30. Samurai Pizza Cats
I’ve told the story before, and it’ll eventually get told again in full, but the sort of it is that Samurai Pizza Cats is important more for when I watched it than for anything to do with its actual quality as an anime.
It ran during my freshman year of college, right before I was supposed to go to class. My freshman year was one of the worst years of my life for a horrific cocktail of reasons, and watching the Pizza Cat dub every morning was something of a saving grace. It was often the sole reason why I pulled myself out of bed for a couple of months towards the end of that school year, and I’m grateful for its silliness and irreverence.
29. Inferno Cop
The story behind Inferno Cop’s creation sums up its appeal to me pretty well. When the Trigger peeps were working on Kill la Kill, they also worked on Inferno Cop as a warm-up sort of thing. Their brief production meetings for the series involved a lot of playing with action figures and stuff like that.
It makes total sense, since Inferno Cop has that “playground” logic to it, where you’re making stuff up as you go along, getting more and more powerful as the other kids try to one-up you for playground dominance. It has that frantic, no cares given, stream of consciousness vibe to it– all Id and impulse.
28. Juni Taisen
The problem with “death game” stories is that the story becomes “how do we defeat the death game” rather than “let’s deal with the implications of a death game.” Juni Taisen doesn’t have that problem. It never celebrates the act of pitting 12 people against one another in a battle to the death, but we don’t have a midway point revelation where individuals band together to defeat a greater evil or anything like that. We get another “metagame” of sorts when defeating Rabbit becomes a priority over winning the game, but that’s yet another implication of the scenario.
This is about 12 individuals whose lives are ruined not just by the game, but by the culture they live within that revolves around such attitudes. It’s lives breaking before our eyes in every sense of the word, and despite some production problems (it can be an ugly series at times, visually speaking), it’s a great adaptation and improvement upon the trashy pulp novel source material. It’s great trashy pulp.
27. The Tatami Galaxy
While I prefer my Yuasa when he’s unhinged and working with monsters and madness, one’s college years may as well be a period where you become a monster and dwell within the mindset of madness, so his visuals and eccentricities work pretty great in Tatami Galaxy.
It’s all about repeating events and trying to create perfection and stability out of pure, youthful chaos– where you’ve stepped out on your own for the first time and have no damn clue what you’re doing yet feel like you have an answer to every conundrum in your way. And it may have the best purely happy ending I’ve ever seen in an anime. Few shows earn such a triumphant moment, and Tatami Galaxy does just that.
26. Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san
Plenty of “things” define my personal shtick, but “irreverence towards the sacred” is way up there on that list.
It isn’t that I don’t hold things dear and denounce the concept of importance (I’m writing a Top Anime List, after all), but it’s the idea that certain things become idols– untouchable relics of a concept beyond human critique– that I don’t dig on. Azazel-san takes the concept of demons and damnation– something many hold very sacred– and turns it into Pokemon.
But it doesn’t just stop at Pokemon. It’s take is a crude, profane, immature, hilarious version on Pokemon. Demons are things to be caught and used by those who “gotta catch them all,” and even God is a dick who screws around with his creation. And the bit in the first episode where the main girl gets turned into a cow while Azazel and Moloch (may he rest in peace) sing Old MacDonald is still one of the funniest things I’ve seen in an anime.
25. Tantei Opera Milky Holmes
Milky Holmes is just as blasphemous and irreverent as Azazel-san, but it directs its iconoclastic nature towards something most of us hold more dear than antiquated ideas about demonology: anime. And it isn’t just anime itself that Milky Holmes targets, it’s anime’s fandom as well.
The Milky Holmes girls were created as yet another character goods property, with anime and games and all that to target a specific market, complete with easily marketed and slotted personality and appearance types. If you’re a straight male otaku, most likely there’s a Milky Holmes girl tailored to your tastes. But then everything they do runs counter to what their target audience wants out of a franchise. They stumble. They fail. They’re bad people in various ways. They appear to be heroes on the surface, but they’re usually the root of everyone’s problems in any given case. They actively hate the one character who demonstrates otaku-like traits, and he becomes the ultimate villain at the end of the series.
Milky Holmes points its finger accusingly at its audience while also giving it exactly what it wants. Shame the later series and extraneous media avoid the absurdity and craziness in favor of being exactly what the first two series actively mock. This would be close to Top 10 material otherwise.
24. Air Master
Yeah, it’s still the best fighting anime ever. A few shows have come along and teased at overtaking Air Master (JoJo’s first two arcs are better, but then Stardust Crusaders happens and… I don’t hate it, but I don’t care either), but nothing’s topped Air Master’s overall approach to the genre. The fights are brilliantly choreographed and utilize all sorts of cool martial arts gimmicks that work as martial arts styles rather than super powers or anything like that. And the supporting cast absolutely rocks. Maki/Sakiyama is the best fighting anime rivalry ever.
23. Polar Bear Cafe
I like how I worded it in my previous Top Anime list: It’s Seinfeld or Cheers with animals. Animals are people too, and they need a place to hang out and wind down after a long day working at the zoo. They aren’t above being assholes and jerks at times (for comedic effect of course), but at the end of the day they’re just everyday peeps doing their thing.
I especially like how it subtly dealt with how society accommodates (and doesn’t) for the differences in species. Penguin’s flipper not quite working on a smart phone screen says a lot about how the tech industry doesn’t take such differences in people into account. Most anime need to end before they go stale and run too long with their intended plot, but Polar Bear Cafe should have gone on forever.
22. Record of Lodoss War
The first episode of this has especially stuck with me over the years. It was one of the first anime things I ever saw. I watched that episode before one of my earliest Dungeons and Dragons experiences (I was one of those odd exceptions who didn’t cut his RPing teeth on D&D), and that combination really stuck with me.
When I think classic medieval fantasy, I’m not thinking of Forgotten Realms or Lord of the Rings, it’s either this or the Rankin-Bass Hobbit movie. Yeah, sure, it’s just some dude’s Dragonlance campaign made into a novel and then adapted into anime, but it’s downright iconic in my mind and I love it.
21. Giant Robo
With these revival series that take older shows and play off of the history of the characters and creators behind them, if you aren’t quite familiar with said history you get this sketch-like quality to the story. Assumptions are made by those creating the revival, and certain plot points and details get left out in favor of reveling in what they assume the intended audience groks. This can lead to outsiders who didn’t grow up with the original story to be lost at times, but when it’s as well made as Giant Robo, this sketchiness lends itself something of a mythic quality.
We’re tossed into a story already in progress, lack the tools to completely comprehend the whys and hows, and have to focus on other elements in order to make sense of the spectacle. Characters aren’t so much characters as they are ciphers, symbols and style in motion. That’s the level on which I dig Giant Robo (and the even cooler Shin Mazinger Z appearing later in this list).