Welcome back to another Top 10 discussion! What can I say, I really love the format for lots of reasons. It’s a fun format to write in, it’s fun to reminisce about things I enjoy, and I love the thought and discussion they provoke. Just seeing someone else ranking something will get you thinking about your own placements and whether or not you agree with their assessments on a topic, and I think that’s great. Like last time I’ll be using a grading scale to help rank these, however since grading a series is more complicated than ranking individual scenes in a show, there are more categories involved. Aside from helping me know exactly where I rank each show, I like grading these this way because it helps give a good reference point for disagreements in opinion. For instance if I gave a show high marks in characters and you dislike the cast you’ll have an easier reference to start discussing why you disagree with my placement than if I used vague terms to rank these.
I will be grading based on five categories at 10 points each. Due to the higher number of categories I won’t go as in depth on why each category scored what it did like I did before, but I will still explain my placements. Presentation is a category that encompasses all the more physical parts of the show. Animation quality, sound design, voice acting, stylistic choices and music are the main factors here. Narrative refers to the overall strength of the story/plot, the twists and turns it takes, the pace at which it is traversed, and the overall satisfaction of seeing the story unfold. Strength is a bit of a weird one, and admittedly there is probably a better way to phrase this, but it refers to how well the story leans into its genre’s strengths. For an action series it’s how well the action is, for a comedy it refers to how funny it is. Character refers to, you guessed it, the characters. How well they’re portrayed, interesting dynamics, believability and strength of character arcs are all factors. Lastly Bias is also pretty self explanatory, it’ll refer to my personal thoughts, grievances and favoritism. Now obviously there will be bits of bias in my rankings of every category as this is an entirely subjective topic, but this will be for my unabashed fanboyism.
With all this said there are a few other things to mention before we get started. First, there will be varying degrees of spoilers for every series on the list. If you see the title of a show you wish to watch in the future, I’d suggest simply noting it’s score and skipping over it. Second, I have only personally seen about 30 or so anime, so some popular ones you love like One Piece won’t be on here not because they aren’t good but simply because I haven’t gotten around to watching them. On that topic, if one of your favorites isn’t on here, please tell me about it, I love hearing other people’s opinions on things they hold dear! Third, I will not be taking into account any manga material with these placements.
#10: Tokyo Ghoul
Tokyo Ghoul has some stellar visuals in its first two seasons. The character designs are great, and I love how much emphasis it puts on peoples eyes to help showcase personality and character. The music is also spectacular, with Unravel being one of my all time favorite opening themes. The unique battle features used, both the Kagune of the Ghouls and the Quinque of the investigators, look visually impressive, macabre and beautiful. However as with other categories, you’ll notice a recurring trend here as to why this didn’t get a better score… It doesn’t keep the same level of consistent quality in it’s design past season 2 which is a real shame.
Narratively speaking this show is a mixed bag. The first season is a relative slow burn that has one of the biggest payoffs for your time investment I’ve experienced, and the second season does a good job of making the main character badass and has some interesting story beats (even if they greatly differ from the source material). Everything after the first two seasons is an absolute shit-show. The plot can’t figure out what speed it wants to go at, you’re forced away from the characters you spent investing two seasons into for a new cast of extremely weak characters, only getting occasional glimpses of the good characters, the events happening/actions of the characters often makes no sense or is completely stupid for plot convenience, and it’s ending is pretty blah.
Speaking of the characters, as you could expect they’re great until season 3/4, then they take a nosedive off a cliff into a vat of acid. Maybe I’m being harsh, but when you compare them to the characterization presented in the first two seasons it’s just painful. Like watching someone you once admired grow up to be a rotten human. Tsukiyama is one of my favorite characters in the show, and he’s the only part of seasons 3/4 that I had any investment in. He’s psychopathic in an extremely entertaining way, and luckily they don’t assassinate his character like the did the rest of the cast.
To wrap it up, this show has a soft spot for me in a lot of ways. I memorized the lyrics to Unravel in hopes of doing a cover of it (and I still want to when I get a good set up), I love watching every scene Tsukiyama is in, the first season’s finale has one of my favorite scenes in anime, and watching Kaneki go from powerless to an absolute menace in season 2 was really satisfying. I still find myself occasionally rewatching the first two seasons and genuinely enjoying myself, and if I was grading this before seasons 3 and 4 came out this would be way higher up my list, but man do they drag the show down. The first two seasons are still good enough for this to squeak into my Top 10, but it’s rough knowing what follows it.
