Maybe its a product of when i grew up, what with Cartoon Network and Toonami showing loads of different anime shows, but I have been a huge fan of anime for almost as long as I can remember. In fact, there are a number of anime movies that would easily sit on my top 7 movies of all time! Part of that definitely comes from the sheer variety of anime that is out there.
You see, for those of you who don’t know much about (or just don’t “get”) anime, it isn’t all childish TV shows like Pokemon. In fact, there’s as much variety of anime in Japan as there is live action TV in the US. For every Game of Thrones, Star Trek and The Walking Dead, there’s a Full Metal Alchemist, Gundam and Death Note.
Oh, and a huge amount of anime is definitely not for kids! And no, I’m not talking about the sexualised stuff. Instead, I’m refering to anime with deep and meaninful storylines that will have you guessing at every turn, or questioning reality itself. So many of them are just far too deep for kids, and far too graphic in terms of violence (along the lines of the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones). So, with that brief explanation out of the way, let’s take a look at my personal top 7 anime (in no particular order).
And just for the record, this list is based on my personal preference, so it is certainly not a definitive list of the best anime out there. There are so many great anime shows out there that it is impossible for a list to please everyone, so if your favourite anime isn’t on here, I’m sorry, and please name it (nicely) in the comments below so that I may check it out!
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex
Ever since I watched the original Ghost In The Shell anime movie when I was younger, I was hooked on it. I’ve always found the cyberpunk genre to be fascinating, so GITS struck a chord with me thanks to its existential and sociological commentary, incredibly deep storyline and thought-provoking undertones. In fact, it’s also the only anime where I’ve even enjoyed the US live action remake!
Raising questions about what it is that actually makes us “human”, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex only sought to add to this mythos. With the show split into two different types of episodes (“Stand Alone” and “Complex” episodes), you got to have the “story of the week” like many police shows, but also an overarching plotline that was so engaging you never wanted to stop watching it. In fact, I think GITS:SAC was the first show I ever binge watched… And that included both seasons of it.
The show is so encapsulating and detailed in its story that I can hardly say anything without giving away spoilers! All I will say is that it is probably as absorbing as Game of Thrones! Definitely give this one a try, whether you’re an anime fan or not. And I guarentee the image of “The Laughing Man” will never leave your memory…
This one was really hard to single out as there are dozens of different Gundam shows, each with their own unique storylines (and universes). However, I think I am in the same boat as most people when I say that the first Gundam show I watched is my favourite. For me, that was Gundam WING, the show that actually got me into anime in the first place.
Following the tale of 5 child soldiers sent down from the space colonies to wage guerrilla warfare on the shadowy corporation controlling Earth’s governing bodies, it was one hell of a ride! The giant robots didn’t hurt either, and the emotional trauma that each of these young adults face as the war escalates and consumes everything around them is heartbreaking. Everything about the story was so well put together, and dragged you into the world with force.
Within the first episode you become instantly attached to all five of the Gundam pilots, wanting to know how their actions will affect the future of the world. But also, you become attached to the supporting cast and sub-plots, which include lineage, romance, political unrest, pacifism versus warmongering and much more. This is a show that, when I went back and rewatched it after growing up a bit, was only more amazing than the first time I saw it!
Code Geass was made by the same studio as the various Gundam shows, Sunrise. As such, it also features large, bipedal robots that are piloted as if they were tanks. There’s not super sentient robots like Transformers in these shows. But then, that’s because of how they base themselves on reality, just with a bit of fantasy thrown into the mix when it comes to Code Geass.
Set in an alternative timeline where the Empire of Great Britannia has taken control of most of the world, it follows the war between the Empire and the Japanese resistance trying to get their country back. However, that’s really just a backdrop to the main plotline, which sees Lelouch Lamperouge trying to find a way to end war and suffering forever. What follows is an almost cat and mouse scenario with some of the most emotionally intense scenes you’ll ever experience!
I’m not ashamed to say that I did almost shed a tear at one certain event in the first season, or that I was left shocked and amazed by the end of the show itself. If you haven’t watched Code Geass yet, then I highly recommend it!
