5- Kino’s journey: the Beautiful World
A largely episodic, slow paced and thought-provoking road series, we follow the titular Kino on a journey around a strange other world with her talking motorcycle (not as goofy as it sounds). As they come across many strange lands and characters with startlingly different cultures and beliefs, as Kino waxes philosophy about the many meanings behind human nature. Though not to say she isn’t a fun and interesting character in her own right, delivering a lot of deadpan humour, and the episode that deals with her back story is just as interesting as any other. Every episode is like a parable, seeing Kino in bizarre places and meeting bizarre people, that aren’t what they seem; like a country only run by robots, warring countries with a genocidal secret, or simply railroad workers who think
they’re only doing their job. The way the stories pan out and how Kino reacts to them is never what you expect. But unlike a lot of other episodic journey based shows, Kino is not a hero going round liberating cities and saving the day, she is only ever an observer, there to see the world not change it.
Not a particularly action packed or thrilling series, Kino’s journey is beautifully vivid, and has the vibe of a cold snowy night in, and is for when you’re in the mood for something more cerebral and thought-provoking. At only 13 episodes Kino’s journey is a must for those who watch anime for more than tits and Kamehame Waves.
If Quentin Tarantino made an anime, it would be something like this. A
sprawling, insane mulch-character driven gangster epic that weaves three interlinked but out of order stories, of the same characters from different points of 1930’s New York. Bringing together smooth talking gangsters, thuggish mobsters, goofy yet lovable thieves, good-hearted mercenaries, a variety of psychotic serial killers, and sinister immortal cultists. It sounds a lot, and it is, but it’s a hella good time and a fun ride.
Dramatic, action packed, scary, thoughtful, really really funny,
and just damn good entertainment; its Pulp Fiction-esque turned up to 11 plotting is a feat of storytelling, but if you can get your head around it you’ll discover one of the most bizarre gems anime has to offer. And it’s only 16 episodes long!
It also has one the coolest openings this side of Cowboy Bebop!
3- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
In many ways and overall better than the original series in my opinion, as Brotherhood follows the manga’s story much closer, so the overall plot is better paced and planned out and there is actual character development.
Set in a fantastical world where the science of alchemy exists, we follow the young Elric brother’s as they travel the land, having many misadventures, trying to discover a way to fix their mistakes, and for the older brother Edward to find redemption for the sins of his youth. Almost as funny as it is dramatic and action packed, the story spans years as we see these characters grow, change and come to terms with the kind of world they live in; diving heavy into themes of brotherhood, redemption, religion, politics, and the meaning of life itself.
Really I can’t say much more without ruining it, so just watch it for yourself. Go get lost in this world that can be sweet and charming one moment, then dark and twisted the next. The characters are classic, and the story is huge. It’s everything you want anime to be and more.
If you’ve seen the original series and think you don’t need to see this because of that, DO! Only around the first 15 episodes of the 64 cover what the original series did, and from then on it goes in a startlingly different direction. And that goes double for if you haven’t seen either.
2- Yu Yu Hakusho
The series follows the adventures of a genuine jackass of a high school punk Yusuke, who after he is brought back from the dead becomes the after life’s Spirit Detective, tasked with protecting the world from demonic threats.
Though in many ways your typical battle Shonen fare (and doesn’t it sound it), what sets it apart from its kin is just how well it does it’s fare and builds around the tropes; as well as it’s generally darker tone. It’s a Shonen where people actually die, and the hero kills. But what makes it so great is its wide well developed cast of eclectic chcharacters that constantly blur the lines between good and evil (shades rarely touched upon by Shonen anime). Interesting worlds with different laws and cultures that are well explored, and though nearer the end its action gets a bit too DBZ-y, for the most part the fights are diverse and amazing, focusing more on martial-arts with super-powered twists, than just yelling till the other guy explodes. Though a bit slow and goofy at the beginning, when the main plot of the series begins developing from the second season it gets vastly more interesting. The villains become just as important and developed as the good guys, and the pace picks up perfectly, never falling into the DBZ trap of overly long fights and slow plot progression, instead keeping fights to two-ish episodes a piece at most and every episode actually pushes the plot forward.
It also has a fantastic dub that plays it fast and loose with language and humor, and the manga writer himself as said he thinks the Dub captured the spirit of his story better than the original.
It’s a real gem from the 90’s anime flux, and one of the all-time greats. Watch it…if you have time for a 100+ episode series…
And it too has one of the bes…okay not best, but just odd opening themes, that doesn’t suit the show, but is perfect for it non the less.
1- BECK: Mongolian chop squad
I’ve already done a full look at this series. So to see why it’s my number one go read that here.
Honorable mentions (or shows that should really be on the list)
Ping-Pong: the animation
An odd ball of a sport’s anime, that is much more about the characters and growing up than the sport, and does so brilliantly by telling this tale of reaching for the top from multiple players’ perspectives. But that doesn’t stop the sport being mesmerizing and intense as hell to watch. Relatively new so I’ve only watched it once, but give it time I could see this finding its way high on the list.
The classic sci-fi western series, that starts as a goofy action comedy, and becomes a dark science fiction thriller, all with one of the most charismatically likable yet tragic leads ever put to anime. It is full of great characters that defy expectations, an expansive world like you’ve never seen before, and a rich and original mythology. Really it should be on the list, and I’m not sure why it isn’t!
There’s anti-heroes, and then there’s Alucard the ‘hero’ of this dark, gothic action, horror show, who is basically just a villain, but just isn’t as evil as the other villains because well, even vampires aren’t Nazis. Gruesomely fun, with strong characters, action, and plot; just make sure you don’t confuse it with the other Hellsing series which pales in comparison, and is another case of the series that sticks closer to the manga being the better.
It’s fucking Death Note, does anyone need to say anything more about it!
Another show considered an absolute classic, I kind of had the opposite experience with this than with Evangelion, as I went in with far too much hype, expecting the show to change my beliefs in the world and all that…and it really didn’t. But after having watched the show a few times with my expectations lower, I can’t deny how damn good it is. Great characters, great subtle storytelling, and it just oozes style from every pour, when it’s not just being funny. Don’t think I’ll ever love it as much as most people, but it DOES have one of the best ending lines in all of anime. So what else can I say but….bang
Well I hope you enjoyed my list of my personal favorite anime shows. Agree, disagree, what are some of your favorite anime shows? Let us know in the comments below.