Best Anime Series in 2000s Rank 1-10 Previews

In the very first post in this blog, I wrote about an analysis of the most highly rated anime of the last decade. However, the post is definitely for serious anime fans only as most people will likely have a hard time recognizing a lot of those titles in the top 10. I would like to use this post as previews of each series in the top 20 and hopefully entice the reader to check them out:)

1). HAIBANE RENMEI

Number of episodes: 13

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Slice of Life

Follow up?: None

Similar anime titles (if you like this, what else you should check out): Mushi-shi, Kino’s Journey, Someday’s Dreamer

Date shown: 9-October-2002

Studio: Radix

Director: Tokoro Tomakazu

Synopsis: Rakka, a newly born Haibane (Angel), awakens into an unfamiliar world with only a strange dream of falling from the sky as her only memory. Alone and scared of who and what she is, she is cared for by fellow Haibanes as they try and search for the meaning of their existence as well as what lies beyond their town’s imprisoning walls. [ANN]

Pros:  Rife with symbolism and metaphors; completely original setting; gripping in its oscurity; rich atmosphere; [Anime Academy] sountrack is very soothing and haunting

Cons: Nothing happens; Pace can be very slow

Excerpts:

  • Haibane Renmei started off a bit slow, but it closed off with one of the strongest finales I have ever seen. It has both a very imaginative setting, and truly excels at its character-development. [Star Crossed Anime]
  • Haibane Renmei sings of wisdom and beauty too elusive and immense for our comprehension. A truly special place is Haibne Renmei, where we can spend an eternity swimming in a pool of thoughts, or losing ourselves in its rejuvenating warmth. [Guri Guri Blog]
  • This anime is, in a nutshell, a philosophical one that concentrates on character development. So expect no high octane, fast and furious action. At thirteen episodes, the focus, plot and pacing is just right. It neither drags nor contain unnecessary fillers or recaps [THEM Anime]

In My Own Words: Story is originally based on a doujinshi produced by Yoshitoshi ABe (Serial Experiment Lain, Niea_7) Series was ranked FIRST 7 times (the highest frequency) and also rank in the TOP FIVE 14 times (also the highest). THis is also the only series on the list for Radix. I also love the soundtrack in this, especially ‘Ailes Grises’

More reviews: Anime Academy (87%);

Source: Wikipedia, Anime News Network


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2). MUSHI-SHI

Number of episodes: 26

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Slice of Life, Mystery, Psychological, Supernatural

Follow up?: None

Similar anime titles: Kino’s Journey, Haibane Renmei

Date shown: 22-October-2005

Studio: Artland

Director: Nagahama Hiroshi

Synopsis: Ginko is a “Mushi-shi” who travels around to investigate and find out more about the “Mushi”, the primeval organisms whose existence and appearance in the world are unknown to many and only a limited number of humans are aware of them. In the process, he also lends a helping hand to people who face problems with supernatural occurrences which may be related to the “Mushi”. [ANN]

Pros: Perfect music; engrossing story; Wonderfully dream-like directing [Anime Academy]

Cons: There is no underlying plotline; very slow pacing

Excerpts:

  • Mushishi has character, but most of all, it has a fascinating premise and lots of atmosphere. With a serene Eastern philosophy and beautiful landscapes, it’s easily the most distinct series from the last ten years. [THEM Anime - Bradley]
  • The storytelling is always poignant and yet natural, and it always has a serene atmosphere. This is still a series that very rightfully established itself as a classic.[Star Crossed Anime]
  • To watch Mushishi is to drift into lucid dream. The world is rendered strange and bizarre, yet everything feels so beautifully integrated as a whole, it can not be described as anything other than sublime. [Guri Guri Blog]

In My Own Words:Mushi-shi is also another firm favourites among the bloggers. It ranks SECOND 7 times (twice behind Monsters, once behind Haibane Renmei) but somehow never manages to get first place once. Despite the lack of action or plot, the series excels in its atmosphere and stirring humanity of all characters (mushis sometimes included). This is also Artland’s only entry in the top 50. Talk about striking a creative jackpot with this one!

