It’s a point of division amongst the anime community and it seems to be the basis for an endless debate. What is the best anime of all time? I am by nature a reasonable man and I understand that the issue of the anime pantheon, like anything else, is that it is heavily opinionated. So, I never claim to make the definitive statement that my list is the end all be all of list nor do I claim that you should agree with them. I’m only here to speak my peace. So rather than making the claim that any singular anime can sit atop the rest as the best of all time, I’ll simply give you 5 of the most impactful anime that I’ve had the pleasure of consuming.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll give only short summaries of plot and instead focus on my favorite aspects of each anime. I’ll of course leave links to Myanimelist.com where you can view summaries, reviews and rankings to the shows mentioned below. With that bit of housekeeping out of the way let us begin. So, without further ado I give to you my top 5 anime of all time.
#5 One Piece
Episode: ongoing 950+
For the few of you who may not be familiar with the series, One Piece follows the adventures of young pirate named Monkey D. Luffy as he sets sail to find the One Piece and become the king of the Pirate. What’s the One Piece you ask? Well, the One Piece is the treasure left behind by the former king of the pirates Gol D. Roger. It’s said to hold all his riches and is stashed away deep in the most dangerous sea in the world, The Grand line. The viewer’s part of story follows the sort of frenzy by pirates all over the world to form a crew and find the famous the One Piece. But the journey is treacherous, and many sinister forces work against those who have it for themselves.
I know what you’re thinking; why is One Piece at the number 5 spot? It’s simple, it’s ongoing. With the series rapidly approaching 1000 episodes it comes as no surprise that One Piece is one of the best series for anime watchers of all ages. It has lovable characters, a refreshing animation style and some of the best world building of any anime series I’ve seen. One of my favorite parts of the series is how it frequently it manages to blur the line between good and evil as it pits “lawless pirates” against marines who “uphold justice”. It also manages to deal with incredibly heavy subject matter with an ease and lightheartedness that I haven’t seen from many other series. Still, the best part about One Piece is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Regardless of the introduction of newer more sinister enemies and power increases the Straw-hats remain the same lovable motley crew of like-minded individuals that captured our hearts way back in East Blue.
#4 Yu Yu Hakusho
At the number 4 spot is the precursor to the beloved Hunter X Hunter series, Yoshihiro Togashi’s Yu Yu Hakusho. The show follows 14-year-old delinquent Yusuke Urameshi. On the surface Yusuke is just another punk who skips class and constantly picks fights but there’s more to him than he’s given credit for. Yusuke manages to prove this to the powers that be when he sacrifices his life to save a kid who haphazardly walks in front of an oncoming truck and they take notice. The aforementioned powers affectionately known as the spirit society, decide to give Yusuke another chance at life, this time as a spirit detective.
Yu Yu Hakusho does a lot of things right. It has lovable characters, an intriguing world, and one hell of a power crawl. Perhaps my favorite thing about this anime is that it doesn’t suffer from the usual trappings of the Shonen genre. Of course, you get the bang-bang action, but what I’m referring to is that invisible sense of chivalry or that notion that everything always turns out that seemed popular among its contemporaries. Yusuke and his lovable band of do-gooders (I say that loosely) aren’t your typical heroes. They’re all flawed. Both Yusuke and Kuwabara are reformed delinquents and Hiei and Kurama are both famous demons renowned for their crimes in the demon world. I honestly have a huge soft spot for Yu Yu Hakusho, but I’ve placed it at #4 because the final arc is a bit shaky in terms of quality compared to the others.
#3..2..1 lets jam! Cowboy Bebop
At # 3 is everyone’s favorite Space Western, Cowboy Bebop. The series follows a rag tag group of bounty hunters that traverse the cosmos on the spaceship “Bebop” in search of their next big pay-off. The protagonist of the series is a young man by the name of Spike Spiegel and he’s cooler than the other side of the pillow. He along with his partner Jet Black complete bounties across the galaxy picking up the transient Faye Valentine, boy genius Ed and the genetically engineered Welsh Corgi Ein along the way.
The best thing about this series is that for the most part the cast of protagonists are normal people. No implausible powers of weird abilities(except for Jet’s cybernetic arm) just gunslinging and fisticuffs. My favorite thing about this series is the sort of film noir atmosphere that they manage to impart on the viewer, and of course the fluid inventive fights scenes are a thing of beauty. The series brings clean crisp animation that holds up even after 21 year. And I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the series’ legendary opening theme “Tank!”. Even if you don’t watch the series at least listen to the intro. It’s a spiritual experience to say the least.
# 2 Berserk
Bashing its way into the number 2 spot is the 1997 version of the classic anime Berserk. The series follows the MC Guts (that’s right his name is Guts) a traveling mercenary who sees fighting as his only way of survival. As he spends his days bouncing from battlefield to battlefield, he eventually finds his way into the mercenary group who call themselves the Band of Hawk. As Guts is an absolute wrecking ball on the battlefield, he quickly catches the attention of the band’s leader Griffith and rises through the ranks to become Griffith’s second in command. As the Band of Hawk spans the nation looking to build a name for themselves, Guts finds himself at the center of it all.
A fair warning this series tends to get a bit graphic especially towards the end. Given Gut’s profession as a mercenary, there is a fair amount of violence and the central theme of the series is war and everything that comes with it. Themes like famine, and poverty also make an appearance and let me tell you they don’t shy away from the rough stuff. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that I love the anime so much. It’s not quite as predictable as the usual Shonen anime, the stakes are high and when you die..you die (unlike some other anime). So ,things can get a bit heavy at times, but stick around and you’re guaranteed to get a compelling nuanced story, dynamic characters and a real curve ball thrown at you.
#1 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Coming in at the # 1 spot is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood! The show features the lovable duo of Edward and Alphonse Elrich. who after violating the golden rule of alchemy find themselves in search of alchemy’s greatest myth, the philosopher’s stone. After attempting to conduct human transmutation in an effort to bring their recently deceased mother back to life the two brothers are left shells of their former selves. Edward loses his left arm and leg while Alphonse loses his entire body. Left with no choice, Edward binds Al to a nearby suit of armor and Ed receives metal limbs thus earning the moniker the Full Metal Alchemist.
What can I say about FMAB that hasn’t already been said. It’s one of those once in a generation anime that is so singularly spectacular that it can bring a tear to the eye. In fact, if I recall correctly it did. What makes FMAB such an amazing anime is that it’s able to create truly human character. From the start of the series the viewer is presented with a sundry cast of characters all with the own unique flaws and insecurities. As the series progresses, we see these character grow not just as combatants but as truly genuine and dynamic human beings. Villains become heroes and children grow before our eyes as each character works to grapple with their own struggles. And of course, all of this is presented to us with crisp clean animation, a fresh plot concept and a storyline that I’ve seldom seen matched. I strongly encourage you to give FMAB a try I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.