Five Anime Everyone Should See

It’s no secret that geekery has a hierarchy. While Star Wars and Star Trek fans might argue with each other over who is more mainstream and alpha nerd, anime fans are often look down upon by both. This unfair treatment could be attributed to the vast size of the material that is lumped into the “anime” genre. From light hearted teenage sex romps to super meta-physical science fiction, anime is more a medium than a genre. Saying you don’t like anime because you don’t like Dragon Ball Z is like saying you don’t like movies because you didn’t enjoy The Stupids. So in hopes of expanding minds and introducing our readers to something fun, I give you five Japanese animated works that everyone should see. (Please note I excluded the work of Hayao Miyazaki from this list. If you need me to tell you to watch his movies, you are hopeless and should go live in a cave.)

Ghost in the Shell – Regardless of what you might think when you think of anime, Ghost in the Shell has its feet firmly planted in the realm of hard sci-fi. Taking place in 2029, the franchise follows the adventures of Major Motoko Kusanagi and Japan’s anti-cyber terrorist agency Section 9. Over the course of three movies and two television series Ghost in the Shell deals with the implications of artificial life, the matter of what happens to human souls when the mind is put into a cybernetic body, and even the idea of how modern memes can affect society’s overall mindset.

The writing for this franchise is just consistently solid. Be it part of a larger arc or a one off episode of the show, the story always seems to be a top tier near future tale of mystery, wonder, and action. Of course, it does have some of the standard anime tropes such as women wearing inappropriate clothing for their line of work and large robotic tanks, but it’s nothing so bad that it turns the material into a joke. If you think that anime is all giant swords, fireballs, and fighting robots, Ghost in the Shell is a good place to start finding out how wrong you are.

Interstella 5555Interstella 5555 is by far the most unique entry on this list and, admittedly, won’t be for everyone. In lieu of making traditional music videos, the musical act Daft Punk teamed up with legendary manga and anime creator Leiji Matsumoto to make an animated opera for the album Discovery. The result was a story about a kidnapped band from an alien planet being “repackaged” and sold to Earth as the next big thing in music.

This movie will be a no-brainer for Daft Punk fans, but the involvement of Leiji Matsumoto lends a lot of legitimacy to the project. The long time manga and anime artist is a staple of the industry. Many American fans will be familiar with Star Blazers or his feature length projects like Galaxy Express 999, the later being aired on Sci-Fi Channel’s Saturday Anime frequently. With his guidance, the movie turns into an epic tale of kidnapping, heroics, and tragedy. At the very least this opera is a perfect example of how anime is a medium and not a genre.

Cowboy Bebop– Hip, stylish, action packed; Cowboy Bebop is by far the coolest kid in the room. A show that is often flashy, but amazingly never lacking in substance. Cowboy Bebop is the story of the two bounty hunters Jet and Spike trying to get by in universe where Earth is a forgotten ruin and humans have been scattered across the solar system. Their journeys have them crossing paths with femme fatal Faye Valentine and the legendary hacker Radical Edward, both of which are more than meets the eye and eventually call the good ship Bebop home.

What really pushes this show over the top is the details. It’s set in a rich and realistic world that is slowly revealed to the viewer over the course of 26 episodes and a movie. The action scenes are some of the best ever done in animation, with martial arts and gun play that honestly rivals many movies. The soundtrack, writing, animation, and character design all culminate in what might be one of the coolest shows of all time, animated or not. When that intro music hits, you know it’s time for serious cool.

Neon Genesis EvangelionEvangelion is a tough nut to crack. On the outside it seems to be just another typical Japanese television show about giant robots fighting giant monsters, but after a couple episodes it quickly becomes clear it is much more. Neon Genesis Evangelion is actually a tale about the emotional trauma, isolation, and loneliness that comes with being a human being in this world. Also… there are giant robots piloted by kids that fight giant monsters. I mean, come on… who doesn’t love kids piloting giant robots to fight giant monsters? Evangelion is also a strong contender for most abstract and trippiest ending to a show ever.

I hesitate to say much more in fear of ruining it for new viewers, but basically the world has been attacked by these large creatures call Angels. A military and science organization named NERV has been tasked to combat these giant monsters. To do so they actually select teenagers to pilot large humanoid machines called Evangelions. Soon it becomes terrifyingly clear that all is not as it seems and that there may be more sinister things at work. Give it a few episodes and odds are you’ll be hooked, perfectly illustrating why the franchise has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide.

