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Ten anime series you should see before you die


First off I’d just like to say a huge thank you to everyone that read my list of ten anime films you should see before you die – the response has been phenomenal – not just the number of people that read it, but also those that took the time out to get involved in the following discussion at Reddit, Stumbleupon, Twitter as well as here on TMB. Some people loved my selections, some people thought I was well off the mark, but it was clear that there was no way I was going to be able to avoid putting together another list, this time of TV series and OVAs.

It has been a far harder list to compile. Not only because of the vast selection to choose from, but also that I knew from the start that I would be leaving out some shows that a lot of people hold very dear. As such I hope that at least some visitors will read the next paragraph first before scrolling down the list to see what is missing and getting upset.

Just like last time, the aim of the list is not only to present ten examples of the anime medium that showcase the art form at its greatest, but are also accessible to those mature viewers for whom the scene is new or even completely alien. They are works that I would show to those friends – we all have them – that turn their noses up at anime to prove to them how utterly wrong they are. To do this they must be not only masterpieces of animation, direction and storytelling, but immediately accessible to any viewer. As such, I have had to leave out popular fan favourites, slice of life comedies and high school dramas that are aimed to much at the otaku demographic and rely on an understanding of the genre and Japanese pop culture to fully appreciate. Similarly, for us older fans, I’ve missed out some series from my childhood that I hold personally very dear – groundbreaking shows like Macross, Speed Racer, Gatchaman, Star Blazers and even the original Gundam – as though I look back at them with with a fond nostalgia for their retro stylings and dramatic storylines, I have to admit they don’t have the maturity and production values of the best of what was to follow. Although there is, as always, some exceptions.

Again: they are in no particular order, the term ‘mature’ is kind of loose, seeing as at least two are really kids’ shows, and this is purely personal opinion. If you disagree, see you in the comments section.

Cowboy Bebop (1998)

TV, 26 episodes

When it first hit Japan at the end of the 90s, Shinichiro Watanabe’s seminal Cowboy Bebop broke new ground for anime on TV. An overly stylistic take on the established space opera genre, its the story of a disparate bunch of planet hopping bounty hunters struggling to make a living, and giving Watanabe a chance to shamelessly take influences from all his favourite pop-culture sources – from Star Wars and cyberpunk literature to Hollywood westerns and Quentin Tarantino movies, all set to Yoko Kano‘s eclectic, vibrant jazz infused soundtrack. The result was a international hit; one of the few shows of the period that found itself transmitted not only on US TV but also across most of Europe, spawning a theatrical movie as well, various different DVD realeases, merchandise and giving shameless inspiration to Buffy creator Joss Wheedon to pen cult favorite Firefly.

It’s easy to criticize Watanabe’s direction as style over substance at first glance, but in reality it’s Keiko Nobumoto’s skillfully crafted scripts that are the reason for the show’s success. Throughout the 26 episodes he manages to do the impossible – combine outlandish plots and settings with believable, empathetic characters that the viewer feels a genuine, true attachment to. For all the choreographed fight scenes, orbital dogfights and John Woo style shootouts, Bebop’s true heart lies in it’s dry humour, sexual energy and the gentle, masterful unfurling of it’s characters’ back stories. If I had to pick one episode of one anime to show to a non-believer, it would be Episode 17 of Cowboy Bebop (Speak Like a Child); a perfect 25 minutes of script writing that starts with gentle comedy and ends in emotional heartbreak. Watanabe tried to recreate the vibe with his Chanbara-meets-hip hop follow up Samurai Champloo, but the characters and plots were limited by the setting, and although ingenious and riveting throughout, Cowboy Bebop still remains his masterpiece, and one of the most exhilarating, watchable works of anime ever made.

Paranoia Agent (2004)

TV, 13 episodes

The term auteur is often overused by critics – especially in anime circles – but if there’s one director that truly lives up to the title then it’s arguably Satoshi Kon. After completing his masterpiece trio of experimental, reality bending films – Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers and Millennium Actress – Kon found himself wanting a break from the long production cycle of high budget anime features, and with an abundance of new ideas. Turning to television the result was the Madhouse produced Paranoia Agent; a dark, deeply twisted story of two cops tracking a mysterious teenage hoodlum dubbed Lil’ Slugger by the media. As the two detectives investigate the case, it’s the lives of his seemingly random assault victims that become the series initial focus, with there seemingly being no truly innocent bystanders. But just as Kon leads the viewer down one apparent path, he of course pulls his usual reality shifting, mind bending, plot twisting trick with the show’s surprising climax. Paranoia Agent is an unusual, brave and at times challenging example of what anime can achieve, and perhaps what no other art form can, and even just a few years after its first broadcast it seems hard to believe that it was made for television – especially in today’s recession hit, conservative climate.

Gunslinger Girl (2003)

TV, 13 episodes

It’s impossible to deny that vast majority of anime and manga rely heavily on established genres, well trodden cliche’s, recycled storylines and archetypal characters. Which is why refreshing when a show like Gunslinger Girl comes along to challenge the accepted standards of the medium. Set in modern day Italy, it follows the activities of the Social Welfare Agency, a shadowy government group that uses abused, brain-washed young girls as trained assassins to eliminate political rivals, and focuses on the relationship between the girls and their older, male handlers. A story about over-cute, teenage girls turned cybernetic killers is nothing new, but writer Yu Aida (who also penned the original manga) turns it into a chilling, scathing deconstruction of anime’s moral values. Everything is questioned – the over sexualisation of young girls and their idolizing relationships with older men, the continued, accepted association of children with violence, and the celebration and stylisation of that violence is challenged in the most brutal, disturbing and heart wrenching of manners. Gunslinger Girl holds a mirror up to anime and it’s moe obsessed otaku follwers, asking them to look at what they find so titillating and exhilarating as if the blood and consequences were real and in their hands. It’s challenging plot and message is backed by strong production values and it’s gentle European ambiance, making it one of the most important anime productions of the last decade.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1994)

TV, 26 episodes plus various OVA releases and alternative versions

Few anime franchises have had the lasting impact on anime and wider Japanese pop culture as Gainax’s Neon Genesis Evangelion. The story of giant mecha battling strange, powerful creatures it is yet another show that takes standard anime cliches – angst ridden teenage pilots, over the top battle sequences, end-of-the-world scenarios – and uses them to try and tell a different, deeper story. Focusing largely on the lives of the children that are forced – at times against their will – to defend earth from this unknown, mysterious enemy it moves from being a simple coming of age story to dealing with psychoanalysis, mental illness and the essence of human nature. Similarly, in amongst the teen drama and city-leveling action sequences Hideaki Anno’s script plays with Christian and Biblical symbolism to explore philosophical and spiritual concepts as well as questioning the nature of reality itself. As such it has become one of the most widely discussed and analyzed anime ever produced. As if the series wasn’t complex enough, an OVA – The End of Evangelion – was released that gave an alternate telling of the series’ climax. While it’s philosophical explorations have helped it to stick in Japan’s collective consciousness, it’s visual style also played a massive role in revitalising the medium, and on mecha and character design in particular. Spurning not only many imitators but also a current movie-trilogy retelling, it is still the original TV run that remains compelling and essential viewing.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)

TV, 26 episodes

Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga had already been a huge hit in Japan before Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film version turned it into a global cult hit, so the idea of it also spawning a TV show must have been circulating at Production IG for years. It wasn’t until 2002 that it finally happened, and as well as allowing the powerhouse studio another chance to mine the property they also took it as an opportunity to appease disgruntled fans that felt Oshii had strayed to far from the source material. The series recaptures some of the more lighthearted, action driven feel of Shirow’s manga, but still remains a dark, serious story of hi-tech special forces tackling hackers, terrorists, corrupt government regimes and rogue AIs. Each episode is densely packed with complex plots that can, at times, be tough to follow, but are backed up by another eclectic, brooding Yoko Kano directed soundtrack and probably the best depiction of Shirow’s distinctive weapon and technology designs, including the now iconic Tachikoma mechs. Those that can’t commit to the entire 26 episode run can try the Laughing Man compilation film, that edits together key scenes to tell the series’ over-arching main plotline, but risk missing out on some of the more interesting stand alone episodes. And for those that get understandably sucked in, there’s always the second season – Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig – which is as equally well crafted, complex and even more politically challenging.

