Not everyone is as big a fan of cartoons as I am, of this I am aware.
Culturally, the idea of adult-oriented cartoons is still relatively new to the west and has only really begun to gain momentum in the last 10 years. As with all art-forms however, animation is ever gaining greater and greater degrees of refinement. Where we once were drawing boxy farm-houses with smiley faced suns, ready to be stuck on our parents’ refrigerators, we now paint broad spanning murals and Sistine-Chapel-esque visual epics which elevate the heart and expand the mind. And the development of this modern art form is prevalent nowhere more so than in Japan.
Though it’s sometimes graphic, often lewd, and almost always requires a heightened suspension of disbelief, Japanese anime plumbs the conceptual depths of what animators and animated-story-tellers are capable of getting away with. Still, perhaps the most inaccessible thing about Eastern cartoon culture isn’t the adult themes it perpetuates so much as the ‘culture-shock’ factor. There is no mistaking that there are some very distinct cultural differences between the post-imperialistic Western world and historically isolationist East Asia. Did you know that Japan actually only consented to open its harbours to the world at large a little over 100 years ago (under threat of bombardment by the U.S. naval fleet)? That may sound like a long time to we mortal specks of dust, but from a broader historical and anthropological perspective it really isn’t.
In the interest of mending this ancient cultural rift between intercontinental demographics, I have composed a list of my top 5 recommended anime titles. If you’re uncertain about getting into anime, here’s your jumping on point. Open yourself up to the idea of a potentially perpendicular cultural outlook and check some of them out.
And remember, maturity isn’t the same thing as getting old.
- Death Note – I can’t say enough good things about Death Note. A dark, adult themed anime series which takes the focus away from the usual anime tropes of action and sex. Death Note is about a teenager named Light who finds a notebook which has the ability to kill anybody in the world when he writes their name it. Light takes on the power of a death god and begins punishing the wicked with his newfound power in a misguided attempt to make the world a better place. But the real battle begins when an investigator named L discovers Light’s existence behind the scenes, and a battle of wits commences…
- Princess Mononoke – Part of the ‘Studio Ghibli’ collection of movies, Studio Ghibli have time and time again proven that they are capable of making enchanting epics which capture the hearts of adults and children alike. Princess Mononoke follows a young boy who is poisoned by a strange corruption. His journey leads him to discover the imbalance between the manmade and natural worlds, and teaches us all the value of respecting both the earth and ourselves. Once you’ve watched this, pick up any other Studio Ghibli film and drink it in. Think Japanese Disney.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Not to be confused with ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’, FMA:B is a reboot of an older series and is vastly superior to the original. It follows the story of the Elrich brothers, two young Alchemists who learn at a young age that you can’t make something from nothing. A thoughtful story with a heavy basis on medieval mysticism and religion, FMA:B is a well-made, well-rounded anime series I can happily recommend.
- Redline – A more recent movie, but no less deserving as a place-holder. Redline is set in a future where land-based transport has become all but extinct, and the last of the land-racers compete in a race called the Redline; a winner-takes-all, turbo-charged, nitro-wracked dash to the finish. The eye-bleeding animation in this movie takes the genre to a new level. The solid plot and kick-ass action sequences help also. 🙂
- Ghost in the Shell – A cult classic that helped define the cyberpunk genre. Ghost in the Shell takes place in a dystopian future, and examines the evolution of technology and the moral implications cybernetics might have on the existence of a human soul. As good today as it was twenty years ago. Fun fact – the architecture in GitS is based on Kowloon Walled City, a tightly compressed architectural nightmare with so many sky-rises squashed in that the landmass was incapable of supporting it. As a result, the city had to be demolished. Great movie, with a stunningly designed backdrop.
Before I sign off, a couple of quick shout outs. E[b]E friend Dionne Lister is having a sale on her first book, Shadows of the Realm, which is down to $1.99 for the next week. The sequel, A Time of Darkness, came out last month making this a great jumping on point for any fantasy fans out there.
Also, our other friend (yes, all two of them :)) Charity Parkerson is having a sale of her book, The Society of Sinners (first book in the Sinners Series), which is down to $0.99. It’s a good time to own a Kindle, guys. 🙂