Anime Corner: Top 10 Favourite Anime (Redux)

Blog Top 10 Anime Redux Title

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!

  1. Cardcaptor Sakura

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.

  1. Digimon Tamers

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.

  1. Shirobako

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Sound Euphonium

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.

  1. Psycho-Pass

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.

  1. Fate/Zero

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.  

Top 10 Favourite Anime

Anime Top 10 Title Card

Ok, so I’ve done my top 10 Disney films (here) and I’ve done my top 10 animated films (here), I guess it’s time for the anime list isn’t it? Anime is a huge part of my life, it always has been I guess. I’ve been watching anime since I was very little, although back then they were all just really cool cartoons to me. Pokemon, Digimon, Guyver, Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, Gundam, these are all a part of my childhood, as well as many others. The thing I love most about anime though, is the sheer diversity of it, you can really have anything. Sci-fi stories set in the far future, epic adventures in fantasy lands, comedies, tragedies, dark deconstructions, or just everyday life, there is no story you cannot tell. It also helps that anime is damn crazy sometimes, and we all need a little bit of crazy in our lives.

To be fair this list has taken me a while to put in order, there’s so many different anime that I love, but beyond that a lot of these anime speak to me in different ways, so it’s hard to qualify why one show should be put above another. I think I’ve finally got it right though.

Here are the rules for the list. This list will only contain anime that I have seen (naturally), and more importantly anime that has finished. That means for one there will be no ongoing shonen anime on this list, like One Piece and Fairy Tail. Besides, however much I love those anime I don’t love everything about them, though it’s mostly the filler arcs that I have a problem with (maybe I could do a top 10 arcs list one day?). Also this is a list of my top 10 FAVOURITE anime, this is not a ‘Best of’ list, the anime contained within and their order are entirely dictated by my heart, not my head.

Anyway, enough rambling, on with the show!

  1. Cardcaptor Sakura

One day, Sakura accidentally releases the Clow Cards (magical cards left behind by a powerful wizard) upon her unsuspecting city. Now it’s her job to collect the cards, before their simple acts of mischief end up hurting someone.

Ok, I’m going to come across as a massive saddo here, but I suppose there’s no point in hiding it. This anime is the reason I have a soft spot for magical girl anime (I’m a fan of Sailor Moon, but this show is what cemented the genre into a corner of my heart). I fell in love with Sakura when I was ten, and it’s never really gone away. She’s sweet, she’s funny, she’s brave, yet she’s a little bit clumsy and terrified of ghosts. She’s a goody two-shoes, but never boring or perfect, which I like. Her adventures were always exciting and fun for my younger self, and I still really like all of the designs for the cards she had to collect. To make me look even sadder, I will admit that I used to make my own versions of the cards to play with (hey there was a distinct lack of merchandise over here in the UK). Ok, now that I’m older I do have to admit that it’s a little repetitive and there are probably a few other flaws knocking about, but the nostalgia is too strong for me on this one.

  1. Outlaw Star

Gene Starwind and his young partner Jim run an odd job business, but soon are catapulted on a series of misadventures as they hunt for the legendary Galactic Leyline. They’ll battle magic-wielding space pirates, crazy cat girls and a mind-controlling cactus (you know, I think anime might just be weird).

If I were to describe this series in a word, it would be fun. Epic space battles, guns that shoot magic, a cast of crazy characters, and arm-wrestling spaceships, all can be found here. This is just one entertaining ride. Not that this series is brainless, it’s just storyless. The plot is merely there to get us from one adventure to the next. This series prefers to give its attention to the detail of the universe, building up a rich history and setting for our characters to explore. Our characters themselves aren’t that deep, but they’re well-defined and uncomplicated. You can work out what makes them tick after just a few minutes. It’s wild, it’s cool, it’s Outlaw Star.

  1. Digimon Tamers

Takato loves the digimon card game, but one day he discovers that he has his own real-life digimon. At first it’s fun and full of hijinks, but with more and more digimon appearing in our world, and a shadowy government organisation lurking in the background, things are about to become very dangerous indeed.

