IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF SOME ANIME SHOWS!
We are currently in the golden age of television, with lots of new and old stories to pay attention to. Meanwhile, in Japan, the anime industry is also booming with a crazy amount of quality anime material that clearly needs some love from fans all over the world. Anime is an art on its own, capable of bringing some of the most entertaining and artistic designs and amazing writing that will blow the minds of many. We have a tendency of ignoring some foreign productions because we always want to stay in our comfort zone and watch something that is a momentary pleasure after a hard working day. Although this is totally understandable, our minds need stimulation from the visual arts, and with the Hollywood cinematic and television landscape lacking new and fresh material (let’s be honest, most of the film and television productions are stuck in a loop of remakes, reboots, superheros and space driven epics), we need to find this elsewhere.
Anime fans have constantly been supportive of this particular art, and many times are ignored or mocked in advising friends or family that this is really a creative new world ready to be discovered for those who never wanted to give it a try. Anime is truly unique, and its animation allows to camouflage some mistakes that, in live-action form, would totally ruin the experience. Not only is this art masterful in telling new and rich stories, it also brings a freshness to some social and political issues that are told in many forms, either through constant action, reflective dialogs, or fantasy worldbuilding. There are just so many good examples of how Japanese creativity that we need to filter where to start. There are animes for all tastes and genre lovers, and can be separated by shonen and seinen that usually rely on what you are seeking to watch. Shonen basically is aimed for a younger audience, while seinen has the liberty to become increasingly violent and is usually more adult themed. Animes are very precise in creating atmospheric environments and rich scenarios where both the narratives and characters thrive along the way, making it one of the most intense and surprising experiences to watch on a screen. In film, anime is receiving some love, especially due to the iconic Studio Ghibli and one of the most prolific authors in the field, Hayao Miyazaki, who won an Oscar for his remarkable piece of artistry Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (or Spirited Away). He has a long list of fans rooting for his work, and masterpieces started to fall like leaves in autumn, with an incredible feeling of this imaginative freedom that is reflected in both stories, characters and worlds that Miyazaki is responsible for.
But while cinema lovers are fond of Miyazaki, television fans have a bigger and more wider perspective by watching as many anime shows they can. Anime shows have long been part of pop culture, with Pokémon still being produced after so many years and Dragon Ball receiving even more love now than when it premiered long ago. All over the world, we believed through these respectful and long lasting exercises that anime television shows are entirely aimed to conquer a young generation in the making, but this concept is not entirely true. While many anime productions fit perfectly for a younger audience, others are more complex and dense, disrupting this traditional belief and assumption. Netflix has been one of the most recent platforms to understand and take advantage of this art and recently began buying and producing content from anime creators. This is one remarkable move, where a multi-millionaire company understands that the anime market is one to keep. Usually based on mangás, Japanese version of comicbooks, anime shows are incredibly thorough in respecting (generally speaking) the original source and detailed in providing a visual look that brings the pages to life. Although some take creative liberties and, therefore, start to annoy the mangá aficionados, animes are still worth taking a peak and have enough material to expand our minds and defy our brains and our relationship with the visual arts. Some of them will be present in this article, and we hope they will be enough to capture your curiosity.
Classics like Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Rurouni Kenshin or Parasyte: The Maxim are truly the firsts you should watch in order to understand the complexities and virtues of anime storytelling. They are distinct from one another in many ways, but they are intended to show the power of creating a non-linear narrative, filled with huge plot twists and revealing the talent in creating rich and dense characters and ambitious new worlds that are far from being simple. Inbetween the lines, there are many social metaphors that can be applied to our society as we know it, making them more relevant and creative as we initially may think. In recent years, anime began to be even more complex and this complexity proved to be successful as Attack on Titan surprised its fans with an extraordinary political approach to a world invaded by mindless creatures that are devouring humanity to extinction, and the remaining human survivors need to understand how adaptable they can be in order to erradicate this menace. With amazing action, Attack on Titan is a detailed reflection on how humans are responsible for their own demise, revealing a surprising set of World War II military concepts and applying them with care to a fantasy world with its own mythology. But there are many new animes that can bring you to a new place and leave you intrigued by letting you appreciate the new world you are gradually meeting like Made in Abyss. With adorable and extremely captivating characters, one may think this anime will be fit for a younger audience, but remove that thought quickly because Made in Abyss is a tough and a misleading work of art. An orphaned young girl name Riko is set for a perilous journey with her new friend Reg, a robot boy who appeared in an unlikely scenario, to the depths of the Abyss, an open hole that goes down to the depths of the Earth, where Riko’s mother was last seen. As we follow the adventures of these two charismatic leads, we discover new worlds, each one with its particular set of fauna and flora, and begin to understand the complex hierarchy of cave dwellers and the limits of the human being in surviving a hostile and unpredictable world.
