This is torture.
Hi, I’m Eris. This is the list of my “Top 5” favorite anime, but really, it should be called my “Top 5 Right Now.” That’s because I really don’t know what to choose, and I just started writing, hoping that it will come to me, so this list will only represent this one fleeting moment that it takes for me to write out this article. I’m sorry about that. If Honey asked me to write my “Top 5 Anime I Despise,” that list would be done in a hot second, but here we are. You’re so lucky that you get to bear witness to this writer in the midst of indecisive-person torture.
Basically, I’m the worst kind of anime fan. I’m picky, but pretend that I’m not. I’ll like anything, as long as it has solid storytelling, believable character development, likable enough characters, a good soundtrack, in addition to overall good sound, great and/or interesting art, a slight sense of innovation, and a well-planned conclusion. Yes, the anime must end. Thus, even though I have an immensely strong bias for new stuff, no currently airing shows or developing continuations will be on this list, but shows that just ended, here we come!
5. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt
- Episodes: 4
- Aired: Dec. 2015 – Apr. 2016
I just finished this series, so it’s pretty fresh in my mind, meaning that I won’t necessarily feel the same way tomorrow, but no regrets! Regrets are for tomorrow!
I’m not the biggest UC Gundam fan—whoops—I’m not a UC Gundam fan, but I get really into stand-alone series and UC side stories. The main line series explain everything in the space opera in intricate political detail, like some grand space chess match against two foreboding opponents. It’s great, but hypothetically, if a Vietnam War documentary and Full Metal Jacket were on TV at the same time, I’m watching Full Metal Jacket. This is one side of the fence for Gundam fans. Usually you’re either on the UC side or on this side, over here, with me.
The o8th MS Team was probably my favorite Gundam side story, until this happened. Thunderbolt is the latest UC side story for the Gundam franchise, focusing on contention between one faction in the Federation against one in Zeon. It’s dark, gritty, and gets a little too real. As depressing as it is, the youngest pilots in the series are just cannon fodder. The most talented are sent out to take on the hardest opponents with the highest risk of not coming back in one piece. Leaders break under pressure. Scientists don’t have all the answers and feel the ethical pressure of their decisions. These characters are real with real emotions, and even the idea of giant fighting humanoid robots is painted with the brush of realism with splatters of psychosis. It’s a great.
The only very distracting downside for me would be the music. All the songs had a great nostalgic feel, and the musical composition and timing was perfectly matched to the mood of each scene. I really liked what they were doing. That is, until I realized the lyrics aren’t gibberish. The lyrics are in painfully horrible English, but that’s what I get for being an English speaker. I’m just going to pretend like they’re in English gibberish, and keep Thunderbolt in this list. No regrets!
Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt PV
4. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: Apr. 2009 – Jul. 2010
Okay, I’m going to be honest. All that stuff I just said about not wanting to watch the Vietnam War documentary over Full Metal Jacket, I lied. There would be an internal battle and regrets. I love epic stories with epic geopolitics and epic history fodder. It’s my favorite thing ever.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2009, a.k.a Brotherhood), not Jacket, was surprisingly epic. I say this, because I watched the original anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) and was not impressed. The 2003 series has this great idea and these wonderfully tragic characters. It’s immersed with folklore and religiosity, and its steampunk vibe is nice too. The breaker for me with the 2003 series is the story, which veers away from the manga. This should spell out how finicky I am about my stories.
Whereas I felt the world in the 2003 series felt quite small and isolated, the world building in Brotherhood is exquisite. I really like how it weaves in all these different nations and ideologies, and then lets the brothers navigate the politics, the folklore, and the alchemy in what ended up being a tried and true coming-of-age story. Even though the characters, both protagonists and antagonists, try to hold up an optimistic façade, there’s a lot of cynicism and haunting regrets. That level of character complexity won me over.
It should come as no surprise that the title that has the possibility of taking Brotherhood’s spot would be The Heroic Legend of Arslan (2015), which is currently being recreated by the mangaka of Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa Hiromu. Oh, how I’m dying for the next season of Arslan!
Fullmetal Alchemist Complete Collection Trailer
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: 2000 – Mar. 2001
Let’s get back to how much I love short series that end quickly. Add in the fact that I love it when things get a little crazy, out of hand, and inexplicable, and we get FLCL coming in at #3. Before you get all, “But, Eris, you just said that you’re finicky with stories, and FLCL is so convoluted in its storytelling.” Sibling, weren’t you just listening? Complexity is my fruit of life.
