These animes (if that is the word) are simply ranked in order from the one I found most enjoyable to the one I found least enjoyable. As you may guess as you read on, my tastes run more to sci-fi, technology, mecha, action and explosions genres, but I appreciate good character development and a good ending. I am also critical of Studio Ghibli character designs (Fireflies, Mononoke, Totoro, Kiki, Spirited Away).
Still waiting to be watched in their entirety so I can review them are the following: Angelic Layer, His And Her Circumstances, Scrapped Princess, Madlax, Genshiken and Samurai Champloo.
Vandread / Vandread Second Stage (13 episodes / 13 episodes)
Theme: In a universe where men and women are mortal enemies living on separate planets, a trio of men get captured by a group of female space pirates; and are forced to unite against a common foe.
Thoughts: This is a fantastic series (divided neatly in two). Really, really enjoyable. The action is good and the character development is tops, and a fantastic ending. Watch it or miss out.
Should you watch it? YESSSSS
Voices Of A Distant Star (1 episode)
Theme: A great sci-fi short story about a girl who goes into outer space to fight aliens, progressively separated by more and more light-years from her boyfriend whom she left behind, but still tries to communicate with via lightspeed text message.
Thoughts: Very impressive stuff for a one-man job, and also genuinely moving.
Should you watch it? Yes, yes, yes. You must. This is an incredible piece of work.
Battle Angel Alita (2 episodes)
Theme: Gritty dark future techno story. A genius engineer finds the remains of a powerful cyborg on a trash-heap.
Thoughts: I like this a lot. A good gritty world and some nicely impressive combat - alas, there are only two of what should have been six episodes, so there is no closure of any kind on the plotlines involved, and the series is unfortunately unlikely to be finished.
Should you watch it? Definitely, as long as you bear in mind it's unfinished.
FLCL (6 episodes)
Theme: Present day. Crazy scooter-riding "alien" chick hits boy over head with bass guitar. Boy starts growing robots out of his head. No joke.
Thoughts: This is the most insanely fast-paced anime you have EVER seen, by a factor of ten. The first episode will blow you away with its adrenaline. Keep up with it? Nope. Difficult to follow but highly enjoyable. The animation is fantastic, by the way, best I've ever seen.
Should you watch it? Yup! Great fun.
Read Or Die (3 episodes)
Theme: A bibiliophile girl who has ultimate power over paper - and is a secret agent of the British Library - goes after the thieves of some exceptionally rare books.
Thoughts: An inspired anime, great premise, great characters, good action sequences, spectacular animation, generally highly enjoyable.
Should you watch it? Yes! It's great and it's not that long, so you don't lose too much if you hate it.
Cowboy Bebop (26 episodes, 1 movie)
Theme: 2056. An outer-space space cowboy/bounty hunter anime. Resonates strongly with live-action American TV series Firefly.
Thoughts: Not bad at all. I feel it's a little overrated but this is about as palatable as anime gets for Western audiences. Pretty enjoyable throughout.
Should you watch it? Definitely. A seminal work. A good start for those new to anime.
Full Metal Panic! (26 episodes)
Theme: Present day. Highly trained teenage mech pilot goes undercover in a high school to protect an unwittingly very important girl.
Thoughts: Good stuff.
Should you watch it? If nothing higher on this list appeals, go for it.
Trigun (26 episodes)
Theme: Desert planet Wild West sci-fi action series, distant future
Thoughts: Though the action (which isn't as frequent as one would prefer) is excellent, the desert scenario gets tiresome after 26 episodes, and I felt there was just something kind of missing, you know?
Should you watch it? Ooh yes.
LastEXILE (26 episodes)
Theme: Two teenage vanship (messenger aircraft) pilots become caught up in a world-spanning war.
Thoughts: Pretty enjoyable. Decent artwork (mostly grey and brown though), decent story, decent characters, decent action, decent ending. No real flaws.
Should you watch it? I suppose.
Noir (26 episodes)
Theme: Present day. A female hired assassin takes an even more skilled girl under her wing until she can find out the younger girl's true identity.
