2017/04/07 What's On
The Best Anime You’ve Never Seen (Part 2)
by Jordan Mounteer
Following up on our list of some of the best anime you’ve never seen, we take a look at a few more that – while they may have experienced a popular following among diehard fans – may have fallen under the radar when it came to a broader audience.
Who doesn’t like the idea of following a hero whose profession is quintessentially that of a villain? The setting for Jormungand was that of a devious white haired arms dealer called Koko Hekmatyar who, along with their motley crew of specialists (from snipers to brawlers to straight up explosive experts) traveled the world on various assignments. This definitely had a dark and gritty feel to it, and there was always a latent feeling of danger, but the real promise of Jormungand was in trying to portray a character who is, at least conventionally, not one you’d expect to sympathize with. The balance of good and evil, and their distinctions, are explored in depth and the deeper the story goes the more that line is blurred, something that few other mainstream anime have achieved.
The series’ main protagonist, and the one who helps humanize the rag-tag group of extremists, is Jonah – as a rescued refugee kid, he sort of becomes Koko’s protégé throughout the series, and the character dynamic between him and Koko is fascinating to watch simply because of how unusual it is. Based off of a manga, the anime does a good job of leveling the politics of warfare, the crises of conscience of some of the main characters, and still delivering plenty of action – although one reason this series was somewhat dismissed had to do with the fact that the plot tended to get away from itself in the last few episodes. All the same, it’s worth a watch.
Another light novel adaptation, it’s still hard to believe how little attention this anime gets paid, even years after its completion. The main premise behind Scrapped Princess is that the princess Pacifica (obviously) has been prophesized to ‘bring an end to the world’, and has gone on the lam in the protective custody of her older brother and sister. There was a lot of really enticing high fantasy tropes to this series, but the real success of the anime was in bringing to life a whole world – from the geopolitical stresses of religious fervor to post-apocalyptic technology – and has been credited and highly praised for its animation which came out of the same studio responsible for Cowboy Bebop.
Aside from the really in-depth storytelling and continual surprises (trust me, you need to watch to the end), the other big draw of Scrapped Princess was its ability to negotiate the relationships between the different characters, especially Pacifica and her two siblings, who inhabited a maternal and protective quality respectively that really lent itself to some watchable conflict and tension. If you’re into expansive storylines this is definitely the anime for you – and don’t worry, it has a happy ending.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days
Roughly translated from its Japanese name Kumo no Mukō, Yakusoku no Basho, there may be people familiar with this anime movie – or, at least, its creator Makoto Shinkai, who has been a major player in the anime world next to Miyazaki and others. And although he may not yet have earned the mantle of Miyazaki, he was responsible for this gorgeous piece of art. It follows the story of two child prodigies and a girl in Aomori in an alternate timeline where Russia has occupied Hokkaido. They find a crashed drone and repair it, but before they can fly it the girl, Sayuri, disappears. We cut to the future and many years later where both boys have taken different directions in their life and Sayuri is discovered to have been suffering from narcolepsy and has been asleep for three years, trapped alone in her own parallel universe. What follows is an attempt on behalf of both men to fulfill their promise to Sayuri, and has some of the most evocative imagery and music that’s on par with 5 Centimeters Per Second.
It also does a great job of balancing the realism of war and imminent invasion against the grittiness of human emotion, and doesn’t pull any punches in terms of depicting scenarios that don’t have any easy choices. It’s also a very moving piece about the endurance of love, but it avoids clichés and never sentimentalizes it (even though you will have your heart strings pulled in every which direction).
Outside of Ghibli, there is one studio that has routinely proven that it has the chops to pull off some incredible avant garde anime, and that’s Studio 4°C. Not only do they take an innovative approach to anime, by challenging artistic styles and condensing some serious political/social/philosophical concepts into a very watchable medium, they also have some of the more unique stories out there. Enter Tekkon Kinkreet. Originally a seinen manga series, the studio took up the challenge of transferring it to the big screen, and it remains to this day one of my favorites.
It follows the homeless street orphans Black (a protective acrobatic vigilante) and his sidekick White (an autistic/schizophrenic kid with prophetic powers) as they go about their business in Takaramachi, populated by different gangs. When the Yakuza plan to tear down certain areas to build a theme park, Black gets involved in a number of fights, which leads to White being taken away by the police, and Black falls into a depressive slump where he begins to slip into insanity and becomes his alter-ego, the Minotaur. On top of fascinating interconnected stories (an old Yakuza member trying to get out, the cop who takes care of White, super-human ‘alien’ hitmen), the interplay between Black and White is what really ties the movie together, and the third act is a veritable acid-trip of gorgeous metaphorical imagery that – while enigmatic – isn’t pedantic.
All the flavor of a contemporary steampunk gang flick with some deep metaphysical questions. What more could you want from an anime?
WhyNot!? party is the biggest party for International minds in Osaka!
If you wanna make local Japanese friends, WhyNot!? party is a perfect venue!!