Let’s talk about anime.
On this very blog four years ago, when I was a wee-lad, I wrote about how I had fallen out of love with anime. I spoke about how when I was a crazed anime otaku in my teenage to early-twenty year-old days; and how a few years removed I just had stepped away from the genre for the most part. Growing up I watched series like Rorouni Kenshin, Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. In the last five or so years the closest I get to anime — besides revisiting those I have my personal nostalgia for — is the latest Miyazaki release.
In the last year I’ve quietly, though I think I have talked about it on the podcast a couple of times, started watching anime again. I don’t mean that I saw something other than a Ghibli film — i.e. the Your Name movie that’s taken the world by storm. Rather I mean I’ve started watching episodic seasonal anime shows again; and I sort of like it a lot.
I can’t remember what prompted me to give this another shot. I’m not sure if it’s watching YouTube channels like RCAnime and AnimeEveryday that did it. Hearing them talk so passionately about the medium and leading me like how I am with so many other movie related video essayists that I follow for interesting thoughts and interpretations on the art might’ve made me reconsider it all. Regardless I’m here today and I’m here to say… I find anime interesting again.
I wanted to therefore spend a hot minute talking about what I’ve found taking a super dive back into anime and some of the shows that I’ve taken a likening to and others that highlight what used to stop me from watching it all that I’ve given up on.
Shows I Discovered That Impress Me
Here’s a show where the premise is that our main character has the ability to time travel to help others. Every once in a while he will be thrown back in time, usually a few minutes, basically letting him know something terrible is about to happen. He then spends those minutes figuring out who’s in danger and attempts to save them. Now his mother is murdered and he’s forced to time travel years in the past to when he was a child and he has to figure it all out.
The show has a very Stranger Things vibe and it’s pretty great. It’s a lovely mystery tale that just keeps you not so much guessing, as early predictions may turn out to be right, but just entralled with all the little details it can play with. You get a feel for all the players in the game and it’s interesting to watch our main character being a child detective basically as he wants to stop a child serial killer who he believes has something to do with his mother’s death in the future/present (decide based on your time travel persepective).
Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
I love Lupin shows, I watched this and didn’t believe it could be this beautiful.
In a story that works as a twisted origin tale of one of the members of Lupin’s usual gang, Fujiko Mine, we are given a tale of Fujiko and how she first came to meet Lupin. The series is more sexually and adult oriented, but not in a callous way that makes it tittilating, but rather in a manner that feels honest and interesting. Also it involves, if my memory serves, a lot of sequences that discuss the mental state of Fujiko and some sort of brainwashing or some sort.
I recall the series being stylish and just a breath of fresh air. So many animes, especially like this which is tied to a much larger property, will step out and make a mature story about a character like Fujiko becoming the woman we know her to be.
Yuri On Ice
To any and all current anime fans who come across this post, yes I got caught into the Yuri on Ice hype.
The previous animes mentioned were things that were pretty easy to cherry pick out as they had great recommendations while this one mentioned was definitely not in my wheelhouse. It’s a romance comedy between Yuri and Victor as Victor decides to take a year off to train Yuri to be a world contending ice skater.
I’ve been known to watch a sports anime here and there and I super enjoy them; but this is a stretch even for me. I decided to try it since it was pretty much the show that had garnered all the hype and adulation that you can imagine from a recent season of anime that had just ended and it also helped that I discovered that the show was directed by Sayo Yamamoto, who had also directed the aforementioned Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine.
After a few episodes I realised something about me, more than about the show. I realised that I am super into anime meet cute and general sweetness; and this show is overflowing with it. The show lives on the knife edge of suspense about whether Victor and Yuri will ever go into a full on open gay romance rather than just being close friends who are working to a common goal and are always emotionally expressive about watching each other succeed. At the same time the show has some great rivalries between all the skaters in the show. There is a lot of cheesy plays with these characters and while the animation is gorgeous to watch the skating itself it does become tedious at times to see the same skate routine repeated in the show, but overall due to how much I love watching Yuri and Victor play with each other it doesn’t matter.
