heavymetalmage's Top 10 Cartoons of All-Time
by heavymetalmage

Yo. heavymetalmage here. Some might say I have an adoration for animation. Others might say, "whatchu talkin' bout, heavy?" You won't be finding My Little Pony here, no no. I've compiled some GOOD animations for this loosely-ordered list. I even went for bonus points with a favorite character and favorite episode/moments list. Wowza! So sit back, grab a Duff beer and a bag of Enchiladitos, and prepare for heavymetalmage's top 10 animation spectacular. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, and hey, I even discovered a disturbing pattern in my own psyche while writing this! Enjoy!

(Some spoilers within.)

10. The Simpsons (Seasons 3-9)

This position on my list was highly contested. Spider-man, Summer Wars, Azumanga Daioh, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, The Venture Bros. and handful of 80's/90's cartoons all battled it out for #10. One through nine were no-brainers but finally, The Simpsons won out against the other contestants. I used to be such a huge Simpsons fan. I remember being banned from watching it because it was "too rude". I'm sure a modern day comparison with something like South Park would dispel that myth. One day, I just started watching it, banned or not, and from there out, I was hooked. I added the addendum of seasons 3-9 because that is where the Simpsons was doing satire and doing it well. Before season 3, it was finding its niche; after season 9, it was looking for convoluted ideas/guest stars/whatever it could do to come up with another episode. I certainly continued to watch after season 8, and it was still funny, but it wasn't as good. I haven't been a regular viewer for quite some time but the show plods on without my viewership. The beauty of The Simpsons in its prime was its balance between slapstick, parody/satire, and the onslaught of hilarious characters. The Simpsons' animation style has never been anything to marvel at but it never needed to be. The voice acting is superb and that has thankfully been one consistency throughout. On the other hand, the writing and direction have been a roller-coaster since the early 2000's. That aside, what can you say about a show that has been running for over two decades? Apparently, not much! The Simpsons is a huge part of pop culture and that's why it made my list at #10.

Favorite Character: Picking this, my friends, would be more difficult than Sophie's Choice.

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 177, "The Simpsons Spin-off Showcase"
In a fine throwback to the 1970's, The Simpsons receive three spin-off shows: Chief Wiggum P.I., The Love-matic Grampa, and The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour. If the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes are any indication, The Simpsons know how to step outside the regular sitcom formula and do specials. My favorite part about this episode is just how cheesy it is. You Know the shows out there that like these three parodies and The Simpsons hit them dead on. I was happy to read that this episode is common among lists of top episodes and I would imagine that that is hard to do with so many classics.

9. Transformers: Beast Wars

Welcome to the 90's and the advent of bad computer animation; rather, pretty darn good computer animation at the time. I had seen the original Transformers cartoons and, while the toys were pretty cool at the time, the show was pretty lame. Enter Transformers: Beast Wars. This show, a reboot of sorts, took the best of Transformers, mixed in some time travel crap, and added personalities up the ying-yang. Oh yeah, there's also fun stuff dealing with death, metaphysical concepts and philosophical discussions abound. I guess that's what happens when your soul is a tangible thing inside your killing-machine of a robotic body. Let's not forget the ethical dilemmas it alluded to (i.e. episode 36 "Transmutate") and even an exploration of early humankind. (Not terrible fond of that plot devices.) Although it was far-reaching in its scope, Beast Wars was rarely not entertaining. There was pretty much always some kind of shootout each episode and, save for a couple of episodes early on, the plot never stagnated. Beast Wars ran for 3 great seasons and then graduated to a sequel known as Beast Machines. This show was heavy on the "huh?" and not so much on the good. I feel as if I watched Beast Machines today, I might have a greater appreciation for it. However, Beast Wars still takes the cake. The main plot is quite good, and many great subplots developed throughout the series. Whether it was Tartanulus' plans to usurp Megatron's throne, Dinobot and Blackarachina's side-switching or her relationship with Silverbolt, the series was fleshed out quite well. I'm gonna take a moment here and listen to the theme song. For computer-animated robot action, look no further than #9, Transformers: Beast Wars.

