Monday, May 29, 2017

Stray Cat Samurai ~ Nekogahara Volume #1 Review

From the creator of the popular manga, Shaman King, comes a strange throwback unlike anything he has ever done before. Hiroyuki Takei has created series with Stan Lee, and he has had hits of his own, but this series is something of a hidden gem. It's a bit odd that this title has so far flown under the radar.

The story stars a stray cat (this world's version of a ronin) named Norachiyo, a violent, sadistic, greedy, lout, who wanders from town to town looking out for his own skin and advancing his own cause. He is confronted by "kept cats" (this world's version of nobles) who are taken care of by people. Norachiyo considers kept cats suckers and weak and isn't above cutting them down to get what he wants. Despite all that, he is merely looking for a place to die for some unexplained reason that is at odds with how he acts and behaves.

This is not a samurai story like Rurouni Kenshin, or even Lone Wolf & Cub. Norachiyo is not a good guy/cat, he's not even an anti-hero. However, he is quite an entertaining character to follow. The reason this works is because Takei writes the characters around Norachiyo as innocent, evil, or noble, and contrasts them with his philosophy and the bad cat he is. But there are also hints at more. For such a greedy and selfish stray, the stray cat samurai didn't appear out of then air. There are even hints that his philosophy might merely be a smoke screen.

You see, Norachiyo is the name of a child. It is a custom for children when they come of age to receive an adult name and enter society. He never received his name. Norachiyo is an "old cat", but he's a spoiled child at the same time. There's a contrast with a younger teenage kitten who is immature, but comes to a lot saner conclusions than our main character does even when misguided. This leads to some good humorous moments, but also opens questions as to what exactly happened to Norachiyo to make his a stray. He was once a kept cat, but he doesn't act it. He still keeps his bell, a sign that he was owned by a person, but as much as he hates humans and their pets, he can't seem to abandon his memento of his old life.

In this volume, Norachiyo encounters many characters, some noble, some less so, but he always ends up in the thick of problems both outside of his control and those he directly causes. There's a lot of action, a lot of blood, but no real gore: you won't see organs, limbs, or heads rolling around. The most that is shone are enemies cut in two through shadow or clever use of clothes covering the wound. Takei is very clever about his use of violence.

Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai is a trashy action comic with hints at a bigger story in the background. Whether Norachiyo learns exactly how far off the beaten path he is remains unseen, but for a first volume this works exceedingly well to start from. It's easily Takei's best work since Shaman King and quite a breath of fresh air in a stale manga market.

The use of animal designs with the world of samurai really gives the art style its own look and feel. Takei's art is incredible in detail and intensity which allows it a groove of something like a lost series from the 1980s, with 1990s anthropomorphic animal designs. From an artist like Takei, this was a surprise, and a bit out of his wheelhouse. He had always done actions series, but not one in the spirit of older pulp-style manga like this.

What makes the series work is that it feels exactly like those old trashy manga magazines you would find in the '80s and early '90s hidden in bargain bins. It's violent and stylized, but there are hints there might be more to what we are seeing in the world of Nekogahara.

If you're a fan of manga from before "Japanimation" hit it big, this is a series worth looking into. They don't make them like this anymore.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"The Stronger the Light, the Darker the Shadows" ~ My Hero Academia Volume 8 Review

At the end of volume 7 Midoriya and Bakugo were in a wee bit of a pickle. If you have been keeping up with the series then you know the score. The two former friends are locked in a battle with the #1 hero All Might and have to beat him to get a passing grade for the semester.

No pressure or anything.

This leads to a fight that is impossible to win. Not just because it's All Might, but because Midoriya and Bakugo have to work together, and for two people who haven't liked each other since childhood to suddenly team up . . . that's a tall order.

However, what ends up happening is a bit remarkable, for both of them and for All Might. I also don't want to spoil it, but the results of this test comes back in a big way later, so be sure to keep special attention on what each of them say and do.

But there's more than those three to talk about. There's also focus on all the other students as they deal with their End of Term Exam, and how they've grown as heroes over the course of the series so far. They are having just as much of a tough time as Midoriya and Bakugo are. Here's a spoiler: they don't all pass.

Kohei Horikoshi has said before that the series is all about seeing what makes a hero. This volume is a good chance to see that in action. There are several characters who get a refresher on what it means to be a hero, and some that move closer to their goal of achieving it. Just wanting to be a hero isn't enough, it's all about the whys here. What is it that makes you don the cape to go out to fight evil and save people? For several students, it's a question they must ask themselves as they face their toughest challenge. Of course, they're also in a battle with pro heroes. The difference in experience and skill is very apparent, and that might make all the different whether some pass, or fail.

Volume 8 is a bit of breather between the insanity of the Field Training story where Midoriya and his fellow heroes in training fought a killer before he struck again, and the upcoming Summer Camp where things begin to go sideways. You'll see when we get there. That's not until next time.

What this means is that volume 8 is bit heavier on character development in between the action than the previous volume. It's still as great as ever, but at this point the story is building up to the next event. And trust me, what this leads to is going to be worth it.

What I want to bring up is the end of the volume where Midoriya meets someone he hasn't seen for a long time and has a nice heart to heart chat with him. Who am I speaking of? Let's just say he's handy at breaking into schools and threatening the #1 hero. This interview is the final dramatic sting to end the volume. It also leads to one of the best parts in the series . . . but that will have to wait until volume 9.

On a somewhat related note, this volume is where I feel season 2 of the anime will end. So if you want to get ahead of the pack who are watching but not reading, this volume will have you covered.

Until next time!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

100 Accessible Anime Guide for Fans (Part 3)

And now we get to the part most people would be interested in. Around the mid-90s was when Japanimation outgrew its underground roots and invaded the mainstream, eventually becoming a staple on popular television blocks and in the late night arena. In Japan itself, anime was also booming. Creative idea men were given the reins to write, design, and direct many of the most popular series that are still referenced to this day.

This was also the era of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the toy-show craze, which allowed anime and manga to explode on a wide scale--a scale it would never hit again. This was when anime was at its peak.

Suffice to say, this is where anime hit worldwide critical mass, and where you are likely to see many favorites of your own.

So dive in to part three, and enjoy:

51. You’re Under Arrest! (1994)
Genre: Action Comedy
Length: 51 episodes
Studio: Studio DEEN, Bandai Visual
Writer: Kosuke Fujishima (original manga), Hiroshi Watanabe
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Plot: The story revolves around Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa, two female members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the protagonists of the show as they are stationed at the fictional Bokuto Police Precinct located at Sumida, Tokyo. The series is largely episodic, and much of it focuses on the interaction between the main characters and the humorous supporting cast.

