Top 5: Cartoons Check out the Top 5 Anime, for more animated goodness. 5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 193 Episodes | 1987 I will never love a show more than 5-year-old Christopher loved TNMT. This was not just a thirty minute advertisement for toys (of which I owned many); it was a way of life. I wanted to be a turtle, just like Leonardo. Does this show hold up over time? Absolutely not. The animation is clunky, each episode is a remixed version of the one before and the humor is childish. Would I watch it again? Without hesitation. The show embodies what it means to be a hero and is fun at every turn. The four protagonists offer fans a character who they can relate towards; a leader, thinker, rebel and goofball. Through all the adventures there is a sense of family and responsibility. Good guys win, bad guys lose. It’s not a perfect show, but it is a perfect show for a 5-year-old who just wanted to be a hero. Episodes to try: 1. Each episode is the same. If you like the first one, you’ll like the follow-ups. 4. Animaniacs 99 Episodes | 1993 Comedy can be hit and miss. Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes, Mickey Mouse and a slew of similar shows never resonated with me. Animaniacs did. I recognize that this sketch (unintentional pun) comedy, with segmented episodes, varied cast and humor owes much to the shows originally mentioned but Animaniacs wins for being of my generation. The show used a diverse cast of characters to create sometimes crude situations and over the top jokes, but there were subtle one-liners and quick asides thrown in as well to create a complex layered humor. Like the Simpsons, many of the episodes utilize jokes which work for a large age range; adults will get the celebrity or political references and kids will enjoy Wacko being hit with a mallet. Animaniacs was willing to sprinkle in educational moments into some episodes, Yacko listing off every country or Pinky and the Brain (an excellent spinoff) providing science examples. Animaniacs utilized pop-culture references intermediately throughout its scenes to create an excellent show. One of Steven Spielberg’s greatest works. Episodes to try: 4. The show is broken into vignettes’, some of which are better than others. The running jokes might start off slow but grow over time. 3. Spectacular Spider-Man 26 Episodes | 2008 When Disney purchased Marvel, this show was the greatest causality. This series is the perfect representation of Spider-Man. Peter Parker is a science nerd, a reformed dweeb with a few close personal friends, but is still an outsider. Spider-Man is a wisecracking hero that is not always the most powerful in the fight, but the most determined. The supporting cast brings out the best personalities of Eddie Brock, Gwen Stacy, Norman Osborn, Harry and MJ; who don’t necessarily play their standard roles. Spectacular Spider-Man is willing to tell its own tale, not beholden to the comics it is based off, but borrowing from the greatest stories and playing off fan expectations. The animation is fluid, with quick battle scenes and a true sense of motion as Spidey swings through the city. The character models are unique in each episode, as characters change clothes and the background adjusts for seasons throughout the year. Most episodes tell a singular story but are intertwined with continuity to provide a greater narrative throughout the series. Episodes to try: 3. At first, Spectacular Spider-Man feels like it is retreading familiar ground from the 1994 series, but as time goes on it is obvious that this stands on its own strengths and is a much-needed reboot (unlike Ultimate Spider-Man). 2. Avatar: The Last Air Bender 61 Episodes | 2005 No other show is able to balance action, drama, comedy and build mythology quite like Avatar. The quest of Aang and his companions to overthrow the fire nation spreads out across three different seasons as The Avatar masters all the world’s elements. Within each season are standalone episodes that build to a greater story and interconnected episodes which play out over two (sometimes five) episodes. The characters truly grow during this journey. Katara not only learns water bending but a greater appreciation for the world around her. Aang is able to transition from a kid who just wants to have fun into the champion the world needs. Zuko. . . probably goes through the greatest changes, but you need to see it for yourself. Sokka remains under appreciated and the best comic relief imaginable. The battles within each episode are fast paced and make excellent usage of the elements at their disposal. Each nation not only utilizes unique bending, but martial arts and philosophies on life. Episodes to try: 4. Unfortunately, the first two episodes contain mostly setup and are the most childish of the series. Once the premise is out of the way, the show truly shines. 1. Batman: The Animated Series 110 Episodes | 1992 Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Bruce Timm created a cohesive world where all of DC’s heroes interacted–DC might be playing catch up on the big screen but they pioneered animated superheroes. The forefront of this experiment, Batman: The Animated Series. Before Justice League, JLU, Superman and Batman: Beyond there was Bruce Wayne fighting crime and keeping Gotham safe. The series was unafraid to deal with ‘adult’ issues of depression, violence, relationships, betrayal and murder. This series was marketed towards kids but could be appreciated by adults. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill turned in legendary voice performances that embody the characters of Batman and Joker. The series was provided the room to lay a solid foundation and expand the character roster to include Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing and even a second Robin. Typical throwaway characters, like the GCPD and mobsters, were recurring cast members with their own story arcs and traits. Fan-favorite, Harley Quinn was created for the show and was so beloved that she now has her own ongoing in the DC Comics. The interpretation of Batman, his mission, gadgets and personality are spot on iconic within the series, the comics still crib from these storylines. BTAS is the gold standard for not just cartoons but the heights that great storytelling can bring to any television show. Episodes to try: 1. Every episode of this series is worth watching. The characterization is spot on, the stories are willing to take risks and the fates of characters involved is left to interpretation right to the very end. Level Up, Friends!