Anime Recommendations

There’s a couple of philosophies available. Usually in America you see anime classified as a single genre along with animation. Doesn’t really work, you know, given the fact that there is no way you can search for what you want under that system. So you usually hear about anime productions from other people that like what you like or like what you don’t like even.

A classical method of searching for anime you might like is regular name recognition.

Miyazaki is the creator of Princess Mononoke and is acclaimed as a master story teller and character creator. In the link you will find a couple of story recommendations with a comparison to Disney animated movies, which are the closest comparison you can get to Japanese anime from US productions.

Disney’s recently production “Enchanted” is a big hit because, I believe, it has more character development than you would usually see anywhere else in American theaters and it is very musical, which is always a big part of Japanese anime popularity in and outside Japan. The musical score must be pleasant to hear, appropriate, and catching. It is there to evoke emotion, to make the audience connect with danger faced by the characters, or as a method to support humor. Used well, and you won’t even remember that it was there.

Enchanted, instead of putting their “theme” music in the beginning and ending credits, they put it on the tongues of the characters themselves. Which brings in the unique American standard of the Song of Music, also a big hit.

Personally I saw a couple of anime shows like Dragon Ball Z, Noir, Fullmetal Alchemist, but it wasn’t until Bleach and Naruto that I became hooked on anime as a specific genre I wanted to watch more of. Before, of course, I was really only able to watch anime on the CartoonNetwork, which was woefully restricted and limited given what the internet, including Netflix, can provide you now a days.

Anime has its own genres or specific themes just like American movies, and you can see some of those genres at netflix, which is sort of a like movie genome project similar to Pandora’s use of the Music Genome project. You have your war drama/love triangle types in anime. You have your fantasy or historically classified types such as Samurai X, Inuyasha, and various other fictional or recreated worlds. This is where Japanese anime delves into Japan’s past of sorcery and magic, sort of like how Americans watch Wild West or James Bond movies. Japanese anime is also fascinated with mecha, represented namely by Robotech and Macross. Then there is the futuristic movie types like Akira and Ghost in the Shell which create a Matrix like future society dealing with robots and other technology of that sort. Techno-punk in many ways. It has a different focus on character design and progression than the latest generation of Japanese tv show animes (which tend to be the most popular syndicated programs).One of the most amusing and charming settings is the “slice of life” settings in which regular Japanese life, usually school and family life, are shown interspersed with various types of supernatural, fantastic, or mystic additions.

A very nice futuristic/apocalyptic utopian movie is Appleseed. It has a nice synthesis of complex motivations for allies, enemies, and so forth in addition to very nice use of computer generated images melded with hand drawn depictions. The futuristic city of Olympia is also an excellent creation in theoretical brainstorming that you probably only see in American science fiction, and only sci fi novels at that. It is very different from Ghost in the Shell in terms of priority and focus. It is also very different from the Risident Evil movie, in that action and character development are split along more even plot spaces than Resident’s Evil 90% action scene and 10% character dev at the middle. Also check out Aeon Flux for the same things I’ve said about Appleseed. There is also an animated series of Aeon Flux that I didn’t get a chance to watch because I didn’t know about it. It was produced by Peter Chung via MTV, it seems. So it would be an interesting way to see how that class takes it.

Many of the Japanese popular anime are produced from manga, comics that is, and translated directly to animated series. And I mean directly. You will actually see exact scenes drawn out in black and white on a manga, on your tv screen in color at times. While this idea is implemented for Spiderman and Superman in America, it is never exactly the same process. The entire “look” of anime starts on paper with still scenes. That is how they communicate suspense, emotions, action, and things of that nature. Whereas in American movies, such things are usually portrayed by “acting” and “special effects”. The manga authors usually start very early by drawing and getting so good at drawing, character sketches, and storyline creation that they just become the single author of an entire manga series, which takes just as much work as any full length science fiction novel published by Baen. It is very different from America’s focus on the director, such as Steven Spielberg, instead of the author of the works themselves, the writers. Both Lucas Arts and Spielberg have written their own plots and scripts, yes, but they are known for their directing, not their writing. While in manga authors, writing and directing at the same thing. There is no split between the two.

Personally, it is very hard for me to see people’s body language, facial expressions, voice tones, when they are fighting full out in some kind of fast paced action scene, you know. Anime slows it down so you have plenty of time to grasp what is going on. Of course, sometimes they slow it down way too much and take 10 episodes to tell a story arc that might have taken nothing but 8 chapters in a manga. A chapter consisting of say 8 pages in a normal comic sized book.

Netflix has a fast and easy method of finding anime that is highly rated in comparison to what you already like. Of course, if you don’t know any that you like, it becomes hard to start without a larger pool to benefit from. For example Dragon BallZ,, Naruto, and Bleach probably belongs to the “character progression through conflict and personal challenge”theme. This is inspired by the martial arts system in which once you master a certain level, there are always greater challenges in store for you to seek or master.

Romantic story arcs in anime tend to be used for character development or love triangle dynamics or harem themes (one man, multiple women seeking his attention), which turns things into half way comedy often.

I started up reading Steven Den Beste in 2002, so I’m one of those that also read his anime blog posts as well. The trick was finding something I liked and recognizing why. I don’t like anime because of the fan service or because of the cute women and girls, which is a far more important rule of thumb for Den Beste than me. He hates watching sad anime endings or anime with dead girls, I like watching anime with lots of killing, tactics, conflict, and what not. I don’t mind nice looking anime characters, of course, but they aren’t really the main show unless the entire anime series revolves around girls, like Sailor Moon.

