Every Anime I Can Remember Reviewed!
THIS PAGE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. COMMENTS, FEEDBACK, AND REQUESTS FOR REVIEWS WELCOME!
Here it is: a list of every single anime I can remember watching at least a single episode of, and my opinion thereof, organized by rating (from worst to best: F, D, C, B, A, S). This list is not complete; I intend to add to this page frequently as I remember more. I have a feeling I’m going to be updating it until the end of time.
General Notes: I will occassionally use the Japanese terms (shõnen, shõjo, and seinen) to refer to the demographic the series is targeting (shõnen = teenage boys; shõjo = teenage girls; seinen = adult men). Hayao Miyazaki is an anime director frequently compared to Walt Disney. Moe (pronounced “MOH-eh”) is a important term, referring to characters that for various reasons elicit a protective, vaguely fatherly affection-type of response from fans. OTP means “One True Pairing”; it’s a shipping term.
Starting at the worst and working my way up, these anime are rubbish, plain and simple. I don’t consider them worth the time, and I can’t comprehend why anyone would like them. These reviews will likely be very tersely worded (unless I start ranting, in which case they’ll likely be very long-winded).
Synopsis: In a future where rogue robots called voomers or boomer or something go crazy and do stuff, I really can’t care enough about this series even to write a decent synopsis. Review: It sucks balls.
Training with Hinako!
Synopsis: A real-life girl gets sucked into an anime world, and has to lose 5 kilograms in 3 months, or the anime she’s in will be cancelled. So she works out–sit-ups, push-ups, squats–while you (the viewer) ogle her and try to come up with rationalization for doing so. Hey, we can just call it a workout video! Then it’s awwwwwww-right! Right? Right? No? Oh damn. Review: Featuring a flimsy premise and basic, repetitive animation, the single-episode OVA Training with Hinako! is definitely one of the most ridiculous and transparent excuses for blatant fanservice I’ve ever seen (also the most Gainaxing I’ve seen since Burn Up Excess). Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with a little fanservice (or a lot of fanservice, really), but it needs to not be so glaringly gratuitous (or at least have something of a plot so I can pretend that’s why I’m watching it).
Synopsis: Amazingly cool CG jet fighters exist in an otherwise turdulent anime. Review: This anime pisses me off. The aircraft designs are awesome, easily the coolest looking techno-fantasy aircraft ever imagined, and the FRX-00 Mave in particular is magnificent, like a Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut on steroids. That being said, the rest of the anime sucks. Hard. The character design sucks. The characters themselves suck. The dialogue sucks. The story, if you can call it that, sucks. And what sucks the most about it? The awesome aircraft designs are utterly wasted in this sucky shit-turd anime. Man, I’m depressed just thinking about it.
Bleh. About the only good thing that can be said about these anime is that it is, technically, possible for them to have been worse.
Agent Aika (a.k.a. AIKa)
Synopsis: Aika is a salvage expert who has a magic bra that gives her superpowers. Lots of excuses for pantyshots and other forms of wholly gratuitous fanservice occur; all are thoroughly exploited. Review: Okay, I know this one sounds really, really stupid, and you know what? It is. It really is. But I just couldn’t relegate this one to Grade F because it was just hilarious. Unintentionally so, but hilarious nonetheless, in a it’s-so-bad-it’s-good kind of way. I mean, really, her bra gives her fricking superpowers? How stupid is that? (well, I say that, but there were those magic talking cat panties in Magikano…)
Synopsis: Soda cans turn into girls who must battle each other in order to determine whether aluminum or steel cans are better. Review: With lackluster art and a ridiculous excuse for a plot, the first episode of this series just left me shaking my head and wondering Why? The second episode didn’t get any better. Might be worth a chuckle.
Baka To Test To Shokanju
Synopsis: Students at a weird school move up the class ranks by summoning creatures to fight in battles with other students, fueled by the students’ scores on tests. Review: I saw some art inspired by this series a while back (a cool wallpaper of pink-haired female lead Himeji Mizuki), and figured the series was worth checking out. It wasn’t.
Synopsis: In a future where nobody actually drives anymore because AI-controlled cars are the norm, a couple of high school girls who still drive are employed to deal with out-of-control AI cars that threaten society. They are soon joined by an annoying 12-year-old boy who also, for some incomprehensible reason, drives a real car. Review: This series was created by Kosuke Fujishima, who was responsible for Oh My Goddess! and You’re Under Arrest!, but it doesn’t quite have the charm of either of those two series.
Martian Successor Nadesico: The Prince of Darkness
Synopsis: After the events of the excellent Martian Successor Nadesico series (see below, in the Grade A section), a lot of stuff happened that they only vaguely mention, and now the crew of the Nadesico must be very hastily reunited to stop some guys from taking over Mars or something. Review: A very disappointing sequel to an awesome anime. Worth it only to the most diehard Nadesico fans with serious completionist streaks.
The Sky Crawlers
Synopsis: Fighter pilots who never age beyond childhood fight and die and apparently get reborn without any memories, or something. It’s kind of hard to tell. Review: A theatrical release by Mamoru Oshii (more famous for the Ghost in the Shell movies), the Sky Crawlers makes no effort to be comprehensible. The visuals are high-quality, but everything else is either blah or forgettable. Pass this one by.
Not bad, but not really that good, either. Might have some appeal for diehard fans of the genre—or those who are really, really bored—but otherwise, an anime fan would be better served seeking out other series for their fix.
Amaenaideyo!! (a.k.a. Ah My Buddha!)
Synopsis: Ikko is a young Buddhist monk-in-training who gains great spiritual power whenever he sees girls naked. Naturally, he is training at a temple with a bunch of young Buddhist nuns… Review: This was petty good for a laugh, although I really wish they had of stuck with Amaenaideyo!! and not tried hanging on the coattails of Ah My Goddess! with the name change.
Synopsis: Tomoharu is haunted (in a friendly way) by the ghost of his childhood friend Misao, who died in a plane wreck a few years ago. Things get more complicated as a bunch of secret agencies all try getting their hands on…something…and start…doing stuff…you know what? I’m not really sure what’s going on. Review: Not a bad anime at all, but it bears the stigma of being complicated and unmemorable. Caveat emptor.
Synopsis: A perpetually-broke teacher tries to whip the girls’ kendo club into shape in order to win a bet. Review: Another entry in the “high school sports club” genre, with most of the associated tropes and clichés in full use.
