Aug 29 2013

5 Shows to Change Your Mind about Anime

Published by at 11:00 am under Columns,Television

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At one point I was toying with the idea of making a list of anime clichés that I’m fed up with to post on this site. Then it struck me that there isn’t really a ton of anime love on Unreality in spite of the focus on geek culture, and it just seemed wrong to come here and bash an entertainment medium whose flag I proudly fly when I could focus on the positive instead.

While Japanese animation certainly has a lengthy list of tropes that are often instantly off-putting to Westerners and become tiresome after a while even to the hardcore fans, there is no shortage of series that buck these trends and create something really unique and special that can and should be appreciated by a wide audience.

The fact is that the genre as a whole has an image problem in the West the likes of which comic books and video games wouldn’t trade places with in a million years. As much as I hate to give them credit for anything, Disney’s wide distribution of Studio Ghibli’s films has been a step in the right direction, but outside of those family films most people picture lame kiddie toy commercials like Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh or pornographic hentai and the occasional nondescript teenagers-flying-around-in-giant-robots show when they hear the word “anime”.

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The truth of the matter is that Japanese animation consists of thousands of titles covering every possible genre and inventing several along the way. It’s a medium as varied as film and television, and in much the same way the best you’ll ever find is the stuff you have to dig for. Relying on American television to air high quality anime is a losing game, with Toonami/Adult Swim being an occasional exception.  Assuming all anime is like Naruto or Dragonball Z is the equivalent of watching Jersey Shore and concluding that all American television must be for like-minded meatheads.

So today I’m going to try and spread the love a little bit by sharing some of the coolest and most interesting titles of the past several years. Anime shows that shirk the clichés of giant robots, nerds with ten different kinds of sexy girls fighting over them, ridiculously prominent breast physics, over the top powers, childish depictions of romance, and the like.

These are some true originals that stick to the basics of great fiction: great characters with great stories; and they often contain complex themes that you seldom see even in the most sophisticated Western series. If that isn’t something you are interested in, then you are doing life wrong.

Eden of the East

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Here’s the concept on this one: an eccentric wealthy man selects eleven individuals, gives them each ten billion yen and asks them to reverse the plummeting fortunes of Japan in any way they see fit. He also gives each of them a cell phone linked to an AI supercomputer with pretty much unlimited power that will do anything that they ask.

It’s an interesting idea to begin with, but the creativity and originality this series exhibits is stunning. The Seleção (as the chosen are called) are wildly varied and their strategies range from serial killings to terrorism, philanthropy, and political power grabs, to name a few. But the series’ protagonist has the most interesting strategy of all.

Akira Takizawa’s vision for a better Japan is one where it harvests the capabilities of Japan’s NEETs (Not in Employment, Education, or Training…essentially, losers) to rebuild the country’s political system and separate it from its troubled past once and for all.

Eden of the East is the name of a cell phone app that acts as an online pooling of knowledge where you post a picture of anything or anyone and everyone updates it with anything they know about it, like a visual Wikipedia. This turns out to be an important tool in Takizawa’s quest and the immense conglomeration of knowledge resulting from small individual contributions serves as his inspiration.

So Eden of the East as a narrative is kind of a celebration of our generation’s mastery of technology and an illustration of the potential of even the biggest losers among us as part of something bigger than themselves while maintaining the importance of the individual. The series began with a thirteen episode television series and was concluded with two feature films, all of which are currently available for streaming on Netflix.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hiWvHuIGhQ

Nana

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One of my biggest complaints about anime (and Japanese pop culture in general) is their typical portrayal of romance. Too many idealized yearning platonic romances going on there for sure. There needs to be a realistic medium between nasty hentai and grade school puppy love, but too often there isn’t.  I need something I can relate to once in a while. And if it could have some seriously rocking music involved and make me laugh my ass off that would be a bonus.

Nana is one of the most compelling shows I’ve seen in years. Two young women from different walks of life meet on a train to Tokyo, each chasing different dreams. One wants to be a rock star, the other seeks romantic fulfillment. They are both named Nana and end up sharing an apartment together. It’s often not the grand gestures, but the smallest coincidences that change your life forever.

