11 Sep 2019

Mission Almost Impossible: Recommending Anime

by Nikola Gocić

Japanese animation most commonly referred to as ‘anime’ has come a long way from the cult status to pop culture phenomenon, noticeably influencing the contemporary live-action cinema, inter alia. Although this may sound like the beginning of an article that will deal with its origins and evolution, let me assure it is not. What you are about to read is an attempt to categorize more than 200 (yes, two hundred!) titles, the main reason thereof being a friendly recommendation instigated by Rouzbeh Rashidi’s falling for Mamoru Oshii’s masterwork Angel’s Egg. The lists – by no means complete, ultimate or something along these lines – will be sorted in alphabetical or chronological order, unless stated otherwise.

For the starters, let’s take a look at features directed by ‘the master of stylish violence’ Yoshiaki Kawajiri. This section – a dark domain dominated by bloodthirsty and oft-lustful demons, vampires and ninjas – will be the first exception, with this writer’s preference defining the entries’ order.

  1. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
  2. Ninja Scroll (1993)
  3. Wicked City (1987)
  4. Lensman (co-directed by Kazunori Hirokawa, 1984)
  5. Highlander: The Search for Vengeance (2007)
  6. Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

And if Kawajiri is right down your alley, it won’t hurt to have another couple of his anime – about a private eye with cybernetic implants, from the mind of mangaka Buichi Terasawa – amongst top 20 action features that could be described as somewhat irresistible in their flirting with other genres, and wallowing in pulp, camp or straight-out cheesiness. Here, you’ll encounter exactly seven video game adaptations – Bayonetta: Bloody Fate standing out as an animated equivalent of delightfully irreverent provocation – as well as the coolest sidekick ever – a transvestite pianist and martial artist, Miyuki (Suikoden Demon Century).

  1. Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie (Osamu Dezaki, 1982)
  2. Golgo 13: The Professional (Osamu Dezaki, 1983)
  3. The Dagger of Kamui (Rintarou, 1985)
  4. California Crisis (Matsuri Okuda, 1986)
  5. Dragon’s Heaven (Makoto Kobayashi, 1988)
  6. Goku: Midnight Eye (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 1989)
  7. Goku II: Midnight Eye (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 1989)
  8. Riki-Oh: The Walls of Hell (Satoshi Dezaki, 1989)
  9. Suikoden Demon Century (Hiroshi Negishi, 1993)
  10. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie (Gisaburou Suugi, 1994)
  11. The Hard: Bounty Hunter (Shunji Ooga, 1996)
  12. Golgo 13: Queen Bee (Osamu Dezaki, 1998)
  13. Street Fighter Alpha (Shigeyasu Yamauchi & Masahiro Hosoda, 1999)
  14. The Puppet Princess (Hirotoshi Takaya, 2000)
  15. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (Tetsuya Nomura, 2005)
  16. Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic (various directors, 2010)
  17. Tekken: Blood Vengeance (Youichi Mouri, 2011)
  18. Bayonetta: Bloody Fate (Fuminori Kizaki, 2013)
  19. Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (Nozue Takeshi, 2016)
  20. Batman Ninja (Junpei Mizusaki, 2018)

While you’re still under the spell of cartoonish violence, you may want to check out the following seven (+ three) horror features, ranging from psychological to sci-fi to trashy, and arranged from the absolute best to the weakest. Besides, it’s about time to mention one of the most disturbing anime from the 80s, Tetsuo: The Iron Man’s ‘forefather’ Akira, as well as the directorial breakthrough by the great Satoshi Kon (1963-2010), whose small, yet impressive opus outshines the efforts of some of his prolific colleagues.

  1. Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, 1998)
  2. Akira (Katsuhiro Ootomo, 1988)
  3. King of Thorn (Kazuyoshi Katayama, 2009)
  4. Blood: The Last Vampire (Hiroyuki Kitakubo, 2000)
  5. Lily C.A.T. (Hisayuki Toriumi, 1987)
  6. GANTZ:O (Keiichi Satou, 2016)
  7. Bio Hunter (Yuzo Sato, 1995)

The ‘+3’ stands for not very memorable, yet pretty watchable CGI films of the Resident Evil aka Biohazard franchise – RE: Degeneration (2008), RE: Damnation (2012) and RE: Vendetta (2017).

