Anime has been around for a long time, and it has a lot of dedicated fans, but it’s fair to say that it is still something of a cult genre for the most part. This is a shame because, although there are a lot of pretty bad animes out there, there are a lot of fantastic ones too. If only people would give the genre a chance, they would see that it does have plenty of artistic merit.
So, if you’re looking to expand your viewing horizons and you’re ready to give anime a go, check out these animes films and shows that are worth your while:
Pretty Much Anything from Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli is basically the Japanese Disney only arguably much better. If you’ve seen fantastic films like Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, then you’ve already unwittingly watched some anime, and I bet your thoroughly enjoyed it. Beautiful, whimsical and unlike many other animated films, packed with strong female characters, the Ghibli films are a delight to watch from start to finish. You can literally pick up any Ghibli title, and you’ll find something to enjoy in it – even the worst of the bunch are better than 90 percent of the stuff out there! As well as the titles recommended above, I’d highly recommend Laputa: Castle in the Sky and Porco Rosso, but seriously, watch them all.
Another rather famous anime films is the classic 1998 animation Akira. The film tells the story of the title character, Akira, who is a biker gang member in Neo-Tokyo. Due to a secret military project, he is turned into a suped-up psychic who goes on a psychopathic rampage with much carnage and more action than the average Hollywood movie. It’s fantastic, and those of you who love to see lots of death and destruction will not be disappointed by this legendary anime.
In terms of anime on TV, Death Note is hard to beat. One of the most popular series here in the west, it tells the story of a smart high schooler who makes it his mission in life to wipe criminals from the face of the earth after finding a notebook that can kill anyone once their name has been entered into it. The animation is top notch, the plot is always compelling, and it’s a pretty easy show to get into.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Another TV show, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is not the easiest anime to watch, not least because it’s first season was, like much-loved cult classic Firefly, broadcast in the wrong order (although you can watch in order online), but it is worth the effort because this show, which centres around a group of high school students who befriend the titular Haruhi – a girl with 8th grade sickness who basically lives in her own little fantasy world where she is the hero – and who can actually make reality bend to her will (without knowing it, of course) is packed with lots of fun elements for aliens to time travel. If you’re looking for pretty animation and creativity in spades, it is the anime show for you.
Elfen Lied is a bit of a melting pot when it comes to genres with everything from romance to sci-fi and plenty of gore thrown in, but somehow it works, not least because the main character, Lucy, is a split personality mutant, serial killer and university student! How’s that for a crazy plot?
If you’re a big fan of TV shows like Supernatural, but you also like your shows to be emotionally charged, then you will love Angel Beats, which is as unusual as it is heartbreaking. It’s pretty funny in places too.
Set in a high school (as so many animes are) that is located in what could accurately be described as a purgatory place between heaven and hell; the characters are forced to carry out various activities until they get over their resentment for life and are able to move on. Smart, sensitive and always compelling, you get to know and love the characters, and that makes you really invested in their situation. Warning: It will make you cry.
Back to the world of film, Perfect Blue tells the story of a retired pop princess who is being stalked by an obsessive fan, plunging her life into chaos and blurring the line between fantasy and reality. Definitely one for the grown-ups, this film will show you exactly how good anime can be when those involved step up to the plate.
Vandread is an anime set in the distant future when the inhabitants of this planet have begun to colonise other planets in the solar system; There is one planet where only makes live and another with only female inhabitants. War between the two breaks out and people who haven’t even seen the opposite gender before finally come up close and personal with them. It is only when a new threat comes along to threaten both worlds that the inhabitants must work together and romance blooms. If you like Battlestar Galactica and other space epics, you’ll love this one.
This big-screen anime is actually a remake of the 1936 American John Ford movie Three Godfathers, but it is much stranger than it’s inspiration. Tokyo Godfathers sees three homeless people, one of whom is a young boy, one a father figure (sort of) and one a transvestite, find a newborn baby on the streets. As they fight to keep the baby safe and find its mother, they encounter all manner of obstacles along the way. A true classic of the genre.
Fist of the North Star
Fist of the North Star is a brilliant 80’s anime firmly rooted in the action genre. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, not dissimilar to the wasteland Mad Max finds himself living in, a guy called Kenshiro travels far and wide fighting gangs who have taken the cities as their own, freeing the citizens and gaining a few allies along the way. This one is pretty gory – Kenshiro knows how to use pressure points to defeat his enemies, who often explode in a bloody mess – but it is a lot of fun and has much more character development than a lot of lesser anime shows.
Astro Boy has to be on this list just because it was the anime that put anime on the map. Not only that, but it is very fun to watch due to its rather basic animation style and the cuteness of the characters. Astro Boy is a young robot who fights other robots, It isn’t very taxing, but if you’re looking for something to flake out in front of the couch and watch, it’s great.
Paprika is kind of like what you’d expect if David Lynch decided to turn his hand to directing anime. An unusual film, it tells the story of a therapist who possesses a machine that he can use to go into people’s dreams. Of course, the machine is stolen, and chaos ensues.
As you can see, there is so much more to anime than Pokemon and Dragonball Z. Even if you don’t think that anime is likely to be your thing, it’s worth trying out some of the titles on this list because they might just change your mind and a whole new avenue of entertainment will open up to you as a result.