Top Anime Lists Are Really Hard To Write

vlcsnap-2014-04-06-09h42m55s184I don’t know how anyone can do them, really.

I’ve been trying for the past few weeks to crank out a list of favourite anime. This list would display my fine, immaculate taste in foreign cartoons, and all the titles will be time-held classics passed down through generations upon generations of tea-drinking anime fans. Then I realised that, if I was going to be completely honest, My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute! would be in the top 10 and promptly gave up on that idea.

Confronting your own tastes can be a bit of a scary thing. For some time now, I’ve deliberately avoided any kind of ranking system on this blog because I didn’t want to say that one kind of anime is inherently better than another. It’s hard to measure feelings sometimes. Do you rank the anime that is better-made and planned over the one that is flawed but interested you more?

When I’m putting on my critic goggles, I have to concede that when we’re talking about craft (and I do believe that craft can be evaluated by more-or-less agreed upon principles) you shouldn’t let things like hype distract you from what the anime is actually doing. But in general? There’s no rule telling you how to enjoy your anime. It’s totally a good thing that our own experiences can add to what we take out of an anime. (Well, to an extent.)

I realised this as I sat down to write this elusive Top Anime List of mine. The anime titles I enjoyed the most and which had the most meaning for me were ones where factors outside of the show strongly influenced how I watched them. It had little to do with how “good” they were. It had everything to do with how popular they were and how much interesting discussion and fan stuff came out of it.

Because of that, my tastes are really heavily skewed towards the mainstream otaku stuff. I can honestly say I got more out of Sword Art Online and Guilty Crown (lol) than Cowboy Bebop, for instance.

I consider making fun of anime a legit source of personal enlightenment












It’s not even that I like those anime ironically or because they’re “so bad they’re good”. Cracking jokes about anime is just a great source of fun in general. I end up getting so much out of polarising, oft-parodied shows because I get to enjoy them on multiple levels. The discussion around shows that people will generally agree are good (or bad) is much less interesting in comparison.

I happen to value these social interactions really highly because I consider myself part of the anime subculture. I can’t really say I talk to other people a lot about books, for instance. My taste in literature is a lot different from my taste in anime, at any rate.*

This is, and probably will continue to be, a source of slight embarrassment for me. You know, shit taste and all that. Maybe I’m just overthinking it and anime fans aren’t judgmental douchebags who think you have no brain cells because you like Infinite Stratos. Could be. I’m not really banking on it, though.

I just wanted to get these reservations out of the way before I finalise and publish my official Top Anime List . The list will be almost entirely devoid of older, obscure shows. The list will also be biased towards shonen and male otaku-themed anime. I’m sorry, except not really. It’s my personal taste and that’s just how it goes.

+Yui-nyan+Mai+waifu+_05f7cd8822c15706b84d2b8862d57f77So here is my answer to “WHY ISN’T [INSERT SHOW] ON YOUR LIST???”: I either didn’t watch it, or I did watch it, but ultimately preferred watching cute anime girls lust over an emotionless sack of potatoes.

That’s the honest truth. It feels kind of liberating to admit it.

The list will be published in multiple parts.  I’m taking a leaf out of Marow’s “Anime I Love” Project and writing posts on each of the anime that I love and really engaged me deeply in some way. I’ll talk about my personal feelings, my life circumstances at the time, and how my reactions changed over time. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll probably already have an idea about which anime will make the list. This will probably take months to get done since I’ll be writing about my favourite anime as I rewatch them.

It’s not often that I take such a personal approach, but top anime lists are personal by nature, so I feel this approach is probably the best way to go.

Hope you guys look forward to it!

* Addendum: Here is my top 10 list of favourite books. This isn’t a literature blog, so I won’t go into detail about my choices, but I’d be happy to explain them in the comments if you ask.

  1. The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  3. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  5. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  6. Sherlock Holmes (the short stories) – Arthur Conan Doyle
  7. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  8. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
  9. The Power and the Glory – Graham Green
  10. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott


  1. Reason I make favorite lists rather than best (excluding manga) is because thinking of a “best of the best” anime list is too hard and sounds too elitist to me. Besides, contrary to what people with a retro mentality say, it is possible that a show will eventually appear that can surpass their precious top anime of the 90’s (or for some, 80’s or early 2000’s.

      • Which is why I’m living the moment right now. Oh, and I “embraced the moe” long ago so I’m in the clear.

  2. Holy cow, you’re really going all out on this project, aren’t you? Re-watching all your top shows, writing a post for each, detailing feelings, life circumstances, etc…how many shows are you anticipating will end up on the list?

    In any case, good luck, and I look forward to reading the posts! My personal list tells me I haven’t even finished 100 total series yet, so until I feel I’ve watched enough to make a list of my own, I’ll just have to be satisfied with reading the ones other bloggers pump out.

    • The list will have ten series. It’ll be much shorter than most bloggers’ top anime lists because I’m just sticking to the anime that had a *profound impact* on me.

      Also, my list says I’ve watched over 500 anime and I still don’t think I’ve seen enough to produce a good best anime list. It’s really not about how many series you’ve seen, I think. I don’t think anyone feels as if they’ve seen enough anime to judge the entire medium.

  3. I get what you mean. I’m not good at ranking either. I like different anime for different reasons. Some anime are better than others based on one criterion, but lose out on another. That’s why I haven’t created my top anime list yet. Too much thinking is required.

    • Yep, I know those feels all right! For my own list, I’m sticking to the anime that had the strongest impact on me as a person, which requires less thinking and more gut reactions. There was no criteria involved. It’s probably the best way to go, I think, since favourites are always going to be really personal no matter what.

  4. But SAO, though! One of the classics, in my opinion. Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have a hard time writing them, too, but in the end, I come up with something decent.

    Makino F. <3

  5. I basically had the same attitude toward making my top anime list. At the beginning, I confess that the list is completely subjective, and I made it a top fifty list because I felt bad about leaving so many great anime out of it.

    You have great taste in literature, by the way. I need to read more Graham Greene.

    • Thanks for the compliment ;) Graham Greene is one of my favourite authors. I also really enjoyed The Quiet American – that was actually the first book of his I read and it made a really strong and deep impact on me. The Power and the Glory made me cry, too.

  6. *Liked Oreimo, Sword Art Online and Infinite Stratos, well, the first season anyway because he hasn’t watched the second yet* >.>

    Top 10 lists are hard…I don’t think I could make one for anime. One of the issues is that there are a number of ways of thinking about what makes an anime worthy of being on such a list. For instance, I can’t deny that Baccano was well made, but if I were talking about personal enjoyment I wouldn’t be able to recommend it. Likewise, Sword Art Online had a lot of issues but that didn’t get in the way of it becoming one of my favorite series. I guess OG has it right when he says that favorite or recommendation lists are the way to go. Maybe i’ll hop on the bandwagon soon so that everyone can marvel at my bad taste.

    I look forward to seeing what you come up with! I’m always keen to add new series to my “to watch” list.

    • Yeah, I feel the need to separate my “favourites” from what I recommend. Most of my favourites should be ones you’ve either seen already or have heard of, so I don’t know how I can add to your “to watch” list (which should be miles long by now, I’m guessing? ;D) On that note, I also look forward to any favourite anime list of yours, if (when!) you ever write it.

      • It’s huge XD I’ll think about getting around to it during my next break. The question is whether I can be bothered writing a blurb for each series.

  7. Leave the Top Anime Lists that claim to select only the “best” to the people who (think they) know enough and have watched enough to make such judgments. I’ll probably never watch enough to be comfortable doing that. Besides, after seeing hundreds of those lists, what’s the point of another one? What you’re going to do–which is to use your personal experiences with a selection of shows to frame your own journey through anime, and through life–is far more meaningful and far more likely to be interesting* to read.

    *Okay, honest, I admit I still haven’t gotten over that morbid obsession with lists that most people have, so I’d check out your toplist regardless, but what you have in store is sure to be less forgettable!

    • I like reading other people’s lists, or at least just skimming through them. They’re a good shorthand for identifying other people’s tastes, but yeah I tend to forget what’s on most fans’ favourite anime lists are unless they keep bringing it up.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with you. However, it’s easier to pick better anime within some short time frame. To be frank, after a few years of anime watching, I find it impossible to compare between the different watching styles that I use when watching different shows. I’m looking forward for your list. Perhaps it would be a surprise for me.

    • Yeah, when you look back over a span of years, it’s harder to pick favourites than it is to pick your top anime of the season. I just stick to what anime I still think about a lot and which have stuck with me over the years, rather than trying to compare how I might have critiqued these titles. Taste is way too complex for picking favourites to be easy!

  9. Well, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t expect there to be much crossover between your top anime list and what mine might consist of if I had one – probably mostly because I’m a 27 year old woman – but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I suppose this will sound ridiculously cliched, but… can’t everyone just respect what other people like/dislike and move on? I mean, I have zero love for Naruto (just picking a random example here), but if I happened to see Naruto on your list, I’m not going to argue with your choice or tell you how shit your taste is. I’m also not going to suddenly stop reading your blog or think any worse of you as a person. But I don’t know, maybe I’m just failing to see some kind of obvious point that everyone else seems to inherently understand.

    • I totally agree with you. Judging people for their tastes is a really dumb thing to do. Still, I do get insecure sometimes and think things like, “If others think the anime I like are unintelligent, will they think I am incapable of critical thinking?” I’ve made my own philosophy about being open-minded and receptive towards multiple interpretations clear, and that naturally draws me towards anime where opinions are heavily split. But sometimes, I do wonder if people understand that, or if they’d rather just put a label on me out of convenience.

  10. To me, top anime lists are a short and sweet method of recommending anime. These are anime I all really like and I think other people should watch. You absolutely can’t begrudge anyone else’s top anime list, and the explanation for each is where you provide the justification on why you should watch it.

    However, on the subject of perceived bad taste, if your top list includes OreImo and Sword Art Online, I am much less likely to listen to any recommendation you have on what else to watch.

    • Weirdly enough, I actually don’t think of my favourites list as a recommendations list. If I were recommending anime to other people, I’d still pick things I like, but they’d be things that I would think others would also like. The big problem with conflating my “favourites” with “what I recommend” is that I’ve consumed my favourites in such a way that I’ve made them better in my head than how they actually are. I wouldn’t even take my own list seriously as recommendations, honestly. lol.

  11. I completely agree with your approach in making your top anime list. I believe that such lists are highly personal and it really makes one think hard why did I like / dislike some shows. I love reading top X lists because it’s a good way for me to pick up on shows that I’ve missed.

    Anyway, can I presume that Sakurasou will be in your list? :)

  12. Well, when I get to ranking my anime list, it’ll start off slowly, and then hopefully grow as time goes on.

    I’ll also do a Top List when I actually watch 200 TV anime series. Or at least give it strong consideration. I don’t think there will be a problem, but what do I know?

  13. I’ve made many top favorites lists on my blog over the years (including my favorite anime back in 2011, and most of them haven’t changed much since XD) Coincidentally, I just posted the first part of a new one – counting down my 20 favorite animated movies. I can totally understand your apprehension about making such a list though, especially when you know that your favorites are ones that simply have things that resonate better with you than ones you think are exceptionally well-written. I call it the “head score” versus the “heart score” when it comes to ranking anime, and though the two can intertwine, when it comes to our personal favorites, I’ve found that it’s good to just let the “heart score” be the dominant one. As long as I have a personal reason for why I like, say, OreImou better than Spice and Wolf, whether it’s just something simple like “I found the characters more fun to watch” or “I could relate to the themes better,” that’s a perfectly good reason since it’s your list after all ;) I always make the distinction clear that it’s a favorites list I’m making and not a list of what I think are the best in terms of things beyond personal taste.

    By the way, I haven’t read any of your favorite books I’m sorry to say. I did see the old black and white film of To Kill a Mockingbird though. Two of my favorite novels are The Catcher in the Rye and The Stranger. I actually have a lot more favorite short stories and poems than novels when it comes to literature though XD

    • I recall a while back there was this Blog Carnival where bloggers discussed what makes a 10/10 anime. Your comment makes me think of that. A lot of bloggers did say that the “heart” score is more important than the “head” score (as you put it). It’s interesting how for some people (like myself, for instance) there’s a big difference from what I think is good and what really resonated with me.

      On another note, I just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye yesterday! I thought it was a very well-written book which I might have enjoyed even more when I was going through my “snarky teenage” phase. You should definitely check out some of my favourite books when you have the chance, though. They’re all really timeless stories which I consider “accessible classics”.

  14. I won’t judge you for liking Infinite Stratos. No promises on liking the first season more than the second though because S2 > S1! (I actually never finished either one. I like the stupid school antics, but not the fighting and overarching story. And actually I didn’t really like either of those in season 1)

    • Funnily enough, I think the general consensus is that S1 >>>> S2. The MAL score for S2 is something pretty awful. In terms of dumb antics and harem bullshit, S2 certainly was more of a standout than S1, but I do think it really fizzled out as it went along and the whole production just felt lazy. Was worth it for the Charlotte no-pan episode though.

