What makes anime so different from other shows?
Anime are fascinating millions of people with their special charm, especially foreigners. I too, became hooked on anime a long time ago. It started with shows like Detective Conan or Ranma ½ when I was a little girl and didn’t even know what anime were. As a teenager I rediscovered my love for them and simultaneously also for Japan and its culture. So you could say that anime have been part of my life for a long time now and are rather important to me.
I want to present my personal Top 5 shows and try to see what drew me into anime. It is really hard to limit my favorites to five choices since my decision is greatly affected by my current mood. These are just some shows that mean a lot to me and have both entertained me as well as given me some life lessons.
This list is organized in chronological order so you can get a feeling for my journey into the world of anime. Please enjoy!
5. Digimon Adventure
- Episodes: 54
- Aired: March 1999 - March 2000
When it comes to the old question Pokémon vs. Digimon I don’t have to think twice. Some of my best childhood memories include watching the group of friends together with their Digimon partners going on new adventures.
It’s not only Digimon Adventure but the whole Digimon Series that grabbed my attention. I guess it’s the fact that it’s one of the shows I grew up with that makes me include it to my personal favorites. It is also a great anime when it comes to friendship – the kids that one summer get lost in the Digiworld don’t only slowly turn into friends, but also form a great bond with the Digimon. All the adventures they go on and the places they explore together made me fall in love with this show.
Just listening to the Opening Song of Digimon Adventure still gives me the chills and sometimes even brings a tear or two to my eyes.
4. Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl’s Moving Castle)
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: November 2004
A Studio Ghibli movie just had to be included on this list even though they technically don’t count as anime shows. For me, Howl’s Moving Castle was a clear choice. As the first Ghibli movie I have ever watched it has stayed in my mind ever since. Even as a child and without knowing anything about Miyazaki or a mythical land called Japan I felt that this movie was so different from everything I have watched before. The characters didn’t act like I expected and the storyline went into directions I never would have thought of.
If I am being honest with you I still don’t really understand the full spectrum of the story around Sophie and Howl. But that’s exactly why I love this movie so much. Just like other Ghibli movies I can watch it multiple times, at different points in my life, and discover something new about it. Somehow it always feels like it’s the first time watching it. Even though the story of the Moving Castle is set in a completely different universe you can still appreciate and relate to the characters.
To this day I am still fascinated how a movie can be both complex and lighthearted at the same time.
3. Angel Beats!
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2010 – June 2010
We all have it, the one show that got us into anime. It can be a childhood show or a recommendation of a good friend. Your reason for watching this show does not matter, only the fact that after you are done with it you continue your journey into the world of anime. For me, this show was Angel Beats!. The story revolving around Otonashi’s new life after waking up in the afterlife caught me off-guard and played with my emotions like no other show.
I still remember how I watched the whole show within a few hot summer nights many years ago. I just couldn’t believe what was happening in front of my eyes, how the fascinating shows of my childhood could also be filled with emotions and drama. I was laughing with the very first episode and crying by the end of the finale. I guess Angel Beats! just showed me what anime are really about and that they can be more than just the adventure filled stories of my childhood. That’s why this show definitely still holds a special place in my heart.
2. Arakawa under the Bridge
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2010 – June 2010
Never would I have thought that Arakawa under the Bridge would be part of my Top 5 anime. When I first started watching it I kept wondering what the show was all about. It was so weird and different from everything I have enjoyed in the past that I couldn’t comprehend why anyone would like this show. Who would have thought that I had to change my opinion completely?
I guess you could describe the plot as a love story between businessman Kou Ichinomiya and the weird Nino. There’s much more to this anime than that; there are friends wearing full-body costumes and weird masks, armed nuns, vicious women and much more. Before watching Arakawa under the Bridge I loved deep and meaningful shows with a well thought-out storyline and great character development. Arakawa under the Bridge changed all of that. Once I stopped taking this show serious it became a great way to relax on the weekend and to just forget about all my worries.
Arakawa under the Bridge gave simply hilarious a new meaning for me.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2011 - March 2012
Including Chihayafuru on this list was actually a hard decision. Even though I really enjoyed both seasons, I didn’t think it would become part of my Top 5 list. The more I thought about it though, the clearer it became to me that I still think about the story to this day and that it’s one of my favorite shows when it comes to well organized and interesting story lines.
The story introduces the traditional Japanese card game called Karuta as well as protagonist Chihaya’s journey on becoming Japan’s best player. I have never heard of this game before nor was I really interested in a show that would mainly revolve around it. Chihayafuru definitely was a big surprise for me. It pulled me in without much effort and managed to not only explain the rules but also the whole beauty and history behind Karuta within a few episodes.
Chihayafuru showed me that anime can also be informative and slow without getting boring. Not only does it include information but it is also beautifully drawn and the story progresses at a perfect tempo. Chihayafuru shows the best combination of all the different aspects that make a good anime.
What all of my favorite shows have in common is the fact that they showed me new aspects of anime. They were either informative, filled with emotions or just ridiculously weird. They have opened my mind, not only for new shows, but also in life in general.
My initial question, what makes anime so special, is still hard to answer for me. But the feeling that they are so different from all other forms of entertainment I was used to is still present today. It probably has to do with the fact that the Japanese mindset and way of storytelling are so different from Western ones. No matter what reason it is, in anime I have found something new and unknown to me and even though I have been watching them for many years now I keep encountering shows that manage to surprise me.
Anime are so much more than just animated shows – they create new worlds, teach life lessons or explore the human mind. This uniqueness and diversity are the reason I got hooked on anime so long ago and still continue watching them today.