Sunday, September 17, 2006

Blogger's Block #2: Anime for the Nonplussed

Part 2 of an N-part series of short posts intended to clear out my bloggestive tract. Hold your nose! Especially since this is, you know, Number Two.
I discovered much to my surprise, almost exactly 1 year ago, that I like Anime: Japanese animation. What started it was watching Miyazaki's Spirited Away — I think just about everyone's watched that by now, right? Anime for the unwashed U.S. masses? It made mainstream here, more or less, with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. My wife and I were tired of the same old Hollywood crap, tired of waiting for those maybe two or three really good movies a year, so we gave it a shot.

After we watched Spirited Away (which is, of course, fantastic, hence the Oscar), we went looking for more stuff like it. First we watched some of the other Miyazaki movies, like Princess Mononoke and Kiki's Delivery Service. All Miyazaki films are worth watching, though, so that wasn't exactly adventurous of us.

Then we went to Suncoast in the mall and met this girl, an American girl, 19 years old, who loved Anime but was too poor to watch most of it. Think of that! We were initially astonished that Anime can make you poor, but now some 150 DVDs later, we're starting to re-think that position. On the plus side, it's nice to own them, and I've never been much of a digital pirate. I'm not a rabid anti-pirate; I've just never been part of the "in" crowd that knows how to steal the stuff, I guess. But it's hard to be against it when half the free world is doing it.

It's a bit of a tangent, but Jeff Bezos explained to us Amazonians, some years back, that being the world's biggest retailer of books, music and video was going to get the company buried, and precisely because of digital piracy. I mean, nobody buys CDs in China, and China is soon going to be half the free world if they're not already. Well, they're far from free, alas, but they're big, and they're pirate-y. Books, music and video can all be digitized, so they'll never be safe against piracy. That's why Amazon branched out and started selling appliances and clothes and sports equipment and everything else under the sun: because not doing it would eventually mean their doom. Or at least that's what I got out of his talk that day. Who knows what he was really trying to say. Jeff, sorry if I've misrepresented you.

Anyway, I still buy CDs (I'm such a lamer), and I still buy books and DVDs too. And I can tell you this much: DVDs are frigging expensive when you get hooked on Anime series. It's nowhere near how much I was spending on my golf habit, or even my snowboarding habit, but it's right up there. Rental places in the Seattle area don't usually have a very good Anime selection, so I wind up buying experimentally.

Well, this girl at Suncoast, I forget her name, Ashley or Lauren or some such trendy 19-year-old name, we were chatting with her and we asked her for a recommendation. "What genres do you like?" is always the first question an Anime fan will ask you, because there are in fact many genres, as many as there are genres in US video. Anime seems to be the dominant form of entertainment in Japan, as far as I can tell from a distance. So if you like one kind of Anime, it's no guarantee that you'll like another.

We didn't know what genres we like. They have genres? Isn't it just like, cartoons, like Scooby-Doo and Speed Racer? All we'd seen were some Miyazaki flicks, and we liked those well enough.

So she gave us her first recommendation, and I can tell you this much: that girl cost us thousands of dollars over the next 18 months. If she had recommended something that was total crap (and I can assure you, there's a LOT of total crap to be found in Anime, just like with other movies), then we might have quickly and permanently lost interest.

But she told us she'd been watching this relatively little-known Anime series called Twelve Kingdoms, and even though she was only on the 3rd or 4th disc, she thought we might like it.

Well, she picked a winner. Turns out this series (45 episodes in all) is pretty consistently rated in the Top Ten Animes of all time by actual Anime fans. Most Anime is based on Manga, which are sort of like Japanese comic books. Twelve Kingdoms is unusual in that it's based on a series of epic Japanese novels, basically high fantasy literature.

Ashley (I think it was Ashley) warned us that the main character, Yoko Nakajima, is "a little bit whiny" at first, but that she gets better as the series progresses. Again, that small tidbit contributed to our multi-thousand-dollar spending habit, because Yoko is in fact the most pathetically insecure, whiny, annoying high-school brat you've ever laid ears on, and if it hadn't been for Ashley's warning, Yoko would have killed Linh and I stone-cold dead within the first three episodes, if we'd even made it that far.

But we persevered, night after night, and by the 2nd DVD were were thinking "well, this might at least hold our attention for a while". By the 5th DVD we couldn't talk about anything else. By the 9th we were actually coming out of the closet and telling our baffled family and friends that we had been watching this Japanese cartoon, and by the end of the series, we started dragging our friends home to watch it with us. Again. We've watched it like 4 or 5 times now.

You know how little kids at a certain age like to watch the same movie over and over and over again, for up to a year, and child psychologists say that each time they see it they're seeing it from a new perspective? Well, 12 Kingdoms was like that for us. There's so much for a Westerner to take in. We missed a lot of it the first time around. It took at least 3 or 4 viewings before the patterns started taking shape in our minds. And yeah, we were watching the English-dubbed version. Mostly. On the 4th viewing we watched it all in Japanese, and it was like seeing it again for the first time.

Purists will tell you that you should always watch the subtitled Japanese. But we've kinda grown used to the English voice actors. The studios use the same people, the same maybe 40 or 50 actors (of which maybe 10 to 20 are instantly recognizable) for every Anime series bound for the U.S. It's just a thing with us. We like to hear Blondie (the En-Ki Ki-Rin from 12 Kingdoms), or the King of En, or Klaus and Lavie, or Alex Row. We hear their voices coming back in each series and we've come to love them all. But YOU, you should watch the subtitled versions, before you're tainted like us.

After a month or two, we ran back to a surprised Ashley and begged her for another recommendation. This was a big deal for her; we were actual paying customers who could afford to buy Anime, and we respected her opinion greatly so far. What to recommend next?

She pondered. She hemmed and hawed a bit. Then she told us: "Well, I guess you could watch Last Exile. I mean, everyone loves Last Exile. Young people, old people...

She sorta tailed off there at the end. I think Linh thought she meant, you know, senior citizens, but that wasn't what she meant at all. AT. ALL. She meant US. Us OLD PEOPLE. It felt like the first time some teenager called me "Sir" (or the first time someone on the 'net called me "Mr. Yegge") — I had to look behind me to see who she was talking to.

But even though I knew damn well who she was referring to, I hardly noticed because I was so excited. We were both excited: a new series to watch, by the famous recommender of 12 Kingdoms!

Well, the rest is history. If 12 Kingdoms hadn't clinched the deal, Last Exile certainly would have. We looooooooooove Last Exile. There's no Anime better than that. Some are as good, almost, maybe, but I don't think there's anything better. We have the posters, we have the plush toys. We went through a Last Exile phase of our lives that lasted at least two months, one of those phases that generates nostalgia for a lifetime. Linh and I decided at one point that we were going to name our kids Klaus and Lavie after the two main characters, and we were dead serious for at least a week, if I'm not mistaken.

Last. Exile.

It still brings chills, a tear to the eye, just to think of it. Even if you're not planning on watching it, you should spend a few minutes and check out the Official Site, if you have Flash and some speakers. It's one of those rare Flash intros you don't want to skip, and if you play with the menu, you can read a little about the characters, storyline, etc.

I'm so jealous of you. You haven't watched it. What I wouldn't give to erase it from my brain so I can see it again for the first time.

Once again we ran back to Ashley, and I don't remember what her third recommendation was. She gave us a whole list, I think. She was running out of ideas because she was too poor to keep up with all the recent series.

So we've forged out on our own, and we've been working our way through many series and movies. Lots. Tons. And sometimes we go back and watch our favorites again.

I've learned to be really careful, because most Anime is either crap (i.e. it's a genre that appeals to us, but it's written and/or executed incredibly poorly), or it's genres that don't appeal to us. Like Mecha. I'm just not into the giant robot suits. I liked that scene in Aliens where Sigourney Weaver fights the Alien Queen in a big mech suit, but that's about the extent of it. And a surprising percentage of all Anime, at least 25% I'd wager, appears to be mecha-oriented.

