First Impressions- Spring 2017 Anime (Part 2)

The spring season rollout is still bearing down upon us, but between real life responsibilities and Persona 5, getting through the premieres might take me a bit longer than usual. Still I’m determined to plow through as many as these as possible so with all that said and done, let’s keep going

Ratings Scale

Bad: Stay away far away from this one.  Not worth watching

Decent: Has some okay elements to it. Might be worth giving a  couple of episodes to see how it goes

Good: Fairly solid show. Should be worth keeping up with for now

Great: Really good show. Definently worth seeing if you get the chance

Excellent: Really outstanding show. Absolutely worth following .

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Kado: The Right Answer

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Synopsis: Koujiro Shindo is a highly-skilled negotiator working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As his plane at Haneda airport prepares to take off, a huge mysterious cube appears from the sky. “It” expands rapidly, and absorbs the passenger plane and its 252 passengers. The cube’s name is “Kado”. A strange being called Yaha-kui zaShunina appears from within Kado and tries to make contact with humanity. Shindou, who has been absorbed by Kado, ends up taking on the role of mediator between Yaha-kui zaShunina and humanity. Who is Yaha-kui zaShunina? What does he want?

First Impressions: This is looking to be a good season for sci-fi anime as there’s quite a few titles from the genre coming out of the woodwork (though thanks to Anime Strike I won’t be watching Atom the Beginning anytime soon). Out of all of them though, this was the one that looked like the one that was gearing the most towards the hard sci-fi angle and while the first part of this two episode premiere helps to establish the main character as an expert negotiator a lot of the material here is mostly procedural stuff and technobabble meaning the actual show itself isn’t really going to kick off till next week. Though what has me the most fascinated about the show so far is that it’s coming from Toei of all studios who are the last ones I’d expect doing a hard-edged sci-fi show, and with the director also being one of the minds behind Gargantia on The Verdeous Planet, I was curious to see how it’d turn out. Of course the most noticeable thing here is that the show is a 2D/3DCG hybrid much like the unfortunate Berserk 2016 anime, but unlike that show the CG here is a lot more passable and the 2D animation, while not great is used well enough to avoid some of the bigger pitfalls that CG stuff tends to run into. As I said before though it’s pretty clear that the actual show itself is still another week off, so aside from the visuals it’s hard to form much of a real opinion yet but I guess that also means it’s at least won the privilege of making want to see what the heck it actually does next week.

Rating: ???

 

Love Tyrant

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Synopsis: A beautiful girl named Guri, who has a mysterious item that forces two random people to kiss and turns them into couples, appears in front high school student, Aino Seiji. Despite being dressed up as a shinigami, she’s actually cupid. Suddenly, Guri tries to kiss Seiji, and then… Unavoidable and uncontrollable. A forceful love comedy that starts with an angel and a kiss!!

First Impressions: So I vaguely recall having skimmed through some of the manga for this way back when and being somewhat amused by the Death Note parodies, so I figured this might be good for a few chuckles. What I actually watched though appeared to be the equivalent of someone on staff hitting the fast-forward button for 24 minutes, because from the everything from very beginning of the episode right through to the end, seems to be a very big hurry to get through the show’s basic set-up and things happen so fast that there’s barely anytime to process one event before it’s moved onto the next. The basic set-up here is pretty much just a harem rom-com with the twist that it’s parodying Death Note in having a notebook that forces people to kiss each other, and while that could be amusing in it’s own right, this first episode runs though the majority of it’s gags so quickly that it’s hard to laugh at them, and the few jokes that do stand out are largely outdated humor about BL and yuri. I suppose this is what I get for relying on my past-self to guide my viewing decisions, but I guess it wasn’t boring at least. Depending on the rest of this season’s outlook it’s possible this might end-up being my go to trash show for the season since I suppose it might at least be amusing to mock but otherwise it’s probably a skip

Rating: Bad

 

Clockwork Planet

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Synopsis: Earth died a thousand years ago, and a legendary clockmaker known only as “Y” rebuilt it using clockwork. Naoto Miura, a failing high school student, encounters RyuZU, an automaton that “Y” left behind, and the genius clockmaker Marie. When the abilities of these three come together, the gears of fate begin to turn. The cycle of failure and success repeats endlessly as the three of them work to repair the endangered “Clockwork Planet” in this clockpunk fantasy!

First Impressions: Continuing the trend of sci-fi shows for the season, we of course have to have one based off a light novel, and Clockwork Planet is the one looking to fill that “void”. The first episode was an…interesting experience, mainly because the show both looks and feels like it stepped straight out of 2007 and somehow time warped into 2017. From such classic tropes as a girl literally falling from the sky to waifu-bots everything here feels like tropes that anime has since improved or moved on from, and even the way it handles it’s few bits of fanservice feels a little outdated (except the finger sucking scene, that was just…weird). Given all that there’s nothing here that’s particularly of note outside of the setting of a world made of gears which is kinda neat if nothing else. On the bright side though, nothing here is particularly offensive either, and if you’re in the mood for a mid 00’s anime flavor with sci-fi thrown in then it’s at least watchable. Even putting aside my own tastes though this one ultimately just feels like it came a decade too late, and I’m not even sure how much of an audience there is for these crusty old anime tropes but I guess we’ll have to see. As for me I’m likely signing off here.

Rating: Decent

 

Tsugumomo

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Synopsis: Kazuya Kagami’s most treasured possession in the world is the obi left to him by his late mother. The scent of cherry-blossoms infused into it helps him through his day – but he never expected it to save his life, becoming a beautiful kimono-clad girl who calls herself an “artifact spirit.” Her name is Kiriha, tsukumogami of the sash, who naturally moves in with him, as he is her “owner.” Throw in Chisato, his bespectacled friend, an overprotective older sister who wants to take baths with him, a busty priestess, a seductive sorceress named Kokuyoura, and Kazuya’s life has just gotten a lot more…interesting.

First Impressions: Speaking of things that somehow hopped on a time machine from 2007 into the present we have Tsugumomo which about as standard as a mid-late 00’s harem show can get. We have our bland blank slate of a protagonist, we have the tsundere childhood friend (who also doubles as the obligatory girl with glasses), we have the raunchy magic girlfriend, and even the onee-san character, who seems weirdly determined to get in her brother’s pants, all wrapped into a pretty generic supernatural setting. Long story short if you’ve seen pretty much any harem show from that time period then odds are pretty good you’ve seen this one, and quite possibly done better meaning that it doesn’t really offer anything of real interest and I personally had to struggle to stay awake through it’s dual episode premiere. If on the other hand you haven’t seen any of those or you’re really nostalgic for them for whatever reason then I suppose you could do worse, and to it’s credit, while the character designs certainly look like something from a decade ago, the production values look pretty decent and there’s even some surprisingly okay looking 3DCG in the second episode. Still, it’s hard to get past the fact that this one’s pretty bland and while I can be pretty okay with dumb fanservice shows if they’re silly enough, the execution here is so sleepy that virtually nothing grabbed me. All in all it’s a definite skip for me, but for anyone else, it’s harmless enough I guess.

Rating: Decent

What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?

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Synopsis: The fleeting and sad story about little girls known as fairy weapons and an associate hero that survived. This is a world after it was attacked by unidentified monsters known as beasts and many of the species in the world, including humans, had been destroyed. The species that had managed to survived left the ground and were living on a floating island called Regal Ele. Willem Kumesh, wakes up above the clouds 500 years later and couldn’t protect the ones who he wanted to protect. Actually, he was living in despair because he was the only survivor. He then ends up meeting a group of girls while starting an unexpected weapon management job.

