~Madhouse Studios. These guys are masters at perfectly and accurately adapting the original work into anime. All the feelings and details of the characters and the story are captured.
~Runner-up: MAPPA. The god-child of Madhouse. Maruyama took all the good things from Madhouse and made his own studio. I instantly became a fan when Zankyou no Terror blew me away. Some of their anime has 3D CGI objects pasted into an otherwise 2D anime. When most studios do this, it looks terrible. But Mappa is the only one that uses the 3D animation appropriately and blends it properly.
~Runner-up: Bones. They usually do a great job of choosing works to adapt. From all the shows I've watched, Bones' animation has always been consistently great, and they quite often have high quality art styles and unique color pallets.
Michael's Novelty Anime Shelf
Hey! This is just a random list of random anime that I think are quite... unique. (Some of these are good titles, but some are not. That's just how uniqueness sometimes goes).
~Ping Pong the Animation: the jewel of Spring 2014. It's all about ping pong ofc. Very unique and entertaining animation and artwork style.
~Yakitate!! Japan: because who doesn't want to watch an anime that is all about BREAD? and puns...
~Kill la Kill: when was the last time you saw a show where clothes takes over the world? Oooooh Trigger, you trolls. I can't put Ninja Slayer here because I could only bear watching 2 episodes.
~Mawaru Penguindrum: because penguins... Although, amount of symbolism and motif in this show is incredible. I had no clue it was referring to the Tokyo Subway Sarin Attack until I read an article about it then rewatched the show.
~Gyo: the most fucked up shit your eyes will ever behold. Stinky-undead-fish/green-human-zombie-apocalypse.
~Mind Games: I swear the director of this movie was high or something.
~Kakumeiki Valvrave: okay this one is garbage overall, but I was entertained just by the fact it had space vampires lololololololol
I love anime series that have philosophical themes that make you think. Usually, anime producers do an amazing job presenting these themes, but sometimes they just don't do it right. Here's a list of philosophical and other themes I enjoy seeing in anime.
"Who's the real monster?"
One of my favorite themes. However, this one is rather common, and is often poorly presented. These series feature a second intelligent species that must consume humans to live, such as vampires or other parasitical creatures. The dark side of the human species is brought out as our only way to survive. Each species is simply fighting for their own existence. But is either side justified in their fighting? Is co-existence a possibility? What makes "them" the monsters, and "us" not monsters? Who is the real monster?
~Shiki: This is without a doubt the best example of this theme.
~Tokyo Ghoul: This one really could've been better...
~Parasyte: The battle for co-existance in this show was extraordinary. Ryouko was a fantastic key character. Madhouse perfectly adapted the work... but due to poor story writing on the manga side, the ending was rushed, and they ripped what could have been an amazing theme to shreds, and added in a really random environmentalist spin to it at the last second, making one of the worst endings.
Human Experiments and Human Evolution
This one is rather straight-forward. This type of theme questions the ethics of using human subjects in experiments. The goal of the antagonist is to evolve humans as a species into a greater being. However, the humanity of this is questioned. In some anime, a superhuman or android species is already part of the initial setting.
~Serial Experiments Lain: you have to a frikin PhD to watch Texhnolyze, Ergo Proxy, or SE Lain. ~Elfen Lied
~Neon Genesis Evangelion
~Knights of Sidonia
~Suisei no Gargantia
~Shinsekai yori: This is one of my favorite anime. This series presents not only one, but a large variety of philosophical themes that question both humanity and society. The main characters desperately try to uncover the truth of the reality they live in.
~Ghouse Hound: An interesting show that mixed themes of spiritual beings, psychological disorders, and biotechnological evolution.
Questions about Humanity
Themes in this category pose questions that challenge the existence of humanity itself. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be alive? Why do we think we are special compared to any other living thing? To what extent should we humans defend our existence? Who are you as an individual? What is your identity. This theme often intersects with human evolution themes.
~Monster: another one of my favorites. With a wide cast of supporting characters, each with their own stories, Monster provides numerous perspectives of life. This series also questions the significance of humans existence and individual identity.
~Texhnolyze: very intriguing series. It's known for its first episode that is completely silent aside from about only 10 lines of dialogue. The last episode challenges the existence of everything... and nothing.
~Death Parade: another series that offers many perspectives on life, judgement, and afterlife.
~Colorful: This movie offers the main character a second chance at life.
~Casshern Sins: Well this is robot, not human really. In this show, robots are sentient, capable of higher-level philosophical thinking, and even nihilistic feelings. Not a bit of dialogue is wasted here. Dialogue between characters constantly questions their existence, purpose, motivations, beliefs, and feelings.
~Berserk offers a variety of views on humanity. Griffin is an ambitious character with large dreams and will shamelessly do anything to achieve them. He is also humble towards his followers and cares nothing for the kingdom's politics. Casca longs to be acknowledged by Griffin and only wants his dreams to succeed. Guts flatly and simply does what he wants to do without giving much thought and not caring about consequences. He has no dreams to follow, but simply chooses to live on. At first, Guts only fights to survive, and killing is the only thing he knows how to do. Then he turns into a character who fights to protect his new friends.
