Honestly, I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon anime online. I only remember watching episode after episode of Yu Yu Hakusho, Rurouni Kenshin, and Dragonball reruns on T.V. Those three anime were probably my first introduction to Japanese anime and culture, though it wasn’t until I started learning Japanese and about Japan in elementary school that I truly started to fall in love with it all.
I’ve continued to watch anime over the years, but I also really love reading the original manga and light novels. In fact, I rather prefer reading the printed material over watching the anime. Or, I’ll at the very least read the light novel before I go see the movie in theaters. Reading is a hobby I can never give up! There are no fewer than eight light novels currently on my bookshelf waiting to be read.
So, after I decided to get one of my degrees in Japanese language and culture, I found myself wanting to move to Japan, study there, and become a translator―all things that I’ve accomplished! Now, not only do I work full-time as a translator, I get to read all the manga and novels I want, watch all the anime in real time, and write about all the amazing things Japan has to offer! So without further ado, here’s my top five anime list!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2012 – December 2012
Set in Japan, K follows the Kings, people who have been given incredible power and lead the clan of their power’s color. The story mostly follows a strange high school boy named Yashiro as he’s targeted by the Red Clan for seemingly murdering a Red clansman and it was caught on video. Of course, Yashiro denies it, but the harder the Red clan tries to find out about Yashiro and hunt him down, the more confusing everything seems to become. At the same time, the Red King, Mikoto Suou, decides to clash with the Blue Clan just as something greater than them all begins to unravel and threaten the world.
K is an anime that’s pretty popular in Japan, but I’ve hardly found anyone outside of here who knows about it. Each character is incredibly unique and it’s hard to pick a favorite at times (*cough* Mikoto *cough*). The animation and soundtrack for this anime are utterly amazing. The fight scenes are really something to look forward to and once you learn more about each character’s background, you’ll start to become so much more invested in the fights than before. If you like K, you’re in luck as there are two sequels (K: Missing Kings and K: Return of Kings) and no fewer than seven movies (K: Seven Stories) to watch!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
Deciding to spend the last few moments the V.R. game Yggdrasil had in his guild hall before it was shut down, Momonga, the leader of one of the most, if not the most powerful guild, Ainz Ooal Gown, is shocked when he finds out that he is still completely conscious and wasn’t kicked out when the servers supposedly shut down. On top of that, all of the NPCs are moving around and acting on their own! Getting himself deep into character, Momonga decides that he needs to investigate more about what happened when Yggdrasil shut down, find out if there are any others like him out there, and to learn more about the world he’s now stuck in.
Overlord is originally a light novel, which is how I first got into this series. I usually prefer manga and light novels over their anime and movie counterparts, but I highly enjoy this anime. Truthfully, seeing how much detail is put into the show makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I love seeing all the cute moments between the characters, hearing Momonga’s inner human thoughts, and watching all of the characters develop and evolve.
I think what’s most attractive about Overlord is the sheer amount of time put into not only the characters but the plot as well. The anime does a fantastic job at not giving away too much nor too little vital information. There are plot twists, battles, and strategies galore to keep the ball rolling and our favorite wizard on his toes. Honestly, I can’t wait for the next season! If you haven’t seen this yet, there are three seasons out for you to catch up on!
3. Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha (Darker Than Black)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2007 – September 2007
Taking place in the near future, two gates have appeared in the world, the Heaven’s Gate in South America and the Hell’s Gate in Japan. At the same time, the night sky was replaced with fake stars which represents the lives of Contractors, people who were granted powers but must pay a price for using them, which is anything from eating grass to stacking cards. Hei, also known as the Black Reaper or codename BK-201, is a Contractor working for the underground organization called the Syndicate and is usually tracking targets and taking them down with his team. However, he’s also on a mission to uncover the truth behind the Gates and the threats against all humans who were affected by them.