This series is extremely relatable for young adults. If I had to compare it to any existing show, I’d have to go with HBO’s Girls, because I feel like both shows come from the same place of portraying their characters as extremely flawed individuals who are nevertheless deserving of love as they struggle through life grasping at any semblance of happiness they can find. Nana is probably the closest thing I’ve seen to real life in animated form.

It will make you smile and laugh, and then it will rip your heart out before putting its arms around you and telling you everything will be all right. For me, Nana was that rare rollercoaster ride of emotions and human experiences that seems to sum up the meaning of life, which is to say that it is whatever you make of it. And like I said before, the music is freaking awesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJ-SpKD0Fq8

Black Lagoon

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Picture Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and John Woo collaborating on an animated series, if you would. That pretty much sums up Black Lagoon; one of those shows you feel bad for the rest of the world for not knowing about. It’s a rare merging of style and substance that makes you want to rave the second you get off of the couch after watching it.

A Japanese businessman, Rock, gets kidnapped by a crew of pirates while on a business trip. Instead of paying the ransom, his bosses decide to cut their losses and exterminate him along with the kidnappers, lest his knowledge of the company be used against them. Our hero develops a bit of Stockholm syndrome and ends up joining the crew of the Lagoon Company: pirates, smugglers, and escape specialists extraordinaire. But can Rock maintain his soul’s innocence while running with the devil?

The figurative devil in this case comes in the form of Black Lagoon’s poster girl, Revy –nicknamed “Two-Hands” for her prowess with dual pistols. She’s psychotic, foul-mouthed, reckless, and made entirely out of badassness. Her complicated relationship with Rock (who she alternately despises yet reveres as some sort of avatar of hope) forms the cornerstone of the series, but almost every character to play a part in this series is instantly memorable.

For a show with the tagline “Violence, swearing, bravado, and gunplay” on the box, Black Lagoon delves into some depressing philosophical territory. It’s not just cool and filled with some of the best action scenes around; it’s actually kind of brilliant. After being out of print for a while, Funimation re-released both seasons on Blu-ray and DVD and the follow-up miniseries Roberta’s Blood Trail, a complex tale of vengeance from one of season one’s standout characters, was just released after years of waiting. After shutting up, they took my money.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mbDsYsek8g

Paranoia Agent

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Spare a moment of silence for the late, great Satoshi Kon. After a spotless career of insanely creative animation, we lost him a few years ago. His films included the incredible Perfect Blue (Black Swan was originally conceived as a remake of it), his beautiful tribute to the history of Japanese cinema, Millennium Actress, and the critical darling dream journey, Paprika. But even more than those masterpieces, his television show Paranoia Agent is among the most underrated and conceptually brilliant animated works of all time.

While on the outside, Paranoia Agent appears to be about a talking plush dog and a kid with a baseball bat who is terrorizing a city, the genius is that these two things are in actuality two sides of the same coin. After all, mainstream media performs two functions for our government: to keep us distracted, and to keep us scared. As long as those two things are accomplished, we will do as we are told. And that’s just one of many themes that presents itself over the course of the show.

The series follows several characters, most of which suffer from some form of psychosis. One episode I particularly enjoyed features a woman with split personalities who leave threatening message for one another on her answering machine. That is just a whole new kind of creepy. Another episode follows an eclectic group of internet friends who made a suicide pact but can’t find just the right way to off themselves. Talk about twisted humor. There’s even an episode about a kid who can’t differentiate video games from reality.

In spite of having aired on Adult Swim, this is a show that failed to take off in America, and that makes me sad. It has one of the most cerebral black comedies you’re ever likely to find and it’s a crime that it’s out of print at the moment. But it’s still very findable online…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uYmKfteXig

 

Death Note

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What would you do if you were given the power to anonymously kill any person whose name you knew? In the internet age of incivility, it’s a chilling thought. In Death Note, the protagonist, Light Yagami (who takes on the pseudonym “Kira”), decides to do the world a favor and eliminate crime by putting the literal fear of God into them after he discovers a notebook that will bring death to anyone if their name is written inside of its pages.

