Pick six

Steven’s challenge:

Six episodes, plus maybe one extra, for your sampler disk to a newbie with the intent of getting him interested in the form.

I would tailor the sampler to the particular recipient. My friend Bill would probably be most interested in series with distinctive art, so for him I would choose such shows as Mononoke and Kaiba. John would be more intrigued by complex stories such as Serial Experiments Lain. Deborah has a taste for grand fantasies, so perhaps the Ah! My Goddess movie would appeal to her. And so on.

For a potential anime fan whom I don’t know, the following might might constitute a decent introduction to the charms and range of the medium.

Angelic Layer, episode one — Cute kids, dolls, fighting, high tech, problem families.

Azumanga Daioh, episode twelve — More cute kids, high school, sentimental comedy. (Better this Chiyo-centric episode for starters than the first, which has too much Tomo.)

Dennou Coil, episode one — Not-so-cute but very three-dimensional kids, affinities with both Miyazaki and Ghost in the Shell, high tech, mystery, humor. It also illustrates the shortcomings of the licensing non-system: it’s one of the best shows of recent years, yet it may never be legally available in region one.

Mushishi, episode one — For sheer strangeness.

Paranoia Agent, episode eight — For the exceedingly dark humor. (Kon’s series is for college-age or older viewers only. If the prospective fan is a youngster, substitute an episode from your favorite comedy.)

Seirei no Moribito, episode one — Fantasy adventure, court intrigue, a strong female lead, outstanding animation.

As an extra, I’d include a CD of music from Cowboy Bebop.

It’s impossible to represent all the salient aspects of anime with just six examples — there are no magical girl or space war shows listed above, for example — but these might give the viewer some vague idea what anime is capable of.

Oh yeah, there’s always the first episode of Haibane Renmei.

Speaking of Dennou Coil: it’s Halloween weekend, which is a good time to mention Miss Michiko.

If only …

… or, “What the hell were they thinking?” List #2:

1. Azumanga Daioh: There’s Chiyo, Osaka, Sakaki and Yomi — four memorable characters. (Five, according to those who can tolerate Yukari.) There’s one of the finest soundtracks ever recorded. It could have been a classic. Unfortunately, there’s also Mr. Kimura.

2. Divergence Eve and Divergence Eve: Misaki Chronicles: An excellent science-fiction story with interesting, sympathetic characters and a haunting ending that reminds me of Lain. However, it looks like pornography.

3. Kamichu! Hideyuki Kurata is a maddeningly erratic writer. He can be inspired, and he can be dumb. Kamichu! showcases both extremes of his range. The first two episodes are very good indeed and the third is a small classic. The fourth belongs to some other, lesser show, the fifth is dull, and I’m not going to discuss the sixth. The better episodes are good enough to warrant purchasing the boxed set if you can find a good price, but I recommend watching only the first three episodes, the seventh, the ninth and perhaps the twelfth.

4. Bottle Fairy: The first eleven and a half episodes are a great deal of fun for children and their parents as the four tiny fairies try to understand humans and their culture. However, the ending goes off-key and inspires depressing interpretations. By all means, get it for your kids, but stop after the eleventh episode.

5. The World of Narue: A pleasant, lightweight science-fiction story. It would be good fare for junior high students, except that it is rife with pointless panty shots.

Making lists

I got a new toy and I wanted to play with it, so I though I’d record a podcast. Hours of babbling and editing later, it became clear that, although my face is made for radio, my voice isn’t. I think I’ll stick to the written (or typed) word for now.


I haven’t watched much anime recently. Let’s see …. the Bakeneko (“Goblin Cat”) arc of Ayakashi — Samurai Horror Tales is a prelude to last year’s Mononoke and of a piece with it. I didn’t see any of the Olympic coverage; instead, I watched the first disc of the Battle Athletes OVA. It was okay, but I don’t know if I’ll watch the rest. I’m not even going to mention Strike Witches. What I most enjoyed watching was not anime at all (though some parts were animated): The Work of Michel Gondry.

Instead, I’ve been compiling little lists. Here’s the first in a series.

Five shows I would particularly like to see licensed for region one

1. Denno Coil: The best series since Haibane Renmei. It’s something like Serial Experiments Lain as retold by Hayao Miyazaki, with affinities to Haibane Renmei, and with an outstanding soundtrack. I expect that it will eventually be licensed, but it might take a while. Those holding the rights undoubtedly realize that they have something special and are probably holding out for more money than any region one company wants to invest at this time.

2. Oh! Edo Rocket: An unclassifiable show — sometimes utterly silly, sometimes dead serious. It straddles many genres: drama, farce, science fiction, horror, parody, action, fantasy, even musical at one point. Whimsical though it is, there is a real story under the arbitrariness. The soundtrack is of interest both to swing aficionados and to intellectual property lawyers. I’ve posted several excerpts emphasizing the series’ silly aspects on my video site: here, here and here. Because the series doesn’t fit neatly in any category, I figure that its chances of being licensed are slim.

3. Dirty Pair TV: Well, duh.

4. Animal Yokocho: A kid’s show that will please adults with a taste for absurdity. Many Japanese are fascinated by Lewis Carroll, and “Wonderland” episodes are common in anime, but usually they don’t catch the essence of Carroll’s insane but logical universe. Although Animal Yokocho never explicitly alludes to the Alice in Wonderland books, it is truer to Carroll’s spirit than anything else I’ve seen in anime. ((If you mention lolicons, I will delete your comment.)) It’s one of the very few shows that I would like to see with a good dub, but I don’t expect that it will ever be licensed.

5. Mind Game: One bizarre movie by Masaaki Yuasa, the man responsible for Kaiba and Kemonozume. A nebbish dies ignominiously, meets God and returns to earth, where he takes charge of his life. Things get strange, and they get stranger. I posted a couple of vividly contrasting excerpts on my video site illustrating just how eccentric Yuasa’a vision is. I figure the movie’s chances of being licensed fall between negligible and non-existent.