First Impressions: Well it was only a matter of time  I suppose. It was pretty much inevitable that at some point we’d end up with an light novel based show whose name alone is almost an entire paragraph. I have no idea what why these LN writers have such a weird fixation on trying to fit their entire premise into the title, but I guess it’s amusing if nothing else. So stupidly long name aside, this show seems to be a relatively low-key fantasy fare taking place in a world where some kind of apocalypse resulted in humanity being wiped out and replaced with all manner of humanoid looking monsters. Fantasy settings where humans are uncommon tend to grab my attention by default so I was fairly amused by that aspect of it, but the story itself seems pretty alright too, albeit a bit vague in this opener. Apparently the protagonist ends up taking on a job involving being the caretaker for a bunch of girls who happen to be living weapons, but it takes till the end of the episode to flesh out that premise, so the show mostly just has atmosphere going for it right now. The big thing that grabbed my attention is that the main character was apparently a foster dad at some point, and he clearly sees the girls he’s been put in charge of as just kids which is a somewhat refreshing change of pace from what this sort of premise normally involves, and if it actually does turn out to be fantasy adventures in parenting that could be pretty neat. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this one, and especially with it’s ridiculous title, but it was certainly more interesting than I thought it’d be so I’ll likely stick with it for the time being.

Rating: Good


And that’s it for me and spring titles. Sorry this one took so long to get around to, but the allure of Persona 5 was too difficult to resist. Unfortunately though, between that and the amount of stuff locked behind Anime Strike this season is looking to be a bit weaker than I was expecting it to be. As always though there’s enough potential good stuff to probably last through the next few months, and hopefully it won’t take too long for things to brighten. Until then, stay animated.

Animation Talk/Recommendations-10 Best Samurai Jack Episodes

So if you’ve been on the inter-webs recently you’ve likely noticed that everyone’s in a hubbub over a little show called Samurai Jack being brought back from the dead for a new season in 2016. The show has been held up throughout the years as a beloved classic, and having reviewed the show a year ago, I can confirm that it’s stood the test of time fairly well. So if you need a refresher on what made the series so great or haven’t seen it and are curious to see what all the excitement’s about, here’s a list of my 10 favorite episodes from the show in honor of it’s revival.

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10) The Birth of Evil

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Every story needs a beginning, but in this case we’re going to the beginning-beginning. This is the episode that finally explained Aku’s origins as well as the origins of Jack’s legendary sword (which oddly enough despite being forged by several gods, none of them were Japanese ones) and it’s the only episode where our titular hero is nowhere to be found, with the story instead being told through the perspective of his late father. Given this was told as a two-parter it’s one of the show’s more cinematic pieces and it’s chockful of the show’s usual brand of action and direction, making for a really nice prequel and one that answered a couple of burning questions.

9) Jack and the Scotsman

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Samurai Jack is a show with little to no continuity so it’s nice to get a recurring character besides our hero and villain, and the Scotsman proved to be a welcome addition to the series. Out of all the episodes he’s featured in though, his first appearance is definitely his strongest. In addition to being another solid action piece for the show, it’s really fun to see his brash personality play off of Jack’s more reserved persona, making for some good comedy and one of the better uses of the “handcuffed together” scenario (and as I type this my mind is now filled with horrifying images of the slash fics this may have inspired) as the two are forced to work together in order to fight off the various bounty hunters after their heads. With Jack being something of a lone wolf half the time, it was nice to see him find at least one ally in the future, and their team-up here proved the two most dangerous men on the planet are even more dangerous together (darn, I did it again!)

8) Jack Remembers the Past

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The series carries with it, many different moods and stories, but this is one of the few that’s genuinely about our hero himself. Given Jack’s story started off with him being sent off to train against Aku, there wasn’t really anytime to see his childhood before that so this serves as a window into what his life was like before disaster struck. More importantly though, it serves as a reminder that Jack is pretty much alone, as there’s still no way for him to actual return to his home and his look back on bygone days helps to make this one of the show’s more quiet entries and proof that dialogue isn’t always necessary to strike an emotional cord.

 

7) Jack and the Blind Archers

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Speaking of silence, it’s pretty much impossible to do a list like this without this episode being in there somewhere. This early entry in the show’s run features Jack being pitted against a trio of mystic archers in order to gain access to a wish granting well that could return him back to the past (bet you can’t guess what DOESN’T happen!). What really makes this one stand out is that it was one of the first episodes in the series to prove how well direction could carry a mood even without much dialogue, something practically unheard of for western animation at the time (and in some ways is still the case unfortunately). The silent samurai movie nature of it, makes for a really cinematic action piece and while the ending twist isn’t too surprising it caps off the tension of the episode pretty well  and if you need an example of how well the show can handle that kind of style, look no further than this.

6) Jack and the Lava Monster

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Like the previous episode, this one is another action centric entry but this one has some actual story  to it giving it an extra punch. In this one Jack encounters a monster that’s actually the spirit of a Norse warrior who tried to resist against Aku’s hostile takeover of his homeland, only to be cursed by the demon. Now he’s stuck in this body and unable to ascend to Valhalla with the rest of his brethren unless he can die a warrior’s death at Jack’s hands. This makes for a pretty tragic tale in addition to the usual epic fight scene with the combination making it a standout among the show’s earlier entries. It also makes for one of the show’s darkest when you consider this was an episode of a children’s cartoon where the main character was effectively helping a guy to commit suicide. Nighty, night kids!

5) The Premiere

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It wouldn’t be fair to do one of these without mentioning the episode that started it all.  The premiere is a great introduction into Samurai Jack’s world, displaying everything from how epic, to how downright weird the series can get as we see the beginnings of Jack’s fight against Aku and his first encounter with the distant future he now finds himself trapped in (the latter of which involves talking dogs). All of the show’s sense of direction, fight choreography and killer soundtrack can be found full force here, making for a perfect segway into getting people interested in the show. One of the things that stands out the most about it though is the climatic battle between Jack and Aku’s robot army which features what still holds up as one of the most cleverly constructed middle fingers to violence censorship ever conceived.

4) The Good The Bad and the Beautiful

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So this one isn’t as widely remembered as some of the others but it’s pretty solid. This episode is a western spoof featuring Jack on the run from a pair of bounty hunters…who also happen to be divorced and spend just as much time stabbing each other in the back as they do trying to kill Jack. If the premiere is everything great about the show in movie form, then this one is everything fun about it distilled into 22 minutes of pure entertainment. It’s funny, action packed, and clever, making for a great testament to the kind of material you can generally expect from the show when it’s just out to have a good time. 

3) Jack v.s. Aku

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Despite what the title of the episode implies, this one is almost entirely comedy and as far as that goes, it’s the show’s best effort. In a surprising moment of self-awareness, Aku realizes just how repetitive the battles between him and Jack have become so he offers to settle things in a mano-a-mano fight to the finish. Of course Aku being the slippery devil that he is, tries to cheat his way through the battle with Jack trying to counter all his plans, making for a hilarious “I know, you know, that I know” setup (Light Yagami would be proud).  It’s always nice to see a show have the balls to make fun of itself, and this episode succeeds at that in spades.

2) The Tale of X-9

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a robot mook? The answer’s probably no, but too bad because Samurai Jack shows it to you anyway, and the result makes for one of the show’s strongest entries. We follow the titular X-9 who used to be one of Aku’s elite robot enforcers until he decided to settle down and live the quiet life with his pet Lulu (sweet thing). That is until Aku calls him for one last job in trying to get rid of Jack and holds Lulu hostage to ensure he goes through with it. Since X-9’s name doesn’t happen to be Samurai Jack though, his fate is sealed the moment he encounters our hero and it makes for a pretty sad ending. I’m a fan of noir spoofs (mainly because noir is impossible for me to take seriously) and this delivers on all fronts, so the next time you encounter a robot mook in a game, you might wanna think about who he could be leaving behind before you slaughter him. You monsters.

 

1) Jack and the Spartans 

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This is another one of the show’s most looked back upon episodes and for good reason. This one features Jack teaming up with a small army of Spartans in order to help defend what remains of their domain, and while at first glance it seems like an obvious homage to the movie 300, it actually aired well before that and is instead a tribute to an earlier film called The 300 Spartans as well as the novel that inspired it. As such, the episode is shot in a deliberately cinematic fashion, ramping up the show’s usual mix of direction, action and storytelling considerably. It’s an episode that stands at the pinnacle of the show’s sense of style, and shows just what it’s capable of accomplishing in a mere 22 minutes when all of it’s elements are in perfect harmony. It also helps that this episode has nothing to do with Aku, making for a great standalone piece, and one I’d highly recommend if you haven’t seen the show before, but are curious as to why it’s so highly regarded. The show has a lot of greats, but this is by far one of it’s most brilliant.

