And your challenge, should you choose to accept it, 1) Name all the characters featured above 2) Before reading the rest of this post, guess which one of these characters isn’t going to appear in the list. Have fun.
I love anime. Considering the amount of it I’ve reviewed over the past five years that probably comes as a surprise to no one, but with this being the start of a new year, and a new decade, it got me thinking. Back in the early days of this little blog o’mine I posted up a ‘Top 10 Favourite Anime’ list (you can check it out HERE if you want and compare it to the list I’m about to go through). Obviously I’ve watched a heck of a lot more anime since then, the majority of which I have adored and gushed over on this very blog, so me thinks it’s time for an update.
The same rules apply as last time, this list will only contain anime that I have seen (obviously) and only anime that have finished airing. I’ll admit this list was tough to put together, but I think I’m finally happy with the order it’s in, if you want to drop your own list down in the comments then feel free and with that, let’s get this show on the road!
Upon finding a mysterious book in her basement, Sakura accidentally released the Clow Cards. Created by one of the most powerful sorcerers in history, Clow Reed, the cards each have their own unique personality and abilities. Now it’s Sakura’s job to capture them before their powers get out of hand and end up hurting someone, but with the help of guardian beast Kero and her best friend Tomoyo, Sakura is sure everything will be alright.
This is the series that carved out a place for the magical girl genre in my heart for all eternity. I remember watching it as a kid and falling in love with Sakura who was just so sweet and charming and endlessly optimistic that I couldn’t do anything but admire her, and that was before she started roller-skating on to the back of giant birds and trying to outrun sentient water. Whether it’s the beautiful designs of both the characters and the cards, the fun characters themselves or even just the mad antics of capturing the card of the week, I adore this series. It’s innocence personified and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Takato loves Digimon, whether it’s the TV show or playing the card game with his friends. He spends his days dreaming about what his perfect partner would be like and one day, when he finds a mysterious blue card, his wishes come true and the Digimon he designed, Guilmon, comes to life! However owning a real life Digimon isn’t as easy as Takato thought and soon he finds himself dealing not only with the differing views of his fellow Tamers, but invading Digimon causing havoc and a secret government organisation out to delete all Digimon from the real world!
This is my favourite Digimon series of all time and one that I recommend for everyone to watch. For a show primarily created to sell toys to kids it has a remarkably mature story (which makes sense when you realise this was written by the same guy that did Serial Experiments Lain). We get some great character arcs across the series, especially in Impmon who runs the full gambit from troublemaker to villain to hero seeking redemption. The series also isn’t afraid to throw in a few more complex themes and a bit of moral and ethical questioning for its characters to deal with. It may start off a little slow but it all builds into something truly dark and epic like no other Digimon series has ever done before or since.
When they were at school, Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori all played a part in making their very own anime short. Now, having graduated, the girls are all either looking for or holding down jobs in their favourite industry, the anime industry! Unfortunately it turns out that getting their dream job may actually be a bit of a nightmare, between crushing production schedules, dithering directors and really unhelpful middle men, turns out working in anime can be really rough. Do the girls have what it takes to pull things together and someday, somehow, get to all work on a project together like they did at school?
Anime is tough guys. If you ever doubted that then just watch this anime (though I realise it is also a romanticised version of the anime industry so I have no doubt the real thing is even more hellish than this series depicts). I first watched this anime when I was in a bit of a slump, my adolescent idealism had crashed headfirst into the cliffs of adult reality and I was feeling pretty dejected, pretty much in the same way the characters are at points in this series and it gave me hope to know that maybe, just maybe, the struggle would be worth it in the end (the moment where all the girls get to work together at the end really is a thing of beauty). Rewatching the series now though, it speaks to me on even more levels, from the arduous path of the creative process to what it’s like to work in an office (though the office I work in is nowhere near as pressurised as the one in this show). Add on all the little in jokes and references and all anime fans should watch this at some point.
A Place Further Than the Universe
Tamaki Mari, AKA Kimari, always wanted to have a grand adventure before she finishes high school, but she’s always been afraid to take that first step. All that changes when she meets Shirase, a girl determined above anything else to go to Antarctica, despite how impossible that sounds. Now, with a newfound passion and determination, Kimari sets out with Shirase and her other new friends to make the impossible possible and shout ‘I told you I’d make it!’ to all those who said they couldn’t. Their youth is finally in motion!
Heartfelt, that’s the best word I can come up with to describe this series. Everything in this show, from the gorgeous animation to the sweet and charming characters, even the emotional stories of each girl, all of it just hits me right in the feels. I cried at every single episode when I first watched this series and I cried a good chunk of the time when I re-watched it. I love this show. Not only is the message a really important and powerful one, that you can’t let fear and doubt hold you back, if there’s something you want to do, go and do it. It’ll take some hard work and a bit of luck, but if all you ever do is back down then you’ll never get anywhere. Also I love these characters and the chemistry between them, they feel like the best of friends and it’s just a joy to be around them.
Mob Psycho 100
Mob wants nothing more than to be an ordinary kid, and maybe the ability to talk to his childhood sweetheart in complete sentences. However, between his tremendous psychic powers, repressed emotions and his con man boss, there’s not much chance of that. Whether it’s exorcising evil spirits or taking on deranged psychics, Mob’s real battle is with himself, learning to control and, eventually, accept his emotions to the point were he becomes a better, more rounded person.
