If you were to try to create an objective list of the greatest anime of all time, what would you put in the top five? Fullmetal Alchemist, perhaps? Mushi-shi? And would Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke be the Ghibli representative on the list?
It’s an impossible task – there are so many great anime and it’s so hard to be objective. If we assembled together 100 anime “experts” (otaku, assemble!), we could probably craft a pretty good list, but no one would be satisfied with it. I certainly wouldn’t, as I lean more toward series that I love – my favorites – rather than those I respect as ones I consider “best.”
But you know what? It’s a fun exercise to see what everyone would come up with for their list of, say, the five best anime EVERRRRR. And to that end, please check out some of our picks below! We’re joined this month by Justin, the editor-in-chief and founder of Organizational Anti-Social Geniuses, a terrific blog of all things anime and manga industry-related.
Oh, and please share with us your top five in the comment section below!
- Hunter x Hunter
- Kill la Kill
- Usagi Drop
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Mawaru Penguindrum
Considering I still have a long way to go in watching anime, I can expect this current Top 5 list to change 5 years from now, when I’m 30 and traveling to Japan for some random reason. But at this present time, these are probably my Top 5 anime, narrowly edging out Rainbow and only a paltry mention of Death Note to suffice. The 5 I chose I think are worthy though. Mawaru Penguindrum was the first Ikuhara anime I tried, and it was 24 (or so) weeks of absolute chaos, stress, and joy, and boy I was not sure what to make of this anime when I finished it the first time. I then watched it a second time some years ago and, instead of feeling conflicted, I’m convinced this is definitely a great show. It’s just narrowly behind Madoka, which I burned through in a day like a madman with its story, its imagery, and the themes it presented. However, these two shows, which aired in 2011, couldn’t knock off what was my favorite anime ever, Usagi Drop. The relationship between Rin and Daikichi managed to work, along with its visuals and sound, and considering I started taking anime seriously four years ago, this was a welcome anime to watch each week, then re-watch a year later. But it’s reign ended at my top only two years later, as two shows that ended in 2014 knocked it off its perch. The first was Kill la Kill. It’s frenetic, crazy pace made a big impression on me, and after its first episode, was entertained from start to finish. This just beat Usagi Drop from my top spot. Then, Hunter x Hunter happened. How can a 148 episode show be on top? Make no mistake, this was not a perfect show. It even had an arc where I was less than impressed. Yet, the more I think about how it ended, and the more I thought about the arcs where they were excellent, and the more I think back to episodes that made me realize why I became an anime fan, the more I couldn’t deny Gon and his crew from being at the top of my Top 5 anime ever despite some imperfections. I can’t profess to these being the very best, but if nothing else, they are one of the many best out there.
- Legend of the Galactic Heroes
- 5 Centimeters per Second
- Hunter x Hunter
When I think of best anime ever, there’s LoGH at the top, and then everything else, making the rest of my order not too meaningful. It is by far the best anime I have ever seen, and nothing even comes close to it. Aside from that, I tried to judge and rank the shows based on originality, themes, and overall consistency in quality. There are a number of shows I can think of that if someone brought up, I’d immediately agree and change my mind. I have, however, re-watched every anime on this list (except for the recent Mushishi release), so I can say that at the very least, these all have very high rewatch value, not something I say often.
- Aria the Animation/Natural/Origination
- Clannad (including After Story)
- Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
- Silver Spoon
One look at my list, and you can probably tell that my tastes lean toward “slice-of-life” stories, including those with a dramatic element. I’m also quite aware that my favorites are not necessarily the “best” shows, but ones which are personally close to my heart: ones with characters and stories that I can connect to. That said, I do believe all of my top 5 are highly recommendable. My favorite anime is easily the Aria series, a classic of the “iyashikei” type of “healing anime” that’s become my favorite type of anime. It combines a wonderful setting and beautiful atmosphere with a truly great cast of characters and highlights everything I love about the anime medium. (On a side note, Mushishi, which seems to be on a number of these lists, is also a favorite of mine.)
- Royal Space Force: On the Wings of Honneamise
- Grave of the Fireflies
- Only Yesterday
Ask me to pick my top 5 anime, and I can guarantee you that my list will differ each and every time. Ask me to give a top 20, and that might be a little bit more consistent (but even that is pushing it! Just take a look at my entire list!). This time around, I think my list best reflects my ever-changing focus of interest. With the exception of Honneamise, this list pretty well represents some genuine facets of Japanese culture (whether it has a fantasy twist, is ridiculous comedy, or is actually pretty realistic), which is what I have truly come to appreciate in some anime. Honneamise is simply a fantastic (stellar even, har har har…) film, and one that every anime buff should see. Incidentally, I’m also a huge fan of Justin’s #3-4, Kaze’s #2-4, and stardf29’s #1-2.
- Dragonball Z
- Rurouni Kenshin
- Slayers Next
- Sword Art Online
- Samurai Champloo
This wasn’t an easy task for me, as I’m more of an old school anime fan and I am doing my best to catch up to the new stuff. Being mainly a gamer, I have more experience in gaming than anime, but I have watched over 70 series/movies/OVAs so I’m not doing too bad (here’s my list, I am sure I have forgotten a few titles so I am still adding them). Each of these series have impacted me in some way or another, even Samurai Champloo for it’s Christian references at the end. This list will definitely change this year, as I continue to catch up to newer series that have caught my eye. Slayers and DBZ were two series that I truly enjoyed, even though they aren’t high up there in the “hall of fame” of anime 🙂
- Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen
- Princess Mononoke
- Cowboy Bebop
- My Neighbor Totoro
There is a perfect anime out there, and it is Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal (Tsuiokuhen). When watched in context of the Kenshin series, it is powerful, compelling, and simply beautiful. As for the rest of my list – Cowboy Bebop, as I’ve pointed out before, deserves all it’s praise. And while I recognize Toradora isn’t at the same level of these others, it’s still extremely well-made and my personal favorite. And finally, I included two Ghibli films on this list – Princess Mononoke was an easy selection, but on any day I might switch Totoro out for Spirited Away or my favorite Ghibli film, Whisper of the Heart.
So those are our lists. Are we crazy for saying these are the best? Tell us why we’re crazy below! Give us your top five anime EVERRRRR!