An extra dose of horror can be found in the series such as Le Chevalier D’Eon and Yami Shibai (lit. Dark Play), both of which have infiltrated into the (long) list of high and dark fantasy anime originally distributed by way of television broadcast or home video (so-called OVAs). The former spices up pre-revolutionary French history with some occultism and zombies, whereas the latter introduces Japanese ghost stories in economical, visually experimental format.

  1. 12 Kingdoms (Tsuneo Kobayashi, 2002-2003)
  2. Amatsuki (Kazuhiro Furuhashi, 2008)
  3. Aoi Bungaku Series (Various directors, 2009)
  4. Arjuna (Shouji Kawamori, 2001)
  5. Baccano! (Takahiro Oomori, 2007)
  6. Berserk (Naohito Takahashi, 1997-1998)
  7. Boogiepop Phantom (Takashi Watanabe, 2000)
  8. Box of Goblins (Ryousuke Nakamura, 2008)
  9. Claymore (Hiroyuki Tanaka, 2007)
  10. Combustible Campus Guardress (Toshihiko Nishikubo, 1994)
  11. Darker Than Black (Tensai Okamura, 2007)
  12. Devilman Lady (Toshiki Hirano, 1998-1999)
  13. Ghost Hound (Ryuutarou Nakamura, 2007-2008)
  14. Guin Saga (Atsushi Wakabayashi, 2009)
  15. Fate/Stay Night (Yuuji Yamaguchi, 2006)
  16. Haibane Renmei (Tomokazu Tokoro, 1998)
  17. Hell Girl (Takahiro Oomori, 2005-2006)
  18. Hellsing (Yasunori Urata, 2001-2002)
  19. Hinotori – The Phoenix (Ryousuke Takahashi, 2004)
  20. Karas (Keiichi Satou, 2005)
  21. Le Chevalier D’Eon (Kazuhiro Furuhashi, 2006-2007)
  22. Mask of Zeguy (Shigenori Kageyama, 1993)
  23. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (Kenji Kamiyama, 2007)
  24. Now and Then, Here and There (Hideyuki Kurata, 1999-2000)
  25. Pet Shop of Horrors (Toshio Hirata, 1999)
  26. Rage of Bahamut: Genesis (Keiichi Satou, 2014)
  27. Record of Lodoss War (Akinori Nagaoka, 1990-1991)
  28. Shamanic Princess (Hiroyuki Nishimura, 1996-1998)
  29. Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed (Tatsuo Satou, 2008)
  30. Shounen Onmyouji (Kunihiro Mori, 2006-2007)
  31. Spirit Warrior (Rintarou, 1994)
  32. The Book of Bantorra (Toshiya Shinohara, 2009-2010)
  33. Tokyo Majin (Shinji Ishihara, 2007)
  34. Tokyo Majin – Second Act (Shinji Ishihara, 2007)
  35. Umineko: When They Cry (Chiaki Kon, 2009)
  36. Utawarerumono (Tomoki Kobayashi, 2006)
  37. Witch Hunter Robin (Shuukou Murase, 2002)
  38. Wolf’s Rain (Tensai Okamura, 2003)
  39. X (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 2001-2002)
  40. Yami Shibai (Tomoya Takashima, 2013)

Another thirty TV and OVA titles are owned by the representatives of sci-fi genre which is – when it comes to anime – separated by a thin line from fantasy, especially in extra-pulpy, ‘Barbarella meets James Bond’ shows about the interstellar adventurer Cobra. The viewers looking for tasty brain food will certainly spend some quality time with the likes of Ergo Proxy, Noein and Fantastic Children which revolves around strong Village of the Damned references, whereas Ryoko’s Case File is a must-see for The X-Files fans.