Now I love the original Digimon, but for me Season 3 is just that little bit better. It’s a more mature series, and I love the real world setting. I like how they incorporate the game and trading cards, and make it feel like this is what it would be like if Digimon were real (and who doesn’t love that idea?). It’s certainly one of the darkest series, containing some downright terrifying scenes, as well as a few heart-wrenching ones too, but never so much that it stops being fun or enjoyable. To me this is a really good sci-fi/fantasy story, while also still feeling like a Digimon series (unlike some of the later series).

  1. Attack on Titan

For years humanity has sat safely behind its three giant walls, keeping out the monstrous Titans that have a habit of devouring humans for no apparent reason. One day that peace is shattered, when a gigantic Titan appears and smashes down the first wall. Young Eren swears to join the Survey Corps and wipe out every last Titan. But what exactly are the Titans, and where do they come from?

Is this overhyped? Yeah, but you have to remember that that hype came from somewhere. This is a really good series without a doubt. Yeah the ending is really abrupt, and what we learn about the titans and where they come from amounts to about zero, but that’s what the manga (and that long promised second season) is for, which is annoying I admit. This series is exciting, dramatic and terrifying, sometimes all at once. The animation has its own unique style, both beautiful and ugly at the same time. The fights sequences are just jaw-dropping, and that soundtrack is just mind-blowing. I really like the characters too (the ones that survive anyway). They all feel like real people, full of flaws and psychosis. Most of these people are broken in some way or another, and sometimes it’s not the titans that are the greatest threat to humanity. If nothing else, this is a really great story about humanity, both at its best and at its worst.

  1. Kill la Kill

Ryuko Matoi transfers to a strange school, where the student council runs the place like its own private dictatorship, all in the aid of finding her father’s murderer. Ryuko finds a talking uniform (just go with it) and epic insanity ensues.

I love Kill la Kill, even though I probably shouldn’t. This anime has a way of bypassing the logic part of my brain and striking right at the gleeful kid inside. It’s over the top, it’s extreme, it’s gratuitous, and it is awesome! This anime hits a level that transcends fun. It’s a blitz of intense action, hilarious characters, explosions and, of course, boobs. Ok, the story is nonsense, the characters aren’t exactly deep, and that fanservice is just overwhelming, yet I still love this. All I can say is that this anime is overflowing with love, enthusiasm and pure undiluted fun. It’s infectious and I have never had so much fun watching an anime.

  1. Shirobako

An anime about making anime. How very meta. We follow the struggles of five girls as they enter into various careers in the anime industry, hoping to one day work together on the same project.

I seriously love this show. There are so many moments of just undiluted joy to be seen here. Watching our characters start out as wide-eyed young students, we follow them as they confront the harsh realities of working in the industry, yet in the end they still make it to a happy ending. This anime gives me hope. At a time in my life when I’ve been questioning where I’m going and lamenting how far from my dream I still am, this anime has shown me that if I keep pushing forward I can still make it.

  1. Cowboy Bebop

The futuristic misadventures of an easy-going bounty hunter and his odd crew, which includes an ex-cop, a femme fatale in massive debt, a computer hacker who’s as much a genius as she is crazy, and a dog.

Is a show overhyped if it’s deserving of its praise? This is one of the greats of anime, a classic that everyone deserves to watch at least once, even if you’re not all that into anime. It has a great cast of rich characters, its stories range from hilarious to heart-breaking, but for me what makes this anime so great, is its presentation. The animation is stunning, the soundtrack is beautiful and the direction is top-notch. This is simply a master class in how a visual medium should be done. Everything slots together so perfectly that you can hardly imagine one component without the others. It says so much with so few words, one of the most iconic shots has to be Spike falling through that window with flashes of his past. It’s such a simple and effect way of telling us so much, without a single word. It’s simply breath-taking.

  1. Fate Zero

The 4th Holy Grail war is upon us. Seven Masters are chosen from across the world. Each Master summons a Servant, a heroic spirit of legend such as King Arthur, brought into the modern world to do battle for the ancient wish-granting relic. Whoever wins gets their heart’s desire granted to them, but you know the old saying, be careful what you wish for.