Future Boy Conan (1978)

TV, 26 episodes

A good decade before they turned Studio Ghibli into the internationally renowned animation powerhouse it is now, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata where making shows for TV, most notably amongst them Future Boy Conan. After global catastrophes have threatened mankind with extinction, the show tells the story of a man and his 11 year old grandson Conan, the only survivors of a group attempting to flee Earth, but whom became stranded on a remote island after their spaceship crash landed. Believing themselves to be possibly the only remaining humans, their world is turned upside down when a young girl is washed up on the shore, perused by mysterious military forces.

What’s fascinating about watching the show now is how obviously and distinctly the 30 year old production feels like a more contemporary Ghibli classic. All the elements are there. Despite the obvious low budget and simple animation, the visuals exude the Ghibli magic, with the character and aircraft designs so clearly Miyazaki’s and the pacing and background vista shots so blatantly the product of Takahata’s storyboarding. Even more importantly it foretells the pair’s stunning gift for storytelling, with many of the themes of Ghibli’s output – environmental destruction, industrialisation, conflict and children facing up to their roles in the world – prototyped here. It’s a magical series that somehow manages to feel as much fresh as it does nostalgic, and one that should be shared with the whole family.

Planetes (2003)

TV, 26 episodes

Sunrise’s Planetes manages to accomplish something that few sci-fi TV shows – animated or otherwise – have: convincingly combine slice-of-life soap opera, humour, a realistic scientific basis and an analysis of global politics in to accessible, polished entertainment. Set at a time when mankind is first venturing into living permanently in space it shows you the high frontier from the bottom of the social ladder as it follows the lives of the crew of the Toy Box, an ageing debris collection ship – basically the orbital equivalent of a road sweeper. Their mundane work gains more danger and significance as their orbital world is threatened by downtrodden third world terrorists. It’s here – and in it’s grim portrayal of the very real threat of cancer to those that spend to long in space – that the show as much questions the real importance of as well as celebrates human space exploration, accusing it of not only being politically and economically divisive and a waste of money and resources, but perhaps also biologically unnatural. It’s beautifully drawn throughout, with obvious visual nods to NASA, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and classic sci-fi literature, but its Ichirō Ōkouchi’s always tight script and believably fleshed out characters that are the show’s winning assets. While frequently mature and serious, through out it is paced with well handled comedy and subtle romance that makes it a joy to watch. It’s this skillful balance and it’s compelling plot that make Planetes not only perhaps my favourite anime series of all time, but one of the best examples of science fiction that television of any form has produced.

Serial Experiments Lain (1998)

TV, 13 episodes

Set in ‘present day, present time’ according to the shows opening, psychological thriller Serial Experiments Lain focuses on Lain Iwakura, a teenage girl living in suburban Japan, and her introduction to the Wired, a global communications network similar to the internet. At a time when internet use first blossoming amongst young people and online subcultures were first taking, Lain was the first anime series to truly try and capture the emotional and social attachments that are so easily formed to virtual worlds, and how reality can seemed blurred when you divide your them between them and the actual. But it didn’t end there – Lain went beyond looking at the psychology of internet culture to touch upon themes of philosophy, theology, mental illness, depression and existentialism. Director Ryutaro Nakamura and writer Chiaki J. Konaka set out to create a show that would deliberately be open to different interpretations, and they certainly succeeded, with Lain being the most vigorously analysed and discussed anime since Neon Genesis Evengelion in both academic and fan circles. With so much going on thematically it’s easy to forget the series’ visual impact; the angst-ridden character design would influence not just anime but also Japanese and gothic fashion for years afterwards, and the slightly trippy, surrealistic background art questioned the constant quest for realism in animation at the time. A challenging work at times, but ultimately a rewarding one.

Denno Coil (2007)

TV, 26 Episodes

In many ways Mitsuo Iso’s Denno Coil covers similar thematic ground to Serial Experiements Lain, but from a refreshingly different perspective. Centered around a group of Japanese elementary school children, the show is at first glance apparently aimed at that age group, but with closer inspection that’s about as useful an assessment as dismissing My Neighbour Totoro or Spirited Away as just kids’ films – and the comparison between Denno Coil and some of Ghibli’s better crafted output is a wholly deserved and justifiable one. Set in 2026, it tells the story of young Yūko Okonogi, who moves with her family to the city of Daikoku, the technological centre of an emerging half-virtual world, created after the introduction of internet-connected augmented reality eyeglasses.

It isn’t merely the age of of it’s protagonists that gives Denno Coil it’s fresh perspective compared to Lain however, it’s also the decade between when the two were written – DC’s understanding of how networked technology has become so interwoven with our daily lives means that it often succeeds where Lain tried but failed. One of my strongest beliefs is that good science fiction always makes social commentary on the time in which it was written, and it is here that Denno Coil excels, presenting a world where children are more in touch with technology than their parents, are obsessed with video games and Pokemon style fads, and where peer pressure and owning the latest gadgets can become almost disturbingly important. Truly a classic series, that exudes subtlety and elegance, and not to be missed.

Mononoke (2007)

TV, 12 episodes

In 2006 Toei released their eleven episode series Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, an anthology of three separate stories based on traditional Japanese myths, and written and produced by three separate teams. The show was a moderate success, but it was the third and final story about a mysterious traveling medicine seller that caught the fans imagination, largely due to it’s unique visual style that mimics traditional Ukiyo-e art. A year later Toei span the character of into his series, and the breathtaking Mononoke was born.

Given an obviously larger budget and 13 episodes to work within, director Kenji Nakamura was able to push his vision to the limit. The result was one of the most stylish, visually compelling series to emerge from Japan in decades. His use of traditional colours animated over an exaggerated textured paper effect, and sprinkled with frenetic action and psychedelic sequences all held together by a masterful eye for framing and direction makes every single second of Mononoke a mesmerising joy to behold. But again it’s not just a case of style over substance; Mononoke combines sinister plot lines and minimal, subtle sound effects to create a truly chilling, creepy horror story experience, and an anime series that genuinely feels like no other.

So, what have I missed out? Last Exile? Flag? Patlabor? Think I’ve completely missed the point here, and I should be trying to convert non-anime fans by subjecting them to 12 hours of Lucky Star? Hit the comments below and tell me what a fool I am. Go on, it’ll be therapeutic. For both of us.

107 thoughts on “Ten anime series you should see before you die”

  1. I think Moribito is one amazing series, the action sequences, the animation, the characters are all amazing and have a really great depth to them that is hard to find in a lot of anime.

