Happy 2023! I hope the holidays found you well. Picking up where we left off, we’re now in the Top 5, specifically #4-2. Next week we’ll have an article devoted entirely to the #1 slot, but for now let’s discuss the runner ups!
#4: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
This probably won’t surprise you given the reputation Jojo’s fans have, but I’ve been dying for a chance to talk about this show. So first thing’s first, if you take away only one thing from this section about Jojo’s it’s this: Watching Jojo’s is such an enjoyable experience because the show was designed to simply be a ton of fun. Whilst there are definitely all your pieces that make up a story like characters and plot, it doesn’t focus on those parts. At the end of this day it’s just a ton of fun wrapped in a truly bizarre package. The show won’t be trying to woo you with crazy plot twists or flawless character depictions, instead it relies on a constant high quality experience.
Now what makes it so quality? First off we’ll start with the presentation. Visually the show is stunning. Even the earlier parts where they were still finding their stride are beautifully stylized and make great use of color (and sometimes its absence) to make scenes and characters pop out. They are also one of the rare few shows I see that will have characters be the ‘wrong’ color (as in not their normal colors) for scenes in order to emphasize a point about their character or the scene they’re in. An example being when Kakyoin is fighting Jotaro. Throughout the fight Jotaro the ‘good guy’ is purple colored and Kakyoin the ‘bad guy’ is green. However when Jotaro calls him evil, Kakyoin responds by stating that morality and evil are subjective and decided by the victor. In the next shot we see Kakyoin now having the purple (good) hue to emphasize his point of moral subjectivity, and Jotaro is shown with a Green (bad) color scheme. It’s a really strange detail that once you notice and understand it really goes far to add lots of subtle nuance to the series, and you’ll find these types of scenes everywhere. It’s especially noticeable in ‘part 4’ where the entire town has strange color choices in order to really give off the vibe that there’s something strange and unsettling happening in this quiet and unassuming town.
Sound design in this show is crisp as well. The music is stellar, the sound of attacks and especially ‘stands’ when they are later introduced is all *mwah* chefs kiss! The original voice acting is also so entertaining. I’m normally a dub enjoyer, but the culture around Jojo’s, especially the meme’s (which was the whole reason I started watching btw) is entirely centered around the original voice acting; you’re genuinely missing out on a big part of what makes Jojo’s so enjoyable if you don’t watch the sub to understand the context. Each part has it’s own theme song, and as I mentioned in an earlier article the opening themes for this show are all stellar too.
Narratively and character wise the show is solid. Like I mentioned there isn’t a ton that’s gonna wow or surprise you, but it does a great job moving the whacky vehicle that is Jojo’s forward at a constant pace with characters that make the journey satisfying. There are certainly some standout characters like Dio, all of the JoJos, and the odd supporting ally/villain like Darby and Bucciarati, but the overall quality of the characters falls around the 7 range. One point in favor of this show is just how interesting the character designs are, and the artists art style is extremely recognizable and distinct.
Now Strength, specifically its battles here, is something else this show really shines at. This show is kind of an oddity in that the fights of part 1 and 2 are completely different from the rest of the show, so much so that they could almost be two different series if not for the connecting threads. The first part with Jonathan is passable, none of the battles are exceptional but they’re not terrible, and part 2 does a much better with the initial battle system and is overall quite entertaining, however part 3 is where the battles in the show really pick up. With the introduction of ‘Stands’, the possible array of abilities became nearly endless. Even seemingly useless powers can be made into credible threats when used to their fullest, and it makes figuring out the abilities of the enemies just as important as having the ability to fight. In particular the finale of part 3 between Jotaro and Co. against Dio is some of the best fight sequencing I’ve seen in anime; it’s full of great moments as they try and figure out exactly what makes Dio so invincible so that they can have a hope of beating him. Fights in Jojo’s feel truly unique, and it allows for really clever problem solving to be required to find the solutions to the enemies’ powers.
