My Top 20 Favourite Anime (2017 Update)

Not sure where I heard it, but the perfect completed anime to favourite anime ratio is a clean-cut 10:1: meaning that now that I’ve completed over 200 anime in total (according to MAL at least), I get to update my favourite anime to a list of 20. And that’s good news and bad news.

It is becoming exceedingly hard to…I guess ‘rank’ the experiences I’ve had with these 200 titles, whether they are a 195 episode epic or a 2 minute short. This is essentially what a numbered rating on MAL means to me: a definite but still abstract figure that encapsulates my time with a single anime. This means I have to constantly battle against recency bias, my updating tastes and changing opinions on shows during various post-viewing brainstorms – which can take place out of nowhere, YEARS after the initial viewing – which means scores constantly gets shifted around to accommodate the changing times.

I will admit this right out of the gate: I need to pull my ass out of the present, and watch a HELLA lot more old anime, and I daresay my list thus far proves this indefinitely. Which is why, starting from the 2017 update of my favourites list, I will be archiving each update via. a post like this, instead of just editing the favourites page (you might’ve noticed in the past few days, that my ‘top 10 anime’ page is blank): over time, a progression like this will definitely showcase a maturing fan of Japanese animation, and I do hope that you will stick around long enough to at least bear witness to my eventual top 30 favourite anime update.

Just once for this update, I will note the omissions in the same post (future posts of this subject won’t need this, since the updates will be archived): I dropped The Pet Girl of Sakurasou and The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya from the top 10 rankings, due to the fact that I haven’t watched them in 2 years, and is confident that new experiences during this time period have overtook them.

Now, with this little pre-show talk out of the way, let’s take a look at the sparkling new line up.


20. Is the Order a Rabbit? | Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?

[HorribleSubs] Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka S2 - 11 [1080p].mkv_snapshot_00.07_[2015.12.28_00.52.48].jpg

Director: Hiroyuki Hashimoto

Animation Production: White Fox, Kinema Citrus

Music: Ruka Kawada

Genres: Slice of Life, Comedy

Seasons: Spring 2014, Fall 2015

Episodes: 24

Fitting, to begin the list on the show that was featured in one of my earliest ever long-form blog posts.

In the post, I spoke in length about the nature of fantasy in narratives, and how the idea of audiences seeking entertainment for escape from reality can indulge in GochiUsa’s alternative form of fantastical otherness: idyllic peacefulness.

The show’s atmosphere and general design language informs the general cuteness and sweet gentleness that aims to fully envelop the viewer in its pace. This is a trait that is perfectly incapacitated by the main character Cocoa, whose carefree tendency to a stupid, adorable devotion to fun and life ends up not only dragging all her friends along for the ride, but the audience as well.

19. Aria The Animation

[SallySubs] Aria The Animation - 02 [BD 1080p FLAC] [A0DD6BFF].mkv_snapshot_21.04_[2016.11.22_09.35.21].jpg

Director: Junichi Sato

Animation Production: Hal Film Maker

Music: Choro Club

Genres: Iyashikei, Slice of Life

Season: Fall 2005

Episodes: 13

There is a very particular story that I’ve attached to experiencing Aria for the first time. I’ve blogged extensively about my travels to China for a tooth operation, as well as talking about the show itself. This personal involvement in my appreciation of Aria is exactly what makes it extra difficult to drive the details down to the bare minimum for a short blurb.

I’ve always fancied myself an appreciator of stories. Stories that have no particular themes or endings, no linearity, or are just the side flavour texts that serve no purpose to the main plotline, if what I was watching, reading or hearing happens to feature that as its main offering. I like getting immersed in the mundanity of these stories: told for the sake of storytelling, world-building even.

Aria The Animation celebrates storytelling like no other creation that I’ve ever encountered, in any medium I’ve had the privilege to experience thus far into my shortish life. And it is this very reason that I still couldn’t bring myself to complete the other two seasons of the show. I will eventually, but it is more than likely that I will be taking my time, savouring whatever Aria has to offer next.

