From Samurai Jack and the Last Airbender to Scooby Doo and Final Space, I’ve always been enamoured with animation. Unfortunately, I never really dabbled in anime beyond Pokemon until I found myself institutionally quarantined, eating government-provided low-budget hotel food, and salivating over a really beautifully animated box of sushi.
I’m relatively new to anime, having only discovered it amidst the very many lockdowns of the 2020s. As late as I may be to the party, I’m still so glad I made it. After bingeing classics like Death Note, offbeat comedies like One Punch Man, and a questionable experience with Food Wars! (refer to box of sushi mentioned above), I began exploring the multitude of genres that make up the animeverse. And that’s all it took! I was hooked and I’ve never looked back, so here are my Top 5 Anime so far!
5. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (The Tatami Galaxy)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: April 2010 – July 2010
The Tatami Galaxy is out there. And when I say out there, I mean it’s way out there. There are many other anime that I may love more, but the reason this one makes my Top 5, is it encapsulates all the things I love about arthouse anime. From Mononoke to Zetsubuo Sensei, I love offbeat and arthouse media because of how vastly different it is in concept and execution. From the odd character designs of the Ozu and Seitarou, to the meta plot exploring all possible versions of Watashi’s college life, to the highly stylised animation style, the sheer artistic freedom of The Tatami Galaxy really resonated with me as an artist.
4. One Punch Man
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2015 – December 2015
One Punch Man is a fresh take on the Superhero genre where main man Saitama is just your average joe with average problems like worrying about rent, bargain deals at the supermarket, and growing ennui. Oh, and he’s also an overpowered superhero who can defeat anyone with just one punch which has the local populace believing he’s a fraud and has him disillusioned and without a sense of achievement in his victories since no one really poses a challenge. Sounds great, right?
I thought so, which is why I was hooked on One Punch Man the moment I caught its trailer. The deadpan humour, OTT action, and the short-ended stick Genos continuously draws just spoke to me. As one of the very first anime I ventured into, One Punch Man informed my sense of comedy anime. I had never seen anything like it before and I probably won’t again. Except maybe Mob Psycho 100, but One Punch Man will forever have my heart as my first.
3. Bungou Stray Dogs (Bungo Stray Dogs)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2016 – June 2016
Bungo Stray Dogs brings literary masters back to life in a supernatural gangster’s paradise version of Yokohama. When Atsushi Nakajima joins Osamu Dazai at the Armed Detective Agency, he has no idea what he’s in for from mafia vendettas, to turf wars with international organised crime syndicates, to having to babysit his happy-go-lucky (not really) senpai.
What got me about this one was the concept. I love to read and explore international literature. In this anime, every character is based on a real author (usually the more prolific ones) and they each have an ability, the nature of which is adapted from their most popular works. It’s such a unique idea, not to mention a unique way to raise interest in literature people have forgotten about, that I couldn’t help but binge through all three seasons, the OVA and the movie. A concept that quirky, the characterisation, comedy, fluid flair of the design, and really, really cool powers were just the icing on the cake. This show really set the bar for me when it came to story and world-building, and while there are many shows out there that I appreciate, few are able to surpass the way this one sucked me in.
2. One Piece
- Episodes: Ongoing (1000+ )
- Aired: October 1999 – Ongoing
One of the most well-known anime out there with a multi-generational fanbase and a disturbingly long (ongoing) run, One Piece was a decision I really agonised over. But when I saw Luffy take on Alvida with his Gomu-Gomu no Mi for the first time, I was intrigued. When I saw him recruit Zoro, Sanji, Usopp, and Nami I decided to stick with it, and when I watched Arlong Park I was officially a full-fledged fan. I love a good story and I truly believe that a good story needs three things: solid world-building, endearing characters, and a unique storyline, all of which this anime has in spades. And in the midst of pitching the anime to a friend, I realised that at 461 episodes in, it probably is one of my all-time favourite anime ever (at 461, it better be).
From fight scenes with ever-evolving techniques to abilities steeped in the lore of a world airtight in its detail and concept, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the masterful storytelling, and so I’ll be following the Straw Hats all the way to Laugh Tale (if I ever do manage to catch up).
1. Samurai Champloo
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: May 2004 – March 2005
Anachronistic Edo-era Japan with lo-fi hip hop and samurai. This one line encapsulates the essence of Samurai Champloo. The sheer badassery of this combo is unmatchable, and I have never experienced a show so satisfying from beginning to end. This anime is beautifully conceptualised and masterfully executed. In 26 episodes, it gives you a well-paced journey and well-rounded characters following a story that compels you to stick with it to the very end. Fuu Kasumi’s quest to find the “samurai who smells of sunflowers” with wild-card swordsman Mugen and refined, deadly ronin Jin is a wild ride filled with breath-taking swordplay and emotionally-charged character development set to a hiphop soundtrack.
This anime’s vibe is what got me and stuck with me long after I’d finished it. A mature story with eccentric characters with real flaws, all magnificently set up against a traditional world seamlessly blended with anachronistic elements, I couldn’t get over how the story turned out, it stayed true to its nature and was satisfying from the very first sword fight.
These are just some of the many, many, many, shows I’ve lost myself in during my anime journey, and cutting this list down to five was hard enough. Anime has really broadened my perception of artistic creativity. It’s a source of both comfort and inspiration, and more often than not, I find myself utterly engrossed in brave new worlds filled with badass action scenes, tear-jerking feels, and absurd punchlines all wrapped together in fresh, exciting storylines. And with anime, there’s no shortage of any of the above, so I don’t doubt that my list of Top Anime is only going to keep growing!
So if you want to discuss whacky, meta storylines, stunning visuals, art styles that are far, far, away from the norm, or spectacular fight scenes, odd yet rib-tickling humour, or mind-boggling mysteries, catch me in the comments anytime! I’d love to hear from you!