According to Wikipedia an: "Otaku ( おたく / オタク ) (oh-tah-kooh) is a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, or video games." (1)
...And that description definitely applies to yours truly! And for this Blog entry, Ole Pappy W. will serve as your guide into the world of Japan's greatest import: ANIME! Well... next to ninja, shrimp flipping, hibachi grill, cooks. It's a close second. Let's get started!
Have you ever wondered what those crazy, blue haired, individuals you see roaming around that strange foreign cartoon section of DVD's at the local Best Buy are watching? Ever been slightly curious after seeing the special features from the Matrix why they mention Japanese animation as such a major influence? Perhaps your curiosity was so great you picked up one of those Japanese cartoons only to find that after you watched it you needed extensive therapy and a 12 bottles of Visine to get the images out of your eyes? Well, your in luck scared citizen. This list of awesome Anime pics is all for you!
It is true that without an Otaku Guide to help you pick a decent Anime your experience could be a nightmare that may require Years of deep Cognitive Behavioral intervention and that is why ole Pappy is here to help you avoid the pain and trauma caused the horror of watching Bad Anime Gone A-rye. Pappy's hear to tell you not all Anime is bad! No..Really! True and good Anime can be a rich and rewarding experience...one filed with flights of fancy and brave bold new adventures. So put off your reservation for just a little while and let me take you through a list of the good stuff. Hold on to your seats Space Cowboy! This list could just change your whole view of the many wonderful words of Japanese Animation.
The first thing you should know about Japanese animation is that it is not just one genre of entertainment. Japanese Animation covers not just kiddie cartoons but the whole gambit of genres. Unlike America, Animation in Japan is nothing more than another means by which viewers enjoy all genres and stories. And unlike the social shame felt here in the United States when one decides to read a Graphic Novel on a Bus or In Public, In Japan this is an every day occurrence and is often encouraged.
That's Right, In Japan even older people read Comics! They call there comics in Japan: MANGA. It is from these many Manga novels and comics that Anime got it's start. Not so here in the US. Thanks to the likes of Disney and Warner Brothers, The U.S. sees animation as solely the domain of young children and over-sized nerd fanboys. Which to many American fans of Anime is REALLY Freaking Frustrating! In Japan Anime is for everyone! It has every kind of genre from things for kids to really bad awful crazy porn fetishes. That's why it's important to know a thing or too about Anime before you go diving in and watching any old thing.
So with that being said lets look at some Amine that has been greatly admired for some time now by fans of the "Genres within a Genre":
1. Number one is Akira...an Anime film made in 1988 that dealt with fallout of a crazy post-apocalyptic Japan filled with an intrusive government, terrorists and rival motorcycle gangs. Akira deals a lot with the issues out of a post apocalyptic world and illustrates quite well the pains, thoughts and fears that have greatly affected Japanese Culture prior to World War II even to this day. The ending may be a little much for some American audiences but the visuals and action sequence may make up for that lack of Japanese sensibilities a non-anime watcher may have. So it's a good introduction into a different way of thinking about the role animation can play in it's expression of humanity. It also has a really sweet motorcycle! What more could you ask for! Akira is an R rated film for good reason and is not made for a child audience but It's an awesome film and well worth a watch for fans of the SciFi genre.
2. In no particular order (you should watch um all) is one of the most fun action pack SciFi, martial art, bounty hunting Anime's of all time...Cowboy Bebop. Cowboy Bebop is a series. Now in Japan most Anime shows or series do not go on endlessly until audiences get tired and stop watching. No, they usually run for an entire series and then end. Most of the arcs build toward a climatic finish and often resolve themselves entirely. If they do a movie, it usually takes place sometime between the series or after as an addendum to the story line and arcs established in the series. This is the case with Cowboy Bebop the movie. This way of making films from TV and not insulting the audience by reexplaining every little thing can be quite refreshing and unique for American movie goers. since you don't have to have your intelligence insulted every time your TV characters finally make it to the big screen. They assume if you like the movie you may want to go back and check out the series if you haven't already.
The cool thing about Cowboy Bebop the movie is that it does take place close to the end of the series and can be watched as a stand alone film or with the series as an added part of the overall series story arc.
The story centers around a rag tag crew of characters that make their living as bounty hunters who catch bad guys to make ends meet. Spike is a cocky, crazy haired, baddy who beats up, shoots and often flies his way into any situation to catch his bounty. Faye is the equally cocky and very conniving bounty hunter with a wit and sarcasm to match that of Spikes. Jet is the giant, older, but no less tough, owner of the spaceship (the Bebop) who, unfortunately for him, is the only real responsible member of the team. And then there is the odd and peculiar, computer genius, kid known as Ed. What can I say about Ed? Ed's a little loony to say the least and a lot of fun to quote randomly to people who have know clue what your talking about. "Lympho, Lympho, Lymphocytes"!
Whether you watch the movie or the series, Cowboy Bebop has got everything you need for a real good time. Space battles, gun fights, martial arts, and bounty hunters that often shoot first. The soundtrack is completely awesome and if you like jazz or catchy tunes it's not a hard soundtrack to find even in big chain stores. The series is PG-13 for the occasional bounty hunter expression of anger and occasional cheeky situation. But nothing you wouldn't see on prime time TV! Be warned... Cowboy Bebop, like crack, is very addicting.
3. Though many Anime flicks and shows are SciFi or Fantasy oriented, a lot of them are not. Which brings me to my third choice...Grave of the Fireflies. If your going to watch this movie you are definitely going to have to bring a box of Kleenex. This one's a tearjerker. This movie is by far the saddest Anime I have ever seen and I've had to watched Pokemon several times (nephew).