Certainly, I was in a mental Froot Loops period in my life, but it hit such a hard chord and made complete sense when I first saw it, and you know what? I think it makes even more sense now that I consider myself much more mature and worldly.
Although in a much different package than Brotherhood, FLCL is a pretty straightforward coming-of-age story. It mixes in humor with some feisty action and a little angst. It’s fast and dirty and has a soundtrack I would sing along to. Still, in the foreseeable future, and based on the fact I love it when something is new and shiny, the anime vying for FLCL’s prestige in my heart is the currently airing short-form Space Patrol Luluco. It’s got the coming-of-age story for a GIRL, sexual innuendo, and a crazy space lady? Sign me up now!
Oh no! I just realized I just broke my own rules, because FLCL is getting a continuation! Oh no! No regrets! Let’s move along then, shall we?
FLCL - Trailer - Available on DVD and BD 2.22.11
2. Cowboy Bebop
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr. 1998 – Apr. 1999
Did I just do that? I did. I just became really basic, but I don’t care. Much like FLCL, Cowboy Bebop got its foot in the door to my heart through its music. Kanno Yoko may very well be my anime OST spirit animal. This soundtrack still lights up my life when it pops up in my playlist. Be it the nostalgia or the anime it came with, there’s something about this music that gets all the good feels going.
I’m going to just tell you right now. The reason Cowboy Bebop is on this list, and not its trendy spiritual successor Terror in Resonance (2014), is because Cowboy Bebop was the first anime that I really, really wanted to watch again. The idea of bounty hunters in space just tickles all my western/sci fi mish-mash fancies. Mix in a dude that idolizes Bruce Lee, and throw in some Jon Woo doves, and you got me pegged.
Even though I had seen a considerable amount of anime before I came across Cowboy Bebop, I was certain I would be able to find a whole new world founded on good storytelling and excellent music direction hiding somewhere in Cowboy Bebop’s wake. Although I’m still pretty content with what I found, this little gem was definitely my personal gateway series to the world of over-watching anime. There are and will continue to be suitors for this position, but this little guy can just settle in right here at #2.
Cowboy Bebop - Japanese Blu-ray Trailer [HD]
1. Ping Pong The Animation
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: 2014 – Jun. 2014
Ping Pong The Animation is obviously about ping pong. I’m pretty into sports anime, but it’s hard to say this is just a sports anime. While most of the genre are along the lines of Remember the Titans or Rocky, Ping Pong The Animation is more of a Friday Night Lights (film) for me. The characters have this wonderful dynamic, and all the interactions are subdued but meaningful. The coaches have their own pasts that they live with, while trying not to push their regrets too much on their young players. The Chinese transplant Kong’s interactions with his mother pretty much put my heart in a microwave on the highest setting. Ping Pong is inspirational when it comes to growing up and friendship, but it stays within the realm of sports without being too slice-of-life-like, and I appreciate it for that.
Then, there’s also the bromance. Bromance is a big theme for me. I love bromance. If you read my Top 10 Bromance Anime article, I hope you could feel my love for the topic seeping out of the screen. The bromance here in Ping Pong is top-notch quality, realistic bromancing. It doesn’t go over the top, but it hits harder than a punch in the gut.
Honestly, I doubt anything taking Ping Pong’s spot any time soon, and that’s why it’s here. The rewatch value is very high. I discover new things to like about Ping Pong every time I watch it, and I don’t even like watching ping pong as sport! I mean, except the Olympics. I watch all the sports if it’s the Olympics, because I have a slight addiction to visual stimulation, which probably explains why I’ve seen so much anime.
「Ping Pong PV」
Oh wait! No! There’s still at least twenty more anime I want to talk about! I haven’t even gotten to the films yet! You’re leaving? Ah, okay. It’s okay. I guess. After all, you’re going to be seeing more of me around, here or there.
If you like what I like, that’s cool. If you don’t like what I like and like something different, that’s equally cool. There’s a whole lot of good stuff out there, so it’s best not to pigeonhole yourself to just a handful of anime with strikingly similar themes and genres. If anything, I’m just glad you got to share this little moment with me while my anime brain spews out whatever’s left of its tortured neurons. Let’s hope there’s still some juice left to write another article!