Monday, April 24, 2017

100 Accessible Anime Guide for Fans (Part 1)

These posts have been coming for awhile.

I’ve noticed a trend of otaku constantly rewriting the past, belittling series that help made their favorite medium accessible to others, and propping up niche fetishistic series instead that would not draw new fans to their hobby so much as send them screaming for the hills. It is getting more and more difficult to remain a fan these days, and even harder to find new ones. There’s been a lot of great material left forgotten due to constant revisionism.

Not that I could blame folks from staying away from anime these days. Unless you’re in it for the titillation, the gore, or the ridiculous designs and cliché dialogue, there isn’t much that would pull many to watching an anime. Little stands out. It ain’t easy to convince people.

But it was different a long time ago. There were more series that appealed to a variety of tastes and spanned different genres.

So this series of posts will be a recommendation list for potential fans (or old fans) who are not impressed with what the anime world offers these days. It'll also be a handy resource for those who are trying to remember that one series title and can't quite. If you have suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments. For now, this is what I’ve got.

Remember, this is based on accessibility. You won’t get obscure otaku bait here. This is for those who just want good stories and exciting possibilities. I’m also staying away from deconstructions (aside from one exception I can never escape), since those only work if the viewer is familiar with what is being deconstructed. These works stand on their own, more or less. I also didn’t include pure comedies for the obvious reason that comedy is very subjective though anime with a comedic bent are included.

This list is for those looking for more of a straight ahead experience. Take a look and see if you like what you’ll find. I'm going to cover as wide a breadth as possible, so don't get lost here. Here are the first 25 entrees.

Credit to wiki for the plot descriptions. Be wary of content concerns on any of the videos.

1. Ashita no Joe / Tomorrow’s Joe (1971)
Genre: Sports Drama
Length: 2 television series (79 and 47 episodes)
Studio: Mushi Production (first series), Nippon Animation (second series)
Writer: Ikki Kajiwara (original manga) / Osamu Dezaki (first series) / Tadaaki Yamazaki (second series)
Director: Osamu Dezaki

Plot: Joe Yabuki is a troubled young man who runs away from an orphanage. Wandering through the Tokyo slums, he meets former boxing trainer Danpei. Joe is later arrested and goes to a temporary jail where he fights Nishi, leader of a group of hooligans. He and Nishi then go to a juvenile prison miles away from Tokyo. There Joe meets Rikiishi, a former boxing prodigy, and a rivalry develops between them.

Opinion: Shonen action got its start here. Join Joe Yabuki as he faces the challenges thrust his way and overcomes incredible odds in the process. All sports series (and many action and drama as well) come from this series.

2. Cutie Honey (1973)
Genre: Action, Magical Girl
Length: 25 episodes
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Go Nagai (original manga) and Masaki Tsuji
Director: Tomoharu Katsumata

Plot: The story follows an android girl named Honey Kisaragi, who transforms into the busty, red or pink-haired heroine Cutie Honey to fight against the assorted villains that threaten her or her world.

Opinion: This isn't really the first pure magical girl series, but it is one of the most popular even today. One of Go Nagai's most accessible series, Cutey Honey still gets new works based on it to this day.

3. Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato (1974)
Genre: Space Opera
Length: 4 television series, one OVA, six films, and one live action movie
Studio: Academy Productions, Group TAC
Writer: Yoshinobu Nishizaki / Leiji Matsumoto (original series)
Director: Leiji Matsumoto (original series)

Plot: Set in the year 2199, an alien race known as the "Gamilas" ("Gamilons" in the English Star Blazers dub) unleash radioactive meteorite bombs on Earth, rendering the planet's surface uninhabitable. Humanity has retreated into deep underground cities, but the radioactivity is slowly affecting them as well, with humanity's extinction estimated in one year. Earth's space fleet is hopelessly outclassed by the Gamilas and all seems lost until a message capsule from a mysterious crashed spaceship is retrieved on Mars. The capsule yields blueprints for a faster-than-light engine and an offering of help from Queen Starsha of the planet Iscandar in the Large Magellanic Cloud. She says that her planet has a device, the Cosmo-Cleaner D (Cosmo DNA), which can cleanse Earth of its radiation damage.

