10. Neon Genesis Evangelion
The Apocalypse is all fun and games.
I really do find Evangelion’s descent into madness and depression to be a hell of a lot of fun. It’s such an exaggerated version of hopelessness and helplessness that I find it all very cathartic. “Things may be bad in my life, but I’m not fighting a hopeless battle against God’s angels while my father hates me and my friends die for no reason. Ha!”
I really do love it all. I love the original ending. I love End Of. I love the Redo Movies. It’s the perfect comedy of errors, except where the errors are nothing you can help.
9. Occult Academy
If Psycho-Pass is the paranoia and distrust that comes from conspiracy theory, then Occult Academy is all about the speculative, fantastical, cryptid side of things. Magic is real. Chupacabra is real. Time Travel is real. Everything that “the man” tells you is all in your imagination is real. Yet it’s all just kinda mundane, and when you grow up around that sort of thing, like the series’ main character, Maya, it’s a bit of a bore. Her exasperated apprehension towards “the occult” is a great, and she’s one of the coolest anime characters because of it.
Then there’s that ending. Quite honestly, the last few episodes make for the greatest anime finale ever. If not for a two-parter towards the end that flounders a bit, this would be my all-time favorite. As is, it’s appreciated in my mind over the years, and my own apprehension towards those lesser episodes has waned.
Teekyu is the future of anime. It takes everything held sacred, hypercondenses it down to two-minute injections ready for overdosing, and ramps it all up to levels of sheer absurdity that approach the divine.
One dose of Teekyu is a brief high. Several are an orgy of the senses. The entity is a religious experience that’s the closest an otaku will get to God.
But that high is fleeting, and God tosses you back to Earth after it’s all over. That’s the only reason why Teekyu is merely Number 10.
Sexual contact of any kind is a form of mutual cannibalism. Either one person is consuming a part of their partner, or the consumption is mutual and simultaneous. Even conception involves the partner with eggs “consuming” their partner’s sperm and creating a new life form. Just like how ingesting food allows for physical sustenance, the ingestion that comes from sex is emotional, spiritual, and evolutionary-level sustenance– bonding with an individual and perpetuating the species.
Kemonozume cuts to the chase and turns all of the metaphorical cannibalism into surface level sex and violence, all wrapped in a Romeo and Juliet or Bonnie and Clyde style forbidden romance. It’s probably the most “human” anime ever, reveling in everything that makes us beautiful and horrible.
6. Revolutionary Girl Utena
If any anime can act as some sort of Rorschach test– where the viewer brings their personal biases and baggage with them and apply it to the goings-on– it has to Utena. I don’t think I’ve seen an anime be as important to people for as many different ways as this. There’s all sorts of stuff about identity, adolescence, power structures, and what have you, and for someone to focus on one of those aspects is just as relevant and “right” as the other. All media is different for each person, but Utena feels different from most in that regard because there’s so much going on that’s right there on the surface. Yeah, you’re bringing things with you, but there’s enough right there in your face to cater to almost any viewpoint.
For me, it’s mostly about the surreal visuals, absurd song lyrics during the duels, and crazy sense of humor when it centers around characters like Nanami. Then there’s all the apocalyptic imagery, fashioning the coming of age narrative as an end times scenario. Evangelion may do that better, but that’s Eva’s only real shtick. Utena has so much more going on along side that.
5. Lupin the Third
There are plenty of perennial anime and manga that will change a bit with the times and always be there in some manner or another. Golgo 13, Doraemon, Go Nagai’s stuff, and so on aren’t going anywhere because they keep doing what they’re doing while staying with the times just enough to never throw off that balance of old and new. It’s the same appeal as, say, James Bond or many super hero comic characters.
Lupin is the one anime/manga franchise that really clicks with me on this level. It’ll be a long time before I’ve seen all of Lupin. Partly because only so much is legally available in the US and partly because there’s only so many hours in one’s life. But I don’t feel like I need to see every episode of Lupin in order to grok the dude. I’ve seen something from every decade Lupin’s been around, from reading some of the early manga and watching the original early 70s series to seeing chunks of all the later series, all of the theatrical movies, several of the TV ones, and so on.
While the details and the jacket may change over time, the core of Lupin stays the same. It’s about a bunch of (kinda) amoral thieves doing their thing, getting one over on people far worse than them, and playing off of each other like the wacky family they are. It’s a familiar, comfortable power fantasy– being able to steal from the rich to give to me while not being a total jerk about it.
4. The Book of Bantorra
If this list were based purely on story, character, and what the kids like to call “content,” then Bantorra would be Number One. The way said narrative is presented might be a little janky and haphazard, since the 27 episodes are adapting nine novels and devoting at most four episodes to each, but those stories and characters click with me like no other anime.
Bantorra’s a convoluted mess of contradicting morals and viewpoints. We have these super powered “librarians” who protect the solidified soul-stuff left over after you die, preserving the record of humanity as both warriors and curators. There’s no uniform belief system within this power structure beyond the desire to protect these “books,” and even that isn’t always seen in the same way. You get everything from the hyper-naive and hyper-noble Noloty, whose devotion to pacifism never wavers and never comes off as hypocritical, to the sociopath master of mass murder Hamyuts, who is presented as the series’ protagonist and greatest hero despite being a monstrous, horrible person.
She’s also my all-time favorite anime character.
It’s also one of the coolest love stories I’ve ever seen. Each story arc deals with a different aspect of love, from the hopeless romantic love between the living bomb Colio and the “ever-laughing witch” Shiron that literally transcends time and space to the self-love Mirepoc needs to find to overcome her personal hardships and solve an unsolvable murder case.
I would kill for a Garden of Sinners style theatrical movie series with better visuals and music, where each book is turned into a movie. That would be absolutely perfect. As is, the ho-hum look and sound of the thing keeps it from being the best thing ever.
3. Ranma 1/2
The greatest sitcom ever. The anime that made me a fan of anime. I wouldn’t be writing this without Ranma, and having rewatched a lot of it with the new Blu-Ray sets, I’ve remembered just how important and awesome it is. It gets a little repetitive as the series goes on, but that’s any sitcom for you. Those episodes are still awesome, because it’s all about that familiarity and the ease at which the fun comes.
Yappa pa Yappa pa.
2. Cowboy Bebop
1. Space Adventure Cobra
No other anime “clicks” with me the way Cobra clicks.
It is literally everything I want out of something, be it anime or whatever. It’s that grimy, lived in fantastical future that has burned itself into my mind ever since I saw Star Wars as a kid. It has that dreamy, kinda psychedelic “Heavy Metal” look to it that could only come out of the late 70s and early 80s. It probably has a lot to do with being a little kid at that time and that whole aesthetic hitting me at the right time.
Cobra himself is a perfect mix of cool, manly, and goofy– he’s the James Bond fantasy hero minus the gross sexism and with a level of self-depreciation that makes him down to earth no matter how overpowered his Psychogun gets. I’ve never been one to want to be a fictional character, but Cobra is the closest I’ve seen to the type of character that matches my platonic ideal of “what if I were this kind of hero.”
Also, JET PIRANHAS!