19) Tiger & Bunny
Synopsis: In Sternbuild City, corporate logos not only cover billboards, but also the costumes of the super-powered heroes that act as its protectors. Veteran and newcomer warriors of justice alike compete in a reality TV show that offers points for apprehending criminals while giving champions’ sponsors a chance to promote their brand. When the low-ranking Wild Tiger loses his backing after a string of outrageous, botched rescues, he finds himself paired with an up-and-coming spotlight-seeker called Barnaby. But with their wildly different personalities, will the pair be able to save their beloved Sternbuild City and win the game show, or will their constant tension be the undoing of the world’s first hero team?
Why I Like It: I’m a sucker for good superhero stuff and this show combines those elements with a fun buddy cop show. The core cast of characters are all a blast and for the main character Kotetsu in particular, it’s really nice to get a series with a middle aged protagonist. It’s a series that generally mixes camp with western sensibilities and while it gets notably darker in the second half it never strays too far away from fun, always believing in the themes of heroism and never giving up what you want to do. Sadly despite it’s massive and unexpected success, a second season has yet to be confirmed but in the meantime, what we’ve got is still pretty fantastic.
Streaming Availability: Neon Alley, Hulu
18) Black Lagoon (all seasons)
Synopsis: Rokuro Okajima is a small-time salaryman who is carrying documents for his company, when the ship he’s traveling on is attacked by pirates. Kidnapped, he discovers to his dismay that his employers’ main concern is to ensure the documents don’t get into the wrong hands, even if it means sending the carrier to the bottom of the sea. Now, with his former life ruined and his kidnappers seeming comparatively friendly, “Rock” decides to join their merry band of mercenaries, and sets out with a new career to the shadier corners of the South China Sea.
Why I Like It: This series is effectively the ultimate Hollywood action flick, filled to the brim with guns, explosions and great gunfight choreography. Pretty much every character is a villain in their own right but they’re all fun to watch and it makes for some great interactions. Though while Hollywood theatrics are it’s bread and butter it gets progressively darker as it goes along, displaying an increasingly more cynical world view in turn, which even if you don’t necessarily find yourself agreeing with makes for some interesting material. Especially so with the lead character Rock, who while trying to battle against the corruption of the world he now finds himself in, slowly becomes more and more of a villain himself.
Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu
17) Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
Synopsis: Once upon a time, two brothers passed the happy days of their childhood by studying alchemy, which is governed by the equal transfer principle: an eye for an eye — you can’t get more than you give. But these brothers tried to defy that law, and a horrific accident resulted. Now, the older brother, Edward, is called the Full Metal Alchemist because of his metal limbs, and the younger, Alphonse, is a soul without a body, trapped within the confines of an automaton. Together they search for the power to restore themselves, to find the lives they lost so long ago…
Why I Like It: Okay so debates between this series and it’s more manga-faithful counterpart are endless but those exist for a good reason. While as you’ll see later I lean more towards the latter this series still holds up extremely well on it’s own and it’s proof that anime adaptions doing something different isn’t always a bad thing. Compared to the more grand scale nature of Brotherhood, this one is a bit of a smaller tale as it’s more about dealing with personal tragedies that makes for a much more character driven story and it combines that with some cool fantasy concepts and solid action that makes for a compelling show (even if that dang movie negates what made the ending to the TV series work so well). Even if you lean more towards the manga/Brotherhood this show is still worth giving a shot on it’s own merits.
Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu, Netflix
Synopsis: In a far and distant future, men and women have become mortal enemies. Each living on seperate planets, an interstellar war is being fought between the two very different peoples. Hibiki, a mere 3rd class worker, finds himself in the middle of a huge space battle, facing the nemesis of mankind: Womankind!
Why I Like It: Alright so this one is an extremely personal choice backed by the fact that I’ve rewatched the darn thing so many times it’d feel weird not to include it, but it’s a solid show nonetheless. It’s a pretty classic space opera mecha series mixed with some coming-of-age stuff (and some pseudo-Evangelion material that doesn’t really go enough of anywhere to be worth mentioning). What really sells the show is that it actually makes pretty clever use of it’s premise and despite what it would normally imply, manages to avoid being a harem series by pretty significant margin (only two girls are ever actively trying to get in Hibiki’s pants and a technical third who wants to use him for…other reasons). The whole gender divide thing is handled creatively, with the two sides coming together in a way that makes sense, and the romance between the two leads is kind of cute. It’s not a show that’ll exactly set the world on fire for anyone but it’s still pretty good, which is while I’ll continue to hold a grudge against Funimation for marketing the re-release of the series as a by the numbers boobs show (with the 90 second trailer ironically containing almost every notable instance of fanservice in the show’s 24 episode run).
Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu
Synopsis: When a group of children discover a strange cave at the beach, their lives are forever changed. Inside they find a hide out filled with computers and a man named Kokopelli who gives them a curious offer: to participate in a special game in which they save Earth from fifteen giant monsters. To defeat the invaders, he will give them a powerful mecha of black armor. The children eagerly sign the contract, name their new weapon Zearth, and must now take turns to pilot it; but the ‘game’ is in fact all too real and the consequences of battle become the stuff of nightmares. With no option to cancel the contract, is there any way to stop the game before it is too late for all of them?
