Anime can either refine in your memory like fine wine or age like vinegar. Therefore recommendations are important, especially if you watch them again with whoever you’re recommending them to, for it allows you see if its quality lives up to your memory of it. Having done this recently, as well as watching many newer anime to be added, I believe it’s finally time to update my recommendations list in a way that will give you readers more context of the time in which they were first aired. Every anime on this list is above my 8.5 Rank and I would not hesitate to recommend them.
Hint: My number 1 is the anime this image is from.
Like the best recommendations lists, this is going to be a count down to the present in 3 lists of 5, with each one in chronological order of their release date. Each of these will fall under different categories depending on when they were released. This first list is of the anime that I have so much nostalgia for that I don’t trust myself to rank accurately and were first aired between 1995 and 2003.
Ghost in the Shell (1995-)
When the original Ghost in the Shell film in the 90s led to the even better Stand Alone Complex series in the early 2000s, it was announced from on high that a classic anime list wouldn’t be complete without this anime. Not only did it redefine Cyberpunk for anime as well as other mediums, but the film was also one of the first anime to become successful in the western world and inspired films like the Matrix which in turn inspired other films and books of the same style and thus kick starting the entire genre. It has everything you would want in an anime; unique characters, an interesting setting, great action and, like with all good art, a deeper meaning that people are still analyzing to this day.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1996-)
Be it the original series or the newer films, Neon Genesis Evangelion generally falls into the category of anime in which you either love it or you hate it. Be it because it is over-hyped or the fact that it hasn’t aged well, it is generally a hit or miss for those new to it. Another key reason for this is that the anime gives the impression that it has a complex story. However, the majority of this complexity is due to its delivery. Granted, the meaningful imagery and themes are so abundant that it takes repeat viewings before someone will pick up on just a portion of them, but the story itself is told in its entirety with its ensuing exposition. The series’ combination of red herring imagery and its abstract method of character introspection is one of the core reasons many people got into anime.
Once again, be it the original series or the newer films, there is not enough that can be said about this anime. It’s dark and gritty, but with a set of memorable characters that makes the story somewhat addicting. It follows the character Gutz, who begins as a mercenary for hire, wielding a sword almost as big as he is. After trying to steal the reward he received from killing a famous berserker in battle, he joins up with the thieves titled the ‘Band of the Hawk’. Like him the Band starts out as a mercenary group; each of the key members with their own tale and individual attitude towards him. The leader of the band is a charismatic man called Griffith with the pathos that he will one day rule his own kingdom and, after first resisting his offers, Gutz eventually comes to befriend and respect him. Then the story just gets darker.
Cowboy Bebop (1998-2001)
Cowboy Bebop is the anime most people think of when they are told to think of a classic anime. With most of the episodes of it being standalone it gave the illusion that you had spent a long time with this odd mish-mashed family of space bounty hunters, and with the roles they fill they really are like a family. Jet is the fatherly voice of reason, Spike and Faye acted closer to teenagers than their actual ages and Ed… well, I’ve met kids that are less kiddy than Ed is. There are scenes that really resonate this point such as when Jet is telling Ed a fairy-tale story and how Spike and Faye find it terribly hard to express their feelings like a couple of awkward teens. I became so entranced with these characters that I truly remember bawling my eyes out during some of the later episodes.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2003-2004)
After Brotherhood came out people started pretending like this series never existed. Most people who judge it haven’t even watched it yet and I have to say they are missing out. This anime had aspects in it that far outdo Brotherhood from it’s music, to its pacing, to parts of the Brotherhood that were completely missed out so they could rush to the new content. I would even say I prefer the color scheme and choreography of this series. The only thing it’s missing that Brotherhood did better was its ending and even that, for an anime whose original material wasn’t finished, made for a pretty decent attempt.
Consensus/Voted Best Anime
With these anime consistently being on websites like My Anime List, threads on 4-chan and multiple Top 10 and Best anime lists that are visited by many anime watchers, these are the closest anime to being considered “objectively” the best. Although there are others that could be on this list also, these are the ones that I fully agree deserve the hype they get and coincidentally were all first aired between 2006 and 2012.
Death Note (2006)
Like Neon Genesis Evangelion was the anime that began the precursors of the Otaku culture, Death Note brought it home by bringing it to the mainstream audience. This anime was massive when it came out and it’s still considered the best anime of all time by a lot of people, including it still being the most popular anime with over 730k members on My Anime List. As much as I want to bash the ending of this series and talk about how the second Live Action film did it better, I can’t deny the affect this series has had for anime. Also, as you will see below, this isn’t the only game-changer that was created out by director Tetsurō Araki.
