I first became aware of anime when I was 12 years old. I quickly became obsessed with shows like Pokémon, Dragonball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh! I loved the art style and the more emotionally driven stories. Everything in anime seemed so grand and epic in scale compared to anything I had watched before.
It was around the time in my life when my parents were telling me I'm "too old" to be watching cartoons. Then when I started watching anime, they thought some of the shows were "too mature". So naturally, being the edgy 12 year old that I was, was drawn to the world of anime even more!
Eventually, my love of anime started to affect other things in my life, particularly my taste in video games and music. If a game has very anime-esque visuals, I tend to buy it. This has led to my hardcore obsession with JRPGs. Particularly the Final Fantasy series.
I love listening to anime and video game soundtracks. "Again" by Yui from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is one of my all-time favourite songs.
So in this list of favourites I wanted to include anime that had the biggest influence on my life in the best possible ways. Beware, strong emotional gushing may follow.
5. Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 - June 2007
When I try to describe Death Note to people, I tell them "It's basically like Sherlock Holmes...except Professor Moriarty is the protagonist." This was the first time I'd ever encountered a main character that wasn't a good person. More than that, a character that gleefully kills people and I agreed with it.
Death Note is the story of genius high school student, Light Yagami. One day he finds a strange notebook that has the power to kill anyone whose name is written in its pages. Starting out with good intentions, Light uses the Death Note to kill off criminals. He reasons that by killing off all the murderers and rapists, he can make the world a better place. He soon befriends the shinigami who dropped the book into the human world, Ryuk. He teaches Light more about the Death Note and how to use it. Before long, a mysterious detective known only as L starts to hunt him down in order to hold him accountable for these murders. What follows is a gloriously dramatic, epic showdown between two genius intellects trying to outsmart each other.
What I love most about Death Note is how it makes even seemingly mundane actions like writing down names in a notebook, seem extremely tense and grandiose. Also, the music. Not just the unbelievably catchy opening and ending themes, but the gothic inspired orchestral score that kicks in whenever Light's plans are unfolding. It all adds to the overall dark tone of the series and it gives me chills every time.
4. Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: September 1992 - March 1993
When I was a kid I remember going into a shopping centre where a colourful mural had been painted on the side of the building. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a painting of Ryoko and Aeka from Tenchi Muyo! Years later I finally got to watch the series on TV. Ryoko quickly became one of my favourite characters.
Tenchi Muyo! Is a comedic space opera revolving around Tenchi Masaki. A normal high school student who lives with his grandfather. Over the summer, he accidentally frees a 200 year old demon from its slumber. Been there, am I right?
However, when he returns to school he discovers that the demon is actually a notorious space pirate named Ryoko. So naturally, to show her appreciation for him releasing her, she blows up his school!
This sparks a chain of events leading to many other colourful characters showing up on Tenchi's doorstep. All of them vying for Tenchi's attention. What's a poor farm boy to do?
I love this series because of the crazy cast of characters. Ryoko is a badass, Mihoshi is hilariously clumsy and Sasami is adorable. Also, who wouldn't love their very own cat-rabbit-spaceship hybrid?
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2002 - September 2002
This is one of those rare instances where I actually got to read the manga first before being introduced to the anime. The art style is gorgeous and Chii remains incredibly adorable in print or animated form.
Chobits follows Hideki Motosuwa as he moves to Tokyo in order to prepare for his college entrance exams. Being a simple country boy, he struggles to adapt to city life. He envies the people walking alongside their human-looking personal computers or "persocoms". Since he's a poor student, he quickly gives up hope of ever owning one. Until one evening, he spots one lying in the trash. Since one man's trash is another man's treasure they say, he takes her home and tries to see if he can figure out how to switch her on.
This is by far the cutest anime I've ever seen. Everything Chii does is either gracefully beautiful or heart-stoppingly adorable. Hideki is hilariously naive and becomes stressed out very easily. This combination makes him a perfect entry point character, since other characters have to explain everything to him. Yet he's still a funny character in his own right. This series raises some interesting moral questions regarding what it means to be human and the ethical implications of humans falling in love with machines.
2. Ouran Koukou Host Club (Ouran High School Host Club)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 2006 - September 2006
I think it's fair to say that most anime have a lot of over the top, larger than life characters. This series is no exception. Whenever I watch this anime I can't help but howl with laughter. Which surprised me since I was fully expecting to hate a series about rich people flaunting their wealth. Similar to Haruhi, I grew up in a single-parent household. I learned from a young age what it meant to struggle for money. Then I realised after a few episodes, it's the rich people that are the butt of the joke!
Ouran High School Host Club is about Haruhi Fujioka as she begins her scholarship in one of the most prestigious high schools in the country. The school is full of students from wealthy families, so things like studying and grades aren't a priority for them. One day, Haruhi is trying to find a quiet place to study away from the obnoxious rich people. She wanders into the music room, where the Host Club's conduct their business. They earn money by entertaining the school's female population, but mostly it's just something to pass the time for them. Due to her short hair and preference for comfortable clothes, Haruhi gets mistaken for a boy. She gets entangled in their shenanigans when she accidentally breaks a (hilariously lampshaded) expensive vase and must work for the club as a host until her debt is paid.
This series is deceptively charming. On the surface it seems kind of shallow and ridiculous. However, each character has a deeper layer to them, which makes the lighthearted antics that much more enjoyable. It also deconstructs notions of gender in interesting ways. This is my go-to anime for those moments when I need cheering up.
1. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon)
- Episodes: 46
- Aired: March 1992 - February 1993
This anime holds a very special place in my heart. I first watched this when I was 14 and identified very strongly with Sailor Moon as a character. I am also extremely accident-prone, terrible at studying, enjoy sleeping, and obsessed with food and video games. So naturally I was drawn to a series where a girl like that also has magical powers!
Usagi Tsukino is a below average high school student. She's a clumsy, lazy crybaby who loves to eat. One day while on her way to school, she sees some kids picking on a black cat. Usagi chases them off, saving the poor kitty. She has a pretty rotten school day of turning up to class late and failing tests, she eventually gets home (after spending some time at the arcade first!)
Her mother, furious at her appalling grades yells at her and temporarily kicks her out of the house. After a good cry in her bedroom, she sees the mysterious black cat from earlier. She introduces herself as Luna and tells her that Usagi is destined to be a warrior and...is the cat talking?!
She gives Usagi a brooch that she can use to transform into the pretty guardian, Sailor Moon!
This is my all time favourite anime. It revolutionised the magical girl genre and made it into what it is today. I spent hours drawing the characters and learning the lyrics to the songs, both in Japanese and English.
I will never get tired of the cheesy romantic story, no matter how many times I watch the series or read the manga.
This list was tough to narrow down! In the end, I decided to go with the anime that had the biggest impact on me as a person.
If there's one thing I love more than watching anime, it's talking about it! I'd love to hear other people's opinions. Or even better, recommendations! I have several series I have yet to watch like Cowboy Bebop, Tokyo Ghoul and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Maybe I'll find some new favourites!