There are plenty of anime that I’m sure you know about which everyone likes, and you’d probably suck ass for not seeing. However, there are also a number of shows that no one has seen, thereby making everyone suck ass. This is my top 20 list. If you’ve seen them, give yourself a pat on the back, you kick the ass of everyone else. I am hoping that people will use this post as sort of a kind of guide. Next time you are looking for something to watch, come to this list.
WARNING: May depress Ghostlightning
These are ranked in terms of the following: Lack of popularity, availability, quality, and pedigree. Popularity was based part on my own experience and checked through MAL. Availability is higher for ease of finding DVDs, downloads, and streams. Quality is generally my opinion. Pedigree is how easily others would get into it. There are tiers for availability vs. popularity, and the numbers within the tiers dictate the quality and pedigree. Next to the names are my score out of 10.
Unlicensed Shows That At Least Have a Decent Cult Following
20. Futakoi Alternative – 8 – Not to be confused with the shitty harem anime Futakoi that somehow spawned Futakoi Alternative, this show is truly one of the more unique anime out there. Defining anything about it is a little difficult. It’s a show that takes place in a town with tons of female identical twins wherein lives a guy who inherited a detective agency from his late father, who was evidently a well-loved man in the town. He is living with a pair of said twins and they have misadventures.
The thing is, this show rockets between genres in all directions. The first episode is a spastic FLCL-esque action romp and the second episode is a slice-of-life comedy. The mid-section of the show gets into some really hard drama, and then it blasts off into an adventuristic action/fantasy. Some would call this a flaw, and it will definitely blindside you even with having been warned. However, the show has a ton of heart and is a roaring good time worthy of love. Always seen on ‘shows I want licensed’ lists on message boards.
Availability: Downloads and Streams easy to find, not licensed. Eps: 13
19. Hatenkou Yuugi – 8 – Hatenkou Yuugi is a good show, but it’s nothing special. It’s only 10 episodes long and the manga currently has eleven volumes, so they essentially took 8 totally random stories from the manga and made them into anime, only a couple being of plot importance. HY on paper shouldn’t even be memorable, but it just has such absolutely brilliant dialog that it became a gem. The characters’ attitude, the overall tone, and the dialog are really what sell it.
(from Random Wanderer) It can be challenging to get into the show, both because the brilliance of the characters doesn’t really sink in until the third or fourth episode, and because the first episode in particular plays strange games with the timeline. There’s a rapid jump forward for no obvious reason, and we are actually left totally in the dark as to how the third character joined them in the first place. I don’t think anyone is going to say the anime itself is a perfect series or anything like that. I just maintain that Rahzel is one of the most unique and interesting characters I have ever seen, and the dialogue for her, Alzeid, and Hi-tan is excellent.
Availability: Downloads and Streams easy to find, not licensed. Eps: 10
18. Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro – 9 – Nougami Neuro is one of the most awesome twists on the detective genre I’ve ever seen. It’s about a sadistic detective demon who comes up to the human world and starts using an aspiring detective high school girl to help him solve mysteries that he can ‘devour’. The show is outrageously hilarious and dementedly violent. Neuro is crazy as fuck and never stops pulling out surprises as well as creating pure madness. The girl who works with him is also a great character who is hungry 24/7 (I can respect this…)
Every villain in Neuro ends up jumping off the deep end at some point and that’s when things get WAY over the top. There is always some kind of epic transformation, ridiculously dramatic mystery solving, extremely turbo-violent murder, and of course every case ends with Neuro’s head turning into a bird, saying ‘ITADAKIMASU!’ and biting the spiritual head off of the opponent. I haven’t finished this show yet, but it’s been a nonstop train of awesome so far.
Availability: Downloads and streams should be easy to find, not sure. Eps: 26
Unlicensed Shows That A Few People Here and There Have Seen
17. Touka Gettan – ??? – I actually don’t blame you if you give up on this show. First of all, it’s directed by the stupidest motherfucker ever, Yuji Yamaguchi. Second of all, the fucking show was aired backward, meaning it’s totally impossible to decipher. The serious, plot-driven episodes make no sense and therefor aren’t easy to like. However, the show has another side to it. About half of the episodes are total fucking madness. It pretty much picks up the Utena ball of totally nuts school life that plays off of anime tropes and all kinds of unique creativity. These episodes are so good it’s hard to believe you’re still watching the same show.