  2. I agree on Evangelion, Lain, Planetes and Dennou Coil. I’d add Gankutsuou, Baccano, Noein, Monster, Moribito and Nodame Cantabile for easily accessible and mature titles. They are not necessarily anime which showcase the possibilities of the artform, such a list would definitely look different and include series like Kaiba, Gurren Lagann, Kemonozune, Coil, etc.
    Concerning “moe” and high school titles, Clannad + After Story is probably the best and most mature representative of that genre, partly because it features themes anybody can relate to (family and related topics like pregnancy, finding work, raising a child, loss of relatives,…).

    And concerning Coil you wrote:

    […]Denno Coil it’s fresh perspective compared to Lain however, it’s also the decade between when the two were written[…]

    Iso’s original idea for Coil dates back over fifteen years, when it was airing in 2007 Animage published some illustrations which are from 1993, and he had already written the basic story outline then. Iso has obviously been interested in cyberspace for quite a while, the Evangelion episode he wrote is not accidentally the cyber angel attack episode 😉

    Btw I pointed out two small mistakes: Evangelion is 1995/96 and Rebuild of Evangelion is a tetralogy.

  3. Ah Tim, you make me want to compile my own list too! Problem being that I agree with most of these and the ones I can’t agree with are simply because I haven’t watched them.

    I have never heard of Denno Coil before and haven’t got the chance to see Mononoke yet. I’m also hunting down Planetes. I wasn’t interested in Gunslinger Girl as I’ve only had the chance to judge it from a superficial standpoint.

    It’d be tricky too, to make a list of ten anime series guide. There’s arguably Gainax’s other tour de force… but Evangelion IS the one to pick if we could only include one series from each company. Satoshi Kun’s Paranoia Agent is also a big favorite of mine. Cowboy Bebop was amazing, I’m not sure if anyone else had come up with a character like those, they had just the right air and combination of the different things they draw influence from. Lain also brings back fond memories. I haven’t finished the GiTS tv series, I know it’s unfair to compare it to the feature length films but I’m only starting to get used to how it looks since I do associate GiTS with not only the best stories around… but also the most gorgeous ones at that. It doesn’t look bad; I’m just spoiled rotten by IG.

    I visited the older page and checked out the comments again… It made me lol a little. Appleseed comparison with Ghost in The Shell has got to be one of the most confidently ignorant post I’ve seen… I thought Appleseed sucked prety damned hard, both in visuals and story. Until someone dismisses Totoro as children’s crap simply because it doesn’t have spaceships in them. Sometimes I feel like some anime fans are the exact reason it’s hard for non-anime believers to open their mind to anime.

    Back to this though! Great list! It’s not lacking at all but I’m just wondering if other recommendations can be added to this maybe as side reccomendations? Kemonozume is a wild card, Gurren Lagann is a good way of including all the jaded archetypes of Japan and then injecting them with overflowing gusto… List goes on. Kaiba is also a recent one I’m in love with because I’ve been craving works that have the flavor of Tezuka’s mangas.

    As for the people mentioning Monster, maybe I should try getting into that, it’s usually hard for me to have interest in the anime if the manga’s already so perfectly crafted. Same thing happened with Berserk, it’s still one of my favorite mangas but I couldn’t get into the anime at all.

  4. While it is easy to dismiss anything moe it is is also understandable because, as you mentioned, it is a genre geared toward the otaku as opposed to the public-at-large. That said, it seems like many (not all) of the selections here are go in the opposite direction. I can’t help but feel that you attempted to compile a list of anime for intellectuals.

    Few on your list come across as approachable to a newcomer. It seems that simply being entertained isn’t good enough and that someone has to walk away with an experience which makes them question all of humanity and thier place in it. Anime doesn’t have to be existential nor does it have to be a visual masterpiece. For a beginner I think keeping them interested is more important than blowing their minds.

    I certainly would have included Last Exile. As well as Eureka Seven.

  5. Being very new to anime myself, I realy want to say that this list and the movie one really help me decide what to watch next out of the vast sea of titles available.

    As for your picks, Cowboy bebop, NGE and Gunslinger Girl are the only ones I’ve seen so I’ll give you my thoughts on those first. Cowboy Bebop was one of the first anime I ever saw, long before I ever got into the medium seriously (well as seriously as I am, anyway) and I think it really is one of, if not the best example of what to show to people not interested or critical towards anime. It really has just an air to it that makes it fun to watch, and the fact that the English dubs are honestly the some of best I’ve ever heard, especially for the time makes it a perfect candidate.

    Neon Genesis Evangelion is another one of the early shows I saw and to be honest, I never really liked it. Don’t get me wrong I can see why its so popular and influential, I admire it for its achievements and I do think it should be on this list. Personally, however I just found it incredibly difficult to watch. As the show got more and more bogged down by symbolism, allegory and analysis, it lost one of the key components of any form of entertainment, (for me at least) it wasn’t enjoyable to watch. As I watched, with each passing episode, the viewing took longer to digest and I felt less inclined to view the next one. Its probably got more to do with the fact that I’ve never good at or interested in analysing literature, for example, until I literally had it explained to me, I thought Bladerunner was the dullest thing ever. I will quickly reiterate that I do think this should be on this list as on the the “Ten anime series you should see before you die”.

    I can’t say much about Gunslinger Girl that you haven’t already except that it had a huge personal affect on me. Having just started to really enjoy moe style shows, coming right off of Lucky Star and not knowing anything about it, the first few episodes hit me like a slap in the face and I continued to watch the rest of the show almost in a daze. I think newcomers could certainly enjoy it, though to get the full affect, I think the viewer should have been around the proverbial anime block at least once.

    As someone above me said, I don’t think the show needs to be really deep or mind-blowing to bring a newcomer in and on that note my two recommendations are Fullmetal Alchemist and Gurren Lagann.

    Certainly, FMA had themes of death, loss and brotherhood but what made it so enjoyable for me was that it had some great action, compelling, realistic and well thought out characters, a rich world and great story to be told in it. The only other thing I have to say about it is that the end of episode 7 ‘Night of the Chimera’s Cry’ is one of the only shows of any kind that has made me cry.

    Gurren Lagann however is simply a balls to the wall insane fun ride all the way through and a great, if somewhat generic coming of age story. The characters are larger than life, yet easily relatable and it just struck me as one of the most fun to watch shows out there.

    Now that I’ve spent like an hour writing this I realise there’s a bunch more I could say, but, being the lazy sod I am, I think I’ll leave it here.

    NoDeath out!

  6. What a great list (and your movie one as well), and just what i was looking for when i posted “any Anime recomendations?” on one of my local website haunts. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  7. Additions: Really, only Death Note. Sure, there are legions of generic fans who only like it for the premise, but there is a deeper theme going on…and I’m talking, deeper than the struggle of good versus evil. This series is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Also, it’s pretty to look at. I hadn’t had all that much exposure to anime that wasn’t produced pre-90’s {or anime in general} when I first watched it, but I remember thinking that everything looked more realistic than anything else I’d watched to that point. {And even now, years later.} Simply put, I think this is one of the best anime out there.

    Subtractions: Eva. Admittedly, I probably never really gave it a chance, but I watched 5 & 1/2 episodes and couldn’t stand any more. It bored me totally out of my mind, and until that point I’d really never quit watching a series halfway through an episode.

