I was musing on my favourite anime series and just for my own amusement, started to make a list. I decided I would post it … but this is obviously for a desert island with a wind turbine to power my electronics, and not too much sand and humidity.
Devil Hunter Yoko
The first anime I ever owned — an English-dubbed VHS bought for me by a friend. This was the start of the addiction. (Needless to say, thank goodness for dvd; subtitles, subtitles, subtitles, so that once can listen to real actors, incomprehensible though the words may be, rather than self-conscious monotone Americans putting on strange kiddie cartoon voices.) Anime led to manga led to … Sword of Ice and Shadows, ultimately.
[Okay, as I am writing this, my Spousal Equivalent has leaned into the room to say, “Did you know that the first high-pressure steam engine exploded due to eels?” I have now completely lost my train of thought.]
Irresponsible Captain Tyler
My second anime. A space opera about a very-laid back young officer from the pension department who is given command of a ship, the Soyokaze, during an interstellar war, and manages to get it posted to the demotion sector. It has wonderful episode titles: “The Happy Pensioned Life”, “Life is Short So Girls Should Kill”. They end up with the enemy empress hanging out on their ship. I used to drive an ex-police Crown Victoria named the Soyokaze. (It makes a cameo appearance in The Cassandra Virus.) Tyler is a very funny anime which has the ability to make you pause and assess what’s really important in life.
Full Metal Panic
My favourite “giant robot battlesuit” anime. A young soldier from a secret organization called Mithril is sent undercover at a Japanese high school to protect a girl with strange, mystical knowledge of advanced technologies. That aspect is never satisfactorily developed: why do these teens have this mysterious knowledge? But the story is a lot of fun; Sosuke is a former child soldier from one of the “-stans” in the former USSR, and has never known a proper childhood, or peace. The show is a combination of comedy rooted in this culture clash, and political/military drama. And high school romance, of course.
Kazimakaze Tsukikage Ran
A quiet, reserved female ronin with an excessive appetite for sake wanders Japan accompanied by a bouncy and irrepressible Chinese martial artist.
From the Cowboy Bebop team, a samurai story, which combines historical accuracy (from around the time of contact) with humorous anachronism. A girl sets out on a personal quest for a samurai she can only identify by smell, and forces two ronin who loathe one another to accompany her as bodyguards.
This is based on my favourite manga. The story diverges from the manga plot early on, but tells a good story of its own, so it’s interesting to compare the two. It’s set in a secondary world that is rather like Europe between the wars, with alchemy and “automail” prosthetic limbs. Two brothers, both alchemists, who have committed a great sin against the principles of alchemy by trying to bring their mother back from the dead, are on a quest to get the body of the younger brother back. The elder becomes a state alchemist, a “dog of the military”, to do so. The younger brother is a disembodied soul bound to a suit of armour.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and 2nd Gig
Cyborgs and complex politics. One of my very favourite animes (and manga). Shirow Masamune peppers almost every page of his manga with footnotes or marginalia explaining or expanding on things. Even the episodes need footnotes and repeated watchings to sort out everything that’s going on, but in my view, that’s not a flaw. It’s nice to have a complex story that requires thinking.
A lovely fantasy set in the past, full of demons and heroism. Kagome, the teenage reincarnation of a priestess from about five centuries before, is drawn into the past and sets out on a quest with the half-demon assumed to have killed that priestess.
Science fiction set in our solar system: bounty hunters in space. One of the all-time great animes. I can’t say how many times I’ve watched this series — many. An ex-policeman from Ganymede, a gangster from Mars, a young woman frozen for medical treatment in the past and revived in a future where she has nobody and nothing but massive debt, and is also suffering from (pace Bujold) cryoamnesia, a genius child who lives in a world of her own, and a genetically engineered dog, all loners who end up together, trying to make a living by capturing wanted criminals. Each story stands on its own, but as the series goes along, more elements of the characters’ pasts are woven into it. Great music by Yoko Kanno too.
