For most people, the mention of the word Anime leads to thoughts of tentacles, and women with strangely coloured hair wearing very little. I’m not saying that this isn’t true, but like any other stereotype it’s an exaggeration rather than an inescapable truth.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been exploring the world of Anime, and to me, it is simply another form of storytelling. Like any other form, there are plenty which are NSFW, but there are more which are compelling. You aren’t limited by special effects or their budgets in the world of animation and, like in a book you are only limited by your imagination.
So, as a public service here are five anime that I would recommend for newbies. These are all, at the time of writing, available on Netflix.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
In a world where alchemy is the main science, two young protégés attempt to bring their mother back from the dead. The cost of their failure is that one loses an arm and leg, whilst his younger brother’s soul is transferred to a suit of armour. The series deals with their attempts at finding a Philosopher’s Stone which may help them get back their bodies. Meanwhile, their country, Armestris, is journeying down a very dark path.
At sixty four episodes this is the longest entry on the list. I’m not going to be able to say how epic this series is in one paragraph but, let me say this. During the first few episodes I thought that this was going to be a fun little romp and then I suddenly found myself being drawn into something far more serious. It delivers in so many ways, and it isn’t just about the Elric brothers, but the supporting cast who you really start pulling for.
The original adaptation simply called Fullmetal Alchemist is also currently available on Netflix. This quickly diverges from the manga, and while it is still quite good, Brotherhood is the more complete story.
Okabe Rintarou is a self-proclaimed mad scientist who has a Future Gadget Laboratory with his friends Daru and Mayuri. He finds a way of sending messages back into the past and, starts to experiment with it. He soon begins to realise that even small changes can have massive consequences and when a rival organisation comes for his machine Okabe has to find a way of preventing a friend’s death.
Unlike the other entries on this list, this is based on a video game rather than a manga, and it is also the only series on this list for which there isn’t an English dub. It is a really strong time travel story, where it clearly defines the rules and keeps to them. It is really a story about an ordinary person trying to save the day while the universe wants something else.
This is the story of Spike Spiegel and the crew of the space ship Bebop. The are registered bounty hunters, or Cowboys, who chase criminals and bring them in for a reward. Due to some really bad luck, they always seem to be barely surviving, while each of the characters have to deal with something from their past. The major storyline revolves around why Spike became a Cowboy.
I’m going to have to break the rule about scantily clad young ladies, as Faye Valentine doesn’t have much of a wardrobe. The opening theme sets the tone of the series perfectly, as it really feels like you are watching a jazz jam on screen. The episodes dealing with Spike’s backstory are all pretty amazing, especially his interactions with Vicious.
Trigun is the story of Vash the Stampede AKA The Humanoid Typhoon. Everywhere he goes, all that is left behind is a trail of destruction. He is chased around by Meryl Stryfe, and Milly Thompson, agents of the Bernardelli Insurance Company who attempt to mitigate the damaged caused. The problem is that all of the destruction is caused by bounty hunters who are trying to get the sixty billion double dollar bounty on Vash’s head.
Trigun is a bit silly, with Vash being inconspicuous in his full length red coat and golden sunglasses. Like Cowboy Bebop, it was originally shown in April 1998 (it is the elder show by two days) and it’s opening theme is also brilliant. Guitar Riff or Jazz, you decide! Ultimately, it examines the futility or otherwise of pacifism.
Attack on Titan
When I first came across Attack on Titan, I was confused thinking that it was about a colony on Saturn’s moon. Instead, the whole of humanity lives hidden behind three sets of walls. Outside these walls live Titans, large humanoids who eat humans, who have overrun the rest of the world. The story begins with the destruction of the outer walls and, delves into humanity’s fight for survival and the true nature of the Titans.
Unlike the other shows on this list, this is ongoing. The first season is currently available, with the second hopefully coming to Netflix this autumn. A third season, has just started in Japan. I really love the twists in this series, and I am certain that some of it is influenced by the Battlestar Galactica remake.