Tenchi – At first you might wonder why Tenchi Muyo, a typical Japanese teenage boy, is the subject of multiple TV shows, movies and OVAs. Are beautiful alien women, intergalactic politics, a giant tree that turns into a space ship and an adorable creature named a “cabbit” enough to stop your wondering?

This might be the hardest sell on the entire list, but trust me when I say that the Tenchi franchise is incredibly charming and fun. A bonus is that Tenchi is very female friendly, which is perfect if you’re a guy looking to get your girl into anime or if you’re a girl that is looking for a funny (and sometimes slightly blue) anime that isn’t just giant robots and half naked women.

When Tenchi accidentally releases a demon at the shrine his grandfather tends to, it triggers a chain of events that lead him, his family and an entire crew of new friends across the galaxy. While Tenchi may seem a bit childish at times, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s anything but mature. Sexual tension, off-colored jokes and dirty old men are par for the course in the Muyo household.

Over the course of the series, it is clear that Tenchi is resistant to all of the interesting things happening to him and it only makes him that much more endearing. He is frustrated by the women constantly fighting for his affections, apathetic to the craziness around him and annoyed by the amazing adventures he is forced to endure. Any teenage boy would love to switch places with him, but his inability to just enjoy the antics surrounding him often just compound his problems and the humor of the situations.


So there you have it folks. Five anime franchises that are easy to find and even easier to get into. If you find yourself in the mood for a change of pace, do yourself a solid and check out any of the titles on this list.

 

20 Comments

  1. AndyNo Gravatar
    Posted April 12, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Love the anime representation! Great list, too. Cowboy Bebop, Evangelion, and Ghost in the Shell are so quintessential. I too hate it when people decry anime simply because they can’t stand Dragonball Z or Pokemon, so I couldn’t agree with you more.

    If I’m gonna nitpick, I might replace Interstella 5555 (which I’ve actually never seen) and Tenchi Muyo with Berserk, Ninja Scroll (the movie), Gurren Lagann, or the original Lupin III.

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted April 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Lupin almost made the list, Cowboy Bebop almost didn’t. I was trying to find some things that weren’t quite as mainstream… even though 3/5 of the list is pretty “mainstream” to any one even with a passing interest in anime. There was no way that Tenchi wasn’t making the list though. That show has been there for me in some tough times. It was also great because it was the first anime my ex-fiance and I watched together. Like I said, it’s one for the ladies as much as the guys 😉

      Also, you have to see Interstella 5555 at least once. A google search will lead you to the full movie on google video. Not the best quality, but I wouldn’t recommend someone buy it unless they’re a Daft Punk fan.

      • AndyNo Gravatar
        Posted April 12, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

        A friend of mine has Interstella 5555 on DVD… I think I know what I’m watching this weekend! I’ve always been curious, and I love Daft Punk. After a review like that, I think I pretty much need to watch it.

    • athirsiziNo Gravatar
      Posted December 2, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I recommend Ergo Proxy as well. Nobody has mentioned it yet but it has a unique story as well. There is also Genshiken, which is my favourite anime series. It is not for everyone but I believe most geeks will enjoy watching it. There are also Durarara and Welcome to the NHK. But I don’t recommend series like Berserk or Gantz. Berserk’s manga is the best manga ever written for me and I really like Gantz’s manga as well but seinen manga series’ animes are almost never successfull. I am a fan of the genre but I mostly prefer reading mangas of it.

      I am one of the people who doesn’t like Evangelion but rest of the list looks real good. I’ve never watched Interstella 5555 before but I will watch it as soon as I can.

      By the way, I think the list is not for the all people who doesn’t like anime. It is only for real geeks who enjoy sci-fi as well. For a normal people who doesn’t like anime and thinks it is childish; I would just recommend Death Note or Fullmetal Alchemist. Ghost In the Shell is not for everyone after all.