  8. @Kyle K – need to catch up on Moribito, still not seen it all the way through…

    @Tobias – strong selection, Champloo and FLCL were both close contenders…

    @raito-kun – thanks for the heads up on the mistakes – will go fix that now. And didn’t know the Eva movies where a tetralogy. Wow, they really are milking it 😉 As for DC – I know Iso had been working on the concept, but I don’t think the show would have been anyway near the same if made 15 years ago. And probably in 15 years time some aspects of it will look dated. Just the nature of dealing with such technology based storylines…

    @weigy – thanks as always man – tarck down DC and Planetes; both shows I know you’ll enjoy.

    @theillien – the list isn’t aimed at intellectuals, just people that like to think. I find the idea of ‘thoughtless entertainment’ oxymoronic; if something doesn’t make me think, then I don’t find it entertaining. Maybe that’s just me – but this site is aimed at people who mainly feel the same. And I know from experience of showing friends examples from all these shows that they are good, accessible starting points – admittedly some more than others. But I also know this to be true – show most serious, mature, intelligent anime skeptics the usual moe and fan service soaked high-school drama and you’ll just be confirming their prejudices. Keeping them interested will be the least of your worries.

    @NoDeath, SeanM, James, Katie – thanks – glad you’ve found the list interesting – and cheers for dropping by and sharing your thoughts!

    Thanks again everyone – keep it coming!

  9. Love these top 10 posts, because everyone has something to contribute and you get to know their tastes. :]

    For recent anime series, I think you are right on the money with Denno Coil and GITS-SAC. For older series, I loved Patlabor.

  10. Wow, its nice to see future boy conan get more attention. Most people dont even know miyazaki had a tv series. Its one of the few shows from that far back thats still highly watchable, to this day!

  11. @blauereiter You know I love Patlabor! It pained me to leave it out…but…

    @ancientfan – i went back and looked at a bunch of 70s/80s shows, and was shocked at how well FBC still held up. An amazing show.

    @Peter I love Champloo, really. In fact my fanboy love for the show is one of the main reasons I left it off. I felt that my three passions of Chanbara, hip hop and Watanabe-san maight be clouding my judgment a little. Plus I don’t think it had the imagination and depth of Bebop, mainly as the setting limited the plots at times…

    @michael. Cheers. I was just looking for some input from some kind of weird spamming pimp for bored Japanese housewives.

  12. Yeah, another worthless list i can ignore. Bad that i’ve seen already all series on the list, so i can die anywhile ;(

  13. Thanks so much for the list! I’ll definitely have to check out Future Boy Conan and Gunslinger Girl.

    Thanks also for giving Planetes some love! That is truly one of my favorite series. Like you said, it is a very rare title that combines so many elements so well. It’s very similar to PAtlabor in a lot of ways.

  14. I was so pleased that Denno Coil was on this list that I actually burst out laughing when I found out it wast there. Too bad that it hasn’t been brought over to the US yet!

    I would say that FLCL definitely deserves a place on this list, if not for the fact that I haven’t known a single other person uninterested in Japanese culture to enjoy it. But if you can get into it I’d say that it beats out Evangelion easily.

  15. Hi Tim, Great Article!
    Gonna lay down my personal faves

    1. Eureka Seven
    Beautiful art, I really connected with the main characters plight, he reminds me of a young me. The whole story is just so dam cool aswell, To summerize I’d say its a story about trying to fit in with the cool crowd.

    2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
    Changed the way I think

    3. Naruto
    I havent watched the later series but I do think the first series has some really nice moments. Always seemed a bit of a mixed bag in terms of script quality, But when Naruto when manages to turn around the hopeless situation through pure determination I’m with him all the way and I come out the other side feeling like anything is possible!

    And he does make me laugth

    Shame about the terrible uk market dvd’s, awful audio and edited violence.

    4. Pokemon
    I’m Joking

  16. I’ve seen all of these except for Future Boy Conan and Mononoke. I got the first volume of Planetes several years ago and thought it was well-done but got kind of bored with it. I should probably give it another go. Also need to give Dennou Coil another go; I wasn’t that interested from the sound of the premise, and watching the first two episodes in anime club with the club’s Vice President at the time blabbing through the whole thing with stupid comments wasn’t very enjoyable, but it seems as if everyone who watches it in a better setting than I did loves it. Completely agree with your other choices.

    Is the second season of Gunslinger Girl any good? I know the animation kind of sucks compared to the first season, but how’s the actual content of the show? Thoughts on it seem to be very mixed.

    Additional recommendations? The first season of The Big O is pure fun and probably the most “American” anime series out there which may be good for newcomers. I’m going to second (third? fourth? fifth?) Fullmetal Alchemist as a great series. I don’t think any anime, not even horror anime like Paranoia Agent, has freaked me out as much as certain parts of that show did. Fruits Basket might look off-putting to some people but it really is a sweet show. Gurren is a must for anime fans but I don’t think people who are unaware of the history behind it would appreciate it that much; same thing for Haruhi.

  17. great list, will keep it on hand. as a mecha/robot/steampunk fanatic i would add giant robo (if it qualifies) and gurren lagann. someone suggested big O, that would also be a runner-up.

  18. 1-End of Eva isn’t an OVA, it’s a movie
    2-Rebuild is not a trilogy, but a tetrology
    3-as I explain in my panel videos I linked to….Evangelion was never about Biblical themes or spirituality; the series creators *openly stated* that the cross symbols and such were just put in to look cool. It was really this scathing Akira-esque social commentary and…you know what it took me an entire hour-long panel to explain this, so it would be easier to watch the video I made:

  19. I’ve got some new stuff to check out 🙂 Thanks for the list!

    I have to agree with Katie that Death Note is very, very good. Although it slows down at times, the constant battle of the minds is amazing to watch as it unfolds.

    Finally, one that I’d like to recommend that I don’t think has been mentioned: Last Exile. Apart from Planetes, which is probably my all-time favorite series, Last Exile is a very close second. I’d certainly recommend checking it out.

  20. Yes! More props for Planetes!

    I’ll have to check out Last Exile, I dont think I have ever heard of it. What is it about?

    Another series that is worth checking out if you like the lighter stuff is Kamichu! It’s a charming story of a schoolgirl with god-powers, but it’s not like the other 150 shows with that premise. In several episodes she doesn’t even use her powers. The show is sometimes reminiscent of Miyazaki films when she travels to the “god-world” to meet with her colleagues. It’s always well drawn and a lot of fun.

  21. Well, Tim, another completely brilliant post, and another completely concise and well-thought out list. As many other people have commented, I would love to post my own list, the only problem being that I agree with all the ones you have mentioned, the only exceptions being the ones that I have not had the chance to watch yet.

    Loved Cowboy Beebop and Gunslingers, however never heard of Denno Coil (which I get the feeling is to my detriment) and I also feel ashamed I’ve never seen コナン, obviously as I allege to being a massive Ghibli fan!

  22. The best and most thought out series list I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon. I’ll use it as a blueprint for my collecting.

    one thought: Black Lagoon harsh, dark, and gritty; but beautifully character driven with similar moral exploration to Gunslinger Girl.

    thanks for putting this list together.

  23. Man, Tim what can I say?? This is truly a cool list! I’ll admit there are some on there that I have not seen (but it gives me some interesting things to look into); but I WILL certainly praise you for not only having Cowboy Bebop (and ‘yes’ you are not the only one…I’m certainly a Samurai Champloo fangirl, lol) and GITS:SAC on there–but I got to give you mad props for adding Paranoia Agents!!

    For real, when I saw that on there I knew I had to comment. I don’t think many truly understand how thought-provoking and disturbingly good Paranoia Agent is…it’s certainly not for shallow anime watcher because it will take to a place that definitely isn’t always comfortable.

