Well, as promised here is the second part of my decade summary. It again took me a while to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with it. I didn’t want to write a simple Top X-list; that would just be pointless, since people can just look at my Top 20 and remove all of the series that aren’t from the past decade.
Instead, I eventually decided to create 9 Top 9s, based around various categories that I find important (or eight categories that I find important and one category for the people who want to know where I’ve tortured myself throughout the past decade). Little did I know at the time that this would be an incredibly ambitious project, and in the end this turned into probably the biggest article I’ve ever written for this blog, totalling at a whopping 6000+ words. Ah well, I hope you’re happy with it, and have a fun end of the year and decade.
Worst Series that I Somehow Managed to Finish
There were times (especially in my early years), in which I for some reason continued to watch even though they hardly had any redeeming quality, or were a huge pain to sit through. Since I can’t speak for series that I didn’t finish, this list just included the ones that I watched from beginning to end. Movies and OVAs don’t count, since it’s too easy to sit through a bad one when compared to a much longer TV-series. Oh, and do note that this is only my opinion. Feel free to disagree.
#9: Star Ocean Ex – Let me explain why this series made this list. For the most part, it’s just a very generic fantasy-show, but nothing too bad. There was at least nice enough characterization. However, it all goes down the drain during the final arc. I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but every moment where they could, the creators pulled the EXACT SAME Deus ex Machina: a person is attacked by an evil monster, he or she is about to die, and right from nowhere (and I really mean, nowhere; none of it was ever explained) some sort of saviour appears. And they do this, with every. single. battle. THIS was the series that made me hate Deus ex Machinas and overly emphasized coincidences.
#8: Mai Otome – I kept watching this series as a fan of Mai Hime: despite its terrible ending, it really was a well written series. So how did this show, its spiritual successor, screw up so badly? It never seemed to really know where it was going, it was full of pointless angst, it had an incredibly annoying lead character and none of the excellent characterization that was so prevalent in Mai Hime returned. Really, what happened?
#7: Romeo x Juliet – I like Gonzo, I really do. But they also have made some shows that I just never got into. Romeo had a lot of potential as a remake of the classic story by Shakespeare, but the creators never really had a vision of what they really wanted to do with it. The characters are clichéd and angsty, the story never really gets anywhere, and the creators ended up doing a massive injustice to the original literary source.
#6: The Melody of Oblivion – I’ve seen this described as a “shounen Utena with all the subtlety removed”, but that would be giving it just too much credit. For me, the Melody of Oblivion was an attempt to be different and experimental that just didn’t work, with a stupid cast of main characters, an uninspired set of storylines to work with, and most importantly an incredibly slow and annoying pacing that broke down tension, instead of building it up.
#5: School Days – I first have to say that I have no problems with the premise for School Days: all the harem leads out there are wimpy boys with a kind heart, so seeing an actual asshole in the lead was very refreshing. However, that doesn’t excuse the terrible scriptwriting and cast of characters. The creators wanted so badly to go to that wildly publicized ending of theirs that they completely derailed previously built up characters, just for that sake.
#4: Shakugan no Shana – While with the previous entries on the list, I still can somewhat understand why I kept watching them, this isn’t the case with Shakugan no Shana. To this day, I’m still not sure why I didn’t immediately drop this show. While the start may have been interesting enough, as soon as Shana derailed from a tough warrior to a whining tsundere there was nothing left in this series that was worth watching. Shana truly has to be the single most annoying characters I’ve ever seen, and to this day I still haven’t forgiven her voice actress for her mind-numbing performance back then.
#3: Girls Bravo – Again, I have no idea why I managed to finish this. This really is another one of those harem comedies at its worst: the premise is stupid, the characters are stupid, and the story is just an excuse to put a bunch of boobs on one screen. It had no depth, no entertainment value. Nothing.
#2: Chocolate Underground – Okay, I’m cheating a bit with this one because its episodes are only five minutes of length, but I just had to include this series since it tried to stuff waaaaay too much in them. It seriously has one of the worst plots I’ve ever seen in an anime, and while it starts off pretty decently in the beginning, with people resisting a corrupt government and all, it completely derails in the second half to become nothing but a “kids rule adults suck!”-fest.
