wNov 16, 2008

Epic Post of Anime Recs for Beginners

I know some of you don't like YouTube clips, but I really think it's the best way to showcase animation style, music, and quality, which I feel are essential with any series I spend my time with.

It's happened at least twice in the past few months, so I figure it's worthy of its own post. People are interested in anime, but don't really know where to start. "I've seen Spirited Away/Princess Mononoke/all of the Ghibli movies, but I don't know what else to watch." So, here's a list of what I consider to be good places to start. For the most part, these are movies and series that have been around for a while, and are loved by just about everyone who's seen them. For the sake of ease, I chose only things that are available on DVD in the US.

While most of the items listed do a pretty good job with humor, but overall this is a list of dramas. I did this because a fair amount of anime humor is based on tropes commonly found in anime storytelling, or is "weird" in that one has to be a bit more comfortable with the medium to fully "get it." Evangelion and Utena probably have some of the more stereotypical humor found in anime out of everything on this list, but I think it's manageable to a newcomer.

The possible exception to this is Revolutionary Girl Utena. Its use of recycled animation and rampant presence of implied incest will come off as a bit WTF, especially to newcomers. But since most readers of my blog/LiveJournal are feminists, I think it'll be very easy to find other things to appreciate. Additionally, you guys are probably more willing to deconstruct and ask, "Why is this happening in the story?" as opposed to just freaking out. Utena could be analyzed endlessly, so if you start it and are dubious, I promise that the pay-offs make everything worth it. Of course, I might just be pre-preemptively apologetic and pushy because it's my favorite, :D

All of the Studio Ghibli movies
Lots of people have seen Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, but Studio Ghibli has a treasure chest full of achingly beautiful and poignant films. I've seen all but one, and adored all but two (Laputa and Pom Poko). Watch them all! I know that Netflix has all of these except Only Yesterday, and most video stores let you rent "kids' movies" for free.

Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Grave of the Fireflies
My Neighbor Totoro
Kiki's Delivery Service
Only Yesterday [I LOVED this. Does anyone know how to obtain a copy?]
Porco Rosso
Pom Poko
Whisper of the Heart [This is my absolute favorite Ghibli movie]
Princess Mononoke
Spirited Away
The Cat Returns [I actually haven't seen this one, :( ]
Howl's Moving Castle

Cowboy Bebop

This clip shows the opening sequence as well as a bit of episode footage beforehand. The episode footage is all silent, and does a lot to show you the style points that Bebop is known for. The simple music is clearly nostalgic, as is the black and white noir-style flashbacks. And of course, then there is the opening, with big band jazz music, action, and stylish use of animation. I have yet to meet a person who watched Cowboy Bebop and didn't love it (except for my boyfriend, who is an anomaly I conveniently choose to ignore for the purposes of this post!).

The music used in the clip is representative of the fantastic soundtrack used throughout the series; 26 episodes and movie counterpart.

Revolutionary Girl Utena
Revolutionary Girl Utena is the story about a girl who was saved by a prince when she was still a child. In the present, she resolves to become a prince herself. She finds a mission to follow when she discovers classmate Anthy Himemiya is ensnared in a creepy Student Council tradition of being a "Rose Bride," a partnership earned through sword fights that makes her subject to the whims of whoever happens to win her. Utena finds this custom "stupid" and weird, and resolves to simply win Anthy for herself, and allow her to do whatever she'd like. The series begins seemingly simplistic, with clear-cut villains and friends, but as it progresses, it's clear that everything the viewer and Utena believe to be true is in fact a lie. Fairy tale tropes are rampant, down to two girls who use shadow puppetry to act as a Greek chorus for the storyline of each episode.

The rotating roses are iconic symbols for the series. You can also see Utena's adoption of the boys' school uniform and the classic animation style. The opening sequence makes it seem as though Utena and Anthy's relationship is a lesbian one, but I find that debatable in the series as a whole (although definitely not in the movie!). There is a definite subtext, though, and there are other characters who are clearly homosexual. This is one of the few anime series that represents people of color and gay relationships with serious thought.

This is my favorite anime series, if you can't tell, :)

Samurai Champloo
This series was made by the creator of Cowboy Bebop. They are similar in that they blend a music style with a seemingly incompatible plot genre (Bebop blends jazz with space opera noir; Champloo blends hip-hop with samurai action of the Japanese Edo period). Samurais Mugen and Jin are polar opposites: one has standing-on-end hair who seems to breakdance as he fights, while the other is a reserved dojo-trained master of specific moves. They join forces with 15-year-old Fuu, an outspoken girl searching for a samurai who smells like sunflowers. The anime is a story about the people they meet and fight with along the way.

The opening sequence of Samurai Champloo is quite solid, but I decided to post an AMV instead. The use of some Beastie Boys music fits in with the music regularly used on the show. You can watch Samurai Champloo because it's hilarious, because each episode is ridiculously tightly plotted, or because of the way it riffs on historical events. But you can also watch it solely because its action sequences are totally bad-ass, and they alone give you reason enough to watch it.

Neon Genesis Evangelion
Like Cowboy Bebop, this is a classic that most anime fans have seen. Like Utena, it starts out with a seemingly standard premise until it becomes apparent that everyone is lying and a basket case in some form. Shinji Ikari is a teenage boy with no ambition, but he has to go to his father's organization NERV to pilot a giant robot to save the world from attackers. This is a pretty standard premise for anime (mostly from anime that came afterward, but also from series like Macross which came before), but Evangelion subverts tropes and expectations. It's highly recommended, and make sure you check out the movie The End of Evangelion once you make it through the episodes. Some people loathe the ending as seen through the TV series, and the movie certainly does give more closure, even if in a disturbing way (I am a fan of both endings, and they're not mutually exclusive: one is internal, and the other shows you what's going on with everyone else).

Movies by Satoshi Kon
Kon is like Miyazaki in that everything he touches is golden. He is unlike Miyazaki in that the themes he touches upon are much more adult in nature (especially "Perfect Blue". The theatrical trailers are pretty good, so I'm going to be lazy and just go with those.

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scribbled mystickeeper at 11:29 AM

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