Opinion: There are sequel series to this, but the original is the best. It was originally an OVA before bleeding over into TV (with the same staff) which makes it quite unique considering it's a buddy cop show. This is by the creator of Oh! My Goddess, which is harder series to recommend, however You're Under Arrest! is funnier and far more consistent overall. They don't make them like this anymore.

52. El-Hazard: The Magnificent World (1995)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 7 episodes
Studio: AIC
Writer: Ryoe Tsukimura
Director: Hiroki Hayashi

Plot: The story focuses on three high school students, Makoto Mizuhara, Katsuhiko Jinnai and Nanami Jinnai, and the History teacher Masamichi Fujisawa, who are mysteriously transported to the fantastical world of El-Hazard. El-Hazard is threatened by a possible war between the human nations and the insectoid Bugrom tribe.

Opinion: There are many versions of this franchise, but the original OVA is the one to go for. Directed by the co-creator of the Tenchi franchise, this series has fallen under the radar in recent years despite its status. However, it does represent much of the appeal of anime in the '90s and is absolutely recommended.

53. Slayers (1995)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure Comedy
Length: 100+ episodes
Studio: E.G. Films, J.C. Staff
Writer: Hajime Kanzaka (original novels) / Takao Koyama (first series) / Jiro Takayama
Director: Takashi Watanabe

Plot: Slayers follows the adventures of teenage sorceress Lina Inverse and her companions as they journey through their world. Using powerful magic and swordsmanship they battle overreaching wizards, demons seeking to destroy the world, and an occasional hapless gang of bandits.

Opinion: I've written about this before, but Slayers is one of the reasons anime became popular here in the first place. It's wacky, it's exciting, it's got memorable characters, and a great world design and background. If you're a fantasy fan you probably already know this series. If you don't, then what are you doing? Get to it!

54. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 82 minutes
Studio: Kodansha, Bandai Visual, Manga Entertainment, Production I.G.
Writer: Masamune Shirow (original manga), Kazunori Ito
Director: Mamoru Oshii

Plot: The film's plot follows the hunt by the public-security agency Section 9 for a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. With the assistance of her team, Motoko Kusanagi tracks and finds their suspect, only to be drawn into a complex sequence of political intrigue and a cover-up as to the identity and goals of the Puppet Master.

Opinion: This movie is one of the reasons anime even has a presence overseas at all. Though it is different from the original manga, this movie also kick-started a franchise that has since blown up and become much bigger than its humble beginnings would allow for it. That said, this is quite a good film with some stellar animation and direction. It's well worth seeing even twenty years since its release.

55. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
Genre: Mecha
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Gainax, Tatsunoko Production
Writer: Hideaki Anno
Director: Hideaki Anno

Plot: Evangelion is an apocalyptic anime, set in a futuristic Tokyo fifteen years after a worldwide cataclysm. The story centers on Shinji, a teenage boy who is recruited by his father into the shadowy organization NERV to pilot a giant bio-machine mecha called an Evangelion in combat against monstrous beings known as Angels.

Opinion: I had to list this even if I've fallen far out of this series over the years. It's deconstructionist and it has an abysmal ending, but it does still work as a typical mecha show with ideas of its own outside of that. There's decent action and some clever fights to be found within. There's a reason it's the only outright subversive show on here. It still works on a surface level.

56. Martian Successor Nadesico (1996)
Genre: Space Opera, Mecha, Comedy
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Xebec
Writer: Sho Aikawa
Director: Tatsuo Sato

Plot: The series takes place in the year 2196. Earth is at war with a race of alien invaders called the "Jovian Lizards". A company called Nergal designs a space battleship, the ND-001 Nadesico. While the ship is powerful and its crew consists of the top civilian experts in their fields, these individuals tend to have "some slight personality disorders".

Opinion: One of the problems with Neon Genesis Evangelion was that it had scores of imitators perfectly content to smash the mecha genre into bits and revel in the pieces. It's much like the affect Watchmen had on the Western comic book industry. Nadesico is part reconstructionist and part parody. It goes all the way back to Space Battleship Yamato to try to remind everyone what made mecha (and space opera) anime so great in the first place while having fun with itself since NGE and its successors sucked joy dry from giant robots. Of all the many series to come in the wake of NGE's success, this is the best and the one that holds up the strongest. It still pokes fun at itself, and it has some warts of its own, but it is far more enjoyable than NGE.

57. Those Who Hunt Elves (1996)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure Comedy
Length: 24 episodes
Studio: Group TAC
Writer: Yu Yagami (original manga)
Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama (season 1) / Hiroshi Fukutomi (season 2)

Plot: The Elf Hunters seek five spell fragments that have been placed on the skin of elves, similar to tattoos, throughout the magical world they have been transported to. When they find them, they will be able to return to Japan.

The Elf Hunters travel by means of a Type 74 tank, which has been transported to the magical world with them.

Opinion: One of the series that started the late night anime boom, Those Who Hunt Elves is as strange and risque as it is unique. I won't lie, this show is flat out bizarre. But there's also nothing like it--if it were made now it would be unfettered trash. If you can find this show, definitely give it a shot.

58. The Vision of Escaflowne (1996)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure, Mecha
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Shoji Kawamori
Director: Kazuki Akane

Plot: The series focuses on the heroine, Hitomi Kanzaki, and her adventures after she is transported to the world of Gaea, a mysterious planet where she can see Earth and its moon in the sky. On Gaea, Earth is known as the Mystic Moon. Hitomi's latent psychic powers are enhanced on Gaea and she quickly becomes embroiled in the conflicts between the Zaibach Empire and the several peaceful countries that surround it.

Opinion: Initially conceived by Shoji Kawamori as the fantasy answer to Macross, Escaflowne is the rare mecha anime from the '90s that completely ignores the existence of Evangelion. And that's to its benefit. You get swashbuckling, romance, and giant robots smashing each other to bits. This is one of the most unique fantasy anime out there and still holds up excellently today. If you haven't seen it, then get on it!

59. Saber Marionette J (1996)
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Harem
Length: 25 episodes
Studio: Hal Film Maker
Writer: Mayori Sekishima
Director: Masami Shimoda

Plot: After having drifted ashore in a small pond, Otaru finds himself at a rural athenaeum, the Japoness Pioneer Museum. He curiously explores the decrepit building, falling through a trapdoor and into a secret underground basement where he finds and awakens an encapsulated marionette. She introduces herself as Lime, embracing the dumbfounded boy with a laugh and revealing an unprecedented ability to express emotion. This is where the adventure begins.

Opinion: One of the few Harem series to come along after Tenchi to not be utterly disposable, SMJ is worth your time. There is also a sequel series that ends the story and has many spin offs of its own. However, it's the original anime that is considered the best. If you enjoyed Tenchi and want something similar that actually attempts a story, then this is what you'll be looking for.