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And there you have it. Samurai Jack is a show with a lot of style, and these episodes are prime examples of said style at it’s best. As we look onward to the new season, it’s hard to say what else the show will end up accomplishing, but I’m certainly looking forward to finding out.

 

 

My Top 27 Western Animated Shows (#27-20)

Well I said I’d get around to it so here it is. I’m obviously more of an anime fan than I am a cartoon guy, but I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for western animated stuff, and especially good western animated stuff. I don’t know if I’d bother comparing any of these to anime (outside of the obvious) since that kind of comparison takes away from the shows themselves, but these are some series that I feel have stood the test of time or have a pretty good chance at doing so. As for the criteria,  it’s generally the same as my top anime list though entertainment value factors a bit more in here than story for some. Without further ado, let’s get started.

WARNING: There may be some spoilers about some of the shows on this list

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27) Teen Titans

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Synopsis: Within Jump City, five super powered teens, Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire and Beast Boy form a group known as the Teen Titans. Together they defend the city from a variety of threats while also learning how to deal with each other.

Why I Like It: This show was a bit of an anomaly when it first came out as it never managed to fit into the DC Animated Universe (DCAU for short) despite the heavy prominence of those series at the time. Instead this superheroics with a weird anime-esque paint and comedy to match. The result was something that oddly clicked as despite it’s initial struggles with what kind of tone it wanted, it grew into a solid little series as it expanded on it’s characters and the story arcs gradually improved (and in some instances got much darker) as time went on.  Sadly kids are probably now more familar with it’s spinoff series, Teen Titans GO (which I don’t hate as much as everyone else, but has gradually lost it’s initial charm for me) but this show was unique as far as superhero stuff goes and still holds up as being a lot of fun

26) Static Shock

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Synopsis: After getting caught up in the middle of a gang-war and affected by a strange gas, Virgil Hawkins finds himself blessed with the power to control electricity. With his newfound abilities he adopts the identity of Static and decides to clear the streets of other affected superhumans called Bang Babies

Why I Like It: Growing up, I was (and still am)a big fan of superhero stuff, but as a black kid it was kind of disappointing never seeing any black heroes on TV aside from the Jon Stewart version of Green Lantern in Justice League. So needless to say a superhero show about a black kid like myself appealed to me and it helped that it was a pretty good show in it’s own right. It did a solid job of weaving together the classic hero tale with inner city issues, and while later seasons favored the former over the later it still managed to hold it’s ground throughout. To this day there hasn’t been another notable example of a solo black superhero show on TV and while I’d like to see that change sometime in the future if this is the sole example, it’s not so bad.

25) Megas XLR

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Synopsis: In the distant future , Earth is fighting a losing war with an alien race known as “the Glorft”. In order to save the planet, the human resistance steals a prototype giant robot from the Glorft  renaming it MEGAS . The idea is to use a time-traveling device called a time drive to send MEGAS and its pilot, Kiva, back in time to defeat the Glorift. Before the plan can be executed, however, an attack by the Glorft sends the now-crippled MEGAS all the way back to the 1930s. It stays in a  New Jersey junkyard until it ends up in the hands of a slacker mechanic, Coop, and his slacker best friend, Jamie, around the year 2004. Kiva goes back in time to retrieve MEGAS, and when she finds she is unable to pilot it because of Coop’s modifications, she grudgingly decides to train Coop, who is now the only person who can pilot it. However, the Glorft have followed her through time and, much to Kiva’s chagrin, it is now up to Coop to defend Earth from the Glorft and other various threats.

Why I Like It:  Genre parodies are a dime-a-dozen these days but an entire western show parodying japanese mecha is certainly something you don’t see every day and it helps that it’s actually pretty fun. It rips on various mecha series (never lasted long enough to get around to Evangelion but I can always imagine what that would have been like) but it also holds a lot of love for the genre as well.  Every moment that isn’t spent making fun of robot anime is spent showing why giant robots are awesome and that makes for a pretty awesome show unto itself in my book.

24) Danny Phantom

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Synopsis: So rather than sit here and explain this myself I’ll just let the theme song do that for you. Alright? Let’s move on

Why I Like It: Again I’m a fan of superhero stuff, and I also liked Fairly Odd Parents growing up so a superhero show by the same creator seemed interesting enough and for the most part delivered. Despite being much more of a comedy than an action piece the show does a pretty good job of portraying the old Spiderman superhero tale as Danny gradually matures alongside his powers and also displays a fairly interesting universe on it’s own. Sadly the show took a bit of step down thanks to a change in writers for the third season, but it ends on a pretty strong note and still makes for some good laughs and decent storytelling.

23) Xiaolin Showdown

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Synopsis:  Set in a world where martial arts battles and Eastern magic are commonplace, the series follows four young warriors in training that battle the forces of evil. They do this by protecting Shen Gong Wu (ancient artifacts that have great magical powers) from villains that would use them to conquer the world.

Why I Like It: Similar to Megas XLR being a parody of mecha anime this show is one to battle shonen and kung-fu movies. However more so than it’s saving grace being that it has a lot of love for what it’s parodying (which it does but that’s besides the point) what really makes the show work is branding together it’s comedy with solid character writing as the main characters (one in particular) grow quite a bit over the course of the series. The “sequel” Xiaolin Chronicles doesn’t really manage to capture the magic of the it’s predecessor (partially because it couldn’t decide if it actually wanted to be a sequel or not) but the original still has some magic to it.

22) The Legend of Korra

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Synopsis: 70 years after Avatar Aang defeated Fire Lord Ozai and restored balance to the world, the new Avatar, Korra travels to Republic City in order to find her place in the world. There she discovers a movement against benders, and begins the path towards carving her own legend as the Avatar.

Why I Like It: Speaking of sequels that don’t quite live up to their predecessors, this would be one of them. Though to be somewhat fair it comes off the heels of one of the greatest animated action dramas ever made so it had some big shoes to fill. That said while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original, it does manage to do some interesting stuff as it further expands on it’s universe and each season covers a variety of heavy themes (some more successfully than others). It also serves as one of the few male oriented action toons to feature a female lead (even if she isn’t written as well as most of the girls in the show that preceded her), and ended on a pretty famous/infamous note regarding her sexuality. While the latter will is what it’ll likely be remembered for it’s still a fairly good show on it’s own merits.

21) Star Wars Rebels

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Synopsis: Ezra Bridger is an orphan growing up on the streets of the planet Lothal. One day he encounters a man named Kanan and his crew of rebel mercenaries who fight against the tyranny of The Empire. Initially apathetic to their cause, Ezra soon finds himself involved with them and becomes a member of their crew while also training to under Kanan as an apprentice in order to one day become a Jedi

Why I Like It: So I never really managed to get into The Clone Wars series despite it being more popular both due to it’s first season being a bit of a turn-off, and my increasing frustration with the back and forth nature of Star Wars canon at the time. What sold me on this one though, was the involvement of Greg Weissman who’s made some of the best stuff here in the states, and he sure doesn’t disappoint with this one. While not as dark as the later seasons of Clone Wars it manages to get into some dark territory for it’s intended audience and manages to make each of the members of the rebels crew interesting characters with their own various backstories and motivations. As there’s only one season of it out so far, there’s plenty of room for it to go downhill but it’s off to a much better start than Clone Wars was for me and I think it might have the potential to become something really great.

20) Fairly Odd Parents (season 1-5)

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Synopsis: Again rather than waste time explaining it I’ll just let the theme song do the job

Why I Like It: Fairly Odd Parents is one of two Nick animated comedies to survive for an extended period of time (the other one I’m not a big fan of despite it’s huge pop-culture success, but I digress) and for good reason. It’s a pretty good comedy in it’s prime with plenty of good parodies, fun slapstick and pop-culture jokes that generally flies over the heads of the kids watching it. More than that though it’s also a pretty warm-hearted little show as Timmy learns various life lessons through his wishes and how to make the most of his miserable little life. Unfortunately the show hit it’s prime around the 5th season and later ones proceeded to descend into making the show a lot more mean-spirited, exaggerating the characters to the point of ridiculousness and constantly contradicting what little continuity the show managed to maintain. While the show as it is today is but a shell of it’s former self, those earlier seasons are still pretty fun to look back on and are quality entertainment for the most part.

