1. Durarara – NOW ON NETFLIX! Let’s all pretend that I am NOT wholly obsessed with this anime. Okay, now get back to reality, because I am totally obsessed with this anime. The antagonist, Izaya Orihara, is the lock screen for my cell phone. I grew to love him slowly over time and now I just don’t care what he does or how bad it gets. I am on his side. Is he wrong? Probably. Is it fair to the other characters who are pretty freaking cool? No. Who cares! I love this show. I have watched it in both Japanese and English and, oh by the way, the voice acting is first class. Durarara has a lot of characters who have something special about them. Really there are too many side characters, and most of them don’t matter, but I always pretend I don’t care about that. It is too much fun to watch and then talk about later. There are so many things I could say, but that would be too spoilery. All I can tell you is that a boy from the country moves to Ikebukuro so he can attend school with his childhood friend. I literally can’t give anything else away. This needs to be enjoyed and some of the big reveals will have your jaw on the floor. Instead, I’ll list my favorites who are not Izaya. Shizuo and Kyohei. It helps that those voice actors really capture those characters both in Japanese and English. Watch this anime. Just watch it.
2. *Food Wars Shokugeki no Souma- Things I learned from watching food anime: when you eat good food your clothes fall off and you have an orgasm. That is this anime in a nut shell. I dare you to stop watching it once you get started. I can’t even pick a favorite character. I like all of them and I think I might have to start over again from the beginning now that I’m all caught up. Souma is the leading POV character and he is worthy of all the attention he gets.
3. Project K – Another Netflix anime and you get to watch in English if you want. I wasn’t heavily invested in this one. I got so annoyed at the character who is essentially a magical cat with the personality of a needy cat to go with it, but the black knight was a refreshing counterbalance for her and I stayed in it to watch the conflict between the seven colored kings unfold. I was shocked in the end.
4. Red Data Girl – This one’s on Netflix with good voice acting! I didn’t think I was going to get through it, but the male protagonist was very interesting and the female protagonist showed real growth through the course of the show. I don’t normally go in for this kind of gods and avatars stuff, but it was easy enough to overlook.
5. Sword Art Online – Netflix, I watched it in English. Short answer. I didn’t really like it. Not because it was like watching Neo from The Matrix in anime form. Not because every girl on the show had an inexplicable lady boner for “Jesus-Kun”. Not because Jesus-Kun was invincible and his health almost never went below 10% and even when he was dead he really wasn’t and could seemingly do impossible things. (There is no spoon.) I wasn’t even bothered when he got out of bed after being in it for over two years like it was nothing. I didn’t hate it because of the awkward incest twist that was wholly unnecessary. I can forgive all these things. What really pissed me off was the fact that the show took a strong female lead and turned her into a helpless damsel in distress trope. They took every bit of fight from her, even her clothes weren’t safe and she seemed utterly helpless to save herself, even a little. No, the only thing she could do was let the bad guy poke at her boobs while he creepily licked his lips and wait for Jesus-Kun to save her. What-the fuck-ever!
The other thing that bothered me were the snooze-worthy villains. The first one had so much potential and got so little screen time. He didn’t even get to properly explain himself. This guy is essentially a mass murderer. Hey dude, how about you talk about your motivation for putting 10,000 people in jeopardy and killing 4,000 of them… Any excuse will do. Really. No really, I want to know.
Villain: “What was the reason? I’ve forgotten.” Are you fucking kidding me!? If the SAO bad guys have taught me anything, it’s that game developers are weirdos who think they can give themselves power by controlling other people’s brains. Also thanks for destroying all Virtual Reality online games and ruining everything for everyone…jerks. Watch this or don’t. I understand some people like it. I seriously hated it. (*note – recently I found yet another SAO plot-line about a world of guns. I just can’t face another story like the last two, so apologies for not watching it.)
6. ***Tokyo Ghoul – Cannibals. Now that I have your attention…this show is not about that. It’s true, in the beginning I thought it was and I could not wrap my head around liking it because of that. After one episode, I realized that I had it all wrong. The Ghoul is really its own species. Humans just happen to be the main staple in their diet. But they aren’t lions or tigers. They have opposable thumbs and the ability to express emotions and solve complex problems using critical thinking skills. That pretty much puts Ghouls at the top of the food chain above us. This is a real problem (it would be in my book too) and because of all those thinking skills and the fact that they look like us and can mimic our behavior, labeling them as an enemy isn’t exactly a black and white affair. In many cases, humans play the role of bad guy and in other cases, well…the humans end up being dinner. Humans don’t exactly like being dinner, so again, this poses a real basic inalienable rights issue. Are we the only ones deserving of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness when a clearly stronger species wants the same thing
while sometimes eating us?
