Want to skip this intro and jump to our best anime series list? Maybe you’d rather see our best action anime list? Trying to view our best anime of all time list for some really good anime to watch? Or, do you want to see our list of the best anime quotes?
Anime’s Seat At The American Table
Anime has had an interesting and slightly fortuitous progression within the western world. The recent and truly dumbfounding explosion of Pokemon Go has certainly led to increased fascination with the genre. Although, good anime has been providing westerners with endless entertainment for decades now. And the influence of this Japanese style of animation is steadily increasing.
Anime, and its motionless forefather “manga”, is intrinsically attached to Japanese culture. It took flight in the post WWII era, and continued to boom with the rise of television in the 50s. It wasn’t until Osamu Tezuka’s 1960’s TV series, Astro Boy, that anime became widely known to the world outside of Japan (and parts of Asia). Unfortunately, the genre retained a slight stigma in America throughout the latter half of the 20th century. When Spirited Away captured the Academy Award for Best Animated Film in 2003, anime had truly cemented its place in American culture. With that historical win, anime carved an undeniable seat at the table, despite continued disregard or neglect of the genre.
The Major Players
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most popular and highly regarded anime creators on the planet. Miyazaki and his studio, Studio Ghibli, are responsible for eight of the top fifteen highest-grossing anime films and have garnered five Academy Award nominations. As we mentioned above, Miyazaki’s 2001 film, Spirited Away, took home an Oscar and became the highest grossing film in Japanese history. Studio Ghibli produced many of the top anime on our lists and continues to crank out exceptionally good content every year.
Other top anime industry players include Toei Animation, Gainax, and Production I.G. Their many collective works feature the well-known Dragon Ball franchise, the seminal Neon Genesis Evangelion, and the Ghost in the Shell franchise, respectively. The latter of the three studios has made recent waves in Hollywood with their production of the anime sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1 and with the upcoming live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell.
The Main Differences Between Japanese Anime and American Animation
In Japan, all animations are anime. Good anime productions often contain mature and complex themes and are consequently marketed toward adolescents and adults. On the other hand, most American animation targets a much younger audience, with very few productions explicitly aimed at adults. This is especially true in Hollywood, where Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks dominate the playing field.
Sure, televised adult cartoons do enjoy extreme popularity in America. Shows like Family Guy, the Simpsons, and South Park are on their 15th, 28th, and 20th seasons. Still, there’s a noticeable lack of non-comedic, adult-oriented animated content in the U.S.
With that in mind, however, we should consider the palpable influence that anime has had on western television and film. Numerous widely popular western animations took direct inspirational cues from their Japanese counterparts. And live-action western productions have similarly drawn from the eastern anime well. These westernized permutations of Japanese inspiration are fittingly referred to as “amerime”.
You could go so far as to make the cognitive leap and suggest that without anime, we wouldn’t have witnessed the rise of Hollywood comic book movies. Just as the highest grossing superhero films are based on comic books, many of the top anime stories are taken from manga. It makes perfect sense that Hollywood would be prompted to birth endless Marvel and DC franchises after witnessing the success that top anime studios have seen.
There’s always been an obvious Japanese influence on many American superhero cartoons, including the original Batman and X-men animated series. Yet, Hollywood typically takes it a step further and adapts American comics into live-action features. And sure, Japan has had its fair share of live-action renditions. It’s just that Japanese box-offices appear to be much kinder to animated creations than their American parallels.
American Content Inspired By Anime
We’ve already seen some of the more obvious anime inspired American fare. Yet, there’s also enormous amounts of “amerime” with subtler origins. These television series, films, and even video games have borrowed (and even shamelessly ripped-off) everything from the plots to cinematography of good anime productions. A few noteworthy American films that most audiences don’t realize are “amerime-based” include The Lion King, The Matrix, and Inception.
Despite Disney constantly denying any connection, The Lion King seemingly (and rather liberally) borrowed from a popular anime series called Kimba the White Lion. From the name of its protagonist (Simba vs Kimba) to practically verbatim scene stealing, The Lion King draws unmistakable comparisons to its anime predecessor. In fact, it’s unlikely that this monumental Disney classic could have been conceived without the help of Kimba.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Wachowski’s readily admit that they borrowed from anime while crafting The Matrix. They reportedly went so far as to show Ghost in the Shell to their prospective producers as a part of their original Matrix pitch. Along with the film’s overt ties to Ghost, The Matrix borrows heavily from the fast-paced, eccentric style that most anime share.