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Next- #19-11

My Top 27 Western Animated Shows (#19-11)

19) Dexter’s Laboratory

DextersLaboratoryWallpaper1024   Synopsis: Dexter is a boy genius capable of creating the most wondrous of inventions in his giant laboratory. However his scientific pursuits are continually thwarted by his older sister Dee-Dee who annoys him at every turn and often destroys his creations Why I Like It: Series creator Genndy Tartavosky has a lot of love for classic anime and Japanese media and it shows in all his works. For this show in particular it’s a love letter to japanese mecha and sci-fi, continually parodying them throughout various episodes. It’s a really fun comedy and it’s easy to see where his later works like Samurai Jack and Sym-Bionic Titan got their influence as his style is very much present in this show despite it’s lighter nature and while the post movie seasons aren’t quite as good, it’s still earned it’s place as a beloved classic.

18) Clarence

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Synopsis: The show follows the adventures of Clarence Wendell and his two friends Sumo and Jeff as they get into various, and occasionally weird situations.

Why I Like It: Surrealism in animated comedies for kids is pretty much something of a staple at this point so a show that’s genuinely about regular kids living out their lives is something rare to come by and this show does it well. The show captures the spirit of childhood effectively and has an enjoyable cast of characters and some pretty fun stories to tell. It functions as something of a spiritual successor to Ed, Edd n Eddy and the Rugrats while it occasionally dips into surreal scenarios, it generally does a better job of keeping itself grounded than it’s predecessors.

17) Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

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Synopsis: When the world’s most dangerous supervillains are released from prison, superheroes Iron Man, Wasp, Ant Man, Thor and Hulk form an alliance to re-capture them and form a team known as the Avengers.

Why I Like It: Marvel’s managed to turn their movies into a gigantic franchise, and general quality to match, but their success with animated works has always left something to be desired. This show however is a pretty strong exception. It breaks away from the usual mostly episodic storytelling of superhero action toons and weaves together lengthy storyarcs that make just about every episode significant later down the line. It also does a solid job of exploring the group dynamics of the Avengers as they slowly grow into an actual team and have to struggle to keep them all together. This is definently the best action toon I’ve seen from Marvel and it’s a bit of a shame it got replaced by the more lighthearted Avengers Assemble series, just to have something closer to the movies (thanks again Disney)

16) Hey Arnold

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Synopsis:  Arnold is a kid growing up in New York City and trademarked by his football shaped head. Together with his friend Gerald he helps various people throughout the city with their problems while also dealing with the local bully Helga who secretly has a crush on him.

Why I Like It: This is another one of those rare slice of life shows that tends to almost never exist in western animation. What separates this one from the others though is that it not only mantains a completely down to earth tone, but also puts a lot of focus on it’s character writing. It sets up a lot of good stories for each character of the week and while it never delves too much into actual drama it does manage to usually wrap up those stories in a way that’s satisfying. Sadly thanks to the movie being a flop, we never did manage to get that second movie that promised a more complete conclusion but what we do have is more than enough and there’s some inklings going around that the show may be prepping for a comeback so hopefully there’s some truth to that.

15) Batman Beyond

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Synopsis:  After years of being the Batman, Bruce Wayne’s age finally starts to catch up with him and he decides to hang up the cape. Decades later a young man named Terry McGinnis finds himself involved with Bruce after his father’s murder, and decides to take the Batman suit in order to find out the truth behind it. Initially reluctant to lend him help, Bruce eventually decides to take Terry under his wing and trains him to become the next Batman proper.

Why I Like It:  I have a pretty unabashed love for ol’ Batsy but the story of Bruce Wayne’s transformation has become something of a tired tale, and it certainly doesn’t help that across the various Batman stories that exist, his backstory is the one thing that always remains the same. Thus the idea of someone else taking up the mantle as Batman was pretty appealing to me even as a kid, and moreso when he was trained by Batman himself. The show came off the heels of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, and though the writing isn’t quite as strong it manages to delve into darker territory (with Return of the Joker being the most infamous example).  Terry’s tale as the Batman is a pretty interesting one as he actually has his own character before wearing the mask rather than it defining  him so it gives him a much more manageable character arc. I’m still waiting for DC to make a live-action movie of it someday but in the meantime the show is pretty good stuff.

14) Samurai Jack

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Synopsis: Long ago in the distant past, Aku the shapeshifing master of darkness unleashed an unspeakble evil across the world. But a young samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose him. Before the final blow was struck however, Aku tore open a portal in time transporting the warrior to the future in which Aku’s evil is now law. Now the young warrior, taking on the alias of Jack, travels the world seeking a way to return to the past and to undo the evil that is Aku.

Why I Like It:  As I said before with Dexter’s Laboratory, Genndy Tartavosky’s stuff is pretty heavily influenced by japanese media and this show is the most blatant example, as well as the most iconic. It pays homage to classic samurai movies with each episode serving as it’s own mini film of sorts and each one delivering on quality action and direction (while also finding some clever ways to get around censorship at the time). The actual stated goal of the series is never really achieved (unless we ever get that movie Genndy keeps promising) but it certainly doesn’t need one to be enjoyed as it’s a purely episodic tale and each episode is pretty cool.

13) Courage The Cowardly Dog

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Synopsis: Eh, you know the drill

Why I Like It: So if you couldn’t already tell I like genre spoofs a lot and this show is one to horror series. It’s a really fun comedy that makes fun of the horror genre just as much as it plays it straight as some of the stuff in the show can be downright creepy (I mean seriously what IS that?). It also has the tendency to occasionally veer into heartwrenching territory as some of it’s stories occasionally ditch the horror elements in favor of more heartwarming or tragic tales and it all makes for a series that’s held up pretty well over the years.

12) Green Lantern: The Animated Series

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Synopsis: The series focuses on the adventures of Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, and his partner Kilowog. Hal Jordan travels t “Frontier Space” the region of space at the edge of the Guardians’ territory, where Green Lanterns are being picked off by the Red Lanterns and they must make their return back to central guardian space to bring news of the threat

Why I Like It:  This show is a bit of an odd duck among the DCAU toons as it’s the least like a superhero show despite being based off of one DC’s most iconic superheroes of all time. Instead it functions as something more akin to a classic space opera anime with a few superhero trappings. This works out pretty well for the most part as it makes for a tightly plotted show and gives plenty of room to explore it’s characters as the crew members learn to deal with each other and their respective pasts. It’s also interesting in that it deals with the whole “tragic widower” thing that sometimes pops up in fiction in a way most tend not to as one of the ongoing elements of the show is one of the main characters Razer dealing with his desire to avenge his wife versus letting himself fall in love again. The show was technically cancelled but it ends on a strong enough note that you can mostly take the ending as is and be relatively satisfied.

11) Code Lyoko

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Synopsis: Jeremie Belpois, a gifted child attending boarding school at Kadic Academy, one day discovers a supercomputer in an abandoned factory near his school. Upon activating it, he discovers a virtual world and Aelita, a young girl trapped inside Lyoko. After unusual events begin to occur at school, Jeremie learns of X.A.N.A., a malevolent destruction-bent artificial intelligence/multi-agent system running on the supercomputer whose goal is to take over the world. Jeremie soon forms a goal to materialize Aelita into the real world and stop X.A.N.A. in his tracks. With the help from Jeremy’s friends and classmates, Ulrich Stern, Odd Della Robbia, Yumi Ishiyama, and Aelita, the group goes to Lyoko in hope to saves the world.

