My first time watching this anime years ago instantly solidified itself as one of my top 5 all time favorites and easily one of the best anime ever made from my point of view. I just sat down to re-watch it in the English dubbed version and was not disappointed in the least.
As far as stories go you will be hard pressed to find one better written and presented in such a tidy and well rounded package as this. It keeps you guessing all the while and at the same time making you feel like part of the show as things progress. You find yourself truly enjoying the adventure even during the slowest parts of the show, and it does take a little while to really get going past the first one or two episodes.
Here is a perfect example of how to make an anime look great while not having everyone look exactly the same, landscapes seem bland, or your village to palace cityscapes seem cookie cutter and unimaginative. Aside from a couple minor issues such as when they're panned too far out to be able to do much facial details which becomes way too obvious on my big screen the animation was pretty much top notch, sadly this was my only reason for not giving it that perfect score. As much as I love this anime, I always try to keep my reviews as objective as possible.... *cough*
While I did rate this as the lowest of the categories this does by no means make it out to be it's one fault. I am just not that interested in the musical scores and sound effects until they annoy me and at which point I start lowering the score. The sounds have to be very moving for me to rate anywhere near a 9 or 10 in my book, but 6-7s are pretty much standard and I feel an 8 is only slightly less than it deserves without showing bias.
Each and every character had a very human element to them, flawed yet likable. This was one of the first shows I encountered that didn't take the "absolute evil" route to antagonists giving a sense of realism and understanding that the real world is seldom monochrome but a multitude of varying shades of gray. This was also one of the best strong female leads you will ever find, anywhere. I stake my reputation as a self titled otaku on that. Every character and their actions had understandable and believable motivations behind them and I never found myself questioning their actions if I saw things from their perspective.
While a little slow to start, once things get going you barely notice the time fly as the eps roll on. A better fantasy show with a strong female lead than this does not exist in my book. If you're a fan of either I strongly recommend watching this show, if you're a fan of both and you haven't seen it yet then I doubt your claim to fanaticism. This show just isn't to be missed unless you just happen to hate the genre itself and I still say to that, give it a try, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised.