Thursday, October 22, 2015

Villains With Whom I Identify

It's said we all love a great villain because villains represent the darkest side of ourselves. There's something so fun and fascinating about watching characters embracing the worst of human nature that most of us have been fighting against. While we might not want to BE a villain, we often find ourselves identifying with one. So the question is: which villains do I find myself relating to the most?

 Cedric the Sorcerer (Sofia The First) - He's a fairly bright and imaginative yet clumsy and bumbling young sorcerer who's rarely been truly good at accomplishing anything, to the point that he'd been discouraged and disrespected by others "since he was a lad." His overbearing father constantly put him down and was strict to the point of emotional abuse, unlike his mother, who doted on him and encouraged him. He wants respect, admiration, acknowledgement, validation, and emotional gratification more than anything, but rather than trying for that through becoming a better sorcerer, Cedric wants to use the Amulet of Avalor's power to take over the kingdom of Enchancia and make everyone bow to him. Aside from that last bit and the whole "sorcerer" thing, I find Cedric's life story mirrors my own in many strange ways. He's very identifiable and sympathetic to me, and it helps that he's depicted as warped and frustrated but not truly evil.

 Demyx & Luxord (Kingdom Hearts) - Of all members of Organization XIII, I feel my personality is closest to these two. Like Demyx, I'd rather be lazy than at work, come off as incredibly awkward sometimes, and can be fairly sensitive in regards to my feelings and being judged. Like Luxord, I love to play games and try to show courtesy to others.

 Lawrence III (Pokemon) - Lawrence, or Gelardan as he's actually named, strikes me as somewhat autistic. He prefers to be shut away from society in his own little world of his creation, dedicating his life to his hobby - collecting valuable and/or legendary Pokemon and all things related to them. He's eloquent and well spoken, with a high intellect and sense of ingenuity, but he seems a bit detached from the reality around him and beneath his exterior is emotionally immature. I feel like I could grow up to be like this guy, and that sort of worries me.

 Cyrus (Pokemon) - A young genius who was always different from his peers, had to deal with a lot of pressure and emotional abuse in his childhood, and hates the broken, strife-filled state of the world to the point of resenting humanity itself. While there are some differences between him and I, particularly in terms of where he ended up mentally and morally, 
I really empathize with Cyrus for what he started out as and find him to be a great cautionary tale.

 N (Pokemon) - This guy's story really personally affects me. He has a good deal of autistic traits, is so set in his own ideals that he wants them to be truth, does not get along with most of the human race, still hangs on to childish things and a sense of innocence, has an emotionally abusive father who disregards him the moment he fails to meet his expectations, and he learns valuable lessons about life in the world. I don't identify with N completely (I don't see animals as "friends" and I freaking hate math equations), I do see a person similar to myself in him and hope that he may continue to turn his life around in the best way possible.

 Lysandre (New Pokemon) - I'm almost ashamed to admit 
I have things in common with him given how insane he is and how poorly handled his character is. But I do relate to him in one big way - I appreciate the natural beauty of this planet and absolutely hate the sight of litter and pollution that blemishes it. Far too many human beings waste their resources and treat the Earth like a great big waste bin. Haven't they heard of trash disposal and recycling? While I don't at all agree with Lys' actions, I appreciate some of his views on the world.

 Xerosic (New Pokemon) - The oddest mad scientist in the franchise, Xerosic comes off as partially autistic, partially just sort of mentally unbalanced. He doesn't take a professional approach to his experiments, nor a particularly depraved approach - he's like a curious kid looking at the shiny equipment and wondering "what's this button do?" While I'm not big on science, I do relate to Xerosic's approach and feel he's a semi-decent guy beneath everything.

 Prince Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender) - Who doesn't identify with Zuko in some way? He grew up feeling like an outcast in his own family and nation, eventually became one because he'd dared to be true to himself rather than comply with what his evil father wanted, and he constantly struggles with making the right choices and finding his path in life. For all his anger and angst, he has a soft, vulnerable center, and is a very compelling, believable character. Anyone struggling with choosing their paths and finding their way can be inspired by him.

 Zaheer (The Legend Of Korra) - Of all the villains on this show, I found myself really drawn to Zaheer and even identifying with him in a way. His views are views that I can actually agree with and get behind, even if he takes them too far with his actions. Disorder truly is the natural order of this world: politics and governments made by often corrupt world leaders in order to control things and keep life in order are things that needn't exist. I don't want total anarchy without rules, but I do think that a world devoid of strict law and order would be a better one. I also admire Zaheer's spiritual beliefs and practices, which intrigue me and makes me want to emulate.

 The Riddler (Batman) - Edward Nygma has been one of my absolute favorite Batman villains since forever and I think it's because there's a lot about him that I like and even identify with. I enjoy his whimsy, zeal, and intellectual curiosity, even if his passion for riddles and puzzles of any kind becomes obsessive. He's also led a very troubled life, with an abusive father and difficulty forging meaningful relationships with people whose brains don't work the way his does, and he lacks both awareness of how he might come across and empathy for those whom he associates with. But he's always trying to rise above it all, and I really do appreciate that.

 Majin Buu (Dragon Ball) - This one's kind of embarrassing, 
but there's no other villain in the series that reflects aspects of me in any way. His sweet tooth for delicious foods, attention deficiency problems, and anger over things going against his wants and expectations are all things I share in common with the big, pink demon freak. Who would've thunk?

 Harry Osborn (Spider-Man) - I'm not rich and I don't suffer from any mental illness like he does, but I do have father issues, social problems, and frequent anxiety.

 Maximilian Pegasus (Yu-Gi-Oh!) - I feel I share his childlike sense of whimsy and his imaginative creativity, and that I enjoy many of the same things that he does - fine food and drink, games, comics, cartoons, artwork, studies on ancient history, and fun.

 Ken Ichijouji (Digimon Adventure 02) - Ever feel like you're cut out for something more than what life is offering you? Like your mind and spirit are more advanced than your peers, and other humans are worthless insects compared to you? Like you want to feel free to be yourself but are always feeling trapped and weighed down by something, like pressure and expectations from both your parents and society? And you wish you could escape all the trauma and troubles of your life through a new, better reality you make for yourself? That's me sometimes.

 Yukio Oikawa (Digimon Adventure 02) - As a boy, Oikawa was said to be a recluse and an outcast, lacking any sort of substantial relationship and interaction with anyone else. That's why he fell so hard for Hiroki Hida when he became his friend, and why Hida's death devastated him so much. Life was too much for him to bear, so he wanted to go to his dream world and live a life of adventure and joy. As someone who struggles with anxiety, depression, and sometimes suicidal urges and existential angst, Oikawa's character and story really speaks to me.

 Seymour Guado (Final Fantasy X) - If I had to choose a Final Fantasy villain I had any traits in common with, it'd be this creep, disturbingly enough. We both love our mothers, yearn for the comforting presence of other people in our lives, accept the inevitability of death and see it as a release from a painful life. But unlike Seymour, I'm not a psychopathic killer.

 Gendo Ikari (Neon Genesis Evangelion) - A sad, troubled, abused man who grew up to be an abuser who inflicted much sorrow and troubles onto his own son and many others. Like me, he has trouble opening up to others and trusting them since he's afraid of getting hurt by people he's grown close to, so he prefers to be withdrawn. I have empathy for Gendo and see where he's coming from, but he also serves as a warning of what not to become in my life.

 Terra (Teen Titans) - I think many people have been where Terra was for most of her life: lonely, confused, emotionally distressed, mentally unstable, morally conflicted, and just plain messed up. We hope we can overcome our external crises and adversities that we unwittingly neglect our internal ones. We're afraid of being hurt by people we care for without realizing how much we might hurt them at times. And we hope to change for the better and achieve some sort of personal triumph and final peace. I know I've been that way, so I totally feel this girl. 

 Light Yagami & L Lawliet (Death Note) - These are both self-righteous pricks with high intellects but low emotional maturity. I don't want to connect with either of them, but I often feel like both of them. Like Light, I'm dissatisfied with the justice system in this world and how it's turned rotten due to all the crime that goes unstopped or unpunished. Like L, I'm bright and inventive but autistic, not very social, and a bit odd at times. Like both of them, I'm not entirely mature and I won't settle for anything less than coming out on top in whatever tasks I take.

 Rezo The Red Priest (The Slayers) - This guy's another cautionary tale for me. Like me with my Asperger's Syndrome, he was born with something he felt was a curse for all his life, in this case blindness. Everything he did was for the purpose of curing his disability, but when he finally succeeded, it turned out there was a reason for that blindness and that curing it made things worse and cost him his life. His story reminds me that what I might feel is a curse or an accident might actually be a blessing, so there's no point to getting rid of that part of you.

 Shinobu Sensui (Yu Yu Hakusho) - Sometimes when I feel so depressed with life in this world, I hate humans. I hate my own humanity and would rather live among nonhumans. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing us all die. I do NOT, however, have multiple personalities.

 Shion Sonozaki (When They Cry) - I sometimes feel inferior to my twin sibling and question the ethical value of the family I was born into. I also have discipline and social skill problems and let myself get too attached to other people. Shion takes all that to absurdly high levels and it scares me. But despite her dark side, she's a loving, good hearted girl at her core.

 Gaara and Obito Uchiha (Naruto) - These two character are actually subversions of this in that they start off with some things in common with me and veer off into being what I'd never want to be and I'm left with no empathy for them. Gaara less so since I do feel legitimately bad for the guy's scorn and abuse filled backstory, but he still became a psychotic killer. And Obito? Feeling like you want to retreat into a new reality that's tailor-made for you due to all the pain in your life is a pretty understandable sentiment, but when you become so selfish about it that you want to massacre the entire world to assimilate everything into your ideal reality? Fuck you

 Kai Mikawa (My Bride Is A Mermaid) - I didn't think I'd identify with a spoiled rich snot like him, but surprisingly, I really do. I have a great fear of being left without love in my life and ultimately dying alone, unloved, and unwanted. For all of Kai's narcissism and misaimed approach, he really wants to be loved for who he is and feels the need for immense validation and emotional gratification. His "dying" realization that he has people who care about him was the one time in that anime that actually got me choked up. That is a pretty impressive feat!

 Koko (Zatch Bell) - Beaten down and ostracized all her life, frequently dealing with hardships, but never letting them make her stop seeing the light at the end of the darkness. She's got issues, but her virtues are something I'd really like to emulate as best I can.

 Tyrion Lannister (Game Of Thrones) - All that needs be said here is: "No, of that I'm innocent. I am guilty of a far more monstrous crime. I am guilty of being a dwarf.  I've been on trial for that my entire life. I wish I was the monster you think I am. I wish I had enough poison for the whole pack of you. I would gladly give my life to watch you all swallow it."