Favorite Character: Rattrap
I love a good wisecracker. All Rattrap ever did was crack wise. He was a fairly low-key fighter (until his transmetal upgrade) and wasn't necessarily full of technical skill. However, comic relief was needed and that's what Rattrap was there for.

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 35, "Code of the Hero"
Even Wikipedia lists this episode as "widely considered to be one of the best episodes in Transformers history." Dinobot, the noble warrior that he is, gives his own life, in ultra-dramatic fashion, to keep the "Golden Disc" out of the hands of Megatron. Yeah, it's cheesy, but awesome. Oh and Dinobot, you gave your life for nothing. Megatron got another copy anyway. In yo ugly faceeeee!

8. Aqua Teen Hunger Force (Seasons 1-4)

'Twas the summer of aught four. Adult Swim was lighting up our TV's nightly with reruns of broadcast cartoons and some originals too. The greatest of these originals was Aqua Teen Hunger Force. A show with an eleven-and-a-half minute runtime, no direction, plot, or resolution, and a cast of talking junk food. Oh yeah, and Carl. This show was the perfect storm for the short attention spans of today's youth. Many episodes would cut off the last sentence or word and always left you thinking, "What the fuck just happened?" Now a show couldn't make it on this alone unless it made you laugh. Aqua Teen always made me laugh. Whether it was Shake's selfishness and interminable rudeness, or Meatwad's man-child innocence, or Carl's...disgustingness, ATHF was prime material for males ages 13-35. This show definitely peaked early, which isn't surprising considering the type of attention span it was trying to attract in the first place. Season 2 was perfect, 1 and 3 were great and everything started going downhill from season 4 on. Apparently the show is still airing new episodes but I haven't had the ambition to get caught up. However, those first magical seasons will always have a place in my heart. At a length of 11:20 per episode, coming in at #8, Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

Favorite Character: The Plutonians
The Plutonians: a couple of worthless aliens from Pluto that just so happen to have a giant ship and some random plots to rule Earth. Rather than rule Earth, they usually just end up stealing cable or taking Shake hostage. Oglethorpe, the shorter, fatter, oranger one, is definitely the funnier of the two. Emory, the taller, greener, and entirely less German one, does work well as a slightly inept foil to Oglethorpe's over-the-top personality. These fine gents were originally slated for their own spin-off featuring another pair of Aqua Teen alien idiots, the Mooninites. This show, called Spacecataz, was originally slated for Adult Swim but was chopped in short bits and served as the cold openings of Season 3.

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 29, "Universal Remonster"
An episode featuring the Plutonians of course! When the cable goes out, the Aqua Teen Hunger Force is on the case. The Plutonians steal cable through an interdimesional portal known as a "fargate". They then deploy a small robot/monster made of remotes. That's right, you guessed it, the Universal Remonster. Hilarity ensues.

7. Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke is my favorite Studio Ghibli work. Let's a take brief look at what happened during the production of this movie:

Animator: Ok, Miyazaki-san, we've drawn all 144,000 cels for the movie. Would you like to check them?
Miyazaki: Let's see...wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, you know what? Fuck it. Leave 'em on my desk. I'm just gonna redraw 80,000 of them by hand.

The preceding was based on true(ish) events. Yep, that guy is nuts. I guess it paid off in the end. Princess Mononoke is nothing short of breathtaking. When I first saw this movie, I didn't even know what a Miyazaki was. I was, however, blown away by such a different type of story it was. It's the only movie on my list and that's because it's the only one that packed enough awesome into it in only 134 minutes. Whether it was the beautiful and strange setting, the array of characters and creatures, or a bit of that Miyazaki magic, Princess Mononoke is embodiment of what is great about anime/animation. You can take a story, make anything about it real, and also make it a work of art, while still entertaining your audience. At #7, there was bound to be a Miyazaki entry somewhere on this list.

