I don’t often talk about Anime. I go through so much during a given year that I don’t find the time to talk about any one of them in particular. But in the past few days I’ve answered a few questions about Anime for someone who’s a complete novice, and it made me think of all those great series I’ve watched in the past years that have stuck with me, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to write something about them?” So here we are.
This is the first in a new series of posts. As I said, I go through a lot of Anime in a given year and have seen a lot, so I have to split it into more than one entry.
If you decide to give any of these a chance, I just have one rule/request: DON’T EVER WATCH IT WITH DUB, ALWAYS SUBS! If you don’t follow this rule, we’ll have some stern words!
Slayers: Just ask my friends and they’ll tell you this is my series. It has it all, funny moments, drama, a rich and detailed world, magic with rules and casting words, a fantastic cosmology and an amazing cast of characters. The plot of each season is amazing and if you like it, you need to go after the novels from which the series was adapted.
The series stars genius sorceress Lina Inverse, a bratty spellcaster with enough power to level cities…which she totally does in the first episode of each season. Joining her are Gourry, the idiot swordsman, Zelgadiss, the Chimera, and Amelia, the warrior of justice. The series plays with fantasy stereotypes and subverts them at every turn, always surprising you and keeping you hooked to your seat from episode to episode. Slayers Next, the second season, introduces my favourite character, Xelloss, and the movies have the outrageous Naga the Serpent.
The magic is fantastic and by the end, you’ll be chanting the spells with the characters.
To Aru Majutsu no Index / To Aru Kagaku no Railgun: Imagine a massive city filled with universities, high-schools and research labs and organizations. Now add people with special powers to the mix, all students and their powers part of the city’s curriculum. Sound awesome yet? Well, now add the different and sometime contrarian branches of the Catholic Church and magicians. Is it sounding weirdly amazing? That’s because it is.
The main character is Kamijou Touma, a student whose right hand can negate and undo any supernatural effect, from ESP to magic. Sadly, it often negates his own good fortune. Joining him is the eponymous Index, a nun carrying the content of the 133 forbidden grimoires in her mind. From the moment they meet, Touma is drawn into the secret world of magicians, the dark side of Academy City and the hidden war between science and magic.
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun is a spinoff from Index, following the eponymous ‘Railgun’, Misaka Mikoto, and generally explores events prior to the main series, catching up later on, and showing you other sides of the plot.
Shakugan no Shana: There are two worlds according to Shana: earth and one where godlike beings live. Not all of them are good, the evil ones hunting human essences aka ‘the power of existence’ to make their dreams come true, or just to feed. What happens when they consume someone’s power of existence? They cease to be, the world’s memory changing so that they never existed but it causes distortions in the world.
To stop these creatures are the Flame Haze, humans who’ve forged contracts with the good gods (I’m simplifying this a lot by the way). Aside from fighting, they also lessen the imbalances by making sure the people don’t disappear all at once but slowly over a period of days, so that the world grows used to the idea of them not being around.
The main character is a Flame Haze named Shana, contracted to Alastor, “The Flame of Heaven.” When the series starts she meets up a Torch (someone who’s had their existence eaten and is now slowly ceasing to be) named Sakai Yuji, who unlike other torches acts normally—other torches act like puppets, existing but not living—and weirder still, doesn’t disappear.
This is a series that mixes metaphysical mumbo jumbo with awesome fighting and action scenes, while having a nice romance story going on in the middle between Shana and Yuji. It’s pretty damn good and everyone should watch it.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00: All Gundam series (except G Gundam) are freaking awesome, but I’ll talk about this one today. 00 takes place sometime in the future in an earth divided by three massive powers fighting each other for control of resources. Enter the mysterious organization ‘Celestial Being’ and their Gundams, to stop all wars by declaring war against the world. If there’s a battle, they’ll join it and kick everyone’s ass, to hammer in the message that “war is bad.”
Things don’t go as planned and things get more complicated the more the plot advances. It’s the only Gundam series to date that’s been split into two seasons, and it’s one of the best made in recent years. The cast is fantastic and their development is genuine and believable, and for the first time in many Gundam series, the protagonist mechs aren’t always godlike.
Boogiepop Phantom: The first show I saw that left me scratching my head and saying, “What the fuck?” Boogiepop is the spirit of vengeance in Tokyo, showing up to punish the guilty. It sounds simple, but it’s far from it. From existential musings to philosophical arguments, this series will have you confused from start to finish…but you won’t leave it alone. A part of you will want to see more, to wrap your head around the weirdness that is Boogiepop.
Eatman/Eatman ’98: Bolt Crank is a mercenary in a strange cyberpunk world. What makes him stand out? He eats through metal, and is often found snacking on bullets and bolts. It sounds harmless but what if I told you he then recombines/assembles all he eats into weaponry that comes out his hands? Sounds badass, doesn’t it? It’s because it is.
Each episode is a self-contained story, with almost no connection to previous or future episodes. Characters vary with each of them, though Bolt himself remains consistently badass.
Rurouni Kenshin: Aside from Slayers, this is the other masterpiece I love dearly. It’s a historical action series set in the early days of the Meiji era of Japan history after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It stars Kenshin Himura, a vagabond carrying a Sakabatou, an inverted blade. He’s a nice guy but hides a deep secret. He’s the Hitokiri Battousai, the greatest assassin of the war-torn Bakumatsu period at the end of the Shogunate.
Kenshin is a vagabond, looking to help people and have a tranquil life, vowing to never kill anyone ever again. News of a killer using his old nickname, however, brings him into the spotlight and from then on things just get more complicated for the wandering Samurai with the cross-shaped scar on his cheek. With a clever cast, historical figures and plots that span decades of Japanese history, this is one of the smartest series ever created.
Working!!: This is a “slice of life” series, about a young man working in a family restaurant called Wagnaria. Doesn’t sound interesting? Well, what would you say if I told you the main character is a mini-con, obsessed and enamoured with anything cute and tiny and the only reason he accepts the job is because the recruiter is 16-year-oldhigh schooler so small in stature people confuse her for a child? Not strange enough? Ok, let’s up the ante with the androphobic waitress that punches any man that comes close to her; and another one that carries a Sword across her hip, scaring all costumers? Add a negligent manager that only eats to that, a chain-smoking foul-mouthed chef and sadistic, manipulative sous-chef.
Working!! Is hilarious and will keep you rolling with laughter from start to finish.
Angel Beats: One of the most beautiful series I have seen in my life. Taking place in a high school in limbo for those who died but haven’t passed on because of their regrets and attachments, the characters are members of a resistance fighting the world and its agent, a silver-haired girl they dub Angel. No matter how many times they get killed by her, they ‘respawn’ and keep trying. The newcomer and main character joins the resistance but instead of mindlessly fighting, he decides to start asking questions to discover the true nature of their limbo and how they can escape.
The story is 13 episodes long but is an emotional rollercoaster with one of the most beautiful and heart-warming/breaking endings ever shown in anime or in any other media. The story and characters are just fantastic and because of the nature of the story, they’re all fantastically crafted and developed and you care for all of them.