Thoughts: I liked this, but got a bit samey after a while. The main characters almost never change their outfits, which makes no sense (even less so given that they're female!), and there is no blood whatsoever, which is kind of okay in a James Bond style fashion during shootouts, but really grates when people have been slashed by knives. Good action sequences and I like the music.
Should you watch it? Mmmm, yeah, I reckon.
Gunslinger Girl (13 episodes)
Theme: Orphaned/traumatized adolescent girls are adopted by a secret organization, given cybernetic organs and trained to be efficient killers.
Thoughts: Though not the action-packed roller coaster I expected, it is an entertaining and classy series.
Should you watch it? Worth a look.
Ghost In The Shell (Movie)
Theme: Seminal 2035ish cyberpunk movie with thermoptic camouflage and AI and stuff.
Thoughts: Gratuitous nudity, some "philosophy" and one or two cool action sequences don't really make the movie much more than your average cyberpunk.
Should you watch it? Yeah. Like Evangelion, it's one of those very important ones, sorry...
Read Or Die TV (26 episodes)
Theme: Three detective sisters - who can also use paper - take jobs bodyguarding a prominent author.
Thoughts: Animation and story quality have both taken a hit since Read Or Die, but this is still reasonably good.
Should you watch it? If you liked Read Or Die.
Wonderful Days (Movie)
Theme: In a dark, polluted future, one surviving city relies on pollution for power. Lower-class individuals, using wind and solar energy, just want to see blue sky again.
Thoughts: The first thing you'll notice is the astoundingly high quality of animation, particularly the backgrounds. The ending is pretty enjoyable too. But I wasn't overly struck on the plot. The film was too short to make much sense of.
Should you watch it? No reason why not.
Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex (26 episodes)
Theme: This is like some sort of police detective serial set twenty-five years into the future or something. Based on Ghost In The Shell, the movie.
Thoughts: Not bad, but kind of leaves me disinterested.
Should you watch it? I wouldn't bother too much.
Spirited Away (Movie)
Theme: Young girl takes a job working in a bath house for the gods, in order to rescue her parents who have been turned into pigs.
Thoughts: Is to Japanese media as Disney is to American... strange and scary in places, cute in others, but overall a pretty confusing Alice-In-Wonderland style tale.
Should you watch it? Most people who've seen it rave about it, but I don't rate it myself.
My Neighbour Totoro (Movie)
Theme: A father and his two little girls move into a house in the country. The kids come across some friendly forest spirits called Totoros.
Thoughts: Totoro rocks when he finally turns up, but the film takes simply aeons to get started, urrgh.
Should you watch it? If you have the patience and the time.
Dragonball Z (291 episodes, 13 movies)
Theme: Yes, it is that long. Humanoid alien Goku and a full supporting cast of fireball-flinging "martial artists" power up and up and up in order to defeat progressively greater threats against planet Earth.
Thoughts: At the very least eighty percent of every episode is crashingly dull filler. The same basic plot - good guy (usually Goku) is nearly beaten, then amazingly powers up to hitherto-unseen levels and slaughters the enemy - is reused at least a dozen times. The fights are the only good bits, and make up literally 1% of the whole series.
Should you watch it? The good here is far, far outweighed by the bad. And it could have been so good, too.
Theme: Highly trained student spy is assigned to investigate a project to open up what appears to be Noah's Ark...
Thoughts: Owes a lot to Akira and a lot to Bond movies - and this is no bad thing. Some highly enjoyable action sequences, although I wasn't watching carefully enough to tell you anything about the plot...
Should you watch it? Sure, it's good stuff.
Stellvia Of The Universe (26 episodes)
Theme: 2356: Girl goes to school in outer space, helps to defend Earth against incoming supernova shockwave.
Thoughts: Not really my thing - very little in the way of genuine action, much more oriented about interactions between these space cadet students - who are likeable, but uninteresting. Ending is pretty nice though, and the animation is excellent.
Should you watch it? If you like watching kids learn to fly spaceships, yeah, but not if you're expecting fights.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (26 episodes)
Theme: 2015. Fifteen years after some cataclysmic event offed a significant fraction of humanity, a handful of high school students are drafted to pilot huge humanoid mechs called Evangelions against a series of increasingly unpleasant gigantic monsters called Angels.