The inhabitants of Earth secretly build a massive spaceship inside the ruins of the gigantic Japanese battleship Yamato which lies exposed at the former bottom of the ocean location where she was sunk in World War II. This becomes the "Space Battleship Yamato" for which the story is titled.

Opinion: This series is the point that anime gained mainstream appeal. There had been popular anime before (Astro Boy and Gigantor among them), but this was the first that started a wave of worldwide popularity for anime that last over three decades. It's pure Space Opera full of hotblooded action and intense drama. It's also responsible for a lot to come on this list, so if you're a fan of any mecha, science fiction, or action anime at all-- it comes from here.

4. Future Boy Conan (1978)
Genre: Science Fiction Adventure
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Nippon Animation
Writer: Akira Nakano, Soji Yoshikawa
Director: Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata

Plot: The story begins in July 2008, during a time when humankind is faced with the threat of extinction. A devastating war fought between two major nations with ultra-magnetic weapons far greater than anything seen earlier brings about total chaos and destruction throughout the world, resulting in several earthquakes and tidal waves. The earth is thrown off its axis, its crust rocked by massive movements, and the five continents are torn completely apart and sink deep below the sea.

An attempt by a group of people to flee to outer space failed, with their spaceships being forced back to earth and vanishing, thus shattering their hopes. But one of the spaceships narrowly escaped destruction and crash landed on a small island which had miraculously survived the devastation. The crew members of the spaceship settled there, as if they were seeds sown on the island.

Amidst these survivors, a boy named Conan is born on October 2010, bringing a new ray of hope to the earth. After several years, during which most of the other survivors had died and the only people left on the island were Conan and his grandfather, he meets a young girl named Lana, and their adventure begins.

Opinion: Based on "The Incredible Tide" by Alexander Key, this series also has several veterans in the industry including Hayao Miyazaki himself and the creator of Gundam, Yoshiyuki Tomino. There is a lot here worth discovering. It goes without saying that this is a milestone in the industry, but it's also a really good adventure tale. It's also, inexplicably, never been licensed. So good luck finding it legally.

5. Galaxy Express 999 (Movie) (1979)
Genre: Space Opera
Length: 129 minutes
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Leiji Matsumoto (original manga), Shiro Ishimori
Director: Rintaro

Plot: An impoverished ten-year-old named Tetsuro Hoshino desperately wants an indestructible machine body, giving him the ability to live forever and have the freedom that the unmechanized don't have. While machine bodies are impossibly expensive, they are supposedly given away for free in the Andromeda galaxy, the end of the line for the Galaxy Express 999, a space train that only comes to Earth once a year. He boards the train to begin his quest.

Along the way, Tetsuro has many adventures on many different and exotic planets and meets many kinds of people, both human and alien, living and machine.

Opinion: I'm biased here, but I don't care. This is one of my favorite anime movies. The TV series is over 100 episodes and beloved, but this movie does such a good job condensing everything down and distilling everything great about Matsumoto's works into one place that I can't help but heartily recommend it first. Highly imaginative, this is a movie that continues to inspire to this day.

6. Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Genre: Adventure
Length: 100 minutes
Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Writer: Haruya Yamazaki, Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: Master thief Arsène Lupin III and his colleague, Daisuke Jigen, flee the Monte Carlo Casino with huge quantities of stolen money. They escape in Lupin's Fiat 500, but Lupin recognizes the bills as distinctively high quality counterfeits. Deciding to seek out the source, they head to the Grand Duchy of Cagliostro, the alleged wellspring of the counterfeits.

Shortly after arriving, they rescue a young woman. Lupin recognizes the woman as Clarisse, the princess of Cagliostro, who will soon be married to Count Cagliostro, the country's regent. The Count's arranged marriage will cement his power and recover the fabled ancient treasure of Cagliostro, for which he needs both his and Clarisse's ancestral rings. This is where the adventure begins.

Opinion: The Lupin franchise has a storied history in Japan, but this is by far the most popular entry in it and the one that most agree is the best. I'm mixed on the series since I don't care much for heist stories in general, but this is an exception. This takes all the best parts of the franchise and puts them in one delightful action film that stands the test of time. In my controversial opinion, this might be Miyazaki's best film.