Synopsis: Ichigo is a Soul Reaper. Soul Reapers help the souls of deceased humans into the afterlife, or at least that’s what they’re supposed to do when they’re not getting into one over-the-top battle against insanely powerful supernatural beings after another. Lots of asskicking ensues. Review: The Bleach anime is like the Naruto anime: interesting main story line, lots of fighting, bogged down with needless filler. The Bleach manga, which lacked this filler, like the Naruto manga, was considerably better than its corresponding anime. However, my biggest problem with Bleach (back when I still followed it studiously) is that one of the best characters (Rukia) is wasted through disuse; the chemistry between Ichigo and Rukia, which was a significant portion of the appeal of the characters, is left sitting on the bench while everybody kicks everyone else’s ass and/or goes through Special Training in order to level up so that they can kick more ass than before. Of course, for some people this would be a feature, not a flaw, but not for me. YMMV.
Bokura Ga Ita
Synopsis: A very sweet girl falls in love with a colossal jerk. Neither of them change. Review: One of the few shõjo series I’ve bothered with, I started off liking this one a lot more than I do now, but after the first twenty episodes, it really started pissing me off. Yano treats Nanami like shit (well, occassionally he is somewhat nice to her for a brief moment before resuming Jerkass Mode), and she just accepts it and even welcomes it because she’s too dumb to realize that isn’t love. Yano is only one of two anime characters I’ve actually wanted to beat the living shit out of (the other being Shinji Ikari of Evangelion fame). Still, it’s not a bad anime, with some very good writing, but honestly, if you’re in the mood for some shõjo romance to mix up your anime diet, go for His and Hers Circumstances.
Synopsis: Disowned prince gains the ability to force people to follow any one order he gives them, and uses his power to try and free Japan (a.k.a. “Area 11”) from the Britannian Empire. Review: This series was created by all-female mangaka group CLAMP, and bears their signature style (most evidenced by the character designs, which have been described as “noodle people”). Lots of Pizza Hut product placement. Lots of very convoluted plotting. The mecha battles are pretty cool, too. In the end, I think a different art style would have made this one a Grade B.
Synopsis: Every few years, magi summon mythological heroes in order to fight to the death for the Holy Grail, which grants any wish. Shiro, a high schooler with only the most basic knowledge of magic, gets wrapped up in the latest cycle of this never-ending war. Review: Really, if I were to be completely honest here, the only reason I bought this anime was because of Rin Tohsaka, the Prophetess of Zettai Ryouiki. There’s some fun here, but it could have been a lot better. Note: Fate/stay night is the series that the character Archer came from, and for those not in the know, in the original visual novels the anime is based on, Archer is the guy who is so badass they invented the word GAR (always all capitals) to describe him. So yeah.
Synopsis: A college club for the “appreciation of the visual arts” (anime, manga, video games, model making, cosplay, porn, and other otaku-ish pursuits) watch anime, read manga, play video games, make models, engage in cosplay, collect, view, and even produce porn, and pursue other otaku-ish hobbies. Review: The manga of Genshiken is a must-read; the anime is rather blah in comparison. I’m not sure why. Still, these are some of my favorite characters, especially Madarame, whose defense of hentai manga (read: porn) must be read to be believed, and once read, will be believed.
Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell: Innocence
Synopsis: In a post-cyberpunk future where cybernetics can replace all of a human’s physical body and even their brain, elite police unit Public Security Section 9, (sometimes) led by the incomparable Major Motoko Kusanagi, fights crime and contemplates their digital navels. Review: These movies are true classics (for example, the Matrix‘s “green rain” effect was inspired by a similar sequence in Ghost in the Shell‘s opening), but like Shirow Masamune’s original manga, they are really hard to follow, especially if you don’t have a dubbed version. Worth watching for Ghost in the Shell fans, or those wanting to get themselves schooled in the classics that everyone has emulated a million times since, but it could have been a lot better.
Synopsis: Samatarou Kamiyama is the son of a god (quite possibly THE God) and a goddess (Venus) living among the mere mortals of Japan in order to learn how to be a better deity when he grows up. He has a crush on a mortal girl, Kumiko, and resolves to gain her affections without relying on his supernatural powers (or the supernatural powers of his divine parents), although he does ask his childhood friend/guardian angel Tenko for help. Review: Ridiculous, but fun.
Synopsis: A gun-toting young woman, a geek, and an ex-cop take dangerous jobs for financial gain. Lots of stuff blows up. Review: A sequel to the graphic (as in “graphic sex and violence”) OVA Mezzo Forte, this series (which is nowhere near as graphic as the OVA) started off really strong and just kind of fizzled with later episodes.
Synopsis: Mima is a member of a popular jpop group who decides to leave the group to pursue an acting career, and then gets stressed out over a stalker and goes insane. Or maybe that’s just the delusion she believes as a coping mechanism to deal with going insane. Or maybe everyone is crazy except for Mima, who is merely going insane. Or maybe… Review: A mind screw that ranks up there with the most incomprehensible parts of Evangelion, Perfect Blue almost makes sense until you realize that the “real” sequences of the story and the “delusional” ones aren’t clearly demarcated. A well-crafted production, but too grim and psychological for me to really enjoy. I’m giving this one a Grade C for now, but maybe it’s actually Grade F, and its status as a Grade C is a delusion fueled by its stress-induced insanity…
These anime are good, and I enjoyed them, but they were just lacking that certain je nai sais quoi. These anime are still worth watching, especially if one was a fan of similar works.
Allison and Lillia
Synopsis: It starts off with Allison, a military biplane pilot, and her friend Wil, a student with an eidetic memory, sneaking deep into enemy territory in search of a “treasure” that supposedly will stop a centuries-old war between two countries. Review: A pretty good series in the speculative fiction genre, set in a world with early 20th-century technology. I’ve only watched the first half-dozen episodes, but I intend to try digging this one up on DVD once it comes stateside.
Synopsis: In the utopia of Olympus, humanity and artificial humans called bioroids end up butting heads, and so supersoldier Duenan Knute and her cyborg buddy/lover Briareos have to get things sorted out for them. Review: Another of Shirow Masamune’s works, Appleseed features a lot of the same themes, like humanity and technology, the concept of self, and all that, and it also features a healthy dose of ass-kicking and stunning visuals to keep your brain from getting a Red Ring of Death from trying to keep up with the deep philosophical stuff. The art style is all cell-shaded computer graphics, which a little more like the cutscenes from a video game than a movie, but still looks great. Notes: There’s a sequel, Appleseed: Ex Machina, which I really can’t remember right now. I’ll have to watch it again before adding it to these reviews.
