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A-1 Pictures is a relative newcomer when it comes to the world of animation studios. It was originally a subsidiary to Sony Music Entertainment’s animation division: Aniplex. Basically, A-1 was in charge of the kid-friendly, family oriented anime. It wasn’t until 2007 that it finally produced its first original series, Oukiku Furikabutte (2007).
A-1 really hit its stride with the release of Kuroshitsuji (2008). It has continued to produce great series since then. In recent years, it’s gained a reputation as one of the studios able to produce the most consistent high-quality anime. The number of projects being simultaneously released, with high animation production value, is nearly unmatched today.
This studio has released some of my favorite series in recent years. So, below I’m going to list off my top 10 anime from A-1 Pictures. Keep in mind they have produced A LOT of anime since the company’s inception. These are just my favorites and the projects where A-1 is the primary studio handling the production.
10. Oreimo (Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2010 - Dec 2010
Kyousuke and Kirino are siblings that haven’t gotten along in years. Kirino seems to either not notice her brother when he’s around or when she does she simply looks at him with disgust. One day, Kyousuke finds a DVD of a magical girl anime at one his doorstep. With it is an “eroge” (erotic game). Bewildered, he sets off to find out whose it is. To his surprise, finds out that it belongs.
This discover leads to Kirino confiding about her love for all things otaku to her big brother. Kyousuke takes the opportunity to help her balance out her social life with her secret hobby. Unknowingly, the two become closer and have to come to terms with how their relationship is evolving, for better or worse.
This is one of those slice of life shows that has an incestuous vibe to it. So, if you like seeing the bond between brother and sister strengthen check this out, just know that it will deal with some taboo issues as well.
9.Sword Art Online
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Jul 2012 - Dec 2012
In the future, online games are played using specialized equipment known as “NervGear”. This allows the games to feel as realistic as possible. The newest game is an online RPG called Sword Art Online. As soon as the game is released 300 people instantly log in to try the game out. Shortly after, an announcement is made in the game.
It explains that people cannot leave until they complete the game. They have to reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower. Also, if their in-game avatar dies their real body dies as well. Kirito is one of the people trapped inside. Sword Art Online is the story of Kirito struggle to complete the game and get out in one piece.
Sword Art Online is another anime from A-1 that was extremely popular yet controversial. Everyone loved the first half of season 1. But, the second half received harsh criticism for the change in story arcs, damsel in distress syndrome (Asuna), and incestuous themes. Whatever people thought of the show, it was still watched worldwide and received a second season as well.
8.Anohana (Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr 2011 - Jun 2011
A group of friends have become estranged after a tragic accident took the life of one of their friends. Now that they are in high school, the ghost of the young girl (Menma) has appeared to Jintan. She explains to him that she cannot pass over to the other world because she has some unfinished business.
She needs Jintan to help her remember what this last request is and to help her complete it. He gathers his childhood friends together and they try to overcome their feelings and experiences from that fateful day. Working through the grief may be the only way they can help Menma move onto the afterlife in peace.
This short series is for anyone interested in slice of life anime. The supernatural element gives it a slightly different feel from your standard SOL about friendship. It’s filled with drama and cathartic moments for the characters and viewers alike.
This series has become one of the most well-known series from A-1 Pictures. It has since had a novel adaptation, a visual novel, and a live action Japanese television drama that is currently shown on Fuji TV (premiering on September 21, 2015).
7.Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 2012 - Mar 2013
Aladdin is young boy who has lived most of his life in seclusion. Upon meeting Alibaba, he decides to help him achieve his dream of conquering a nearby dungeon, Amon. Together they are able to overcome the dangers within and obtain the treasure. But, just as complete the dungeon’s trials Aladdin is transported to a distant lane. He learns that he is a Magi, a rare class of magicians capable of extraordinary feats of magic. The Labyrinth of Magic follows Aladdin on his many adventures, reunion with Alibaba, and mastery over his abilities.
On the surface, this looks like a typical shounen manga. Upon further inspection you’ll realize that there is a deep structure to the magical hierarchy and dungeon trials. Not only that, the narrative is a bit darker than you’d expect. The tone and maturity is similar to that of Hunter x Hunter. Its wide appeal has garnered it great praise and led to a sequel, Magi: The Kingdom of Magic. The manga that this is based off of is ongoing and has earned the Best Shounen Manga award from the 59th Shogakukan Manga Awards.
6. Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2008 - Mar 2009
Ciel is a young boy who lost everything dear to him. He witnessed his parents being murdered and he was about to die as well. Just before death he made a deal with a demon. He sold his soul so that he could get revenge on those who took everything from him. The demon takes the guise of Sebastian, Ciel’s butler. Sebastian proves to be an amazing butler who handles the most difficult task with ease.
However, his butler duties are trivial compared to his real purpose for aiding Ciel. The two of them work together to figure out who was behind the plot to murder Ciel’s parents. Once they do… that person will have to face Sebastian’s demonic wrath.
This is the oldest anime on the list. As I mentioned in the intro, this is the series that cemented A-1 Pictures as a formidable animation studio. It crawled out of the shadow of its previous employer, Aniplex. Before this, A-1 had released some original works and some decent shows adapted from video games.
The series itself is a mix of ill-timed comedic moments and a serious tone. Aside from that, the story, characters, action, and animation are stellar. The manga was popular worldwide. This is where A-1 discovered the formula for creating a successful anime. Adapt the story from an extremely popular manga and produce high quality visuals and animation. This tried and true method has pushed A-1 into one of the leading animation studios.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jul 2014 - Sep 2014
Aldnoah Zero takes place in an alternate reality where the Apollo 17 (1972) mission uncovered a hyper gate leading to Mars. Eventually a small group of humans settled in Mars, terraformed it, and took to calling themselves Martians. There, they found technological secrets that they chose to keep to themselves. Fast forward to 1999, a war break out between earthlings and the Martians.