In the case of Inception, Christopher Nolan also willingly admits anime’s direct influence. His primary source of inspiration came from a 2006 anime called Paprika. This film features dream manipulating technology and a crime-based mystery with layered realities. Sound familiar?
A large part of Hollywood’s continuous “borrowing” from anime likely stems from two things. First, they probably operate under the assumption that most westerners have yet to see the original source material. Therefore, they can feel more confident about blurring the lines between modestly borrowing and greedily plagiarizing. And second, they clearly believe that good anime is ripe with inspiring content.
New Samurai Jack Episodes!
Samurai Jack is one of the most enjoyable examples of “amerime”. Despite its obvious ties to Japanese culture, the series was created by a Russian-American named Genndy Tartakovsky. It’s an American cartoon about a Japanese samurai, drawn in the style of traditional woodblock prints. It doesn’t get much more “amerime” than that!
After 13 long years of silence, Samurai Jack is about to make an epic return! With 4 spectacular seasons already in the bag, you’ve got plenty of streaming to do in order to catch up. The 52 previous episodes provide just under 20 hours of binge watching to take in before the season 5 premiere on March 11th.
The first four seasons of Samurai Jack received critical acclaim and a cult-like following. Still, after a combination of worsening ratings and Cartoon Network’s push for newer content, the show came to an abrupt end in 2004. Desperate fans were left tragically pining for a final battle between Jack, the samurai protagonist, and Aku, the source of all evil. And now, the long awaited final season will arrive next month! We’ll finally know what happens to Jack.
A Few of Our Favorite Samurai Jack Episodes:
Jack Versus Mad Jack – Season 1 – Episode 8
Samurai Jack is no stranger to complex psychological analogies. Despite the fact that his television home was Cartoon Network, Jack often dealt with intricate issues with zen-like sophistication. In this particular episode, Jack wrestles with a physical manifestation of his own anger. “Mad Jack” is an exact copy of normal Jack and can only be defeated with superior mental clarity. Rather than fight him through physical aggression, Jack is forced to create inner-peace and watch his evil doppelgänger naturally dissipate.
Jack and the Three Blind Archers – Season 1 – Episode 7
This episode draws from the classic “Three Blind Mice” English nursery rhyme. The “three blind” characters are highly skilled archers, protecting a magical wishing well that Jack hopes to utilize. They can hear perfectly and rapid fire toward every nearby sound. The episode makes beautiful use of silence and minimalism as we watch Jack temporarily blind himself to defeat the enigmatic triage.
Jack and the Haunted House – Season 3 – Episode 9
While much of Samurai Jack involves the battle between good and evil, this is the only episode where we see evil in a classic horror story sense. It features creepy little girls with lost dolls, haunted houses, and a visually dazzling battle at the end. The inspiration for the epic final scene appears to be black and white traditional Japanese ink paintings. The striking imagery of this episode is bound to feel impressive, even if you’re not into horror stories.
Click here to learn how to stream these Samurai Jack episodes.
Check out the trailer for the new Samurai Jack below:
Best Anime Series
Many of the best anime series blend qualities of steam-punk and sci-fi to create incredible realms of technological fantasy. Cowboy Bebop is no exception. It takes place in a post-earth environment where humans are forced to inhabit questionable and incredibly difficult terrain throughout the galaxy. The show’s main protagonists are a group of bounty hunters that include Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Fay Valentine, Edward Wong, and Ein (a genetically-engineered Pembroke Welsh Corgi). The crew bears a striking resemblance to a similar group of space-bound bounty hunters from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Despite the obvious ties between the two sets of characters, Cowboy Bebop retains an undeniable sense of energetic originality. It was the first of its kind to be shown on America’s Adult Swim network and is a good anime for both entry-level watchers and veterans alike.