There’s also the fact that this show is perverse as hell, again like Utena. We see a few implied and very hot-n-bothering scenes of wincest between mother, son, and son’s girlfriend. That’s because this show is in ways connected to the uber-popular hentai series Moonlight Lady (a classic). So basically, the whole show is nuts off it’s ass. Shiro fucking adores it though and promotes watching it forward, backward, and forward again.
Availability: DL and stream seem easy to find. Eps: 24
16. Bartender – 8 – Bartender is a true man’s slice-of-life anime. It’s a show about a bartender named Ryu Sasakura (who I almost cosplayed once) and the people who come to his bar. People come with their life problems, and Ryu helps them through alcohol by finding the drink of their soul. It’s a very peaceful, heartwarming show that makes bartenders look like the most awesome thing since gondoliers. I don’t even know what I could say to people who don’t like this show. It’s amazing. And also cool directing techniques.
Availability: I can’t be sure about downloads, but streams are out there. Eps: 11
15. Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu – 9 – This is an OVA that I really feel deserves to attain some sort of classic status but seems to have gone under the radars of most. It’s a very, VERY emotionally effecting show that may or may not make you attempt suicide. It’s got just the right blend of military action, cute romance, quiet and loud fun, and heavy drama that all creates a thick, rateable story with which to plunge into the heart of the depressing drama. It’s a shining example of how moe can collide with great storytelling to make something gripping and memorable.
I think the big problem a lot of people have with this OVA is the main character, who at one point makes some shit decisions that made everyone hate him, however, I thought that unlike most shitty protagonists, his decisions were justified based on his person (much like Shinji) and also like shinji I found him extremely relatable… which was not a good thing for my mental health =_=
Availability: No idea, shouldn’t be hard Eps: 6
14. Rose of Versailles – 9 – A true classic. This 1980s anime was based on the story of Marie Antoinette and is a classic blend of shoujo drama, action, and a very early form of yuri. It stars one of THE most badass female characters ever, Oscar, who is GAR as fuck. The show is engrossing and interesting like few other anime are, especially for it’s time. It was directed by the indisputable greatest anime director of all time, Osamu Dezaki (Ashita no Joe, Ace wo Nerae) and was one of the first Madhouse productions.
Availability: Dowloads are easy to come by, streams are not. Eps: 40
13. Ocean Waves – 10 – What makes this movie’s lack of popularity especially embarrassing is just the fact that it’s a fucking Ghibli film! How can you not watch a Ghibli film?! But I guess people only care if it’s Miyazaki directing. Ocean Waves is nostalgia in a can. It’s a 100% realistic slice-of-life film that might even be hard to understand. The story pretty much follows two good friends and the girl who enters their lives and turns them upside-down. It’s one of the rare movies that has drama and romance, but puts them in a light where they aren’t dramatic or romantic, but just part of the flow of life.
In the end, the movie is about (as it explains itself) how when a person’s world is very small, the things that happen in it can seem like they mean everything when they are really silly or even as much as flippant. It’s easy to go into the film expecting a straightforward plot, especially when there seems to be an obvious love triangle forming, but what we get instead is something much more realistic and less obvious. The relationships are never, ever cut and dry and while the events which transpire shape people’s actions and emotions, there are no huge pivotal points where a relationship takes on a certain definition. Like in real life, things can be left open-ended, and threads can be untied and retied as people gain a greater understanding of their feelings. It’s also one of the few movies where characters really, truly develop all-around from every experience. As I’ve said, the movie can be hard to get into, but if you accept it for what it is and truly appreciate the message, it can be a wonderfully enriching experience.
Availability: no idea whatsoever. I do know that the R2 DVDs have English subtitles, though. Eps: movie
Unlicensed Shows That no One Has Seen Unless They Stumbled on it Randomly or Looked for Unknown Anime
12. Yomigaeru Sora – 8 – Actually, you could pretty much read the above thing of Ocean Waves to understand the appeal of this anime. Only this one has a guy who works for a helicopter rescue squad. Other than that, they are lovable for the same reasons.
