JAPAN CINEMA present the top 50 Anime of All-Time compiled by our staff. Many thanks to everyone who contributed!
For 25 episodes a tapestry of mind games, political maneuvering, and gut wrenching twists set to the back drop of one man’s dream and how his dream changes and shapes the people who put their faith completely in it. Berserk is only as memorable as its characters make it, and they make it unforgettable.
EVE OF TIME
First spawning as a multi-episode one-shot and later adapted into a feature length movie, Time Of Eve takes the best of Isaac Asimov and Phillip K. Dick and applies it to a far flung Neo Tokyo setting. Telling the tale of student Rikuo, Time Of Eve explores the ethical dilemma of man and machine, as the student stumbles upon a hidden cafe where androids and humans act as one in this heartfelt, frequently funny and brilliant series. Philosophical and poignant Time Of Eve is both short and sweet.
SHIGURUI: DEATH FRENZY
There is not one moment during this series where the mood lets up. There’s no comic relief. From the moment you see the first two competitors, you’ll realize that Shigurui is anything but your typical tale. The story is interesting and totally watchable. It bears down on you with a heavy weight that never, ever lets up. Every scene, set in the night or the day, seems designed to depress.
What describes Mawaru Penguindrum? Surreal. Audacious. Revolutionary. Forget about comparing Mawaru Penguindrum to any other anime. This is a series with scant regard to concepts like convention or expectation, and the idea of trying to shoehorn it into an established genre is almost laughable.
One of my favorite little things was when a character stayed up from the middle-of-the-night to early morning and we see the potted morning-glory flower buds going from being unopened to opened. It’s a very small thing but it’s such a simple way to communicate to the viewer that many hours have passed. Summer Wars was also one of those movies that made sure that every scene played an importance in the long run, which I always love to see!
What this show has is energy, charm, and creativity. While none of the characters are particularly deep, they’re all very likeable, and they’re very diverse. Each character has a unique aspect to them, and they’re all creatively designed, well acted, and funny. One of the characters, Erza Scarlet, is one of my favorite female characters of all time in form of media, because she’s a total badass, never a stereotypical damsel in distress, and surprisingly very funny at times.
An anime series about the making of bread sure seems like a concept limited in scope, but this 2004 anime adaptation of the popular Manga is both hysterically funny and oddly informative. Told through the eyes of the young Kazuma Azuma, Yakitate Japan tells the story of one boy’s quest to create national bread for Japan. With a colorful cast of oddballs and a wonderfully heartfelt undercurrent of national pride, Yakitate Japan is sure to provide an original breath of fresh air in an increasingly stale* market of anime tropes (*bread joke).
Get out your silencer, rifle and distant stare as you get ready to freeze ice with one glance. Not ready? Duke Togo is. He was born ready, with a bullet in his hand and a rattlesnake in his mouth as is often the case with the #1 assassin of the world. Duke is ready for anything. Even during sex. Never smiling, never moving. Just staring, staring, staring. He’ll continue to have the drop on you at all times, even if you’re in the womb. He waits, waiting for you to slip up and be human. Because he may not be.
When word came that Durarara would be adapted to the screen, many felt that the high bar set by Baccano could not be reached. Studio Brains managed to knock it out the park though with a multi-layered story told across the landscape of the iconic ikebukero prefecture. Headless bikers, gangland wars and mysterious cults culminate in a tale that is equally packed full of snappy dialogue and a memorable soundtrack. Whilst the ending trades off coherency for a whizz-bang finale, Durarara deserves a place if only for sheer originality alone.
The films plot is more or less just a flimsy excuse to drop you into the action, but boy oh boy, is there action. Takeshi Koike’s anime is probably one of the craziest films I’ve seen. Redline was in development for over half a decade and if the racing genre is your cup of tea, then this is what you have been waiting for. This is your wet dream.