Grave of the Fireflies takes place after the bomb was dropped during World War II and deals with sharply and sadly of how two newly orphaned siblings struggle to survive. This film is more than critically acclaimed by Anime fans but film buffs of all kind. It's a touching tale about what happens to innocence in times of war and how the human spirit struggle to survive. Grave of the Fireflies is not Rated but is a PG-13 type story for the harsh subject matter.
4. Funny thing about Anime ...sometimes people have seen it and didn't even know they were watching it. Transformers, Speed Racer, Robotech and Battle of the Planets were all children's Anime slipped in with American animation and most people didn't even notice. The same is true for my next Anime choice...Spirited Away.
The folks at Disney in an attempt to appease their guilt at brainwashing Americans into thinking animation is only for children stretched out their big mouse-like hands and decided to distribute some real Anime classics by a great Anime artist known as Hayao Miyazaki. In Japan Miyazaki is a big name and so when Disney started playing distributing his films it was nice to see him get some the wonderful attention and addoration that he deserves. Most of Miyazaki's stuff is fantasy oriented and deal usually with young children in world of fantasy. I would recommend anything Miyazaki has done. But my personal favorite is Spirited Away. It's about a little girl who gets drawn into a world of odd, amusing and sometimes scary creatures. It's a beautifully illustrated movie and well worth a watch. Spirited Away is PG for its somewhat scarier characters but a very light PG!
5. My next pic is a Japanese Samurai Anime with a a Hip Hop Twist known as Samurai Champloo. Now, I don't have any clue what a Champloo is but I do know that I really like this series about a 2 samurai wielding, wild, Ronin-type guys and crazy young girl roaming the country side in search for a Samurai that smells of sunflower and might be the long lost father of the young precocious girl. Along the way they encounter many dangers and villains and sword dueling ensues! It's fun, snarky and full of action for 26 wonderful sword-wielding episodes. It is PG-13esk for that a fore mentioned sword-wielding oh.. did I mention the sword-wielding?
6. Are you a fan of Angel and Buffy? If so, this next Anime is for you! It's called Witch Hunter Robin. True to it's title, Witch Hunter Robin is about a special government task force that hunts down secret cases involving magic users. Robin is a young girl with a special talent for fire-starting who helps her team catch these genetically altered magic users. This show is not as dark or occult as one would think. The magic users are only able to use magic because they carry a very special gene. The show is more like Bones meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with a much more serious and dramatic take on the the whole hunting bad guys genre.
like most Anime Series, it's 26 episodes and its very well drawn. Like Buffy or Angel , the subject matter would make this a strong PG-13 and depending on your views on fictitious magic this may not be for you but if you like a good ole cop/monster catching agent show Witch Hunter Robin is the one for you.
7. Last, but by no means least, is a little film that inspired the Warchowski Brothers' Matrix Trilogy and by inspired I mean totally ripped off and when I mean ripped off, I mean everything from the green scrolling letters at the beginning to being hardwired to the net in the back of the head. The film is called Ghost In the Shell (GITS for short) and is about a secret Japanese government agency known as Section 8 that deals exclusively with cyber terrorist, cyber criminals and the occasional computer that decides to go sentient and kill a bunch of people. In this future, people have cyberneticly enhanced their bodies to the point where they are more machine than they are flesh. Some have even made the complete transfer to a cybernetic body. Everyone can hardware into the net in the back of their head and or recreate themselves in both the virtual and the real world. It's a beautiful mix of both animated hand-drawn images and realistic computer graphics. If you watch this film and don't at least think "wow how beautiful" then perhaps Anime is not for you. It has everything from guns, tanks, aircraft battles to martial arts and government espionage.
The original movie was based on the series of Japanese Manga Comics created by a Japanese Frank Miller-like equivalent known as Masamune Shirow. His Ghost in the Shell Manga has gone on to inspire this movie, it's sequel, as well as a series that is based more on the original Mangas than the films were.
The two films are one take on the Manga and the 2 series are another take on the Manga. It's kind like how they did the Superman Returns film based on the Superman comics but it had nothing to do with the TV show Smallville; which was also based on the comics. But to make it a little confusing the Ghost in the Shell Series did their own movie that ties to their show. So it would be like if they did a Smallville movie.
So Where to start? Start with this first movie.... If you like it, watch the first Series called Ghost in the Shell stand Alone Complex. Remember they are not tied together but they are very similar. So keep in mind that the series will not build towards the movie at all but relies more on the Comic Mangas for its inspiration.
If you still like the first series and your starting to get GITS withdraws, watch the second series called Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG.
If by now you are addicted and you can't get enough, watch the TV film called Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. Solid State Society. This film will tie in the show so don't confuse it with the movies.
After you've sold your blood to get another fix of GITS Anime, your family has left you and it's still not enough, watch the sequel to the original movie. since it's all that is left. You may have to go back and watch the first film because this is it's sequel and has nothing to do with the series. I leave it for last since it's not nearly as good as the rest of the stuff but what do you care! At this point, your an Addict!
For you N00b's to Anime, it's probably best to just stick with first movie and maybe the series But I'm tell you it's addictive so don't be shocked if you a make it all they to the bottom of the list!
So there you have it... Uncle Pappy Wolf's Otaku List for Non-Anime Lovers! Feel free to let us know your favorites or what you think of our picks. We'd love to hear from you! Just don't blame Pappy if you find you want to dye your hair blue and hang out in that strange section of the Best Buy!
References and Guides