I think that there’s something really special about discussing the things that you like. While I do not find that I always agree with people’s favourites when it comes to anime or other media, there’s something enjoyable about seeing people’s passion when it comes to the things they love. Positivity is such a fantastic force! For some time I found it really difficult to decide on things which I liked the most. Perhaps I felt that by naming something as ‘more enjoyable’ or ‘better’ that I was locked into that decision. I know that there’s other bloggers who have expressed their difficulties in this regard. Still, as I’ve grown to enjoy seeing others share their enthusiasm, I thought I’d share a little of mine regarding the things I like.
This is my list of anime which I would consider favourites. If anyone wanted to contrast my picks with my highest-rated series on anime tracking sites, you would notice there is some difference. I score on tracking sites both based on personal enjoyment and technical construction (animation quality, effectiveness of storytelling, sound design and so on) whereas selections here are series which I found exceptionally enjoyable. Some of them have obvious weaknesses, but I find them exceedingly engaging, delightful, and just plain fun! These shows may not be your favourites. In fact I doubt they are your favourites. I don’t expect people to have a wholly shared list of favourite anime by any means! I also do not consider this list to be permanent by any means, and I may make changes in the future. At the time of writing this post, I’ve completed about 280 series (some of which are parts of the same franchise or sequels), so 10 is probably about 5% of what I’ve seen overall. If I find that over time that additional series stand out to me, I may also upgrade this from a top 10 to a top (other number), or rearrange the placement of some of these titles.
10. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
I know that a lot of people prefer Brotherhood of the two series, but this is my list of anime and I liked the 2003 series more. The differing strengths of the two shows perhaps deserve a post in their own right. Fullmetal Alchemist was one of the earliest anime series I saw and it helped me become aware of the scope of anime and the sort of stories it can tell. The story balances action and drama with light-hearted comedy, works with both simple familial affection and the fate of nations, and has a world which is rich with setting and scenery.
9. Yakitate!! Japan
It’s a shounen anime about baking bread. It has the things which I really enjoy about the shounen genre (a warm-hearted but inexperienced protagonist, tournament arcs and ridiculous reactions), and it’s also packed with puns. Japan loves their puns, and I always have a fun giggle when I have enough Japanese language knowledge to ‘get’ some of them, which happened a few times in the series. The series knows that it’s really goofy and just runs with it, and I’d also consider it a plus that it has a not excessive for a shounen series 69 episode length so it’s not full of too much padding. As a bonus, I learnt a bit about baking bread (additional verification shows many of the baking techniques used in the show could actually be applied in real life, although perhaps with less ridiculous reactions).
Something which I really enjoy is going out and trying different foods at different restaurants. Wakakozake captures the atmosphere of going somewhere different and enjoying a meal by yourself with great descriptions of food and fantastic sound design. It makes me feel like I’d stepped into a different restaurant or bar for a few minutes each time I watch an episode. It’s a simple series of shorts which both relaxes me and makes me a little hungry. For people who can’t get enough Wakakozake, there’s also a live action version, but that falls outside of the realm of anime and has a slightly different feeling to it.
7. Daily Lives of High School Boys
Sometimes referred to as Nichibros, I really enjoyed this show because it had an excellent balance between the absurd and things which high school boys would actually do. Whilst I was never a high school boy myself, I did go to high school and got to know some high school boys at the time. I could imagine my friends reacting in similar ways to some of the situations which played out in the show. I love this because I feel the the comedy is really immersive and it made me feel a little like I was a high school boy (or at least what I imagine high school boys to be like) as I watched.
6. The Tower of Druaga
This series (both Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk and its sequel Tower of Druaga: The Sword of Uruk) is my favourite example of the fantasy adventure genre in anime. It’s a lively adventure with a diverse cast of characters, and blends comic moments in with an exciting adventure. As the characters climb the tower, we find out more about their goals and motivations, and we see the disparate crew of adventurers band together in order to achieve a greater goal. It touches on many of the fun fantasy essentials like dragons and slimes, and also creates a very strong setting surrounding the Tower and the land of Uruk. I especially loved the alternate first episode; Jil’s Adventure, which both parodies adventure stories and also foreshadows some of the plot.
5. gdgd Fairies
gdgd Faries is a gdgd show.
To qualify this statement a little, I enjoyed it because it managed to capture the elements of ‘random’ comedy which I really like. While watching, I was never entirely certain what to expect, but I feel like each skit was amusing and had a satisfying payoff. This even includes the adlibbed Dubbing Lake section. Improvised comedy is by its very nature somewhat hit-and-miss, but gdgd Fairies had a cast which meant that I found it to be consistently amusing.
4. Humanity Has Declined
I loved the protagonist’s intelligent but cynical approach to the ridiculous situations thrown her way, the achronological presentation of the events of the series, and the visuals which are positively saturated with colour. I also think that it has some great clothing design, with the variety of vibrant outfits the characters wear which are both simple and yet have some lovely detailed touches. It seems that clothing production has not declined.
3. Servant x Service
This is a slice-of-life comedy about people working in civil service. So much anime is focussed on high school or middle school students, it’s always interesting to see a show where the protagonists are adults. Having experience working in an office job with some customer service elements, I can relate to quite a few of the events which occur. Servant x Service also contains a character who I relate to a lot; Yamagami Lucy. I know that some people say that they relate to a number of characters, but for me at least, this is a rare occurrence, and it felt like I was not only laughing at the characters, but I was also laughing at myself a little as I watched it.
2. Kemono Friends
This simple series simply won my heart. It has cute character designs, and tells a tale which manages to be both amusing, educational, and engrossing. I managed to both laugh and learn while watching, which are my two top priorities when it comes to enjoying media. I’m definitely a fan of simple things done well, and Kemono Friends is a perfect example of this. I would have not minded watching the series on the strength of the cute Friends alone, but realising that there was a mystery behind Japari Park and seeing the truth revealed over the course of the series elevated Kemono Friends from fun to outstanding in my eyes.
1. Azumanga Daioh
Azumanga Daioh is a series which I have been aware of since early on in my anime-watching days, but it was just something which I’d never got around to watching until relatively recently (2016). I’d always suspected that I’d like it, and since watching it, it makes me a little sad I didn’t watch it 10 or so years earlier. I have reviewed this series, but I honestly feel that my writing abilities did not do justice to my level of personal enjoyment. The cast of characters are quirky and lively, and the show really encapsulates the simple pleasures of the slice-of-life genre; finding enjoyment and laughter in the every day. The characters have fun and laugh, and I felt I was sharing in their laughter. I think that considering something to be a favourite is an innately personal experience, and I feel like Azumanga Daioh taps into the things which I highly enjoy in an anime on a very personal level.