60. Detective Conan/Case Closed (1996)
Genre: Mystery
Length: 800+ episodes
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Writer: Gosho Aoyama (original manga), Junichi Iioka
Director: Kenji Kodama / Yasuichiro Yamamoto / Masato Sato / Kojin Ochi

Plot: Shinichi Kudo is a high school detective who sometimes works with the police to solve cases. During an investigation, he is attacked by members of a crime syndicate known as the Black Organization. They force him to ingest an experimental poison, but instead of killing him, the poison transforms him into a child. Adopting the pseudonym Conan Edogawa and keeping his true identity a secret, Kudo lives with his childhood friend Ran Mouri and her father Koguro, who is a private detective. Throughout the series, he tags along on Koguro's cases, and helps him to solve them without his guardian being any the wiser.

Opinion: One of Japan's longest running mystery series, Conan is insanely popular over there running over two decades and still counting. It's got a bit of a unique concept, but mystery series with unique protagonists have been a thing since Father Brown and, before him, Sherlock Holmes. However, if you're looking for an anime version of Murder, She Wrote or Monk then you'll get it here. Just don't expect to catch up any time soon.

61. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 134 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: The story follows the young Emishi prince Ashitaka's involvement in a struggle between the gods of a forest and the humans who consume its resources.

Opinion: This was the first Miyazaki film released over here to actually get push and attention. You could complain about the obvious man vs nature set up, however neither side is treated as altogether bad or evil. They are both trying to survive, only one has the firepower to win. The animation and action in this movie is some of Miyazaki's best and highly worth seeing. It's not my favorite Miyazaki film, but I do think it is one of the best made ones.

62. Berserk (1997)
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Length: 25 episodes
Studio: OLM, Inc
Writer: Kentaro Miura (original manga), Yasuhiro Imagawa
Director: Naohito Takahashi

Plot: The story centers on the characters of Guts, a lone mercenary, and Griffith, the leader of a mercenary band called the "Band of the Hawk" and how their reputation grows to become a force to reckon with.

Opinion: Berserk is a rarity for me in that it is a dark fantasy that works. Essentially the tale of the man who sold the world to make himself king, Berserk is a tragedy of a band of brothers that are separated by greed and the powers of the dark. This anime tells the tale of how demons came to roam the land and how the legendary Black Swordsman came to be in this desolate age. It's a good watch though the ending is a downer. Just be wary of the newer anime continuing the story which has abysmal CG, terrible animation, and fusses a lot with the story.

63. Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Genre: Space Western
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Keiko Nobumoto
Director: Shinichiro Watanabe

Plot: In 2071, roughly fifty years after an accident with a hyperspace gateway made the Earth almost uninhabitable, humanity has colonized most of the rocky planets and moons of the Solar System. Amid a rising crime rate, the Inter Solar System Police (ISSP) set up a legalized contract system, in which registered bounty hunters (also referred to as "Cowboys") chase criminals and bring them in alive in return for a reward. The series' protagonists are bounty hunters working from the spaceship Bebop. The original crew are Spike Spiegel, an exiled former hitman of the criminal Red Dragon Syndicate, and his partner Jet Black, a former ISSP officer. They are later joined by Faye Valentine, an amnesiac con artist; Edward Wong, an eccentric girl skilled in hacking; and Ein, a genetically-engineered Pembroke Welsh Corgi with human-like intelligence.

Opinion: Regularly regarded as the best anime ever made (among westerners), you've probably already seen this. It's one of 1998's fan-named Space Western trilogy and is fairly close to perfect. Full of excellent animation, direction, music, and writing, it encapsulates the best of '90s anime. Make no mistake, this deserves ever bit of praise it has. But it's not my favorite of the Space Western trilogy. The best would be . . .

64. Trigun (1998)
Genre: Space Western
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Madhouse
Writer: Yasuhiro Nightow (original manga), Yousuke Kuroda
Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Plot: Trigun revolves around a gunslinger known as "Vash the Stampede" and two Bernardelli Insurance Society employees, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, who follow him around in order to minimize the damages inevitably caused by his appearance. Throughout his travels, Vash tries to save lives using non-lethal force while looking for a paradise of his own. He is occasionally joined by a priest, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, who, like Vash, is a superb gunfighter with a mysterious past.

Opinion: Well, this blog is named after this anime so you should expect it here. The original manga was a rip roaring action adventure, but the anime wanders off into its own story halfway through leading to a much more powerful ending than the source material. An action show obsessed with life, death, and eternity, there is very little Trigun does not cover that truly matters to us all. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best anime ever made, and I'm still waiting for something to come close. If you haven't seen it, don't believe the revisionism that only Cowboy Bebop is worth seeing of the big three--they're lying. Trigun is absolutely an anime every fan should see at least twice.

65. Outlaw Star (1998)
Genre: Space Western
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Takehiko Ito (original manga), Katsuhiko Chiba
Director: Mitsuru Hongo

Plot: The series takes place in the "Toward Stars Era" universe in which spacecraft are capable of traveling faster than the speed of light. The plot follows protagonist Gene Starwind and his motley crew of an inherited ship dubbed the "Outlaw Star" as they search for a legendary outer space treasure trove called the Galactic Leyline.

Opinion: The most forgotten series of the Space Western trilogy, Outlaw Star is more of a straightforward action adventure show than the previous two. Though it does involve a possible meeting with God, ancient forgotten magic, and enough swashbuckling to shake a stick at, it regularly gets overlooked despite its qualities. But don't let it pass you by. Outlaw Star is one of the best anime series of the '90s. Also, it continues with the odd trend of the trilogy being far more popular overseas than in Japan. If you haven't gotten the point by now, you really should see all three.

66. Sorcerous Stabber Orphen (1998)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 24 episodes
Studio: J.C. Staff
Writer: Yoshinobu Akita (original novels), Masashi Kubota
Director: Hiroshi Watanabe

Plot: Orphen is the greatest sorcerer that the tower has ever seen but he is more interested in chasing the Bloody August, an infamous and very mysterious dragon. Along with his apprentice Majic and their companion Clio he heads off on a quest with the Sword of Baltanders, the only thing that can free the Bloody August or 'Azile' from the spell she is under.

Opinion: I listed the first season of 24 episodes. Orphen has two separate seasons which do a good job showing how designs and animation changed so abruptly in only a few short years. That said, the first season is the better of the two and is a good 'ol fashion adventure. The first 24 episodes is the best Orphen has to offer. Unfortunately, they really don't make them like this anymore.

67. Serial Experiments Lain (1998)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 13 episodes
Studio: Triangle Staff, Pioneer LDC
Writer: Chiaki J. Konaka
Director: Ryutaro Nakanura

Plot: The series focuses on Lain Iwakura, an adolescent middle school girl living in suburban Japan, and her introduction to the Wired, a global communications network which is similar to the Internet. Her life becomes upturned by a series of bizarre incidents that start to take place after she learns that girls from her school have received an e-mail from a dead student, Chisa Yomoda, and she pulls out her old computer in order to check for the same message. Lain finds Chisa telling her that she is not dead, but has merely "abandoned her physical body and flesh" and is alive deep within the virtual reality-world of the Wired itself, where she has found the almighty and divine "God". From this point, Lain is caught up in a series of cryptic and surreal events that see her delving deeper into the mystery of the network in a narrative that explores themes of consciousness, perception, and the nature of reality.