 Johnathan (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) - While I've not attempted suicide, especially not with a rifle from high up above my high school campus, I have felt the pain, depression, and yearning for attention and gratification rather than mistreatment that poor Johnathan felt. I want my own hurting to stop, but I would never wish to hurt anyone on purpose.

 Rumpelstiltskin (Once Upon A Time) - Another cautionary tale. Started off as a pure-hearted, innocent boy who just wanted love from his father but was denied that, became a emotionally damaged but affectionate and well meaning spinster who struggled with cowardice and instincts of putting his self-preservation ahead of others. And then he became a vile, selfish, manipulative, misogynistic, misanthropic villain who's essentially the Devil himself. I can identify with him because at his core he suffers from anxiety, loneliness, and a lack of love, so he seeks comfort and emotional gratification from others. But in addition he feels he needs self-validation, and the means to that end is power. He feels he can only keep others in his life through dominating them with his power, and he continuously clings to his power addiction while failing to recognize the difference between true love and his controlling, possessive form of love that he uses his power to perpetuate. At this point I doubt he will ever be truly happy and fulfilled. But I still relate to many aspects of his better self, particularly the Rumple seen in episodes 3x8, 2x14, and 1x8.

 Regina Mills (Once Upon A Time) - Like with Rumple, I can identify and empathize with her but while realizing what sets her apart from me and thus what I ought to avoid. Back in Seasons 1 through 3 when she was still a great character, Regina was the dark mirror image of the typical fairy tale heroine. She had a troubled life with an abusive mother, a true love she couldn't get with, and a desire to end up happy. But instead of choosing a path of love and goodness, she chose a path of vengeance and villainy, ultimately continuing the abuse cycle of her own mother. She's always looking to let her frustration out on someone or something she blames for her current unhappiness, whether it be her mother, her husband, or even her stepdaughter. She wants so much to be happy yet she pursues happiness in the wrong way, sacrificing all the potential for true happiness that's right in front of her for the sake of obtaining a false ideal of a "happy ending." I can understand how misguided by her own emotions she is and hope that she can overcome her troubles and find her true happiness. Well, I did. Later into the show, I'm not so understanding.

 Killian Jones (Once Upon A Time) - "A man unwilling to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets!" This was the first personal standard that Killian Jones, later known as Captain Hook, made clear. He's not the kind of guy who will stand around expecting anything to be handed to him on a silver platter - he feels entitled to nothing that he won't actually fight to obtain. In addition he's also fiercely loyal, loving, and protective of the people closest to him. But serious character flaws such as self-centeredness, pride, anger, chauvinism, foolishness, and vanity are constantly weighing him down from being a better man than he is - the man he wants to be. But unlike Rumple and Regina, Hook actually makes a sincere effort to try and better himself. He recognizes the problematic aspects of himself and actively works to fix them. That's something I can really relate to and appreciate since I'm always struggling with bettering myself even when it seems that drastic self-improvement and change may be impossible. So in the end, Hook is truly my hero.

 Ingrid The Snow Queen (Once Upon A Time) - She was born with something that she felt she had no control over, something that made her different from others, even her own sisters. And even when she tried her best to keep it in check, she ended up losing someone she loved and branded a monster for her abnormality. She then sought to get perfect love, comfort, and understanding from an ideal family of people that were like her, not realizing that she could have love from others even if they weren't like her, like her sisters. She did evil things for the sake of a not so evil cause, and I sympathized with her. I'm glad she found happiness in the end.

 Isaac Heller (Once Upon A Time) - Oddly enough, I share this man's passion for storytelling and playing around with different tropes, realities, and characters. 
I share his curiosity and contentment with doing whatever the hell he wants even if it makes trouble. 
I too feel as though I'm often pushed aside in favor of people who meet the societal norm of a good person or "hero" and find myself more drawn to villains in stories. But I wouldn't become a villain and go as far as he did. Isaac also serves as an inspirational figure for me. The guy's a hack who has the muse for creativity but lacks the gift and skill. I know I can be a way better writer than him one day!

 Anastasia The Red Queen (Once Upon A Time In Wonderland) - While this spinoff series' main villain was an irredeemably inhumane psychopath, it also gave us 
a secondary villain and eventual heroine that I could identify with in Anastasia. My living conditions aren't as bad as her's were and I've not been in love the way she was, but I do recognize the feeling of realizing how much you screwed something up and what it might have cost you, and the desire to turn back time and correct your error through any means necessary, even if they seem a little unsavory. Plus, Emma Rigby, who portrayed the character, is around my age! How cool is that?

 Gaspard & Sirus (Dark Chronicle) - I have sometimes felt the maligning that Gaspard had to deal with in his childhood. I also love my mother, who has done everything to provide for me for most of my life, and I want to find the right path that leads me to what I'm truly looking for in the end. And like Sirus, I sometimes really resent humans as a species!

 Wilson Fisk (Daredevil) - So he's somewhat autistic, a social recluse, an awkward loser, a big eater, and has a Good Samaritan Complex? I can somewhat relate!

 Vlad Masters (Danny Phantom) - A very bitter man who only ever wanted love in his life and hates been written off as just a Fruit Loop. I can relate to him too!

 Lord Shen (Kung Fu Panda 2) - This crazed peacock is the epitome of self-validation seeking taken to the extreme. Ostracized for his skin condition and frailty, not treated too well by his parents, paranoid over Kung Fu masters and pandas in particular to the point of attempting genocide, and never, ever feeling at peace. Unlike Shen, I try to go about my life the right way and struggle to find my inner peace. But I understand Shen's position and I pity him.

 Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz (Phineas And Ferb) - Similar to Cedric, Doof is a warped and frustrated nice guy with some emotional and mental issues, but not exactly evil. He just refers to himself as evil because he thinks being "evil" makes all the trauma in his comically harsh backstories amount to something. Abused by his parents, abandoned by his friends, unlucky in love, looked down upon and mistreated by many people, and always running into hardships in his life, the poor guy never catches a break but he keeps pushing forward, doing his best, and even getting some good things going like an improved relationship with his daughter and an inseparable friendship with his nemesis. This Doof is more identifiable than he had any right to be.

 Stanley Pines (Gravity Falls) - While not exactly a villain, Stan is a morally dubious crook and has been an antagonist whenever the situation called for it. So many things about this guy speak to me - his family trouble, him getting disowned by his father, his greed for making money, his awkwardness and trouble in social situations, even his frequent dishonesty! But most of all I empathize with his and his twin brother's relationship. As kids they were a lot like my twin brother and I, and ever ending up like the two of them did is a truly frightening prospect for me. But no matter what, I know that like Stan, I'll always fight for my loved ones when it matters.

 Ricky Owens (Scooby Doo: Mystery Inc.) - The man's a slob, a glutton, a whiner, an opportunist, and has some serious anger issues (it's Lewis Black, what did you expect?) For some reason, I can see some of my own unsavory features in him, and feel personally moved when he rises above the terrible situation he made for himself in the end. I just hope my life goes better than his did, and that I never get into any abusive relationship with an terrifying evil parrot.

 Peridot (Steven Universe) - Come on, how can I not love and identify with Peri? Socially awkward, silly, confused, emotionally unstable at times, obsessive, compulsive, and a bit neurotic to a possibly Autistic degree? She’s so relatable!

 Ryan and Sharpay Evans (High School Musical) - These twin siblings are drama queen weirdos with a lack of social tact and desires they often find themselves struggling to even begin to fulfill, but they always have each other as one another's closest friend. There's something about that I really appreciate seeing, and as I've said before, they're not evil at all.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Top Thirty Favorite Anime Series

Here's the Japanese anime counterpart to my Top Thirty Animated Series list that I promised.

First off, what you will NOT be seeing here:

- Bleach: "Bleach" sucks, okay? It was only decent up until the end of the Soul Society saga, whereas afterwards it went down the crapper. Tite Kubo is a horrendously awful writer who does way too many stupid things in the plot, misuses his characters, creates too many characters that don't mean shit, and pads out everything, including the action sequences, which gets so boring. It's now one of the most mind numbingly poor quality Shonen series ever made, and not worth my time.

Naruto: Same reasons as the above - it sucks. It was only average at best before the timeskip and even then it had some notable problems because Kishimoto is a terrible writer. The plot is often stupid, the characters are frequently misused, the world-building is atrocious, everything's padded out to the point of boredom, the action sequences are lackluster, they explain how every damn chakra works, and all that shit. And as of "Shippuden", it has officially become one of the most poorly written, horrendously executed, downright vile and repulsive Shonen series that I've ever had the displeasure of getting exposed to. For a series about ninjas, it's really not exciting or engaging.

Eureka Seven: Beautiful series, good writing, a neat world, a nice plot that keeps building until it explodes into an epic spectacle halfway through...but I found I barely gave a damn about any of the main cast. These were characters that were often annoying, bland, or felt like characters I have seen before but with nothing really interesting done with them. The only characters that really left a big impression were the bad guys and they served the plot well, but when I couldn't care about the main protagonists all that much, that really took away from the plot, the show, and the experience for me. 

Shaman King: This series was just....really "meh" to me. I enjoyed it in it's best moments, but it was nothing I really got into. I liked most of the characters just fine, I liked the action just fine, but I didn't care too much for the plot. In fact, the manga went in such an awful direction that I prefer the way the anime decided to end it instead. But in either medium, it's an average series at best. 

Revolutionary Girl Utena: I'm a guy, I do not care for most shoujo series, and regardless of the epic quality of this one that's earned it fame among fans, I still don't like it because I have something of a bias against Kunuhiko Ikuhara, you'll see why somewhere on this list. So, no, it's not for me. 

- Wolf's Rain: It's a great work of art, it really is...but it's also so goddamn depressing. And I like depressing stories when there's something to offset it, but there isn't much here. Sure it's better than other "mature" junk like "Black Lagoon" or "Elfen Lied", but I don't enjoy it that much and it couldn't make it. And before you ask about "Berserk", than yes; what applies for this applies for that one too. 

Baccanno or Durarara: With a few exceptions, I'm not really into anime based on Light Novels. Especially not these two, where only a handful of characters or events interest or entertain me at all. 

All But One Gundam anime: 'Cause there's only really one Gundam anime that I really like. Aside from that, Gundam is just so generic to me: giant robots, angsty prettyboy pilots, wars and pseudo philosophies, and often poorly written plots. The franchise is a total bore and I don't have time for it.

Trigun:  It's a very good quality series with great plot and characters, but I've never been into it. 

