Anime has always been a large part of my life. I was introduced to it by my brother. He was working on an art project where he had to talk about Japanese animation. He had made some projector transparencies to use in his presentation. Those thin transparent sheets contained images of various characters from Dragon Ball.
Instantly, my mind was blown! My first thought was, “How did you get these images on a clear sheet of plastic?” It was obviously my first time seeing a transparency. Second, I thought, “Who are these cool fighting characters? I’ve never seen them in any of the Disney cartoons I watch in the mornings!”
He couldn’t have known how deeply that small exchange would affect my life. I was enamored with the style and action of their poses. Those characters had an entirely different energy and attitude from anything I had ever seen. It was something completely foreign, yet it was instantly “cool” because my older brother had a slight interest in it.
A few years went by without me being able to watch any anime on television. It simply wasn’t available. I could see those anime characters on t-shirts, trading cards, stickers, and other paraphernalia. So, I spent my hard earned allowance on buying those things and showing them off to my buddies. Eventually, Dragon Ball Z and Gundam Wing entered my world through the miracle that was Toonami. That television programming block successfully made a die-hard fan out of me and thousands of other children of my generation.
5. Ronin Warriors
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: Apr 1988 - Mar 1989
There exists an ancient evil of unspeakable power. This evil entity, Talpa, was so powerful that his victory over humanity seemed almost inevitable. But, just before Talpa could take over the world the Ancient One showed up. This being of light sealed Talpa away for thousands of years and created an era of peace. However, Talpa has broken out of his imprisonment and threatens to enact revenge on the world. It’s now up to the legendary Ronin Warriors, with their mysterious armor, to fight Talpa and his warlords. Though their combined strength may not be enough since it seems the evil threat has returned more powerful than ever!
This series has a very straightforward narrative. There is group of heroes fighting against a group of villains and their evil master. The show delves into the background and motives of each member of the Ronin Warriors. They undertake a journey to develop their mind, body, and spirit so that they can become the heroes the world needs them to be. This is important because the story is so linear.
The viewer knows there will be fated battles where each hero will face a warlord. The eventual clash of weapons and techniques, though entertaining, is not that important overall. It’s through the moments of struggle and personal growth that this show becomes memorable and a classic.
Ronin Warriors Intro – English Dub
4. Ga Rei: Zero
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2008 - Dec 2008
Ga Rei: Zero is a prequel to the original Ga Rei series. In this story, the main focus is on the two female leads: Yomi Isayama and Kagura Tsuchimiya. Both of them are descendants of exorcist families. They work together with a team of other exorcists to fight against powerful demons.
The great thing about Ga Rei: Zero is that you don’t have to read the original manga to appreciate this show. It stands on its own through the strength of the two main characters. The relationship between Yomi and Kagura is central to the plot. So much time is devoted to those two gradually becoming as close as sisters. They share their burdens and tragedies with one another. At a certain point you question how the events of episode 1 are even possible after the two girls have become so close.
The show is filled with action, suspense, and mystery. Plot twists and emotional moments are abundant. It does an excellent job of separating itself from the rest of the supernatural anime involving demons.
"Ga-Rei - zero -" DVD Volume 1 announcement CM
3. Kuroko no Basket (Kuroko's Basketball)
- Episodes: 75
- Aired: Apr 2012 - June 2015
Tetsuya Kuroko is on a mission to find out if his philosophy (on the game of basketball) is capable of taking on the strongest high school players in Japan. He was once a member of the Teikou Middle School basketball team. That team was so strong that it was given the nickname “Generation of Miracles”. Tetsuya was the sixth man for Teikou. Now that those members have moved on high school, they have parted ways and become prominent members for their own high school teams. Kuroko no Basuke is the story of those high school teams facing off against each other to see who is truly strongest.
This one is the most contemporary out of all the shows on this list. It is also the only sports anime on here. It had to be placed here because it is one of the most entertaining and energy inducing series ever created! You would never think that watching someone pass a basketball, dribble past a defender, or shoot a 3-pointer could make your jaw drop. But, Kuroko no Basket manages to make every single detail of a basketball game seem as if it’s the most impressive thing you’ve ever seen.
The rivalries are fierce and characters are unique. They put all of their emotions, energy, and bodies on the line each game. This show has so much bravado and testosterone flowing that you’ll want to pick up a basketball and prove yourself against the local players in your area as well!
"Kuroko's Basketball" Blu-ray & DVD release announcement PV
2. Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
- Episodes: 203
- Aired: Oct 2006 - Sep 2010
Reborn is a unique take on the world of the mafia. A new head of the Vongola family has been chosen. This family is one of the most powerful and well-respected mafia families in the world. So, it comes as quite as a surprise when the newest chosen boss is thirteen-year-old Tsunayoshi “Tsuna” Sawada. How could Vongola family’s new head be a young junior high school student from Japan?
Reborn, a hitman and close friend to the current Vongola boss, is given the task of tutoring Tsuna and preparing him to become the leader he is destined to become. However things look difficult for Reborn as his newest student appears to be helpless and has no plans of becoming a member of the mafia.
Reborn successfully takes the elements of classic shounen anime and utilizes them in a unique way and in a surprising setting. Fighting, power-ups, rescuing people, making friends, and developing bonds are all common points you’d suspect from this genre. They are definitely in this show as well. But, the engaging characters, narrative devices (e.g., time travel and curses), and comedic moments are unique enough to make them feel fresh.
Katekyo Hitman Reborn! Trailer
1. Yu Yu Hakusho
- Episodes: 112
- Aired: Oct 1992 - Jan 1995
Fourteen year old Yusuke Urameshi a junior high school student who constantly gets into fights. He has a proven reputation for being a troublemaker. So, it comes as a surprise when he suddenly jumps in front of a car to save the life of a little boy. This premature end to his life is noticed by the rulers of the otherworld.
They decide to give him a second chance. But, things are much different the second time around. He can now see the ghosts, demons, and monsters that have been hidden from the vision of normal people. With his heightened senses and new abilities he is appointed the position of Spirit Detective, protector of humanity.
This show is a personal favorite because of the huge amount of character growth Yusuke undergoes. From the beginning you see that he is a lonely person who has the capacity for doing great things. However, his own fear of failure and selfishness prevent him from reaching his potential. The people and events in his life slowly force him to grow up and break through the constraints he has placed on himself.
Anyone who watches this show can sympathize with the pain Yusuke comes across and can draw a parallel between his life and their own.
(My extended review on YYH can be read here:Yu Yu Hakusho Review and Characters )
Yu Yu Hakusho - Season One - Classic - Available Now on BD
Sitting down and writing out a personal Top 5 list has allowed me to realize why I truly love this type of animation. I used to think that it was because of the action sequences and beautiful visuals that could be created within this medium. But, that’s the case now. I’ve come to realize that my favorite shows are ones where the characters undergo emotional growth. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to continue growing as a person. But, when you see it portrayed dramatically on the screen in front of you, you can draw inspiration from it and reflect on your own life.
That has become my mission here at Honey’s Anime. Of course, I’ll cover new shows that most people find intriguing. Lots of series are fun, entertaining, and beautiful to look at. But, what I really want to share are the ones that people can draw a lot of value and meaning from. I’ll continue writing articles and introducing you guys to shows I think you’ll appreciate. I just hope I can pass along to you a small fraction of the insight and joy I’ve received from this wonderful genre.