#1: Shining Tears X Wind – You might think that my number 1 on this list would be the one that I hate the most, but Shining Tears X Wind is a show that’s SO bad that it becomes hilarious. And don’t get me wrong, I still rate it among the worst shows I’ve ever seen, but the big climax for this show is so unbelievably stupid, so unbelievably moronic, cheesy, disturbing and yet so unpredictable (it’s a true Deus ex Machina: it really comes from absolutely freaking nowhere) that I still laugh about it today.
I’m a big fan of a good use of music in anime, so I just had to make a top 9 with my favourite soundtracks of the past decade. There have been tons of great soundtracks throughout the past ten years, but here are my favourites, the one who made the most impact on me:
#9: El Cazador de la Bruja – So yeah, obviously Bee-Train is going to be dominating this list. It’s for the simple reason that they don’t just see music as background tunes, but they see it as a way of storytelling as well. Yuki Kajiura composed an excellent soundtrack, and especially the main theme is something that you can just listen to over and over again.
#8: Ergo Proxy – This may be just a soundtrack that mostly stays in the background, but seriously, Ergo Proxy for me had one of the best ambient soundtrack I’ve listened to. The subtlety with which Yoshihiro Ike composed the tracks is really impressive. It’s gloomy, dark and fits the mood of this show perfectly.
#7: Ooedo Rocket – One of the reasons that made this series so fun to watch was its incredibly catchy and addictive jazz soundtrack. And this isn’t just one track, it’s got an entirely fresh collection of cheerful tunes to listen to.
#6: Kaiba – What I like about Kaiba’s soundtrack is that it’s so incredibly subtle. Ranging from its main theme with its haunting choirs, it also has a great insert song. It’s really a dreamy soundtrack at its finest.
#5: Noein – I have two favourite composers: Yuki Kajiura and Hikaru Nanase. The latter has composed her share of less impressive soundtrack, but when she hits the mark she really hits it like no other. Noein’s soundtrack is powerful, bombastic and varied. The heavy choirs perfectly fit the chaotic nature of the series itself.
#4: Phantom – Again Hikaru Nanase, and she truly surpassed herself with this work. There are so many different and awesome tunes inside this soundtrack. It’s bold, creative and one of the most varied soundtracks I’ve listened to, and yet it makes nearly every single piece count.
#3: Night Head Genesis – The thing I hate about this soundtrack is that it’s never been released on DVD. It does such a wonderful soundtrack a huge injustice. It’s a very quiet, mysterious and depressing soundtrack, but the atmosphere it managed to create really impressed me when I watched it. There was something really unique about it, the way that it only used these very simple sounds to create a very subtle an engaging soundtrack. It’s probably the most underrated soundtrack on this list, but damn did it impress me.
#2: .Hack//Sign – I still consider this as Yuki Kajiura’s best work. As part of the duo See-Saw, she really composed some of her best tracks here, like The World and Fake Wings to just name a few of them. It’s just such an addictive and catchy. .Hack//Sign was one of the first series I watched after discovering the wonders of the internet, and I still listen to its soundtrack in awe.
#1: .Hack//Roots – Say what you want about ALI-Project. I’ll agree with most of it. Most of their songs indeed do sound the same, and they have done way too many OPs and EDs already. However, there is one major exception to this: .Hack//Roots. Here, they really put effort into producing what’s probably my favourite soundtrack ever. I still consider Dwindled Bible to be the single best track I’ve ever heard in anime with its truly unique arrangement.
This category is meant for the anime with amazing animation, art, graphics, or anything else that makes them look awesome. Because movies have an unfair budget advantage, I decided to put 4 movies and 5 TV-series inside this top, in order to be able to highlight the best of both. The past decade in terms of visuals was all about the introduction of CG, and the ever-challenging task of creators to integrate them well with the regular 2D animation. With the good examples, it really looked absolutely gorgeous.