      • You are probably right, I didn’t even watch much past the mid point. It probably isn’t fair to call me a fan in the first place. I don’t really like IS that much. I just enjoyed the antics with Char and Laura.

  15. I think some people would start irrationally judging you even if you put something like Legend of the Galactic Heroes on your list instead of something like OreImo. Either way there are all kinds of holes people can try to poke in your picks.

    Not to say that it might not be more expected with some anime over others, but maybe picking those anime is better for the people who complain about them. Legend of the Galactic Heroes might be easier to “defend,” but what some people need to hear isn’t a defense of whatever pick you made as much as someone showing them that whatever anime they love most isn’t an indicator of their intelligence.

  16. I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ll put on your list! I guess you’ll have much to mull over, but everyone’s views on what makes a good anime is subjective anyway so go ahead and take your own approach! It’s just like how i’d say,

    Brave New World > 1984


  17. That’s an interesting point of view. I mean, for example, Bleach is terrible, it got from ‘pretty decent’ to ‘HOLY SHIT KUBO ARE YOU MAKING UP THIS CRAP ON THE SPOT?’ in the last years but it’s SO MUCH FUN, and that’s why I keep reading it. And I still joke about it to the point it became part of my internet-speak (“Aizen’s plan” being the new way to explain anything that otherwise doesn’t make any sense).

    I tend to rate anime abstracting them from this context – as in: rate them as I think someone who’s going to watch them in the future is going to enjoy them, considering that this kind of buzz is a very “contemporary” thing and won’t work as well if you watch the same show at years of distance (for example, I watched almost all of SAO, dropped it at episode 20-ish, and since it means I get to understand and enjoy the fun of people bashing it it was sort of worth it! But I still wouldn’t put it in my top anime list because in a few years all that SAO’s going to be is just a plain, rather boring show. I wouldn’t have hated it much either if it wasn’t for the hype surrounding it at the beginning that raised up my expectations). But I definitely can understand where does your “meta” perspective come from. Though some shows (example: Evangelion) would belong to the top of both a “good anime” top list and a “very influential anime” one (“Get in the fucking robot Shinji!”).

    • I tend to rate anime abstracting them from this context – as in: rate them as I think someone who’s going to watch them in the future is going to enjoy them, considering that this kind of buzz is a very “contemporary” thing and won’t work as well if you watch the same show at years of distance

      Indeed. I actually do this too. A lot of my favourites are rated somewhat poorly on my MAL. Anything I rated over 5 is something I definitely enjoyed at the time, but the upper ratings are reserved for series which I believe should be watched for years to come. Many anime series are enjoyable in the moment, but fads do pass. Can you imagine anyone talking about Mahouka when this season ends? (Or perhaps that series will join other eternal classics such as Guilty Crown and Sword Art Online.)

  18. When I was making my lists, I always stressed on the point that “my lists are not in any particular order unless specified” although the entries being numbered doesn’t seem to help, lol. I see that you won’t include any old, obscure shows, which is a good move from my perspective, as I think those shows belong to another category, another list altogether. Besides, adding these together with modern anime just makes the list even more confusing to complete.

  19. Going by some of your books you might like “Brave New World” or something by Kurt Vonnegut like “Cat’s Cradle”.

    • I’ve been planning to read Brave New World for a while. Kurt Vonnegut, though I’ve only read Slaughterhouse 5, and I actually didn’t think very much of it. Oh well. Still, I should give him another chance.

    • I did know that Little Women has an anime adaptation, but I haven’t watched it. Considering I love the anime adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, I should probably get onto Little Women, but something tells me the anime is probably not quite as visionary…

  20. “but ultimately preferred watching cute anime girls lust over an emotionless sack of potatoes”

    spat my drink out laughing when reading this.

  21. I try to balance both. I actually find a lot of enjoyment out of things I consider well made so it’s pretty easy for me. Though I’m also a fan of art direction and use of clever techniques and a few dumb stuff thats way too good in it’s craft but then again that is all positives to me.

    But like you said it has a lot to do with your own experiences and what you actually enjoy. The important part to me is being able to actually find qualities explaining your choices and these can be very personal.

    The most controversial stuff that would be in my top 30 is Kill La Kill and Air Master.

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