Listening to: Innocent Days – Hitomi Kuroishi (Code Geass OST)
Spoilers have been kept to a minimum, in the interests of being helpful to those who are considering watching the shows in question.
Summer has come for practically everyone by now: classes ended a month ago at my college, and a week ago in the case of my brothers’ high school. Now that we have three months of free time–relatively speaking–to look forward to, what better way to spend it than by watching anime?*
*That was rhetorical. Please don’t tell me a better way. I don’t want to know.
As you may recall, I did the same thing last winter. So if you’re looking for something a bit shorter, check there. All of those are also good. Now, without further ado, a recommendation list of anime of all lengths for your viewing pleasure! (Note that dates given are when the show began to air.)
Images are screencaps from episodes of the works in question. As I do not profit from the publication of this blog, this is fair use under U.S. Section 107, et cetera.
7. Bodacious Space Pirates (2012)
Runtime: 26 episodes
Quote: “It’s time for some piracy!”
Description: After the captain of the [legal] space pirate ship Bentenmaru dies of food poisoning, his crew tracks down his daughter Marika, who by law inherited the captaincy. There’s only one problem: Marika is still in high school, and she knows next to nothing about space pirates. To take the job, she has a lot of adapting to do.
What you can expect: A lighthearted space adventure with plenty of interesting characters. High school girls staring intensely at each other. A surprisingly cultured-sounding cyborg. Figurative rainbows. (And piracy. Of course.)
Why I recommend it: Bodacious Space Pirates. Just the title is probably enough to let you know why I was interested in it. Those three words strung together–okay, enough about the title. In all seriousness, this show is a barrel of fun, and I enjoyed it from start to finish.
Dub or sub?: I watched the dub, but I have no clue what the sub is like so I’ll withhold a definitive recommendation. Just watch it.
6. Valkyria Chronicles (2009)
Runtime: 26 episodes
Quote: “I think I’ll join the militia. To end the fighting.
Description: In an alternate version of 1930’s Europe, two superpowers known as the Empire and the Federation battle over rights to the rare mineral, ragnite. In an attempt to get a leg up on their enemies, the Empire invades the neutral country of Gallia in order to seize its ragnite reserves. The Gallian military, cobbled together from civilian town watches and conscripts, must fight to defend their homes. Those on the Imperial side, of course, have reasons of their own for fighting.
What you can expect: A slice of life in the midst of war. Morally grey enemies and allies alike. A love triangle that isn’t Plot Cancer. Tanks, bombs, and guns. A female protagonist who makes the most entertaining faces.
Why I recommend it: Valkyria Chronicles (the anime) is a bit of an oddity, actually. It’s a work based on a pre-existing work (Valkyria Chronicles, the video game) which diverges greatly in several areas, and isn’t worse off for it. The series has interesting points to make about ambition, friendship, and war in general. Though it may get a bit heavy-handed in its treatment of racism, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially considering today’s political climate.
Dub or sub?: As far as I know, no dub exists. So there’s that.
5. Ouran High School Host Club (2006)
Runtime: 26 episodes
Available on Netflix.
Quote: “Welcome, Poor Man, to our world… of beauty.”
Description: When scholarship student and “commoner” Haruhi Fujioka accidentally breaks a vase worth 8 million yen, the school’s Host Club demands repayment. In order to repay the debt, Haruhi needs to join the Host Club and carry out the duties expected of members–entertaining the high school girls, flirting with them, and behaving in a manner that befits a rich boy with too much time on his hands. There’s a bit of a problem with this, though: Haruhi’s not actually a boy.
What you can expect: Gender-bending comedy, parodies of stock shoujo stereotypes, hilariously over-the-top overreactions. Romance and roses everywhere. Surprisingly poignant scenes of high school life.
Why I recommend it: Two pure comedy shows in the same recommendation list? What can he possibly be thinking? Well, I asked myself the same question the first time I watched this show, but after the first episode and a half I was completely hooked. The characters are great, the humor is great, everything is great (except my vocabulary, which is not great at the moment).
Dub or sub?: I prefer the dub, but from what I understand it’s a matter of personal preference.
4. Darker than Black (2007)
Runtime: 42 episodes
Quote: “What it is, where it came from, why it came, nobody knows.”
Description: Ten years have passed since the appearance of an anomaly known as Hell’s Gate in the center of Tokyo. The greatest minds in the world were called in to study it. Their solution was to build a wall and close it off, protecting the public from exposing themselves to it. However, the gate is linked to individuals with superhuman powers, known as Contractors. These Contractors sell their services to various countries, companies, and criminal syndicates, though their power often comes at a steep price.
What you can expect: A film-noir perspective on superheroes. Exposition that wants you to figure it out for yourself rather than the other way around. Extreme confusion. Fight scenes of every shape and size.
Why I recommend it: Darker than Black is an incredibly confusing show, and that’s the second time I’ve mentioned it so you know it must be true. Despite that, though, it’s one of my favorites to watch–like a sort of anime version of X-Men. I understand more about it with each viewing, and it gives me a lot to consider. The two protagonists–policewoman Kirihara, and syndicate criminal Hei–are good foils for each other, and the way that their plots intersect is always interesting.
