I hope these last posts have been insightful.  Here are my top 10 series ranked.

Rating: Superb (95-99); Captivating (92-94); Very Good (89-91); Good (85-88)

1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Superb (98)
Story/plot – 20 
Character development – 20 
Originality/uniqueness – 19 
Production values – 19 
Conclusion/logic – 20

2. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion – Superb (97)
Story/plot – 20
Character development – 20 
Originality/uniqueness – 19 
Production values – 18 
Conclusion/logic – 20  

3. Neon Genesis Evangelion – Superb (97)
Story/plot – 20 
Character development – 20 
Originality/uniqueness – 20
Production values – 19 
Conclusion/logic – 18

4. Space Battleship Yamato – Captivating (94)
Story/plot – 19
Character development – 18 
Originality/uniqueness – 20 
Production values – 18 
Conclusion/logic – 19 

5. Gungrave – Superb (95)
Story/plot – 20 
Character development – 20 
Originality/uniqueness – 18 
Production values – 17  
Conclusion/logic – 20 

6. Trigun – Captivating (93)  
Story/plot – 19 
Character development – 19 
Originality/uniqueness – 19 
Production values – 17 
Conclusion/logic – 19
 
7. Cowboy Bebop – Captivating (94)
Story/plot – 18 
Character development – 18 
Originality/uniqueness – 20 
Production values – 20 
Conclusion/logic – 18 

8. Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam – Captivating (94)
Story/plot – 19 
Character development – 19 
Originality/uniqueness – 18 
Production values – 20 
Conclusion/logic – 18 

9. Great Teacher Onizuka – Very Good (89)
Story/plot – 18 
Character development – 18 
Originality/uniqueness – 19 
Production values – 16 
Conclusion/logic – 18 

10. Bleach – Very Good (91)
Story/plot – 19 
Character development – 18 
Originality/uniqueness – 19 
Production values – 17 
Conclusion/logic – 18

Update: I moved Code Geass to number two after watching it for a third time.  I really love this series.
 
 
When I look at the production values in an anime series, 85% of my grading is determinated by how it looks.  If a series looks like Cowboy Bebop, I give the series 20 most of the times.  I look at music and direction as enhancements.  But if a series does not have great music and direction, I do not penalize it.  In my experience watching anime, I never have come across a series that looks amazing but has awful music.  Great animation and great music seem to always go together.
 
On the other hand, I have come across series that have good but not great animation but are greatly enhanced by other production values.  Based on looks alone, I would give Bakemonogatari 18 points for production values, but I gave it 19 points because of the way the animators use small on screen messages and shadows.  These are great tools to enhance the atmosphere and convey more information.  Haibane-Renmei and Sound of the Sky (So Ra No Wo To) are also enhanced by their atmosphere.

Originality and uniqueness are hard to judge because most series inevitabely are going to use past works as reference.  For exmple, any mecha series is going to be connacted and compared to Mazinger or Gundam.  I judge originality in a series based on how uniquely elements from past series are used.  You can have a series, like Gurren Lgann, that use mechas and elements from past series that can still be cool and interesting with their approach or take on an exiting gnere.  Keep in mind that I rarely give 20's for originality/uniqueness.  I reserve such scores to groundbreaking series like Mobile Suit Gundam (Gundam 0079) and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
 
 
Now, let us talk about how conclusions and logic can determine how great an anime series can be.  Too often we watch how very good anime series end up feeling disappointing because their conclusions are rushed, incomplete or do not make much sense.  There are exceptions, of course.

Three anime series that I think have excellent conclusions are Ouran High School Host Club, Azumanga Daioh and Rumbling Hearts.  The Ouran anime series is a manga adaption and because of that, they are often incomplete.  The television series adapts part of the manga, but the anime creators did a good job tying several of the loose ends.  I did not longe for more Ouran High School Host Club anime because it had enough closure.

In the case of Azumanga Daioh, the conclusion was very good because the path of all the girls was clearly defined.  It might be easier to conclude a slice of life anime, but I want to give credit where it is due.  Another series with a very good ending is Rumbling Hearts.  I realize that this series has some defficiences (like poor animation and over the top drama), but the conclusion is very satsfying because it has closure, even if it is sad.

