I recently did a top 10 list of favorite video games. Continuing that trend, I’m doing my top 10 of favorite anime. As with my previous list, this list is not in any specific order.
1 – Bleach
Bleach was the first anime I ever really devoted any time or attention to, following the story well into the Las Notches arc before finally drifting away. I’d follow along through the Bleach Wiki to learn the latest news of the series and began losing interest after the Aizen storyline was finished.
Bleach focuses on Ichigo Kurosaki, a high school student who can see ghosts. One day he encounters Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper. When Rukia is injured by a hostile spirit known as a Hollow while protecting Ichigo and his family, she helps him become a Soul Reaper so he can slay the Hollow. Not long afterwards, Rukia is arrested by her superiors in the Soul Society for breaking Soul Reaper law. Ichigo then departs on a mission to rescue her, unknowingly setting in motion a sequence of events that would shake the Soul Society to its core.
Bleach is 366 episodes long of the anime while the manga goes on much longer. There are also four standalone movies: Memories of a Nobody, Diamond Dust Rebellion, Fade to Black, and Hell Verse.
2 – Fullmetal Alchemist
While the 2003 version of this anime was okay, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is easily the superior of the two. Its easily one of my favorites for its vibrant cast of characters, compelling story, and unique universe.
FMA is set in the fictional country of Amestris, a country at early 1900s era technology with a few exceptions. In this universe, Alchemy is an ability to transmute raw materials into almost everything the person desires. As with real world Alchemy, there is a fabled stone called the Philosopher’s Stone that is said to be able to transmute anything from nothing and is sought after by most Alchemists. The exact mechanics of alchemy are long and difficult to explain but sufficed to say there are two rules for alchemists. The first is never transmute gold as it could destabilize the country’s economy and second is to never perform a human transmutation (i.e. attempt to create a living human being through alchemy) as everyone who has attempted to do so has either died or been crippled from the attempt. As such, human transmutation is referred to as “the taboo.”
The series follows Edward Elric and his younger brother Alphonse. The two committed the taboo in a failed attempt to bring back their dead mother, but in the process, Ed loses his left leg while Alphonse loses his entire body. Ed then sacrificed his right arm to anchor Al’s soul to a suit of armor. Together the two seek a way to restore their bodies and end up becoming alchemists for the Amestris State Military (i.e. State Alchemists) in order to accomplish this. However only Edward becomes the state alchemist as Al’s condition would disqualify him. As such Ed becomes the titular Fullmetal Alchemist and together they follow leads to track down possible clues to the Philosopher’s Stone but in the process they stumble upon a nefarious plot that’s been thousands of years in the making that could put the lives of everyone in Amestris at risk. Ed reports to the ambitious Flame Alchemist, Col. Roy Mustang, who is open about his desire to become the leader of Amestris and is a strong ally of the Elric brothers.
FMA is split into two series. The 2003 anime (Fullmetal Alchemist) is 51 episodes long but diverges into its own plotline that differs from the manga and ends with its own movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood follows the Manga and is 64 episodes with a standalone movie: The Sacred Star of Milos. More recently FMA had a live action movie made in Japan that slightly departs from the core story.
3 – Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail is the anime I would recommend to people who want to get into anime as it has a wonderful cast of characters while also having short yet compelling story arcs.
Fairy Tail focuses on Lucy Heartfilia, the newest member of the Fairy Tail wizard’s guild in the land of Fiore. Lucy quickly forms a partnership with the easily “fired up” Natsu Dragneel, a rare Dragonslayer wizard specializing in fire magic. Also on the “strongest team” is Grey Fullbuster, an Ice Wizard with a strange habit of stripping down to his boxers and not even realize it until someone points it out to him. There’s also Erza Scarlet, a “requip” wizard who fights using an arsenal of armor suits and weapons stored in a sort of pocket dimension and can magically change outfits on the fly. And of course there’s Happy, a talking blue cat that can use magic to grow a pair of wings and fly.
The guild winds up having to deal with all sorts of threats, from facing ancient relics of an old evil wizard, to taking on a rival guild, to stopping doomsday plots, usually stumbling onto these incidents by accident.
Fairy Tail’s anime runs 266 episodes with two standalone movies: Phoenix Priestess and Dragon Cry. There’s also a prequel series called Fairy Tail: Zero that tells the story of the Fairy Tail Guild’s founding. There’s also a crossover OVA with Rave Master, an anime/manga series by the same author as Fairy Tail.
