Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In which I discover anime

I didn't know very much about anime (still don't!): I'd seen My Friend Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle, and I'd heard of Sailor Moon (I'm revealing my age here, I know!). People whose taste in books I like often refer to Avatar: The Last Airbender in glowing terms, but the one time I tried watching it I was put off by the stylized way emotions were depicted and didn't get past the first episode.

But I kept seeing intriguing looking titles on Netflix, and I thought (as one does, with Netflix): what the heck, why not try something. So I did, and now I'm hooked. I'm running out of anime on (Canadian) Netflix I want to watch, so I need recommendations of where to go next.

Here's what I've liked so far:

Sword Art Online: I'm a sucker for dark-eyed loners with kind hearts and superior swordsmanship, so online game hero Kirito was the perfect gateway drug for me. I loved the art in this one: the stunning, imaginative online world, and the way the real world was subtly different, depicted in small details (like water dripping from a faucet). The character development kept me interested in the story, in particular the strong female characters. Just don't watch the second plot arc of the first season (starting in episode 16). It's awful. But Sword Art Online II redeemed itself.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit: a beautiful tale about a prince who hosts a water demon and the female bodyguard who swears to protect him until the demon can be born. Everything about this one is lovely: the art, the landscapes and period details, the characters, the gentle humour. Very sweet.

Ruroni Kenshin: a wandering swordsman protects the innocent with his reverse-blade sword, as atonement for the many people he killed during the Meiji Revolution as Battosai the Manslayer. Sounds serious, and there are some nice serious bits to it—mostly centered around Kenshin's struggle not to return to his former violent self—, but this one is mostly light and fun. It has a more "cartoony" art style with the exaggerated facial expressions I originally found annoying (eyes and mouth turn into geometric shapes to show various extreme emotions) but I'm getting used to now. The first season assembles a "team" that gets into various kinds of trouble against all sorts of bad guys. You can't take the plot too seriously, but I love all the character arcs. I also love all the historical references to the Meiji era. Plus, I might even love Kenshin more than I love Kirito ...

Your Lie in April: contemporary, realistic story about a pianist prodigy who stops playing when his mother dies, and the free-spirited violinist who rekindles his love of music. Gorgeous, gorgeous art, and a spectacular soundtrack. Depicts with grim accuracy the stress of competitions for young musicians, but also beautifully conveys the power of music to heal and transform. Quite impressive.

I also tried a couple of "mech-anime" titles, with giant fighting robots (because, giant fighting robots, of course!). I particularly enjoyed the world-building and plot arc of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, about a soldier from space who lands on a water-covered Earth and discovers there is more to life than fighting (Don't worry, there's still plenty of fighting. With giant fighting robots, of course. I loved the robot's personality!)

And I really liked the characters in Aldnoah.Zero, though the story of the Martian empire attacking earth was a little far-fetched.

Have you seen any anime shows you've particularly enjoyed? And where else can I go once I've exhausted Netflix's limited offerings?


  1. I have no recommendations to offer but I will happily profit from your experience! Keep me posted what you're watching bc I always need new Netflix shows to become hooked on.

    1. If you watch any of these, I'll be most interested to know what you think!

  2. My husband is a big fan of mecha and cyberpunk anime. His tastes run toward the dark side, but not into super-crazy NC-17-dark, just not kids' shows, with the possible exception of one of his favorite shows from childhood (though it's got lots of mature themes) Robotech. His absolute favorite is Ghost in the Shell, which you might have heard of because they're making a live action movie out of it and whitewashed the casting :P. But it's actually one or two movies, and two I think seasons of TV, all with the same basic characters. And that's all I know because I never got into it myself!

    1. I have heard of Ghost in the Shell (mostly because of the movie controversy). I will look for it and Robotech, if I can find somewhere other than Netflix to watch things legally on!

    2. Timely: https://geekdad.com/2016/05/watch-robotech-for-free-on-crackle/

      Looks like that whole service might be handy to you.

  3. Hi Kim! Hopped on over from Rachel's blog.

    I was going to say it really depends what kind of stories you go for, but I get a sense from your blog post. I think we have pretty similar taste.

    Let me start with these 3 because I think everyone mentions them: Bleach, One Piece, and Naruto. Very popular, action/adeventure anime (and they're very long). The style and the story change after some time, so you may enjoy the first (few) season(s) (just a heads up). Fullmetal Alchemist is also popular, but not as long. I haven't watched it though, so I don't know much about the story.

    I mentioned RWBY. It's actually in English, and the animation is different from the norm, so it might be jarring to someone who's accustomed to anime. But it has a great story. And I like the characters. It can be a bit awkward at times though.

    I also mentioned Akatsuki no Yona. If you liked Moribito (which I did), I think you'll like it. Also try: Last Exile, Allison & Lillia, the Pilot's Love Song, Maoyu, Saiunkoku Monogatari, and Soko no Strain. If you can find them. It can be difficult.

    Similar to Sword Art Online: Log Horizon, Charlotte, and the Irregular at Magic High School.

    I'm recommending these based on something you liked, and I say they're similar, but they might not be the same genre, or have the same pace. It makes sense in my head.

    I would also recommend (in no particular order):
    Skip Beat
    Natsume no Yuujincho
    Soredemo Sekai Wa Utsukushii
    Classroom Crisis
    Kids on the Slope
    Nanana's Buried Treasure
    Golden Time
    Blast of Tempest
    Myself; Yourself (warning: kinda sad)
    Fruits Basket

    I'm sure I'm missing a lot, but this is as good a place to start as any.

    Some of these anime were started a very long time ago, so the drawing and animation (even the screen size) may be odd at first. And some of them are so old you may not be able to find them.

    But most of them I took from my list on Crunchyroll.com. It's a site that streams anime, kinda like hulu, and it has a pretty wide selection. The good part is that they're legal and licensed to stream the anime they have in North America, so you're not pirating (there are plenty of piracy-based anime-watching sites).

    Ah, about Avatar-- it gets better after the first 5 (maybe 10?) episodes (maybe the 1st book?). Which is asking a lot, but something to keep in mind if you ever go back to it.

    Thanks for "Your Lie in April" and "Gargantia"! Def will check those out.

    1. And sorry for the really really really long comment ><

    2. No, thank you for the very long comment! I'm going to check out Crunchyroll (hoping it works in Canada!), and what a great list you've given me!

      I've started watching Fullmetal Alchemist, and I'm enjoying it so far. Quite the crazy plot line, but the two brothers are great characters.