7. Adieu Galaxy Express 999 (1981)
Genre: Space Opera
Length: 130 minutes
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Leiji Matsumoto (original manga), Shiro Ishimori
Director: Rintaro

Plot: Adieu presents an entirely new storyline which takes place three years after the end of the first film. The Machine Empire now has even more of a stranglehold over the Galaxy. Rumors are afoot of Maetel becoming its new Queen. Tetsuro, now a fifteen-year-old freedom fighter, is shocked when a messenger brings him news that the 999 is returning, and that Maetel wants him to board it. Tetsuro narrowly makes his way to the 999 and departs Earth, now a battlefield.

Opinion: This movie is original in that it isn't based on events from the original manga of Leiji Matsumoto like the original film, but actually has more of a pulp and Star Wars influence. But that really doesn't matter. This is a fantastic sequel that remembers what was great about the original without copying it and accomplishes that rare sequel trick of feeling necessary. If you're going to watch the original, I highly recommend watching this as well.

8. Mobile Suit Gundam (Movie Trilogy) (1981)
Genre: Mecha
Length: 140 minutes (per film)
Studio: Nippon Sunrise
Writer: Hajime Yatate
Director: Yoshiyuki Tomino

*The above trailer is for the full series*

Plot: Set in a fictional universe in the year 2124 (Universal Century year 0079 according to the Gundam Calendar), the Principality of Zeon has declared independence from the Earth Federation, and subsequently launched a war of independence called the One Year War. The conflict has directly affected every continent on Earth, also nearly every space colony and lunar settlement. Zeon, though smaller, has the tactical upper hand through their use of a new type of humanoid weapons called mobile suits. After half of all humanity perishes in the conflict, the war settled into a bitter stalemate lasting over 8 months.

The story begins with a newly deployed Federation warship, the White Base, arriving at the secret research base located at the Side 7 colony to pick up the Federation's newest weapon. However, they are closely followed by Zeon forces. A Zeon reconnaissance team member disobeys mission orders and attacks the colony, killing most of the Federation crew and civilians in the process. Out of desperation, citizen boy Amuro Ray accidentally finds the Federation's new arsenal—the RX-78 Gundam, and neutralizes the situation. Scrambling everything they can, the White Base sets out with her newly formed crew of civilian recruits and refugees in her journey to survive.

Opinion: Gundam is an institution, but that also means it's impossible to tell where to start. In 1981, the staff condensed the original anime series into a three part film series (which also happens to be the official canon for the show as of now) making it much easier to digest. This is a hard franchise to decide if you will enjoy, so this series makes the ideal entry point. It was also the first mecha anime to set many of the trends you still see today.

9. Arcadia of My Youth (1982)
Genre: Space Opera
Length: 130 minutes
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Leiji Matsumoto (story), Yoichi Onaka
Director: Tomoharu Katsumata

Plot: Arcadia of My Youth is the story of Captain Harlock's lineage and how he ended up as the greatest space pirate of all time. Explaining more would spoil the entire story.

Opinion: I've always enjoyed Matsumoto's works, but particularly his Galaxy Express 999 material. His other works I'm more mixed on. This film, however, is one of the Harlock pieces I actually really like. It also serves as a good grounding of Matsumoto's universe. If you've been looking for a good space opera, you should really consider chasing this down.

10. Magical Princess Minky Momo (1982)
Genre: Magical Girl
Length: 63 episodes
Studio: Ashi Productions
Writer: Takeshi Shudo
Director: Kunihiko Yuyama

Plot: Momo is a princess of Fenarinarsa, "the land of dreams in the sky." Fenarinarsa is the dwelling place for fairy tale characters. It was in danger of leaving Earth's orbit and disappearing, because people on the planet lost their dreams and hopes. The king and queen of Fenarinarsa sent their daughter Momo to Earth to help the people regain them. Momo became the daughter of a young childless couple, accompanied by three followers with the appearance of a dog (Sindbook), a monkey (Mocha) and a bird (Pipil). On Earth, Momo takes the appearance of a teenage girl. To help the planet regain its hopes and dreams, Momo transforms into an adult version of herself, with an occupation tailored to fit the situation (airline stewardess, police officer, football manager, veterinarian, and many more). Each time Momo succeeds in bringing happiness to the person affected, the Fenarinarsa crown shines. When it shines four times, a jewel appears in the crown. Once twelve jewels appear, Fenarinarsa will return to Earth.

