Top 10 favorite anime part 1: 10-6

Couldn’t think about what to write this week, so here’s a list!

10- Please Teacher

please teacher 01I’ll admit this is probably a bit more of a guilty pleasure at this point. It wasn’t always, but I haven’t seen it in a while, so it’s here based mainly on my fond memories of it. So up front, the set-up is typical silly as hell anime. A very shy fifteen year old high schooler who’s really eighteen because he was in a coma for three years, has to marry his secret alien homeroom teacher to stop her from getting fired…You got that. Good. Because after that really overdone set-up, the imagesshow turns into one of the most charming romances I’ve ever seen.   The developing romance between the high schooler and his teacher (just go with it, it’s Japan) is the beating heart of the series. And fantastical funny alien shenanigans aside; it’s a surprisingly earnest and sweet, if a tad melodramatic romance, and is one of the rare anime about the hurdles of a couple being together, instead of just getting together. The development of their characters through their relationship is well paced and full of 94715genuine moments of tender love and charm, and if you can get past the initial silliness of it all, you’ll find a show of fun diverse characters and more heart than it knows what to do with.




9- Digimon Tamers

Digimon_TamersThis is here, half for nostalgic affection for the series left over from my youth, and half as a legitimately awesome science fiction revamp of the adventure series. Digimon Tamers is an odd ball even in the Digimon shows, being outside the continuity of the others; it is instead set in a world where those shows exist as shows, and the Digitalworld in this series is a dangerous man made universe, vastly out of its creator’s control. It still follows the tried and true formula of kids get monster friends and fighting to save the world, but unlike the other shows, one, it deals with a smaller more nuanced cast of characters who feel like real kids, far outside the stereotypes of other seasons. And two, it is honestly way darker than a kids show should be. From the mind of the man who would bring us Serial Experiments Lain, and Ghost Hound (if you don’t know those shows just trust me, they are some freaky shit), his is a Digimon far removed from the happy go lucky world of its predecessors.

Digimon aren’t all cute and cuddles anymore

This is a Digiworld where people die, children’s lives are in danger, and they do not all make it out okay. Now it’s not really all as gruesome as I just made it sound, it’s still a kid’s show. There is still plenty of humor, good natured adventure, and silly Digimon antics throughout the show…..okay in the first half before the shit hits the digifan, and I understand how that would put off any new older watchers who find it too childish. But I find the contrast of how light it starts (though even when it’s light the undercurrent of darkness is still very present) and how far down it goes into the depth of our heroes hearts, as they experience pain, loss,

[Positron] Digimon Tamers 47 (Xvid-mp3).avi_snapshot_03.42_[2013.04.30_18.26.08]
You know, for kids!
 and having to shoulder saving the world, worth sitting through childish stuff for. I’ve always liked stories that start sweet and childlike but are then brought in to dark realizations, like Grimm fairy-tales. Which when I put it like that, I just realized how similar it is to the next show on this list.



8- Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon_genesis_evangelionNow this is a big one. One of the bench marks of modern anime…that a lot of people really don’t like anymore. At least that’s the vibe I’ve gotten. Having only watched the show many years after getting into anime, I first heard it was the end all be all of anime… then I heard it was actually hugely overrated, way way up itself and pretentious, and the lead character was a whiny sack of shit. So going in with that much anti-hype tumblr_mo5l2017tO1r60ay5o1_500surrounding it and my expectations low, I really ended up loving the shit out of the show. Though I can see the faults, they are nowhere near the extreme the internet seems to think they are. Shinji isn’t as annoying as people say, he’s just a teenager.
So for those who don’t know, the show is a bit of a deconstruction of mecha anime, so it’s about teenagers piloting giant robots to save the world. You know like Power Rangers. But what set it apart from the literal hundreds of other mecha anime, was how fighting life or death battles with giant monsters on almost a daily bases actually had tumblr_nxezueV1I91uz28izo1_500ramifications on the pilots state of being. Rich with psychologically warped characters, philosophical undertones, themes of lost innocents and human existence, gorges but violent as hell fight scenes, and a butt load of abstract imagery; this is a far cry from “teenagers with attitude” who stay good natured social butterflies between bouts. Being so near death, under the stress of world saving, and on top of just being a teenager, takes its toll on everyone; mentally tearing them down fight after fight, till you completely sympathise when they have break downs, question the point of existence, and want to just run away.  neon-genesis-evangelion-the-end-of-evangelion-225x318

One thing I do have against the show is its plotting near the end, where everything just seems to happen way to quick; really important new characters are introduced and given almost no time to develop before the plot uses them, and ending itself does get a bit too abstract even for me. So I recommend watching the show then watching the movie The End of Evangelion. It redoes the ending, so that not only do the character’s arcs finish (though it does take them in different directions), but the plot actually ends too. Still not a straight forward ending, but there’s at least a bit more to it.    