It's hard to find reliable reviewers, since 10-year-olds are just as likely to post their reviews, and you can't tell them apart from 40-year-olds who never learned their native tongue. But we've found a few indicators. Whenever some Anime-store clerk half-disparagingly tells us a series is "a thinker", we know we'll probably like it. If a bunch of reviewers say it was boring and they didn't understand half of it, we go check it out. Studios make Anime for all ages, from 3 years old to 83, and there's usually nothing apparent on the packaging that distinguishes one from the other.

So after much trial and error, I've put together a Top 10 list of my favorite Anime series (and movies). I tend to like the series better, since you can get more immersed, and I've deliberately left out the Miyazaki flicks because they're all pure genius and they'd take up the whole Top 10 if I let them in.

Keep in mind that I haven't watched a lot of the classics; e.g. I haven't watched Cowboy Bebop (*gasp*). There's a lot of great Anime out there that I've yet to discover. That's actually a good thing, as far as I'm concerned. But I've watched a fair bit now, and I think my Top 10 list will have at least a few titles in it that you'd get a kick out of.

Oh, and I wouldn't necessarily watch them in this order, if you're seriously thinking of checking them out. If you're into action and/or horror-type stuff, I'd start with Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. It's just one movie, a sequel. If you like it, go watch the original Vampire Hunter D (from 1985).

Anyway, here goes:

Haibane Renmei: my all-time favorite. It's in my wife's top 4 or 5, but it really got me. It's a "thinker". Different from all other Anime out there; it's in a class and genre of its own. It's short: only four DVDs. Strong spiritual undertones non-specific to any religion, although there's some definite Buddhist symbolism. A masterpiece.

Last Exile: unquestionably a landmark in Japanese Animation. Amazing animation (mixed CGI and hand-drawn), amazing soundtrack, gripping epic storyline, unforgettable characters. And, like Haibane, it's unique, which really throws many of the reviewers, since it goes off in unexpected directions pretty often. I'd just skip the reviews and watch it.

Fullmetal Alchemist: one of the top-rated Anime series of all time, and argued by many critics as the greatest ever. My wife and I both like it a lot. We're not finished with the series, though; it's still in the process of being released to the U.S. We've made it up through disc 9, and I think they're up to 12 or 13 so far. Long series -- not sure how long it is, exactly. But it's pretty amazing work: great story, great characters, nice animation, great soundtrack. All-around worth watching.

12 Kingdoms: our first big series, and still one of our all-time favorites. It's a total of 45 episodes, and they were planning on doing something like 60, so it leaves a few story arcs unfinished, including one cliffhanger that will drive you nuts. Follows a very clichéd storyline (for Anime): a high school girl is whisked off to another world where she finds out she's royalty. Serious: this happens in about every 3rd Anime series. But Twelve Kingdoms is the gold standard for this kind of storyline, and it takes on increasingly epic proportions as it progresses. It's a must-see.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust: a neat movie. Lots of action, lots of vampire slaying, and a nice love story in it to get a girl to watch it with you. Heh. My wife loved it too, and yes, more for the love story than for the monster-slaying. It'll have you hooked within 10 minutes. Give it a try! If you like it, be sure to check out the original Vampire Hunter D movie, from 15 years prior, which has older animation but an equally excellent story.

Scrapped Princess: this one just finished being released to the U.S. It's a slightly bizarre storyline, but has everything I look for in escapist fantasy: memorable and occasionally cute characters, drama and humor, some great fight scenes, a sweeping story arc, and good animation. We couldn't help liking it, and we'll likely watch it again soon.

Witch Hunter Robin: another favorite. This one is, regrettably, a bit slow (and strangely episodic) in the first ten episodes or so. It's sort of a mix of a bunch of TV shows I've never seen: CSI, Buffy, and X-Files, maybe. I've never seen a single episode of any of them, but that's what I'd compare it to. However, about halfway through the (6-disc?) series, it changes completely, and it's gripping all the way to its rather disturbing finish. Linh and I both really enjoyed it, even if she had to sleep through a few of the plot-development episodes.

Wolf's Rain: I have to recommend this even though we didn't finish watching it. It was just getting too depressing. Those poor wolves. It's definitely a story of hardship, and it doesn't get easier to watch as it goes. But the weird thing is that it's stayed with me. I still think about it often. I suppose that's a hallmark of great art? I'm 100% sure I'll go back and finish it within the year, because it's been nagging at me. It was a great story with great characters, and just because it wasn't easy to watch doesn't lessen its greatness. It's definitely in my Top 10.

Gunslinger Girl: This was only 3 discs, 13 episodes. A little masterpiece, no question. It was funny and over-the-top as all hell at first, with some La Femme Nikita influences, but pretty soon it's clear that it's more of a psychological/emotional piece. The violence and the setting are totally secondary to the storyline, which is about these little cyborg girls trying to figure out if they're human or not. Beautiful ending. Lovely animation. Well worth watching.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (adaptation). I'm going out on a limb with #10 here, because we just bought the first DVD and watched it this week. Haven't seen the rest; there are 6 discs, 24 episodes total. But the first four episodes already have us thinking it might be one of the greats. Same studio that did Last Exile. This is a newer series that aired on Japanese TV in from 6/2004 through 3/2005. Man, I'm jealous of Japanese people. Their television just blows ours away. Anyway, if you're adventurous, you can watch it at the same time as us! So far we haven't been a bit disappointed. It's lavish and mysterious, and we know we're in pretty good hands.

You might ask what Anime I've watched that I wouldn't put in my Top 10. Well, Vampire Hunter D is the only movie (2 movies, actually) that made my list, because movies generally just aren't as immersive as the TV series.

As for series, I've watched the first N episodes of a bunch of series, including Burst Angel (looks OK), Kuo Kara Maoh (lame), .hack sign (lame), Gilgamesh (pretty interesting so far), Otogi Zoshi (ok), Hellsing (pretty good so far), and several others I've rented but didn't get far into.

As for movies, I've seen Metropolis (loved it), Perfect Blue (loved it), loved all the Miyazaki I've ever seen (so far: Spirited Away, Mononoke Hime, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso, My Neighbor Totoro, and the Cat Returns), seen Ghost in the Shell (good), Grave of the Fireflies (a masterpiece, but very very sad), Blood: the Last Vampire (great, almost made the list), Samurai X (liked the first one but not the sequel), and a bunch of others I'm forgetting.

I have a bunch of series on my to-watch list, including Cowboy Bebop, Rayearth, Fushigi Yuugi, Steamboy, Samurai 7, Fruits Basket, and at least half-dozen others. We're talking thousands of bucks, so no rush at the moment. And I don't know if I'm going to like any of them. It seems to be hit-or-miss.

Anyway, if I were going to summarize my learnings from the past year, I'd tell you this:

  1. Some Anime is fantastic. You just have to sift a bit and find what you like, but there's almost guaranteed to be something you'll love.

  2. Sturgeon's Revelation applies to Anime too. 90% of it is crap.

  3. I've been missing out, all these years.

If you have recommendations for me, I'd love to hear them!



Blogger Peter said...

I have just one suggestion:

FLCL is an intensely surreal and thoroughly delightful series. It's easy to recommend because it's only six episodes, though I recommend you watch the first two before deciding on the rest.

Cartoon Network (unbelievably) did an incredible job on the dubbing on it too; I normally wouldn't suggest a dubbed version for a show like this, but they actually did a better job the the subtitles in one of the more complex scenes.

2:33 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Ola Bini said...

Stevey! I've enjoyed your blogs for a long while, and it's fun having you write about something like this.

I loved Last Exile very much. Trying to think of anything to recommend. My two pieces would probably be Berzerk (which is based on one of the most violent Mangas out there), but it's really good.
And Lain Serial Experiments. Lain is very odd, but really great. It's slow but filled with interesting thought underneath the surface.

