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The Ultimate Anime Poll

Well, it's certainly a great big one, and the voters are the Japanese public. So, why did HEIDI trounce EVANGELION? And why is the twenty-year old GUNDAM (reportedly planned for airing on Cartoon Network) the greatest anime ever?

By Andrew Osmond     October 10, 2000

One of the largest anime polls ever has been conducted in Japan by the TV channel Animax, the men's magazine Brutus and the video rental chain Tsutaya. A whopping 187,373 people voted for their favorite anime titles, characters and songs. The results make fascinating reading for Western fans, demonstrating the enormous contrast between perceptions of anime at home (that is, in Japan) and abroad. While the Western image of Japanese animation is eternally skewed toward blockbusters like Akira and Mononoke, plus kids' shows such as Pokemon and Astro Boy, in Japan the medium is dominated by sports shows, robot cats, and girls frolicking in the snowcapped Alps.

In fairness, some of the names on the list are familiar to Western fans. The top anime title of all time is Gundamthough this immediately raises the question: which Gundam? After all, the mobile suit franchise has been through innumerable incarnations in the last two decades, including the recent Gundam Wing, seen on Cartoon Network's 'Toonami.' Jonathan Clements, anime translator and commentator, points out some poll respondents are inevitably more pedantic than others. In other words, many Gundam voters may have been thinking of the later versions, not the 'original' serial:

'Note that franchises such as Gundam, Lupin III and Dragon Ball all appear in the poll more than once. It's likely that many of the generic votes that placed them high were from former anime fans unable to remember the exact title, while more exacting hard-core fans split their votes between, say, the Lupin III TV series (which itself appeared in multiple incarnations) and the Lupin movie Castle of Cagliostro. Or between the first Gundam TV series (transmitted in 1979) and specific sequels such as Gundam Wing (which has a distinct placing at No 52).'

Of the other 'top ten' anime, readers will recognize Lupin III, Monkey Punch's master-thief riding high at 2, while the fight-saga Dragon Ball gets fourth place (see also below). Space Battleship Yamato, dubbed in the States as Star Blazers, is in at 5, while Gainax's robot show-cum-psycho drama Evangelion is ranked at 7. But another top placing goes to Doraemon (3), a robot cat beloved by children and Japan's most ubiquitous anime/manga icon. Then at No 6 there's Heidi, a well-remembered serialization of Johanna Spyri's children's classic, made in 1974. Heidi represents an early partnership between Studio Ghibli founders Isao Takahata, who directed, and Hayao Miyazaki (Mononoke), who drew the background layouts. Both Doraemon and Heidi are familiar in much of Asia and Europe, but obscure in America.

Positions 8 and 9, meanwhile, go to sports series, one of the most under-represented anime genres in the West. 8th ranked Kyojin no Hoshi (Star of the Giants) is a 1968 series about a little boy who, rather than become a robot pilot or samurai master, strives to join Japan's greatest real-life baseball team, the Yomiuri Giants. Ashita No Joe (Tomorrow's Joe), at #9, is the 1970 anime version of a hugely successful pre-Rocky manga about a hero boxer. (A follow-up series, the imaginatively-titled Ashita No Joe 2, is ranked 70 in the poll.) The #10 spot goes to a more recent hero, the diminutive super-sleuth Detective Conan.

Of the other 90 winners, familiar TV titles include:
* Son Goku's gang picking up another prize for Dragon Ball Z (11);
* Leiji Matsumoto's cosmic train fantasy Galaxy Express 999 (14), adapted in both TV and movie forms;
* Post-apocalypse martial-arts show Fist of the North Star (19);
* Osamu Tezuka's pint-sized defender Astro Boy (24), the first export megahit in America;
* Rumiko Takahashi's celebration of bikini-clad obnoxious aliens, Urusei Yatsura (25);
* The dreaded Pokemon (28);
* 1982 space-opera Macross (38), remade as the start of Robotech; plus. its 1972 SF predecessor Gatchaman (41), variously remade as G-Force, Eagle Riders and Battle of the Planets;
* Rurouni Kenshin, a 'wandering sword' drama popular with Western fans (43);
* The not-unknown (!) Card Captor Sakura (46);
* Sleaze in space with the ultra-hip Cowboy Bebop (48), boasting a criminally brilliant soundtrack;
* Patlabor (52), whose creators include anime auteur Mamoru Oshii, director of the Patlabor films and Ghost in the Shell;
* Maison Ikkoku (59), Takahashi's low-key boarding house romance; and her manic metamorphosis farce Ranma˝ (69);
* Tezuka's Jungle Emperor (77), dubbed in America as Simbaahem, Kimba, the White Lion;
* Nemo versus Atlanteans in Hideaki Anno's 19th-century yarn Secret of Blue Water (79);
* The anime babes that make me think the wrong thing, Sailor Moon (83);
* Pokemon's rivals, Digimon (88);
* The least competent fantasy warriors in the business, Slayers (92)
* Bionic detective 8th Man (98), another series exported to America in the '60s (not to be confused with the more violent '80s video sequel Eight Man After).

