I’ve watched a lot of anime.
I’ve been a fan of the medium (not genre, no, more than that) since about age 8. One morning, after getting ready for school, eating my cereal and flipping through our three available channels for something to watch, I landed on something called Star Blazers. I had never seen an animated story where people fought wars and died, where they fell in (and out of!) love, and where characters had philosophical arguments about right and wrong. And, insanely, everything wasn’t reset by the next episode. The story actually built on itself. Nothing was the same for me after that. Many years later, I find myself writing about the best anime series of all time, as a producer and broadcaster of anime, one who’s met several of my heroes in the field and had the chance to work with some of them. Life is a trip.
When thinking about “the best anime series of all time,” what were the criteria by which we judged the work? How did we arrive at this exact list? When thinking about what makes an anime great, we focused on a few key points: Did it break new ground? Is it timeless—do people still discuss it today? Did it have an impact—in other words, did it influence other creators, either because of its success or its impact on the anime community? Beyond these considerations, the most important question was: Did it move us? Did it say something?
The group of writers assembled here, along with myself, each made our own lists. Those lists were collated, and the picks with the most votes rose to the top. Occasionally, there would be a tiebreaker, and in each case, the group voted what belonged where. That’s how we arrived at the list you’re about to read.
Does it have every show I’d like to see on it, and are they ranked perfectly? Of course not. Every fan will have their own “perfect” list. This is merely an overview of important work in the medium by people who know their stuff. It reflects that we are Americans, for sure. Our number one show is, I’d wager, not the show most Japanese consumers of anime would choose as the best of all time. It’s a strange thing to be a fan of, and identify so strongly with, something your own culture didn’t even produce. That’s one of the amazing things about anime—the breadth of the storytelling is as wide as the imagination. You’re not going to be seeing a U.S.-based ice skating toon drama anytime soon! Which is a shame, because if I’ve learned anything from watching thousands of hours of anime, it’s that animation can, and should, be used to tell any kind of story. The limits we place on the art form are self-imposed, and in some other countries, those limits don’t exist. Which is what makes watching anime, and talking about it, so very exciting.
I hope you enjoy the list. I hope you go off and make your own. And I hope it’s got something on it we haven’t even heard of. And that you’ll show it to me. —Jason DeMarco