This list is based on my opinion and it belongs to me. I have been reading manga and watching anime for many years now (according to MyAnimeList I have seen over 15 000 episodes) which means I had difficulties deciding 15 best of the best.
Thanks for reading the second part of my list!
13 Darker than Black: Kuro no Keiyakusha
This anime is directed and created by Okumura Tensai. I find it worth mentioning that the music for the series is composed by the Kanno Yōko (more commonly known in western countries as Yoko Kanno) who has composed the music for well-known series such as Cowboy Bebob and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Darker than Black has also been adapted into manga series anime, as well as newer series which continue the original story.
The first season of Darker than Black also known as Kuro no Keiyakusha (The Black Contractor) has deserved its place as number 13 on my list. The series tells the story placed in Tokyo where 10 years ago appeared a strange thing called Hell’s Gate, other known gate like that, Heaven’s Gate, appeared in South America slightly before the spatial anomaly in Japan. After those events real stars disappeared, replaced by fake ones which now express the life force and activity of beings called Contractors who also emerged soon after gates appeared. Contractors who, in exchange for receiving supernatural powers gave up on their humanity, were named after their payment for using those powers: each time they use their powers, they must follow their own involuntary compulsion to pay for their powers by for example smoking cigarettes against their will or placing rock into formations. Mostly these tasks are without greater purpose and might even harm contractors. Regardless of their way of payment, contractors use their powers for working in certain organisations or Syndicate.
Our main character is a peculiar contractor called (supposedly a codename) Hei (Chinese word for black). Hei also has many other names, as he is known as Messier Code BK-201, Black Reaper and alias Li Shenshun. As Li, Hei lives a normal life as a civilian playing the part of a Chinese exchange student, but as the other names suggest, he is a professional killer working for the Syndicate while also trying secretly find his disappeared sister named Bai. He was known and feared as the Black Reaper even before he got his powers, meaning he was strong enough to take on a contractor even as a human. Hei is a strong character, but he is not the main focus of the series which means he is able to vanish from the story if he so wishes. His character truly is an assassin, since he is able to come and go as he pleases while the audience suspects nothing. Each time we see him though we know that something interesting is definitely going to happen. As he is not “the” main point (until later) we can focus on other characters such as Hei’s coworkers and Kirihara Misaki, Section 4 Chief who is tracking BK-201.
As I mentioned earlier, contractor lose their humanity in order to gain their powers and this makes them very emotionless, cold and rational beings. Hei also seems like a normal contractor, but as the series go on, he is shown having emotional difficulties and feeling compassion. He is also noted to be smarter and more capable to strategize than other contractors. He differs from so-called “normal” main character, like Gin from the previous list, since he doesn’t have so much attention drawn to himself and is more mysterious than most main characters. Sure, in the later episodes parts of his past are revealed but mostly he is working from the shadows and appearing every now and then. The fact that Hei is so invisible keeps audience interested in the series. His character is likeable and intriguing.
DTB is a sci-fi thriller about war in the shadows which makes politics and media seem more powerless than ever. Normal humans and contractor are set as enemies throughout whole series, however the story focuses also on wars between contractors themselves and strangely on fights against existence itself. Even with all this tension DTB doesn’t contain exaggerated fight scenes. Hei is as expected from his profession: skillful, effective and fast. He does his job and nothing more. I like the fact that even if Hei is strong, he is not overpowered. He is not invincible and with all his skills he can still get injuries. His moves are efficient and smooth. Animation supports his character as it is also natural. There is enough mystery in the atmosphere and these elements form a great balance. Surprisingly this anime is not as predictable as one would believe, even the fight scenes are absorbing.
I also like tiny details here and there. For example, number 201 is presented often: Hei lives in the room 201 and this number is on his passport. Detailing in the animation is usually a risk, but this anime nailed it. It is visually beautiful and the music is perfection, as expected from Kanno Yōko. United the visual information along with music at times creates touching and haunting effects. As I’m talking about details, the English dub is worth mentioning, since it really is good since it modifies the story in a small way. All in all, I would call this anime an unexpected but tragic story with humours parts and a strange ending.
With this I like this anime. So why is it number 13 instead of being higher? To put it simply, Darker than Black season 2 was (pardon my French) absolute bullshit. That season ruined the beautiful and mysterious creation of the first season. Besides that, the first season ended…hmm…I’m not sure what to say. I understood what happened but I don’t understand why and how. Almost like the makers were out of ideas so they had to put explaining elements, which instead of explaining, made it more confusing while also explaining creating the same feeling I got from Bleach. That “I-planned-your-life-from-the-very-beginning-so-we-could-have-a-good-fight”-feeling (DTB’s explanation is better though). Darker than Black is still a great anime in my opinion and deserves its place on my list.
