As I’m writing a blog about all things entertaining, of course there shall be lists of all my favorite things. (raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens…)
For the first such list, I reached into the chaos-filled hat that is my brain and drew out “Anime.” So here’s a list of favorite anime that I have watched.
Note: this is not a list of “the best anime ever.” This is a list of anime I personally enjoy the most. I make this distinction because I feel we sometimes forget our entertainment doesn’t need to be “the best ever” in order for us to enjoy it. Disputes about this, because we feel either defensive of our opinions or dismissive of other people’s opinions, often evolve into arguments, which devolve into name-calling, hair-pulling, mud-slinging fights which yield absolutely nothing but spite. So, with that in mind, I am defining my personal favorites not as “the best ever.” I simply enjoy these the most.
With that out of the way, I give you my favorite anime, as of October, 2014!
I start with my top 3, in order. I don’t really have any others in a “set” rank for the moment, but I’ll do a second blog on this topic with several contenders in honorable mention.
1. Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail. The title is a play on words, the name of a guild of battle wizards. They have a well-deserved reputation for collateral damage (as one of the main characters says, “Breaking stuff is Fairy Tail’s specialty!”) and pretty much everyone in this guild has… how to put it… some sort of issue which enhances their quirkiness into flat-out eccentricity. It’s hilarious to watch them, and they can often be found bickering with each other. Yet for their craziness and their flaws and their arguing (often with their fists), the guild members are basically family. Indeed, for some, the guild is the only family they have ever known. The guild master often refers to his subordinates as his children, and they think of him as a father.
That right there is what I love most about the show. While the action, the laughter, and the music (which is phenomenal!) is what first drew me to the show (not to mention the assorted craziness of the guild members), it’s this “family” element which made me love it. The story begins with one or two, but expands to include more and more of the guild members, letting us get to know them all, some deeply, some casually, but all in a way we can enjoy and admire them, and appreciate the bonds between them.
As a storyteller, I particularly enjoy when it is the characters who are moving the story forward, instead of the other way around, and it is the characters who carry the story and the various themes of it forward. There is, of course, family, but there is also forgiveness and redemption, loss and restoration, and the conflicts of order and chaos, light and dark, good and evil, creation and destruction, hatred and love.
This was the first anime I ever watched which made me actually pick it as “my favorite,” and it has yet to relinquish the top spot in my personal pantheon. Something about this anime, with a large cast of wacky characters, the style of animation, the action and adventure, the story arcs, the mixture of drama, comedy, and tragedy, the tragic pasts and inspiring moments, and the music, primarily Celtic in theme, everything about this anime manages to push my buttons in exactly the right way, and I can never get enough!
2. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood comes in a very, very close second place behind Fairy Tail. Its propelled there by many of the same elements which make Fairy Tail my personal number one. I would even argue that, strictly speaking, this one is a “better” anime than Fairy Tail. Why only second place, then? Well, I can never quite separate it in my mind from the original Fullmetal Alchemist. Don’t get me wrong, both of these series are enjoyable, excellent, thrilling rides, but to appreciate everything in Brotherhood, the better between two, you must watch the other one first, which is a notable imperfection.
I am fairly certain that a good part of what makes FMA Brotherhood better than the original anime is how it follows the original manga storyline much more closely. Just try to finish a show before its source material finishes, I guarantee you will have two very different products. So with a tighter, more sensible, more epic, and more gripping storyline, Brotherhood basically steps on its predecessor’s back to reach greatness, but the one can’t quite be rid of other.
That said, this is an excellent show! Like many shows, it improves more and more as it goes on, so the first dozen or so episodes might feel a little weighed down with the tragedies that form the foundation the rest of the story is built on, but the further in you go, the further you want to go. The many characters on multiple fronts are balanced quite well, the battles are thrilling, the suspense is gripping, and the ultimate triumph of humanity is inspiring, and it’s all finished off with a satisfying and poignant conclusion. Oh, and the music is awesome!
(seriously, music is a big thing. I watched the whole of Dragonball Z as a teenager solely because of the soundtrack)
3. One Piece
Now this anime is a serious contender for both the number one and two spots on my list. It has many similar elements, such as great music, great battles, great inspiration in the face of great tragedy, complex story arcs set against a huge, overarching story, zany characters, including a wacky central cast that becomes a tight-knit family, a plethora of moments that make you cheer, laugh, or cry, a great soundtrack, and the list goes on and on and on.
This anime chronicles the wacky adventures of the Straw Hat pirates, who live outside the law and are not keen on maintaining the balance of a world which has been built (by the powers that be) on the idea of one man being able to step on another man’s life as easily as squashing an insect. This makes them outcasts and outlaws, but such is often the fate of one who possesses a nobility far exceeding the world around them, and the people they help see them as heroes, albeit heroes who are quirky and a bit selfish at times.
So why number three, instead of one or two? Well, Fairy Tail is going to prove supremely difficult to knock from its perch up top, and while FMA Brotherhood has completed itself, One Piece shows no signs of finishing up for a few more years. If they manage to make the end of this story as magnificent as everything preceding it, then this one may climb up a rank or two in my pantheon, but until then, it’s not over ’till its over. Which, oddly enough, is a running theme of this anime! 🙂
There is also the fact that the storyline in each arc is often so intricate, on multiple fronts, that I personally find it much easier to just watch an entire season all at once, instead of following each episode as it airs. Then again, it could be because, when I was introduced to it, I was able to watch several seasons all at once, so having tasted the quality of watching a lot of One Piece all at once, I could not then withstand the good-but-not-as-good of watching individual episodes week after week. So, perhaps that’s actually a point in One Piece’s favor.
Yeah, probably. When the complaint is, “I want more!” that’s a probably a good thing. Heh.
Contenders for spots 4 – 10 or 12 or whatever
Now, here is why I couldn’t call this a “Top Ten” list or something like that. Fairy Tail, FMA Brotherhood, and One Piece have all managed to set themselves so far above other anime in my personal pantheon (remember, not “the best anime ever,” merely “my favorite anime”) that these are the only three which have ranks. One, two, and three are decided. (hmm, in the Greek pantheon, I suppose Fairy Tail would be Zeus, FMA Brotherhood would be Hades, and One Piece would be Poseidon)
The rest of the slots for what would be a “Top Ten” or “Top Twelve” are still up for grabs. So, a few brief, honorable mentions for the various contenders. Or, at least, I’ll do that in my next posting, as this one’s getting a bit long for my tastes.
So, to be continued!