In recent years, a stigma around Shonen anime and manga has arisen. The idea is that they are bloated with horrible filler content, poor animation, and stories designed to appeal to little boys. One of the shows that has contributed to this stigma almost more than any other is Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto. As part of “The Big 3“ Naruto surged in popularity in the early 2000s and along with One Piece and Bleach, did much to ignite the western anime boom of that era and while One Piece went on to be the best-selling manga of all time I feel it is safe to say that Naruto was the best at crossing the barrier to the rest of the world. For examples of this, you need not look farther than many American television shows. There have been almost countless amounts of winks and nods to the series, especially in cartoons. In a brief survey I conducted for this topic I found that 30% of people in my immediate surroundings were at least passingly aware of what Naruto where as One Piece and Bleach both ranked bellow 15 and 10% respectively.
As the year draws to a close, so too does another year of anime. If you, like me, have been unable to keep up with most of the most popular anime of the year then you’ve likely missed a few of the truly great ones. Today I have compiled a non-exhaustive, personalised list of my 5 favourite anime of this year.
Akira Toriyama’s manga Dragon Ball is one of the most widely known and adored manga or anime series of all time. Even if you don’t watch anime you’ve probably heard of Dragon Ball or at least would recognise if you were shown one of the main characters. After one of the major arcs in Dragon Ball, Toei Animation, the company in charge of the anime decided to carry on with their adaptation under a new name. This is where Dragon Ball became Dragon Ball Z. It wouldn’t be hard to go online and find an analysis of Dragon Ball Z but that’s not what I’m here for. Today I intend to dive into the things that distinguish Dragon Ball from Dragon Ball Z. It is all part of the same series but it is clear from looking at the two that they are vastly different types of shows.
NOTE: This article contains no future anime spoilers
In a vacuum, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle is a game with almost no merit whatsoever. The 2014 fighting game by CyberConnect2 (developer of the great Asura’s Wrath and not much else good) was released in Japan to fervent hype, receiving a 40/40 from Famitsu (Putting it alongside such greats as Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Nintendogs) and going on to become the best selling game of the year. However I feel this was a mistake on their part, as the game is a steaming pile of horseshit, no matter how much a fan of Hirohiko Araki’s 30 year spanning saga you are.
My beef with the Anime Fairy Tail runs deeps. I want to love this series. More than you know. If you take a look at my favourite anime 7/10 of them are Shonen action. So it’s not like I was predisposed to hate the series and I don’t actually hate the series. I’m almost 100 episodes in and I’m still going. I just dislike it. I get why people like it but whenever I here someone recommend it I just feel the need to watch something better. The main reason I dislike it so much is the characters. With the exception of maybe Erza all the characters are just boring or over used tropes. They each only have a few stand out moments, the rest of the time they feel like these characters are in the wrong setting. At the start of most arcs my hope for the series is revitalised with the hope that it’ll finally get good, because Fairy Tail does have some great stories and ideas but it doesn’t properly execute on most of them and I feel there’s not better place to start than with the main character himself, Natsu.
Last time we talked about action shows my area of expertise, but this time we’re going to take a look at some other anime for those of you who don’t like shirtless men showing and punching each other. We’re going to look at some romance shows, a horror, a comedy and then a thriller.
Say “I Love You”
Related in 2012 Say “I Love You” is a romance anime that on the surface doesn’t look to different to much others, The art style is slightly different but other than that it looks similar on the surface. Say I love you follows the story of Mei Tachibana a social outcast and she then round-house kicks Yamato Kurosawa, the school heartthrob. The story follows Mei’s journey as she falls in love with Yamato along with to make friends and be authentic about her feelings. Once you dig deeper you realise that Say “I Love You” is the romance genre boiled down to it’s most essential elements.If you want a good introduction to the genre you’d be hard pressed to find a better starting place
My Love Story
My Love Story takes the conventional Anime Romance and plays with it. Instead of waiting till the end of the series the couple gets together by episode 4. It’s an adorable show about an overly manly muscle man and his sweet and dainty girl friend Yamato. In this anime these two have never been in a relationship before so its all new. There are whole story arcs dedicated to them feeling bad and feel like they’re moving the relationship along to fast for wanting to hold hands with the other one. It’s an adorable little show that you’ll come away smiling form, and sometimes, thats all you want
Now, do you want horror, blood, gore, vampires and a bayonet welding Irish Priest? Then go watch Hellsing! Admittedly I have not finished the series but that’s just cause I haven’t gotten to it. The show follows a vampire called Alucard who is basically immortal and his mistress Sir and/or Miss Integra. I don’t actually know a whole lot beyond that but the fight between Alucard and Alexander Anderson the aforementioned bayonet welding Irish Priest should be more than enough to hook you. Just be wary the episodes are longer at about twice the length then usual which isn’t bad per say but thought I’d mention it. I’m also not a huge fan of the dub at the moment either.