Interestingly, relatively few movies make the list. (It appears there weren't many on the pollsters' original list of anime from which to choose.) The Miyazaki films Nausicaa (16), Totoro (18), Laputa (23) and Cagliostro (36) all make a showing, though the director's most commercially successful film, Princess Mononoke, only manages 50. Elsewhere, Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, still the anime film for many Westerners, arrives at 45, but one looks in vain for Perfect Blue, Ghost in the Shell or Wings of Honnemaise. The top ten anime characters, in descending order, are Doraemon; Lupin; Son Goku (Dragon Ball); Char and enemy/ally Amuro Rei (from the original Gundam); Yabuki Joe (of Ashita No Joe); Totoro; Pikachu (eek!); Detective Conan; and Astro Boy. Bubbling just under are Nausicaa, Lum and Ken (of Fist of the North Star).

So what does this mean? Jonathan Clements concedes, 'Such surveys are always skewed by younger participants with no frame of reference (which is why Britney Spears makes it into all-time top 100s). Despite the voting block of hard-core fans and children, this is a fair and representative cross-section at the Japanese anime market. Less than 50% of the titles are available in English. Seven of the top ten titles are over 20 years old, though we can reasonably expect some adult votes to be skewed by hazy memories. Japan's highest-rated TV anime, the housewife sitcom Sazae-san with 1500 episodes under its belt, only places 12th, showing that much of its viewership is the kind of people who neither habitually watch an anime cable channel, rent videos or read Brutus magazine...in other words a much older, more casual audience with high female numbers.

Clements continues, 'Of the top 20 characters, only three date from the last five years. Many of the others are decades old. Most of the titles are TV series, and although many have feature-length spin-offs, there is the barest handful of stand-alone movies, predominantly Miyazaki's family films and Akira tucked away at 45. Anime remains a TV phenomenon watched by a large cross-section of the Japanese public, though many of the respondents appear to be accidental viewers, recalling a series they watched as a child and have since re-viewed with their own children. Shows such as Doraemon, for example, have babysat for two generations of Japanese children and remain constantly in the perceptions of children and parents. The same survey put to an English-speaking audience would generate vastly more straight-to-video titles, place some children's TV series higher and drop the un-translated material almost completely.'

So there you go. And just remember, next time a friend (or enemy) starts raving about the supreme brilliance of Evangelion, Akira or Mononoke...say what you like, but they've all been soundly beaten by Japan's home contingent of baseball players, hero boxers, robot cats andas if we could forgetrosy-cheeked Alpine girls. There's a lesson there somewhere...














































































































































































































































































































































































































The Top 100 Anime
1. Mobile Suit Gundam
2.Lupin III
3. Doraemon
4. Dragon Ball
5. Space Battleship Yamato
6. Heidi, Girl Of The Alps
7. Neon Genesis Evangelion
8.Star of the Giants
9.Tomorrow's Joe
10.Detective Conan
11.Dragon Ball Z
12. Sazae-san
13.Chibi Maruko-Chan
14. Galaxy Express 999
15.Candy Candy
16.Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
17. Touch
18.My Neighbor Totoro
19.Fist of the North Star
20.Initial D
21. Future Boy Conan
22. Dog of Flanders
23. Laputa: Castle in the Sky
24. Astro Boy
25.Urusei Yatsura
26. Yu Yu Hakusho
27. Z Gundam
28.Pokemon
29.Rose of Versailles
30.City Hunter
31.Devil Man
32.Mazinga Z
33.Aim for the Ace
34. Crayon Shin-chan
35. One Piece
36.Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro
37.Muscle Man
38.Macross
39.Slam Dunk
40.Tiger Mask
41. Gatchaman
42.Anpan Man
43. Rurouni Kenshin
44.Pazeru 2
45.Akira
46. Card Captor Sakura
47.Sanzenri
48.Cowboy Bebop
49.Raigamarusukaru
50.Princess Mononoke
51.GTO
52.Gundam Wing
53.Mobile Police Patlabor
54.Cat's Eye
55.Captain Wing
56.Ojiyaru Maru
57.Legend of Galactic Heroes
58.Cyborg 009
59.Maison Ikkoku
60.Dr. Slump
61. Time Bokan
62.Marine Triton
63.Trigun
64. Kimengumi
65. Attack No. 1
66. Kiteretsu
67. Bakabon
68.Ribbon Knight
69.Ranma 1/2
70.Tomorrow's Joe 2
71.Dunbine
72.This Police Box Katsushika Ward
73.Mumin
74.Nadesico
75.Armored Trooper Votoms
76.Hunter X Hunter
77.Junlge Emperor
78.Adventure of Ganba
79.Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
80.Magical Sally
81. GeGeGe Kintaro
82. Saint Fighter Star Arrow
83. Sailor Moon
84. Time Bokan
85. Space Monster Human Pe
86. Gundam ZZ
87.Hakeshiyon Large Devil
88.Digimon Adventure
89.Small Public Female Sailor
90.Tetsuhito 28
91.Fushigi Namruma
92.Slayers
93.Dokavenn
94.Tsukou Giants
95.Cyborg Kuro-chan
96.Casebook of Young Kindachi
97.Blackjack
98.Eight Man
99.Mikbao
100.Akazukin Cha Cha

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