Dub or sub?: Dub. The MI6 agents are much more fun to watch with British accents.
3. Psycho-Pass (2012)
Runtime: 33 episodes, 1 movie
Available on Netflix.
Quote: “The guys you’re about to meet? Don’t think of them as human beings. Their Psycho-Pass crime coefficients are above regulation value. They’re all deeply disturbed.”
Description: In the not-too-distant future, Japan has adopted a system for keeping crime rates down. This system, known as Sybil, evaluates people’s mental states and assigns them a crime coefficient, which quantifies their likelihood to commit criminal acts. Those with high crime coefficients are jailed or eliminated by the police, who use special weapons known as Dominators to carry out their duties. They are aided in this by Enforcers, criminally disturbed individuals who are treated like dogs by their superiors.
What you can expect: A story full of blood, darkness, and conflict. A character who is essentially anime Moriarty. Deconstruction of the utopian ideal, and the lengths to which people will go to create it.
Why I recommend it: Gen Urobochi (Madoka, Fate/Zero) strikes again, with another dark and gripping story. It’s probably the darkest of the three works of his I’ve recommended, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This being an Urobochi show, it’s never entirely certain which characters will be safe, which adds an extra layer to everything.
Dub or sub?: Either one should work.
2. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009)
Runtime: 64 episodes
Available on Netflix.
Quote: “What can equal the value of a human soul?”
Description: When brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric attempt to bring their mother back from the dead, the backlash leaves Edward with two prosthetic limbs and his brother as nothing but a soul bonded to a suit of armor. Their quest to restore their bodies using a Philosopher’s Stone–an item that can circumvent the alchemical Law of Equivalent Exchange–leads them to join the military in order to research it. Their research of the Philosopher’s Stone, however, is just scratching the surface of what they will discover.
What you can expect: Comedy and tragedy, laughs and tears. Loads and loads of characters. Fight scenes that employ alchemical and physical force in equal measure. The mental conflict of working for a military dictatorship. And of course, given the title, a close and important relationship between two brothers.
Why I recommend it: Before you go off rushing to watch FMA, make sure that it’s Brotherhood. The previous version, while it has its merits, takes far more liberties with the source material and, in the end, diverges off to a completely different ending of its own. Brotherhood stays with the manga, faithfully following the plot right up until its conclusion. And what a conclusion it is–a magnificent run of episodes equal to a full season of some other shows, where the action never stops. Off of the top of my head, I can think of only one show’s ending that had more of an effect on me. But we’ll get to that.
Dub or sub?: I have to go with the dub. So many voice actors I love are in it: Vic Mignona, Caitlin Glass, Travis Willingham, Colleen Clinkenbeard… I could go on, but that would take up far too much space.
1. Code Geass (2006)
Runtime: 50 episodes
Quote: “The only ones who should kill are those who are prepared to be killed!”
Description: In a quick and decisive war, the Holy Britannian Empire invaded and subjugated Japan, renaming it “Area 11” as a district under their rule. Seven years after the war, anti-government terrorists steal a canister containing a secret military project. Believing it to be a weapon, they attempt to escape with it, only for it to fall in the hands of the exiled prince Lelouch vi Britannia. The canister contains a young woman, who gives Lelouch a power known as Geass: a power of absolute command. Taking on the persona of the masked terrorist Zero, he sets out to topple the Empire that rejected him.
What you can expect: Villainous heroes, heroic villains, steadfast loyalty and base treachery. A geopolitical power struggle on a vast scale. A battle between supernatural forces, fought unbeknownst to most of the world. Terrorism, dictatorship, and diplomacy. Miraculous success and crushing failure. Class conflict, vigilante justice, and idealistic lies. Mecha battles by land, sea, and sky. Pure, undiluted HAM. Also high school, because no anime is complete without it.*
Why I recommend it: Code Geass was the first anime that I watched in its entirety, as a wide-eyed freshman in college. Its complexity struck a chord with me, and I loved the focus on the motivations of those supporting the Britannian Empire as much as I did the machinations of its Byronic “hero,” Lelouch. The show is a long one, but unlike the more sedately paced FMA it seems to race to its next destination, never standing still. To use a metaphor that the show often employs, it’s like a game of chess where one piece is always in motion. (On a side note, do not try to pick up the rules of chess from this anime. You will always lose.) While the show is often over-the-top in terms of dialogue and characterization, it’s done in such a way that makes it feel charming rather than galling. And for the love of all that’s good, if this show hasn’t been spoiled for you yet, then avoid mentions of it like the plague. I went into it blind, and I was absolutely blown away by the development of the plot, right up until the end.
Dub or sub?: Dub. I’m very biased, considering that I’ve watched the dub seven times and the sub zero times. But beating Johnny Yong Bosch’s performance as Lelouch, or Crispin Freeman’s marvelously hammy Jeremiah, is nigh impossible.
That should just about do it for this round of anime recommendations. Check back next Sunday for whatever it is that I’m going to write. I haven’t decided yet.
Signing off, until next week!