Okay, I’ve struggled with where to put this one on the list. There are a couple of things in this anime that I have problem with (check out my review here, for more details), but when it comes down to it the stuff that is good in this anime is just too damn good. For me it’s the characters that make this show so great. Each character is fully fleshed out, with their own ideology and way of doing things and it is endlessly fascinating to watch them amble down their paths towards inevitable tragedy. I seriously cannot get enough of these guys. Add in some wonderful top quality animation, a good soundtrack and some great, if occasionally longwinded, dialogue and you have one of the greats of anime.

  1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka wants to help others and make a difference. She seemingly gets her chance when a strange creature called Kyubey offers to fulfil any wish she desires, in exchange she will become a magical girl and battle against witches that torment innocent people. As it turns out though, the life of a magical girl isn’t all that magical, and it isn’t long before wishes turn into curses.

When I first watched this show, it destroyed me. I mean that quite literally. After watching a couple of reviews on the internet recommending the show, I finally decided to give it a go. I watched the entire series in one night, mostly because I couldn’t stop watching, and by the end I was left as an emotional wreck, blubbing like a baby for a good half hour after the last episode finished. No other show has had this kind of effect on me, certainly not in recent years. I don’t really believe there’s such a thing as a perfect anime, but this comes damn close. The pacing of the story is top-notch constantly moving and twisting into something new, giving you just enough time to breathe before pulling the rug out from under you yet again. Everything is connected, and it is wonderful to rewatch the earlier episodes and see all of the hints and clues that were sat there staring you in the face. The animation itself may not be as good as some anime, but it has this wonderful artistic quality to it that just makes this such a treat for the eyes.

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)

In a world where alchemy is a thriving magic, two brothers decide to commit a great taboo and resurrect their recently deceased mother. Things go wrong though, resulting in Edward losing an arm and a leg, and Alphonse losing his body entirely. The two brothers begin a dangerous search for the philosopher’s stone, in order to get back what they’ve lost.

The original, and my favourite anime. I first saw this on the TV, back when I was only just discovering what anime was (and learning that I’d secretly been watching anime for years without my knowledge). I never saw the run in its entirety back then, I only caught random episodes and one of the first ones I saw (and my most vivid memory of the series) was that final episode. I’ll be honest I didn’t have much idea what was going on, but it all looked really cool, and the animation was amazing. What spoke to me most though was the two brothers, Alphonse and Edward, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the one another. It was truly beautiful, and watching the series all together I can safely say that the rest of the anime holds up to that moment. It has a story that never falters either in pacing or development, it even has time to spend on filler, decent filler at that which manages to add to the story (now that’s a miracle). Add in a host of great and memorable characters, some heart-wrenching drama and exhilarating action, and you have an anime that pretty much has everything I could ever want from an anime. And throughout all of that, it never loses sight of its core, the bond between the two brothers and their mission to fix one another, and that’s why this gets the number one spot.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Top 10 Favourite Animated Films

Top 10 Animated Title Card

In the interest of fairness, seeing as I did my Top 10 Favourite Disney films (check it out here) a while back, this time I’m doing my Top 10 Favourite Animated Films (in case the title didn’t give it away).

Now a few rules before I start. There are no films from the Disney canon here (already done that list thank you). Also I’ve tried to keep the list limited to one film from each creator/company (though there are exceptions), because if I didn’t then this list would just be constructed entirely of Pixar and Studio Ghibli films. Lastly, just to reiterate, this is a list of my FAVOURITE animated films. This is not a ‘Best of’ list, it’s a list of the films I enjoy watching the most. My heart rules here, not my head. Now, on with the show!

  1. The Secret of Kells

This film makes it on to the list for one reason, it’s animation (ok, technically there’s a second reason, which is that I haven’t seen Song of the Sea yet. Release the bloody DVD in the UK already!) The animation is gorgeous in the film. The style alone is something unique, like nothing else out there at the minute, but when the images start moving it is truly a work of art. The story itself, about the origins of the Book of Kells, is a good one, but I couldn’t help feeling I’d have more reverence for it if I was Irish (or knew more about the Book of Kells. Isn’t an informative movie). The actual story is a simple one, and I like all of the characters, so there’s nothing bad about this film. That animation is just mesmerising though.

