January 7, 2010

The Best Anime Series (for People that Don't Like Anime)

Listen, I have a problem with anime. Most of it sucks, especially in this era of broad series that never end and are often imitated (Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece). But today I give you some series that stand out as worthy of actually watching. Especially if you don't normally watch anime.

ものの怪 Mononoke (not Princess Mononoke)

What it's about: A quiet medicine seller, who always insists that he is just a medicine seller, wanders throughout Japan and its eras exorcising the demonic presences known as mononoke.

Why it's good: Mononoke is a collection of all the things that are interesting about Japanese art and culture and remixes them into a horrific pastiche that is undeniably cool. And the medicine seller is like the Doctor Who of Japan.

Best part: I'm rather partial to the incense episodes, wherein they play a crazy game that actually exists in real life but seems like it never could.


瀬戸の花嫁 Seto no Hanayome (the Inland Sea Bride)

What it's about: A young boy's life is saved by a yakuza mermaid. Rather than have him be killed for knowing her secret, she chivalrously marries him (chivalry is connected to yakuza in Japan, so you can guess what kind of world the mermaids have). Of course, her father, the leader of the gang, is very unhappy and tries to kill his new son in law constantly.

Why it's good: Where to start? We have funny yakuza language, Saru's monkey antics, Shark's lilting polite language versus his blood lust, Runa's terminator father, the song that plays when things get chivalrous... The whole show is a collection of odd jokes.

The best part: Probably, and I say this realizing it will take a second for you to digest it, the way that Nagasumi-kun and his mother are in love with afro-dandy Masa-san.


十兵衛ちゃん Jubei-chan series 1&2

What it's about: The Jubie series are the tale of a young girl that discovers she is heir to the lovely heart-shaped eye-patch of the deadliest swordsman in Japanese history. The first series is more comedic and unrefined, while the second is polished and cool.

Why it's good: Each series is good in it's own way. The first shines in terms of comedy, while the second takes things to a new level. Suddenly the sword fights are superhuman, and the rule of cool takes over.

The best part: For me, the star of both series is the ruffians. I couldn't find any good videos of them, so you will have to settle for this clip of the epic sword fighting.


セクシーコマンドー外伝 すごいよ!!マサルさん Sexy commando

What it's about: Sexy Commando is actually a series by the same director as Jubei Chan, but it came first and is based on a gag manga, so it is much more crude and experimental.

Why it's good: Sexy Commando takes all the rules and conventions and ignores them to the point where it doesn't even have a proper ending. But that's the joke. It unfortunately had a lot of repeated songs as filler for the super short episodes, but otherwise, it is one of the best gag animes out there. The sexy commando of the title is a fighting style that depends on weirding out your opponent to create openings.

The best part: Definitely the principal of the school. He's an old man that speaks with an odd accent and is secretly a sexy commando. Also, he dresses as the student Susan. In this clip, he suspends the students to keep them in the sexy commando club.

さよなら 絶望先生, Zestubou Sensei 1&2

What it's about: Mr. Shiki's name is twisted via kanji word-play into despair, and he has a personality to match. He takes a negative view on all things connected to Japanese life. His students all love him, in harem-anime tradition, and they all embody odd Japanese stereotypes.

Why it's good: Satire is something that is usually lacking in Japan, so all the desperation is surprisingly refreshing.

The best part: I'm rather partial to Kaere Kimura, a student that was abroad too long and now thinks Japan is an odd country, while being myopic about her own foreign foibles and tempestuous nature. I totally identify with that.


ギャグマンガ日和 Gyagu manga biyori (A Good Day for Gag Comics)

What it's about: The story is different each time, but the series is basically an exploration of how much inanity you can pack into five minutes of airtime.

Why it's good: It's unlike any anime you've ever seen, and provides lots of interesting jokes that lend to repeat viewings. Also, it's excellent to share with company in a Golden Eggs sort of way.

The best part: Harris DESU!


フリクリ Fooly cooly/FLFC

What it's about: On the surface it is just a cool show about a boy who's head is a dimensional door for robots and other horrors to pop out of. But it's really about coming of age. Leave no Freudian stone unturned, viewers.

Why it's good: Stylish and random, Fooly Cooly stays cool all the way to the end of it's short run without losing steam.

The best part: I couldn't choose. Which is just as well; all the YouTube clips are fan made music videos, which are all a plague upon mankind save one.

妄想代理人 Paranoia Agent

What it's about: Imagine what would happen if our collective-unconscious gave life to an urban legend that likes to smack people with a baseball bat. Then imagine if that entity started to grown exponentially in power.