Hopefully I’ve done a good enough job to get you to try out Jojo’s, if you couldn’t tell I’m a bit biased towards it. It has a really unique quality amongst anime of being fun to talk about even outside of the context of the show itself, as there is an entire culture as well as tons of meme’s that you get access to after watching the show. Whilst I acknowledge Jojo’s fans can be obnoxious, we’re far from toxic. We just really enjoy the unabashedly entertaining package that is Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and are vocal about wishing to share it with others.
#3: Attack on Titan
In all my time watching shows of any genre, I’ve never seen a show evolve so much as Attack on Titan did. It’s a show that somehow manages to deliver on multiple premises spectacularly. The initial set up is changed entirely on its head as the story progresses, and this is going to be my toughest entry to discuss on this Top 10. Not because I’ll have a hard time coming up with talking points, it’s quite the opposite in fact. The difficulty comes in that I truly don’t wish to spoil the ‘master-tier’ storytelling by giving away any of the plot twists or story beats that completely change the story, so I will be speaking about this show in somewhat vague terms. Seriously, go watch it if you have the free time, it is that damn good. Even if you’re just lukewarm on the premise and the first season, I promise you it will evolve in such a way that you’ll be blown away.
The soundtrack to this show is the best I’ve heard in any show, movie or game. Period. Every track is beautiful, tells a story, and is utilized to perfection. The only problem I have with the soundtrack is how hard it can be to find the track you’re looking for because they have some jank-ass names. 進撃st-hrn-egt20130629巨人 is an actual track title, good luck remembering that. This is also going to mirror the sentiment of the last entry for different reasons, but the sub is the better format to watch this show in. Not only is some of the voice acting in this show transcendent in the sub (Eren’s screams in particular gave me goosebumps in the forest), but the English dub changes lots of sound effects. The most glaring one is the sound of the Titan’s roars, and they sound so epic in the sub but in the dub they sound weird and high pitched. Visually speaking this show is great too, with spectacular visuals and insane animation quality. The fluidity of the 3D-manuevering gear is stellar, in particular the action sequence with Levi in it are especially breathtaking.
While we’re on the subject of Levi let’s discuss the characters of the show. All in all there are around 20 or so characters that are given focus enough for us to understand and care for them, and every single one of them is memorable and interesting in their own way. There is of course all the fellow cadets, but also the higher ups in the military like Levi, Hange and Erwin. Many of the villains of this series are also extremely interesting and compelling, and the Titans are such a creepy, intimidating and strange foe that are often depicted in such unsettling ways that they truly make the world of AoT feel inhospitable and hopeless.
The narrative of this show is quite a unique beast. In season one it’s entirely serviceable but nothing really noteworthy. It’s essentially there to set up the plot and help introduce you to the core ideas of the setting. Season two though is when things start to change with a big reveal coming early from one of the characters that, whilst is a somewhat obvious twist to the audience, is presented in such a unique and interesting way that you’re still shocked by the reveal. That is also one of the first moments where the show changes, but certainly not the last. Season three is full of new developments, but the finale to the 3rd season changes EVERYTHING. It changes the entire series moving forward, but also puts everything that happened up until that point into a new lens. Season four delivers expertly on that change as well, and is some of the best writing I’ve ever seen though we admittedly are missing the final part as of writing this which could change everything.
The action in this show is interesting and enjoyable, but nothing transcendent. The 3D- Maneuvering gear is fun to watch, the fights between Titans are entertaining, and their is a real sense of danger to the action in this show. From the onset it is established that anyone can die and that a single mistake can lead to death, so it makes all the action sequence all the more tense. All in all it’s entertaining, but it’s not the reason you’re here. My bias towards this show is a little bit lower as well because of how they’re going about the 4th season. They marketed season four as the ‘Final Season’, but they’re splitting it up in to three separate parts that get their own ‘releases’, with part 1 and 2 a year apart from one another and the 3rd and final part still to be released. It feels like a bad marketing scheme to hype this up as ‘the final season’ but to then spread it out over three parts that could realistically each be considered their own season. In summary, this show has some of the best writing I’ve ever seen, some stellar characters, enjoyable action sequences and the best music I’ve ever heard. I whole-heartedly recommend you check it out with as ‘fresh’ of eyes as you can, you won’t regret it.
