Here at Reset After Dark, we don’t talk exclusively video games. Sometimes, we are content to talk about other geeky stuff, like – wait for it – anime.
Yes, anime is one of those things that, like video games, used to be for the cognoscenti but then went mainstream when some people found out that there was a huge demand for it that had gone largely unnoticed. I do enjoy anime from time to time and I wanted to recommend five of my favorite titles for you to look up in case you have not seen them. Chances are that you have seen at least a few but there is always someone new to bring into the fold.
Cowboy Bebop – If you have not seen this series, stop reading this blog and doing all other activities until you do. As I said, chances are you have seen this if you at all consider yourself an anime fan. Produced by Shinichiro Watanabe, Cowboy Bebop is the story of bounty hunters – so-called “cowboys” – in a futuristic, sci-fi setting. Despite the setting, the series has elements of various genres: Western, cop drama, and film noir, as examples. This anime is loaded from start to finish with different themes and is deceptively deeper than it appears at first glance. The fact that the music was written by the legendary Yoko Kanno and happens to have some very famous tracks for its intro and outro sequences only adds to the polish of this series. I implore you to watch this series. Even a non-anime fan can potentially appreciate this series and it could be a great conversion point to introduce someone to anime.
Samurai Champloo – Also by Shinichiro Watanabe, consider this Cowboy Bebop if it were put through a feudal Japan filter. If that does not sell you, look at it from this perspective: Samurai Champloo is an action-packed story involving some miscreant troublemakers all pursuing personal goals and ambling along, more or less sticking together out of necessity and then out of friendship. They grow as people but ruin the bad guys’ day while they do it, blowing things up, burning things down, and doing all of that to a funky, hip-hop soundtrack. The humor sometimes is tongue-in-cheek about the series’s absurdity and yet that does not detract from the series. All in all, watch this if you value a good laugh and good, medieval swordfighting.
Fooly Cooly (FLCL) – If Samurai Champloo can be considered absurd, FLCL is pure madness. As an anime, it is six episodes long but it is one maniacal thrill ride. To attempt to describe it in a synopsis is a hard task because it compulsively breaks all kinds of conventions, including a sequence where it becomes an animated comic book or a moment where it switches between traditional animation and an animation highly reminiscent of South Park. To boil it down, a young boy is reflecting upon how dull his life in suburban Japan is when suddenly, he is the victim of a head-on collision with an alien girl riding a Vespa scooter. The result is a Hammerspace within his own head and a heroic TV life form that absorbs the boy to overcome interstellar villains. The boy wants to maintain a normal life but a secret agency and a galactic threat make that impossible. Add to it themes of coming-of-age and rebirth and you have one of the wildest, zaniest animes that is still remotely comprehensible.
The Big O – This series holds a very special place in my heart. It’s Batman with giant robots. What more do you need? Really, this show is incredible. Our hero is The Negotiator, a pastiche of Bruce Wayne, who lives in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan where things are not always what they seem. The Negotiator’s hometown is regularly threatened by strange monsters and genius supervillains wielding giant robots, and when negotiations fail, there is always the Big O, the giant robot that stands in defense of the innocent. However, as this film noir series unfolds, intrigue develops between The Negotiator, the corporate suits running the city, the mysterious Angel who is a double agent, an android, and an old man who is the only person who knows what catastrophe reset everyone’s memories forty years ago. The stakes get higher as more of the truth of the past is revealed, and it is up to The Negotiator and the amazing soundtrack he rolls to to carry the day…
Baccano! – From an Italian word meaning ruckus or frenzy, Baccano! is one of those animes that danced under many people’s radar. It is a story of intersecting plots, reaching back to sixteenth century alchemists and extending to the present day. Primarily centered around a train hijacking in the 1920s, the story is told in a non-linear fashion, cutting between time periods with no regard for chronology. This reminds me of some content I saw on www.cartoonporno.xxx but I disgress. Though this is at first hard to follow, the relevance of seemingly meaningless scenes becomes readily apparent as the characters cross paths with one another. The upshot of this narrative style is that the series is quite short at only 13 episodes, meaning a lot of story is crammed into very little space. Every scene and every second has a purpose and builds dramatic tension. The non-linear narrative adds to this by building up mystery for the way certain events play out and why characters do what they do. When all is finally revealed, the effect is mind-blowing. This show is definitely worth a watch.
These animes are just my personal recommendations. I think they are worth watching, but naturally, your personal tastes may vary. Some people might like high school slice of life animes, for example, and I really find those boring and uninspired. Thus, take these recommendations for what they are worth to you. If there is an anime series you really think we should be watching, leave a message here!