Introduction.

Anime is?

Anime is a Japanese adoption of the French word for animation. The first and most important thing to remember is that Anime is a production method not a genre. This means that if you see lots of titles with a particular theme then you are seeing the bias of the translation company and not necessarily a representative sample of the material that is produced.

The Japanese use Anime for many things that we would use live action for. They make soap operas, mini series, novel adaptions, and drama all using animated visuals. In Japan Studio Ghibli films out gross all but the top one or two most popular Hollywood films. Visual quality ranges from rough and cartoonish to stunning photorealism.

I was introduced accidentally to anime a few years ago at a Swancon. Luckily I watched an episode of Ranma , an episode of Vampire Princess Miyu, and the Appleseed movie and came away with a positive impression. It is unfortunately very easy to be put off anime by early exposure to some of the less mature or more violent shows. There are a few points to remember:


Recommendations.

Try and watch everything produced by Studio Ghibli. Beyond that you have to pick and choose carefully to find the best. Some of the (non-Ghibli) shows that I have enjoyed recently are:

Lunar Legend Tsukihime

This is a charming little love story set in contemporary Japan ... with family curses, dark histories, demon killing powers, vampires, and occasional hordes of undead. Almost nobody is what they seem at first glance. Despite having 4 women, 3 of whom are mutually antagonistic, all laying claim to the lead male character the story never even looks like descending into a Tenchi Muyo bitch-fest.

RahXephon

A young man coming of age enmeshed in a near future world of alien invasion / infiltration, grand conspiracy, betrayal, and un-requited love. All this and he gets to pilot a big robot. This show is everything that Neon Genesis Evangelion should have been. There is a movie, RahXephon: Pluralitas Concentio, that tells a slightly different story, however, the expanded background for the Mu is applicable to both story lines.

Witch Hunter Robin

A young woman with psychic powers is assigned to a group hunting rogue witches (witch = psychic with some minimal religious trappings) in contemporary Japan. Betrayal and secret agendas on all sides rear their heads as Robin comes into the full power of her birthright.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

A high tech cyborg team working for the Bureau of Public Safety, Section 9 takes on a variety of mysteries and nasty problems against the ongoing background of corruption, politics, and the laughing man. Based on episode ideas supplied by Masamune Shirow but happening in an alternate timeline where Makoto never encountered the Puppeteer. Stunning opening song by the Russian singer Origa.

12 Kingdoms

A young woman is transported to an alternate world by a being that promises to serve her. However, he soon disappears leaving her confused, isolated, and hunted by monsters. As the story progresses she gradually rediscovers herself, uncovers her destiny, and eventually rescues the being who recruited her. Contains swords, sorcery, mystery, and intrigue. The first episode was a little unpromising but the characters develop well and the world soon grows on you. Good music and some stunning visuals.

.Hack//Sign

Mystery and adventure in an online gaming world. Interesting and pleasant with some amazing backgrounds. The ending doesn't quite tie things up as well as it might.

Gasaraki

Powered combat armour, world politics, ancient curses, amoral corporations, and entwined destinies set mostly in near future Japan. We were watching the invasion of Belgistan sequences at the same time as the US invasion of Afghanistan was being reported on the news and they were disturbingly similar. Being the sad computer geek that I am, I single stepped through the on-screen computer displays and discovered that Symbol uses a Windows based OS for its mobile armour and Mac OSX for its surveillance centre while Gowa Corporation uses a custom OS for their mobile armour.

Scrapped Princess

I'm still partway through this one and waiting on the Madman release. A young woman journeys with her two guardians through a swords and sorcery world with touches of advanced technology. They are fleeing a church and state that have recently realized that the "scrapped princess" who will "destroy the world" wasn't really killed at birth and, in a few months, might just threaten their 500 year stranglehold on power.


Beware ...

There are a number of signs that an anime is not going to be good. Each of these signs may not be fatal by itself but count off a few and you are probably be looking at something dire.

Of course your mileage may vary, these may be attractions from your point of view.