Next, I will give examples of unsatisfying conclusions and lapses of logic.  Neon Genesis Evangelion is a great series that has suffered some criticism because of its ending.  The last two episodes should not ruin the legacy of Evangelion in my opinion.  As far as I know Hideaki Anno had to patch up an ending for the series because he ran out of funds.  I will give Anno the benefit of the doubt because the rest of the series is pretty much flawless.

Another revered series that could have used more closure and logic is Cowboy Bebop.  At the end of the series the audience does not exactly know what was going to happen to Spike, Faye and Jet.  I criticize Cowboy Bebop because its conclusion is too hectic as we see how thing accelerate very rapidly in the last three episodes.  Things that I did not think were there, existed (Faye's love toward Spike for example).

I hope I made my point and showed that conclusions are not the most crucial elements when determining what makes a great anime series but are important.  In the cases of Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop, their conclusions might have damaged their overall reputation just a bit.  It is also possible for well done conclusions, with closure and logic, to elevate the reputation of series like Rumbling Hearts.

Early next week I hope to end the discussion talking about originality/uniqueness and production values in anime series.
 
 
Today I will discuss how great story/plot and character development are the two most imprtant elements to create a great anime series.

I have awarded 20 points to each of these two categories to several of my favorite series.  To begin, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has a great story and plot because it has a memorable story that begins with a premise centered around two brothers looking for the philosopher's stone.  Eventually the series progresses to a point where the actions of the main characters could potentially affect the whole world.  

Character development in FMA:B is excellent as we see how the main characters evolve throughout the series.  Neon Genesis Evangelion is also an amazing piece of fiction.  But for now, I will focus on character development in Evangelion.  The masterpiece by Hideaki Anno is very complex and hard to watch because of how painful life is for most of the characters.  Characters in other anime series have tough issues too, but I have not seen any other show that better conveys the psychological aspect of it.

Another series with 20 points for story and plot and 20 points for character development is Code Geass.  This series, like the two mentioned before, has a great story and great characters.  Something that I find interesting from Code Geass is that besides having an amazing conclusion and a masterful final episode, it has good but not great animation for a Sunrise production.  It can also be argued that Code Geass is very unoriginal because it borrows many elements from previous series.  Despite these minor shortcomings, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion proves that a great story and great characters are the keys to make a great series.

Next time I will talk about conclusion and logic.
 
 
I have developed a scoring system to determinate how great an anime series is.   I use five catagories, which are given a scale from 16 to 20 points, depending on the quality.  The series closest to 100 points is the greatest anime series.

The first category I use (and probably the most important of all) is the story concept and how the plot progresses.  A great story begins with an interesting premise.  In addition to having an imaginative story, a good story teller needs to include elements like secrets, big revelations and sudden changes to keep the audience interested.

The second crucial element in a great anime is character development.  For me great characters are those with complex issues and/or unique personalities.  I greatly admire anime creators who are capable of making us fall in love with the characters.  This can also be done by showing us how the characters grow/mature overtime.  In addition, it helps when we can relate to the fictional characters.

The third most important aspect  to determinate the quality or greatness of an anime is how the story concludes and whether or not it makes sense.  A great conclusion is one that tries to tie all the loose ends and explains what is going to happen to the main characters.  Logic for me is when the different elements introduced in a series lead somewhere.  A bad conclusion can downgrade an anime.   

The originality and uniqueness in a series is not a make or break element in an anime, but it can enhance the experience.  Anime, like any other form of media, often borrows elements from past works.  As more anime is created, it is hard to come up with something 100% original.  If an entirely new concept cannot be developed, great anime makers can use their ingenuity to create unique experiences based on existent concepts.

The last, but not least, element is production values.  This mainly refers to the quality of the animation in a particular series.  But it also deals with things like what kind of "camera" angles are used, the sequence in which events and episodes are presented and how effective time is used when the series are short.

This week I want to used high profile anime series to better illustrate my points.  Be warned, it will contain some spoilers.
 