2:41 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger rakushun said...

You should check out Rurouni Kenshin - Reminiscence this is a OVA to the main TV series but it is happening before the series.

If you like some more lengthy animes then you can check out the series itself, it is pretty hefty on 95 episodes. The Kenshin Manga is also lovely.

I also truly like Last Exile, 12 Kingdoms (Juuni Kokki) and Fullmetal Alchemist. Have not seen Haibane Renmei, but will definately check it out.

2:49 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger briandon said...

My sole recommendation:

Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion)

The 1990s mecha anime series (and a movie) that's not really a mecha anime series.

4:44 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Linus said...

I feel that samurai champloo should be on your to watch-list. Very nice animation, and totally hilarious.

Mentioning comedies, Azumanga Daioh is a must-see.

I can also recommend Trigun, a western themed science fiction story.

4:46 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Ian said...

It was quite a commercial success so you may have already seen it, but it's a bit older now (1988) so you may not have. Either way, my recommendation is Akira. It's a classic of the genre and the soundtrack is just awesome.

One word of warning though - watch the subtitled version, I found the dubbed version impossible to watch as the voices didn't match the characters at all.

5:34 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger scott said...

Yeah--FLCL, Champloo, and Azumanga Daioh are all great, as are most of the other things recommended. One suggestion--Netflix actually carries most of these series. That'd save you a couple grand a month :-).

8:40 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Ewan said...

As a computer programmer. Reader of Godel, Escher Bach etc. You must have some contact with the game of Go. If you haven't you must. Therefore you must watch Hikaru No Go. Yes, it's about a board game, but it is incredibly good. It's hard to transmit appreciation for something like a board game but they did so very successfully.

8:41 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger kylix said...

Well, you should try „Elfen Lied“ it is totally amazing. (only 13 episodes).
As it was mentioned above „Samurai Champloo“ is really worth seeing. Berserk - rocks. Oh, there are lots of them..

8:45 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger rob said...

Netflix has all of your top ten except Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. They have the original Vampire Hunter D though.

9:21 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Guillaume said...

I don't usually put any faith into someone's opinion on a top 10 list unless there's also a list of things he didn't like.

What you don't like usually tells me more about how good your recommendations will be for me than the matches in the top 10.

9:32 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Meow said...

I'll echo a couple of the previous comments: Akira (a classic movie) and Serial Experiments: Lain (4 disc series, appears to be an exercise in bizarreness, but definitely a cerebral series, and a masterpiece of nonlinear storytelling).

Thanks for your recommendations! I've been meaning to check out some more anime, but I too have been holding back by the fear that 90% of it is crap.

Another good source of DVDs (for rent-- I'm too poor to own a lot of DVDs) is Scarecrow Video in the U-district.

9:39 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Anton said...

Wow this post came in good timing, because I've known about anime for a while but haven't really gotten into it till recently. I've tried looking online for good reviews on what to watch, but like you said it is almost impossible to tell who is reviewing it and if you should trust them. Like most of the previous commentors have suggested you should definately watch FLCL (fooly cooly). The first time I watched it I thought the guy who made it was high, but it was still very entertaining. Then the more I watched it the more I understood it and liked it.

10:24 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger fad said...

I just love your blogger's block ;)

10:28 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger codeturkey said...

I'm glad you posted this because I've been looking for more good anime for a few months now. So far my all time favorite is Samurai Champloo. You should check it out, you wont be disappointed.

11:15 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Luke said...

You should really watch Evangelion. If there is one mecha anime that is worth watching this is the one.

In fact it is not really classic mecha theme anyway. It's very mysterious, with deep religious symbolism. It's probably one of the most profound, mind blowing anime series you can watch.

I don't thine any series or move has affected me as profoundly as watching Evangelion and the End of Evangelion move.

Oh, and Fullmetal is definitely a top 10 material. It simply gets better with every episode. By the time you are done with the series it may actually jump up a spot or two on your lise :)

11:40 AM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Logwad said...

I see some people suggesting the Evangelion series. I have mixed feelings about this one. I'm not a fan of anime mecha either, but these "mecha" were in fact organic, and there seemed to be a lot more to them than just:
"I will fire my great big laser gun at you!"

"Ha, your laser does nothing to me, because I have all these useless spiky things all over my mecha body!"

Each "angel" was very different, and not of a typical style.

Over all I think it was dark and well done, but there are parts that irk me to no end. Nearly all the characters are extremely neurotic is some way, which got predictably annoying really fast. And so help me, I simply despise "fanservice".

Writer: "Lets make rei be naked, and have shinji fall on top of her and accidently grab her breast, but it's okay, because she's neurotic and doesn't even notice. LOL"

*sigh* I also found the story to be unexiting really... I enjoy whimsical and imaginitive technology much more than warped religous symbolism (monks that shoot engery, priests verses vampires ect)

But I do suggest you watch it, as it is well done over all.

And after you've watched that, you are now bound by law to watch FLCL, which was made by the same company, it is a spoof of evagelion, and other anime.

12:18 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Alexander Strange said...

This is the part where I point out the cheap online stores instead of Suncoast.

Usually I just recommend Haibane Renmei to people, but obviously I can't do that now. So, uh, "Kino's Journey" and the movies Tokyo Godfathers and The Place Promised In Our Early Days.

12:54 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Jamie said...

I'll just pipe up that I'm in agreement on Serial Experiments Lain, it's one of the more mind-bending ones I've seen. The other one I can recommend without hesitation is Read or Die - the OVA is just three episodes, but it's good all the way through. I wasn't quite as impressed with the TV version, which came later, though.

1:33 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger me22 said...

I'd like to third Serial Experiments Lain. It's incredible, especially for techies. ( How often do you get a plot about a new version of the Internet Protocol? I love anime. )

I'll also third Elfen Lied, provided you're not worried about some rather graphic violence. It's not senseless though, and the whole thing is very well executed.

If you enjoyed the La Femme Nikita side to Gunslinger Girl, you might also enjoy Noir. It's extremely stylish.

I saw Evangelion, and despite enjoying a good "thinker", really didn't get what was so great about it. YMMV.

2:26 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Iferwon said...

Can anyone tell me how "kid safe" some of these titles are? I've previewed some anime that coworkers have told me would be perfect for a 4 and 6 year old, only to be very disappointed....

My daughters really don't like the "kiddie" stuff - they want the more serious plotlines. They have watched and enjoy all six Star Wars, and excerpts from LotR, so Sailor Moon and Pokemon ain't gonna cut it.

On the other hand, I don't like the high-school-girls-in-the-shower stuff that seems to permeate Japanime, and I don't think they would have really enjoyed the second half of Nausicaa - it just gets a little too bizarre. (Heck, *I* didn't really get it, but I was three or four cosmos in by then.)

Anyhow, I'd like to get them interested in some of them that have reasonably serious themes without any of the etchi-ness, and violence that is handled....tastefully???


4:32 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Jon Rosebaugh said...

The movies "The Place Promised in our Early Days" and "Voices of a Distant Star", currently available in a bundle from ADV for about $30, iirc.

Also, I know you've got Cowboy Bebop on your list, but make sure it's near the beginning.

There's The Big O, which is indeed a mecha show, but just like Evangelion and (or so I'm given to understand) the original Gundam series, the mecha aren't the point of the series; they're a means to an end, not an end of themselves.

There's Martian Successor Nadesico, which is pretty good, but which you oughta watch later in your anime career, because it makes so many references to other shows.

And I really like a show called The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, which isn't actually out in America yet, but it might be by the time you get around to it. It's hard to describe, but it is, I think, the sort of show Arthur C. Clarke would write.

6:42 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger piyo said...

anime for stevey? amazing, I was hoping for more emacs 22 or even a anime mention of emacs. I haven't come across something like that yet.