Questions about Society
These themes show the structure and functions of society, how society can be broken, and how it can be abused. What is society? How should society be structured? What is acceptable and what is taboo in a society? How far should individuals be allowed to deviate from society? What should be done to individuals who are dangerous to the core foundation of a society, but have not yet committed a crime? Can our society handle major changes quickly? What should the role of government be in society? What secrets are the government hiding from its citizens? What is the truth of the world we live in?
~Ergo Proxy: another favorite of mine. The main character is eager to uncover the truth of the world she lives in. You don't know which characters to trust and which characters to distrust until the very end of the show.
~Psycho-Pass: yet another excellent show. People say season 2 sucked because of the lower quality animation, but the actual story (what I care about) is still on par. This series exposes the truth and the flaws behind a corrupt system that was intended to improve society. Some characters foolishly believe whole-heartedly in the benevolence of the Sybil System, some characters believe the system is flawed and needs to be improved and supervised by good people, and some characters are completely skeptical of the unethical system.
~Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: this one is also a great police show made by Production I.G. Stand Alone Complex is my favorite show in the franchise. The main characters put their lives in danger to uncover government secrets.
~Gatchaman Crowds: this cutesy-patootsy series shows that individuals should be willing to help each other and solve even the simplest problems in society. Together, individuals can help improve society bit by bit. However, sometimes society is not prepared for rapid changes. Changes that were intended to improve society instead causes chaos. Season 2 of this series shows how dangerous it is for everyone to think exactly alike, or to "go with the flow," not having any original opinions, or to not think at all. It takes the concepts of groupthink, herd behavior, and scapegoating to a national level. It stresses the importance of individual thoughts and opinion. It also shows the media's power to sway people's opinion. On the surface, it seems like Gatchaman is light and fun show, but it actually gives you a lot of good thoughts to chew on.
~Kino's Travels: In each episode, Kino travels to a different country. Each country has their own cultures, traditions, practices, and history. Each country has some unique aspect that would seem bizarre in our own world. However, Kino travels to these countries with an open mind, wanting to learn about why these countries do what they do, without interfering.
~Concrete Revolutio: Humans, superhumans, aliens, cyborgs, robots, monsters, beasts. How should these beings be classified and where are the lines drawn? In this show, superhumans and beasts were previously used as weapons of war. The military was even experimenting on human children to create their own superhumans. Now superhumans are "protected and managed" by a government agency. Due to laws in place, the government cannot officially recognize the existence of superhumans and other supernatural beings, which means they do not have the same rights as humans do. Now new laws are trying to be passed to further discriminate against superhumans. This show presents the problem of defining what true justice is.
Hero vs Anti-Hero
These last two categories are not "philosophical," but are still themes that I enjoy. Hero vs anti-hero happens when two characters are both working towards the same goal of improving society, but their differing methods conflict with each other. Usually, one character is trying make changes explicitly by rebelling against the current system and starting a revolution, while the other character is trying make changes implicitly by improving the current system itself. Which character is changing the world the morally "right" way or the morally "wrong" way often depends on the situation.
~C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
~Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: [SPOILERS!]
If you notice my top characters over <~here, Lord Genome is there. This is because a lot of people misunderstand him. Lord Genome is not the antagonist of the series, he is an anti-hero. In the middle of the series, as the Spiral King dies, he prophesies that when 1 million humans populate the earth, the moon will fall. The Anti-Spirals that warned Lord Genome of this are the true antagonists. The anti-spirals believe it would be dangerous to the rest of spiral lifeforms if humans were to exponentially evolve technologically and as a species, so they plan on destroying humans if that happens. So Lord Genome heeded their warning, and stopped human overpopulation by oppressing them underground. He created beastmen and gunmen to patrol these isolated, underground villages. Yes, Lord Genome is a dickhead for doing this, and really could've thought of better solution to the problem, but Lord Genome is not a bad guy. He "saved" humans by oppressing them (again, shitty plan). THEN this group of ignorant, inbred, underground idiots decide to rebel against their oppression. They kill Lord Genome, let humans rule the world again with no concern for the Anti-Spirals' human population restriction, and have no clue what Genome's last words meant until it actually fucking happened. In this case, neither the heroes nor anti-hero did the right thing. Lord Genome was a dickhead in a glass jar who came up with a shitty solution to the problem. Kamina, Simon, and pals foolishly broke Genome's solution, and were so ignorant about the problem that they couldn't solve it to prevent the Anti-Spirals from attacking. Holy shit I'm putting this in its own spoiler because I ranted too long. Sorry to anyone who is brave enough to read this. Yall are probably like "dafuq did i just read..."
Again, this is not a philosophical theme, but I still enjoy this archetype. A character's raison d'être (french for "reason to be") is their reason for living. Their reason for fighting. Often, what they are trying to protect. This is a key point to the plot, or else there would be no reason for the character to fight. When a character loses what he was fighting to protect, it often breaks his will to fight. This is a cornerstone for character development. So many anime have good examples of this, I won't even bother listing the ones I've seen.
