Happy New Year!
Thing with next to no readers is I don’t feel pressured to write. Nonetheless, it’s enjoyable to consolidate thoughts into a cohesive post. Juggling a handful of exciting projects, life continues to be interesting. More shall be revealed in time. As for this post, I think more anime recommendations are in order.
First, a few words about the top ten list published in my lonesome 2014 post. Since that post, Yowapeda has concluded its season 2 (Grande Road). The heart-warming, feel-good trope has worn thin a bit, but the series continues to keep me, literally, at the edge of the gym cycling machine seat. It’s one of the better anime to watch while working out. I don’t know if there’ll be a season 3, but there’re compilation films of the seasons, with extra footages, for those who want more.
Similarly, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has concluded its third story arc – Stardust Crusaders. If you haven’t checked the series out, I recommend watching this arc at least. I pray to the anime gods that there’ll be more seasons, but I’m not holding my breath.
Kuroko’s Basketball also concluded its third season, and it was as spectacular and exciting as one could expect. The show has more or less become basketball players with superpowers duking it out, but it’s just popcorn-worthy fun watching those abilities getting revealed and countered. The last episode hints at a new season, and I’ll definitely be courtside when it airs.
On a slight down note, Hunter x Hunter has concluded, and I have to say, regrettably, that everything since my post has been a let down. As mentioned previously, the whole Chimera Ant arc has been head-scratching, and while the ending is a little cheap, at least the story’s complete. The worst is the Hunter Chairman Election arc that follows. It introduces whole bunch of new characters, raising my expectation way high for some interesting and intricately weaving storylines, only to end abruptly, leaving me high, dry, and unsatisfied. Well, At least the second-chair lead, Killua, to whom I’ve taken a liking more than the main character because of his more believable characterization and motivations, gets a chance to shine. The manga is of course on-going and seemingly never ending, but honestly, if the later story arcs are as weird and disappointing as these last two anime ones, I don’t think I’m missing much if they don’t do further anime adaptations.
Lastly, I want to issue a rare correction. Upon further reflection (and some rewatching), I’ve concluded that I’ve given Kill la Kill a much lower rank than it deserves. My reasoning at the time was that it contained too much blood, nudity, and general craziness to be recommended for the “mainstream.” However, I think a unique characteristic that separates anime from other entertainment media is its liberal use of silliness and hyperbole, so if you’re an anime fan, the outrageousness of this show shouldn’t bother you. I hereby officially change its rank to #2. It’s a show that simply shouldn’t be missed.
On with the new recommendations!
12. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! (Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE!)
12 episodes (season 1 complete).
I’m a huge comedy fan, so we begin the list with this silly show about five beautiful and magical high school boys, each with a nature-based superpower granted by a pink wombat from outer space, forming the “Earth Defense Club.” Their mission: prevent the “Earth Conquest Club” (run by other weirdly colored cute animals) from conquering Earth. If this sounds like Sailor Moon, that’s the whole point. If this doesn’t sound like something you want to watch, you’re wrong and missing out. Parody at its best. Season 2 has been announced.
11. Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
50 episodes (complete).
Yes, an oldie. I’ve always had an interest in Gundam (you — or I for that matter — don’t want to know how much money I’ve spent on Gundam models and toys), but I’ve only watched a few Gundam series in entirety. I found this full series subbed on YouTube with decent quality, so I gave it a look. If you can get over the cliched whiny main character, who refuses the mission at first but reluctantly accepts his calling later, the story’s surprisingly good and mature. Similar to other Gundam series, there’s a general theme of moral ambiguity, and characters aren’t always clearly delineated as good or evil. The apparent “bad guys” don’t seem so bad once viewer is introduced to their side of the story and given a chance to understand their motivations. Yes it’s a long series, but there aren’t really any filler episode like other long-running shows. Give it a try. By the way, probably due to its popularity, there’s a sequel series called Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny that furthers the story. I’ve watched a few of its episodes, but I find it too similar to the original that it has become boring. Maybe in a few years, after I’ve largely forgotten about the original, I’ll return to it.
10. Ushio and Tora
26 episodes (season 1 complete).