More reviews: Anime Academy (94%);

Source: Wikipedia, Anime News Network

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3). MONSTER

Number of episodes: 74

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Mystery, Psychological, Horror

Follow up?: None

Similar anime titles:

Date shown: 06-April-2004 to 27-September-2004

Studio: Madhouse Studios

Director: Kojima Masayuki

Synopsis: Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese brain surgeon in Germany, had it all: incredible skill at his work, a rich and beautiful fiancee, and a promising career at his hospital. However, after becoming disenchanted by hospital politics, he chose to save the life of a young boy who got shot in the head over the life of the mayor. As a result he lost the support of the hospital director, as well as his position in the hospital and his fiance. A short time later, the hospital director and the doctors that replaced him were murdered, and once again he was catapulted back onto the top. But as the chief suspect of the murders, Tenma did not get a easy life. As a matter of fact, it seems that the boy he saved was much more than he had appeared to be… Now to clear his name and to correct his past mistake, Tenma must get to the bottom of these and other murders, and investigate the truth of the Monster who is behind all of this. [ANN]

Pros: Thrilling story with gripping plot; characters with emotional depths

Cons: Occasional fillers, slow development, medical terminology issues [AA]

Excerpt:

  • Overall, Monster is a new favorite, and is a series that I would recommend to just about everyone. Think the crap you’re watching now is better than this? Think again. [Anime Planet]
  • While there probably has been many a great anime TV series before it, Madhouse and Masayuki Kojima’s adaptation of Monster is probably one of the very best. Ironically, much like the anime adaptation of another Urasawa work, Master Keaton, it’s the best show that no one watched [THEM Anime]

In My Own Words: The series came FIRST 6 times (only one behind Haibane Renmei). Original manga by Urasawa Naoki (20th Century Boy, Pluto).  The adaptation from manga form is meant to be ultra-faithful. I sometimes discuss this concept with my friends. If I am a doctor, am I willing to do the ‘right’ thing or succumb to the social pressure and give preferential treatment to more important person? I probably choose the latter, but after a lot of agony. I just love how much the story makes you think, all the dilemma the characters go through.

More reviews: Anime Academy (95%); 

Source: Wikipedia, Anime News Network

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4). TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN

Number of episodes: 27

Genre: Mecha, Real Robot, Action, Adventure, Drama, Comedy, Sci-fi, Fanservice

Follow up?: 2 movies (Gurren-hen & Lagann-hen)

Similar anime titles: FLCL, Eureka Seven, Code Geass

Date shown: 01-Apr-2007 to 30-Sep-2009

Studio: GAINAX

Director: Imaishi Hiroyuki

Synopsis: In their closed-off underground village, Kamina and Simon chafe at the limits imposed by the village elder. Yet all this will change, when Simon stumbles across a fantastic device – just as the village’s peace is broken by a violent intrusion. [ANN]

ProsAmazing Story; Extremely Memorable Characters; Awesome Soundtrack [Anime Evo]

Cons: Takes An Episode to get Into [Anime Evo]

Excerpts:

  • An unabashedly” giant robo” series that’s also easily accessible, and loveable, to even the most casual anime fan. The first half of the series is fully invested in being as cool and emotionally involving as possible for every minute it has your attention, and when the laughs give way to tears, then to triumph, you know you’re watching something great. And then the second half does the same thing, but on a much bigger and grander scale. [THEM Anime - Bradley]
  • Gurren-Lagann treads familiar ground, but it understands the genre it inhabits and uses these cliches for a greater good. The ever-escalating battles, little-to-no filler episodes, operatic themes, and the simplistic message of “believing in yourself and others” all provide an entertaining drama. [93%, Anime Academy]

In My Own Words: A somewhat return to form for GAINAX, a studio that has produced amazing, genre changing series such as Neon Genesis Evangelion but has not done any spectacular series for the first 7 years of the decade (FLCL does not count since it is more an OAV). I still have not watched this series as of now but can imagine marathoning through it when I have the chance:)

Source: Wikipedia, Anime News Network

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5). FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST

Number of episodes: 51

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Steampunk

Follow up?: a movie (Conqueror of Shamballa in 2005) + a retelling of the whole story (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in 2009)

Similar anime titles: D. Gray-man, Bleach, Chrono Crusade

Date shown: 04-Oct-2003 to 02-Oct-2004

Studio: BONES

Director: Mizushima Seiji

Synopsis: After losing their mother, Alphonse and Edward Elric attempt to bring her back using the forbidden science of human alchemy. However, alchemy operates on the theory of equivalent trade, and breaking the human alchemy taboo carries a heavy price. Ed loses his leg, and Al loses his body. Ed is able to seal Al’s soul inside of a huge suit of armor, at the cost of his arm. Years later, Ed (now with two mechanical limbs) and Al (still trapped in the armor) leave their childhood home. Ed, who has a natural talent and skill for alchemy, becomes nationally certified and is soon known everywhere as the “Fullmetal Alchemist.” Their true objective is to search for any information on the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, hoping it will allow them to regain their old bodies. However, the brothers soon learn that they are not the only ones after the powerful stone. [ANN]

Pros: Wonderful characters; nice mix of drama, comedy and action; lovely soundtrack; animation never stops shining [AA]

Cons: Some untimely comedic moments [AA]

Excerpts:

  • Nearly every aspect of this anime was well-executed, creating an epic with an ending that still gives me chills when I think about it. [THEM Anime - Bradley]
  • Cinco estrellas. Five stars. Whatever you call it, it’s good. I’d debated giving it only four for the animation, but really, this show is enough fun to deserve all five [THEM Anime]

In My Own Words: I really enjoyed this series a lot while watching it with a great combination of gripping story and memorable characters. Mid way through, the anime deviates from the manga, for the worse according to a lot of people.

