In some ways, it’s easy to say that I was raised on anime. My childhood was a mix of the early Pokémon, Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh shows. But while these nostalgic series would continue to impact me in small ways as I grew up, I actually refused to watch most other anime for a long time. I didn’t think there was much out there for me, and I liked to pretend I was less nerdy than I actually was, especially in high school! When I finally did consciously sit down to watch an anime, it wasn’t until just three years ago.
Yet, with that first experience, a flood gate was opened – I had found something new to love. Since then, I have tried to watch as many anime as I possibly can! Thankfully, I have a great friend who loves to recommend shows, and my list of what I need to watch next has been ever-growing. And sometimes it seems never-ending! But I love that I get to write about the things that I enjoy as a job, and I feel lucky that there is so much anime to be shared with the world.
On the list that follows are my top five favorite anime. You’ll notice that I definitely lean toward a few specific genres, and that I tend to go for shows from the last decade. I also didn’t include nostalgic anime like Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh on my list. While these earlier anime impacted my childhood greatly, I don’t really consider them to be among my personal favorites. The original Pokémon series was actually rather annoying – I enjoyed the first few movies far more than I enjoyed the anime. But I digress! Here is my list of the anime that hold a special place in my heart.
5. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou (Daily Lives of High School Boys)
- Episodes: 12
- Air Date: Jan. 2012 – Mar. 2012
Hidenori, Tadakuni and Yoshitake seem like normal high school boys… But really they’re living intensely dramatic lives! Oh wait, that’s all in their imagination. In reality, the three friends are actually just average guys trying to pass the time, but their version of “everyday life” is much more interesting than you might first think!
This anime shows my style of humor perfectly. Each episode has a couple of short skits, where the characters do something ridiculous like reenacting an RPG or pretending to host a radio talk show. The trio of friends is not really trying to accomplish anything, which can make the show seem pointless from time to time. But the myriad of characters and their hilarious antics make this anime worthwhile.
What’s special about Daily Lives to me is that the humor never gets old. I can come back to any random episode at any time and still laugh just as hard at the bizarre situations as I did the first time. The random nature of the anime is the core of its charm, and a small number of recurring jokes allow you to feel like you’re in on it. This is both my favorite comedy and slice-of-life simultaneously, and it’s a perfect combination!
4. Samurai Champloo
- Episodes: 26
- Air Date: May 2004 – Mar. 2005
Samurai Champloo follows the story of Fuu Kasumi, a young waitress who finds herself in need of help one day when some samurai are threatening her. She calls upon a nearby patron of the teashop to help her, but soon finds that the unruly Mugen is very reckless. Mugen tries to fight a quiet ronin named Jin, and they destroy the teashop in the process. The two are about to be executed for their crimes, when Fuu arrives to free them and ask for a favor in return – to hire the two as bodyguards on her journey to find a certain samurai. Thus this unusual group sets out on their adventure.
This anime was the first one I sat down to watch three years ago. I don’t know what it was about the series that caught my eye… Maybe it was the style of animation, or the samurai themselves, or maybe I was just quite bored! In any case, Samurai Champloo grabbed my attention from the start. Mugen, Jin and Fuu are some of the most interesting characters, each with their own quirks, pitfalls and strengths. And the historical setting of Japan’s Edo era (with a few notable changes) really helped draw me into the story.
Samurai Champloo is a good mix of action, comedy and compelling plot, brought together with a brilliant hip-hop soundtrack by Nujabes. The word “Champloo” actually means “mixed,” and that connects with the theme of this show very well. The series incorporates a mix of classic samurai-Edo period with an unfamiliar combination of hip-hop culture. And while each character begins the journey with their own past struggles, by the end, Mugen, Jin and Fuu have learned a lot about themselves. Samurai Champloo is really the perfect mix of many different elements, making it one of my favorite anime even as it was my first.
Samurai Champloo Trailer
- Episodes: 33
- Air Date: Oct. 2012 – Mar. 2013
Not an anime for the faint of heart, Psycho-Pass is about the futuristic system of justice incorporated into 22nd century Japan. The Sibyl System is an objective technological way to determine the level of possible criminal intent each person has, found through their mental state. Inspectors and Enforcers work together to carry out the justice of the Sibyl System, with Enforcers becoming latent criminals themselves as they carry out the dirty work of the job. When Inspector Akane Tsunemori joins the force, she is welcomed into this world, which is not as perfect as it seems. As Akane and Enforcer Shinya Kogami discover corruption in the system, Akane will have to ask herself whether true justice is really something to strive for…
This series is one that makes you question everything, in a way that is a blend of other dystopian anime like Time of Eve, mixed with the horror and gore of something like Attack on Titan. As Akane works her way through the mystery of what lies behind the Sibyl System, you in turn think about the much larger questions surrounding society and humanity. The world in Psycho-Pass is supposed to be a utopia, a perfect paradise, but you quickly start to see that even with objective technology ruling, it can never be so. With compelling characters and an intriguingly dark plot, this anime is definitely one of the best!
