Dueling Sensibilities: Our Favorite Animes

TK from Angel Beats
Pictured: TK from Angel Beats, which is not featured in this article.

We just want to share our absolute favorite things with you. However, since we don’t all have the same opinion sometimes we need to let you hear from both sides of the fence. Let Curtis Stone and David Rhinehart walk you through their four favorite animes and tell you exactly why you should have seen them already.

Curtis

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood title card
Just in case the following text isn’t large enough.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

I’m going to get the obvious choice out of the way and start off with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood! If you haven’t had the chance to view this incredible show, what at you waiting for? The entire series has run on Toonami and a majority of the show is on Netflix! You really have very few excuses at this point!

But what about Brotherhood gets my blood pumping so? The action? The near perfect character development and plot? The soundtrack? How about all of it? All of what makes Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood good can be an alchemy measurement!

Take 25% character development, 35% strong narrative and plot, 20% excellent animation and voice work, and 20% pitch perfect composition, and you have one of the best things to ever come out of Japanese animation studios!

Bones Studios worked on a previous Fullmetal Alchemist series back in 2004 but the series entered filler material halfway through due to the manga still being competed. Brotherhood was actually created while the mangaka was finalizing the manga and only ended a month after the manga!

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood just has everything a perfect and recommendable series needs: length (a great 64 episode length) and all the aforementioned pieces simple fall into place and transmute to create a being well worth your time!

Dragon Ball Z Kai
Because you can never have enough Goku in your life!

Dragonball Z: Kai

Perhaps another obvious (perhaps eye-rolling until you have an aneurism) choice, but Dragonball Z: Kai is what Dragonball Z should have been and will be what I ask any young, budding anime fan to watch!

Kai ditches all the fillers (and arguably the weakest arc, Buu) of the DBZ universe and condenses the series into a more digestible 98 episodes! No more 291 episodes to wade through. No more “Planet Namek has 5 minutes left, let’s stretch it into 9 episodes!” There’s none of that nonsense in Kai! All you’re left with is one of the best shonen series of the last 25 years that has been made more accessible! Win-win if you ask me!

Best of all, Toei have even touched up several scenes that needed an extra pop or had been damaged over the years! It’s a true dedication to preserving the history and memory of one of the most influential shows of our generation. Now if we could maybe convince Toriyama to do the same for the original Dragonball

Outlaw Star Title Card
No, Cowboy Bebop is not on this list, leave us alone.

Outlaw Star

Now getting off remakes and remastered series, I can get into my love for one of the most overlooked and possibly forgotten shows of our time: Outlaw Star.

If you watched Toonami back in the day, this show might seem familiar, and if you’ve watched Firefly, then this series is essentially Firefly before Firefly even existed.

Outlaw Star is the sorry of Gene Starwind and his band of space pirates on their quest for the “univerese’s greatest treasure”! Armed with an impressive ship that is specifically built to find the aforementioned treasure, Gene and his boy-genius cremate Jim travel across the universe and the journey unfolds in spectacular fashion!

Crewmemers are found, old enemies are met while new feuds are started, and each episode is packed with enough action to wet anyone’s whistle! It might no be fair to compare Outlaw Star to Firefly, but to denture the similarities would be a gross oversight.

Both contain a buxom beauty who is smuggled aboard in luggage, both contain captains who seem apathetic but always step up and do the right thing, and so on. If Joss Whedon didn’t borrow ideas from Outlaw Star, then we might as well admit Hunger Games is a completely different idea from Battle Royale (and I’m not ready to admit that)!

Outlaw Star is a show that deserves your attention and should be viewed by any sci-fi anime fan, or Firefly fan! Not angrily, mind you, but to see the parallels and similarity between the two series.

An image from 5 Centimeters Per Second
Pictured: 5 Centimeters Per Second. Also, Curtis cheats.

Makoto Shinkai

I’m totally going to cheat with this entry and just say you should watch ANYTHING by director Makoto Shinkai! The man is already heralded as the next Miyazaki and is always whom I recommend when people are asking for a “Miyazaki”-esque piece.

His works are more character driven than Miyazaki’s, but his artwork and worlds are right up there with Miyazaki! If I had to list just 3 works though, they are as follows (and preferably in this order): Voices of A Distant Star, 5 Centimeters Per Second, and The Place Promised in Our Early Days.

All three films ooze Shinkai’s style and art and tell tales that grip your heart and refuse to let go! Makoto Shinaki, though only being around for a relieve amount of time has become one of the biggest names in anime and will be a name I always recommend, with works that are requirements for any anime fan today!

 

David

Tatsuhiro Sato from Welcome to the NHK
You would be making that face too if your refrigerator told you of a multifaceted conspiracy to ruin your life.

Welcome to the NHK

I first saw Welcome to the NHK during my freshman year of college. It was such an eye opening experience and it absolutely blew me away. When we first meet Tatsuhiro, he’s withdrawn into being a hikikomori, or NEET, Freeter, whatever term you want to use for someone who isn’t employed or studying and a complete loner. He pretty much just sits in his tiny apartment and smokes. It isn’t until the constant droning of an anime theme song from next door, coupled with his intense solitude causes him to hallucinate and his furniture tells him of the NHK conspiracy that is ruining his life, does he do anything.