Opinion: Lain has a reputation for being an odd series. It is. But unlike most weird anime, this was headed by Chiaki J. Konaka who got his start on the Digimon kid's franchise and made the surprisingly good Digimon Tamers in the process. In other words, he knows how to present complex ideas without talking around or down to his audience. I'm only disappointed that he doesn't have a bigger output than he does.

68. The Big O (1999)
Genre: Mecha, Noir
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Sunrise, Cartoon Network Studios (Season 2)
Writer: Chiaki J. Konaka
Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama, Lia Sargent (Season 2)

Plot: The story takes place forty years after a mysterious occurrence causes the residents of Paradigm City to lose their memories. The series follows Roger Smith, Paradigm City's top Negotiator. He provides this "much needed service" with the help of a robot named R. Dorothy Wayneright and his butler Norman Burg. When the need arises, Roger calls upon Big O, a giant relic from the city's past.

Opinion: This might actually be the most controversial inclusion on this list. The ending to The Big O is extremely divisive, but the quality of the show as a whole is why it still retains its fanbase. The art style is a throwback to both classic anime and western animation as well as Batman: The Animated Series, and the action and music are both stylish and top notch. There isn't anything like Big O. The second season only exists because of western fans, which might have been a hint that tastes between western and eastern fans were starting to splinter off around this point.

69. Hajime no Ippo: Fighting Spirit (2000)
Genre: Sports Drama
Length: 76 episodes
Studio: Madhouse
Writer: George Morikawa (original manga), Tatsuhiko Urahata
Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Plot: Hajime no Ippo follows the story of high school student Makunouchi Ippo, as he begins his career in boxing and over time obtains many titles and defeats various opponents.

Opinion: There have been multiple series past this original anime, but this is the one that hits the mark. Hajime no Ippo is one of the most popular and influential manga in Japan, and this adaption by the director of Trigun is well worth your time. Join Ippo as he learns the basics and becomes a fighting powerhouse. There is a reason it is the second most popular boxing series behind the already listed Ashita no Joe. It's only a shame that it is out of print over here and hard to find.

70. Spirited Away (2001)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 125 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino, a sullen ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba, Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.

Opinion: The most popular Miyazaki film is definitely one of the best. It's also the only anime to ever win an Academy Award, too. Despite that stain on its reputation, it's a clever fantasy adventure film like most of Miyazaki's works. I'm just going to assume anyone reading this has seen this, but if you haven't . . . well, I can't help you.

71. GetBackers (2002)
Genre: Action Comedy
Length: 49 episodes
Studio: Studio DEEN
Writer: Shin Kibayashi (original manga), Akemi Omode
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi, Keitaro Motonaga

Plot: The series tells the story of Ginji Amano and Ban Mido, a pair of super powered individuals known as the "GetBackers". The duo operates a freelance repossession service out of one of the seedier areas of Shinjuku, Tokyo. For a fee, they will recover any lost or stolen item for a client with "an almost 100% success rate". The GetBackers' job often leads them into bizarre and dangerous situations in order to "get back what shouldn't be gone". Their targets range from lost video games to misplaced components of an atomic bomb. The plot mostly revolves around their adventures, often complicated by the pair's convoluted, individual pasts and a mysterious place known as the Infinity Fortress.

Opinion: One of the most popular of the buddy cop style of anime series, GetBackers is also the last of its breed. The story goes down both comedic and mysterious paths depending on the job the heroes get lending a bit of wonder and mystery to the action and comedy. The anime also has the distinction of not having a horrible ending like the manga does. If you're an older fan of anime, chances are this was one of the last series you watched before your interest faded. It's not because of a lack of quality on this series' part. GetBackers is still a lot of fun nowadays.

72. Full Metal Panic! (2002)
Genre: Mecha, Military Science Fiction, Comedy
Length: 50+ episodes
Studio: Gonzo / Kyoto Animation / Xebec
Writer: Shoji Gatoh, Fumihiko Shimo (season 1 only), Koichi Chigira (season 1 only)
Director: Koichi Chigira / Yasuhiro Takemoto / Katsuichi Nakayama

Plot: The series follows Sousuke Sagara, a member of a covert anti-terrorist private military organization known as Mithril, tasked with protecting Kaname Chidori, a spirited Japanese high school girl. He moves to Japan to study at Chidori's school, Jindai High School, with assistance from his comrades Kurz Weber and Melissa Mao.

Opinion: After years in purgatory, FMP is finally getting a final season to end it off. Being one of the last anime that hasn't jumped on the CG mecha bandwagon, FMP felt like a throwback even when it was new. Part mecha, part military science fiction, part comedy, but all exciting, this is a show most anime fans have heard of but have never seen. If you're one of them, you really should remedy that error.

73. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 52 episodes
Studio: Production I.G.
Writer: Masamune Shirow (original manga), Kenji Kamiyama
Director: Kenji Kamiyama

Plot: The series centers on the members of an elite cybernetic law enforcement unit known as Public Security Section 9 as they investigate cyber-crime and terrorism cases; these cases often are connected to their pursuit of an elite "Super Class A" hacker and corporate terrorist known as "The Laughing Man".

Opinion: For many people this is the definitive Ghost in the Shell product, eclipsing both the original manga and the movie. A slower and more thought-provoking series, it has also established a niche of its own in the franchise. This has advantages the movies simply do not. The longer length allows for the characters to breathe and grow in a way they simply weren't in the older stories, and thereby makes it a favorite to many. If you're a fan of the franchise this is a must see. It also might be getting a third season soon, so heads up on that.

74. RahXephon (2002)
Genre: Mecha
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Bones
Writer: Yutaka Izubuchi
Director: Yutaka Izubuchi

Plot: RahXephon is about 17-year-old Ayato Kamina, his ability to control a mecha known as the RahXephon, and his inner journey to find a place in the world. His life as a student and artist in Tokyo is suddenly interrupted by a mysterious stalker, strange planes invading the city and strange machines fighting back.

Opinion: RahXephon is more or less the final word on the philosophical mecha series trend that Evangelion started. Modeling it closer to older series like Megazone 23 and Brave Raideen, the series manages a more coherent ending that wraps everything up neatly than most of its ilk had. I would wager it's a better series than most of those sorts of shows of the era, though your mileage may vary. Nonetheless, it's the last mecha anime of its type that really deserves to be seen.

