This post is some of my personal philosophies about how I feel not just about anime, but art/entertainment in general; I won’t be going to deep into the specifics as nobody wants to be here all day reading an entry that plays out like a rambling textbook. With that; I shall begin.
Anime is a remarkable medium. It has the same capabilities as any other form of art/entertainment; for better or worse, the ability to conjure a wide range of reactions from the individuals observing it, including strong emotional ones.
That’s one of the greatest things about anime, visual media or any kind of art work for that matter is that it is for the most part; subjective. Meaning individuals can draw their own conclusions based on their own perceptions; everyone will react differently to various shows making something as simple as liking or disliking something an individual reaction. The best part is that there is no objectively “correct” or “incorrect” opinion or interpretation to have regarding a given piece of art/entertainment.
With that said though, as an individual, it can be difficult to abide that; sometimes I want to tell people they’re “wrong” for liking or disliking a series, sometimes I have the urge to say their interpretation or reaction to a given series is incorrect and that instinct to resort to the old shaming tactics come into play. However; I avoid doing this because it ultimately comes down to the fact that if I want people to respect and listen to my take or preference about any given art/entertainment; I have to be willing to grant the same courtesy to them.
The fact is that I can write at length as to why something is “good” or “bad” but someone else can do exactly the same thing with a contrary opinion, because, that’s all it is; opinion, not concrete fact; so long a given individual backs up what they say. It takes a particular kind of arrogance to believe one’s own opinion somehow carries more weight or is more “factual” or “objective” than anyone else’s.
That doesn’t mean stop listening to certain fans, or critics; there are particular individuals I take recommendations from for certain types of shows, and at the same time, those same people I don’t listen to when it comes to other types of shows. However; there are some reviewers (I won’t mention names) that I don’t listen to even when I have agreed upon some of the shows out there. In this case it’s more about their individual attitudes that don’t sit well with me or they have a perspective heavily steeped in bias brought on my various factors such as a hard lined devotion to a given ideology, or they have a hate on for a given type of series or a love for an individual director or writer.
This bias comes through in the writing of many of their reviews, and I’m not going to lie; I have bias sometimes when I go to engage in a series, however; the key word here is “sometimes” and whatever bias I have, I’m aware of, and am always learning about. Meaning that a majority of the time when I go to try out a series, I’m approaching it pretty clean and there’s that rare occasion that I come in with a bias, say, a particular writer I’m familiar with, so immediately I expect big things from that series by said writer.
In the case of whether I like, or dislike something, that isn’t bias, but my personality which is a summation of my experiences; as I said before, people react differently to different things. What one person holds as the pinnacle of quality is trash to another; this doesn’t make one person’s tastes “better” or more “mature,” it simply means people like different things, or different “dressings” in the sense that is isn’t about people prioritizing certain narrative elements when some of them get the same thing from an ecchi-harem or shonoun series that someone gets from a so called “masterpiece” hailed by the anime community as essential viewing. What one person is offended by, another can wave it off; this doesn’t make the offended person “thin-skinned” or oversensitive no more than it makes a person unoffended a sociopath. And so on and so forth.
I think what’s always bothered me is when someone such as myself has come out and mentioned that a show like Ikkitousen has some symbolism and consistent thematic ideas even while admitting it’s a fun, bubble-gum anime only to be told I’m “reading too much into it,” whereas I can pull virtually any interpretation of Neon Genesis or even Puella Magi Madoka Magica out of my ass and people will buy it. In simple terms, it seems as though ridicule is given to people who approach all types of shows with the same initial level of respect or as I like to say; giving a series a fair try or the benefit of the doubt.
I don’t care if a series has frivolous ecchi fan service, or a generic cast of characters, or something isn’t ground breaking or “original.” I care about the ideas a series is playing with, how they’re dealt with, how and to what extent they’re resolved and the overall execution of the art/entrainment I’m engaged in at a given time.
I’ve heard of this idea of “judging an anime by the cover” which, in my personal opinion is a very reductionist way of approaching this art form. When I took martial arts, there was a saying “they who betray the art, are eventually destroyed by it.” In a way this rings true for any art form including the medium of anime as I have seen people on the receiving end of the bad karma they’ve dished out. This is why, with all my talk about anime being subjective and respecting others’ opinions, one thing I don’t abide is this looking at the cover approach.
Sure, a person can look at promo art, or poster or a DVD/Blu-ray cover and know that a series will have giant robots, excessive fan service; maybe it’s a mystery, or a darker psychological thriller, when it’s a cover with a lame guy surrounded by girls it’s usually a harem, but the thing is, even a person who just got into anime can do that. What people can’t discern from cover art is what ideas, themes or philosophies the series will play with, to what extent and how. It’s difficult to determine how much depth the characters will have and what role they will play in the story aside from the conventional archetypes they’re assigned to or what impact or influence they will have on the narrative and or themes and ideas a show is working with.
I’ve seen shows that have changed my mind and my approach, shows that have surprised me, the most highly unlikely shows with something valid and intelligent to say in a well-executed, consistent and coherent manner. In essence; for me; some of these shows exceeded any expectation I had making it on to the higher positions of my favourites list.
This is my explanation as to why I consider myself neither critic nor fan, but as connoisseur of anime; it’s the only term I can think of even though there are those who feel I have no right calling myself that; whatever. My reasoning is that I approach this medium differently from most others I have come across, even looking over my favourites list myself, I can see it’s pretty eccentric not just in where I have ranked shows but my levelling system.
The other reason for this is its extremely tough for me to pick a “best” or “most favourite” series since there are a lot of great shows out there that give me everything I want in an anime, but more importantly; all do it in a different manner that explore the human condition with different themes/ideas, philosophies, genres all tied together with a sound execution.
My favourites list is a testament to this philosophy; which is why there are so many and such a wide range of titles listed here. If it has well written, developed/dynamic characters, a solid story; whether complex or simple, good pacing, themes; something that connects to real life experience, something intelligent, good overall use of literary devices, and good execution; this is what will attract and retain my interest in an anime. It’s all of this that I need to consider an anime to be one of my top favourites; to be more entertaining or stand out, to create that urgency of desire the continue watching it. All of this anime here has done this and fulfills its duty as good quality series; and I will always be adding new shows. All lists are in alphabetical order and are subject to change with other upcoming shows I intend to view.
Top Favourite Anime Shows Level 1: This component of the list is shows that not only hooked me in and where profoundly entertaining, but also gave me something to think about. Many of these titles I still think about even not having watched them for a few years. It’s these kinds of shows that remind me as to why I got into anime in the first place. Upon observation, one will notice there are the obvious choices and a few that may not make sense being here; trust me; I hold all these shows in a high regard.
Blood Blockade Battlefront
Darker Than Black (All of it)
Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Gankotsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
High School of the Dead
Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Queen’s Blade: Beautiful Warriors
Welcome to the NHK
Top Favourite Anime Movies Level 1: The same idea applies as Top Favourite Level 1 Shows, only carried over to movies. Obviously movies are much shorter, but this does in and of itself, provides a new set of challenges with the limited run time.
Expelled From Paradise
Grave of the Fireflies
Howl’s Moving Castle
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Movies: Beginnings, Eternal and Rebellion
Time of Eve
Top Favourite Anime Shows Level 2 (close behind 1st place top favourites): We continue on, this is pretty much the same as the previous list, however; these shows had a few issues for me that I am critical of, or didn’t leave me with as strong an impact as the shows above it. Understand that these shows are here because of a very marginal difference in my personal preference; I’m talking by a sliver.
Cat Planet Cuties
Chaika: The Coffin Princess
Dance in the Vampire Bund
Devil is a Part-Timer
Inuyasha: Season 1
Inuyasha: Season 5
Inuyasha: The Final Act
Ladies Vs. Butlers
Maken Ki (Season 1)
Maria the Virgin Witch
One Punch Man
Ouran High School Host Club
Queen’s Blade Rebellion
Rage of Bahamut: Genesis
Spice & Wolf
The Tatami Galaxy
Terror on Resonance
Top Favourite Anime Movies Level 2: Once again, same idea here as Top Favourite Level 2 Shows, only to movies. Every now and then a big franchise may make its way in there such as Madoka, FMA or Inuyasha; the same ideas apply only the challenge these movies face is; do they build on to, or expand the lore; or are they merely rehashing most of what we’ve already seen and not executing it as well as on the series they came from? This is regardless of some of them being shameless cash grabs. The ones that still provide the same level of care and quality from the series, while doing something a little different usually work out.
Evangelion 1.11: You are (not) Alone
Evangelion 2.22: You can (not) Advance
Evangelion 3.33: You can (not) Redo
Fullmetal Alchemist Conqueror of Shamballa
Fullmetal Alchemist Sared Star of Milos
The Princess Kaguya
Trigun: Badlands Rumble
When Marnie was There
Level 1 Favourite Anime Shows: These are shows I really like, I got into them and feel pretty strongly about them, however; they’re here because while I feel they’re great, there are a few factors I found lacing in them inhibiting their ability to be “top favourites.” In some cases it is superficial elements like pacing or animation issues, perhaps some overt repetition, self-indulgent storytelling, some narrative or thematic inconsistencies or I may have even somewhat disagree with what the series has to say.
There are some that make it this high out of the sheer and utmost respect I have for them in terms of the narrative ambition and execution put forth, however; those particular shows I still have some pretty legion issues with. Understand though; I still think these shows are pretty golden and would recommend them to which ever fan is into a given type of series.
Attack on Titan
Berserk – both original and new
Blood – C
Black Lagoon (all)
Eden of the East
Freezing & Freezing Vibration
Gatchaman Crowds & Gatchaman Crowds Insight
High School DxD
High School DxD New
Inuyasha: Season 2
Inuyasha: Season 3
Inuyasha: Season 7
Kids on the Slope
My Love Story
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Revolutionary Girl Utena
Sailor Moon/Sailor Moon R
Wanna be the Strongest in the World
The World God Only Knows
Level 1 Favourite Anime Movies: Once again, same idea applies here as in the Level 1 Favourite Shows taking into consideration the shorter run time and how well they expand upon the larger series they come from.
Blood – C: The Last Dark
Inuyasha: Castle Beyond the Looking Glass
Inuyasha: Swords of an Honorable Ruler
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Level 2 Favourite Anime Shows: Making it lower on the list, these are shows I find to be all out entertaining and downright fun. In some situations they lose steam at given parts of their run and in some cases once again; self-indulgence and some overt repetition which took me out of it at times other times it’s the fact that the experience of viewing certain titles here come off more like reading a textbook as opposed to a novel, if that makes any sense. Other ones, while I still consider good have nostalgic value on their side.
Baka and Test
Daphne in the Brilliant Blue
Heaven’s Lost Property
Heaven’s Lost Property Forte
Hellgirl Season 1
Hellgirl Two Mirrors
Ikki Tousen DD
Inuyasha: Season 4
Inuyasha: Season 6
Kill La Kill
Le Chevalier D’Eon
Nadjica Blitz Tactics
Yuki Yuna is a Hero