While there have been few OVA adaptions in the 90s, this is the 2015 TV series based on the eponymous manga, which, if I remember correctly, has been around since I was in elementary school (some 25 years ago). It’s about a boy, Ushio, who by chance (or fate?) frees the “Beast Spear” and unleashes a monster called Tora (tiger in Japanese). Ushio and Tora form an uneasy friendship and unlikely bond, as they take on other enemies, be they monsters or humans. The monsters are usually based on Japanese folklores, giving the show a very oriental theme. Season 2 coming in April. Title song is pretty metal.
9. Arpeggio of Blue Steel (Aoki Hagane no Arupejio)
12 episodes (complete).
Fleet of Fog Military naval vessels personified as girls. The concept is similar to Kantai Collection, a popular Japanese web game and franchise. There’s even a canon KanColle anime, but that show is trash. Arpeggio is far superior. The main character, the typical high school boy genius who excels at military tactics (if Japan had all these high school boy geniuses, how could they have lost the war), is bland if not annoying. However, the supporting cast, especially the “mental models” (personifications of the vessels), are terrific. The plot is gripping too. A lot of times an episode ends on a cliffhanger that leads to the “just one more episode” phenomenon. Fantastic animation and great character designs (I love you, Takao). The story of the anime differs from that of the manga, even has an alternate ending. There’re also two movies.
8. Akame ga Kill!
24 episodes (complete).
A boy travels from the countryside to the city to make money, only to be brutally awakened to the truth by the cruelty of the city folks. One thing leads to another, he joins the assassin group Night Raid, whose purpose is to end the current regime and its corruption. There’re few moments of comic relief, but overall it’s a pretty dark and mature show (both theme-wise and content-wise… you’ve been warned). Great action and fight sequences. Colorful and memorable cast, with one of the more sadistic yet beautiful antagonists in anime history.
7. Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon (Danjon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka, DanMachi for short)
13 episodes (complete?).
Story revolves around a boy adventurer, the sole member of the Hestia familia, who works hard in the Dungeon making ends meet. He falls for a fellow elite adventurer, while oblivious to the affections of other women toward him. Especially that of his own patron, the goddess Hestia. Plenty of references to mythologies of various cultures, most notably Greco-Roman. Yes, it’s yet another anime with the typical one-guy-many-girls trope, but the main character is hardly noticeable next to the tenacious and ever-so-cheerful Hestia, otherwise known as “lolipai,” or “loliboobs,” or “ribbon boobs” (you’ll get it first time you meet her). Don’t worry, the show has more meat than the apparent fan service.
6. No Game No Life
12 episodes (complete?).
The entire show is about games — not just video games but games in the most general sense. A brother and sister pair of undefeated gamers, bored by the lack of challenge in the human world, enter a fantasy world where playing games is the way of life. As an avid student of game theory, I watch this show almost as an educational program, if not for the excessive and sometimes border-lining illegal fan service. At least the art style is unique.
Now we’re moving from the “worth a watch” to “must watch” territory. Still with me?
5. Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma
24 episodes (season 1 complete).
Think: Iron Chef on steroids. Never have I seen food rendered and animated so well in non-photorealistic rendering. I mean, I get hungry after watching each episode. Anyway, the story is once again about a young boy, but this time the said boy wants to be a better chef than his old man, so he goes to an elite cooking school to improve his culinary skills. Oh yeah, there’s fan service too, in that almost every time someone tastes a good dish, he or she (most of the time a “she”) voluntarily gets naked and undergoes an orgasmic reaction, at least mentally. I know I make the show sound like a B-rated porn, but I promise, it doesn’t disappoint.
4. Haikyu!! (Haikyuu!!)
38 episodes (season 2 on-going).
This show would’ve made it to my 2014 list had I not just started watching it at the time I wrote that post. I knew it was good even back then, but I wasn’t comfortable placing it in the ranking until I watched more. Well, better late than never. It’s a sports anime about volleyball. However, unlike Kuroko’s Basketball, this is more realistic. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is life-like realism, and 10 is complete fantasy, if Kuroko’s Basketball were a 10, then Haikyu!! would be about a 3. Besides a good balance of comedy and feel-good sports theme, the animation and art direction really let the viewer feel the intensity of the back-and-forth of a match. The music is pretty good too, gotta hunt down a copy of the OST.