Thoughts: This was the first proper anime I ever watched. (DBZ doesn't count.) I taped the second episode on the Sci-Fi channel at some ungodly hour and after watching it I was hooked. I think it was just the whole Japanese animation style, which I take for granted these days, that meant I couldn't stop watching. My success in taping the rest of the episodes was mixed but soon I got the hang of downloading subtitled versions from KaZaA.
Episodes one to about fourteen of the show are pretty amazing. Our two (and soon three) Evangelion-piloting kids take on and defeat the various Angels in their various forms, at a rate of roughly one every two episodes. It's around episode eighteen where things start to get seriously unpleasant. The plot thickens hugely. Nasty truths are revealed which turn the show from a pleasant mechs-versus-monsters romp to an increasingly sickening conspiratorial mess. A rather terrifying amount of blood is spilled. People die, and worse. Apparently randomized Judeo-Christian imagery begins to play a significant part in the proceedings. This needn't necessarily be a bad thing but the main point is that it was not what I signed up for.
What you also have to add in to this is a hugely unlovable cast. The main character, Shinji, is a self-hating coward. And he stays a coward for the show's entire run. Rei, by virtue of never actually saying anything comprehensible, is less a coward than she is nothing at all. She just sits there. Asuka, well, you just wanna break her neck from the first time she appears. Those are your three pilots, but it doesn't end there, the remaining cast members are all equally fundamentally messed up in some way. It took me a good while to realise this, but the main reason why the show begins to grate is because you can't admire or even empathise with any of the characters. None of them grow. None of them resolve or even try to resolve any of their problems. At best you're indifferent to them, at worst you loathe them deeply.
Even these complaints are as nothing compared to the series' complete, utter lack of an ending. The final two episodes are unwatchable. Not in the sense that they're badly-written, badly-animated, or laughably short on plot, but because they are garbage. Gibbering garbage. They resolve nothing. They go nowhere. They destroy anything created by the twenty-four episodes leading up to them. They just kick you in the gut and go "No ending for you!" and stroll away laughing.
Should you watch it? Having read the above, you know the worst of what's to come if you watch this series. Knowing this in advance may soften the impact considerably, to the point where you might come out the other end feeling the experience was at least slightly positive. And if you like big robots then you should at least get a kick out of the admittedly intense fight scenes. Additionally, NGE is one of the most influential, popular and (in)famous animes in the world. Many consider it to be the greatest anime of all time. If you watch a significant amount of anime, but you let on to your fellow anime-lovers that you actually haven't ever seen NGE, then you may well find they start to look at you weirdly. Despite this, I would really advise that you think twice before embarking on watching this series. It is not fun.
Serial Experiments Lain (13 episodes)
Theme: Computer-absorbed schoolgirl starts receiving email from a suicidee friend of hers. Confusing talk about consciousness of computers ensues...
Thoughts: Very dull and slow; bargain-basement animation. Sort of interesting, but not very. Reasonable ending.
Should you watch it? I wouldn't, unless you really think it sounds good.
Theme: 2019. Crazy kid biker gang member acquires psychic god-like power and wreaks havoc on Neo-Tokyo.
Thoughts: The animation is spectacular and the scenes of destruction fantastic, but the character designs are horribly ugly. Also contains some rather disturbing scenes. A pretty good movie.
Should you watch it? Sure, if it sounds appealing.
Wings Of Honneamise (Movie)
Theme: Alternate Earth, 1940ish: This one is less like a movie and more of a dramatised documentary of a fictional country's first manned flight into space.
Thoughts: It's not gripping in terms of action or characters (and the character designs are disgusting) but sort of heart-warming-ish. (There is an attempted rape which is COMPLETELY out of character for the bloke concerned, and the woman's reaction later is even more mystifying. I haven't the faintest idea what that was about.)
Should you watch it? I wouldn't bother, you're not missing anything special.
The End Of Evangelion (Movie)
Theme: The conclusion of the series Neon Genesis Evangelion - the Third Impact.
Thoughts: Starts off well with some extremely impressive (and incidentally rather violent) action, and for a while there I thought it was going to be a proper, everything-wound-up ending. But no, the psychobabble and insane imagery leaps in in the second half and everything goes horribly unwatchable.
