Would you like to become an anime connoisseur, expert, guru, an Otaku? Or maybe you’ve just found yourself watching a highly recommended anime and wondering why it’s so bizarre? Why are jets shooting out of that kids feet? Why do anime Espers have such intense foreheads? Why does this anime have such epically beautiful backgrounds and yet the main characters look like they were an after thought? What’s up with this random jazz music in anime? And why is this very serious anime so psychedelic? To take your anime obsession to the next level, or to just make some sense of the more “artistic” anime, you have to watch strategically. By watching key foundation anime, seeing where different genres started, what inspired different themes, and broke the mold, even the most strange anime will start to make sense. So, here is my top 5 anime that will make you an Otaku.
Akira is a classic sci-fi that built the foundation for most sci-fi anime you see today. Akira is one of the few anime of the 1980’s that managed to thrill both anime fans and hardcore science fiction fans alike. Similar scenes and themes that started with Akira can be seen in anime like A Certain Magical Index and it’s related series or even Angelic Layer, and Kiznaiver. From the futuristic biker gang to the iconic red leather jacket to the child experimentation, it’s hard to not see Akira in so much of modern sci-fi anime. When Arika was first released in 1988, it was ground breaking and the anime world hasn’t been the same since. It was the biggest budget anime of its day and the quality of the animation and the story shows that. Point to any modern sci-fi, futuristic, post-apocoliptic, high-tech, Esper, mad science anime and you will see a little bit of Akira lingering there.
2. My Neighbor Totoro
My Neighbor Totoro is an iconic anime that catapulted studio Ghibli into the global spotlight. There are few Japanese children that haven’t seen and loved this film and for good reason. If you haven’t watched any studio Ghibli films yet, you should at least watch this one. It has so much of the imagery and feel of the most highly regarded Ghibli films. A lot of the quality, charming characters, and heartwarming stories that the studio is known for started with this film. In fact, Totoro the giant wooly gray monster, is on the logo for the studio! The whimsical joy of My Neighbor Totoro can still be seen is such anime as Flying Witch, The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and Somali and the forest spirit. My Neighbor Totoro inspired an entire unique genre of peaceful, gentle, slow paced anime. These anime are easy to pick out due to key elements, like that they’re almost always set in the countryside, feature adorable children, lovable monsters, and forest magic. These anime also often feature beautiful, colorful, and realistic backgrounds and scenery.
3. Perfect Blue
To say that Satoshi Kon was an icon of his day and still is pivotal to modern anime is an understatement. He made some of the most thought provoking, artistic, and shocking anime in the modern era. Satoshi Kon’s specialty seems to be finding the flaws in modern society and bringing them to light in the most intense, heart wrenching, bizarre, and at times hilarious ways. And the most iconic of his work is Perfect Blue. Though this anime came out in 1997, it’s aged well. A psychological thriller, this anime perfected melting fantasy and reality to create a dizzying kaleidoscope of the pop music industry, crime, obsession, and social constructions. You can still see traces of Satoshi Kon’s brilliant work in modern psychological thriller anime like ID: invaded, Ergo-proxy, and Tokyo Ghoul. Though, none of these can compare to Perfect Blue in intensity and depth.
4. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop, an anime that has been loved, hated, and at times greatly misunderstood by anime fans across the globe. Regardless of what kind of anime you usually watch, no anime repertoire is complete without watching this. There have been as many complaints about Cowboy Bebop as there have been praises. Anime fans seem to range from considering Cowboy Bebop to be cooler than cool, to claiming that its dumb and completely over rated. One thing almost no one will argue over is that once anyone watches it, everyone has an opinion on it. The cast of this anime consists of a former special forces/detective turned bounty hunter, a former mafia member turned bounty hunter, a former con-artist and gambler turned part-time bounty hunter, a child genius turned hacker, and a former science experiment turned pet dog. If that group isn’t enough to get fans opinions forming, nothing is! Cowboy Bebop fits into an amazing space between genres. It isn’t a space opera, and yet it is. It isn’t a western, yet it is. It isn’t a detective anime, or a noir anime or an cyberpunk anime, and yet it is. And that’s probably what gets fans so opinionated about this anime, it is so many things, and yet it is also a whole lot of nothing. . . . yeah, I just had to add this in here, it also has above and beyond one of the best opening and closing songs EV-ER!
Astroboy (1963) There would be no robot anime as we see them today, if it wasn’t for the original Astroboy. For how youthful, short, and seemingly perpetually refreshed Astroboy is, it’s surprising that without a doubt he’s the grandfather of robot anime. What would modern robot anime be without Astroboy’s feet with pop out jets for flight, hands with pop out guns or tools, advanced sight, and super computer intelligence? Astroboy is basically the Iron Man suit without the belligerent billionaire riding around in it. Astroboy was also one of the first sci-fi productions that featured a robot that didn’t act robotic. Astroboy was cute, cheerful, and energetic. He had a full range of human emotions and lived peacefully with humans. You can still see the latest updates and patches of Astroboy in . . . all robot anime!
And honorable mention goes to Sailor Moon, because where would shojo anime or cosplay be without the Sailor Scouts?
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This week’s anime exclamation is: Ja ne! meaning Later!
I’m currently watching:
- My Hero Academia
- Welcome to Demon School, Iruma-kun
- Fena: Pirate Princess
- My Next Life as a Villainess
- Tokyo Revengers
- The Great Jahy will Not Be Defeated!
- Bungo Stray Dogs
- The Cast Study of Vanitas
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
- Over Lord
- Life Lessons with Uramichi Oniisan
- Inari Kon Kon
- Kageki Shojo
- Level E