Naturally, this opens up a Pandora’s Box of moralist debates and calls into question the meaning of the word “justice”. As the number of mysterious deaths rises, a special team is put together in an attempt to find the source, and that’s when things get good. After all, Light’s own father is a policeman on that team. The complex mental chess match that unfolds between Kira and his mysterious pursuer “L” -who doesn’t use his name for obvious reasons- in particular makes up the core of the series and keeps the viewer in perpetual suspense in a way I’ve seldom seen.

While most of the rest of the anime on this list are somewhat obscure outside of fan circles, Death Note was a massive worldwide hit. The manga was even banned from schools in places because after becoming an irl meme where students made their own Death Notes to wish death upon one another and their teachers.  It is also only anime I can think of offhand with a successful live action adaptation.

The show is a stone classic and is pretty much universally loved. I have personally made addicts out of multiple people at my work, who have passed it on. It’s just one of those shows that comes along once every so often and can do no wrong.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P7xQa3CySA

For some random and less intellectually dense honorable mentions I’m going to give props to the vampire-fueled horror action of Hellsing Ultimate, the sweet rock and roll of Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, the romantic sci-fi comedy Please Teacher, the twisted samurai tale Shigurui Death Frenzy, and the ninja warfare of Basilisk just to name a few more personal favorites.

This isn’t even anime’s final form. In fact, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Animation is the most imaginative of all possible variations of visual entertainment because the only limit to what it can put onscreen is the human imagination.  Nobody does animation consistently better than Japan, and the biggest reason for that is that nobody ever told them it was only for children.

The medium is struggling again in America. After a massive influx, the industry tried to grow too fast and the result was companies going out of business, and numerous titles going out of circulation. It’d be a real shame to see anime retreat back to Japan simply because the general public doesn’t know what they are missing and the fans are pirating because they are too impatient to wait for the American releases.

So do both of us a favor and take a few of these guys in. Almost all of them have outstanding English dubbed versions, so subtitles aren’t an issue. There’s an entire world of fantastic animated films and shows for every taste out there just waiting to be discovered. Unless you’re too chicken, of course.





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50 responses so far

  • Chris

    No mention of Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo? Those are what got me into anime (beyond watching and loving DBZ as a kid). Still, really great titles here and now I feel like I have to check out Eden of the East.

  • Vonter

    I’ll also have added Monster, since that’s the most serious and realistic anime out there (As far as I’ve seen). It’s a mystery thriller story that centers around the theme of the monster inside each of us. It’s also has beautiful shots of Europe (Germany, Czech Republic).

    Also Guillermo del Toro is going to be producing a live action series for HBO. Maybe then it’ll get well known.

  • MattChi

    Interesting, I’ve been debating watching eden of the east, black lagoon, and monster for a while now. I might have to check out all 3.

  • https://twitter.com/XenoIrish XenoIrish

    I would add Cowboy Bepop as well, even though everyone is going to say that. (I cannot wait for the recently announced Blu-Ray release)

    Thanks for pointing out that Anime encompasses all genres, that’s something most people tend to overlook.

    Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is also pretty great from start to finish.

  • MattChi

    Also, Anyone watch Steins Gate? One of my favorite ever and came out a few years ago. This is one of the rare anime’s I will recommend to be people who don’t watch anime.

  • Chris

    I entirely agree with Vonter’s mention of Monster. Probably the most western of Japanese anime I have seen, as it is very much has a mystery thriller setting that does not relent for over 70 episodes (In my top 5).

    But would like to add the Ghost in a Shell series. Not the movie but the series. For fans of Sci-Fi, Ghost in a shell is a fantastic representation of a future world, with great storytelling and excellent animation.

    Darker than Black is another excellent Sci-Fi anime which is probably more charterer based than Ghost in a Shell, but still has a a good story line.

    Gungrave is an excellent gangster revenge story which is in many anime fans top 10.
    So there are just a few to add to an already excellent list.

  • MattChi

    @Xeno, Agreed, Brotherhood is near the top of my list

    @Chris, loved Gun Grave. They also made a PS2 game for it which I downloaded on PSN which was fun too.
    Darker than Black was good and the animation was great, but something about it left something to be desired for me.

    Anyone keeping up with recent shows?
    Mirai Nikki (Future Diary) was pretty cool
    I’m also loving Hunter x Hunter 2011

  • PlopPLop

    One Piece, nothing more to add.