Synopsis: Saya, ostensibly a relatively ordinary high school girl, is actually 150-year-old slayer of bat-like demon things that live off the blood of humans. Review: Four seasons (50 episodes) long, the series moves all over Asia, and slowly but steadily reveals more and more of Saya’s origins and purpose. The art is good and the characters likeable; the only reason I didn’t rate this one higher is that vampires (and quasi-vampires) just ain’t my thing.
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040
Synopsis: In a futuristic world where robots go out of control, a group of four women called the Knight Sabers don high-powered battle suits and defend against the robots and the super-corporation that is responsible. Review: This series ostensibly takes place in the same universe as A.D. Police, with a lot of the same premise and background, but BGC 2040 is orders of magnitude better.
The Case Files of Ryoko Yakushiji (a.k.a. Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo)
Synopsis: Tokyo Metropolitan Police superintendent Yakushiji Ryoko investigates paranormal incidents and sexually harasses flirts shamelessly with her assistant Izumida. Review: Okay, I know that it’s impossible to do the sort of stunts that Ryoko does in miniskirts and high heels like Ryoko wears, but you know what? I don’t care. Supernatural action + fanservice = good fun. This series would be a lot better if they had spent more time fleshing out the characters and the world they live in, but unfortunately, thirteen episodes are all we get (for now, anyways). Notes: Even for a seinenChristmas cake (Ryoko is 27, according to this). Even still, Yakushiji Ryoko scores very high in my book; not quite as high as Kirihara Misaki of Darker Than Black fame, but pretty high nonetheless. anime like this one, it’s rare for the lead female character to be a
Cromartie High School
“The guys that appear in this anime are delinquents. Please, do not under any circumstances, imitate anything they do. Don’t do it man, I’m serious, it’s a bad idea!”
Synopsis: Kamiyama is a more-or-less ordinary high school student who, for various reasons not elaborated on in the anime, ends up going to the titular Cromartie High School, which is inhabited by nothing but punks, delinquents, badasses, gorillas, robots, and Freddie Mercury. Absurdist humor ensues. Review: Bizarre, but hilarious. Very little fighting goes on—the students of Cro High spend more time trying to remember the name of a song they heard someone humming, complaining about how boring their school life is (while Freddie rides to the school on a gigantic wild horse), and using schoolmate Mechazawa’s younger brother Beta as a cellphone.
Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor
Synopsis: A couple years after the events of Darker Than Black, a Russian girl gains the power to create an anti-tank rifle, which the man once known as the Black Reaper teaches her to use. Review: After the awesomeness of Darker Than Black, I was expecting something truly epic for the sequel…and I was disappointed. I mean, DTB: Gemini of the Meteor is a good series and all, but it doesn’t live up to the original. Hei is in a funk for most of the series, and after he loses his control of electricity, I could not help but downgrade him from “Chinese Electric Batman” to “Grumpy Chinese Hobo”. Still, a fun romp through the Darker Than Black world.
Synopsis: Elementary schoolers use their computer skills to investigate an augmented reality world accessed through special glasses. Review: Dennou Coil is often described as “if Hayao Miyazaki had made Ghost in the Shell“. With characters that are really young, and being aimed at a similar audience, it’s quite understandable that this series never gets philisophical like Ghost in the Shell (and depending on your opinion of such content, this is either a good or bad thing). Still, it’s an interesting world Yuko & company live in.
Synopsis: In the middle of a crapsack world, there exists a seemingly utopian city where a wimpy immigrant turns out to actually be a godlike being. Review: True art, they say, is not easy to understand. It challenges its audience, forcing them to become a part of the work itself as they ascribe meaning to it. That little bit of bullshit aside, this series has amazing art, great characters, methodical pacing, a dark and moody style, and a plot that refuses to be understood. Episode 16 (“Dead Calm/busy doing nothing”) is a highlight of the series, where spineless immigrant Vincent Law, perpetually cheerful artificial girl Pino, and überbitch Re-L are stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no wind to propel their ship, and Re-L spends the episode slowly going stir crazy. Ergo Proxy would be Grade A if the ending made more sense. If the whole series was like Episode 16, it would easily be Grade S.
Synopsis: Gigantic aliens overwhelm the Earth, and after tremendous losses, Japan starts drafting teenagers to pilot mecha in a last-ditch effort to not be utterly annihilated by the aliens. The conscripts of the 5121st Platoon struggle both to fight back against the aliens, and also to have something of a normal social life. Review: One of the better anime that nobody has ever watched or even seems to remember, Gunparade March was very inspirational to me back in the day when I was cobbling together a mecha anime-themed pen-and-paper RPG (but that is a story for another day). The twelve-episode anime starts out focusing on the action, and ends dwelling on the budding romance between the lead characters Atsushi Hayami and Mai Shibamura. The mecha action could have been better, and the romance plot would be better if interwoven with the action rather than more-or-less replacing it towards the end, but after writing this review, I kind of want to watch it again. Maybe I will.
Synopsis: Keita is a slacker heir to a family that contracts inukami (dog-gods) to battle evil. Yoko is supposed to be his inukami, but she actually is a kitsune– (fox) instead of a inu– (dog) kami, and is every bit as mischievous and jealous as the kitsune of legend were. Together they fight very perverted spirits. Review: This series is so wrong, but so hilarious. For example, in the first episode, Keita and Yoko face off against an exhibitionist spirit that shoots beams of energy from his nipples and thankfully censored groin that instantly strip men naked, so as to humiliate them in front of their wives and girlfriends. In another, Keita, having consumed a laxative-laden cake intended for someone else, ends up magically affixed to other people by a mujina (a ferret-spirit), and no, he doesn’t get detached from them in time. In the grand finale, all the perverts of the city (muscled-up underwear thiefs, monocled peeping toms, business-suit clad bondage fetishists, et al) rise up against the supervillain and his giant robot with a crotch-mounted drill. Funnier than hell, but you might not want to let people know you watch it. They won’t understand, and they’ll always look at you funny.
Inuyasha (a.k.a. Sengoku Otogizōshi Inuyasha)
Synopsis: Half-demon Inuyasha and temporally dislocated 20th-century high school girl Kagome quest to recover the fragments of the powerful Jewel of Four Souls during the Sengoku period (15th to 17th century). Review: A long-runner (167 episodes, plus four movies, not including the 26 episodes of Inuyasha: The Final Act that I have not yet watched), Inuyasha suffers a fate similar to that of the Naruto anime: too much filler diluting the primary story arc(s). I kind of enjoyed Takahashi Rumiko’s trademark will-they-won’t-they melodrama between Kagome and Inuyasha (and later, between Sango and Miroku)…for the first fifty million episodes, that is…
Synopsis: High school girls start a “light music” (pop music) band. Review: Mio steals the show; she’s just so moe you’ll melt (or you might puke instead if you don’t have a freaking soul. Nonetheless, proceed with caution). To be honest, the whole moe thing is a lot of the appeal of this show, so if you’re not into that, you’re not going to find much of interest here. If it doesn’t bother you, or if you dig the moe, you’ll love this one. The music is pretty good, too, a lot better than I would have expected.