Ranma 1/2:  Just...no.  Way too stupid, way too mean spirited, way too uninteresting as a whole.

- Black Cat: Another Shonen series with some characters I like but a plot that doesn't grab me.

- Soul Eater: I've heard good things about it but yet to experience any of it: it means nothing to me.

- Black Lagoon: Are you The Sopranos or are you Grand Theft Auto? Make up your goddamn mind! 

- Elfen Lied: The manga was intriguing despite it's bleakness, but I found the anime to be rancid. 

- Space Dandy: It's called Space Dandy and the guy's name is literally Space Dandy? That's dumb. 

- Tommorow's Nadja: I really do admire and appreciate it, but it's still so foreign to me. Literally! 

- My Bride Is A Mermaid: An Excel Saga wannabe that could annoy just as much as it amused. 

- Vision Of Escaflowne: A fine quality anime series to be sure, but I've no personal attachment. 

- Anything From Studio Gibli: This is my Top 30 Favorite Anime SERIES', not movies.

Most Shoujo anime and "kiddy" anime:  This one is pretty self explanatory, isn't it? 

RUNNER UPS:

Tenchi Muyo!: The original OVA "Tenchi Muyo", before it spun off into the hack franchise that it became. This anime actually told a decent story, had a certain charm to it, the romantic comedy was actually funny and less forced, Tenchi Masaki was much more likable and relatable, Ayeka and Ryoko were more reasonably portrayed and endearing, the villain was epic, and it combined old style Japan and it's spiritual mythology with weird anime sci-fi elements almost perfectly. I suppose it only gets the Runner Up status because it's not technically a series but it was aired like one. While it's pretty short, it's fulfilling and enjoyable, which is what gets it mention at all.

El Hazard: The Magnificent Word: Pretty much the exact same things stated for the above apply for why this one's a Runner Up status. Excellent OVA is still an OVA.

So now we move on to what did make the cut!  Here they are: 

30. Rave Master: This series doesn't make it very far on this list at all for the simple reason of it being a much better manga than it is an anime. The anime version made some odd choices with the source material, had pretty lousy pacing, seemed to be trying too hard to be like "One Piece" but tanked in the ratings and got cancelled just as it was starting it's second story arc! If the staff behind this show had smart, they would've given it a Gecko Ending to end it after the first arc before the anime was scrapped. But the source material manga had such a strange but pretty interesting storyline, a quirky, memorable cast of characters, an engaging world, and top notch action that it still came across in animated form. If you were to watch this, I;d recommend it in Japanese first. The dub had terrible script writing under Bob Bulcholz's direction and made it a lot more stupid than it originally was. Then again, it does have those songs that get stuck in your head.

29. Code Geass - Lelouch Of The Rebellion: Namely the first season, not that dreadful second one. "Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion" was a series with immense potential but it often came across as a shallow and pedantic cross between "Death Note" and a "Gundam" series and even in the first season, the story was not an entirely well executed one. And it jumped the shark 22 episodes in with the horribly contrived and needless "Euphinator incident", which paved way for more forced melodrama and bad writing to come in the mostly wretched trainwreck of a second season, R2. But what stands out about this series is the world and the characters. The world is supposedly the product of an alternate timeline of history in which the American colonies lost the revolution and Britain was invaded and conquered by Napoleon or something like that, and what's here now is an intriguing future indeed. And there are some engaging, well developed characters to be found here too, particularly the central protagonist, Lelouch Lamperouge. A Byronic Hero in every sense of the definition; he's an arrogant, strategic, intelligent, manipulative, determined, self-confident youth who ends up at the right place in the wrong time and obtains the power of an evil eye known as Geass, which can control the minds and wills of others. Lelouch sets out with reasonable intentions, intending to use this power to bring down the oppressive Britannian empire and make the world a better place for his sister Nunnally, but exploiting the power of Geass darkens his mind and soul with each use of it, and each success it gives Lelouch comes often with terrible prices. To see this tragic figure resort to more extreme measures, employ devious and underhanded tactics, and grow steadily more evil and unhinged as he does so, is the most compelling draw to the story. But that's not to say he's the only one. Really, I just enjoy seeing what could occur with these characters in this world. Probably why I personally enjoy the manga adaptation of the series better: it compresses the story, removes needless stuff like the giant mecha fights and the bombastic overdramatics, and distills the essence of the characters and their world and that is kept in focus as it should be. It also keeps a tighter focus on the comedy of the series, so you can take it's shallow, pedantic nature less seriously than the anime wants you to. But the anime has some advantages (namely it's pace and portrayal of Lelouch's arc), so it's here.

28. Gurren Lagann & Kill la Kill: Two very...unusual anime from Studio Trigger. The first is one that spoofs, imitates, and pays homage to all those giant robot anime shows of the past. It's got underground colonies that live below the surface, an evil race of "beast men", a self conscious teenager who obtains a giant drill key that can unlock a giant mechas' power and even grows as he matures, a hammy, boisterous, crazy young man with spiky hair, wearing pointy shades, a red vampire cape, and no shirt on, a young girl with barely any clothes on and enormous breasts that bounce on their own, space entities known as Spirals and dialogue such as "Your drill shall pierce the heavens!", or "Believe in the me who believes in you!". Sounds ridiculous? That's because it is, and it's fully aware of it too. But that's what makeit fun. The show enjoys it's own stupidity and it's infectious. Most of the characters like Simon, Yoko, Kamina, Nia, Leeron, Kittan and his sisters, and Viral among others are very endearing and likable. And it even has some solid storytelling of it's own and uplifting, inspirational themes. At least...it did. The first third of the show was purely silly, hyper-energetic, hot blooded and wacky, with every action scene and plot point following that tone up until the very unexpected and tragic demise of one of the central characters. The next third had a more interesting set-up to it, brought Nia into the mix, and actually achieved a great balance between silly parody and a serious plot with character development and incredibly intense action too. The last third is where it started to suck. A lot. The story was weak, the characters got less appealing, the concepts were executed poorly, and the tone had changed to being darker, more self-important, serious, boring, and sometimes downright cold and mean-spirited. Top that off with an out-of-nowhere ending that was so depressing it was stupid and so stupid it was depressing, not to mention a total betrayal of everything the series stood for until that point, and you get an anime that showed promise that ended on a major downer. That's why I just can't love it as much and why I find the hype that surrounds the show extra excruciating. (BTW, this is another mecha series where I find the manga adaptation superior.) And it's also why I think the second one, "Kill la Kill", was probably the antidote we needed after how that series ended. It's also one of the stupidest show you'll ever see. It's about a young delinquent girl, Ryuko Matoi, who's setting out to find the killer of her father and wields one pair of a giant scissors that he'd created before his murder. To do this, she enrolls in a super powerful high school academy that has become a dictatorship to the entire nation but doesn't have much luck until she meets a sentient schoolgirl uniform who can transform into a fighter suit and give Ryuko power by drinking her blood and...did I lose you yet? Trust me, it only gets weirder from there, but it's actually very hyper-energized, hilarious, exciting, and fun to watch. It's also got a stellar cast of characters, great animation, enjoyably over-the-top action and fight scenes, and a pretty solid plot. The note it ends on is a MUCH more positive and satisfying one than "Gurren Lagann", which makes amends for that issue. So I feel they both deserve this 28th spot

27. Digimon Adventure 02 (Zero Two): The sequel series to the excellent "Digimon Adventure". This anime is, on almost every technical standpoint, an inferior sequel to a great original and a colossal failure of a show on many levels. It was poorly paced and weaker structured, story and character development was often sacrificed in favor of throwing around new ideas and "cool" gimmicks for bigger marketing or artistic value, the plot veered in various directions all the damn time leaving plot threads and setups that went absolutely nowhere, convoluted, clunky exposition dumps and clumsy ways of tying things, and it made the mistake of taking place in the same continuity as the original and yet pulling so many retcons and continuity errors that at times were contradictory to it, and sometimes even contradictory to itself! Oh yeah, and it ended with a terrible anticlimax and an even worse epilogue. God, so much of this series' writing and execution sucked! And...I still enjoy it. Enough to put it on here at all. Why is that? Well, I will admit that nostalgia has something to do with it; I found it quite fun to watch when I was a kid. And I still do because something about the way the show was directed and presented is damn entertaining. It still has a lot of heart. The Digimon and their world is as great to explore as ever, I like the antics that go down in the real world at times, the new characters are all likable and enjoyable, the ideas that got wasted had great potential, the gimmicks were admittedly quite cool, and even the series storyline wasn't half bad whenever it was, well, good, which was most evident in the Digimon Emperor story arc. Also, it introduced more complex villains to the franchise, both of whom were human; Ken Ichijoji and Yukio Oikawa were both very compelling characters. Ken's character in particular was layered, sympathetic, richly characterized and developed over the series, as both a bad guy and a good guy. He's definitely one of Digimon's best, most memorable characters, and my favorite even now. Yeah, the dub was hacked by Bob Bulcholz, who gave it the same treatment as "Rave Master" but like the series itself, I wouldn't take that too seriously. All in all, this show was liked the ultimate mixed bag for me. It gave me good and bad stuff, but I liked what I liked, and enjoyed the experience overall. 

26: Full Metal Alchemist: One of the grittier, edgier and more "mature" shonen seris' out there, "Fullmetal Alchemist" is a master work. I'm referring to the manga, the first half of the first anime adaptation, and the "Brotherhood" anime series here. I was never that much a fan of the first anime when it tried to do it's own thing. It's story was needlessly cluttered, the changes were unnessecary, and the tone got too dark and angsty for my liking. The original manga's story, however, was much more satisfying. Set during a war between a muslim resistance group and the State Military, it centers around the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric who've lost their mother in a tragedy. Due to an attempt to revive her by using alchemy, Ed's lost half his limbs and Al's lost his entire body, his soul now stuck inside a large suit of armor. Ed takes up the mantle of "the Full Metal Achemist" and along with his brother, has joined the State Military in hopes of claiming the philosopher's stone, which he believes can finally set things right. But they soon get wrapped up in the horrors of war, killings, cult religion, government conspiracies, and abominations known as the Homonculi. The story's okay for me but what I really like are the characters. The Elric Brothers are endearing protganists, and characters such as Winry Rockbell, Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, Ling Yao, and Scar are well developed too. This isn't one I enjoy most, but the cast makes it worthwhile 

25. Hellsing: This one's limited to only the original manga and the "Ultimate" OVA, not that other stupid anime version. A Japanese masterpiece of gothic horror, this series has everything you'd think a good work of horror should have; vampires, ghosts, zombies, psychopaths, blood, gore, graveyards, and Neo Nazis. It centers around a supernatural hunting organization known as Hellsing, whose leader Integra has a vampire in her servitude and he's the group's top man. But he's not just any vampire, he's an incarnation of Count Dracula himself named Alucard. Alucard is dark, amoral, sardonic, sadistic, and batshit insane. He will scare the crap out of people before taking them out in nasty, gruesome ways. And this guy's our main protagonist, people!  He sires a new vampire, a young girl on the police squad named Seras Victoria, who is a much more moral person who goes through some great development of her own. Being closely tied to the occult, Hellsing meets the ire of the crooked Iscariot Catholic Church, who's mentally unstable but righteous intentioned priest, Alexander Anderson, takes it upon himself to bring Alucard down. But they both end up with a common enemy in the terrorist group of Millennium, who seek to plunge the entire world into chaotic bloodshed and warfare. Not much else to say but that this series is deliciously dark and freaky, but has a wicked gallows humor about it to. If you're into that sort of horror, it's recommended. I'd have named it my favorite horror-based anime had something else not recently flown on my radar.