Why I Like It: As a kid, I mistook this show for an anime for the longest time until I learned what (theoretically) seperates the two and for good reason. This show is still probably one of the most heavily anime-influenced things I’ve ever seen and so much so that it even extends into it’s theme song (to be expected of a french cartoon I guess since anime is a much bigger thing over there).  As it’s something of a “Monster of the Week” show in structure what really makes it work are it’s characters. Despite adopting more ongoing plotlines in later seasons, it’s by and large a character show and the character interactions are usually great.  Though one oddly unique thing about it is thanks to the French creators being largely involved in the english dub’s production, pretty much all of the fanservice that was in the french version somehow made it over here, and it makes you wonder what the heck was up with Cartoon Network’s censors. Even though most of the episodes have the same structure it manages to avoid being too repetitive and having seen the whole thing through again in recent years, it still holds up surprisingly well.

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My Top 27 Western Animated Shows (#10-4)

10) Codename: Kids Next Door

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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

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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

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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

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Synopsis: Here’s another theme song for your troubles

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

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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.

5) Rugrats

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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.

4) Gargoyles

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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.

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My Top 27 Western Animated Shows (The Top 3)

3) Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Synopsis: This is the last time I’ll slack off with this I swear 

Why I Like It: Well we all knew this one was coming sooner or later since it’s pretty much impossible to have this kind of list without it, and for good reason. There’s not much I can say about this series that hasn’t been said dozens of times before (and better) but I’ll try. This show is a pretty blatant (though obviously more of a homage than a rip) western take on the action-adventure shonen formula that dominates Japan, and in many ways actually surpasses a lot of those works. The action scenes utilizing real world kung-fu in regards to bending makes for some cool battle choreography, though to be honest the action is far from what makes this series a stand-out.

What really makes it work are it’s characters and themes, though unlike it’s sequel Korra, the more tightly scripted narrative of this series allows it to make better use of both in a more meaningful way. While it’s far from a realistic depiction of war it does do a better job of delving into how affects those left behind by it a lot more than some of it’s contemporaries do and it also covers some interesting stuff in regards to racial propaganda and spirituality. At it’s core though it’s primarily a coming-of-age story for Aang as he grows into his role as the Avatar and the journey towards him fulfilling that destiny makes for one of the greatest animated works of all time.

2) Steven Universe

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Synopsis:  The world is protected from evil threats by the Crystal Gems, a group of intergalactic female warriors who use the power of special gem stones embedded on their bodies to summon magical weapons. Steven is a young boy who inherited a gem stone from his mother, a Crystal Gem named Rose Quartz. As Steven tries to figure out the secrets to using his gem, he spends his days in Beach City doing activities with the other Crystal Gems, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl,  whether it’s helping them save the universe or just hanging out.

Why I Like It:  Given that the series creator, Rebecca Sugar was one of the best writers on Adventure Time before moving over to this show, I had pretty good expectations for it but I’m still amazed at how much I’ve been blown away by it. If Avatar is the ultimate western take on action-adventure shonen, then Steven Universe is in many ways, the ultimate western take on the magical girl shojo genre (albeit with a male protagonist). The show is filled to the brim with a cast of fun and extremely likable characters, all of them getting fleshed out in their own way and makes great use of it’s simplistic artstyle in addition to having a pretty great soundtrack. It’s narrative is also surprisingly more compelling than it would initially seem as the backstory of the Crystal Gems and Steven’s coming-of-age story tie together really well and manages to consistently succeed in making you wonder where it’ll all head next. However these are all just a portion of what makes this show so fantastic.

The real heart and soul of this show lies almost primarily in it’s emotional core. It’s a show that really gets emotional moments without having to blatantly manipulate the audience’s heart strings to do it, and consistently delivers on that front in a way that even anime fails to a lot of the time. Most episodes will have you walking away from them feeling warm and fuzzy in that regard and it’s that element which has allowed it to become a bonafide hit. As it’s still only in the middle of it’s second season there’s still plenty of room for this show to fall apart but it’s managed to knock it out of the park so consistently that I trust the show to keep on delivering, and I’m in this one for the long haul.

And now for the the #1…

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1) Ed, Edd n Eddy

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Synopsis: Ed, Edd n Eddy are a trio of pals with the same name growing up with the suburbs of Peach Creek. They spend their days attempting to con the other kids in the neighborhood out of their money as much as they do trying to fit in.  However failure is the name of the game for these three and neither ever goes as expected.

Why I Like It: So this as my #1 should surprise literally no one who knows me, but I’ve never really taken the time to explain why I have such an unabashed love for this show. Simply put Ed, Edd n Eddy is a show that is 100% straight up about pre-pubescent childhood. I’ve mentioned this element before in regards to some of the other shows at this list but EEnE has something special that really sets it apart from the mold. For the most part, media generally tends to look back on that stage of childhood with a sense of nostalgia. Sure you might occasionally get a story about a perpetually bullied kid every now and then but even those tend to have a fairly optimistic outlook more often than not.

Not so with Ed, Edd n Eddy for it’s here to remind you of one simple fact: your childhood most likely sucked. Kids can be cruel, often for the most simplistic and stupid of reasons, and Ed, Edd n Eddy manages to capture that aspect of childhood completely. Every character can a jerk in some fashion with no one ever being safe from abuse and it’s titular trio suffers far more setbacks than victories in regards to finding their own little place to belong.

However despite the level of sadism that would imply it’s also clear that the show doesn’t really hate any of it’s cast (and the fact that a good 5/6ths of them are heavily implied to have issues with parental guidance certainly helps things) and it does manage to capture the whimsical and fun nature of childhood just as often as it destroys it. While most of the characters are jerks, they’re also just as much relatable and it’s hard not to find at least a little bit of your self in some of them (well hopefully not the Kanker Sisters since I’d like to believe most people don’t have anything in common with serial molesters).  Also despite it’s heavily cynical nature it actually does manage to end on an uplifting note, but one that feels a lot more genuinely earned than most in regards to childhood stories. This series has endured over the years as one of CN’s most beloved classics, even managing to hold as it’s longest running show to date, and for me it stands as one of my favorite shows of all time.

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So there you have it. A nice tidy list of my favorite toons to go right alongside my favorite anime. Here’s hoping I don’t have to make any major updates anytime soon.

Previous- (#10-4)

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (The Top 3)

3) Casshern Sins

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Synopsis: In a dark future, the world is in ruin and everything is slowly crumbling away into dust. Humanity is almost extinct, while robots desperately seek out new parts to replace their rusting bodies. Their only hope for survival is to devour the one known as Casshern… or so they believe. Meanwhile, Casshern himself has lost all memory of his past. Why are these robots attacking him? Did he really kill the one known as Luna; the Sun that was called Moon? And why is he, alone, unaffected and undamaged by the ruin?

Why I Like It: I’d never really been big on depressingly heavy handed melodrama before this show, and honestly my feelings towards that are still generally the same but this show’s themes really resonated with me. It’s a great allegory on what it truly means to be alive and combines that with a solid character journey and interesting symbolism pertaining to the whole life and death thing, and the various religious motifs that implicates. Beyond the story though, dear god is it a gorgeous looking show. The series has some fantastic art design combining 80’s character designs with a bit more of a higher visual aesthic, and has some really great looking backgrounds that really capture the feel of a post apocalyptic world in all it’s horrific glory. It also features a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack composed by Kaoru Wada of Inuyasha fame, and combines with the show’s visuals to make for a piece that’s as beautiful as it is thematically powerful. People are still pretty divided over exactly how good this show is, but I lean firmly in the camp of it being absolutely fantastic.

 

2) Monster

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Synopsis: Dr Kenzo Tenma is a genius surgeon working in post-Cold War Germany who has a bright future ahead of him. He is admired by his colleagues, loved by his patients, and due to marry his boss’ daughter, the beautiful Eva Heinemann. One day, when two patients in desperate need of emergency surgery are wheeled into his hospital, Tenma faces a terrible choice of saving the orphaned boy who came first or the mayor of Düsseldorf, whose recovery would raise the hospital’s profile and boost his own career. Against the demands of his superior, Tenma does what he believes is right and saves the child. However, his decision not only damages his prospects, but unleashes a chain of events so horrific that it might have come from the depths of his worst nightmares. Laden with guilt, Tenma begins a journey across Germany in search of a formidable young man who will challenge his morals, his love for life, and his very sanity.

