30. Parasyte (Kiseijuu)
Synopsis: Unbeknownst to the world, alien parasites have been taking control of human bodies around the world, and living within them in secret. Shinichi Izumi becomes one of the first people to ever stop the parasite before it reaches the brain and as a result, the alien lives within his hand instead. It becomes a sentient lifeform that makes a deal with Shinichi to help each other out in order to keep each other alive.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A realistic school setting plagued by sci-fi aliens | Action, Drama | Intelligent, Bizarre, Gory
Number of Episodes: 24 (2014-2015)
This anime is classic, and brilliant. A very structured and focused story of becoming a hero against your will that highlights a huge range of human qualities. The strange duo of Shinichi and Migi, the hand parasite, creates some truly enthralling conversations, and some rather bizarre action scenes. The anime shines when it seemingly doesn’t try to. These are the moments where it’s just the hand and the Shinichi waxing philosophical and having debates about what makes the human race tick. There’s an uneasy, and foreboding air in the fact that the hand is only helping Shinichi as long as Shinichi does nothing to endanger them, meaning, the hand can and will hurt Shinichi in order to assure their safety. It’s a relationship that barely functions on paper, but is actually handled very well in the anime.
And then we have the non-seinen aspects of Parasyte, such as the amorphous action that these blobulous parasites engage in. The transformations these aliens undergo is pretty riveting stuff, and additionally, they are animated flawlessly. I rarely see such fluid body movements in anime which is a testament to Madhouse, a veteran anime studio. The fights are weird in that there’s no telling what forms the aliens will take, and they move at rapid-speed, which already pushes the scope past the capabilities of typical humans. However, tactics are still the trump card in any fight, and Migi is constantly calculating, methodically planning, and using Shinichi as the one small edge over other aliens as the wildcard.
The music has been a hit or miss affair, having boisterous dubstep, which I’m not quite happy with, and dramatic, chilling string compositions, which I wholly approve of. The series hits a few lulls. A few episodes will go by and you’ll realize that nothing really important has happened, but when the story is pushing at full force, it’s unforgettable. Besides that, there has been absolutely nothing wrong with this edgy, fascinating exploration of interactions between aliens and humans.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (Metamorphosis) The premiere episode lays down the story with great exposition and also gives a glimpse into the weird, yet charming relationship between the parasite and the main character.
With some slight perverse humor, the “anime” feel is slightly there, but ultimately it feels like it’s own well-developed world.
29. Ano Hana
Synopsis: Meiko Honma died years ago, causing her closest of friends to drift apart in life. Now, she has reappeared as a ghost that only Jinta can see, who used to be one of the friends from her childhood days. She expresses that she wants Jinta to grant her final wish, but Meiko has no memory as to what it was so Jinta seeks out the same friends from his childhood for an answer.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A charming, realistic small town setting | Drama | Sad, Uplifting, Charming
Number of Episodes: 11 (2011)
You should be able to manage some sort of conclusion as to what this anime will be like just by looking at the picture. Innocent, and emotional with striking artwork. This is indeed what Anohana is all about. However, you might be surprised at just how “grown-up” the characters are after Meiko’s death many years ago. What starts as a childhood tragedy turns into realistic teen problems as the main character tracks all his old friends down to grant Meiko’s wish. Meiko is easily the characater that steals the show with her whimsical methods of haunting creating absolutely zero terror, and a lot more comedy.
The charming, upbeat character interplay soon takes a turn for the dramatic, and that’s when Anohana really kicks things into “feels” mode. Each of these friends have been harboring secrets from each other which is a very real thing in life. Imagine if all your old friends were forced together, opening up old wounds and seeing what you’ve each turned into since you last saw each other. It’s a brilliant way of portraying character development that amounts to more than just simple flashbacks. This is all amplified by the gorgeous artwork and quaint setting of this anime. It all feels so innocent, that when the emotional undertones start kicking in, you can help but leave yourself wide open.
Season Specifics: There is a movie that is poised as an epilogue, but it is not required to get a satisfying, conclusive story.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (Super Peace Busters) With only 11 episodes, it’s not surprising that the anime should already appeal to you by episode 1. The first thing you have to notice is that despite the “haunting” premise, the ghost characters is actually very upbeat and that is demonstrated very well in the first episode.
Studio: A1 Pictures
The comic relief relies on “anime” facial expressions and such, but this anime put’s it’s effort into being subtle and realistic.
28. Kyousou Giga
Synopsis: Three spiritual children live in an alternate surreal dimension waiting for their parents to return. Then a young girl named Koto comes into this dimension in search of her own mother too, causing an upset in the balance that used to keep things nice and organized in this realm.
Setting/Genre/Tone: An alternate dimension that mirrors the real world but with more fantastical elements. | Action, Comedy, Supernatural | Over the Top, Abstract, Charming
Number of Episodes: 10 (2013)
Constant bewilderment and splendor. That is what I felt throughout the entire run of this small-series-that-could. Kyousougiga hits hard in it’s first episode. There is some debate if the “episode 0” should indeed be watched as it’s kind of a flash forward of things to come before the story starts proper in episode 1. I think it’s perfectly OK to watch that first episode anyways because you’re going to need more than one sitting for this one. It’s a lot to swallow.
First off, this colorful, abstract realm of the gods is one of the most visually interesting styles of a setting I’ve come across. Just trying to understand it can be a bit of a mindsink, but looking at it never gets old. Within this fantasy realm we have a few main characters who all have breathtaking character designs and even more emotional resonance in their character stories. Zooming out from all of this, and wrapping all of this up is a beautiful story about family bonds that should ring true for most of us.
Kyousougiga is easy to lose your way in. It’s wild and frenetic. It’s action is flashy and nonsensical, and the references to things like buddhism or Alice in Wonderland may just go over your head. There are still scenes that I can’t fully comprehend well either, but I know that the more of this story I come to understand, the more I love it. I believe it’s like a masterpiece tucked into a messy hairball of exposition. Indeed, a perfect anime would manage to communicate it’s story perfectly, but there’s nothing wrong with an anime that throws a little too much to process in one sitting.
The one thing that is threaded through all of the zany things going on is the moving tale of a family just wanting to come together again. Simple themes, complicated execution. It’s a mixup that baffles and delights at the same time. The music and animation instantly send this to the highest pedigree of sensual appeal I can think of. Kyousougiga is a hidden gem, overlooked by most and slightly underrated in my opinion. It’s truly worth a watch if you want something maddeningly wondrous.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (The Background and Circumstances of a Certain Family) It only takes this singular episode to portray both the gorgeous chaotic nature and it’s heartwarming family focus simultaneously.
The world is nuts. The characters do crazy eclectic things. Animation just runs haywire during the fights. Its a spectacle of anime qualities just being thrown at your eyeballs.
Synopsis: Shoyo Hinata was struck by motivation to play volleyball when he watched an iconic player known as “little giant.” In middle school, his first tournament ends up in defeat and he swears revenge against the key player on the opposing team. Come to find out, when he joins his high school team, that same player is also on his team, and the potential they have together could be far greater than anything they could accomplish separately.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A perfectly reasonable school sport setting | Comedy, Drama, Sports | Funny, Uplifting,
Number of Episodes: 34+ (Currently Airing)
Haikyuu had to battle much of my pretentiousness with Kuroko’s Basketball. More so than it deserved, because Haikyuu is one fantastic sports anime. It already has the tickboxes that one would expect. The sport is fast and frenetic, the animation is sharp and crisp with a great sense of movement, and the characters of the team are all easy to love. As simple as that is to list, several sports anime, or anime in general just fail to even manage those few traits. Haikyuu, however, goes even further to create what I feel is the sports anime with the most heart.
Hinata is probably the root of that success. He is an ever-enduring spark of determination and competition that just does not stop. Even when his team mates are re-invigorated by his motivation and gain a burst of strength, he still has more energy than all of them combined. This enchanting quality of his bleeds into every other portion of the anime making this a constant spur to get the next match. The downtime between matches has no lack of quality either. Simply watching these characters off the court is just as rewarding and it creates a completely positive and inspiring mood that lasts through the entire anime.
Haikyuu differs from Kuroko in that charm, and how it shines a light on their good guys. Because of this the opposing teams aren’t quite as memorable as the ones you’ll see in Kuroko’s, but in a battle of heroes and villains, Haikyuu chooses the heroes. It’s about watching their team grow and evolve from within and it does that by breaking away from the shounen stereotype of training for skill. In Haikyuu they train to understand and help each other.
Decisive Episode: Episode 4 (The View From the Summit) – Until you reach this episode, you mainly get a glimpse at what makes this a great drama and comedy anime, but not quite what makes it a great sports anime. It’s in this memorable episode that Hinata and his partner first “click” and it gives a wild rush of satisfaction that brings the sport to the same level as the rest of the anime.
Studio: Production IG
The character’s crazy energy and zaniness are all very “anime” as is the humor style, while the depiction of the sport is surprisingly realistic, though with a little bit of exaggeration on the animation side.
Synopsis: The Sibyl System rules supreme over this futuristic world. It decides what jobs people are suitable for, and also reads it’s citizen’s mental state to see if they are a latent criminal or not, and arrests them before they even commit the crime. Akane Tsunemori is a brand new Inspector, someone who enacts Sibyl’s will to arrest these mental criminals before they commit their crime. They wield guns that can also read mental states and change their lethality based on how dangerous they are. A bizarre series of murders begins at this same time, and Akane and her crew are slowly drawn into the massive criminal plot.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A fully realized futuristic world | Drama | Intelligent, Psychological, Dark
Number of Episodes: Psycho Pass – 22 (2012-2013) | Psycho Pass 2 – 11 (2014)
Psycho-Pass is a prime example of constructing a fully-realized world, and then creating a story that tackles the very laws of that world. The sheer concept of the Psycho-Pass system is immediately intriguing because of the moral validity is instantly thrown into question. Are people who jump into the red-zone of the psycho-pass as a result of a crime being enacted ONTO them, truly deserving of being arrested too? On top of this, the sci-fi fans are in for a treat when they see these Dominator guns that transform based on their intended lethality.
That, along with the intricate artwork of this futuristic city, is all what makes Pycho-Pass catch your eye, but it’s the villain, that takes this anime into it’s own. A villain who’s animus will sometimes seem warranted thanks to his highly philosophical inspirations. He openly quotes real-name philosophers while interpreting them as a reason to commit his atrocities. He’s a villain with an ego who creates a theatrical agenda that aims to change the world. He’s absolutely thrilling to watch and was the biggest draw for me for the first season.
Season Specifics: Season 2 is simply not worth watching in my opinion. It doesn’t really continue off of the themes that the first season introduced, and it doesn’t even have the original creator attached to the project. It feels like an afterthought. It’s a season that focuses too much on being full of plot twists while season one had a graceful, philosophical slickness to it.
Decisive Episode: Episode 11 (Saint’s Supper) – While it does seem like a long way in, it’s definitely a big game-changer in the sense that this episode reveals the true power of the villain in what otherwise seemed like a show that had no antagonist.
Studio: Production IG (Season 1) | Tatsunoko Pro (Season 2)
A mature story, developed city, and all-real crime. There’s almost no room for anime tropes in this series.
25. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)
Synopsis: After a nearly being eaten by giants of unknown origin, named Titans, mankind has survived by staying secluded inside a massive civilization with impregnable walls. Eren Yeager and Mikasa Ackerman are two residents of this city who live peacefully together, but when a Titan manages to break the once indestructible wall, mankind is once again on a desperate fight to stay alive.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A post-apocalyptic alternate world on the brink of a returning danger | Action | Intense, Gory
Number of Episodes: 25 (2013) Season 2 has been announced for a 2016 release.
The most popular anime of recent times seems to be growing tiresome to many, and it has to me as well. However, I am not letting it affect my opinion of this anime, because it truly is an adrenaline-fueled, epic spectacle with a serious threat, and a dire situation that turns this more into a fight for survival than a fight to win. Attack on Titan takes it’s action to the breaking point with some of the most exciting combat sequences of its time. On top of that, it’s telling a true-to-heart story about a young boy growing up in this figurative hell and simply willing to do anything to change it and fight for those who fall victim to it.
It instantly transcends all the “dumb-action” anime that I’m tired of dealing with and paints some of the most memorable set pieces I’ve seen. It has created characters that I will never forget. Levi and Mikasa are two bad-asses who’s burning fury are forever etched into my brain. It’s not my favorite anime simply because I do feel like other anime do indeed make even stronger impressions, but as far as action anime goes, even with the annoyingly large fanbase, I think this anime raised the bar, and I like it that way.
The tone of the anime is in your face. Things are going wrong and you’re going to feel it. It makes it feel like it’s constantly firing on all cylinders, and sometimes that can be a bit too chaotic, but nine times out of ten, I appreciated how much energy went into the smallest moments of this anime. It knows how to focus on every aspect of a story, even if the delivery is so adrenaline-fueled that it comes off too strong sometimes.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (To You, In 2,000 Years) – The capacity to understand what this anime is like off of one episode is more than easy. This anime brings its bombastic energy in full force as well as introducing the main character and his initial tragedy that sparks his journey in one hell of a premiere.
Studio: Production IG (Subsidiary Wit Studio)
While lacking the fan-service and awkward humor, It does have huge anime aesthetic in the way characters are drawn and portrayed as well as the way they depict their most intense episodes with flashes of lightning and other visual effects.
24. No Game No Life
Synopsis: Sora and Shiro, who are brother and sister, form Blank, an undefeated gaming user who’s an internet legend. One day, they get a mysterious challenge emailed to them, to play a game against an unknown player. They defeat this player and are magically transported to a whole new world where everything within it is decided by the outcomes of games. These undefeated gamers are now in a world built just for them.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A complete fantasy world with it’s own laws of magic | Adventure, Comedy | Funny, Over the Top, Intelligent
Number of Episodes: 12 (2014)
Now this is an “anime.” In a time where it felt like the only way to make an impactful anime anymore was to forego the tropes that anime established for itself, No Game No Life utilizes those tropes, along with it’s own half-crazy, half-genius mentality, and throws out this crazy, smart, and nearly ridiculous anime that somehow just worked. Maybe it’s the instant hook of the two siblings who instantly gain your affection, or maybe it’s the outrageous battles of geniuses that we’ve all missed since the Code Geass days. Either way, this anime took a whole lot of crazy ingredients and made something I didn’t think could be done.
The anime would be too over the top and full of fan-service for me if it just wasn’t as equally smart and captivating. The world is full of magical creatures and realms that I’m just dying to see explored. The potential as to what the games can be will always keep me coming back for more, and the popcorn devouring brain-action is a perfect blend of blockbuster action and exaggerated intelligence to me.
Decisive Episode: Episode 4 (Grandmaster) By the end of this episode, the main characters finally iron out their ultimate goal and reason for being in this world, after which, it feels like the plot truly begins. If you still aren’t hooked by the story by then, you might as well move on.
It’s crazy, eclectic, full of fan-service, and spends countless scenes stopping time for characters to think out their crazy strategies. It feels like a full-blown anime every single episode.
23. One Punch Man
Synopsis: Saitama always had a dream of being a hero instead of a working adult in the economy. This caused him to train so hard that he became bald and was able to take out even the strongest of foes with one punch. Only, now the lack of a challenge has left his dream soured as he yearns for a real fight.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A group of cities in a slightly different version of earth where monsters are a normal occurrence. | Action, Comedy | Funny, Over the Top
Number of Episodes: 9+ (Currently Airing)
It only takes one punch for Saitama to take out any foe, and it only took one episode to make me love this utterly ridiculous premise. One Punch Man shouldn’t be my type of anime. It’s comic-book inspired, which is something I’m not a personal fan of, and full of strange, and unappealing hero characters that make my stomach churn. But somehow, inexpicably, just like Saitama’s unbelievable strength, this anime won me over.
Perhaps it’s the undeniably impressive animation quality that throws this up there with the most expressive use of the animation medium to date. Maybe it’s the fact that One Punch Man knows how to make me laugh, and how to laugh at itself. Or perhaps it’s because Saitama is meeting other powerful heroes and some of them have the distinction and coolness to headline a spin-off anime of their own. Whatever it is, One Punch Man does it to its utmost. From the 90’s hair metal opening to the wacky puns of how weird the main character is, this anime is exhilarating in even it’s most tame moments.
One Punch Man exploded onto the scene much like how Attack on Titan did, and in similar fashion. They both delivered their premise with an immeasurable amount of energy, and have reaped the rewards for it. One Punch Man is popular for good reason, and many are hailing it as the best action series. I don’t place it quite that high, but I cannot deny that this anime makes me grin, gasp, and nod my head in boyish fashion like the best of them should.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (The Strongest Man) The premiere for this anime sells the bizarre story right of the bat as well as showcasing it’s truly masterful animation.
You might be surprised that something so over the top doesn’t break the scale, but it’s because, aside from that aspect, there’s actually not as much anime stuff going on. The direction is simply that exhilirating, but some of what makes it distinctive is that it’s more comic book inspired than anime. The heroes an villains range from Japanese to American characteristics.
22. Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Apollon)
Synopsis: Kaoru Nishimi moves to new schools a lot, and in his most recent one, he is yet again chastised by his fellow students, save for two, one of which ironically happens to be the class bully. As he finds the one common interest they share, jazz music, the story begins a heartfelt journey through life and love as they each deal with their own personal problems.
Setting/Genre/Tone: An impressively realistic school/town setting | Drama, Romance, Music | Sad, Intelligent, Uplifting,
Number of Episodes: 12 (2012)
Kids on the Slope is from the same creator as Cowboy Bebop and Zankyou no Terror, and it is my absolute favorite of his. The romance is some of the most mature and realistically handled romance I’ve seen. As in, it feels like real-life romance, not an interpretation of idealized romance. It’s character drama is tight, focused, compelling, and executed flawlessly. This is truly one of the most realistic, and slickly produced dramas I’ve ever seen, and it feels like an high-budget American TV show at times.
I’m also a complete nut for music, so the emphasis on jazz music was already an idea I latched onto. I don’t listen to jazz in my own time, but I loved their expression of it, and their renditions of the music. Kids on the Slope felt effortless. Like it wasn’t tring to do something bold. It was more like a perfect retelling of something that could truly happen to anyone. Every character had strengths and weaknesses. Kaoru was selfish, jealous of those with family bonds, yet had strengths in his compassion, and cherishment of those he eventually grows close to. I love characters who have both aspects like that, much more than singular villains or heroes.
Decisive Episode: Episode 2 (Summertime) – The first episode sets up fine, but the second episode introduces more characters as well as setting the foundation of the romantic aspect to the show. You have to at least make it here to appreciate the focus on both music and drama.
Kids on the Slope is easily one of the most realistic anime I’ve ever seen. It plays out much more like a tightly directed american romantic drama.
21. A Certain Scientific Railgun (To Aru Kagaku no Railgun)
Synopsis: In the modern Academy City, millions of students study superpowers. A force called Judgment, made up of volunteer students and adults serve as the defenders of this city. The Railgun is one famous student who is ranked as one of the most powerful students in the city. Join them as they take on all kinds of villians with different types of powers and motivations.
Setting/Genre/Tone: Fantasy, School, Realistic/Action, Comedy, Drama/Funny, Intense, Gory, Dark
Number of Episodes: 48 Total — A Certain Scientific Railgun – 24 (2009) — A Certain Scientific Railgun S – 24 (2013)
Allow me to introduce my anime crush everone. Despite silver-haired, red-eyed girls being the most visualy appealing, this brunette with an electrifying personality, and a bashfully childlike fascination with cute things managed to win my heart completely. Now let me talk about the anime because this one is tricky. First off, I don’t like Magical Index, which is the original core series. Scientific Railgun, a spin-off was much better handled, and became one I really liked, but it was nowhere near the same quality as other anime this far on the countdown. That is until one arc changed all of that.
The sisters arc. For all I care, A Certain Scientific Railgun might as well be that arc alone because it’s a completely different anime from the rest of the series. For one, if these were rated in america, it would jump straight from PG to R. The subject matter, and resulting violence changed that much. Secondly, the music went from this elevator synth-pop to a moody, heavy electronic-orchestra, much like John Murphy and his work with American movies like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Kick Ass. Finally, the character roles, and voice acting thereof, just ascended to something I could not tear my eyes away from. The sisters arc is easily one of the best works of anime I’ve seen. It’s just that, it’s surrounded by a bunch of simply enjoyable, tonally separate arcs.
Season Specifics: It’s imperative that I reiterate that it is exclusively the second season “Railgun S” that shot this anime so high up the list, otherwise it would be much more near the bottom. The beginning of Railgun S transformed the anime entirely bringing in a dark tone, with gory content, and extremely heavy and emotional scenes, while the rest of the anime is an upbeat action/comedy.
Decisive Episode: Episode 4 of season 2 (Sisters) – This is asking a lot for someone who may not be enjoying the first season, but it is definitely worth making it to this arc which stands miles higher than any other arc in this series. While the whole series is simply enjoyable, this is the first arc that’s emotionally riveting, that you can’t help but get captivated by, and it’s this episode that introduces all the pieces to begin that arc
Studio: JC Staff
There’s some girl on girl fan service, but nothing too perverse as much as it is simply constantly happening. Besides that, you have the stereotypical superpowered people that have rankings based on power level.