Anime is a very unique and an odd part of the Film and TV industry, primarily because almost all anime is Japanese. The Japanese have very different views on social ideas, humor, love and many other topics compared to the rest of the world. This creates a barrier for many people outside Japan to take interest and enjoy watching Anime like they do for Western films and television shows. I myself for a long time could not get into Anime because of the stigma numerous weird anime shows had. Most Japanese animated shows are just simply insane. They seem to be obsessed with Japanese school girls, samurai warriors, mechanical robots, and anything else connected to those themes. While most Anime is difficult to understand and not appealing to the average viewer there are quite a bit of Anime shows/films that are enjoyable and in some cases amazing. Here are 5 in particular that can appeal to non-anime fans and introduce them into this misunderstood genre of animation.
Cowboy Bebop is one of the most unique animes I have ever seen. It’s set in the year 2071 and revolves around 4 idiosyncratic characters. These 4 characters make up a rag tag crew of bounty hunters who travel around the universe on their spaceship known as the Bebop trying to earn a living. Many episodes stress the idea that they are just trying to get by. Life as a bounty hunter is not glamorous and barely pays the bills and food on their plates. Each character in this crew of broke bounty hunters is truly unique. Each character has his or her own style and personality that creates no ordinary bounty hunter. Spike is a former member of a crime syndicate, a pilot and a pickpocket and Jet is a former police detective who left the force due to corruption. Along with that he is the most rational and morally sound person in the group. Faye is a woman addicted to gambling who suffers long term memory loss due to being cryogenically frozen and because of that much of her past is a mystery. Edward is a young, childish and eccentric girl who who looks up to the crew as her family and operates as their computer hacker. The crew is also accompanied by a small corgi dog known as Ein. The show has a very film noire style. Even though it’s set in the future it has film noir tone and style to it and doesn’t focus much on futuristic ideas as you would expect. The show explores more relevant themes like friendship and love in a more realistic sense than most animes. The noir visual style and interesting characters are accompanied by an amazing Jazz and Blues soundtrack. This is one of those shows where the soundtrack is just as important as the look and plot of the show. The blend of unique characters, a great soundtrack and a very stylish look makes this an anime that many put on a pedestal and regard as a classic.
FLCL is a 6 episode coming of age anime centered around 12 year old Naota. Naota is A young boy who is experiencing the time period in his life where he is confused and angry with life, love, adults and everything else a typical kid deals with at that age. He meets Haruko, a peculiar young woman after she runs into him with her vespa. Haruko is a mysterious woman who quickly becomes infatuated with Naota and he relunctantly does the same with her. The show is set in a small seemingly dull town but, like many anime shows things get insane. Naota basically gives birth to a robot through his head and that robot becomes Naota’s guardian and his family’s house maid. Monsters appear, crazy battle action scenes with the robot take place and other crazy situations come about, that surprisingly fit well with the tone of the show. FLCL excels in telling a short and great story about a kid who is confused with life and the crazy relationship he gets pulled into with Haruko. The show benefits highly from it’s excellent English dubbing and superb soundtrack. The voice actors did a great job voicing the characters and their varied emotions and comedic banter. The Japanese rock band “the Pillows” scores the entire soundtrack and with their versatility capture the shows climactic, funny and emotional moments. The show does a good job westernizing itself with the excellent dubbing and parodies of itself as well as shows like South park. On the surface FLCL looks like just another crazy Japanese anime but, it’s actually a light-hearted story focused on a confused kid trying to make sense of things with lots of hilarity thrown in. The only bad thing about it is that it’s only 6 episodes long.
Initial D is probably the easiest anime of this list that non anime viewers can watch and really enjoy. It’s a show about Takumi, a young guy living in Japan who is part of the street racing scene. He demonstrates much skill in the drift racing scene by beating all his opponents and because of that he joins an underground drift racing team. The show follows his journey from a young high school student to one of the best drift racers around, traveling from one Japanese prefecture to another learning new techniques and wiping out the competition. The show is simple but has mass appeal due to its focus on cars and racing. Each episode is typically centered around Takumi and a new opponent he must beat on the downhill hairpin streets of Japan. There is the occasional love interest and there are some decent supporting characters but, what make it a great show is the racing. Each race is a well produced cgi animation of Takumi’s Trueno AE86 drifting around the corners of downhill roads at high speeds. Plus exciting electronic music accompanying every tense race makes this an entertaining show.
Hetalia: Axis Powers
Hetalia Axis Powers is the most westernized anime on this list. It’s a comedic anime about the different countries in Asia, Europe and North America. Each country has been personified into a character who exhibits its country’s stereotypes both good and bad as well as the name of the country. For example, Germany is an intelligent and strict leader among the group. Italy is a whiney cry baby always surrendering and Japan is a respectful, quiet guy with strong code of honor. It’s basically a soap opera featuring characters who represent each country and the funny issues they face with one another. It is particular entertaining for people who know their world geography and the stereotypes many countries have like Spain’s care free attitude, England’s properness and Canada’s quietness and hatred of fighting. Each episode is only 5 minutes long and it does a great job making fun of each country in a lighthearted but truthful way.
Akira is probably the most revered anime film ever made. This was the movie that opened my mind to anime. It was made in the late 80s but, because of its very high budget and fantastic story, it still holds up today quite well. It’s set in a futuristic Tokyo and follows two young men Kaneda and Tetsuo. The guys are members of a futuristic motorcycle street gang. The plot follows Tetsuo and his accidental encounter with a government experiment that eventually leads him into being kidnapped by the government. This in time leads to Tetsuo turning into a giant powerful mass, causing large amounts of destruction and the story becomes a bit more confusing from there. While the story is complicated and can take a few viewings to understand its many themese and messages, it is still quite good. Along with that the animation and attention to detail in the film is amazing. The colors are vibrant, characters and environments are drawn with immense detail. The audio is also equally impressive. There is a heavy use of drums and other orchestral pieces which gives the film a very climactic and tense feel. Akira is one of the very few animes I would ever own just to watch on high definition bluray.