Just the most earnest show about a plucky group of teens wanting to memorize old poetry really good. Anime can do that thing where you could have a concept that sounds like the most boring thing imaginable, but through the language of its medium, it manages to translate that idea into something utterly captivating, inspiring, and devastating. So just imagine how good a show must be if it can convey the act of slapping cards quickly as an intense sporting event!
Hunter X Hunter
The show that got me back into anime, honestly. I love my shojo romances, and slice-of-life’s, and seinen dramas, but at the end of the day, shonen-ass action series are going to be the thing I’ll always come back to. What makes this one special though, is how it manages to elevate this subgenre above just about anything that came before it. It’s got big fights, yeah; it’s got the power of friendship overcoming all obstacles – but it also has a core of pathos that sees a major antagonist who may as well be named “Not Frieza” and figures out how to make them one of the most poignantly tragic villains I’ve ever seen. Or have a “super saiyan moment” that ends up condemning the physical and emotional brutality that comes from a truly godlike capacity for violence. Or, hell, have the A-plot of the show’s last arc be an extended metaphor for trans acceptance. If nothing else, some of my current favorites – e.g. Demon Slayer – wouldn’t even exist as they do today if it weren’t for this series telling everyone how to do shonen better.
A Place Further Than the Universe
A beautiful story about getting on and riding a boat that genuinely respects its child protagonists as wholly competent and emotionally complex. It’s adorable, hilarious, uplifting, and tragic – often all in one episode – and ends up being this gestalt where so many great aspects come together to tell a story about grief and love as well as anything that’s come before it.
Made in Abyss
I swear, one day I’ll finally get around to doing the “Foucauldian Biopolitics in Made in Abyss” essay I’ve been inspired to write since first watching this.
This should be mandatory viewing for anyone looking to rudely complain about a poor anime production on the Internet. Like, y’all, how does this shit even get made? How does anything get made? Shirobako may seem like a very moe, “let’s follow our dreams!” show at first, but it’s ultimately a devastating plea for viewers to understand how much hard work is put into even the lousiest anime you’ve ever seen. Also, the time skip in the first episode remains one of my favorite jump cuts of all time.