Synopsis: A couple young couriers, Claus and Lavie, must escort a little girl, Alvis, to a mysterious airship, and find that Alvis is the key to an ancient mystery hidden away in the tempestuous Grand Stream. Review: Range Murata did the original character designs for this series, and all save for a few of the characters show his signature style (which is to say, just about all the characters look a lot younger than they are). The world is reminiscent of the early 1900s, except that antigravity technology exists, allowing for the most improbable but cool-looking of airships to dominate the skies. A solid title.
Love Hina, Love Hina: Christmas Special, Love Hina: Spring Special, Love Hina Again
Synopsis: Keitaro Urashima is unable to fulfill his dream of getting into Tokyo University so he can be reunited with a girl he scarcely remembers, and so he goes to stay with his grandmother, and ends up the manager of an all-girls dormitory. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Review: A classic “unwanted harem” anime, Love Hina was among my very first anime purchases on DVD. Most of the humor is of the “Keitaro accidentally does something pervy, and one or more of the girls punish him disproportionately for it” variety.
Synopsis: Young witch Ayumi Mamiya must seduce oblivious high schooler Haruo Yoshikawa in order to break a deadly curse, but standing in her path are Haruo’s sisters—overprotective Maika, athletic Chiaki, and money-grubbing Fuyuno—who are all also witches who are determined to keep their powers and the existence of witches hidden from Haruo so he can live an ordinary life. Review: This series is very over-the-top, with Ayumi coming up with one ridiculous scheme after another to try and seduce Haruo and turn him into her “ideal man” (exceedingly tan and overmuscled). There’s lots of screaming, usually in the form of a back-and-forth between Ayumi and Maika. Loads of fun. My biggest complaint is that the English voice acting just wasn’t quite right: in particular, Student Council President (and secretly another magic-user) Yuri Kurosu’s voice, which in the Japanese sounds strong and confident, is turned to very wispy and weak in the English. Note: Is it bad that one of my favorite characters from this series is a pair of panties? That talks? It is? Oh, well, I better keep that to myself, then. Note to self: edit this part out later.
Naruto, Naruto Shippuden
“If someone can’t even save a friend, then I don’t think they deserve to be Hokage. Do you, Sasuke?”
Synopsis: Naruto Uzumaki is a ninja-in-training who aspires to be Hokage, leader of his village of ninja, to make people accept him. Believe it! Review: Okay, first off, let me say that the Naruto manga is one of my favorites—if I were to do a review of manga, it would easily be Grade S. The anime, too, would be Grade S, as it stays pretty loyal to the manga…about half the time. There is a lot of filler arcs (storylines made up to pad the anime while waiting for the manga artist Masashi Kishimoto to publish more manga), and the filler is very hit-or-miss, with a strong emphasis on the “miss”, varying from a little Grade A material all the way down to some truly horrendous Grade F dreck. The characters are great fun, especially Shikamaru (even moreso when Temari is around), Rock Lee, and Might Guy (yeah, if you’ve never seen the series, you have no clue who I’m talking about, so I’m really not sure why I’m mentioning it. But really, Shikamaru×Temari OTP!). Fans of Dragon Ball in particular might want to check this one out, as Dragon Ball was one of Kishimoto’s inspirations when creating Naruto (totally different art styles, though), and comparisons between the two are not uncommon. Note: When it comes to pronouncing “Naruto”, the emphasis is on the first syllable (NAH-roo-toh), not the middle syllable (nah-ROO-toh). Just sayin’.
Please Teacher (a.k.a. Onegai Sensei)
Synopsis: High schooler Kei ends up married to his homeroom teacher, Mizuho…who is an alien. They both must keep this secret from everyone at their school. Review: One of the few anime that sounds like it is porn but really isn’t (well, mostly not porn, but yeah), it invokes a lot of handwavium to make the situation less wrong (No virtual minors are virtually harmed here: Kei is really 18. He just so happened to be in a coma that stunted his growth for 3 years, making him appear to be and behave as if he was only 15, and thus be a high schooler. Note to deviants: trying to use “it isn’t statutory rape cuz they were in a coma” as justification for your deeds will not help you in real life. Just don’t do it, it’s a bad idea). Still, a fun series.
Princess Mononoke (a.k.a. Mononoke-hime)
Synopsis: Ashitaka, cursed by a dying boar demon that has tentacles of evilbadnotgood sprouting out all over it, leaves his hometown to find out what had happened to the boar demon to cause it to turn into an eldritch abomination, and comes to Irontown, a human city of technology fighting a war for survival against the spirits of nature. Review: Ah, nothing like a good heavy-handed environmentalist message movie, which fairly screams “respect nature, or it will turn into a nightmarish monstrosity that will kill everything it can get its foul tentacles on”. Snark aside, this is a fairly good movie, well-drawn in Hayao Miyazaki’s signature style.
Sora no Woto
Synopsis: The girls from K-ON join the army. Because the TV Tropes entry says it so much better, I’ll just quote them: “Japanese girls wearing German uniforms exploring a Japanese music school in a Spanish town full of French people celebrating Chinese New Years in Switzerland, shooting South African owls while piloting multi-legged, talking, demon slaying, cloakable, AMAZING GRACE SINGING, 500mm coil gun firing “son of the god of fire” supertanks from the future.” Review: Like K-ON, any enjoyment to be had from this series is strongly linked with one’s appreciation for moe. A cast of young ladies carefully designed to be as kawaii and moe-inducing as possible engaged in adventures that are carefully designed to highlight their aforementioned kawaii-ness and moe-ness…is there a moe equivalent of the uncanny valley? If so, these girls stand at the cliffs, overlooking the valley…and then someone starts playing Amazing Grace on a trumpet…awwwww…
Synopsis: Freelance photographer Saiga investigates a secret fetish club for the wealthy elite, gains the power to destroy anything he tries to take a picture of, and rescues the teenage daughter of one of the most powerful women in Japan from the club. Review: As one might guess, this one was rated TV-MA, but really, who cares? The villains are perverted, and their superpowers tap into their perversions (one chick loves diamonds to the point that her body has turned into diamond, making her virtually invincible…so she has a tendency to walk around buck naked and rob jewellery stores so she can eat the diamonds like Mentos. Another guy, a dentist, gets off by drilling holes in people’s teeth, and his power gives him a large number of tentacular appendages, each with a drill on them; his “patients” rarely survive). Very weird, but worth checking out.