Possibly one of the weirdes things I’ve ever watched. This show starts out as an overly cute romance anime. We start with a young teenage boy who is infatuated with a certain classmate of his. He makes a friend who finds out about this crush and helps guide him into eventually being in a relationship with his crush. The show then swings a complete 180 as our main character becomes a womanizing asshole and the we quickly enter a show with crazy grudge dynamics and love triagles that by the end of the show could be a octagon. It never makes it just about a guy being able to bed all the women he could ever fatasize about but actually has characters who respond in interesting ways to the ways everyone is changing. To reach a bonkers ending that honestly I feel is Gone Girl levels of enjoyable pulp out of left field crazy.
This show, I feel more than any other, has shown me that anime isn’t just one thing. It isn’t just a place where shows have to stay in one genra and remain forever cute for the sake of having those cute poses which end up forever reblogged on tumblr and infinitely memed. Here is a show with characters who evolve and if was adapted into a western show would be hailed as a great Netflix binge watch series. It never feels harmful or dehumanizing. It feels just like a crazed fun messed up show.
So with all the above shows being mentioned which helped make me want to take a closer look at this medium going forward I did the only thing I could do. I started subscribing to Crunchyroll and watching current series. So here are the shows this season that caught my eye that have me looking for new episodes weekly
Shows I’m Watching (Current Season)
Juni Taisen/ Zodiac War
This is possibly the most “normal” anime I could’ve picked to talk about and emblimatic of anything you already imagine anime is. Here’s the muscle and guns action anime show in which twelve kung-fu/dual-wielding/sword carrying combatants have been entered into a battle royale competition to take place over the period of one night with only one winner possible to make it to the end.
The show is that wonderfully animated with ridiculous characters, look at that header image with the bunny dude, that just knows how to fetishize it’s action in ways I can’t look away from just because it hits all those parts I love about action movies into a tv show that also doens’t do what the never-ending shonen animes that made me stop watching it. There aren’t those elongated fight scenes that take four to ten episodes to end. While I can’t promise that when the season ends (it’s now midway) it will actually end the entire compeition; but I feel like that it will only take the one season to finish off this set of warrior’s battles.
A guy/girl called Kino travels the world on his/her bike Hermes (yes the bike talks, but not like Pixar’s Cars). This show is great since it does what some interesting procedural TV shows where the settings and ideas change episode to episode but you stay with our main character who we love. Here’s a show where Kino is literally going town to town and we spend each episode in a different town which is almost like an intergallactic adventure as these towns are so crazily different. In the first episode it’s a western-like town where murder is not illegal, in another the town has a citizenship gained by newcomers who enter a gladiator tournament and only one is accepted and able to create a new law, and in the next the town is a mobile town which is always causing trouble for the world around it. In all of these episodes the show never feels old having new things appear always and creates stories that doesn’t make you feel overburneded with plotting but rather allows you to take in all these ideas that come to you as Kino moves town to town. Almost as if we were taking a world tour and spending this limited time in one new space.
This is maybe the one show I don’t want to admit publicly. It’s totally fan-service mostly and food porn; like 40% food….
In that very post about giving up anime I wrote about a show, High School of the Dead, and how it disgusted me to come face to face with this sort of explicit sexual insanity. This show is pretty much that except there’s food battles instead of zombies. It’s about a high school where people are competing to be the best chef centered around Yukihira Soma who’s worked as his father’s assistant in his diner and one day is forced to go to this high school to cultivate his skills.
There’s a lot about this show that is more than problematic for me. It’s ecchi, a genre of anime that involves a lot of hyper sexual imagery — think of it akin to watching soft porn. It also has a lot of cheesy badness to it like the fact that all of the characters are very eccentric and one note in how they are eccentric. To the point of Yukihira having a catchphrase he pops off whenever he completes a dish. But, I still like watching the show. It has the right style of comedy when it comes to the characters interacting with one another; and I love the food… even if it’s anime food.
This may be the show that made me sincerely realised I’ve gone into a deep dark rabbit hole now and won’t be popping out anytime soon.
So that’s me talking about my recent interactions with anime and how it’s going to be for me for now. I’m interested to see what else is available currently. While I won’t be going back to my years of shounen shows, I see now there’s actually a lot of other types of stories going on that interest me.
I may occassionally do an anime related post here. So apologies if it’s a break from the norm or what you really care for. But them be the breaks.