4 – Sword Art Online
Being something of a gamer, this one stuck out to me. Sword Art Online or SAO is set in the not-too-distant future (2022) when a revolutionary new MMORPG has been developed called Sword Art Online, the first fully-immersive “full-dive” MMORPG has been released. On launch day though, all 10,000 players find that they cannot logout and any attempt to physically remove them from the game will kill them and if they die in the game, they die in real life through the VR-Headsets they wear called Nervegear. Additionally, the game forces them to appear as they do in real life.
Kirito is one of these players, having been one of the one hundred beta testers for SAO but, like the other beta testers, had been completely unaware of the nefarious plan to trap the players in the game. Kirito strikes out on his own, becoming a self-made pariah, a “beater” (a portmanteau of Beta Tester and Cheater) to spare the other beta testers the same ire and becomes an elite solo player in the game. Kirito experiences hardships and makes allies within the virtual world especially Asuna, a girl he befriended early on, to the point they become a couple and marry in game (despite being teenagers).
SAO spans several story arcs and currently spans 49 episodes and a standalone movie: Ordinal Scale. A third season has been confirmed for the fall of 2018 and a spinoff series called Alternate Gun Gale Online has only recently started airing.
It should be noted that SAO takes place within the same universe as the anime/manga series Accel World, only it takes place 20 years prior to the events of Accel World. You can safely watch Accel World though without requiring prior knowledge of the universe as the only mention of the connection twixt universes is a cameo appearance of a Nervegear in one episode late in the Accel World anime.
5 – KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World
KonoSuba is a terrific fantasy comedy series that is quite perfectly written and quickly gained a space on my top ten anime list.
Kazuma is a shut-in gamer in Japan who dies embarrassingly from a heart attack while trying to be heroic. Upon dying, he is brought before the goddess Aqua who belittles him for the embarrassing way he died and informs him that he’s to be reincarnated into a fantasy RPG world and may bring one thing with him to his new life. Out of spite he chooses Aqua and drags her along to the fantasy world where the only way she can return to godhood is by defeating the Demon King that threatens the world.
However, Aqua and Kazuma’s skillsets are ill suited for adventurers, plus they start in a well-protected fortress town far from the front lines of the conflict against the Demon King which present few opportunities for advancement towards their goals. Aqua’s surprisingly low intelligence also works against them. They soon partner with Megumin, a young wizard specializing in explosion magic that she can only use once a day as it drains all her magic power from a single use, as well as Darkness, an extremely masochistic crusader who has terrible sword skills (she can miss a target at point blank range) but is otherwise indestructible. Together they form a party of relatively inept adventurers, their interactions and comical misadventures forming the backbone of the series.
The anime lasts 20 episodes with 2 OVAs. It has been confirmed that there is more Konosuba media on its way but this has not been confirmed or denied so far as to include more of the anime.
6 – Overlord
In a slightly similar vein as Sword Art Online, Overlord is the story of a lone real-world player known as Momonga who plays the MMORPG Yggdrasil, which like SAO, is a fully immersive game. Momonga is also the leader and last remaining member of the guild Ainz Ooal Gown, an infamous Player-killing guild in Yggdrasil that made their headquarters in the dungeon known as the Great Tomb of Nazerick. However, the game is set to be shut down and Momonga decides to spend time in the game during its final hours but when the clock hits zero, nothing happens and Momonga finds himself trapped. Furthermore, all of Nazerick’s NPCs, the floor guardians and everyone else within the tomb, have gained sentience (as opposed to their docile robotic forms) and act in accordance with their programmed personalities prior to the shutdown time.
They quickly discover that the entire tomb has been transported to an unknown fantasy world. After finding Yggdrasil items and magic within this world, he changes his name to Ainz Ooal Gown and begins a campaign to spread his name across the land, hoping that other Yggdrasil players (if they got teleported in along with him) will hear it and recognize it to come seek him out.
Interestingly, Ainz and the rest of Nazerick’s residents are so hilariously overpowered that even the head butler, Sebas Tian, can defeat opponents that are considered strong in this new world with a mere punch that can explodes their heads on contact.
A great analogy I’ve seen to this power difference is if a whole clan of level 120 World of WarCraft players got transported to Vanilla WoW where the level cap is 60 and start a subtle takeover bid.
The series is 25 episodes long with a third season confirmed in the works.
7 – My Bride is a Mermaid
I was, at first, skeptical of this anime but after only three episodes I was hooked. My Bride is a Mermaid is a delightful romantic comedy but with a special emphasis on comedy.
