10) Codename: Kids Next Door
Synopsis: In a world of adult tyranny an organization known as the Kids Next Door, leads the fight against them. Together Numbahs 1-5 of the Kids Next Door’s Sector V battle against adult corruption and to make the world better for kids everywhere
Why I Like It: So this one’s another genre spoof, and this time for secret agent shows. Similar to the others on this list it works pretty well as a comedy but it’s also interesting in that it actually starts to weave together several story arcs as it goes along and actually wraps up on a surprisingly serious note. Of course what really makes this show charming is that as much as it is a genre spoof it’s also about childhood and despite what it’s premise implies, doesn’t really gloss over the fact that kids can exaggerate how much adults “oppress” them and how silly they can be in general. That strange yet enjoyable mix makes for one of CN’s best classics and definitely one of my favorites
9) Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated
Synopsis: In the town of Crystal Cove a group of kids calling themselves Mystery Inc. dedicate themselves to solving mysteries. Unfortunately for them the townsfolk don’t actually want them to solve anything and instead treat them as outcasts. However when the kids uncover a secret that ties into the history behind Crystal Cove, they find themselves in a mystery bigger than they could possibly imagine.
Why I Like It: Alright so me and ol’ Scoob have a bit of mixed history. On the one hand I adore the original series from the 60’s for it’s campiness and some of the films that followed for putting either a darker or even sillier spin on things. On the other hand though, all the material that came during the “What’s New Scooby Doo” era was bland and managed to almost completely dull me to the franchise. However when I heard this show actually managed to veer into even darker territory than Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island, I was intrigued and ended up digging this a whole lot more than I thought I would. This show deconstructs pretty much all of the things that have defined Scooby Doo as a franchise over the years and does a surprisingly good job of making an extremely interesting storyline, while turning the originally one note personalities of the Mystery gang into actual fleshed out characters. However despite it’s more serious tone, it pays homage to what made Scooby-Doo so iconic in the first place as much as it deconstructs it and the ending ties into the franchise as a whole in a way that has to be seen to be believed. On the downside the individual mysteries of the week are sometimes straightforward to the point of ridiculousness but the overall narrative is a strong one and managed to single handedly re-ignite my near dead love for this franchise (though it seems like the upcoming Be Cool Scooby-Doo may end up killing it again *sigh*)
8) Batman: The Animated Series
Synopsis: Within the chaotic streets of Gotham City, the legendary caped crusader known as the Batman wages a one man war on crime. Also known to the world by his civilain identity Bruce Wayne, Batman struggles against a variety of villains as well as his feelings towards the death of his parents.
Why I Like It: So given my earlier rip on the Bruce Wayne story this may seem strange, but across the many animated incarnations of Batman, this show is the one that best gets his story right. While not as dark as it’s sequel Batman Beyond it more than makes up for it by really delving into the psychology of each of Batman’s foes and even Batman himself, while also maintaining an incredibly grounded tone for what was considered a kid’s show at the time. So much so that it actually was attempted to be marketed towards older audiences at one point but alas the curse of the Animation Age Ghetto is a strong one. Regardless this show is the pinnacle of the DCAU works, and still the one of the best Batman stories ever told.
7) The Powerpuff Girls
Why I Like It: The Powerpuff Girls is a strange little show, simultaneously parodying superheroes and magical girl shows before the later was even on the radar of U.S. audiences. It managed to make itself into something of a cultural phenomenon (even spawning a series in Japan I wish didn’t exist) and in many ways was the real progenitor of “moe” in regards to Americans (sorry Bronies your show wasn’t first). Part of what really makes the show work is that it can switch from the girls being adorable to hardcore fighters at a moment’s notice and sometimes wielding both at the same time with makes for some great comedy when it hits it’s sweet spot. Of course it’s much more the former than the latter and can be genuinely heartwarming at times. It’s easy to see why this show is still fondly remembered even today and now that it’s on the crux of getting a revival hopefully the reboot sticks to what makes it work.
6) Adventure Time
Synopsis: In the Land of Ooo, Finn the Human and his best friend/brother Jake the Dog go on adventures throughout the land. Each day is a new adventure and each more absurd than the last.
Why I Like It: On the note of weird things, this series takes the cake as it’s one of the most peculiar shows to ever exist. I don’t mean that in a “ha ha” weird way either (though it certainly does have that) but straight up legit weird. Despite having the trappings of an absurd comedy and more or less starting out that way over the course of it’s run this show has transcended it’s initial genre boundaries to the point where I’m practically convinced it’s become a genre unto itself. One things for sure though, there’s a method to this show’s madness and it spends just as much time being surprisingly compelling and at times touching, as it does reveling in how bizarre it is. The world of the series is a vast one and the show is also unique in that it actually does take the time to explore a lot of the characters in it, often times having episodes where the titular duo don’t even show up at all. This show managed to become something of a sensation, and it’s not too hard to see why as once you get past the initial weirdness it bombards you with, there’s something downright magical about it.
Synopsis: Within a suburb town a group of active toddlers spend every day exploring the world around them. Together, Tommy, Phil, Lil and Chuckie go on a variety of adventures while trying to steer clear of Tommy’s trouble making cousin, Angelica.
Why I Like It: So Rugrats asks a question we’ve almost all considered at some point in our lives: how exactly DO babies perceive the world around them? The answer is undoubtedly different than what this show actually gives us but that doesn’t make it any less fun. This show has a blast taking the most mundane of scenarios and turning them into something exciting and fun when seen through the babies’ perspectives making for some cute little adventures. The core cast is extremely likable (hard to expect anything less from a show with toddlers as the main characters) and while the focus is generally on the babies, the adults actually do get an episode or two on occasion and generally avoid being too static. The series was Nick’s biggest hit before a certain other show came along, spawning a couple of movies that made their way into theaters (with both actually being good oddly enough) and a sequel spin-off called All Grown Up. While the mediocrity of the latter has attributed to the downfall of the franchise in some ways, the original is still a great classic.
Synopsis: You COULD read a boring synopsis from me but why not listen to this sexy voiced narration instead (you’re welcome)
Why I Like It: As I said earlier, Greg Weissman is one of the greatest enigmas in western animation and this show is where he got his start. This show is dark in a way where you would almost never be able to believe it was produced by Disney of all companies but more than that this show is extremely…well…classy. It carries itself with a level of sophistication you’d never expect from kids shows on either side of the ocean. So much so, I’m convinced that if you made it into a live action series and changed nothing else about it in regards to dialogue and plot, you would almost never be able to tell it was a kid’s show. The characters all carry themselves pretty realistically (and features Xanatos, who is hands down one of the best villains ever made) and the ongoing storyline of the Gargoyles trying to adjust to the modern world while overcoming their past experiences with humanity is a fascinating one. It’s one of the most compelling action toons ever made, and one I’d even wholeheartedly recommend to die hard anime fans.