Speaking as a human, I think a clear line would have to be drawn. Good or bad, the opposition would need to go. There’s only one king of the food chain. Of course, I’d feel differently if I were a Ghoul. This makes up much of the conflict on the show. And let me tell you, it does not get old. Shit just keeps rolling downhill and getting worse. Just when you think it can’t be any more screwed up, everything goes to hell. Douche-baggery abounds on both sides of the fence to the point where both sides are soaked in blood and you can’t tell them apart. The main protagonist doesn’t deserve everything that happens to him but he definitely deserves the spotlight, along with several other characters that are diverse and meaningful. This anime ripped my heart to shreds and I loved it.
Popular shows are popular for a reason. This is not a feel-good show. It’s dark and gritty. It reminded me of the first batman animated series I watched years ago where batman would sometimes do shitty things. Ken is not perfect, not by any stretch. But whatever happens, be it good, bad, or in between, I am with him. I remember looking at the stills for this anime thinking “how creepy“. Now I look at them and think “I hope something good happens to him. I want him to win a little. <3 that guy.”
That awkward moment when you realize you are so far into the gray area that you are lost and the only light you see is from a guy who isn’t exactly good or bad. He just is. Now that’s a good show. Watch this if you can handle blood, violence and death.
7. Ben-To – As far as voice acting goes, this is a FUNimation home-run. I continue to be impressed with how good they manage to pull this stuff off and the voice actor here captures the protagonist perfectly. I literally cannot get enough of this guy’s voice and the character by extension. Now let’s talk story. The premise for this show is completely ridiculous. People fight over half-priced Bento boxes at the grocery store. Really? Most of the show is pretty funny because it’s so ridiculous. Plus all the girls are way overdrawn and play with each other’s boobs every other scene. That alone is enough of a draw for most people. Also, I really fell in love with Yo Sato, “The Pervert”. I also learned the meaning of “nom de guerre”. What I didn’t like was the needless and ritual abuse of my favorite character by the ladies who I was pretty much sick of by the end. They were unworthy of his attention. Overall though, this is a fun show. Just know that it’s never cool to throw someone’s game console out a window for any reason. Ever.
8. Welcome to the N-H-K – Yet another fantastic dub by FUNimation. Whoever these people are, they are so very good at their jobs. The voice acting is so damn good. This show is definitely about how damaging depression and enabling can be. Add this to how hard it is to figure out who you are as a young adult and you have a recipe for danger in the end. At the end of the day, Sato is a very interesting character. He’s a shut-in who is navigating his life the best way he can. In the beginning, I was watching some very funny stuff that gradually turned ugly. Don’t get me wrong, this was a good anime. It just really caught me off guard.
9. ***Psycho-Pass – Also on Netflix but it has FUNimation voices all over it and it’s there as well. I guessed it was theirs before I looked it up to verify. That is to say, it’s extremely well voiced. I didn’t watch it in Japanese, but I might go back and do that now that I’m “all-in”. It was hard to get into this one at first. Crime dramas aren’t really my thing, but the psychological and science fiction elements in it were enough to keep me coming back. This is very much a slow burn show, or at least it was for me. I found it really hard to get attached to any of the characters. The leading lady was purposefully boring. She was the sane/ sober/ serious one who questioned everything. It was hard to watch her at first but once she started coming into her own, she was pretty amazing. Oddly enough, it wasn’t her I got attached to. It was Kougami. He was so very cool and gorgeous like James Bond and Wolverine had a baby. He also slowly revealed his darker, more reckless side which made him ten times hotter and more interesting. If I have a complaint, it’s that this was a crime drama and therefore it was rough getting into everything. Also, the most charismatic characters were shown in flashback and were already dead. That sucked. All the other characters were straight-laced and not as fun to watch. I will concede that the villains in this one were all very well done and I was sad to see at least one of them go. I love how layered this show was too. Everything was important in the end. If you watch this, stick with it, the payoff is well worth it.
Don’t forget, there is a Psycho-Pass movie that follows up the end of this story arc. I keep thinking that this would make a great live action science fiction series or even a series of movies. It’s very “The Matrix” in the way it makes you think about the larger picture and about who’s way is the right way. I DO resent the implication that human beings cannot be trusted to do the right thing unless they are being monitored by Big Brother. In the end, we are more alike than we are different. People want the best for themselves and the people they care about. Most everyone has the same propensity to strive for happiness. People are not programmed to be criminals and this show skips that entirely by suggesting that the rest of the world went to Hell while they maintained sanity through finite control and monitoring. This kind of rationalization takes away what makes us human and transforms us into something more like fish in an aquarium. It’s no wonder people were going crazy. When you aren’t allowed to run the gambit of your emotional spectrum, the scenario becomes a lot like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and there is a natural tendency to rebel in whatever way you can. (Much like a child would.)
