Friday, March 03, 2006

Anime. Love it, Hate it... Here's my recommends

Just a note: I like to watch almost all anime with the original Japanese diloague and english subtitles, mostly because the 90 percent of english dubbs done have poor voice acting. The thing I find especially ludicrous is how we like to cast adults for children parts, even when they sound nothing like children. Moving on now...
When I was a kid it was first Robotech that interested me in Japanese animation. What a cool cartoon. I mean, there was G.I. Joe with their utterly cliche dialogue and character plateaus, which reset at every episode, and the envitable parachute for every plane that got shot down... and then I discovered Robotech where people died when they got shot down. The character's evolved and the plot was ongoing and changing throughout the series. I'd never seen any cartoon like it and it blew me away. Now there are so many Anime's that have crossed the seas to America. I have a hard time sorting out which ones are one's that I might like since they're are so many silly kid adolescent series. Of course Miyazaki's work is kind of universal and enjoyable for kids and adults. Most americans have had a taste of his films now: Princess Monoke, Kiki the delivery girl, Spirited away, Howl's moving castle, etc.. My two favorite films by him are:

NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind
A story about a teenage girl who lives in a small village bordering the wastelands of a post-apocalyptic world in which giants bugs have taken over and the plants emit poisonous gas instead of oxygen.

Laputa, Castle in the Sky
A boy and a girl discover the secret to finding a giant flying land.
These are both early works of Miyazaki and if I'm not mistaken, Nausicaa pretty much launched his career.

Moving on...
My other anime suggestions are as follows:

Kino's Travels - (also called Kino's Journey) - This is a series in which A gunslinging girl disguised as a boy who rides a talking motorcycle from village to village. Each village has their own unique quality, problem that gives Kino the chance to ponder some observation of human nature. This series is unbelievably cool and incredibly well written.

Cowboy Bebop - Sci Fi series about a group of dysfunctional bounty hunters traveling the galaxy, trying, almost always unsuccessfully to score one bounty or another. As the series continues, glimpses of each character's backgrounds are revealed. The series has a cool distinct style to it and to be honest I didn't really get into it until about the third episode. It has some weird but unique humor elements. The thing I like best about series like these is the Japanese are not afraid to end them. So instead of getting dragged on, repeating itself over and over, the series definitely comes to a climax and end. i think their is 26 episodes total.

Voices of a Distant Star - Short Movie. the unique thing about this that sets it apart is that it was created by one guy. I don't know how long it took him but I think it took a while. On the DVD there's an interview with him in which he talks about working at some company, doing stuff for others and then realizing, hey, I could do something like this myself for my own purposes.
The movie is a poetic story of two people that love each other that are separated "time and space" without hope of ever reuniting. I found it touching and more artistic in content than any other anime I've ever seen. Also on the DVD is another short film called "She and her Cat", which is really superb and poetic as well.

The Last Exile - Series. This is one of my favourite(<-trying to train myself to spell things NZ'ish) series and It's totally gripping. A young boy and girl in a lo-fi sci-fi world who fly a plane around as a message delivery service in the middle of a war. Inevitably, they get caught up in the war and eventually discover their connection to all the catastrophic events has them close at it's center. two seasons, 26 episodes or there abouts.

Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Series. In Future Tokyo the city is plagued by attacks from giant creature robots called Angels. The military has acquired 3 angel units of their own but the only ones that seem to be capable of of piloting them are a handful of some young teenagers. This series is pretty sci-fi and reminds in some aspects of godzilla with these giant creatures crushing the city. As the series reaches it's close, it turns more and more away from the robtic/creature fight scenes and into the inner-pysche of the lead character, Shinji. The last episode is totally bizarre and leaves the plot action events totally unresolved, although Shinji does seem to find himself. Reportedly, fans of the series were so upset and taken aback by the ending that the director even received death threats. Angered by the pressure from of studio and audience pressure to make a proper ending, The director responded by making a Movie called "The End of Evangelion", which left everyone totally baffled and speechless. I really liked it of course. It felt like the director was saying 'fine, you want an ending. I'll give you one, but it'll be more of ending than you can handle". I recommend watching the movie after the series.

Grave of the Fireflies - Movie. As a change of pace, this is a non-sc-fi WWII period film about a boy and his little sister, left to fend for themselves in the wake of and destruction of WWII bombings. It is a sad and touching work and I think it really shows how Animation is a story format that can compete with film without having to be centered on crazy robots or other sci-fi/fantasy elements.

Steamboy - Movie. I recently rented this one. Had been meaning to watch it for a while but put it off for some reason. This is one that's actually okay to watch with the english audio. The voice acting for the most part is terrific and since it takes place in England and the voice cast have true to life british accents, it seems to work.
The film was a solid piece. It follows a young boy caught in the quarrel between his father and his grandfather over the course of the future and science's purpose in it. It's sort of an alternative history thing that explores a scenario where steam-power becomes the dominant energy source on the planet.

Now and Then, Here and There - Series. This starts off kind of weird and you might think it's going to be one of those silly ones I mentioned earlier but it quickly changes pace over the next few episodes. A boy in his efforts to rescue a girl is dragged into a parallel world, where he's taken prisoner. It's a war torn world where water is the main commodity, treated like gold. This series is dark and depressing as it faces down the futility of war and violence. I liked it.

Serial Experiements: Lain - Series. i hesitate to recommend this series because it is totally bizarre with episodes in which nothing seems to happen. A young girl discovers the world inside of the internet(referred to as 'The Wired' in the movie), when a classmate that just committed suicide emails her. A series of suicides continue to take the place with their ghosts turning up on the 'The Wired' afterward. Lain goes from being barely able to turn on her computer to becoming a super-hacker in her efforts to get to the bottom of it. The series gets stranger and stranger with each episode. Although this series is probably not for everyone, the animation and style and excellent, and I found the unraveling of the central character to be really intriguing. But still, I'm only including this one as a watch at your own risk. :)

Well, that's about it. Forgive me for not providing links but google and amazon are there for you. Please add any excellent anime's in the comments area if you feel inclined.


Blogger Bryan Summers said...

I loved Grave of the Fireflies. My favorite Myazaki movie is My Neighbor Totoro. I'll check out some of the other movies on your list. They sound interesting.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I also love Totoro and other Miyazaki films. I need to see Cowboy Bebop and Evangelion (or whatever). Thanks for the list of referrals. I've been meaning to ask you for some of your favorites for a while.

3:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello everybody. Anime is a tricky medium. I always approach it with caution having been drawn into some anime that is just too weird or pretentious to be stomached. But there is no contesting the work or Miyazaki Hayao to be the work of a genius. I agree with Benji that Nausicaa and Laputa are probably his best movies. However, reecntly released on DVD is the US is Whispers of the Heart (Mimi o Sumaseba) which is truely a delight. This one was not actually directed by Miyazaki but he did write the screenplay and produce it and his presence is felt strongly at the helm. Whispers of the heart is the story of a young girl dealing with the problems of being in junior high and trying find direction in life. In Japan this is much more serious than it is here in the states because students have to apply to get into high school and it is important to choose a good one for your future career. Anyway, it is filled with wonderful moments of love and heartbreak, magic and mystery, and a Japanese version of Country Roads. Watch it, laugh, cry, and remember the folies of youth. P.S. Never watch anime in anything but its original language. In order to match the dialogue with the movements of the lips they often have to change the translation and much of the story can be lost. Plus as Benji said the voice actors are for the most part terrible. Subtitle do a much more thorough job of translating the script.

7:30 AM  

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