Catharsis. The subconscious of every person on Earth yearns for it. Thus, the forerunners of literature have formed the basic framework of storytelling according to humanity's innate need to experience a purgation of emotions. This is why the very first stories written in history were tragedies - stories that were specifically designed to draw out a purgation of emotions from the audience. This is one thing that, as a person who grew up with anime, was able to discover.
Anime has had a very interesting history here in my country. Among the first to be introduced here were the classic mecha anime of the 1970's, such as Go Nagai's Mazinger Z and the all-too-familiar Voltes V. What made these shows really interesting was the fact that the Philippine government, which was under a dictatorship then, considered anime to have subversive themes, Thus, a lot of them were banned from the public airwaves. But that is not all.
Activists in the media who were crying for equality started targeting the family of the president, after numerous rumors circulated that despite the nationwide ban on anime, the first family's were getting exclusive access to Japanese animation directly from Tokyo, despite the ban on anime being implemented for the public. As a result of this, anime became somewhat symbolic, something that represents the divergence between those in power and that of the common man.
I was born a year after the dictatorship was toppled, and during that time, the sudden freedom to access whatever form of media is available made the country's airwaves rife with foreign shows. Anime, which was deemed subversive before, became available for everyone, resulting in a huge influx of Japanese anime to be shown in public television. Hence, it was quite unavoidable for someone such as me to be hooked on anime. Content-wise, I just found them to be a lot more intuitive than the rest of the animated shows around. And I have never stopped loving anime ever since.
There are a huge number of anime that I consider the best, but for purposes of this article, I will only write about my personal favorites, from many different genres. Thus, here goes this writer's personal top five!
5. Fate/Stay Night
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 2006 - June 2006
Fate/Stay Night is an anime whose roots betray its depth. Starting off as a visual novel, the original work had numerous elements that, though very creative, were a bit far from modest. The anime, on the other hand, was a really huge, pleasant surprise. Centering on the anime's everyman hero who has a heart of gold, the series tackles numerous themes such as justice and man's proverbial dilemma of what's right and what' easy. In the midst of the Holy Grail War, a battle fought by mages and their summoned Servants, the plot also deals with the price that must be paid if one is aiming for victory.
As a literature major, I was drawn to the anime due to its literary and mythological elements. What a lot of fans usually miss is the fact that every single Servant in the anime is an actual character from World Mythology. Saber, who is the Servant of the main character, is the female incarnation of the famous King Arthur, which Britain actually considers as its first king. Gilgamesh, on the other hand, who is portrayed in the anime as a nigh-overpowered Archer-class Servant, is based on the hero of the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the very first epic poem written in the world. What I really love most is the fact that the anime is able to characterize each of Servants in such a way that they are still undeniably anime, yet also very literary.
Fate/Stay Night Trailer 1
4. 5 Centimeters Per Second
- Episodes: 3
- Aired: March 2007
Written and directed by one of anime's emerging creators, Makoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters Per Second is proof that excellent anime does not have to come from a prominent studio with millions at its disposal. The anime was created in a shoestring budget with a skeleton crew for a production team, and yet the end result was a visually and acoustically stunning work of art. Featuring a relatively simple and humble story about two young people who experience the bittersweet feeling of falling in love and the naturalistic dilemma that man is prone to being powerless against circumstances, the anime is one of the gems of the Slice of Life genre that deserves more praise and fame than what it already has garnered.
It is difficult for a writer such as myself to not be drawn to this anime. One of the things that I aim to do in the future is to create a masterpiece of my own. This is why, after falling in love with anime and the stories that its is able to tell, I have pursued the art of literature in my undergraduate and postgraduate studies. This is all for the sake of being able to create a story worth telling in the future. 5 Centimeters Per Second is proof that dreams such as the ones i have are not impossible, and that, as long as a writer puts his heart and soul to a work, the end result will not only be subtly beautiful, it will border on being sublime.
5 Centimeters Per Second Trailer HD
3. Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2013 - September 2013
Attack on Titan is one of those anime that just grabs you from the first episode and never lets go. The story focuses on a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has been forced to flee into the safety of three giant walls that protect it from the mysterious, feral titans. Gigantic humanoid beings whose sole purpose for existence seems to be to hunt down and devour people. After enjoying safety for a hundred years however, the appearance of a massive titan once more plunges the humanity into chaos. In the midst of all crisis, a young man, Eren Jaeger, whose mother was devoured by a titan right before his eyes, swears to wipe out all the titans in the world.