24. When They Cry - Higurashi: From what little I'd heard of this series before I delved into it, it seemd so vile, so disturbing, so unsettlingly eerie that it felt easy for me to pass it by. Needless to say, I saw it eventually and learned what I'd been missing out on. This anime, based on a series of visual novels by Ryukashi07, effortlessly implements a great deal of pure horror, mystery, suspense, and psychology into it's plot but while also offering a little something extra. Set in the village of Hinamizawa in the month of June during the 80's, the series settles us in by making us follow the village's newcomer, Keiichi Maebara, and introducing us to his friends and their lifestyle. All seems perfectly fine until the village's dark history comes up, which leads to unnerving stories about what goes down at the annual Cotton Drifting Festival - every past year, the village gets struck by the curse of the demon god Oyashiro, a curse in which someone is killed while another disappears, and what follows is a daze of paranoia and fear-induced madness for someone, usually a guilty party tied to the events of the curse. Well the curse hits, and suddenly Keiichi finds himself uncovering a dark conspiracy in the village while feeling like everyone, even those closest to him, is out for blood - namely his! Oh, and that's just the first arc! The web only gets more tangled when we start seeing more stories taking place on the same days in the same year, with characters we could've sworn we just saw getting killed off, new information coming to light, and focus on characters like Rika Furude, Satoko Houjo, Mion and Shion Sonozaki, Rena Ryugu, and Karaudo Ooishi, letting us know what makes these people tick and how everything all connects. Aside from the intricate mystery that does end up coming together, and the shit-your-pants scary moments with killer lolis that the series is so famous for, what really stands out to me is the feeling of youth and friendship that's captured here. So many anime force "the power of friendship" as a concept, but this is one of the few where it comes off just totally perfectly while not being totally in-your-face. You come to love the bond these characters share and you want to see them pull through their ordeals and end up happy. And it's that emotional connection and feeling that won me over to the series, allowing it a well earned place in my favorites. 

23 Excel Saga: The ultimate in Japanese slapstick, off-the-wall, completely random and batshit insane comedy. This time I refer only to the anime directed by Shinuiche Watanabe, not the manga by Koshi Rikudo. Often parodying common anime styles and tropes, this show was batshit insane and always having fun with it. Nothing made sense, nothing was predictable, and nothing was ever dull. The set-up was that the "secret idealogical organization" of ACROSS, led by Lord Ilpalazzo, a spoof on white haired prettyboy evil overlords, seeks to take over the world in order to cleanse it of it's "corruption". Unfortunately for Ilpalazzo, his organization is actually just two people and a dog. Excel Excel, a hyperactive, energetic, insane, fast-talking and obnoxiously loud mouthed teenage girl who can pull off superhuman feats and has a mad crush on her boss. Her partner Hyatt, a pale, blue haired girl from Mars who's soft spoken, polite, and has the tendancy to die of blood loss at any given moment. And their dog Menchi, who also serves as the "emergency food supply", much to it's never ending horror. These quirky characters undertake the strangest tasks, and often get invovled with other stuff in the background. Such as Excel and Hyatt's appartment neighbors, who are actually part of a hero organization that opposes them, a wandering dead hispanic man named Pedro who has to suffer watching his former life crumble before his eyes, and the utterly strange Nabeshin, a man with an afro who....yeah, I can't even explain it. This show's just so wacky and hysterical that I have to hold it in high regard. It's got hilarious humor, great lines, memorable moments, and endearing characters, and even gets a bit of a serious storyline towards the end of the series. It's not for everyone, but for those who do choose to experience it, it's like a strange but delightful acid trip. Watch it, then get the hell out of it, but it will never leave your brain.

22. Zatch Bell: For an average "mon" Shonen series aimed at kids, there's a special something about this one that propels it ahead of many others of it's kind. The premise seems off-putting at first; a bunch of demon children from another dimension have been sent to Earth as part of a competition to decide who will become the next king of the demon world. And to determine this, the demon must bond with a human partner who can bring out their power by reading from a spellbook and....yeesh, sounds pretty occult, doesn't it? But it actually doesn't come off that way at all. The main protagonists are the teen genius Kiyo Takamine, who bonds with the titular Zatch Bell, a blond kid with lightning power, who wears a dress and has no memory. Together they take on the battle to become king and all the conflict it brings into the world in an effort to make Zatch the kind king so he can change the amoral rulings of the demon world at last. The storyline goes from episodic at one point and then following an epic story arc the next, and it has some pretty exciting twists and turns every now and then. But this is a series where the characters make it what it is. Kiyo is a very amusing and likable guy, especially when he plays the straight man to all the weirdness that happens in his life. Zatch is also likable, if not a bit overactive. Other characters in the cast such as Kiyo's weirdo schoolmates like Suzy or Kane, Megumi and Tia, Parco Folgore and Kanchome, Kafka Sunbeam and Ponygon, Li-En and Wonrei, and Dr Riddles and Kido are all great and well portrayed too. Sherry and Brago stand out, though; starting as straight-up antagonists, you soon see them go through their own character arc and they have the most interesting layers and motives out of all the major character in the series. The flaws in the series do become very evident after a while, though. Whenever Kiyo and Zatch, especially Zatch, get emotional during a fight, melodrama ensues. Zatch's goal for wanting to be king is understandable, but how he reached the conclusion that it's what he wanted and the way he repeatedly brings it up are incredibly annoying, unconvincing, and weak. The humor can sometimes be funny, but other times it feels like it's trying to rip off "Excel Saga". And the plot gets alot weaker and less engaging halfway into the series after the defeat of Zofis. But when it was great, I really did enjoy it. The series had heart to it, and I'm glad to have followed it for a while. 

21. InuYasha: Only the first two seasons of the anime and the "Final Act" OVA, mind you. It's amazing that Rumiko Takahashi could be so creative as to come up with this and then be so much of a hack as to run it into the ground. But back when the series was still fresh, it almost felt like something done by Miyazaki. The set-up for the story was fascinating, the feudal Japan fantasy world that was created was appropriately mystical, and the characters were great. Ordinary high school student Kagome stumbling back in time through a magical well and her destiny becoming tied to the shikon jewell and the story around it started a series that for a while, was really good. The half-demon Inu-Yasha himself was an interesting character; snide, arrogant, sometimes amoral but also noble and wanting to do the right thing. Kagome, being plucky, brave, cheerful, spirited, and smart, was a very lovable and engaging heroine. Other unique and interesting characters included the lecherous young monk Miroku, the honorable female demon hunter Sango, the fox demon child Shippou, Inu-Yasha's sociopathic brother Sesshomaru, and the lord of evil, Naraku. The story took a few good turns and really looked like it could go somewhere...before Takahashi refused to take it any further and instead kept the status quo, padded the plot out to ridiculous extremes, and made the audiences sick of everything that used to be good. The Inu-Yasha/Kagome characterization and romance in particular became pretty insufferable, consisting of nothing but badly written Takahashi jerk/tsunadare antics and the two characters shouting each other's names over and over again. Nothing progressed, so almost everything in the anime became filler. And until the manga finished and "Final Act" adapted the ending, we all lost interest. But back when it started out, it had quality. And that quality will always be remembered and admired by me.

 20. Puella Magi Madoka Magica: This series is to magical girl anime what Evangelion was to mecha anime. Despite what it might look like on the surface, it is a deep, dark, twisted, effed up deconstruction of the genre it's a part of, and that's what makes it achieve it's greatness. The story centers around a awkward, clumsy, socially withdrawn but kind hearted young girl named Madoka Kaname, who's never felt she was meant to be part of anything big or important due to severe self esteem issues. Her closest friend is Sayaka Miki, a tomboy who fiercely believes in romanticized ideals of justice. The arrival of a new student named Homura Akemi marks a turn in the girls' lives, as creatures born of misery and grief known as Witches start emerging over the city, threatening to consume the souls of depressed people exerting negative energy. A magical girl warrior named Mami Tomoe arrives on the scene, along with the weasel-like Kyubey, who suggests the girls take up a contract with him in order to become magical girls themselves- all it costs is a wish. While Sayaka jumps at the call, Madoka is uncertain. Her fears get more justified when Mami meets her shocking demise and a rogue magical girl named Kyoko Sakura shows up on the scene, ready and willing to eliminate any potential enemies. What transpires afterwards, I cannot describe without spoiling everything, but the plot goes into deep, emotional, and sometimes uncomfortable territory. The magical girl life is shown to be far from glamorous and nothing is quite as it seems at first, with team mascot Kyubey playing the most surprising role of all. The biggest twist on the magical girl formula is just how long it takes for the titular heroine to become a magical girl, and what exactly her wish is. But much like with "Higurashi", you come to love these characters and their relationships. And the message sent at the end of the series is a truly profound one. It's a story about hope in the face of despair and comfort in the face of grief, and above all, about the purest kind of love there could ever be. The multiversal nature of the franchise this series spawned only helps reaffirm it's message. Nothing in the world is truly impossible, life is never truly hopeless, and none of us is ever truly alone.