  • https://twitter.com/XenoIrish XenoIrish

    @Chris: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a fantastic suggestion! It’s like a hard sci-fi version of “24”. It has also aged really well in terms of animation.

  • J. Morales

    Hey now, I happen to like giant robots! That said, thanks for the list, will have to check into this. I’ve heard of Death Note before but haven’t sat down to watch it myself.

  • http://nerdaverse.com theButterFly

    Most anime is too weird for me. Don’t get me wrong. I like giant robots and weird monsters and what not, but for me, Anime doesn’t get any better then Beck: The Mongolian Chop Squad. A season long adaptation of the Manga of the same name that is about a group of Japanese Highschool students who set out to make the world’s greatest band and just might pull it off. The climactic performance at the end is so awesome. The music in this series is so good that I consider Beck to be one of my favourite bands whether they actually exist or not. Do watch the Japanese with English subs though. The music is 100 times better then the English dubbed version.

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    Great recommendations, people! I haven’t seen Monster yet, but it’ll happen eventually as I’ve heard nothing but raves for it. Bebop and Champloo were kind of obvious picks and Bebop in particular is really well known already so I kind of steered away from them in favor of a few lesser known -but just as worthy- picks.

    @theButterfly- I like giant robots and boob jokes too, but a lot of that stuff gets too redundant after a while. Too many shows are not really willing to move away from the tried and true and do something different. Beck came extremely close to being on this list as it’s one of my all-time faves, but I opted for Nana instead due to its exceptional portrayal of adult relationships. If you loved the rock band aspect of Beck, then Nana will be right up your alley too. Don’t miss it.

    Thanks, everyone. This is a much bigger response then I’m used to.

  • Piratey

    @MattChi I absolutely loved Steins Gate, fantastic take on time travel.

    I’m a big fan of Code Geass, I guess the skinny bishounen art throws off some people but Lolouch is an absolutely fantastic main character and the plot and ‘idea’s’ are very high concept.

    Planetes is another great anime that doesn’t quite follow the common trends of the medium.

    Probably the reason why Bebop and Samurai Champloo get left off the initial is is Bebop came out in 1998(I own it on VHS) and Champloo is close to a decade old.

  • Nen

    This is a shitty list.

    A much better list would be;

    Legend of the Galactic Heroes- (Basically Game of Thrones in space, but with more focus on politics and story rather than tits and mindless gore. I’d honestly put it up there with Mad Men, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire as one of the greatest shows in Television history. Some might call it Code Geeass but actually good.

    Perfect Blue- A fantastic Hitchcock style thriller with amazing cinematography, atmosphere, and music.

    Hunter x Hunter (2011)- A full on deconstruction of the average fightan shonen. Takes pretty much every battle shonen trope you can think of and totally turns it on its head.

    Puella Magi Madoka Magica- A full on deconstruction of the average magical girl shoujo. Takes pretty much every magical girl shoujo trope you can think of and totally turns it on its head.

    Cowboy Bebop- I don’t even think this one needs an explanation.

  • Shiki

    Death note is awesome, and so is Steins Gate. I have to check out some of your recommendations, Eden of the East an Black Lagoon sound interesting.
    Hataraku maou-sama! – is one I would recommend. It’s about a devil from another world who came to current day Tokio and became a human and starts to work at McRonald’s and deal with every day problems (money, rent, food & stuff). It’s pretty hilarious!
    Kuruko no basket – for basketball & anime fans
    BTOOOM!-people on an Island and they have to kill each other to get off the Island with bombs.
    These are just from the last couple of years.

  • BowJ

    Great list Nick, all are great choices. Eden of the East was great.
    One anime I would suggest to people is Fate/Zero. It may be a prequel to Fate/Stay Night but it stands on its own well and is awesome. It’s also based on novels written by Gen Urobuchi who wrote Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Psycho-Pass (two other great anime). Coincidentally, he also wrote the Black Lagoon light novel adaptation.

  • hana

    I would’ve added in Berserk. It’s kinda of like Game of Thrones meets Hellraiser. It’s an incredibly dark fantasy.

