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The Best Anime to Watch on Crunchyroll

Jesus, take the wheel.

Celebrating One Piece

I want to start by saying, this is a task that is nearly IMPOSSIBLE. This is CRUNCHYROLL for crying out loud. This streaming service has ALL. THE. ANIME. EVER. And I haven’t even seen ALL THE ANIME ever. Why not? Because sometimes I wanna go dancing, or cook a nice meal, or have sex with someone, but I can’t do that if you all expect me to watch EVERYTHING THAT IS ON CRUNCHYROLL. And, on top of that, give you a DETAILED LIST!? ONE PIECE IS ON CRUNCHYROLL AND THAT HAS OVER 1,000 EPISODES ALONE. IN THE WORDS OF JESUS CHRIST, “LET THIS CUP PASS FROM MY LIPS.”

Okay, now that we have that out of the way. I will say, I am a consummate professional. Perhaps I did not ask for this burden, but I have been given the Ring to take to Mordar, and by God, I’m going to do my best. Or die trying.

So, here’s what we’re gonna do: I’ve watched a (very) lot of anime on Crunchyroll, and I’m gonna give you a list of my favorite anime on Crunchyroll. You wanna go into the comments saying, “but what about *insert random anime*”—fine! Do it! We like the engagement. But please respect that there’s a chance *insert random anime* wasn’t included because I haven’t seen it! And I’m sorry, okay? I was probably throwing ass in some nightclub instead. Or quietly reflecting upon the great questions of our universe! Or BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. Leave me and my choices alone.

So, deep breath. Here goes. The “best” anime on Crunchyroll.

Cowboy Beebop

spike in Cowboy Bebop
Image credit: Sunrise

It’s Cowboy Beeboy. It’s the greatest. If you don’t know why it’s the greatest, you need to stop reading this list and go watch it. It’s art. And I mean that in the truest sense of the world. It’s the William Shakespeare of Anime. The Rembrandt of Anime. The Beatles of Anime. It’s triumphant, transcendent, sublime. And if I keep writing about it I’m gonna start crying about the ending, and I can’t do that right now because I still have one million more shows on Crunchyroll to write about. So just do yourself a favor and watch it. Just don’t watch the live-action version, dear God, please.

Samurai Champloo

Image credit: Manglobe

Made by the same creator as Cowboy Beebop, Shinichiro Watanabe, this anime is my personal favorite. A little bit about me: I love (fictionalized) violence, and this anime has some of the most breathtaking violence that I have ever seen. The fight sequences are downright gorgeous. They’re sharp, painful, and often terrifying. Katanas are used and people die by them. The cuts are as deep and ferocious as the main characters. The story is a powerful allegory for disaffected male youth, and the violence young men inflict in order to give life meaning. Jin and Mugen are young, angry, and alone in the world. They are rebels without causes. They do not value any life, including their own. Meaning, they are cold-blooded killers, and each of them has a complicated reason for choosing to live the way they do. They were both failed by their loved ones and the institutions of the world. They fight with the hope that someday, someone with more martial arts skill will come along and kill them. So far, Jin and Mugen have each only met one person that they could not kill: each other. The series is a quiet exploration of what gives life meaning, and how to live with oneself in a world that seems utterly meaningless.

Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Image credit: Bones

At its core, this is an anime about family. After being abandoned by their father, two young boys perform a dangerous magical experiment to bring their mother back from the dead. The experiment goes horribly wrong, leaving one brother disfigured and the other trapped in a suit of armor. The pair then set out to restore themselves, and end up becoming wrapped up in a political conspiracy with global consequences. The story is thrilling, famously devastating, and often hilarious. It is a parable about fascism, xenophobia, genocide, and the nature of reality itself. However, I think that the true greatness of the series lies within its beating heart: the achingly tender relationship between Edward Elric and his brother, Alphonse. Note: I would recommend watching the series in the original Japanese sub, as the voice actor for Edward gives a gorgeous performance. The English voice actor is good, but sounds a bit like a man playing a child, while the Japanese voice actor sounds like a child. The pain and beauty of the series, stems from how young these boys are. It is a coming-of-age story, after all.