#2: My Hero Academia
Surprise surprise, fitting in at the number 2 spot is a show I can’t shut up about. You’re probably sick to death of me writing about this show so I won’t go crazy in depth, but bear with me as I give a more broad discussion on what makes this show so damn good.
This will make me sound like a broken record, but the visuals, music, sound design and voice acting are all phenomenal in this show. I love all the opening and closing themes of the show and find myself listening to them with regularity, and Hero A is the single best motivational track I’ve heard. One unique selling point with this show is that the uniqueness of the ‘Quirk’ system lead to some truly interesting character designs that really stick out, and even among the more normal looking characters they still manage to give them some interesting and unique visual aesthetics. Uraraka’s gravity changing activates with a pink glow that is seen nowhere else in the show, Deku’s powers have a green lightning aesthetic to them, Kirishima’s hardening has a pretty unique visual style to it as well. It does a great job helping solidify the unique qualities of both the show and its characters.
Character wise this show is top notch. There is a large ensemble cast of characters that all end up both standing apart from one another and all managing to stand out as interesting and nuanced. There is also a really cool dynamic of the main villain starting out as a novice the same as the main hero and growing into a more and more dangerous villain alongside our hero. The unique setting of MHA also lends itself into its characterization. Characters will have unique appearances based on their quirks that will give you a good surface level understanding of them. Without any words, you can see a new character and get a rough estimate of what they’re like, and then as we get to know them more we learn there’s more to them than what’s on the surface. There are two reasons this show only gets 9/10 from me. Some of the minor characters like Sato have yet to have even a single ‘moment’ and are thus extremely underutilized, and because of the existence of Mineta.
As a ‘Battle Shonen’ this show will ultimately live or die on the merits of its fights, and this show thrives on them. Not only are the fights visually engaging and interesting, but there is always more happening behind the scenes that adds even more to the already great action scenes. Between episodes of hype and buildup, character arcs colliding, imbued thematic resonance, and well established stakes, the fights in this series have so much going into them that make them so enjoyable. Even some of the ‘lesser’ fights like ‘Fatgum and Kirishima vs Rappa and Tengai’ have things going on behind the scenes to make the fight better. I’ve already talked ad nauseam about fights in this show, so if you want a deeper look (albeit a look with heavy spoilers) check out this article and it’s sequel I wrote about my favorite fights.
Last but certainly not least we have bias, and whilst it’s apparent that I have some bias for every show one way or the other, I wanted to discuss why the bias I have for this show matters so much and is more than simply liking it a lot. There are two major things here I want to discuss: Firstly, when I started watching this show I was at one of the lowest points of my life mentally. My life style was unhealthy, my depression was overpowering my life, and I felt quite hopeless. I started watching entirely on a whim with no expectations of enjoying it. However watching Deku’s struggles, the journey he took, the hope the story portrayed through him and the general heroism he displayed genuinely inspired me. It made me want to try too, and I ended up making a lot of positive changes that lead to a much higher quality of life. There’s also an appeal to this show that I think really fits the human spirit as a whole, the desire to help other people. As a species we’re coded to get joy and satisfaction out of helping others, and this show’s presentation on it really got me to think deeper on what certain ideals mean to me. I’ve always fantasized about the idea of being a ‘Hero’, but this show got me to think more on what that means to me. I think the ideas presented in this show are great for getting people to think about life and how the choices and actions we make affect those around us.
And… that’s a wrap! Surprised by any of the entries? For those of you that have been reading these articles for a while you’ll know what my #1 pick is, and next week we’ll be devoting an entire article to it. Do you have any thoughts on any of the anime I’ve picked here? How would they fare in your own list? I’d love to hear from you! Until next week, thank you guys for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed both this article and this series, and stay healthy!