The first time I watched Psycho-Pass, I was struck by the deep questions the series asks. Being someone who loves crime shows like Criminal Minds, Psycho-Pass was a lovely example for me of how an anime can show this genre better. You can really get into the character’s thoughts and understand what they’re going through, even as it’s a different setting than you might be used to. And the animation style is brutally gorgeous, which is a definite plus for me! This dark, dystopian anime easily deserves a spot in my top five.
2. Nanatsu no Taizai (The Seven Deadly Sins)
- Episodes: 24
- Air Date: Oct. 2014 – Mar. 2015
Similar to the real Europe’s Middle Ages, Nanatsu no Taizai’s setting is a medieval region called Britannia, where the Holy Knights defend and protect the different kingdoms. However, when Princess Elizabeth Liones discovers there may be corruption among the Holy Knights, she sets out to find help. And who better to help her than the infamous “Seven Deadly Sins,” a dangerous group of former Holy Knights who were rumored to have betrayed the kingdom ten years before! Elizabeth sets out to find these former Knights, believing that she can convince them to help bring justice back to the land. Will she be able to succeed?
While Nanatsu no Taizai is pretty new, it is still one of my favorite anime. The plot moves along at a good pace, letting you get to know the characters but not leaving you bored with any unnecessary episodes. Even though it might seem like a fairly surface-level story, it actually delves into several deeper themes. There are a few unexpected twists along the way, and several of the characters are able to grow immensely over the course of the series. Yes, it does have some cliché moments, predictable as a shounen anime can sometimes be. But for the most part, it does a really good job of being unique and compelling in most aspects, including in its music! This series is probably one of my most anticipated, something that I’m looking forward to getting more of (hopefully soon!).
The Seven Deadly Sins themselves are the most interesting part of the anime. Each one has a background of their own, one that plays into the very nature of their character and the reason why they have embraced the specific sin they represent. Honestly, these characters are the reason I watched the anime and have read a good portion of the available manga. It’s easy to see yourself in them, and to feel for them as they struggle along their journey. Nanatsu no Taizai is something you definitely need to give a chance!
The Seven Deadly Sins | Official Trailer | Netflix/h3>
1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Air Date: Apr. 2009 – Jul. 2010
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood tells the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who have had an unfortunate life. When their mother dies, the two boys decide to learn the forbidden alchemy to bring her back. However, their plan fails, leaving Ed with two missing limbs and Al with no body at all. The Elric brothers vow to get back their bodies, and dedicate their lives to discovering a way to fix their mistake. But the two will find themselves caught up in a much larger scheme, one that could change the fate of entire nations if it is not stopped…
This series is the best anime I have ever watched, for a number of reasons. The plot is phenomenal, being dark and despairing most of the time with a few lighthearted moments. And the animation style is able to reflect this dichotomy, with a silly, fluid style one minute and a firm, brutal style in the next. I have watched Brotherhood multiple times, and yet every time I am reminded how brilliant and deep the show can get. This anime honestly changed my perspective on life after I watched it, which sounds a little bit crazy! Yet the way the characters learned to defeat their own problems helped me deal with many of my own.
If you asked me to name my favorite character from FMA: Brotherhood, I would give you a long list, with detailed reasons of why I love each of them! Each character, no matter how large or small a role they play in the anime, is treated with care; they are given back stories, hopes, ambitions. You are able to look at each person and say, I understand where you’re coming from. That care and detail is poured into every aspect of FMA: Brotherhood, and it shows. I have laughed, cried, cringed, screamed, felt every emotion alongside these characters – and in a way, they each feel like a part of me now.
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Well, there you have it! These are my top five favorite anime. I had many other favorites that didn’t quite make the list, like Naruto, One Punch Man, and Ajin. Ultimately, I decided on the five that I did because I felt those anime were the ones that truly reflected me and helped change me in some way.
Now I want to hear from you! Which of these anime have you seen? What are some of the anime in your own top five? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below!