On Sunday, while Tomato and I were just discussing how to fix problems with our “The Outsiders” project, he told me to check out the newest article he was writing. This article is the Anime Problem post from earlier this week. I was shocked when I first read that he hated anime, and demanded that he transfer all control over this blog to me. After he explained what the true idea behind the post was however, I was as ecstatic as a guy who only watches animation in general could be. Tomato’s article ended up sparking discussion on the blog, on Twitter, and even Facebook. But moving on…
Today is Day 4 of “Anime Week”. There was no Day 3 for the simple reason that QB has been extremely busy over the past several weeks due to schoolwork and sports. Rest assured, he will return soon with tales of his New York Comic Con adventures. In the same vein as Andrew/Sketch, I’ll be listing off three pieces of Japanese animation that could serve as great getaway series into the sub-medium. Unlike Sketch’s article, however, there is no real order in how I’m presenting these recommendations to you. In any case, let’s get you guys some more water wings before you go diving into the pool of Japanese animation.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the few Japanese titles that I came into contact with via manga, rather than an anime adaptation. After reading the first few volumes at a summer camp in the Appalachian Mountains back in 2009, stealing them from the backpack of an otaku cabinmate, I fell in love with the series. On a side note, I first heard of Baccano! that summer, so at least the people I know have good taste. Returning to the topic at hand, once I got back home, I decided to dive into the anime series. To my surprise, there was a second one that I had no knowledge of: the newer Brotherhood series. For the record, the previous one simply called Fullmetal Alchemist was produced while the manga was still early in its run. That series ended on a different note back in 2004 than the manga eventually did this year. Brotherhood was a more faithful adaptation, and ended shortly after the manga completed its run. With that piece of information out of the way, I should be clear that I chose to follow the latter. While I didn’t watch it too often, and have yet to even complete this series, I believe FMA: Brotherhood is be one of the best action-oriented series I’ve ever watched. At the risk of getting some people angry, I feel that its superior to Naruto, One Piece, and my childhood favorite, the Dragonball trilogy.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is about brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, the former being incredibly skilled in the art of alchemy, on a quest to restore their bodies after a failed attempt to raise their mother from the dead several years ago. Working with the military in order to gain access to information that will aid them on their quest, the duo travel the country doing battle with countless adversaries. When looking at any series, the first thing I search for is characterization, and this anime definitely delivers. All the characters feel like actual people instead of cardboard cutouts. All their actions and motives are clear: they aren’t doing anything just for the sake of doing it; there is a reason for what they do whether you like their actions or not. And finally, it lays claim to some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever witnessed in animation, along with some pretty nice animation to go along with it. If you love action and adventure, you’ll love Brotherhood. Plain and simple.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
It is impossible to be on the internet and see the name Haruhi Suzumiya be dropped once or twice. Adapted from a series of light novels, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has a large and strong global fanbase, given birth to its fair share of memes, and has more Wild Massing Guessing than I care to read. Earlier this year, I gave in and decided to see what the big deal was about this show. And after a few “WTF?s” that Episode 00, I got my answer. To sum the idea behind this gem as best as I can: Haruhi Suzumiya is a self-centered teenaged girl who subconsciously controls the workings of the workings of the universe. The show is about the efforts her best friend Kyon & the other members of Haruhi’s S.O.S. Brigade to keep her entertained enough not to accidentally destroy everything. On one hand, Haruhi Suzumiya is a slice-of-life dealing with the daily escapades of a girl and her
slaves friends associates. On the other hand, it’s a science-fiction series that has an overwhelming sense of doom and despair surrounding everything. Whatever you want to call it, Haruhi Suzumiya is a great series that’s hard to hate and easy to love. The art direction is wonderful, with all the characters being well-designed and the backgrounds wonderfully detailed. The writing is top-notch, with the use of Kyon as our narrator being surprisingly creative. Finally, the animation is smooth, clean and consistent with a certain nuanced flair that makes these characters feel all the more real, and thus their actions more believable.
Is this show perfect and deserves all the praise it gets? How the hell should I know? Sure, beyond Haruhi and Kyon, the characters don’t go far beyond simple archetypes. But Suzumiya doesn’t suffer for it and I don’t see how it could improve if Mikuru or Itsuki had more depth. Does the second season suck? Screw doing it for the art, the Endless Eight arc was a horrible move on the part of Kyoto Animation, and the movie barely makes up for that mistake. But even then, I had fun figuring out what little changes occurred from episode-to-episode in that story arc. Overall, I feel that this Japanese cartoon gets the recognition it needs, and as long as I don’t have to do the Hare Hare Dance to prove my love for this show, then overrate away.
An unorthodox choice, but hear me out here. Despite what many think, Digimon is in no way a rip-off of the Pokémon franchise. Is it the “mon” part of the name? Pokémon doesn’t own that shorthand for “monster”. In any case, it’s pretty apparent when you take a look and compare both the toyetic anime you might notice something. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that once you get past Saban‘s haphazard handling of the first four seasons, and actually take a good look at the stories and characters presented, you’ll find that Digimon is actually a pretty fun (and dark) show. All the characters are well-developed, dealing with things from such as guilt from nearly killing a younger sibling in Adventure 01. The plots really drag you in, with my favorite being the plot of Tamers: a secret government organization working in order fix the rift between our world and the digital world. Even some of Saban’s dub music is pretty great when it isn’t ruining epic fight scenes (that said, the American theme songs kick ass).
Maybe it’s just love for a series I grew up watching, but I find that the show still holds up when I watch earlier seasons. The basic premise of kids or teens saving the world is an incredibly played-out one, but the creative team behind this series always manages to make it work in a great ways each season. From evil Digimon taking over an entire city in an Adventure 01 story arc, to our protagonists becoming Digimon themselves in Frontier, every season is a fun journey that skillfully balances light comedy with dark action. It doesn’t matter that this show was made just to sell toys: it’s a great series that I recommend everyone should watch at least once.