  1. Land Before Time

Now I will admit that the nostalgia is strong with this one. The story of a bunch of young dinosaurs trying to make it to the Great Valley is a simple, yet powerful one. Ok, so most of the actual story boils down to the characters messing around until they reach their final destination, and there are some obvious cuts as several scene changes are quiet abrupt. I don’t care though. I love these characters, quirks and all. They are ingrained in my childhood, and not even a dozen less-than-good sequels shall ever dislodge them. Also I think this film deals with death in one of the most mature and honest ways I’ve ever seen in a kids’ film. You feel Littlefoot’s grief. I think, for me, the one that sticks in my mind the most, and tears out my heart every time, is the scene of him chasing after what he thinks is his mother, but in actuality is just his shadow (Seriously, you need happy goofing around scenes after that). At the time this was pretty unique and it’s why I appreciate this film so much. It may be a simple children’s story, but it doesn’t talk down to its audience.

  1. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Batman the animated series is probably my favourite cartoon in existence. It was a huge part of my childhood, as well as my introduction to my favourite superhero. This film captures all of the qualities that made the show great, and carries them across to the big screen. It acts like an extended episode of the series, while giving us a deeper look at the early days of Batman, and a glimpse at a different path he could have gone down. We also meet a great villain in the Phantasm, who has been criminally underused since the character’s creation. This story is not a happy one mind. Batman doesn’t even really win. Yet despite all of the darkness and tragedy, our hero carries on, and for me, that is something that is at the heart of Batman. He takes the darkness, and the tragedy, that permeates his life and turns it into a force for good.

  1. The Iron Giant

The thing that I love most about this film is the relationships between the characters. They all feel genuine and natural, though of course the best relationship is between the boy and his giant death machine robot. It’s sweet, heart-warming and incredibly sad when the robot sacrifices himself in the end. Though that’s another reason I really like this film, yeah this is a kids’ film so we all know the robot isn’t actually dead and this is just a fake out, yet how the film reveals the robot is still alive is something beautiful. Instead of a few moments of tears before an instant reunion, we see the passage of time, we actually get to see the effects of grief on the young boy, and yet we still end on a hopeful note. It’s a very mature and heart-warming, just like the rest of this film.

  1. The Incredibles

There are a lot of superhero movies around nowadays, and sometimes it can be hard to find a new and original story to tell, the Incredibles manages it though. It creates a whole world of heroes that is both realistic and fantastical. You can understand and relate to all the characters. I love them all and it’s a pleasure just to hang out with them. This film also has some excellent dialogue and is very funny. It isn’t afraid to make fun of several superhero tropes, yet always does it in a loving way. On a last note, I have to say that I love the 60s James Bond vibe to the music and several of the sets. It just adds another layer to the aesthetic that differentiates it from the rest of the superhero fare we get, and really, that’s why I love it.

  1. Coraline

This is a scary film. Not in the sense that you’ll be jumping in your seat, but there’s this creepy atmosphere that pervades the whole film. Throw in some startling images and downright horrific ideas, and your nightmares will have enough fuel to last for a year. The animation is also jaw-droppingly impressive. This is a stop-motion from Laika, and I can only applaud the clear amount of effort and detail put into the animation. Some of the things they manage to accomplish are just unbelievable.

  1. Princess Mononoke

Now I love Studio Ghibli films. They have divine animations, loveable characters and they just ooze atmosphere and detail, yet I wouldn’t call most of them action-packed. They tend to just take their time and go with the flow. Princess Mononoke manages to hold on to all of that character, atmosphere and world building detail, while also delivering an engaging adventure full of action, peril and badassery galore. It is also one of the best environmental-themed films in existence. There is no preaching here, no villain laughing maniacally while beating up baby seals. No character is depicted as wholly evil, or wholly good. It’s gorgeous, it’s dark, it’s savage, it’s thoughtful and completely engrossing. Basically it’s really, really good.

  1. Nightmare Before Christmas

Proof that sometimes the simplest stories are the best. When you think about it, this film about the Pumpkin King taking over Christmas isn’t exactly a complex one. It’s not grand or epic, but then it doesn’t need to be. Some truly great songs, likeable characters and imaginative designs make this film. That’s the thing I have to applaud about this film the most, the designs. The amount of creativity on display when it comes to the characters, each one filled with so many little details. They must have taken forever to make, and I’m so glad they were.