The series focuses on Nagasumi, a middleschooler who joins his family on a vacation to the Seto Inland Sea and, while swimming, nearly drowns only to be rescued by Sun Seto, a mermaid. Due to mermaid law, any human who sees a mermaid’s true form must die (or else the mermaid must die). To make matters worse, Sun Seto is the daughter of a mermaid yakuza boss. Her dad wants to kill Nagasumi to save his daughter but his wife/Sun’s mom, opts instead to have Nagasumi and Sun get married once they’re old enough in order to save both of them. Things just spiral into madness from there. The comedic scenarios and situations as well as the comedic timing makes this series an absolute riot.
The series is 26 episodes long.
8 – Ouran High School Host Club
This series was a classic case of “I judged a book by its cover and boy was I wrong.” This rom-com takes place at the prestigious Ouran Academy which is an elite school for the filthy rich and focuses on Haruhi Fujioka, a girl who secured a scholarship to the school despite her family’s financial issues. While seeking a place to study she accidently stumbles into Ouran High’s Host Club (A Host Club is basically a place where girls can go to flirt with handsome men. Almost a strip-club without the stripping or nudity. The female version is a Hostess Club). While there, the overwhelmed Haruhi accidently knocks over and destroys a priceless vase. To pay off her debt to the club, she’s inducted as a member and soon made into a host as she can easily pass as a male. The other hosts quickly grow fond of her, especially the club president, Tamaki Suoh, a flamboyant Princely type person who falls in love with her but is so dense as to his own feelings he doesn’t realize his feelings until late in the series. Haruhi even grows to enjoy the Host Club.
The series is a great comedy series and should not be overlooked just because of its flowery exterior. It should be noted that the anime slightly differs from the original manga but only slightly. The anime lasts 26 episodes.
9 - Girls und Panzer
This is a series that made me bust a gut laughing when I first heard about it but like Ouran Host Club, I quickly grew to love it for the old tanks showcased in the series as well as the thrill of the competition shown in the series.
Girls und Panzer focuses on Miho Nishizumi, a new transfer into Ooarai Academy which operates from a giant aircraft carrier turned floating city (referred to as a School Carrier). She’s quickly blackmailed into joining the school’s newly revived Sensha-do (Art of the Tank) club by the student council. Sensha-do (in this universe) is a sport for women that trains young women to maintain and operate World War II era and older tanks in competitive team matches. Miho happens to be the youngest member of a famous Sensha-do family, which was the reason for her forced induction. She finally agrees to lead the school’s team as they enter that year’s tournament, leading Ooarai against other school teams all themed around the different nations that participated in World War II (Great Britain, USA, Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Imperial Japan, etc). It’s later revealed that the reason the Student Council pressured her into the club was that the fate of their school rests on winning the tournament as the school carrier is scheduled to be shut down soon and a victory in the tournament will prevent its closure.
Girls und Panzer is 12 episodes long with a feature length film, Girls und Panzer der Film, and has only recently released the first of a six part film series known collectively as Girls und Panzer der Finale.
10 – Gate: Thus the Self Defense Force Fought There
Gate was a unique concept that caught my attention and was executed quite well. It is basically a “what if” scenario of modern day military versus fantasy army.
In an unspecified year in the modern day (it’s billed as being 20XX) in Tokyo’s Ginza district, a strange gate appears in the middle of an intersection and releases a fantasy army of human and monster soldiers and dragons that proceed to attack the populous without mercy. During the chaos, an off duty JSDF (Japanese Self Defense Force) Ranger and Special Forces officer (and confirmed Otaku) Itami Youji jumps in to help protect people until the police and military arrive and easily force the invaders back through the gate. For his heroic actions, Itami is placed on a special expeditionary force through the Gate to try and end the war being waged by the Empire (the sword and sandal armed forces that launched the invasion). After easily gaining a foothold within the “Special Region” the JSDF begin making allies and rescuing civilians from various threats ranging from Dragons to bandits to the Empire itself. Itami himself gains the friendship and affections of three of the region’s natives, specifically Lelei a young apprentice mage, Tuka a “young” (165 year old) elf girl, and especially Rory Mercury, a 961 year old demigoddess Envoy of the God Emroy (a war god).
The series depicts the JSDF as militarily superior to the native Imperial army so it becomes a game of diplomacy as the Empire quickly learns that to try and fight the JSDF would be suicidal, especially after the JSDF manages to wipe out an army of 10,000 men without losing a single man of their own. The series might seem like a propaganda piece at times for the JSDF but I personally don’t mind it.
The anime is 24 episodes long but the manga goes a little further than the anime and fully wraps up events.
Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions
Zoids: New Century Zero
Seven Deadly Sins
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Interviews with Monster Girls
And that’s the end of that top 10 list. I’m not sure what my next one will be though or if another will follow so stay tuned.