To be clear about this, there are certain things I look for in anime. The most predominant is action, and I'm not talking about gratuitous violence. The action in an anime must fit within the confines of the story, a part of it rather that it's sum total. I also look for adult cartoons, not that I get turned on by anime sex or nudity, but like violence, if it fits well within the story, a part of the overall picture, then I don't feel like an older man watching kiddie cartoons. Rather, I feel like a dirty old man watching something that was made for me to watch, which puts me in my comfort zone. A story can only be as good as it's underpinnings, plot and dialog, so those elements must be well above par to make for a good anime. I also feel that since anime is a visual art, that aspect must be well done, and any musical score done for the anime, the performance art aspect, must rise to at least the level of the visual art on order to complement it correctly. I also like a good laugh, so if humor is a part of what I am watching, more the better.
What I don't like in anime are what I like to call stupidity plot elements that do nothing but cheapen the show. This includes chibi, cat girls, harem, jail bait fan service, lolicon, slapstick, cutesy, etc. With the exception of exactly one anime listed below, "Girl Power" or Shojo anime, though I do watch them on very rare occasion, would never make it on this list, there not meant for me anyway. Animes that show people playing games, most especially TCG's, ones that center there plots around sports or romance are way off the list.
I have listed below my top 10 animes of all times in descending order. Listed are the names, there release date, rating, possible objectionable content, and a short comment about each.
10. Speed Racer (1966) Rated G (Cartoon Violence). This was my first introduction into the world of anime went I was a kid. This campy anime has never been redone right, and has stood the test of time as a classic.
9. Vandread (2000) Rated PG (Violence, Mild Adult Themes). Funny, action packed and with some romance, one of my favorite all time Space Operas, much different than most of the others I've seen.
8. Venus 5 (1994) Rated XXX (Hardcore Sex, Full Nudity, Foul Language, Violence). If you look past all the sex in this one, it was a funny "Sailor Moon" parity professionally done with plenty of fighting, and a good story based on Greek mythology.
7. Demon King Daimio (2010) Rated R (Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence). Funny and action packed. This one avoids being a Harem since all the girls in this are either out to use the main character for there own purposes, or kill him. We don't see Magitech as a genera in too many animes, and it's one of my favorites.
6. Twin Angles (1994) Rated XXX (Hardcore Sex, Full Nudity, Foul Language, Violence). Once again , you need to look past all the sex in this one to see a fine story and plenty of combat action in this Heaven vs. Hell tail. The one thing I like about it most that the bad guys in this (ie the forces of Hell) actually win! (Not that I'm rooting for them, just that it takes the predictability out of the story).
5. Iria Zeiram the Animation (1994) Rated PG-13 (Violence, Child Murder). You can classify this one as a Space Opera, a Horror or a Western and be right on all accounts, since it has plot elements from each. Zeiram was the nastiest, baddest assed monster I have ever seen, and I am a big fan of Gothic horror. Violence directed at children is taboo in the west, so you don't see this too often as well.
4. Robotech (1985) Rated PG (Violence). This came out around the same time as the original "Transformers", but was a series meant for older folks like me (Transformers was considered babyish at the time). This was my intro into the world of Mechas. Great story, plenty of action.
3. Ceres, Celestial Legend (2000) Rated PG-13 (Violence, Adult Themes). This emotional roller coaster ride has one element you don't see in too many Shojo animes, extreme violence. All the elements that make for a good anime where rock solid in this one.
2. Deathnote (2006) Rated PG (Adult Themes). Before seeing this, when was the last time you saw an anime story centered from the villains point of view? At that rate, when was the last time you saw a villain win? This series takes us into the mind of a very smart young man who is doing some very disturbing things for what he sees as justice. Another very smart young man sees it for what it is, murder, and the two are locked in a battle of wits. Even without any real violence, this one manged to hold me tightly at the edge of my seat.
1. Record of the Lodoss War (1990) Rated PG (Violence). I have yet to see any anime test the supremacy of this classic fantasy epic. Each an every detail, though every second of this 6 hour long series was methodically perfect. It grips you hard out of your seat and this world for a wild ride thought an animation experience unequaled by any other.
That's my top 10, what are yours?