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    I’m loving all of the recommendations. Sadly, a lot of them aren’t available on Netflix even on disc and I can seldom afford to buy the stuff these days unless there’s a sale so I’ll have to keep Stein’s Gate, Monster, and Madoka in mind. I have to wonder if a non-anime fan would appreciate a deconstruction of a genre they have no knowledge of as much as an anime fan would, but I haven’t seven seen the shows in question so what would I know.

    @Shiki- I considered putting the anime that shares your name on the list since It’s missing horror, but the crazy hair may be too anime for non-anime fans. I’ll probably save it for something around Halloween.

    @Nen- Thanks for sharing. I gave Perfect Blue a rep, but it’s a film and not a show so it did not qualify. Plus, as great as it is, Agent is better. Again, Bebop is too easy. Every sci-fan fan knows about it, anime fan or not. However, there will be some Bebop and Champloo love in a different form next week.

  • Ben

    God I just don’t get the love for deathnote?

    Deathnote was fucking hilarious with how full of itself it got, it was all Light was all “Oh my god I’m the super most brilliant bestest smartest person ever!” and then L was all “NO I’m the most super bestest brilliant smartest person ever!” And then they meet and the entire show is just “If I do this then he’ll think I’m doing this, unless he knows I’m doing this so he will think that in wich case he will know that” while L is all “Is he doing that because he knows that I think he will do that, or does he know that I will think this and do the other thing to make me think I know that” and oh my god it was just bad. Like really fucking awful.

    Some great shows that haven’t been mentioned
    Tatami Galxay – Just… weird but good
    Pychiatrist Irabu – Shape shifting psychatrist treats people awfully to solve their problems, weird mish mash of animation, live action and collage.
    Genius Party – Kind of a series? Bunch of short films all by different famous anime directors
    Basquash! – Giant robots playing basketball. The most ridiculous bullshit ever but a hell of a lot of fun.

  • Nen

    @Nick
    Hunter x Hunter (2011) and Legend of the Galactic Heroes actually don’t have dubs so you wouldn’t be able to find them on Netflix anyways. Hunter x Hunter (2011) might get one in a year or so, but LotGH notoriously will probably never get one.

  • Shiki

    @Nick- I actually got that one from my friend for my birthday this year just because of my nick. I didn’t like it too much as I’m not a fan of horror, and it was just, how to say it, too pinky. Yeah, the hair is just ridiculous (blue hair with cat-like ears, WTF?). Never finished it because I just got part 1 on Blueray.
    BTW, loving the love for anime on this site right now! Where I’m from people think anime=hentai, or anime=pokemon, yugioh, digimon, and think I’m weird when I say that I’ve been watching anime for almost 20 years now. But there are just soo many good stories and characters out there.

  • IBPimpn

    Would definitely recommend RIN ~Daughters of Mnemosyne~. Just love how each episode take place in a different year, but because the main character is immortal, the only thing that changes are her surroundings. The mystery of why she’s immortal and the conspiracy surrounding her and others like her is worth the watch. Also the violence and sex aren’t bad either, nothing too graphic but enough for a TV MA.

    Also loved Ga-Rei-Zero, it really gave me the feels. Its about two girls, one born into a demon hunting family and the other adopted into one. The two girls become friends bordering on ‘sisters’ With problem arising from the adopted girls family about her inheriting the family title and heirloom sword. Heads Up- The first two episodes happen chronologically towards the end of the show.

    Last on my mind but have not seen mentioned is Claymore. Wish it had a proper ending, but for like 24 out of like 26 episodes it follows the manga and delivers on the action. Nice to see some anime woman warriors that have armor on that actually covers all, and not clothes that magically disappears as the fight happens. Love the medieval time setting and monsters, wish they would remake it like Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.

  • bakakyo

    So this one is kinda new: Psycho Pass. You should all watch it.

    In the future there’s a central computer capable of sensing if someone has a probability of commiting a crime, based on psychological analisis. These people are locked away from society. A team of agents comprised of people with low probability of commiting crimes and the enforcers – people that are likely criminals, but can understand better the mind of the criminals, will try to solve crimes and arrest people that gets analysed by the computer. It’s a great anime about the conflict of freedom of will and the necessity of a peaceful society. Wikipedia said that the themes of the anime are: “Cyberpunk, Dystopian, Science fiction, Thriller”. That sold the anime right off the bat for me :3
    (sorry for my bad english, Im brazilian, huehuehue for you all)

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    @IBPimpn- Those are all great shows, but Berserk is better than Claymore, and pretty similar in tone.