Though the story itself is not yet completed (the manga is still being released one chapter at a time every month), the anime has already shown me enough to draw me into the story. What makes Attack on Titan so special is the fact that its portrayal of the human psyche is simply excellent. No one from the cast is safe from harm just because they were introduced and developed as an emphatic character, and through the unfolding of the plot, one will see how accurately fear and desperation are portrayed on the screen. This is something that is rare in written literature, and more so in animated media. Apart from this, the gritty, intelligent and realistic key battles between the story's protagonists and antagonists are something that is completely on a different level from the usual action anime. Overall, I fell in love with Attack on Titan because it's an anime that is a couple of steps ahead of its generation. It is, truly, a modern classic.
Attack on Titan OFFICIAL English Subtitled Trailer 3
2. Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 1996 - July 1999
The Gundam franchise single-handedly brought the Real Robot genre to life, featuring stories that are less mythological and supernatural than the usual mecha offerings of anime. With stories rooted in very well-thought-out science fiction, Gundam was able to find the perfect balance between realism and romanticism - two literary genres that are very difficult to balance. Among all the entries in the long-running franchise however, The 08th MS Team is the one that can boast of having the grittiest and most realistic approach in telling its story. Centering on the exploits of the titular 08th MS team and their young, capable captain Shiro Yamada, this anime never fails to deliver in terms of its action and its depth.
Gundam titles usually tell the story of war and how it affects the hearts and souls of those who are caught up in it. This was something that The 08th MS Team is able to do extremely well, and in an extremely unrestrained and realistic fashion too. Every detail, from the designs of the mecha to the limitations of the technology, are brought to life in a very well-executed manner. Even the story's ending, which is the perfect example of how an anime shows the effects of war to its main characters, is portrayed in a very memorable manner. The anime's final scene, for one, is among my favorite ones in all of anime, as it is an ode to what Gundam itself stands for. This title, in my opinion, is truly something that I consider one of the best, for what it is, and for what it stands for.
Mobile Suit Gundam 08th MS Team trailer
1. Clannad: After Story
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2008 - March 2009
The story of Clannad: After Story has captured the world and pulled at its heartstrings. It is a story that contains such simplicity, yet such heart, that it has become a tale that strikes its viewers straight to the heart. Though its first few episodes are quite imperfect, the story its tells a third into its run is something that has never been matched by any anime in the Slice of Life genre. This is one anime that will trigger Catharsis in all its forms out of the viewer. There will be times when its scenes will make viewers smile, laugh, and during its most poignant moments, there will be scenes that will unabashedly make its viewers cry freely. Indeed, the humble, sublime tale of Tomoya and Nagisa as they go through life dreaming and working for a happy future is something that will surely stand the test of time. So far, its fame has reached the hearts of people worldwide, and it well continue to do so, for a long time to come.
It is quite ironic that someone like myself, who has pursued literary studies for years, has the simplest, barest genre in anime as my number one pick. Then again, it is precisely for this reason why I deem it so. Clannad: After Story's tale is something that cannot be described in any other word than the term "sublime." In literature, this word carries much worth, for it means that the story carries an almost transcendent quality, one which speaks not only to a person's heart but also to the soul. This anime does exactly that, and more. This anime's simple message, about how one should appreciate the little, frequently neglected joys of life, is something that millions of people around the world have taken to heart. In fact, it has given the anime a very worthy moniker - the anime that changes lives.
[Trailer] Clannad After Story (HD)
I have been watching anime for almost all my life, and I will continue to do so, even in the years to come. It is something that I consider as an art, and art form that will forever be significant in the ever-flowing stream of literary canon. In the long run, I sincerely believe that anime is here to stay, and its significance will only get better.
While there are some entries into the anime canon that are not really as literary-worthy as the rest, anime in general will always be a wonderful facet of the animated form of art. Thus, I encourage all who are reading this to at least give anime a try. Yes, everyone does have different tastes, and everyone has a genre that they feel the most affinity to. Despite this, however, the vastness of anime is so great, I believe that there is one for everyone. And just as it is with everything in the world, one must at least experience it firsthand.
Anime has evolved into a powerful subculture that has, in a lot of ways, become a part of countless people. Thus, it has become of the world's art forms that enjoy the most progression. From its humble beginnings featuring the black and white, shoestring-budgeted adventures of Osamu Tezuka's Tetsuwan Atom, anime has now become a monolith in the world of animation - a monolith that continues to push towards the heavens. As a person who has fallen in love with anime, let me ask you this:
Will you rise to the heavens with me?