Why it's good: This is the brainchild of Satoshi Kon, the guy that brought us the feature-length animes Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika. In Paranoia Agent he transfers his expertise to the small screen and provides a truly unique tale that really evokes Japan well. I first saw some of this series dubbed in English and didn't get it, but after coming to Japan and hearing the original voices, it is much better.

The best part: The opening itself. As is appropriate for this show, it creeps you out and the lyrics are haunting as well.

I could mention a few more (yes, yes, everyone loves Azumanga Daiō), but good grief this is a huge enough post! If you have something really interesting to recommend, shoot me a comment, Dear Reader.


  1. Personally, I would also have to add Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Kino no Tabi (Kino's Journey), Samurai Champloo, and Azumangadaioh (sp?).

    Not only is the animation very well done in these various shows, but I also immensely enjoy the storytelling elements therein.

    The number one anime for people who don't like anime should be Kino no Tabi, though. It's got advanced philosophical ideas as well as wonderful music and engaging characters. I was sad that it wasn't 24 episodes.

    Other than that, I enjoyed most of the others you mentioned.

  2. Clay! It's Christin! Long time, no talk to!

    I was inspired to contact you again because late last night I was watching the version of So You Think You Can Dance from the Netherlands and I found your doppleganger! In this episode at around the 24 minute mark there's this guy and I had to rewatch that part of the video, like, five times trying to figure out where the hell I would have seen a Dutch step dancer before. Then it hit me! I'd never seen that guy before, he just looks like you with paler hair! Crazy, no?

    As for the anime issue, I'm so torn. I want to check out some of those series because they sound pretty interesting, but I hate the art! Like, haaaate. Does this make me a bad person?

  3. Long time no see! I wish Hulhu wasn't region locked so I could see my clone... I think your clone is still in my archives

    So I guess I recommend gyagu manga biyori then; it has pretty unanime-like art.

  4. My favourite anime is Azumanga Daioh. You should give it a look, it's hilarious.

  5. Folks. I know Azumanga, rest assured. I love Osaka-chan

  6. Ginga Densetsu Weed. What not awesome about talking wild dogs.

  7. "Long time no see! I wish Hulhu wasn't region locked so I could see my clone... I think your clone is still in my archives"

    Luckily, that link isn't to Hulu, it's to Tuduo! If they don't region lock out the US, I don't know why they'd lock out Japan!

  8. Ah you are right, but still no dice; that site does indeed block Japan.

  9. Watched your dance video, I didn't know you could do 'lord of the dance' moves like that...It really did look like you, especially his mouth. He even talked like you.
    When I was in Europe last fall I kept seeing your brother everywhere, because of the face and hair...maybe we have netherlandish blood somewhere back there! (your Aunt thinks you are handsomer! Well, so do I)


  10. Excellent list. I watched some zetsubou but got bored, but now I'm going to give it a go again. Jubei first season was very funny, didn't watch second. Even though Seto no Hanayome's quality is crap, i love it. Sexy Commando looks like an anime that we need more of (real humor+craziness)
    Why would the chinese site Tudou block Japan?

  11. The only ones I know off this list are Fooly Cooly and Paranoia Agent. Both I've seen on Adult Swim, but since FLFC is so short, I only chanced on ever seeing one of the episodes. Paranoia Agent was entertaining, but then I missed a few episodes and then it was sort of confusing and strange. I might need to look that one up again.

    There's a lot in this list I don't know, so I'll have to check everything out!

    I don't watch a whole lot of anime, except for some stuff that was shown on adult swim like Cowboy Bebop and Trigun (Fruits Basket is another one I've enjoyed), so I don't have anything to recommend.

  12. Appreciate the topic - I'm very selective about anime and don't really enjoy most of the popular stuff (in Japan or America) with the exception of a few of the Ghibli movies.

    I've seen Sexy Commando and really enjoyed it, so I think I'll check out some of the others you suggested.

    Question: What's the best way to watch these? Are some of them on YouTube? Would my local Tsutaya carry any of them?

  13. I think youtube is a pretty painful way to watch most shows unless you luck out and find HD. Support the creators and buy an episode or two!
    I should have made amazon links... [blogger fail!]

  14. I disagree with that most of it "sucks" lol, being more or less an otaku myself, but anywway..If I were to suggest series to someone who never had watched anime before..two of them would definately be NANA and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, two really well done, realistic series (contain nothing overnatural whatsoever). Just because I guess realistic stuff goes better with some then..
    Otherwise, Full Metal Alchemist, Death Note and so on are also great series if you don't mind supernatural content.

    I can watch almost every genre myself though, and yes I'm into moe and stuff :P


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