Opinion: If you know anything about anime then you probably know there is this thing called "Magical Girl" anime. Cutey Honey had many of the elements you might recognize, but this show is a bit different. Magical Girl anime have various different points of origin which come before this show, but this is really the first that molded it into the form you see today. It also has the advantage of being way shorter than most series of its type. If you're interested in Magical Girl and want to know where all those newer series subverting them are stealing from then you could do a lot (like a lot) worse than this.

11. The Mysterious Cities of Gold (1982)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 39 episodes
Studio: Studio Pierrot, DIC Audiovisuel
Writer: Jean Chalopin, Mitsuru Kaneko, Mitsuru Majima, Soji Yoshikawa
Director: Bernard Deyries, Hisayaki Toriumi

Plot: It is the 16th century. From all over Europe, great ships sail west to conquer the New World, the Americas. The men, eager to seek their fortune, to find new adventures in new lands. They long to cross uncharted seas and discover unknown countries, to find secret gold on a mountain trail high in the Andes. They dream of following the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado and the Mysterious Cities of Gold.

Opinion: A co-production between Japan and France, including two different versions which aired in the East and the West, this is a series with a history unlike any other. It's also one that has influenced western animation such as much that came out in the 80s and much later Avatar the Last Airbender. Unfortunately, this show isn't easy to get a hold of these days. But it is worth seeking out.

12. Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982) / Robotech (1984)
Genre: Space Opera, Mecha
Length: 36 episodes (Macross)
Studio: Studio Nue, Tatsunoko, Artland 
Writer: Kenichi Matsuzaki (Robotech original material: Harmony Gold)
Director: Noboru Nishiguro

Plot: In 1999 a city-sized alien spacecraft crashes in South Ataria Island on Earth. Over the course of 10 years the military reverse-engineers its technology and rebuilds the spacecraft, naming it the SDF-1 Macross. In 2009 at the launch ceremony of the Macross, a young civilian pilot, Hikaru Ichijyo (Rick Hunter), comes to visit the Macross upon U.N. Spacy pilot Roy Focker's request. During the launch ceremony, a space war fleet from an alien race of humanoid giants arrives into the solar system and identifies the Macross as a former battleship used by their enemies. As the aliens, known as the Zentradi, approach the Macross, the original systems override the crew's commands and fire its main cannon, wiping out the advance alien scouts and starting a war.

Opinion: The series that jumpstarted the imaginations of many kids in the 80s and 90s, Macross is well worth its acclaim. You want dogfights, mech battles, and spaceships blasting each other to bits? You get them all here. After Yamato, this might be the second most influential space opera series in all anime history. Don't let the legal hoopla over Robotech get you down: the original Macross series is a classic and still just as great today.

13. Creamy Mami: The Magical Angel (1983)
Genre: Magical Girl / Idol
Length: 52 episodes
Studio: Studio Pierrot 
Writer: Hiroshi Konichikawa, Hiroshi Toda, Kazunori Itō, Keiko Maruo, Michiru Shimada, Shigeru Yanagawa, Shusuke Kaneko, Tokio Tsuchiya, Tomoko Kawasaki
Director: Osamu Kobayashi

Plot: Yū Morisawa is an ordinary 10-year-old girl, until she sees a spaceship floating in the sky. Carried into the ship, she helps Pino Pino find the Feather Star. In thanks for her assistance he grants her a magical wand, which allows her to transform into a 16-year-old girl, for one year. She is also given two cats from Feather Star, Posi and Nega, who are to watch over her while she has magical powers. While wandering around the city as a teenager, she accidentally ends up on TV and asked to sing, which the magic enables her to do remarkably well. Using the alias of Creamy Mami, she becomes an overnight success, and is soon sought to begin a professional career as an idol under Parthenon Productions. Along the way, she also meets past residents of Feather Star and supernatural beings. In addition, she must fight against Snake Joe, a shady character of the rival LP Productions, who is always trying to steal her away and Megumi-chan, another one of Parthenon Productions' top stars.