  1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Do I really need to explain why this is on the list? Great characters, a hilarious script and ground-breaking animation, what more could you ask for? Oh yeah, a whole landslide of iconic cartoon characters on screen together for the only time. Not that any of our main characters ever take a backseat to the endless cameos, each one of these characters work their way into your heart. Also the live-action-animation integration has still to be beaten. A technical and emotional marvel, this film probably should be number one, but there’s one film that I just can’t get enough of.

  1. How To Train Your Dragon

My God I love this film (as you can probably tell by its position at number one on the list). It’s not any one thing that makes this a great film, but a whole parade of tiny bits and pieces that amass together to make just a wonderful experience. Ok, maybe the animation is starting to show it’s age a little bit, but the framing and the lighting of scenes is still exquisite. It’s not something that you see all that often, and I love this film for it. It also helps to make the flying scenes things of absolute beauty. I really wish I’d seen this film in 3D when it came out, because I’m pretty sure my mind would have been blown. The story itself of a boy and his dragon isn’t anything that new or original, but the characters are so believable and likeable that they’re able to lift it up and make the story feel fresh. I know it’s not greatest animated film of all time, but there is no film I enjoy watching more.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Top 10 Favourite Disney Films

Disney Top 10 Title Card

Ah, Disney. There are so many things to make fun of. From the princess stereotype that you helped to engrave on the public consciousness. The formula for the ‘perfect’ kid’s film that you created, and you and your copycats appear content to inflict upon us until the end of time itself. The fact that source material is clearly something you glance through once, then lose down the back of the sofa. And yet, you own most of our childhoods, and therefore own our very souls.

There is a lot I can rip into Disney for, but none of that will ever abate my love for them. Disney is one of the most well-known and long-running animation studios in history. They are pioneers of the animation medium. They have had a huge influence on not only cinema, but on popular culture too. When you think of snow white, or the little mermaid, its Disney’s version you think of first, isn’t it? More than that though, Disney was my introduction to animation. They are masters of the art form, and there are so many times watching their films when all of a sudden I’m that little kid again, sat on the carpet in front of the TV, utterly captivated by the dancing images in front of me.

In celebration of Disney’s continued presence in my life, the Infallible Fish (which is I) present my Top 10 Favourite Disney Films. Now, a few rules. First, I’m picking these ten films from the Disney canon, the approved list of Disney’s best animated features (wait, why is Black Cauldron in here? I thought Disney agreed no one was ever allowed to mention that pile of pig’s manure ever again? Hold on, Dinosaur is in here too? You know I’m beginning to think this is less an approved list and more a marketing gimmick. Nah, that doesn’t sound like Disney at all). Second, this is a list of my FAVOURITE Disney films. This is not a ‘Best of’ list, it’s a list of the films I enjoy watching the most. My heart rules here, not my head. Anyway, enough stalling, on with the list!

  1. Sleeping Beauty

I would argue that this is one of the most beautiful Disney films in existence. It breaks from the usual Disney house style and instead goes for a style similar to the concept art of Mary Blair. The backgrounds are some of the most gorgeous I have ever seen. This film is art. Yes, our two leads are as boring as cardboard, but this was back in the old days of Disney when the leads were the least important characters. The villain and the comedy sidekicks are clearly more worthy of attention, and my god those characters are glorious. The three good fairies are brilliant in every single scene, both good natured and hilarious. Then there’s our villain, Maleficent, the greatest of all the Disney villains (I don’t care what kind of propaganda film you’ve seen, she’s pure evil and that’s that). The scene where she gloats to the Prince while showing him what his future holds is a stunningly twisted scene that just oozes evil.