19. Pokemon: Best Wishes: The previous installment of the Pokemon anime. Truly a miraculous series seeing as I did not ever think that this show could produce a series of truly good quality past the first series and believed it to be forever damned as a bland marketing tool. But then this one came along. This what the Pokemon anime should have been for the longest time now. For over a decade now the show has been made of fail, the entire wretched "Diamond and Pearl" series being the pinnacle of it all. "Best Wishes" was a new start for the show and a chance for salvation. Iris and Cilan are the true stars of this show, and they're both delightful and interesting characters who add group chemistry and dynamics to the show that were much-needed after the dullness of the Sinnoh trio. And our recurring villains,Team Rocket, are actually acting like villains again, taking a huge level in competence and lassitude and engaging in actual criminal operations that make up an ongoing story arc throughout the quest. They're also some of the biggest highlights of this series. The pace has gotten quicker and more up to par with how it was in the original series, and most episodes are enjoyable to watch with very few being worthless fillers. The time wasting has decreased, TR no longer appear in every episode, and the overall writing and direction for the show just generally has more heart to it now. It's not perfect by any means: most of the big battles are as dull as ever, some stories set up and characters with potential get utterly wasted, the Unova League itself sucked and Cameron was a horrendous character, I don't know what the heck was up with that Decolore Island shit at the end there, and the 3/11 disaster in Japan causing the "Team Rocket vs Team Plasma" two part spectacular to be postponed and ultimately skipped over in the original airing of the series was very damaging and put a huge damper on it's legacy. But while "Best Wishes" could never be as great as "Indigo League", it was still the best the Pokemon anime has been since the days of Kanto. Fuck the irrational haters - I feel this was a genuinely good series, which makes me enjoy and appreciate it enough to have it on this list. It's gone now, but it shall never be forgotten.

18. Digimon Xros Wars: The last great Digimon anime. While I actually have a more sentimental connection to "Adventure 02", this series is objectively better from an overall quality standpoint. The premise is that a boy named Mikey Kudo and his friends Angie and Jeremy get warped into the Digital World one day after Mikey insists on saving a weakened Digimon that crossed into the human world. The Digimon's name is Shoutmon, and he's fighting to become king of the Digital World so that it doesn't have to suffer at the hands of it's current assailants any more. To further this cause, he elects Mikey the general of his personal army, which gets named Xros Heart. The aforementioned assailants are the Bagra Empire, a legion of Digimon led by the evil Lord Bagra intent on dominating the Digital World and turning it into a haven for evil and negativity. And Xros Heart isn't alone in standing against them - two other armies, the Blue Flare army led by Christopher Aonuma, and the Twilight army led by Nene Amano, also want to take them out, but they also want their own shot at the throne! Fairly early in, this series reaches a point where it keeps on escalating in action, drama, and suspense. The plot is a very epic one, kinda like a G-rated Game Of Thrones in the first half, with the second half being reminiscent of the first series' Spiral Mountain arc. The Digital World feels very video game-like here, like Sonic The Hedgehog crossed with Mega Man due to all the different zones and levels, which is both fun to watch and very fitting for a digitally created realm. The characters all get times to shine and grow on you - not just the humans, but a lot of the Digimon too, Shoutmon in particular. And we're given the best cast of evil Digimon since "Adventure", with AxeKnightmon being on Myotismon levels of cool. It all builds to an absorbing climax and a finale that trumps everything else in the franchise in terms of sheer epic awesomeness. While not without glaring flaws and wasted opportunities, this Digimon series deserves to wear a code crown for it's royally high quality execution. Let's forget all about the incredibly crappy sequel that fucked it all up. 

17. Rurouni Kenshin: A well known shonen series from the 90's. This was a very stylistic, dramatic, engaging, and very charming and deep series as both a manga and an anime. What stands out in memory is the main character, the titular wandering samurai Himura Kenshin. He is one of the greatest protagonists in all of anime/manga. With a dark past of being a cold blooded manslayer for hire during times of war, Kenshin has now taken up his sword with the vow to use it to defend the innocent but never kill again. He is a fierce, badass warriror but looking at him and his personality, you wouldn't be able to tell. He's kind hearted, friendly, peaceful, clumsy, a little dorky and clueless, and effeminate to the point that he enjoys cooking and cleaing over sword fighting. He is a good natured person, and so easy to like. But when he gets serious, he gets really tough and he's always fighting the possibility that he could get into a conflict where bloodshed is unavoidable and he'll have to kill once more. His character and what he goes through is just so compelling. He has an endearing supporting cast too; Kaoru, Sanosuke, Megumi, Yahiko, Misao, Hiko, and even Saito all have their moments to shine and show greatness. Kaoru not so much in the anime, but it's...still there. The series' highest point was the Kyoto saga, which was a seriously epic story arc with an excellent villain in Shishio Makoto. Things never got better after it, especially when the anime started making up lots of fillers that soon got it cancelled and followed with an OVA where Kenshin freaking dies. But as far as shonen goes, it still stands as one of the all time greats. 

16. Monster: An excellently written, absorbing, dramatic and horrifying psychological thriller written by a Japanese master of suspense. I've not seen this one the whole way through but I intend to one day. The set-up here is brilliant. Taking place in Europe, it centers around a Japanese immigrant named Tenma who's become a well renowned doctor. But one fateful night when he has to choose between saving the life of a child or an important figure, he chooses the child. Tenma's life takes a downturn from there...and then as it starts to get better, mysterious things start happening. A dangerous, heartless, psychopathic killer has gone on the loose; Johan Leibert, an evil force of nature, an inhuman demon, a monster...and the boy who's life Tenma saved that night, all grown up. By saving one life, the good doctor inadvertently doomed countless others. And that's just the beginning of the moral dilemmas and psychological drama that the series throws at you. What you get here is a story of the nature of good and evil, how they are always at oods, what's right and what's wrong, how much value life has, and how far will one goes to stay true to his ideals. While the themes are deep and thought provoking, the characters involved with this twisted tale really makes it work. Dr. Tenma is a excellent example of a flawed but ultimately good human being, while Johan is the devil of a man who tries to break him down and see the futility of that goodness. Other great characters such as Deiter, Nina Fortner, Eva Heineman, and Inspector Lunge all have their own stories to go through as well, making them all well-rounded, developed characters. My only major criticisms here would be that the art style really could've been better and the climax and resolution isn't entirely pleasing. Yet you still feel satisfied with the story once it concludes and it's a conclusion will stay with you for as long as you live. Despite all the horror and tragedy the story has dished out, it actually ends on a pretty feel-good note in which good ultimately triumphs over evil. But the two ideologies will always be clashing and the monster shall always stalk you...beware! 

15. Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Here's the one Gundam series that 
I consider enjoyable and worth my time. This is kind of what "Gurren Lagannshould have been the whole way through. It's a cheesy as heck, over-the-top, hamfisted, hotblooded, and incredibly action packed super robot series that manages to be very entertaining about how sincere it is and how it pulls all it's punches with joy and love for the genre. It actually has fun with it, which Gundam never really does in all subsequent series'. Rather than centering around galactic nations at war with each other using giant robots to fight and back up their pretentious pseudo war philosophies, this one has all of humanity who inhabit the "neo" nations of the Earth all tired of fighting wars and instead settling all their differences through "Gundam Fight" tournaments, which keeps the peace in the world. In the annual Gundam Fight that the story takes place in, Neo Japan's fighter Domon Kasshu, along with his lovely mechanic and childhood friend Rain Mikamura, is on a quest to find his missing brother, who's tied to the series' main antagonist, the Dark Gundam, which is one of the most frightening and most original main villains in any anime series. There are many twists, turns, action sequences, and surprisingly deep dramatic moments in this story. But there's a comedy about it that's consistent. This series is riddled with cliches and cultural stereotypes; Japanese and Hong Kong martial arts, American patriotic boxing champions, "honorable" Chinese monks, snooty French knights, fierce Russian commies, Italian mobsters, English gentlemen, even a Little Mermaid gundam for Neo Denmark!  And there's a...Sailor Scout Gundam for Neo Sweeden for some reason. A lot of these characters and their Gundams are absurd, but oh so very fun. The main characters all get their share of development and growth, even the hammy antagonist, Master Asia. The plot escalates from episodic adventures, to serious fights, to the main tournament, and to the climactic final showdown with the Dark Gundam. And in the end, the power of love prevails!  Yeah, it's corny, but I enjoyed it from start to finish. Screw the rest of the franchise: this will always be THE Gundam show for me.

14. Sailor Moon /&/ Sailor Moon R: Obviously, I'm not a guy with much care for girly shoujo series', especially not generic, girly "magical girl" shows that get spewed out every now and then.(Okay, I do like "Powerpuff Girls Z", but that's due to my love for the original seris and thus my enjoyment of the different take on things from it.)  A big reason for this is...they're all just a bunch of imitators to the one that started it all..."Sailor Moon". Conceived as a manga by Naoku Takeuchi with the intent of combining the magical girl genre-then with the Super Sentai genre, this series was met with phenomenal success in Japan. It got an anime adaptation with 5 series' that were only loosely based on the manga's plot, using the same characters, situations, and elements from the manga but none of the story. It was made to be more episodic and stylistic, which actually made it more faithful to the "Sentai" angle. This is one of those metaseries where the series' get weaker and weaker as it goes along, with only two of them were of high quality; the original and it's immediate follow-up, "R'.(The next one was disappointingly average, the following one was incredibly weak, and the final one was absolutely horrendous). Those first two were good enough and meaningful enough to me to make it here. The original series was very fun, very well presented, and surprisingly addictive for both a female and male audience. The episodic adventures were entertaining, the action was impressive, the overarching storyline was told and paced out almost perfectly, it had some greatly characterized heroes and supporting characters, the Dark Kingdom were terrific villains, and damn were these chicks hot. The biggest theme was love and romance, which grated at times but ended up being quite lovely and well done. The series finale was an absorbing two-part epic that took risks in killing off the entire cast and giving a bittersweet end to the story. The "R" series afterwards was only slightly less good due to the 13 episode filler arc that started it lagging heavily in it's middle, and then a new director, Kunihiko Ikuhara, taking over once the main plot actually got going. The direction choices he made weren't really all that good, such as an absolutely pointless, melodramatic, and headbangingly stupid subplot involving Usagi and Mamoru breaking up, an awkward pace, fillers getting noticeably less meaningful, and the characters started to undergo Flanderization. But the quality was still high, the story was very fascinating and complex, and the finale was a grand one indeed. After this, Ikuhara and his successor ran the show into the ground and it flopped in the ratings, but these series' are great, fun anime classics. They're ones I grew up watching towards my childhood's end and...yeah, aside from some music and voices, the dub's an abominable butchery of the original, but I had fun watching it anyway. I kind of still do, actually. (Guilty pleasures, y'know?) So that's why both the original "Sailor Moon" anime series AND "Sailor Moon R" score this spot.

