I fucked up on my list of Top Five Anime. I spent a lot of time and thought doing the Manga list, and then I sort of rushed through the Anime list. ^_^;;; So I'm going to amend it right now... After much deliberation, there are only things things that really remain from the original list... COWBOY BEBOP and AKIRA.
I somehow overlooked FLCL while I was writing up my original list, and it hit me a few days after on the bus while I was listening to the OST (Original Sound Track) on the way to work. I don't know how it slipped my mind, but FLCL is definately in my top five.
Why FLCL? Probably because it is the most wholely original thing I've ever seen. FLCL is almost like DEADWOOD in that it's an intellectual exercise at times, and requires multiple viewings to "get" it. On the surface, everything about it seems random; complete CHAOS. From the way things just seem to happen with no context, to the often DRASTIC changes in the animation style, FLCL doesn't appear to be about anything at first... it's constantly movie, and the pace is breakneck at best, with explosive action ever 2 minutes. It's actually the quieter moments in the show that seem out of place when they occur. Everything happens so fast that you can barely keep up, so on your first viewing you have no way of processing what's going on; instead you're wowed by the visuals, entertained by the comedy, and excited by the action.
Upon a second viewing, you begin to sort out the chaos. You catch the small, subtle, plot points laid in admist the robots, explosions, gunfights, and guitar bludgeonings, and realise that it's actually a story about how fucked up adults are and how children should be in no hurry to lose that innocence and imagination (according to the commentary, that's what the whole "smoothing out the wrinkles" thing means... apparently the wrinkles in your your brain are what defines who you are as an individual, so to take over the world MEDICAL MECHANICA builds a giant iron to smooth over peoples individuality and turn them into robots).
It's kind of hard to really explain the genius of FLCL... you have to actually watch it... TWICE... to get how fucking good it is, and then you'll want to keep rewatching it, because it never gets old.
I have no idea how I overlooked MACROSS PLUS... this show was so important to my becoming involved in anime, and actually changed the way I look at science fiction in general.
MACROSS PLUS has all the staples of a good sci-fi story; robots, action, explosions, an AI run amok, and philosophical musings into the nature of the human soul. But the other thing it has is romance. It's the first sci-fi action story where I've actually cared about the characters, and realized that all the robots and action are secondary elements in what is really a story about what makes people drift apart and how love isn't always perfect and beautiful; that it can also be painful and messy. It's also about the compromises you make as a adult. Myung gives up her dream and it nearly destroys her, while Isamu lives the carefree life of a teenager in constant pursuit of his dream; alienatinng everyone around him as a result. Gaul sacrifices the most, though, giving up his friendship, humanity, and then finally his life.
Now, while MACROSS PLUS stands pretty well along, it is part of the massively popular MACROSS (ROBOTECH) franchise, and has one of that franchise most definative plot points... music. Every single MACROSS spinoff, prequel, sequel, or re-imagining somehow revolves around music, and in most cases it's pretty heavy handed, or shoehorned in (Minmei for example... but the most baffling was MACROSS 7 in which the Veritech's are actually powered by rock and roll. >_<). MACROSS PLUS is the first of this series where the music as a McGuffin actually works seamlessly. Of course, it helps that this is probably one of Yoko Kanno's most definative soundtracks. NINJA SCROLL
NINJA SCROLL is probably what actually got me interested in Japanese culture, as it was my first real exposure to the history (sort of) of Japan. Beyond that, I really don't know what to say. I'd only been watching anime for, what, a year or two on SCI-FI Channel and TELETOON, and the thing that intrigued me the most about anime was the excessive sex and violence; and at that point, and possibly to this say, NINJA SCROLL was the most graphic thing I'd ever seen, while still being somehow poetic and beautiful. Having rewatched it numerous times, I can't help but be astonished by how fucking TIGHT it is from a storytelling standpoint. Nothing is wasted. The movie almost literally perfect to me. I cannot find a single flaw.
Above is the best fight scene ever put to film, though I wish I could have found the english dubbed version, as it remains one of the best dubs ever produced, and has my favorite line of all time. Genma bursts forth from the molten gold and grabs onto Jubei's leg, burning him with his vise-like grip. Jubei turns and raises his sword, screaming his parting words at his immortal, unkillable foe, "GENMA! BURN IN YOUR GOLDEN HELL!" before slicing his arm off and condemning him to eternal living hell, frozen solid as a living gold statue.
Anyways, apologies... these three, plus COWBOY BEBOP and AKIRA are my five favorites of all time, just narrowly beating out the others, which would be six, seven, and eight.