And it has one of the best openings ever!


7- Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

anohanacd8162ccf28c4ea30b20c6d98695567cI’ve always liked stories based around old friends getting together years later, and seeing how they’ve changed. And I’ve also always liked mature looks at how people deal with hard emotions, like grief and loss. Both those things are at the core of this series. Five teenagers who grew apart after the death of their friend when they were children, slowly come back together after the washed-up leader of the group starts being haunted by her ghost, who only he can see. So as they start to work together to find a way to help the ghost pass on, they tumblr_n5hin1OKhd1r922azo1_500begin to gradually reconnect and have to finally face their feelings of loss and grief they have for her death and each other. If that description didn’t give it away, this is a very emotional series. It may be too overly sentimental for some, but with its likeable well developed cast, and its balls not shy away from the darker, psychological ramifications of losing a loved one, it’s a tearjerker that earns every tear. On top of that it taps into that childlike wonder only animation can, and will make you ache for those nostalgic days of playing tumblr_n1tki1hlB91sq9yswo1_500with friends you don’t see anymore. Beautifully animated and paced, and with enough laughs and charm to keep you engaged all the way through; I’ve always had a soft spot for animation that can make me cry, and AnoHana hits that spot and is razor sharp.



6- Time of Eve


Though only a 6 episode web mini-series, Time of Eve is one of the best pieces of science fiction I’ve ever seen. In a future where robots are near perfect human replicants and everyone has one as a servant like the latest Time of Eve 01iPad; the show is predominantly set in the titular café that does not and will not distinguish between humans and machine. Following two teenagers who start frequenting the café because of their own deep seeded issues with robots, each episode explores the boys getting to know the other patrons of the café, be them robots or humans, and in small ways they slowly discover how little that matters. Though the idea of robots with humanity and what tumblr_ml7ybr1Qb21rkdga9o1_500_zpsrlrhlzyvmakes us human are not a new idea, this show finds much smaller, nuanced ways to discuss it than I’ve seen before. There’s no big revolution, no robots fighting for their rights to party (though that is kinda background plot), it’s a character driven tale, where we’re introduced and learn about these people before discovering which they are, the answer usually being as heart-breaking as it is fascinating. At its heart the show is about humanity and prejudice; how we can only be human if you choose fdsvzdxzxzxto be, and the lead characters learning to move past their fear of self-aware machines.

Though all the episodes have been edited into a feature length film, I still recommend watching it as a series, as the pacing works much better that way.

Come again next week for my 5-1 and some Honourable mentions.

Why we love…BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad

BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad is one of those rare feats of fiction that gets music. It’s not just about music or musicians, it doesn’t just feature great music; it gets music. The power it has; the power to move people, the power to bring them together, and inspire you to take over the world (not literally). It’s like an anime Almost Famous.


The anime (and Manga but I’ll get to that) follows 14 year old Koyuki over the years, as he learns to play guitar, makes real friends, starts a band, and discovers who he really is…(it’s a coming of age anime, what do you expect). And unlike most shows/films about bands, this isn’t about them making it; for the majority of the show all they play in are dive bars and night clubs. The shows about the struggle, the struggle to learn, and to keep going against the odds, and about the bond Koyuki forms with the people he plays music with. It’s about the expression music can give you, as a global translator to reach everyone and anyone from any walk of life.


Beyond Koyuki and his life, the show also follows Ryusuke, the lead guitarist and leader of the titular band BECK, who is the other heart of the show. He’s Koyuki’s main inspiration to grow and become more comfortable with himself, to mature to a teenager with a clear goal in his life. While Ryusuke tries to go beyond that, developing from a teenager with a goal to an adult with an outcome, and dealing with those good or bad. The bad mainly resolving around a mafia subplot…go figure.

