Introduction to Anime

Japanese anime tends to have a reputation in the western world for being wildly “out there” and the only people that tend to like anime are just as wildly “out there.” But anime has a very broad selection of genres that can appeal to anyone, just as western film and TV. And honestly, you have probably already seen some anime that has gained popularity in the west (i.e. Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Inuyasha). For those who are curious about delving deeper into the world of anime, but don’t know how or where to start, here is a list of great anime films and series (separated by genre) to get you started!

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Cowboy Bebop

The futuristic misadventures and tragedies of an easygoing bounty hunter, Spike Spiegel, and his partners. Set in the year 2071, this episodic crime noir begins on the Spaceship Bebop, where Spike’s group of bounty hunters are constantly looking for their next bounty head.

Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, this series is well-known for it’s cool atmosphere and widely revered soundtrack.

 

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Samurai Champloo

Fuu, a waitress who works in a teahouse, rescues two master swordsmen, Mugen and Jin, from their execution to help her find the “samurai who smells of sunflowers.” The show follows the three as they journey through Edo period Japan in search for this mysterious samurai, all the while getting into trouble everywhere they go.

Another acclaimed series by director Shinichirō Watanabe, Samurai Champloo combines a historic backdrop with modern hip-hop styles and references.

 

Comedy/Slice of Life

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Fruits Basket

After her mother’s death, Tohru Honda finds herself living with the “prince” of her high school, Yuki Sohma, after her tent is destroyed in a landslide. Yuki, along with the rest of the Sohmas have a secret though. When hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they transform into animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Shenanigans ensue and new friendships are formed in this heart-warming series directed by Akitaro Daichi.

 

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Clannad & Clannad: After Story

A high school student, Tomoya, who cares little about school or others meets a lonely girl, Nagisa, who had to repeat a year while all her friends finished high school. They become unlikely friends as he helps her to revive the drama club. Making friends along the way, their bond grows deeper and they decide to become a couple. The After Story takes place immediately, where the first “season” ends, following their relationship.

This series (one of my personal favorites) is as hilarious as it is heart-breaking. You learn so much about the characters and their lives. I can’t recommend this series enough. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara.

 

Psychological/Thriller

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Elfen Lied

University students Kohta and Yuka (Kohta’s cousin) save a girl around their age called when they see her washed up on a beach. They quickly realize this girl, called Lucy, isn’t human. She is a Diclonius that has a escaped from a government facility where she was being studied. Committing mass murder in her escape, the ones responsible are desperate to find her. This proves difficult when her personality is split from a head injury, causing her to shed her violent persona for a clueless girl who doesn’t know what she is. Directed by Mamoru Kanbe.

 

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Ergo Proxy

In a post-apocalyptic future, humans live in peace with androids in a domed city called Romdeau. However, a strange series of murders has intrigued bored inspector Re-L Mayer when it appears robots that have been infected with a virus, causing self-awareness, seem to be responsible. This series, directed by Shukō Murase, has been critically praised for it’s well-paced plot and atmosphere.

 

 

Romance

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Children Who Chase Lost Voices

A coming of age story involving young love. Asuna hears mysterious music coming from a crystal radio, left to her by her absent father, that leads her deep into the hidden world, Agartha.

Beautiful artwork combined with an adventurous plot, this film is a must-see for everyone. Directed by Makoto Shinkai, who has been called “the new Miyazaki.”

 

 

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Garden of Words

A 15-year-old boy and 27-year-old woman find an unlikely friendship one rainy day in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. These two broken pieces come together and heal one another as they learn what it is to walk.

I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the artwork is in this film. If you won’t see it for the story, which is beautiful, then see it for the artwork. You won’t regret it. Also directed by Makoto Shinkai. Surprise, surprise.

 

Drama/Tragedy

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5 Centimeters Per Second

Told in three interconnected segments, we follow a young man named Takaki through his life as cruel winters, cold technology, and finally, adult obligations and responsibility converge to test the delicate petals of love.

Beautiful artwork mixed with a tragic plot about the heart-break of love, this film is another masterpiece directed by Makoto Shinkai.

 

 

Wolf Children

College student Hana falls in love with another student who turns out to be a werewolf. After he dies in an accident with uncertain circumstances, Hana decides to move to the rural countryside where her husband grew up to raise her two werewolf children.

A story about family and understanding, Wolf Children will tug at your heartstrings. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda.

 

 

And, of course, anything created by Studio Ghibli is a must-see…

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**All movies mentioned above are in our collection at Media Services**

Anime in the Spotlight: The Wide World of Anime

At Media and Reserve Services, we have recently begun expanding our Browsing anime collection.  Previously, we had the major works from Studio Ghibli and Satoshi Kon, as well as popular anime series like Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-6) and Cowboy Bebop (1998), but there has definitely been room for growth.  During this expansion, we have focused on collecting some fan-favorite shows, like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-10), but we have also paid attention to the major creators of anime.  We currently have a display across from the desk as an introduction to our expanded collection, and this blog series will focus on discussing the major creators whose works we’ve added to our collection.

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As any anime fan will tell you, anime’s much more than a genre.  Anime, or Japanese animation, is a complete visual medium, with all of the variety and experimentation and repetition than any medium has.  If you ask most Americans, they’ll probably have heard of a few big hitters, like Hayao Miyazaki, who won an Oscar for Spirited Away (2003), or Pokémon, which began running on American TV in 1998 and hasn’t stopped since, or maybe even Akira (1988), which was one of the first anime films to see a theatrical release in America.  Outside of a select few, though, American appreciation of anime in its many forms is largely confined to a small but fervent fanbase.  Despite this lack of mainstream attention, anime is still an important part of film and television, which is why we’ve focused on developing our collection.

There are several ways to approach anime as a whole.  Generally, anime fandom focuses on the different demographics within anime–is it for men or women, boys or girls, or general audiences?–or on major genres, like magical girls or giant robots.  Though these perspectives work well for most current TV anime, they leave many holes through which more complex films can fall, like Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (1988), which addresses the struggle to survive during the firebombings of Kobe during World War II.  Grave of the Fireflies is a historical drama that’s difficult to pigeonhole regarding its target audience, since its main characters are children, but it addresses very mature themes that are difficult for even adults to come to terms with.  Some TV anime series are just as complex, like Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997), which appears to be a fantasy series for teenage girls but explores themes of identity, sexuality, and agency in increasingly abstract ways.

Because of the complexities inherent in great anime, this blog series will approach the medium from a chronological and thematic perspective, addressing one or two major players within anime per blog post.  Most of the posts will look at directors, like Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, while others will look at important studios, animators, manga authors, and character designers.  Due to the breadth of anime and the amount that has not been released for American audiences, this series will by no means be comprehensive, but it will cover most of the big names within the industry, beginning with Osamu Tezuka (best known for Astro Boy (1963)).  I look forward to seeing you next time!