Code Geass (2006-2008)
Honestly, I don’t have same love for Code Geass that I used to. After watching it again not only did I realize that the high school episodes were almost unbearable but, because they either ended or started with something relevant to the plot, they are also unskippable. Nevertheless I must give this series it’s due because it was pretty much Death Note with Mecha. It also had a lot more epic of an ending that, if you can get through the cluster fuck of a final battle, has one of the most iconic conclusions to an anime I have ever seen. Not only does it go full circle on it’s major message and themes but it also brings home the principle of all revolutions and the costs that come with them.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-2010)
When hearing about Fullmetal Alchemist: Botherhood terms like ‘best anime of all time’ or ‘greatest anime ever’ get thrown around a lot. Like with any shonen anime, I’m hesitant to throw my lot in and say that no anime will ever surpass it but I must admit that most lists, voted on otherwise, will have this as number 1. If my classics/nostalgia category represents the bronze age of anime then this series definitely gets first place for the silver age. I may have given Code Geass my approval for best conclusion but this anime by far has the best climax, bringing in all of the characters and half a series of foreshadowing, it definitely pays off for everything that it built up.
If you asked me what my favorite anime is it would change from day to day, hour to hour or even minute to minute depending on my mood. If you asked me what my second favorite anime is, I always have one answer; Steins;Gate. The only thing I don’t like about this anime is trying to show it to other people. This is because it takes til episode 11 before the thrilling part of the show begins but I personally think 10 episodes is a fine amount of episodes to build the mystery and get to know such a diverse cast of characters and how their lives are going to be affected by all of their time traveling shenanigans.
Unfortunately for Ufotable their first major anime, Kara no Kyoukai, did not get dubbed for the western audience. On the bright side, their brilliant efforts solidified their relationship with the visual novel developers Type/Moon. However, with Fate Stay/Night already made into an anime, they instead decided to call upon the writing of Gen Urobuchi and adapt it’s prequel. After Star Wars made prequel a bad word, Fate/Zero showed just how a prequel could be done right. In fact, they did it so well that Ufotable decided to completely re-do the entire series it was the prequel to along with the sequel film: Heaven’s Feel.
Recent Additions/Continuation Anime
My tendency to prefer older anime because of my nostalgia for them gives off the vibe that I just don’t like newer anime. This is not entirely true and these are the anime within the last few years that have caught my interest enough for me to add them to my recommendations list. With this in mind it should be no surprise that these anime were aired first between 2013 and 2015.
Attack on Titan (2013-)
I mentioned before how Tetsurō Araki blew away the anime world away with Death Note, well this is his second anime to hit the world, and what a hit it was. Action packed, thrilling and fun, it’s safe to say Attack on Titan was an anime phenomenon. While I can imagine some people saying that this anime should have been in the consensus/voted best anime list, and you’re right, I thought, after season 2 footage was leaked online that this anime is still relevant enough to put into the category of continuation anime now that it fits that very definition.
Terror in Resonance (2014)
If the classics/nostalgia anime list was considered the bronze age, the consensus/voted Best Anime list was considered the silver age then this would be golden age and Terror in Resonance would be my first place of these anime. As I mentioned, if you asked me what my favorite anime was it would be different from day to day depending on my mood. At the moment my mood must be pretty grim because Terror in Resonance currently takes this place. It’s art, music, story, feels and characters make this currently my favorite anime.
Unlimited Blade Works (2014-2015)
Created by the same people and based on the same premise, there’s nothing much more to say about this anime than if you’ve watch Fate/Zero you should watch this and if you’ve watched this, you should watch Fate/Zero. It’s new, it’s pretty and a film based on the third route of the story is going to be released so there’s something to look forward to in the future. By the time I update this next, undoubtedly I would have included that as part of the same series as these. So yeah, one big epic series.
Parasyte – The Maxim (2015)
The secrecy and thrills of Death Note, the animation and character design of Steins;Gate, the gore and action of Attack on Titan and the alien/human relationship of… Mass Effect isn’t an anime but that’s best example I can think of. Teetering on the edge of science fiction and urban fantasy, Parasyte – The Maxim is probably the most original premised sci-fi, action dramas I’ve watched in the last 3 years. If I had one new anime to recommend to my friends, this would be it.
Where’s the Fifth One in this Category?
Considering this is a timeline of anime recommendations, I thought that the best way to give this anime list a longer shelf life would be to leave a space free for an anime from next year that I think deserves this place. If it isn’t obvious enough, this is an open invitation for anyone who wants to RECOMMEND ME A NEW ANIME. There are no particular guidelines but I would prefer it if you have watched the majority of these because then you will know the kind of anime I’m into and it obviously needs to have been aired within the last few years.