I am not one of those people who have ‘always been into anime’. In fact, we didn’t get much anime in Norway when I was a kid, so I don’t have any fond childhood memories of watching Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon or Gundam Wing. Of course, we got Pokemon, but come on, objectively speaking that was one shitty show. Thus, I was somewhat of a late bloomer when it came to animation There were three events, however, that had a lasting impact on my taste, and, ultimately appreciation of, anime.
The first one occurred when my 10 year old self, sometime during the summer of 1999, found himself somewhat unwillingly peeking at a certain ‘Major’ cyborg diving to the bottom of a probably contaminated lake to ponder on the issues of what really constitutes a human being – it was the music video for ‘King of my Castle’ by the Wamdue Project. Of course, I didn’t know what I’d actually seen until many years later when I watched Ghost in the Shell in it’s entirety for the first time, but at the time I still felt both puzzled, amazed and shocked by what I had witnessed.
The second time was in middle school, where I had around 30 minutes of breakfast time every morning, which I ended up spending my time watching Digimon Adventures in it’s entirety – one of the few anime shows we actually got (on public television, at least). This was the first anime I completed in it’s entirety, and, even though I probably was much older than it’s target audience, I enjoyed it very much, to this day it’s one of my favourite anime series (the others of which you’ll find underneath).
Finally, sometime during my years as a high schooler in the early days of YouTube, I stumbled upon a video which had mashed up a song by my then-favourite band, The Mars Volta, with clips from the movie. I was vaguely familiar with it, something with futuristic motorcycles and a lot of explosions. I’d seen the design of Kaneda’s bike before, but I’d never seen footage from the actual movie, and thus my mind was blown up like Tokyo in World War 3, and led me to immediately go about finding where I could get a hold of a torrent link. This marked the start of my venture into the world of ‘adult anime’, and soon after I got my hands on GitS (for the second time), Serial Experiments Lain, and all those wonderful Ghibli movies. The point of no return, in other words.
The rest is history, of which I’ve tried to present the highlights in the list below – here are my own highly personal picks for my top five anime!
- Episodes: 1 (Movie)
- Aired: July 1988
Is there anything clever left to say about the greatest anime movie of all time? Probably not. Made from an equally great manga by Otomo Katsuhiro (also the movie’s director), this epic Sci-Fi tells the story of a gang of young biker delinquents in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, who accidentally stumbles upon a secret government project, and ends up getting mixed up with the military, as well as anti-government revolutionary organization in the search for the mystical ‘Akira’.
If you’re fan of recent CG anime, and haven’t seen this masterpiece, then I’d actually recommend you not watch, because knowing how incredibly wonderful a hand-drawn anime actually looks, will most likely leave you unable to appreciate more recent anime, rocking back in forth in the fetal position in the shower for weeks on end.
4. Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken (I Can't Understand what My Husband is Saying!)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 2014 - December 2014
This, as one of the best series of all time? Well, everyone’s got to have a guilty pleasure, and this is undoubtedly a good pick for that category. It’s premise is simple, non-otaku girl and otaku guy gets married, titular communication issues arises. As Kaoru and her husband Hajime tries their best to understand each other, they also learn a lot about themselves, as well as what it means to be in a relationship.
I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying might seem insignificant compared to the other titles on this list, but upon closer inspection you will find that this is actually one of those special series that has the timing and pacing just right, with a good balance between the trivial, the important and the humorous. It manages to be genuinely cute and charming (somewhat of a rarity these days), offering one of the most pleasant viewing experiences of the past few years. Nothing short of genius, in this humble writer’s opinion at least.
Danna ga Nani o Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken Trailer #1
3. Juubee Ninpuuchou (Ninja Scroll)
- Episodes: 1 (Movie)
- Aired: Jun 1993
Violence for violence’s sake, is great, but it only gets you so far. Ninja Scroll, though brutal enough, isn’t all about the gore, it is just one element a fascinating and engaging tale of a vagabond ninja that gets caught up in trouble upon rescuing a mysterious woman. Ninja Scroll has the fantasy setting, the realistic storyline, the soundtrack, the style, the characters, etc., etc.
The astonishing animated action sequences might have been the selling point for the movie, but it wouldn’t have been half as good hadn’t it been for the epic story and tragic plot.
Ninja Scroll Trailer
2. Mahou Shoujo Madoka★Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2011 – April 2011
Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo from Shaft, one of the greatest director-studio teams of the current decade, this magical girl anime is the Shoujo for people that normally wouldn’t touch this genre without having a gun pointed at their respective solar plexuses. This is largely due to the inclusion of Urobuchi Gen, a writer known for exploring darker themes than those usually featured in the studio’s productions.
It is often called the ‘Evangelion of the magical girl genre’, which is fitting, if somewhat simplistic, description of how a new perspective can freshen up and reinvent a cliched and predictable type of anime. Shaft’s anime are always visually stunning, as definitely is the case with Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but the story and the characters have never been as good as in this brilliant series.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica Trailer
1. Shoujo Kakumei Utena (Revolutionary Girl Utena)
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: April 1997 to December 1997
As a little girl, Tenjou Utena meets a prince that helps her cope with the recent loss of her parents. The prince gives the young Utena a ring, and leaves an impression that makes her want to be a prince when she grows up. But is it really such a good idea?
As far as psychological analysis of it’s characters go, this might be the anime that gives the most detailed description of the human psyche – on issues like dependence, identiy and freedom. And, of course, feminism. Tenjou Utena is one of the few ‘strong’ female characters in all of anime, a genre notorious for it’s misogynistic portrayals of women. Pair that with Terayama Shuji-influenced visuals and a generally surreal atmosphere, and you’ve got the recipe for one of the true classics from the golden age of anime.
I will almost go as far as to say that the visuals are more stylish, the story more coherent, and the characters more interesting than Evangelion. But I won’t, because that would probably forever tarnish my reputation as a fan of anime.
REVOLUTIONARY GIRL UTENA TV Series - Trailer 1
This is my list, but it is only a temporary one, as I haven’t even watched half of the entries in my dreaded ‘to watch’-list (I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about). And the worst thing is, there are still tons of brilliant lesser-known anime waiting to be discovered, as well as new shows popping up every day – being an anime fan is easier said than done these days. But, if one is serious about animation, dramatically put, there's no other option than marching forward, which for me hopefully, will mean more and better articles for Honey’s Anime!