Toshokan Sensou (a.k.a. Library War)
Synopsis: In a Japan where a Media Improvement Act allows books to be banned with little or no reason but libraries are allowed to collect and make even banned booked available to the public, the situation has escalated to the point to where armies of librarians wage a vicious but controlled war against the armies of censors. And I’m using the term “armies” literally here. Review: Ignore the premise. It’s silly. There’s no two ways about it. Still, the exploits of tomboy Iku Kasahara as she tries to prove herself as a librarian-soldier of the Library Defense Force make for an entertaining watch, and her rivalry with her commanding officer (who may or may not be the Prince Charming who years ago protected Iku and her favorite book during a raid by the censors, inspiring her to join the Library Defense Force) is fun. This series also has a very clean and sharp art style.
Witch Hunter Robin
Synopsis: In this modern-day urban fantasy, Robin Sena is a “craft-user” who uses her ability to create and control fire to hunt down “witches” as part of the elite police group STN-J. Of course, the difference between “craft-user” and “witch” is only a matter of whether or not the STN-J approves of you… Review: I saw a multi-page spread of production artwork for Witch Hunter Robin in Newtype USA (back when they were still publishing), and decided to pick this series up based purely on that. And indeed, the artwork and animation is top-notch. It would probably be Grade A if it weren’t so dry and humorless (no comic relief whatsoever in this series, which really needed something to break up the relentless tension; I can’t even remember anyone cracking a smile). At first I thought the ending was really weak, in that it did not explain what happened to the lead characters, but then I realized that part of the finale of the series was embedded in the opening credits sequence…
All of these are great anime, well worth going out of one’s way to watch.
Synopsis: A group of teenage girls go to high school, and hang out with their teachers during summer break. Yeah, that’s what it’s about. Review: Even though this series has no male main characters, and focuses on the day-to-day lives of a half-dozen teenage girls, it’s not a shõjo anime, but shõnen. Still, it’s comedy slice of life anime at its finest. The series cycles through the events of all three years of high school, as the girls deal with challenges like a creepy is-he-a-perv-or-isn’t-he teacher, surviving a road trip with their drives-like-a-bat-out-of-hell teacher, and trying to win first place at the school sports festival so their teacher can win a bet. It may sound stupid, I know, but the characters are great fun, especially Osaka and Yukari-sensei. Notes: The original manga by Kiyohiko Azuma (don’t let the -ko name fool you, Azuma’s a guy) is better, and his most recent manga, Yotsuba&, is also top-tier.
“There stood a high school boy, who for selfish reasons had twice beaten an elementary school girl unconscious, and had gotten all nihistically worked up about it. Actually, that’s still me.”
Synopsis: High-schooler Koyomi Araragi is recovering from vampirism, and discovers that the girls he meets at school and elsewhere are plagued with a variety of supernatural problems which he, helped by a homeless guy, helps them overcome. Review: This anime came out of nowhere and in the first minutes had me hooked. It just oozes style, from the animation to the dialogue to the characters. It doesn’t skimp on the fanservice (episode 2…just episode 2…) or the pervy humor, but even still it doesn’t come across as too gratuitous. And the action scenes are suitably over-the-top (at one point Koyomi gets swung around and around the room by his intestines). This series is very talky, though; watching the fansubs was a challenge as it was nigh-impossible to both watch the amazing animation and read the dense subtitles. And how could I forget the awesome ending theme? If this series comes stateside and gets a quality official dubbing, it will easily move up to Grade S.
Coyote Ragtime Show
Synopsis: In seven days, the Galactic Federation is going to completely annihilate the war-torn Planet Graceland, where the Pirate King Bruce hid the ten billion dollars he stole from the Central Bank in a custom vault. Notorious space pirate Mister, once one of Pirate King Bruce’s best friends, teams up with Bruce’s daughter to try and recover the money from Graceland, all the while being pursued by the Galactic Police and a dozen goth-loli android hitwomen. Review: Coyote Ragtime Show is ridiculous and over-the-top, and I like it that way. It’s in the same vein as the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, except it’s anime and sci-fi and has android goth-loli hitwomen. And it’s 193.4±27.9% more awesome.
Darker Than Black
Synopsis: Contractors (emotionless humans with super powers) are used by the world governments in their power struggles. One such contractor, known by many names (BK-201, Hei, Li, the Black Reaper), uses his ability to control electricity as he searches for his sister. Review: Hei, known to his fans as the Chinese Electric Batman, is a badass. Badass mask, badass long coat, badass knife, badass grappling hook, badass power. The supporting characters—like Mao, July, November 11, and Gai Kurosawa—are pretty cool, too, but policewoman Misaki Kirihara deserves special mention (she’s hot). Definitely worth watching. Note: The Grade A rating only applies to the original Darker Than Black. The sequel, Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor, is only Grade B and is rated separately.
FLCL (a.k.a. Fooly Cooly)
Synopsis: Elementary-schooler Naota gets hit in the head by extraterrestrial Galactic Space Police Brotherhood investigator Haruko’s Rickenbacker bass guitar, causing giant robots to emerge from his a dimensional portal in his head. Things get weirder from there. Review: I just read an awesome quote about FLCL on the TV Tropes page for the series: “If you want to understand FLCL, watch it from beginning to end. The desire will pass.” FLCL is a six-episode OVA series with a great j-rock soundtrack by the Pillows (stupid name, awesome music. Just look for “Little Busters”, “Runner’s High”, “Sleepy Head”, or any of the other songs from the FLCL soundtrack on Youtube or something). It may only be six episodes long, but it’s an incredible six episodes, with some truly unique animation. Go watch it. Now.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society
“No matter how many prosthetic bodies you’ve went through this was the one thing that was always ticking away, keeping the same time as you. Nowadays that’s far too fleeting, people entrust their memories to external devices because they want to set down solid physical proof that can distinguish them as unique individuals. That watch is all you have though, isn’t it? Your only external mnemonic device that identifies the person you’ve been up to this minute.”
