And now, finally, the Top 5, with #5 to #1--the best anime of the decade...so far...
5. Fullmetal Alchemist
Format: TV (51 episodes)
Debut: October 4, 2003
End: October 2, 2004
Widely considered by many, critics and fans alike, to be one of the greatest anime ever made, BONES had its biggest hit to date with its anime adaptation of the Shounen Jump manga, Fullmetal Alchemist. Much of its accolades were paid to its imaginative, superbly-done story, memorable cast of characters, and great production values (for a series as long as it, like the latter (#9) Eureka Seven, was).
Personal Note: Alright, I’ll be perfectly honest—I don’t like FMA. At all. Speaking personally, I thought that it was overwrought and overly melodramatic, and not a very well made show in the slightest. I only liked one of the characters and their existence, in retrospect, was rather superfluous and could have been removed entirely with little consequence. It does get somewhat good towards the end, but much of it was too little and far too late. All that said, like (#16) Le Chevalier D’Eon, a great deal of people feel otherwise about the show, and judging from the legitimately large number of those calling it one of, or the, “greatest anime ever made,” it would be remiss *not* to give FMA the credit where it is due.
4. Death Note
Format: TV (37 episodes)
Debut: October 3, 2006
End: June 27, 2007
Website: Japanese, English
A worldwide megahit across multiple medium, the highly-regarded manga, Death Note, saw its animated adaptation gain the same sort of reverence that it itself had received. It is quickly becoming Madhouse’s most recognizable achievement, receiving numerous honors along the way for its great animation quality, production, and most notably, its riveting, dramatic story.
Personal Note: Death Note’s phenomenon has been quite something, having been looked upon so well by critics and fans in its original manga form, its anime adaptation, and its two live-action films (including an upcoming spin-off). It has also experienced controversy, as a few copycat incidents have been blamed on the source material, and while it remains a favorite among librarians and literary groups, there are parent groups that do not wish to have something like DN in grasps of their children. Regardless, it has become one of the biggest properties from Japan and its anime adaptation, which remained close to the manga, continued the franchise’s pedigree. Originally, this spot would have been occupied by (#5) Fullmetal Alchemist, but it would seem that Death Note has surpassed it in the last year in terms of critical praise, fanbase, and cultural significance.
Format: TV (26 episodes)
Debut: January 21, 2002
End: September 10, 2002
One of BONES’ earliest productions, RahXephon gained immediate notoriety due to its similarities to the classic Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, that consensus changed afterwards, as many now regard it as being a superior work. Even without the comparisons, the series has been widely regarded as one of the best ever made. Its impressive animation quality and a great score accentuate its excellent story.
Personal Note: Being that RahXephon is one of the other two shows I mentioned as being one of my favorites, I had to take extra precaution in placing it among the best of the decade (…so far), out of respect to keeping this unbiased. That being said, there are three things that were going for this: the number of people who have considered it among the best, the actual critical merits of the show, and the number of people who have claimed that it was superior to Evangelion, often called “the greatest anime ever made.” All of those rank high, even though I disagree with some of what is said. The Evangelion comparisons are warranted, but I don’t necessarily think that one is better than the other in that sense, as they have their own merits and are ultimately different series with different purposes. I do, however, consider it to be better overall, and critically, I have been hard-pressed to find many, if any, flaws in it. It is very deserving of being one of the "Decade’s Best", and one of the best anime ever made (…not bad for first-time director Yutaka Izubuchi, a long-time designer).
Format: TV, DVD (26 episodes; last six released on DVD)
Debut: October 22, 2005
End: June 18, 2006
Website: Japanese, English
Mushi-Shi first started as one of the most critically-acclaimed manga in recent memory before being treated to an animated adaptation that has received like responses. A non-linear collection of mostly standalone stories, connected via its traveling central character, this award-winning series is a wonderfully-made, gracefully-animated show that is both thoughtful and engrossing with each passing episode.
Personal Note: Mushi-shi is a definite masterpiece, one rated so highly by both critics and fans. Episodic formats can often backfire with the wrong stories, but with one of this nature, it fits it perfectly, lending itself some great storytelling. It’s not a common occurrence to come across something so thoroughly well-produced, one that makes the best out of every input going into its creation. Though its slow, leisurely pace may not excite some, and may simply put them to sleep (as much as I enjoyed the series, even I fell asleep a few times), there is still little wonder as to why it is one of the greatest and best-rated shows of all time.
1. Spirited Away
Debut: July 20, 2001
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Master animator Hayao Miyazaki created his most successful and critically-lauded work in Spirited Away. A movie that transcended borders, language, and age, it was one that saw a tremendous amount of admiration and praise around the world, becoming the first, and so far, only, Japanese-animated film to win the Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature,” among many others tributes. There has perhaps been no other anime in the decade thus far that has achieved as much or enthralled as many as Spirited Away, making it the “Decade’s Best” as it stands.
Personal Note: It would be very easy to make the case for any of the other works in the Top Five or Ten as being the best of this closing decade, but one would be hard-pressed to find any one of them that has enjoyed the sort of critical or fan approbation that SA has. Nearly seven years later, it remains a standard that other anime, fairly or not, have been judged by. It is, undeniably, a masterpiece from all aspects of its production and story, and is often regarded as Miyazaki’s best work to date (I concur, though I do have a soft-spot for his premiere work, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind…). It is the best anime since 2000, one of the best ever, and may indeed stay that way until the end of this decade.