One of the reasons I was invited to the Nerd Filter was to occasionally write things about anime. While I’m not sure I would qualify as an otaku, I’ve been an avid consumer of Japanese animation for many years now, and have been known to frequent local anime conventions. That said, the word anime covers a bunch of different genres, so telling you I like anime doesn’t tell you anything about my particular tastes. To remedy that, I thought I’d post a list of some of my favorite shows. The following are in no particular order:
Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040 – Girls in exosuits fighting biomechanical monsters. What’s not to love? Holds a special place in my heart as one of my first forays into the world of anime. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo and has strong cyberpunk elements.
Martian Successor Nadesico – This science fiction offering starts off pretty silly–the crew of the private battleship Nadesico are a bunch of geeks and misfits, the Captain is a teenage girl who is in love with the cook, the giant mecha pilots are obsessed with a giant mecha anime, and the only responsible adult is the precocious little girl who runs the ship’s computer–then partway through it takes a turn for the dark and the crew of the Nadesico has to grow up. By turns hilarious and touching, it’s well worth a watch.
Excel Saga – Excel is a hyperactive young girl and a devoted minion of Lord Ilpallazo. Together with her fellow minion Hyatt and dog/emergency food supply Menchi, she sets out to conquer the world for the secret organization Across. Hilarity ensues. Many episodes parody specific genres of anime and it is littered with references to anime classics, so the more anime you’ve seen the funnier the show becomes. It stands on its own quite well, though.
Inuyasha – The story centers around Kagome, a schoolgirl from modern Japan, who finds herself mysteriously transported back to the warring states period. Kagome discovers that she is the reincarnation of a priestess named Kikyo, the guardian of a sacred jewel. After the sacred jewel is shattered, Kagome goes on a quest to recover the pieces, aided by a young fox spirit, a lecherous monk, a monster-slaying ninja, and a half-demon who loved Kikyo, but who also may have killed her. Inuyasha strikes just the right blend of action, drama and humor, and it’s a long time favorite.
Last Exile – War breaks out between the rival nations of Anatoray and Disith while the enigmatic Guild, which holds a monopoly on anti-gravity engines, plays both sides against the middle. A wide cast of characters from different socio-economic classes makes this a fascinating and thoughtful show, while the giant airship battles make it fun to watch.
Gunparade March – At its heart, this is a show about growing up in wartime. Set in an alternate universe where World War II was abruptly interrupted by an alien invasion, Gunparade March tells the story of a group of Japanese High School Students who were recruited to pilot Humanoid Walking Tanks as they try to salvage some semblance of an ordinary life amidst the chaos.
The Twelve Kingdoms – Another Japanese schoolgirl transported to a fuedal land story, The Twelve Kingdoms is remarkable for its world building. It is a world populated by talking animals, by powerful creatures called kirin that choose and serve the rulers of the twelve kingdoms, rulers whose wisdom and folly directly influences the health of their land. It can be a bit talky at times, but if you enjoy being immersed in fictional worlds, it’s a real treat.
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple – High School student Kenichi has been picked on his whole life, but when he meets the beautiful transfer student Miu and follows her home to her grandfather’s dojo, his life is about to change. The six masters of the Ryozanpaku dojo are going to make him a martial artist, even if it kills him. And it probably will. As a martial arts student myself, I really empathized with Kenichi and enjoyed watching him grow and confront ever more difficult challenges. Lots of fun.
Steins;Gate – What would you do if your microwave was a time machine and you could send text messages to your past self. How would you change your world? Okabe is a mad scientist, or so he likes to say, and his microwave can do just that. But with every message the present is fundamentally altered, and only he can remember it was ever any different. Throw in a shadowy cabal called SERN that wants time travel technology for itself, and you’ve got a recipe for a real mind trip.
Super Dimension Fortress Macross – The very first anime I ever watched, only at the time I knew it as Robotech. Robotech was actually three different anime series frankensteined together into one cartoon. Macross was one of the three and became the first “season” of Robotech. I never really enjoyed the second two “seasons,” but I loved Macross.