This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not a reflection of Ping! as a whole.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe making it socially acceptable for 30-year-olds to wear Captain America costumes, there has never been a better time to be a comic book fan. However, roll back the years and there used to be a time when even 13-year olds reading comics were often looked down upon. That said, a similar culture has arisen however: not from the west, but the eastern side of the world. It is notably known as anime culture.
Anime is basically an abbreviation of animation which is crudely also referred to as cartoon. However, that is where the similarities end between the east and the west. Anime is a multi-billion dollar industry in Japan and is more celebrated than the live-action industry. It is something that is ingrained in their culture as one can see that in their version of Times Square, known as Akihabara, in Tokyo.
So you must be wondering, everyone has watched anime when they lost their first tooth, and I am not going to watch Doremon, Shinchan and Pokemon. And sure, they are probably the most well-known anime. But, there is so much more to this medium and it is incredible, the kind of groundbreaking stories that have been narrated. Fun Fact: The Matrix was inspired by another anime called Ghost in the shell.
“Ok, I’ll give it a go, but what do I watch?”
Well everyone has a personal top 10, so I won’t bias you here with mine. We had a poll on IIIT-H’s Anime & Manga Facebook group and got our results. (Note: Some of them are changed for the ease of first-time watchers).
10) Kaguya Sama – Love is War
One thing that you need to realize with anime is that there are very few anime which do not have a high school in it and this one is no different. Kaguya Sama is a show about two high school students who are pretty much in love and are from very different backgrounds. Is the problem the economic status? Not at all. It’s about who confesses first. A fun show where they go to nonsensical lengths in order to make each other confess. Watch it for the side characters and the Chika dance (you’ll know what I mean).
Haikyuu is a story of a volleyball team trying to win tournament after tournament. Now, I know what you are thinking; why would I watch a volleyball show when I have no interest in it. Well, the show embodies the best of sports itself. The drama, the camaraderie, the chills, the heartbreak all packaged in a very realistic portrayal. It probably is the only anime which comes close to a real-world sports experience. This show single-handedly increased the number of kids playing volleyball in Japan by 200%. So yeah, it’s good. And I assure you, you will be shouting with joy when Tsukki blocks Ushijima.
8) Demon Slayer
Imagine one day coming back home to find your entire family getting slaughtered by demons and only your sister is alive who, “wait for it”, gets converted to a demon. Sounds like a bad day huh? Demon Slayer is an anime which has won fans all over but what really stands out is that it’s not a revenge story. With animation to blow you out of (or with) water and an unforgettable opening, do let me know about the chills you get after episode 19.
7) One Punch Man
“Just a hero for fun”, that’s what he says when asked about his backstory. One Punch Man is one hell of a parody show which makes fun of all your superhero cliches and turns right on them. Our hero stays true to his words and never requires more than a punch to win. Normally that would set up a very boring story but this one is an expert on subverting expectations. And I am not even starting on its God Tier Animation and fight sequences. It tackles very interesting dilemmas which come with being unknown and being the strongest man in the universe. A true masterpiece.
6) Steins Gate
Time travel either makes for a very interesting story or a very confused one. Fortunately for our group of misfits, it’s a masterpiece. Steins Gate is about Okabe Rintarou messing with his in house microwave time machine and helping his friends achieve their dreams. However, there are consequences to everything and once that catches up to Okabe he has to make some very difficult decisions to save all his loved ones. This one has a wholesome story which quickly turns depressing. 2nd highest-rated show on MyAnimeList (MAL) until very recently.
Ok, all right. Finally one anime which you have heard about because of all those Naruto Sasuke memes. But in its essence, it is truly a wonderful show. Although notorious for its stupid fillers, Naruto is a show that teaches you a lot. Especially about how to beat a villain by talking. It’s a show with probably the best fight of all time (Lee vs Gaara) and overall is a fun enjoyable watch. With villains having more popularity than Naruto at times (Yeah Itachi), close hand to hand combat that is rarely seen in anime fights, a huge cast with a huge diversity of powers and moves, and a story about an outcast becoming the leader, full of heart and comedy. All I am going to say is, believe it.