Opinion: Macross flirted with idols, and Momo was a real magical girl, but Mami is the first to successfully combine the two and create a phenomenon. This is essentially where much of the idol genre in Japan comes from and where it ties into the Magical Girl genre. So again, if you want to see what all these edgy modern anime are subverting then look here.

14. Crusher Joe (Movie) (1983) / OVA (1989)
Genre: Action Adventure, Space Opera
Length: 125 minutes (movie) / 2 episodes (OVA)
Studio: Studio Nue, Nippon Sunrise
Writer: Haruka Takachiho, Yasuhiko Yoshikazu (Movie) / Fuyunori Gobu (OVA)
Director: Yasuhiko Yoshikazu (Movie) / Toshifumi Takizawa (OVA)

Plot: Enter the tale of the Crusher Council, a group of rugged individuals known for assignments ranging from transportation to terraforming and everything in between. In the early days of space exploration the Crushers took on the job of destroying asteroids and defining space lanes. Because of their work, they were nicknamed "Crushers" which eventually became their business moniker.

Despite the rough and ready nature of the Crushers' work, they subscribe to a few steadfast rules. Unethical and illegal assignments are taboo, and any Crusher accepting one is barred from the Union. Of course, this presents problems for shady clients who try to trick the Crushers into accepting misleading assignments. They know that once the Union accepts a case the Crushers are honor-bound to follow it through. Among the various worlds, the Crusher Council has a stunning reputation, and among the Crushers, the most elite team is the one led by Crusher Dan and his successor, Crusher Joe.

Opinion: This is a pulp action movie that is as no holds-barred as you'd expect. A movie that only could have existed in the 80s, Crusher Joe is some great science fiction action. Though the OVA and movie were released years apart, they are both just as worth your time as the other. Thankfully, the movie just came back into print via Discotek, but it might be a bit longer for the OVAs. Nonetheless, this is classic anime at its best. The co-writer of the movie (and creator of the franchise) is also responsible for the iconic Dirty Pair series.

15. Fist of the North Star (1984)
Genre: Action Fantasy
Length: 152 episodes
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Buronson (original manga), Toshiki Inoue
Director: Toyoo Ashida

Plot: In the 1990s, civilization was ruined as a result of a worldwide nuclear war and many creatures died out. In spite of these events, 30% of mankind survived and entered an age where the strong ruled over the weak, as the few survivors fought over whatever supply of food and uncontaminated water remained in the wasteland of the world.

Kenshiro, successor to the ancient assassination art of "Hokuto Shinken", wanders the ruined world in search of his lost love. And revenge.

Opinion: The seminal action series, and one of the most influential anime from the 80s, Fist of the North Star is one of the most well known and beloved. Its action is over the top, its protagonist cool as an iceberg, and its presentation far beyond iconic, there is little chance that you've ever touched an anime and have never heard of this. My personal opinion is that the series is overlong and the last part is unnecessary, but boy oh boy is Kenshiro's journey a ride worth taking.

16. Dirty Pair (1985)
Genre: Science Fiction Comedy
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Nippon Sunrise
Writer: Haruka Takachiko
Director: Norio Kashima and Toshifumi Takizawa

Plot: Kei and Yuri are the two members of Trouble Consultant team 234, code named "Lovely Angels". Almost every mission they are involved with ends up in disaster, but not failure (they'll catch the crook, but a city may be destroyed in the process), and thus they are more generally known as the "Dirty Pair", a nickname they hate. They are always cleared of any wrongdoing by the 3WA's Central Computer because the extreme collateral damage is never actually their fault (though their mere presence has been known to make things worse). In some but not all continuities, they have joint ESP powers, usually limited to precognition. This talent was the reason they were recruited in the first place.

Opinion: Dirty Pair started one of my favorite (and sadly near dead) sub genre of comedy cop shows that are as exciting as they are funny. Based on the light novel series by Haruka Takachiko, this is one of those classics of anime that everyone knows about even if they haven't seen it. This one still holds up; it's still worth the watch today.

17. Megazone 23 (1985)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: Three parts in 4 episodes
Studio: AIC, Artland, Tatsunoko
Writer: Hiroyuki Hoshiyama
Director: Noboru Ishiguro, Ichiro Itano, Kenichi Yatagai, Shinji Aramaki 

Plot: Megazone 23's story is set in the far future of the human race, after, in the early 24th century, various environmental issues rendered Earth uninhabitable, forcing humanity to leave in several massive colony ships, the titular Megazones. The story itself follows the population of Megazone Two Three, based on an unnamed part of Japan.