Availability: Streams easy to find, don’t know for DLs. Eps: 13
11. Neko Ramen – 9 – This is a show with 5 minute episodes that you can dost off in like an hour but have a very fun time with. It’s a show done entirely in Flash and each episode has it’s own unique style. Based on a famous 4-koma manga, the jokes are simple but hilarious and the characters are cute. There’s no reason not to love this show, and it’s a breeze to watch. Generally great fun.
Availability: I watched it on youtube! Eps: 12 (5 min each)
10. Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko – ??? – If you like the 90s, sci-fi, or Akiyuki Shinbo, this show is for you. It’s a very, very odd show about girl pilots who travel between the present and 1000 years in the future to do space battles. The show is very slow and quiet, at times introspective, at times comedic, at times space battle, and at times just a bunch of fun. This was one of the first shows Shinbo really showed off his style in, and to many it is one of his best. Yohko has a lot of personality, and the show plays right to the fancy of anyone who likes 90s sci-fi anime (some of my readers are they, and those readers will love this. I’m looking at you, Animanachromism , Ghostlightning, and LBrevis!) Unfortunately I can’t say too much because I’m only 8 eps in.
Availability: Streams are a little harder and I remember my DL taking forever. Do not confuse with licensed OVA. Eps: 26
9. Space Adventure Cobra – 8 – (from Wildarmsheero) If your face lights up when you hear the words “Eighties Anime”, yet you have not seen Space Adventure Cobra, you’re missing out. Similarly, if you’re a fan of pulpy SF adventures that hail back to yesteryear, this is the show for you. Space Adventure Cobra centers around the eponymous Cobra, the most wanted space pirate in the galaxy. He pissed off the pirate’s guild, and to escape their clutches he went so far as to change his face and erase his memory until one fateful night when it all comes back. After that he just cruises around space flirting with women, shooting badguys, and generally living the life you wish you had. If any of this sounds AWESOME, make your to the internet and either buy (JP DVD) or download this great piece of ’80s pizza cheese. You’ll be glad you did!
Availability: you heard the man Eps: 30
Licensed Shows That Have Gotten Hard to Come By
8. Battle Athletes Victory – ??? – This show is the good kind of 90s cheese – a comedy full of fun and action with a main character who burns with passion. It’s a bit of an odd one, because it has an all-female cast a la Mai-hiME and is considered to be a yuri anime by genre fans, but it’s a very shounen sort of plot and progression, being that it’s about a girl who wants to be the strongest and rise to the top as an athlete.
There is nothing to call this show other than pure fun. It’s got all the fun of the 90s, but the all-girl cast is sure to appeal to modern fans who enjoy things like that. I think this would be a great anime for many people to bridge into the wonderful world of 90s anime.
Availability: DVDs not usually in stores, but available on amazon. Streams are rare, but DLs shouldn’t be. Don’t confuse with OVA Eps: 26
7. Irresponsible Captain Tylor – ??? – I almost didn’t put this show here because back in the 90s it had more of a following, but I had to since ya’ll yung’uns have pretty much totally forgotten about it. Tylor is an all-out parody of the space opera genre with one of anime’s most lovable main characters. Tylor acts like an easygoing idiot and joins the army to get a pension and live easy. In the first episode, he manages to seduce the computer that is interviewing him for the military. In the second, he stumbles into a hostage situation and saves the hostages, dispatching the villains, all while questionably aware of what is going on. The show constantly makes you question whether Tylor is getting by through sheer dumb luck, or if he’s secretly a mastermind.
It’s sad that Tylor is so forgotten, since it’s outrageously funny and considered a classic by many older fans. I think they might be keeping it a secret from new fans or something, as like a precious treasure XD. Anyone could love this show, but fans of 80s style space operas are likely to get one hell of a kick out of it.