4) Code Geass
Big Giant Robots? Check. Political Conspiracy? Check. Smart and Charming Hero? Check. Love Triangles? Check, etc etc etc. Code Geass is one of those shows that hits like a truck. It is a show about Lelouch, the Prince of Britannia who’s out for revenge against his father and acquires a power which makes people obey him. The story is notorious for its cliffhangers and yes, anything that can happen, happens in this show. However, what this show is really famous for is its iconic ending which, frankly, none of us saw coming.
3) Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
No top 10 anime list is ever complete without this show and for good reason. Two brothers are trying to bring their mother back to life using Alchemy but at a precious cost. Not only do they fail, but one also loses his arm and leg while the other has his soul attached to a metal body. Sounds depressing? It gets worse. However, it’s not all gloom and doom and is probably the most balanced show out there. With the lines between villain and heroes often getting blurred and ethical dilemmas coming up every now and then, it’s a show that has something for everybody.
One of those rare shows that never lets you get bored in its runtime, and with a soundtrack to die for, no wonder it has been the highest-rated show on MyAnimeList (MAL) for the last 10 years.
2) Attack on Titan
By the looks of it, it is a show about large Titans eating humans and our struggle to survive. 25 episodes in and I’m sure you’ll agree when I say that’s the tip of the iceberg. What sets it apart is that there is nothing that you can predict in this show. Every episode keeps you guessing and your views about the characters are constantly challenged. If you liked the vast world and unpredictability of Game of Thrones, you won’t be disappointed. While its hype is nowhere close to where it was in 2013, one of its recent episodes got a 10 on IMDB, the only anime episode to ever get that. Every season is in itself a different show yet they all connect so well, and once you get to know what’s in the basement, the world will not be the same again.
1) Death Note
Alright then, you know this one. Everyone has watched it and everyone knows that Light had a potato chip. Death Note was the anime which changed everyone’s view about anime. Light Yagami is one of the brightest students in the country and one day he gets a notebook which kills a person just by writing their name in it. So is he right in killing criminals or does he deserve to go to jail? With a musical score to remember and a battle of wits never seen before, this is one show which never gets old.
These 10 shows are not necessarily the best of anime. However, what I can assure you is that once you have watched a few of them completely, your worldview would definitely change.
Now, being a writer I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t throw in some of my own suggestions, which I shall here call the Writer’s choice. So some of them are as follows –
1) Kimi no Na wa (Your Name)
Taki and Mitshuha are two high school students who randomly exchange each other’s bodies and live in extremely different places. The question? Do they ever meet each other? The animation? Well it makes me want to live in that world. The soundtrack? Hard to forget even after years. It’s one movie which makes you laugh and cry at the same time. The realization of the twist when it hits is second to none and only a few anime movies can claim to give the same feeling of satisfaction and joy as this movie. A must watch especially if you want to start watching anime.
2) Neon Genesis Evangelion
There are some anime which redefine the genre and have an impact like no other. Today it is considered as the founding father of modern anime because of how it set character tropes. Humanity is attacked by aliens and its last hope is a 14-year-old boy, Shinji, who must fight it with his robot. Sounds like a Transformers movie? Only that it descends into a study of the human mind and has consequences people still don’t understand after 25 years.
Tip: Watch End of Evangelion to understand what happened in the last 2 episodes
3) Psycho Pass
If you have grown up on the likes of Steven Spielberg and his Sci-Fi movies, you’ll definitely love this one. A show about a mass murderer on the loose who cannot be detected by a system which predicts who will commit a murder coupled with some stylish music and ethical dilemmas, this show is one which is guaranteed to shock you as well as mesmerize you with its plot.
4) Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter is widely considered to be the best shounen (action) anime of all time. It’s a show about Gon searching for his father while becoming a Hunter (not the one that kills animals). It is a story of him overcoming various tests and challenges in his pursuit. What really sets this apart is the variety of challenges and the way the power system in this series works. While many series would cheat with rules, this doesn’t, which sets up some of the most interesting fights ever(Gon vs Hisoka, Kurapika vs Uvogin)
So that was one long article on some of the shows that we as a community have come to love and cherish. Most of them are now available on Netflix and we have only scratched the surface. Anime as a medium will continue to grow and evolve and some stories are hard to present in live-action. So what are you waiting for??