18. Spice and Wolf | Ookami to Koushinryou

Spice and Wolf 02357

Director: Takeo Takahashi

Animation Production: Imagin, Brain’s Base

Music: Yuuji Yoshino

Genres: Historical, Romance, Fantasy

Seasons: Winter 2008, Summer 2009

Episodes: 26 (Series + OVA)

I think there is a popular joke about how funny a premise it is to have the naked anime wolf girl teaching you economics. Well, it’s ‘factually’ incorrect.

(Setting aside the fact that it’s mostly Lawrence and the other side characters doing the teaching) This memetic definition for Spice and Wolf is wholly beside the point, and does little to explain the charms of the show.

The heart of the show, lies in the entrancing dialogue shared between Holo and Lawrence, defined by a level of wit and roundabout charm that I found almost overwhelming, when I first watched as a relatively young fan. I think I still regard episode seven of season two’s staircase theatrics as one of my favourite dialogue sequences of all time.

Disclaimer: I watched the dub and the play between the actors was undeniably masterful. I’ve yet to check out the original Japanese dub.

17. Kiki’s Delivery Service | Majo no Takkyuubin

Studio.Ghibli.-.Movie.04.-.Kiki's.Delivery.Service.[1989].1080p.BluRay.x264.DHD.mkv_snapshot_00.14.20_[2017.06.28_21.03.48].jpg

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Animation Production: Studio Ghibli

Music: Joe Hisaishi

Genres: Slice of Life, Drama

Year: 1989

I actually debated with myself on whether I should add the ‘Fantasy’ tag on the genre blurb for this film. The fact that I decided against it is probably a subtle testament in of itself.

Of all the Miyazaki films I’ve watched, Kiki’s world felt by far the most realised in terms of grounded authenticity. For a man who’s rather outspoken about his apparent disdain for reality (something something “reality is for people that lack imagination” something), Kiki’s a god send. While it did contain the normalised supernatural in the form of witches and cat familiars, the grounded exploration of the adolescence forms the loose guiding path for the film instead, with Kiki as a character undergoing an organic journey that is enriched in affecting pathos.

As it stands, Kiki’s Delivery Service is a monumental advocate for the slice of life mega-genre, as well as its resonant value in the ambient storytelling space of animation. Forgoing a linear plotline for a series of loosely related snapshots of a young girl’s life, has managed to afford the film with a lived-in sense of genuine warmth. Like I always say: the affect of presentation is paramount, overarching storylines and plots be damned.

16. A Silent Voice | Koe no Katachi

A-Silent-Voice-2.jpg

Director: Naoko Yamada

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Music: Kensuke Ushio

Genre: Drama, High School

Year: 2016

Rather than breaking into a usual sob story about my feelings of isolation during the six years of middle and high school; which, I don’t think was the sentiment that I connected with the most in A Silent Voice anyway, I wager that it’s more fitting to instead direct you towards the concept of ‘voice’ instead.

A Silent Voice is not a film about overcoming childhood harassment, it is not about the evils of schoolyard bullying and societal ostracization. Rather, it attempts to answer a much more difficult question. The Japanese title of the film can be more accurately translated to ‘the shape of voice’, and it is here where the bud of the question takes form: how we shape our voice, we do so to shape our own interpretations of the world and ourselves.

The musical voice of the film quite tellingly leaves itself under the guidance of a exposed upright piano, where the voice of this curiously unassuming instrument acutely demonstrates the quivers of nuance behind every note of meaning. The resting of the hammer, the padding of the pedals, the lingering vibration of the strings. Curious, that a film about the muted inability for the characters’ voices to accentuate their presence, was able to inject this amount of non-diegetic intensity into its musical score.

I think that it is within this vulnerable intensity that A Silent Voice finds its, well…voice. The cinematic frame is where the story must bares itself naked, and it is here where the film confidently assumes every viewer’s attention.

