20. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
It’s pretty obvious that JoJo was written on the fly. Some guy got a chance to make a manga, and he made up this shit as he went. It starts off as some sort of British period drama with Hammer Horror undertones, then turned into a fighting story. Then Nazis appeared. And god-like beings. And frog punching. And squirrel hands. JoJo is an insane mess of a thing, and it’s beautiful. This is anime/manga/whatever at its purest– without any meaningless fluff like restraint or sensibility. And in watching this for the first time I saw the genesis of one of my all-time favorite things: Street Fighter. You can see where Street Fighter pulled much of its iconography. You see where Guile and Rose and a bunch of other characters have their roots. And now JoJo is one of my favorite things as well, and it may rise in those ranks once we get more of the arcs animated.
When I watched Redline for the first time, I wasn’t just taken back to the days when I was first watching anime. I was taken back to those early days where I first realized “fuck, I really am a nerd.” Staying up late at night– watching bad exploitation movies on USA Up All Night and MST3K– seeing shit like Aeon Flux and Heavy Metal for the first time– reading comic books over and over again just to see the action play out panel by panel– if Black Heaven is about trying to recapture the “magic” of youth, Redline managed to distill said magic into a 2 hour movie.
18. Shin Mazinger Z Shougeki Z-Hen!
It’s the closest anime’s ever gotten to the flamboyancy of opera. It’s big. It’s melodramatic. It has the sort of scope of scale that scares lesser series. It assumes you already know where it’s going, so it tosses you into the mix and doesn’t give a damn if you can’t follow along. If not for Evangelion’s brilliance, Shin Mazinger may be the greatest giant robot show ever made. But it has two things over Evangelion. Eva doesn’t have Ashura, one of the greatest anime characters of all time. Mazinger may want you to believe that Kabuto is the main character, but he isn’t. This is Ashura’s story, despite him/her being a villain. Few shows can boast that they center around the villain rather than the hero, but Mazinger can. And that ending. That beautiful downer of an ending. Eva may be more apocalyptic and may “go there,” but the way everyone resigns themselves to defeat after what appears to be a last ditch victory brings tears to my black heart.
17. Occult Academy
If it weren’t for a slow spurt of episodes halfway through, Occult Academy would likely be up there at #1 instead of Cobra. Like Cobra later on in this list, Occult Academy thinks the same way I do. All of its climaxes are awesomely anticlimactic. The characters are awesomely eccentric. It plays off of all manners of occult phenomenon and conspiracy theories. It has a wicked sense of humor that doesn’t play off of the same tropes as most other anime comedies. And the end. Damn. Seriously, Occult Academy’s last three episodes are the single greatest anime ending of all time. It’s a shame that the preceding storyline with the ghost girl just doesn’t work within the context of the series in any manner imaginable. But damn. That ending. It’d move me to tears if I didn’t have such a bleak soul.
16: Tantei Opera Milky Holmes
It’s the Evangelion of cute girls. Everything that’s held upon a pedestal when it comes to “let’s eat cake” anime is run through the mud. Every blessing is turned into a curse. Joy is transformed into pain. Purity dies, replaced with incompetence and sin. The second season especially is something of a modern masterpiece, turning the very otaku who worship this sort of thing into the Angels that destroy existence by means of their single-minded powers of consumption. The series also has one of the most tragic of heroes, as we see Arsene trapped inside of an anime so far beneath her magnificent capabilities. She’s that last strand of the past that desperately clings to the present, hoping the present will somehow right itself and be birthed anew. That ain’t gonna be the case.