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PaladinAlchemist

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Best of the Best - Anime

These are the best of the best anime I've seen so far, and ones I either do own or would own on DVD. All of these come highly recommended. 1 entry per franchise.
1 Akira

Akira

Genre: Seinen, Science Fiction

Length: 1 movie (125 min)

Akira is often credited with 'bringing anime to the West.' However, that's not the only reason Western otaku won't shut up about it. It's also incredibly good. It's worth watching for the animation and soundtrack alone, but also has a mind-bending story. This isn't one you want to watch when you don't want to think, but when you do, it's worth it. 

2 Berserk

Berserk

Genre: Seinen, Fantasy 

Length: 25 episodes

The animation is dated. So what. The Berserk arcs this anime covers is some of the best fantasy I've ever come across. What really brings this story to life is the 3 main characters, who have some of the most complex dynamics in anime. If you're wondering where to start with the Berserk franchise start here. 

3 Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop

Genre: Science Fiction, Western

Length: 26 episodes

Cowboy Bebop has everything a story needs: interesting plots, great setting, engaging characters, etc . . . and does all of this incredibly well. The feel and tone of this show stands out among anime thanks to its cool and Western vibes. Also, even if you avoid English dubs, do yourself a favor and watch this one in English.  

4 D.Gray-man

D.Gray-man

Genre: Shonen, Supernatural

Length: 2 seasons (103 & 13 episodes) 

This shonen series gets darker as it goes along. It avoids annoying cliches by giving power ups that actually made sense, giving us a lead that's not obnixious, and kickass female characters that don't have to get de-powered to make the male lead cooler. The gothic tones, intriguing power system, and likeable cast make this stand out among other shonen anime.   

5 From the New World

From the New World

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Length: 25 episodes

Shinsekai yori feels scattered at times, but successfully pulls all the pieces together to create a fascinating alternative universe and thought-provoking plot. Don't let the moe-like design throw you, this anime gets dark and doesn't pander around with pointless fanservice. 

6 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Genre: Shonen, Action/Adventure

Length: 64 episodes

FMA:B has a little bit of everything: mystery, action, romance, etc . . . The story grows in scale at a manageable rate and leads to an epic conclusion. None of this would matter, though, if you didn't care about the characters. Thankfully, this is where FMA really shines: it's stellar cast. 

7 Gintama

Gintama

Genre: Shonen, Comedy, Action

Length: 5 Seasons, OVAs + movies (300+ episodes)

Gintama is intimidating to start, especially given its borderline frantic first episode. But if you're willing to take it on, then you'll be greatly rewarded with one of the funniest anime ever. Surprisingly, Gintama also excells at heart-felt emotions and badass action. Great writing, great characters, and great voice acting all play a huge role in creating anime magic. 

8 Haibane Renmei

Haibane Renmei

Genre: Slice of Life, Fantasy

Length: 13 episodes

Haibane Renmei is a strange blend of fantasy, slice of life, and a very different take on the afterlife. It doesn't explain why things happen, so you'll have to accept things at face-value. What sells this anime is its relaxing tone, surprisingly complex characterization, and genuinely moving moments towards the end of the show.  

9 Haikyuu!!

Haikyuu!!

Genre: Shonen, Sports

Length: 3 seasons (25, 25, & 10 episodes)

I watch a ton of live sports, but never really enjoyed scripted sports stories before Haikyuu. Somehow, I REALLY REALLY care about who wins high school volleyball games now (thanks to great character intros and cast interaction). This show also manages to make every game intense and is pretty funny at times too. 

10 House of Five Leaves

House of Five Leaves

Genre: Seinen, Historical

Length: 12 episodes

If the weird art style doesn't throw you, you should enjoy House of Five Leaves. While it leaves you a bit confused at times, everything pulls together and makes sense in the end. I personally loved the overall feel and tone of the show and the two main characters.  

11 Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Length: 1 movie (118 minutes)

Whenever Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi get together, magic happens. Howl's Moving Castle is no exception. The animation and soundtrack are exceptional. This movie also has some of my favorite Ghibli characters: Sophie and Howl, which helps set it apart from other (all great) Ghibli flims.