10.) Death Parade – It’s not very often that I get to the end of a show and I am this hungry for more. This show was so bizarre and well done that I literately could not stop watching. I can’t even do justice to why I liked it so much, I just know I want more. I also very rarely go looking for the manga of a show after I watch something, but I went looking for this one. I need to know more dangit! Watch this. It’s worth your time. Every second.
11.) Berserk, The Golden Age, Arc 1 – Netflix! This was not a series, it was a movie and animation was distractedly good. What really got me was the main protagonist in the story and I wish they hadn’t done a three year time jump. I really wanted to see all three of those years.
12.) Expelled from Paradise – The animation in this was stellar. Where is the rest of the story? No really…where is it? I want to see it. This was a really cool movie on Netflix that needs a squeal.
13.) Ergo Proxy – Short answer: This show is bizarre and very well animated. Blade Runner meets the X-Files meets Dystopia meets Keyser Söze with a kick-ass theme song. Long answer: What the fuck is going on in this show?! I don’t even know half the time if what I’m watching is a fantasy, dream sequence, or an actual part of the story! So hard to follow at times. The characters were in depth and amazing. Main protagonist, Vincent was the big standout for me, and he came on the scene so subtly I loved it. It was as if he was a nobody with nothing special about him. I know sometimes a main character is depicted this way but they never seem that plain or unattractive and it’s hard to overlook someone who only thinks of themselves as nothing special while being super hot. But Vincent did exactly that. I literally overlooked him at first as being a background character. He became more interesting and attractive every time I saw him and unfolded slowly. Having said that, the other two men in the story were really great characters as well. Someone can be creepy or a megalomaniac, or even a pervert if that isn’t all they are. These guys were more than simply Utopian villains, they had specific goals in mind for themselves and desires that set them apart. They had chinks in their armor and it made them more interesting. Moreover, the entire show calls into question the dangers of playing God and hammers the points it wants you to grasp home pretty hard, though I had trouble linking those lessons to the actual plot. (I think there was a plot, I’m still trying to figure it out.) What you really need to do is plan on watching the show twice because only then can you hope to start stringing things together.
And now I have to talk about Re-l. This heroine was very strong, driven, questioned everything, and was a total give-no-fucks selfish bitch. So of course at least two characters (Including Vincent) were totally in love with her. Why, I have no idea. She couldn’t even tie her shoes or brush her hair without an Autoreiv. Autoreivs are really smart androids who kept becoming self-aware to the point they were thought of as infected. I really enjoyed Re-l’s Entourage (personal Autoreiv), he was cool. Now about Re-l, I thought, ‘here is a tough nut that I might get to see grow and learn acceptance/ tolerance over the course of this show’. Who is she really? I wanted to know, so I kept watching only to be bitterly disappointed and confused. In fact, I would have been satisfied if Re-l learned anything at all and stopped being so self-absorbed, but she grew so little, and in the end made me choose to love or hate her as she was. It made her way too one-dimensional for me. Looking hot in too much blue eye-shadow while holding a gun doesn’t make a character interesting. She had no vulnerability and was hard to swallow as being a real human being. I had no reason to care about her and somewhere along the way I lost my reason for caring about Vincent too. The things that made him fascinating were all lost or forgotten until the very last moment. I have one real complaint in that I didn’t get to see enough of what was actually going on in the city and the plot was way too hard to grasp. In the end, I didn’t get it to the point where I no longer cared. What happened to the potential growth for the heroine? What about my impossible, unrequited love story that had me invested enough to come back for more? What about the other interesting characters who I really want to see more of? What about the Autoreivs? Talking statues explained in depth? No? You know what, fuck this show! Or watch it or whatever.
14.) Assassination Classroom – A guy straight off of the “Have a Nice Day” T-shirt from the 80’s is holding the world hostage and demands to be a teacher to some academically struggling junior high kids. He manages to motivate them into learning a lot while they try to become good enough assassins to kill him, save the planet, and collect a fat reward. Seriously, this is the basic premise. It helps that Koro Sensei has cool quirks like super speed, being addicted to porn, and loving sweets. It’s a cute show that I watched all of with a passing interest because of the age of the kids. Dude, if you wanted to be a teacher, all you had to do was ask. You didn’t have to ransom the planet.
15.) ***Gangsta – Where do I even begin? This Anime is in my “top three all time favorites” to the point where I want to own it on DVD (very rare for me). I have legit watched and re-watched this anime in both English dub and with subtitles. I love both versions. It’s very gritty and raw in a personal way that digs into a larger social picture that’s shitty from more than one angle. One of the things anime keeps getting right for me is that there are never any clear good and bad guys in the really good narratives. Each character is the hero from their POV. The main character from this story is deaf but that isn’t the most interesting thing about him. There are lines being crossed constantly to the point that it all blends together in one big gray area. If you like rooting for the bad guys…and I do…I really do. Watch this!