Unfortunately for stevey, my tastes are totally different from that top 10 list and the other posters here, probably because I don't like much violence in my anime. Of course I grew up on Robotech, Akira, Transfomers (?), Tenchi Muyo, Ducktales (?), etc. But I find the concept of something like Gunslinger Girl very jarring nowadays.

I'm going to mention some anime that may or may not be the US, but may fit your "thinker" or "miyazaki/cute", plus other stuff that I think bring out the best of anime. My opinion is tempered with buying Japan-oriented anime, so of course YMMV. And no deus-ex-machina robots what so ever:

"miyazaki/cute" (little or no violence, comedy and/or drama)
A Little Snow Fairy Sugar (24eps, 2001)
Strawberry Marshimellow (12eps, 2005)
Piano (12eps, 2003)
Azumanga Daioh (12eps, 2002)
Kamichu (16eps, 2005)

Toki o Kakeru Shojo (Time Leap Girl, movie, 2006)

1000 year actress (movie, 2004)
Tide Line Blue (12ep, 2005)
Tsukuyomi Moon Phase (24ep, 2004)

"social mores"
Kasimasi Girl Meets Girl (13ep, 2006, same-sex romance)
Koi Kaze (12ep, 2004, incest)
Princess Princess (12ep, 2006, cross-dress guys)

"romance" (harem?)
Rumbling Hearts (Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, 2004)

Anyway, it's entertainment.

6:47 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Leo said...


I suggest the Anime Cafe's Parent's Guide to Anime - for the large and good selection of anime reviewed as much as for the sensible ratings and reviews given. Gilles Poitras' Librarian's Guide to Anime and Manga might be a useful backgrounder; he also has a recommendations section, not as focussed on content warnings as the Anime Cafe's.

You can't go far wrong with anything by Miyazaki, except for Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke which aren't quite age-appropriate. Most (not all!) of the films from his mentor Takahata are suitable too.

8:45 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Alexei said...


Two anime series that I loved are: Berserk and Air. Very different, but very good. Berserk is definitely a "thinker". Air is more about beautiful art and emotional appeal.

9:12 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger Jesse Millikan said...

I was thinking "I bet no one has suggested FLCL to the poor man!"

Oh well.

FLCL attracts a lot of comments along the lines of, "There was no plot, it was all just completely random," which is wrong but... uh... *indicative*.

Anyway, Last Exile reminded me more than anything else of Blue Submarine No. 6, which was awesome even when I saw the version cut for a 3-hour, afternoon slot on Cartoon Network.

7:42 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Phil! Gregory said...

I was going to recommend Serial Experiments Lain, but a lot of people beat me to it, so I'll just echo their recommendation.

I would like to recommend the Nausicaa manga, however. I found the manga (which were, interestingly, written after the anime) to be a much deeper and more interesting story than the anime (and I really liked the anime).

8:11 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Gareth said...

I think Neon Genesis Evangelion was the first anime I saw that really made my jaw drop. I remember staying up late and watching like 4 episodes a night to get through it. There is just this huge sense of scale. Lain Serial Experients is a mind bender. Both are good recomendations.

Cowboy Bebop is on your list and it wont dissapoint.

Nobody has mentioned Trigun, a western themed Anime. It can get silly at times but no more so that Full Metal Alchamist does. Worth a look.

8:33 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger technomancy said...

X is great if you're looking for an apocalyptic super-powered prophecy about saving the world type story. "A thinker."

Also, yes... Akira. Wow.

8:40 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Jim Van Fleet said...

Last Exile was, indeed, the bomb.

Not yet all the way through Rurouni Kenshin, but it's definitely bringing the lumber so far. I'm in the mid-20's for episode count. It will cruise to a top-5 position for me if it keeps up the current pace.

Berserk is definitely worth seeing, although prepare yourself for the requisite bizarro ending.

Lain had me, but lost me. Much like the second two Matrix movies, the later content didn't live up to the promise of the beginning.

I'd give Trigun a C+, and it's definitely not a "thinker." Noir would fare a little better, but also not a "thinker." To my taste, both were a little better than a waste of time.

No one has even mentioned Escaflowne, which I found surprising. I liked that series a good bit.

As a potentially useful reference point, I also like the thinkers, but I also enjoy Ninja Scroll a lot. It's not a complicated plot, but it is a perfectly executed action piece.

9:00 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Mental said...

I'm apalled that nobody's recommended Planetes yet -- it's one of the best TV series I've ever seen. It starts out as essentially an office comedy about garbage collectors in space, but slowly builds into a profound and engaging life-and-death drama. Exceptionally well-realized, and tightly written.

9:08 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Joe said...

Definitely check out Neon Genesis: Evangelion. I don't like mecha anime either, but Evangelion is about the people (and eventually about philosophy and religion), not the bot-fights.

9:25 AM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Josh said...


Why don't you figure out a way to sponsor your host at the store?

In exchange for watching and rating different series you give her some allowance towards the movies. You can subsidize her habit and get personalized recommendations. Heck you even get a friend in a different age group, and maybe she'll learn that you're not really old.

Its a win-win.

1:00 PM, September 18, 2006  
Blogger Erik Terpstra said...

My reccomendation:

Barefoot Gen

Loosely based on Keiji Nakazawa's own experiences as a Hiroshima survivor.

It's even sadder than "Grave of the Fireflies".

It's a good thing the graphical style is so cute. Otherwise this very sad story would be almost unbearable to watch.

4:18 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Justin said...

If you like Haibane Renmei and computers, you should check out the mention above to Serial Experiments Lain. It's a mashup of Mulholland Drive with every conspiracy theory ever and includes an unusually high number of references to Apple. It's by the guy that did Haibane (and also Teknolyze, or however you spell that).

I second Samurai Champloo as well. Great style and animation. I believe a lot of the Champloo animators later worked on The Boondocks for Cartoon Network.

6:32 AM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger gman said...

I thought I'd be an anime geek and point out that several of your "Miyazaki" movies are not in fact "Miyazaki" movies. "Cat Returns", "Howl's Moving Castle", are made by the same studio but are not Miyazaki movies. In fact both didn't do well in Japan and the latest non Miyazaki movie by the same studio, "Tales from Earthsea" completely bombed here.

As for me, the best Anime ever in my opinion is "One Piece". Unfortunately I don't know if you can find it in the USA uncensored. It's been in the top 10 in Japan for the last 8 years with almost 300 episodes at this point.

The style is different and often takes a few episodes to get used to. It also appears completely silly at first but the more you get into it the more intense it gets. You'll be crying your eyes out in certain episodes it's so intense.

As far as the U.S. censorship it's not because there is anything risque but because the U.S. considers it for kids and there is stuff the U.S. deems to intense for kids. Like when one of the main character's has their mom brutally killed right before their eyes. (to show their motivation)

It's also arguably the most creative series ever made. They go on adventures inside giant whales. They go to islands in the sky made of clouds. They visit a mostly man made island 2000 ft tall all covered with man made canals (think Venice) with locks that raise the boats hundreds of feet. Each new place they visit is more amazing than the last.

7:27 PM, September 19, 2006  
Blogger Tyler said...

You seem to pretty much identical tastes to mine (it's great to see that someone else considers Haibane Renmei to be their absolute favourite) so I figured I'd chip in here as well, I have to strongly recommend Serial Experiments Lain along with many others if you want a series that will really make you think. One that no one else seems to have mentioned that you may really fall in love with, is Paranoia Agent based on the fact that you loved Perfect Blue, this series is also very psychological, and created by the same person, it really is a great "thinker".

Since you also seem to enjoy anime as works of art, I would suggest The Place Promised in Our Early Days (also known as Beyond the Clouds) and by the same person, his first anime, a single 30 minute piece created almost entirely alone on his home Macintosh called Voices of a Distant Star. Both are beautiful in script and presentation, definitely worth watching.

Contrary to most anime fans, I would not recommend Evangelion as the hallmark of good anime, you might want to watch it eventually since it has such a huge cult like following, but it is certainly not the definition of good anime that many believe it to be, it is also targeted towards the angsty teen market, and you don't seem to quite fall into that demographic. There are so many better animes out there, so if it sounds like something you wouldn't like by reading a synopsis of it, you most likely wouldn't, and it has a legendarily bad last few episodes, due to the prodction company going massively over budget, and making general mess out of the ending, which is in fact described best as a "Gainax crash-and-burn", and it's not the only one they did that with, so be wary of any long series by them, they are actually quite well recognized as having no ability to budget anime properly as well as making complete cock-ups of otherwise great anime right at the end. Bit of an anti-Evangelion rant there, but I simply don't think it deserves the level of praise it gets.

Now that I've typed this huge blog-comment I just have to hope you'll actually read it, since your most recent blog seems to indicate that you are trying to avoid reading the comments. Oh well, I like talking about anime, so it's not like a was a total waste of time if you don't read this.

1:03 AM, September 20, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Cowboy Beebop was probably the most satisfying viewing experience of my life. I watched the series week to week on the Cartoon Network, and it was something I planned my life around.

When I got a DVR I set it to record all instances of the show, and it didn't matter if I'd seen an ep already... I just say down and drank it in again, just a glad to spend that time as I did when I first watched it.

Highly recommended.

9:47 AM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger Amit D. said...

Thanks for the list, added a few of these to my Netflix queue.

I created a blog entry wih
my favorite animes
as a thanks and so I can revisit them. From the list, I would recommend Memories and Ninja Scroll to begin with.


1:21 PM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger oleng said...

(at last, i made a comment in here. great writings, can't wait for the next installment).

ok, cowboy bebop (def. a must), LAIN, Eva (uh huh), Blood the Vampire... wait, not mentioned, check it out, Akira (cool), etc etc

see, i'm not an anime fan (not in the most common sense), but i can't believe nobody mentioned Ghost in the shell (GiTS) yet (the imdb title entry is in japanese). it's a great movie. followed by GITS 2: innocence (not as great, but awesome 3D). the 1st season of GITS:SAC is quite good too, though i find it not as good as the original movie version. but i still recommend it.

now i know that most of those movies you mentioned are tv series, but i find anime movie versions to be much satisfying, maybe because they have longer deadlines. or maybe some other factors. so find any movies by Mamoru Oshii (omg Avalon!), or Otomo (check Memories, good stuff). or just check my imdb list, see if any movies (not just anime) suits your taste. though if you keep your promise, then you wouldn't read this comment. oh well, i guess won't hurt to try

5:48 AM, September 22, 2006  
Blogger Kevin said...

Some further suggestions. Some of these have been mentioned already, in which case I'm seconding the suggestion:


Evangelion - It's such a classic that it's probably worth seeing even if you don't end up loving it.

RahXephon - A more slow and meditative mecha series.

Big O - Sort of like Batman the animated series (if you've seen that).

Other Series:

Cowboy Beebop - It's be said before, but this series deserves watching. Great soundtrack too.

Hikaru No Go - Amazingly fun for a show revolving around a board game.

Now and Then, Here and There - Good, but very dark at times.


The Castle of Cagliostro - A Miyazaki that you didn't seem to list. It's less deep than most of his others, but still good fun.

Spring and Chaos - A biography of poet and author Kenji Miyazawa, acted by cats. It's rather different than you standard anime though.

Voices of a Distant Star - Made almost entirely by one person. His later movie, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, is also good.

Millenium Actress - Creative and interesting

Memories - Three short films. They're rather different in their tones, but I enjoyed all of them.

10:37 AM, September 23, 2006  
Blogger Steve Yegge said...

Hi all, and thanks for the great recommendations!

I figured it was safe to read the comments on this thread, since, you know, it's not exactly controversial.

Let's see...

Guillame wanted to see my "don't like" list. Well, I don't like mecha, at least so far. E.g. I thought Appleseed was lame and predictable. I'm trying to like Evangelion, but keep falling asleep. I'll give it another shot. I'm just not into mecha. It says "Voltron" to me. Don't know why.

I watched all of Lain Serial Experiments (own it), and thought it was really cool, but it got increasingly bizarre as it progressed, and it sort of fell apart at the end. I thought it was a great premise that tried too hard to explain everything at the end.

Based on the comments, FLCL and Berserk seem to be recommended most often, so I'll add them to my list. I've also heard great things about Elfen Lied, Akira, and Champloo. Looking forward to them, as soon as I finish this "Count of Monte Cristo" remake (I forget the name now.)

I'll have to check out all Piyo's recommendations - they sound interesting!

I, too, am not a fan of fanservice. I heard Burst Angel was cool from someone whose opinion I trust (to an extent), but the overt fanservice in it was a turn-off, and I wound up not getting past the first DVD.

And lastly: I've never really had a reason to do NetFlix, but maybe this is the excuse I've needed!

1:45 AM, September 25, 2006  
Blogger Jim Van Fleet said...

If you're having trouble with Evangelion, just skip all the episodes up to #14 or so. At some point, they show a recap episode-- everything up to that point is very standard mecha and teenage angst. After that, it gets spiritual.

I can't remember exactly which number it is, but it's between #12 and #14. The head of the department is called before the committee to explain what's happened.

6:11 AM, September 27, 2006  
Blogger Chris said...


Daniel Steinberg sent your "Good Agile, Bad Agile" post to all the O'Reilly editors, then sent this one to me because I'm always going off about anime (actually now that I do a podcast about Fullmetal Alchemist, I have a proper channel to blather).

Absolutely right. 90% of it is garbage. But the good stuff can be wonderful.

First recommendation: An all-anime Netflix-like service. This is how you can get harder-to-find stuff without having to buy it.

Second recommendation: See My Neighbor Totoro with children. Your own or someone else's, doesn't matter. It's a completely different experience -- the movie speaks to little kids in ways that adults cannot get.

I think most of my recommendations have been covered already, but just to register a few more points for them:

Voices of a Distant Star - sure, there's the backstory that this was created by one guy on his Mac. I think the real story is that it's a powerful expression of love and loneliness, wrapped in a clever sci-fi metaphor

The Vision of Escaflowne - yes, a mech show, but the mech is all brass and cabling, powered by a crystallized dragon-heart, and the real story is about a girl from earth transported to this other world and how her budding psychic powers tilt the balance of a war. A calculated attempt to appeal to male and female audiences, one that works ridiculously well, with a tight and very fast story for the "epic" style

Cowboy Bebop - I watched this while watching Escaflowne. The two couldn't be less alike, except that they're so good, that I didn't really like any other anime for years (until Fullmetal Alchemist came along). Unlike the space operas, Bebop is "space jazz", mostly one-off morality plays that riff off familiar themes but take surprising turns. You never know if and when a given episode is going to deal you screwball comedy or intense pathos.

His and Her Circumstances - A highly-stylized, often over-the-top high-school romance series. The first half of the 26-episode series is aggressively charming, the second half kind of comes off the rails and gets lost. But worth seeing for the sake of exposing yourself to another popular genre.

Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water - The kind of show they should do more often. Very loosely inspired by 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, it's an old-school turn-of-the-century adventure epic about a boy inventor from France, an exotic princess he meets at a circus, and an orphan girl they rescue. Plus the crew of the Nautilus, a pet lion cub, aliens, the secrets of Atlantis, etc. Very retro in some ways, but suits the source material.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise - the DVD of this is a travesty, but it's still a remarkable flick, a sort of alternate-world "The Right Stuff" where the space program is for losers and burnouts, and where one aimless young man finds purpose in his life by trying to be the first person in space.

Lupin the 3rd - Japan's James Bond / Indiana Jones. Start with the Miyazaki-directed Castle of Cagliostro, which may be my favorite movie. Later films and made for TV movies offer different mixes of action and comedy (some add the 60's-ish Playboy-inspired sexual hijinks of the original manga), so ask around for recommendations on those... my wife and I like Fuma Conspiracy and Missed by a Dollar.