  2. Fiesta DinnerNo Gravatar
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    These anime are not going to convert anybody. Ghost in the Shell is incredibly boring, Tenchi is just a generic romantic comedy, Interstella 5555 is garbage, Evangelion while I consider it one of the best anime ever created the story and pace are really slow. Is not until near the end that it shows its true colors but at the same time everything becomes incredibly convoluted too. Cowboy Bebop is good…

    These are 5 animes I guarantee you everybody will love even if they don’t like anime:

    1. Gantz – guro, netorare and action packed. Do I need to say more?

    2. Berserk – Just watch it. Action, Horror, Dark fantasy, Drama

    3. Rahxephon – an Evangelion’s copycat but with much better pace and not as convoluted. Mecha, Apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, Drama, Psychological horror

    4. Welcome to the NHK – this is the story of a 23 years old NEET. How else can I describe this? I don’t know but this is one really unique anime, there is nothing like it. One of my most favorite series ever! Drama, Romantic

    5. Toradora! – to this day there is no drama better than this. Period. At the beginning it makes you think that this is just another romantic comedy but little by little you’ll see that this is much more than just that.

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted April 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      *shrug*

      I haven’t seen half the stuff on your list, but seeing as you don’t enjoy half the stuff on my list I have a feeling I wouldn’t like it. It’s pretty clear that we have very different taste. For example, guro will never be a selling point for me. I have no interest in the blood, guts or mutilation; especially when it has erotic undertones.

      The stuff picked for this list was done so because it wasn’t Dragon Ball Z, usually substance over style and rather easy to find; all of which I think are essential when trying something new. You’re clearly an anime fan and likely it wasn’t a hard sell for you, so this list isn’t for you. In fact, I will take your disapproval of the list as ringing endorsement of what it was to accomplish, which is give some examples of non-typical anime that non-typical anime fans might like.

      I’m just not sure how someone can find Ghost in the Shell boring. It’s good old fashioned hard science fiction and one of my favorite franchises of all time.

      • AndyNo Gravatar
        Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:19 pm | Permalink | Reply

        As hard as I love GitS, I’ve heard the boring complaint from of a lot of people, and there’s a lot of truth to it. It’s boring in the same way Blade Runner is boring, or the way any cerebral piece of art is boring to someone who has no interest in it, or doesn’t take the time to understand it. GitS is so good because it doesn’t give you everything up front — you have to pay close attention and think about it really hard before you can understand it.

        That said, anyone who hasn’t seen GitS is missing out. Or Blade Runner, for that matter.

        • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
          Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

          I love that you made the Blade Runner connection. That’s one reason I put it on the list. GitS could easily be a movie, or a book, and it is a Manga. It’s a story that could be told many ways, but just happens to be an anime.

          Great stuff imho.

  3. AikuchiNo Gravatar
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I like your list. I haven’t seen Interstella 5555, but I like all the others(except Evangelion, didn’t like how it ended) I have a special place in my heart for Tenchi, it was one the shows that got me hooked on anime. That said I have tried to get none anime lovers to watch it and they couldn’t stand it.

    Three shows I would recommended to none Anime lovers are:

    Last Exile – Looks beautiful, has a great Steampunk element, and a good story(almost shakespearean).

    Trigun – For those western fans, the pacifist outlaw.

    R.O.D. – For those that like like James Bond. Its a mix of Fun and spy thriller(and not as heady as G.I.T.S.)

    honorable mention: Darker Then Black, Patlabor, Big Windup, and Crest of the Stars(I like CofS almost as much I like Tenchi).

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I have always heard good things about Trigun from my friends. I think it might also be on Netflix now, so I will have to give it and your other suggestions a watch!

      Thanks for reading!

  4. AikuchiNo Gravatar
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I also forgot to honorable mention Hetalia and Spice And Wolf.

  5. DarriusNo Gravatar
    Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am amazed that Evangelion has grossed a billion dollars worldwide. Having watched it and the movie, I find myself wishing I could get that time back. My life is worse for having seen it. It has good action but, it has the worse second half/ending ever in fiction; not just anime, not just anime + manga, but worst in all of fiction. And the movie is worse than that. I’ve seen lots of anime from Vampire Hunter D, to Ah! My Goddess, to Fist of the North Star, to Princess Nine, to Naruto Shippuuden; Evangelion is the only anime that I regret watching. I can not express the strength of my negative recommendation. Don’t watch it to see how bad it is; just don’t watch it.