#9: Jujutsu Kaisen
On to a less depressing and potentially much more controversial take, we have Jujutsu Kaisen. This show had the unfortunate circumstance of being hyped into the stratosphere. I was a good year late watching this and the constant praise it received, often at the expense of other Shonen by saying it does everything right that they did wrong, unfortunately had me coming into this show with unfairly high expectations. It’s why I suggest that if you are trying to get someone to enjoy something you like, you must do your best to give them realistic expectations. I often even undersell a series when recommending it to friends so that they go into it with lower expectations and find themselves pleasantly surprised. This show does a lot right, and it’s important to remember that all of my critiques I’ll be having are for the first season of the anime alone. I recognize that as time goes by they are likely to rectify many issues I have with the show, and when season 2 comes out this show may easily climb up the ranks, but until then this is what I’m grading.
Visually this show is stunning, and the music and sound design is crisp. Whilst I personally didn’t like some of the choices they made for music, I recognize a lot of it is simple bias and not the tracks themselves being poorly made. I also can’t really talk about the beautiful visuals without mentioning Gojo. From his outrageously gorgeous eyes to the sheer majesty of his attacks aesthetics, he’s basically the go-to example for what makes this show stand out visually. The action is beautiful and the environments are also quite pleasing to look at, even if they’re just background.
The characters here are all enjoyable and do a good job establishing themselves given the comparatively short screen-time they have compared to my other entries. The characters fill their roles/tropes in a unique and refreshing way. They also have great visual designs to help you identify their traits instantaneously. However with only a season to go off of, the characterization is still fairly surface level. Not really the fault of the show so much as time constraints, but it is still a factor. Overall the villains are also quite forgettable in my opinion. Mahito was the only one to stand out to me due to him having more fleshed out motives and a crueler side revealed. There’s intrigue for many villains but not much else.
What holds back my enjoyment of JJK is the fights. I know some of you may be up in arms about this, but hear me out: The show does an extremely poor job explaining the power of the setting in tangible detail. In each other Shonen I’ve seen you have a pretty solid idea how strong the characters each are right off the bat, and it gives you a good idea what to expect when they fight. In MHA we know that All Might is extremely powerful, but we also learn immediately about his major weakness. We also know that characters like Todoroki and Bakugo are a lot stronger than characters like Ojiro and Ashido. Most Shonen set up the power system early on in a way that gives us an estimate (even if it’s not 100% accurate) of how strong the characters are so that when two characters fight we understand what each are capable of and how they compare. It adds tension and stakes when you understand the arsenals of the characters, and turns the predictions of the outcome into a puzzle to figure out; what moves and interactions will let them get the edge?
Even after rewatching JJK I still couldn’t tell you what some of the characters abilities were or how strong they are. Sure, we know Gojo is untouchable, but we can’t really quantify it. In fact, he’s so blatantly overpowered that it’s impossible for me to take any threats seriously when I know he exists. Additionally the main character Itadori is ridiculously strong from day one. With no special powers or training he’s shown to be able to jump through the window three stories up to save his friends from some monsters. He also casually breaks a world record in shot put as a high schooler as if he was tossing a ball to a child. Once he gets formal training and powers he picks up things extremely fast. In a day of training he understands and is able to regulate his cursed energy. There is also a powerful technique referred to as ‘Black Flash’ that is so hard to pull off that many sorcerers go their whole lives without performing one. It is performed by applying cursed energy within one millionth of a second of a strike landing. The first time Itadori learns about it he manages to pull it off in a fight against a powerful villain. Not only that, but he ties the world record holder for consecutive Black Flashes performed on his first try. I get that there is going to be payoff down the road for this, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel like Itadori can lose a fight when he’s this ridiculously competent.
To reiterate something important: this show only has one season. Many of my grievances I’m sure will be resolved over time. The fact that a show in an ongoing format with this little content so far made it onto a Top 10 at all is testament to how well crafted it is. In some ways its brevity is a strength as well, as unlike with Tokyo Ghoul it has the same high quality experience start to finish. The only two shortfalls for my viewing experience were the immense hype the show received creating impossibly high expectations and the problems I have with the power scaling of the show. Every other part of the anime was solid and deserving of a spot on this list.