This action, sci-fi anime takes the number three spot in my list not only because it’s full of everything I want in an anime, but because it made such an impact on me. To start off, I found the main characters to be mysterious and interesting. Darker Than Black throws you right into the thick of it from the beginning with plenty of action, cool powers, and an intriguing character, Hei. His team’s dynamic isn’t the most interesting, but the story surrounding Hei and Lin captures my interest the most. They’re funny, cute, and have a really unexpected bond.
Aside from the characters themselves, the animation is well-done, especially when it comes to the long fight scenes. Most of all, I enjoy the variety of music. This is how I actually discovered Abingdon Boys School! While some may not like how the plot is played out (there are sequels!), I particularly liked the pace and the way everything was woven together. There’s even a bit of comedy! Overall, I don’t think this anime gets enough love anymore.
2. One Piece
- Episodes: 874+
- Aired: October 1999 – Ongoing
Monkey D. Luffy is on a journey to find One Piece and become king of the Pirates! But first, he needs an actual boat. And a crew. Somehow, things just work out for this seemingly naive and innocent rubber man as he easily (or at many times, not so easily) defeats enemies, charms (or rather, forces) people into joining his crew, and sets off to find what Gold D. Roger had hidden away before his death―the One Piece. In a world filled with Devil Fruit users with occasionally insane powers, incredibly skilled swordsmen who can slice ships in half, and the Marines who want to hunt down and either incarcerate or kill pirates, Luffy has his work cut out for him!
One Piece has always been a favorite of mine. Who wouldn’t like some sick powers in exchange for not being able to swim? Since coming to Japan, I’ve just fallen more in love with it, especially with characters like Luffy and Law. While this anime is ridiculously long, each arc brings something new to the table. The characters grow, the story evolves, and the plot thickens. It also helps that viewers know there’s already an ending planned out (unlike other anime).
What makes this anime so amazing isn’t just the adventure or the powers. Each character is well thought out and adds something to the story. There’s a good mix of action, violence, grief, happiness, and comedy woven throughout each arc. Even the fillers are enjoyable to watch! One Piece doesn’t quite make it to the very top of my list because while I do love it, it’s a different kind of love than my everlasting devotion to the one below.
One Piece Trailer
1. Yu Yu Hakusho
- Episodes: 112
- Aired: October 1992 – January 1995
Yusuke Urameshi, a young delinquent, throws himself in front of a car to save a boy from getting hit and dies. However, he’s given a chance to get his life back by Koenma, the prince of the spirit realm. Yusuke becomes a Spirit Detective and is tasked with preventing evil beings from doing harm on Earth along with a team consisting of his ex-rival, Kazuma Kuwabara, and two ex-criminal demons, Kurama and Hiei.
Yu Yu Hakusho is one of the best anime of all time. It has the perfect balance of character development, plot development, comedy, some cheesy romance, and plenty of fight scenes. The three realms of the spirit world, demon world, and human world are such an interesting idea to play around with. I absolutely loved the concept that there are demons, both good and bad, living in the human world unbeknownst to mere humans.
In addition, not only are the characters memorable, but they’re inspiring. They inspire people to overcome their past, challenge themselves to do better, and become more than what they think they are. Humans, demons, grim reapers, whatever you are, you’re not perfect―and that’s okay. At the end of the day, the only anime that I personally can find no flaw in is Yu Yu Hakusho.
There’s only one other anime I would’ve liked to have added to this list and that’s Log Horizon. The reason why I didn’t is that while there are two spectacular seasons out, there won’t be any more due to issues that the author is facing. There won’t be any more light novels either, which is how I got into it in the first place! While that fact is incredibly disappointing, the anime is definitely worth a watch! If you liked S.A.O., then you’ll most likely love this slightly more realistic version of being trapped in a game and trying to survive anime.
Anyway, this list was super difficult for me to make as I love so many different anime for a variety of reasons. However, these are the five that have for one reason or another made a lasting impression on me. Hopefully, you can see one or two of them in a new light if you had thought differently before! If you have any questions or comments about my list, leave a comment down below!