More reviews: Anime Academy (93%)

Source: Wikipedia, Anime News Network

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6). THE MELANCHOLY OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA

Number of episodes: 13

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Sci-fi, Slice-of-Life, Mystery, Psychological, Supernatural, School, Parody, Moe

Follow up?: Original Net Animation (Melancholy of Haruhi-chan in 2009); 2nd season (which is unmemorably marked by the ‘Endless Eight’ saga, that proved once and for all that if you can get otakus to like something, you can do anything and they will still buy your stuffs)  & a movie (The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya)

Similar Anime Titles: Ouran High School Host Club, Lucky Star, Angel Beats

Date shown: 02-Apr-2006 to 02-Jul-2006

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Director: Ishihara Tatsuya

Synopsis: On the first day of high school a beautiful girl named Haruhi Suzumiya introduces herself as having “no interest in ordinary humans”. She asks for any aliens, time travelers, sliders or espers to join her. Watching her weird behaviour is Kyon who sits in front of Haruhi and is the only person who talks to her. When Kyon comments about Haruhi’s joining every club in school and then quitting he unwittingly gives Haruhi an idea to start her own after school club. Thereafter Kyon and several others find themselves dragged, literally, into the Save our world by Overloading it with fun Suzumiya Haruhi’s Brigade (the S.O.S. Brigade for short). [ANN]

Pros: Intriguing setup in all respects; brilliant comedy and parody; topnotch production value;  Unique storyline; Dynamic characters; interwoven plot structure [AA]

Cons: One storyline is not as strong as the rest; first episode can turn potential viewers away; [AA] Otaku-bait

Excerpts:

  • breath of fresh air, a compelling series that seemed to have more ideas than it knew what to do with, and in the titular character Haruhi, the most compelling lady to ever grace anime [THEM Anime - Bradley]
  • Ultimately, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi is anything but melancholy, but rather, a wild, imaginative journey through a world that isn’t as mundane as it looks. [W]hile the entire show is an exercise in making sure Haruhi isn’t (ahem) melancholic, this should do pretty well to cure the boredom of even the most jaded fan. [THEM Anime]

In My Own Words: There are two ways of watching this show, chronologically and TV order. I would advise you to stick with the TV order version. Although it is more confusing, watching it this way preserves the flow of the story the way the studio intended. It also makes more sense thematically (this is akin to watching Memento chronologically. It is less confusing but you are not watching the same film!). I also really enjoy that dance routine at the end too. For the record, the Japanese still does the best dance!

Source: Wikipedia, Anime News Network

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7). AZUMANGA DAIOH

Number of episodes: 26

Genre: Comedy, Slice-of-Life, School

Follow up?: None. A short Original Animation Video is released before the anime series in 2000

Similar anime titles: Lucky Star, School Rumble, Strawberry Marshmellow

Date shown: 08-Apr-2002

Studio: J.C. Staff

Director: Nishikiori Hiroshi

Synopsis: Azumanga Daioh is about 3 years of high school life through the eyes of six girls with unusual personalities: Chiyo (the 10-year-old genius), Osaka (the resident airhead), Sakaki (the shy one prone to cat bites), Tomo (the loose cannon), Yomi (the short-tempered one) and Kagura (the resident jock). [ANN]

Pros: Flawless comedic timing. Adorable characters that are surprisingly fleshed out, Who does not love Chiyo-chan!

Cons: Love-it-or-hate it anime; Gags can be hit-or-miss, A lot of cultural references that most will completely miss

Excerpts

  • Azumanga Daioh’s excellent use of characters creates an experience unlike most others. The student body in Azumanga Daioh is one of its strongest assets. Their distinct personalities complement each another nicely, and the chemistry between both characters and seiyuu is exceptional. it’s also important to note that quite a few of the jokes rely heavily upon knowledge of Japanese culture and society [92%, Anime Academy]
  • Azumanga Daioh is all about mood. A nostalgic character piece that succeeds in what it sets out to do [THEM Anime]

In My Own Words: This is the best high school comedy around. This also has very high rewatchability value. With the stories structured as a 3-4 short 8-minute minute episode, I can just go back to catch up with each of them very easily and it never fails to give me a good laugh. You should give this series a one-episode test however. It is a good enough litmus test to find out whether you will like the rest of the series.