    Neon Genesis, I have to admit I haven’t seen–as a series–but I did see I one of the movies and I thought that was ok. And I’m a bit shamed to say I haven’t completely seen all of Lain, though. I think I caught like, maybe, 2 or 3 eps on Adult Swim (when it used to come on there), but unfortunately I had caught it somewhere in-between the series so I stopped watching (I hate trying to pick up watching a anime if I can’t started it from the beginning). So know you’re just re-sparked my interest.

    All-in-all, it’s a pretty damn good list. I could name some of the more obvious ones–like FoolyCooly (sadly too short), Bleach, and the like–but I did READ your beginning paragraphs so I’ll spare ya’, lol. You mentioned though of liking Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop and such, I was wondering you take on Afro Samurai? Personally, I’m so digging that right now (besides how can you resist the dope soundtrack and beats from the RZA…if you listen to hip-hop, that is). I did watch it originally when it came on Spike TV–partly because I couldn’t figure out when the hell it came on–but later got the Unrated Director’s Cut on blu ray several months ago and loved it ever since.

  24. Since you linked me to this on twitter during our discussion, I am going to go through some of the ones that absolutely everyone missed in here.

    Black Heaven – If you have any sort of passion in life, this show will connect to you so deeply YOU WILL WEEP.

    Top wo Nerae! Gunbuster – One of two good shows GAINAX ever made.

    Oruchuban Ebichu – The other good show.

    Top wo Nerae! 2 Diebuster – Ok, three good shows. Watch Gunbuster first.

    Gun x Sword – Like Eva but not stupid.

    Hitohira – This show defines seinen.

    Kino no Tabi – SHOULD NOT BE WATCHED. It should be read. The anime is good, but it can’t compare with the original. Not the English reordered poopfest.

    Petopeto-san – Wonderful show. Just wonderful.

    Kamichu! – Since I recommended Petopeto-san I figured I should recommend this.

    Popotan – The anime loses a lot, but it still hits home. Not for people who find nudity distracting (i.e. stupid people)

    REC – It’s a very polarising show, but that’s because most anime fans expect to be patronized.

    Scrapped Princess – This one gained a bit of acclaim because it sort of got made into the de facto anime fan show to watch during a slump in the worthless crap schedule (p.s. I still love worthless crap shows. But I know they’re crap.)

    Solty Rei – Beautiful ending. GONZO haters get fucked.

    I will agree with Lain and NGE being on the list. I like Lain but I hate NGE, but it should still be seen. Seeing these shows early in your anime viewing experience helps you know a certain number of things early on that will help you down the line as far as what you’ll want to gravitate towards as things come out.

    And yes, I could have listed any number of crusty old shows, but bah to that, sir. Bah to that. I could also keep going with other shows, BUT I HAVE OTHER THINGS TO DO.

  25. A good list indeed. In general i agree with it, just with a few adition.
    Like many of you, i suggest you put kino no tabi on the list, is simply a must see anime (“i can’t say about the novels, because i don’t know japanese and i don’t know where to obtain them in english”).
    But what really amaze me is that nobody has said anything about boogiepop phantom, if you like Lain and paranoia agent, this is another must see. I don’t know if you simply didn’t knew it, or if is just that you have some kind of problem with this series, but i recommend it and will like to hear opinions about it.

  26. According to your list, I’m ready to die after I watch Paranoia Agent. Hahaha! Mononoke is my all-time favorite anime. The artwork is so incredibly inspiring.

    Denno Coil is another amazing one.

    Didn’t really enjoy Planetes and Cowboy Bebop though. Shame.

  27. Absolutely love your list. Till now I’d been skipping Gunslinger Girl, but seeing that you put it smack in the middle of anime greats such as Paranoia Agent and Evangelion, I must give the show a chance.

    Ghost in the Shell, second gig was far too brilliant to be kept off this list, and I’m glad you didn’t :).

    I’m surprised Escaflowne didn’t make it to the list though.I thought the show was awesome and although the content and setting was rather school-girlish, it was handled extremely well.

    Same goes for Gungrave too. I know that the second half of the series got a bit convoluted and “too” sci-fi, but the leading episodes were really well paced.

    Anyway, great list. I’m glad there’re a few shows on it I haven’t watched yet 🙂

  28. A couple of series I’ve not seen here, I’ll live in hope that Denno Coil gets licensed for DVD release.

    Of the other series its hard to think of anything better. I have to say that Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino was a real letdown after the quality of the first series. So much potential. You could see how the budget had been cut.

    I have to agree with Andres, if you liked Lain (which I’m currently re-watching) then Boogiepop Phantom is also worth watching. Similarly hard going in places, maybe not quite as good but its a short series.

    Now, how about the 10 Manga series you must read before you die? Lets start with:

    Battle Angel Alita
    Nausicaa of the valley of the wind

  29. Although I love anime’s that are intelligent, visually stunning and meaningful, I have to say that Naruto is deserves a mention in these comments (a second time).
    Most people will have their rage at the very mention of it but if you actually sit down and watch the series, skipping the fillers, especially the more mature Naruto Shippuden you’ll love it.

    Anyway this is a great list Tim keep up the good work, I really look forward to watching Serial Experiments Lain 🙂

  30. I’ve seen only two series on your list and will watch all the rest! Thanks a lot for invaluable and descriptive oppinion.
    However I’d love to suggest “5 centimeters per second” – anime about love and hardships in our everyday life (no sci-fi or other fantasy – real life here) problems that draw people apart – time and distance 🙁 a very sad but somehow encouraging anime as if daring you to do better … I really feel it should be on the list. A 19 years old guy crying – that IS an achievement 😀

  31. A great list. Paranoia Agent is my all time favorite Anime, and when I saw it on this list I had to see the rest of the series. I finished Planetes not too long ago and am starting gunslinger girl.
    But the following two Anime I highly recommend if you want to submerse yourself in something that makes a milestone in Anime artwork.
    The first is Ef, a Tale of Memories, whose surreal art style and insanely well crafted story creates a true aesthetic feeling when watching each episode. This series really shows how Anime could be shown as art.
    The second is Gankutsuou, The Count of Monte Cristo, which has excellent art styles and is the best recreation of Alexandre Dumas’s classic tale. This one is more for story than art, but the art choices are simply extraordinary.
    I would add these two Anime’s to the list if these are Anime’s to see before you die, or even a list of Anime’s meant to inspire the human mind.

  32. I think some other series:
    Terra e –:: awesome
    Kino´s Journeys
    Kaiba –:: awesome
    Heroic Age –:: awesome

    and some classics:
    Queen Millenia (here in Latinoamerica is cult series)
    Galaxy Express 999 –
    Captain Harlock
    Maetel – is modern but is the same storyline from the others n_n

  33. Very nice list, just read your anime movie list too, lots of my favourites on both, and lots that I’ll now be seeking out to watch.

    Some personal favourites: (that wouldn’t quite qualify for this list)

    Black Lagoon
    Code Geass
    Rurouni Kenshin
    Death Note
    Samurai Champloo
    Love Hina

    Ok, I’ll stop now, it could go on and on.

    Cheers for the list !