Synopsis: In a post-cyberpunk future where cybernetics can replace all of a human’s physical body and even their brain, elite police unit Public Security Section 9, led by the incomparable Major Motoko Kusanagi, fights crime and contemplates their digital navels. Review: A seinen series, GitS:SAC is not to be conflated with the Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell: Innocence movies (look for them above, in the Grade C section), which, while classics, just aren’t as good as the Stand Alone Complex series. Stunning visuals and awesome action piled on top of deep philosophical discussions about the relationship between humanity and technology. The “Stand Alone Complex” of the title refers to self-organizing public movements with no leadership or links between the constituent actors, promulgated through the Net; Section 9 deals with such patterns of behavior as they try to protect a futuristic Japan from enemies both foreign and domestic, and both digital and analog. Incredible, incredible stuff. The soundtrack for the series is done by Yoko Kanno and is easily one of the best ever (especially “Rise”, “Lithium Flower”, and “Cyberbird”, and “Run Rabbit Junk”, and “I Can’t Be Cool”, and “Pet Food”, and…damn it, it’s all good). Notes: Okay, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society? There should be a limit on how many colons you can put in a movie title.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (a.k.a. Toki o Kakeru Shōjo)
Synopsis: After getting hit by a train, Tomboyish Makoto realizes she has the power to travel through time, and proceeds to use that power to make a mess out of her life and the lives of everyone around her, especially her two best friends (one of whom is from the future, and the other one might have a terminal encounter with the aforementioned train in Makoto’s place…). Review: Time travel is one of those sci-fi topics that just bugs me, because it can be done poorly so easily. Fortunately, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time does it right. There’s some great time-travel comedy as Makoto uses her newfound power whimsically (traveling through time to eat the pudding that her sister had/would have stolen), but of course things get serious as the unintended consequences of her actions begin to pile up.
His and Hers Circumstances (a.k.a. Kare Kano, Kareshi Kanojo no Jijō)
“I’m a big fake. The elegant me is just for show. My good personality is a huge lie. In reality, I only love to be revered above all by others. To be admired, to get special treatment, to be pampered, to be first place… I’m the ultimate queen of vanity!”
Synopsis: Yukino Miyazawa pretends to be the perfect student in order to get attention, but is really a stubborn, spoiled, slob; Soichiro Arima is her rival, a perfect student that is secretly struggling to get out from underneath the shadow of his criminal parents. They fall in love, and resolve to be themselves. Review: Shōjo anime at its finest. I was surprised to find that this series was directed by Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno; I cannot fathom how this series could be any more different from Evangelion. In any case, Kare Kano mixes romance and comedy extremely well in a believable world full of believable and compelling characters.
Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
“All things extant in this world: gods of heaven, gods of earth, let everything be as it should be. Thus shall it be!”
Synopsis: With the inevitability of being separated as their families move apart, best friends Sasshi and Arumi find themselves travelling from one alternate reality to the next, each one based on one of Sasshi’s nerdy hobbies. Review: Abenobashi starts off bearing all the marks of a simple slapstick comedy, but about halfway through, a serious subplot emerges with the realization that Sasshi and Arumi’s travels have been caused by Sasshi subconsciously trying to avoid returning to a reality far worse than the audience has been led to believe. There’s lots of pervy humor (did Sasshi just accidentally pee in his own mouth?), and more shout-outs than can be counted (everything from Neon Genesis Evangelion to Enter the Dragon to Jaws). Good fun, good fun. Notes: If you are curious to hear what a Osaka/Kansai accent sounds like, this is the anime to watch in the original Japanese.
Martian Successor Nadesico
“Jiro Yamada is the boring name my parents gave me. Gai Daigoji is the name of my SOUL!”
Synopsis: Akito Tenkawa doesn’t want to be a mecha pilot; he wants to be a world-class chef. Of course he ends up as a mecha pilot aboard the Nadesico, a privately-owned battleship crewed by slackers, misfits, and fanboys and commanded by his ditzy childhood friend on a mission to reclaim Mars from the “Evil Jovian Lizards”. Review: This series pokes fun at everything from the “space battleship” and “giant robot” genres to anime fans themselves. The humor is well done, and when the series takes a kind-of-serious turn (the Evil Jovian Lizards turn out to be a society of human outcasts who now revere the Gekigangar show-within-a-show with a literally religious fervor), the show amazingly still holds together. As far as comedic anime goes, this is one of the greats, and don’t be surprised if I upgrade this one to Grade S. Note: the Nadesico movie, Martian Successor Nadesico: Prince of Darkness, is not nearly as good as the main series. My review of it is a lot closer to the top of this page, with the Grade Ds.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Synopsis: Kyon is through with believing in aliens, time travelers, and espers. Haruhi is searching for aliens, time travelers, and espers. Despite Kyon’s protests, together they form a club to search for aliens, time travelers, and espers. Unbeknownst to Haruhi, but beknownst to Kyon, is the fact that the three other students Haruhi recruits into the club are an alien, a time traveler, and an esper…and they all think Haruhi has the subconscious power to alter reality… Review: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya series is one of the best science fiction series I’ve come across, animated or not. Everything about this series is top-notch, and the only thing keeping this series from a place among the Grade S anime is the infamous “Endless Eight” episodes from the second season. Essentially, the premise of the “Endless Eight” is that the characters are trapped repeating the same couple weeks over and over again, a la Groundhog Day. Multi-episode arcs are common in the Haruhi Suzumiya series, and the concept would have worked well spread out over two or maybe three episodes, tops, but for some unfathomable reason, they decided to cycle through the exact same sequence of events for eight episodes. Eight freaking episodes. Setting that one bit of ridiculousness aside, the series stands out as being just so different from anything else. A movie based on the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya light novel is due out sometime this year; if the official trailer is any indication, it might be awesome enough to erase the memories of the “Endless Eight”.
Neon Genesis Evangelion, Death and Rebirth, The End of Evangelion, and Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone
“God is in His heaven; all is right with the world.”
Synopsis (like a synopsis is of any value when it comes to a series like this): Fourteen-year-old Shinji Ikari tries in vain to make friends and earn the approval of his father as the world comes to a horrifying, apocalyptic end at the hands of otherworldly biomechanical monstrosities, an organization trying to create a god at the expense of all humanity, and a really fucked-up megalomaniac who is willing to initiate the end of the world just to be reunited with his dead wife, whose soul lives on in a giant extension-cord-powered mecha that Shinji pilots. REI HUGS EVERYONE AND THEY TURN INTO TANG. Review: Oh, man, where to start? NGE was the first anime I bought. I thought it was another boy-pilots-mecha-gets-the-girl-and-saves-the-day kind of anime, but after the first dozen episodes it became clear that whoever had done the writing really needed to either lay off the drugs, or get back on them (not just hyperbole: series creator Hikeaki Anno either had or was recovering from serious mental problems when he penned this series). Despite an infuriatingly spineless male lead; an ending that is either horribly depressing, utterly incomprehensible, or both; and some of the most disturbing imagery I’ve ever seen in an anime (do not even get me started about Shinji visiting a comotose Asuka in the hospital) set to some of the most jarringly melodic and beautiful classical music, this series still stands in my mind as one of the modern classics, and I would say it is a must-watch for any fan of mecha anime.
