Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Best of the Best VIII

The weirdest (and greatest) anime ever made. This list is full of the odd, the short and sweet, the magnificent, and the darkly prophetic. However they might differ, they have one single thing in common, they are great anime (in no particular order):

1. Zegapain – One thing is sure, the Japanese love their Mecha. Known by the large robotic machines usually piloted by human operators, Mecha are war machines designed to protect mankind, usually against aliens or an invading empire. Zegapain tiled that concept by using a lone high school as a start point of a larger conflict and war. The most important point is that none of the characters are real; they are copies and afterimages of their former human selves who fell in a war that made mankind extinct. Now they hide in massive hard drives fighting the last battle of mankind while rediscovering their humanity.

2. King of Bandit Jing – Named after the titular hero, the legendary there is a boy on a mission to recover something he lost long ago. Jing is always accompanied by his closest and dearest friend, a bird that turns into a powerful weapon at his beckoning, Jing triumphs over all foes. Traveling from city to city, Jing and Kir his bird, correct wrongs, as they rob evil men of their ill-gotten gains and free cities from tyranny. The only reoccurring character is the trusty postman, Postino, who travels far and wide all over the world to bring people their mail and always happens upon Jing when he needs an item or clue.

3. Overdrive – The Japanese love their sports anime, but cycling is certainly not high up on the list. Mikoto Shinozaki is the weird kid that weird kids don’t even hang out with. Bullied by his upperclassman and ignored by his classmates, Mikoto seems to be one bad day away from ruin. Enter the girl, the most popular girl in his class and someone who is just as lonely as he. This would be the typical boy meets girl anime except the last fifteen episodes are all about a single bike race and promise made in the rain. Touching and quirky, Overdrive is proof that we don’t need Armstrong to make cycling fun again.

4. Fooly Cooly – FLCL is an anime of only six episodes. Anyone who has watched it remembers it instantly, but no one can ever really explain what it’s about. Suffice to say that our hero is in love with his older brother’s girlfriend, and then he meets a girl, who is really an alien, who uses his head for…. Well let’s just say hijinks ensue.

5. Zombie Loan – Girl meets boy with a twist. Our heroine is Michiru Kita, possesses the Shinigami Eyes, which allows her to see death coming, her eyes show her when people are days away from death and they show her secrets hidden away. Nothing that makes a girl real fun at a party, as such she has hidden away for years making sure she is as invisible as possible. Then she meets the two most popular boys at school, Chika Akatsuki and Shito Tachibana, and accidentally notices that their already dead. Throw in the Ferryman from Greek lore, a banking system built around death, and you have an anime that just gets weirder the more you watch.

6. Monster – HBO has recently signed on to produce a live version of this dark, criminal thriller. A brilliant surgeon saves the life of a boy with a gunshot wound to the head. Death seems to follow the boy wherever he goes, it is years later that the Doctor finally meets up with the boy who has become a young man and realizes that he is a monster, truly evil. Now the doctor tirelessly searches for the boy he saved, pursued by authorities who believe him to be responsible for all the deaths.

7. Ghost in the Shell – Is one of the most seminal influences of Japanese anime and poses the question on what it means to be human, and the meaning of consciousness. The heroine, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is the head of an anti-cyberterroism unit called Section 9. She and her team are chasing a criminal known only as the puppeteer. In this cyberpunk iteration of a possible future, computer technology has advanced to the point that many members of the public possess cyberbrains, technology that allows them to interface their biological brain with various networks. The puppeteer is this brave new world is targeting people with cyberbrains and using them to commit crimes. The story is too good to write it all down here, suffice to say that nothing is what it appears to be.

8. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – What if God was a high school girl? What is God had forgotten who he was and would destroy the world when he got bored? Haruhi Suzumiya appears to be God and she has set her sights on our hero, Kyon, the only man who can make her less bored. Joining our hero are aliens, physics, and time travelers amongst others who watch and guard Haruhi from getting bored and destroying the world.

9. Utawarerumono – Hakuoro is our masked hero, who suffers from amnesia. He is saved by a small village, and recuperates there. Events surrounding the village force him to fight to save it from destruction. The continued attacks against the villagers force Hakuoro to start a rebellion against the country’s ruler and become its nominal ruler. All of this happens against the larger world unrest as alliances are made and broken amongst the great countries surrounding the small country Hakuoro rules over. What makes this anime truly odd, is when we find out the true identity of Hakuoro.

10.Ben-To – A Bento, is a Japanese home cooked lunch, it’s the equivalent of a paper bag lunch. The Japanese have made the bento into an art form; the quality is of course dependent on the cook. Ben-To takes that idea and runs with it. Our hero attends a private school which only feeds its students breakfast; preferring that students learn how to fend for themselves for lunch and dinner. The problem is that our hero never has enough money for food and he can’t cook. Enter the convenience store with half-priced bento. As any college student will tell you, half-priced is golden, what makes this different is that a shadow war is being fought over these half-priced lunches in which those who fight, self-named ‘wolves’ battle it out for the few Ben-To’s left each night risking their blood, sweat, tears, and stomachs on their desire to eat cheaply. Add to that the quiet upperclassman, the mousy writer with a secret fetish and her hyper-overprotective childhood friend, what we have her is a recipe for good times.

11. Akira – How does one describe Akira, except to say that it is two movies? The first half is a movie about a motorcycle gang in a post-World War III Japan, and the second movie is about experimentation to make the perfect human. Often cited as the most seminal Japanese animation of its era, it is widely known across all genres of cinematic. The last attempt to make a Hollywood live version of it failed, but its fans will never lose hope.

12. Yakitate!! Japan – This is a show about bread making. I kid you not; it is however a pretty darn good show as well. Our hero Azuma wants to make bread so good that it will be given the name Japan. Like French bread, or German bread, or Italian bread; he wishes his country to have bread synonymous with its country. Its light fare to be sure, but it does keep the bread-making realistic, and any show that makes cooking fun can’t be bad; I’m sure Mr. Ramsey would agree.

Honorable Mentions: Midori no Hibi, Qwaser of Stigmata, Paradise Kis, Black Rock Shooter, Air Gear, Dot Hack //, Moshidora, The World God Only Knows, Rideback, Special A, Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kenpucho, Ookiku Furikabutte, Touch, Bartender, Gallery Fake

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