If you heard of an anime it’s likely Death Note. A psychological thriller that originally ran wit series like Naruto and Bleach but I assure you is different. This series is so good it’s one the highest rated in the world and I watched the whole thing in a day. It follows a guy called Light who finds a book called the Death Note and when you right someones name in it they die, that simple. And the story is about the police trying to catch him
Anime is an interesting beast to tackle as not every body watches or enjoys but nearly everyone on the internet has an opinion on. So that makes the task of recommending anime to beginners and incredibly daunting task. Many people either love anime and are die-hard fans like myself or people who don’t watch any and like to make fun of those who do.
If you aren’t interested in watching anime but are still reading this post, then I highly suggest watching Digibro’s analytical post about the appeal of anime. And for those of you who do like anime watch it anyway and then watch all his other stuff cause its great.
tl;dr: anime is incredibly varied and creative with shows from all over the spectrum but I think I have narrowed down some of my favourite anime into a list of ones that a good for beginners
One thing I want to get out of the way first is the type of shows I like. I am typically drawn to action shows. Most commonly the Shonen genre popular exams being Bleach, Naruto, Dragon Ball Z and One Piece. But I do watch other shows too. For example on this list I have a series of shorts (a show who’s run time is typically 3-5 minutes as apposed to the typical 22-25 minutes), a horror show, two romance anime and a thriller so there is something here for everyone. For the most part it doesn’t really matter what order these are in but for the first two I think it would be good idea for these come first.
Studio Ghibli has earned a reputation amongst anime fans and others as one of the pinnacles of the medium. All of there films being amazing easily deserving a 8.5+. With the exception of a few they’re typically not action heavy. They all are story and character based. The graphics in all are visually impressive and each tells a compelling story that will stay with you.
Many of these films are aimed at younger audiences but don’t let that discourage you. Studio Ghibli will provide you with hours upon hours of entertainment.
An undisputed classic in anime, Cowboy Bebop follows the bounty hunters who live on the Bebop space ship. Bebop is one of the few shows that is recommended even by non-anime fans fans and for good reason. It’s at first episodic nature allows you to take your time and go at your own pace through it but once the story starts kicking it your instantly drawn in and compelled to watch the rest.
Cowboy Bebop has a bit everything which is one of the reasons it appeals to so many. It’s got action, adventure, interesting characters & scenarios, a great story, and music. Oh dear lord the music. Even if a space western doesn’t appeal to you I highly recommend you just look up the soundtrack to this show it is seriously great.
If you aren’t completely sold on anime yet. Cowboy Bebop will help you decide. It’s not crazy but introduces you to enough anime centric elements for you to generally expect what’s going to come in future series.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
I’m sure that at this stage many of you are at least passingly familiar with shows like One Piece, Naruto, Bleach or DBZ and may be aware of the heavy stigma around them for being insanely long. If you liked the idea of a slightly longer action heavy story like the aforementioned but felt that several hundred episodes was a bit to much and that the quality would probably dip anyway then Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is the place for you.
In 2003 studio Bones decided to adapt Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist series into an anime. As is often the case with these types of shoes the manga is also being made at the same time as the anime so the show would either have to slow down to a crawl or invent its own story. Bones chose the latter. Today the show has incredibly mixed opinions some people saying it’s as good as Brotherhood and many saying that the original was total dog shit.
But in 2009 Bones decided to readapt FMA but this time with out dicking around. What resulted is what many, myself included, to be the pinnacle of the Shonen genre. Having evolved into it’s final form. The show was not only great in it’s own right with a gripping story, amazing characters and sky high production values, but kicked off a trend that has been getting rather popular in the form of anime re-adaptations, Shows like One Piece, Hunter x Hunter, Jojo’s Bizarre adventure and DBZ have all been fully remade.
FMA Brotherhood is almost universally praised being one of the highest rated shows on MyAnimeList, It has a great dub, the voices of which suit the characters perfectly. FMA can also be found on Netflix for your convenience.
