Everywhere I look today, I can’t escape the fan art, fanfiction, and just plan obsession over animes such as Naruto, Full Metal Alchemist, Bleach. These animes are all about action and predictability – what you see is what you get. I’m not saying they are bad. In fact, some have interesting concepts and loveable characters, and others are simply fun to watch.
But anyone who is only exposed to these pop stars of anime might be led to believe – incorrectly – that all animes are like this.
You might have heard of the following animes, but chances are you haven’t (unless you’ve delved deeper than the surface of the vast world of anime). This list is for anyone who wants to enjoy a few animes with a deeper message; animes that are more than just pretty art flashing on the screen.
I present to you, the other side of anime.
5 Centimeters Per Second
Genre: Drama; Romance
Length: About an hour
Director: Makoto Shinkai
In a nutshell: ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ is a series of three stories that revolve in one way or another around one boy. This fairly short movie is a touching tale that explores the interactions of distance, our innermost feelings, and the growth of the world around us. Honestly, it is just the kind of storyline that I normally would not like – but ‘5 Centimeters Per Second’ executes is so well that I was truly touched, and continued thinking about the story long after the closing credits had rolled by.
Genre: Psychological thriller
Length: 13 episodes of about 25 minutes each
Director: Satoshi Kon
In a nutshell: In ‘Paranoia Agent,’ a mysterious assailant nicknamed “Lil Slugger” has been going around attacking people. He is depicted as a young boy with a bat. As the story progresses, you meet a large cast of characters that are in one way or another connected to Lil Slugger. With each episode, you learn more about these characters, and come closer to uncovering the true identity of Lil Slugger.
‘Paranoia Agent’ provides social commentary on the world’s ready obsession with popular culture, specifically Japan’s cute mascot phenomenon (Hello Kitty, anyone?). However, it does this in such a twisted way that you might need to watch the series twice to get past the oddness of it, and get to the deeper meaning. It is just weird enough to be enjoyable, albeit creepy. Beware, though: this anime contains sex, violence, and some racy themes like incest. You have been warned.
The Cat Returns
Length: 75 minutes
Director: Hiroyuki Morita
In a nutshell: When Haru saves a cat from bring ran over, she is whisked away into a fantasy world to marry this cat – as a “reward.” Before she knows it, things spiral out of control, and Haru must go on a quest to return home.
Some of you may have heard of Hayao Miyazaki. While the director for this wonderful fairy tale is Hiroyuki Morita, the style is very similar – as both are from Studio Ghilbi. I know I said that the one thing that I look for in an anime is a deeper meaning… but honestly, there is nothing to ponder too much here. However, it’s worth mentioning for its beautiful simplicity. Every Studio Ghilbi anime – ‘The Cat Returns’ included – has a wonderful storybook feel to it, which is sure to bring you back to your childhood. I chose to mention this less known movie over others because it is a hidden treasure that you don’t often hear about. The characters are odd and charming, and the atmosphere is straight out of a fairy tale. As an added bonus, once you watch this, you’ll be sure to want to watch other Studio Ghilbi productions.
This is only the beginning of an ongoing list. Anime is so much more than what you see most readily these days. It might take some digging, but there are some excellent unkown animes out there.