    I agree with the rest of the list. I don’t know Interstella 5555, but the rest of the list is good. The little Tenchi that I have seen is good. Ghost in the Shell rocks. Cowboy Bebop is the best anime series of all time, and I mean that literally.

    Anime is so diverse (which is why it is beautiful) that it is hard to make blanket recommendations because anime has something for everybody. Action, horror, happy love stories, sad love stories, hardcore pornography, drama, sci-fi, historical drama, comedy and other genres all have good representations in anime. There are also anime that are built around concepts rarely seen in other types of fiction.

    In keeping with the spirit of the author’s intent to recommend an anime that doesn’t get a lot of mainstream publicity, I will recommend Witch Hunter Robin.

    Witch Hunter Robin is about the pain experienced by people who are born witches and the about the moral considerations of the Hunters who chase them. It has slight magic and very slight religious overtones.

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted April 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I toyed with the idea of putting Robin on the list, but… I have never finished the series and was afraid it pulled an Evangelion at the end. I would more or less agree with you about Evangelion’s ending. I’m not a huge fan, but I felt that I am in the minority on that. All my friends really love the show, but I’m like you. It loses me on the back half.

      Thanks for reading!

    • AndyNo Gravatar
      Posted April 14, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

      No offense Darrius, your points are well made, but I gotta play devil’s advocate with you here. Evangelion is a great show because it is capable of producing such polar reactions — love from Carl (and me), and virulent hatred from yourself! I think that it’s uniqueness is enough reason for someone to check it out, even if just to see if they love or hate it.

  6. TimNo Gravatar
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 12:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    I am a huge anime fan for 20 years now I have see over 300 anime and there is a lot I didn’t see yet and I plan to when I find the time, I know that this list is for non-anime fans but I thought to give my opinion my own TOP 5 if u want anime that I think is must-see even for those that find it hard to watch and enjoy anime like we the fans do, GitS, Evangelion & Cowboy Bebop r sure some of the greatest anime ever they r already classics but I am not sure that a non-anime fan will enjoy them the plot is hard to follow in some of those and I am sure that many ppl will find them boring.. not me for sure but many will, so hear my own TOP 5 of anime that every1 must see and I am sure every1 will enjoy fans or haters:

    1.Fullmetal Alchemist
    2.Full Metal Panic
    3.Twelve Kingdoms
    4.Great Teacher Onizuka
    5.School Rumble

    that’s some of my own all time favorites also 🙂 it’s very easy for me to make a TOP 10 or a TOP 20 or even a TOP 50 I have see so many anime all this years of all kind of type and genre from action to romance to comedy to horror to what ever your mind can think but this TOP 5 is suggested from my experience to non-anime fans I am 100% sure that they r going to enjoy them like I did because it’s impossible to not like this anime they all masterpieces.

  7. DallinNo Gravatar
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 3:16 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hmmm, lot here I’ll have to catch sometime. Seen some, missed a lot. I agree with Evangelion being incredible until an awful ending, but still needing to be wached (it was what personally got me into Anime).

    A couple others I recommend are Ranma 1/2 and Slayers. I’d put them in my top 5. Light hearted, humorous, and really good imo. How would you all rate those?

    • AndyNo Gravatar
      Posted April 15, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink | Reply

      Never saw Ranma 1/ 2 myself, but I’ve heard very good things, and I was pretty big into InuYasha back in high school (both created by the same artist, for those not in the know).

      Slayers, on the other hand, I have undying love for. I’ve only seen the original 26 episode run, but it made a big impression on me when I was kid. A perfect balance of humor and drama, and great example of the height of 90s-era hand-drawn animation.

      • DallinNo Gravatar
        Posted April 21, 2011 at 3:24 am | Permalink | Reply

        I’d DEFINITELY try Ranma 1/2 then. I thought it was better than Inu Yasha personally (very different really). I would say it has the same feature as Slayers – the perfect balance of humor and drama. And Slayers I believe had 3 seasons (been a while), all very good. Highly recommended.

  8. Reiz16No Gravatar
    Posted November 20, 2011 at 1:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    Aaaaaaannnnnyyboodyy know any SciFi an otaku can get into?

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted November 20, 2011 at 2:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      Are you looking for animated Sci-Fi or live action Sci-Fi with anime sensibilities?

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