    @Shiki- the second half of Shiki is where it really comes together, but if you aren’t a horror fan you may not appreciate it as much as I did.

    @Nen- Thinking about canceling my cable and if that happens, I’m likely to spend more time watching shows on my laptop so I may just look LotGH up.

  • BowJ

    Just a heads up some of the anime listed here are streamable for free on a few sites (in subs only). Good ones to look for anime on is the official funimation site (it has psycho-pass), crackle (Madoka Magica is available there) and of course crunchyroll. There has been a few new ones starting up recently like Daisuki but I haven’t had time to check them out yet.

  • Paul S.

    Love this article because anime is finally getting some love! And of course the selections were good (they’re all on my list along with about 20 others I need to watch). I understand why you didn’t mention Bebop because it’s older, but I have to because that’s the one that got me hooked on the form and consequently is the series I always recommend to new people.

    As far as new anime that I can recommend to you, Nick, as a fan in general, there’s a show called “Attack on Titan” that funimation.com will allow you to stream it subbed (which I think is the best way) once you register for free. I’m only 10 episodes in and everything is amazing (voice acting, animation, setting, etc.). Check it out, it’s brand new and they’re about to hit their last episode if they haven’t already (they air one every Sunday because it airs in Japan first).

    P.S. funimation.com is awesome for streaming…the selection is limited, but with a different batch than Netflix…and it’s free.

    P.P.S. while you’re on there you should check out Serial Experiments Lain, which from what I’ve read was a huge inspiration for The Matrix…so there’s that…and it’s free to stream…and a whopping 13 episodes so you should be able to burn through them rather quickly which I recommend you do so you can retain all the whacky shit that goes on.

  • http://necromag.co.uk Electrohead

    Yeah I think Trigun is really good and really accessible. And it’s short so people can casually get through it all

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    @BowJ- For some reason I usually avoid watching shows and films on my computer, but that may change if I end up canceling my cable so thanks for the tip.

    @Electrohead- I missed the first part of Trigun when it aired on AS so I skipped it then and have been waiting for them to re-air it ever since so I can see the whole thing. It’s been in my NF queue, though.

    @Paul- I’ve heard of Attack on Titan and I’m sure I’ll see it sometime. I deliberately went for anime series with solid dubs because I was aiming for people who aren’t anime fans and I think bad dubs and the necessity of subs is one of the things that turns people off of it initially.

  • Chris

    @Nick Verboon: Off topic here, but if your are venturing away from t.v. I recommend getting a hd projector. Revolutionizing the viewing experience for both games and movies. No comparison. Projector beats t.v like Bruce Lee beats Chuck Norris. Its just better.

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    TV isn’t in hot water with me; just cable. The price is getting higher and the amount of watchable content is getting lower, and I can’t afford that. But that Lee/Norris comparison makes me want to have a look at HD projectors now. Thanks for the tip.

  • MegaSolipsist

    I haven’t seen Monster, so my list would be this:
    Death Note – moral ambiguities and the greatest rivalry I have ever seen, plus it’s so intelligent that you feel smart while watching it, without it dumbing anything down.
    Code Geass – a protagonist like Light Yagami, with a magic power in a world of fighting robots that he uses to create a better world for his sister. More moral questions, brilliant plot twists and fully developed characters.
    Fate/Zero – very mature, with no clear protagonist. Seven mages summon seven heroic spirits from History to fight over the Holy Grail. It’s not a battle of good vs evil but a clash of ideologies, with many of the mages having legitimate reasons to want the grail, plus the interesting relationships between the spirits themselves.
    Steins Gate – starts light-hearted until they discover they can send text messages back in time and then becomes very complex, with the protagonist trying desperately the undo the butterfly affect and prevent the same awful situation occurring again and again. Great chemistry between the main characters.

  • Spike

    No one mention about Cowboy Bebop?!?!?!?!?!?
    Are you f**kin’ serious?!?!?!?!?