75. Mermaid Saga/Forest (2003)
Genre: Fantasy Horror
Length: 13 episodes
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Writer: Rumiko Takahashi (original manga), Yunichi Miyashita
Director: Masaharu Okuwaki

Plot: According to an ancient legend, mermaid's flesh can grant immortality if eaten. 500 years ago, Yuta unknowingly ate a piece of mermaid's flesh. For centuries, he travels across Japan, hoping to find a mermaid, thinking she may be able to make him a normal human again.

Opinion: This series is relatively unknown despite its famous creator. I'm not sure why. This short series was adapted into 13 episodes featuring some disturbing speculation on the horrors of immortality. It really is a shame Takahashi doesn't do works like these more often, because she is quite good at them.

Since this entry of the list covered a decade of shows, there are clearly a lot missing, and there are sure to be series missing that many would decry. But that is what the comments are for. So if you have a favorite anime of this era and wish to share it, please post it below. I would appreciate it.

Next time we will enter the final stretch, and I suspect it will be the most controversial. As is well known, the industry made a deliberate change in focus around 2006 which hobbled much of its appeal to non-otaku fans. This will make the pickings not only slim, but awkward. You'll see when we get there.

For now, enjoy the list. Hopefully there are some series you missed out on that you'll enjoy. There's quite a good bit to choose from.

Until next time!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Aware of the Dark

The conversation on comics is still ongoing, but it has still mostly focused on one issue. Superhero Comics have no sense of hope, wonder, or a greater vision.

Heroes aren't heroes, and villains are pathetic, and it will all be rebooted so you can read the same schlock again over and over. This is well agreed upon.

But there is something else I wanted to focus on today. Few people have brought up tone. Now I'm not taking about how comics are colored these days, but about the story.

The current Captain America comics are grimdark slogs that go against character type and feature no hope to be found for anyone. It is slick, cold, and empty.

But there is an opposite problem.

That would be "self-aware" storytelling. Yes, Deadpool, I know you can hear me, and I'm talking about you. Self-aware storytelling is not as blatant a problem as the preaching comics, but it is just as hopeless and murky as stories like the current Captain America run.

For a better grasp on this issue, listen to this NSFW rant by youtuber Razorfist. Pay special attention to 2:18-3:32

Now, I'm a big fan of Batman: The Brave & The Bold, but I have to admit that the first eight or so episodes are hard to watch for the reason Razorfist states. The writers do not feel like they legitimately love the era they're writing in, but are more interested in pointing out how absurd the Silver Age is and how much smarter their audience is than the material. But it changes. This tapers off quick when the writers stop feeling self-conscious and embrace the style they're going for which allows the audience to become invested in what they're doing. A handful of episodes aside, Batman: The Brave & The Bold turned out to be a great tribute to the older era of Batman without succumbing fully to this issue, series finale aside. But the "self-aware" comics never really learned.

As I've aged, I've found I have a higher tolerance of grimdark when it is done right, such as in the Nolan Batman movies or the Netflix Daredevil, than I do for self-aware storytelling. There are a few reasons for this.

For one, grimdark stories are honest with what they are. They either don't believe in hope or salvation, or they believe they are struggles to achieve. They don't hide what they are.

Self-aware storytelling doesn't believe in anything. It doesn't even believe in itself.

It doesn't believe in the audience, constantly winking to them and assuring them that they are too smart for this silly story. It doesn't believe in heroes by constantly undermining their struggles. It doesn't believe in hope since nothing that occurs matters as we are reliably informed by the characters themselves. It is, as Razorfist stated, aimless, trite, and unmotivated, storytelling. It exists to stroke egos and nothing else.

So yes, the biggest problem with modern comic book storytelling is that it doesn't believe in heroes, hope, or general goodness. But stories like these don't believe in the audience, either. It believes in itself, for the sake of itself, and for nothing else.

By wary next time you buy a comic with a bright cover and smiling characters on it. What you get might be even more poisonous than the worst Alan Moore comic. They just try a bit harder to hide it behind a shiny wrapper.

So you must try a bit harder, and ask for better. Poison is still poison, even if it's poured in a fancy champagne glass.

Monday, May 1, 2017

100 Accessible Anime Guide for Fans (Part 2)

Continuing where we left off, this is the second part of the list.

Here we beginning to leave the '80s and enter the '90s with the highest concentration of great material relative to years covered. Don't believe me? This part  only covers six and a half years and covers 25 series. Things were really rolling for Japan at this time, with many creators finding their footing and the market opening up. This is also when the industry began its growth into the behemoth it was by the end of the '90s.

A lot of these are some of the most popular anime out there, but also among my personal favorites. I suspect this will be of particular relevance to those who really got their start in the "Japanimation" boom during the late '80s. I've included several of those series as well

If you're looking for good anime to watch, keep your eyes peeled to this list. After all, who knows what you'll find? Also, if you have suggestions of your own, feel free to include them in the comments. This is not meant to be the alpha and omega of anime. This is for anyone looking for something good to watch.

But enough from me; let's get into it from where the last part left off.

26. Kimagure Orange Road (1987)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Length: 48 episodes
Studio: Toho Animation, Studio Pierrot
Writer: Izumi Matsumoto (original manga), Sukehiro Tomita
Director: Osamu Kobayashi

Plot: Kyosuke Kasuga and his family have had to move several times after being seen using their esper powers. Upon settling for the seventh time, Kyōsuke briefly meets a pretty girl who gives him her straw-hat and falls in love with her on sight. On the first day of school he learns this girl is his junior high classmate Madoka Ayukawa, who, contrary to his initial impression, is feared as a delinquent. Their underclassman and Madoka's best friend, Hikaru Hiyama, sees Kyōsuke use his powers to sink an impressive basketball shot and falls in love with him. Kyōsuke ends up dating Hikaru while constantly struggling with his feelings for Madoka due to his indecisiveness. Likewise, Madoka has feelings for Kyōsuke which she masks with her capricious nature for fear of hurting her friend Hikaru.

Opinion: You've probably seen a million of these types of series since Kimagure came on the scene, but this is the original. What this tends to mean is that this series was written before those that stole from it and solidified cliches and subversions that missed the point of the original series. Despite all that, this is still one of the best. You even get some esper powers for free! What more could you want from a series like this?

27. The Wings of Honneamise (1987)
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 119 minutes
Studio: Gainax
Writer: Hiroyuki Yamaga
Director: Hiroyuki Yamaga

Plot: On an alternate Earth, an industrial civilization is flourishing amid an impending war between two bordering nations: the Kingdom of Honneamise and "The Republic".

Shirotsugh Lhadatt is an unmotivated young man who has drifted into his nation's lackadaisical space program. After the death of a fellow astronaut, he nurtures a close acquaintance with a young religious woman named Riquinni Nonderaiko. Seeing Lhadatt as a prime example of what mankind is capable of, and understanding the godliness and ground-breaking nature of his work, she inspires him to become the first man in space.