Why I Like It: So compared to an earlier show on this list, Kaiji, this show is almost it’s polar opposite as a thriller. It’s pretty slow moving and spans a long 74 episode run that can feel as lengthy as it is rewarding. However it makes up for that by and large with it’s themes on human nature, which as opposed to Kaiji’s occasional cynicism, leans firmly towards the pro-humanity camp. Monster is a show about what it really means to be human, and as it goes through the journies of Dr. Tenma and it’s massive cast of characters, explores the things that can drive people towards becoming monsters. In spite of what we’re all capable of though, the show truly believes that almost no one is ever truly beyond redemption, and that while we have the choice to embrace monsterdom much like the series villain Johan, we also have the choice to do the utmost amount of good that we can, with the show always leaning towards the latter option. It’s an absolutely fantastic thriller but more than that, it’s a piece that reminds us our humanity can triumph over all the various crap we’re capable of and in a world where said crap happens on a pretty consistent basis, it’s a much needed reminder. Unfortunately thanks to the show having been a massive flop for Viz, it’s possible it’ll never see the light of day here in the states again but in the meantime there’s always that Australian release.

Streaming Availability: None (available through Madman’s Australian release on disc)

Now for my #1…

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1) Sword Art Online

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Why I Like It: I know I’ve given this show a lot of flack but in reality I’ve just been acting tsun-tsun towards it. Asuna has forever been my waifu and I feel that every man should aspire to be like Kirito. I mean for heaven’s sake, the man’s pretty much video game Jesus. The writing is some of the best I’ve ever scene and the show handles everything from AIDS to borderline rape with the utmost tact and respect. Screw the haters this is the best darn show ever made, and I can only hope that Aniplex makes another 6 seasons of it.

Okay, I had to make at least one joke entry here. Now for my actual #1:

number1

1) Penguindrum 

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Synopsis: Kamba and Shouma Takakura have taken care of their sickly younger sister Himari since their parents disappeared years ago – that is, until the day she died. But as the boys grieve by her hospital bed, Himari sits up, adorned with a strange penguin hat. Suddenly, the three of them are transported to a vibrant world where the hat, using Himari’s body as a puppet, charges these brothers with a task: find the Penguin Drum and their sister’s life will be saved! Now aided by some odd penguins they received in the mail, the duo must find this mysterious item or risk losing the sister they care for so much. However, they aren’t the only ones with their sights on the Penguin Drum, for new enemies await them around every turn, all connected in ways they would have never imagined…

Why I Like It: As I mentioned before with Yurikuma Arashi, Ikuhara is a very eccentric director and of the three major works he’s produced so far, this is by far the weirdest. The show’s storyline is the most accessible compared to his other stuff, and doesn’t play second fiddle to it’s themes as to the same extent as them. It’s a tale filled to the brim with various twists and turns that can be really funny, really weird and also extremely compelling. Of course as with his other works, the show’s execution of it’s themes are what really sells it,  and many of the themes of self-sacrifice for love, and sexuality that are prevalent in his other works can be found here. At it’s core however, it’s a tale about the importance of family and that the sins of your parents don’t define who you are wonderfully told through it’s cast of characters that are all as fun as they are complex. Also much like with Casshern Sins the show has an gorgeous looking visual aesthetic thanks to Ikuhara’s weird sense of style and it’s a very pretty looking show with some great looking design. In that respect, Sentai’s disc release and dub of the series are…less than stellar, but hey you can’t win em all right? Of Ikuhara’s three masterpieces, this one is easily my favorite and it’s the one I feel the most confident recommending if you aren’t already familiar with how his stuff works.

Streaming Availability: Hulu, The Anime Network

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So there we go, my all time top 27 favorite anime. Since I like to be fair, and it would feel weird not doing it I plan to do a list of my top 27 favorite western toons…eventually. Hopefully I can actually get to that before the summer, but for now at least I have the anime side of things covered.

Previous #10-4

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (#10-4)

10) Gungrave

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Synopsis: Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowel were best friends who lived by the law of the street, until one day they picked a fight with the wrong people and their life of freedom was suddenly taken away. With no one to turn to and nowhere to run, the choice to join Millenion, the city’s most powerful syndicate, seemed like an offer they couldn’t refuse. Now, amidst heartache, tragedy, and utmost betrayal, Brandon must take up the gun and help Harry climb the ranks of Millenion to succeed, in order to protect the people he loves, even if it means killing countless others in the process.

Why I Like It: Based off the game of the same name and created by the same guy who brought us Trigun, this show a bonafide mafia drama, and the first I’ve ever really seen in anime. The story of the two leads is a pretty tragic one as they climb up the ladder and make decisions that slowly drive them apart and eventually turns them into enemies as Harry’s ambition is weighed against Brandon’s devotion to his family. It also manages to weave the elements of the game into the narrative in a way that feels natural and though it certainly has the look of a more generic action show, it’s a drama at it’s core. Sadly the first episode doesn’t exactly help to give that impression but at least it can be skipped since it’s eventually covered in better context later down the line anyway.

 Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu, Netflix

 

9) Hajime no Ippo (all seasons)