Oh My Goddess!
Synopsis: Luckless but optimistic Keiichi finally gets a bit of luck: the goddess Belldandy appears to him and to reward him for enduring all his bad luck without giving up, she lets him make one wish. He wishes that Belldandy stay by his side forever… Review: Yeah, I’m a sucker for sappy stories like this. Many find the whole low-key romance and/or Belldandy’s yamato nadeshiko-ness annoying, but I thoroughly enjoyed this series. There’s something for everyone: series creator Kosuke Fujishima is a big-time petrolhead, so there’s plenty of motorcycle- and automotive-based eye candy; he also knows how to lay the fanservice on heavy (Urd…just Urd). Notes: The second season opening music is one of the very few songs with bagpipes that I could listen to more than a couple seconds of.
Synopsis: Ayato Kamina is a student in a Tokyo city separated from the rest of the world by an (almost) impenetrable dome. Strange fighter jets break through the dome and attack the city. Stranger giant singing statue things appear to fight the invaders. A strange girl appears, to lead him to the super robot he will pilot. A strange woman comes into Ayato’s life, to take him out of the city. And then things turn strange… Review: There’s a lot of similarities between Rahxephon and Neon Genesis Evangelion, from the largest of scales (both are about a boy who pilots a super robot which has the ability to cause the end of the world as it is known) to the smallest (a certain conspicuous cross-shaped necklace, worn by a character in each series), and both are mindscrews of the highest order, but the two couldn’t be more different thematically. NGE is very depressing. Rahxephon is upbeat. Both are well worth watching, but Rahxephon comes out ahead in my book for being far less frustrating.
Synopsis: Wheelchair-bound eighty-year-old paralyzed former deep sea diver Masamichi Haru uses his diving skills to…uh, “dive” into virtual reality worlds in order to discover and understand the Earth Order (the will of nature against humanity’s technology). Review: A seinen series formed from a collaboration of Shirow Masamune and Production I.G., this series is a significantly less grim and nasty slice-of-life spirit companion to Ghost in the Shell. Like Ghost in the Shell, Real Drive takes place in a futuristic world where almost everyone replaces their bodies and even their brains with cybernetic replacements, allowing them to function in virtual realities. Like Ghost in the Shell, it is a very interesting look at the future of technology and serves as a warning against the seductive powers of hyperrealism, but unlike Ghost in the Shell, there is a much stronger environmentalist message as the characters struggle to balance the accelerating technological needs and desires of humanity with environmental concerns. Okay, I just realized that sounded really boring. This series is not boring. Trust me. It has kick-ass fight scenes, awesome visuals, and an android martial arts secretary. Also noteworthy as being one of a rare few anime that dares to not draw its females stick-thin. If you don’t mind thinking about your anime, this is another great one.
Seirei no Moribito (a.k.a. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit)
Synopsis: Itinerant spearwoman Balsa, who takes jobs as a bodyguard to atone for eight lives that were taken to protect her when she was young, must protect the life of the young prince Chagram from assassins sent by his father, the Emperor, as well as from spirit creatures. Review: Production I.G. delivers another excellent series with Moribito. There is some great action to be seen in this series: Balsa might as well be a medieval Major Kusanagi (see Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex). For some reason, spears are not a popular weapon in fiction, but Balsa uses hers to stunning effect.
Spice and Wolf
Synopsis: In a medieval world, itinerant merchant Lawrence and wolf-goddess Holo the Wise travel together, and engage in very complicated plots and schemes in an effort to exploit the nuances of the barter system for great profit. Review: It’s better than it sounds, really. A lot better. It’s a seinen series, so paying attention to the plot is a must, though. Lawrence and Holo are a great couple, and the romance between them never gets too sappy. Lawrence is an uncommon sort of male anime lead: he’s a more-or-less functional adult. Holo acts less like a wolf and more like a cat or fox, it seems; she’s frequently lazy and petulant, but also capable of amazing insight into the hearts and minds of mortals. And the ending theme, “Ringo Hiyori: The Wolf Whistling Song” by Rocky Chalk, is one of the most charming songs in all its Engrish grory, err, I mean, Engrish glory.
Synopsis: Kenji’s a mathematical prodigy who accepts a part-time job from one of his seniors at high school, Natsuki, ostensibly to help her family with preparations for her grandmother’s ninetieth birthday celebration but actually to pretend to be the fiancée she promised her grandmother she’d bring, but then an artificial intelligence programmed by the black sheep of Natsuki’s family takes over the world via the anime version of Second Life, resulting in massive chaos which can only be quelled by a combination of the talents and resources of Natsuki’s extensive extended family, Kenji’s beyond-the-impossible mathematical talents, and Natsuki’s skill at playing an obscure traditional Japanese card game. Review: I knew nothing about this movie until I watched it; I did not even know it existed until moments before I started downloading it on a whim. I’m glad I did: this is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long while. It’s wonderfully over-the-top (need a better computer than that old laptop to take on the AI? Natsuki’s relatives can hook you up, at a moment’s notice, with a freaking supercomputer, powered by a fishing boat they park in the fish pond in the front yard, and a military one hundred gigabit-per-second Internet connection) and at the same time grounded in the concept of family (before the final showdown, they take time out for a big family meal). Don’t be surprised if this movie moves up to Grade S with later retrospection. Notes: In doing a little research for this, I came across an interesting bit of unrelated trivia: Nintendo was founded to produce hand-crafted hanafuda cards almost a century before they decided to make the Famicom. Weird.
You’re Under Arrest!, You’re Under Arrest! Full Throttle
Synopsis: Miyuki Kobayakawa is very feminine and mature and mechanically inclined. Natsumi Tsujimoto is a (barely) grown-up tomboy and athletic. They’re both officers with the Bokuto Police Station Traffic Division. Together they fight (traffic) crime. Review: This is an anime buddy cop show (two totally different police officers fight crime together) that never takes itself too seriously, and that’s a good thing. Another of Kosuke Fujishima’s works, the earlier anime series from 1996/1997 is pretty rough visually, but still good; the newer series, Full Throttle (2007/2008) is much better visually, and not at all lacking for entertaining story arcs.
The. Greatest. Anime. Ever.
Cowboy Bebop, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
“Well, that’s a real shame. But we’re not cops, and we’re not from some charity organization. Sorry, lady, but we don’t protect or serve. This is strictly business.”
