Compared to some, I entered the anime world extremely late in the game. Of course, as a kid, I was into Pokémon and Speed Racer, but I had no idea that these shows were any different from the other cartoons that I watched. But what I did find myself get into quite early was JRPGs like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Star Ocean, and more. And shortly after that, came an addiction to J-rock music. Thankfully, a friend pushed me into trying a few anime (quite against my will) – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Picking a Top 5 for myself is both easy, and difficult. I can be frustratingly picky about the anime that I really can get into. Even though I have seen many, my favourites are a bit predictable because they are all quite similar. I like realistic animation, exciting stories, lots of action, and adult characters. My favourite genre for anything is science fiction, so any sort of sci-fi element also helps push that anime towards the top. The problem is that there are a lot of anime that thankfully meet that description, which makes it difficult to pick my absolute favourites! So in the end, I did it by re-watch value – what anime am I willing to re-watch indefinitely, and want to share with everyone else. And thus, I give you my final Top 5 Anime.
5. Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (Parasyte –the maxim–)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct. 2014 – Mar. 2015
My list kicks off with an old story that has a fairly new anime adaptation - Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu, better known as Parasyte. Keeping true to my love for science fiction, Parasyte revolves around alien invaders on Earth. It would be too much of a trope for them to be green humanoids, though; they are very small parasites that enter humans (or sometimes animals) through their ear, eating their head from the inside and taking control of the body while pretending to take the form of the head. They then use that body to eat other people, usually starting with that person's family. Shinichi Izumi is either the most or least lucky victim when a parasite isn't able to enter his head and instead takes over his right hand, leaving Shinichi fully aware of his purpose as a host to the creature dubbed “Migi” and their now combined agenda.
And that's all just in episode one!
I love so many things about Parasyte it's hard to find somewhere to start. It has both fast paced action, and also really well-written dialogue. The fighting scenes are a mix of supernatural and sci-fi horror that you can't look away from. Migi himself is terrifyingly funny and makes a lot of analyses about human society that make a frightening amount of sense sometimes, and I really love the black humour that Parasyte knows how to introduce at just the right time. Shinichi himself also goes through incredible character development as he changes throughout the show and it's really interesting to watch his situation change him into someone entirely new. And finally, I can't get enough of the realistic style of the animation. I originally started watching Parasyte on a whim, but I got addicted fast and never looked back.
Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu Trailer
4. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 1998 – Apr. 1999
Cue a flashback from the near-present to the late ‘90s. Ah, a common entry on many people's lists, but for good reason - Cowboy Bebop is a cult classic, and tells a unique and timelessly fun story. It takes place in 2071, in a future where humans have generally left an uninhabitable Earth for space. Cowboy Bebop follows the unlikely crew of a bounty hunting ship that helps keep the law (or bend it a little) in the galaxy. Spike Spiegel is the laid back, relaxed leader whose personality and life outlook match the show's smooth soundtrack - and the rest of his crew is one enigmatic personality after another. With loads of short stories, as well as one overarching story to tell, Cowboy Bebop brings the action alongside its fast humour and relaxed style to show their adventures through space.
There are few things I love more than gritty sci-fi, and sadly it doesn't exist much in the anime genre. For me, Cowboy Bebop really means a lot by being both a great science fiction story and also a well-made anime. After all, it's technically a "space Western," and what isn't awesome about that? The style may be a bit old now, but it's aged well, and the story itself has remained timeless. Cowboy Bebop also has many episodes that can be watched on their own because they tell an inclusive story, making it great for just showing a friend or taking a break and watching a favourite. My right arm is a trash polka-style tattoo sleeve of science fiction references, and right in the middle in the iconic font are the words "See You Space Cowboy." Maybe it's cliché but I have no regrets. If I can grow up to be Spike, I won't be disappointed.
3. Tokyo Ghoul
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul. 2014 – Sep. 2014
Another newer anime that quickly made its way into my favourites is Tokyo Ghoul, both season one and two. It takes place in a Tokyo where humans live alongside ghouls, creatures that look like humans but are unable to eat any human food other than coffee. Instead, they eat human flesh to survive. The main character, Ken Kaneki, becomes a hybrid between a human and a ghoul and is forced to be a bridge between the two groups whether he wants to be or not. He struggles to come to terms with what being a ghoul means, while trying to find his place in both societies. And of course, there is the continually waging war between the authorities and the ghouls, particularly one strong rebel group called Aogiri Tree, that Kaneki finds himself in the middle of...