 
Episodes 39-42: After a silly and unecessary football (soccer) episode, Eureka and Renton have finally entered the "zone".  I also learned about the sad but hopeful love between Norb and Sakuya.  This far in the story there is still not enough information about what the hell happened to Diane.

Episodes 43-46: It was painful to see Eureka and Trenton struggle to understand what was going on.  It was neat to finally learn the genesis of the story and that the events had been happening on the Earth all along.  And what's the big deal with Diane?  She did not live up to the hype.

Episodes 47-50: The last three episodes were emotional and a bit teary.  Things made enough sense but could have been better.  I was dissapointing that Bones tried to wrap up things with Dewey's death, only to have it not mean anything the next minute.  I am glad Eureka and Renton stayed together, but why make an all is fixed, fairy tale ending.
 
 
Episodes 27-30: These four episodes were very intense and revealing.  It was sad to see Charles and Ray die; they were cool and interesting.  It was nice to finally learn about the mysterious origins of Eureka and the Nirvash.  Holland and Talho seem to be patching things up, but WTF Bones?  I did not want sexy Talho to go away.

Episodes 31-34: These have to be the most enjoyable and probably best episodes of the series so far.  Episode 32 was great, and the mecha action was amazing.  Things are starting to make more sense after revealing that this planet is not Earth.  The pacing is very good with calm after high tension.

Episodes 35-38: I really enjoy when Eureka Seven is able to nicely combine drama and high tension with calmess and a bit of comedy.  I finally learned something about the enigmatic Diane and Adroc.  Episode 38 was great.  I love how a misunderstanding between Renton and Eureka led to questions on sexuality and the meaning of family.  I rarely see anime that abords how young and old people deal with sexuality and its consequences, good and bad.  I feel proud of myself because I anticipated that Dewey had seduced the female sage, Koda.
 
 
Episodes 11-15: The series is staring get more intense as more elements from the main storyline have appeared.  I am puzzled by Anemone.  She appeared to be crazy and evil at first, be she appears to be being manipulated.  I feel that the true character of the series is near.

Episodes 16-20: These were five hard episodes to watch.  It was depressing to watch Eureka suffer and become distant from Renton.  The craziness is starting to pick up, and Renton has apparently gone insane.  As much as I like drama an intensity, it tends to be a bit cliche and over the top.

Episodes 21-26: A new groovy and mysterious couple has appeared, Charles and Ray.  And I think I have found my second favorite lady.  Holland is finally starting to make sense.  Half way through Eureka Seven, the series feels pretty good.  The scenario is set up for a nice conclusion.
 
 
This week I will be watching Eureka Seven for the first time.  I will be reporting about my impressions.

Episodes 1-5: Things started very fast in the first two episodes.  After this, it was nice to start to know the crew of the Gekko.  I am falling in love with Talho.  I am enjoying the start of Eureka Seven so far.  I am glad the series is beginning with humor before the more dramatic episodes come.

Episodes 6-10: The feel and pacing continues to be enjoyable.  There is plenty of character development, and the story is beginning to move.  As a big fan of romance and heartfelt experiences, I am really digging the relationships of Renton with Eureka and Talho with Holland.
 
 
Let me say, first of all, that Cowboy Bebop is one of my favorites animes.  I think its is one of the best anime series ever created.  I did this little exercise because I noticed some crious things about the sequence of the episodes.

I love episodes like Jupiter Jazz (parts 1 and 2) because we get to see how Cowboy Bebop can transform from an action-oriented and laid back experience to a great drama driven by magnificent character development.  My problem comes when Keiko Nobumoto and Shinichiro Watanabe decide to return to action and relaxation right after intense drama episodes.  I can understand why this is used as a resource to not over burn the viewer, but it can be bothersome to suddenly interrup the drama.

I frequently compare Cowboy Bebop with another Sunrise space opera, Outlaw Star.  By no means Outaw Star's story is better than Cowboy Bebop, but the creators of the former do a better job with pacing and the order in which the episodes are presented.

I hope this excercise was interesting and might have sparked some constructive debate.  For me Cowboy Bebop is one of the ten best anime series of all time.  It is an awesome experience, but a change in the order in which the episodes were presented might have placed Cowboy Bebop among the 3 greatest anime series ever made.