This was tough. Well, actually, it wasn’t tough at all. I have had my top five anime decided for a very long time now and they rarely fluctuate. However, to put it in writing, without the luxury of changing or adding to said list, was truly an ordeal. Nevertheless, I steeled my resolve and chose what I believe to be the greatest five anime ever made.
5. Guilty Crown
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2011 – March 2012
Already I’ve managed to upset some people with this pick, I imagine. Guilty Crown is often criticized for its poor writing and lackluster character development. However, sometimes I don’t want to read a fifty-page thesis to understand a character’s motivations. I just want to kick back, relax and watch something with a bit of spectacle. Yes, perhaps Shu is not the most interesting or fully-formed character out there but he does his job well enough. After being bestowed with the Power of the King, he finds himself at odds with how to use it. He blends in with the herd for the earlier parts of the show but eventually, he becomes a very dark and twisted person once things start to go South.
Anyway, who cares about all that; let’s get into what makes Guilty Crown amazing - the animation, music, and Inori... *ahem* payoff. Guilty Crown’s animation cannot be knocked even by critics who despise the series. Each and every character is animated beautifully and the fluidity of some scenes is breathtaking to see play out. Furthermore, the music only adds to the already wonderful scenes taking place in Guilty Crown. The opening alone performed by Supercell is one of my all-time favorites. Finally, the majesty of some of these scenes is just good old-fashioned fun. Yes, subversion is great and clever, I suppose. Building something up just to have the payoff denied is all very artistic and breaks new ground for writers and blah blah blah. Guilty Crown does away with such artistry. It builds up its action sequences and then explodes in a maelstrom of stylized animation and entrancing music. The scene I’m drawn to in particular sees Shu saving Inori as ‘βίος/Bios’ bangs out as the background melody. Guilty Crown is my guilty pleasure anime - and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2006 –July 2007
Let’s just get this out of the way - I am not the biggest fan of mech anime. I don’t particularly know why. I never really enjoyed the notion of watching two mech suits fight each other when I would much rather see the two people inside go at it. I’m sure certain mech anime do a great job developing their characters, but regardless, the genre isn’t for me. We good? Ok then, let’s continue onwards and talk about how a mech anime is in my top 5 favorite anime of all time.
While Code Geass has mechs in it, I personally have never classified it as a mech anime. The anime isn’t about the mechs, it’s about Lelouch’s cunning, the war between Britannia and Area 11, and all the interpersonal relationships that get shattered in the crossfire of such situations. I do love a good god complex and while Death Note fans from across the globe have already scribbled my name a thousand times over in their laminated and ornamented notebooks, I just think Code Geass did it better.
3. Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: July 1997
Aside from the early morning cartoon block that aired on weekends during the 90s (Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, etc), Princess Mononoke was the first anime I ever watched. Stumbling across the show one day during a late afternoon, my cable-deprived self was just happy to find a channel airing something animated. Little did I know that this one instance would bore itself so deep into my skull that I would never be the same again. There’s just something about Ghibli movies that appeal to people all over the world and I am no exception. While I enjoy the entire catalog (with special shoutouts to Ponyo and Arrietty), Princess Mononoke was my first and will hold my bias forever.
After having his arm cursed by mysterious energy residing within a demon boar, Prince Ashitaka sets out on a quest to find a cure and escape the reaper’s icy touch. Whether it be the magnificent score composed by Joe Hisaishi, the seamlessly animated characters and settings, or the meaningful story with a clear message about environmental damage, I can always find time to set aside two to three hours to rewatch this masterpiece.
2. Seitokai no Ichizon (Student Council’s Discretion)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2009 – December 2009
Seitokai no Ichizon is the definition of an underrated gem. While the story seems fairly tame - a by-the-books slice of life anime in which our protagonist tries to forge a harem, the subtext and wonderful comedic timing set it apart from its contemporaries. Seitokai no Ichizon plays fast and loose with its role as a twenty-minute episodic TV show. Each episode is more like five to six mini-episodes that show up at your doorstep, tell a joke, dropkick you in the funny bone, before promptly moving onto the next house.
The plot (if you can even call it that) never really goes anywhere. The show is more about character explorations and interpersonal relationships. I’m a sucker for well-written characters and believe that, if you can craft a character well enough, the story of their everyday life can be just as entertaining as a blockbuster action flick. Seitokai no Ichizon nails this concept and simply being a fly on the wall at one of their many amusing council meetings, is all the narrative I need. P.S: I love this show so much I even completed a lengthy exploration into one of the mainstay cast members (also published on Honey’s so be sure to take a look!)
- Episodes: 15
- Aired: July 2009 – June 2010
Bakemonogatari is not an entry-level anime. Oftentimes, when asked what anime you should recommend in order to hook someone into the fandom, you receive generic responses. Death Note is always a popular pick. Hunter X Hunter is another great choice. Yet, rarely will anyone bring this show up as the key to unlocking an anime virgin’s chastity belt.
Perhaps it’s due in part to the level of Japanese language ability required to understand many of the puns and gags littered throughout an average episode. Sure, there are fan translations with walls of text that cover the screen explaining these jokes and how they could be expressed in English, but you still won’t have an authentic experience without a native-level of understanding. If not this, then maybe the animation turns people off. It’s strangely unique as it darts about from a plethora of interesting art style choices either for comedic effect or for...reasons? The dialogue is also heavy in this show with entire episodes being long monologues or conversations between two people. These conversations are also peppered with inside jokes from the light novels which unaware fans may miss.
So, If I point out so many things ‘wrong’ about the show, why on Earth have I placed it at my number one? Well, I could sit here and tippity-type a bunch of thesaurus-infused adjectives to describe what this show means to me but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before about another’s favorite anime. Give it five episodes. I promise you won’t regret it. Also, if you do get around to finishing it - heed this unwritten rule. “We don’t speak of the toothbrush episode”.
I’ve been watching anime since I was around thirteen and if we include the likes of Pokémon and the like; far, far longer. As you can imagine, I’ve amassed a rather lengthy list over the years and it pained me to cut out some of my other favorites from this list. Regardless, I would love to know what you think about my favorite anime, and feel free to recommend me your favorite anime as well!