Sunday, September 25, 2005

Anime - Not Just Cartoons

I mentioned to a friend yesterday that I was going to go home to watch anime.

"Anime??? What are we, Japanese seven-year-olds???"

"Uh, no," I replied, with as much indignation in my voice as possible. In case you haven't heard, anime is a legitimate art form with a buttload more entertainment value than some of the stuff we're force-fed in America. We'll excuse her - she's a sweet girl who has had no exposure to the genre, and since many of you out there may be in the same boat, we're going to drop a little education on you. While cartoons for those in the West are generally anvil-laden giggle fests, anime is much more sophisticated fare. The subject matter is usually not meant for children, although there are many child-friendly shows out there. Also, the shows do not go on indefinitely, as our shows tend to do until they lose viewership. Some of them last quite a long time, but from what I've seen, most of them air until they've told their story, and they end. I will discuss with you my three favorite series.

My absolute favorite anime, without exception, is Cowboy Bebop. This series is about a group of bounty hunters, and lasts for what comes out to two American seasons. One of the reasons this is my favorite series is because it deals with a lot of very deep emotions, both painful and pleasant. You can really get into the characters because they have a lot of depth. It is at times funny, but is clearly meant to be a drama. Let me put it to you this way - I still cry when I watch the ending. It is just that good. The series also includes a movie, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, and a soundtrack by the absolutely brilliant Yoko Kanno, which spans about five CDs worth of music. After all - the Bebop they refer to, in addition to the name of the ship, also includes a healthy dose of bebop jazz, especially the infectious opening theme. It's just such a good series, you really ought to give it a try. I would warn you to just muddle through the first four or so episodes - it starts to get really good after that.

My second favorite anime is Trigun, a story about Vash the Stampede. Vash is known worldwide as a lethal killer, until we as the audience find out that it's mostly because he's terribly clumsy. This series also ran for about two seasons. I personally found the first half of the show, more or less, to be the funny half of the series. The second half tends to get heavier and deal more with Vash's life, and what his quest is. That much was a little jarring, since I was laughing at the show at first, then when it started to get heavier I felt like I was waiting for the jokes the whole time. There are some excellent characters in this series as well, including the gun-toting man of the cloth, Nicholas Wolfwood. Overall, it was a great series.

The series that I will always love no matter how old I get is Sailor Moon. Go ahead, laugh at me, I get that a lot. A friend of mine recently lent me the entire series and all three movies (a hefty load, believe me), and you know I stayed up until 2am last night watching them. Anyway, this series is one of the first that I ever watched, and I always liked it. It was a good fantasy kind of storyline, very involved. Plus, there is just something so appealing about having magical powers to hurl things like fire or lightning at people. Very jealous. I could think of a handful of people I wouldn't mind incinerating. She's also such a klutz, which is something I relate to well. This series seems to be incredibly popular, as well. If you Google it, you'll find an absolute mess of shrines - yes, shrines - to each of the scouts, the villians, just about every character you could think of. Apparently, this show is easy to get obsessed with - but I wouldn't know anything about that.