Favorite Character: San
They say that cat San is one bad mother fu shut yo mouth! I can dig it. She's a complicated woman but no one understands her but her wolves. San!

Favorite episode and/or moment: Ashitaka sees San for the first time.
Nothing like seeing a gal spit blood to really make a guy fall for her!

6. Homestar Runner

Chances are that if you've used the internet since 2001, (and seeing as you are reading this,) you've heard of Homestar Runner. Simply put, take flash at its finest, add in some excellent voice work, throw in some crazy characters, and top with 80's/90's references up ying and you have an internet phenomenon. Sure, I had a Trogdor shirt. Did I buy "Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits"? Of course. Homestar Runner is crazy good. (There have been multiple hiatuses recently but IT'S NOT OVER!) There was a point in time when I had seen everything on the site but that was about 5 years ago. Homestar has so many different types of toons going on that you are seldom bored with the same old routine. Whether you like Strong Bad's e-mails, Teen Girl Squad, the Holiday episodes, the Puppet shorts NOT ANIMATION, or any random happening in Any Town, USA, there's plenty more where that came from. At #6, seriously, have you not heard of Homestar Runner?

Favorite Character: The Cheat
Although he's a man(?) of few words, the Cheat is always up to something. He's friends with 2/3's of the Brothers Strong and he loves to hate Homestar and Strong Sad.

Favorite episode and/or moment: Strong Bad e-mail #87, "mile"
The Cheat gets a hold of Strong Bad's e-mails and makes a wonderfully crude, yet oddly self-serving, episode. Strong Bad does cartwheels for a whole mile, jumps some busses, Homestar gets taken out, and the Cheat is the Grand Marshall of a parade. Whew! There are many one-liners in this SBE-mail that have made their way into my daily vocabulary.

5. Neon Genesis Evangelion

It is required that I clarify that I am not discussing the movie endings or the rebuild. If you want my opinion on those, I will whip up a 20 page report and fax it to you.

What do you say about Evangelion that hasn't already been said? There's a reason this anime is one of the most popular of all-time. I began a rewatch of it for this very article and I must say, the first episode is stupid. I think that if I had never seen the show and had started it now, I would have said, "Um, yeah, this could be any anime ever."

*Robot's arm goes up to protect Shinji from falling debris*
Ritsuko:"That's impossible!"

Eva is a bit of an investment but it's greatness grows exponentially as the show goes on. I mean anyone who sits through a few episodes of Shinji's whining deserves an amazing experience. Eva is a work of art; a perfect blend between action, philosophy, psychology, and *sigh* fan service. The religious symbolism can be a bit conspicuous but perhaps that comes from being a westerner where Christianity is shoved down everyone's throats. Hmm, but I digress. The animation is beautiful (for 1995) and although the soundtrack can sound a bit "disco" at times, most of it fits rather well. The story tends to flex a bit, bending from sci-fi action to high school comedy, but it's never without a purpose. What really got to me in this story was its portrayal of what happens to people when everything goes wrong. The world around you is ending, how do you carry on? In Eva, Tokyo-3 and the geofront have been utterly decimated by the onslaught on angel attacks. Each character has their own reaction to the situation, even exhibiting different types of mental breakdowns. I've read many conflicting reports on the inspiration for the series, stemming from the director's own mental breakdown, either before or during the show's production, or simply that he wanted to make the perfect "otaku" anime. What the true intentions were for Evangelion, I feel that what makes this show so amazing and beloved is that it hits at the core of anyone's trials and tribulations with life. At #5 on my list, the beautifully-crafted Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Favorite Character: Asuka Langley Soryu
I frickin' love Asuka. She is, by far, my favorite character of all anime-dom. Her arrival, in episode 8, hails the change from a series that is quite good, to a series that is one for the ages. Asuka is a nice change of pace from whiny Shinji and silent Rei, and by the time she arrives, we needed it. Asuka is a bitch, a brat, and she feigns confidence better than any other character. However, Evangelion is full of depressed people and Asuka is not exempt from mental breakdowns. She shows the greatest range of emotion, plunging from the heights of grandeur to the pits of hopelessness. She is also more like Shinji than she would ever let on. She finds her self-worth from piloting an Eva and she has lost her mother as well. Although all the characters have difficult pasts, I find Asuka's to be the most interesting. Without her, the show may not have faired as well as it did. I'd like to add that finding images for this selection, both for Eva and for Asuka, was annoying. YOU try searching for either one on Google images!

