Cody's Top 10 Anime - Part 2



Last week I published Part 1 of my top 10 anime blog, and to much delight it definitely sparked a bunch of conversation online and around the shop. I am ecstatic that my post sparked a handful of people to "finally watch Mob Psycho" and "look into BECK". The rest of the conversation has been centered around guessing the rest of my Top 10, so here's the second half! It's important to note that this is also in no particular order because I'm not capable of making difficult decisions like that!


One Piece

If one examines the history of anime, I think it's safe to say that Shonen series are generally always the most popular and generally the most influential. However, if you examine trends a little closer, the most popular and influential series of all time are generally extremely long running Shonen, such as Naruto, DBZ, Bleach and of course One Piece. These series are legendary for a lot of reasons outside of sheer run-time, and in my opinion One Piece is king of the specific genre. One Piece aired in 1999 and is still running to this day. That's 19 years! Universally these shows tend to take over pop culture in more ways than one, but on the flip side One Piece manages to avoid the biggest struggle of these long standing series - drop in quality/long hiatuses. This is due in part to the Eiichiro Oda's, (the manga's author) superhuman vigor; the guy has been at this for two decades and continues to produce quality content and his creativity never seems to suffer. One Piece's 821 episodes follow Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Crew as they explore the Grand Line in search of the world's ultimate treasure - the "One Piece". Spoiler alert - after 821 episodes the Star Hat Crew has yet to find the One Piece, and yet I'm not the least bit uninterested. One of the common strengths of these timeless series is the run-time, I can essentially say I've grown up with One Piece playing on my TV for the last 20 years. However, like I mentioned, these run-times can be the biggest weakness as well, and the long standing joke is these series fall back on some god awful filler arcs or year long hiatus'. Not in One Piece's case. One Piece has done an excellent job at using every single episode to strengthen bonds, develop characters and present new and genuinely interesting areas of the Grand Line. Some arcs are certainly stronger than others, but for me One Piece's quality has never dipped below fantastic, and its extremely long run-time has never been detrimental. I love the art style and the generally positive message of the series and no matter how much I watch I always want more. I certainly understand how hard it is to take on the task of actually starting a series this long, but I would recommend challenging yourself to do so. It's just a matter of time before you're infactuated with Oda's world.


Berserk 1997

I feel like the original Berserk is one of the most polarizing anime of all time. Most anime buffs either LOVE the series or know somebody who does or have never watched it, despite its extremely positive critical reception. Berserk is widely regarded as the absolute best example of dark fantasy in Japanese manga, and the original 1997 anime series meets the heavy expectations, in my opinion. Berserk follows the "Black Swordsman" arc of the manga, but changes a bit to create a well rounded anime adaptation. The 1997 Berserk series is mainly about the adventures of Guts and his days serving the mercenary group "The Band of the Hawk", led by a man named Griffith. The plot takes some extremely dark turns into the supernatural and really drives home potent themes of ambition, duty and friendship, while portraying a deeply violent and disturbing atmosphere. I saw the original 1997 anime before I read any of the manga, and despite genuinely being bothered by some of the extremely grotesque and brutal scenes, I was absolutely entranced. I think I was around 15 or 16 and the series was my first exposure to such a deeply dark anime series, and it really changed my perceptions of the media as a whole. Initially I wasn't a very big fan of the main character, Guts. His brooding disposition and unnatural strength comes off as a bit overdone and cliche, but in time it's very easy to empathize with Guts. Much like the main cast of Cowboy Bebop, Guts is a man forged of his own dark past, which has inevitably led to him expressing himself through violence and brutality, yet somehow he retains incredibly human elements. Guts' and the supporting cast's complicated relationships essentially make up the heart of Berserk, and despite the deeply tragic plot I think the original Berserk series is a masterwork of the genre, I only wish I could say the same for the latest iterations. 