13. The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya: One of two series' to be based on a Light Novel series to make the list. Delightfully strange, chaotic, and self-aware of the tropes it uses, this is truly a work of brilliance. The anime series is in many ways just as good, and in certain areas better than, the original novels. You don't get to hear as much consistent witty narration from Kyon and the episodic format doesn't allow for as much depth and space, but you do get to see all the visuals of the stories rather than be told of them, some of the plots are presented better, and after the initial story arc, the short stories are distilled and arranged in a way that keeps the focus where it belongs; on the antics of Kyon and Haruhi herself. In the actual chronological order that is, not the messed-up TV order. I'm only considering the 14 episodes of the first season, the first episode of the second season, and the movie here; the repugnant "Endless Eight" and "Sigh" arcs can go to Hell and stay there. This anime was a masterwork for many reasons. One being the ordinary high school/ small Japanese town setting that clashes with all the unusual stuff that occurs on a regular basis. Another being the premise of the ongoing story and how Kyon's an ordinary guy who gets sucked into this and then has to play a key part in it's outcome. So it's like, what would you do in this position? If there was an SOS Brigade at your school, how would you handle it? And if all the weird and fantastic things you thought not to exist and would never happen to you started to happen, but happening in secret, with you as the secret keeper because the fate of the known universe depending on you not revealing it? The dilemmas this series presents are so fascinating and so entertaining, and again, the clash between the abnormal and the mundane is played out so well. Lastly, there's the endearingly quirky and memorable characters. Kyon, our main protagonist, is an awesome lead character due to his disillusioned, deadpan sarcastic attitude towards everything, his seeming apathy that actually evolves into a genuine care for what's going on around him, and his performance as the straight man to the weirdness that Haruhi brings. Haruhi Suzumiya, being the titular character and centerpiece of the story, is fantastic; she's crazy, she's upbeat, she's eccentric, she's rude and sardonic, she's obnoxiously energetic, she's self-centered, she's manipulative, she's bossy, pushy, and mean; she's just a total jerk lacking in empathy for others and does terrible, inappropriate things to get her way. She wants everything to be all about her, which unbeknownst to her, they are!  But she's got such a passion and a lustful desire to make life interesting that she still comes off as likable and interesting. She actually wants everyone to be happy and receives great character development in learning to not be so unpleasent and enjoy life for what it is and be more considerate of others...she's just a great character and I love her. The other characters like Yuki, Mikuru, and Itsuki are fun too and all have their own layers to them but none of them can outshine the leads. As far as the novels go, the series seems to have reached it's climax and is as good as over with now. The anime's lost it's luster (and it's reputation) too due to the wretchedness of the second season. But how great it was to start with has made it a favorite, no matter how annoyingly the internet may hype and overblow it to death. 

12. One Piece: Yo ho ho, this be a pirate anime! It's among the only new age shonen series' to start off really, really good. Taking place on a treacherous ocean continent known as the Grand Line, it stars a strange, hyperactive young man named Monkey D. Luffy as he sets sail to form a pirate crew of his own, seeking adventure that will lead him to the legendary One Piece treasure, and with it, become the king of all pirates. It's a simple concept on paper but has a lot of weight to it in execution. The thing this series gets most right is an intriguing and unique world, hysterical comedy, and over-the-top, holding-nothing-back action.Influenced by Akira Toriyama's works such as "Dragon Ball", we see Luffy and his crew get into lots of troublesome and hilarious misadventures, engage in many Tex Avery style slapstick gags, explore the Grand Line, meet new people, and have high octane action fights with superpowered villains on top of all that. Add all that to a show about pirates and how can you not find it in some way appealing?  The characters are all unique and defined, particularly Luffy's crew members such as Zoro the samurai, Nami the navigator, Usopp the marksman, and Sanji the chef. Side characters are also memorable and the villains are awesome enemies such as Buggy the Pirate Clown, Captain Kuro the butler, Saw-Toothed Arlong the Fish Man, and the incredible Sir Crocodile, hook-handed leader of the Baroque Works criminal organization. The stories that got told told with these characters were well played and engaging tales, often being surprisingly complex and dramatic, particularly the Syrup Village, Arlong Park, Drum Island, and Alabasta arcs. And the series had a great tone to it; one that was whimsical and wacky but intense and adventurous, too. While it had flaws that become all too apparent upon serious examination, they could be forgiven because this was a series bursting with charm; rarely was it dull because often was it exciting. But this was only true for two whole sagas, the East Blue Saga and the Baroque Works Saga. The series reached it's high point there and was followed by the mediocrity of the Skypiea Saga, the overly-serious, melodramatic stupidity of the CP9 Saga, and the forgettable-ness of all that followed.  It's become as stretched out, dragged on, and padded as every modern "big" shonen series and has lost it's original charm and appeal. The entire world is the Grand Line now, the old characters have gone stale, the new characters often disappoint, and the ongoing plot is no fun anymore. Things looked to be getting interesting and epic again during the Whitebeard War Saga, but nope, it ended after the first true deaths in the series with the claim that this was the series' "halfway point". And thus I gave up on it. It was clear that Oda had just sold out. But the "One Piece" that I regard is the first two sagas, the ones that even the VIZ manga publishers branded as simply "One Piece" before going back and re-branding every volume published from now on. That was the "One Piece" that was fun, and the one that I shall always "treasure." (And yes, the 4Kids dub is going to go unmentioned here. Except for that one.)

11. Digimon Tamers: The third anime series in the Digimon franchise. After "Digimon Adventure 02" flopped, that continuity was no longer followed and the anime got rebooted with this one. And it was a relief to once again have a Digimon series that was not only fun but well written and of truly good quality! Clearly inspired by the works of Gainax, this was by far the deepest, darkest, edgiest, and most intense entry to the franchise. It was also where the concept of Digimon was most grounded in realism and boy was it deconstructed! Taking place in modern day Shinjuku, the world it shows us is most similar to our own. Digimon is a popular franchise too, with a card game, video games, an anime series, and everything. The plot centers around a boy named Takato who's so into Digimon that he draws up his own Digimon one day. Through the power of a new Digivice and a mysterious blue card, the created Digimon is brought to life as Guilmon, who becomes Takato's Digimon partner and he must be his tamer. These two soon cross paths with other tamers; the friendly, pacifistic Henry and the cold, antagonistic Rika. All three tamers and their Digimon soon become wrapped up in a plot concerning a secret government agency that's seeking to eliminate any wild Digimon that strays from it's world in order to cover up the existence of  Digimon. And why are Digimon real, anyway? What's the link between their world and ours?  And where does the strange Calumon fit in? The answers are slowly unraveled in a story that progresses in an intriguing way. The main characters are all terrific, the human/Digimon interaction is back to form,  the antagonists are complex, the action is exciting,  the turns in the plot are genuinely suspenseful, and it keeps a dark, mature tone to it that makes the series unique but at the same time, doesn't stray too far away from kids' show territory. It got a bit close to it towards the end of the show, and that's not the only fault to be found here. Some characters aren't developed to their fullest potential, or are flat out pointless in the case of Ryo and Suzie Wong, and this probably has the blandest, most unremarkable portrayal of the Digital World in any Digimon series until Savers. But there are way more strengths over those weaknesses. Great storytelling, character development, realistic themes, emotional depth, and action-packed Digimon goodness are plentiful in this series. It's a deep experience worth seeing by any hardcore anime fan and viewers who are interested. Trust me when I say it does not disappoint.

10. Death Note: An incredibly dark Shonen series and a very unique one that's a supernatural horror story, a crime drama, and a psychological tragedy all at once. How awesome is that? It'll be clear that I actually don't like the anime of "Death Note" nearly as much as I do the original manga or live action movie adaptation(s). The anime just goes so over-the-top in how edgy and intense or "epic" it can be, all done with wide angle shots or jerky camera shifts, and just hamilly overdramatic direction in general. (The now infamous "potato chip" scene comes to mind) It even changed the story's entire ending in order to be more overdramatic!  When I think of an intelligently written psychological thriller or crime drama that requires lots of focused thinking, I think it should be smart and subtle, not in-your-face, loud and bombastic. What keeps even this anime an enjoyable series is what matters most; the plot. It's a tragic and terrifying tale of how a Shinigami (a demon god of death), out of boredom, throws his Death Note notebook down to Earth as an amusing little experiment to see who picks it up and what's done with it as a result. The human who finds it is Light Yagami, a police chief's son who has a fierce but childish sense of justice and who, himself, has become bored and disillusioned with life. When he experiments with the notebook and discovers that it's power is to kill whatever human's name is written down in it (if it has a time, cause, and mental image of the person in mind, that is), he's terrified that he has taken lives. Then he swears that he will use this notebook to kill all the rotten, corrupt people and criminals in the world in order to rid the world of evil. Then he will bring about order to a new, ideal world and rule over it as the new God!  So yeah, this kid clearly isn't right in the head. When his murders become worldwide news and he becomes known as the serial killer "Kira", an enigmatic great detective named "L" decides to take the case solely out of a desire to beat Kira at his own game and prove that his way is truly justice. And so the game out cat and mouse between two corrupt, self righteous geniuses begins, and what erupts is a compelling story that, like "Monster", is built around the nature of right and wrong and how far one human being can go in the name of his ideals. With each new dastardly deed he commits, Light becomes more and more corrupted by his own power and by the end has become this pure evil, self centered, psychopathic murderer who will kill even good or innocent people just so they won't get in his way of cleansing the world. He does so many terrible, despicable, sickeningly evil things but is so crazy and arrogant that he believes he's a righteous hero who's doing good for the world, so he justifies himself every step of the way, which only adds to his tragic downward spiral. That is a very interesting character to have as the protagonist! Aside from the psychology and scary stuff, the main draw is the intelligent strategies implemented by our main characters and seeing just how one can outmanuever the other. It's very well written, interesting stuff, and gives you a certain respect for all characters involved. Sadly, in both the manga and the anime, the story went off the rails when a contrived twist occured midway through and a main character died a pointless death. Afterwards the plot got blander, the tone got bleaker, the events and tactics more contrived, the characters became less engaging, and I lost interest until the series story's final act, in which what's right triumphed over evil and Kira's reign of terror was ended. But though I consider the live action movie(s) to be the definitive version of the story, the series is worth seeing in any medium.  

