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The Top 5 Japanese Animated TV Series

Following up our Top 5 Western Animated TV series, here's our top 10 anime TV series. This list originally appeared on Screen Highway.

5) Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (****)

The Ghost In The Shell movie was one of the first break-out anime hits in the US and UK back in the 1990's. GITS: SAC (as it is affectionately known) is a fresh adaptation of Masamune Shirow's complex 1989 sci-fi manga. The series takes place in a world where robotics technology has advanced to the point where most people have traded in their old flesh and blood bodies for a cybernetic upgrade. Section 9 is a covert government intelligence agency in charge of fighting cybercrimes. Essentially a sci-fi cop show, in an immaculately created future, the two seasons (to date) mix ongoing plot lines with standalone episodes. Full of not only fantastic looking action set-pieces, but also thought provoking sci-fi storylines that question what it means to be human. This is exactly the kind of show most western fans get into anime for, and has a stunning soundtrack from the incredible Yokko Kanno.

4) Lupin III (****) 

The oldest show anywhere on the list, with Lupin's first appearance being in October 1971. Arsene Lupin III is one of the most enduring characters in Japanese culture, with the original manga dating back to 1967. Lupin in a gentleman thief and the great grandson of the French literary figure of Arsene Lupin. Alongside his regular cohorts the loyal sharpshooter Jigen, the samurai Goemon and his sometimes lover Fujiko Mine, he tries to keep one step ahead of the bumbling Interpol agent Inspector Zenigata. The animation is dated, but it's a ton of fun and has an irrefutable sense of genuine 70's cool about it. It even features episodes directed by future anime legend Hayao Miyazaki. 

3) Paranoia Agent (*****) 

The only TV series from the late, great Satoshi Kon (director of Perfect Blue and Paprika) this is a stunning work of art. The thirteen episode Psychological thriller follows a group of different characters who are all affected by a spate of attacks by a youth with a baseball bat, known (in the English version) as Li'l Slugger. It may not sound that great on paper, but this is a remarkable and singular work that stands as a reminder of what a talent we have lost in Kon. If you've already seen and enjoyed all his films, but haven't seen this series then you need to correct that post haste.

2) Neon Genesis Evangelion (*****) 

There is no single anime of the 90's (or indeed since) that has provoked as much debate, or been more influential than Evangelion. Set in a future where Earth is under attack from beings (from... somewhere) know as Angels, on the face of it it appears to be a show about giant robots versus monsters. Yet not only are there not technically any robots in in (the Evas are biologically engineered) but there's also so much more to it than that. Ultimately a deeply personal work by director Hideaki Anno, that can be read as a treatise on depression, it also works as a postmodern deconstruction of anime tropes. When a traumatised teenager is strapped into a giant (sort of) robot and forced to fight monsters to gain his father's respect, things can get pretty bleak. Consisting of one 26 episode series, this show provokes discussions to this very day. Does all the Judaeo-Christian imagery mean anything or is it just window dressing? The end of the series proved controversial (enough for Anno to receive death threats) and ultimately resulted in a movie remake of the final episodes- 1997's End of Evangelion. Which is the true ending? The debate rages on.


1) Cowboy Bebop (*****) 

“I think It's Time we blow this scene, get Everybody and their stuff together, 3..2..1.. Lets Jam!” From the minute the coolest opening sequence in the universe starts up, until that ending on the final episode, Shinichi Watanabe's 1998 show is basically perfect. Following bounty hunter Spike Spiegel, his loyal and long-suffering friend Jet and the femme fatale Faye Valentine, this is a show that has been more successful in the West than it's native Japan. It's little wonder really, so much does it play to western sensibilities. Basically the best US cop show that America never made.... IN SPACE, it also combines elements of film noir, westerns, John Woo movies, martial arts and blaxpoitation it's an irresistible concoction. It also boasts an amazing soundtrack in which Yokko Kanno (her again) and friends have produced several albums worth of music for the world of Bebop. There's only twenty six episodes (followed by a movie) but it has more variety and covers more ground than many series twice its length. It's the kind of show that even people who generally don't like anime will enjoy. The best anime series on this (or any other) planet.