Opinion: The original cyberpunk anime, Megazone 23 is pretty remarkable just for the animation and art alone. That said, this is the first anime of the more experimental late 80s which would continue well into the 90s and a bit into the 00s. For now, if you can find it, give this a watch. You won't see anything like it today.

18. Vampire Hunter D (1985) / Bloodlust (2000)
Genre: Horror Fantasy
Length: 80 minutes (1985) / 105 minutes (Bloodlust)
Studio: Ashi Productions (1985) / Madhouse (Bloodlust)
Writer: Hideyuki Kikuchi (original novels) / Yasushi Hirano (1985) / Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Bloodlust)
Director: Toyoo Ashida (1985) / Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Bloodlust)

Plot: The year is approximately 12,090 AD. Some time in 1999, a nuclear war occurred. The Nobility were vampires that planned for a possible nuclear war and sequestered all that was needed to rebuild civilization in their shelters. They use their science combined with magic to restore the world in their image. Nearly all magical creatures are engineered, with a very small number being demons who survived the holocaust. Despite their technology being great enough to create a blood substitute as food, they still prefer to feed on humans. As such, they create a civilization where vampires and humans coexist, eventually developing the planet into parklands and cities.

D is a dhampir, the half-breed child of a vampire father and human mother, the ideal vampire hunter. This is his story as he wanders this strange world.

Opinion: I cheated here and included two movies. The fact of the matter is that they are both great and well worth your time and can be watched on their own without seeing the other. Action adventure fantasy horror rarely gets better in anime than it does here. Then you can check out the novels, because they are actually being released here. Hard to believe huh?

19. Saint Seiya (1986)
Genre: Fantasy Action
Length: 114 episodes
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Masami Kurumada (original manga), Takao Koyama, Yoshiyuki Suga
Director: Kozo Morishita, Kazuhito Kikuchi

Plot: The story focuses on an orphan named Seiya who was forced to go to the Sanctuary in Greece to obtain the Bronze Cloth of the Pegasus constellation, a protective armor worn by the Greek goddess Athena's 88 warriors known as Saints. Upon awakening his Cosmos, the power of the Saints which is an inner spiritual essence originated in the Big Bang, Seiya quickly becomes the Pegasus Saint and returns to Japan to find his older sister.

Opinion: Sentai is insanely popular in Japan (far more than Power Rangers are here) but Saint Seiya was one of the few manga and anime to give it a whole new face lift. A fantasy backdrop that spans the galaxy and beyond, Saint Seiya is entirely its own thing. This is where you get things like Ronin Warriors and, yes, Knights of the End's first inspiration. The idea of mystical armor that pushes the bearer beyond their limitations really finds its origins here. There are few anime as crazy and as action packed as Seiya are even to this day. If you like Seiya then be sure to check out Ronin Warriors and Knights of the End for more in that style.

20. Maison Ikkoku (1986)
Genre: Romance
Length: 96 episodes
Studio: Studio DEEN
Writer: Rumiko Takahashi (original manga)
Director: Kazuo Yamazaki, Takashi Anno, Naoyuki Yoshinaga

Plot: Maison Ikkoku is a bitter-sweet comedic romance involving a group of madcap people who live in a boarding house in 1980s Tokyo. The story focuses primarily on the gradual developing relationships between Yusaku Godai, a poor student down on his luck, and Kyoko Otonashi, a young, recently widowed boarding house manager.

Opinion: This is the go-to romance anime. Rumiko Takahashi is one of Japan's most popular creators, and this is her most well known and well liked series. There are many that come after it, and some before, but they all tend to blur together. This is one that tends to stick with you. If you're going to watch one romance anime, this will probably be the one you choose.

21. Dragon Ball / Z (1986)
Genre: Comedy Fantasy Adventure (original) / Action (Z)
Length: 153 episodes (original) / 291 episodes (Z)
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Akira Toriyama (original manga), Takao Koyama
Director: Minoru Okazaki (original), Daisuke Nishio (original and Z)

Plot: Dragon Ball follows the adventures of the protagonist Goku, a strong naïve boy who, upon meeting Bulma, sets out to gather the seven wish-granting Dragon Balls. Then things get outlandish.

