Know Your Nerds: Kristen’s Top 5 Anime

As many of you know by now, my status as an anime fan is kind of complicated. While I really love anime, I’ve seen relatively few series compared to your average fan (or at least compared to the anime fans I’m friends with), so I sometimes feel like a bit of a poser talking about it. Nevertheless, out of the series I’ve seen, there are a few I truly love and that have inspired me to keep on watching more, in hopes of finding my next favorite.

Since my to-be-watched list of anime series is still really long, there’s a chance that at least some of the spots on my top 5 list will change as time goes on — but for now, here are my five favorite series!

5. Kamisama Kiss

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This series is one I’ve gotten into more recently — I’ve been watching through it casually when I have some spare time and am in the mood for something lighthearted. It’s a romantic comedy about a girl named Nanami who, through a bizarre chain of events, ends up becoming the Earth deity of a nearby shrine, taking over the post from the former deity, who has gotten tired of the job. A fox demon named Tomoe, a resident of the shrine, becomes her familiar, and is bound to her by — you guessed it — a kiss. Nanami’s feelings for Tomoe quickly grow into something more than gratitude and respect, but can a romance between a human and a fox demon ever work? Well…I’m still waiting to find out!

As I’ve said before when describing this series to friends, it’s like someone took all the best parts of Inuyasha and Fruits Basket and fused them together into a fun new anime that’s reminiscent of both of these, but that is still very much its own story. This series is an absolute delight for so many reasons — it reminds me of the series I loved when I first started watching anime, it has lovable characters whose interactions with each other are by turns hilarious and heartwarming, and it has just enough conflict to keep things interesting while still having plenty of fun, fluffy scenes to enjoy. I can’t wait to see the rest!

4. The Devil is a Part-Timer

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This is another recent watch for me, and one of two on my list that overlaps with Peder’s choices. We watched this one during the depths of last winter, when I was craving something goofy and fun to get me out of my annual February funk. It did the trick perfectly, let me tell you. I won’t go into the summary much, as Peder has already done the honors, but suffice it to say that as this series starts off, it behaves as though it’s going to be a high-stakes, high-concept fantasy piece, and then does a total heel-turn, becoming a silly slice-of-life story about an incarnation of the devil who’s stuck in our dimension and has to make a living as a part-time manager of a burger joint. Bizarre and hilarious doesn’t even begin to cover it, my friends.

My favorite parts of this show are when Sado (the devil) and his right-hand-man-turned-roommate are trying to figure out the ins and outs of everyday life in our dimension. They may look like normal humans, but just knowing that you’re watching two beings from a fantastical world try to set a budget for their meager income and deal with their overly eccentric landlady takes the absurd hilarity to new heights. It’s one of my favorite fish-out-of-water stories, and was exactly the kind of lighthearted fun I needed at the time I watched it.

3. Ouran High School Host Club

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This was one of the first anime to become a favorite of mine. It follows the story of Haruhi, a scholarship student at the elite Ouran High School. Early on in the story, she’s mistaken for a boy due to her androgynous appearance and clothing — not wanting to deal with the hassle of setting the record straight, she decides to just go with it. The members of the Ouran High School Host Club (a sort of flirty high society club that primarily caters to young women) take Haruhi under their wing, and before long, she’s the most sought-after member of the host club.

The premise of this show is pretty farfetched, and it takes at least a base knowledge of some aspects of Japanese culture to really get what’s going on in the story, but once you’re on board, you’re bound to have a great time watching this series. In my opinion, it’s shojo (anime aimed at teenage girl viewers) at its finest and most delightfully over-the-top, and watching it feels like reading a really fun yet really weird contemporary young adult novel. It’s a series I enjoy from start to finish, and one I’ll most likely end up returning to again and again.

2. Inuyasha

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When I was a fledgling anime fan, this is one of the first few series I really got into, and was also one of the first I watched all the way through (not too shabby, seeing as there’s over 160 episodes!). The story focuses on Kagome, a teenage girl who falls down the well in the shrine her family tends, only to be transported through time to feudal-era Japan. There, she meets a rough-and-tumble young dog demon named Inuyasha. He leads her through all sorts of adventures and scrapes as they fight off the other demons who are trying to get their hands on the shards of the Shikon no Tama, a sacred jewel that’s rumored to give great power to any demon who wields it.

This is one of those series with a premise that’s really hard to explain when talking about it, but which is really easy to get into when watching it. There are a lot of different opinions about this series — some (like me) find it really enjoyable and rewarding to watch, while others see it as too mainstream and formulaic. While it does fall into the monster-of-the-week rut fairly often, I love it anyway, and I can’t get enough of the great characters it’s filled with, or the unique settings and plot lines that set it apart from other anime I’ve seen. Regardless of others’ thoughts on this series, it’ll always have a special place in my heart.

1. Steins;Gate

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Soon after I started watching this series, I knew it was going to end up ranked among the very best anime I’ve ever seen. By the time we reached the end of it, it was my new favorite. As with my #4 choice, I won’t go into great detail with this one, since we’ve already talked about Steins;Gate quite a bit on this blog, but I can’t close out this list without talking about just how truly great this anime is. As we’ve noted before, the story of Steins;Gate focuses on the concept of time travel, testing the limits and possibilities therein, and finding out just how far-reaching and dire the consequences of messing around with it can be.

As we’ve mentioned before, Steins;Gate seems to almost transcend its own medium — more than being a great anime, it’s just a great story, period. The characters are masterfully rendered and feel so believably human, the themes the series focuses on are weighty and important, and the plot is (for the most part) tightly woven and emotionally satisfying. I can’t say I’ll rewatch this one often, as it’s pretty heavy (despite some humorous elements), but I know I’ll revisit it again someday. And regardless of how many times I do or don’t rewatch it, it’s a story I know is going to stick with me, no matter what.

 

To close–some honorable mentions: Bleach (so good, but so fraught), Soul Eater (just a good, solid anime with a great premise), Naruto (I loved it for a while, but it caused even more mixed feelings for me than Bleach did), Cowboy Bebop (space opera at its best), The Daily Lives of High School Boys (I’ve only watched a few episodes, but have absolutely loved what I’ve seen so far), Haibane Renmei (the definition of short and sweet anime), Little Witch Academia (just adorable and delightful in every way), and Fairy Tail (another I haven’t gotten far with, but am really looking forward to watching more of).

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