Depending on where you frequent on the internet there are various opinions about anime. Some are liable to just consider it a Japanese cartoon for kids, which would really be a mistake considering the fan service and heavy themes, and some will absolutely appreciate everything about it from the big eyed, florescent haired characters to the large mecha suits running about Tokyo like it was a completely common occurrence. Some people take this fascination so far that they engage in cosplay, while others are content to sit on forums and debate whether the manga is better than the anime, or vice versa.
I’m somewhere in the middle of all that: I like it for the different styles and I think it’s far too mature a medium to be squarely set in the category of ‘just for kids’. I’d never dare dress up as any of the characters, partly because I’d never get my hair to sit long enough to be Goku, although I do read a lot of manga as well as watching anime. For some shows, I’ve read the manga and never watched the show, and I think I would genuinely consider the manga to be better medium. Generally a manga can tell a part of a story in a few issues, or chapters and then it might take a month to gather research and come back later with more issues. I think Bleach was pretty guilty of this while reading, but unless the anime is being produced after the series has finished, then they’re going to need to fill in the blanks to keep people watch, so what do they do? Insert filler. Bleach was definitely guilty of this. This is why I enjoy reading manga almost more than watching the anime, because then I get skip all the filler, and follow the story, and the breaks help keep you refreshed rather than overloading on story.
Overloading is exactly what I did with Bleach. I should warn anyone reading that there may be spoilers ahead since I’m not sure at what point the anime is at now, or if you’ve only just begun an archive crawl through the Bleach back log. Either way, spoilers may be ahead for Bleach and other anime/manga series. Back to Bleach, and the overload, about last summer I began watching Bleach, and attempted to get through it as fast as possible. I think I watched 88 episodes in two weeks, so I was watching about six episodes a day. Clearly, I had no life, but that’s neither here nor there right now. I took a break for a month, and concentrated on live action shows, then geared up again, skipping the bount filler, and made it to the battle between Aizen and the Captains. Honestly I was completely worn out. Rather than wait for the show to finish the new filler season about the Zanpakutō (although I have heard fairly good things about that season) I chose to pick up the manga and follow it until the defeat of Aizen. I expected it to end there. It didn’t, but I couldn’t take any more.
I haven’t seriously watched any anime or read any manga since, although I did watch K-ON!, both seasons over the course of a year. Yeah, whereas I was once able to watch 88 episodes in two weeks, I now struggle with 50 episodes in a year. Bleach has broken me. It’s rather sad, and this blog entry is in part an attempt to purge myself of the constricting influence of that shōnen series, but it’s also a vehicle to get me interested in anime and manga again. To achieve this tricky goal, I’ve decided to list my top three anime and manga series’ and perhaps a few honourable mentions.
3. Dragonball Z
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that I could say that Dragonball Z was really worthy of being called brilliant, or revolutionary, but it takes its place here because it’s the series that got me into anime as a whole. It’s standard fare for the shōnen genre. Bad guy causes a threat, Good guy wants to protect family, friends, flowers, food, whatever, a fight ensues. Dragonball Z does not have great writing, the animation isn’t going to blow your mind, but you’re going to get what you came for, a lot of fighting and a lot of flashy techniques. Goku is at least partially interesting as a protagonist too, in that, unlike most protagonists, he’s really only in it for the fighting. Goku and Vegeta approach things with the same respect; the strongest wins, but they differ in approach. Goku is carefree, but always up for a fight, while Vegeta is consumed by it. If Dragonball Z has a point, I’d imagine it’d be ‘obsession doesn’t get you anywhere, neither in this world nor the next’.
2. Card Captor Sakura
Ok, perhaps I’m just a girl for enjoying this series, which is obviously Shōjo. Then again, so is Sailor Moon, but Sailor Moon didn’t involve girls playing dress up and chasing after cards. Maybe I could simply relate to them because I was chasing pokemon cards at the time, but to be honest, I find the characters to be very endearing. Sakura begins the series as a clumsy, irresponsible little girl who releases the cards by accident, but by its close, she has completely matured, not only commanding the cards, but having won their authority and respect. These are no longer the Clow card, they are Sakura cards, and while her magical capacity is still growing, I get the sense from watching the series that it doesn’t really matter if there’s still some road to travel before she’s fully achieved the magical powers she requires (although Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles reveals that she eventually does), the abilities and lessons she’s learned from these three seasons have set her on the right track to that power. Furthermore, I appreciate all the sutble allusions, such as the guardian of the cards being called Keroberus, a derivative of Cerberus.
1. Strawberry 100%
Ah, back to good old shōnen, although it’s of a completely different nature than Dragonball Z or Bleach. Instead it is harem manga. I’ve only ever read the manga for this one. I’ve never even seen the anime, but I so thoroughly enjoyed the manga that I was satisfied to leave it at that rather than watch it animated. What attracted me to this series were both the characters and their relationships with each other. The characters were creative, and honest. One was an aspiring film director, another a writer and further still, a patissier, but the manga doesn’t take any short cuts to attaining these professions. They require a lot of work, and personal develop, which the characters seem to realise and apply themselves towards. Sometimes when you sit and wonder, as I sometimes do, whether writing is just a dream or something serious, I think these characters honestly spur me on a little. The second reason I like it is because, as I said, the relationships. Most harem manga and anime that I’ve read or watched simply use it as a shallow excuse for fan service, and while Strawberry 100% does indulge in this a little, on the whole I found the depiction of relationships to be sincere and mature in the approach. It’s a fantastic read, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested.
Honourable mentions include, Outlaw Star, another favourite from the early days, Digimon Tamers which, along with being rather ‘meta’ in its depiction, has to be one of the most depressing animes outside of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and finally, Cowboy Bebop, which is rather hauntingly beautiful in the style and execution, and I’m rather taken by the use of jazz and blues. I’m not optimistic about the film with Keanu Reeves though.
I guess you’re wondering whether this has worked. Well, I wouldn’t say I’m purged of Bleach just yet, but I do have a gentle urge to re-read Strawberry 100%…