From the mid-90's to the present, I've seen many changes in anime. Technology has advanced to allow for better video and sound quality. Preferences have also changed for different genres as anime evolves rapidly just as fast in order to accommodate for them. Though hundreds of anime have been out since the beginning of the new millennium, there have been a few that have touched me, made me laugh and (sadly to say) made me sob manly tears. The list below are the anime I want to recognize as ones made from those who truly love this "niche" of a small yet grand sub-culture; not only because it's their job, but because it's something more special to them just as it is for us. So without further delay, here is my list of the top 20 favorite anime of the 00's.
#20 The Twelve Kingdoms
Yoko, an ordinary high school student, one day finds herself transported and immersed into a world of strange beings and heavenly like kingdoms. From there, she sets out to determine what her role is as she learns about the political unrest and the corruption and betrayal in a fragile and dividing land that she overlooks. One thing I enjoy about this series is the adventure and story aspect, incorporating various mythical and fantasy like elements with a feeling of authenticity. Though the series is supposed to be longer, the arcs have a solid conclusion and ending that is enough for me to enjoy on its own.
#19 Nodame Cantabile
Music, love and “GYABO!” are the first few words that come to mind when I think of this anime. Nodame Cantabile grabbed my attention from the start as an anime with genuine characters and great classical music, an extra bonus for someone with an appreciation for music. Surprisingly however, it doesn’t require the last part to take full enjoyment in this series. With a minor complaint about the different endings between this and the live-action series in which I enjoy more as I feel it did a better job leading into the Paris specials, it nevertheless made it to the list.
#18 Tokyo Marble Chocolate
With their mind set on a prosperous relationship after past failures, Yuudai and Chizuru both plan for their date on Christmas Day... that is, with an unexpected "extra companion" along the way. The story takes the point of view from both of the characters in two episodes with an episode mainly dedicated to each. Though the concept of the story of Tokyo Marble Chocolate isn't anything completely original it's nevertheless funny, exciting and clever all the way through. It gets the job done but can anyone expect anything less from Production I.G?
#17 Fighting Spirit
It’s gripping, action packed, tear-jerking for all genders alike though more for males and oh, did I forget to mention it’s boxing? The series is about a high school kid named Ippo who goes from being a loser in school to marching his way to become a pro boxer. This anime is addicting and very fun to watch and this is coming from someone who doesn’t know anything about boxing. I guess it doesn’t matter since someone who doesn’t know anything about cars can enjoy watching cars racing down mountains or someone who doesn’t know anything about tennis can enjoy watching balls get slapped back and forth on a court yard. I found this anime purely enjoyable and fun to watch with a bit of manly-tears to top it all off.
#16 Kaleido Star
Kaleido Star is a story of struggle, passion and determination of a girl named Sora who has her life set on performing as an acrobat on Kaleido Stage. From beginning to end, we see her reach for her goal through many obstacles and soar through the sky as she personifies the definition of what her name is. I fell completely in love with her character and I think it’s a perfect motivational anime for anyone who has a passion for something without afraid of making an effort to achieve it.
Ginko is a Mushi-shi, or a person with the ability to see mythical types of organism, who travels around the land to help people who are plagued by these creatures. What I like most about this anime are the various themes and its related characters in each arc. This is also one of the only anime where I enjoy every single insert song which differs from episode to episode. Great soundtrack, great characters, great show.
#14 Gakuen Alice
Mikan and Hotaru’s friendship takes a turn for the worse when one day Hotaru suddenly gets recruited to join an elite academy called Alice Academy. Unhappy with this decision, Mikan chases after her best friend and somehow find herself thrown into the same mess and taken in by the school. Unlike other schools however, this school is special where levitation and fire throwing is something of the norm. Overall though, this series is light-heartened, gentle, touching and definitely funny for all the right reasons. This is probably one of the most humorous shows that I’ve seen. No joke about that.
#13 Kino’s Journey
Wandering from town to town, Kino is always on the move choosing to never stay for more than 3 days at any single location. Though there is no real beginning or end of this series, there is a sense of closure with each arc with some underlying theme. Overall, Kino’s Journey gave me a mix and almost indescribable feeling of individualism and survival, human nature and a subtle feeling of distant loneliness.
#12 She and Her Cat
She and Her Cat is one of the earliest works by Shinkai who is well known for some of his other works such as Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in our Early Days. Funny enough, this anime is actually around 5 minutes long in its longest version and part of the bonuses on the Voices of a Distant Star DVD. The show is in the point of view of a cat and his mundane life which also happens to be the interesting and creative aspect that I enjoy. I consider this one of Shinkai’s most honest and down to earth works and evidently one of my favorites.
#11 Kanon 2006
Visual Key has a good reputation for making their shows incredibly moe and incredibly sappy. I in particular am not too much of a fan of depressing shows but Kanon 2006 is on a whole new level, incorporating and uniquely blending an array of fantasy, spiritual and slice of life elements into a story that rapidly builds on itself. The arcs relate to one another and help build the final moment when everything comes together. The show will mentally play with one’s mind with repeated flashbacks, creating a sense as if dream and reality are intermingled with one another. Aside from the great story, the characters are easily lovable. Who doesn’t like someone who says ‘uguu~’ all the time?