For what it's worth, I couldn't sit through Evangelion either, and I had thought (and frankly hoped) that people were done talking about it by now.

--Chris Adamson

8:55 AM, September 28, 2006  
Blogger quamaretto said...

A little note: The Samurai Champloo company (Manglobe) have done a new series called Ergo Proxy which is just stunning so far (I've not yet seen the last two episodes). None of it is available by DVD yet, and I won't name my highly illicit channel as such, but it may rhyme with "glue tube".

10:59 AM, September 28, 2006  
Blogger David said...

Millenium Actress. This is *the* film I recommend to folks either unfamiliar with anime or hostile to it.

It is a multifaceted work of art - a film about the making of a documentary film about a once-famous, now reclusive film star, which takes the viewer on a journey through the history of Japanese cinema (including prominent Kurasawa influences) and a history of Japan itself--not shying away from its darker periods. It is also a meditation on love, loss and obsession.

A visual work of art, one of the only anime I know of where you can freeze frame dozens of times during the film and feel like you are looking at a work of art - some frames look like traditional silk-screens, others like zen gardens, still others like epic opera.

It is also the most accessible anime to Western sensibilities that is simultaneously completely and deeply Japanese. There is no need to know about anime or manga cultural conventions, no need to make allowances or rationalize the limitations of the medium, no need to even like "animation" in general - in fact, Millenium Actress is the closest thing I've seen to a good film that happens to be animated, rather than an animated film.

The music score is impeccable as well. The voice acting is terrific (speaking of the Japanese original with subtitles - which is the only way to watch this particular film.

Highly recommended, a nice adult story that never condescends.

12:05 PM, September 28, 2006  
Blogger Shidian said...

I tend to avoid Anime were the characters have puppy-dog eyes or make exasperated expressions in conjuction with "waa-waa" sound effects, so that cuts down my options to a manageable level. I also favor good dubbing.

1. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex [SAC], Vol 1 & Vol 2.

This is the TV series. Vol 1&2 are out on DVD now. The stories are rock solid and the dubbing is superb.

2. Ghost in the Shell: The Movie

I would suggest watching the TV series first as it will get you familiar with the characters and make the movie more poigent. The same actors dub the movie and TV show.

3. Samarai Champloo

Mixes a lot of traditional Samurai ideals with a modern and amuzing approach. Each episode has a great story that combines into a great character arc.

4. Aeon Flux

I'm not sure if this qualifies but it's animated and from a Japanese guy. There are three discs in all that spread far beyond the short MTV clips.


Initial D

A good story about Downhill racing. There is one character who is annoying as hell (exasperated expressions with sound effects), but the rest of the story is solid with good dubbing. I'm partial to drift racing though, so your milage may vary. Also a quick watch.

12:52 AM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger Island in the Net said...

China is not part of the FREE world.

4:21 AM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger piyo said...

When you said you wouldn't read the comments, it was annoying, but the other voices on the comments were interesting. Thanks for the forum.

I did write the first comment for like an hour or something but even then I forgot some more stuff that on retrospect should be experienced. As always, IMHO, YMMV.


Millenium Actress -- "1000 year actress" is the literal translation of the Japanese title.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (movie, 1987) Space is cool and the scene where the rocket lifts off while (spoiler snipped) is just breathtaking poignant and inspiring. I heard Planetes is pretty good too.


Honey and Clover (24 eps, 2005) What if you had a DAG of love interests, really? This college age manga-turned anime and live action movie is very artistic (JC Staff) and mopey at the same time.

Maison Ikkoku (96 eps, 1986) Comedic and slapstick in the beginning, completely satisfyingly romantic and realistic in the end. You begin to root for the underdog and you wonder just when (spoiler snipped). (It's also where I get my nick. Oh woe is my memory.)

Okay, I'm done.

8:59 PM, September 29, 2006  
Blogger freecia said...

Full Metal Panic has awesome animation and a fun storyline. Season 1 is a bit serious and Season 2 (fumoffu) is very funny humor (at least I find it funny). I watched them in Japanese with subtitles so I don't know how great the dubbed version is, but I'd recommend it to people who like Full Metal Alchemist.

For the most thought provoking and possibly most depressing anime, I'd recommend Kino's Journey (Kino no tabi). It is philosophical and made me think, but depressed my boyfriend who likes happy fluffy cute anime.

Chris at produces a videoblog review of 3 series approx. bi-weekly of new and old anime. It is a great way to see if you'll like a particular series "because life's too short to watch bad anime"

10:11 AM, September 30, 2006  
Blogger Gaurav said...

Hey Steve,

No one mentioned them before, but there are two relatively new series that I have watched. One of them is Naruto. Its turned into a drag IMO, but I would recommend watching episodes upto 100. The other one is Bleach. Both are based off a manga and have deviated significantly from the manga storyline as of now, but I would say they are definitely worth a watch.

12:04 PM, October 01, 2006  
Blogger Winter said...

FLCL is amazing. It probably won't change your life, because it isn't designed to, but it could.

Kino's Journey/Kino no Tabi is super-excellent, the end. It has a sort of Last Exile-y flavor to it, and i might even say it's better than Last Exile--at least in scope, if not in execution. But i won't, because i don't think it's true.

Don't watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. You'll thank me later. (After, you know, you break down and watch it.) Well, no, that's bad advice. It's a good show... but not that good. (And mecha.)

Samurai Champloo is kind of like Cowboy Bebop, except not as good. Trigun is also like Cowboy Bebop, except good in a different way. In a similar vein, Outlaw Star is also kind of like Cowboy Bebop, except not as good.

Elfen Lied is terrible. I just saved you $100, or whatever. I watched three episodes and literally could not stand to watch more. I tried--i picked up the disc and tried, but i just couldn't do it.

If you're looking for something a bit darker, but not terrible like Elfen Lied, Requiem from the Darkness is fantastic. Totally underrated. It's one of those shows just about nobody got, and everyone watched it and then posted some "It's not very good and too episodic" reviews to the internet. Rubbish. It's super-good.

Let's see... Ouran Host Club is coming to the USA. It's probably not your sort of thing, but it is really good... at least, for the first few episodes.

Speaking of "really good for the first few episodes", there's also Mai HiME. That's good (super-good, even) for the first twelve or so episodes. The next fourteen (or however many there are) episodes progress from "curious, with lots of potential" to "terrible, garbage, showing this to detainees is a violation of the Geneva Convention" for the last episode or two. HINT: the useless token male character has to save everyone, despite being useless. Thanks, sexist cliches.

Paradise Kiss is good, and also coming soon. It's about some privileged kids and how they cope with responsibility in a world that doesn't make sense. (Although it's subtle.)

Meloncholy of Haruhi is... well... if you're in the mood to go "What the hell?" over and over again, it's a good show. It's really, really good, actually.

I don't know, i'm certainly forgetting something. I just took some sleeping pills so my brain shut off. (It's my token sacrifice to the Gods of "Obviously 9-5 is the most productive time of day FOR EVERYONE NO EXCEPTIONS EVER!")

11:40 PM, October 02, 2006  
Blogger Reddogg said...

I had written a lengthy replie and virtually crumpled it up and tossed it. Instead I have a single recommendation for you. Only one...

Start watching your anime subtitled.

I will provide two reasons:
1) Unlike American animations, Japanese record the voices first and then art is drawn around that.
2) The director is present during all recordings to "prod" the actors. This is in stark contrast to the way the vast majority of films are dubbed for english where the 'actors' show up the day-of and read verbatim (there are exceptions). Think of "The Lion King", which was meticulouly acted and then watch a dub in spanish...

7:07 PM, October 04, 2006  
Blogger Vinh said...

I'm going to chime in and suggest Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex too. 12 Kingdoms is #2 on my list of all-time favorites, and it's only displaced by GITS: SAC. It has a well-realized vision of the future and plays out like a futuristic cop drama...with one kickass main plot.