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 19, "Introjection/A Man's Battle"
This episode starts like any other episode of Eva; Shinji won't pilot an Eva anymore and is running away. OK, his dad did almost force him to murder Toji so I GUESS he's justified this time. As Shinji begins his departure, another Angel attacks. Asuka is almost immediately defeated. Rei gives a brave last stand and pulls an unsuccessful suicide bombing on the Angel. Shinji runs into Kaji who is oddly calm about the situation. Kaji convinces Shinji to pilot his Eva and Shinji runs back to NERV HQ which has already been reached by the Angel. However, the most lasting impact of this episode, for me, is the battle with the Angel. After almost defeating the Angel and running out of power, Unit 01 goes berserk and beats the crap out of the Angel. Then, in a perfect mixture of animation, music, sound effects, and dialog, we see the true horror that is Evangelion: the Beast. This absolutely disgusting scene, as Unit 01 eats the Angel's S2 organs, is one of the most flawless moments in all of animation. I felt disgusted when I first watched it and it still affects me when I watch it today. The scene is a great analogy for playing God and the horrors that man can create. There are few scenes in any show that come even close to many of them from this episode.

4. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

I had heard of Ghost in the Shell long before I watched anime. Eventually, when I started watching anime, I saw the famed film and really liked it. Eventually, in desperation for something to just "have on" while I was working on a computer project, I threw on Stand Alone Complex, in all its Netflix Instant Play glory. I didn't pay attention during the first couple of episodes, as what I watching was a bit confusing, and, I was focusing on the tasks at hand. Fast-forward a few episodes later and I was completely engrossed in the show and became a fan for life. Hands down, SAC has the best storyline I have ever seen. The Laughing Man arc and the stand alone episodes are simply some of the best storytelling I've come across. This, combined with beautiful visuals, engrossing characters, and a fully realized world, creates a truly fantastic experience. It seems as though even the smallest aspects of the world presented have been accounted for. I was convinced (and frankly I still am) that the world of SAC is very close to what our future holds. I would liken this world and the genre of SAC to a futuristic cop drama. On the other hand, it does the cop drama genre better than any show, live-action or otherwise. Being both intellectual and emotional, SAC does have a bit of a learning curve. GITS is not required viewing but it may help. On the other hand, this show exists in a different universe, where the Major has never met the Puppet Master. The incarnation of the Major in SAC is a bit more accessible than the Major of GITS and I feel that is for the betterment of the show. Of course, it's pretty hard to get through talking about this SAC without mentioning the soundtrack. Yoko Kanno, an anime soundtrack legend, really outdoes herself here. The inclusion of jazz, rock, classical and techno gives this show a sense of being both modern and ahead of its time. Also, several tracks seem to pay homage to the soundtrack of GITS, which was both mysterious and heady. Both soundtracks still run chills down my spine. Non-anime fans that I've recommended this to have had a hard time tackling SAC, mostly with the response, "y she no wear pantz?" Even still, Stand Alone Complex is well worth #4 on my list.

Favorite Character: Togusa
Although I was very tempted to put the Major down, there has always been something about Togusa that I've liked. He is a bit of an outsider, being the least cyborg, and he is also a family man. He is an altogether different type of detective. He is the best critical thinker of the group and for that reason he stands out in a lot of episodes. I get the distinct feeling that he is Kenji Kamiyama's favorite too, as he seems to secretly be the main character of the first season. Whether or not this is true, Togusa still holds his own against the other members of Section 9 and cybercriminals alike.

