I hardly finish any anime series in April so expect a couple of these blog posts of me writing about whatever anime related topic comes to mind. This post is also thrown together very quickly since I was unsatisfied with how my review of the Makoto Shinkai movie Your Name turned out. Instead of posting it in a unsatisfied state I would prefer working on it until I’m satisfied with it since it’s surprisingly difficult to express exactly how I feel about it. I would include more entries on this list besides of favorites the 5 (well, technically six for one of them) that I have on here. At the moment, I can say for certain these 5 animes are certainly in my all time favorites, and unlikely they’ll be removed from there any time soon.
The animes in this post are organized by alphabetical order instead of ranking them by favorites. Also, only anime tv series are included on this list, and not movies since there isn’t enough I adore to the point to make a blog post. So, here they are.
Cardcaptor Sakura (1998 – 2000)
I dislike slice of life anime, and I also find it difficult to find anime where I simply sit back, and enjoy watching it. Cardcaptor Sakura breaks that trend for me as it has elements of slice of life, but done tremendously better than most. Who knew simply having characters grow up, and changing through the course of the series doing everyday things would go a long way. Not only that, but Cardcaptor Sakura also tackles the subject of love far better than a majority of romance, and harem animes I’ve seen. While not complex, it explores it in a broad sense from family love, understanding the differentiation between different type of love, and so forth. Never becoming to sappy, or overbearing when exploring the subject matter. All the while making me forget it’s a series starring little kids, and it shouldn’t be this good at doing everything it does.
There’s also a sense of wonder, and adventure that rarely capture it like Cardcaptor Sakura. For me, the experience of seeing the series was just like watching a Studio Ghibli movie. Making the real world seem fantastical, virtually without leaving it. Another reason I like enjoyed it besides the endearing characters, and good theme exploration was it felt like it always made progress. Nearly every episode would have Sakura capture a Clow Card causing trouble, and saving the day. When she wasn’t capturing a Clow Card, Sakura was simply doing her best to either finish school work, or something important for a friend. It had a formula it was more than comfortable repeating through its entire run, but I didn’t mind it. It either offered me a good source of entertainment, a well written piece of fiction, or both at the same times. Like Sakura deceased mother actually being developed in the series instead of just being a thing in the background. Too frequently do I see the dead parent trope/plot device used just a mean to sympathize with the hero. In Cardcaptor Sakura, it never felt like, and the series treated her as an important like it should have. Most surprisingly, multiple episodes to Sakura learning about her mother leading to some sweet moments.
Cardcaptor Sakura is only one of three anime that has ever manage to get some tears out of me, and currently the only anime to do it twice. Typically, in media I consume I rarely ever tear up at things I watch, even more rare at the times I actually cried watching something. Aside from Paddington 2 (yes, the talking bear movie), Cardcaptor Sakura is the only anime to ever get tears from me because of how heartwarming it was. The episode that did it for me was episode 22, titled Sakura, and Her Caring Father. By this point in the series, I grew to like Sakura, and her kind hearted nature came across as genuine. It was a likable part of her character. Also by this point, I was also invested into the other characters, and seeing them was simply a joy. It basically felt like seeing family. When seeing this episode, I wasn’t expecting it to get me surprisingly emotional as it did. It simply treated itself as another episode in the series, and didn’t go out of it way to get to me cry. All the characters acted as they usually do, and it was business as usual. By doing so, it didn’t make me raise my guard, and all my reaction to the episode came naturally.
Too frequently in anime do they try too hard to get me to feel something, and more so that short length anime try to get me to cry when I spend so little time with the characters. This is different since I spend 21 episodes beforehand growing to like the characters, and getting to know them. When I finally got around to seeing episode 22, ah, it was so heartwarming that it went from a anime series I thought was already special to become something I simply adore. There was also another moment that got to me tear because of how sweet it was, but unfortunately that would involve going into spoilers, and I rather not be the one to spoil that great moment.
I could go on gushing about how I enjoyed the growth of Sayaron Li over the course of the series. In particular, how his rivalry with Sakura grows simply beyonds being rivals in love with the same person. There’s also the huge praise of anime original character Meiling Li whom I felt added more to the series especially in terms of having a great character arc, and how her involvement in the series made for some great character interactions. Her absent in the manga was strongly felt for me when I eventually read it. There’s also the possibility of gushing about the fantastic soundtrack, the great animation, great voice work, and so forth. However, just like everything else on this post, if I did this would go on for probably another dozen, or so paragraphs.
Death Note (2006 – 2007)
Pft, it’s only my all time favorite anime series of all time, and for a while it took up the top two spot of my all time favorite anime series. Yes, I liked Death Note so much there was a time where there wasn’t a series I would put below it in terms of favorites. That eventually changed, but that’s on the next entry. For Death Note, simply put set a new standard for what I consider great writing. Before even starting Death Note, I constantly questioned how something with such a limited sounding premise be any good. One viewing of the entire series later, if it wasn’t for Death Note I wouldn’t have gone on to see like over 300 or so animes.