From left to right. Maho, Chiba (rapper), Saku (drummer), Koyuki (singer/rhythm guitar) , Flea I mean Taira (bass), and Ryusuke (lead guitar)

Outside of them, and with the exception of Koyuki’s love interest and Ryusuke’s sister, the passive aggressive badass Maho, the rest of the band don’t get much development. They’re presented to us as whole beings and they stay that way for the remainder of the anime (the mange is a different story, but I’ll get to that), hell the prototypical bully characters (it’s high school, they have to be there) gets some of the best development in the series. I wouldn’t call this so much a fault as just an occurrence, theres only so much time, so the focus needs to be where it needs to be. Nothing gained but nothing lost.

BECK is also one of those rare cases in anime that is….What’s the old saying? 40% of anime is better subbed, 30% it doesn’t matter either way, and only 10% of anime is better dubbed. BECK joins the ranks of Cowboy Bebop, Baccano, and Black Lagoon, which are just better dubbed, way better. This is thanks to a dubbing team who really gave a damn, and it clearly wasn’t a, ‘this is popular let’s put it in English’, it was a passion project for all involved, and it shows.


It shows most clearly in the amazing music and genuinely awesome songs. Most English dubs of anime about music, dub everything but the music, like K-on and NANA (another pretty good music anime), as its hard work to get new singers in, and translate the songs beyond awkward engrish, but BECK did. And it needed to really, as the songs aren’t just window dressing between the melodrama. Like real music the songs are character driven, and reflect a lot of the later themes and messages of the series. And the music’s just plane awesome. I own the soundtrack.

The band sound like the love child of Rage Against the Machine and Oasis, with Flea on bass. This is because they have two vocalists, the awesome and funny Chiba as the rapper, and our protagonist Koyuki as the singer. His singing voice being one of the main pushes of the series.   It’s not just that the songs sound good, they work perfectly in the plot too, representing what they need, be it the progression of the character, a relationship, or the band itself. The climactic song ‘Slip Out’ not only works beautifully as a representation of Koyuki’s development from hapless teenager to musician, but it also sounds like a classic song, like a Smells Like Teen Spirit or Wonderwall, a song that could define a generation.

Another way the Dub is smart is in its copyright, as unlike in a the Japanese production, the English couldn’t name drop all the bands and use all of the music it once did, so the Sex Pistols become Love Gun, Anarchy in the UK becoming Anarchy Britannia. And a kinda random but awesome I’ve Got a feeling cover becomes an original song by the anime’s Nirvana- esque stand in The Dying Breed, the band that inspired Koyuki to pick up the guitar. It’s a smart, character driven dub.

The quality ranging from simply pretty, to….that.

If I have to speak of some weakness for BECK, it’s slow to start. It takes its time introducing the characters, setting up the band, following Koyuki’s development as a guitar player, ect. All good stuff, but when I re-watch the series (and of course I don’t recommend this for new viewers) I skip the first 5ish episodes, just to jump into the build-up to Koyuki joining the band and the main plot getting underway. The animation is also pretty cheap a lot of the time but it was a cheap show, it’s rarely scene breaking, but for Anime fans used to their Madhouses, Studio Ghiblis, and what not, it may be a bit jarring.


Now the manga is slightly different. As I said the Anime isn’t about the band making it, it’s more about them doing it. And the manga is about that too, but it’s just a hell of a lot longer and follows all the ups and downs as the band…make it…and they do by no easy means. If you can find it I highly recommend the manga, it lacks the audio aspect obviously (which to a music based story is important) but it keeps going with the great characters, ideas and story much further than in the anime.


Leading to a lot more character development all around, Chiba (the rapper) especially gets focus as Koyuki writes more and more songs for his own voice, causing Chiba to have an existential crises about his place in the band, prompting an 8 Mile like arc of becoming an underground rapper.


There is also a whole host of fun new characters, mainly in the form of other bands they meet along their way to the big leagues, who help redefine how BECK see themselves, and expands the size and reach of the BECK world.


AND there’s even a live action film, and it’s a Japanese one luckily, so their history of anime to live action adaption is a lot cleaner than most. But even so the prospect of condensing a 26 episode anime into a two and a half hour film is daunting. But I’m pleased to say they did it pretty well, far from my favorite telling of the BECK story, but they make some smart choices to condense it and its worth a watch if you’re a fan and want to see a different take on it.


BECK isn’t just my favorite anime; it’s one of my favorite shows of any kind. And it could be yours too. So in the immortal words of Chiba… turn up that fucking guitar and keep on rocking!