3. Fairy Tail
265 episodes (season 2 on-going).
Ah, one of the arteries of the anime scene. Besides Naruto, One Piece, and the waning Bleach, Fairy Tail has to be one of the bigger long-running series around. Took me long enough to finally get into this show, and I must say, it’s worth every minute! If Naruto is about ninja, and One Piece is about pirates, then Fairy Tail is about wizards. No, not the long-beard, pointy hat, Gandalf kind, but more like young, sexy, superhero style. Colorful cast (doesn’t hurt that most female characters are well endowed), good story, decent animation and music. On the surface Fairy Tail sounds like a typical long series with above-average production values. However, what sets it apart for me is the comedic timing. While series like Naruto and One Piece also try to be funny, they hit the spot inconsistently. Fairy Tail nails it. It’s so good at it that even the filler episodes are fun to watch. I’ve yet to find another similarly structured long series (i.e., non-episodic) for which I can say the same. At a time when watching Naruto feels like work (when will you end??), and One Piece drags its feet, I’m glad this show is there. I love you, Erza Scarlet.
2. Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu)
22 episodes (season 1 complete).
An octopus-like creature named Kurosei, who can move at Mach 20 (20 times the speed of sound, or more than 15,000 miles/hr), is teaching a classroom of “delinquent” students. As if that isn’t weird enough, Kurosei has destroyed the moon — making it a crescent permanently — and threatened to destroy Earth in a year. Since all attempts to kill him by the world’s governments have ended in failure, the only hope is for these students to assassinate him (now you get the title?). Besides the blatant mistake that just because most of the moon is destroyed doesn’t mean it’s always going to look like a crescent when viewed from Earth, this is a brilliant show. Again, a good mix of comedy, action, and some seriousness. Great music. But, the biggest draw is that the audience really feel the love Kurosei has for his students. He recognizes that each student is different and should be taught in a unique way (not unlike Confucius, I dare say), even though these are reject students of an elite school and abandoned to a remote classroom. It’s the underdog theme done right. Season 2 begins this week!
It’s difficult not making Assassination Classroom #1 of the list because I like it so much. In the end, though, I think my #1 pick pulls ahead just slightly because I can relate to it a bit better. So, without further adieu, here’s what I think the best show you should watch right now.
1. Himouto! Umaru-chan
12 episodes (complete?).
Why would a show about a spoiled, entitled, princess-brat named Umaru be my #1 pick? Simple. she’s that game and anime otaku that lives inside all of us (well, maybe not all…). Not only does she read manga, play a game all night ’til sunrise, she even blows into the Famicom (NES) cart! Despite her age, she has an old (gamer) soul like me. She just gets it. As I get older, social and familial obligations (not to mention physical limits) kick in, so I can no longer be the carefree gamer I once was… Ah, good ol’ days… Wait, what were we talking about? Oh ya. Umaru, despite seemingly selfish, actually shows a lot of love toward her friends and her older brother, who works hard as a salaryman and takes care of her (since she’s still in high school). I also like that the show doesn’t explain every feeling or incident in narration or dialogues. Some things just don’t need to be said, you know? And, of course, being probably the most adorable anime I’ve ever watched doesn’t hurt. I really hope there’s a season 2.
BTW, the word “himouto” is a pun combining “imouto” (little sister) and “himono,” which literally means “dried fish,” but in Japanese slang can mean a woman who is proper in public but lazy at home. Learn something everyday.
There you have it. Let me know if you like these recommendations. I know I went over 10 titles this time, but gimme a break, I only post like once a year. Before you go, just two more things. First, the #1 anime of my previous list, Attack on Titan, is starting its season 2 this April, so mark your calendar!
Second, I’ve started an Instagram channel called Anime Retro Games, where I post photos, videos, and music related to games and anime, with a bias for the retro. Sometimes I go into details about a game or anime that I really love, so I try to make it informative as well as entertaining. If you use Ig, check it out and follow me! Until next time, happy anime watching.