Ten: Toradora!The ultimate tsundere romance, Toradora! portrays high school odd-couple Taiga, a short statured and short tempered student, and Ryuuji, a young man with the appearance of a Yakuza member and a borderline obsessive-compulsive need to clean and organize things. Although nominally set in high school, the relationship dynamic between Taiga and Ryuuji is more like that of a married couple than teenagers, which extends the appeal of the story.Toradora! is based off of a light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya, who also wrote Golden Time. What is interesting is that even though Golden Time is set in university and Toradora! Is set in high school, the characters and relationships in Toradora! seem more mature.Nine: Silver SpoonSilver Spoon is the story of Yugo Hachiken, a somewhat stilted young man who has failed the entrance exam to the most prestigious high school in Sapporo. Unable to face his classmates and his family, he takes the best out he can find by attending an agricultural boarding school in the hinterland. Knowing literally nothing about farming, and surrounded by teens whose families have been farming for generations, he discovers that here, too he is completely out of his depth.Fortunately for everyone, he gamely steps up to these new challenges.As an audience stand-in, Hachiken learns about both the technical and economic aspects of farming in Japan, often facing some dour truths about the state of family farms and rural life in general.Based on an on-going manga,I hope that there will be a third season at some point.Eight: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kunThe anime revolves around the relationship between Nozaki, a teenage boy who somehow is a famous author of girls’ romance manga, and his classmate Sakura, who is in love with him, but has through a series of misunderstandings been roped into working as his assistant.A great show to write a college paper on, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun overturns every accepted trope in anime and manga; whether this is done in order to deconstruct received notions about entrenched social structures, or just because it’s funny, is left as an exercise for the reader.Seven: GenshikenGenshiken’s main draw is that it lets fans of the manga to see it come to life; as a stand-alone work, it is fantastic as a mature slice-of-life story, but newcomers might not see what the big deal is, especially as neither of the two seasons manages to finish the manga’s overall story arc, and without the background information from the manga the individual episodes feel somewhat disconnected from one another.Casual viewers also might not even be aware that there is a second season (not to be confused with Genshiken: Second Season, the series’ sequel), making the anime seem even more truncated.A similar series, Princess Jellyfish, has an even more pronounced version of this problem; the series ends right in the middle of a story arc.
Six: Welcome to the NHKWelcome to the NHK is not for everybody, which is why it isn’t higher on this list. I don’t mean that it can only be appreciated by a true connoisseur, I just mean to enjoy it you need to have either gone through a similar situation, or else be willing to be a very sympathetic witness to the foibles of the young.It does take a charitable viewer to deal with the series’ protagonist.Tatsuhiro Sato’s problem is outwardly simple: he needs to go out and get a job. All discussion of hikikomori or social anxiety disorder or what-have-you aside, the basic fact is he wouldn’t be able to sit alone in his room all day hating himself if it wasn’t subsidized. This can make Sato a difficult character to empathize with, particularly for very self-directed individuals, or those whose personal narrative, however rightly so, centers around overcoming of adversity.But patience is rewarded, and Sato is neither undeserving of our attention, nor is he alone in the story: The series is filled with people who, for whatever reason, have become disassociated from society: a failed business person, an office worker who depends on pills to get through the day, a cult member, a young man fleeing attempting to flee his hometown, it goes on and on. These are people whose alienation is universally comprehensible; their degree of isolation in a society that emphasizes positive group dynamics can only be guessed at.The light novel the show is based on is well worth a read if you can find it.Five: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFUA strong example of the recent trend towards irony-infused dramedies staring quirky, precocious teens, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a surprisingly good watch for anyone who has ever been an adolescent. The only drawback is that at certain points the plot seems to jump the tracks; I suspect that certain cultural cues and assumptions are lost on western viewers. Or maybe I just don’t get today’s youth. It would be hard to fault the translation, which does an amazing job of delivering the series’ deadpan, borderline cynical humor.
Four: Steins;gateSteins;gate’s chief strength, besides its memorable and immensely likeable characters, is the way in which the tone of the show completely alters depending on whether it is a first or second viewing. Following the series’ theme of time travel, the semi-circular plot forms a moebius strip that encourages and rewards a second viewing. So engrossing is the story that viewers may not notice the harem slowly building around the protagonist, nor the few moments of oddly timed fan-service.Three: Psycho-PassEqual parts Orwell, Huxley, and Judge Dredd, Psycho-Pass presents a seemingly bright and shiny cyberpunk future, where mental health is the key determinant of social status. As such, the population is constantly being monitored by an ambiguous, networked system that continually tracks and evaluates the mental fitness of every citizen. Those that don’t pass muster are forced to attend therapy, imprisoned in mental health facilities, or even summarily executed on the street or in their homes.The depth of thought presented is stellar for a work of popular culture – characters discuss topics as varied as Titus Andonicus, Phillip K. Dick, Proust, and the Marquis de Sade, as well as quote Spinoza and Pascal, all without skipping a beat. The first season presents enough ideas in an episode to fill a season of a normal series; the only drawback is the somewhat lukewarm second season, which was, however, redeemed by the follow-up film.Two: From the New WorldFrom the New World represents the most cohesive story on this list, having a clear and internally consistent dramatic arc with a satisfying resolution. It is an odd science fiction tale where technology is almost absent; instead, the driving force is human beings’ ESP powers, and the (very) ambiguous utopian society they have constructed for themselves. It is also a coming of age tale that follows the protagonists from early childhood well into adulthood, realistically depicting multiple stages of life in a context both familiar and yet also vastly different from contemporary society.Underpinning the story is a very subtle idea: if our minds were able to conjure up our heart’s desire in an instant, our own thoughts, particularly our subconscious, would be a constant source of potential danger to ourselves and those around us.One: Attack on TitanFirst place goes to Attack on Titan, which would be considered a stellar work in any medium, and would entertain and engross even the most diehard anime skeptic. The show has everything: memorable characters, an engaging and believable story, fantastic animation, particularly the action scenes, and great voice acting.The series defies easy labeling. More mature than a typical shonen anime, it is a science fiction story that features archaic technology with some fantasy elements, a conspiracy that so far is mostly just hinted at, and a coming of age tale in which the characters mature almost immediately.