#10 Black Lagoon
Bored of your everyday life as a typical Japanese businessman? Tired of being bossed around and doing the same old errands? For Rokuro, all of that is only a distant memory as the newest ‘recruit’ of the Lagoon Company gang. The episodes are arranged in a series of arcs, most of which involve a task they are assigned to. Along with his trigger-happy gunwoman named Revy, Morpheus look-a-like leader named Dutch and computer hacker named Benny, they fight their way around the Eastern Seas of China against Neo-Nazis, the Triad and even the Yazuka. Because of how bold this series is and how far it goes, it is something new and original, not to mention exciting. Aside from that, I also find this more fun to actually watch with company.
#9 Solty Rei
Even though my enjoyment in sci-fi shows did in some way contribute to Solty Rei’s appearance on the list, I feel as if this show is greatly underrepresented and overlooked due to its rocky and slow start enough to potentially turn people off. But let’s face it, there are numerous shows that start off slow but eventually goes on to become something worth watching until the very end. Aside from the Bubblegum Crisis homage which I approve of, the characters fell together with the plot and a distant feeling of satisfaction is felt in the end. The music ending theme still remains one of my favorite anime theme songs as of today.
#8 Welcome to the NHK
Tatsuhiro is a NEET who lives closed off and separated from the rest of the world and believes that a secret organization is the result of why he and other people are they way they are. His activities are limited to his room as he is even afraid to step out in public… that is until he meets a girl named Satou who says she has the 'cure' for his ‘disease’. Though at first glance Welcome to the NHK seems like a silly anime, it is fairly dark and moody; however I don’t deny the fact that the latter didn’t play a part in my appreciation for this series. As the show progresses, we see a delicate and mutual relationship form between the two as they both seek out answers to their problems in life. Though a few opinions conflict with my own regarding the ending of the series, I feel as if it is as 'normal' and appropriate as an ending can get. This is definitely something worth watching and checking out.
#7 Gurren Lagann
The definition of the word ‘crazy’ has Gainax somewhere in my book, but crazy is a good thing too. For some reason, I feel as if Gainax needs a spot-light for the obvious reason of creating one of the most badass anime known to man. It starts by introducing two main characters, Simon and Kamina, as they decide to leave their life as Diggers and surface from underground to the world humans have been deprived of. From there, the story gets complicated and badass so I’ll use only short phrases to describe it: throwing galaxies around like a Frisbee, fighting ‘ THE POWA’, giant badass mechas, a sexy chick with a thousand pound rifle with other attachments to her worth imaging about and so forth. Yep, definitely crazy and definitely…definitely badass. And is it me or am I using the word ‘badass’ too much?
#6 Honey and Clover
Comedy, slice of life and romance are three genres that Honey and Clover excel in. The anime opens up by introducing several students who are attending an art school. For both season 1 and 2, episodes are linear but also breaks into arcs to focus on developing the characters and their relationships with each other. It’s both funny and serious at the same time without going overboard and the narration and different point of view allows for a mental grasp of the struggles and motivation of the characters. Honey and Clover certainly lives up to its name as it portrays life to be both bitter and sweet.
#5 Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
Tokyo Magnitude starts off by introducing a family living an every day life. Nothing is unique or special about them with just a mom, a dad, an older sister named Mirai in middle school that is in the rebellious stage of her life, and a younger brother named Yuki who is completely attached to her. However that soon turns around as an earthquake change their life and the life of people around them. What I like most about this anime is how realistic the event of a natural disaster is portrayed. As the story progresses, so does the development and maturity of the characters as we see them go through despair, hope and ultimately acceptance with a new outlook in life. This is a touching anime until the very end.
#4 Dennou Coil
In the future, people are able to incorporate the real world with virtual reality by digitally connect themselves with the internet and manipulating what they see and create by wearing special glasses. Recently however, there has been a rise in computer errors in which this unknown cause is harmful to both worlds. After almost losing her virtual pet Densuke to this mysterious ‘void’ of digital space, Okonogi finds herself helping a strange girl named Amasawa to fight and fix these problems. At first harmless, both find themselves eventually thrown into a dangerous cyber-world where not all is what it seems to be. Dennou Coil is a solid series from beginning to end with numerous themes that deals with maturity and acceptance. What I find most unique about this series is Madhouse’s ability to develop such a great story without depriving the audience of too little information or providing them with too much ambiguity. Things fall into place slowly until the moment where everything is revealed. I won’t lie when I say "it got me good”. Also, though most of the show is dark and serious, I can’t help but enjoy certain light-hearted episodes such as the nuclear beard war episode.
#3 Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
Somewhat based off of the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”, Gankutsou takes the audience into a world of political corruption, betrayal and revenge. Characters fall into place one by one right into the grand scheme of the Count. Aside from the intricate and brilliant storyline, this show also happens to be what I consider one of the more visually unique ones rarely seen in its days without the excessive use of GC graphics to say the least (minus the mecha part).
From the same creator of 20th Century Boys, Monster is an anime that revolves around a brain surgeon, Tenma, whose life spirals into a dark and tortuous path after saving the life of a young boy. One episode after another, the story builds momentum to create mysteries deeper and daunting that the previous. The number of twists is many and at times even shocking. It’s mind bending and exciting until the very end.
#1 Gunslinger Girl
Finally, Gunslinger Girl has retained the title as my favorite anime. To put the story as simple as simple can get, young girls who loses everything as a result of past tragedies gets recruited, brainwashed and physically altered by a government organization to function as assassins. Freedom is robbed from these girls with their life cut short and their sense of happiness distorted and fabricated. Throughout this show, a heavy atmosphere with a constant feeling of sadness and loneliness is present in part by the excellent choice of classical music to create the feeling of profound melancholy. I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of the scenes from this anime. Overall, a powerful series with the same effect regardless of how many times I watch it.
- Robert Lu
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