#9: Shigurui – Ah, Shigurui. It’s the only series whose artwork has managed to actually freak me out. That’s how good, disgusting and outright brutal the art in this series was. It spares nobody, and the gore that was shown within this series was without a doubt the best I’ve ever watched. This isn’t just simply slashing someone with a sword to make blood come out, this describes every single cut with the cruellest amount of detail.
#8: Noein – Kazuki Akane is really a master in creating visual action scenes, and this really was his best work. The animation for Noein was Messy, but damn was it beautiful and imaginative. Ranging from the simple character-designs to the near-surreal climaxes, this series always had something good to look at.
#7: 5 Centimeters Per Second – Makoto Shinkai truly is an amazing artist, and the way he rendered the backgrounds in this movie was absolutely stunning.
#6: Casshern Sins – Casshern Sins for me is THE series with the best character-designs I’ve ever seen. The style they’re drawn in is really unique and original, even though it just started as a modern version of ancient character-designs.
#5: Seirei no Moribito – This series probably has the best animated hand-to-hand combat fight scene I have seen, even when taking movies into account. The amount of detail in the animation, especially considering that it’s a long TV-series, is astonishing. The creators even paid attention to the finest details in order to make the characters as life-like as possible.
#4: Bonen no Xamdou – For me, Bonen no Xamdou really has the single best animation out of all the TV-series I’ve seen. The action-scenes are just beautifully animated, and the backgrounds are always a joy to watch with the imagination that has been put into them. This isn’t just the case of a big budget, it’s a big budget used well. Bonen no Xamdou put in time to both make the action scenes visually stunning, but also put a lot of detail in the quiet scenes.
#3: Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea – I believe that Ponyo broke some sort of record in total amount of hand-drawn frames used. The animation really is a visual masterpiece, and become especially imaginative during the busy scenes. It’s amazing how much detail Hayao Miyazaki put into this one single movie.
#2: Metropolis – I loved the incredibly fluid animation throughout this movie. Not just from the main characters, but every single character in the background also got this treatment. The creators really brought Osamu Tezuka’s classic manga to life with this adaptation, and the way that the animators depicted the city it takes place in and the characters was just gorgeous in every single way.
#1: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence – For the first place on this list, I had no doubts whatsoever. Even though the movie is quite old already (nearly six years now) it really is the best animated movie I have ever seen. Even Hayao Miyazaki couldn’t dream of creating graphics that are THIS good. Nearly the entire movie is just a visual orgasm, from start to finish, and it’s amazing what Mamoru Oshii managed to accomplish here. It’s without a doubt my top on this list.
This category is straightforward: these are the shows that made me laugh the hardest. Yes, my taste is weird!
#9: Magikano – The past ten years saw the debut of a great comedic talent: Seiji Kishi. He worked on quite a number of series, and his comedies were often hilarious, and I think that Magikano was the best example of this. Sure, the plot itself sucked beyond belief, and it had one of the worst endings imaginable, but when it wanted to be funny it really was gut-achingly hilarious.
#8: Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge – I’m a big fan of parodies, so expect to see a lot of them on this list. Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge was a great parody on the usual shoujo-genre and its tropes. Just about everything was exaggerated, from the bishies with sparkles to the gothic horror lead character of Sunako. I really loved the huge amounts of energy with which this show delivered its jokes. I mean, there’s hyperactivity and there’s this.
#7: Marie&Gali – This is the series that proves that science is fun! Each episode is only five minutes long, but it always manages to be creative, unexpected and downright crazy as it shows the viewers the principles of science, including some hilarious interpretations of once great scientists.
#6: Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei – While the subsequent series were quite a lot duller, the first season of Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei was brilliant in the way that it undermined all sorts of high school series tropes. With its fast pacing and great jokes, it really was a hilarious collection of 13 episodes.
#5: Master of Epic – So this is only a series for those who have played anime-styled MMORPGs, because otherwise most of the references will fly past your head. Master of Epic created a great setting that poked fun at tons of different MMORPG tropes, from fighting monsters to collecting items, to everyone looking the same and selling items. The different sketches all were incredibly silly, but really fun to watch.
