This post is part of The 12 Days of Christmas
With the year nearing a close, I thought I’d share my top 10 personal favorite anime. These shows are ones that I personally got a lot out of, so I’m excited to share them with you. Some of these titles are well known, while others aren’t as popular. Enjoy!
The rules for the list are as follows: Only anime I’ve watched to completion (pretty straightforward) and no films (I realized I liked enough films that it could be its own list).
Additionally, these aren’t critical reviews or anything like that, just my opinion and why I like them. Entries are ranked, but entirely by how I feel about them and not by any “objective” measure. This means that one show that is “better” than another could rank worse than a lesser show.
Again, this list is just my opinion, so feel free to disagree or agree with my entries. Entries could change around too as time goes by, so I’ll likely do another one of these at a later date.
10. Welcome to the N.H.K.
Episode Count: 24
Genre: Psychological/Drama/Dark Comedy
Coming in at number ten is Welcome to the N.H.K., which is only as low as it is because I just recently completed it. I thought pretty hard whether or not to include it on the list because of this fact even. However, the story of N.H.K. was potent and engaging. I connected with the characters and understood their problems. While I’m not as bad off as some of them, I certainly could understand their positions. This anime is something that will certainly stick with me.
Adding to my enjoyment, was the opening and ending themes. Each enhanced the show for me greatly. The first ending theme was fun, while the second placed more weight on emotional release. In general, the music was well done and was a highlight for me outside of the already great narrative.
While Welcome to the N.H.K. certainly has its flaws, it’s one that I would recommend to any anime fan. It is pretty depressing, so it’s not a show I could watch over and over like some other entries, but is an anime I am sure not to forget.
9. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni + Kai
Episode Count: (S1) 26 (S2) 24
For those who don’t know, I am a big fan of horror and mystery type shows. In anime, good titles can be hard to come by for this genre. However, both seasons of Higurashi were easily the best in the horror and mystery department.
At the onset of the anime, the show looks like nothing special. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is more going on than meets the eye. The story had me completely hooked, having watched both seasons in about a week and a half (that’s pretty fast for me).
This is another show where the sound was of particular note. This holds true for both seasons, but with a larger focus on season one’s opening. It sets the mood so perfectly that it was a must-watch every episode.
While the show has moments of low quality, when it matters, it more than makes up for it. The horror is done extremely well with the mystery being more complex than I had initially expected. Higurashi just oozes all the things I look for when it comes to anime like this.
8. Death Note
Episode Count: 37
This entry and the next were a tough choice. I almost considered flipping them, but Death Note only makes the number 8 spot.
Death Note was so exciting I had to physically force myself to take breaks and not just watch it all in one sitting. Not only was the premise intriguing, it was also a cop show, and featured a game of cat-and-mouse between to genius characters. I was blown away.
While some criticize the show’s conclusion, I thought it was fitting and added to my experience. Did I want it to end that way? Not entirely, but at the same time, the ending I did get was still satisfying. I could watch this show several times over, even back-to-back, and enjoy it each time, which I couldn’t do with Higurashi or N.H.K.
7. Cowboy Bebop
Episode Count: 26
Let’s get one thing out of the way before I say anything else. I love Cowboy Bebop and recognize how important it was to anime, especially here in the West. However, it didn’t have the same impact on me as some of the other entries on this list.
Again, I was pretty torn between putting this above or below Death Note, because I like both almost equally but for totally different reasons. Bebop wins out for its importance, and the fact that it had a more lastly impact with its narrative.
What makes this show great are its characters and narrative. While not all of the narrative has to do with the plot, each episode added to the characters and contributed to my enjoyment.
Additionally, this is one of the first anime I have ever seen, sparking my interest in other shows. I could say more, but if you’ve seen it, I’m sure you agree that it should at least be on the list (though it’d probably place higher).
7. Guilty Crown
Episode Count: 22
I know I’m going to catch heat for this… I know the show has problems, but I don’t care. This was the first show I picked out on my own after watching several of the classics such as Bebop and Evangelion. So it holds a special place in my heart.
With that being said, this was also the first show with more modern visual aesthetics that I watched. The visuals for Guilty Crown blew me away. Couple that with an incredible soundtrack, and I was impressed with just that.