Like Berserk, Claymore is an excellently paced dark medieval fantasy. The progression of this series and the characters are written so tightly that the story flows near perfectly, easily maneuvering from one idea to another. I chose this show because to me it represents an excellent story being told near flawlessly especially the flashback arc where we see Claire origins as a Claymore. Plus it’s hot badass women killing demons with broadswords, and that you just can’t go wrong with.
After the first seven episodes that set up the premise, the story seems to descend into Twin Peaks weirdness and there is no doubt some filler material included, but it all adds to the legend of Shonen Bat, before his origins and his legacy are revealed in the explosive apocalyptic conclusion. One anime review had called it as “having four anime in one.” I agree.
I can’t say this enough times, but a movie has a limited amount of time to work with. If it wants to be something memorable, it needs to know how to build up properly. Mamoru Oshii does know this, but he often gets ahead of himself. Thankfully, this isn’t the case for Jin Roh. Jin Roh is a definite recommendation if you’re looking for a slow and serious movie.
Paprika is a psychological, mind warping, anime adventure that’s as likely to leave you very confused the first time you watch it, as it is to leave you with your jaw dropped on the floor. Paprika’ is a dense, visually stunning acid trip that only begins to make sense as it draws to a close. The story isn’t necessarily confusing, but it does hold back every important piece of info until the film has gained some momentum.
Samurai Champloo is a show that begs to be watched. It may not be an outright classic, but it offers a great amount of energy, fun atmosphere, and inventive characters. Towards the final episodes drama dominates. All of the characters meet the conclusion of their own personal stories, while wrapping up their story as a group.
FIST OF THE NORTHSTAR
Heart palpitations, power ups and screaming secret death punches. Our hero Kenshiro hunts the post-apocalyptic wasteland formerly known as earth/Tokyo looking for his woman and cruising for a bruising.
Laputa: Castle in the Sky is like a work of art that moves, it is clear how much time and effort went into creating it. The acting is top-notch and the dialogue is sprinkled with humor here and there. Preaching truths about violence, machines, and human greed, Miyazaki’s work is a poignant classic, showing human goodness at its finest…in the hands of two wonderful children.
It’s easy enough to wax on and on about how good the art and animation in 5 Centimeters Per Second is, and while it is an achievement worthy of a massive amount of acclaim, what ultimately defines a film is its story. Shinkai has commonly been compared to Hayao Miyazaki, simply because there’s no higher standard in Japan as far as fantastically rich and detailed artwork and similarly rich wells of emotion.
King of Thorn is a very smart anime film with intelligent underlying ideas throughout. King of Thorn is most impressive, mainly because it urges you to ask your own questions. What’s more, the social commentary on the “end of the world”, is a message more films should bring to light.
Academy Award winning director James Cameron stated: “Digital imaging has entered a new era. The world will come to consider this work as the standard of top quality in digital animation.” I couldn’t agree more. Although the plot and characters are 95% unknown, there are some aspects in Blood’s production that makes it interesting to watch.
Robotech was released WAAAY back in 1985 and was sucha different cartoon to see on the regular cartoon line up of Smurfs, GI. Joe, Thundercats, that many don’t remember it. Robotech had a farther-reaching effect than most give it credit for. Interracial relationships, the horrid effects of war, personal relationships between adults, the death of major charcters. All this and it was presented in a way that kids could understand for the most part. Which reinforces my belief that kids know more than parents give them credit for.
Why am I calling it one of the most influential in America? Because it is so popular. Bleach is a bridge between kiddie anime and more adult anime series. There are plenty of cool guys with swords out there, plenty of spirit worlds to explore, and plenty of Death Gods to vanquish!
The story, the dramatic elements and of course the action-packed battles is elevated to an all new high and as a viewer, I was literally hooked! There are many great touches that combine to create a world located somewhere between a cutesy kids’ cartoon, an arcade game and advanced psychosis. I truely believe there is a little of everything for everyone in this series and if you have been looking for a new series to sink your teeth into, I can’t recommend anything higher than Soul Eater.
