Ever try to make a Top 10 list of your favorite anime? Did you find yourself struggling with the ranking? How did you choose your number one anime? In what way is your number one better than all the rest? More importantly, is it a certain aspect that makes it so great, or is everything about your number one anime better than everything else? Is it really the “best” or is it just your favorite? Perhaps you find yourself with multiple “number ones.” Hell, I’ve got a Top 50 because I’m an indecisive bastard.
The topic of this post, I hope, is relevant to all anime fans. Since the process of developing your personal anime tastes begins with your “number one,” is it important to establish a conscious understanding of what exactly constitutes such a thing. Over the years, I’ve struggled with that exact same question: what is my number one anime? As I’ve thought about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that there really is more than one “number one.” There are in-fact, three:
- The anime you feel is the BEST
- The anime that is your FAVORITE
- The anime that you LOVE the most
By now you’re probably thinking: Wait what the hell? What’s the freaking difference? It’s all the same shit! Well, to tell the truth, you might be right. For many people, their “number one” anime is indeed all three of those things. However, over the years as an anime fan, I’ve begun to realize that such a way of thinking doesn’t work for me. If you’ve been watching anime for a while, you may feel the same way. You may find yourself struggling with a definitive “number one.” You may even have multiple “number ones” depending on which perspective you look at it.
Now, what in the world does it all mean? How does one differentiate between “best” and “favorite?” And what the hell is this “love the most” crap? To be honest, I don’t really know that myself. All I know is that I’ve struggled with this question for as long as I’ve been a fan of anime. To this day, I can only go as far as describe the tiny nuances that separate one from the other.
The Anime That You Feel is the Best
I’ve found this term to be quite problematic. The word “best” implies a certain degree of objectivity, however the term itself is inherently subjective (especially on the internet). If you don’t differentiate between “favorite” and “best,” more often than not, people will assume you mean “favorite.” When a fan screams CODE GEASS BEST ANIME EVER, what they mean is “I think Code Geass is the best anime ever.” The “I think” part is simply inferred. The danger comes, however, when people start equating “I think” with subjectivity and favoritism, and by extension, equating “best” with “favorite.” True, every opinion retains some degree of subjectivity no matter what. But herein lies the problem: for many people, “best” does not necessarily mean “favorite.”
The way I personally think of “best” is a systematic “number one.” Have you seen those anime reviews where critics break a show down into categories such as art, animation, story, and music? Do they assign a normalized rating to each category? Do they follow a rubric and are there penalties if a certain criteria isn’t met (say for example, bad voice acting)? This is the systematic approach I’m referring to. It’s almost too simple that we often times do it in our heads subconsciously while watching anime. At the end of the day, the anime with the best rating, most points, or whatever other system you choose to employ, is the anime that you feel is “best.” Is this subjective? Hell yes. Is it as subjective as CODE GEASS BEST ANIME EVER, with no reason or explanation? I certainly hope not.
Your Personal Favorite Anime
The term “favorite” is perhaps the easiest to discern from “best.” Self explanatory. Your favorite is the anime that is your true subjective “number one.” It may very well be the same as your “best,” but most times that it not the case. The important thing to realize is, your favorite could very well be the shittiest anime in existence, but that’s okay, because its your own personal favorite. Perhaps you’re a sports guy, and you really enjoyed Touch or Slam Dunk. Perhaps you’re a masochist and really enjoyed Odin. Perhaps you’re a moefag and will enjoy your moe shows, much to the chagrin of elitists. Whatever the case, your favorite anime is one that you enjoy, one you identify with, and one you hold near and dear to your heart. Nothing anyone says will change that fact.
The Anime That You Love the Most
I’ll admit, this last category is perhaps the hardest to describe and the most difficult to discern from the previous two. As I’m writing this, I’m still questioning what makes this category different. All I can say is that it has been bothering me forever, having only two categories. There needs to be that third category that separates itself from “best” and “favorite.” Something inside me screams for it, and I think I’ve finally found it. In truth, there is probably more than one name for this, but I’ve decided to call it “the anime that you love the most.”
Sounds a lot like “favorite” doesn’t it? In fact, aside from the wording, it’s almost the exact same thing. Logically, wouldn’t your favorite anime, the one you identify with most, the one you hold near and dear to your heart, be the one you LOVE the most? I’m willing to bet 99% of fans think this way. Still there’s just something different that I can’t quite put my finger on. The best way I can describe it is this: If the “best” is a systematic approach where you distance yourself from the work. And if the “favorite” is a personal approach where you find yourself closest to the work. Then the one you love the most is somewhere in between. Not necessarily the best systematic rating, or the one you identify with most, but a sort of all-encapsulating show or movie that defines your anime fandom.
So what about me?
My Best: Cowboy Bebop
This is an easy one. Like I said, simply follow your own personal criteria to systematically arrive at your “best” anime. For me, the criteria is constantly changing. For now, I’ve more or less settled on this. The clear winner at the end? Cowboy Bebop. A show that boasts tremendous production values, voice acting, story direction, art, mechanical designs, and let’s not forget the music to compliment a great cast of characters. Superb job by director Shinichiro Watanabe and Sunrise Studios. A masterpiece of modern storytelling, science fiction, space opera, literary homage, and culture dynamics. Cowboy Bebop is most definitely the anime which I feel is the best.
My Favorite: FLCL
So yeah, I like FLCL, as if it needed any more flaunting. I’m sure the show has its faults. The points is, I care not one bit. FLCL is awesome in every way imaginable from the crazy action, to the characters, to the message, to the glorious music. It’s a show that I hold near to me for more than a single reason. For one, Naota Nandabe is very relatable as he is portrayed at the start. A character torn between several possible paths in life (all of which conveniently manifested by hot girls). His journey throughout this epic 6 part OVA is one that I will remember for as long as I continue watching anime. FLCL is, without a doubt, my favorite anime series of all time.
The one I love most: Macross
Macross is something I truly love and the reason why I spent an hour ranting in this post. It all started when I couldn’t, for the life of me, place Macross as either my favorite or best despite it being one of the staples of both anime fandom and my personal fandom. I wouldn’t call it my favorite by any means. Unlike FLCL, Macross was before my time. The very fact that when I was born Macross had already been around for 10 years makes it hard to share in its glory or identify with the franchise. It would also be a stretch to label it the “best” anime ever. Sure it’s got a lot of strengths, and it’s influence is far reaching. But the original Super Dimension Fortress series suffered from lack of animation quality and budget constraints while newer installments (save for Macross Plus) I’ve always felt lacked that genuine and temporal feel. However, that does not take away from the fact that if it weren’t for Macross, fandom would not be the same, the industry would not be the same, anime period would not be the same. I love it, and that’s all there is to it.
So now, what about you?