Maybe I’m brainwashed by the mainstream media, but Japan is awesome. We need to agree on that. Awesomeness just seems to flow out of that country like a natural resource. They’ve got sushi, they’ll be the first to invent giant robots, and if you set a “Fast & the Furious” movie in the country, it’ll automatically be the best of the franchise.
I was introduced to Japan through anime, an artform that it really isn’t aimed at any specific age group. Much like Japan, you just have to “get it.” I used to watch “Astroboy” as a kid, and then nothing until I got my mind blown by the Miyazaki film “Princess Mononoke” about ten years ago.
After that, friends kept recommending various TV shows to me, and I was introduced to the cream and the crap of the stuff anime conventions are made of. So here are several short reviews for every anime TV series I’ve seen in it’s completion, and in as close to the order as I remember watching them.
1. Cowboy Bebop
Target Audience: Only the cool people who like jazz, gun fights, funny hair, and Bruce Lee dig Bebop.
Why I Started Watching It: A friend just sent me the first episode and told me to check it out. And now I own the box set and movie.
Recap: An ex-criminal and an ex-cop team up and fly around the solar system hunting bounties with a crew consisting of a debt-ridden woman who keeps robbing them, a 13-year old mentally-challenged computer genius, and a super-intelligent Welsh Corgie. The show loosely follows a serious 26-episode story arc, but there’s plenty of standalone stories, different takes on humor and action, and ironic plot twists, making the show closely resemble “James Bond” meets “Firefly.” It’s collectively known in anime circles as THE coolest show ever made.
Final Word: It’s just kick-ass in general. I rank it amongst the top three non-embarrassing animes that I will recommend to people. Naturally, a lot of fans will call it overrated because of the hype, but I came in with a clean slate when I started watching it – and to date, I still haven’t found a finer show.
2. Love, Hina
What Is It?: My first foray in the world of Japan’s sick, perverted sense of humor! And believe me, this wasn’t even close to the worst of it.
Why I Watched It: Recommended by the friend of that other friend, whose avatar was an animated gif from this show.
Premise: It’s been years… let’s see what I can remember from this show: it was about a guy who’s trying to get into college, and then his grandmother (Hina) gives him a summer job as resident manager for an off-campus sorority house. And in spite of that being the perfect set-up for a porno, the show instead introduces us to six eccentric girls who spend the entire series beating the crap out of the guy every time he trips and lands on their boobs. Then it turns into a PG-rated mixture between “Looney Tunes” and “American Pie.” I later figured out that those most Japanese characters follow that formula.
Target Audience: Teenage girls who like quirky romantic comedies with flying turtles, and 20-something guys who wish their grandmother would leave them a sorority house. I liked it.
3. Dragonball Z
The Cons: I remember starting to watch this way before Bebop, where my brothers and I randomly came across it on YTV and we just sat there making fun of it. It was absolutely ridiculous – the characters were always yelling and powering up, and the dialogue was beyond comprehensive. It was arguably the dumbest show we’d ever seen.
The Pros: And yet it grows on a person. Years later, after tuning in enough times, we actually became genuinely interested in seeing where the story was going. The heckling ended, we became acquainted with the characters, their back-stories and relationships, their abilities and powers, the philosophies, and the whole general mythology that the creator had dreamed up. The one day, it just clicks: we’re watching the greatest show ever.
Target Audience: Apparently the whole world. When I was in Venice, there was some religious event going on and there were DBZ balloons everywhere. You couldn’t turn a corner without seeing Goku firing a Kamehameha Wave at your face. On a worldwide scale, I wouldn’t be surprised if that character’s more popular than Superman.