It’s the second season of this show that gets it on to this list. However much I enjoyed the first season, the second feels like something special. It takes everything that the first season had, the lightning fast comedy, the visually diverse and stunning animation and fun characters and adds so much emotion on top of that. Watching Mob’s journey from an awkward, emotionally repressed teen to such a kind, open and emotionally healthy person is by far one of my favourite character arcs in all of anime. I also think this series has some really beautiful messages about forming bonds, how people can change and how its not good to let your own ego blind you to the world around you, all of which feel really relevant to the world today.
When Kumiko begins her first year of high school she’s determined to have a fresh start, yet somehow finds herself joining the school’s concert band and playing the euphonium (an instrument she’s been stuck playing for the past seven years). It doesn’t help that an old school friend of Kumiko’s is also in the club, a friend that Kumiko feels incredibly awkward around. Things begin to change though when the band’s new advisor starts pushing the students to improve and tensions rise. Will Kumiko rediscover her love for music and the euphonium? Or will this put her off for life?
Every part of this series is beautiful, from the jaw-dropping animation to the blissful music and the clever and life-like writing. More than that though I love each and every one of these characters. Kumiko’s arc from detached and indecisive to someone who is driven by her passions is great and I have to admit resonates a fair amount with me. This is not a show that I would typically watch, but I’m so glad I did. Even if you’ve never been in a band, or have the least bit of interest in one (like me), make sure to check this series out as it has so much more to offer you than your standard high school drama. You’re missing out if you don’t see this one.
In the future you’d better watch what you think because thanks to the Sibyl System a person can now be judged on how likely they are to commit a crime. Anyone who’s deemed as a potential danger to society will have the Enforcers sent after them, either to bring them in for emergency therapy or, if they’re beyond help, to blow their heads clean off. But what if the system couldn’t read a certain type of person? What if there was a master criminal out their inciting others to commit crimes and providing them with all they need to go on their own crime sprees? For rookie Inspector Akane Tsunemori these are going to be important questions, but the biggest of all may be just what exactly is the Sibyl System?
I love so much about this series I really don’t know where to start or how to summarise it, but here goes. For starters the world of Psycho-Pass is one of my favourite, so rich and detailed, from all the fun tech it employs to the moral questions it raises. Add on top of that some fantastic characters and you have a great anime. Akane is one of my favourite female protagonists of all time, her journey from naïve rookie to badass detective is another of my favourite character arcs. Then we’ve got Makishima who’s one of my favourite anime antagonists and there’s Kogami and I could really go on all day like this. Every time I watch this series I come away loving it that little bit more.
The 4th Holy Grail War is upon us. Once again Seven Masters will summon seven Servants, Heroic Spirits of legend such as King Arthur or Alexander the Great brought to life again in the modern day. Together they’ll battle it out for the Holy Grail and the chance to have their dearest wish made a reality. For Kiritsugu Emiya, that wish is for the world to find peace, but for a man who has spent his life killing mages, can they ever really be any peace? The answer has already been decided and no matter what anyone does, fate marches on to its inevitable tragic end.
If you’ve checked out my previous favourite anime list then you may have noticed that my top three anime hasn’t really changed, and I doubt they ever will. Fate/Zero is not perfect, but I adore it with all my soul. I love these characters, I love seeing them interact with one another, so many clashing philosophies and goals this is what makes a great story for me. Whether it’s Saber’s idealism clashing with Kiritsugu’s pragmatism or Iskandar, King of Conquerors, giving Waver lessons on what it means to be a true king, I could watch this forever and not get bored. Add on the great music and animation, some epic fights and you have an anime for the ages.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Madoka wants nothing more to help others and make a difference with her life, a chance she seemingly gets when a strange creature named Kyubey offers her a deal. In exchange for any wish she desires, she can become a magical girl and protect the innocent people of the city from evil witches. Sounds like a win-win right? Well it turns out that the life of a magical girl isn’t quite so magical and between the dangers of the job and battles with rivals, Madoka’s about to learn what happens when a wish turns into a curse.
If there were only one anime I could watch again for the very first time, I’d pick this one. When I first watched this series I binged it all in one night and it destroyed me emotionally. I’ve never quite had a reaction like it before or since, though not for lack of trying. This show is as close to perfection as it gets for me. The plot is so tightly written and paced, knowing just when to let you catch your breathe before plunging you into an even deeper well of despair. Everything is connected and so many little details turn out to be really important later, I get so much fun out of every time I rewatch this series. Add on to that the music and, I don’t even know how to describe the animation, it has such a unique artistic quality to it that I just love it.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
The law of Equivalent Exchange is the core principle of alchemy, something the brothers Alphonse and Edward Elric learn the hard way when they try to resurrect their dead mother. They lose much in the exchange; Edward has his arm and leg taken away from him, while Alphonse loses his entire body. They’re only hope to put themselves back together is to get a hold of a philosopher’s stone, something that will let them perform alchemy without obeying equivalent exchange. They aren’t the only ones searching for a stone though and when the boys learn just what it takes to make one, will they be willing to pay the cost?
The original, and my personal favourite. Madoka Magica may be close to perfection for me, but this series has everything I could ever ask for from an anime, great characters, compelling story and drama, even stunning animation, it’s all here. The bond between the two brothers is really something special, their willingness to sacrifice themselves for one another is truly beautiful and that moment at the end of the series where they demonstrate just how far they’ll go for one another is one of my all time favourite moments in anime. Then again this series is packed with great moments that I love, from the boys confronting their mother to certain deaths, which I won’t spoil here, but this show is a real roller coaster. The story never once falters, perfectly paced and engaging, I don’t even skip over the filler I like it so much, though I think it’s greatest strength is that it never loses sight of its core. Edward and Alphonse are the centrepiece of this story and they are such great characters. If you’ve not seen this anime, or only ever watched Brotherhood, then do yourself a favour and check this one out.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.