Opinion: I've written about this series a bunch already, and you probably know all about it, which is why I had to list it here. I included Z in the entry as it changed the franchise permanently into a fighting series, but really the whole thing is one giant experience. While I would recommend the first series more, Z is by far the most popular. Chances are that is how most in their late twenties and thirties got into anime anyway. Either way, it's not a series to be passed over.

22. Project A-Ko (1986)
Genre: Comedy Action
Length: 86 minutes
Studio: A.P.P.P.
Writer: Katsuhiko Nishijima, Tomoko Kawasaki, Yuji Moriyama
Director: Katsuhiko Nishijima

Plot: An alien space craft crashed into Graviton City, wiping out the entire population and leaving a massive crater where Graviton City is rebuilt. Students A-ko Magami and her best friend C-ko Kotobuki, a bubbly, carefree optimist, enter a new year of school at the all-girls Graviton High School. Although A-ko possesses superhuman speed and strength, she considers herself an average teenager; she mostly worries about getting to school on time, chronically oversleeping her alarm clock each morning. The pair catch the unwanted attention of B-ko Daitokuji, a rich, spoiled and brilliant fellow student. That's when it gets weird.

Opinion: I'm not really sure what to say about Project A-Ko. It's part parody of many of what was listed here before it but also a very stylish action anime at the same time. There were also three sequels worth checking out and a few spin offs that tapered out with the 80s. But if you like your action nutty, then it doesn't get nuttier than A-Ko.

23. Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 126 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: The story follows the adventures of a young boy and girl attempting to keep a magic crystal from a group of military agents, while searching for a legendary floating castle.

Opinion: This is one of Ghibli's most popular films, and deservedly so. It's a pure fantasy adventure film straight out of the 1980s filled with Miyazaki's hallmarks and some of his sharpest writing and directing. If there is one Ghibli film you might want to watch to see if they're for you-- this would be the one. Just a joy to watch.

24. Neo Tokyo (1987)
Genre: Science Fiction Anthology
Length: 3 shorts, 50 minutes
Studio: Project Team Argos, Madhouse
Writer: Rintaro (Labyrinth, Labyrinthos), Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Running Man), Katsuhiro Otomo (Construction Cancellation Order)
Director: Rintaro (Labyrinth, Labyrinthos), Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Running Man), Katsuhiro Otomo (Construction Cancellation Order)

Plot: The 50 minute-long film has three segments, each under a different screenwriter and film director: Rintaro's "Labyrinth Labyrinthos," an exploration into the maze of a little girl's mind, Yoshiaki Kawajiri's "Running Man," focusing on a deadly auto race, and Katsuhiro Ōtomo's "Construction Cancellation Order," a cautionary tale about man's dependency on technology.

Opinion: You might have seen the Running Man on MTV in the 90s, but otherwise these shorts are fairly unknown in the west. However, all three of those names are some of the most iconic in anime. If that isn't a hint that this is worth seeing, I don't know what is.

25. Bubblegum Crisis (1987)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 8 episodes
Studio: Artmic, AIC
Writer: Toshimichi Suzuki
Director: Katsuhito Akiyama

Plot: Bubblegum Crisis begins in the late 2032, seven years after the Second Great Kanto earthquake has split Tokyo geographically and culturally in two. The series involves the adventures of the Knight Sabers, an all-female group of mercenaries who don powered exoskeletons and fight various problems, most frequently rogue robots.

Opinion: Featuring some great talent including Kenichi Sonada (of Gunsmith Cats and Riding Bean fame) and Masami Obari, Bubblegum Crisis is a stylish action show unlike anything else. Its cyberpunk backdrop and 80s influences are worn on its sleeve making it a joy to watch. There's also a sequel series, Bubblegum Crash, a remake, and a spin off called A.D. Police, but it's the original OVA people still remember.

And that's the first 25. There will be another post sooner than later, but for now this is where I'll stop. What do you think? Are there great series you would recommend instead? How about ones you really don't want to see?

As far as I'm concerned, the best is yet to come.

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