  1. Mulan

Ok, I have to be honest here. I do love Mulan (the film), but not so much Mulan (the character). Don’t get me wrong, she’s a good character, and a great progressive female lead for Disney, but she wasn’t that interesting for me. She’s kind of, well… bland. I think this is mostly because her personality is kind of generic, and she generally plays the straight man (you know what I mean) to everyone else. Luckily she makes up for any flaws by being a total badass. And I do love everybody else in the film. The guys in the army are hilarious and I could happily spend 90 minutes in their company. The action scenes are great, especially in the finale. I adore Mulan’s fight with Shan Yu. I also like the little touch of how the smoke curls like it does in Chinese paintings. Then there’s Shan Yu. I know he’s not the greatest villain. He’s not the gleefully evil villain we’re used to. He’s doesn’t have the charm of the best villains. But this guy is a threat, he is a wall for Mulan to climb, and as that he is perfect. Every time he’s on screen you feel like it’ll take a bazooka to just slow him down (and it kind of does).

  1. Pinocchio

Who says Disney can’t do dark films? This film is utterly terrifying. Not only does this film have more villains than therapy sessions you’ll need after watching it, but none of them ever get any comeuppance. Evil people doing evil things, and getting away with it? Now that’s scary. This film is also a marvel of animation, from Geppetto’s workshop to the sea floor, each frame is crammed full of detail and movement. And it’s a very mature story, about a boy learning to choose between right and wrong, and not in the usual fluffy Disney way we’ve come to expect. Pinocchio isn’t a goody two-shoes. He makes mistakes, gets seduced by the lure of an easy life, you know, like an actual kid would! Disney writing a child character like he’s a normal, fallible person? What black magic is this?

  1. The Jungle Book

The nostalgia is strong with this one. The memories are a bit hazy, but it’s either this or Bambi that was the first Disney film I ever saw (And I’ll tell you now that Bambi ain’t on this list so you can guess which one had the biggest impact on me). I love this film. I regard the characters as old friends who occasionally pop in on me. I can still hum all the songs when the mood takes me (it is an agreement with my neighbours that if I try to ‘sing’ again, they will shoot me). Yeah the story isn’t the most action-packed. Yeah the animation is a little scratchy, and not the prettiest. But this film is just so funny, and charming, that it carries me away every time. I should probably comment on the fact that some people think the monkeys are racist. Honestly, I don’t see it, and never have. Not once in all the times I’ve watched this film have I ever thought the monkeys were a representation of, well, anyone. They were just funny monkeys who knew how to really ‘swing’ (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

  1. Tangled

This was the film that brought me back to Disney. I left somewhere around about Treasure Planet, Disney had lost its steam and I was under the mistaken impression that Disney wasn’t cool (I can only claim that I was a misguided youth at the time and throw myself upon the mercy of our mouse-eared overlord). Tangled won be back though. I’d heard some good reviews, and when I saw it staring at me from a shelf in HMV, I thought to myself “Eh, we’ll give a go”. 90 minutes later and I was in love. Firstly, this is a gorgeous film, the textures, the colours. I’d say, in terms of CGI animation, this is just as good as any Pixar film (Yes, you heard me!). The side-characters are hilarious. The villain is creepy and manipulative. The leads are full of personality, managing to run the full range from funny to sympathetic. I even like the songs and will happily sing along to them (as long as I’ve checked my neighbours our out first). I know this isn’t the greatest film, or ground-breaking in any way, but I adore this film. It’s just a brilliant ride from beginning to end.

  1. Lilo and Stitch

Oh God. The tears. They just won’t stop. Honestly, there isn’t a Disney film that makes me cry like a baby more than Lilo and Stitch. There are so many scenes that are just heart-breaking. The characters in this film feel like actual living, breathing people. They’re not perfect, they’re a little bit broken, and they have a lot to learn. Our two leads are just fantastic. Lilo is just a bundle of crazy wrapped in insanity. You can see she is severely damaged inside, struggling to cope with the loss of her parents, and honestly I don’t think there’s a better representation of the effects of loss on a child outside of Land Before Time. Then there’s Stitch. He starts off as just a destructive monster, but as he starts to look for more meaning in his life, and realises just what he’s missing, you can’t help but feel sorry for the little guy. That scene where he takes the copy of the Ugly Duckling and goes out to sit in the woods, waiting for his family to show…dammit the tears are back! Honestly the other aliens are the weakest part of this film. They have nice designs and all, but none of them have the depth or heart of our human characters. All in all, if you’ll allow me to borrow from Stitch a little bit, this film is small and broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good.

