Top 5: Anime 5. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood 64 Episodes | April 2009 The original Fullmetal Alchemist anime was ‘inspired’ by the manga series; the second anime Brotherhood followed the source material faithfully. This decision separates a good anime from a great show. Brotherhood is the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric who make a terrible mistake, and search for a way to make amends for this decision. Their journey is often time amusing, filled with action sequences and only one small part of a larger mystery that is impacting the world. The characters in Brotherhood have their own personality quirks and instead of the running jokes being overdone they almost are funnier each time. The overall narrative has twists and turns, but they never feel out of left field and are always there to make a stronger story. The bond between Edward and Alphonse is the true ‘heart’ of the show and the emotional connection keeps a show about magic feel truly grounded. Episodes to try: 3. The first three episodes are each individual stories which capture a large gambit of the action, humor and tone fans can expect, with a hint of the world-shattering mystery. 4. Gun x Sword 26 Episodes | July 2005 Vaan of the Dawn, Nice Guy Vaan, Vaan of a Thousand Naps. These are titles the protagonist, Vaan (in case you missed it), picks up during his single-minded journey to murder the Claw. This isn’t a ‘freak of the week’ show but a journey of vengeance, which still manages to find humor in a multitude of situations. Every journey requires companions and Vaan’s is no exception. Wendy tags along with Vaan for a voyage of discovery; this starts as a goal to locate her brother but ultimately she finds herself. The other companions join in later episodes and flesh out the cast well; except for some old timer’s with hit-and-miss (mostly miss) comedic relief. The show focuses on Vaan and Wendy’s travels which involve righting wrongs, searching for clues and calling down a giant robot, Dann of Thursday, to help with impressively coordinated action sequences. Episodes to try: 4. By the fourth episode fans will have encountered some of the reoccurring themes, and memes, within the series. Plus, witnessed character growth by Wendy and all two of Vaan’s personalities (apathetic and driven). 3. Cowboy Bebop 26 Episodes | April 2000 Cowboy Bebop is practically the anime version of Firefly. A group of down-on-their-luck bounty hunters work together, sometimes against each other, in order to try and make end’s meat. Their assortment of odd jobs and capers usually result in a moral dilemma as they decide if they would rather have a paycheck or good night’s rest. Their futuristic world of spaceships, holograms, warp gates and bio-chemicals doesn’t make their lives any easier. The crew oftentimes find themselves on the wrong side of the law, but on the correct side of what is best for the galaxy. The show never provides an entire back story of the characters but through glimpses into the past and their actions, viewers will understand their motivation. Besides a few ‘mythology’ episodes, each installment is a standalone adventure which has a great balance of comedy, martial arts and space battles. Episodes to try: 1. The first episode is an accurate example of what fans will encounter throughout the series. More characters are introduced but the dynamic and mood established will remain unchanged. 2. Death Note 37 Episodes | October 2006 Two super geniuses battle wits. Death Note is the only pure drama on this list; there is no comedy and little action sequences which occur. This show is like watching Holmes and Moriarty verbally spar back and forth. You don’t know how they are going to figure these complex puzzles, but when they walk you through their thought process it makes sense. Death Note does have a heavy supernatural theme involved but the true story is watching these humanized characters try to mentally out-flank one another. Through their back and forth, viewers will understand everything that makes them tick and how fully realized these characters are. Death Note takes the premise of “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and tests this theory to the fullest as a good natured honor roll student is provided with the power to become the grim reaper. Episodes to try: 2. Within the first two episodes fans will see the protagonist turn from innocent student to a mass murder and the first interaction with his foil. 1. Full Metal Panic! 49 Episodes | January 2002 This series is the perfect blend of action sequences, comedy, character growth, supporting cast and touching moments. Sousuke Sagara is part of mercenary organization that polices the modern-world with futuristic weaponry, including giant mechs called Arm Slaves. His duties force him to guard Kaname Chidori, an intense and capable high school student who often times rescues her would-be protector. The humor in the series occurs as Sousuke struggles with integrating into normal high school life; he brags a condom is good for holding 2 litters of water, doesn’t know what a videogame is or how to properly order a hotbun. Kaname forcefully tries to teach Sousuke how to survive; for example, maybe the letter in shoe locker is from a secret admirer and not a terrorist. Sousuke’s overzealous attitude and disposition to use firearms in every situation doesn’t do him any favors in high school but is a valuable asset in the field. The action is well framed and coordinated. The heroes are capable but not overly powerful, they will be forced to retreat, fail their missions and sometimes die in battle. The person to person combat is great but the most epic moments occur when Sousuke pilots his prototype Arm Slave, Arbalest (who has a wonderfully dry delivery). Kaname’s classmates and Sousuke’s comrades round out the cast; they aren’t just cannon fodder or background pieces but are necessary for the duo’s success and character development. The best part of the story is watching Kaname and Sousuke transition from just another assignment, to friends, to possibly much more… Episodes to try: 1 (but you should watch all of them). Right out the gate, Full Metal Panic! opens with Arm Slave action, details the character’s unique personalities and the series’ expertly timed humor. Level Up, Friends!