Hunter x Hunter
Did you like FMA but wanted a bit more action and structured fights? Did you want a deep system and slightly complex system with checks and balances for the abilities system as apposed to the the basically magic of FMA? Then Hunter x Hunter is the place for you.
I won’t go to deep into it because I have a full review planned but just know that while FMA didn’t really feel like a typical shonen. Hunter x Hunter does. In the best of ways. It has similar themes and character archetypes, structured fights and a great story. For fans of the Shonen genre it’s a must watch. But I also think it is good for beginners as it serves as a good introduction to the genre.
Plus the dub is currently airing, so it’s a great time to get into the series
I was going to write a “Beginners guide to Anime” but due to time constraints I wouldn’t be able to get it out in time, but worry not that should be out in a couple of weeks.
The Zou arc had been built up for literal years in One Piece, first being mention at the beginning of Dressrosa. After the finale of the Dressrosa arc we soon began our story on Zou.
Zou for those who don’t know is an island on the back of a giant 1000 year old elephant. It is home to the mink tribe, a race of anthropomorphic animals, for example, Bepo for Law’s crew is a mink from Zou. And it was commented by Luffy that it was like a race of Choppers.
The arc starts off rather slow, with a lot of it being to do with what has happened to the crew members that were already there. tl;dr: Kaido’s right hand man, Jack (super badass) comes to Zou and wrecks everything. He then releases a gas that is releavled to have been previously created by Caesar Clown, who is still in captivity. The Straw Hats release him to help with the gas and him and Chopper save everyone. The reason Jack showed up was because he was searching for Raizou, the ninja Kine’emon and Kanjuro and looking for, along with the samurai themselves.
I felt that while this story line was good it wasn’t as good as Dressrosa. In Zou they really dragged the ass out of where Sanji was. Because he wasn’t with the other crew members. I’ll try and keep this review spoiler free and so I won’t talk about the specifics of what was up with Sanji.
But once that Sanji stuff starts to wrap up is when we start getting to the greatness of Zou. The last couple of chapters sky rocketed this arc to one of the best in the entire series. We begin to learn end-game level stuff, for example more clues to where Raftel is, along with the reintroduction of some fan favourite characters such as Marko the Phoenix. This arc is hard to talk about without spoiling thing so I can’t go into much detail. I highly recommend that you catch up on the manga if you haven’t already.
In summary, Zou was great. Jack was badass, Zunisha was better. Momonosuke stepped up. My mind was blown on several occasions. That fight at the end of the arc was the hypest shit I’ve seen since Gear Fourth and Carrot is mai furry waifu all years.
It’s no real secret that what the Disney Channel does to it’s actors is sleazy to say the least. They take in mostly teens who have dreams of becoming big in acting and they reuse them in a bunch of different show’s then discarding them when not needed. So it’s a wonder that the Disney Channel got Gravity Falls.
Having just ended 2 weeks ago I feel as though this is the perfect time to reflect on Gravity Falls as a series while it’s still fresh in our memory.
Gravity Falls stars Dipper and Mabel Pines, two twins who go to live with their Great-Uncle (Gruncle) Stan at his Mystery Shack in the small town Gravity Falls. They soon meet the two other people who work at the Shack. Soos, the handy-man who functions as the twin’s sidekicks and Wendy who acts a a love-interest for Dipper for the first part of the series.
You might be thinking “Does Soos function as one for Mabel”. The answer to that is no. As Mabel is always on the prowl. Looking for anyone and everyone who will be her boyfriend.
For the first part of season 1 it would be very simple to write Gravity Falls off as just another “Random” show with an above average art budget and is in general pretty funny. But they they started creeping in more plot. Namely with the introduction of Lil’ Gideon and later on Bill Cipher. Gideon could have easily been a one off character who was in love with Mabel. But his little involvement in the story throughout the series and his small appearances make him into a bigger and more fleshed out character which makes his redemption all the more gratifying at the end of the series.
Bill Cipher the antagonist of the series was also slowly built up in the series’ ciphers and his appearances, so by the end he’s a fully fleshed out antagonist with motivations and reasons for his actions.
Getting back to the cipher’s that another big thing about this series. Lots of codes and ciphers have been hidden in the series. Some of which reveal nothing important but some of the reveal useful information in theorising and putting together information about the series and its story.
Gravity Falls is a fun series with great comedy, plot and visual. It is a must see for any animation fan and will likely be remembered as a masterpiece if it isn’t already.