The Power This Show Has: Once you get into it, it’s very brain-washing, and may cause you to believe that all of these characters’ powers are within reach of the common man. Myself and countless people I know have actually practiced trying to create balls of ki energy, or use Gohan’s method of flying. Something about the way it’s explained on the show just seems plausible. Either that, or the show has made us dumber. Whichever is more likely. *flies away*
What It Was About: It was about a high school student who can see and talk to ghosts, and uses his power to help them. I read that synopsis on an anime site several years back and thought “that sounds neat – and look – it’s only 13 episodes long. I’ll check it out.” And so the downloading began. At the time, I didn’t know it was an ongoing series.
What it IS about: It’s about 230 episodes too long, and mostly about a high school student who can see ghosts, but instead spends all his time having sword fights with some of the stupidest bad guys ever imagined. Also, I think there’s 500 main characters. I don’t remember any of their names.
Target Audience: Anyone with Alzheimer’s. This show slips into filler episodes so often that you’d be better off just forgetting that the show ever started out good. They will actually stop entire story arcs just to bring us other story arcs. Like “Lost,” but more retarded.
Why am I still watching this?: I don’t know… but I have technically seen every episode so far, so I’m putting it on here.
5. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Why I Started Watching It: “Oh, man – if you like anime, you HAVE to check this one out! It’s better than Bebop! Yes, really! Trust me – WAY better!”
Is it better than Bebop?: No.
What it is: It is the future. The government uses giant robots to fight alien invaders, and only kids can pilot these giant robots. The rest of the show is a blur. There’s a penguin in it. Then it ends with two episodes where the main character sits in a chair psycho-analyzing himself and comes to the amazing revelation that love and happiness is good.
Target Audience: I guess it’s for anyone who like their giant robot fights to have metaphysical symbolism and religious analogies.
Why I Started Watching It: As I recall, Terrence found it somewhere, and HAD to show it to me.
What is it?: It’s 6 episodes about a guy named Kintaro on a bike riding around Japan, meeting beautiful women, doing humiliating things to himself to win their hearts, fantasizing about the toilets they sit on, and then riding off into the sunset leaving the ladies wanting more. It’s depraved, it’s perverted, and God bless it, it’s fantastic.
Target Audience: Me and Terrence.
Greatest Epic Scene Ever?: The bicycle race from episode 5.
Why I Started Watching It: I got this one from Terrence too. And he got it from Jayme.
What is it? Is it porn?: No. Not quite. Once again, it’s the future, and instead of using personal computers, people now have human-shaped computers called Persacoms that follow them around. One farmboy comes into possession of a sexy Persacom with a child-like mind and no memory, and spends the rest of the series contemplating as to whether he should have sex with it.
So it’s about computer sex?: Yes. And pocket-sized midgets.
Target Audience: Well, let’s see: the show is about a guy who becomes this robot’s personal guardian, teaches her to read and speak, raises her to have morals, develops a strong father/daughter bond with her, and then they have sex. You tell me who it’s aimed at.
8. Dragon Ball
What is it: It’s the original series, before they added Z to it for some reason. Only instead of being about a team of superheroes fighting aliens, we instead follow the coming-of-age story of the 11 year-old Goku, set against the background of the Chinese legend “Journey to the West,” as he quests for the wish-granting Dragonballs, encounters fantastic mythological creatures, defends the world from demons, and learns firsthand that girls do not have testicles. Yes, it was almost non-perverted there for a second.
Better than Dragonball Z?: I’m going to say yes. This show accomplishes more in 132 episodes than “Z” did in it’s 276 episode run. There’s more story arcs, more action, more villains, more plot devices, more humor, more imagination, and WAY better music. And if you ever watched “Z” first, it’s a nice precursor to how all these characters met. In my opinion, it’s a far more entertaining adventure.
Comparative to: “The Neverending Story” meets “The Karate Kid” meets “Sexual Harassment and You”
Target Audience: Hmmm… at first, it seems like a family show, up until you get to the parts where Master Roshi starts trading Dragonballs for titty-flashes and molesting unconscious women. It’s Japan. Go figure. Compared to everything else on this list, it’s the closest I’ve seen to a family show.