Source: Wikipedia, Anime News Network

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8). HONEY AND CLOVER

Number of episodes: 26

Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy, Slice-of-life

Follow up?: 2nd 12-episode Season in 2006

Similar anime titles: Nana, Nodame Cantabile, Paradise Kiss

Date shown: 14-Apr-2005

Studio: J.C. Staff

Director: Kasai Kenichi

Synopsis: Takemoto Yuuta, Mayama Takumi, and Morita Shinobu are college students who share the small apartment. Even though they live in poverty, the three of them are able to obtain pleasure through small things in life. The story follows these characters’ life stories as poor college students, as well as their love lives when a short but talented 18 year old girl called Hanamoto Hagumi appears. [ANN]

Pros: Lovely character design; strong ensemble cast; realistic situations people can relate to; superb visuals and soundtrack [AA]

Cons: Ending may not satisfy everyone; loses a bit of steam towards the end; Cast doesn’t grow much; repetitious at time; No plot; nothing really happens at all [AA]

In My Own Words: I am still waiting for the dvd price of this to come down a bit for purchase. It is really high on my want-to-watch list for sure.J.C. Staff is also the only studio with two series in the top 10. This is also the only ‘josei’ series in the top 10.

Sources: Anime News Network;

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9). GHOST IN THE SHELL: STANDALONE COMPLEX

Number of episodes: 26

Genre: Action, Sci-fi

Follow up?: 2nd Season (GITS: SAC 2nd Gig)

Similar Anime Titles: Ergo Proxy, Jin-Roh: THe Wolf Brigade; Witch Hunter Robin

Date shown: 01-Oct-2002

Studio: Production I.G

Director: Kamiyama Kenji

Synopsis: In the future, life between the digital and physical world has been blurred. The boundary of technology and humanity has been stretched beyond imagination with lives being led in both the electronic and physical worlds. With the melding of man and machine, a new cybernetic level of existence is being created —an existence that continues to redefine mankind. [ANN]

Pros: Seamless animation of 2D and 3D, intelligent storytelling (that is not nearly quite as confusing as the movie counterparts); Jaw-dropping visuals; intense action scenes; Kanno Yoko knows what’s best! [AA]

Cons: Character issues; story goes off track at times [AA]; Only for mature audiences [Anime Evo]

In My Own Words: This is a follow-up to the original Ghost in the Shell manga and movie. I actually prefer this series (and its sequel) to the movie version. I find it so much more accessible and exciting, without the philosophical babbles I barely understand.

Sources: Anime News Network;

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10). BACCANO!

Number of episodes: 13 (+ 3 extras)

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Supernatural

Follow up?: None but I really hope there is a sequel to this. The original novel still has a lot of source material to product a good sequel!

Similar anime titles: Durarara!!; Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist

Date shown: 26-Jul-2007 to 01-Nov-2007

Studio: Brains Base

Director: Omori Takahiro

Synopsis: Each of the stories in the series involves several unrelated plots intersecting and crossing each other as events spiral farther and farther out of control. Alchemists, mafia operated speakeasies, and many other elements of pulp fiction mashed together for a world straight out of the movies. [ANN]

Pros: Great action, gore and violence, gripping plot reminiscent of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Amazing cast that is well-explored despite the short number of episode and its size, the opening sequence!

Cons: Possibly too violent and gory for some to get into; Non-linear storytelling and massive cast can be confusing;  Some definite weak spots in the animation, especially from the backgrounds [Anime Alberta]


Excerpts:

  • It’s pure, undiluted and unashamed escapism. So is most of anime, but Baccano! is probably the only series to pull it off with so much flair and style, from the crazed violence to its large cast of memorable characters.  [THEM Anime - Bradley]
  • The creators did manage to give every important character (if I had to guess, there’s about thirty of them) an identity, a clearly defined role, a small piece of development and an actual personality. the creators are able to plan the climaxes really well, and they turn into one huge success, with a near-perfect combination between comedy, drama and action. Overall, there need to be more anime like Baccano! It’s not often when you run into a series that’s as well-written as this one.[Star Crossed Anime]

In My Own Words: If you like any of Guy Ritchie’s gangster movies, you will love this series. It is a bit like Lock Stock as an animation in 13 episodes. This series is also best watched without reading any of the synopsis or even the back of the dvd box! The spoiler may not be too big but it is still fun to watch it without that.

Sources: Anime News Network; Wikipedia

Next article, the next 10 in the list.



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