Availability: DVDs readily available online and findable used in stores. DL easy, stream not. Another not to confuse with OVA. Eps: 26
Licensed Shows That Are Easy to Find on DVD, but Not As Easy to Find Online
6. Neo Ranga – ??? – This show is a true blue enigma. Kaiju, action, comedy, drama, slice-of-life, …yakuza?! This show has every genre you can think of and a number that you wouldn’t have. The plot summary should be enough to give you an idea of it all – An ancient God called Ranga awakens on an isolated island in the South Pacific where it has been slumbering forgotten by mankind. Three sisters living in Tokyo – Minami, Ushio and Yuuhi Shimabara discover they have inherited this Island Kingdom, along with the huge God. When Ranga shows up in Tokyo, it soon becomes a source of wonder and conflict for the three sisters that control Ranga, the people who want to destroy it, and ones who want to use it.
This show has the kind of plain-old oddness that only the post-Eva late 90s could have produced and I gotta say, I’ve truly never seen anything like it. The show is jsut plain bizarre, but a number of the elements are very excellent, and it’s quite the heartwarming experience, complete with great characters.
Availability – DVDs easy to find, streams impossible, DLs moderately difficult Eps: 40 (15 mins each)
5. Generator Gawl – 8 – Once again, a 90s show that is hard not to love, and this one I really think could appeal to just about anyone. It’s very in-tune with today’s kind of shows that start off light and funny and get to know the characters and gradually opens up into some drama and a nice plot. The show borrows a LOT from Evangelion, but is only 13 eps long, less serious, and replaces giant robots with transforming heroes, which is kind of refreshing. The show gets pretty into it’s sci-fi elements and the ending is what I like to call a ‘soft-science nightmare’.
Gawl is one of the rare 90s anime that I really think could have a lot of appeal to modern fans with it’s fun characters, cool fights, and very balanced mix of comedy and drama. It’s nothing special, but very worth watching, and nostalgic even for those who see it much later than it’s airdate. Plus, it has an epic opening song.
Availability: DVDs are pretty easy to come by, I wouldn’t know about DLs or streams since I won the DVDS. Eps: 13
4. Mahou Shoujo Tai Arusu – 9 – The idea that this show never hit it big is really pretty sad and almost surprising to me. ‘Tweeny Witches’ as it is known in it’s recent stateside release, is a whimsical fantasy with all of the imagination of a Miyazaki film and perhaps even more of the heart. It’s cute and hella fun with instantly awesome characters and animation that will make you cream yourself every couple of seconds.
The show’s most notable feature, though, might be it’s sheer speed. Every episode is about 10 minutes long, but easily packs in a full episodes worth of content. There is constant progress, excitement, and very fast talking (I actually watched a lot of it dubbed because I couldn’t keep up with the subs). If you enjoy shows like Last Exile and Howl’s Moving Castle, then this is definitely for you.
Availability: DVDs just came out and are cheap as hell, streams nonexistent, dunno about DLs. Eps: 40 (10 mins)
3. The Legend of Black Heaven – 9 – In my opinion, this is the single most underrated anime of all time. It got little attention due to being very low-budget, appealing more to adults, being just generally awkward as hell, and airing a the same time as much more popular shows. However, Legend of Black Heaven is, truly, the definition of a gem. It’s a touching, amazing, and rocks your fucking soul. It will make you laugh, cry, ask what the fuck, and hopefully enjoy yourself a whole lot along the way.
Perhaps most notable, though, is that Black Heaven has easily one of the greatest anime endings of all time. The show was recommended to me by a man who said that the ending ‘made him want to change the world’ and I have to say, that’s exactly the feeling I had. It’s a truly unforgettable ending and took a strange but good show and made it great. I really, really wish this show would get some damn recognition.
Availability: DVDs aren’t hard to find, but are Geneon. DL and stream are relatively easy. Eps: 13
Licensed Shows That Are Easy As Fuck To Find Anywhere But Still Only Have A Little Cult Following
2. NieA_7 – 8 – First things first, it’s fucking Yoshitoshi ABe and he is fucking god. I also wanted Texhnolyze on this list, but there are a number of people who like that for the pretentiousness factor. NieA, though, gets little love. The show is very odd and is all about poor people in a bathouse in the slums – a place anime usually neglects. The show starts off mostly as a comedy, but it becomes very introspective and incredibly melancholy. The show does not aspire to any drama, just contemplation and consideration. It has a lot of strange elements, namely the aliens all over the place, and tackles such themes as discrimination, poverty, and loneliness, but the primary plot is about uneasiness toward the future and general melancholy.
