Generally, I try to come from a straightforward place when I talk about “favorite”. Years ago (like 10 or 15), I came to this decision when people asked me about my favorite movie. It remains The Princess Bride for the simple reason that it’s the one movie that I’ve seem more times than any and can always be convinced to watch. When I went to assemble my list of top anime, this didn’t work as easily. If we list the the works I’ve seen the most, it goes something like this:
- Slayers OVA
- Read or Die OVA
- Hikaru no Go
This is not my Top 5 list. When it came time to make a Top 5 for Anime-Planet’s list features, I made a different call. But why? I’m not entirely sure. When I look at the list above, I am struck by how many of those things are solid, easy-to-watch OVAs that can sort of be chewed up in the space of a day, which explains why I watch them so much.
Instead, when I started down my list of choosing what my favorite anime were, I selected a different tack. What I wanted to share with people reading the list were the shows that caused resonance. The ones that reached into my soul and grabbed me where I least expected it. To me, the list I’ll provide represents anime that spoke to me personally. Not that their message was the deepest or most powerfully communicated, but instead the message itself reached into my heart and touched something. As a result, I’ve got no intention to convince you that these are the five greatest shows in all of anime (though Katanagatari deserves consideration). But let’s instead talk about the moments of these five shows that really struck home and placed them on my list. So, enough intro. Let’s get to the good stuff:
Time was, Hikaru no Go was solidly in my top five. There’s a reason why I’ve watched all 75 episodes three times. The tournament format, the shounen battles over a board game, the whole thing was amazing and then Sai! To me, Chihayafuru felt the same, but with a more adult sensibility. The high school setting placed the interpersonal conflicts of the characters to the fore, while remaining true to it’s more action-y elements. But why so resonant?
Chihayafuru came into my life right at the time I was starting to think about the intersections between anime and feminism and the show hit all the notes I was looking for. Like Hikaru no Go, the show’s primary thrust was about Chihaya dominating people at karuta. Every episode in-game was filled with tension and had the deliciously familiar progression of challenge-setback-feel pain-rise to victory, but the execution was better. Chihaya didn’t win all her games, her teammates became an integral part of the story. The show knew it was pitched to an older audience and including the kinds of teenage struggles with parents and friends and purpose in life made the show more resonant.
4. Nodame Cantabile
Time was, I used to be a musician. More than the romance plots or Nodame’s hijinks, the entire arc at the back end of the show about Chiaki’s orchestra touched me deeply. Music is magic, and playing it with your friends represents one of the most amazing rituals in which I’ve ever taken part. Watching Nodame, Mine, and the gang work together towards that common goal reminded me of my time in high school band. The end result was that I marathoned the last 16 episodes of the show in one go, too in love with it to get out of my chair.
3. Ouran High School Host Club
This show remains as a holdover and place-holder on behalf of my love of self-referential otaku comedy. Anyone who claims that this show is purely mainline shoujo is missing the entire point. The over-the-top humor, the fact that Renge is ultimately sympathetic despite how outrageous she appears, all of this point to its extremely pandering nature. Ouran, as such fills a similar spot to Lucky Star, Penguin Musume Heart, or even K-On! in this list. The show knows what I/we want and delivers it. For me, it’s important to remember that we spend a lot of time as anime fans immersing ourselves in another culture. Not all of us have the language skills/knowledge to love something like Joshiraku, so when a more accessible show makes it clear that it knows we’re watching, it’s something special.
But why Ouran? It’s number 6 on the list that started this post. I’ve seen it three times, as well. Despite how predictable Tamaki’s antics were in the first viewing, they’re just as funny on the third (the same is true for K-On! honestly, but for some reason Ouran is on the list. Shut up. It’s my list).
I got in a huge fight with fellow Anime-Planet reviewer, VivisQueen, when I gave the show a 9/10 on the site. She claimed it was derivative. That it said nothing new about romance. And that it had Kugyuu. On the other hand, the show reminds me entirely of what it felt like to be in love in high school. Everything was LIFE CHANGING and COMPLICATED. Toradora!‘s brand of over-the-top humor and overblown melodrama is basically what it’s like to be in love with two girls while also being a high school student. I’d felt my heart break like in the computer lab. I’ve had crazy insane suicidal thoughts like when Ryuuji runs out on his mother. I stand by my review (even if it is poorly written) and Vivis eventually came around. If you’ve not seen this one, you owe to yourself.
So… The easy answer to this one is that this show has the best final episode in ALL ANIME FOREVER. It’s simply true. If you’ve seen the show, you know I’m right. If you’ve not GET OFF YOUR ASS AND WATCH THE SHOW. But yes. While I picked up the show because of it’s incredible visuals, its fairy tale plot and NISIOISIN dialogue made it an instant hit. But it was that aforementioned last episode that sealed the deal. It had been a joke among my friends for years that anime didn’t have good endings. Like bad JRPGs (probably not a coincidence). That Katanagatari delivered on its myriad promises placed it at the top of my list when it ties itself up in a bow at the end.
Honestly, I don’t know how much you gained from this list. Maybe you know that I like straightforward romance. Maybe you learned that I like otaku comedy (but if you follow me on twitter, you know that. XD). If any of this interested you for how it explains my taste in anime, then I’m glad. If not, then… Go read bitmap’s post or something.