Neon Genesis Evangelion

Neon Genesis Evangelion is seemingly about a bunch of teenagers piloting huge bad ass mechs to fight off "Angels" and the ultimate end of the world, but I would argue that Neon Genesis is really a psychological study of people and how we interact with each other. As far as anime goes, NGE is brilliantly crafted, especially for a 1996 series with a very low budget. Animation is excellent, music is on point and the voice acting has stuck with me (even the dub!). The psychological aspects of NGE are really what cemented the series as a must watch in many anime fans' eyes, but I would definitely say it's not for everyone. Nowadays it seems to have a bit of a rap of being "overrated", which is fine, people certainly have different tastes. However, I would argue NGE is like a classic novel and it's historical significance to anime as a whole is pretty important, even if you don't enjoy it. It's a very serious show about humanity and the psychological trauma we potentially share, there are very deep religious tones and heavily inspired by Hideaki Anno's (the author) deep depression. It's a show that has spawned college thesis essays, hour long examinations of YouTube and quite possibly the heaviest anime in existence. Check it out if you haven't, and draw your own conclusions, NGE deserves it.


Welcome to the NHK

Welcome to the NHK is a bizzare slice of life/drama/black comedy/romance Japanese novel which was adapted into a manga and eventually became a 25 episode anime series in 2006. Welcome to the NHK is about a young 22 year old man named Satou, who struggles with being a hikikomori and a N.E.E.T. (Not in Education, Employment or Training). Satou believes his whole life is being steered by a conspiracy plot as he shuts himself off from the world and essentially becomes an isolated inner city hermit, until he meets a mysterious girl who seems genuinely invested in his recovery. I've watched Welcome to the NHK a handful of times, and to be completely honest outside of finding certain aspects of the show extremely humorous I feel like I missed a lot of the show's strengths the first time through. The show excels at blending comedy and drama in a way I've never seen before, but it's important to note that generally NHK is an extremely bleak look at struggling with depression, and it's hard not to root for Satou to overcome the obstacles in his way. The supporting cast is incredible, and their interactions with Satou and each other make for some of the funniest interactions in anime history (and some of the saddest), it really is an emotional roller coaster. I think some people are quick to write NHK off as an otaku hentai loving examination and it's somewhat true, but at the same time NHK is examining some very serious issues that are present in Japan's society. Suicide, depression and a very specific and in depth look at the negative elements of Otakuism on top of the positive. Despite some themes of existential nihilism the show's ending is perfect; it offers some closure but leaves some ambiguity. NHK is an easy recommendation thanks to how absurdly funny it can be, but I wouldn't recommend watching this one around your folks...or small children.


Mushishi

Mushishi is not only the most beautiful anime I've ever seen, it's one of the most beautiful examples of atmosphere in anime and media in general. Mushishi is essentially about ethereal primitive creatures called "Mushi" and their interactions with people in Japan between the Edo and Meiji periods. The main character Ginko is a "Mushi-shi" (which I guess is best described as a witch doctor) who travels around Japan in search of strange happenings that are caused by said Mushi. Mushi-shi's jobs are to identify and control Mushi to help solve cases and aid individuals who are put into odd circumstances because of their interactions with the mysterious creatures, since most individuals can't actually see these Mushi. The main character Ginko is one of these Mushi-shi and the series utilizes an episodic formula following Ginko around as he works with these Mushi. For the most part, Mushishi does not have a general overarching narrative, and each episode is about Ginko in a different environment working with completely different Mushi. I like this structure because it lets each episode have very different themes, environments, Mushi and overall atmosphere. Some episodes are pretty feel good and optimistic, then the next episode can be incredibly down trodden and solemn. It is quite possibly the most thought provoking series I've ever seen, and it does so without bogging viewers down with extremely heavy content and dialogue.

There we have it! Thanks for reading everyone! If there's a show on here that has piqued your interest definitely let me know, and I'm interested in hearing our reader's top tens as well!   
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