Anime shows are filled with metaphors of human behavior and are constantly testing its relationship, for instance, with nature, like the adorably recent Somali and the Forest Spirit. Somali is a human child that was lost in a forest until a Golem, whose job is to protect the forests against foreign intrusion, decides to deliver her to the remaining human survivors, who are being hunted as food or enslaved by a society of creature-like people. In its very core, Somali and the Forest Spirit is a big reflection of our constant invasion and destruction of natural habitats and how we are definied by our thirst of ruling above other creatures with whom we share our planet. “Humans are a frail and cowardly species. Whenever they encounter a creature that does not conform to their worldview, they cannot regain peace of mind until they purge it from existence.” – even if this anime is mostly human-friendly, it does resonate with our modern day society and the way humans relate to one another and nature.
Another example of this is Dororo, a bloody take on the samurai age with a touch of fantasy, where a warlord sells his unborn child to demons in order to bring prosperity to his kingdom. Hyakkimaru is born without a body, but he is still alive, being raised as a demon killer with prosthetic arms and legs, and regaining them each time he makes a kill. He meets adorable Dororo, an orphaned trans boy that is having a rough time finding resources to survive. Together Hyakkimaru and Dororo fight against the forces of evil, while trying to find their home and identity. This is clearly an ingenious way to provide a perspective on how marginalized minorities are still being demonized by their differences or disabilities, and how they become survivors and heroes of their own stories.
Another example of storytelling mastery is Beastars, a precious gem of teenage drama where people are actually anthropomorfic animals divided into carnivores and herbivores and their troubled cohabitation, setting up a romance between a strong and tender wolf called Legoshi and a promiscuous and adorable rabbit named Haru. To make things even more interesting, a plot of crime and murder is added in order to set up an introspective reflexion on how carnivores and herbivores need to confront their natures and instincts and get along to avoid any further carnage. It is definitely one anime that leaves you thinking of the possibilities of coexistence between species that are on both ends of the food chain. It is ambitious and intriguing, and becomes even more powerful when it starts to challenge its main characters to leave their comfort zones in order to find a better, more peaceful way to live alongside one another. Beastars is an incredible, captivating attempt of bringing a society together and paving the way for it to understand itself rather than killing itself.
Of our more recent binges, we have the tearjerker Erased that roots itself on our growth as an individual, and makes us think about the people we care and love. It may seem cheesy, but Erased is far from it. It’s a human study of deep emotions, and the constant fight to make right with our past, present and future. Lead by two very special protagonists, Erased is a 12-episode adventure that will leave your heart restless and eager for more genuine and creative stories, probably the first one we recommend watching if anime shows are starting by now capturing the reader’s interest. Another short take on humanity is Death Parade, an iconic and highly underrated anime, that makes the judgement of afterlife human intentions in a limbo-like bar that determines whether a soul is pure or ill-intended through death games. Salvation or demise will eventually be decided once the viewer has a glimpse of the true nature of the gamers. Death Parade is also extremely short, which is the ideal platform for new anime consumers to become familiar with anime complexity, intensity and creativity.
To finish this article, which is somehow very long by now, Vinland Saga will make Vikings fans extremely frustrated, because this anime succeeds where the History Channel‘s series failed. Filled with amazing character development, bloody battles and intelligent military coups, Vinland Saga is anime in its best form. Not only does it have outstanding visuals, it’s the story filled with twists and careful treatment that will make you cry for more and more. Popularity in the anime world is also rising with the huge success of Demon Slayer, a remarkable fantasy-action epic where a young boy sees his family slaughtered by demons and watches his sister slowly becoming one herself. To avoid the full transformation, Tanjiro and Nezuko begin a journey to find the demon responsible for the murder of their parents and who holds the answer to cure Nezuko. While the anime is not always levelled in its narrative arcs, it certainly has the entertainment that is necessary for an anime lover to enjoy the best that Japanese animation has to offer. Filled with powerful visuals, exciting action sequences and amazing characters, Demon Slayer became an instant classic, one that is suitable for everyone who enjoys a genre-diverse series.
Anime shows are deeply rooted in our culture, not only Japanese, but our culture as humans. It is one visual art that deserves to be looked for its potential and captivating abilities, and should not be ignored by anyone. It is clearly our salvation from a largely idea-empty Hollywood, and it is definitely more dense than it may appear by former misconceptions we created while watching child-friendly Pokémon or Dragon Ball. If you are seeking something remarkable to add to your time on this planet and make it a worthwhile experience, then you need to start giving an opportunity to some of these anime shows that will clearly blow your mind and make you a richer, more experienced visual arts supporter. These are just a few examples we provide you to start your own adventure in the anime world, and you will find other amazing stories in many other lists on the internet. So, to our readers, have a blast!
This article is dedicated to my personal anime advisor and friend Leonardo, who I can only be grateful for pushing me into this life-absorving universe!