#8: Ouran High-School Host Club
Onto a show that couldn’t be more different from the previous entries if it tried, we have Ouran Highschool Host Club. I’ll be honest, fond memories and bias put this show higher up than it might otherwise have earned. This was one of the shows that got me into anime, and watching it brings back fond memories of my brother and I first watching it together. I even made a custom shirt for me and him based on the twins joking about how sexy my brother was. Needless to say this show holds a special spot in my heart.
As far as narrative goes there really isn’t one, at least nothing extremely complex, and that’s honestly okay. Not every show needs a deep and convoluted mystery to uncover, and this show is simply here to make you laugh and feel good. That said just because a show is a comedy doesn’t mean there has to be nothing for me to latch on to. The premise is good and entertaining but doesn’t really take any risks as the episodes go by. Our protagonist is a smart but poor student named Haruhi who manages to make it into an elite private school based on scholarships. Whilst looking for a place to study in peace Haruhi stumbles upon an empty music room and accidentally destroys an $80,000 vase. Haruhi is a female but dresses androgynously and doesn’t care what people view her gender as, leading the club to mistake her as a male initially. They end up having Haruhi repay the debt by joining the Host club first which entertains and woos female’s at the academy. The ‘Host Club’ is a group of male students that entertain the females at the academy with sweets, tea and consensual flirting.
As for strength, this show has some unique humor to it. Everyone aside from Haruhi in the show is from a ridiculously rich family, and there is endless humor brought up from their differing viewpoints. They task Haruhi to buy coffee for them and she gets instant coffee which completely shocks the ‘nobles’ as they talk about it as if it were some unknown experimental science. The male lead even makes a big scene of trying this coffee, with all the other nobles cheering him on, and turning into an event. Alongside that, this show does a good job of breaking the 4th wall in several humorous ways, and each ‘Host’ of the club has a distinct tropey personality they bring that has its own brand of comedy it lends to.
Another one of this show’s strengths is its ability to take completely mundane things and turn them into major events, and it is capable of turning something as simple as a physical exam and set the stakes up that the exam going wrong feels just as serious as a hero losing a battle against a major villain. The shenanigans that ensues as their attempts to overcome these obstacles is another source of great humor and fun, and often their rich upbringing makes them ignorant to how poor some of their ‘master plans’ are. The show also makes great use of creative visuals to portray ideas, visual gags, and text/arrows to highlight focal pieces of the scene that will later be used to comedic effect.
I’ve mentioned before that there is much humor that comes from the strange perspectives of the wealthy characters, but they do a lot more than that here. We see many unique conflicts arise due to their higher social status that we wouldn’t otherwise see in many other shows, and it helps us remember the struggles on both ends. One character is third in line to receive the family business and that responsibility to prove himself weighs heavily on him throughout his life and causes him to enjoy life less as he ends up viewing many things through jaded lenses. We also see arranged marriages from kids of allied businesses, extreme social anxiety caused by the sheltered lifestyle and kids used as bargaining chips and ‘weapons’ in battles waged between businesses. It adds depth to the show and helps ground some of the outrageous and silly things that happen. While the main cast all fit tropes, and even play into them intentionally to appeal to their clients, there are several instances of peeling back the layer and seeing their true colors underneath as well. Now this isn’t to say that the characters/development here is the best in the industry, far from it, but it goes beyond what a lot of simple comedy anime does and I appreciate it for that.
And… that’s a wrap! I know, I know, my list Top 10 had five in each article so what gives? Well with these being about entire shows rather than scenes, I really don’t want to cut back on the amount of things I wish to discuss with each entry. I also don’t want to assail you all with a novel of an article to read, so this is how I’m doing it. I’ll cover entries #7-5 next, #4-2 after that and I’ll finish off with an article dedicated entirely to my number one pick! Until then, you’ll have to wait and see what’s higher up on my list! While you’re at it feel free to share any of your favorites, or any disagreements with placements/rankings I’ve done so far! Until then, thank you guys so much for reading, I hope you’ve enjoyed, and stay healthy!