This Top 10 is part of The 12 Days of Christmas
Hello all! It’s Dana again, coming at ya with my first official article!
Now, I love anime as much as the next nerd (affection intended), but with more high quality shows being produced for western audiences all the time I think we should take some time to show some appreciation. During this Christmas season, I’d like to look back at all the shows that have given me so much joy over the years, whether they be recent or from my childhood. I don’t claim to have seen all there is to see of course, and there are definitely some hidden (or not so hidden) gems that I’ll have overlooked. But these are the series that I most enjoyed watching and that still hold up now in some cases. These are very much my opinions only and I reserve the right to use the argument “because it’s fun/awesome/”I was feeling it” as a reason for any of my placements.
Honorable Mentions (in no particular order)
Bravest Warriors – This is technically a Web animation, otherwise I would totally include it! Love this series!
Code Lyoko – I remember liking it as a kid, but it doesn’t really hold up now, which is one of the requirements.
Kim Possible – Again, I liked it as a kid, and I actually still like it now, there are just other series I enjoy more.
Rick and Morty – I haven’t seen enough of this series to properly judge it. But I’ll definitely return to it eventually.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – At the beginning I was among this show’s horde of fans, but eventually this long runner kind of lost my interest.
The Amazing World of Gumball – This is a fun time show that looks great… from what I’ve seen. Again, I haven’t seen enough of this show to judge.
Danny Phantom – The nostalgia is strong with this one! Upon rewatching parts of this, it holds up okay, but not stellar.
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends – I have many fond memories of this show, but not many recent ones. I might do a bit of a rewatch sometime.
The Powerpuff Girls – This show will always hold a special place in my heart, but unfortunately it didn’t quite make the actual list…
10. Teen Titans
Hoo boy. I don’t know if there’s a show out there that I followed for as long as Teen Titans. At least not a western animated show. Teen Titans has the best kind of well deserved nostalgia for me. When I eventually got around to doing a rewatch not too long ago, I remembered why this show in particular stuck with me. Each character is developed in their own unique arcs (minus Starfire because the show was canceled early) that are genuinely good storytelling. The show swings between the episodic comedy episodes that still manage to make me laugh and dramatic episodes that get genuinely dark. And maybe it’s just my nostalgia filter, but there’s an aura of pure awesome about the entire show that gets me pumped to watch it whenever the theme song starts!
9. Adventure Time
This show is a beast! As with many western animated shows, it’s mostly episodic, but it has a staggering amount of continuity that makes for some crazy arcs. I’ll admit that I’m not caught up with the recent seasons, and if I was this might be higher. Adventure Time is aptly named because of the sense of adventure that permeates so much of the show. It’s very apparent that it takes place in a well developed world and it feels like we, the audience, are being taken on an adventure to explore and learn more about this world. Most of the time. As the season’s go on one of the main protagonists, Finn, keeps growing up (as does his voice actor) and this has opened up possibilities for arcs and episodes that are darker and even thought provoking. It appeals more and more to a wider range of demographics, and as a result it keeps growing in popularity.
8. Miraculous Ladybug
Bwahahaha! Now we’re getting to the stuff I just flat out enjoyed! A new series, Miraculous Ladybug is only halfway through its first season (in Korea and France, the English dub has only just begun airing) and has already gained a huge fanbase (in part due to the pv released about three years ago I think…). Set in Paris, this series is about the superhero duo of Ladybug and Chat Noir as they alternately attend school and fight the villain of the day in gloriously animated CGI. Seriously, this show has an absolutely gargantuan budget and it shows! Case in point, I don’t think there’s another entirely CGI show that I would ever call gloriously animated. Anyways, this show is just pure superhero fun, the main character is a likable girl, the other mains and supporting characters are great and their interactions golden, and it’s hilarious to watch the fandom lose their collective minds over the already infamous love square.
7. Star vs. The Forces of Evil
This is a show I wish had existed when I was a kid. I would’ve been all over this show in an instant because 1) it’s awesome! 2) it has a female protagonist who is also awesome! 3) it’s a fun time that still manages to get serious when it needs to, and 4) it’s an AWESOME time! This show is filled to the brim with fun, likable characters with great interactions, crazy adventures, and just the kind of off the walls awesomeness that I would have loved as a kid. And it just goes to show how much of a kid I am that I still love it for the same reasons!
6. Wakfu/Dofus: Treasures of Kerub
Okay, here’s the deal with these shows. They are two very different shows that just take place in the same universe, but I have always kinda lumped them together in my head because watching them together gives you a better feel for the world they take place in. Alright, these shows take place in the same world that the games Wakfu and Dofus take place in, but each tell a different story within the world. Wakfu follows the journey of a five member party (give or take a few) as they search for answers about the main character’s (Yugo) family. This show has a lot of flaws and I would be happy to point them out in an actual review, but the thing is, when this show does something right, it does so spectacularly. There are moments, scenes, characters, interactions, or effects that are so well done that they stick with you, make you invested in the characters, and make this show great, rather than just good. It’s a mixture of these wow moments as well as the general fun, adventurous feel that has really endeared it to me. Dofus is a much different style of show, and is generally much lighter and softer. It’s an episodic series that centers around the retired adventurer Kerub recounting stories to his young charge Joris and hired housecleaner Simone, with some variation to keep it from becoming formulaic. This series excels at creating lovable, well developed characters (and here I think it does a better job than Wakfu) and having fun times, which seems to be a theme among these episodic series. It’s hard to describe exactly the feeling of this show, other than it’s so easy to love.
