Recalling your first memories varies from person to person. One may start recalling their first memories the moment they got out of their mother’s womb, some a few months later and some a couple of years later.
My very first memory starts after waking up on a warm afternoon. I stretched out my arms and legs, let out a yawn and observed the bedroom. I quickly got up, ran to the next room to where the TV is located. The TV was a small black and white TV with knobs and dials instead of buttons. I grabbed a small chair, reached for the knob to turn on the TV and switched to channel 12 and watched an animated show with flying vehicles uniting to form a giant robot. The show was Voltes V and it’s the very first anime I watched. I was 3 years old.
I didn’t know it was called anime, but I can tell they’re different from cartoons because cartoons back then were either slapstick humor from Looney Tunes or Mickey Mouse. I only found out they’re called anime during the anime craze in the early 1990s. Dragon Ball, Ranma ½, Sailor Moon, Doraemon, Mojacko, Yu Yu Hakusho, Slam Dunk, Gundam, and a lot more flooded the local TV airwaves and for better or worse, anime changed my life.
I watched A LOT of anime, but only a handful stood out and made me the anime nerd I am today. You are what you eat, they say. And I say, you are what you watch. Please join me as I count down 5 anime that I consider my treasured gems which made me an anime fan.
5. Fullmetal Alchemist
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: October 2003-October 2004
Around 2003-2004, I was investing my time into harem anime or anime that were adapted from visual novels, and mecha shows because, well, I was a young lad back then so I sought romance shows. I’m also a sci-fi nerd and watched a lot of shows that involved robots. I only knew of FMA after hearing so much about it on image boards, and it was recommended a lot by friends. I was reluctant at first glance because it’s a shounen show, but after watching the first episode, boy was I wrong.
Alchemy is a scientific technique of understanding the structure of matter. The technique involves decomposing and reconstruction of matter into any form. If performed skillfully, it is possible to create gold out of lead. However, alchemy, like every branch of science, must follow the rules that governs nature — only something can be created from something else of a certain mass, the Principle of Equivalent Exchange. The Elric Brothers found out the consequences the hard way as they travel the land in search of the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, a stone that is said to be capable of create anything by defying the Principle of Equivalent Exchange. Along the way they unravel government corruption, inhumane experiments, human transmutation, and people playing god.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a grand adventure that takes you various places and discover the dark side of alchemy. The storytelling is so tight, you hardly let out a sigh because each episode is packed with story and character development. My favorite part is of course the bond of the Elric Brothers. They’ve seen things that will make any man go insane, but they held through the dark times because they greatly support each other.
FMA is one of my favorites because it told a great story, has one of the best OST out there, and the huge cast of characters that you’ll either love or hate.
4. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: October 2002-September 2003
After Earth’s natural resources were depleted, man adopts solar and nuclear energy as main sources of power and they peered into space’s untapped resources. The advancement of technology, new world order has led mankind into the Cosmic Era. Around mid way into the Cosmic Era, mankind is divided between the normal Earth-dwelling humans known as “Naturals”, to the genetically-altered humans known as “Coordinators”, who fled into space colonies after a series of hate crimes from the Naturals. The conflict grew into a full scale war that tore the world apart.
Kira Yamato, a young science student working in a military factory of a space colony governed by a neutral nation was under attack by the Coordinators. Little did Kira know that the neutral nation is secretly developing a new kind of experimental weapon that will turn the tide of the war.
Purists (i.e. Universal Century fans) will mock me for saying I love Gundam SEED more than the original Mobile Suit Gundam, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I did watch the movie version of the original Gundam and it didn’t really age well. Gundam SEED is a form of reboot to the Universal Century Gundam with similar whiny main characters, plot points, and twists. SEED is meant to draw in the younger audience by introducing a modern take of an old formula. Did SEED succeed? Yes it did.
If you watched any Gundam show, the story starts when the young protagonist piloting the Gundam because he wants to protect his friends, the colony explodes, they get chased by a persistent villain, enter Earth, sand area, water area, go back to space, destroy the weapons of mass destruction. Yeah, it’s predictable, but it’s irrelevant in the long run because SEED makes up for it by giving the viewers an immersive war-torn world, a huge cast of characters, and sexy Gundams to drool over.
My favorite character on the Naturals side is Flay Allster. She’s very annoying at the first part, but after a traumatic experience, she became bitter, mentally unstable, blames Kira for everything, and manipulated him because she knows he has crush on her. Despite all of that, she developed genuine feelings towards Kira and the parting at the end was so emotional.
My favorite character on the Coordinator side is the main antagonist Rau le Creuset. Even though he wears a mask, a signature gear for a Gundam villain, he is no Char Aznable clone. Rau is purely psychotic hellbent on destroying humanity. He’s charismatic, skilled, deadly and gave Kira a run for his money. Oh and don’t ever watch Gundam SEED Destiny. Just don’t.
Yeah, I know. I talk a lot.