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 24, "Complex: Sunset in the Lonely City /ANNIHILATION"
This one is a bit of a sentimental favorite. It may not have the most action, the most story, or the most thought-provoking content. However, it does show the "human side" of the characters. Chief Aramaki finally shows his hand in order to stop Secretary General Yakushima. However, due to politics, the Chief has to disband Section 9. His last words to the Major, ?Don't die. Survive, no matter what." always bring a tear to my eye. The team stalls the Umib?zu in order to escape and spread the truth about the Laughing Man case. Finally, Batou questions the Major about her attachment to a certain watch and why she continues to use a female body. It is in this episode that we first see some weakness in the team, as the hunt for their capture begins. Many questions remain unanswered from this episode but most of these are wrapped on nicely during SAC's fantastic conclusion.

3. Futurama

Stardate: 1999; the Simpsons had been on for roughly 10 years and Fox wanted another hit from Matt Groening. Futurama was the result; a masterful satire of the turn of the millennium, but a millennium later than the one you'd think. However, nobody bargained that it would be better than the Simpsons. A man, (I use this term loosely,) from 1999 is accidentally frozen and wakes up in the year 3000. He finds the future of modern society; a world of robots, aliens, and an oddly strong dose of our current culture. Futurama is often nerdy, regularly endearing, and always hilarious. It's simultaneously more highbrow and lowbrow than most other cartoon sitcoms running these days, with exceptions to each but rarely both. Why Fox ever canceled this show in the first place is a mystery to me. However, it enjoyed a successful run on Adult Swim and finally has a home on Comedy Central. The new episodes that have been airing have still been hilarious; however, the sweet side of Futurama seems to be gone. On the other hand, that is small price to pay to see such an amazing show back in production. Thankfully, no characters have been left behind and the wit is still timely and refreshing (compared to most things on the boob tube.) If you ever gleaned any sort of enjoyment out of , then my #3 pick, Futurama, is sure to please.

Favorite Character: Bender
In a nutshell, a wise-cracking, smoking, drinking, foul-mouthed robot. Bender is the character who says and does whatever he wants. He's mean, unethical, rude and oh so hilarious. He's a bit of a Bart Simpsons 2.0. Over the years, Bart has gotten a lot more tame and Bender, he's the same old Bender. I wouldn't blame you if he's not your favorite character since there are so many great ones but if he's not, I'll say it anyway, "Bite my shiny, metal ass!"

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 58, "Less than Hero"
There's just something with me and parody episodes. There are overall better episodes of Futurama but the comic book superhero parody in "Less than Hero" cracks me up. Perhaps the greatest part of this episode is Bender's alter-ego, "Super King". Bender, lacking superpowers, is just that vain that he would make his alias not just a king but a super king. Gotta love it.

2. Daria

Remember when being an angsty teen didn't involve a bad haircut and eyeliner? That time was the 90's and MTV still played music. Sorry to reminisce a bit but it was a magical time. Let's quickly segue to the #2 animation, Daria. The story of a bookish teen whose cynicism is only matched by her wit. I love watching Daria simultaneously suffer through the stupidity of her family, teachers, and peers and yet always stick to her guns. She can be a bit of an anti-hero, sometimes being the source of her own problems, but that's part of what is great about her; she is flawed and she knows it. Another great part of the show are the characters that fill the appropriate high school and family roles. Too numerous to list and too true to life, these characters really remind you of your best friend (or worst enemy) from high school. I wish I had known a Daria back in high school. Maybe I'll make some "What would Daria do?" bumper stickers and distribute them freely. At #2, there really aren't enough Darias in the world. As I'm checking my list, almost all of my entries have someone sort of a tsudere-type female, or just straight up cold and unfeeling one in each show. While I consult the nearest therapist about this discovery, please enjoy my thoughts on the #1 animation in the known universe.