Should you watch it? If you want to know how Eva *really* ends, it's worth seeing for completeness. Just don't expect anything edifying.
Armitage III (Movie)
Theme: 20xx: Cyborg girl on Mars something something something with Kiefer Sutherland.
Thoughts: Wasn't really watching this properly.
Should you watch it? Dunno, but probably not.
RahXephon (26 episodes)
Theme: "Present day", sort of. Teenage kid pilots huge mecha against nasty monsters.
Thoughts: Very much like Evangelion, but replaces annoying psycho characters with flat, dull ones. Sensationally boring.
Should you watch it? Don't bother with this.
Princess Mononoke (Movie)
Theme: Fantasy movie about forest gods and wolves and boars and things.
Thoughts: Nothing especially wrong with it, but it just didn't grab me. Talking to animals isn't really my style.
Should you watch it? Naah.
Kiki's Delivery Service (Movie)
Theme: Appears to be the 1930s: 13-year-old witch goes out into the big wide world to survive on her own - finds big city, forms delivery service using her broomstick.
Thoughts: This movie goes NOWHERE. The synopsis on the left is the whole flipping movie. There is no plot, no tension, no final goal - she doesn't even return to her parents. The movie doesn't have a proper ending; instead of concluding anything, it just stops after an hour and a half. Dull in the extreme.
Should you watch it? Give it a miss.
Grave Of The Fireflies (Movie)
Theme: A boy and his toddler sister try to survive harsh WW2 Japan.
Thoughts: A sensationally moving and very, very sad movie... but slow-moving, and not exactly action-packed. Not many laughs.
Should you watch it? Same as Totoro: Only if you have the patience and the time. (In addition: no desire to be cheered up.)
Memories (Movie (in three parts))
Theme: Three odd, unrelated stories. Some astronauts answer a distress call; a man becomes a living stink bomb; and a city devoted to nothing but war.
Thoughts: A weird juxtaposition. Good animation overall, somewhat inappropriate music, excellent translation, just plain strange stories. Not particularly edifying.
Should you watch it? I wouldn't bother, not much you'd miss.
Perfect Blue (Movie)
Theme: Japanese pop idol leaves her group to pursue an acting career - but is haunted by visions of an alternate self who stayed with the group, and a freakish, obsessed fan.
Thoughts: Scary and unnerving and extremely violent in places. Towards the end it becomes impossible to tell what is reality and what is hallucinatory. Excellent animation and the voice acting in the dub was fantastic too.
Should you watch it? Probably not if you're under 18...
Hellsing (13 episodes)
Theme: Present-day Britain: a powerful vampire named Alucard fights ghouls on behalf of the Hellsing Institute.
Thoughts: Low-quality animation, too much blood and not much to grab one's attention. Mostly dull. The music was good though.
Should you watch it? Only if you really like vampires.
Evangelion: Death (Movie, available in 3 pretty much identical edits: "Death", "Death(true)" and "Death(true)^2")
Theme: Basically a recap of the entire series of Neon Genesis Evangelion up to episode 24, with roughly 90 seconds of extra footage in which our kids play in a string quartet for some reason.
Thoughts: The footage is arranged in a completely random order, making this movie incomprehensible to anyone not already familiar with the series, and worthless to anyone who is. The additional footage is also worthless.
Should you watch it? As I say, worthless.
Blue Submarine #6 (4 episodes)
Theme: Evil scientist Zorndyke something something something floods the Earth something something submarine.
Thoughts: I really wasn't watching this very carefully but it looked really dull. Zorndyke needs to speak up, he has this annoying low quiet voice.
Should you watch it? Skip it.
.hack//SIGN (26 episodes)
Theme: The idea of a series set entirely within a massively multiplayer online role-playing game appealed to me immensely; that was until I actually saw it.
Thoughts: Somehow, they managed to make this series without including ANY ACTION WHATSOEVER. This anime is almost entirely people standing around and talking, and whole minutes of panning over not-terribly-impressive scenery. The game "The World" must be the dullest game in existence. Stupefyingly boring.
Should you watch it? NO! YOU'LL LOSE ELEVEN HOURS OF YOUR LIFE!!!