Admittedly, I initially only began watching Tokyo Ghoul because I was intrigued by the character designs. Uta, one of the side characters, is one of the only visual kei-wearing characters in anime, and as someone who wears visual kei myself, I was excited to see his character in action. So I came for the style, and I stayed for the great story! Especially in the second season, I love seeing how Kaneki's character develops and progresses. The fight scenes are great, and the whole show takes me on an emotional roller coaster ride like other shows cannot manage to do. I found myself so heavily invested I was waiting all week when it was airing for the new episode with anticipation and was never disappointed. Add all that on top of a great art style and dark colour scheme and you have me hooked.
Tokyo Ghoul - Season 1 - Official Uncut Trailer
- Episodes: 103
- Aired: Oct. 2006 – Sep. 2008
I am not usually a huge fan of extremely long anime, but D.Gray-man is an exception and has been securely high on my list of favourites for a long time now. Set in a supernatural, historical Europe (mostly), D.Gray-man is about a group of exorcists known as the Black Order, fighting against demons brought about by the Millennium Earl and his minions. Allen Walker is the main character, and starts out as a typically useless white-haired anime boy but grows to become a powerful exorcist through his perseverance and the help of his friends. While that may sound like a typical anime plot line, D.Gray-man is unique in that the story is full of extremely dark themes, tragedy, and a bit of a horror element as well. The Millennium Earl has the Black Order traveling all over the world to try to defeat him, fighting more and more powerful demons along the way.
D.Gray-man was the first anime I really got into - as in, full fanboy mode. I was much younger and had the free time to look at fan art, collect merchandise, read and write fan fiction, and of course cosplay it. Lavi, one of the secondary characters, remains both my favourite anime character of all time and favourite cosplay I have ever done to this day. I see a lot of myself reflected in his personality, which makes him very special to me as an anime fan. The story and development throughout D.Gray-man have a unique ability to hold my attention through over 100 episodes, which very few other things can claim to have done. And the almost monochromatic, dark colour scheme used throughout it gives it one of my favourite looks ever used in anime. You can bet I'm more than a little hyped for the new season.
D.Gray-man - Season 1 Part 1 Trailer
1. Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha (Darker than Black
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr. 2007 – Sep. 2007
Apparently I really like anime set in a pseudo-future, much darker Tokyo because Darker than Black takes us there again. Many humans have become contractors, people with strong supernatural abilities that are fuelled by paying a price of some kind to use them. Well, everyone but Hei - a powerful contractor with the ability to manipulate the electrons in the air to create electrical energy, seemingly with no price or limits. As Hei does whatever the Syndicate he works for wants, while trying to stay away from the authorities, he begins to discover the truth about the origins of contractors - and how they are now tied into the fate of Tokyo and the rest of the world.
Out of everything on my list, the top spot was the easiest to fill. Darker than Black had been my favourite anime for years now, and I don't foresee that feeling changing anytime soon. The pace of the anime from the first episode all the way to the end is gripping, and there are so many intriguing small stories that come together to create the larger story. It's very serious, but knows when to make a joke at just the right moment, so I love the writing. Stylistically, it's dark, gritty, and realistic despite having a supernatural story and I respect that and love it so much. That dirty, dystopian sort of style is my favourite and Darker than Black really captures it. It's also one of the few anime I have read the manga for as well because I can't get enough of it. I recommend skipping the second season, but I cannot possibly recommend the first enough! It may not be extremely popular, but Darker than Black may well always be my favourite. Nothing else has been able to compare.
Wow, was that predictable at all? My friends often tell me they can look at the upcoming season’s anime and pick out exactly what I will watch and love, and they are usually right. Apparently I have pretty flat interests when it comes to anime, but I don’t really care because I watch exactly what I love! Isn’t that what anime is all about – getting to watch something unique that you can’t find in any other medium? And of course, enjoying it! I will leave you with a few honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the list, but I still really enjoy Black Lagoon, Psycho-Pass, Hellsing Ultimate, Eureka SeveN, Shingeki no Kyojin, and Gangsta. They didn’t quite make the final cut, but they’re all still great (and similar) shows as well!
Everyone that recognizes my name on here is probably used to seeing me only writing about ecchi and hentai, and while of course I enjoy watching them as well, these are definitely my favourite anime! I hope it lets everyone see another side to my taste, and if yours is at all similar, please check out these shows if you haven’t seen them already – and of course, I’m always happy to talk about them and anything else I write about! Happy reading everyone.