Now, this is going to take some thinking. With a pen and paper at hand, I've spent the best part of the last week trying to decide which anime left the biggest impression on me. Originally, I thought this process would take a minute, at most. All I had to do was check my completed anime list and pick the five highest rated shows.
So, that left a short list of about 40 shows to pick from. Well, I guess that narrows it down a bit. Anime has been a part of my life for about 15 years, at this point. One of my earliest, and fondest, memories is going home after school and watching the anime hour on Italia Uno; Captain Tsubasa, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z. Despite not understanding a single word of Italian, each show used to capture my attention and I loved every single second. Like most people, Dragon Ball Z was the one that really fuelled my current dedication to the medium.
After a lot of soul-searching, here are my current favorite five anime. Although number one is unlikely to change anytime soon, the other four could easily be replaced tomorrow.
5. Silver Spoon (Gin No Saji)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: July 12, 2013 to Mar 28, 2014
Thank god for Crunchyroll. Silver Spoon is probably the anime that has surprised me the most, as I ended up watching it on a whim. At the time, I had just finished Katekyo Hitman Reborn! and was a bit burned out on anime in general. Unable to decide what to try next, I selected random and let Crunchyroll do the rest. Gin No Saji was the show that popped up. As can be seen from this list, it ended up leaving quite a positive and lasting impact.
Yuugo Hachiken is your typical city kid, who has spent his middle school years studying as hard as possible to get the highest grades in his class. Pressured by his parents, he cracks and enrolls in an Ooezo Agricultural High School, just to escape the city and his family's expectations. Although he has no interest in farming, and his life is directionless, he starts to appreciate the hard and beautiful experiences found within the countryside.
The setting might initially sound boring, but this charming slice of life comedy is filled with relatable characters. Hachiken is a great protagonist, as he struggles with his day to day life, but never really resorts to continuously whining. Silver Spoon manages to avoid villainizing the food processing industry, while still showing a few graphic moments that would be a part of that life.
Silver Spoon Trailer
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 13, 2007 to Sep 28, 2007
If there is a genre that anime does not seem to lend itself well to; it would have to be horror. Shows like When They Cry, Another, and Shiki might have a few creepy moments, but as the episodes progress, they tend to rely on gore more and more to deliver the thrills. It is understandable, since horror succeeds by showing as little as possible. In a long-running series, eventually, the 'threat' is going to become too commonplace to remain frightening.
Mononoke is the exception, for me anyway. Set in feudal Japan, a 'medicine seller' travels from town to town searching for evil spirits that need to be put to rest. Unfortunately, he cannot just slash them with his sword and call it a day. No, first he must learn its form, truth, and regret. In other words, the best part of the show is uncovering the mystery of why this person is now dead and who might be responsible for it. There are five different stories spread over 12 episodes, each with their own setting and resolution.
Mononoke's art style is the main reason it is such a fantastic horror anime. Nothing feels relatable or recognizable, making it impossible to ever feel comfortable while watching it. The pacing might be a bit slow for some, but the mysteries are well thought out and captivating. There is practically no gore, as the horror comes from the use of static imagery and sound. The best way to experience Mononoke is with a high-quality pair of headphones and in the middle of the night.
3. Bunny Drop (Usagi Drop)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: July 8, 2011 to Sep 16, 2011
Anime does not lack for tearjerkers. Shows like Clannad can be devastating to sit through, especially once that melancholic theme song hits. Man, just thinking about that final five minutes of Angel Beats! is enough to make me want to reach for all of the tissues. Yet, in my experience, no other anime managed to be quite as emotionally draining as Usagi Drop.
Daikichi Kawachi is a middle-aged bachelor who is wandering aimlessly through life. He has a decent job and does not seem particularly unhappy, but his future lacks any definite purpose. After his grandfather passes away, Daikichi and his entire family are taken by surprise when his young illegitimate daughter, Rin, shows up at the funeral. She is quickly ostracized and labeled as an embarrassment, as she is not even allowed to properly mourn her own father's death. Angered by the coldness shown towards her, Daikichi decides that he will take care of her.
Bunny Drop is a realistic and simple slice of life series, which focuses exclusively on the budding relationship between Daikichi and Rin. This is a wholesome anime, one that never manipulates its audience and just allows the genuine emotions these characters are feeling to carry the story.
Usagi Drop Trailer
2. Hajime No Ippo
- Episodes: 127
- Aired: Oct 4, 2000 to Mar 29, 2014
I should probably just state that I have no interest what-so-ever in boxing. Honestly, the few times I tried watching a live match, it did not manage to hold my interest for more than a few minutes. Due to this, I was skeptical going into Hajime No Ippo. Like Silver Spoon, any worthwhile story depends more on its characters than the setting itself. At its heart, this long-running series is not about the sport of boxing, but how a bullied kid learns to overcome his insecurities and gain confidence in himself.
The fights themselves are gorgeously animated and well-paced, even though the outcome can be rather obvious. Saying that it is the episodes in between these bouts that propelled Hajime No Ippo to the number two position on my list. The comedy is some of the best in anime history, with Takamura being one of funniest characters ever put on screen. On a more serious note, the series never shies away from showing the hardship that this industry is known for.
Also, is there anyone who can possibly sit through an episode and not immediately sign up for a membership at the local gym?
- Episodes: 328
- Aired: Apr 4, 2006 to Mar 27, 2017
Out of this list, Gintama is the only one that was an obvious choice, and in a years time, will most likely still be in the top spot. As someone that prefers laughter to any other emotion, the misadventures of the odd jobs crew is a gift sent from heaven. With over 300 episodes, and a few serious arcs thrown in for good measure, Gintama has a special place in my heart.
After aliens take over Earth, swords are banned and samurai, more or less, extinct. The sarcastic Gintoki, who is almost always completely broke, starts an organization that will do anything, as long as they are paid. With Shinpachi and Kagura, they go from one hilarious adventure to another. Gintama also does not shy away from taking shots at other anime, as there are often quick 5 second gags thrown in.
Gintama has a massive cast and one that is well defined and developed. Despite being mostly a comedy show, when it does shift towards a more straightforward narrative, it manages to do it convincingly. Apparently, there might be one last season left for the series; although it pains me to see it go, it has been one hell of a ride.
Gintama 2017 Trailer
Thank you for taking the time to read through my picks. The medium is so vast, that it feels like only the surface has been scratched so far. With so many new shows being released every season, hopefully, there might even be something new added next year.