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Many people who love gaming also like anime. I wouldn't call myself a rabid fan, but I do enjoy anime and I find it incredibly enjoyable since it is possible to do crazy and impossible things without resorting to inferior or silly looking CG.
So since this is my blog, I want to make a list of some of the very best anime that (for various reasons) is amazing and thought-provoking but isn't exactly a common series that many people would automatically think of when they think of anime. While shows like Trigun and Ghost in the Shell: SAC/2nd Gig are also favorites of mine, they're also very popular and well-known, so I want to get a little more off the beaten path, so to speak.
So, without further ado, here's my list.
#10 Gankutsuou-The Count of Monte Cristo
Basic Story: This is a futuristic adaptation of the classic French story of vengeance. Needless to say, there's fighting robots, spaceships, and plenty of juicy plot, as layers and layers of corruption are peeled back to the rawest core. The story is told by the point of view of the young son of one of the men who wronged the Count, which I believe is a difference from the original story, but it actually paints a very humanistic picture of all the characters. No one is truly "evil" or "good"-once again, all have layered personalities and desires.
Why you should watch it: the animation is far above the average quality-it's executed by Gonzo, which is famous for beautiful and seamless animation. The story is actually very complex, so if you're looking for five hours of guys just shouting at each other about how they're going to kick each other's butts, you're out of luck. If, on the other hand, you want to fall into the total immersion of a futuristic world and the beautiful music with a plot that is not confusing or too culturally "Japanese", this is a great show to start with.
Basic Story: A junior high student wakes up one morning and has become a Shinto god (kami). The story basically introduces people to exactly how many gods there are. There are gods of everything from milk candies to battleships. It's basically a good story where a girl has to deal with coming-of-age while also bridging the gap between the world of humanity and the world of the gods.
Why you should watch it: It's a little strange in some ways, but it's very laid back, has
sweet music and a bunch of good-hearted, well-rounded characters. I especially liked their "Kami-Con" episode-where the main character must attend a god convention (just as in the Sandman, the god of Death is very cute and happy all the time). The very best part about the show is that you learn a lot of actual Japanese shinto beliefs (especially surrounding kami) in a fun and cute sort of way.
#8 Dennou Coil
Basic Story: In the very near future, people have mapped over all of reality with a computer "layer" and in order to access it, you have to wear special glasses. You can interact with digital pets, call people using your fingers, and a bunch of other fantastical things. However, there are problems. Just like in "The Matrix", there are parts that are "buggy" and while you're interfacing through the glasses with the digital layer of things, you can often get into a lot of trouble.
Why you should watch it: Both the animation and story-style seem very Miyazaki-like. There's a huge sense of wonder in the show and even though the main characters of the show are children, the story itself is more timeless than simply a "kid's show". It also goes into a lot of interesting explication of the fascinating technology (which, to some extent, seems like the next generation of computers beyond our touch-screen heavy tech of today). The show wraps up the majority of loose ends by the end of the show, and there's a point where it goes from this kind of happy-go-lucky show to this deep, somewhat-dark side of technology sci-fi story of epic proportions.
#7 Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Basic Story: Do you love incredibly crazy Japanese puns? Do you like episodes of shenanigans where a character humorously attempts suicide multiple times and fails miserably? Do you like the sort of show where each character represents a very extreme form of personality and enjoy laughing at the hilarity that ensues? Then this is the show for you!
Why you should watch it: The music is fabulous, and I love the semi-painted animation style, but what is the best about this is how funny the show is even though they use a lot of Japanese puns and plays on words, and how much you will empathize with each character from time to time, even though all of them are very extreme caricatures.
#6 Boogiepop Phantom
Basic Story: A bunch of teenagers are spontaneously evolving to have certain "powers". Meanwhile, the past is haunting the city, and each episode deals with some aspect or other of psychological horror of the consequences of when the present and past collide. The "Manticore" is prowling the streets, mutilating the "special kids" while "Boogiepop", who some say is the essence of death itself, is also taking people, but for what purpose, it is not known.
Why you should watch it: This show is basically the sort of anime that Hitchcock would have made if he had ever heard of anime. Each episode is a semi-cautionary tale of what happens when you are given the power to see into someone's memories, or the consequences of reinventing your own reality-what will happen if your dreams become real-will they truly be what you wanted?
#5 Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni/Kai/Rei
Basic Story: This show is actually based on a series of visual novels/mystery games about a secret that causes people to randomly go crazy and commit murders. In each "arc" of the story, one character or other ends up becoming hyper paranoid to the point that they end up becoming homicidal. At first, you think that it truly is a conspiracy of those who are evil and coming to get the main character, but then you realize that in the next arc, a different character is having the same problem with all the other characters. In the second season, you start being able to understand the reason why people are going crazy, but even then, all the elements need to come into place in order to properly reach a "happy end".
Why you should watch it: This show switches from happy-go-lucky school comedy to serious psychological mind-bending craziness in seconds. The manifestation of a person's insanity is linked largely to the problems that they have inherently in their personal lives, but it's always a harbringer of utter despair. This show is very bloody, but the gore is largely specific to the psychological horror. For example, there's a point where, in order to save her sister from death, one of the characters must use an ancient torture device to rip off her own fingernails. The agony of the sound, even though it's not nearly as graphic as disembowelment or something, is utterly disturbing. Mystery and death, combined with a very compelling story and some surprisingly lighthearted comedy makes this show highly recommended indeed.
#4 Kino's Journey (Kino no Tabi)
Basic Story: Kino is a young traveler on a journey with a talking motorbike named Hermes (although, the motorbike doesn't exactly have a mouth or anything so it's kind of disconcerting at first). Kino visits each country in the show for exactly 3 days, and each country showcases different problems and solutions to different philosophical problems of technology, social issues, and politics.
Why you should watch it: Each episode is pretty much completely self-contained, so you can watch each one separately or at different times without losing out on a larger story. Mostly, you will learn more about Kino and Hermes as they encounter many different kinds of experiences, many of which often resort to life or death. One of the nice things about the show is that it has a laid-back feel while also broaching intense topics about how society should be run, and the consequences of idealism being made real.
#3 Haibane Renmei
Basic Story: Rakka falls from the sky and is born into a place where people like herself are called "Haibane" and from the growth of the gray wings on her back to the addition of a halo of unknown origins, she must find out about the world she has come into, while also wondering where it was she came from before. Her name comes from the dream she has before being "born", and she must make her way in the world while meeting new people and trying to find her purpose.
Why you should watch it: This show brings up a lot of philosophical questions, the primary one being, "what are the haibane?" If you watch this in the context of the haibane being in purgatory because most of them have dreams that sound suspiciously like suicide (falling, sleeping, walking on the railroad, etc). Of course, the fact that there are a lot of haibane children also makes you wonder about where they came from as well. The show really builds you up and gives you a good scope of the world they live in, and I just absolutely love the interactions of all the characters, who are very dynamically presented.
Basic Story: Ginko is a mushi-shi, a specialist who can see creatures we cannot normally see who often cause trouble for humans. Mushi are creatures that are kind of like proto-life. They are the closest thing to the origin of life, and because of that, they often have strange and almost supernatural qualities.
Why you should watch it: This show has some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard in an anime. The settings are very gorgeous and largely take place in untouched wilderness. Add Ginko's very anachronistic clothing in a world where everyone else is wearing kimonos and yukatas, and the crazy variety of mushi that do everything from eating people's eyeballs to being trapped in stories written in ink. It can be kind of dark, but in a way that inspires more wonder than horror.
Basic Story: Imagine a world in which strange characters come out of the fridge, and the depths of hilarity and taboo are explored through the usage of uber-cuteness and genius comedic timing. You've just described "Potemayo".
Why you should watch it: While this show appears on a first look to be a school comedy, it has some of the most ingenious comedic timing that I have ever seen in an anime or non-animated show. It uses the "rule of threes" quite often, and does so in such a way that it's fresh every time. Also, it somehow fits in a Brokeback Mountain reference among others, so even though it technically takes place in Japan, it's very accessible to non-Japanese audiences. Just like many shows are not really about what they appear to be about, so too does Potemayo also fake you out at first. The most ridiculous thing in the show is the ridiculous love octagon (or is it dodecahedron?) that is just silly and ridiculous while also bringing up taboos in a lighthearted manner (which I have never seen executed elsewhere in such a graceful and tongue-in-cheek manner without being horribly offensive).
Anyway, your comments would be much appreciated. And if anyone has a suggestion that didn't make my list, I'd be interested in why you think it would be a great addition.
You seem to have a good sense of what's cute and what's note cute from what I've seen of your past blogs, so this list should be perfect for my girlfriend and I to pick some shows to watch together. Thanks, I'll let you know how it goes if it picks up!
Isn't #5 called "When They Cry" here? That was one freaky, freaky, freaky show... I think I'll watch it again. 0.o
Great list, Oni! I just started watching Gankutsuou recently, and it's fantastic!
I'll be sure to check out some of the others. I've heard good things about both Higurashi and Mushi-shi, so I guess I'll be adding those to my "to-watch" list...
Very interested in your #9 and #8. I'll have to check them out. Wish I could get my hands on Cowboy Beebop. That has been my favorite of all time.