12 Kemono no Souja Erin

Kemono no Souja Erin

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Length: 50 episodes

Kemono no Souja Erin is one of the most underrated anime I've seen. What starts out as a slice of life story turns into an epic battle to save a kingdom. Through it all, we follow one of anime's most compelling leads, Erin, as she grows up and helps save a kingdom. 

13 Kingdom

Kingdom

Genre: Seinen, Historical

Length: 2 seasons (38 & 39 episodes)

I'll admit, the animation is God-awful, especially in the first season, but everything else is so on-point it makes up for it. There's so much I love about Kingdom, I can't even list it in these small paragraphs. Even if you're not willing to watch the bad animation, you should read the superior manga the anime's based on. 

14 Black Butler: Book of Circus

Black Butler: Book of Circus

Genre: Shonen, Supernatural

Length: 10 episodes

Everyone's probably at least heard of Black Butler. Even if you've already decided it isn't your thing, you might want to check out the Book of Circus anime. It adapts what's probably the darkest and most intriguing arc from the original manga. No prior knowledge of the series is required. And if you like it, you should check out the Book of Murders adaptation too. 

15 Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Legend of the Galactic Heroes

Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama

Length: 110 episodes

It would take an essay to explain just how awesome this anime is. It requires a ton of patience and can't really get binged-watched. But if you're willing, the pay off is there. This anime isn't for fans who are looking for lots of flash and fanservice, but for fans of Tolkien's LOTR or Martin's Song of Ice & Fire, because only epic fantasy literature can compete with the grand scale this anime successfully tackles. Not to mention the stellar cast and voice acting. The only downside is that there's really nothing else in anime like it.

16 Love Stage!!

Love Stage!!

Genre: Comedy, Shonen-ai

Length: 10 episodes

Most people will either watch this or refuse to watch it based on its 'shonen-ai' label alone. And I honestly get why people would avoid shonen-ai for the same reasons I avoid ecchi, it's just not made for them. BUT this anime's great cast and comedy will make it enjoyable for anyone who appreciates a good romantic comedy, it's just both players are guys this time. 

17 Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Genre: Magic Girl, Psychological

Length: 12 episodes

It's extremely difficult to pull off the kind of 180 shift in tone that Madoka Magica pulls off and not make everyone angry. Instead, it went down in magic girl legend. The surreal animation, engaging cast, and fantastic OST also help bring this anime to life.  

18 Mob Psycho 100

Mob Psycho 100

Genre: Shonen, Supernatural, Comedy

Length: 12 episodes

Mob Psycho 100 has some of the craziest animation I've seen. It's a lot to take in sometimes, but the humor and solid cast will keep you around. While there are inevitable similiarties to One Punch Man, Mob Psycho manages to distinguish itself and stand on its own after only an episode or two. 

19 Mononoke

Mononoke

Genre: Supernatural, Horror

Length: 12 episodes

Mononoke is definitely horror, but not in the traditional sense of zombies or gore, but through suspense and surreal animation. The reason it works is that it doesn't need 'tricks,' to stay interesting. Even if animated normally, the mysterious Japanese mythology stories and awesome lead would keep you around. 

20 Monster

Monster

Genre: Seinen, Mystery, Thriller

Length: 74 episodes

If you want genius character writing, a mature story, and a setting that isn't a school or RPG like fantasy, then check out Monster. It requires patience at times, but the pay-off is massive in what's probably the best thriller anime to date. It won't take long before you're fully sucked in. 

21 Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun

Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Length: 12 episodes

There's an endless amount of romantic comedies out there, so what make this one stand out? The cast. Everyone is their own brand of anime-crazy without feeling like they're the same character you've seen a hundred times. There's no irritating tsunderes, no love triangles, no abusive relationships, etc . . . It's refreshing and fun, like a romantic comedy should be.  

