A Cut Above the Rest: 5 Classic Animated TV Series You Must See!
Even with the global popularity of Japanese animated works such as “Your Name” or the classics of Studio Ghibli, anime still carries with it a strong identity as something on the fringe of the mainstream. Many popular anime in recent years has relied on “moe” characters, overused tropes, fan service, and flashy sequences with overpowered or unremarkable main characters but, there are always exceptions to such trends. Here I would like to recommend 5 works which may appeal to people unfamiliar with anime as they combine compelling stories and remarkable animation.
1. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (攻殻機動隊: Stand Alone Complex)
An impeccable all-time great. Originally based upon a Manga written in 1989, “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” is an engaging sci-fi animated TV-series about a counter-terrorism organization set in 2030 Japan. The show was made in 2002, but it remains popular with its compellingly built information and cyborg society in the future combined with real-world issues and people’s life in it. The show explores popular contemporary topics featured in other media: counter-terrorism, corporate scandals, and political conspiracies. But at the same time they are mixed remarkably well with the social conditions that exist in 2030, where information technology has advanced so much that human consciousness is connected to the sea of the Internet all the time with cyberbrain, providing original touch and insights to the story. Coupled with exciting action sequences of gunfires and melees, it is a perfect piece of entertainment without requiring too much of the audience. However, those who are compelled to dig deeper will also be rewarded as it contains a lot of interesting settings and messages.The series won two awards from the Ministry of Culture of Japan: one for the show itself and one for the 2nd episode. A definite case of must-watch if you still have not.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex website : http://www.kokaku-s.com/root.html
2. Planetes (プラネテス)
Based upon a manga series by Makoto Yukimura, Planets is an extremely unusual sci-fi creation. Instead of showing giant robots shooting laser beams or aliens invading Earth, Planetes depicts the everyday life in space orbit and “space-debris” collectors working in an enterprise just like everybody else.
Sheer attention to detail over the use of technology, and scientific settings provide audiences with a persuasive depiction of what the future life above the atmosphere would be like, without resorting to explanatory dialogues.
Yet, what this show does the best is in the depiction of human beings themselves. By showing all the good, bad, and ugly parts of the people and the world in which they live in, Planetes asks you an abundant. yet ultimate question of all time: What is love? And does it have any place in the age of science and space development?
You think it’s too cliche? Trust me, just bear with it till the end. You won’t be disappointed!
Planetes website : http://www.planet-es.net/
￼￼3. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (コードギアス 反逆のルルーシュ)
Are you angry about the current state of the world? Do the injustices around you make you irascible? Then why not create your own army? Why not rebel against it, and change it? This is a show that exactly does that: a high school student with a complicated past waging rebellious war against his own family that runs the world’s biggest colonial empire.
As ridiculous as that sounds, there is nothing foolish about the show itself. With an amazingly exciting story of protagonist fighting against overwhelmingly larger enemy at colonized Japan as a leader of the resistance group, school-life, fighting robots, political thriller, mind games, quest for justice, and personal karmic stories are brilliantly packaged in 26 episodes. Nothing else comes close on the structural backbone of the Code Geass, regarding how each characters’ actions affect one another, and how they deal with its consequences. It is a very exciting and clever show, always keeping ahead of the viewers, making you desperate to see what is going to happen next.
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion website: http://www.geass.jp/first/index.html
4. Cowboy Bebop (カウボーイビバップ)
A show with a distinctively unique style of storytelling and overall atmosphere, Cowboy Bebop is about 4 bounty hunters (and a dog!) cruising through space for some bounty, meeting new people, confronting their pasts, and on some occasion making a mess out of everything for a good laugh. Not just the 4 protagonists, but almost all of the characters in this anime would be memorable to you; catchy and smooth conversations between grown-ups mixed with jazzy music scores composed by the legendary Yoko Kanno, provides an unusual but stylish sensation that are yet to be provided by no other show out there!
Cowboy Bebop would definitely be categorized as a sci-fi anime, and it makes a good use of scientific gigs and technologies, but it does not feel futuristic at all. Many of the stories unfolding in the episodes are human-based involving personal revenge, crime gangs, and male/female relationships. This gives a feel somewhat similar to the American Noir films in the last century, and Cowboy Bebop is most definitely inspired by those creations.
The central storyline regarding the protagonist, Spike Spiegel, is quite simple and left largely unexplained. At the end of the day this show might emphasize style over substance but, with Cowboy Bebop, the “style” is so good that it makes everything right, which does not happen everyday.
Cowboy Bebop website: http://www.cowboy-bebop.net/
5. Death Note (デスノート)
Perhaps one of the most well-known animated creations worldwide. One day a high school student, Light Yagami, came to possess “Death Note”; a notebook with supernatural power that can kill people only by writing a person’s name into it. Using this demonic tool, Light starts to purify the world by killing criminals to create an ideal world.
It might sound like a single-layered, mass-produced storyline seen in many anime with a school boy/girl gaining supernatural powers and challenging whatever he/she doesn’t like. As a matter of fact, Death Note is a brilliantly well thought out intelligent thriller without any of the nonsense mentioned above. The central plot of Death Note unfolds around Light Yagami, the owner of the notebook in question and L, a detective who’s hunting him down, trying to outwit one another in a mind game. Yet the battle between these two brilliant minds is purely based on logical and deductive reasoning, which is very clever but at the same time crystal-clear and easy to understand. Combined with a remarkably refined quality of animated writings that looks sharp even after 11 years, Death Note is still highly recommendable to wide range of audiences.
Death Note website: http://www.ntv.co.jp/deathnote/
I have given 5 according to my own personal and partial selection. Anything that particularly caught your eye? Forgive me if you think I have introduced too many sci-fi stuff, but I suppose that is, after all, where anime shines the most by showing somewhere not here and sometime not now. The 5 shows I have listed here are all top of the line, all time great, that you often see it on the very top of the anime review websites. If you want some real stuff from Japanese animation, then these probably are where you would want to start.
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