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Synopsis:  Ippo Makunouchi is a loser. He has no friends, he spends his free time helping his mom with work, and he’s constantly being beaten up by bullies. But that all changes when one day he’s saved from another beating by Takamura, an up-and-coming boxer. Soon, Ippo turns his life around with a passion for the newly discovered sport, but his new lifestyle is far from easy! Before he can even dream of becoming champion, he’ll have to overcome a slew of fierce rivals and learn what ‘dedication’ really means.
Why I Like It: Alright so I said before that the appeal of sports shows is almost never found in the sports themselves but this show is the exception. As a series about boxing it features some pretty grand fist-to-fist brawls and has what is hands down some of the best fight scene chorography ever made with some of the matches featuring really explosive animation. It’s also a pretty fun cast of lovable jerks and works as a solid character piece as the main character Ippo slowlyn matures from a spineless doormat into a confident young man ready to take the world by storm with his fists. The manga it’s based on has been running for ages and likely isn’t ending anytime soon but what we do have animated is more than sufficient and it makes for some great viewing.
Streaming Availability: Seasons 1&2 (none), Season 3(Crunchyroll)
8) Hikaru no Go
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Synopsis:  While examining an old Go board in his grandfather’s basement, twelve-year-old Shindo Hikaru is possessed by the restless spirit of Sai, an ancient Go master who has waited for over one thousand years to play the Hand of God: the perfect move. Sai convinces Hikaru to act as a vessel for making his moves, but it is soon clear that Hikaru also enjoys Go and wants to play his own games. Moreover, the rules of Go have changed since Sai’s time, and Go players from all over the world are now much stronger, having had the benefit of hundreds of years of evolution and experimentation by the masters before them. Can this unlikely pair form a successful partnership and rise to the top of Japan’s Go community, and can Sai finally play the Hand of God and find some peace?
Why I Like It: So Go isn’t really all that interesting sport and having tried it once or twice after seeing this show I can attest to that. Thankfully this show more than makes up for it in it’s character journey as it follows the life of Hikaru as he improves his skills at the game under Sai’s influence and gradually grows to become a skilled player in his own right. Also much like with Cross Game it’s also a series about overcoming the loss of a loved one, and that theme really hits hard in the show’s final stretch, but makes for an emotional conclusion and one that can really hit home for anyone who’s had to go through that kind of loss. Similar to Cross Game it’s a bit on the slow side but it has a lot more character work, and it easily stands as my favorite sports anime.
Streaming Availability: Neon Alley, Hulu
7) Yu Yu Hakusho
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Synopsis: Yusuke Urameshi was a normal middle school punk until he was hit and killed by a car, while saving a child. His selfless action earned him the right to gain his life back and serve as a detective of the spirit world, keeping the world of the living safe from a myriad of demons. But being reborn has its price: Yusuke must hatch a spirit beast that will develop according to his actions, and if he doesn’t act in a good and honest manner, it will eat his soul. Can Yusuke protect the human and spirit worlds and still manage to save himself in the process?
Why I Like It: I’m a simple person at heart and I generally enjoy a good battle shonen, though I also prefer them to be well paced and actually have an ending which is where this show takes the cake. The characters are fun, and the action’s solid with some excellent pacing and choreography courtesy of veteran director Noriyuki Abe, who’s an old pro at that genre. Though it doesn’t stray as far from it’s shonen roots as the creator’s other big series, it does get progressively darker and more complex as it goes along somethings withdrawing from action entirely in favor of character work and more grounded solutions to the situations the cast find themselves in. It’s hands down one of the best battle shonen ever made and thanks to it’s pacing and fairly tolerable episode count, one of the easiest to sit through and rewatch.
Streaming Availability: None (available for purchase through online and physical retailers)
6) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
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Synopsis: The foundation of alchemy is based on the law of equivalent exchange; you cannot produce something from nothing. As such, alchemy is bound by one taboo – human transmutation. Four years ago two young brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, broke this taboo when they tried to resurrect their dead mother. During the process Al’s body disintegrated and Ed lost his leg. In a desperate attempt to prevent his brother from disappearing completely, Ed sacrificed one of his arms so he could affix Al’s soul to a suit of armor. When his missing limbs are replaced by auto mail parts, Ed bears the name of the Fullmetal Alchemist – the youngest ever State Alchemist and dog of the military. Now, alongside his brother, Ed uses his status within the military to attempt to find any way that he can return their bodies back to their original state.
Why I Like It: Keeping in line with my simplicity this is another big action-adventure show crammed with some fantastic battle animation courtesy of BONES, but one with a bit more meat to it. It’s not as character driven as it’s 2003 counterpart, but I’m a bit more of a fan of stories with a narrative that feels completely whole, where it feels everything’s planned and nothing’s wasted, which this series accomplishes on a grand scale. It also leans more towards the idea of overcoming tragedy and becoming stronger for it, rather than having to just live with and accept it, which while a bit more of an idealized message, is one I gravitate a bit more towards. Brotherhood may not be quite as deep as it’s other half, and is slightly hindered by the series partially assuming you’ve seen the 2003 version, but it’s a great action-adventure piece and there’s nothing out there quite like it.
Streaming Availability: Funimation, Netflix
5) Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars
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Synopsis: In the year 2070, a giant object appears over the skies of the small town Tenmo, scrambling the electrical grid and confirming the existence of extra terrestrial life. To young Hajime Morata, this news is exciting and new – but to the townspeople, school council members and even the new exchange student Muryou Subaru, nothing going on in the skies is out of the ordinary. For it seems that Earth houses both intergalactic ambassadors and planet defenders alike – at least one of whom can use the power of the giant Shingu to battle incoming invaders – and Hajime is somehow connected. In addition to helping plan school festivals and living his day to day life, Hajime slowly begins to discover the secret behind his town and himself.
Why I Like It: This is another extremely personal choice for me backed the fact that I’ve rewatched it more times than just about anything else, and is one of the first things I ever really got into, but it’s still a really nice show. Despite the potential heavy sc-fi premise it initially offers, in actuality the series leans more towards slice of life antics as the characters go about their daily lives while the mysteries concerning the larger story at hand are slowly rolled out in the background. It’s a really relaxing little show, and the characters are all warm and fun to watch even the plot takes it’s sweet time getting anywhere.  I don’t really expect anyone to get as much miliage out of it as I did as it’s a really slow burn a good chunk of the time, but it’s good nonetheless and worth giving a shot if you have the time.
Streaming Availability: Hulu, Youtube
4) Hunter X Hunter (2011)
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Synopsis: Drawn to the mystique of the unknown, Hunters travel the world in search of terrifying creatures, incredible riches, and unexplored lands. Gon Freecss is a naive-yet-determined young boy who aspires to join the ranks of these individuals, in order to find his missing father Ging – a master of the profession himself. To reach his goal, he partakes in the formidable Hunter Exam, a series of tests that push the participants to their physical and mental limits, with a Hunter License as the prize. During the exam Gon befriends vengeful Kurapika, doctor-to-be Leorio, and skilled assassin Killua, who have entered for their own reasons. But with the sinister Hisoka standing in their way, will Gon and his friends be able to succeed in obtaining their reward, or even escaping with their lives?
Why I Like It:  Yoshihiro Togashi is a very strange writer, and one who seems to enjoy a lot of experimenting in his titles. His other major work on this list, Yu Yu Hakusho also became gradually different as it went along but this series is a much more polished product in that respect. As Gon goes through his journey to find his father, the series explores various genres and themes, which each story arc being almost completely unrecognizable from the others. It’s also not afraid to get into much darker territory than it’s  predecessor and occasionally reaches points where it’s barely recognizable as a shonen. The material itself is also greatly helped by the show’s outstanding production for a long running series, delivering consistent animation, a great soundtrack (well aside from the infamous theme song never leaving), and some really brilliant direction in the later arcs.  Sadly, the manga is doomed to stay within an endless state of flux thanks to Togashi’s constant hiatuses but the anime reaches a perfect stopping point and is thankfully almost completely self-contained on it’s own. Hunter X Hunter is a work that transcends the boundaries of it’s genre (and often genre period) to make for an excellent masterpiece. If ever you need an example to prove shonen can have some serious substance, this is it. As of this writing, this show unfortunately has yet to be licensed for home media here in the states but hopefully it happens someday soon.
Streaming Availability: Crunchyroll, Netflix
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Now onward to my top 3!
Previous- #19-11                                  Next- The Top 3

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (#19-11)

19) Tiger & Bunny

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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)

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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)

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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

 

16) Vandread

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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

 

15) Bokurano

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

Previous #20-27                                                              Next- #10-4

Recommendations- My Top 27 Anime (#27-20)

So this is another one of those things I’ve been meaning to do for a while and since my review schedule for Fandom Post is a little less hectic this season, I finally have some time for it. I’ve never been particularly good at keeping track of how I rank the shows I watch and almost anything that isn’t directly in my top 10 is toss off into the endless void of “shows I really liked but not the point of being the best thing ever” for me. Frankly I’m still not really too down with making a concrete list since people tend to pay more attention to where stuff’s ranked than what’s actually on it, but I could use the peace of mind as far as knowing where I’d place this stuff so here it is. I compiled this based on three factors: the quality of the story, how much entertainment value I got out of it, and how well it holds up as an actual show. That last one in particular holds a lot of water so if there’s a certain few shows that got omitted from here, you know why. I’ll also list any places the shows are currently available for legal streaming if anyone’s interested in checking them out. With that out of the way, let’s get started

WARNING: There’ll (obviously) be some potential spoilers about some of the shows listed here

** All series synopses from Anime Planet

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27) Welcome to the NHK

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Synopsis: Tatsuhiro Sato is a university dropout and a “hikikomori” – a person suffering from social withdrawal. To Sato’s dismay, his self-imposed exile from the world is rudely interrupted when a mysterious girl knocks on his door. She has charged herself with the task of curing Sato of his hikikimori ways! Now, as new problems ranging from hentai games to internet suicide spring up, can Sato manage to overcome his hermit-like ways, or will the imaginary N.H.K conspiracy force him to remain a hikikomori forever?

Why I Like It: Shows about otaku culture and hikikomoris are a dime a dozen these days but this one easily stands above the crowd for being the one that best looks at that stuff from a psychological perspective. It takes a good hard look at the issues that can drive someone to being a shut-in and makes it clear that there’s no easy way to escape from it. Battling depression and a whole other slew of mental issues is no easy feat but this show tackles that and manages to be a pretty entertaining ride at the same time

Streaming Availability:  Funimation, Netflix

 

26) Kaiji (both seasons)

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Synopsis: Kaiji Ito is as pathetic a person as they come; a man who gambles his days away, only winning enough to lose significantly more. He hates himself, is riddled with envy for others, but is ultimately too weak to think of a way out of his massive debts. Then one day he is approached by a strange man who offers him what seems the solution of a lifetime – to take a short journey on a ship called Espoir, during which time he will be given the chance to win more cash than he can dream of in a card game like no other. Ever the desperate, Kaiji takes the gamble of his life; however, the game turns out to be far darker than he expected and the hard lessons pile on thick and fast. Now stuck in a closed world of unsavory characters willing to do anything to destroy him, can Kaiji gather enough courage to outwit them all?