22 Mushishi

Mushishi

Genre: Seinen, Supernatural

Length: 3 seasons, some OVAs & 1 movie (26, 10, & 10)

Mushishi is an immersive anime that lets you explore its mysterious world full of stunning Japanese nature scenes and the small spirit-like creatures that inhabit them. The tone, OST, and stories are all engaging, but what puts this anime into my personal top 5 is that, in addition to everything else, you've also got one of the coolest anime leads heading every story. 

23 Natsume Yuujinchou

Natsume Yuujinchou

Genre: Shoujo, Supernatural, Slice of Life

Length: 6 seasons, some OVAs (all seasons are 11-13 episodes)

Natsume Yuujinchou is full of subtle emotions and characterization that make stories that could easily slip into melodrama play out far more meaningfully. The relaxing, bittersweet, and nostalgic tone is a nice break from a medium usually filled with crazy colors and antics. Also, the main character is impossible not to get attached to. 

24 Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Genre: Science Fiction, Psychological

Length: 26 episodes

Initially, there isn't much special about Neon Genesis Evangelion. It starts with a story about a wimpy, normal guy who pilots a mecha and is surrounded by a pseudo-harem. Instead of focusing on who's 'best girl,' this anime decides to take a hard psychological examination of its main cast, creating some incredibly complex characters fighting in a post-apocalyptic world.   

25 One-Punch Man

One-Punch Man

Genre: Seinen, Comedy, Science Fiction

Length: 12 episodes

Only a general gist of what goes down in a superhero movie is required to get the humor in this superhero parody. Essentially, if you've ever seen a Marvel or Superman movie, you're set. The animation is stupidly-good and the characters sell the anime with their engaging and crazy personalities. 

26 Ouran High School Host Club

Ouran High School Host Club

Genre: Shoujo, Comedy

Length: 26 episodes

The bi-shonen pile and pink scare some people away, but don't let it. Ouran is smarter than it looks and pokes fun of tropes while invoking them at the same time. It never takes itself too seriously and has the benefit of a great cast. This is an anime just about everyone can enjoy.

27 Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue

Genre: Psychological, Horror

Length: 1 movie (78 minutes)

This is one of the most intense movies I've ever seen. It's pure genius and will leave you holding your breath once things get started. Not only does it entertain, but it also takes a hard look on the over sexualization of women, but also at the bizzare way we consume celebrities. This movie will stick with you long after it's done. 

28 Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Length: 1 movie (134 minutes)

Princess Mononoke is a fantasy story that examines how human civilization and the enviornment can and should work together - in the most epic and entertaining way possible. With the stunning backdrops, animation, and soundtrack, it's easy to see why this is one of the most acclaimed Studio Ghibli movies to date.   

29 Psycho-Pass

Psycho-Pass

Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk

Length: 22 episodes

Psycho Pass is that perfect blend between entertaining and thought-provoking. The action, characters, and dystopian world all stand out compared to other stories. It also has what might be my favorite antagonist of all time, and a moment that completly blew my mind, which doesn't happen often. 

30 Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin

Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin

Genre: Seinen, Drama

Length: 26 episodes

I'll want you upfront, don't watch Rainbow when you're looking for something lighthearted and fun. This anime is hard to get through sometimes, but if you can take it, you'll be greatly rewarded with a story full of admirable characters that will stay with you for a long, long time after it's done. 

31 Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena

Genre: Psychological, Shoujo-ai

Length: 39 episodes

Sometimes referred to the shoujo version of Evangelion, Utena manages to be even more surreal and maybe even more psychological once things get going. It's highly original if you want to see something different. It has one of the most ineresting casts in anime and is a must watch for anyone really sick of the horrible way most anime portray women. 

32 Kids on the Slope

Kids on the Slope

Genre: Josei, Music

Length: 12 episodes

For a show about teenagers in love (with multiple love triangles), Kids on the Slope is surprisingly mature. This story feels far more honest about human emotion than almost any other with this setting and basic plot. If that wasn't enough to interest you, a jazz OST by Yoko Kanno should be. 

