Picking favorites out of the multitude of shows we watch is a difficult thing; ranking them in any kind of order is even harder. That said, here are five that I absolutely love no matter how many times I watch them. I intend to eventually expand this list to cover a larger number of shows, but for now enjoy this list and whatever it tells you about my taste in Anime.
5. Honey and Clover
Manly tears were shed watching this show. Honey and Clover is a show that I would recommend to pretty much anyone, anime fan or not. It is unquestionably the best drama I’ve seen in anime because the characters are so believably human. The lead character, Takemoto, was especially identifiable because his feelings of confusion and being lost about what he is trying to do with his life is something that so many people go through in their lives.. While watching Takemoto, and really all of the characters, it is impossible not to empathize with the feelings because it’s all genuine emotion. So much of Honey and Clover is about moving on and dealing with rejection and for anyone who has had some ups and downs in their life, this show will make be an unforgettable experience.
4. Haibane Renmei
Haibane Renmei really is a masterpiece. It is appealing on an intellectual level, being full of symbolism and religious allegories. It is appealing on an emotional level as you watch the characters deal with loss and feelings of hopelessness. The show succeeds on every level from characters to story, to setting and atmosphere that created an emotional experience that is really unique. Also, the ending to the show is one most dramatic and moving things I have ever seen.
One thing that has never failed to fascinate me about Haibane Renmei is how intricate and expansive the world is. It is a place filled with rules and lore, but by the end of the series you realize that you’ve only scratched the surface in terms of understanding it. For every wonder that you stumble upon following Rakka’s story, there is so much more left untouched. You realize, watching the show, that the world is a fully realized place full of its own rules and secrets and things that you’ll never get to explore. And that’s okay.
3. Aria the Origination
I will never get tired of watching Aria. Exploring Neo Venizia with the characters, enjoying the wonders that life has to offer, Aria is all about the little experiences. And yet, somehow those little things become so much more. Watching the characters grow, learn, and share their joys with the viewers wonderful, but what really makes Aria the Origination special and earn its spot on my favorites list is the way it takes the magic of the previous two seasons and brings it to a satisfying conclusion with many unforgettable moments. Aria is beautiful, and though it might not be for everyone, I am very glad that I watched it.
Finally, like every other entry in my Top Five, Aria has an incredible soundtrack. The music is so important to the atmosphere of Aria and Neo Venizia that without it, the show just wouldn’t be the same. Also, Loomis Etlune.
2. Kara no Kyoukai
Kara no Kyoukai is hard to watch. It’s a seven ova series that is confusing, told out of order, extremely graphic, and layered in symbolism. But despite all this, Kara no Kyoukai is completely a completely enthralling experience. It is grim, dark, and beautiful with spectacular animation and a captivating soundtrack. The story and characters bear many correlations to other Type-Moon works, but in my opinion, Kara no Kyoukai is Nasu Kinoko’s best work. The story of the series is deep and philosophical. The characters are all very multi-dimensional and the main character, Ryougi Shiki, is one of the most badass female character I’ve encountered. Kara no Kyouka is not for everyone, but those who are patient with it will be rewarded with a story filled with meaning and ultimately, very beautiful.
1. The Twelve Kingdoms
The fantasy genre is and always will be my personal favorite. Exploring new worlds filled with its own lore and wonders has always been appealing, and for that reason, the Twelve Kingdoms is right up my alley. But what The Twelve Kingdoms does beyond creating a rich world, and what make it so memorable is the growth of its protagonist, Nakajima Youko. It is the story of a timid girl’s transformation into a strong and confident woman, and by the end of it, Youko is unrecognizable from the girl we saw at the beginning of the story. The Twelve Kingdoms is set in a magical world, but its characters and the growth they undergo is nothing short of down to earth and real. This series is my number one because it combines everything I like about fantasy with a great character driven drama. The world is fantastical. The emotional payoff is great. And the end of Youko’s story is one of the most satisfying things I’ve seen in anime.