  1. Wreck-It Ralph

In all honesty, I’m not much a gamer these days. What with writing, anime, books, and my job (in that order of priority), I’m fairly busy most days. So, yeah, I admit it, games have kind of fallen by the wayside a little bit. Thankfully Wreck-It Ralph isn’t just a great video game film, it’s a great film. Period. I love all of the characters. They are all great, funny and loveable in equal measure, with the perfect voice cast for all of them. Even what are supposed to be the comedy sidekicks feel like they have a little more depth and personality than normal. I really care about all of these guys and want to see them all make it to the finish line happy. Speaking of happy, that brings me to the scene. The scene that made me realise I love this film. It’s the scene where Ralph has to stop Vanelloppe from racing, and so has to smash up the cart they built together. I know, it sounds terribly cliché, but words cannot do it justice, you just have to watch the film to understand it. It feels so emotional, and Sarah Silverman’s performance is so pitch perfect it’s disturbing. It literally made me sit up and take notice. I love Wreck-It Ralph down to its very last pixel.

  1. Hunchback of Notre Dame

There is no doubt that this was a daring undertaking for Disney, and not all of it pays off. I give Disney credit for having the balls to take this film on, but in its misguided attempts to keep this film ‘kid-friendly’, they created a horrible monster. The Gargoyles (the one time I wish the comic relief had been left out of Disney). And really, they’re the only glaring flaw with this movie. Well there are a couple of little ones, but I don’t mind them. The rest of the film is wonderful. It has so many great characters. Quasimodo, a leading man who doesn’t get the girl, but wins our hearts. Esmeralda, one of (if not the) best female leads in a Disney film. It features some of my favourite songs in ‘The Bells of Notre Dame’ and ‘Hellfire’. Speaking of Hellfire, that brings us to the second best Disney villain of all time, Frollo. He is such a rarity among Disney villains, he’s a complex villain. Disney mostly operates on an evil is evil morality, never really looking into why our villains do what they do outside of basic motives, but with Frollo we actually get a look into his mind. He believes that he is a hero, that what he is doing is right, and will rationalise any evil act away. If it wasn’t for the supreme evil that is Maleficent, then Frollo would be my favourite villain.

  1. Aladdin

Arabian nights, Las Vegas style! All the pop culture references, the celebrity voices, this is DreamWorks before DreamWorks. Yet it still manages to hold on to its heart and make you care about all the characters. Our lead couple are one of the best couples in Disney. You feel the chemistry between them, and they play off of one another wonderfully. Aladdin and Abu are both funny and sweet all at the same time. Jasmine is smart and quick on the uptake, always managing to figure out what Aladdin’s up to and play along. Then there’s Genie. I don’t care how many people try to copy the Genie; they’ll never be as good as the original. Because the late, great Robin Williams wasn’t just there for comedy, he filled the Genie with so much warmth and emotion. You really do want to see him set free at the end, and it’s so satisfying when he is. The Genie is a master class in how to pull off the comedy sidekick. Also, on the character front, how they managed to get so much emotion out of a carpet I’ll never know. This film might have a lot of glitz and glamour to it, and some great animation and songs, but it’s the characters that make it worth watching again and again.

  1. Lion King

Do I even need to explain this one? You’ve all seen it. You know the characters, the songs. Everything about this is great. I’d go so far as to call it a perfect film. The animation is gorgeous, capturing the wild beauty of Africa. The songs are some of the best Disney has ever released. The characters are so memorable and loveable. I still believe the stampede scene is one of the greatest moments in animation history. The way it builds from Simba noticing the pebbles starting to shake all the way through to Mufasa’s tragic death. It’s exciting, dramatic, hopeful and then tragic all in one go, with some of the best animation and musical backing I have ever witnessed. For those five minutes the stars align and everything is perfect. Even to this day I still get goosebumps watching it. And Mufasa’s death has to be the hardest hitting in all of cinema, by that point in the film we’ve come to love the big guy, and when he passes it feels like a genuine loss. Then things get even worse as Scar digs the emotional knife into Simba and sets the Hyenas on him. Honestly there is not a single frame I would change with this movie. What else can I say? This is the king.