Opinion: This movie is what put Gainax on the map. It epitomizes the best of the Campbell era of science fiction (even including weird sexual content!) in how inspiring the pursuit of the stars and surpassing limits can be. Great film. It's not talked about much these days, but it is well worth seeking out.

28. Robot Carnival (1987)
Genre: Science Fiction Anthology
Length: 90 minutes
Studio: A.P.P.P
Writers and Directors: Atsuko Fukushima, Katsuhiro Otomo, Koji Morimoto, Hidetoshi Omori, Yasuomi Umetsu, Hiroyuki Kitazume, Mao Lamdo, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Takashi Nakamura

Plot: Robot Carnival consists of nine shorts by different well-known directors, many of whom started out as animators with little to no directing experience. Each has a distinctive animation style and story ranging from comedic to dramatic storylines.

Opinion: Like Neo Tokyo before it, Robot Carnival is a series of shorts by many different directors and writers. Because of the way it is structured it is hard to tell whether one will be a fan of more shorts than others, but the animation is quite incredible. If you're a fan of any of the names listed above then it is a must see.

29. Wicked City (1987)
Genre: Fantasy Horror
Length: 82 minutes
Studio: Madhouse
Writer: Hideyuki Kikuchi (original novel), Kisei Choo
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Plot: The story takes place towards the end of the 20th century and explores the idea that the human world secretly coexists with the demon world with a secret police force known as the Black Guard protecting the boundary.

Opinion: How this isn't more well known is a mystery for the ages. Part detective noir, part horror pulp, part action movie, and written by the man behind Vampire Hunter D and the director of Ninja Scroll, this movie epitomizes '80s anime and the reason it eventually grew over here. This is one that should be in every anime fan's collection.

30. City Hunter (1987)
Genre: Action Comedy
Length: 139 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Tsukasa Hojo (original manga)
Director: Kenji Kodama / Kiyoshi Egami (final season)

Plot: The series follows the exploits of Ryo Saeba, a "sweeper" who is always found chasing beautiful girls and a private detective who works to rid Tokyo of crime. His "City Hunter" business is an underground jack-of-all-trades operation, contacted by writing the letters "XYZ" on a blackboard at Shinjuku Station.

Opinion: City Hunter is an action series about a bounty hunter who drives a cool car and fires an awesome gun. If that doesn't sell you on it, then we probably can't be friends. It has always floored me that this never took off here or was ever properly licensed. You could transplant any '80s action star into one of these episodes as Ryo and it would be a hit in the cinema. Anyway, if you like action movies, this franchise is for you.

31. The Fuma Conspiracy (1987)
Genre: Action Adventure
Length: 73 minutes
Studio: TMS Entertainment
Writer: Makoto Naito
Director: Masayuki Ozeki

Plot: The movie begins at the wedding of Goemon Ishikawa XIII and his fiancée Murasaki Suminawa. During the ceremony, the Suminawa family heirloom, a valuable antique urn, is entrusted to Goemon. Before the ceremony is completed, several ninja attack and attempt to steal the urn. Lupin and his colleagues fight off the ninja, but during the confusion, another group of ninja kidnap Murasaki and leave a ransom note proposing to trade Murasaki for the antique urn.

Opinion: This is the first proper OVA of the Lupin franchise and a real fan favorite. While Castle of Cagliostro is excellent, it is hard to give a good entryway into the Lupin world otherwise. This is probably the best way short of diving directly into a television show that tends to wear out its welcome quick. If you can find it, give it a go.

32. Gunbuster (1988)
Genre: Mecha
Length: 6 episodes
Studio: Gainax, Studio Fantasia
Writer: Hideaki Anno, Toshio Okada, Hiroyuki Yamaga
Director: Hideaki Anno

Plot: In the very near future, a race of huge, insectoid aliens are discovered traveling the galaxy. These aliens, which are known as the Uchuu Kaijuu, or Space Monsters, seem dedicated to the eradication of the human species as the latter takes its first steps away from the solar system, and they are getting closer and closer to Earth. Humanity has responded by developing space-going battleships and giant fighting robots. These complex robots—RX-7 Machine Weapons—are actually an advanced type of fighting suit, piloted by a single occupant. As advanced as they are, however, they are being used as trainers for a new weapon, the Gunbuster. However, being relatively new technology, they are difficult to operate (stock shots show pilots working multiple controls with hands and feet, while fingers rapidly operate switches on the hand grips), so pilot candidates are selected from the best and brightest youth on Earth and the Lunar colony. These are trained at schools around the world.

Opinion: For many people this is as good as Gainax ever got. It's part military science fiction and part classic mecha anime without much of the subversion Anno's future work would contain. If you're looking for a good old fashion mecha romp, this'll do ya good.

33. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 86 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: The film tells the story of the two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in postwar rural Japan.

Opinion: This is one of anime's defining family films and one of Miyazaki's most popular. The childlike sense of wonder is probably at its strongest here more than in any of his films. If you're looking for a movie to show your kids or younger relatives, this is one to look into.

34. Akira (1988)
Genre: Cyberpunk
Length: 124 minutes
Studio: Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Writer: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

Plot: Akira focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima and his leader, Shotaro Kaneda. After Tetsuo suffers an accident and is bestowed with psychic powers, Kaneda, resistance terrorist Kei, Colonel Shikishima of the JSDF and a trio of espers, attempt to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic, Akira, and destroying Neo-Tokyo.

Opinion: Akira has suffered heavily from revisionism from modern anime fans, but don't let that dissuade you. It's philosophy is a bit schizophrenic and nihilistic, but that's not what makes it so well loved. It's a cyberpunk action film with some of the best animation you'll find in the medium. The original manga is better on the story front, but this works remarkably well as a film.

35. Dominion Tank Police (1988) / New Dominion Tank Police (1993)
Genre: Cyberpunk Comedy
Length: 4 episodes (first series) / 6 episodes (New)
Studio: Agent 21 (first series) / J.C. Staff, Bandai Visual (New)
Writer: Masamune Shirow (original manga) / Koichi Mashimo (first series) / Anzu Nemuru, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Mitsuo Mutsuki (New)
Director: Koichi Mashimo (first series) / Noburu Furuse (New)

Plot: Tank Police is set in the fictional city of Newport, Japan, in a future in which bacteria as well as air pollution have become so severe that people must wear gas masks when outdoors, the series follows a police squadron that uses military-style tanks.

Opinion: I'm not popular among Masamune Shirow fans because I think Tank Police is the best thing he's ever done. It's action packed, it's comedic, and it is a lot of fun to watch (and read), whereas I find most Ghost in the Shell material plodding and trying much too hard. But, hey, I might just be too simplistic sometimes. Your opinion might vary, but don't miss out on Tank Police. It's great fun.

