Five Modern Animes Every New Fan Should Watch
There's nothing wrong with getting into a hobby for the very first time. For every hobby we have that we consider ourselves somewhat knowledgeable of, there was a time when it was all new to us. I had yet another horrible "I'm aging" moment yesterday evening, when I counted up the years that I've been watching anime. It's been fourteen years. I've been watching fourteen years, and there's still dozens or hundreds of shows that I haven't gotten around to seeing yet. And when I thought about that, I thought: Wow. For any new fan, it's going to be the same -- except there's going to be even more shows that they are unfamiliar with.
Part of me is glad that I had a chance to grow up with so many great shows like Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball, and Ruroni Kenshin. But part of me also wishes I hadn't seen them: so that I'd have the opportunity to watch them fresh, for the first time. I almost wrote about that, originally -- anime that I feel nostalgic towards. In fact, don't be surprised if such an article shows up in the future. For now, though, I've decided to hold back on the 90s. Instead, I've decided to talk about some modern shows that every new anime fan should watch. If all goes well, we can be nostalgic about these shows together, ten years from now.
I personally consider Claymore to be one of the finest action-adventure animes of all time. In fact, depending on how you define that genre -- since genres are a pretty messy way of dividing things -- I'd venture to say it is very best. The balls-to-the-wall action along with a fascinating establishment of lore, in this medieval fantasy anime, are not what cause it to stand out thoug. What causes Claymore to stand out is the extreme grit of the series. I can't think of many shows that are this brutal, and then give you absolutely zero comedic relief. The action scenesd in Claymore are intsense, violent, and bloody. And when you think you're going to get a break, it enters flashback mode, where you learn a new reason to feel bad for a character. The desparity is used to bash you over the head for twenty-six straight episodes. But when it's done, you'll pick your jaw off the floor, and ask: Please, sir, may I have another?
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Haruhui Suzumiya took a lot of people by surprise. They were expecting something light, something fluffy, and something easy to digest. They got... well, about one and a half of those things. Haruhui Suzumiya is bundled as what might be described as a "highschool anime." All of the tropes and cliches are there, and to be honest they're pulled off well. The characters are likable, and the humor is dead-on. This is an example of a show that just makes me happy. It's a show that I can put on as background noise, and I'll suddenly just feel more comfortable with life. Oh yeah, it also has a complicated time travel story which is told non-chronologically, and its sprinkled with bits of hard science-fiction. If you haven't watched it yet, and you haven't seen for yourself how masterfully this has been pulled off, just know that it makes its way onto this list by being great -- not just by being weird.
When I was a kid, I had an active imagination. I spent countless hours daydreaming about flying through the sky like Goku, or about leaving home to become a Pokémon trainer. Both of these dreams kind of faded over time. I still dream about what it would be like to have a Death Note though. A notebook that causes whoever's name is in it to die? Sign me up for that. It's actually a pretty simple concept though, in theory. There are lots of ways to do a show built on this concept, and have that show be garbage. The strength of this series comes from its writing. The chess match that takes place between genius detective and prodigy serial killer is truly something special. The manipulation, scheming, and general awesomeness of Light Yagami garnered him a lot of fans. After watching the show, many of these fans were then forced to ask themselves "Wait, was I just rooting for a mass murderer?" The answer is: yes. And you probably will too.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
I've actually already done a detailed review of this series, which you can read here. But the shorter version is basically that Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the best shounen animes of all time. In fact, according to Anime-Planet.com it ranks as the number one most enjoyed anime series, period. This is not too surprising considering its large cast of likable characters, its excellent storyline, its exciting action sequences, and the fact that it all looks and sounds great. Part of the reason its included on this list though (aside from just being really good) is that its so accessible. Brotherhood is pretty much the opposite side of the action coin that Claymore is. It contains lots of humor, and it's just really full of life. Plus: alchemy is pretty damn cool.
Samurai Champloo is bizarre, really. It didn't strike me as such while I was watching it, and if I were to throw an episode on now, I probably wouldn't think about that again until it was over. But it was. The combination of Edo Japan and hip-hop culture, complete with "gangster" thugs, breakdancing ronin, and yakuza who tag with spray paint is absolutely ridiculous. You know what else it is? It's awesome. The juxtaposition of actual historic events with the journey of the main characters is pretty cool, and you just take all of the glaring anachronisms at face value. Samurai Champloo absolutely oozes style. It first aired in 2004, so it's beginning to lose its status as a "modern anime" but I really wanted to include it.