#4: Demashitaa! Power Puff Z – I really wasn’t sure what to think of the announcement that the Power Puff Girls would transfer over to anime. I watched quite a bit of it as a teenager, but it took itself way too seriously at times. However, these worries turned out to be ungrounded. The series went completely into its own direction and turned into a mahou shoujo parody, that took a jab at tons of different series, including itself. It’s incredibly childish, I know. But I tend to like that stuff and this show probably did it the best. It was so unashamed at times but that’s what made it hilarious.
#3: Gintama – Well, what is there to say about Gintama? It’s not just funny; it’s funny for 100 consecutive episodes. As a shounen series it had episodes with hilarious premises with priceless developments. Gintoki is a hilarious main character, and the dialogue is really well written for a comedy. And I guess that that’s the thing that really set it apart from other comedies.
#2: The Law of Ueki – For me, this really one of the best comedies I’ve seen. Sure, it had its lesser moments, but every time it wanted to be funny, it was utterly hilarious. Why? The creativity. The plot twists were told with so much imagination that they belong to some of the funniest episodes I’ve ever seen.
#1: Excel Saga – Okay, so while it originally aired in the 90s, the Excel Saga still aired in 2000 so it counts. This really was along with .Hack//Sign the series that turned me from a casual watcher into an anime-fan. This is probably the craziest series I’ve ever seen, and I have no clue n what mindset the creators were when they thought up the lead character of Excel. I mean, she goes beyond insanity here. This is a show that doesn’t just parody one genre, but just about every genre under the radar.
A setting in my book can refer to the locations and environments that a series takes place in, but what also counts is series that have great knowledge over their subject matter. The series on this list have imaginative, deep, detailed and well developed settings
#9: Mahou Shoujotai – This really is a setting that spoke to my imagination the first time I laid my eyes upon it. It uses both clichés and original ideas to create a unique world of witches, wizards and its magic system. It’s simple yet very captivating, to see the world of the witches as gets continuously more stuck in its own traditions, but the biggest reason why I decided to include it in this top 9 is its imagination. This is just one of those shows that sparkle with it.
#8: Ergo Proxy – I personally loved the tons of interesting ideas that Ergo Proxy put in its setting. Out of all the futuristic dystopia’s, I’ve been impressed the most by what this series managed to come up with: It’s deep, imaginative and despite the seemingly dark setting, it’s pretty varied as well.
#7: Darker than Black – Amidst all of the shows in which people with special powers fight each other, Darker than Black stood out with its maturity and well developed setting. Seriously, you can make tons of storylines within the framework that this series created, which was well shown by the second season.
#6: .Hack//Sign – The setting of .Hack//Sign is one where I’d want to walk through myself one day. I really love the creative vision of this series, in which MMORPGs would evolve one day to worlds in which we can fully immerse ourselves, rather than just control a sprite or 3D model. I’ve played quite a few MMORPGs before I started this blog, so when I checked out this series it really appealed to me. It took this a bit too far in .Hack//Roots, though. MMORPGs are about freedom. Not letting it become a second job to you or something.
#5: Dennou Coil – Again, a premise that really speaks to the imagination: glasses that when you put them on reveal a complete world full of strange creatures and applications that are only limited by your imagination. How awesome would that be?
#4: Michiko e Hatchin – Anime nowadays is mostly just set in regular Japan, or if you’re lucky America or France. Then this series came along, and offered a wonderfully accurate depiction of Brazil of a few decades ago. The setting was never sacrificed for the storyline, but everything just felt so authentic to me (as in, someone who’s never actually been there, but ah well, I liked it).
#3: Glass Mask (2005) – This is a series that really knows its subject material. Even though the original manga is already decades old at this point, the creators did a great job in adapting this story that has an amazing amount of detail about stage acting. It really was amazing how much in-depth this series went into acting.
#2: Kaiba – Kaiba had a setting that was based on an idea that you just had to think of: being able to store memories easily outside of your body, so that as long as you have enough bodies you’ll never die. And it really created a wonderful story around this concept that really allowed it to show the various sides about the world in which such a technology has become common usage. On top of that there also were tons more of interesting ideas stuffed into this series, that really makes this one of the best settings I’ve ever seen.