I’ve already mentioned this show earlier in this post, but honestly, it is impossible not to have it on this list. Oh, and if you’ve seen the Netflix adaptation of it, then let me tell you, that has almost nothing to do with the original anime or manga. It was a poor attempt to change an insanely complex cat and mouse thriller into a teen angst focused high school movie with a bit of intrigue thrown in…
The anime (and manga), on the other hand, is a completely different kettle of fish. In short, the story asks you one question; if you could kill anyone in the world by just writing down their name, what would you do?
That’s actually a pretty deep question, if you stop and try to think of the answer… Would you take revenge on everyone who had wronged you? Would you try to make the world a better place? There’s so many potential answers to that question… And in Death Note we follow Light Yagami as he answers it in his own way. Oh, and one of the most interesting aspects of the show is that we technically follow the antagonist!
This is a show that is highly intelligent, and really makes you squirm as you try to figure out how Light can get out of situations. It is also the only show I’ve seen where you actually end up wanting the antagonist to succeed and not get caught!
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
There are actually two different Full Metal Alchemist anime out there, with the original finishing between the manga it was being adapted from had finished. That led to it having a very different storyline to the manga, which in turn led to the creation of the second anime; Brotherhood. This second show follows the source material far more closely, giving the proper ending without loads of so-called “filler” content.
In Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, we join the adventures of the Elric Brothers as they try to find a way to restore their bodies after losing them when trying to resurrect their dead mother. That’s a pretty dark basis, right there! From there, they have to deal with racism, social and political injustice, murder, horrific scientific experimentation and much more.
This is a show that isn’t afraid to switch from lighthearted comedy to one of the darkest storylines you’ve ever seen, in the blink of an eye. If you like fantasy, epic adventures or amazing action scenes, all tied together with an incredible storyline, then this is the anime for you!
Dragon Ball Z
Okay, so this show’s reputation probably proceeds it… It is where the meme “it’s over 9,000” comes from, for starters. Plus, it is also known for heavy filler content and fight scenes that last multiple episodes… But you know what? It’s still incredibly fun and exciting to watch! There’s a reason it lasted for 9 seasons and ran for a total of 291 episodes, after all. I mean, The Walking Dead is a huge deal and that’s “only” just hit 100 episodes…
On top of that, it has become an icon in the anime world, with new movies and shows still being made to this day, even though Dragon Ball Z itself finished its original run 1993! That means that 24 years later, people are still loving it and wanting more. That alone should be enough to make you want to check it out!
DBZ is full of over the top action and fight scenes that wouldn’t feel out of place in the latest Marvel superhero movie. It also throws in some great comedy, and scenes where you are on the edge of your seat because, unlike Marvel, the heroes don’t always win. Each fight feels like it could be the last fight for the protagonists, and quite a few times, it is for some of them. This is a show that isn’t afraid to pull you all over the place in terms of emotions!
Just, do yourself a favour and never watch the Hollywood remake movie. Seriously… Just don’t; for your own sake.
Now, I’m a bit fan of the steampunk genre, and Last Exile definitely fits into that. Although it does at in some more standard sci-fi elements as well. The storyline, like Ghost In The Shell, is hard to explain without spoiling it… But in short, it follows a group of people on an airship as they try to protect a mysterious young girl from the two warring nations of the world. On top of this, there is a huge mystery around relics know as “Exiles”, with everyone wanting to get their hands on it.
With battles in the air fought between small airships and musketeers using steam-powered rifles, the visuals are breathtaking. The musical score is put together perfectly, and the voice acting is top notch.
If you’re into steampunk, then Last Exile and its subsequent follow up show Fam, The Siler Wing are both worth your time. These are some truly unique and exciting shows that will have you second guessing so much about their world!
And That’s All Folks
Those we my personal top 7 anime shows. However, as I mentioned before, there are thousands of different anime out there, so it is impossible to list every single one of them. For every genre of TV show and movie we have in the UK and US, there is an equivalent genre of anime.
So, if you have any that you adore which didn’t make it on to my personal list, please name it in the comments. I’d love to try it out!
What do you think about anime? Do you watch it? Do you have one your particular love? Let me know in the comments below!