I’m late, but at last, here it is. The conclusion to the trio, the top 10. Most of the shows on here won’t come as a surprise to you if you know me, but I hope you can understand why they’re here.
Thanks for joining me through another year!
10. Selector Infected&Spread Wixoss (Spring&Fall 2014)
Mari Okada is a rather divisive writer at times, but her tendency to write with her heart on her sleeve has always resonated with me, and the Selector Series of Wixoss stands out as her masterpiece to date. Wixoss is not a subtle show; if you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, you probably already know I think subtlety is for cowards. What it is, though, is a surprisingly thoughtful, caring story about how people connect, with the show’s duels allowing for a rather thorough look at human intimacy and love, both romantic and platonic. It is also a show about Ruuko’s difficult quest to have not just one, but two girlfriends. It’s one of the best things I have ever seen.
09. Tomorrow from There (Winter 2015)
Tonight I reach out my hand to the distant night sky
I won’t lose my sight to the countless shining lights despite the time
Even so, I will achieve the freedom to paint whats ahead from there
To the sky, to the sky
Tomorrow From There is easily the most focused story on this entire list, owing in part to its mere five-minute run-time. As storytelling goes, it’s hard to be more effective than it is though. Tomorrow From There is a celebration of life itself, about discovering the magic in your mundanity and finding a life worth living for. Do yourself a favour and watch it here.
08. Kyousougiga (Fall 2013)
Kyousougiga tries to sell itself as a myth and a fable, but beyond its fascination with godlike creation and storytelling itself, its a far more simple story that makes every aspect work together: one of a fractured family who need to come together again, lean on each other again, trust one another again. It’s a story about love and about the burdens of expectations. And it’s one of the most beautifully shot series of all time.
07. Ping Pong the Animation (Spring 2014)
Ping Pong is probably the most “perfect” anime made to date. Whereas I can imagine (and in most of their cases, have seen) detractors to every single other show on this list, the idea of someone who doesn’t connect with Ping Pong seems bizarre and alien. Ping Pong is about learning to lose, and to find yourself in the aftermath. Ping Pong knows life is hard, and it responds with an overwhelming love and empathy for its characters. It is an utterly flawless show.
06. Love Live! School Idol Project (Winter 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Summer 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2019)
Without question the most divisive member of the top 10, there is no doubt in my mind that Love Live belongs among the greats. So it’s not the smartest show, nor the most ambitious one, but it has one of the biggest hearts in all of anime and its main theme, the clash between nostalgic celebration of the past and the conscious choice of living in the present and moving forward with your actual life is one that rings incredibly true to me. I wrote a little thing early this year about that, actually. While I generally avoid “fandom” (some formative experiences with Doctor Who fandom in 2012-13 ensured that I would never really want to engage with something like that again, ever), Love Live has been such a presence in my life for the last five years that it’s hard to imagine myself without it. It’s even got me writing fanfic (slowly (I promise I’ll publish it in the next… five years or so)). It’s a special show, truly and genuinely.
05. Neon Genesis Impacts (Summer 2015)
The future I envisioned once
The feelings I felt once
The view I saw once
They come rushing back and I don’t know why
To my great dismay I still haven’t written my post about Neon Genesis Impacts, despite intending to do so for over a year at this point. It’s honestly depressing because works that target me as directly as Impacts does are few and far between. Impacts is depressed. This depression runs incredibly deeply throughout every moment of this story, from the cripplingly hopeless world to the finality in the goodbyes that open the film. And in the middle of this hopelessness, is Haruka. Haruka, too, is depressed. She knows the world is going up in flames. She knows, as she says goodbye to her friend, that they’re probably never going to see each other again. The future doesn’t really feel real right now. But Haruka wants to believe in it. She is desperate for it. Haruka wants a reason to live, a reason to keep going despite the world itself, and for that desperation, that want, that NEED to live when powerful parts of her and her world want her to roll over and die; for that, I love Neon Genesis Impacts.
04. Aikatsu Stars! (Spring 2016-Winter 2018)
I loved the original series of Aikatsu. More than I ever imagined I would when I started it. And yet, when I began watching Stars, my relationship with the show irreversibly changed. After watching 178 episodes (at the time, more than I had ever put into a series) of a very good show, here was something that went far, far beyond good. Aikatsu Stars was the show I never knew I had been waiting for. The reason for this is honestly quite simple: Aikatsu Stars has ambition. It’s a bold story about dreams and the courage to take the leap, about life, love and the way things sometimes just don’t work out that way, and it delivers itself with confidence, drama and some occasionally truly fantastic directing. The first season is one of the most perfect things I have had the joy to set my eyes on, and while the second one stumbles in the middle (given the turns the story takes in its perfect first episode, it progresses with a disappointing lack of urgency), it hits the high notes just as well as its predecessor. For anyone who has the patience to watch a 4+ cour series, Aikatsu Stars should be mandatory viewing.
03. The Tatami Galaxy (Spring 2010)
Tatami Galaxy can claim what virtually no other piece of media can: it literally changed, and literally saved, my life. Before I watched Tatami Galaxy, I was living my life waiting to die. I hated who I was. I was drowning in cynicism and misanthropy and depression, and Tatami.. forced me to understand that I could change. Tatami is the reason I am here today. Tatami showed me the only way to escape the prison I had built for myself was to punch down the walls and explode. Tatami let me understand I could be a girl. More importantly than that, Tatami let me engage with the world with honesty, with goodwill, and with sincerity. It let me live 100% depression free for well over a year, until the combined stress of political issues and a fracturing relationship in early 2017 brought it back. I will probably never be as happy as I was in 2015 and 16 again, but.. I want to live and see just how happy I can be. And that’s all because of Tatami Galaxy.
So what can possibly rank higher than the literal life-saver that is the Tatami Galaxy? Well.. justifying these higher ranks is a little difficult, but needless to say these are shows of tremendous personal value to me. They are also, in my opinion, the pinnacle of their craft, at least as far as I can see.
Hyouka is the late Yasuhiro Takemoto’s masterpiece, and probably the most emotionally subtle and understated show on this entire list (it’s not really my style, you may have noticed). It is also almost unquestionably the greatest love story in fiction, a relationship so slowly, steadily and firmly established that even without any spoken resolution, there is no way the emotions could be missed. It’s a highly mundane story, but to say there’s nothing quit like it would be an incredible understatement. This is as good as it gets.
01a. Mawaru Penguindrum (Summer-Fall 2011)
On the polar opposite of the mundanity spectrum, we have the one and only. Mawaru Penguindrum spits on realism and is determined to show off what anime is capable of being. It’s dramatic, fantastic, thoroughly magical, an absurd fairy tale of glorious scale mixed in with the cutting and cruel realities of life in the aftermath of one of Japan’s greatest terror attacks. It breaks down every sense of the word love, of the concept of family, and the meaning of fate, and its emotional honesty doesn’t force it to slow down its gleeful mania at all. Penguindrum is The Ultimate Experience as far as anime goes. This is as good as it gets.