#1: RD Sennou Chousashitsu – Well, I think it’s pretty clear now what my interests are when you look at this list. I’m a computer science student, and I really like all those weird theories about the future of computer, and all of the things that you might be able to do with it. The best attempt for me was Real Drive. It goes even a step beyond .Hack//Sign and Dennou Coil in its attempt to create a whole new world that, which is even more unlimited than you could imagine. It’s the perfect example of how a vision of the future doesn’t need to be bad and full of wars, but instead it provides an optimistic outlook. In a way, it’s a celebration of technology and that’s really what appealed to me in this series.
I’ve been thinking of also putting up a list of my favourite characters, but in the end I figured that it would be boring. My favourite would just be Honoka from the Third and apart from that I’ve always found it hard to chose one character above the other when they’re so incredibly different. So instead, I’ve decided to list the series that I consider to be the best in terms of character-development. It could be of one character, it could be of an entire cast.
#9: Ashita no Nadja – I really love the characters in this series, and the biggest reason for that is the way they decided to develop the main characters. At first you might think that this is just another regular shoujo series with shallow villains, but damn. Those “villains” are so well developed into such strong characters that they give a completely new and original dimension to the story that would have been completely impossible without it. On top of that, Nadja herself is also an incredibly likable character who really grows and matures throughout the series, and is even forced to do so in order for the plot to advance.
#8: Welcome to the NHK – I may not have given this series the full recognition it deserves, but that’s mostly because when I watched it, I hated everything about moe. And yeah, this wasn’t the best series for that. But that really is the point of this series: at first, Satou is meant to be looked down upon as a worthless character. From there on, his development is really striking, and this series really succeeded as an in-depth look at the Hikkikomoris.
#7: Strange Dawn – Out of all of the coming of age stories that we’ve seen this decade, I consider this one to be among the best in terms of character-development. The development of the two lead characters made a huge impact on me, although in order to explain this I’d have to dive too much into spoilers, so I won’t.
#6: Birdy the Mighty Decode 2 – I really loved how this second season takes the far inferior first season, and improved on it in every way, and it even slightly developed nearly all of the single characters that appeared in it. It’s subtle but very powerful and the development of the new character Natoru is the highlight of the entire series.
#5: Figure 17 – Here is a series that really takes its time to slowly and subtly develop its characters, with wonderful results. Tsubasa and Hikaru are two amazingly developed characters, and so much care has been put into fleshing the two of them out. The bond that these two developed what I especially liked about them.
#4: Kaze no Shoujo Emily – From the works of Lucy Maud Montgomery. This series puts in care to develop not just its titular Emily, but also the ones around her. Her childhood friends all had their own dreams for the future and the highlight of this series is without a doubt the final quarter, in which we get to see them grow up and show exactly what happened to those dreams of them. It really was a gripping drama.
#3: Haibane Renmei – This is another one of those rare series that gets some amazing character-development only in one season of 13 episodes. I’m still not exactly sure how the creators did it, but the interplay between the lead characters reached an absolutely brilliant conclusion.
#2: Les Miserables – So yeah, this behemoth of a series was obviously going to appear somewhere on this list. Every single character here develops, even the smaller ones. The cast of this series is huge, but the creators really make sure to make everyone count in his or her own way, from the young and naive Cosette to the composed and righteous Javert (that’s how they start out anyway). The development is never shallow and always gripping, and a very solid second place on this top.
#1: Simoun – I’ve said it before in my top 20: for me Simoun is the single best character-study I have ever seen. The character-development is what made it possible, as it’s creative, powerful and unbiased. Everyone in the Chor Tempest goes through some sort of memorable development, and together I really can’t find any series to call its equal in this field.
This list basically consists out of the series that I consider told their story best. This can be with very solid direction, or a completely original way to tell a story. The key is creativity again.
#9: Nodame Cantabile – A fresh and overall very enjoyable series that for me stood out in its direction, and how fun it made these seemingly boring things as classical music and composing. The first season of Nodame Cantabile was a series in which its characters shined, but I believe that what allowed them to shine so much was the always-clever direction from Kenichi Kasai.
#8: Jubei-Chan the Ninja Girl 2 – Okay, so the story was rather childish. This is for me THE series that excelled in the entertainment factor. The fight scenes were just incredibly well directed, the standard giant robot stories look like cardboard frames compared to the excitement of these fights.
#7: Himitsu ~ The Revelation – A bit of an inconsistent series, but that’s what made it so much fun. This is a series that excelled as a suspense murder mystery. It reveals just as much to keep you interested and guessing, Looking into the memories of a dead person to solve crimes. This show actually pulls it off.
#6: Shion no Ou – This for me was a series that always had something interesting going on. The shougi matches were a bit hard to follow and pretty much directed, but the way this series built them up was always fun and exciting to watch. It always had something that would get the best out of the characters.
#5: Paranoia Agent – Perhaps a bit too much of a rushed finale, but I love how Satoshi Kon toys around with your expectations in this series. This is a series about mindscrews and insanity, but he does this in such an unpredictable way that I never saw most of the plot twists coming.
#4: Ghost Hound – This overall was a very strange series. It very often only uses sound effects to tell its story and draw its viewer in, but it worked surprisingly well here. The result is a unique and tense atmosphere.
#3: FLAG – FLAG really set itself apart with its truly unique direction: everything in the series is viewed through a camera. This is probably one of the most realistically told Mecha stories I have ever seen, and the way that the creators manage to use these cameras to tell their story is truly inspiring and unique.
#2: Aoi Bungaku – Aoi Bungaku isn’t just told well. It’s told well in six completely different styles that all have their own strengths and focuses. Throughout the series, six literary works are adapted, and this is done with so much conviction and talent that I really had to include this on this list.
#1: Noein – I’m a really big fan of Kazuki Akane, and this is what I consider to be his best work. The sheer force of his direction really brings the best out of the characters and the action-scenes, making it an incredibly fun, tense and touching series to watch.
I’ve always had trouble figuring out what exactly a “story” amounts to. In this list, I’ve decided that with “Best Stories”, I’m going to stick with the definition of series with the most epic plot progressions. Which series had a complex, varied and imaginative scenario that impressed me the most?
#9: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (+ Kai and Rei) – The story behind Higurashi is fascinating, and all of the three stories stood out in different ways. The first season stood out because of all of the creative, weird and mysterious twists and turns that the storyline kept taking, making excellent use of how the timeline kept repeating itself. The second season instead was incredibly solid, and stood out with its themes and ideals. The OVA then finished it with one brilliant idea that it built its storyline around.
#8: Mahou Shoujotai – Call me childish, but I loved all of the different twists and turns that the storyline for this series kept taking throughout its airtime. Nearly every episode had at least something that I loved about it. Mahou Shoujotai admittedly does have a few clichés in its storyline, but what I loved about this series was its total package and how everything comes together.
#7: Le Chevalier d’Eon – Not really that special in its first half, but amazing during its second half. The way in which this series used its setting and characters came together wonderfully there with a lot of very interesting plot twists that I never saw coming. It’s true that anime has a bit of a bad habit that it over-romanticizes western countries (especially France), but the story that resulted in this series was strong and very imaginative.
#6: Toward the Terra – Science fiction at its finest. Here we have a series that fully explores its main characters. At first it might seem nothing special because the characters involved are mere teenagers, but the huge amount of flashbacks make the storyline increasingly more impressive. A space opera at its finest.
#5: Eureka 7 – To be honest, this is one series that could have been better balanced over its episodes, but nevertheless the storyline that resulted from it took a bunch of teenagers and put them into a grown up and mature setting that allowed the best of them to come out. The 50 episodes in this series are varied and very interesting, and for me this definitely was one of Bones’ best works.
#4: Bokura no – The idea behind Bokura no was just utterly brilliant, and the creators did a wonderful job in bringing it to life and giving it its own conclusion (which wasn’t available yet in the manga at the time that it aired). It’s a powerful and varied story about life and death that never ceased to amaze me.
#3: Hi no Tori – In this series, Ryousuke Takahashi did an amazing job of making Osamu Tezuka’s stories come to life. The Hi no Tori series consists out of five stories from the “God of Manga”, and all of them are just brilliant stories full of Osamu Tezuka’s trademark creativity. Imaginative, varied and multidimensional. All of the five stories have something memorable.