36. Patlabor: The OVA series (1988)
Genre: Mecha Comedy
Length: 7 episodes
Studio: Studio DEEN
Writer: Kazunori Ito
Director: Mamoru Oshii

Plot: The story takes place in the near future. Robots called "Labors" are employed in heavy construction work. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police has its own fleet of Patrol Labors or Patlabors to combat crimes/terrorism and deal with accidents involving Labors.

Opinion: This is the first drop of the Patlabor franchise, and probably the most accessible. You can watch this separate from the rest of the franchise with no worry if you prefer. I listed several entries in the franchise separate since the all stand alone perfectly well.

37. Legend of the Galactic Heroes (1988)
Genre: Space Opera, Military Science Fiction
Length: 110 episodes
Studio: Artland / Madhouse (episodes 1-26) / Magic Bus (episodes 27-110)
Writer: Yoshiki Tanaka (original novels)
Director: Noboru Ishiguro

Plot: Legend of the Galactic Heroes is about humanity's distant future,.Two interstellar states – the monarchic Galactic Empire and the democratic Free Planets Alliance – are embroiled in a never-ending war. The story focuses on the exploits of rivals Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen Li as they rise to power and fame in the Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance respectively.

Opinion: This is a seminal work that requires quite the time sink. There's much to keep track of and a lot to watch, but it's definitely worth looking into. Thankfully this series has been licensed so it should soon be easy to find for the first time on this side of the pond. If you like your Space Opera dramas with heavy politics, you'll find it here.

38. Patlabor: The TV Series (1989) / New Files (1990)
Genre: Mecha Comedy
Length: 47 episodes (TV series) / 16 episodes (New Files)
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Hiroyuki Hoshiyama (TV series) / Kazunori Ito (New Files)
Director: Naoyuki Yoshinaga

Plot: The story focuses on Second Special Vehicles Division (SV2), a group of Patlabor policemen who fight and investigate crimes. The TV series is an alternate timeline to the original Patlabor OVAs and films, with an all-new origin story.

Opinion: The series has a much more streamlined approach than the OVAs and there are a lot more stories to go around. If you want a heavy dose of Patlabor, this is the one to go to. You'll be watching for a while.

39. Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket (1989)
Genre: Mecha
Length: 6 episodes
Studio: Sunrise
Writer: Kyosuke Yuki
Director: Fumihiko Takayama

Plot: After crashing his mobile suit, Bernie manages to befriend Alfred "Al" Izuhura, an elementary school boy enamored with a romantic vision of warfare and excited by Bernie's status as a mobile suit pilot regardless of his allegiance, and Al's neighbor Christina "Chris" Mackenzie, secretly the Gundam test pilot. As Bernie tries to repair his damaged mobile suit while hiding out within the station, he develops a close friendship with Al and slowly becomes infatuated with Chris, both pilots remaining unaware of each other's true natures.

Opinion: This is what you can expect from every Gundam series summed up in a 6 episode OVA. This is what they've been trying to get across all these decades. If you don't like this OVA, then the Gundam franchise is not for you. If you do like this OVA, then there is plenty more material to look into. This would be the place to start.

40. Patlabor: The Movie 1 (1989) / 2 (1993)
Genre: Mecha Action
Length: 98 minutes (1) / 113 minutes (2)
Studio: I.G. Tatsunoko (1) / Production I.G. (2)
Writer: Kazunori Ito
Director: Mamoru Oshii

Plot: Taking place after the OVA series, the two movies close out the series. The first film is about a series of random labor incidents across the Greater Tokyo Area puts the SV2 on the case. The incidents turn out to be part of a dead programmer's diabolical plot to create a much bigger rampage.

The second film is about a secret group of terrorists that engineer a crisis in Tokyo in the winter. The members of SV2's Section 2, who have been reassigned to other duties since the events of the first film, reunite one more time to stop the threat

Opinion: The movies are decidedly more serious than the OVA and TV series. If you're not interested in a more comedic mecha comedy series, these movies should be more up your alley. And don't listen to those who say to only watch the second movie: you'll be missing out on a lot of good content if you do. The third movie, however, is barely related to the franchise.

41. Riding Bean (1989)
Genre: Action
Length: 48 minutes
Studio: AIC, Artmic
Writer: Kenichi Sonada
Director: Yasuo Hasegawa

Plot: The anime follows one day in the life of Bean Bandit and Rally Vincent, as they find that they have been framed for the kidnapping of Chelsea Grimwood, who is daughter of Mr. Grimwood, President of the Grimwood Company/Grimwood Conglomerate.

Opinion: Marion Cobretti, eat your heart out. Riding Bean is an '80s action movie. That's all it is and every aspires to be. It's a really exciting one filled with exceptional car chases and top notch animation. Unfortunately it's not really well known now, but man is it a good one.

42. Record of Lodoss War OVA (1990) / TV series (1998)
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 13 episodes (OVA) / 27 episodes (TV series)
Studio: Madhouse (OVA) / AIC (TV series)
Writer: Ryo Mizuno (original novels) / Mami Watanabe (OVA) / Katsumi Hasegawa (TV series)
Director: Akinori Nagaoka (OVA) / Hitoyuki Matsui (TV series)

Plot: Record of Lodoss War recounts the adventures of a youth by the name of Parn, the son of a dishonored knight. Part of his motivation for adventuring is to find out what happened to his father, and to restore his family's honor. Despite his inexperience, Parn is considered the leader, who is accompanied by his childhood best friend Etoh, his friend and sometimes adviser Slayn, and his newfound mentor Ghim. They are accompanied by Parn's romantic interest, the high elf Deedlit,  and a thief named Woodchuck. Throughout the series, Parn comes into contact with friends and foes alike. His allies include King Kashue, King Fahn, Shiris, and Orson; his enemies include Emperor Beld, Ashram, and the evil necromancer Wagnard.

Opinion: The preeminent fantasy anime series. Record of Lodoss Wat is another series that was more widely known even a decade ago. To put it simply, Lodoss War is D&D in anime form. The OVA and TV series are two separate takes on the original novels, but there is no overall preferred version. They're both good. In my opinion, the OVA is the place to start.

43. Porco Rosso (1992)
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Length: 94 minutes
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Plot: The plot revolves around an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing "air pirates" in the Adriatic Sea. However, an unusual curse has transformed him into an anthropomorphic pig. Once called Marco Pagot (Marco Rossolini in the American version), he is now known to the world as "Porco Rosso", Italian for "Red Pig".

Opinion: One of the lesser known Miyazaki films, it's also a fan favorite. It's based on a manga Miyazaki once made, but it has an odd execution and sense of adventure that feels totally unlike his other works. Nonetheless, it maintains that heart and soul his work is known for. Those flying sequences are breathtaking. If you're a fan of his and haven't given this a shot, well, you're missing out.

