3) Casshern Sins
Synopsis: In a dark future, the world is in ruin and everything is slowly crumbling away into dust. Humanity is almost extinct, while robots desperately seek out new parts to replace their rusting bodies. Their only hope for survival is to devour the one known as Casshern… or so they believe. Meanwhile, Casshern himself has lost all memory of his past. Why are these robots attacking him? Did he really kill the one known as Luna; the Sun that was called Moon? And why is he, alone, unaffected and undamaged by the ruin?
Why I Like It: I’d never really been big on depressingly heavy handed melodrama before this show, and honestly my feelings towards that are still generally the same but this show’s themes really resonated with me. It’s a great allegory on what it truly means to be alive and combines that with a solid character journey and interesting symbolism pertaining to the whole life and death thing, and the various religious motifs that implicates. Beyond the story though, dear god is it a gorgeous looking show. The series has some fantastic art design combining 80’s character designs with a bit more of a higher visual aesthic, and has some really great looking backgrounds that really capture the feel of a post apocalyptic world in all it’s horrific glory. It also features a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack composed by Kaoru Wada of Inuyasha fame, and combines with the show’s visuals to make for a piece that’s as beautiful as it is thematically powerful. People are still pretty divided over exactly how good this show is, but I lean firmly in the camp of it being absolutely fantastic.
Synopsis: Dr Kenzo Tenma is a genius surgeon working in post-Cold War Germany who has a bright future ahead of him. He is admired by his colleagues, loved by his patients, and due to marry his boss’ daughter, the beautiful Eva Heinemann. One day, when two patients in desperate need of emergency surgery are wheeled into his hospital, Tenma faces a terrible choice of saving the orphaned boy who came first or the mayor of Düsseldorf, whose recovery would raise the hospital’s profile and boost his own career. Against the demands of his superior, Tenma does what he believes is right and saves the child. However, his decision not only damages his prospects, but unleashes a chain of events so horrific that it might have come from the depths of his worst nightmares. Laden with guilt, Tenma begins a journey across Germany in search of a formidable young man who will challenge his morals, his love for life, and his very sanity.
Why I Like It: So compared to an earlier show on this list, Kaiji, this show is almost it’s polar opposite as a thriller. It’s pretty slow moving and spans a long 74 episode run that can feel as lengthy as it is rewarding. However it makes up for that by and large with it’s themes on human nature, which as opposed to Kaiji’s occasional cynicism, leans firmly towards the pro-humanity camp. Monster is a show about what it really means to be human, and as it goes through the journies of Dr. Tenma and it’s massive cast of characters, explores the things that can drive people towards becoming monsters. In spite of what we’re all capable of though, the show truly believes that almost no one is ever truly beyond redemption, and that while we have the choice to embrace monsterdom much like the series villain Johan, we also have the choice to do the utmost amount of good that we can, with the show always leaning towards the latter option. It’s an absolutely fantastic thriller but more than that, it’s a piece that reminds us our humanity can triumph over all the various crap we’re capable of and in a world where said crap happens on a pretty consistent basis, it’s a much needed reminder. Unfortunately thanks to the show having been a massive flop for Viz, it’s possible it’ll never see the light of day here in the states again but in the meantime there’s always that Australian release.
Streaming Availability: None (available through Madman’s Australian release on disc)
Now for my #1…
1) Sword Art Online Why I Like It: I know I’ve given this show a lot of flack but in reality I’ve just been acting tsun-tsun towards it. Asuna has forever been my waifu and I feel that every man should aspire to be like Kirito. I mean for heaven’s sake, the man’s pretty much video game Jesus. The writing is some of the best I’ve ever scene and the show handles everything from AIDS to borderline rape with the utmost tact and respect. Screw the haters this is the best darn show ever made, and I can only hope that Aniplex makes another 6 seasons of it.
Okay, I had to make at least one joke entry here. Now for my actual #1:
Synopsis: Kamba and Shouma Takakura have taken care of their sickly younger sister Himari since their parents disappeared years ago – that is, until the day she died. But as the boys grieve by her hospital bed, Himari sits up, adorned with a strange penguin hat. Suddenly, the three of them are transported to a vibrant world where the hat, using Himari’s body as a puppet, charges these brothers with a task: find the Penguin Drum and their sister’s life will be saved! Now aided by some odd penguins they received in the mail, the duo must find this mysterious item or risk losing the sister they care for so much. However, they aren’t the only ones with their sights on the Penguin Drum, for new enemies await them around every turn, all connected in ways they would have never imagined…
Why I Like It: As I mentioned before with Yurikuma Arashi, Ikuhara is a very eccentric director and of the three major works he’s produced so far, this is by far the weirdest. The show’s storyline is the most accessible compared to his other stuff, and doesn’t play second fiddle to it’s themes as to the same extent as them. It’s a tale filled to the brim with various twists and turns that can be really funny, really weird and also extremely compelling. Of course as with his other works, the show’s execution of it’s themes are what really sells it, and many of the themes of self-sacrifice for love, and sexuality that are prevalent in his other works can be found here. At it’s core however, it’s a tale about the importance of family and that the sins of your parents don’t define who you are wonderfully told through it’s cast of characters that are all as fun as they are complex. Also much like with Casshern Sins the show has an gorgeous looking visual aesthetic thanks to Ikuhara’s weird sense of style and it’s a very pretty looking show with some great looking design. In that respect, Sentai’s disc release and dub of the series are…less than stellar, but hey you can’t win em all right? Of Ikuhara’s three masterpieces, this one is easily my favorite and it’s the one I feel the most confident recommending if you aren’t already familiar with how his stuff works.
Streaming Availability: Hulu, The Anime Network
So there we go, my all time top 27 favorite anime. Since I like to be fair, and it would feel weird not doing it I plan to do a list of my top 27 favorite western toons…eventually. Hopefully I can actually get to that before the summer, but for now at least I have the anime side of things covered.