#2: Now and Then, Here and There – It’s hard to really talk about this series without spoiling too much, but let me just say that this is a powerful, engaging and very disturbing story about child soldiers. What starts out as a happy “boy meet girl”-story quickly turns into one of the darkest anime about kids I’ve seen.
#1: Fantastic Children – It’s sort-of how I keep preaching about how anime needs more mature series, and yet most of the shows in this list focus on kids. But that’s the thing: when the stories about children work, they also work really well for me. For me it’s been done the best in Fantastic Children, which for its biggest part remains one huge question-mark, but a very well coordinated question-mark. The way that it manages to combine all of the various storylines into one is what made me put it on the number one place.
Most Intelligent Series
To close off, here’s a quick little list that I really wanted to include, if only to celebrate how anime is one of the very few animation mediums that also has a significant amount of series aimed at a mature audience. These anime are what I consider the most intelligent, knowledgeable and thought-provoking.
#9: Spice and Wolf (I & II) – Spice and Wolf was show that really surprised me. From the outside it just looks like yet another moe show, but in fact it turned out to be a mature series about medieval merchants. This series really earned itself a place on this list with its complex and daring plans that only one who has fully immersed into such a setting could have thought of. The way these characters try to manipulate everyone around them to make as much money as possible is one of the many things that made this series worth watching.
#8: Armored Trooper Votoms – Ryousuke Takahashi always manages to think of complex and intelligent plots that take both itself and its viewer seriously. Here we have a series that really impressed me with how well both the science, politics and tactics come together. Especially the court trial in the first episode stands out as hugely complex, but the rest of the series is also filled with these moments that put the emphasis on thinking, rather than action.
#7: Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi – I’m still not exactly sure why this series had to be aired at the most primetime slot that exists within anime: it’s indeed a samurai show with at first sight just silly characters, but it set itself apart with its intelligent subplots and arcs. Most of the times, what mattered in this series was not the action, but rather the dialogues and the meanings behind the plot. Such a shame that it got cancelled mid-way.
#6: Hunter X Hunter OVA – I consider Hunter x Hunter to be among the best of the Shounen genre. Why? This OVA. It’s here where this series comes with an intelligent plot that for once is focused purely on brainpower, and utilizing every single detail to your advantage. The plans and tactics here are imaginative and complex, and yet realistic and not as ludicrously complicated as we see in shows as Death Note and the like.
#5: Bartender – You can really see that this series was written by someone with an absolute passion for liquor. It’s a really enjoyable Iyashi-kei healing-type series, but what I loved about it was how it used all sorts of anecdotes behind various liquors and cocktails in order to tell its story, and explore the various characters that decide to drop the bar of our titular Bartender.
#4: Starship Operators – Don’t let the teenagers at the foreground fool you: nearly all of the characters here were forced to grow up into adults because of the story in this series. This really turned space-battles into a science. The amount of effort and tactical planning that this series spends, just on trying to sink one enemy ship is huge and requires a lot of creative thinking from the main characters. It really culminated into an excellent ending. In fact, all of the shows on this list, save for Ayakashi Ayashi, have excellent conclusions.
#3: Seirei no Moribito – Again a series that has a complex storyline that requires a lot of research from the characters to truly figure out. But it’s especially the dialogue in this series that stands out as complex and intelligent and a huge attention to detail.
#2: Mushishi – Mushishi is just a simple story: but that’s where its strengths lie. All of its stories try to blur the bounds between good and evil, and really made me think about the morals behind them. The stories behind them are in no way lazy at all, and were always deep and thoughtful.
#1: Mouryou no Hako – Ryousuke Nakamura, that’s a name to remember. He turned Mouryou no Hako into an amazing series with amazing dialogue. It talks about all kinds of backgrounds that could have something to do with the main storyline, and he loves to show all sorts of anecdotes that might or might not have something to do with it, just to flesh it out. The stories that this series comes with are incredibly interesting to read and make this into so much more than just another “whodunnit” murder mystery.