My favourite of the Ghibli movies. Set in Italy between the wars as Fascism rises, the story tells of a First World War pilot who appears to have become a pig. Air pirates on the Adriatic!
Teenage girl assassins. There are lots of similar-themed anime, which is pretty disturbing, really, but this one has a really good story, and music by Yoko Kanno.
Hero: a vampire who feeds on vampires Vatican priest former genetically engineered soldier-colonist from Mars … quid multa? A very Renaissance Vatican, with a teenage pope whose elder sister and brother are both cardinals. Nuns with guns. Android monks. Europe in a late Roman political state, Eastern and Western empires, but Constantinople is ruled by a vampire empress.
I liked the first anime series that was done. The second one followed the manga much more closely, but I actually didn’t like that as much. The first one was quite funny, as well as filled with complex politics. Vampires again, but this time, anti-papist ones. I love the way they’re always going into battle against vampires and zombies “For God and the Queen”. Anglican vampires bound to fight for God, England, and the Queen against Jesuit conspiracies and neo-Nazis. Very Renaissance. Sort of.
Very realistic science fiction about cleaning up space junk. And if that doesn’t sound very exciting, just remember that a tiny floating screw can destroy a satellite. There’s romance, drama, humour … and it’s really rare to find serious, non-space-opera or distopian science fiction in any medium these days. This is the kind of thing Arthur C. Clarke might have done.
A well-endowed teenager is the reincarnation of a master samurai who brings healing and restoration rather than death.
A middle-school girl wakes up one morning realizing she has become a god. A schoolmate, one of those girls from a family shrine, decides that if she’s a god, obviously she needs a manager. Poor Urie may be a god, but she just wants to tell the calligraphy club’s sole member that she likes him. Along the way her cat gets possessed by a poverty god and she brings home the soul of the Yamato. It’s the sort of story that seems very quiet and light, but watching it can always make me feel better when I’m down.
Another light-hearted high school story, in which, well, nothing really happens, but it’s very, very funny and charming. It lead me to invent a recipe for “raspberry mimi caki”.
Wolf and Spice
A strange, strange anime. A merchant and a wolf-girl wheat goddess wander a medieval-esque, Europe-esque world while lecturing the audience on economics and currency exchange. Every time a plot starts to arise, it seems to die away again or get resolved between seasons, and yet — somehow it’s entertaining.
Witch Hunter Robin
Complicated conspiracies within conspiracies. People with supernatural powers rounded up and taken away, never to be seen again. This is a story about standing up to evil and oppression, in the end. The heroes dare to question the view of the world they’ve been given, and to choose for themselves what is right.
Read or Die
British Library Special Ops?!! Wow. Heroes with a magical ability to manipulate paper. Bibliomaniacs. This anime has given my family the term “bookquake”, which is what happens when a large stack of books (or manga) falls on one as one tries to edge through one’s study. Mr Wicked causes a lot of bookquakes. I don’t know about not having enough room to swing a cat, haven’t tried it (the Official Guest Cat might object), but there’s definitely not enough room for a medium-large dog to make a three-point turn.
Mystic genetically-engineered girl, reformed assassins, plots and counter-plots … lots of fun.
Mystic genetically-engineered girl, unreformed assassins, spaceships … also lots of fun.
Sort of a space western, with doughnuts and insurance adjusters with big guns. Oh yes, and people ride giant birds.
One of the first computer-animation animes, I think. An interesting flooded future world.
Hack Sign Twilight
Virtual reality role-playing game, with plots and conspiracies, mysterious things going on beyond the game.
From the Blue Submarine team. Mystic genetically-engineered girl, sort of steampunk airplanes, a world that seems to be dying from ecological disaster … but what is it with these mystic girls who are actually a vital machine component? We call it the “girl in tank” motif. Last Exile has a great soundtrack, too.
Nuns with guns in Depression-era America. A war against “the devil and all his works”, fought by a young nun and a devil who is in love with her. Someone ought to write a thesis on “Christianity in Japanese manga and anime”. It would be a fascinating study.
Well, that’s quite a long list … that’s enough anime for one desert island, I guess.