  34. here’s some of my perssonal faves not listed:
    Code geass
    Eureka 7
    Black lagoon
    yu yu hakusho

  35. Higurashi no nako koro ni hasn’t been mentioned yet. it’s a murder mystery basically. get’s a little confusing, but it all makes sense in the end. I’d highly recommend it

  36. Rourni Kenshin (samurai x) was the first anime movie i ever watched and i have to say definitely has lot of emotions and power in it..Mostly aimed for the mature crowd with all the blood gushing sword fighting scenes..Surprised to see no one mentioning GTO (Great teacher Onizuka)… Pretty cool I should say compared to the fact that most anime are action based however this one isn’t (not completely)..very sensible thoughts and issues are brought forward and How teachers are supposed to be more involved with their students..Not to forget one and only Naruto …A really great series(minus the fillers).

  37. Love your lists, tim. It’s great to see a really solid list with great defenses and descriptions – it really helps the moderate fan like me see what else is out there.

    My story I’d guess is a common one – as a young (American) teen I grew up with very little anime, but I LOVED Dragon Ball Z (and to a lesser extent gundam wing). After I got over dbz, i pretty much left anime behind. It’s only been in the last several yeas that I’ve come back around and started to explore what anime really has to offer the mature viewer.

    So in thinking that there are likely many who, like me, are ready to check out some anime who have little experience in the field (and no experience with manga) – here are some of the series that brought me around.

    Trigun – I’ve loved this series for a long time, and it remains a favorite. For the first time this series showed me how an anime can blend hilarious with dark and serious. I watched this first dubbed, think it remains one of the best dubbed series.

    Samurai Champloo – As a college guy, I would use this anime above any other to try and convince my non-fan friends to watch some anime. The style, the characters, the music, and the ACTION are all amazing.

    Cowboy Bebop – Much like champloo, the class and style of the animation and the characters are really great here. Bebop delves more in to the psychological and emotional than Champloo does.

    Hellsing Ultimate OVA – one of my more recent interests, and I am loving it so far. The five OVAs so far are fantastic. The action is hardcore and gruesome, but fits the shows style just right. It gets a little more…I don’t know…out there in it’s style and violence. The eclectic nature of some parts might turn off the more moderate viewer – but not me. I give props to the dub in this series for allowing the accents to really come through, since the characters are supposed to be British/Irish/German (I watch it both ways though).

    Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – I really enjoy this series because of the level of intelligence it shows in its plot and execution. Witty, deep, and engaging. The laughing man is a great plot.

    FLCL – my favorite anime of them all. Only six episodes, but they’re all so good. Nostalgic, existential, satirical, symbolic, all packed in to one show. And HILARIOUS. So damn funny. Naota is the perfect blend of self-conscious, apathetic, cynical, and caring. And Haruko is his perfect foil. The amazing soundtrack, all by The Pillows, adds so much to the show as well. The dub quality is probably the best I’ve seen.

    Lupin III – This was really one of the first anime that showed me how an anime can be more than just an action or robot show. It was also a step up in maturity what I had seen, both in content and intelligence. And, again, really funny.

    Just a few that really jump to mind! Oh man, just read someone mention Yu Yu Hakusho. I loved that one, but I wouldn’t say it’s one to show the anime virgin over the others in my list.

  38. Seen 6 of the 10 and I gotta say I absolutely love them, I see the couple above my post Geass and Lupin are also good one I personally like Lupin and haven’t seen much of Geass but I like what I’ve seen. Baccano!, Mushishi, and Samurai Champloo are very good too.

  39. Liking the list, though quite a few I hadn’t heard of. Like others (it seems) I have been avoiding Gunslinger Girl as it never really appealed but after this I’m thinking I’ll give it a go.

    Just a few that I would have definitely mentioned.. (as others have):
    Trigun – as someone already mentioned, the mix of humour alongside very serious issues is amazing. Plus I really love Vash, I got frustrated with him but couldn’t help but find him loveable.
    And oh my, Wolfwood’s cross weapon was so neat (Yes I recently rewatched this).

    And come on, Samurai Champloo! Your judgement wasn’t clouded. Also have to mention Fullmetal Alchemist, especially for someone starting out with anime, as well as Death Note – I think they are both very accessible, whether that be because of popularity or what, they’re popular for a reason… they ARE great shows.

    Speaking of accessibility, really don’t think Lain is suitable at all. I think it would scare most newcomers away.. Though I could appreciate what it was doing, I found it was too intense and I just didn’t know what I was meant to take away from it. Probably doesn’t help that I haven’t watched in ages though..

    Oh and Hellsing. Can’t not mention Hellsing! It’s such a solid favourite of mine – the artwork and style is so awesome, the story just so.. so… cool. For complete lack of a description there.. And I always forget Gungrave as it’s been so long since I watched it. But that was a bloody good anime.

    Not ready to die yet it seems =]

  40. I thought i was well versed in anime for a while until i came across this list. I had already seen a few and it seemed you had good taste so i watched the rest.
    Most of these have also hit the top of my list especially mononoke and plantes. Not to mention Neon Genesis Evangelin was completely mind blowing considering how long i blew off seeing it. I watch anime to see and experience things you cant get from american filmography and i have to say your list is at the top of the tiers of something thats more than just entertainment.
    The only anime i would add is Full metal alchemist for all if its emotional intertwining themes while still being largely accessible.

  41. Berserk
    Elfen Lied
    Death Note
    Dragonball??/ DBZ??
    Samurai Champloo

    Alltogether a very strong list I’ll have to check out SE Lain and Gunslinger Girl. Thank you for your time!

  42. Very thoughtful list. Ive seen the entire series of most and one or two episodes of the others, and they are all worth seeing…eventually.

    As good as the individual series are, the overall selections do seem pretty narrow to me, and I think your list would best serve a pretty sophisticated anime audience. Ive’ been watching anime for decades now, so I appreciate a Lain or PA for what they offer, but if they were the very first series I saw, I may have run for the hills, …or at least fallen asleep, which I might still do with some of them. I wouldnt recommend half of those to folks unless they were already pretty familiar with anime and had seen enough to essentially graduate to them.

    As other have pointed out, the beauty of anime, as with any other media is it doesnt have to be a visual or thought provoking masterpiece in order to be vastly entertaining and a good representative of what the genre can offer. Of course, the entertaining part is very subjective. If someone doesnt find deep movies about the human condition entertaining, chances are they wont find an anime about it interesting either, no matter how well made.

    All that said, I couldnt leave Record of Lodoss War, or Berserk off a must see series list. Also you would have to include something of the comedic vein like FLCL or Hare + Guu or Crayon Shin-chan.

  43. I’ve seen a few people mention Baccano!, and I absolutely have to agree. It has fantastic, fast paced action, a full cast of characters that are all fleshed out nicely and, somehow, all end up either adorably lovable or so badass that you can’t help but cheer for them – even the bad guys. Also, it is gripping without being overwrought (a feature that I think turn people off anime – those long, drawn out monologues can really grate the nerves of those who aren’t familiar with the genre). Baccano! has this great, unique plot and setting, and I would recommend it to any anime new comer.

  44. Death Note -Where the Protagonist is the villian… pretty awesome. little fight/action but makes you want to see the next episode

    Trigun- The protagonist is so different from the usual hero, refusing to kill. A must see.

    Requiem for a Phantom… so different from other animes. like bleach, naruto etc … (super hero fighting the villians) … a fresh story worth getting into

  45. Planetes TV is a farcry from the much better manga series by the original creator Makoto Yukimura. The ending is good, but it’s just a scene lifted from the original story.

    Go read the original, it’s on the net.

  46. One series that I believe should be included is Excel Saga. It’s completely deranged, utterly hilarious, over the top and in general one hell of a good time.

  47. Great List!
    From what I’ve seen on your top 10 I totally agree!
    You’re missing some of the best ones though!
    I think it needs to be a list of 20 😉
    Here are other shows that you don’t have on your list that I will always adore:

    Full Metal Alchemist
    Death Note
    Elfen Lied
    Dragonball Z
    and yes Sailor Moon, my inner child can’t help it.


  48. Well this list is quite awesome but I feel there aught to be some additions and “ten anime series” one should see before dying has a dead flaw in it and thats the word ten. 10 just can’t do justice to the anime category of entertainment.

    I have a request that you please make an effort and make up atleast a top 20 list, similar to this one.
    Please, Please make a top 20 and top 30 list , you’d really be helping out the masses.
    Also I think that Samurai Champloo should have made this list.

  49. Haibane Renmei? No? I think my soul just crumbled. It was my introduction to anime, and although the ending wasn’t the greatest, the artwork is absolutely beautiful, and the english dubbing is surprisingly good. It is definitely my favorite. I do agree with Eva though, and also Gunslinger Girl. I also agree with others who commented about Gurren Lagann. It is a great show, and a good introduction to anime.

  50. Very interesting list, thanks for listing some very interesting sounding old animes. I’ll definitely try to find Future Boy Conan. All in all, I also liked this list much better than your anime film one.

    In terms of series missing:

    – Monster
    is an impressive piece. This is the one anime to show adults to convince them anime is not all about boobs, mecha’s and transformation scenes.

    – Kaiba
    goes even more in the “serious” direction. However the childish looks might not make this an as good introductory series as monster in terms of strong story lines.

    – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
    While hyped, this lives up to the hype. Perfect introductory series for those looking for lighter/comedy, yet not outright silly stuff.

    -Trigun/Irresponsible Captain Tyler
    Either of these series is a great introduction from the pure fun section of anime.

  51. One Piece…

    … i dunno, i just find something of charles dickens in the way eiichiro oda plots and sub-plots… and sub-sub-plots…

    a solid list. will need to re-visit some of them, but im glad cowboy bebop’s at the top of the list (or near it… did you say the list was in any sort of order? ill read through it again, haha!).

  52. A bit of newb when it comes to anime which is why I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this fantastic list 😀

    Now I’m going through a bit of a dry spell and am desperately seeking for another good show—what would you reccomend to someone who has fallen head over heels with Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo??

  53. You’re not talking ME into adding Conan/Mononoke/GG/Planetes to my list. I’ve got well over 300 hours worth of video on there already. Actually, counting stuff I can’t access immediately from my desk, it probably breaks 400. No, wait, what am I saying? That includes seasons 3-5 of Babylon 5 and seasons 4-7 of Buffy; that probably gets it to 500.

  54. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you added Mononoke to the list. All of these anime are quality in their own right, and you’ve made some damn good choices here, but adding Mononoke gave me a little moment of squee.

  55. This is merely an okay list….Not sure I can say that I could reduce all the anime I’ve seen down to ten but I’ll include a few here that are absent from your list that are certainly magical on their own.

    Either Berserk or Gungrave, perhaps not both but anyway, this stuff is rich and fit for the gods in terms of storytelling, very notably the whole of the berserk anime and the larger part of Gungrave. My favorites in terms of story in itself.

    I realize that most people avoid sports anime like its some kind of plague but the series Hajime no Ippo is truly an incredible example of its kind

    >.>. This is going in a direction that I don’t know that most people will like but “Legend of the Galactic Heroes”… simply magnificent. This series should not be missed because it simply adds something for you that you would not have otherwise. Yang Wenli’s take on history and the playing out of interstellar democracy vs autocracy and explication of the weaknesses and strengths….and the depths of the characters…This is apparently an ova series that closely follows a series of japanese science fiction novels. There is really nothing better than this. But, I will say that it is long and while “I” think not a minute of it was wasted I have no idea what someone who likes anime to be flashy and can’t do without all the explosions will think

    Someday’s Dreamers has such a brilliant atmosphere and a lighter take on magic that creates a spell all of its own. This is one of the only shoujo anime that has ever stolen a place in my heart.
    As for monster…better as a manga

    Other honorable mentions must be “Welcome to the NHK”, “Junni Kokki” (or more well known as The Twelve Kingdoms)
    An honorable mention also for Kaiji/Akagi which are good anime but would not appeal to everyone.

    Perhaps, Fruits Basket, Samurai Champloo, Love Hina (in my opinion, the best anime of its type though the manga is better), Bokurano, Full Metal Alchemist, Lupin III tv, Rurouni Kenshin OVA or Tv, also deserve mention

    This is probably as far as I’m willing to say on the subject


  56. Really Maruka? You’d recommend the 100+ episodes of LOGH to someone that had barely any experience of anime as a good starting point?

    I think someone didn’t read the opening paragraphs and missed the entire point, didn’t they?

  57. Well, for what it may be worth, your title itself is a bit off. “Anime to see before you die” is quite a little bit different from “anime that will be good starting points”. I added these primarily to show the other “kinds” of things out there not so well represented by the list. Mind you, I am not saying that it was really possible to reduce everything down to a top ten list but I still felt impelled to at least comment about certain things that weren’t well represented. Well, I was curious about how you would respond as well, at that.

    Anyway, thanks for responding, and goodbye for now


  58. Gotta admit as a kid i got sucked into anime through the mainstream stuff (dbz, naruto, samurai x, bleach). Finally got into new stuff besides obscure movies and props for adding Cowboy Bebop! (best soundtrack ever too!)

    But no Death Note? The brilliant plot twists and moral conflicts are drew my friends within a few episodes even though they had never watched any anime before.

    Also why’s no one mentioned Hajime No Ippo? Sure it had some of the cliche “determination and pure heart defeats all odds” but as a sports anime they really did an awesome job at stylizing all the fights while blending tons of humor at the same time.

    Glad to find such a highly praised list of series I’ve never heard of, so much to catch up on!!!

    < (^.^<) (>^.^)>

  59. also does anyone remember the name a series where these group of people get kidnapped and turned into robots with powers or something? ITS DRIVING ME CRAZY THAT I CAN’T REMEMBER IT!!!! All I can recall is a guy that can click his teeth to run really and some telepathic baby.
    any ideas!? o_O

  60. A nice list, I’ve only seen 3 out of 10 of em. I should get on it!

    just watched Last Exile and I would definitely recommend it as well as:
    Samurai Champloo
    Full Metal Alchemist
    Code Geass (a bit newer…)

    Thanks for the list! but perhaps 10 is too small? Perhaps an update and stretching it to include 25? soo many animes out there that it would be hardpressed to include only 10. just my $0.02. 😀

  61. I must say thats a cool list. I’ve been watching animes for 6 years and I’ve seen most of them so that list of yours its not that perfect.
    First of all I recomend Naruto Shipudden even though I aint a child anymore. Kids need to know that talent today is not everything. With determination and hard work you can reach the top. The thing is to believe in yourself. I love this anime coz I grew up with it. It gave me tons of emotions. maybe not everything is real but u got a slice of life there. People die in that anime but that what makes us even stronger. Naruto is not just a 12 year old boy who loves Ramen. It’s more then that. So I’ll put itas My Number One.
    about others it depends. If ppl like shoujo then Clannad is by far the saddest anime and romantic one. With shounen u forgot Death note, perhaps Bleach, Blood + (more shoujo) and u cant forget the funny animes either. Anyway thanx for this list too. CB and SEL are by far the best of ur list.

