As a kid growing up in the United States in the 90’s, I, like many other kids, was first exposed to anime through mainstream shows such as Pokémon and Dragonball Z. I didn’t even know that the word “anime” even existed; all I knew was that these shows were entertaining and that they (as well as other shows on the Toonami and Adult Swim blocks on Cartoon Network such as Yu Yu Hakusho and Cowboy Bebop) all had a similar drawing style to them that made them feel all connected somehow. It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to understand how all these kinds of shows were considered “anime”, just how many “anime” shows there really were, and how great some can be in terms of telling a very good story.
I’m the type of person who is constantly changing their rankings on their list of favorites, whether it be movies, songs, bands, books, other TV shows, etc. I tend to constantly make changes and move something up or down the list depending on what comes along or what I feel is important at the time of said ranking. One thing that helps me, however, is keeping track of how often something makes “the cut”, or never moves from the list despite everything else changing. In this case, these top 5 anime picks of mine have more or less always been close to the top no matter where I’ve ranked them in the past. So without further ado, here are my Top 5 Favorite Anime.
- Episodes: 102
- Aired: April 2005 – March 2007
Ginta Toramizu is a 14 year kid in middle school who finds himself constantly dreaming about the same fictional world, even in the middle of class. So when a mysterious gate to this exact world suddenly appears in his classroom, Ginta doesn’t even think twice about whether to go or not. Ginta finds himself exploring the world of his dreams with extreme strength and stamina to boot, not to mention not needing his glasses anymore. However, Ginta soon learns about a group called the Chess Pieces, a once powerful organization that is rising up again to take over the world thanks to the return of their leader, Phantom. It’ll be up to Ginta and his newfound friends to stop Phantom and the Chess Pieces, as they’re the last obstacle in Phantom’s path…
I first saw this show at around the same age that Ginta was, so it instantly had me hooked, as I could relate somewhat to Ginta’s vivid “imagination”, especially when it came to Ginta “creating” his own abilties. It was also one of the last shows I saw before understanding what “anime” was and what the best examples of anime really were. There are certainly some faults with MAR’s story in terms of things that are never explained that should be. That being said, something about this show hit me the right way (and still does) in terms of characters, abilities, and the overall plot. I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who likes the traditional adventure story, the “tournament arc” trope, and European fairy tales in general, as this anime certainly alludes to a lot of them.
- Episodes: 316
- Aired: Apr 2006 - Mar 2010
Aliens from the farthest reaches of space have settled on planet Earth during what seems like “Edo” times. In turn, a ban exists on the use of a sword, resulting in many samurai hanging up the sword for good. However, one man has still chosen to walk the path of the samurai despite not having the proper temperament and the fact that he has to take odd jobs in order to make a living. That man would be Gintoki Sakata, and with a little help from his friends, they just might be able to do some good...if they don’t kill each other first.
It’s not hard to see why I like this anime, as the humor in this series is second to none. There are so many styles of jokes that the series uses, and combined with crazy story arcs and just plain random experiences the characters have, Gintama can and will constantly find a way to surprise me. Each and every main and recurring character contributes something to the series, which is equally impressive, as I find even the smallest characters to be hilarious if used properly. Overall, if you enjoy comedy with some action thrown in, then this would be the anime to start with.
3. Outlaw Star
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: Jan 1998 - Jun 1998
Ever since he was a kid, Gene Starwind has dreamed of becoming a pilot and exploring the stars. It is because of this dream that Gene is able to get by working whatever job he and his best friend, James Hawking, can find on the planet Sentinel III. However, Gene soon gets the chance to live out his dream when he and James accept an unusual job from an outlaw named Rachel Sweet: protetct a mysterious girl named Melfina. As more and more dangerous people begin to appear looking for her, it’s up to Gene, James, and some new friends to not only protect her, but somehow make their way throughout the galaxy in a ship known as the Outlaw Star in order to find out who Melfina really is.
Cowboy Bebop is definitely in my top 10, but before I saw that show, I saw Outlaw Star, and that show became the standard for me in terms of “space western” with all of its adventures, the spaceships used, and the great cast of characters forming the new crew of the Outlaw Star. What also makes a key favorite for me is how I’ve enjoyed it at different points in my life. As a kid watching it on Toonami, I found myself relating to James a lot, thinking it was cool that a kid could be on an adventure like that. Now that I’m older, however, as I watch the series now I relate to Gene’s character more, struggling to overcome his demons and trying to do what’s right even when it’s the most difficult. Either way, the series has still remained among my favorites, and if you enjoy adventures, the western feel, and outer space, Outlaw Star will be a favorite of yours as well.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Episodes: 64
- Aired: Apr 2009 - Jul 2010
Edward and Alphonse Elric were 2 normal brothers living a quiet life with their parents until their father mysteriously left and their mother passed away soon after, turning their lives upside down. Refusing to accept that their mother would be never coming back, the brothers turned to alchemy, only to not only fail in their attempt to resurrect her, but almost lose their lives as well. With Edward losing his left leg and sacrificing his right arm to bond Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armor since Alphonse had lost his entire body, they both realized that in order to get their bodies back, they must become part of the Military in order to search for something known as the Philosopher’s Stone…
One of the best stories in anime I’ve ever come across. It’s amazing how quickly you become attached to Edward and Alphonse early on as you begin to learn why they are searching for the Philosopher’s Stone and what they’ll go through in order to find it as well as look out for one another. I enjoyed being introduced to a cast of characters that have complicated motivations for the choices that they’ve made and whether they are justified in what they have done or are planning to do. I also enjoyed the serious moments where Alphonse and Edward’s bond is truly tested, the humorous moments between the good guys, and the shockingly sad moments that hit you right in the gut. All in all, this series sets the tone very early on how dark things can be, and if you enjoy stories with complex characters and set with the idea that nobody’s safe, FMA: Brotherhood has those and more.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood PV
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2011 – September 2011
Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed “mad-scientist”, accidentally discovers a particular form of time travel. Although it seems like a dream come true for Okabe at first as he works with his friends to grant his friends’ biggest desires, things suddenly get out of hand and take a dramatic turn for the worst. With Okabe being the only one that remembers every change that’s happened, it’s up to him to attempt to undo every change that’s happened and return everything back to normal.
There was a period when I had stopped watching anime for a while, and even though I was aware of new anime coming out and still reading some of my favorite manga that were ongoing, I hadn’t really invested myself in anime for a while. That all changed when I first heard about and watched Steins;Gate. As a big fan of the time travel genre in general, it’s rare to find a story in any medium that is able to utilize this concept successfully as well as be a successfully story on its own merits, and Steins;Gate is one of very few stories that achieves this. The humor was solid, the characters themselves were well-developed, the story was very well-done as it was able to be resolved without any plot holes or errors, and the ending was very well done and culminated in a proper growth for everyone involved in the adventure. Definitely my favorite anime at the moment and one I would recommend to both people who like the concept of time travel as well as to people who have never watched anime before.
There are so many more anime that I like, but these 5 at one point or another have either been my favorite anime at 1 time or are always near the top whenever I rank them. In the end, I tend to enjoy anime with well-written stories and characters as well as a type of adventure of some sort, and these 5 all have this and more. What are your guys’ favorite anime? Post your top 5 in the comments!