12 Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion (more commonly known as Evangelion or even Eva) is written and directed by Anno Hideaki. Manga version of Evangelion was released few months before the anime in 1995 and it was drawn by the character designer of anime- series, Sadamoto Yoshiyuki. Evangelion is said to have started a new age of anime and it was followed by many sequels (still waiting for the new movie Evangelion: 3.0+1.0).
The world in Evangelion describes the near future (2015) in which a massive catastrophe melted Antarctica. This caused a huge deluge which killed a big part of mankind. The survivor had to face the new world filled with new threats: monsters known as Angels started appearing. Normal weaponry does not work against those beings and so humans have rely on Evangelions, created by organisation called NERV. Evangelions are claimed to be artificial humans designed to fight against Angels. There are three units: EVA 00, -01 and -02, these are piloted by chosen people. Each Eva has their own pilot, as they cannot work alone or with anyone else but certain designed pilot. Said pilot connects their soul (in these series “soul” means individuals conscious existence and identity rather than something spiritual or supernatural) with Eva through LCL named liquid. The nervous system, mind and body of both parties unite and so the pilot can lead Eva with their thoughts and/or moves. The main character of these series is 14 years old Ikari Shinji who pilots Unit 01 under eye of his father, who is in a leading position of this organisation. Summoned by his father to rebuilt Tokyo-3, he starts to pilot said unit reluctantly. His mission is to defeat Angels working together with other pilot(s). Evangelions aren’t what they seem and are said to be though.
This anime consists of symbolism, religious meanings and psychological themes, which makes Evangelion very deep and complex. The starting episodes are mostly about symbols and later episodes dive deep within the minds of characters (which reflects to the director’s clinic depression). After this the series starts to question big questions about existence, reality and possible gods. Main themes of Evangelion are biological, military, religious, and psychological concepts.
Evangelion is filled with religious symbols from Judaism to Christianity and Gnosticism, and one has to keep in mind that these religions are relatively exotic in Asian countries (in Japan about 1% of population is a Christian). For example, The Tree of Life of Kabbalism is found in these series in the opening song and the name “Evangelion” pointing to Christian meaning about “good messenger” or “good news”. Also, well-known symbol of Christianity, the cross, can be seen usually after big explosions (mostly caused by Angels).
As the series continue, the audience are presented with the chance to look inside the mind of the characters as they struggle on. Shinji, for example suffers from social anxiety and slight depression. His condition is explained with the term” the hedgehog’s dilemma”, which means inability to get close to another without causing pain to one another. In my opinion, this term is useful while describing other characters. The names of soundtracks are named after terms used by known psychoanalysist Freud (like Thanatos). Most characters in this anime are suffering from traumas, mostly and ironically caused by their parents rather than Angels or the flood. That implies that Angels truly aren’t the only enemy humans are to face and fight against.
These themes are serious and dark and most think that they are based on the depression of Anno Hideaki. I think these series offer an interesting chance to peek inside human mind as well as the possibilities of those minds. Despite its old age (or because of that), Evangelion is visually made well and it differs from other anime- series. The design of Eva’s was unseen and unimaginable when the series begun in the 90s. The plot is interesting because while it focuses on the battle against Angels that is not all this anime offers, vice versa. As the episodes turn darker and darker, Angels are not the main concern anymore and psychological features start to feel like the actual enemy. New points arise from this: such as allies’ importance and battles against those you should have been able to rely on. However these points only rise out after a while of analysing and while watching the series, symbolism and psychological features might turn into a confusing mass.
This anime is great, but it’s lacking easier parts where audience can take a deep breath. The tension is always there. Without revealing anything unintentionally I’ll just say that some plot twists were messy and perhaps improper (Shinji what the hell were you thinking?!). All the characters are twisted and that might be the reason behind the success. Evangelion is still triggering anime for sensitive people and the dark themes are dark. Personally, I find Shinji’s character annoying and while his complex to him abandoned father is justified, it is exaggerated. I truly understand the mess in his mind that his father caused though.
This anime really needs deep analysing and without that it really is just one anime without anything that special. Especially the ending was confusing, and so after watching the anime, said person needs to find the following films in order to truly realize what is going on just to get confused again. This of course means that even with all those details and good points (which are useless unless analysing) this anime just needs to be number 12 on my list.
Thanks again for reading this!