9. El Hazard: The Wanderers: An anime TV show based off of the OVA "El Hazard: The Magnificent World", from the makers of "Tenchi Muyo!". Opposite of "Tenchi" though, I actually find this TV spin-off to be superior to the original OVA in almost every way. Almost. The premise is the same: mild mannered Japanese schoolboy Makoto Mizuhara, along with his perky, business-savvy friend Nanami Jinnai, her egocentric, megalomaniacal brother Katsuiko Jinnai, who hate Makoto's guts, and their boisterous, alcoholic teacher Mr. Fujisawa, get sucked into an alternate dimensional and end up in the magnificent world of El Hazard. Once there, Makoto, Nanami, and Fujisawa gain unique, supernatural abilities and become heroes for the capital kingdom of Roshterria, while the evil Katsuhiko becomes the general of the invading armies of the Bugrom race. What makes it work is the set-up of this world, it's characters, and the events of the ongoing storyline. It's often hilarious, interesting, and fantastical, like something out of pulp fiction. The episodes are very fun to watch, it's got nice animation and music, and the characters are really entertaining. I love the likes of the sweet, insecure teenage princess Rune Venus, the cheerful Alielle, the three elemental power priestesses (particularly the cocky, fiery, hot-tempered, and just plain hot Shayla-Shayla), and even that obsessive old scientist who's name I can never remember or pronounce. The main characters' antics, like Nanami's get rich quick schemes and Fujisawa's drunken frenzies, are always great to watch too. My favorite character would have to be Jinnai, though, because he is so enjoyably over-the-top, full of himself, diabolical, and quirky, that he's one of my all-time favorite anime villains. He's just such a great comedic character that you can either love to hate or just plain love, and his high pitched maniacal laughter will not ever leave your heard after you'd heard it for so long. The strengths this show has over the OVA are that the unlikable Princess Fatora, and thus the plot point of Makoto having to cross-dress in order to impersonate her, has been dropped, Alielle's lesbian sexuality was played with more ambiguity, Rune Venus being younger makes her more interesting, her romance with Makoto is great, that stupid Ayeka vs Ryoko ripoff feud between Nanami and Shayla-Shayla isn't present, the Bugrom are portrayed better, and the character of the demon goddess Ifurita was changed for the better, in my opinion. As Jinnai's clumsy, ditzy, and happy-go-lucky servant, she's a much more appealing character. On the downside, the Phantom Tribe was pointlessly adapted out of the story and Jinnai's threat level was decreased, meaning there's a lack of truly menacing antagonism in the series, Nanami's more useful ability that's tied to the Phantom Tribe was also removed, the animation and scope of the world was less beautiful, and the story arc took a long time to really take off since the middle portion of the series was mostly filler. But all in all, I still say this is the best "El Hazard" experience to have, so I value it as a great "harem anime" done right.

8. The Slayers /&/ Slayers NEXT: The other anime to be based on a Light Novel series to make this list, and like "Sailor Moon", this anime's original series and it's immediate successor both earn this spot. "The Slayers" is a brilliant affectionate parody homage to the fantasy genre and all the RPGs it inspires and probably the best anime comedy you'll ever find. Set in a well crafted medieval fantasy world, this series told fantastical tales of sorcery, swordplay, adventure, epic battles, and constant greed for wealth and food. Like most that made it this far, what makes this series great is it's colorful and memorable cast of characters. The titular Slayers are a lovably flawed and comedic bunch of people. Lina Inverse, the central protagonist, is a selfish, scheming, greedy, ill-tempered, bratty, destructive, almost sociopathic teenage sorceress who does everything under promises of a reward. Her partner is the warrior Goury Gabriev, a soft hearted, strong, courageous, but dumb as a brick young man who has delusions of chivalry and honor. There's also Amelia, a spunky, energetic, clumsy, overactive princess who is insanely obsessed with fighting for JUSTICE!, and Zelgadiss, a deadpan, overly-serious, self centered chimera who suffers much abuse and comedy at his expense. In the "NEXT" series, this group is followed closely by the mysterious "trickster priest" Xellos Metallium, a quirky, cryptic, sly, troublesome, and untrustworthy character who always has his own agenda that he never gives away to others, his catchphrase being "now that is a secret!" He's hands down one of the show's most memorable and hilarious characters. All of these characters are well developed for what they are and all of them, despite their flaws, have true good hearts and will rise to the occasion...well, maybe not Xellos but even he has his moments of heroism. The story follows a continuous narrative but one that veers in different directions all the time. The first series follows the story of these characters coming together for the first time and fighting against the evil plans of the mad priest, Rezo, who serves the dark lord Shabranigdo. The second series has them searching for the legendary Claire Bible, which is also sought after by two feuding demon lords: Gaav the demon dragon king and Hellmaster Phibrizzo. All the adventures that are had along the way are great, well played out, and filled with whimsical gag humor, and the quality of entertainment is consistently fun. You follow these endearing characters on a grand and often hilarious quest, and once it's done, you're glad you did. Simply put, "Slayers" is a great anime classic and while it's no longer relevant, the first two series' will always be favorites.

7. Cowboy Bebop: A lot has been said about this one, so I'll make this as quick as I possibly can. This was a excellently written, greatly animated, well paced and well presented show., period. The futuristic space world it takes place in is fascinating and fun to explore, the characters are well rounded and likable despite their flaws, and the action, soundtrack, and style of this show is charmingly "western". It kept an upbeat and groovy feel about it on most occasions but wasn't afraid to get serious and frightening when the plot called for it. It's a show with an episodic nature and no real plot to speak of; just the Bebop crew living their lives and getting into different adventures while hunting for bounty. But there's also a myth arc to it that's tied to the lead character of Spike Spiegel, who is trying to run away from his past but in the end, it all comes back full circle as he has to face it in the series finale. The story arc is intense, dramatic, and executed beautifully whenever it takes center stage. This show was great at telling stories with interesting characters. About those characters: Spike himself is a laid back, self serving, smooth, vaguely effeminate jackass and total badass. He's like a western gunslinger version of Jack Sparrow. His friends are also great: Jet Black, a large man with a kind, sensitive soul who serves as the gang's den mother, and Faye Valentine, a greedy, selfish, hot-as-hell femme fatale who desperately wants to find where she belongs in life. Oh and there's also Edward, a totally insane teenage girl who's good with mechanical know-how and always cheerful and content with living her life. And recurring villain of the piece, Vicious, is just about the most ominous, threatening, and cold blooded gangster you'll ever see anywhere. This anime, while it lasted, had great writing, a good amount of heart to it, and feels like a true masterpiece. It has successors like "Samurai Champloo" and "Wolf's Rain", but none can quite compare to this. It's a sheer masterpiece that has things that can appeal to everyone. 

6. Yu Yu Hakusho: One of the richest, highest quality Shonen you will ever find, this anime is utter awesomeness. It tells a great saga that combines modern day Japan with the supernatural, mystery, and martial arts action. The show begins when our main character, 14 year old delinquent Yusuke Urameshi, gets hit by a car and dies. Yes, he's dead by the first few seconds of the first episode. And that's only the start of this story and it's weirdness. Things escalate from Yusuke going to Spirit World and taking an ordeal to return to the world of the living, becoming appointed as the "spirit detective" of Earth once he does, forming a team of allies that assist him on the cases, getting pulled into a demon fighting tournament organized by human gangsters, and fighting to save all of humanity from a psychic psycho's plan to carve open a tunnel to the Demon World and release Armageddon upon the earth! This is alot of exciting shit, and the series pulls it all off brilliantly. (The anime version moreso than the manga) The writing and imagination for the series was great: unlike "Dragon Ball" where the fights are generic hitting and ki-attacks, the fights here have different unique styles, abilities, and procedures to them. And the characters are all an interesting, developed bunch: Yusuke Urameshi is, like Lina Inverse, a heavily flawed hero but with a good heart and lots of determination to settle whatever fight he starts. His friend and rival street fighter, Kazuma Kuwabara, is a rowdy, hot blooded, hilarious character with a strong code of honor and a kind, good natured soul who can take many beatings and still endure it. Kurama is a well mannered, intelligent, and fascinating character; a demon fox trapped in a human body and one who hides a ruthless nature. And Hiei is a great anti-hero: a cold, snarky demon with a perpetually foul attitude but many layers to him and great development over the series' run. The other supporting characters are terrifically portrayed: from Koenma, to Botan, to Keiko, to Genkai, to even the blue ogre Jorge, they all leave a great impression. The animation, action, music, presentation of this show was simply stellar. The one biggest stain on it's name would be the stupid Three Kings Saga at the end, but if you overlook and disregard that, you get a great shonen experience from start to finish. I've watched in many times in summer and it always holds up, feeling very special to me. 

5. Neon Genesis Evangelion: One of the most famous anime series' ever produced. Made by Gainax and written by a man named Hideko Anno, this is a series with high artistic value, a complex storyline, a multidimensional cast of characters, epic giant robot vs aliens battles, and perhaps the most awesome Japanese theme song put to any anime. The series is simply phenomenal; it was huge in Japan and inspired a large franchise of various products inspired by the original work. With the original work itself, it has many strengths and weaknesses. The biggest strength is the story. Taking place in a futuristic civilization in Japan that's controlled by secret government organizations, it follows the NERV society as the employ their Evangelion robot units to combat alien beings known as "the Angels", who seek to bring about the apocalypse. An even bigger conflict is that all of the "children" designated to pilot the Evas are all psychologically troubled teenagers who, no matter how strong they are, struggle continuously with the inner battles within themselves. Oh and it's not just the kids: all the adults behind the group are psychological wrecks with dark pasts as well, and the higher ups actually have hidden agendaS more insidious and horrific than what the Angels are out to do to the world. This is a conflict with the entire human race at stakes, and it hinges on the humanity of the characters and if they can rise above their problems in order to protect all life as we know it. It's one of the most gripping, compelling, and absorbing premises to any Japanese work of fiction I've ever seen.I love the characters created for this show, too. Shinji Ikari is a very polarizing figure but to me, he's an excellent, almost disturbingly realistic portrayal of how a troubled teenage loser of a boy would really deal with being put into a situation where he must be a giant robot piloting hero. He's not going to be a hot blooded badass: he's going to be scared out of his mind. Rei Ayanami is a fascinatingly strange and creepy yet beautiful character whose lack of emotional depth gives her little to no personality to speak of, but she still has plenty of depth as she comes to terms with her growing humanity. Asuka Langley is one of the best bitchy characters ever, with an arrogant, insulting, obnoxious, mean-spirited attitude that's played so extreme that it's amusing but at the same time she's got deep psychological reasons for behaving this way, and she actually ends up one of the most sympathetic, developed, and endearing characters for it. Misato Katsuragi is also a great female lead; a compassionate young woman with severe emotional issues, drinking problems, and a fragile psyche stemming for a painful past, but she's always working to better herself and others as the plot thickens. And all the other characters like Gendo Ikari, Ryoji Kaji, Ritsuko Akagi, Kaworu Nagisa, and Shinji's classmates are all greatly defined as well. The biggest fault in the series lies in the Creator Breakdown and all the misery that followed it. Halfway through the show, Anno fell into a deep psychological depression and as a result, the show got darker, more depressing, disturbing, convoluted, serious, and an unnecessary downer and mind screw at every freaking turn. The characters got grating, the story was becoming difficult to follow, and the show just threw out all these weird visuals and psychobabble and needlessly cruel, angsty moments and events that made the experience just plain unpleasant. After Kaji bit it, things started to pick up again but then after the climax, the series lost most of it's budget and gave us an ending and resolution to the conflict that was literally a therapy session within the joined minds of the entire cast. An ending that left many things hanging and didn't close the story properly at all, though its's at least a hundred times more satisfying closure than that dreadful alternate ending movie they came up with afterwards. But taken as a whole, the show was a great work. The many other works that it spawned is a testament to the legacy that it's left. Like "Code Geass" and "Gurren Lagann", this is a series why I much prefer the manga adaptation of the story and characters. But the original anime is still great and is highly recommended to those who want the full experience of Evangelion.  

