Like a lot of American kids, my first real exposure to Anime was really not knowing I was watching anime. I watched Pokemon and Robotech when I was a kid, having no idea that they were from Japan. After Toonami, I started to look more into series like Gundam and Dragon Ball Z. After figuring out some of the glories of the internet, which for me at the time meant watching grainy videos on youtube, I broadened my anime horizons.
I saw Neon Genesis Evangelion and it became without a doubt my favorite series, and it retains this title still. I had a bit of a hiatus in school where I just watched a few Gundam series, and re-watched Eva probably once a year. However, I recently got back into Anime in a big way, and these are some of my favorite series so far.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Apr 6, 2011 - Sep 14, 2011
Steins; Gate is a thriller that revolves around Okabe Rintaro, a self-described Mad Scientist. He’s grandiose, paranoid but actually very kind and pretty deeply involved in the lives of some of his colleagues. Him and the members of his lab sort of stumble into inventing a device which actually has the ability to send text messages back in time. This drags him and his friends into deeper and darker plot that tests Okabe Rintaro as a person and show him bigger truths about the world.
Steins;Gate is an incredible thriller above all else. It’s subtle and it doesn’t beat you over the head with dramatic moments every two seconds. Rather, the series begins rather slow, almost feeling like a slice of life series before the plot takes a drastic sea-change. Steins;Gate is a treat from start to finish, with loveable characters, incredible humor, incredible visuals and a unique visual storytelling style.
It’s ending is satisfying and makes you want to see more of the world and a little more of the interaction between the characters themselves.
Steins Gate - US Trailer [HD]
4. Kill la Kill
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 4, 2013 - Mar 28, 2014
Kill La Kill is a shows that really got be back into anime after a bit of hiatus in my college years. The series is Studio Trigger’s magnum opus (as far as I’m concerned) which is produced by much of the same staff behind Gurren Lagaan.
In Kill La Kill, Ryuko Matoi enrolls in Honnouji academy, which is controlled by student council president, Kiryuin Satsuki. Ryuko believes that Satsuki holds the truth about the death of her father, and Satsuki promises that if Ryuko defeats her in combat, she’ll tell her the story of her fathers killer.
Kill La Kill is bombastic, over the top and ridiculous in the best possible way. However, the series also has a gentler, softer side to it. There’s a fresh take on many of the tried-and-true tropes of Shounen battle anime. Its unique look make it instantly recognizable and gives the show a distinct feel throughout, with a fantastic and diverse soundtrack by Hiroyuki Sawano to help pull you in.
Kill La Kill examines a number of themes throughout the series, and has a unique stance that’s uncommon in many thematically heavy shows. Kill la kill espouses embracing duality, and having the courage to fight the perfect balance that works for you as a person, or society as a whole. Instead of coming out strongly on one side or another, Kill La Kill is more about how things sort of settle into a natural dialectic. However, Kill La Kill is simply engrossing story, with great characters, memorable fight scenes and a fantastic design sense.
Kill la Kill trailer
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 26, 2010 - Dec 11, 2010
Katanagatari is an anime series adapted from the light novel series by famed writer, Nisio Isin. The story isn’t related to Bakemonogatari, but it’s more than it’s equal in the acclaimed series quality.
The story revolves around Yasuri Shichika, the head of a fighting style which utilizes the body as it’s own sword, and Togame, an official from the Shogunate. Togame enlists Shichika to travel Japan and find 12 ultra-powerful swords, which have eluded the grasp of the Shogunate. Eventually, the two come to learn the truths about why the swords were made, become closer to each other and meet some very interesting characters across their travels.
Katanagatari is one of those series with so perfect and shocking a conclusion that it elevates the series to another level. However, there is an abundance of things to be loved throughout the series. True to Nisio Isin’s style, the show is dialogue heavy but this doesn’t make it a slow-pace or boring show by any means.
The show is beautifully designed and animated, with some wonderful fight scenes which punctuate the dialogue and character development which take up the meat of the show. The chemistry between Shichika and Togame is undeniable, and the story takes such an interesting turn thematically that it’s a modern-classic.
Katanagatari Promo Trailer
2. Princess Mononoke
- Episodes: Movie
- Aired: Jul 12, 1997
Princess Mononoke is one of the most well-received and popular film to come out of Studio Ghibli under the auspices of the famed director, Hayao Miyazaki. Set in feudal Japan, it follows Ashitaka, a prince of his eastern tribe who is infected by a demon, travels west to learn more about the curse.
He then encounters a place called Iron Town who’s chief, Lady Eboshi takes in the oppressed and those dispossessed by wars in the area. Iron Town, however, which gains its strengths from its own advanced firearms, is at war with neighboring clans of beasts, including wolves who fight with a human girl, Princess Mononoke.
One of the best things about this film is that it’s unique and truly challenging portrayal of Gray Morality. It’s hard to root against either side. Iron Town needs to fell trees in order to fuel its industry, which is how they protect themselves from aggressive, expansionist Samurai lords. For the animal clans, those forests are their homes.
Princess Mononoke is protecting the forces of nature, and Lady Eboshi is protecting some of the most maltreated and destitute of society, who have nowhere else to go. Ashitaka is the bridge between them, who attempts to broker a peace between two sides. Princess Mononoke is an aesthetically gorgeous film, with a moving story and romance that for me stands as Studio Ghibili’s best.
Princess Mononoke – Official Trailer
1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 3, 1995 - Mar 27, 1996
Neon Genesis Evangelion in many ways, needs no introduction. But to those who haven’t heard, it’s the Story of Shinji Ikari, a boy who’s brought in to pilot the Mecha ‘Evangelion’, in the fight against an extraterrestrial species of beings referred to as the ‘Angels.’ If this sounds like your typical mecha premise, you’d be right. However, Eva flips the normal script out of the window pretty early on.
The story progresses into a detailed psychological examination of multiple characters. Dealing with heavy themes of depression, self-worth, isolation, human relationships, NGE is something totally out of the ordinary for anime, and has many who feel that it’s the greatest series ever made in anime.
Best series ever or not, Evangelion is easily my favorite series. I can’t think of any piece of art that has resonated with me on a deeper level than Evangelion. It’s so well-written, composed and thought out it makes every frame in the show important. It’s narrative is so tightly constructed and jam packed with ideas, comments and criticisms about how humans live, how they relate to themselves in others, trends in anime, as well as the mindset of Otaku culture that you’re taken aback when you try to take it all in.
It has some of most interesting, well-conceived characters in the history of Japanese animation, with many of the side characters multi-faceted motivations and complexity rivaling those of many series Main Characters. Evangelion is an artistic tour-de-force and something every anime fan owes themselves to watch.
Neon Genesis Evangelion 1995 HD Anime Trailer
It may be that anime has kind of a stigma in how it’s perceived in the US. Not that it’s entirely shunned, but a dude wearing a K-On or Kill La Kill shirt is going to get more looks in public than if they were wearing a Star Wars or Batman shirt. It’s a shame, because Anime is one of the most unique mediums of entertainment I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying.
Yes it has it’s clichés, it’s tropes, industry problems, just like any other medium. However, the vast differences in style, the Backlog of well-received anime that just get’s bigger and bigger and just the joy of seeing animated characters come to life is what keeps me coming back and what I hope keeps anyone coming back as well.
Feel free to comment below if you want to get a conversation going, and make sure to share Honey’s Anime so we can bring more great articles to you!