  62. The ones I have seen I loved. Planetes & Denno Coil both killed me when I saw them. Looking forward to watching the ones I haven’t seen… cheers.

  63. Although I’ve seen pretty much everything on this list, THANK YOU!!!
    Your writing here is absolutely stunning. I appreciate and admire the passionate and scholarly voice that you use to write about anime. I am a little tired of hearing that “Pokemon” is “THE BEST SERIES EVAAARRRR!!!!”
    Not that never-ending, simple & fun series don’t have their merits, but I personally prefer series that are a little more complex (in terms of story/character development, quality of animation, underlying themes and philosophies, etc).

  64. great list, although planetes was a tad hard to get through,

    my list would be (no specific order)
    FLCL (fun, easy watch x100)
    paranoia agent (I am not paranoid, you are)
    tengen topa gurren lagann (optimism at its best)
    big O (a nice bed time show)
    Naruto shippuuden (it blows all those other mass produced series out of the water, bleach, dbz, 1piece,& pokemon, suck it)
    original astro boy (watch it and you will know every storyline for all anime)
    strike witches (okay its a little risque, but i think its got a story)
    Air gear (rip)
    Oban Star Racer (the overlooked goodie)
    cowboy beebop (variety and style, the spice of life, and a good anime)
    lupin the third (i just get a kick out of it)
    deathnote(but i prefer the live action version)
    the time of eve (pov of humans from robots)

    but what do I know I also like ben10 and transformers animated

  65. It is very new yet has already torn a hole in the ceiling.


    They intertwine (spectacular) art with (mentally harassing) dialogue creating a hypnotizing hybrid.

    If I could I would be this series preacherman

  66. After seeing countless anime series and being a professional writer myself I think that whilst an anime list is subjective there are times when you feel the need to bring some series into the mix. Whilst I disagree with some of Tim’s choices (i.e Gunslinger Girl) I enjoy reading them. I must say in my opinion that Gungrave is my favourite anime and the ending moved me to tears. Monster is possibly the best anime ever made and one of the longest. Berserk is genius and contains the best villian ever committed to anime. Trigun lifted my soul and has my favourite lead character. Escaflowne is also a masterpiece in fairytale story telling. In terms of 200+ episode series… I would offer up Naruto Ep 1 – around 99 is a masterpiece in story telling although expect some fillers. I still read the manga despite a busy schedule.

  67. Excellent list, though I just don’t think 10 is enough to give Anime its proper place, is definetly a good start!

  68. Surprised that Hellsing, FLCL, or Berserk is not on here. Hellsing alone is awesome, its OST it the best of all the animes IMO. FLCL was random, funny, nostalgic and has a special place in my heart for it.

  69. What a great list of animes. All of them are mature, deep, and well-done series that deserve to recognized for their excellence.

    I’m really happy to see Evangelion is on the list; it being my favorite anime of all time. I watched it 2 years ago and it completely changed how I saw my life. I absolutely love the series and hold it very near to my heart.

    I’ve also seen Cowboy Bebop and Gunslinger, which in their own rights are incredible as well. And I’ve heard great things about the other shows as well (as mentioned with my first comment). I guess I better start watching some of these!

  70. Seriously? Only one person’s mentioned Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni? I have used that show to convert SO MANY PEOPLE to anime it’s scary. I’ll admit it can be confusing and seemingly nonsensical but sticking with it eventually reveals what is (somehow) both one of the darkest, saddest and pessimistic series I’ve ever seen but also one of the brightest, happiest and optimistic ones as well. It has fantastic characters, an intelligent story and some of the most awesomely unforgettable moments ever. Not to mention a brilliant ending that will have you crying tears of joy (Most emotional. Calender. Ever.). Watch it. Watch it now.

  71. @Randall Fitzgerald: Really, what better way to get people interested in your point of view than by insulting them for not sharing it. The logic, it is flawless. /sarcasm

    @Katie: Like a lot of people, I think Death Note had a strong first season but absolutely boring second season.

    @Project-2501: Manga series you should definitely read, my list includes: X, Tokyo Babylon, D.Gray-Man, Dragon Ball, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Terra E… I have a definite love affair with shounen series, but they are just so much better to me than any shoujo series. I have to say though, Yuu Yuu Hakusho is the only series I love with a female main character I simply can’t stand: Keiko. Aside from the fact that I don’t find her at all pretty, cute or anything like that (as an older teenager she’s especially ugly), she has one of the most annoying, self-righteous, bitchy personalities. She was definitely the one who turned me off the “weak whiny wimp” and “violent bitch” anime girl stereotypes.

  72. I forgot to mention this one, but you should also have a look at the Supernatural The Animation series, an anime version of the popular horror series that spawned at least 6 seasons and which starts off as being about two brothers who deal with supernatural events, hunt ghosts, etc, while looking for their father.

  73. No Full Metal Alchemist? I don’t really like anime all that much but my boyfriend’s really into it, and he got me watching that show and man I’m hooked. Incredible story, beautiful landscapes, and characters that you can really relate to. FMA: Brotherhood seems to be even better. I’m surprised they are not on this list.
    Btw, I’ve seen Ghost in the Shell too and FMA is so much more engaging.

  74. Just want to say that this list certainly aided me in my quest for anime brilliance. Love everylast one of these shows to death. but there are so many more. and especially one that really does deserve to be on the list.

    and that one is EUREKA 7. Honestly THE BEST ANIME OF ALL TIME, and i must say I’ve watched many good anime. The story, the mecha, the characters, the EMOTION of this show is unbelievable. If you want a show that is about growing up, and the beauty of love, and loyalty, and responsibility, and the evils of war, then this show is truly tops.

    .hack//SIGN – (i’m suprised no one has mentioned it) watched this show early on in my anime career and what an impression it made. I would definitely recommend this to any budding anime enthusiast, to show just how action is not everything in anime. a leisurely pace and stunning visuals and actual character progression is just as important.

    Code Geass
    Elfen Lied
    Wolf’s Rain
    Michiko to Hatchin

    all theses should really be seen as well though, might not be worthy of top 10 status.

    thanks for the list!

    also, your movie list is aslo truly inspiring. The girl who leaped through time: what an amazing movie!! cry every time.

  75. oh. I forgot FMA!!!

    and @Tynoteusz: Ergo Proxy. really really interesting show.

    just from reading the comments I can tell I’ve found even more winners to add to my collection. I was worried I’d run out of shows to watch. now I’ve added so many titles i won’t have to worry for years. and then i can still rewatch!

    p.s. i rewatch Eureka Seven every year. it is just that good.

  76. Very good list indeed. Paranoia Agent is one of my favourite anime of all time. Though I would have added Wolf’s Rain to this list. In my opinion another really strong anime

  77. I’ve never heard of any on the list.. but, there are a few really great series that I think people should watch. Fruits Basket may look silly at first, but it’s a great, great series. Ouran High School Host Club is the same way. For those who like a little less romance and a lot more action scenes, Soul Eater is one of my favorites.. and of course, I’m a good ole InuYasha girl from the get-go. FullMetal Alchemist is a good series too.. not my favorite, but I love everything Vic Mignona dubs ^-^ I hope everyone at least gives these a chance!

  78. Half of these I wouldn’t nearly rate as must-see. For sure, Denno Coil, Evangelion, and Serial Experiments Lain are series that while interesting, are ones you can live without seeing.

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