Samurai Champloo sort of lives at the opposite end of the spectrum and has closer ties to shows like Samurai Jack (for more reasons than the name). This show takes place in the Edo-era of Japan and follows two adversaries-turned-partners with simultaneously clashing and complimentary styles. Jin is zen, like our friend Samurai Jack, while the Mugen is much more explosive and uncontrollable. They both are meant to help a young girl named Fuu locate the mysterious “Samurai who smells of sunflowers”. They fittingly find themselves in constant trouble throughout their mission. Samurai Champloo is best-known for its use of a contemporary hip-hop soundtrack that (like the two Samurai) clashes with and compliments the faux Edo-era depicted in the background. It shares the same creator/director as Cowboy Bebop, Shinichirō Watanabe.
Death Note brings classical Japanese mythology into the 21st century and does so with unabashed intensity. The story follows a teenager’s struggle after he finds a strange notebook that was dropped to earth by an Ancient “Shinigami” (Japanese god of death). The notebook has the power to kill anyone. All the author needs is a person’s name and to have seen their face, and they can use the Shinigami power to murder them. The main protagonist is a hyper-intelligent teenager named Light who attempts to use the notebook to eradicate crime from modern Japanese society. Things quickly start to get out of hand and Light is faced with a mountain of ethical questions. This is one of the best anime series available and is perfect for binge-watchers ready to tackle 37 episodes.
Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is equal parts strange and fascinating. It has bizarre Nordic influences and features a dystopian future society at the mercy of nearly indestructible, human-consuming, naked and smiling giants. Sure, it might have the cheesiest dialogue and weirdest premise out of all of our best anime series. Yet, it also maintains near endless philosophical intrigue and Matrix-rivaling action sequences. If you’ve never seen any anime before, binging Attack on Titan might be a slightly overwhelming experience. Although, if you’d prefer to just dive headfirst into absurdly troubled waters, then look no further.
One-Punch Man is the best anime series that effectively lampoons and reaffirms the tired and often-underwhelming animated superhero genre. The protagonist is a seemingly ordinary, lazy, and curiously bald man named Saitama. He has somehow garnered the power to defeat any villain or force of evil with a single punch. Saitama lives in a modern society that has fully accepted superheroes as a part of daily life (similar to Marvel/DC environments). Both hilariously and mysteriously, Saitama has become the strongest and most powerful superhuman in the world by simply doing 100 sit-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 squats, and 10 km of running every day. Another source of humor lies in Saitama’s inability to find an opponent that can actually fight back. Regardless of how you feel about superheroes, you’ll enjoy One-Punch Man for its light-hearted and beautifully animated comedic genius.
Best Action Anime Films
Ghost in the Shell
This 1995 animated sci-fi classic is about a somewhat dystopian future where human consciousness can exist within semi-robotic “shells”. Unless you decided to skip to this section at the top, then you’ve likely already read how The Matrix was directly inspired by Ghost in the Shell. Aside from the numerous thematic equivalencies, The Matrix’s creators were clearly also inspired by the fantastical, futuristic tech involved with much of Ghost’s premise. Specifically, both films rely on a fictional metallic tube device that attaches to the back of the characters necks’ and transports their consciousness. On the surface, this film is a police-led crime drama in a tech-filled urban environment. The film’s deeper layers involve questions of the “self”, the over-abundance of modern technology, and the complexities of gender and sexuality.
Paprika is another film we previously mentioned as being the inspirational material for Christopher Nolan’s Inception. It’s easily one of the best action anime that simultaneously doubles as a psychological thriller. The film is set in the near future and involves the use of a new and highly volatile type of dream therapy. The protagonist is the normally modest Doctor Atsuko Chiba who assumes an alternate identity named Paprika whenever illegally using the new dream therapy on her patients. You could ostensibly imagine Paprika as a fitting prequel to the live-action Inception. Although, this film is entirely its own beast.
Ninja Scroll is by all means an anime classic. It features a messy grouping of feudal ninjas and shoguns. And, it focuses on traditional emblems of good and evil. Ninja Scroll has a slightly older feel than our two other best action anime films, but is definitely just as potent. There’s a secret gold mine, rival ninja gangs, government conspiracies, and supernatural forces at play. Imagine Game of Thrones meets Seven Samurai, with all of the additional visual flare that animation can offer.
Best Anime of All Time
The category of best anime of all time is obviously a highly contentious one. Although, few fans of the genre would be angered over Princess Mononoke’s top three position. Mononoke is one of the most highly acclaimed anime films and held the title of the highest grossing film of all time until the release of the Titanic. And it has rightfully earned every one of its accolades and pennies.
