15. Bartender: While most anime series try to generate interest by presenting stories that are fantastical, or at least over the top Bartender takes a very different and sophisticated approach to storytelling. Bartender is a show presents the experiences of troubled people who end up wondering into a bar run by the genius Sasakura. Through his amazing skills not only as a bartender, but as reader of emotion he is able to present each client with their very own a “Glass of God,” a drink that relates directly to their problems and perhaps contains a solution to them. Bartender is a classy show with a gentle well composed score, smooth animation, and settings, opener and closer that sets a strong sense of the mood. One aspect that really impressed me about this show is that despite having characters from original manga, most of the stories have a much more relaxed and personal feel in this adaption. Most interesting though is series control of prospective that has each episode is narrated by a different character(s) recounting their individual experiences, making the episode seem like a big flashback. This conceptual aesthetic makes this series a unique work among anime series.
14. Master Keaton: Master Keaton is everything you could expect by a work based off a manga written and drawn by the legendary Hokusei Katsushika and Naoki Urasawa, and directed by the brilliant director of the Monster anime adaption. Master Keaton stars the jack of all trade Taichi Keaton a professor archeology, ex-survival military specialist and insurance agent for British insurance firm Lloyd’s. It focuses on Keaton’s wide array of adventure ranging from solving murder mysteries, dealing with criminal and terrorists, trying to encourage the teaching of archeology and protection of archeological sites, and connecting with his family including his estranged daughter and father. The one thing that really holds this entire series together is the powerful sense of emotion and the detail of Keaton’s character, which is surprising considering the variety and episodic nature of Master Keaton. This gives this work a really humanist quality which makes each episode a real treat to watch.
The reason why I place this series so above far above Monster is the fact that it feels much more destined to be adapted into a series then Monster. The episodic nature, variety of concepts and creativity of Master Keaton makes it far more suited for the animated format. Rather than having to present an overarching plot and manga pacing, Master Keaton is allowed to explore new concepts each episode and always does an excellent job with this task. It doesn’t hurt that this show has an interesting opening, animation that is very good for its time, and amazing character designs to back up the fantastic story telling found in this series.
13. Wandering son: Like Bartender Wandering Son is much more interested in presenting the everyday experience of its two transgender leads then fantastic, and differs in presentation from the manga despite sharing characters and major plot elements. Shuuichi Nitori is born biologically male, but wishes she were a normal girl like any other girl. She ends up meeting Yoshino Takatsuki who is born female, but wishes to be seen as male and the two quickly become close friends. Things get complex though as relationships begin to develop, and it becomes apparent in Junior high school just how hard being transgender in highly gender society like Japan. The struggles in this show though are truly universal and can be related to and experienced by anyone, and aren’t limited to just the two transgender leads.
Speaking from personal experience this show does a great job at capturing the struggles faced by transgender children and that children have in general. It is both heartwarming and breaking, by its conclusion and does a wonderful job condensing the story while retaining its core. The story does a great job presenting things on realistic scale, keeping focused on the emotions of the leads and keeping a slow introspective mood which is not usually found in anime. The animation for this show is gorgeous and really helps to create a visualization of the characters situations and struggles. This show is highly sentimental, but is careful not sugar coat or lose track of the sense of realism.
12. Sherlock Hound: Sherlock Hound is full of cartoon fun, mixed with the creativity and heart only Miyasaki could bring. Miyasaki’s adaption of Sherlock Holmes using anthropomorphized dogs is a real treat to watch. There is plenty of fun, whimsy and adventure to be had in this children’s classic as Holmes and Watson are often called in to solve mysterious over the top crimes, which are usually the work of Holmes bumbling rival Professor Moriarty and his two henchmen. Sherlock Hound is a show I grew up with and I have a real personal connection to this work to this day. The bright animation and Miyasaki design make this show look wonderful, especially for its time. This show also has the advantage of feeling extremely British, with the inclusion of an orchestra soundtrack and a genuine British dub track.
11. Le Chevalier D’Eon: Le Chevalier D’Eon is a strange show. After the murder of his sister Lia, the knight D’Eon has his body inhabited by her vengeful spirit and finds that she was on a secret mission concerning the future of France. He soon becomes involved in a secret war and complex web of conspiracies and politics as personal agent of the King of France along with a variety of other knights, and begins a quest to uncover sisters past and to reveal the prophesies foretelling the doom of the nobility. To do this his group most seek out political favor with royals, and battle revolutionaries and alchemist known as poets in search of a mysterious book of religious poems connected with Lia’s death.
Le Chevalier D’Eon is so unusual in that it loves twisting historical fiction and fact together with a bit of fantasy. It presents many important real figures of the time and has a historical setting and style of speech of 18th century Europe, combining them with magical elements and original cast members. This combination of themes creates a Three Musketeers like thrilling adventure that is presented in arcs following the cast as they hunt and manipulate one another behind the scenes.
What really stands out about this anime series though is the quality of animation and the fantastic dub (which is saying a lot providing what I usually think of Foster dubs). This is perhaps one of the most overlooked shows to have what I’d consider a nearly perfect dub cast. Each character feels like they have an interesting personality that is strongly presented by the voice actors and really works well. While the animation isn’t quite as good as what is found in another show on this list by production I.G., this work definitely ranks among some of the best animated work out there. The detail to motion (especially in the fencing), the backdrops of location and character design are all simply top notch and worth of great praise. This work just barely doesn’t make the top ten, but is definitely still among the best anime has to offer.