  1. Armitage III (Hiroyuki Ochi, 1995)
  2. Blassreiter (Ichirou Itano, 2008)
  3. Blue Submarine No. 6 (Mahiro Maeda, 1998-2000)
  4. Cobra The Animation (Keizou Shimizu, 2010)
  5. Cobra The Animation: The Psychogun (Buichi Terasawa, 2008-2009)
  6. Cobra The Animation: Time Drive (Ken’ichi Maejima, 2009)
  7. Cyber City Oedo 808 (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 1990-1991)
  8. Ergo Proxy (Shuukou Murase, 2006)
  9. Evangelion (Hideaki Anno, 1995-1996)
  10. Fantastic Children (Takahashi Nakamura, 2004-2005)
  11. Fireball (Hitoshi Fukuchi, 2008)
  12. Fireball Charming (Wataru Arakawa, 2011)
  13. Freedom (Shuuhei Morita, 2006-2008)
  14. Humanoid Kikaider (Tensai Okamura, 2000-2001)
  15. Iria: Zeiram – The Animation (Tetsurou Amino, 1994)
  16. Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World (Ryuutarou Nakamura, 2003)
  17. Noein: To Your Other Self (Kazuki Akane, 2005-2006)
  18. Planet of the Beast King (Hiroshi Nishikiori, 2006)
  19. Planetes (Gorou Taniguchi, 2003-2004)
  20. RahXephon (Yutaka Izubuchi, 2002)
  21. Ryoko’s Case File (Tarou Iwasaki, 2008)
  22. Sci-fi Harry (Katsuyuki Kodera, 2000-2001)
  23. Shadow Star Narutaru (Toshiaki Iino, 2003)
  24. Sol Bianca: The Legacy (Naoyuki Oonda, 1999-2000)
  25. Speed Grapher (Kunihisa Sugishima, 2005)
  26. Terra e… (Osamu Yamasaki, 2007)
  27. The Capricious Robot (Various directors, 2004)
  28. Ultraviolet: Code 044 (Osamu Dezaki, 2008)
  29. Witchblade (Yoshimitsu Oohashi, 2006)
  30. Yukikaze (Masahiko Ookura, 2002-2005)

Craving more of science (and speculative) fiction? No worries, because there are a dozen of films coming up next, to satisfy your hunger. Beside Oshii’s no-need-for-introduction rendition of Masamune Shirow’s well-known cyberpunk manga, highly recommended is Project Itoh trilogy comprised of Harmony (set in a faux, nanotech-infected utopia), The Empire of Corpses (a steampunk adventure populated by both historical figures and literary characters) and Genocidal Organ (a socially conscious dystopian thriller).

  1. Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Shin’ichirou Watanabe, 2001)
  2. Expelled from Paradise (Seiji Mizushima, 2014)
  3. Genocidal Organ (Shuukou Murase, 2017)
  4. Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995)
  5. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Mamoru Oshii, 2004)
  6. Harmony (Michael Arias & Takashi Nakamura, 2015)
  7. Mardock Scramble (Susumu Kudou, 2010-2012)
  8. Space Pirate Captain Harlock (Shinji Aramaki, 2013)
  9. Steamboy (Katsuhiro Ootomo, 2004)
  10. The Empire of Corpses (Ryoutarou Makihara, 2015)
  11. They Were Eleven! (Satoshi Dezaki & Tsuneo Tominaga, 1986)
  12. Venus Wars (Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, 1989)

Taking into account all the excitement contained within 100+ anime listed so far, perhaps we should take a break with 15 theatrically released dramas, some of which are so heart-wrenching (namely, Grave of the Fireflies), they can make a stone cry.

  1. Ringing Bell (Masami Hata, 1978)
  2. Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988)
  3. Run, Melos! (Masaaki Oosumi, 1992)
  4. Tokyo Godfathers (Satoshi Kon, 2003)
  5. Nitaboh (Akio Nishizawa, 2004)
  6. The Place Promised in Our Early Days (Makoto Shinkai, 2004)
  7. 5 Centimeters per Second (Makoto Shinkai, 2007)
  8. Japan, Our Homeland (Akio Nishizawa, 2007)
  9. Sky Crawlers (Mamoru Oshii, 2008)
  10. Time of Eve (Yasuhiro Yoshiura, 2010)
  11. The Garden of Words (Makoto Shinkai, 2013)
  12. Giovanni’s Island (Mizuho Nishikubo, 2014)
  13. Miss Hokusai (Keiichi Hara, 2015)
  14. In This Corner of the World (Sunao Katabuchi, 2016)
  15. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (Mari Okada, 2018)

Ready to return to the realm of the virtual and supernatural, alternate histories and high-octane action? Here we go…

  1. .hack//G.U. Trilogy (Hiroshi Matsuyama, 2007)
  2. Asura (Keiichi Satou, 2012)
  3. Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I – The Egg of the King (Toshiyuki Kubooka , 2012)
  4. Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II – The Battle for Doldrey (Toshiyuki Kubooka, 2012)
  5. Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III – The Advent (Toshiyuki Kubooka, 2012)
  6. Blade of the Phantom Master (Jouji Shimura, 2004)
  7. First Squad: The Moment of Truth (Aljosha Klimov, Yoshiharu Ashino & Misha Shprits, 2009)
  8. Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade (Hiroyuki Okiura, 1999)
  9. Sword of the Stranger (Masahiro Andou, 2007)
  10. The Princess and the Pilot (Jun Shishido, 2011)

Now, make sure your seatbelt is still tightly fastened, because we are plunging into the world of wild and batshit crazy visuals with 10 shorts & features preceding 30 aesthetically idiosyncratic TV series and OVAs.