It’s a show I actually wouldn’t expect most people to fully appreciate, but definitely deserves more attention than it gets. It may turn some people off with the strange comedy, an annoying character or two, and the odd pacing, but it makes up for all that for being the sort of show that really looks into itself and pulls you in along with it.
Availability: Easy as fuck to find anywhere, though it was Genon so god knows how long that lasts. Eps: 13
1. Simoun – 10 – Simoun is truly and utterly an excellent show, no strings attached. No ‘excellent for a 90s show’ or ‘when the moon is at x position’ it’s just a fucking excellent anime. It has beautiful animation, an IMMENSE voice cast, many memorable and awesome characters, an epic storyline set in a steampunk universe, politics, drama, aerial dogfights, deep shit, and perhaps best of all, tons of chicks making out a very rich system of religion and theology. The only things that could scare you away from this are the Marimite factors – that is, intelligence, strong women, and yuri.
If you like good anime, you can’t dislike Simoun. It’s brilliant. It is every bit as deserving as any of the well-known anime to go down in history as a timeless classic, but for some fucking reason it has extremely little recognition. Get out there and buy the DVDs! 26 eps on 5 DVDs for 18 bucks each with TONS of epic bonus features. You won’t regret it!!!
Availability: Everywhere Eps: 26
And that’s about all, folks. Yes, tl;dr, but like I said, this is more of a guide, and so I’d prefer you just come back to it whenever.
Now that you mention it, I probably should get around to watching Battle Athletes, as it seems to be a fun little romp that’s right up my ally.
Also, thank you for mentioning Yamamoto Yohko- it’s a personal favorite of mine simply for combining Minami Takayama, my favorite seiyuu, with Shinbo, my favorite director. You really can see a lot of Shinbo-isms that show up in his later works (the forehead girl comes to mind) appear here for the first time. It is, however, hard as hell to find anywhere.
Ugh, I suck. I’ve only seen parts of NieA_7 when it had a tv run here, and of course Ocean Waves. Mechafetish told me he’s resolved to watch Simoun, so I’ll get a copy from him.
It seems that I suck a big fat because I’ve only seen one out of the twenty you listed, that one being Ocean Waves.
I’ve only completely seen 5 of these, half of the rest I’ve only seen episode or two of, and the rest I either can tell I wouldn’t like it or haven’t ever heard of. Nice picks though. Especially Simoun, which I think is one of the best series I’ve seen yet is still so unknown.
I’ve only seen one on that list, but it’s #1, so I guess I’m alright. And yes, Simoun is unbelievable. True excellence in both characters and plot. And then there’s that soundtrack! If you don’t like Simoun, you either don’t like ‘good’ or you’re letting something superficial get in your way. That sounds a bit like flame-bait, but I swear Simoun is just that good.
I have actually heard a little bit about some of these shows, and almost always it’s something good. Futakoi Alternative, Bartender, and ‘Tweeny Witches’ are probably the three highest here on my “to watch list.”
As I gradually go down the list and tally up more and more animes I haven’t bothered to see, I become more and more worried about my self-determined status as “venerable anime expert”. Despite counting nearly 300 titles on MAL (200+ completed), depression was quickly setting in from the sudden realization of my utter failure to watch good, but lesser known anime. Reading on about series I had never even heard, I had nearly lost all hope for my perceived lack of taste in choosing quality titles, until… Simoun, AKA the only show on the list I had seen. Fuck yeah! Way to make it count!
Oh right, I’ll also add some of these to my “to watch” list.
>Ryu Sasakura (who I almost cosplayed once)
I probably should watch Yamamoto Yohko too. Show aired on cable TV, saw a few glimpses of it, but was only mildly interested back then.