Michael's Top Shelf Anime:
This list would essentially be my "11/10s," if such were possible. In my opinion, these series were so perfectly created that they deserve to be set apart from any other 10/10s. To qualify, these series must be nearly flawless. The animation, art style, and visuals must be perfect, realistic, and beautiful. There must be a soundtrack that sets the mood for each scene, and sound effects that are fitting for every noise. The characters must at least have a personality and show development so i am able to care enough to invest time with them. And of course, it is the story itself that matters the most. The plotline must be unique, or at least have a unique storytelling method. It must be properly paced so that everything is not revealed at once, but still keeps viewers interested all along the way. The series must also have either symbolism or themes that give depth to the plot and significance to the story. And of course, the anime must be enjoyable in general the whole way through.
~Monster: Madhouse did a flawless job of adapting Urasawa's Monster. The only reason why I think the anime is better is because of the perfect voice acting, which is obviously not in the manga. Monster's plot mainly progresses through the telling of side stories that involve numerous side characters. This is all done for the purpose of character development. The viewer really gets to look into Dr. Tenma's life the whole way through. We get to see what he thinks and what he believes. Johan is probably the most intriguing and elusive antagonist in my opinion. He is able to brainwash and manipulate people with weak minds to achieve his goals for him. However, the entire time it is unclear what Johan's intentions are or if he even has any. Thematically, this series explores several interesting topics about humanity. The story creates a lot of build up and suspense as it begins to unravel mysteries. And this tension does not end until the story is over. I was kept on the edge of my seat the entire time, which is why this my favorite anime series.
~Shinsekai yori: One of the main reasons why From the New World is my 2nd favorite anime is because of the amount of themes it encompasses. It's amazing and very thought-provoking in that it covers several philosophical topics including human evolution, humanity, morality, society, and government. However, unlike Ergo Proxy or Texhnolyze, it is not difficult to comprehend and understand everything that is going on; it is surprisingly easy to watch. The plot is very well paced. There are a couple time skips to show certain segments of the main characters' lives. The story revolves around 4 children who are eager to uncover the hidden truth of the world they live in. There are many questions to be answered, many secrets to be revealed, and many mysteries to be solved. It is actually surprising how early in the show you are given answers. But every time you are given answers, more questions are asked. So the series keeps you well interested by occasionally satisfying some of your questions, but keep you hungry for more by saving some answers for the end.
~Shiki: this is my favorite example of the "who's the real monster" theme. The story is set in a small town and is mainly centered around the characters. In fact, you are responsible for remembering about 70 names of townspeople, and there really is no main character. The first half of the series is mainly about Dr. Ozaki uncovering the mystery behind the random disappearances, strange sicknesses, and unstoppable deaths of the townspeople. Eventually, Ozaki discovers the existence of the vampires, and panic spreads. The second half of the story turns the tide, and the humans wage war against the shiki. We are given the viewpoints of both the humans and the shiki. Both sides are battling for their mere existence. The shiki must feed on humans as a food source. The humans must hunt the shiki to prevent from being preyed upon. The shiki are equally as scared of humans as the humans are scared of them. Does either race even have the natural right to exist?
~Zankyou no Terror: this is a prime example of why I really like anime that have an original story (not adapted from manga, etc). While watching MAPPA's debut anime series, I was instantly impressed with the studio. Side note: my favorite OP, ED, and OST all come from ZnT. Once again, we have another great storytelling method. The primary point of view is from the terrorists. Not only that, but we also get a secondary viewpoint from the police. This game of cat-and-mouse is comparable to that in Death Note. However, the relationship between Sphinx and Shibazaki is more comparable to the relationship between Dr. Tenma and Johan in Monster. It is unclear what Nine and Twelve's true intentions are, and Shibazaki must become an outlaw to get to the bottom of the mystery. Everything about this show is beautifully directed.
~Ergo Proxy: an excellent dark mystery series. The story begins and takes off without hardly explaining anything. So many events happen in just the first two episodes that you have to pay attention the whole time and even rewatch parts to catch everything. Each episode feeds the viewer tons of information, but never gives direct answers. You are left to process all the information and figure things out for yourself. However, the only question that is ever even asked in the series is "What is a Proxy." All the other questions and mysteries are things you asked yourself. The method of storytelling is just outstanding. If you don't understand what is going on half the time, I suggest you watch this series a second time, so you can concentrate on every bit of conversation and every tiny visual clue. The two ends of the story (the balance of power between the branches of government and the mystery behind Vincent Law) are both perfectly written.
~Death Parade: this is hands down my favorite episodic anime series. In general, I enjoy series with a central plot more than episodic series, but this one blew me away. Once again, Madhouse demonstrates their absolute control over emotion in each scene. As the show is centered around death, of course there is going to be a mixture of emotions throughout. Each episode has its own emotion, which is what makes this series so unique. The emotion in each episode flips from spite, to love at first sight, to revenge, to absolute peace. The music, silence, tone, and the game that is being played are all perfect tools that are used to control the atmosphere. Even while the show is mainly episodic, it is still able to create build up to the last two episodes. The theme explores the methodology of how humans should be judged after they die for how they lived their life.