10:07 AM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger oleng said...

lol, looks like i'm not the only one skimmed your list... my only excuse is that i was at work, bored but feeling guilty procrastinated, hence fast reading. still, GITS:SAC is great on it's own. tho i prefer 1st season.
SO... i hope there'll be Anime for the nonplussed II.

6:39 AM, October 09, 2006  
Blogger imnotjason said...

Steve, you've gotten a lot of good recommendations in the comments so I won't add any. I just wanted to echo your point about Sturgeon's Revelation. If 90 percent of any genre is crap, there's a good chance the first thing you see will be crap, giving the impression that the figure is really 100 percent. I think that applies to programming languages as well, maybe that's why so many people hate JavaScript, PHP, etc. Maybe we can call it Yegge's Minefield.

6:47 PM, October 10, 2006  
Blogger leoboiko said...

You might want to try the manga versions of some of those; in many cases the anime version is simplified, fan-serviced, summarized or just plain worse. I'm thinking of Fruits Basket, Karekano, Rayearth.

I'm not sure I'd recommend Rayearth to the uninitiated. It's a smart re-reading of magic girl anime and the standard fantasy plot, therefore it's not so satisfying if you're not already tired of magic girls and evil wizards. However, I do recommend later, more mature works of Clamp. Check out the tech ones: Chobits, Angelic Layer, Clover. I've heard Clamp anime tends to be severely censured on the US, so watch out.

OTOH, if you're already familiar with magic girls and would like a hyperactive dadaistic parody, try Puni Puni Poemi.

Recently I've read Death Note, a manga with a very interesting premise and above average execution. I don't know about anime but a live-action movie just came out in Japan, with a second one to follow.

6:40 PM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Gary said...

Not a bad top 10: Twelve Kingdoms is probably my favorite anime series. Last Exile, Fullmetal Alchemist, Scrapped Princess, and Haibane Renmei are pretty good too. Gankutsuou was alright but not exactly top 10 material.

I see a few good recommendations but most are anime I really hate.

Of the ones recommended above you really should see:
Millenium Actress
Voices of a Distant Star
The Place Promised In Our Early Days
Hikaru no Go: a bit long and slow but might be worthwhile

As for some of the others recommended
Elfen Lied: Horrible, don't bother
FLCL: Couldn't make it past the second episode
Lain: Not bad, but not great
Akira: Highly overated
Azumanga Daioh: slow and boring
Evangelion: Overrated and has whiny characters
Cowboy Behop: Boring
Ninja Scrolls: Violence for the sake of Violence
Naruto: painfully slow

7:06 PM, November 02, 2006  
Blogger John said...

I love seeing other people's top 10 lists because I'm always looking for new material to watch. I'm going to look into getting 12 Kingdoms for my next series. Some of my own recommendations, but with a word of caution: I mostly enjoy fighting-style animes, so that will predominate.

Voices of a Distant Star: a wonderful, emotional short. It nearly made me cry the first time I saw it.

Gungrave: one of the best story lines I've seen. It's a quasi-futuristic mob story.

Tenjou Tenge: two problem students transfer to a new school where everyone is an accomplished fighter of some type. Entertaining, though not particularly standout.

Ikkitousen: high schoolers are the embodiment of past champions and must battle their way as history repeats itself in current events.

Air Gear: a highly entertaining anime about basically powered rollerblades that allow fantastic feats to be pulled off and one kid's journey into the underground world of their competitive use.

PlanetES: a great storyline about essentially garbage collectors in space, which really draws you into the characters.

Air Master: a former national gymnast searches for the thrill of competition in the world of street fights.

Hunter X Hunter: I wish it didn't end. You get drawn into the development of the characters a they progress on one boys search for his father.

Naruto: long and still ongoing, with a great storyline that takes unfortunate tangents that no one really cares about, but I still watch every week. Oh, its a fantasy ninja style anime.

Bleach: similarly to Naruto, it has a good main storyline with too many tangents, but still gripping enough to make me watch every week. Modern/fantasy.

I'm sure there are more I've seen that I enjoyed (that weren't already on your list), but this is all I can think of for now. For the guy who wants to know which ones I don't like ...

Trigun: too ridiculous, didn't finish the first episode.
Monster: weird start, couldn't get into it.

11:24 PM, November 08, 2006  
Blogger varkas said...

It is lovely to see 12 Kingdoms getting more recognition. I remember lending it to my friend, a japanese exchange student who had never gotten into anime, and she loved it. Basically everyone I know who has gotten past the first few episodes enjoyed it, though it helps that it wasn't very well known or over-hyped at the time.

Onto recommendations. One caveat: anime has such a wide range in quality that a good series can spoil (or prime) your enjoyment of another, so I'm going to give you my suggestions based on what I think you would already enjoy. Also, normally I'd say read the manga, but unfortunately those are harder to enjoy with your significant other.

Hikaru no Go - Despite what you may thing, Go (like computers) can be very exciting.
HunterXHunter - A very charming action-adventure.

Escaflowne - I think it will change your mind about mechas. Beautiful score.
Evangelion - Ignore the hype and I think you'll enjoy it. A different take on machines.

Now and then Here and there (the series) - You must watch this.
Monster - About a serial killer. I've only read it but heard good things about the anime.

Other I liked but not sure you'd enjoy:
Cowboy Bebop - Brought style to anime. I enjoyed it, but the episodes aren't really as connected as I'd like.
His and Her Circumstance - About a little girl's love life. Has a lot of substance, I liked it a lot.
Berserk - Definately a love or hate anime. Slow at times and at other times too violent, but it really drew me in.
Bleach - Nothing you haven't seen, and kind of long, but sometimes you just want to be

2:32 PM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger srikanth said...

Are you following Avatar:Legend of Aang on nick? amazing show!!

Kind of Americanised Anime

9:22 AM, November 23, 2006  
Blogger Gritmonkey said...

I had to add some recommendations after seeing so many Anime I liked on your list.

The only item I disagree with is Wolf's Rain.

Also, I would recommend not bothering with Evangelion.

Lain Serial Experiments never made any sense to me, I occasionally think of watching it again to see if it would make more sense.

Princess Tutu: ballet fairy tail

Full Metal Panic!: realistic portrayal of mecha in war interspersed with soldier out of his element in high school. It worked for me:)

Crest of the Stars: space opera love story - I just noticed there are 2 subsequent series, time to fire up bittorrent.

Maria-sama ga Miteru:comming of age drama set in a catholic girl's school

8:24 PM, December 06, 2006  
Blogger Rania said...

Wow, this post has really served to reinforce in my mind the variety in anime and the *very* varying tastes of anime viewers. I've seen here some anime that I love and others I couldn't stand for the life of me.

Based on your list, I can narrow down my recommendations to just one that I know you'd definitely appreciate. It's little known and the animation is barebones, but it's a very moving, very profound movie based on the observations of a little boy thrown into a world at war.

Ima, Sokoni Iru Boku (Now and Then, Here and There).

You might also like Jin Roh, the Wolf Brigade, a film about politics, soldiers, and betrayal. As you can imagine, it's a dark one.

5:46 PM, January 17, 2007  
Blogger Matt said...


I'm currently in a similar "frame of mind" as I think you were at. I've been a distant fan of anime, tagging along when my fiance wanted to see a movie or watch a series she had recorded. But recently I've gone into "addiction" mode. I've been looking for more mature-themed, artistic anime and through my Google searches, stumbled onto your blog and this fantastic discussion you've started. I can add my two-cents to what I've seen so far:

Any of the Miyasaki films: Artisticly amazing! All are beautiful to watch, but I enjoyed the story lines in "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away" best. The others are a bit cutesy, but all are fanastic.

