Joey Bizinger joins us as a guest author to talk about some of his favorite anime of all time
There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the world of anime is vast and ever-growing. With it gaining more and more popularity and notoriety over the past decade, we are seeing an increasing amount of new faces making their way into the wide and wacky world of Japanese animation a.k.a. anime. But if you happen to find yourself in that particular situation, there is most likely one burning question cooking in the back of your mind… “Where do I even begin?”
My name is Joey Bizinger - also known as The Anime Man. As per my name-sake, I’m here today to hopefully guide you in the right direction on your anime watching journey. Having spent the past 9 years of my life being a quote-unquote “Anituber” (anime YouTuber) and the past two decades of my life watching every anime under the sun, Crunchyroll approached me to ask for my personal top 30 anime recommendations, alongside my fellow anituber friends Connor “CDawgVA” Colquhoun and Garnt “Gigguk” Maneetapho.
Both Connor and Garnt have made respectable Top 30 anime lists of their own; although I can argue that some of their choices are a little questionable for a multitude of reasons, they’ve definitely done a great job of showing off the wide variety of shows that are readily available to newcomers. In fact, a large majority of the shows they both included are ones that I would also include in my own list. So rather than just roasting their subjective tastes in the medium or repeating the same points twice, I thought instead to give you 30 anime series that not only I love at a personal level, but are also NOT included on either of their lists. This is so that hopefully you more experienced anime watchers can also get some fresh recommendations of shows that perhaps you may have not watched yet; and of course, giving you new anime watchers a little taste of what lies beyond the tip of the anime iceberg.
While some entries on this list may stray away from the standard “mainstream-friendly” shows, I’d like to think that these 30 shows are still very much approachable regardless of your experience in anime overall. Also, as a side-note, these 30 series are not indicative of my concrete top 30 picks, nor are they placed in any particular order; my top anime list changes all the time depending on new shows being released, as well as a general change in my tastes and thought-process’ at the time. But regardless, I still stand by these 30 picks being great shows to watch for anybody who is interested, so let’s check them out!
(Image via Funimation)
Any time anybody asks me the daunting question of, “hey, what’s your favorite anime?” in-person or through online comments, a title I will find myself saying almost every time is this seminal 6 episode OVA series. Is it too much of a stretch to say that this is one of the most underappreciated, underrated anime series of all time? Perhaps. But it is a statement that I’m not afraid to express openly. This is one of those shows that is so dense, rich and incredibly complex in its themes and presentation that it will most likely blast past you before you are given enough time to fully process, understand or appreciate it. And I mean that in the most praising tone I can possibly give it.
I might’ve watched this show upwards of 10-20 times, and even then, I’m not too sure if I can tell you what exactly the show is about. But what I can tell you is that the parts of the show I did finally manage to understand and take in have become some of the most life-changing factors that I have utilized to make myself a better person in real life. While at the same time, it managed to set an incredibly high bar of standard for future anime series to try and get close to (which might be the reason why I find most anime today nowhere near as enjoyable as this show… oh well). FLCL may not be a show you understand, but it will definitely be a show you appreciate and enjoy regardless.
Now let’s look at a show that also managed to change my life in many ways while being a multi-series, multi-film megaseries. If you’re a watcher of mine, then this is a name that you are probably aware of already, but I still believe that even fans of the show are still not fully understanding and appreciative of just how genius it really is. And that’s because a lot of what makes the Monogatari series great is lost in translation a lot of the time. Nisio Isin—the author of the Monogatari novels the anime is based on—is hands-down one of the most intelligent, ground-breaking, rule-bending Japanese authors I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and there is truly no author quite like him. And the Monogatari series is jam-packed full of Nisio-isms that turn this series into more than just a supernatural human drama story. The characters are colorful yet playful, the setting is dark yet humbling, and the dialogue—the most defining element of the Monogatari series—is quirky, clever, witty and profound in every degree. This is, again, another show that many first-time watchers may not enjoy. Heck, it may not even be considered entertaining for the impatient watchers out there. But the payoff that the more patient, curious watchers receive makes every mind-bending conversation and brain-melting story sequence worth it.
(Image via Funimation)
3. Nichijou - My Ordinary Life
Comedy is undoubtedly a subjective matter, but one can argue that every person alive today has some common denominator of dumb, fun stuff that will make even the most stone-cold corporate cronies curl their lips into a smile. In the world of anime, I think that this common denominator might be Nichijou. Don’t let its English title “My Ordinary Life” fool you into thinking otherwise, because this surreal absurdist comedy show is anything but ordinary. Featuring an adorable yet abhorrent cast of wacky, goofy characters, Nichijou will have you rolling on the floor laughing while also questioning your comedy senses. There are numerous scenes that made me realize just how dumb and stupid my level for comedy really is, and I can vouch to you all right now that I have NEVER met a single person who didn’t laugh out loud at a single scene of this 12 episode anime.
This is an anime about shogi, or ancient Japanese chess. But at the same time it has absolutely nothing to do with the sport whatsoever. March comes in like a lion is a beautiful human drama about the mental health and psyche that one must endure, grow from and live through to become a famous, successful person in a public competitive field. I didn’t even know how to play shogi before watching this anime, and admittedly the show doesn’t do a very good job of teaching you how to play the sport. That might be because the themes and concepts it is trying to present in its story makes it so that the sport or occupation can very easily be changed to something completely different whilst being able to maintain its core beliefs and themes in a flawless way. Suffice it to say, there were many elements of this show that I related to very deeply, and it is a show that many famous celebrities in Japan also stand by and praise for how accurate it is in its portrayal of its themes.
Who would’ve thought that one of the most beautiful and visually striking anime series ever conceived just also happens to be one of the most creepy, terrifying and down-right disturbing shows ever created? When people hear the word “Mononoke” they immediately think of the princess variant from Studio Ghibli. And while I do think it is one of the best Miyazaki Hayao works to come out of said studio, it has nothing to do with “Mononoke”; a 12 episode psychological horror anime that still haunts me to this day.
The juxtaposition between its bright, vibrant coloration strewn all across its eclectic cast of characters with the hauntingly silent, somber, melancholic and static psychological horror themes and stories makes Mononoke one of the most jarring yet fascinating watches you can experience in anime today. Don’t worry, for all you non-horror enthusiasts out there; Mononoke does not rely on cheap jumpscares or sudden scares to push its horror agenda across. But just be warned… this anime will haunt your nightmares for more than a few reasons, and will definitely create a new standard of horror anime in your mind, as it did for me.
Now, as much as I’d like to keep gushing over my favorite shows, most of you probably just want the list to read and move along. So here are 25 more anime series I recommend you to try out for yourself!
6. Serial Experiments Lain
10. Girls Last Tour
11. Clannad / Clannad After Story
12. Eden of the East
14. Kokoro Connect
15. Blast of Tempest
17. Flowers of Evil
19. Lucky Star
21. Slam Dunk
22. Angel Beats!
24. Assassination Classroom
25. Yu Yu Hakusho
28. Scum’s Wish
30. Kiss x Sis
That last one may or may not be a joke, but I’ll never tell. Mind you, there are many MANY more shows I could have easily put on this list, but as I mentioned in my opening paragraphs, my two colleagues have already mentioned the more mainstream-friendly, well-known shows in their articles, so if you’re curious about those then check that out. Regardless, the world of anime is ever deep. I’m still discovering some of the older shows that managed to escape from my radar years ago, so it's safe to say that there is a lot out there for any type or level of anime enthusiast. Happy viewing!
You can subscribe to The Anime Man on YouTube here, and to the Trash Taste podcast channel here. You can follow Joey on Twitter here.