Having recently seen a great video on YouTube with people listing their favourite anime series (it’s over here) has got me thinking again about some solid recommendations from my library of anime classics. I’ve written about series worth watching on Crunchyroll and Netflix before but this is more a general look. With classic series getting a second look in with re-releases in fancy box sets and a backlog slowly getting finished, let’s just look at some timeless classics. I’m not mentioning Cowboy Bebop in this post because frankly if you’ve never seen it you need to stop reading this and go watch it. Right now. Done? Cool.
3, 2, 1, let’s jam!
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
I’m getting what is arguably the greatest anime series ever made out the way first. If you’ve read the FMA manga you already know how good Brotherhood’s story is but the animation that brings the story to life is incredible. A lot of the underrated original TV series (with its alternate ending and film) voice actors reprise their roles and it’s both surprisingly deep yet simple and accessible all in a fun package. FMA Brotherhood is still incredible to watch with an ending that not only ties off every loose end but is incredibly satisfying. There’s a reason people still rate this so highly. If you’ve never watched this make the time and you’ll see why.
I feel like a broken record every time I recommend Hellsing. Ever since reading the fantastic manga in my uni days I’ve been hooked. The first TV series of Hellsing (like Fruits Basket and FMA) removes almost all of the humour and makes everything very ‘dark’ and broody (although TV has a phenomenal rocky jazzy blues soundtrack) Ultimate Hellsing is now what most streaming services just simply advertise as Hellsing and it fits as Ultimate shows the manga as it was. Bloody, brutal but with a sense of dark humour that helps carry it to the bonkers conclusion.
Obviously there’s a little overlap with my recommendations for Crunchyroll and Netflix but Fruits Basket deserves mentioning again for how stupidly good it is. This is the 2nd attempt at an anime version of the fantastic Fruits Basket manga and I would highly recommend avoiding the 1st as this modern take on the series leaves a lot of the humour intact. The refreshing of certain moments makes for a lighter and more enjoyable story without detracting from the incredibly powerful and emotional topics covered. You’ll be shouting at the screen throughout.
Shigurui: Death Frenzy
Rather than repeat how great Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba and Samurai Champaloo are I thought I’d mention something few people remember. Sure you can watch Basilisk: Kouga Ninpou Chou if you want an adult Naruto that’s both incredibly gory and hard to watch but Shigurui is rooted more in the Samurai aesthetic. If you’ve seen Ichi the Killer you’ve a heads up of the level of gore and assault to the senses. It’s a series you only need to see once and from the first five minutes you’ll know if it’s for you. Stylistic, bloody and something different, if you enjoyed Trek to Yomi you’ll likely love this.
Yes the ending is the trashiest ‘feel good’ deus ex machina nonsense you’ll ever see and its jokes usually involve ‘lol boobs’ but somehow despite that My Hime is still a fantastic series overall. The story takes some fantastic twists that are now just expected in magical girl series (it was 7 years before Puella Magi Madoka Magica) and the music for the action scenes is this great mix of techno and opera that still holds up. The relationships between the characters were so incredibly liked that they copy pasted them into the spiritual sequel series My Otome. It’s also super easy to binge from start to finish, when I first watched it I was hooked to 4am to see every episode back to back.
The only time I ever worked on a cosplay I crafted the sword and bought an elaborate outfit for Bismarck aka Knight Of One, this should help explain how much I love Code Geass. Gundam Seed is still one of the greatest mecha series made but Code Geass takes the mecha format and distils everything into its purest form. From the incredibly designed CLAMP characters to the greatest cliff-hanger mid-series pause you’ll ever see (the wait for R2 was intense) Code Geass is still worth a watch. There’s a reason it was edited down into movies and still sells to this day.
Much like the one of a kind anime; Monster, nobody seems to remember Planetes. Why would they? It’s just a series about people on the lowest rungs of society tasked with the incredibly dangerous job of collecting space trash and keeping the space station safe but if you ever wanted a ‘this is a diamond series that nobody knows about’ to enjoy then Planetes is it. The animation is incredible, the story and characters are fantastic. Although the ending is a little anti-climatic there is such a wholesome tale told that it’s still worth the watch. It’s also a worryingly likely future we’ll see should humanity ever make it to that level of space travel.
As much as I’d love to chat about Yakitate!! Japan, so many people adore and love Sword Art Online without any knowledge that a lot of the ideas and stories are just incredibly diluted (and sometimes corrupted) ideas from the .hack franchise. Sign is an incredibly slow paced anime that takes its time to tell a story of abuse, disability, gender and relationships beyond the online world it’s set in. This wasn’t just an excuse to dig out my DVD box set, it still holds up incredibly well with music that is timeless. If you enjoy anything about Nier related you’ll likely love this.
The soundtrack of Soul Eater deserves to be on this list alone. There are tracks from the series so rock they mimic NiN and perfectly match the extremely bombastic nature of the anime. The anime becomes its own unique story around 2/3rds through and the manga never did get an anime adaptation of the very different ending (every year my hope for a Brotherhood-like adaptation is dashed) but that doesn’t detract from how great the anime one is. Unlike Fire Force, Soul Eater feels polished throughout with superb characters that grow and evolve as the series progresses. Despite the Fairy Tail level of cheesecake it’s still a great anime.
Black Rock Shooter
Some anime series have their moment in the spotlight and fade into existence (remember Kino’s Journey the Beautiful World or Chobits?) and others like JoJo and One Piece continue on and feel they’re going to reinvent themselves for years to come. Black Rock Shooter somehow holds between the two, both remembered for the song and forgetting the movie and anime series. The movie is great but the TV series expands on the themes and gets incredibly emotional before the great conclusion. It is pretty trope heavy but it takes those beats and doesn’t shy away from some serious themes making the series its own unique story. If you like Puella Magi Madoka Magica you’ll love this.
Yuri On Ice
I wanted to end this list on something incredibly positive and uplifting. It was a close call between the incredible Mob Psycho 100, brilliant JoJo or lesser known series Get Backers or even Read or Die (both Tv series and film) but in the end Yuri On Ice is the series everyone should watch once. A modern take of an underdog story packed with hilarious moments, emotionally moving scenes and music that moves you. For a series that’s so obviously yaoi it is strange how the relationships are framed as ‘friends’ and ‘sporting rivals only’ from time to time but you’d have to be clueless not to see the love story for what it is. Uplifting from start to finish.
What’s an anime series you still enjoy watching?
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