Don’t know what you would characterize Sailor Moon as. Could be romance, drama, action, modern fantasy, although Japan tends to mix modern fantasy with modern science fiction many times. Godzilla anyone?

I’ve been recently watching Air TV and Mahoromatic via netflix for the former and fansubs for the latter.

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6 Comments on “Anime Recommendations”

  1. YLC Says:

    Japanese Magna will have American reading books Japanese style. See link!

  2. benning Says:

    I only had interest in Japanimation many, many years ago. I watched Astro Boy, Speed Racer, etc, when you could only find them on the UHF channels. Most clips of modern Anime I’ve seen have interested me not at all.

    For me animation is most enjoyable when it’s Daffy Duck giving Elmer Fudd fits, or Porky Pig saying “Son of a bitch!”

    I’m a Warner Brothers cartoon fan! LOL

  3. ymarsakar Says:

    There was a subject Bookworm wrote about concerning Hollywood vs everyday values.

    People recently found the Disney animated movie “Enchanted” to be quite good in the sense of values, loyalty, and so forth.

    Saiyuki is the story of four men traveling on a journey commanded by the gods. The highlight of the series is the various ways the four travel together, like a band of brothers. There’s much humor to be found in the insults they give each other, very similar to when very long friends make jokes and spout off about killing each other over the slightest displeasure. Some of it is very similar to the A-Team in terms of atmosphere and themes, though not character creations.

    Then there is Air TV which is a beautiful story with many elements of what Americans would call family values. The main female protagonist, the heroine in some respects, have some close resemblances to the heroine in Enchanted, if you have seen that movie. It combines the ordinary environment of a small town with people that know each other by name, with the magical and mystical elements of what would be a fairy tale to Americans. Where there is magic and extraordinairy events interspersed amongst the very ordinary, such as trying to find a job and feed a hungry stomach.

    Mahoromatic is a series that contains almost all the elements of the anime genre that originated in Japan. You have the schism between combat and civilian environments and the stress that this puts on an individual shifting from war to peace. You have the loyalty of a soldier and the loyalty between friends encapsulated and demonstrated through the storyline and the characters. You have adult humor of a sexual nature, which isn’t a typical thing I look for in a good story but it does provide some laughs and is also an integral reason why this story is able to contain many elements. Mahoromatic seeks to balance these seemingly contradictory or complex concepts into a plotline containing one group of characters. And everything I have heard and seen says that they have succeded. Den Beste has a review of Mahoromatic as well, in which he warns that the ending was botched for a great series. I have only watched 4 episodes so far, so I can testify that the balance of elements that I have spoken of does indeed exist but cannot comment on the ending.

    I think a lot of Americans continue to see Japanese animation as a cartoon. Something for kids, much as they said about National Treasure. People think the same thing about British based productions of The Avatar that was released fon American and British tv. The link goes to a site where you can watch avatar episodes online.

    Now that Japanese animation has gone from a select group of people in the US to a far larger segment of the young generation, views are beginning to become more enlightened about Japanese animation. And with that, people can become released from the conception that cartoons can only ever be about funny and unreal comedy or fantastic and unreal fairy tales. Disney’s Enchanted, one of the first mainstream attempts in America to combine animation and real life, is successful, in my opinion, partially because of the attempt to prefer animation to CGI effects. The Quest for Camelot and the Lion King were also successful animated stories that Americans found that they had a craving for. Course, Quest for Camelot was not nearly as popular as the Lion King, yet the elements of family values was present and promoted in both.

    Even with the Lion King, the conception of cartoons as only being for kids was not dispelled. It was seen as a rarity, in some ways. And it was purposefully made simplistic in terms of political problems, power plays, and what not. In Japan, they never suffered from the conception that animated drawings were only cartoons fit for an audience largely of children.

    Every single individual has different preferences than others, of course, but as I have noticed with Bookworm and Laer, those with the same philosophy as me can generally be relied upon to recommend to me that which is good quality entertainment and/or information. Laer gave a glowing review of Stardust. Because of his review I started watching it, but I hated the beginning. If I didn’t trust in Laer’s views and the solidity of his beliefs, I would have stopped watching Stardust and regreted it, because it got much better once past the uncomfortable beginning.

    Suek and Phileosophos can’t get past seeing animated characters as cartoons, of course, but that is something the younger generation has no trouble contending with. In the 1990s, few if anyone in my school talked about anime or went into the habit of drawing mangas. Now I see folks that have Japanese anime, english version, manga comics and watch the same TV series such as Naruto and Bleach that the Japanese children, teenagers, and others watch in Japan itself in numerous occasions.

  4. Dee Says:

    Sailor Moon is the “Magic Girl” genre….

    As for the stories and characters, I’ve always compared them to Greek theater, complete with stock characters, plots, and the supporting chorus.

    Watching the stock characters and plots deviate from their archetypes is what keeps me watching anime.

    As for a good sci-fi, space opera series, look up “Legend of Galactic Heroes.”

    It’s really interesting if you can get past the older style of 80’s animation (which is very good). It has an extremely involved plot, incredible character development, humor, and bus loads of tragedy to go around…

  5. ymarsakar Says:

    Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. Buck Teeth Treatment Says:

    i would say that Lion King is one of the best animated films that i have ever watched :.,

    (EDIT This is so obvious a user generated spam thing. Link removed)

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