He meets the mysterious Misaki, who says she can cure him of his hikikomori ways, and his old friend Kaoru, who teams up with him on a project best left discovered through watching. Welcome to the NHK isn’t some power fantasy about curing Japan of the hikikomori ailment, like the also spectacular Eden of the East, it’s simply the story of some guy who needs to get on with his life. It’s a personal character drama wrapped in a conspiracy story about the mysterious NHK.

What makes Welcome to the NHK my favorite anime of all time are the characters themselves. Each feels like a distinct person, like this wasn’t the creation of an author, but instead an adaptation of real life events. Few shows have made me genuinely care about characters as this has, it it’s grounded in such a real setting. I wanted Tatsuhiro to get better and every time he slipped back, I felt the sting of my own personal failures.

The antagonist of the show isn’t the mysterious NHK, as Tatsuhiro believe, but change and his resistance to it. I related to Tatsuhiro at such a base level. His life could have been mine if I didn’t have my friends and family supporting me, and it came closer at point than I would have liked. It’s his discovery and realization that he can better himself and that he doesn’t have to do it on his own that struck an immense emotional cord. Welcome to the NHK isn’t just an incredible anime, it’s a brilliant television show that deserves a place amongst the greats.

Mugen, Jin and Fuu from Samurai Champloo
Oh, sweet, sweet chemistry.

Samurai Champloo

For this spot on my list, it was either Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop, and I know a large portion of you are screaming at your computer, but hear me out. Everything about Cowboy Bebop appeals to me, it’s sci-fi setting, noir sensibilities, wonderful cast and interesting characters. If you were to tell me that I would fall in love with an anime set in feudal Japan that is drenched in hip hop sensibilities I would call you a crazy person.

What immediately drew me into Samurai Champloo is the characters. Well, maybe it’s the fact that Mugen is voiced by Steve Blum, who’s essentially doing a crazy swordsman version of Spike Spiegel, and that’s totally awesome. No, it’s not just Steve Blum. Mugen, Jin and Fuu have this incredible chemistry. I bought their journey wholesale. The first episode is Fuu forcing them to help her find her father after their fight to the death destroyed her workplace. Mugen and Jin hated each other, but by the end the three of them felt like good friends.

Their journey never felt forced. It was a naturally evolving, beautiful relationship. Even when it dipped into the traditional animation tropes, like how Fuu can out eat everyone, it was never distracting. Just as when the show would get a little historic, I never felt as if it strayed from the creators vision. The only other anime with such awesome actions scenes that made me care as much for the characters is that aforementioned space show.

Out of everything on my list, Samurai Champloo is also the easiest to get into for those who don’t have a huge predilection for anime. It’s usually one of the first I show when I decide it’s time to shove some anime down someones throat. It really has one of the best blends of character development and action out there. It has an infinite watchability factor.

The god damn dance
The dance is cute in the show, but no, I don’t want you to fucking dance for me.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya

My love for Haruhi is a difficult one to explain. I’ve never taken it to the extremes that some have as I don’t know the dance, nor do I want to. I love the show for its spectacular writing. I’m the fan that not only watched the first season, but the second one and actually enjoyed the Endless Eight. Those subtle differences were impactful on the story, even if it did mean you watch the same episode over and over again.

Haruhi boils down everything I love about anime that isn’t insane action into the perfect package. Haruhi herself is essentially god. Everything in the world is completely within her control, yet she doesn’t know and if she did, everything would end. When she says the world would be fascinating if it was filled with aliens, time travellers and espers, low and behold, there they are. The only normal character is Kyon, who essentially is the rock for Haruhi to ground the world.

The sheer amount of insanity that flows through each episode is more than enough for an entire season of a normal show, though it never reaches that critical mass. The balance between craziness and simple conversations is perfect. The movie, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, also tugged at my heartstrings and was absolutely beautiful.

 

Shizuo and Celty from Durarara
Shizuo oozes awesome, also that girl doesn’t have a head under that helmet.

Durarara

Durarara is a long form Tarantino or Guy Ritchie film with a healthy dose of weird. Just as in the creative team’s previous series, Baccano!, Durarara manages to take an immense cast of characters and give everyone their own time to shine. The pacing is utterly fantastic, with slow builds up to each new reveal. It’s like several roller coasters stitched together, you get that lift hill build into a wild ride for the repercussions of the latest reveal, then you hit an all new hill for an even crazier ride.

Just as Tarantino and Guy Ritchie never pull some twist out of their ass, Durarara may dip its hand into the fantastical, but the world it exists in has very defined space with clear rules. The twists are surprising, but they make perfect sense and that’s an immense challenge that is pulled off masterfully here. It’s that cultural touch that’s added here that allows the show to stand out of those directors shadows.

Unlike everything else on my list, Durarara is difficult for most. Part of what makes it so amazing is that initial build. The introduction to the immense cast of characters takes time and that slow build pays off in a way unlike any anime I have ever seen. Yet, some people can’t take that slow pace at the start. Durarara is also the only show on this list that I would absolutely love for there to be more. Sure, the story may have been told, but there is so much more that could be done in this amazing world and I want to see it.

There you have it. Do you agree? Just how wrong are we for not including Cowboy Bebop or FLCL? Tell us in the comments below. And Everybody Dance.