Kon Satoshi’s ode to the golden age of Japanese cinema, Millennium actress continues to explore the theme of audience and performer, while taking viewers on a visually stunning journey through Japanese history.
With 103 episodes total, the D.Gray-man anime represents a considerable commitment of time. But if you are in it for the occasional action scene with Tim Burton-esque, gothic fantasy flair, you could do much worse. D.Gray-Man creates a feeling of unease by including surprising plot twists, which shatter the preconception that the ‘good guys’ will always win. By condensing the action into fewer episodes, each fight creates a more intense atmosphere and makes for captivating viewing.
One of the most deeply moving films ever made about the Japanese home front during WWII, Grave of the FIreflies focuses on the tragic human collateral damage caused by all armed conflicts. Rather than demonizing Japan’s military opponents, the true enemies in Grave of the Fireflies are the ordinary citizens who refuse to offer assistance and compassion to those in need.
Lupin’s market presence in the U.S. does not remotely approximate his popularity in Japan, that is for certain. The animation is obviously dated, since the film is over 20 years old, but there are elements all still intact.
Dead Leaves is great fun, a new experience and not for faint-hearted or over conservative. As I say it’s raw, brutal and blunt; the writers have held back in no respects whatsoever. They try to insert a point and a story with a unique poem that the two heros can barely remember as they are suffering from amnesia. Though you may raise an eyebrow the first few minutes of the film, the next few will have you wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
While it’s aimed at fans, I’m not ready to rule it out as a general crowd-pleaser. A word of caution: between Chun Li’s hooters and some moderate bloodshed, this isn’t a cartoon for the kids. Fight scenes are choreographed well, with some excellent uses of camera angles. Of the many fighting games reborn as anime, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is the only one that can claim to be based on the game that started it all.
The film’s story is told from the viewpoint of a 18-year-old girl Sophie, who is working at a milliner’s shop every day. It’s a shame that real life can’t be as exciting as the world Miyazaki creates. But then again, that’s why we go to the movies.
Sometimes people get lonely and sad. Even in space. Even when you are a ghost in space. Even when you are a girl ghost in space from the 17th century and you are pissed because you are still wearing a corset. Memories is a triptych about loneliness and isolation and good animation vectors.
The big difference about Patlabor is that instead of focusing on the mecha, it focuses on the people. Labors aren’t the solve-all, end-all super robots out to save the world, they’re functional machines, and could be related to much like cars today. Mamoru Oshii did an excellent job with not only the cinamatagraphy, but the setups as well. Needless to say, nothing felt jarring at all in the movie. To me, the movie is kinda of an exploration of man and his machines. Man creates machine. Man becomes dependent on machine. Man, therefore becomes machine.
Tekkon Kinkreet is chockfull of symbolism. It just shows how living on the streets can be incredibly fragile for young children, and yet the two boys somehow manage to mentally survive by depending on each other. Also, reality is stretched in this one, pulled thin so that you are never sure what might happen next.
Yes, Pokemon isn’t Bleach or even a good show for adults, but it is a testament to how far anime has come in the US. Once a niche, anime is now part of pop culture and the American childhood. After hitting the US back in 1999, it is still as popular as ever. This is the most influential anime in America.
Rurouni Kenshin is a truly excellent series. What makes it stand out from other samurai, ninja, or action series is the fact that Rurouni Kenshin is firmly rooted on a highly memorable succession of events that make up its plot. There’s always a good reason why any form of violence takes place. Sometimes it’s political, other times it’s just personal. Characterization is superb. Kenshin Himura is one of the best characters I’ve encountered. He’s wise beyond his years (albeit too lecture-y at times), and yet at the same time he’s a fun and funny guy. Kenshin’s sword skills are mesmerizing to behold.
I agree very much with the idea that ‘Gundam’ influences us to feel that war is meaningless. It is such an influential anime that colleges have given lectures on it. The influence of Gundam on pop culture is evident in the fact that Tokyo would put a life-size version of one on public display. What else needs to be said? This is one of the pioneers of anime and the fore-front mecha anime sagas.
This film feels like a celebration of the wonders of the natural world. Writer-director Miyazaki explores themes of the environment, health, growth, curiosity, family and understanding. Unless you’re the type that only watches anime for blood, guts and titillation, then My Neighbor Totoro should be a delightful experience. The background artwork is meticulously detailed and contains some beautiful renderings of the countryside. The character animation is very smooth and nicely detailed as well.
The film is stunningly animated in traditional 2-D, which seems to have been enhanced by computers. The level of detail is impressive, of cars going by, facial expressions and backgrounds. The lighting adds depth to the visuals. You do not often see this level of artistry. As the credits roll and the buildings dance to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, you know you have discovered something different.
One Piece is now the highest selling manga of all time, outselling Dragonball by almost 2 times. So far this year it has sold 7 times as much as Naruto and Bleach. Overall, a drily written review isn’t going to do you any good in knowing what this show is really like. It’s goofy, it’s silly, it’s adventurous, and it’s fun.
Where can I begin? Escaflowne is one of the Holy Grails of anime, almost universally beloved and constantly appearing on anime fans’ top ten lists. Anyone who’s seen the series knows why. This show combines gorgeous animation with a genre-bending narrative and wonderful characters to produce a series that is endlessly entertaining and utterly enthralling.
Spirited Away is like all the wonderful children’s books that fired my imagination as a kid. But, this comes as little surprise given the pedigree set by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It even out-grossed Titanic in Japan.
Sword of the Stranger was Bones’ first attempt at an original movie. They went the Manga route and you could tell they borrowed heavily from Ninja Scroll in some aspects. If this movie came out, say, 10 years ago, it would be at legendary classic status among anime flicks. Still, for me, it ranks as one of the best samurai anime of all-time.
One of the most enjoyable anime movies, Ninja Scroll is an undeniable classic and offers a fun romp through Japan’s ninja mythos.
DBZ is one of those anime that was widely spread in many countries. I’d say that the Dragon Ball series as a whole is the most influential of all time, without hesitation. It’s a widely known fact that One Piece, Naruto, Fairy Tail, etc. were heavily inspired by the Dragon Ball series and you can see the resemblance in the protagonists. Additionally, the Dragon Ball franchise accounts for something like 50% of FUNimation’s profits, helping them license & release other anime to North American audiences that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.
Miyazaki’s environmental fairy tale, Princess Mononoke explores the beauty of nature and Japanese folk tales while depicting the dangers of modern industrialization.
The film really stands the test of time for its animation in that while it can’t do some of the tricks that can be done today with digital animation, the simple fact that this is all hand drawn animation and they do pull off what they do makes it all the more spectacular.
This cyberpunk classic is responsible for indoctrinating countless anime fans with it’s groundbreaking vision of the future and the fusion of man and science.
Many would argue with me for placing Naruto above Cowboy Bebop and other timeless anime/glaring omissions from this list, but Naruto is a gateway anime. To deny Naruto’s influence on the world of anime would would be a crime. It also teaches children the value of friendship, determination and other qualities parents want their kids to have. Finally, it has just enough Japanese elements to introduce the culture, but they are not specific enough to alienate. Instead they come off as cool and different. Shippuden pushes this anime even further.
NEON GENESIS EVANGELION
This cyberpunk classic is responsible for indoctrinating countless anime fans with it’s groundbreaking vision of the future and the fusion of man and science.
GHOST IN THE SHELL
Arguably the best Anime of all time and created under the brain genius super nova that is Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in The Shell haunts you and your alternate reality. GitS has influenced countless films – including The Matrix – and raises important questions about the nature of the human soul, it’s connection to man’s physical body, and artificial intelligence. GITS hands you more questions than answers and we are left stunned by exquisite hand drawn animation. Be prepared to fall in love with robots.