Synopsis: Spike’s a former Syndicate mafioso. Jet’s a former Intra-Solar System Police officer. Faye’s a con artist who spend a few decades in suspended animation. Ed’s a hacker extraordinaire…and she’s a girl. Ein is a Pembroke Welsh corgi. They are bounty hunters, tracking down anyone with a price on their heads in pursuit of enough money to keep from starving to death. Awesomeness ensues.
Review: The anime series starts off pretty good, but things don’t start getting awesome until Faye is introduced in episode 3 (“Honky Tonk Women”), and only emerges as truly epic after Ed rounds out the crew starting in episode 9 (“Jamming with Edward”). The interplay of these characters is half the charm of the show; the other half is the action. Spike is a complete badass: he knows jeet kune do, he’s an amazing shot with his Jericho 941 handgun, and his dogfighting skill in his spaceship Swordfish II is second to none. And he is such a smartass about it all. It’s great. Each of the characters has at least one episode devoted to exploring their backstory; needless to say, Spike’s history with the Red Dragons Syndicate is just so damn badass it defies words. A lot of the fans of Cowboy Bebop that I know IRL didn’t like the movie, most often citing that it was just “an extra-long anime episode”, but if you ask me, it is among the best parts of the series (really, the series is awesome; an extra-long episode that stays true to the TV series is concentrated awesome in a can). All in all, Cowboy Bebop is a classic and should be considered required viewing.
Notes: They’re doing a live-action Cowboy Bebop? This concerns me; anime-to-live action conversions rarely go well. And Keanu Reeves is going to play Spike? Keanu Reeves? This is so wrong. I don’t think Keanu Reeves can pull off the cavalier attitude needed for Spike, not in the least. He may be a good actor, but his range doesn’t even approach Spike’s character. That, and he’s almost two decades too old… Well, at least they’ve got Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop‘s director, not to be confused with Excel Saga’s Shinichi Watanabe) on the project as an associate producer, so there is a little glimmer of hope. But so help me if they get anyone other than Yoko Kanno to do the soundtrack, I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but it won’t be pretty.
Full Metal Panic!, Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, and Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid
“Who, me? I’ll tell you exactly who I am. I’m from Class 2-4 at Jindai Tokyo Municipal High School. I am student number forty-one. I am in charge of waste disposal and umbrellas. I’M SOUSUKE SAGARA!”
Synopsis: Kaname Chidori, a pretty high school girl, is a Whispered, a person who has subconscious knowledge of advanced technology that could reshape the political landscape if allowed to fall into the wrong hands. In order to protect her from those wrong hands, good-guy mercenary company Mithril sends one of their best soldiers, Sosuke Sagara, to enroll at her school and secretly be her bodyguard. Problem: Sousuke’s lived in war zones his entire life and has no idea how to function in a more-or-less peaceful society like Japan, and Kaname has a very, very short temper.
Review: The original 26-episode series Full Metal Panic! is a mix of serious mecha-military action and decidedly less-than-serious schoolyard humor, amazingly woven together so that neither seems out of place. For the 13-episode Fumoffu, they focused on the humor, highlighting Sousuke and Kaname’s school life. The 13 episodes of The Second Raid return to the mix of action and humor that the first series had. This truly is a great series in all its incarnations—the manga and light novels are also of notably high quality. One of the few complaints that I have about the series is that the awesome characters they introduced in Fumoffu (like the unflappable student council president Hayashimizu and nearsighted martial arts club captain Issei Tsubaki) don’t get any screen time in The Second Raid (but then again, the storyline really didn’t have much place for them, so take that for what its worth). In the end, this series has it all: action, romance, comedy, drama, mecha, explosions, secret organizations, villainous villains, weird mascot characters, psycho incestuous lesbian twin sisters, the works. This series is a must have. Just do yourself a favor and make sure and watch the original Full Metal Panic! before either of its sequels: a lot of the humor in Fumoffu plays off the characters that were fleshed out in Full Metal Panic!, and the main story arc in The Second Raid would not make much sense without knowing what happened before.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
“Even when trapped by the cycle of karma, the dreams we left behind will open the door! Even if the infinite universe stands in our way, the seething of our blood will determine what will be! We’ll break through time and space to grab hold of our own path! Tengen Toppa… GURREN LAGANN! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK WE ARE!?“
Synopsis: In a world where people are forced to eke out a meager existence in subterranean cities, a boy, Simon, finds a small mecha which is powered by HOT-BLOODED PASSION, and with the inspiration of his “Big Bro” Kamina (one of the most incredibly confident badasses in all of anime), and a veritable army of ragtag freedom fighters behind him, Simon fights against not only the villainous Lordgenome, who rules the Earth and has forced humanity to live underground, but intergalactic, transdimensional entities that exist only to keep humanity held in check, fearing that humanity’s potential will destroy all existence.
Review: This series really needs to be watched immediately after Gainax’s other great work, Neon Genesis Evangelion. As Evangelion deconstructed the giant robot genre, Gurren Lagann reconstructs it, exorcising the demons of depression, self-loathing, and angst that Evangelion brought to the table with a resounding battle-cry of RAW! RAW! FIGHT THE POWER! This is a universe where the Laws of Physics are superseded by the Rule of Cool; with enough HOT-BLOODED PASSION, any foe can be defeated, even those that are undefeatable; any plan can work, even those that have a 0% chance of success. The soundtrack is excellent, too, with songs like Nikipol, Omaera Zen’in Moete Shimae!!!, and Rap wa Kan no Tamashii da! Muri wo Toushite Douri wo Kettobasu! Ore Tachi dai Gurren Dan no Theme wo Mimi no Ana Kappo Jitte yo~ Kukiki Yagare!! (yes, that’s what it’s titled, and yes, it’s awesome). The series goes over the top and never looks back; the finale is epic beyond comprehension.
Notes: On Youtube there are a number of must-watch omake (extra) short animations for TTGL fans, especially the eight “Parallel Works” videos (here’s the first one), and “Pieces of Sweet Stars“. I’d embed them, but WordPress is being stupid today (I will try again later, when I have more patience).
And for the record, the series shown in that first picture are (in order from left to right, starting with the top row and proceding down): K-ON, Bakemonogatari, Last Exile, Kamisama Kazoku, Seirei no Moribito, Yukikaze, Genshiken, Magikano, Toshokan Sensou, Full Metal Panic, Real Drive, Inukami, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Spice and Wolf, Toradora, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, Rideback, You’re Under Arrest, Macross Frontier, Shikabane Hime, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, The Case Files of Ryoko Yakushiji, Kannagi, Ergo Proxy, and Darker Than Black.