This film is essentially the anime version of Guns, Germs, and Steel as it fictionally details the rise of gun powder weaponry, the destruction of indigenous lands and societies, and the fatal disease of “evil”. Although, at its heart, Princess Mononoke acts as a poignant reminder of the human impact on the natural world. Miyazaki and the rest of Studio Ghibli crafted a slice of anime gold with this naturalistic fantasy.
Akira is the oldest on this list and the easily one of the best anime of all time. Made in 1988, Akira focuses on gang violence, street bikers, and a fictional World War III. It has a stylistically “80’s” feel with groundbreaking takes on what an animated film can be. Like many of the anime on our lists, Akira is extremely complex and utilizes its animated form as a means to push the audience beyond where live-actions films can go. It includes multiple universes, cosmic events, and psychological enigmas all set within the context of a late-80’s Tokyo street biker’s life. If you have any interest in anime, Akira is somewhere between The Godfather and an actual holy grail.
As the first Japanese anime to win an American Academy Award, Spirited Away just might be Miyazaki’s best film, and consequently the best anime of all time. Although, we certainly shouldn’t let Hollywood determine which anime matters the most. The plot of Spirited Away involves a young girl and her family, accidentally entering a magical realm where people are transformed into animals and the spiritual clearly overpower the physical. The film is somewhat like a more patient and profound Japanese version of The Wizard of Oz, with subtle traces of Alice in Wonderland. It’s simple yet thorough, dazzling yet minimalistic, and warm yet unrelenting.
Best Anime Quotes
These are some of the best anime quotes from the films and series that we mentioned above. Regardless of their connection to the genre, the anime quotes on this list are beautiful, deep-cutting, and can standalone as serious bits of Japanese wisdom.
1.”Man fears the darkness, and so he scrapes away at the edges of it with fire.” – Neon Genesis Evangelion
2. “I don’t like the terms ‘good person’ or ‘bad person’. Because it’s impossible to be entirely good to everyone or entirely bad to everyone. To some, you are a good person, while to others, you are a bad person.” – Attack On Titan
3. “Only hope can give rise to the emotion we call despair. But it is nearly impossible for a man to try to live without hope. So I guess that leaves Man no choice but to walk around with despair as his companion.” – Samurai Champloo
4. “There are many types of monsters that scare me. Monsters who cause troubles without showing themselves, monsters who abduct children, monsters who devour dreams, monsters who suck blood. And then, monsters who tell nothing but lies. Lying monsters are a real nuisance. They are much more cunning than others. They pose as humans even though they have no understanding of the human hear. Eat even though they’ve never experienced hunger. Study even though they have no interest in academics. These monsters seek friendship even though they do not know how to love. If I were to encounter such monsters, I would likely be eaten by them. Because in truth, I am that monster.” – Death Note
5. “Man always thinks about the past before he dies. As if he were frantically searching for proof that he truly lived.” – Cowboy Bebop
As you can see, despite the drawn nature of this beloved Japanese media, many anime quotes deal with concepts of a complexity that even live-action films often shy away from.
How to Stream The Best Anime
Good anime requires an equally good streaming tool. Such potent media deserves a platform that can maximize efficiency, enjoyment, and appreciation. Fortunately, younity provides the perfect means for relishing all of your anime downloads. It’s a sophisticated media server software that can effectively match the smart, multilayered complexity of the anime that you plan to enjoy.
Here’s How It Works
younity is a media server app. It works by connecting all of your devices and the files that live within them. It helps you organize your content, revitalize your relationship with your digital things, and improve the efficiency of your connected life.
When installed on a computer, younity will scan your hard drive, simultaneously arranging and delivering your files to your other devices. For anime lovers, younity is a simple and elegant media player that lets you watch your content from any device, no matter where the videos are stored.
younity is a content manager, a file browser, a remote accessing tool, and a media player all bundled into one easy-to-use application. Just like the complex anime we’ve listed above, younity is multilayered and incredibly versatile. For those of you with videos, photos, music, and more scattered throughout your devices, younity is the easiest way to organize, unite, and enjoy it all. Downloading these top anime is only step one. Step two is utilizing younity to get the most out of your content!
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