Tier 8: Good, but not great

Glass Mask (1984)


A story about a girl who wants to be an actress. On the one hand it's kind of down to earth for an anime, just about a girl trying to advance her dream. On the other hand it's still pretty over the top with how it tells that story.

Why it's on the list

Makes the mundane compelling. The show's insistence that the hardest acting role is to play a tree is amusing and endearing.

Why it's not higher

Again it's a pretty straightforward show. This is the oldest show on the list and it shows its age. There is a newer anime, but I haven't watched it and don't really have the desire to.

Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl


Based on a manga by my favorite mangaka, Naoki Urasawa (20th Century Boys, Monster, and Pluto are all amazing comics). This story doesn't have the ambition of his best works, but it's still very enjoyable. Sort of the opposite of Glass Mask in that it's about a girl who has been raised to be a great Judo champion, but has now reached adolescence and just wants to be an average girl.

Why it's on the List 

It's kind of refreshing to see a character whose desires are so average. Yawara contrasts well with her grandfather who has planned out her entire life and is pretty over the top.

Why it's not higher

Cool premise but still plays to formula. Light and enjoyable. Does what it does well, but that gets it only this far.

Peacemaker Kurogane

Historical fiction! This is a story about the Shinsengumi done as a coming of age story. Obviously a lot of this is made up, but the anime does still try to be relatively historically accurate and grounded.

Why it's on the list 

It's fun, and poignant in turn. Because of its historical nature you know this is going to end badly, but it's a fun ride.

Why it's not higher 

Probably the strongest claim to deserving being a higher tier of any in this tier. I think it's limited by its historical nature a bit. Tries to walk the line of being both a coming of age story and a revenge tale, but isn't quite successful at tying those two ideas together. Also spends a little too much time treading water before we get to the finale.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team

Romeo and Juliet with Gundams. Well kind of. Like most modern takes on the star crossed lovers story, this doesn't end in a dual suicide. Spoilers!

Why it's on the list

Brings palpable drama to Gundam, which is so often little more than Mecha Porn. This short and sweet love story made a strong first impression on me. There's gripping stuff here.

Why it's not higher

Impact not as strong with subsequent viewings. What it does well is so derivative of Romeo and Juliet, but I think that the changes undermine that story. Romeo and Juliet is all about irrationality, making strong heartfelt decisions based on limited information and not a lot of thought. The tragedy is how easily avoidable the end is. I don't think the love-at-first-sight premise works as well when the stakes are this clear and real; where there is a clear evil to fight.

Hamatora (Season 1 only)

Peter David's X-Force as an anime, aka it's about a mutant detective agency. Although this takes place in a world where the populace at large is unaware of the existence of mutants.

Why it's on the list

Juggles humor and character interaction with heavy drama very well in a way that reminds me of Full Metal Alchemist. I was very high on this first season. Despite its issues this first season is still good on its own.

Why it's not higher

Ends on a cliffhanger and season 2 is a disaster. Inexplicably the flow of that second season is ruined by the presence of eye catches (commercial bumpers) between every scene change. What the fuck! This is one of the most baffling decisions I've ever seen in any TV show On top of that, the second season is darker, and loses that delicate balance the first season maintained so well. The calibration is all wrong Honestly the second season makes me so mad it colors my perception of season one.