5. Over the Garden Wall
Hopefully you’ve all read Jon’s review of this mini series by now and if you haven’t, then go check it out, it’s a good read. To me, top 5 shows have to be more than just awesome or a fun time. They have to make me feel something through compelling storytelling or character development. Over the Garden Wall does just that. The show does a great job of building this atmospheric uneasiness and developing quirky, authentic characters in just a few episodes. You wan’t to root for them, and when things go bad, you feel legitimately distressed for them. And that’s why it sticks with me. This show made me care about these characters I had only known for a few episodes. Their interactions felt real, their decisions were in line with their characters, the humor walked hand in hand with the darker elements, and it was all tied together into an interesting and satisfying narrative.
4. Avatar: The Last Airbender
Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of those shows that not only still holds up since I watched it as a kid, but actually got better upon rewatching it. As a kid, I loved it for it’s fun characters, humor, unique world, and stunning animation. I watched it near religiously for it’s first season, then stopped because I didn’t understand how plot worked and thought it was over. By the time I got around to rewatching/finishing it The Legend of Korra was actually just starting, and I had this prolonged moment of “why the hell didn’t I watch this sooner?!” The show is still visually stunning, with smooth, expressive animation, beautiful choreography, and detailed backgrounds. The story is presented like a book in motion, with multiple plot lines that run parallel to each other, intersect sometimes and twist unpredictably. You hate the villains in the best possible way and love so many of the characters because they feel real and likable. It tackles real issues and consequences and stakes get raised real fast. And that maturation of the plot is one of the reasons I think it’s still so rewatchable even today.
3. Steven Universe
Steven Universe is a gift. I suppose all of these shows are, but this one is wonderful for so many reasons. The animation and sound are beautiful, the premise is charming, the world unique and developed, the characters are relatable and the feels are real! It’s a slice of life show with clear continuity and progression of time throughout the episodes. Decisions have lasting consequences that are actually shown in following episodes and are frequently referenced in later episodes. The series starts off fun, innocent with the main-est character Steven having adventures with the Crystal Gems, but as the series goes on Steven, and thus the audience, learns more about who and what the Gems are and the show grows up. Every character, main or supporting, is given flaws and problems and the show doesn’t try to easy-fix them. They’re given time to work through things and grow from their experiences like real people do. This show has such a huge fanbase just as much because of those real, relatable characters as anything else. It’s just an absolute joy to watch their journeys.
2. Gravity Falls
This show is a unique experience. It’s conspiracies and mysteries, fun times and feels times, relatable moments even if you’re not the target audience and humor you’ll only get if you’re not the target audience. It’s a show about family, specifically sibling relationships, and growing up, which both are things that resonate with me. The interactions between the main characters, all of them (avoiding spoilers), feel so real. I find myself laughing or getting warm fuzzies at their antics because of how familiar they are from my own family. Even though they find themselves in fantastic situations, they also face and solve everyday problems that, again, are real and relatable. The cast grows, develops, and matures is believable satisfying ways, and their relationships change with them. But above all else, this show is an adventure. It always maintains a sense of fun that prevents it from getting too serious ((SPOILER) even during the literal apocalypse) and really, that’s the kind of show I’ve always been drawn to.
1. The Legend of Korra
Yeeeeah. Anyone who’s familiar with western animation probably saw this coming by now. Is this series perfect? No. Is it a masterpiece regardless? Absolutely! Funny story actually. When I finally finished Avatar, The Legend of Korra was just finishing it’s first season and I thought, “I’m not ready to be done with Avatar yet. I wonder how this new series is?” That proved to be a mistake. I was so upset over the thought of my favorite characters being dead and there being cars (gasp!) that I didn’t get past the first episode despite acknowledging the gorgeous animation. After about two years of avoiding spoilers but hearing good things about the series, I saw just the thumbnail of the trailer for the fourth season and I knew it was time. The series has been finished for about a year now and I am still in love with The Legend of Korra. By now, you should know that I’m a sucker for great characters, adventures, and animation. Well this show has a cast of interesting characters (and one awe-inspiring character), is practically made of adventure, and has jaw-droppingly stunning animation. This is a series that just gets better the more you watch it. The first season was meant to be a stand-alone series and it’s apparent in the storytelling. But it sets the scene and tone of the new era of Avatar. From the second season and on there’s greater continuity despite each season having a new goal. The consequences of one season drive some part or whole of the next and real issues are addressed by the characters. It’s basically like “And then what?” the series and I love it! To be honest though, there is one major reason I put this show as #1, and that reason is Korra. Never have I loved a fictional character more. I am 100% serious too. This is her legend. Her arc through the entire series is breathtaking. She faces so many obstacles, is broken down repeatedly, and this being The Legend of Korra the scars can be seen on her character. But she overcomes and grows as a person in such a believable way. There is a light and life in her that is beautiful and she’s one of the main reasons I’m so glad this show exists.
And that’s it!
Those are my personal favorite Western Animated shows. If you want, share your favorite series in the comments, I’m always looking for mutual fans or new shows to watch. Also, none of these are objective reviews as you can probably tell by my not so occasional gushing, but if you have a show you’d like to see reviewed (whether it’s on the list or not) let me know in the comments. If you want to watch any of these shows, I’d suggest watching them on T.V. if it’s available to you, but if it’s not you can find them all on KissCartoon (Don’t get mad Jon!).
Anyways, thanks for reading everyone! And Happy Holidays to all!
Dana Scarr signing off!