33 Samurai Champloo

Samurai Champloo

Genre: Historical, Action

Length: 26 episodes

Samurai Champloo takes feudal Japan/samurai culture and mashes it together with hip-hop to create an engaging anime. The art, music, and fight scenes are some of the best anime has to offer. It's also not afraid to take risks, which keeps things unpredictable. I just wish the characters got a little more development. 

34 Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Genre: Shonen, Comedy

Length: 3 seasons (12, 13, & 13 episodes), some OVAs

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is a lot of things I usually don't care for (school life, ecchi at times, etc . . .), but it's so funny and incorporates fanservice so smartly (only Kill la Kill rivals it in this department), that it doesn't matter. It's best when it takes risks, but even the more standard episode will keep you throughly entertained. 

35 Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Genre: Fantasy, Action

Length: 26 episodes

If the stunning animation and fluid fight scenes aren't enough to entice you, the strong cast and interesting world building should. There really aren't any weak spots. Anyone that enjoys a good story should watch this criminally underrated anime, especially fans of great action, fantasy, or strong characters.  

36 Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

Genre: Josei, Drama, Historical 

Length: 2 seasons (13 & 12 episodes)

It's easy to see why this anime has flown under the mainstream radar. The description isn't that exciting, and Josei isn't as popular as other genres. It's a tragedy though, as this is one of the best examples of drama and some of the most complex, well-written characters I've seen. Give it a few episodes and see if you aren't hooked in this incredibly written story.  

37 Spirited Away

Spirited Away

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Length: 1 movie (125 minutes)

One of the most well-known and critically acclaimed anime, Spirited Away is a hit with just about everyone. Everything about it is both stunning and heartfelt, from the animation and the music to the characters and plot. Even non-anime fans love this movie. Once you see it, you'll know why. 

38 Sword of the Stranger

Sword of the Stranger

Genre: Historical, Action 

Length: 1 movie (98 minutes)

I really love this movie. It's not without it's faults (like lackluster worldbuilding), but the characters are some of the best I've ever seen in a movie, especially for such a short one. In addition to its characters, the action is also incredible and what it's most well-known for. The soundtrack is also standout. 

39 Texhnolyze

Texhnolyze

Genre: Science Fiction, Psychological 

Length: 22 episodes

When stories try to come across as bleak and serious as Texhnolyze, they come off a bit like you'd imagine teenage poetry about a recent break-up would, angsty and over-the-top. This isn't the case with Texhnolyze. It's honestly bleak as hell, and while some might find it pretentious, I just found it awesome. 

40 The Tatami Galaxy

The Tatami Galaxy

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Length: 11 episodes

Tatami Galaxy takes some getting used to. The art style is vastly different from most anime and the dialogue is so fast native Japanese speakers had a hard time following it (sub reading skill level required: expert). However, it's highly rewarding, and despite using many worn-out anime ideas (looping time line, 'loser' male lead), it manages to feel refreshing and unique.  

41 Yona of the Dawn

Yona of the Dawn

Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy

Length: 24 episodes, some OVAs

If you watched the first episode and hated it, you might want to go back and give this anime a second try. Yona is supposed to start off as a sheltered and often bratty character. That's why it's so cool to watch her grow into a legitimate badass. Unlike some characters, she doesn't pull skills or power-ups out of her rear-end and actually has to work for it, making her successes far more rewarding. 

42 Yuri!!! on Ice

Yuri!!! on Ice

Genre: Sports, Romance

Length: 12 episodes

I love stories. I am constantly reading, watching, and writing them. Rarely do I get as invested as I did with YOI. And yes, the pacing is off at times, and so is the animation, but the characters, stunning animation at times, music, and beautifully written romance make up for that. Even more important, is how whenever I'm feeling depressed, just thinking about this anime lifts my mood in a way no other story ever has. If you haven't already, give it a try. 

Comments

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Meganekko Oct 12, 2017

This is a pretty great list. You've got some classics, some old-school, some new, a nice mix of genres- and some pretty great anime all around. I really appreciate it when someone takes the time to put descriptions for each show- and yours are very well-written.