Favorite Character: Our titular heroine, Daria. I mean, it is her show after all.

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 9, "Pinch Sitter"
Daria picks up a babysitting job from an ultra-conservative couple. Who wouldn't want to see Daria corrupt perfect children?


WOW, BIG SURPRISE. WAY TO BE ORIGINAL HEAVYMETALMAGE! Yeah, I know. Anyone who has seen my avatar will know that I love FLCL. Oddly enough, it was the first anime I knowingly saw (didn't realize Digimon was anime till years later, duh) and it is still my favorite to this day. I've seen FLCL over and over, which isn't hard to do, yet it still makes me laugh every time. It recently went from relatively obscure, and only obtainable on eBay, to DVD/BD release, and now on Netflix. It makes a little sad to see that I spent a lot of money on the scarce collector's edition not that long ago, and now I'm able to watched it on any device with an internet connection. FLCL will always have the distinction of being the anime that changed my mind about the medium. For years, I actively avoided anime and laughed at those who watched it. Let's just say I was sorely mistaken. FLCL changed anime from being those Japanese Cartoons to my #1 recreational pastime. Yes, I even have this bumper sticker. Now that I've talked it up so much, what makes it so good? First off, it's funny. I mean it is funny. Haruko is one of the wackiest characters out there. The animation is stunning. Every time I watch it, it's hard to believe that this show is over 10 years old. It originally started out as a test of a new computer animation system and this anime is one of the few that gets the balance between computer and classic animation right. A large part of being a test subject was the artistic freedom that came along with it. I don't think a whole of companies would have the cojones to make something like FLCL but it definitely paid off. Along with the artistic nature comes a whole lot of confusion. It's difficult to watch FLCL and love it on your first run, much less understand it. Thankfully, it is only a 6 episode OVA. I don't think the energy and imagination could keep up much longer than that. Whether it was only budgeted for this length or if it was decided based on plot, keeping an anime a certain length is something to be lauded. With all due respect, shows like Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, or InuYasha can't possibly have every episode be wonderful. It's just a law of nature. Too many shows sacrifice quality for quantity. *ahem* Let me get down off my soapbox and continue. Tapping rock band The Pillows for their catalog of music was an excellent choice. Many shows rely on decent classical scores or your standard fluff. Not that a rock n' roll score is in the cards for every anime, but it is yet another excellent choice to round out FLCL's arsenal of awesome. I could go on and on about character design, one-liners, subs vs dubs and everything else that takes up the part of my brain where calculus used to be, but I recommend Just. Watch. FLCL. Even if you've seen it just once or twice, I guarantee that you'll have a better appreciation for it every single time you watch it. The #1 animation of all-time, OF ALL-TIME, FLCL.

Favorite Character: Haruko Haruhara
Without Haruko, this might be a sad little love story between Naota and Mamimi. Throw in Haruko and you get high-speed action, adventure, bass guitars, Vespas, and a whole lot of insanity. It would be difficult to pick another character over Haruko. Her personality is FLCL. Oh and if you ever find a great cosplay of her, let me know. I don't think it can be done.

Favorite episode and/or moment: Episode 4, "Full Swing"
This was a tough choice. Although I love every episode, I almost went with episode 3, "Marquis de Carabas". However, FLCL's sense of irreality gets pushed to the max in episode 4, "Full Swing". The episode was modeled after 1960's art films and the surrealism of those films is persistent throughout. That, coupled with the turning point in Naota's attitude, affirms this episode as the linchpin of the series. Plus, who doesn't want to see Haruko kicking ass at baseball?

Well, that's it folks. I hope you enjoyed it and possibly discovered a new animations worth watching. And hey, in classic heavymetalmage fashion, you even learned waaaay more about me than you'd ever care to know. Feel free to step outside and have a cigarette or, maybe, just throw on an old rerun of Family Matters; you've earned it!

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