So it’s nearing the end of the year and the “top five anime” lists are coming out. I can’t say which are the “best” anime, since tastes differ so widely. And I can’t limit myself to any specific number. Except for the number “two”: for me, Honey & Clover and Ichigo Mashimaro are clearly the top anime of the year.

Honey & Clover reached new heights of popularity for a late-night jousei (young women’s) anime. The artistic look, nice humor and subtle romantic drama really made it special. Of course, it helps a lot to start with a great manga and stick to it almost word-for-word.

Ichigo Mashimaro is, for me, the funniest anime ever made. The dry, subtle humor is wonderful. The supreme cuteness is irresistible. Good animation, good music. And the best ensemble voice-acting performances ever. Orikasa Fumiko as Miu is the superstar here, but Nabatame Hitomi as Nobue-oneesan comes very close. Chiba Saeko as Chika, Noto Mamiko as Ana and Kawasumi Ayako as Matsuri round out the all-star cast. That the great Kawasumi-san may be the least effective shows at what a high level these ladies are working. And Like H&C, IM is based on a terrific manga, too.

Other top shows:
Mahoraba — sweet and deep
Paradise Kiss — a weird but worthy successor in Honey & Clover’s TV time-slot
PetoPeto-san — one of the most moe shows ever, and the characters and emotions work
Glass Mask — fine retelling of a great story
Canvas2 — a harem anime with real emotional depth
Noein — fantastic animation, with obvious but effective use of 3D CG, and a real SF plot with real characters possessing real emotions
Suzuka — sports and high-school romance, at a higher level
Zettai Shounen — mood and emotional depth in a Saturday-morning cartoon show
Shuffle! — the series started shallow but became deep about half-way through
Air TV — best animation ever in a TV anime
Air movie — a severe condensation that works
Bokusatsu Tenshi Dokoro-chan — Chiba Saeko is great, and the violent angel concept is hilarious
Karin — hard to be sure after six episodes, but the director of Mahoraba seems to have made another great anime adaptation, hilarious and humane
Futakoi Alternative — I loved the three-way angst, others loved the crazed comic violence.