  1. Dead Leaves (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2003)
  2. Eternal Family (Kouji Morimoto, 1998)
  3. Hells (Yoshiki Yamakawa, 2008)
  4. Junk Head 1 (Takahide Hori, 2014)
  5. Kick-Heart (Masaaki Yuasa, 2013)
  6. Mind Game (Masaaki Yuasa, 2004)
  7. Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)
  8. Redline (Takeshi Koike, 2009)
  9. Shoka (Makoto Yamada, 2010)
  10. Tekkon Kinkreet (Michael Arias, 2006)

Prepare to read the name of Masaaki Yuasa – the king of hyper-stylized imagery – three more times.

  1. Argento Soma (Kazuyoshi Katayama, 2000-2001)
  2. Baton (Ryuuhei Kitamura, 2009)
  3. Casshern Sins (Shigeyasu Yamauchi, 2008-2009)
  4. Digital Juice (Various directors, 2002)
  5. Gankutsuuou: The Couint of Monte Cristo (Mahiro Maeda, 2004-2005)
  6. Gilgamesh (Masahiko Murata, 2003-2004)
  7. Gosenzosama Banbanzai! (Mamoru Oshii, 1989-1990)
  8. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Ken’ichi Suzuki, 2012)
  9. JoJo no Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Ken’ichi Suzuki, 2014-2015)
  10. Kaiba (Masaaki Yuasa, 2008)
  11. Katanagatari (Keitarou Motonaga, 2010)
  12. Kemonozume (Masaaki Yuasa, 2006)
  13. Kurozuka (Tetsurou Araki, 2008)
  14. Malice@Doll (Keitarou Motonaga, 2001)
  15. Mononoke (Kenji Nakamura, 2007)
  16. Mousou Dairinin (Satoshi Kon, 2004)
  17. Mushishi (Hiroshi Nagahama, 2005-2006)
  18. Otogizoushi (Mizuho Nishikubo, 2004-2005)
  19. Red Garden (Kou Matsuo, 2006-2007)
  20. Reign: The Conqueror (Yoshinori Kanemori, 1999)
  21. Requiem from the Darkness (Hideki Tonokatsu, 2003)
  22. Serial Experiments Lain (Ryuutarou Nakamura, 1998)
  23. Shigurui: Death Frenzy (Hiroshi Hamasaki, 2007)
  24. Texhnolyze (Hiroshi Hamasaki, 2003)
  25. The Big O (Kazuyoshi Katayama, 1999-2000 / 2003)
  26. The Flowers of Evil (Hiroshi Nagahama, 2013)
  27. The Tatami Galaxy (Masaaki Yuasa, 2010)
  28. The Soultaker (Akiyuki Shinbou, 2001)
  29. Trava: Fist Planet (Takeshi Koike & Katsuhito Ishii, 2002)
  30. Welcome to Irabu’s Office (Kenji Nakamura, 2009)

Just in case your eyes ask for more weird/peculiar/uncanny eye-candy, go for any of the below-mentioned anthologies which served as playgrounds and experimental labs for many of directors involved…

  1. Ani*Kuri15 (2007)
  2. Batman: Gotham Knight (2015)
  3. Genius Party (2007)
  4. Genius Party Beyond (2008)
  5. Manie-Manie: Meikyuu Monogatari (1989)
  6. Memories (1995)
  7. Robot Carnival (1987)
  8. Short Peace (2013)
  9. The Animatrix (2003)
  10. Tokyo Loop (2006)

… or immerse yourself in ‘japanimated’ dreams and nightmares, surreality and spirituality:

  1. 1001 Nights (Mike Smith, 1998)
  2. Angel’s Egg (Mamoru Oshii, 1985)
  3. Belladonna of Sadness (Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973)
  4. Book of the Dead (Kihachirou Kawamoto, 2005)
  5. Cat Soup (Tatsuo Satou, 2001)
  6. Franz Kafka’s a Country Doctor (Kouji Yamamura, 2007)
  7. Glassy Ocean (Shigeru Tamura, 1998)
  8. Iblard Time (Inoue Naohisa, 2007)
  9. Midori-ko (Keita Kurosaka, 2010)
  10. Millennium Actress (Satoshi Kon, 2001)
  11. Muybridge’s Strings (Kouji Yamamura, 2011)
  12. Open Your Mind (Mamoru Oshii, 2005)
  13. Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006)
  14. Phoenix: Karma Chapter  (Rintarou, 1986)
  15. Phoenix: Space Chapter (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 1987)
  16. Phoenix : Chapter of Yamato (Toshio Hirata, 1987)
  17. Revolutionary Girl Utena: Adolescence Apocalypse (Kunihiko Ikuhara, 1999)
  18. Spring and Chaos (Shouji Kawamori, 1996)
  19. Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space (t.o.L, 2002)
  20. The House of Small Cubes (Kenji Kondou, 2008)
  21. The Phantom Ship (Noburou Oofuji, 1956)
  22. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2013)

Saved for (almost) the last are some of the critically acclaimed Hayao Miyazaki’s best, accompanied by the  most accomplished Myazaki-esque offerings, as well as kid-friendly stuff, both old-school and post-2000.

  1. Panda and the Magic Serpent (Kazuhiko Okabe & Taiji Yabushita, 1958)
  2. Magic Boy (Akira Daikubara & Taiji Yabushita, 1959)
  3. Arabian Nights: The Adventures of Sinbad (Masao Kuroda & Taiji Yabushita, 1962)
  4. Horus Prince of the Sun (Isao Takahata, 1968)
  5. Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (Tomoharu Katsumata, 1975)
  6. Sea Prince and the Fire Child (Masami Hata, 1981)
  7. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki, 1984)
  8. A Journey Through Fairyland (Masami Hata, 1985)
  9. Night on the Galactic Railroad (Gisaburou Sugii, 1985)
  10. Castle in the Sky (Hayao Miyazaki, 1986)
  11. Legend of the Forest (Osamu Tezuka & Takashi Ui, 1988)
  12. My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
  13. Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)
  14. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
  15. A Tree of Palme (Takashi Nakamura, 2002)
  16. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)
  17. Origin: Spirits of the Past (Keiichi Sugiyama, 2006)
  18. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Mamoru Hosoda, 2006)
  19. Miyori’s Forest (Nizou Yamamoto, 2007)
  20. Summer Days with Coo (Keiichi Hara, 2007)
  21. Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror (Shinsuke Satou, 2009)
  22. The Secret World of Arrietty (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010)
  23. A Letter to Momo (Hiroyuki Okiura, 2011)
  24. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (Makoto Shinkai, 2011)
  25. The Life of Guskou Budori (Gisaburou Sugii, 2012)
  26. Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda, 2012)
  27. When Marnie Was There (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2014)
  28. Ancien and the Magic Tablet (Kenji Kamiyama, 2017)
  29. Lu Over the Wall (Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)
  30. Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2017)

If my calculations are correct, Mary and the Witch’s Flower marks 245th title, so instead of a conclusion, allow me to add five more anime that have previously been omitted. The first to be honored is a voluminous psychological drama/mystery, Monster (Masayuki Kojima, 2004-2010), that poses several philosophical dilemmas in its dealing with moral issues. Distinguished for its unique setting bearing the traces of South American culture, Michiko & Hatchin (2008-2009) is an exquisite, freedom-celebrating debut series by one of very few female anime directors, Sayo Yamamoto. Also praiseworthy is Yuichiro Hayashi & Shunsuke Watanabe’s PES: Peace, Eco, Smile (2012) – a creative, not to mention extremely picturesque promo-series for the third generation Toyota Prius. Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge (Shuukou Murase, 1997-1998) is a four-part OVA which will appeal not only to the fans of Capcom’s fighting games it’s based on, but also to everyone interested in seeing pulp reimaginations of various horror icons and creatures of demonic lore. And the 250th spot is left for an underseen piece of exploitation, Sanctuary (Takashi Watanabe, 1996), that comes closest to realism with its sincere depiction of mobsters and politicians as two sides of the same coin.

More info about Nikola Gocić HERE