4. Yu-Gi-Oh! /&/ Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monster: Like "Sailor Moon" and "The Slayers", two "Yu-Gi-Oh!" series' tie for this spot because let's be honest, no animated "Yu-Gi-Oh!"could ever match the greatness of the original manga, which was as close to perfection as a shonen series can get. But the original two anime shows starring Yugi Moto and his alter ego were really, really good and enjoyable to watch. If you don't think that a show about people playing children's card games to decide to fate of the world is stupid, wait until you see it in execution, because it's actually truly great. The first "Yu-Gi-Oh!" anime made by Toei may seem offputting due to it's cheaper animation and coloring that looked like it was by magic markers, but it was a quality show. Taken from the stories told in the first three story arcs of the manga, this show was presented episodically with a different shadow game against a different antagonist featured each week. The way it was styled, scored, and presented, it's actually like the Japanese equivalent to a Disney Afternoon cartoon show. The plots were well adapted and the characters were all very endearing and expertly voiced, with the exception of Yugi himself, who was given a totally wrong voice and vocal performance by Megumi Ogata. The show also had a recurring story arc involving arch-enemy Seto Kaiba's plans to take his revenge on Yugi for beating him at his own game, which concluded in the series' climactic episodes, which also led into the series finale in which the evil Bakura traps the gang in a twisted role-playing game and the Other Yugi must face him on his own. For what it was, the series was great; it's a shame it's never been dubbed in English. The following series, subtitled "Duel Monster" due to the card games elevation in prominence at this point, was produced by Studio Gallop (who did "Ruronni Kenshin") and it kicked off with an entirely self-contained first episode which threw together plot elements from Kaiba's previous manga appearances before it moved on to adapting the latter arcs of the manga; Duelist Kingdom, the Battle City Tournament and Finals, and Memory World. It was animated better than it's predecessor, the stories were told in a more intense fashion, and the voice for Yugi was a much better fit. The way the duels were portrayed on screen was much more exciting than how they appeared on the manga pages, and so much that came out of the storylines and characters was entertaining and meaningful. But at other points, it did things with the material that wasn't so meaningful. Filler arcs, filler plots, needless padding, adaptation decay of noticeable proportions, excessive marketing of the children's card game, and worst of all, elevating Kaiba to the series deuteragonist and repeatedly shilling him in the narrative despite never allowing him to undergo any lasting development whatsoever. This just got more and more insufferable with each season, especially when it came at the expense of Joey, the series' intended deuteragonist But the good stuff was so endearing and had such a huge draw to it, outweighing the flaws and kept me watching 'till the end, which was very moving and satisfying. As in the manga, the story and character development of Yugi and his Pharaoh alter ego, which effected all those close to them too, was the heart of this series, and the reason it stands out as a work of greatness. Following that story from the manga, these series' gave you the TRUE animated"Yu-Gi-Oh!" experience.

3. Pokemon (Indigo League): Ah, here it is. This is the original Pokemon anime series. The one, true Pokemon cartoon. The only part of the Pokemon anime show that can stand on it's own as a great series that tells a great adventure story, complete with a begging, a middle, and an end. I don't really care for that "Indigo League" subtitle for it, but that's beside the point. This series was initially conceived as being around 80 episodes and running for a year and a half before it concluded. As written by Takeshi Shudo, directed by Masamitsu Hidaka, and executed by all the rest of the staff, the fact that this was supposed to be a self-contained show still shows even when it became merely the first "season" of a larger anime that only got weaker after it had concluded. And for nostalgic Pokemon fans and those who appreciate quality entertainment, it is truly something to behold. In fact, this was one of my "gateway anime"  that I really got into during the late 90's when it premiered in the US and became the phenomenon. It's very fun to watch and overwhelmingly nostalgic for me to this day. The plot centers around a 10-year old boy named Ash Ketchum, a likable, energetic, but clueless underdog who was just starting out as a trainer and dreamed of becoming a Pokemon master. He was sort of a loser, but had such determination and ambition to become number one that you rooted for him and almost believed he could do it one day if he really tried. The show chronicled his travels in the land of Kanto alongside his gym leader friends, the tomboyish water Pokemon trainer Misty and sensitive but horny breeding specialist Brock. And of course, there was Ash's main companion, Pikachu, whose portrayal here made it the series mascot. Along the way, our heroes came to have many different Pokemon related adventures and faced off against the devious but bumbling Team Rocket trio of Jessie, James, and Meowth, who were always pursuing them in hopes of stealing Pikachu and causing all sorts of trouble on the side. So much of this was just well-written and entertaining. Almost every episode was filled with off-the-wall humor and exciting, adventurous, and perilous situations  It was hilarious, heartfelt, and not afraid to take risks and do things that could frighten the kids in the audience. The World of Pokemon as presented here was portrayed as the magical and wondrous place that it should be and, aside from various filler locations, was true to the spirit of the games. The characters, both major and minor, were all very endearing and memorable, with the Team Rocket characters being the undisputed stars of the show, being some of the all time great comedic villains ever. Now the series did suffer from some minor drawbacks down the road, namely the padded stretch between Fuchsia City and Cinnabar Island, that pointless Primeape, that damn Togepi, and the infamous seizure incident that came from the now banned Porygon episode. Eventually it got back on track by the time the Mewtwo arc was started, a storyline that tied into the First Movie and it's TV movie follow-up. The series itself finished with Ash entering the League Tournament...and losing because the show had to go on. Damn. All flaws aside though, this series was fantastic! Watching any episode of this and comparing it to the rest of the anime shows a big difference in quality. And that would be because this is the series with the most heart and most care put into it; the one most worthy of being "Pokemon". It's the late Takeshi Shudo's masterpiece. So no matter what,' Season One is the only truly great series in the show; one of my favorite cartoon shows from the 90's, and undisputedly the best that the Pokemon anime ever been.

 2. Digimon Adventure: Digimon fares better than that other 'Mon' as an anime franchise but one thing's the same between them: the first series can never quite be matched, especially in my heart. "Digimon Adventure" is the original Digimon anime in the series and the one that most captures what Digimon should be all about. It had the most wondrous and fantastical rendition of the Digital World, the tightest, most well written, paced, and executed plot, the most character development between a number of kids, their Digimon, and even their families, and the heart and soul of it all; growing bonds between the kids and their Digimon partners. The story begins with seven preteen kids attending summer camp all obtain mysterious "Digivices" that open up a rift into another world, where they are befriended by good Digimon who can evolve, fight, and protect them from bad ones. The title is not wasted on this series; it really feels like an adventure. What starts as merely exploration of the Digiworld turns into a struggle between the forces of good and evil in a quest to save the entire world. The children soon discover that they were chosen to be sent to this world for a reason; a destiny they have to fulfill, and things become more intense and personal when the conflict in the Digiworld begins to spill into their own world on Earth. All that unfolds in this story is gripping, involving, heartfelt, and pleasing on all levels. The characters involved are all fantastic and the development they go through enables them to do many things that leave a huge impact. We also got the best cast of Digimon villains to ever be animated, particularly the magnificent vampiric overlord, Myotismon, who sought to conquer both worlds. It's presented with nice art, great action, and a memorable musical score (in both languages). The dub's scripts suffered from lots of Nimoy/Bulcholz hackery and bad translation errors, but the dub was overall still very entertaining and faithful to the spirit of the original that I can forgive it. Like the Pokemon show, this was a gateway anime for me, a nostalgic anime classic, and a favorite of mine now and always.

But now for my number one favorite anime....

1. Dragon Ball: "Dragon Ball" as in the original "Dragon Ball" anime, the original "Dragon Ball Z" anime, and the modern "Dragon Ball Z KAI" recut version.This (or at least the hacked dub of DBZ at the time) was my first anime. It opened the gateway to an interest in many more but even today, this remains my most cherished. I could go into a long discussion about what makes this series so great and why it's the best shonen manga/anime ever written, but I won't. I'll just give the basic summary.It's about a boy named Son Goku who's really an alien from another world as he and his friends fight with martial arts, compete in budokai, battle the forces of evil, and search for the seven mystical Dragon Balls that have the special power to summon a dragon god that can grant any wish. And that's it, really. Nothing too complex in concept and the series isn't even very expertly written either. It's all about the execution. Akira Toriyama was the master at making things up as he went along and implementing them into the story in a way that made them work. Rarely ever did the narrative of the various unfolding sagas feel like an asspull, even when it technically was. The plot points are well written and the story is well told. It also has the advantage of never having one consistent story in it's narrative. Many modern Shonen  feel long and dragged out because they're always telling one big story that goes on without ending, thinking that the readers will have patience and love enough for the story to keep following it But this manga was always moving from one saga to another, each bringing something new to the table, from a simple treasure hunt quest story loosely based on a famous Chinese folk tale, to a martial arts tournament, to terrorist armies, demons, aliens, time travelers, androids, wizards, and gods. The genre and focus of the work was never consistent, and that's what made it fun. It's just hard to ever get bored with this series. It creates a very large, vast, and unusual world with it's own rules and cosmology, it features a varietive and wonderful cast of characters, it's always throwing out hard hitting action, it's incredibly funny and exciting with it's own wacky style, and it tells epic stories of the good guys' struggles and their triumphs over their enemies. And really, that's what it's all about; it's epic mythology. It's a single flowing narrative that tells you of the heroes' exploits; just their lives. When you get down to it, it's all about life in this universe and often life can tell the most interesting stories. Now there are a big amount of flaws to be found here, the one I can most recall being that the last third of the Buu Saga, the final story in the whole series, was severely lacking in how it was written and was just really stupid, and then the series ended not with a bang or even a whimper, but with a "....??? the end!" But again, I could be here for a whole discussion if I tried to weigh it's pros and cons. For me, the good in this series will always trump the bad and it shall always be my most enjoyed, well regarded, no.1 all-time favorite manga/anime series to ever come out of Japan.