I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did since it took me about 4 episodes before I became addicted to the series. The first three episodes I thought were good, but nothing that would personally get me hooked into seeing it. It wasn’t until the halfway point of episode 5, and seeing Light Yagami on that subway threatening an investigators to give up the names of the investigators after him that the series became something I had to marathon. Within two days, it became the fastest anime I’ve ever finished, and only among the likes of Breaking Bad where no matter how much I saw of it I simply needed more of it. The mind games between Light Yagami, and L were always engaging to me. Seeing those two trying to get one up on each other seal the deal for me. Wondering how Light could match someone equal to him intelligence, and simply witnessing him face against L was pure bliss in terms of excitement.
Another aspect I liked about Death Note is the descend into madness. Witnessing the downfall of Light Yagami from a self-righteous young man whom came from a background of justice simply wanting to do good, and letting power get to him was good to see. I see part of myself in Light Yagami which is partially a reason why I love him so much. Well more specifically the part of him that easily detaches himself from anyone close to him to in order to meet an end goal I can relate too. Going into specifics on the other hand, not happening any time soon.
Even if that wasn’t part of Light Yagami character, there was also the intrigue of seeing officers trying to solve the case of Kira. How does one exactly capture a criminal whom is able to kill anyone, anywhere, and anytime if he has their full name. Most importantly, how does one capture that individual. I didn’t know the answers to that, but this anime series certainly did, and it offering surprises one right after another.
Of course, there’s also the last 12 episodes which I enjoyed honestly. At the same time, I am also the same person who enjoyed the first 25 episode of Death Note so much that I’ve yet to see another anime surpassing the sheer enjoyment, and expectation breaking experience that this has provided me.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2003 – 2004)Fullmetal Alchemist is the only anime on this post I saw twice, and it’s because of that rewatch that it certified itself in as permanently being my second all time favorite anime. More specifically, the first question why the original, and not Brotherhood. Simple, Brotherhood is a typical shounen, but excellence execution of everything shounen is known for. Therefore, I found Brotherhood very predictable, and also the first 12 episodes of Brotherhood ruined some of my favorite moments from the original series. Now, on the original Fullmetal Alchemist. What appeals to me more about it is the story remains a personal one, and unlike shounen doesn’t devolve into a saving the world story line. A nice change up from these kind of series aimed at it demographics.
Much like Cardcaptor Sakura, the cast of Fullmetal Alchemist is among my favorite of all time. Nearly all of them are complex, and given amount of depth to them. Every character is presented with shades of grey, and rarely does anything is ever presented in a simplistic way. When it does showcase something simplistic like the methods the Homunculus would use to make a philosopher’s stone it’s usage tends to help serve a greater purpose. Among other things, it’s world given a detailed history burden with conflict. Something this series does that I wish the fantasy genre in general would showcase with magic is the effect Alchemy has in its own, and different viewpoints on it. Alchemy simply something that everyone clamour to embrace wholeheartedly.
In spite of it shounen demographic, never once does it feel like it’s undermining the audience intelligence. Too often in shounen do I feel like they cover the same themes of power of friendship, never give up, believe in yourself, and so forth in a broad sense. Hardly do shounen aim series offer much food for thought. Fullmetal Alchemist on the other hand offers just that both directly, and indirectly. Tackling the human condition, and limits of it in a world where the existence of Alchemy can seemingly make anything possible. Showing to the viewer the sacrifices are willing to make in order to obtain the power to achieve their desire. While the battles are nice, the action is never something I’m excited to see because they don’t do anything special in my eyes in terms of animation, or choreography. However, I’m always engaged in them because the events leading up to them makes them a rewarding pay off.
On my first viewing of this series, that was a funeral scene that I found powerful in the anime. However, it was during my second viewing of the same funeral scene that got me to tear up (not cry, there’s a difference). Despite the fact I knew what was going to happen it became it even more effective on me. Growing a greater appreciation for the strong character writing that I always loved, but now adored because of how powerful it can be. Yes, that makes Fullmetal Alchemist the only other anime beside Cardcaptor Sakura to actually get a tear out of me.
It’s thanks to Fullmetal Alchemists characters that makes it a special anime to me. Not only did it help me get back into watching anime again after being burned out on so many disappointments at the time, but gave me a greater appreciation for how special anime can be sometime. Capturing you emotionally, and impacting you in ways you didn’t think were possible. There’s the filler material I honestly prefer over Brotherhood because everything feels more personal to its characters, and doesn’t become lost among the dozen of cast member in a large scale battle. Also the ending in the series, one of my favorite of all time best portraying family love, and the consequences in the pursuit of gaining what is lost in anything I’ve seen.
Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor (2007 -2008) & Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku-hen (2011)
I know, yet another anime series made by Madhouse. What can I say. With my favorites they made each time I went into them pretty much blind, and everytime they exceeded expectation. This was another case of that of taking simple games with big risks, but breaking my mold of what I originally thought good writing was capable of. The psychology of its characters is perfectly presented by its visuals. Empathizing the atmosphere the games being played, and the mental of its player in these games. It’s the only time I would say a card game about Rock, Paper, and Scissor was ever made exciting. Akiyuki Shinbou director of March Comes In Like A Lion takes notes of how to use a similar direction correctly, and apply it consistently for your series. I know throwing that bit of shade is unwarranted, but that bugged me a lot in March Comes In Like A Lion, and I wanted it off my chest.
Episode 1 of season, no doubt about it. Without question, Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor currently has the best first episode I’ve seen in any anime. It establishes its premise right away, it has a fantastic hook, and sets up a good leading character right at the beginning. The only place left of it to go is simply up, and remains up there for the entire run. What I love about both seasons of Kaiji is about it manages to take simple games, and makes them addicting to watch. Despite the fact my mind tells me it’s all determined because it is written I still can’t help, but me constantly engaged in it. Never once during my viewing of either season of Kaiji did I see just a single episode. I needed to see multiple episodes to be satisfied.
It was the unpredictable nature of the series that kept me desiring more. Never before have I seen this type of story been told, and one of the few times where I didn’t bother predicting the events because I knew I would be wrong. Brimming with imagination, and creative ideas in its games it wouldn’t be the same without it main man Kaiji Ito. This guy, easily one of my favorite character of all time. Aside from being flawed, one aspect of Kaiji that engrossed me into the series is his constant belief, and desire to become a person than he originally was. He’s a man of fear, and man being to the lowest point, yet keeps on fighting no matter how powerful the urge to give up is. Becoming a constant uphill battle that Kaiji Ito seemingly makes step forward, but also takes an equal amount of steps backward.
An ongoing cycle that keeps me rooting for its protagonist. There’s the also the characters whom in spite of being cartoonishly evil are given surprisingly good reasoning for why their behavior going beyond the “I’m superior” notion. One in particular simply believes it’s human nature itself that is incapable of claiming responsibility for their action, and its through this irresponsibility they seek an easy way out. Both seasons of Kaiji provided me a great deal of addiction in terms of entertainment, but it’s the fantastic writing that kept me around, and why I love it so much.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995 – 1996)
Currently the oldest anime in my favorites (but not the oldest anime I’ve seen). As someone who consumed movies for a majority of his life Neon Genesis Evangelion is one example of a series I would point to when it comes to replicating the cinematic experience in tv format. From a purely technical level, the cinematography, and framing scenes is masterful creating from some unforgettable experiences. Whether it’s seeing something as awesome as two robot synchronizing they moves together to destroy a monster, or something as funny as framing a comedic scene. Yes, some of it is cheap, but it knew how to use that to is advantage. Like the infamous elevator scene that simply have two characters in a elevator not talking for about minute can be seen as cheap. However, it can also been seen as the distance between characters who are unable to connect despite how close they are in the room. Due to the way the series is actually written, the later interpretation is just plausible.
I could recall episode 4 when it became something special for me. Just the ending of Shinji on that train station platform, with Misato looking at him from the other side, and the episode concluding with Shinji saying “I’m home”. I know, such a simplistic moment to call back too, but for me that moment always stayed with me, and I haven’t forgotten about it. However, I would say one Neon Genesis Evangelion ditches it’s monster of the week formula for something more thought provoking, existential, and psychological driven is when it grew on more so than I thought it would. Typically, I wouldn’t be in favor of a series doing a complete 180 from what it originally started since from my experience they turn into trainwreck. Evangelion proved to be an exception evolving to become something far more memorable than it thought it would be.
The psychological breakdown of its many cast of characters embedded in my mind. Shinji Ikari in particular went from being a whiny twerp in the first episode I saw him in to being a character I love despite how fucked up he truly is. Being incapable to decide for himself what to do, having an over reliance on commands for other, refusing to pilot the robot even if the world is in danger, being capable of able to change positively, and so much more. Unlike everything else in post where I enjoyed the first episode, this is the only entry where the first episode of the anime I simply found okay. Thankfully, being one who never drops an anime no matter how bad it is I continue forward with it, and gave me for more than I would have expected.
That concludes it for this post. I would have gone more into detail about some of these series, but I rather just generalize what made them enjoyable for me, and if possible kept it a bit vague to not spoil anything important. Like I also wrote earlier in the post, this was thrown together last minute because my review for Your Name didn’t turn out like I wanted it too. Hopefully, spending some more time on that review will help me get it to the quality I want it at. Depending on what I do next, and my offline schedule I shall you good folks next time, and hopefully show more of my less professional side when it comes to writing about things. And hopefully, less of these last minute posts to come from me in the future.
I would like to credit the artists responsible for the artwork I used in my featured image for this blog.
Cardcaptor Sakura (left) artwork done by ManuLuce
Death Note (middle) artwork done by Dr.Monekers
Fullmetal Alchemist (right) artwork done by ddjvigo
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