44. Tenchi Muyo! OVA 1 (1992) & 2 (1994)
Genre: Space Opera, Harem
Length: 13 episodes total
Studio: AIC
Writer: Masaki Kajishima, Hiroki Hayashi
Director: Hiroki Hayashi (1) / Kenichi Yatani (2)

Plot: Katsuhito Masaki finds his grandson Tenchi looking for the keys to their shrine. Tenchi gets into the shrine, inadvertently releasing a space pirate known as Ryoko, who was defeated by Yosho (First Prince of Jurai) 700 years ago.

Opinion: The first harem anime, Tenchi Muyo still remains the best. It maintains quality by actually having a plot that stays engaging even through the laughs and the cheesecake. If you want more, check out the manga series that ends off the OVA storyline (and ignore the later OVAs) by Hitoshi Okuda. The TV series Tenchi Universe and the movies are also well worth your time. Keep away from everything else in the franchise... and all other harem anime while you're at it. They just don't compare.

45. Yu Yu Hakusho (1992)
Genre: Fantasy Action
Length: 112 episodes
Studio: Studio Pierrot
Writer: Yoshihiro Togashi (original manga), Yukiyoshi Ohashi
Director: Noriyuki Abe

Plot: The series tells the story of Yusuke Urameshi, a teenage delinquent who is struck and killed by a car while attempting to save a child's life. After a number of tests presented to him by Koenma, the son of the ruler of the border between life and death, Yusuke is revived and appointed the title of "Underworld Detective", with which he must investigate various cases involving youkai and apparitions in the human world.

Opinion: One of my personal favorites, Yu Yu Hakusho is a paranormal fantasy about a punk kid who ends up becoming the protector of humanity from those that would send them all to Hell. Shonen manga is a dime a doze these days and this is one of the most inspired and ripped off of all of them. It also has the benefit of objectively improving its source material, a rarity even outside of anime. If there is one long running shonen to watch of the Bleach's and Naruto's of the world, it's this one.

46. Slam Dunk (1993)
Genre: Sports Drama
Length: 101 episodes
Studio: Toei Animation
Writer: Takehiko Inoue (original manga), Nobuaki Kishima, Yoshiyuki Suga
Director: Nobutaka Nishizawa

Plot: Hanamichi Sakuragi is a delinquent and the leader of a gang. Sakuragi is very unpopular with girls, having been rejected an astonishing fifty times. In his first year at Shohoku High School, he meets Haruko Akagi, the girl of his dreams, and is overjoyed when she is not repulsed or scared of him like all the other girls he has asked out.

Haruko, recognizing Sakuragi's athleticism, introduces him to the Shohoku basketball team. Sakuragi is reluctant to join the team at first, as he has no prior experience in sports and thinks that basketball is a game for losers (in addition to the fact that the fiftieth girl rejected him in favor of a basketball player). Sakuragi, despite his extreme immaturity and fiery temper, proves to be a natural athlete and joins the team.

Opinion: After Ashita no Joe, this is the most well known sports anime and it is just as great. This is another series that has been swiped from over and over to far lesser results. The only negative I can say is that the anime never adapted the final arc in the manga, but the end result is much the same. This series is a love letter to basketball and sports in general and is just a joy to watch. Slam Dunk is one of the best of its kind.

47. Ninja Scroll (1993)
Genre: Fantasy Action
Length: 94 minutes
Studio: Madhouse, JVC, Toho, Movic, and Animate
Writer: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Director: Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Plot: The film takes place in feudal Japan and follows Jubei Kibagami, a mercenary swordsman who battles the Eight Devils of Kimon, a team of ninjas with supernatural powers who are intent on overthrowing the Tokugawa shogunate.

Opinion: Another film suffering from revisionism, Ninja Scroll is a top notch action film that helped break anime out overseas. Oddly enough, it was also far more popular here than in Japan. I can't understand why. They don't make them like this anymore (even though Kawajiri is currently working on a sequel) so you really are missing out without seeing it. Still holds up today as an engaging action flick.

48. Black Jack OVA (1993)
Genre: Drama
Length: 12 episodes
Studio: Tezuka Productions
Writer: Osamu Tezuka (original manga)
Director: Osamu Dezaki

Plot: Most of the stories involve Black Jack doing some good deed, for which he rarely gets recognition—often curing the poor and destitute for free, or teaching the arrogant a lesson in humility. They sometimes end with a good, humane person enduring hardship, often unavoidable death, to save others.

Opinion: An OVA based on the original Black Jack manga. This short series was actually made over near two decades spanning much of the material listed here. The OVA is the best introduction to Tezuka's material given the punchy run-time contrasted with the breadth of his work. However, Tezuka is also not for everyone. Give this OVA a watch and see if it is.

49. Irresponsible Captain Tylor (1993)
Genre: Space Opera Comedy
Length: 26 episodes
Studio: Tatsunoko Production
Writer: Hitoshi Yoshioka (original novels), Koichi Mashimo, Hiroyuki Kawasaki
Director: Koichi Mashimo

Plot: Tylor is a mysterious young man without a real purpose in life, a state of mind that is very hard to determine, and a knack for accidentally getting out of near-death situations with a childishly cavalier attitude. He sometimes does not even seem to realize when he is in danger.

One day while looking for easy money, Tylor stumbles his way into the United Planets Space Force and soon gains command of a destroyer, after resolving a hostage dispute and saving a retired admiral.

Opinion: Tylor is another show that was much bigger back in the day than it is now. That's a shame. This is an action packed parody and embracing of space opera on the level of Galaxy Quest over the length of a 26 episode series. If you like space opera and have never seen this show you really need to check this out. It's a classic for a reason.

50. Dragon Half (1993)
Genre: Fantasy Comedy
Length: 2 episodes
Studio: Victor Entertainment
Writer: Ryusuke Mita (original manga)
Director: Shinya Sadamitsu

Plot: Mink was born to a man who used to be a skilled swordsman and a female imperial red dragon. At age fifteen, she falls in love with a singer named Dick Saucer; but because he is also a dragonslayer, she has no choice but to get a potion that can change her into a pure human. Mink is aided by her friends Lufa and Pia on her quest.

Opinion: Dragon Half is like Tylor, only a parody of fantasy and much shorter. The original manga is a longer piece, but the OVA captures the feel well. It's a quick watch so you don't miss out on much by seeking it out. Few anime are as zany as this one.

And that's part 2. Stay tuned for part 3 when we get into the material that really broke anime worldwide. And where we begin to see the well drying up.

But that's a ways off. For now, enjoy the first half of the list.

Once again, leave comments about any missing series you can think of down below. Help make this list comprehensive for those looking for the best. I'm trying to make this series for those searching and not being able to find. There certainly is no lack of quality material to choose from.

Until next time!