Trigun

Vash the Stampede
image credit: Madhouse

On the surface, this anime is a goofy space Western romp. The humor is superb, and the English voice cast especially shines. But beneath the surface, this anime is a painful and gorgeous allegory about love and hope in a desert world where these two things are as rare as rain. Unlike Jin and Mugen of Samurai Champloo, the protagonist, Vash the Stampede, views all life as sacred and believes in the inherent goodness of the human heart. These values become all the more poignant when Vash is revealed to be something a little more than human. This series is an allegory of what happens when noble ideals are challenged by harsh reality—and the devastation that occurs when even the best intentions fail.

Death Note

sidoh, light, & misa in Death Note ep 29
Image credit: Viz media

This anime is a glorious, dark, and melodramatic thriller. A bored, young genius is granted god-like power over life and death, and after going on a killing-spree, the Japanese government puts together a crack team of gifted minds to stop him. The series is a chess game between brilliant individuals who are each able to see twelve moves ahead. The story is a fascinating exploration of the concept of the “theory of mind” (i.e. “I know that you know that I know that you know”) and what happens when a game of chess has fatal consequences.

Berserk

guts from berserk
Image credit: Studio 4C

While the anime is not as good as the manga, the Berserk films are worth it. The trilogy tells the story of Berserk‘s “Golden Age” arc, which contains one of the finest hero-to-villain stories I have ever seen in any medium. Be warned, however, these films are dark. Not fun Death Note dark, but they are truly hideously violent. The violence is not graceful like Samurai Champloo, it is heavy and brutal. It is, however, earned. The series reflects the darkest and most depraved aspects of the human heart, and the manga even goes so far as to solve the philosophical “problem of evil” (just check out the semi-cannon “Episode 83” chapter). I don’t think this anime is as good as the others on this list, but I’m including it because it was the anime that introduced me to the Berserk manga, which is arguably one of the greatest manga stories ever told.

Kill La Kill

Ryuko Matoi getting frustrated in Kill La Kill
Image credit: Studio Trigger

Kill La Kill is hands down the greatest ecchi anime of all time, and in my personal opinion, the only one really worth watching. Kill La Kill is an absolute riot, and a masterclass of the use of hyperbole in art and humor. High school is a crucial part of the lives of Japanese adolescents, after all, 80% of anime is set in a high school or deals with characters in their teens. Kill La Kill exaggerates the influence of high-school on Japanese society by turning it into a tyrannical political system responsible for society itself. High-school presidents are brutal despots, and students’ in-school rankings are responsible for the social caste that their family inhabits. The show is also a brilliant deconstruction of sexuality and shame, and gives an answer as to why outfits need to be skimpy in order for a protagonist to fight. Detractors of the show may find the outfits to be too sexualized, but that’s the point. Also, characters of all genders are subject to skimpy battle-dress, so it evens out. The fight scenes are jaw-dropping, and the series later explodes into a sci-fi of epic proportions. Trust me, you do not want to miss this one.

Fate/Zero

Studio credit: Ufotable

The tournament anime to end all tournament anime, this show is a white-knuckle thrill ride from start to finish. The Holy Grail appears in Japan, and in order to claim it, seven sorcerers must each ally themselves with a historical warrior and fight to the death. This story takes a page out of the Game of Thrones playbook and makes you care about characters on opposing sides. Some of the sorcerers are horrible, yes, but others have sympathetic reasons for fighting. You don’t want some of them to die, but trust me, they will.

Mononoke

image credit: Toei Animation

Not to be confused with Princess Mononoke, this anime takes the prize for being perhaps the most gorgeous piece of animation I have ever seen. It is a masterclass of style of substance, and I mean that in the best way. A spin-off of the 2006 horror anthology Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, the story focuses on the character of the Medicine Seller as he faces a menagerie of monsters and demons from traditional Japanese folklore. Each episode plays like a detective story, as the medicine seller can only draw his sword and exorcise a demon when he has uncovered the Form (shape), Truth (origin), and Reason (motive) of the spirit. My only critique of this anime is that it is too short, but that just makes me rewatch it again and again.

(featured image: Crunchyroll)

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