No WMT? You suck. ;)
Apart from that, it’s an pretty good list, though. I especially agree with Mahou Shoujotai and Simoun.
Hmm. I’ve seen 15, 13, 7, and parts of 1.
I thought Iriya Sora (#15) was a bit too rushed, though it had lots of good ideas–it really needed about 3 more episodes or so.
I was probably too immature to appreciate Ocean Waves (or “I Can Hear the Sea”; #13) when I watched it years ago. I need to hunt it down and watch it again sometime, now that I really like good slice-of-life anime these days.
#7, is a real classic. Loved it all those years ago, and saw the first couple of episodes more recently. They really don’t make ’em like that anymore. Tylor–as one long defunct website put it, “the role model for procrastinators everywhere!”
I guess I suck pretty bad since I’ve only seen Ocean Waves and Berubara. In my defense, though, several of these were already on my to watch list.
Saw Neo Ranga, great show, though the OP was a bit deceptive as things that showed up there were never in the show (like the alternate, white(?) Ranga and the fact all three sisters had sick weapons).
I haven’t seen any of these. But hell, I haven’t even seen the good shows that EVERYBODY likes. So I’ll start with those..
I’ve seen the first half of NieA_7 and loved it. I need to get the other two discs…I’m just a hardcore fan of ABe’s art style I guess.
Nope, never seen any of the others, although quite a lot of the names sound vaguely familiar. I do indeed suck. :(
@psgels: wtf is WMT?! I could find nothing with those initials!!!
World Masterpiece Theatre: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=430
Only show on there that I can claim to have seen completely is Bartender. Heartwarming at times even if the premise is just a bit difficult to swallow (unlike Ryu’s concoctions), but enjoyable all the same. Besides, the soundtrack sits on top as one of my favorites.
I should give Futakoi another shot though. It deserves a second chance from me even though I dropped it the first time through in my younger days.
As long as you’re listing two Dezaki shows, why not Oniisama-E?
Need to watch more Yamamoto Yohko! I saw the first ep of Tenamonya Voyagers (licensed but obscure) recently, and it was chock-full of Shinboisms.
walkabout – I haven’t seen oniisama e. And i don’t want to because i am done with bullying =_=
Just to let you know–I’ve decided to feature this article tomorrow on the Dailysite anime/manga channel. These shows and your article deserve wider exposure!
Oops, wrong link above. Try this one.
Hooray, I only half suck – exactly what my graphic design clients probably say. I’ve seen 10 of the 20, and thank you for putting in a good word for Yomigaeru Sora, an old favourite of mine. What about Windy Tales and Only Yesterday?
There’s a few on this list that I never finished and may try again now that a few years have passed and you’ve reminded me (Captain Tylor and Neo-Ranga)and Generaltor Gawl is an entirely first-time-ever-heard name so I’ll hunt it down.
Neia is one of my alltime Ruined Favourites, in that I loved everything about it except it seems to have a really ugly racist take on East Indians – this in a show that tries to highlight the experience of ‘aliens’ in Japanese culture – ow!
I just finished watching Battle Athletes Victory a few days ago – it was a trip down memory lane for me. I’ve seen much of what’s on your list but the one I am still most curious about is SIMOUN. I tried to watch the fist eps at a convention last year, but just couldn’t sit through it (probably too tired or something). But I’ve heard so much praise for it that I want to give it a chance. I just wish is was streaming online somewhere because my local DVD rental store is not carring it, and they have lots of anime.
@ojousan – I haven’t seen Windy Taes or Only Yesterday, but plan to. Also, I thought of Niea’s racism as sort of a self-commentary? don’t know.
I should make a ‘top 10 shows I suck for not seeing’ list
@robin – Good to know, all of it. And yes, simoun is worth your time. I could prolly find you a stream but I haven’t quality checked and it’s a show you need to see in good quality.
Simoun was superb. If you never reviewed it I probably never would have watched it either.
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I do not understand the love for Ocean Waves. Every single action or decision made by these characters is absolutely bewildering, and not in an understandable “dumb teenager” kind of way. And the fact that the two got together in the end feels like an affront to the idea of romance itself.
Wonder what you think of these choices these days.