  • Click Beetle

    If I were going to add one anime to that list, it would be xxxHolic. The show has a theme that is very accessible to any person who doesn’t normally watch anime but is familiar with shows like The Twilight Zone. Plus, it has a unique visual feel that helps to break up the sameness in the genre.

  • Amy

    I’ve seen a LOT of anime in my day so I’m bookmarking this for comments. Thanks, all!

  • Mark

    How can you not mention Cowboy Bebop? In my opinion that is series is about perfect.

  • Christy K

    I have to agree with many commenters that this list missed the boat. The ultimate “gateway” anime is “Cowboy Bebop”. I used to be the type who thought anime was weird and for the super geeky weirdos.

    Then one night, I caught Cowboy Bebop on, and ended up loving it. After that, I watched “Fullmetal Alchemist” and I was HOOKED.

    While Paranoia Agent is AWESOME, I would not recommend it to someone who is trying to get into anime for the first time, unless they like trippy stuff, and very very dark subject matter.

    Death Note is also iffy for first timers, it depends on taste.

    As for Eden of the East, MEH is all I have to say. Eden of the East is well animated, and starts off interesting, but it is boring towards the end, and gets confusing later on. I wasn’t too crazy about it.

  • Freezahh

    I can’t believe no one mentioned Code Geass or Full Metal Alchemist, Just gob smacked completely! Both of these got me into anime, and i thoroughly enjoyed both, watching episode after episode. I just couldn’t put either of them down!

  • CardinalMarc

    I think people are missing the point. The name of this list is 5 Shows to Change your Mind about Anime…meaning, yes, if people think all “anime” is like Naruto and Dragon Ball Z, they’ll have their minds changed. Then again, most people think it’s also like Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell…so really, peoples’ minds aren’t getting changed that much.

    Only title on this list I’ve seen (and actually own) is Paranoia Agent. I’ve seen it all the way through, and still need to buy the last dvd of it, but if that program’s any indication of the quality of the other titles, the list is for anime that has more to say than just “battle? let’s battle…this is a duel to the death! BATTLE!” It’s not just a series of over-the-top fight scenes, they actually have a more poignant message than most Hollywood “blockbusters.”

    Which begs the question…why weren’t Gantz or Elfen Lied on this list?

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    Easy, folks! Like I said before, Bebop is unlikely to change anyone’s opinion because most sci-fi fans are already well aware of it and likely think of it as an isolated incident of awesome anime.

    As for FMA, you are all right that it is fantastic and a great gateway show for fantasy fans. But I wanted to highlight some lesser known shows, and somehow neglected to list it during my “honorable mentions” which is my bad.

    This may be the most comments I’ve gotten on anything I’ve ever written. Senpai noticed me! Thanks a lot, everyone. I had no idea there was this much interest in something like this on this particular site.

  • Jonathan

    Ghost in the Shell is the one that got me into it. I caught the series on Adult Swim, and loved it, so I stuck around for some of the others – Cowboy Bebop, DeathNote, and Big O (which I recently saw someone describe as Dark Knight meets Pacific Rim, which is a great analogy, really captures that show). Oddly enough, one of the things I like about Big O is that I don’t quite get it. There are some things that I don’t get that are just bits of randomness that are supposed to be funny but are mostly just dumb (most of the shows on Adult Swim these days for instance), but Big O is one of the few shows that I understand enough to see that there’s something there I’m missing, and want to keep digging.

  • xero

    Code Geas yea it has giant mechas but it’s a cleaver retelling of Alexander the great

  • http://tranquiltirades.wikia.com JamesDD4

    “At one point I was toying with the idea of making a list of anime clichés that I’m fed up with to post on this site”

    No worries, Nick. I already made a list of anime clichés and axioms years ago:

    http://voices.yahoo.com/the-grand-list-anime-cliches-8831019.html

    Great article, dude.

  • Colin

    For Nicks original list of 5 I will have to check out the others on the list as I have not seen them yet – but I can definitely vouch for “Deathnote”.

    Also I will be checking out other mentions here from peoples posts.