Why I Like It: Really good thriller is a hard thing to come by in anime as the moment it starts taking itself too seriously, it can fall apart if there’s not enough substance. Kaiji doesn’t really have too much in the way of that but it more than makes up for by being a non-stop high octane thrill ride. The stakes are always absurdly high and the tension of the games are matched only by how over the top  the show can get about them. That’s not to say the show lacks any substance as there’s some solid cynicism about the self-centeredness of human nature v.s. our ability to help our fellow man, but mostly it’s about the high stakes games, and in this case that’s more than enough.

Streaming Availability: Crunchyroll

 

25) Psycho-Pass (season 1)

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Synopsis: In the future, a system called Sibyl presides over the country and provides order to every facet of life. It dictates which job fields citizens should go into based on aptitude tests, and can even read each resident’s mental state and predict which ones are likely to commit crimes in the future. Fresh from exams, Akane Tsunemori is beginning her career as an Inspector, a specialized police officer who works to apprehend these latent criminals and stop crimes before they happen. But not all that get caught are eliminated or jailed, some join the police force as Enforcers to provide insight into criminals’ minds, and Akane is warned not to get too close to them, as they’re considered little more than hunting dogs. Though skeptical of this advice, and Sibyl’s judgement, Akane is determined to work together with her Enforcers to protect the peace of her city and its inhabitants.

Why I Like It: This show is something of a spiritual successor to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and while it’s not on the same level as that, it’s good stuff. The series explores some interesting social commentary and ideas about what exactly makes laws valuable to society as a whole and while the admittedly goofy nature of it’s premise holds it back from quite reaching  it’s maximum potential the execution generally makes up for it. Also if you’re wondering why I specified season 1, it’s because only one season exists and you will never be able to convince me otherwise. Second season? What second season?

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Netflix

24) Cross Game

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Synopsis: When Koh was eleven years old, he lived a quiet and peaceful life, delivering sporting goods for his family’s store and batting frequently at the Tsukishima Batting Center. Though Koh had no interest in baseball, he started the play the sport anyways after a series of events, much to the delight of his best friend, the beautiful Wakaba Tsukishima. However, soon life dealt Koh a tragic turn, changing him forever. Now, years later, Koh attends Seishuu Academy and is soon pulled back into the world of baseball. Alongside Wakaba’s talented sister, Aoba; old friend and fighter Nakanishi; and plenty of new teammates and companions, Koh will once more pick up the pitcher’s mitt and see if he has what it takes to be a champion.

Why I Like It: The sports genre is an interesting one because what makes the shows compelling is almost never the sports themselves. In this instance the sport itself is baseball (which to be honest I’m not really into), the theme of the show is centered around life after the death of a loved one and trying to move onto new relationships. The cast of characters are all  generally charming and the way the core romance between the two leads is built up is handled with a level of tact a lot of similar stories lack. It’s a bit of a slow grind but the payoff is extremely rewarding and it makes for a definite winner

Streaming Availability: None

 

23) Neon Genesis Evangelion 

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Synopsis: In the future, a devastating event known as Second Impact has destroyed Tokyo as we know it, giving rise to Tokyo III – a city under siege by mysterious lifeforms known only as Angels. Mankind’s only line of defense are the Evangelions, a set man-made machines piloted by a trio of fourteen year-old teenagers, Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. The fate of Japan and the entire world now lie with these three children, though they might not have the power to save the most important thing of all: each other.

Why I Like It: Well there’s not much I can really say about EVA that hasn’t been said thousands of times before, but still it’s great. The show combines a pretty interesting sci-fi premise with the psychological issues concerning it’s cast of characters. Especially so with it’s lead Shinji who battles with constant depression, things in his life consistently going horribly, and daddy issues versus having to meet people’s expectations by manning up and saving humanity with his robot (which he generally does in spite of all the stuff he goes through, so I’ll never understand why the western fandom gives him so much crap). The ending is pretty controversial and how much you get out of it depends on how much you cared about Shinji’s development versus the sci-fi stuff but if you lean towards the former then it’s about as good a resolution as you’re going to get (and if you lean towards the latter then there’s always End of Evangelion).

Streaming Availability: None (available for purchase through online retailers)

 

22) Yurikuma Arashi

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Synopsis: After an asteroid explosion and meteor shower lit up the sky over planet earth, strange adorable bears began to attack and devour humans. The earthlings responded with violence of their own, and in the end, a massive barrier – the Wall of Extinction – was erected to separate man from bear. This fragile peace lasted until two high school girls encounter a yuri flower blooming – only to be shaken by the piercing warning of the Bear Alarm! Once again, bear and man- or bear and girl -will be pitted against each other in a deadly and mysterious showdown.

Why I Like It: Anyone who somehow managed to make it through my weekly reviews of the show on Fandom Post shouldn’t be too surprised to see it included here and it’s definently a show that deserves mention. Ikuhara is one of anime’s most eccentric directors thanks to his empahasis on visual metaphors and thematic resolution over a linear narrative, and that’s pretty much the case here. In this case all of that is centered around a fairy tale narrative that serves as an excellent allegory on societal views about homosexuality and what true love actually means, that’s both over the top fun and extremely heartwrenching in it’s depiction. It’s a testament to his skill that Ikuhara can handle  that kind of topic with grace, and while it’s not his greatest masterpiece, it’s still a masterpiece and full of great visual flair. I wouldn’t really recommend seeing it before any of his other series as it’s the least inviting for anyone not familiar with how his stuff works, but it’s definitely worth seeing none the less.

Streaming Availability: Funimation, Hulu

 

21) NANA

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Synopsis:  Nana Komatsu is on her way to Tokyo; now she can finally be with her boyfriend after a year of dating long-distance! On the train there, Nana Komatsu meets Nana Osaki – a girl who shares her name but seems to be everything Nana Komatsu is not; cool, street-wise, and a punk rocker. The two hit it off and spend the entire journey getting to know each other, but when they get to Tokyo, circumstance separates them seemingly forever. However, fate is not finished with these two. Whilst hunting for a place to live the two Nanas again cross paths. They decide to share a flat and become best friends in no time. Nana K. must learn to be independent and mature, while Nana O. works on becoming famous with her band; but together, they will learn about love and loss, and the growth that comes with it.

Why I Like It: People usually say that the years that define the rest of your life are around your teens but really it’s your 20’s as the decisions you make upon first gaining true independance from parents or family are some of the most important you’ll ever make and usually have the most amount of consequences. Nana is a show that understands this in spades as it details the lives of two young women coming into their own, and dealing with their respective love lives neatly meshed together with music industry drama. The show holds nothing back about how hard the decisions you have to make at that age are and can be almost excruciatingly painful to watch at times because of it because it hits a very real place for many, but it also believes that you can triumph over those situations and find your own sense of happiness, even if it doesn’t necessairly come with your dreams attached.

Streaming Availability: Neon Alley, Hulu

20) Toradora

Toradora

Synopsis: Ryuuji Takasu has an eventful life: his classmates think he’s a delinquent due to his ‘killer’ eyes; his crush Minori seems ever out of reach; and he’s just had an unfortunate encounter with ‘palm-sized Taiga’ – a feisty and dainty wench in his class. With different cleaning habits and tempers, the two clash like night and day; that is, except for the fact that Taiga and Ryuuji have crushes on the other’s good friend! With school rumors abounding, the duo must now work together to play matchmaker for each other. Who will end up with their true love?

Why I Like It: High school romance is a well worn genre and one that often pulls out the same old tired tropes but this one is a definite standout. The issues concerning the characters are at the forefront of the story rather than being used a vehicle for last minute drama like most of it’s brethren, and while the core romance is a pretty familiar one, it’s executed in a way that feels genuine and really rewarding after all the things the characters go through. In a sea of similar shows it’s the one that gets the most right and certainly worth checking out

Streaming Availability: Hulu, Crunchyroll

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