30. Yu Yu Hakasho
In case the argument was not being made with earlier entries on this list, I like action shows, I like shonen action, and I love series that use action to help emphasize the characterization of characters in an entertaining way (or give me the equivalent of the scene in Die Hard where McClane is removing glass from his feet). Togashi is one of the best at it and Yu Yu Hakasho is clearly his masterpiece (sorry, HunterxHunter fans, but it’s true). While remaining within the shonen conventions, Togashi helped craft some of the most nuanced and interesting characters to grace the pages of Shonen Jump, with Noriyuki Abe’s strong eye for adaptation helping to highlighting his strengths for characterization. Even if you don’t come for seeing a scumbag learning to accept friends, the fights are regularly inventive and just entertaining to watch. This is probably the highest tier of shonen action that will ever come out and most other series will just pale in comparison.
Weird to think that I would enjoy such a normal and typical romance series (other times romance shows up on this list, it is either not the focus or it’s twisted through some absurd contrivance). Toradora is just a normal romance series that just so happens to be full of endearing characters. Even before the series went head-first into romantic melodrama and was mostly slice-of-life comedy, just seeing the characters bounce off of each other and interact was fun. This is just a series full of warm fuzzies that I’m glad to have seen.
28. Death Note
The manga version is what got me back into anime and manga after ignoring the medium for a couple of years, but I came to the anime in my senior year of high school (quite a while after this series was everywhere). Honestly, it was fun to just see how absurd the series could take the story and just how absurd and over-the-top Tetsuro Araki’s direction could present it. This may be a triumph of style over substance, but the execution was so fun and engrossing that I couldn’t look away.
27. Gundam Build Fighters
Gundam, as a franchise, is quite entertaining, with near-soap-operatic plots, great robot action, an absurd amount of quotable (and ridiculous) moments, and the general air of old sci-fi that takes itself way too seriously when conveying simple and basic messages. So, when a franchise can let it’s hair down and celebrate the general goofiness and merchandising that has built up over the decades, we get this series. For as much of a commercial as it has become for the model kits, what really sells this (no pun intended) is the passion for the franchise on display. It does not matter what aspect of the franchise the staff was reaching for, they clearly love every overwrought aspect of Gundam and want us to know it, form building a model to hit on a woman (actually happens) to a 1-kid re-enactment of the infamous slapping scene from the original series, to the way the rival character channel’s the franchise’s most enduring and well-known stock character. Some specific references will be lost, but the overall love for Gundam comes through so strongly that it’s hard not getting swept up in it.
26. Excel Saga
Quite possibly anime’s greatest shit post. This 26-episode monstrosity is a real endurance test, with the viewer being bombarded with shouting, screaming, weird jokes, tone changes, random zaniness, confusing twists, and inside jokes, all building to an insanely incomprehensible and incredibly tasteless (bordering on offensive) finale that ends in the out-of-context-but-making-just-as-much-sense image I used for this series. I cannot recommend this series for most, but I will say that if you can keep up with it’s pace, it is an incredibly funny comedy that surprisingly rewards your patience with it.
25. Girls Und Panzer
I’ve heard of absurd concepts before, but this kind of takes the cake. Let’s have high school girls drive tanks in simulated combat. This is a roundabout way of saying that this is a sport series about girls driving tanks (and no, the in-show explanation does not make this any less ridiculous). And the plot is “Save the Rec Center”. What helps this series, however, is the competitions themselves being fun to watch, the great character design at work, and the sense of humor that helps draw you into this absurd premise. And that humor helps to sell this ridiculous premise as a legitimate fun time. I cannot wait until Sentai Filmworks finally brings the movie out here, because I just want more of this.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a look into the incredibly deranged genius mind of Ryohga Narita! This series is his take of a gang story and this gang story includes human experiments, dullahans, cursed swords, men with unnatural strength, zombies, and love-struck stalkers. And this confused train wreck of a narrative (at least in anime form) is just a ton of fun. The dark corners are everywhere and threaten to consume the cast, yet the series is so energetic (for the most part) and fun that what we instead get is a hyperactive Chunni’s long, rambling story about Anonymous. If any of this makes sense to you or if any of it intrigues you, then check it out.
23. Kill La Kill
Oddly enough, this is probably what I’d call Gurren Lagann’s perfected form. This series takes Gurren Lagann’s pacing, energy, passion, and near-juvenile love of action above all else and focuses it into a surprisingly well-thought-out narrative. What helps this focus is that, unlike Gurren Lagann, this series has a full cast of fun, if not deep, characters who are just fun to see in action. This is probably the best approximation of an great, action blockbuster that anime has managed to create and it’s incredibly insane highs must be seen to believe. A definite must watch for those who love insane action and even more insane stories.
22. Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions
Hey, I get to discuss my love-hate relationship with KyoAni again (and not for the last time on this list even). One of my issues I’ve always had with KyoAni is their insistence of using what is undeniably the best resources for animation in the industry and using (read: wasting) them on shows like Sound Euphonium, Free, and the eternal specter that will forever haunt me K-On, which never really take full advantage of those resources and just seem like a squandering of them on uninteresting fluff-pieces. I bring this up because, while this series has similar problems regarding the resources used and what’s done with them, the writing here helps save this series. Much like the earlier-mentioned Toradora, this is more-or-less a straightforward love story. As such, this is a story run more by emotions than spectacle and the writing helps sell the emotion in a way that both enhances and helps sell the absurd level of character animation KyoAni bring to the series. What I’m getting at is this series earns the needlessly-incredible character animation that is wasted on most other KyoAni shows.
21. Full Metal Panic!
Speaking of recurring names, here is another series by Shoji Gatoh, done by studio Gonzo initially (more on them later), with a second season and comedy spin-off done by KyoAni (still not the last time they’ll be brought up on this list). While the overall tone of the series leans towards straight-forward action, it also hinted towards Gatoh’s knack for goofy characters and comedy that he’d explore more in both the comedy spin-off and in Amagi Brilliant Park. This helps this series, which has a tendency to love homaging old action films so much that it can become dour and joyless. With this comedic pairing at the center of the series, the show is able to actually revel in it’s influences while being a ton of fun. Parts of the first season specifically have aged poorly (mostly thanks to Gonzo’s production work), but this is still a good series for those wanting a fun action series.