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
27) Welcome to the NHK
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)
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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