Another anniversary, and another struggle to think of something neat to do. I can’t do my favorite anime again, and I’m not desperate enough for “Top 10 Side-Boob in Anime” (that’s the 13th anniversary). So instead, I’ll talk about something I’ve noticed in my years of anime viewing. And that’s those “must see” anime that seem to pop up every year. Now, is this just me naming well known anime for an easy list that’s mostly click-bait? You bet it is. Enjoy!
2015: One-Punch Man
There were a lot of great anime that came out in 2015. But I cannot help but name 2015 as the year of One-Punch Man. A lot of fans of the Cinderalla tale that was the Manga were excited/terrified for a One-Punch Man anime. Luckily, the anime was able to capture the high octane action and off beat humor that made the source work a fan favorite. While a lot of great anime came out in 2015, this was the one to beat.
2014: Kill La Kill
I’m kinda cheating, because this was initially released in 2013, but half of it finished in 2014. Plus, the English dub didn’t hit the internet till 2014. For those reasons, and the fact that most lists I looked at put this at #1, I’m naming Kill La Kill as the “must see” anime of 2014. The basic story is about a girl seeking revenge for the death of her father. The overall story is an insane mismatch of crazy animation, crazier action, and thematic and plot relevant fan service. Plus, the soundtrack is killer.
2013: Attack on Titan
The Attack on Titan franchise has exploded in a way that I don’t think most anime fans quiet expected. It went from manga, to tv show, to 2 movies, a few OVAs, a parody spin-off series, and a second season. The anime sells itself on the “anyone can die”gimmick (even if the important characters don’t really die), and the desperate fight for survival. The series has great cultural appeal, good gender portrayal, simple Cosplay, and only a moderately insane protagonist. What’s not to like?
2012: Sword Art Online
OK, so out of all the anime on this list, this I debated the most over this one. A lot of critics point to this show as the start of the influx of Light-Novel series starring Mary-Sues and their warrior girl harem. And while these criticisms are valid, its important to look at the good and the bad. And for better or worse, Sword Art Online was the most important anime of 2012. It might have invented the Light-Novel action genre, in fact it totally didn’t, but is does stand out as helping populate it.
2011: Madoka Magica
Madoka Magica hit the anime industry in a way only deconstruction stories can. Everyone loves exploring how wholesome genres are probably secretly disturbing. Watchmen did it. Blue Velvet did it. And Evangelion did it. Madoka Magica takes on the magical girl anime genre. And while this occurs a decade after the magical girl genre hit its peak popularity, its still a stellar show.
2010: Angel Beats
Now, I don’t need to say any more about how I feel about Angel Beats. Its great. It’s heartwarming. Its funny. Now, the show is fairly melodramatic at times, being about dead teenagers living in limbo, but don’t let that stop you. At only 12 episodes, you more than get your story bang for your buck.
Time Travel! I love time travel. But gimmicks aside, this is a really good anime. It’s hands down the best anime of 2009. Its a great mix of goofy humor and heart wrenching drama. Basically, a group of friends accidentally invent a time machine, a lot of bad stuff happens, and then they have to figure out how to un-invent it. Based on a visual novel, this is probably the best video game adaptation you’ll ever see.
2008: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
So this one is a bit of a cheat, because its started and ended at different years. But I’m counting it, mostly because I was hard to think of shows from 2008. It was a while ago after all. But this is still a highly recommended show, in both English and Japanese. The story is about the rise and fall of Lelouch, as well as how far he is willing to go to change the world. Most often, a “dark hero” like Lelouch is depicted as a supporting character, but in this anime, we get to see his actions and struggles first hand. Filled with twist and turns, this one is definitely a must see.
2007: Gurren Laggan
One cannot talk about Gurren Laggan without getting pumped. 2007 is often considered the peak of anime by many critics (who, mind you, were mostly teenagers at the time, so nostalgia bias may vary). And leading the charge was a high octane, most complex than expected, anime called Gurren Laggan. A spiritual predecesssor to Kill la Kill, this anime is full of stellar animation, references, and action galore. A response to, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the mecha genre, you could do a lot worse than watching Gurren Laggan for a day.
2006: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
I’m not going to lie, I had a but of difficulty picking an anime from 2006. Anything before 2010, and my anime knowledge tends to fluxuate depending on the year. I almost put Death Note on here. And while that is a popular and important anime in it’s own right, it has to play second to the first season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Like a lot of important anime, this was a game changer. It’s nonlinear broadcast order was unique for one, choosing a thematic narrative over a chronological one. It’s after credits dance number inspired a thousand internet memes. And it’s story was trippy and mundane all at the same time. It’s definitely one of the Must-See anime.
Bonus List: Top 5 Anime Abridged Series