So your holiday gift certificates are burning a hole in your pocket, but you don’t want to be hasty. What are you looking for? Good anime for the permanent collection? Well, I’m always looking for the same thing, too, but I freely confess that I don’t always have time or money to check out each new one hitting the market. I do look for bests – best shojo, or girl’s anime, best shonen, or boy’s anime, best for humor. And if I really enjoy it, it goes on the “watch for a sale” list.
After five months of anime watching, and reviewing, I can tell you certain things about certain anime. But this report will miss some anime. I haven’t watched all of FULL METAL ALCHEMIST, or INUYASHA, or THE LAST AIRBENDER, or MORIBITO – I’ve seen many episodes of BLEACH and NARUTO, but there are lots more to come. Still – for certain audiences, here are some anime worth your time AND money. Again, the first and foremost requirement is good storytelling, followed by good characters and good artwork.
Do you want something for young girls with humor, good storytelling, a touch of romance and mystery? FRUITS BASKET will fill the bill. The manga gets much darker as it goes along, but that will give plenty of time for thinking and growing up with the characters. In the anime it’s fun to see the characters come to life, the music is wonderful, the characterization spot on and intriguing. Boys will stand a good chance of liking this one – it’s not mushy, and has strong male protagonists. The fighting is martial arts, and minimal in the overall storyline.
Need action for the boys on the list? BLEACH will satisfy their desire for swordplay and blood, and so far most of the characters seem to be surviving the storyline, although the characters do sustain injuries that mere humans wouldn’t survive. Fortunately, most of them are shinagamis (soul takers) so human survival is merely a detail. There’s a lot of humor in some, but not all episodes, and a touch of romance, although our hero Ichigo is too young to admit any interest in his childhood friend, much less the pretty soul taker he made friends with.
Want to satisfy young girls and young boys, and the budget will only stand one purchase? Get them the first DVD of the series INUYASHA. Plenty of adventure, humor, promised romance down the line, battles with demons – something for everyone, with wonderful artwork, characters that will slowly mature and gain new strengths, and a liberal dose of Japanese mythology.
Ready to invest in an entire box set? For my money, story fans need these three in their collection – PRINCESS TUTU, THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU and THE TWELVE KINGDOMS. Only Princess Tutu is an original anime – the other two are based on popular young adult Japanese novels. How to choose? Who are you buying for? If you want it for both boys and girls, if the boys are all right with a female heroine starting things off, I’d say SAIUNKOKU. A good mix of drama, humor, adventure and romantic promise, with plenty of well-fleshed out characters of both sexes, SAIUNKOKU has something for everyone. This is not American animation pacing, where everything is wrapped up by dinner. I’ll warn you – the romance elements do not resolve in this first season, and the books haven’t been translated, although there is something like 14 of them. I’m hoping that we can sell enough of the anime that the books will get translated! Plus a second season of SAIUNKOKU exists, although it currently is not subtitled.
THE TWELVE KINGDOMS also has a female heroine leading the way into the Twelve Kingdoms, but there’s a good mix of swordfights with monsters, world building, and simply ideas – about reality, imagination, a world where the Heavens determine rule by mandate – fantasy gamers will enjoy the complexity of the world. But this has Japanese pacing, and will move too slowly for action-all-the-time viewers. It has some magic in it, and the magical kirins who choose the rulers are a dominant note, but in many ways this is more about an alternative world that uses Chinese mythology and history as its basis. There’s humor, but not constantly, and no romance in the first 45 episodes. Still, it’s next on my purchase list. Three of the six novels have been translated into English, with a fourth translation due to release in March, 2010.
PRINCESS TUTU is the crown jewel of story, the five star series, and the one that constantly amazes as you go deeper into the tale. It has a silly title, as far as Americans are concerned, but there is nothing fluffy about where this series will take you. The first episode tries to fool you into thinking that it’s just a silly shojo anime. Uh-uh – hang in there. Humor, romance, adventure, and a host of darker emotions will take you on a roller coaster ride. At the halfway point, you’ll wonder if the story is over. Then it just gets better. It’s a fairy tale about hope, and worth every minute of your time. The manga, a later production, is very different and a less successful story.
You’ll find reviews of most of these titles in my previous posts. I’m currently simultaneously watching the last season of InuYasha online (in Japanese with subtitles – it’s been captioned for English speakers simultaneously with its first Japanese appearance) and starting over at the beginning online and on Netflix. That’s why I’ve tossed the series into this mix – the production quality remains high, even in the movies, although in the movies I prefer the Japanese voice tracks to the English tracks. And the kids don’t get tired of the interactions of rough-hewn InuYasha, sweet and strong Kagome, lecherous Miroku, determined Sango, cat demon Kirara and trickster fox demon Shippo. This series does have the occasional skimpy costume, or pat on the butt, but the girls keep the boys in order, and in today’s tell-all environment the InuYasha series is definitely a G overall (PG for younger children – some of the monsters and battles are fairly intense.) This story meanders on its way to the end, but kids will enjoy it all. Chances are good that you’ll like it, too.
You’ve got my list – if you want anime story, it’s PRINCESS TUTU, THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU, THE TWELVE KINGDOMS, FRUITS BASKET, and finally INUYASHA. I won’t be posting for a while here at BVC, but I will continue to watch and to write. Eventually I’ll be back with more reviews, but in the meantime, there’s several hundred hours of anime mentioned here. Get started on it!