3. School Rumble
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 2004-2005
Tsukamoto Tenma is a girl in love with classmate Karasuma Ooji and like any heartstruck girl, she can’t muster up the courage to confess. On the other hand, school delinquent Harima Kenji has fallen in love with Tenma, but he’s having trouble confessing. Will these two finally notice their feelings for each other or will things get complicated when they start misunderstanding each other?
Misunderstanding The Anime. This sums up School Rumble nicely. There is no plot to follow here, so you watch a colorful cast of characters doing silly things because of a series of hilarious misunderstandings. Though Tenma is the anime’s main character, it’s actually Harima Kenji who gets the spotlight. Kenji is one of the best examples of great male leads in anime like School Rumble. Majority of the male MCs are generic-looking wusses and it was refreshing to see something different.
What makes School Rumble a joy for me to watch is the interaction with delinquent Harima Kenji and spoiled rich girl Sawachika Eri. At first they’re so incompatible, as they pass each other like it’s nothing, but after a series of encounters and misunderstandings, they become somewhat very good partners in school events, and Eri slowly develops feelings for our hero. Unfortunately, Kenji is ever so oblivious and single-mindedly too infatuated with Tenma to notice.
If you want a very funny high school comedy with a dab of romance, School Rumble is your first stop. Season 2’s second half wasn’t good, but I do suggest you keep on watching because they amped up the Kenji x Eri in second season.
2. Full Moon wo Sagashite (Searching for the Full Moon)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: April 2002-March 2003
12-year-old Kouyama Mitsuki has big dreams of becoming a singer. One day, she made a promise with a boy named Eiichi, that one day when they meet again, they will have both fulfilled their dreams. Unfortunately for Mitsuki, she is diagnosed with a growth on her throat and if left untreated, the tumor will take her life. However, she refuses to be treated because in doing so, she will forever lose her ability to sing and fulfill her promise to Eiichi.
As her last days pass by, she is visited by two soul takers (shinigami), Takuto and Meroko to prepare for her departure to the afterlife. Refusing to give up, Mitsuki shows her resolve and passion to sing, and convinces Takuto to help her. With his powers, as well as some reluctant support from Meroko, they push Mitsuki to pursue her dreams by giving her a temporarily healthy body. Will Mitsuki fulfill her dream as a singer and meet Eiichi or will she fail and succumb to her illness?
Normally, I avoid kiddy shows like these because they usually don’t tell any interesting stories, but after hearing a lot of good things about, I decided to give it a shot. And thank god I did. At first glance Full Moon wo Sagashite is your typical kiddy anime with lots of fluff, but unlike other kiddy shows, Full Moon dared to stand up to tell a very mature story.
Full Moon wo Sagashite isn’t all about the story, the anime has great memorable music. While the track list is small compared to other idol anime, it compensates by how powerful each song is. Sung by MYCO with music by Changin' My Life, each song has a purpose, a meaning in terms of the story and Mitsuki herself.
Every time I reminisce about Full Moon, I end up in tears. Every time I listen to the song New Future, my tear ducts can simulate the Niagara Falls. No other anime has pulled my heart strings this hard as Full Moon. Dare I say Full Moon wo Sagashite is the most beautiful anime ever made.
1. Vision of Escaflowne
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1996-September 1996
After meeting a young warrior killing a dragon, Kanzaki Hitomi and the warrior were teleported to the war-torn world of Gaea. The warrior Hitomi went with is Van Fanel, a prince to a small nation protected by dragons. Hitomi follows Van and his mysterious giant suit of armor called Escaflowne, on a quest to unite the countries of Gaea against the ominous Zaibach empire. Little does Hitomi know, she posses the power that would lead Gaea to peace or to utter destruction.
Hitomi is a great female protagonist who is not a pretty face that just sits in one spot and lets the hunky boys do all the work. Hitomi is the group’s oracle, moral support, protector and friend. She has insecurities and feels jealousy, but what can she do? She’s just human.
Each of the supporting characters play an important role in the story. Even the digger, Mr. Mole, is part of everything. Actually, there is no unlikable character in the anime, even the villains are well-developed and fun to watch. Seriously, how can you not like the bloodthirsty Dilandau Albatou?
Vision of Escaflowne is hands down my all-time favorite anime because it got everything right and balanced them to perfection: a great main character, great cast of supporting characters, great villains, amazing pacing (seriously, once you’ve watched the first episode, you’ll end up watching more), amazing art and animation, romance, drama, mecha, action, an amazing orchestral score, and a timeless story all packed nicely into 26 episodes.
And those are my top 5 favorite anime!
Anime has is a versatile form of media that Western animation will never imitate. Anime dares to tell stories that are deep, complex, controversial, disturbing and unique. I’ve seen the very worst stories, but I’ve also seen great stories and my top 5 list is just a minor glimpse to what anime can do.
I’ve been watching anime for almost 3 decades now and I don’t think I’ll be stopping any time soon.