15. Laputa: Castle in the Sky | Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa

laputa3.jpgDirector: Hayao Mizayaki

Animation Production: Studio Ghibli

Music: Joe Hisaishi

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Action

Year: 1986

I think it was back during my ‘100 complete anime on MAL’ days, that I wrote a short blurb on Laputa: this film might’ve defined my childhood, if I watched it as a child.

The whimsical carelessness of the characters is perfectly offset by a meticulously crafted cinematic world, that no matter how fantastical and…unreal what I’m seeing gets, I was in on every second of the film’s charming adventures. Laputa is a children’s bedtime story coming to life. In another timeline, instead of Son Wukong, Ne Zha, this could’ve been my ‘thing’.

I already spent a few thousand words detailing every nuance of the film’s remastered soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, but I think it is important to repeat the point here: the score forms a huge part of my personal connection to Laputa. Bold orchestrations, tingly and extroverted themes and melody-driven storytelling. It is quite honestly the best of what I can ask for in film music.

14. Assassination Classroom | Ansatsu Kyoushitsu

[MK] Assassination Classroom - 22 [BD 1080p][Hi10][Dual Audio] [9E40101F].mkv_snapshot_21.11_[2017.04.20_23.51.40]

Director: Seiji Kishi

Animation Production: Lerche

Music: Naoki Sato

Genres: Shounen, Action, Comedy

Season: Winter 2015

Episodes: 23 (Series + OVA)

I like to constantly bring up the phrase ‘only in anime’ when I talk about shows like this (in casual settings only of course, when I don’t have to over-explain everything). Sure, the sentiment behind Assassination Classroom is nothing new, but if I were to mention the words ‘tentacle monster’, ‘child assassins’ and ‘great life lessons’…I daresay I will be witnessing quite a few raised eyebrows.

The sheer novelty of the series’ premise may be a big part of its appeal to me, but as usual…it’s the honesty that gets to me in the end. Assassination Classroom is pure Shounen: simple moral lessons, loud-mouthed climaxes and drawn-out speeches, all delivered with a sense of flighty amusement and light-hearted fun. Almost every episode is smeared with a coat of colourful optimism and ambition, with its huge ensemble cast managing to achieve a multitude of differing and likable personalities.

Something tells me the second season is going to be a blast…

13. Log Horizon

[deanzel] Log Horizon - 03 [BD 1080p Hi10p Dual Audio FLAC-AC3][f3f35e68].mkv_snapshot_19.51_[2017.04.20_23.14.10]

Director: Shinji Ishihira

Animation Production: Satelight

Music: Yasuharu Yakanashi

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Action

Season: Fall 2013

Episodes: 25

Log Horizon is what I call an ‘envy pleasure’. While I wasn’t much of a nerd that shuts himself in the bedroom playing games, a sizable chunk of my teenage years was spent playing a few MMO’s. Only problem was…As the lonely, friendless, pitiful creature that I was back then, I had no friends to get the ‘multiplayer’ aspect of the experience right. Sure, I can chat with other random players, but I never got to experience what it feels like to have a group of real life friends in one squad, all connected via. headsets, coordinating with each other as we defeated the final boss in a dungeon.

So why is Log Horizon my envy pleasure? Mind you, this term does not intend to imply that the series is in any way an ‘inferior’ work of art. On the contrary, I think the show’s communal-centric world-building is one of the best in the genre. Anyway, Log Horizon was able to convey the sense of expressionistic freedom in a massive multiplayer online role playing game; the comradery between gamers ‘pretending’ to be adventurers. I am envious that I didn’t get to experience this myself, but I enjoyed the show’s portrayal of the experience anyway.

To think that a trapped in a video game light novel adaptation is able to soundly commentate on the systematic constructs of human society, all the while delivering on the adventurous glee that the gamer in me wants…it doesn’t get any better than this.

12. Whisper of the Heart | Mimi wo Sumaseba

Whisper of the Heart.mkv_snapshot_01.46.09_[2017.04.19_16.39.42]

Director: Yoshifumi Kondou

Animation Production: Studio Ghibli

Music: Yuji Nomi

Genres: Romance, Drama

Year: 1995

I didn’t grow up watching the high school romantic comedies that Hollywood kept pumping out in the early 2000s. Because of that, I thought every film within the genre was just like 2004’s The Girl Next Door; the only romantic comedy I remembered watching back in 2007. Trashy.

Fast forward to 2015, I was planning on sitting through a mini-marathon of some non-Miyazaki-directed Ghibli films. For whatever reason, I decided to pop the Whisper of the Heart disc in first.

Instead of continuing the marathon, the rest of the afternoon was me gushing (to myself) about how much I liked this film.

My response to Whisper of the Heart was a mixture of alienating relatability (oxymoronic, but that’s exactly how I felt) and nostalgic tingle, which is funny to me, because I never lived the life of a Japanese school girl. Oh sure, I could very well relate to Shizuku’s childish but genuine passion in books and writing stories, but young love? I don’t think I’ve…ever fallen for someone in my life, nor know of anyone who had a crush on me, so the film’s ability to thrust me into the main characters’ headspace in such an organic way was definitely a major point of praise.

(The random signal of my lack of a love life aside) Whisper of the Heart is a young romance film that I can imagine myself always going back to…its sequences of unhinged creativity, grounded drama and likeable characters will never lose the sense of charm that I resonated with when I first watched the film.

Side note: although I am still about half way through Studio Ghibli’s entire filmography, let it be a testament, that Whisper of the Heart has remained my favourite Ghibli film thus far.

11. K-On!!

[Elysium]K-ON!!.ED2(BD.1080p.FLAC)[44D53C8D].mkv_snapshot_01.11_[2017.04.09_19.50.09]

Director: Naoko Yamada

Animation Production: Kyoto Animation

Music: Hajime Hyakkoku

Genres: Slice of Life, Music, Comedy

Season: Spring 2010 (Season 2 debut)

Episodes: 27 (Series + OVA)

After wading through a multitude of trends that the anime community has subjected itself to in the last two decades, K-On! reads like a boring but very sticky relic that just refuses to stop being relevant. Well, when you have one of the industry’s biggest darlings stomping around the block, you can hardly expect anything less.

K-On! is about the most personal of adolescent experiences that we as humans experience: that brittle bridge between childhood and the seemingly boundless and scary adulthood. K-On! aims to depict the shattering of the bridge just as its main characters crosses it. There is no turning back, as the bridge splinters off into a million pieces in a brilliant display of silent spectacle and reflection. Naoko Yamada’s lens-centric approach to directing the second season brings to K-On! the beginnings of the brilliant director’s inherent proficiency in depicting character diversity, an entrancing focus on the poetry of visual storytelling, and an overly abundant sense of charm and heart.

(The list continues in the next page. You can find the page numbers below the ‘related articles’ section.)

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3 thoughts on “My Top 20 Favourite Anime (2017 Update)

  1. Interesting list that avoids some common big name shows that often pop up in the top ten lists. Out of those mentioned, the only ones I’ve seen are Spice and Wolf, Ghost in the Shell, Steins;Gate and Miss Koboyashi’s Dragon Maid (though I’ve not finished that one), all of which are great.

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  2. I was really taken by Log Horizon. It still lingers in me since I was also a die-hard MMORPG player. I agree with Hyouka too! The contents of the anime is really strong for me since I’m a curious mystery stalker freak. haha

    I really like your choices. Although I might not list Hibike! as first, I like the fact that they made good music. Goose-bumps-level. By the way, I might watch the movie soon. Soon.

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  3. Man, Log Horizon, the Ghibli Films (my two faves also), Yona of the Dawn, Ghost in the Shell, Aria, FREAKIN Steins;Gate, Hyouka, and Sound! Euphonium!?! You’ve definitely been around and explored some of anime’s finest. Many that you listed would also be in my top 20 if I ever made one, so that’s super cool. But yeah, quite the list here—Consider yourself a very well-rounded anime fan!!

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