Why I Like It: Before there was Madoka, there was Bokurano and while I admittedly saw this show after the former. they cover some fairly similar territory. It has a pretty interesting sci-fi premise but more than that, Bokurano is a story about the meaning of self-sacrifice, and what that means for each of us as individuals. As the show explores the stories of each pilot, they’re all forced to find their own reasons to sacrifice themselves, and in some cases can’t find any reason at all. Though the show mostly revels in nihilism in that respect (with the show featuring one of the most disturbingly appropriate theme songs ever made as it’s entirely about that point of view) it also more often than not balances it out with warmth and love. Like with Evangelion (though not quite to that ridiculous an extent) the ending is more about about that particular theme than the sci-fi aspect, but it all comes together to make an extremely compelling story.
Streaming Availability: None (available for purchase at online retailers)
14) Attack on Titan
Synopsis: Over a century ago, mankind was devoured by giant beings of unknown intelligence and origin known as Titans – creatures that eat humans alive indiscriminately and for no apparent reason. The remaining population has managed to survive the last hundred years only by building a multi-walled city capable of keeping the Titans at bay, training military recruits to patrol the perimeter and gather intelligence about their mysterious foe. Eren and Mikasa have lived a relatively peaceful life behind the city’s walls, but when a massive Titan appears, smashing the outer barrier and unleashing a wave of terror, their lives are brutally changed forever.
Why I Like It: Alright so I’m not a very original person, but this show stands as a testament to the fact that how something is adapted is just as important as the adapted material itself. The story works as a great action drama piece about the dual sided nature of humanity, as both savage and caring, banding together against a greater force, in this case being giant monsters. It’s source material is compelling enough but Tetsuo Araki’s direction ramps it up to eleven, making for a much more dramatic and over the top spectacle, combined with some great music (and an opening theme song that would spawn a thousand parodies) and great battle choreography (even if the show didn’t always have the animation to match). This show’s garnered the attention it has for good reason, and hopefully subsequent seasons can keep it up.
13) Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Synopsis: One night, Madoka has a terrible nightmare – against the backdrop of a desolate landscape, she watches a magical girl battle a terrifying creature, and lose. The next day, the teen’s dream becomes reality when the girl – Homura – arrives at Mitakihara Middle School as a transfer student, mysteriously warning Madoka to stay just the way she is. But when she and her best friend Miki are pulled into a twisted illusion world and meet a magical creature named Kyubey, the pair discovers that magical girls are real, and what’s more, they can choose to become one. All they must do is sign a contract with Kyubey and agree to fight witches that spread despair to the human world, and in return they will be granted a single wish. However, as Homura’s omen suggests, there’s far more to becoming a magical girl than Madoka and Miki realize…
Why I Like It: Again, I’m not a very original person, but hey this show is good. I’ve never been too much of a magical girl fan outside of the obvious stuff like Sailor Moon, so a darker take on that concept was a pretty appealing prospect to me and it delivered on that in spades. It puts an interesting spin on all the tropes magical girl shows tend to be built on, and much like Bokurano earlier is a story that looks at the idea of self-sacrifice with a perspective of both nilhlism and love. However it’s a much more tightly scripted tale, and combines those themes with interesting concepts thanks to it’s darker take on magical girl material, along with some great looking art curtesy of Akiyuki Shinbo’s direction. Like with Attack on Titan, this show’s gotten the level of praise it has for good reason and it’s one that will undoubtedly continue to stand the test of time.
Streaming Availability: Crunchyroll, Hulu, Netflix
12) Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (both seasons)
Synopsis: It is the year 2029, and as many rush to embrace the changes that cybernetic technology bring to mankind, the seedier side of humanity is even quicker to take advantage of it. This series follows Public Peace Section 9, a government organization that plays behind the scenes to stop the worst of these criminals. Join Major Motoko Kusanagi and her team as they take you through an incredibly vivid world filled with plots of such depth and intrigue as is seldom seen.
Why I Like It: Ghost in the Shell is one the most sophisticated shows ever made, and one that masterfully explores various social and political themes through a well thought out cyberpunk setting. It’s science fiction at it’s finest and mixed together with gorgeous visual design that still holds up today, and a great soundtrack courtesy of Yoko Kanno has allowed the show to hold it’s place as a beloved franchise.
Streaming Availability: Hulu
11) Cowboy Bebop
Synopsis: Follow interstellar bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black as they scour the galaxy for criminals with prices on their heads. Hoping to escape their past, they live on the spaceship Bebop, but it’s a dangerous business and old enemies don’t forget easily. Allies come from unlikely sources, however, as they find comrades in the beautiful swindler Faye Valentine, the genius child hacker Ed and the genetically engineered ‘data dog’ Ein. Will they be able to help each other though their respective struggles, or is their fate really inevitable?
Why I Like It: Well this was bound to show up at some point, and hilariously enough just outside of my top 10. Pretty much everyone’s seen the show at this point (and if you haven’t I’d recommend fixing that pronto) so there’s no need to go too in depth on this one but it’s a fun ride mixed with crazy adventures, cool action and a sweet, sweet jazz soundtrack that helped to make Yoko Kanno the legend she is today. I generally prefer the show’s various standalone episodes to the core story, but it does make for a grand tale of a group of people drifting through life while never really connecting with each other and ultimately arriving at their own separate destinations. It’s a great combination of jazz and noire and it continues to hold it’s place as one of the most celebrated anime of all time.
Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu