Synopsis: Dr. Kenzo Tenma is a prodigal surgeon who has a fatally wounded boy brought into his care. Before he can begin surgery, a politician is brought in who has an injury that is much easier to fix. Despite his orders to help the politician, Tenma operates on the boy and saves him. This chance encounter sets in motion the creation of one of the most dangerous personalities to have ever existed.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A realistic, historical setting in post-war Europe | Drama, Mystery | Intelligent, Psychological, Dark
Number of Episodes: 74 (2004-2005)
Many people tout the methodical likes of Lelouch from Code Geass or Light from Death Note as the shining examples of genius intellect in anime, but there is another character who commands that role far more than those two. He gets results, and enacts plans with so much confidence and foresight that he seems even more omniscient and flawless in exectuion than other anime geniuses, and unlike the Light and Lelouch, he doesn’t even have a special power. This is the titular character, and villain of the psychological masterpiece, Monster. A terrifying persona who arrogates the right to live from others through sheer manipulation, charisma and deception.
Johan is easily one of the most masterfully crafted characters in anime, but Monster boasts even more than that. What starts off as a simple struggle of a doctor deciding between his merciless career and following the lonely road of doing what’s right, it all snowballs into a battle of idealogies between a literal monster, and an altruistic saint. The reaches of Johan’s web of intrigue reaches all across Europe as the cast of characters extends into the dozens and the story becomes decades in length. Monster is an absolutely enthralling story that’s massive in scope, yet completely meticulous in it’s detail.
Decisive Episode: Episode 4 (Night of the Execution) – This is the episode you must get to, because it’s the culmination of all the events from the previous episodes which might as well be a prologue. The villain reveals himself, and from here on, it really turns into the psychological masterpiece that this anime is brandished as.
Monster is completely based in reality. It doesn’t even take place in Japan. There’s no fan-service, no powers, and no crazy visual effects. Just good old fashioned suspense.
9. Kara No Kyoukai
Synopsis: Shiki Ryougi is an odd student who seems to be connected to a series of violent deaths around town. As Mikiya Kokutou tries to observe her, he ends up discovering a bunch of supernatural phenomena that surround this woman, as well as developing a crush on her.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A hauntingly portrayed city full of supernatural wonder | Horror, Action, Drama, Romance | Intelligent, Gory, Artistic, Dark
Number of Episodes: 7 (2007-2009)
Kara no Kyoukai is beautiful, bloody, and brilliant. It’s a tour de force of dark, elegant animation and expositional, explorative storytelling. As it’s a work of Kinoko Nasu, there is more information to flesh out this setting than you could ever wish for. They explain the laws of physics, magic, afterlife, in pensive prose that just comes off as beautiful writing. Any creation of Nasu, Kara no Kyoukai included, is handled with an insurpassable amount of detail that builds a really strong foundation. Also, the Kara no Kyoukai anime covers very thematic and thought-inducing material that is effortlesly blended with the main plot. Concepts such as an actual difference between ghosts that float, and ghosts that fly due to their emotional dissonance with their previous life. This creates a world where philosophical conversation and supernatural occurrences feel completely natural. It’s also bloody. Very bloody. Kara no Kyoukai takes pride in being edgy, violent, yet it retains all of it’s eloquence and dignity. I consider it a highly superior comparison to Elfen Lied in that respect.
This doesn’t even begin to cover what distinguishes Kara no Kyoukai from other supernatural anime. The most jarring thing is that the story unfolds out of chronological order, meaning you have to remain attentive. If you do, you’re rewarded to one of the most intricately told stories in anime. However, every anime that exists in the Nasuverse is a slow-burner, and Kara no Kyoukai fall in line with that. The plot is in no rush, and there is a lot of dialogue that builds the world, constructs the characters, and heightens the immersion. I personally love it. The extraneous number of components that go into this world is admirable. But I know of plenty of people who don’t prefer this careful and painstaking method of delivery. Finally, the animation and music absolutely must not be understated. This anime is literally one of the most gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing anime I’ve ever seen. The violet color palette with flashes of red and blue constantly dazzle my eyes, and seeing it in motion with the completely hypnotic soundtrack gives me chills.
Season Specifics: This is technically a series of movies, wherein each episode varies from 40 minutes to almost 2 hours in length, and each tell a connected, yet self-contained story. However, it still feels more like a series than a collection of movies so I consider it to be grouped with other TV anime. It should also be mentioned that the order of these movies are out of chronological order, by intention of the creators, therefore you really have to pay attention to make sense of the timeline. I do recommend watching it in the intended order first, and then a second time in chronological order, should you choose to.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (Overlooking View) It only takes one movie to show every strength this series has. The thoughtful, explorative writing, the beautiful animation and music, and the pace and subject matter of the storyline. While the 5th and 7th movies (the two longest running time episodes) are by far the crown jewel of the series, you get a large gist of what Kara no Kyoukai is like off of the first movie alone.
There’s hardly a single thing that would attribute Kara no Kyoukai to a typical anime. Every nuance is very unique to this series and it leaves itself absent of fan service and over the top proceedings.
Synopsis: Tomoya Okazaki is a lazy student who has no ambition or love for his own life. He meets a girl named Nagisa Furukawa who is having trouble dealing with a personal problem. Since Tomoya has nothing better to do, he decides to help her to simply pass the time, but as he does, he starts opening up to not just Nagisa, but others around him. This begins a transforming journey that will eventually change Tomoya completely.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A realistic school setting with glimpses of an alternate fantasy reality | Drama, Romance, Comedy | Sad, Funny, Mystical
Number of Episodes: Clannad – (2007-2008) 23 | Clannad: After Story – (2008-2009) 24
It may have seem like I wrote off the last romantic anime with Toradora, but Clannad is irrevocably my favorite romantic anime. More specifically, Clannad: After Story in which the anime transcends to literally the most moving story I’ve ever witnessed. Clannad’s romance is ambitous, inspiring, and rips your heart out. It covers more than the simple bond between two lovers. It goes on to show them struggling with their first house, dealing with working and managing their relationship, and building a family. It’s not just love, it’s the life that results from it. It’s absolutely captivating, and so touching at times that I literally need to pause it and take a few moments to recompose myself.
Tomoya is my favorite anime character. I did a whole top fifty countdown to explain why. He goes on a transformation that just blows my mind, and steals all of my respect. His progression towards a romantic who perseveres through anything for the love of his life is portrayed so well that other romances I’ve come across start to seem feeble in comparison. Clannad doesn’t accomplish this with happy jaunts through love land alone. This anime covers the saddest moments of life, as well as the happiest do deliever a romance that can literally weather it all. It’s perfect. I can’t ever imagine a romance stronger than this.
Season Specifics: It’s absolutely necessary that I mention why this anime is so high on the list, and it’s not because of the first season. Season 2, which is called Clannad: After Story, might sound like the name of some epilogue that doesn’t really matter, but After Story is drastically better in every respect. If you at least care about Nagisa and Tomoya in season 1, then you will be extremely satisfied with the events of After Story, far more than the first season.
Decisive Episode: Episode 9 (Until the End of the Dream) While I am a fan of the girl in the first arc, I do think Clannad’s weakest arc is at the very beginning. Clannad is literally an anime that only gets better, but unfortunately the first arc is also the longest, riving off many potential fans. If you like it, then you’re golden, but if you don’t, then just bear through it because the final episode clearly shows how well this anime can become something poignant and emotional, and after this episode it introduces new characters and the pace becomes much more solid.
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Gigantic dinner-plate eyes and Tomoya having a harem that attracts multiple girls definitely push this up there on the “anime” aesthetic, coupled with the anime style of comedy that uses hilariously drawn faces. Luckily the fan-service is at a minimum, especially as the anime gets more serious in the later episodes.
Synopsis: Mashiro Moritaka once had dreams of being a mangaka like his uncle, whom he admired. One day, he meets Takagi, one of the smarted kids in class who surprises Mashiro by asking him to partner with him to make a manga. He refuses until he learns that his crush in school dreams of being a voice actress, and so he promises her that if they make a manga successful enough to be an anime, she would be the voice of the heroine. And then, Mashiro asks if they could get married if this dream comes true.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A realistic school and work setting | Drama, Comedy | Intelligent, Funny, Uplifting, Artistic
Number of Episodes: Season 1 – 25 (2010-2011) | Season 2 – 25 (2011-2012) | Season 3 – 25 (2012)
Bakuman is the pure essence of inspiration. An anime with characters they try so diligently to achieve their dream of being mangaka, manga authors, that it infects your own mind and causes you to want to do something as well. it was this very reason that I started this blog many months ago. Bakuman literally inspired me to write more often, and I owe it this moment of gratitude. Now let’s move on to why this hidden gem is so damn good.
Bakuman is from the creator of Death Note, and it’s better than Death Note, I kid you not. While it loses that dark and edgy tone, Bakuman gains literally everything else. A huge cast of characters with playful and deep personalities, an evolving storyline that realistically covers the entire process of creating a manga, and the beautifully crafted drama and comedy that only the most brilliant of creators could squeeze out of this synopsis. I felt like the restriction of strictly being an anime about making manga would hold it back, but it almost felt like it could have gone on forever. 75 episodes of this seemed impossible, and but it not stretched thin at all. In fact, the anime just got BETTER. I think this creator is a literal genius. To have the confidence and gall to confidently and accurately portray just what makes a fantastic manga, when people all over the world are struggling to make a decent one, is barely comprehensible. Not to mention, there is a romantic interest that just throws icing on the really, really large cake.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (Dream and Reality) It takes no more than this masterful premiere to demonstrate everything this anime has. If you don’t like the inspirational and romantic characters or the clever and upbeat writing, then the anime won’t change. If you do like it, the anime only builds upon that foundation as it grows into a huge cast of characters.
Studio: JC Staff
You would expect an anime about making Manga to be maximum “japanese-y” but there’s actually a subtle sense of realism and focus that makes it a bit meatier than that.
6. Fate Zero
Synopsis: Every few decades or so The Holy Grail materializes and begins a war that wizards have fought for years, unknown by mankind. With each emergence of the grail. seven masters are chosen to participate. Each of these masters can use the power of the Grail to summon one Servant, a hero from the past, to materialize in this era of time and fight for them. The Master and Servant that wins the war by being the last one standing gets to have one wish granted by the power of the Holy Grail.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A realistic world setting with a completely fantasy-inspired battle royale | Action, Drama | Intense, Dark, Intelligent
Number of Episodes: 25 (2011-2012)
The Fate series, at least handled by the master animators Ufotable, represents the current “best” that anime action can look and feel. The animation quality is nearly untouchable. It feels heavy, looks expensive, and simply stuns you with it’s visual resplendence. But it doesn’t stop there. This anime is based on a world from the overly detailed Nasuverse, like Kara no Kyoukai, which means that the rules and systems in place that govern how the fights can play out, and what abilities people can have could fill an entire novel. This also means that the dialogue and writing is naturally sophisticated and lengthy.
However, Fate/Zero, unlike the new Fate/Stay Night under Ufotable’s studio is an action anime that talk. I can’t impress that enough. I love it when they talk because it all comes off as clever dialogue or details the world even further, but for a battle royale, many would expect much more action. When you do get it, it’s unforgettable, but many will get bogged down in between these spectacular scenes. For example, one of the most pivotal episodes in Fate/Zero is an episode about combatants literally halting the fight, pouring some drinks, and having a heart to heart. If you have any appreciation for carefully constructed worlds, and combat where you know almost every aspect of every ability, then this anime will impress you, just as it has impressed me.
Season Specifics: The Fate anime series has a long history behind it but there’s a definite line one could draw that separates the series into two distinct halves, and that line is the moment that the animation studio Ufotable took over the series. After the studio switch, Fate went from one of my least favorite action series, to being this close to the top of my favorites of all time. The change is that drastic. Fate/Zero is a prequel to Fate/Stay Night, and is the reason this entry sits this high, but the new Fate/Stay Night is still enjoyable and I’d still recommend it.
Decisive Episode: Fate/Zero – Episode 4 (Blade of the Demonic Spear) This episode contains the first “action” scene which is one of the best things about Ufotable taking over. The fight scenes simply rank amongst the best animated fight scenes in anime.
The focus on abilities and powers feels a bit more than the typical superhero stuff, and definitely has an air of “anime” to it, but in the end, this is one serious action series that takes it’s world’s detail to heart.
Synopsis: Okabe Rintarou is a live-at-home self-proclaimed mad scientist who spends his days in his sleazy lab making gadgets that don’t do much of anything. This all changes when he fashions a microwave capable of sending text messages through time. This fantasies he used to pretend he was in soon become a harsh reality as the results of his experiment begin to unfold.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A realistic Japanese city setting with a sci-fi storyline. | Drama, Suspense, Comedy | Funny, Dark, Intelligent, Sad
Number of Episodes: 24 (2011)
Time travel, one of the most complicated plot hooks to manage, has always been the bane of sci-fi anime. It’s either taken too lightly, with little effort in creating an original and engaging plot, or they go too far down the sci-fi route losing all sense of emotion and heart along the way. Steins Gate manages to deliver a complex, twisting narrative that pays gallant homage to time-travel. Steins Gate also delivers gripping character drama thanks to it’s eccentric cast of characters that create the emotional core at the heart of this science-driven adventure. It’s romantic, grim, and clever giving you an unlikely love story surrounded by one dangerous time-travel story.
While the anime starts off with clever bits of comedy, where the time-travel is merely an insignificant concept lulling in the background, the anime soon brings it to the forefront when the stakes increase to the exploding point for Okabe, the main character. It’s at this moment that Stein’s Gate becomes a rapidly deteriorating sense of security as the results of this seemingly innocent experiment become more and more severe. Steins Gate should draw you in with it’s horribly dark turn for the worse, and keep you invested with it’s lovable characters, especially the finely crafted romance of the main duo, which adds another layer of emotional impact to the whole mix.
Decisive Episode: Episode 12 (Dogma in Ergosphere) – This is the episode that completely flips the anime on it’s head and transforms it in one instance from an upbeat comedy to a tragic drama. You must get to this episode.
Studio: White Fox
Stein’s Gate has palpable air of Japanese culture in it’s setting as well as the subject matter of most of it’s comic relief. However, the tropes that govern how anime are presented are largely absent, making this one distinctive presentation of an anime story.
Synopsis: Shichika lives on an island with his sister, and they are the only two living humans on that island. When a woman sails to their island to ask Shichika’s father for help, Shichika volunteers himself. The mission is to journey with this woman to collect twelve legendary swords that are said to wield ultimate power and poison the wielders if they are too weak.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A stylistic rendition of classical Japan. | Adventure, Action | Intelligent, Artistic, Funny
Number of Episodes: 12 (2010)
All I ever wanted when I first started watching anime was a really good martial arts series. One that focuses on the classical themes of combat, the inherent traits of honor, dedication, and sacrifice, with just something that’s a bit “anime” thrown into the mix. Thank god Katanagatari came around and gave me exactly what I was looking for. I finally have my perfect martial arts anime.
Katanagatari is like a witty tall tale brought to life in a visual medium without any effort placed on making things plausible. Things like a master swordsman who doesn’t use swords or a stuttering ninja who always tells the truth are common occurrences here. They are character archetypes that just invert the normalcy of classical storytelling in ways that clever poems do. The story immediately sets you on a journey with a clear goal, to gather these legendary swords, but along the way you are treated to a character-specific vignettes that are like beautiful side stories that make every episode end on a satisfyingly conclusive note.
The most immediate thing you’ll notice is its classical Chinese inspired art style. The simplistic detail combines with very elaborate and gorgeous character design assuring that there’s not too much visual messiness on the screen, nor a lack of alluring things to look at. Despite how simply they are drawn, the characters look utterly beautiful. The meat of Katanagatari is in the dialogue, yes even more so than the fight scenes, because information is given to you in droves. Humorous jokes, words of wisdom, and expressive quotes run abundant throughout every episode.
Katanagatari is unorthodox for a martial arts anime. The fights focus on clever tricks and ruses more so than good ol’ fashioned power. It’s extra extensive dialogue is the ultimate reward for a patient viewer. The character designs alone would make cosplayers cry tears of joy. Its visual and sound design work in tandem to deliver a completely fresh style of anime. Most importantly, it’s story is lovingly delivered, and truly feels like you are being whisked away into a truly intelligent and adventurous martial arts expedition.
Decisive Episode: 2 (Blunt, the Decapitator) It takes two episodes to really get the feel of how each episode is a separate story with it’s own unique characters and a conclusion.
Studio: White Fox
The art style is very “anime’ despite having a style all of its own. On top of that, you have a huge emphasis on the combat abilities and a dosage of subtle fan-service and Japanese wit.
3. Hunter X Hunter
Synopsis: Gon Freecs’s father left him and his mother when he was very young to become a Hunter, which is a licensed adventurer capable of handling the worlds dangers and granted special permissions and capabilities by society. Gon decides one day to follow in the footsteps of his father to see what being a Hunter is like.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A completely original fantasy world with it’s own laws of magic. | Action, Adventure | Funny, Intense, Uplifting, Intelligent, Dark
Number of Episodes: 148 (2011-2014)
It’s at this point that the anime I talk about are no longer just terrific anime. Their mere existence damn near shattered the boundaries of how good anime can be. I’m going to go ahead and mention that the next, number two spot goes to Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, because no matter how I break it down, it’s pretty much a tie between the two. For the longest time, I felt like Brotherhood was untouchable, for reasons I’ll describe in it’s respective entry, and during that time, Hunter X Hunter was skulking in the background, biding its time. Once Hunter X Hunter passed into the later episodes of it’s masterful Chimera Ant Arc, Hunter X Hunter finally reached the same noble, yet lonely plateau as Fullmetal Brotherhood. Hunter X Hunter is nothing short of a privilege to watch, hitting the level where I almost feel like I don’t deserve to watch it. It’s much more than a shounen anime. That much was clear after the first couple arcs. The way it could effortlessly change tones and become something much more intuitive and unconventional. It’s more than a compelling drama when the investment in the characters hits the dangerous point of obsession. I am literally completely devoted to some of these characters. In no more words than one, Hunter X Hunter is a straight up masterpiece.
It’s flawless, starting off as good as adventure anime could get, and then evolving and dynamically expanding into an all-encompassing anime that hit me with so many powerful moments that on multiple occasions I just had to sit back and reflect on what just happened on my TV screen. There are scenes that happen in this anime that go further than I’ve ever seen in an anime. They are a hallmark for what anime can express. Haunting scenes full of chilling expressions of emotion, clearly demonstrate that this anime can be very grueling and dark. Then, in the same stroke, the anime will literally radiate with such a burning portrayal of love and friendship that it cleanses your palette and leaves you completely refreshed. It’s hard to touch on specific aspects, but I can easily say the this anime contains so many of my favorite scenes that other anime just fail to match it in both quality and quantity. My favorite transformation that eclipsed seeing Goku go Super Saiyan for the first time. My favorite ending to a villain’s reign that breaks my heart just thinking about it. My favorite training scene that was like pure poetry in motion. My favorite climactic battle scene that sent my jaw plummeting to the floor. Hunter X Hunter has it all, and it does it with such perfect execution that I don’t think I’ll ever seen an anime that can consistently keep this up for 150 episodes ever again.
Decisive Episode: Episode 1 (Departure and Friends) OR Episode 35 (The True Pass) All you essentially need to enjoy any part of this anime is to simply connect with Gon, the main character. It’s his journey, and there’s no telling which arc will suit your taste. If you become invested in Gon, then you will in turn become drawn into the story. However, if you’re in this for the action, this anime does take it’s time to live up to it’s legacy as a brilliant action anime, and episode 35 brings with it the first intense fight of the series.
Hunter X Hunter doesn’t have near as many anime tropes as other typical Shounen anime. However, the character designs and huge focus on detailed powers still doesn’t make if your average cartoon.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Synopsis: Edward and Alphonse Elric are two loving brothers who are dealing with the consequences of making the biggest mistake of their lives. That mistake was to go against the nature of alchemy, this world’s magic, and attempt to revive their dead mother. This cursed them with losing parts of their body, and in Alphonse’s case, the entirety of it, and the two cursed brothers are now on a journey to find a way to fix themselves which gets them caught up in the militaristic focus of their country.
Setting/Genre/Tone: A fully developed fantasy world loosely inspired by our own world, but with it’s own governing system of magic | Action, Adventure, Drama | Sad, Funny, Intense, Dark, Intelligent
Number of Episodes: 64 (2009-2010)
It took ages for me to decide which anime I preferred more between this and Hunter X Hunter. By the time Hunter X Hunter concluded, I could easily say I enjoyed parts of it more than Brotherhood, however, I can never forget just what made me love Brotherhood so much in the first place. And the more I thought about it, the more it ultimately barely edged out in the end. While Hunter X Hunter does have those standout scenes that go beyond any other anime, so too does Brotherhood, yet it concludes in half the time. Hunter X Hunter doesn’t start as good as Brotherhood, but it gets there. Brotherhood is perfect from the start. It’s music is a strange style of classical orchestra that accentuates every moment of the anime. The Elric brothers can be related to the instant your learn of their cruel run-in with fate. By doing what kids are supposed to do, which is holding on to their dear parents, they are eternally punished. I just can’t imagine something winning over my sympathy more instantaneously than that. The Elric brothers are marvelous characters, both full of burning conviction and endearing personalities.
And then, just like Hunter X Hunter, Brotherhood introduces us to a perfectly balanced cast of characters. It’s these captivating people who bring one astounding moment after another. I don’t think I’ve come across a more likable ensemble of characters before. Every single person is fleshed out, and plays an important role in the story. Important, and moving. Every character gets a triumphant moment. Every single one. It’s my duty to ask people who their favorite character is in this anime because there’s just so much to choose from. Do you pick the undying loyalty of Lan Fan, like I do? Do you choose the adorable loving charm of Maes Hughes? The unnerving intimidating Fuhrer? Every minor character in Fullmetal Brotherhood has as much of my admiration as my single favorite character from many other anime. On top of that, and again, similarly to Hunter X Hunter, the thought that goes into the world, and it’s use of magic is so inventive and detailed that they feel like perfect ideas. I also greatly appreciate that despite all of this brilliance, this anime still is an “anime.” It still has tropes. They don’t drag the anime down one bit, but it proves that anime can tell a story THIS good, without having to abandon the identity of typical anime. That, is a true accomplishment, and makes Brotherhood the perfect representative of the best anime we have. It’s not my favorite though…
Season Specifics: Fullmetal Brotherhood is a bit more than a simple remake. The original Fullmetal Alchemist followed the manga but at that time the manga wasn’t completed, and therefore the directorial staff took the anime in it’s own direction, reaching a completely different ending than the manga. However, closer to the manga’s completion, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood began airing with the intent of following the manga all the way to the ending. Therefore, many consider Brotherhood as the true original as it’s based on the source material through and through. Because of this, both anime will have the same story in the beginning, but rapidly depart from their similarities with each other.
Decisive Episode: Episode 2 (The First Day) While Episode 1 does a terrific job at displaying a big action set piece as well as some thoughtful dialogue, it’s this episode that truly burns the tragedy of the Elric brothers into your mind. It’s easily one of the most evocative character introductions I’ve seen in an anime, and it should be all you need to decide whether you’d like to continue.
There is a lot of brilliant comic relief in this series, all of which rely on humorously drawn faces and wacky reactions. The “quantum dialogue” also happens during the fight scenes where time slows or stops to let the dialogue have a chance to breathe and develop.
Synopsis: Mushi are abstract beings that hover on the edge of existence. Few can see them, though the way they interact with the world can affect anyone. Ginko is a traveling Mushishi, who is someone that can see Mushi, as well as studies them. He journeys the world in a nomadic lifestyle helping those afflicted with Mushi related woes
Setting/Genre/Tone: A feudal Japan setting with supernatural phenomena | Drama, Adventure | Sad, Uplifting, Mystical, Bizarre, Artistic
Number of Episodes: Mushishi – 26 (2005) | Mushishi: Zoku Shou – 20 (2014)
Mushishi is why I watch anime. It’s what instantly clicked with me the first time I watched it. What do I say that accurately translates the majesty and grace this anime has. It’s not for everyone. That’s for sure. I wouldn’t recommend this nearly as easily as earlier entries on this list. In fact, the more this anime feels like it’s made specifically for me, the more I feel like it’s probably not for others. Mushishi has no action. It has very little in the way of traditional excitement. What it does have, is storytelling perfection. A setting that breathes and feels warm and inviting. An episode of Mushishi will hypnotize me with it’s wonder. It’s serene setting sends my stress away. It will captivate me with some new, innovative way that a Mushi will interact with the world. Then it will ultimately close on an emotional note, whether content, bittersweet, or just plain depressing. Mushishi is naturally sad, always thoughtful, and full of beautiful symbolism. It’s Monogatari with wisdom. It’s tall tales with emotion. It’s literally the only anime where I feel like every episode is a work of art. Things I say to summarize certain episodes, such as Ginko being told he deserves to live by the force of life itself, demonstrates just how abstract, yet directed this anime is.
The stories that happen in Mushishi are so different from each other, yet uniform by all taking place in the same world. One story will feel adventurous and refreshing like a sailor who’s unique form of whistling can control the mushi in the wind. Other stories will be depressingly dark like a girl who’s eyes are devoured by Mushi, who is locked in a shed instead of kept in a home. At the center of it all is Ginko, the white-haired wanderer who imposes his unique brand of doctoring to the world. While Ginko doesn’t have a personality I necessarily get attached to, I love his views and decisions. I respect his philosophy, and sympathize with what he goes through. His desire to see Mushi and people live together in harmony translates to the actual stories in that the Mushi are just as important as characters as the humans are. Many times it’s the Mushi that “wins” and that still feels like a victory because to Ginko, all life is the same. It’s all so damn poetic that I feel like I’m ruining it’s graceful demeanor with meager attempts at describing it. Mushishi is me. It’s flawless in the fact that it knows exactly what I like, and constantly brings me more. Mushishi is my favorite anime of all time.
Season Specifics: Mushishi is notable for being completely episodic. You can watch them entirely out of order and end up with roughly the same experience. You’re never be lost, save for a two-part episode that obviously should be watched back to back. Zoku Shou is the second season of Mushishi, but follows the same episodic format.
Decisive Episode: Episode 2 (The Light of the Eyelid) It’s definitely worth trying more than one episode just to understand how each episode separates itself from another, and to get used to how there is no continuing plot point between them. By episode 2 you will have seen both the artistic side of Mushishi, and the dark, tragic side, as well as a glimpse at the truly unnerving designs and effects of some of these Mushi.
This is raw emotion and human nature interacting with a realistic take on supernatural phenomena. It’s definitely a fantasy, but there’s hardly a drop of “anime” in it, save for the fact that it takes place in what looks like feudal Japan.