The Stumbing Critic: Anime 101

The Stumbing Critic: Anime 101
By STEVEN WALTER

Movies became a primary focus of my reviews because film is an easy medium to criticize. A small part of my day can be spent in a theater and a few hours of content are easily encapsulated. One might assume that movies are my passion, but watching anime supersedes film for me. Despite the global popularity of anime, most folks I encounter don’t watch it for a plethora of reasons.

As a style of animation, anime can turn people away with incredible proficiency. Additional misunderstanding about content (distinguishing between normal anime and pornographic anime) causes further stigma against a legitimate medium.

Character archetypes and clichés can plague the best anime has to offer. Unfortunately, one must deal with these clichés because finding anime without them is difficult; however, let us remind ourselves that all mediums have clichés. Below is a list of anime curious individuals should watch instead of diving in head first.

Movie poster for ‘Spirited Away.’ Courtesy/moviepostershop.com

Hayao Miyazaki films: Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Any Miyazaki film has no content that would cause a non-anime viewer to stop watching. The four mentioned above are my favorite films and a great place for an anime beginner to start. The obnoxious clichés that flood new anime almost don’t exist in these films. Having not seen of all of Miyazaki’s other films, I can’t speak for their quality. Note: Miyazaki and two others founded Studio Ghibli, but not all of movies from that studio are directed by him.

Cowboy Bebop

This is an amazing anime, one of the best ever made. I know the gravity of such a statement, but Bebop set a bar of quality that few anime have come close to surpassing. Given the setting, characters and plot, this is perfect for non-anime viewers. There’s almost no fan-service (silly sexual asides) or idiotic character archetypes that cause me to smash my head into the wall. In addition to a great show, its soundtrack is unbelievably good.

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing

The Gundam franchise developed the anime science fiction genre known as “Mecha.” It involves people piloting large human shaped robots that fight each other, usually in a war against aliens or other humans. Wing is a spin-off set in an alternate timeline to the original show. By the time Wing was released, Mecha clichés had solidified, thus this anime has many: teens piloting the suits, earth warring with the colonies, and the angsts of war.

Thankfully, Wing subverts those clichés to produce an engaging story. Politics and moral ambivalence play a greater role in Wing than in previous installments. When this anime came to the U.S. in 1998, it propelled the popularity of anime. I became a fan of anime because this show, thus Wing should be more accessible to non-anime viewers.

‘Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust’ movie poster. Courtesy/wikipedia.org

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

Real gothic horror doesn’t find its way into film very often, even less in anime. This is easily one of the best vampire movies produced. The unique drawing style creates a strange world where fantasy and technology weave together. I didn’t know this was an anime on my first viewing many years ago. Those new to the medium should enjoy this film.

Akira

I am reluctant to put this movie on the list. This movie far exceeds the limits of weird even for anime. However, two very important reasons compel me to keep it on. Akira’s historical significance can’t be ignored.

This movie came out in 1988 and introduced the world to anime on an epic scale. We can partly attribute anime’s rising global popularity to this film. Suddenly anime wasn’t just for kids.

Its weirdness provides an excellent barometer. Technically, Akira was the first anime I ever saw and scared the poop out of me. The ending destroyed my innocent defenses. However, there is nothing pornographic, so teens can watch. If one can watch this movie and enjoy it then almost no anime will be questionable.

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