art and directing approach. A bit of an odd egg on first look, the series is extremely successful at doing things a bit differently.
As the Kizumonogatari film has been delayed indefinitely, reading the book (which has been translated online) after finishing Bakemonogatari is extremely beneficial. Characters and plot points from Kizumonogatari play a role in the Second Season, and missing out on a lot of the details can be problematic.
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
On December 16th, Kyon wakes up to a perfectly normal world and soon realizes that there is a problem – the unknowingly omnipotent Haruhi has vanished and his friends with ties to the supernatural have all seemingly lost their abilities and memories. In an attempt to return things to the status quo, Kyon searches for the key to understanding what went wrong – and whether or not things are better off left alone in the changed world.
Disappearance is a long movie, but it never drags – it uses its full run time to tell an outstanding story that exceeds everything from the series. While the story does leave some loose ends, the only reason those haven’t been pulled together is because of no third season. Since KyoAni don’t understand the concept of third seasons, it’s unlikely that the next seven books will ever be adapted, leaving some questions unanswered. Regardless, the film accomplishes everything it set out to do without fail.
In preparation for the seniors’ upcoming graduation, the members of the Light Music Club decide to take a trip to celebrate. As their graduation looms closer, the seniors collectively mull over a single issue among their fun – what to leave Azusa, the sole remaining member for the upcoming year, as a farewell gift.
This film is slice-of-life perfected. It combines a wonderful light-hearted yet occasionally emotional story that follows up on the second season with everything that made the show tick – the club’s music (which thankfully plays a larger role in the movie), the shenanigans among the group, and the great visuals and soundtrack. The movie serves as a perfect ending to the series, bringing everything to a neat and unforgettable conclusion.
Compared to the severely disappointing ending that the manga petered out with, this is a far better finale, managing to tie everything up neatly without dragging the story into another year.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion
Since the story hinges upon knowing the entirety of the TV series, I won’t provide a summary to avoid spoilers. I would highly recommend watching the show though.
Quite simply, this is as close to perfect as anything I have seen has ever been. In terms of art and animation, it is outstanding, both in sheer visual bliss and deliberate detail. In terms of sound, the music carries the story so effectively that the soundtrack itself feels like half of the experience. In terms of the story, it is pulled off so perfectly that the viewer is simply left in awe as everything unfolds in front of them. When the individual parts are so carefully and effectively constructed, the sum can only be something else entirely.
Full review here.