A temporary cease fire was agreed upon after a massive explosion on the moon. In the present, 2014, a princess from Mars tries to continue peace talks with ambassadors from Earth. However things take a turn for the worse and it appears the princess has been assassinated. The Martian Orbital Knights use their highly advanced Landing Castles to launch an assault on Earth in an attempt to eradicate humanity.
Aldnoah Zero has completed two seasons and possibly a third season or a movie on the horizon. Since its release it has generally received great reviews… that is up until the finale. People enjoyed the series and were heavily invested in it, but unfortunately most people felt the end of season 2 wasn’t up to par with the rest of the show. That aside, it has been one of the most popular shows these past couple of years.
4. Fairy Tail
- Episodes: 200+
- Aired: Oct 12, 2009 - Ongoing
Fairy Tail is a legendary guild filled with extremely popular and powerful mages. One mage in particular has dreams of joining this prestigious guild. Her name is Lucy Heartfilia. One day she runs into a clueless, prone motion sickness mage. He just happens to be a member of Fairy Tail and Lucy’s only chance to get accepted. This series is the story of Lucy joining the guild and all the adventures that take place after.
This series has the most episodes out of all the ones listed here. It has quickly become an adventure epic comparable to the likes of Naruto, Bleach, and Hunter x Hunter. Though, I’m hesitant to say it’s on the level of One Piece.
Both the original manga and anime adaptation have received various awards and critical praise. The series has proved to be a mainstay for A-1 Productions. Its original run ended in 2013, but in 2014 the series picked up again and has been going strong ever since. Fairy Tail has been receiving more attention now that Bleach and Naruto, previous competitors, have ended their run (Bleach) or getting close to completion (Naruto).
If you’re interested in the series check out the Top 10 Characters from this serie.
3. Blue Exorcist
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Apr 2011 - Oct 2011
Blue Exorcist is the story of Rin Okumura. He and his brother (Yukio) were raised by Father Shiro Fujimoto. One day, Rin starts to notice strange critters affecting his daily life. After more of them appear and begin to attack him, Father Shiro has to step in to save him. He explains to that Rin is a demon, in fact he’s the son of Satan.
Satan plans to use Rin’s body to cross over into the world of humans. This revelation breaks apart Rin’s world and he has to rediscover who he truly is. Is he the son of the most powerful demon in existence or does he take after the priest who raised him?
Blue Exorcist is one of my all-time favorite anime. This show is for fans of action, supernatural elements, comedy, and heartfelt moments. You can read my full review here.
This was one of the most popular anime at the time of its release. Its release suffered from the manga being too popular at the time. The anime was rushed into production before the manga had finished the story arc. Therefore, the anime was forced to create its own ending. The show still remains popular to this day and is always thrown around when people talk about supernatural anime.
2. Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: Oct 2014 – Mar 2015
Child prodigy, Arima Kosei, was a remarkable piano player. Tragically, he lost his mother early on and gave up playing the piano on the day of her death. He developed a mental block that prevented him from hearing the notes he was playing. This continued for years until he met a girl, Miyazono Kaori, in his junior high school. She is a violin player who needs his help for a recital. She convinces him to play with him. Though, he struggles and is humiliated a few times she continues to stand by his side and encourages him to keep playing.
I have to be honest. I never watched this entire series. I loved it from the very beginning and I was able to get through the first five episodes. The foreshadowing was too strong though. I couldn’t bear to see the tragedy that was sure to follow.
The original manga was awarded the Best Shounen Manga at the 37th Kodansha Manga Awards. The anime adaptation does a pretty good job of staying true to the original though the pacing drags a bit. This show is for anyone who enjoys the slice of life genre or is interested in classical music.
The song renditions in this series are excellent. The relationships and character interaction are of the highest quality. This was one of A-1’s most successful series this year (well, late 2014 to early 2015). The other is…
1.The Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Oct 2014 - Mar 2015
A group of legendary knights known as the Seven Deadly Sins were the pride of the Kingdom of Britannia. They were feared because of their peerless strength and skill. The “evil” knights however conspired to overthrow the king and rule the land. The kingdom’s holy knights then drove out the small group of traitors and nearly eradicated them.
Years later these holy knights captured the king and have become the tyrannical rulers of Britannia. The current princess, Elizabeth, leaves the kingdom and goes on a search for the falsely accused Seven Deadly Sins. They are the last hope for rescuing the king and restoring peace to the kingdom.
This one is my personal favorite out of all the A-1 produced series. The action, comedy, fan service, and animation are all top notch. Each character is over the top and engaging. I can’t say enough good things about this series. You can read a full review by Zack Ringler here.
Nanatsu no Taizai was a big hit this year. Fans loved it and had one of the best opening songs (in my opinion). Though the first season wrapped up the story arc nicely, a second season is highly likely. But, fans will have to wait for the manga to develop a bit further before an anime adaptation can continue.
So there it is. That’s my list of Top 10 anime from A-1 Productions. There may be one or two series that I could shuffle around in order. But, I’ll stand by my decision to put Nanatsu no Taizai at #1. I’ll fight anyone to the death that says otherwise! Not really. But, at least we’ll exchange some blows in verbal fisticuffs!
What’re your thoughts? Maybe you have some other selections that were left out of the list altogether. Let me know what you think about these choices.