Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary anime director behind Spirited Away and Ponyo, recently announced that The Wind Rises was his last film before retirement. As easily one of the best directors Japanese animation has ever seen, Miyazaki was an inspiration for the art form, but he is not the only one. Here are the ten best directors Japanese anime has ever seen.

1) Osamu Tezuka

Known for Astro Boy, Black Jack, Dororo, Metropolis

As the granddaddy of modern animation, Tezuka has inspired many. You may not necessarily have seen many of his works, but if you watch anime, chances are that many of your favorites were inspired by Tezuka’s contributions to the industry.

2) Toyo Ashida

Known for Fist of the North Star, Vampire Hunter D

Again, one of those people that defined modern anime, Toyo Ashida’s works include the iconic Fist of the North Star and Vampire Hunter D. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also done animation work for the classics Yatterman and Candy Candy, two of the most influential works of all time.

3) Noriyuki Abe

Known for Bleach, Tokyo Mew Mew, Yu Yu Hakusho

Bleach, Tokyo Mew Mew (stupidly called Hollywood Mew Mew in stateside), and Yu Yu Hakusho are so different from each other that it’s difficult to imagine they are all directed by the same guy. But they really are, and that guy is Noriyuki Abe, the man who has defined modern supernatural anime. He clearly likes working with ghosts, and considering how awesome the shows are, he should keep doing so for many more years.

4) Shinichiro Watanabe

Known for Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Kids on the Slope

A modern legend. Watanabe is the man that changed animation forever by showing how deep themes like the meaning of life can be merged with great gun-blazing action in Cowboy Bebop. He forever changed how we view feudal Japan with Samurai Champloo and then mixed animation and music perfectly in Kids on the Slope. Seriously, watch his anime.

5) Seiji Mizushima

Known for Slayers Next, Shaman King, Fullmetal Alchemist, Un-Go

While Fullmetal Alchemist is easily his career’s biggest work, Seiji Mizushima has followed it up with the very unique Un-Go and had previously directed the well received Slayers Next. And we know the Shaman King English dub was awful, but the first rule of anime is to never judge the original based on the dub.

6) Daisuke Nishio

Known for DragonBall, DragonBall Z

If you weren’t born an adult and had a childhood, chances are you know DragonBall and DragonBall Z. Here is the man who brought you those snail-paced 400 episodes. To this day, every time you pretend to charge up an imaginary Kamehameha and fire it at someone, be sure to thank Nishio. And on top of that, he’s also done some work on One Piece.

7) Tetsuro Araki

Known for Death Note, Attack on Titan, and High School of the Dead

Wow, what a portfolio. He's responsible for possibly the most popular anime in recent times Death Note, the most-hyped ongoing anime Attack on Titan, and all the fan service weird sickos could want with High School of the Dead. Plus, he’s even done some work on Gungrave and Black Lagoon. Seriously, what a resume!

8) Hideaki Anno

Known for Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Neon Genesis Evangelion

A frequent collaborator with Miyazaki, Anno was the man behind the animation classic Nadia and the iconic series Neon Genesis Evangelion. Plus, he was also an animator on Grave of the Fireflies, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, and Macross Plus. So, yes, he has been involved in some seriously big things.

9) Morio Asaka

Known for Cardcaptor Sakura, Gunslinger Girl, Chobits, Nana

Even though there’s a lot of anime that doesn’t put women in a good light, there are still some really good stories revolving around female characters, and a lot of these have been directed by Morio Asaka, who works with the famous Madhouse production studio. With Cardcaptor Sakura (Cardcaptors in the US), Gunslinger Girl, Chobits, and Nana, Morio has done pretty much everything from action to drama to comedy. Plus, he’s even done some work for Claymore and Devil May Cry: The Animated Series. Yeah, he’s good.

10) Shinji Aramaki

Known for Appleseed, Viper’s Creed, Halo Legends

Shinji Aramaki is unique in that even though his directorial work with Appleseed and Viper’s Creed is very well regarded, he’s done even better work as a designer on animes like s-CRY-ed, Astro Boy (2003), Digimon Tamers, and even Fullmetal Alchemist. So while his directing isn’t as famous as his designing, he’s still done enough awesome stuff to qualify as a modern icon.

11) Bonus: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Known for Rurouni Kenshin, Hunter x Hunter, Le Chevalier D’Eon

Now here is a man who knows how to direct some really unique stuff. Kazuhiro Furuhashi has directed some very unconventional anime including Hunter x Hunter and Le Chevalier D’Eon. But perhaps his most underrated gem, Rurouni Kenshin, is his best work. And to really round out his resume, he’s even done some work for the Ranma franchise.

So who are your favorite, consistent anime directors? Be sure to share in the comments below! Just remember, make it someone who’s had more than one awesome hit.

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