I used to watch a lot of anime. I’d get up every morning to record Pokemon and I was the kid who saved up their allowance to buy whole series composed of $30 DVDs. I also devoured series with the USC Anime Club during my college years.
So now that I’m too far away to justify making the trek to LA to hang with college kid otaku on weeknights and my tastes have evolved over the years, just what have I been watching recently and what do I plan to watch?
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
At first glance it looks like a generic cute magical girls show that is targeted towards older men. But it is anything but shallow.
The cute faces and designs hide a darker tale of psychological torment and struggle in which the main character Madoka and her friend Sayaka meet the alien life form Kyubey who promises to grant any single wish in return for their service as Puella Magi “magical girls” who fight witches that prey upon normal humans. But things aren’t as simple or straightforward as they seem to be ; At least if you’re human. There’s lots of legit angst going on in this series so be warned!
The series is 12 episodes long and I finished it all on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I think it’s a good series for a rainy day and that it shows the emotional strength of all the characters very well even if they’re crying half the time. Crying isn’t always bad. Since the series comes from Shaft and Aniplex, the animation is good quality and loves to play with surrealist elements and symbolism. The series just got licensed in America so it will be easy to find on the legal market in the next few months.
Gyakkyu Burai Kaiji: Hakairoku-hen (aka Kaiji 2)
Those who follow my twitter or tumblr know that this is the series that I am most committed to. I would seriously recommend watching the first season first but you won’t be completely lost if you don’t since it starts out with a new arc.It is a series for an older male audience but the female following dominates the fandom scene.
Kaiji is a psychological thriller gambling series based on the manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto. It is full of insane twists on familiar games and the first season left me shaking on the edge of my seat. It follows the trials and tribulations of Kaiji: an unemployed good-for-nothing who gets himself into massive debt via co-signing a friend’s loan.Â Faced with the options of either working his life away to repay the abysmal sum or gambling in high-stake games, he choses to participate in various gambles.
The second season picks up where the first one left off and introduces new challenges. They aren’t as suspenseful or high-risk as the first season’s since he’s already dropped to the bottom of the barrel but I still enjoy seeing Kaiji’s struggle to get out of his predicaments even if he makes some bad choices along the way.
The character design can seem “ugly” but it is makes each character very unique and the style grows on you. I think is a fresh break from cookie-cutter pretty boys and adds to the tone of the story about these imperfect men who are rough around the edges.
The series is animated by Madhouse Studios so the production value is super high. There’s no known number of episodes though it could be 26 like the first season.
The episodes are slow-paced but it is surprising just how fast one can go through them.Â Neither the first or the second seasons are licensed nor does it look like they will be in the near future due to its niche audience (same goes for the manga though fans have scanlated it). But don’t let that fool you: Kaiji is a diamond in the rough that deserves a watch if you can find it!
Tiger and Bunny
Don’t let the title discourage you like it did for me at first. It is a slice-of-life action show aimed at older audiences and has an extremely high female following.
The series takes place in a futuristic metropolis called Sternbild City where a group of people with super hero powers protect the city from evildoers on a live reality show while sponsored by major companies such as Pepsi and Amazon.
The story follows the fading veteran star â€œWild Tigerâ€ Kotetsu and the young rookie Barnaby Brooks Jr. (quickly nicknamed Bunny by Kotetsu to Barnaby’s irritation). The two are forced by their employer to work together and often do not see eye to eye on how a super hero should behave. There are plenty of parodies on well-known western superhero tropes and the characters are all incredibly well-rounded and likeable.
The story starts out light-hearted but gets increasingly dramatic and suspenseful with the addition of several contending psychotic villains so just keep watching. The series is so full of bromance that they usually insert Blue Rose (the girl in blue in the picture) into their promotional images to cater to the male audience. I don’t have a problem with that since Blue Rose is very kick ass anyways.
Tiger and Bunny is an original series done by Sunrise and is slated for about 19 episodes so far. It is available to watch on Hulu courtesy of Viz.
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt
This series is the bastard child of The Powerpuff Girls and South Park. PSG is a raunchy over-the-top comedy about two headstrong angel sisters named Panty and Stocking who were kicked out of Heaven due to bad behavior and who need to collect Heavens (a type of angel currency) via defeating evil Ghosts.
I highly recommend this series even for those not into anime because its humor is easily translatable for an American audience. Let’s face it, Japanese humor and storytelling sometimes don’t carry over well. Â There is a lot of crude toilet humor and references to American pop culture from Lady Gaga to Ren and Stimpy. The music is also top-notch quality house music. Do I also have to mention that there are pole-dancing transformation sequences?
The vulgarity of the series might turn some people off for the same reasons others find it awesome but it’s enjoyable for both girls and boys because the series don’t treat the girls like simple eye-candy. They might be shallow but it’s the same standard as fictional male characters are held to instead of the double-standard that fictional girls can fall prey to.
The series is an original animated by Gainex and though the style is â€œsimple and cartoonyâ€ for the majority of it, it’s incredibly well done. It is available on Crunchy Roll (a legal anime streaming site) and it was recently licensed by Funimation, which means the dub will be amazing and even more raunchy and hilarious than the original Japanese. It is 13 episodes long and a sequel is in the works due to its massive success in Japan and abroad.
I don’t watch as much anime as I used to because I’m far away from my anime-watching friends who keep up with the most recent series and because my tastes have changed and for once I seem to be on trend. Slice of Life anime are the trend right now for both sexes but it seems like the trend is also that girls flock to series centered around older men being men and for boys to like series about cute girls doing random things (Nichijou aka My Ordinary Life is extremely popular among my male friends right now).
I’m thinking about picking up Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai (We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower that We Saw That Day). But even that is considered old by now. Any suggestions from you guys?