Until I was 10, I didn't know I was an anime fan until my cousins in the Philippines told me what it was during a winter vacation visit there back in 1994. I was already a fan of Robotech, Voltron, Flying House, Super Book, Battle of the Planets/G-Force, and Speed Racer but without any idea they were Japanese in origin. When I was visiting the Philippines, Dragon Ball Z was all the rage, just five years before it got insanely popular in America. My cousins had the t-shirts and they were obsessed with the Mega-Drive game which was my first contact with the franchise.
The whacky hair styles and big eyes appealed to me in an artistic sense because it was nothing I had never seen, even in American cartoons and comics which I religiously followed. Then my cousins educated me that Dragon Ball Z was the biggest thing to come out of Japan and told me that it puts the Spider-Man, X-Men and Batman cartoons to shame and I was a big fan of those shows.
Then they showed me the episode where Android 18 manhandles Vegeta and the explosive and super fast pace action didn't just pull me into a whole new world, but to a whole new universe. I was in shock what I had seen and it exposed to me a new sense of imagination I didn't think was possible.
Six months after that, my local comic and rental stores started carrying anime VHS tapes. Unfortunately being still a minor back in the mid-1990s, many of the titles were beyond my budget ($35 - $75 per video that could either be a movie or 2-4 episodes per tape) and most of it was hentai so until 2000 when much cheaper DVDs (you youngsters reading have no idea how much anime fans back then appreciated dual language features) became available, I relied a lot on rentals at whenever I could find it (incidentally, I rented a lot of hentai).
For awhile, I was watching dubs because they were cheaper and all that I could rent. Inevitably, I started watching subs from seventh grade and for some reason, I wanted to seriously study Japanese and visit Japan. Thankfully, my high school offered Japanese courses and without any hesitation, I enrolled. My enthusiasm for anime was a big motivator with my studies and I was always the top student in the class.
As a result of my accomplishments, I had the opportunity to do a home stay in Japan when I was 17 and along with the privilege of being more exposed to anime, I wanted to study more and come back. So if it weren’t for anime, I probably wouldn't have the opportunities I have now living in Japan.
5. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie
- Episodes: 1 (Movie)
- Aired: August 1994
Based on the fighting game that popularized the genre, Street Fighter II tells three stories. One story is Bison/Vega’s quest to find Ryu, a nomadic martial artist, to gain his power. Then there is Chun-Li and Guile who are teaming up to stop Bison/Vega because they have personal vendettas against him. Last there is Ken, Ryu’s former training partner wants to find him to have another friendly fight.
If Street Fighter is going to have an adaption that represents its source material, this is it. Even twenty years after its release, the character designs and animation still hold up to this very day. The fight scenes are elaborate and it doesn't abuse or spam any of the projectile attacks. Whenever they are used, they are excellently timed with the rhythm of the action. And this is a series that should be seen in both Japanese and English due to the distinct soundtracks.
Thanks to this movie, it paved way for the Alpha/Zero series, most especially in the 2 vs 1 dramatic battle mode features.
4. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
- Episodes: 48
- Aired: April 2014 – June 2015
Based on the third story arc of the hit 100+ volume manga series by Araki Hirohiko, is the story arc that became the break out, Stardust Crusaders. This anime takes place in 1986, 100 years after the first story arc and 50 years after the second. Dio Brando, the villain from the first story is back and his awakening has activated a new power called stands. Stands are astral warriors/powers that only very few can possess and see.
The only one who can stop Dio is Kujo Jotaro, the great-great grandson of his former rival, Jonathan Joestar. But Jotaro will not be alone and he will have his grandfather and his new friends accompanying him to Egypt. To its already long established fan base through the manga and games, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Stardust Crusaders represents the anime they were long waiting for.
Even if many of its viewers have already read the manga, just seeing it animated with music and voices would make it awesome and it does not disappoint. The characters are badass, the action is unique and creative, the comedy is unpredictable and it has one of the best soundtracks in all of anime.