Any Satoshi Kon movie: A very close 2nd to Miyasaki in terms of artistic beauty, but his movies have been the most interesting and brilliant I've seen. You can't go wrong with any of his movies. In fact, "Millenium Actress" is my favorite anime movie. "Perfect Blue" and "Tokyo Godfathers" are both 4-star movies. His TV series "Paranoia Agent" is in the same vein as "Serial Experiments: Lain" but a more coherent plot. Satoshi Kon will have a new movie out in 2007 called "Paprika" which has been getting raves at festivals.

Akira: Maybe a little dated, but a classic.

Serial Experiements Lain: I'll agree with the other posters that this series may be too abstract to appreciate. If you can suspend concrete thoughts and not ponder the smaller questions, then it's a very thought-provoking series.

Elfen Lied: I've only watched the 1st 2 episodes and I am absolutely blown away! The juxtaposition between some of the most elegant animation (The opening credits for each episode (images inspired by Gustav Klimt paintings)with some of the most violent images I've ever seen (think Hannibal Lecter breaking out of his cell in Silence... but 100x more brutal) has kept me up the last few nights. Yes, there is a lot of nudity, but it's completely non-sexual (so far) and actually seems appropriate. The violence... well, maybe also appropriate for the plot. It has to be one of the most mature-themed (non-porn) anime series out there. Reviewers either love or hate this series... I'm in the former category thus far.

Tenchi Muyo: This is the most famous prototype in the silly, harem-style, sci-fi comedy. It's also probably the best out there. On the surface, you might think it's just like any sugar-pop anime. However, there are underlying themes and background stories that made it a pleasure to watch. There's been a million spin-offs and movies some OK (Tenchi Universe) and some horrible (Tenchi in Tokyo). However, the original will keep you chuckling and appreciative of a good story taking place.

There are other series I have one "que" including Hellsing, Witch Hunter Robin, Cowboy Beebop and Last Exile which other people have commented on.

Thanks again! I'm looking forward to reading other responses.

1:20 PM, February 05, 2007  
Blogger hy said...


5:37 AM, March 11, 2007  
Blogger gtinvpo9 said...

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8:20 PM, March 26, 2007  
Blogger Aiola said...


that was awesome, your website i mean. i'm going to check out last exile right now.

anyway, a show that i would recommend to ANYONE is Chrno Crusade. (and thats exactly how its spelled, i didn't make a mistake)

it really makes you think. its about a organization that people pay for so that they could hunt demons. this organization is called the Magdala Manestry. except in the magdala manestry, a demon works to hunt other demons (thats right)
this demon is good, of course. Sister Rosette and this demon (chrno) are friends. as the story goes on, chrno and rosette start to fall for each other.

the story twist is really, REALLY good. (of course, i won't tell you what it is) i'm absolutely in love with chrno crusade.

CHRNO. CRUSADE. really hope you check it out.

9:42 AM, April 06, 2007  
Blogger Aiola said...


an anime series that i recommend to anyone would be chrno crusade (thats how its spelled, i didn't make a mistake). i recommend this anime series to anyone who asks me what series i would recommend for them to watch, its that good. I've watched a couple of anime series and movies (ex. spirited away, fullmetal alchemist, full moon, haibane renmei, whisper of the heart, howl's moving castle, and....a couple more not worth remembering) but this anime series took the cake....well, fullmetal alchemist is real good.....

neway, hope you watch it...

9:46 AM, April 06, 2007  
Blogger Aiola said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:47 AM, April 06, 2007  
Blogger Aiola said...

oops.....sorry.......i posted 2 times.....

9:49 AM, April 06, 2007  
Blogger 0ffh said...

Hi! Great to find there are more anime crazed coders out there! ;-)))
I would like to mention a series that seems to have been overlooked: Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai.
It is a curious mixture of satire, melancholy, slapstick and romance. You need to watch a few in order to get the bigger picture. It is one of my favourites.
Also quite nice is Getbackers.
Regards, 0ffh

2:56 PM, April 21, 2007  
Blogger safwaan said...

theres a place called
its got all anime ever made for free download plus a cool forum

8:54 AM, April 30, 2007  
Blogger kaldrenon said...

Again, it's been a while since your original post, but I've only recently started reading (I think I've read 90% of what you have on Google Pages) so it's really not my fault.

I'm hoping that by now you've seen Cowboy Bebop, the series and the movie. If not, I definitely recommend them. The soundtracks alone are worth it, but on top of that you have a diverse collection of characters who are each fascinating in their own right, plus there's a lot of humor and life in the way they interact. In the series, the plots of individual episodes matter little until you get into the 20's (I believe it's 27 total), but the characters' stories are all distinct and well done. The movie is everything the show was, and the characters it introduces are just as good as the mainstay characters from the show.

Glad to see Last Exile is high on your list. It's one of the few that you and I have both seen, but it's high on my list, too, as is FMA.

Things you didn't mention that I've seen and liked:

Evangelion - it's tedious, it insists upon itself, and there are a lot of people who are far more fond of it than they ought to be, but I still found it enjoyable and somewhat thought provoking. It's the least "oh look it's another mecha anime" of that sub-genre. If you want an experience similar to Eva that's less boring with better characters, I would recommend RahXephon instead.

Yakitate Japan - It's an anime about bread. It's funny and cute and perfect if you're not in the mood for "a thinker"

Trigun - This is kind of in the Cowboy Bebop camp as one of those series that "everybody" has seen, where "everybody" == "people who watch what they're told to watch". But that's the thing about taste - there are some things that are so good that everyone likes them. Trigun is great. It starts out light-hearted and silly, and gradually gets serious, coming to a fairly dramatic conclusion, without ever taking itself too seriously. Definitely worth a gander.

A couple other series worth watching would be:

Excel Saga
Azumanga Daioh

Now I'm off to go break my bank to watch the things on your top list that I haven't seen.


kaldrenon at gmail

11:57 AM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger Daiva Lynkichi said...

Nobody wrote about Type-moon works.
My favorites.
Fate/stay night
the garden of sinners(movie has not yet, but it will be great.

My most favorite Japanese animation last year is Tokiwo kakeru syoujyo(I don't know English tytle)

sorry for my poor English.

10:33 PM, July 13, 2007  
Blogger andy said...

Paprika, a fairly new one realeased by the same director that did Perfect Blue.
For a series, if you like samurai fighting and a good story I'd recommend Samurai Champloo - my all time favourite.
Also X, Escaflowne, Neo Genesis Evangelion... Those are the ones from the top of my head.

9:16 AM, November 20, 2007  
Blogger Philip said...

Revolutionary Girl Utena (Kakumei Shoujo Utena) is a neat TV series you don't hear about much. It's shoujo anime marketed toward young girls, but is surprisingly mature in its themes, drawing on existentialist literature and dealing with issues of identity and growing up.

Definitely watch the TV series before the movie, if you watch the movie at all. It won't make much sense otherwise. Also, the last third or so of the movie reminds me of one of your long metaphors you don't stop using until it's been beaten to death.

Anyway, the TV series has a lot of downsides: it's low-budget and re-uses footage a lot, and the first two episodes seem to be copies of one another, but if you can get past that, it's actually very cool.

(I discovered this weblog over a year too late to get past your not-reading-comments policy, but I'll recommend anyway!)

4:35 PM, January 17, 2008  
Blogger Thomas said...

On the Twelve Kingdoms dub: it is crap, in this case 'purists' have a point, however it is not always that way, Cowboy Bebop has a superb dub, and I think that it should be watch in English. However with Twelve Kingdoms the dub is terrible, Youko's voice actor in the Japanese is incredible, the dub's is terrible, and it's not like they didn't have any good actors... they did but they all played characters with 2 lines or that only last 3 episodes... I have mostly watched anime in English, except for a few shows where the acting was mind bendingly bad (Twelve Kingdoms is, unfortunately in that catagory, and that is a travesty since the show is so good)

Also you may be interested to know that there is a translation of some of the books Twelve Kingdoms was based on available now.

6:45 PM, January 20, 2008  

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