Friday, 15 April 2022

National Anime Day

Although now celebrated globally, National Anime Day started out in 1975 as a humble event in Tokyo which was attended by just 700 passionate anime fans. The genre has enjoyed an explosion in popularity over the last couple of decades though, with entire conventions now dedicated to it all around the world.

As an anime fan myself, I thought this would be the ideal time for me to share a little bit about my love for it.

But, before we get it all of that, I'll break your hearts right away by saying that I am not a cosplayer so you won't get to see me parading round in utterly impractical and skimpy costumes based on my favourite characters. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. Some of the cosplay outfits I see at conventions are marvels of engineering and beautiful sights to behold. It's just not something I neither  wish to join in with nor have the crafting talent to pull off.

Oh ok, just this once I'll give it a shot but you have to promise not to laugh at my pitiful attempts!

Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop
With all of that out of the way, where did it big for me? Truth is I don't remember exactly which year it was It was the summer of either 2001 or 2002 but I can't say for sure which. A friend kept telling me about this anime he had gotten into; Cowboy Bebop. I dismissed it as something that I had no interest in. My preconceived idea of anime was that everything was like Dragon Ball and that is something that, even to this day, I just cannot get into (I'm just not a shounen type of gal).

Eventually I relented though and watched the first couple episodes with him. It was not what I expected. It was so much better. I wasn't suddenly converted though. I thought it was decent but it didn't really go any further than that.

Them when the Matrix sequels were released a year or two later, a few of us rented (remember when you had to do that? good times...) the Animatrix and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so that a few of us started to become more interested in watching anime movies together. On-going shows had no interest for us but one-off feature lengths that we could watch together were appealing.

Akira was first. Then Ghost in the Shell. Appleseed, Spirited Away, Vampire Hunter D, Blood: The Last Vampire and Ninja Scrolls came a little later. We worked through many of the then classics. A few anime-adjacent movies crept in alongside those as well; Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children, the CGI Appleseed movies, Vexel.

It was then finally time for me to dive head first into watching an actual series and, since I'd already had a taste for it, there seemed like no better place to start than Cowboy Bebop. I picked up the DVD boxset and watched it over a few days. Wow, it blew me away.

Next up was a Robotech boxset. I didn't manage to make it through all 90-something episodes of the 3 different series contained in the boxset but I liked enough to want to continue my exploration of anime. And it confirmed that I wanted more cyberpunk and mecha.

Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Not sure about what to go for next, I randomly picked up two cheap DVD movies of something called Evangelion. I'd heard the name a lot but knew next to nothing about it. The box art looked kick ass though and it showed big mecha-type things so I took a punt on it. That was a defining moment for me as, to this very day, Evangelion remains my favourite thing in all of anime (followed by Cowboy Bebop not too far behind).

I started telling anyone who would listen how amazing these two movies were. Unbeknownst to me, a relatively new friend of mine was the proud owner of the complete Neon Genesis Evangelion boxset complete with The End of Evangelion. After hearing me ramble on about how good the two rebuild movies were, the very next day he handed me his DVDs to watch. That show literally blew my mind as I binged it in less than a week. I was well and truly down the anime rabbit hole now. 

Indeed, my all time favourite anime experience has to be when I got to see the debut of the original English dub of Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo at New York Comic Con. Not only was it an incredible experience to be in a packed out theatre with other Evangelion-crazed fans, but that version of the dub got binned soon after and never saw general release making it a truly once in a lifetime experience.

From there, I watched Gurren Lagann (with one of the best OP songs ever), Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and few other similar ones. 

Yoko Littner from Gurren Lagann

My first Crunchyroll subscription followed shortly after that. Oh my god, so much new anime for me to try. I was spoilt for choice. Then Netflix and Amazon Prime got in on the act and how there simply isn't enough time to enjoy everything I would like to watch.

There are just too many to mention but some of the highlights for me were the various Fate/Stay series (Fate/Zero being my favourite of those), Steins; Gate, Sword Art Online, Psycho Pass, Saga of Tanya the Evil, Kakegurui, Aldnoah Zero and Tokyo Ghoul.

Rooster Teeth's Fan Service podcast was a great help in pointing me towards some great series that I never would have thought to check out otherwise. Saga of Tanya the Evil being a classic example. I still lament the day that that show ceased to be "still not cancelled".

Currently Watching
  • My Dress-Up Darling
  • Demon Slayer (Entertainment District Arc)
  • Sakugan
  • Blade Runner: Black Lotus
  • Kotaro Lives Alone

With all the different shows that are on offer, I still try to enjoy feature-length anime movies as much as I can though. The recommendation by Xanar to watch Summer Wars was another turning point for me. Mamoru Hasoda quickly became my favourite director. I honestly don't think I've made it through a single one of his movies without crying. They are all such beautiful stories but with down to earth, relatable characters facing challenges that, although presented in often fantastical ways, are familiar to all of us in one way or another. Makoto Shinkai has likewise reduced me to a blubbering mess with each masterpiece that he has released. 

Besides those already mentioned, Perfect Blue, Your Name, A Silent Voice, Patema Inverted, Fireworks, Ride Your Wave, Blue Sky and Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt are some of the best feature lengths I've watched and enjoyed.

And there you go, my journey through anime explained, which means that all that is left for me is to mention a few hidden gems that you may not have given a try yet but which I would wholeheartedly recommend.

Rin Tohsaka from Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works
Land of the Lustrous is the most stunningly beautiful series I've seen but also has a heart warming and captivating story which is another that had me crying my eyes out at times. Sadly this one was missed by many due to not being widely available for streaming on the platforms already mentioned. It is so, so good though. And I also feel much more informed about the different types of precious stones having watched it! 

Promare is literally the most bonkers anime movie I have ever seen. Gorgeous stylised visuals which are unlikely anything else I have seen (although with an obvious hint of Gurren Laggann) and phenomenally good soundtrack which perfectly compliments the visuals to help raise them to another level. The only way this could be improved would be by giving Matt Mercer's character more lines so we can all bask in his nerdish awesomeness. 

And finally, Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! is not something I should be interested in. Slice of life shows do nothing for me normally. But this is the exception to that rule. Engaging characters involved in a relatable story. Fantastic music. A clever shift in art styles to separate the real from the imaginary. It's just so damn good. All wrap up in a very very meta storytelling that simultaneously entertains and also breaksdown the medium of anime to explain how it is created, I cannot praise it enough!

Actually, before I wrap up, I really should give an honourable mention for Keijo. Given the sexy nature of my content, it would be remiss of me to mention this one! 

Imagine sumo wrestling but replace the big fat men with busty young women who are only allowed to use there butts and boobs to force their opponents out of the ring and into the water. To give you a little insight into some of the techniques used by the competitors, a few of the memorable move names include Butt Hurricane, Raging Breast Fist, Quick Draw Butt Sword and, my personal favourite, the Vacuum Butt Canon! It's pure fan service and a guilty pleasure that is perfectly suited for all you perverts. And it has a killer intro song to boot!

Misa Amane from Death Note
In all honesty, I would love to say far more about each and every show or movie that I've mentioned, not to mention all the ones that I didn't even get to name check, but I think I've already gone on for far too long. The rest will have to wait until next year's Nation Anime Day.

If you have any recommendations that you would like to share with me, please do leave them down in the comments below. I'm always on the look out for something that will captivate me in such a way that it will push itself to the head of my very long Crunchyroll watchlist.

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