As for its narrative, it managed to suck me in right away and had me invested in a matter of moments. While I recognize that the show has its flaws, I was so excited and interested that they were pretty easy to ignore.
At the end of the day though, Guilty Crown was a cornerstone in my anime journey and one that I got a lot of enjoyment out of. While I do place it higher on the list than Cowboy Bebop, it only just barely does for purely sentimental reasons.
6. Code Geass (Both Seasons)
Episode Count: (S1) 25 (S2) 25
This entry was the easiest of them all. It has a lot of the elements that lower entries have that I enjoy, and is simply a better version of Guilty Crown (the director of Code Geass did some work on Guilty Crown).
Code Geass does miss the soundtrack and stunning visuals of Guilty Crown, but makes up for it with a better written story and more interesting characters. I don’t have too much to say here, it’s just better, especially the ending (wow it’s good).
5. Clannad + Afterstory
Episode Count: (S1) 23 (S2) 24
Genre: Drama/Romance/Slice of Life
I enjoy romance shows quite a bit, so when I was recommended Clannad, it was an easy choice to give this one a watch. Needless to say, I loved it.
While Afterstory is clearly better than the series’ first season, I think they are best experienced as a set. The show is filled with moments of both happiness and complete tragedy.
What’s more, this was also my first exposure to anime based off of visual novels. This in turn, sparked my interest in playing visual novels. So for me, the show was a win-win.
Particularly, I related to the characters struggles and experienced many emotions during this show. What’s more, this show also got my mom interested in watching other anime and has since given us something nice to do from time-to-time when I visit.
4. From The New World
Episode Count: 25
What, a horror mystery show that is higher than Higurashi? Well, yes and no. From The New World isn’t really a “horror” show until much further in, unlike Higurashi, which is its first major difference.
What elevates this show for me is all of the sociological ideas present within the anime. Since this is a field I have spent a considerable amount of time studying, it’s not hard to see how I’d end up liking this show (plus the horror and mystery elements).
There’s more that I could say, but I’ve actually reviewed this one. If you want my full opinion, then I suggest you go and give that a look here.
Episode Count: 11
Genre: Supernatural/Drama/Slice of Life
For such a short series, Anohana packs a big punch. I don’t want to say too much here, because this show is an experience.
This series was filled with a great deal of emotion that, while at times was over the top, never felt wholly unrealistic. It’s something I feel can’t be expressed fully in words, and is as mentioned, something that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.
One thing I do want to be sure to mention is, that the opening song is amazing, as well as the ending theme. It was particularly clever with its ending theme, and those of you who have seen it should know what I mean.
2. Kokoro Connect + OVA’s
Episode Count: 13 + 4 OVA’s
Genre: Supernatural/Drama/Slice of Life/Romance
This show was a delightful surprise. Having heard of it by chance, the premise was enough to have me check it out.
After having done so, I was glad that I did. While the body swapping wasn’t the focus of the anime, it was enough to get me more than a little invested.
By the end of the series (or OVA’s in this case, which literally is the end of the series) I stopped watching anime for awhile. I was good. Obviously, I started watching it again, but after having watched this show and the next entry back-to-back, I had to. These shows were so beyond my expectations that the impression they left me with will no doubt stay with me for the years to come.
Plus, Inaba so…
1. Mawaru Penguindrum
Episode Count: 24
This is it folks, my number one show! I love Penguindrum for it’s heavy use of symbols, great visuals, excellent soundtrack, and superb narrative. It’s an anime I think everybody should see, but definitely not the first anime I’d recommend somebody right out the gate.
I heard of this show by pure happenstance. Being promised a zany comedy, and it was, but so much more. Each episode moved the show closer and closer to being more serious, and a lot darker. While some may find the show confusing, I was right with it and enjoyed every second of it.
Penguindrum has easily left the biggest impression on me thus far since I started watching anime, and I look forward to finding other great gems in the future.
That’s it folks, these are my 10 personal favorite anime series. I hope I was able to share some of myself with this, though I know it isn’t much. I look forward to updating this list some time in the future to see how my tastes change overtime. This list definitely wasn’t easy, I spent almost the whole month on it so the choices were not easy.
What are your personal favorite anime? Let myself and others know in the comments below!