3. Hajime no Ippo
- Episodes: 75
- Aired: October 2000 – March 2002
Hajime no Ippo is based on the hit long running manga by Morikawa Jyoji. It is about Makunouchi Ippo’s humble beginnings as a bullied high school boy to one of Japan’s top power hitters. As opposed to getting revenge against the bullies that tormented him, Ippo takes up boxing just to realize what potentially has. Despite the hard training, Ippo finds success in the ring through, and gains the support and friendship of the hooligans who once tormented him.
If you're a fan of the originals Karate Kid movies, the relationship between Ippo and Kamogawa is a lot like the relationship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi. What also appeals me to this series is I am a boxing fan and Ippo is based on one of my favorite boxers, Mike Tyson. Even though it does not have over the top action sequences, the fights are very technical and exciting in an almost realistic sense.
Every time Ippo has a fight, he will train in a way that fits his upcoming opponent like many fighters do. The series’ strongest point is its brutal honesty about reality and this was expressed through Kamogawa when he says that hard work does not always pay off, but those who succeeded worked hard.
2. Ashita no Joe
- Episodes: 79
- Aired: April 1970 – September 1971
Ashita no Joe, or Tomorrow’s Joe, is the rags to substantial income story of up and coming boxer, Yabuki Joe. After a one year stint in juvie and becoming rivals with suspended prospect, Rikiishi Tooru, Joe finally takes boxing seriously in order to settle the score with him. However, despite Joe’s success in boxing, his delinquent past will still continue to haunt him throughout not just his career, but with his life as a whole.
Will Joe settle the score with Rikiishi and become world champion? Check out this series to see for yourself. If Rocky is the All-American underdog story, then Ashita no Joe is the All-Japan underdog story. If you’re a fan of the first two Rocky movies, then Ashita no Joe is right up your alley. Through Ashita no Joe, viewers will have an accurate understanding of the continuing struggles of post World War II Japan before their economy took the world by storm from the late 1970s.
Though Joe is worshipped in his neighborhood like how Manny Pacquiao is in the Philippines, he is flawed to the point that he makes the bad boy era of Mike Tyson look like a saint but you can't help but like him. It tells a great story of hope, overcoming the odds, old school samurai masculinity, and being real and true to yourself.
1. Zeta Gundam
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: March 1985 – February 1986
Taking place 7 years after the first Gundam series, in order to prevent further threats, the Earth Federation starts their own elite special ops unit called the Titans. However, the power of the Titans expanded beyond the control of the Federation and became the opposite of what they were intended to do. They become dictators and abuse the civilian population that disobeys. No longer willing to tolerate the brutality of the Titans, a group of former Zeon and some Federation pilots band together to form the rebel group, the Anti Earth Union Government, or AEUG for short.
With the combined forces of mechanical genius Camille Bidan and the legendary Red Comet, Char Aznable, the AEUG has more than hope on their side. With my first love of anime being mech through Robotech and Voltron, I soon found myself addicted to the Gundam franchise and my favorite Gundam series and anime of all time is Zeta Gundam. It features a great cast you can connect to and you don't know what can happen next.
Though not as dark as some of Tomino’s other works like Ideon, Zeta Gundam tells a very harsh story about war and how rules and treaties won't always apply. The series shows that the path to peace is there but the question ishow do we get there? Does it have to be by our free will? Or are we forced to walk it? To sum this series up Ina nutshell, it has awesome mech designs, amazing action sequences, captivating characters, and powerful music.
Due to my long time dedication to anime, I am very knowledgable about old school titles as far back as some hits from the 1960s such as, Mach Go Go Go (which you may know as Speed Racer). So if you are interested in a classic series, refer to some of my Throwback Thursday reviews. Anime as a whole has something for everybody so please read our site and see what titles can personally work for you.
I have also been residing in Japan since 2009 and have taken opportunities to compare what's real in Japan and what’s not from anime (please refer to my editorials about school girls running with a slice of toast in their mouth and whether or not you should learn Japanese through anime). I enjoy watching anime movies here in Japan and if you want to know some of the hottest movies playing in Japan after their premiere, please come to Honey’s Anime for the latest reviews.