    As for top 5 for folks who aren’t already into anime I would put in:

    Psycho – Pass

    It doesn’t retain quite as much torqued up tension Deathnote but goes much farther into raising questions about what really is justice and what should societies’ role in it be. Greatly psychological if you liked the non-animated films “Minority Report” or “Blade Runner” this is in the same realm but I would argue does a better job of examining “justice” while being very interesting to watch.

    As an Anime fan myself some above mentions I have seen and concur as interesting are:

    Full Metal Alchemist
    xxxHolic
    Attack on Titan
    Hataraku maou-sama!
    Shiki

    Perhaps not as a top five recommendation for a newcomer, but since I tend to like off-beat thoughtful stuff, I will put in for consideration.

    Windaria ( Old favorite for mine ).

    It’s on the sappy romantic side but in my view a very well done tragic story of an aspiring local village hero and the heirs to two monarchies and how selfish desires and attempts to control outcomes can have tragic consequences. ( This one might also be a little hard to find ).

    From the new world

    Based on the premise of a future in which human beings have uncovered the ability to do incredible things in the physical world with just the power of their minds, how that changed the course of human history, and led to the very specific circumstances of the protagonists its follows.

    Humanity is declining

    Some folks will probably see the beginning of this and go… what the hell. It is that offbeat. In a way it is more of a series of “episodes” than much of an overarching story, yet it uses the same world and the same protagonist.
    However it has an incredibly dry sense of offbeat humor, particularly around bureaucracy. To a level I haven’t seen matched anywhere else. It’s worth spending the time to understand what “=1f” is and what they do with it.

    As for the “medium between nasty hentai and grade school puppy love”
    I recommend checking out :

    Rumbling Hearts

    And

    His and Her Circumstances

    P.S. Many of the titles folks have mentioned here can be found on Hulu.com (without plus) and failing that, Crunchyroll.com

  • monstrinho

    Paranoia Agent needs more love and recognition in this world. It’s a true masterpiece of psychological drama.

  • http://nickverboon.wordpress.com/ Nick Verboon

    @James- Wow, that is a comprehensive list. Well done!

    @ Colin- And yet more titles for me to check out.

    While everybody’s still commenting and planning out the rest of our lives with too much anime to ever watch, I’ll toss a few more recommendations on too. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo would have been on this list if I had remembered, Princess Resurrection is a harem comedy so not without cliches, but it’s style is unique and it’s packed with horror homages so I love it, and Jyu-Oh-Sei: The Planet of the Beast King is like a sci-fi Game of Thrones mixed with the setting of Avatar.

  • Leah

    I’m really not a big anime fan, so I only like a select few shows. I’ve seen DeathNote, but I’ll have to check out the rest on here. And if you haven’t seen Gurren Lagann, that’s definitely one everyone should watch.

  • ZenoKurosagi

    Samurai X (Rurouni Kenshin) has an extremely successful live action movie also. I enjoyed it more then Death Note’s.

  • Zaggnita

    I’m gonna put Cowboy Bebop, simply because it is awesome.

    I shall also put Gundam. My first anime was Mobile Suit Gundam. Which is why I never liked Transformers, I loved Gundam first.

    Yuyu Hakusho, although flawed it is easily one of my favorites.

    And lastly, Inuyasha. There isn’t enough time-period based stuff out there, so my love for this show is even greater.

  • MegaSolipsist

    Death Note is the best.

  • blitzburns4

    1. Stein’s Gate should be watched before Eden of the East for new anime-watchers.

    2. Admittedly, I haven’t seen this one nor am I too engaged in slice-of-life anime. No judgement.

    3. Black Lagoon is a spectacular choice.

    2. Though one of the best in the genre, this list seems to beg diversity. As such, I think it’s too close of a choice to Death Note. Go ahead and put One-Outs here instead. (Wish I could take a picture of my newbie anime-watching friends’ face when he was tried that show. Crazy.)

    1. Death Note would normally be a spectacular recommendation. Is it the best psychological anime? At times. I wouldn’t recommend it to newer anime watchers, though. The latter half of the series does not end strong at all. I could see newbies being turned off by that.

    I would put Monster here over Death Note, personally. (If that’s what we are going for.) But even then, where’s our fantasy pick? Attack on Titan is by the same director as Death Note and I feel that it’s a much superior choice.

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