1. 11. Arpeggio of Blue Steel
Why it made the list: In the future the human race still fights wars with boats. The only problem is that the human race is losing a war to a fleet of AI controlled battleships and submarines. There isn’t a lot of thinking to be done in this show but if you like nautical warfare, ships controlled by cute girls and men wearing fancy suits then this is show for you.
Watch it you like: starfish, submarines and people wearing inappropriate clothing underwater.
3. 10. Boundary of Emptiness
Why it made the list: Boundary of Emptiness is dark but in a good way. The studio who produces the series, KyoAni, has been know in recent years for making SUPER CUTE shows about girls in bands. The studio has returned to its roots with a show that emphasizes supernatural suspense and drama over the normal “girls in weird outfits” motif.
Watch if you like: Demons, comedy with your drama or your high school becoming a gateway to hell.
5. 9. Tamayura ~More Aggressive~
Why it made the list: Sometimes a show doesn’t have to be “about” anything at all. Tamayura has an incredibly calming effect on its viewers and uses beautiful visuals and well rounded characters to tell a simple story of a girl wrestling with the loss of her father.
Watch if you like: Anything by Hayao Miyazaki, taking pictures of your friends, falling asleep in front of pretty pictures.
7. 8. Genshiken Second Season
Why it made the list: Genshiken is a tough sell for viewers because it doesn’t pull many punches when it comes to depicting otaku (nerd) life in Japan. Nor does it shy away from depicting realistic characters (those who do not fit the standard “beauty” arch type) and the issues that stem from being part of a niche culture.
Watch if you like: revisiting your AV club, obsessive collecting, realistic depictions of people.
9. 7. The Fighting!
Why it made the list: Hajime no Ippo ~ The Fighting has been a manga (comic) in Japan since 1989 hence the old school flavor of its animation. Despite having a throwback look, it was the best sports show of the season in its ability to get your pulse pounding due to the bevy of source material to draw from.
Watch if you like: Crazy made up names for punches, underdog stories and watching the training montages from Rocky.
11. 6. Silver Spoon
Why it made the list: Fish out of water stories are fun and even more delightful is when the action in an anime moves out of the city and into the country. Farming has never been a huge area of interest for most people, but watching a city boy have to deal with learning the ins and outs of farming is surprisingly entertaining.
Watch if you like: Moving out of the city, super cute pigs and people take pratfalls in mud.
13. 5. Outbreak Company
Why it made the list: Take a nerd and have him export nerd culture to an entire other civilization. Watch that civilization study pop culture as seriously as we study physics or math. Then add some jokes about elves.
Watch if you like: dynastic rulers, well timed comedy, elves being elves.
15. 4. Kill la Kill
Why it made the list: One of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the year….Kill la Kill is bonkers crazy. Really there is no other way to describe it than to say that you take the best episode of Dragonball Z, up the insanity by 1000%, the animation by 2000% and the fight scenes by 1000000000%.
Watch if you like: people with over defined musculature, shouting outrageous statements at your enemies, watching things proceed in slow motion.
17. 3. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
Why it made the list: Creating an original protagonist for any series is difficult because “noble, right meaning fellow” has been done to death. So instead My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU makes their hero solves situations by being the biggest jerk he can possibly be in any given circumstance. It makes for a highly sympathetic and plausible character.
Watch if you like: putting your foot in your mouth, being volunteered to do things you don’t want to do, wearing your headphones at every possible moment.
19. 2. Monogatari - Second Season
Why it made the list: SHAFT’s Monogatari continues to be one of the few animes that push the envelope as far as evolving the art form and getting into deeper philosophical questions. Yes, it has demons and ghosts and vampires but it is also reflective on the nature of man and sacrifice and stands out amongst all the shows about magical girls with substandard animation.
Watch if you like: haunting music, snappy patter, awkward pauses.
21. 1. Attack on Titan
Why it made the list: Nothing went more “mainstream” than Attack on Titan this year. But no other series managed to combine action, drama and have the same clear sense of purpose. Not since Robotech has a show had the same crossover appeal that may still be talked about 15 years down the road.
Watch if you like: Humanity on its last legs, David and Goliath, people losing limbs at a remarkable rate.