What is so special about anime? The best is renowned for the quality of the animation, and sometimes full screen animation is used, unlike the two or three cel layer partial animation in the West. Some use partial CGI for effects such as clouds or water, or CGI produced from hand drawn originals - more attractive than pure CGI as it stands in 2011.
Anime probably started with the MGM Japan release of "Magic Boy" in 1959 - about the time Disney had their last movie cartoon hit for some time with 101 Dalmations. Due to the number of visitors seeking info on this film and the scarcity of web information, I have added my own Magic Boy tribute page (caution- 500k of images).
The Anime Cafe is a wonderfully crafted (if now dated) site well worth reading.
You will find that anime covers everything from animations for the youngest children to very adult animation- there are many videotapes / DVDs sold in Japan of animation that UK customs would seize and prosecute you for- so be careful if you import to make sure what you are getting! Note that you do not have the protection of BBFC certification on imported titles and some Japanese titles may - however innocent in cultural context - cause legal problems in the UK.
Manga and Anime have been used to help with social problems- teaching men how to meet and say hello to women; teaching newly married virgin couples how to treat each other and the realities of real intimacy as against the fantasy of porn. Helping people faced with the horrors of serious earthquake to recover. Lots of "coming of age" stories dealing with growing up, especially school exams, relationships, fantasy crushes, gaining independance, first employment... and so on.
UK residents will have met with anime in such lovely programs as Moomin and Alfred J Kwak - both of which have excellent animation and stories.
Of course there are "crowd pleasers" with violence, multiple girlfriends, magic, horror, "magic girls" (Sailor Moon), "fan service" (generally for males, but also some for females) and yes some rather poor stories.
In this Corner of the World is a sensitive story about the bombing of Japan in WW2 and the surrender- as seen from the civilian point of view and exists thanks to modern crowdfunding! (The author was born in Hiroshima). Your Name is one of those lovely stories about communication across different times, lovely story. Journey to Agartha is beautifully drawn, a fantasy with definite moments of horror. Wolf Children (Cert PG) covers the difficulties of being the last shape changing wolf. Miss Hokusai is about the daughter of the painter of the famous Japanese wave, and is at least semi-historical.
But what about the series? I enjoyed Spice and Wolf, a journey by a male harvester and the female harvest wolf, superbly portrayed. Clannad is a long series with some distinctly emotional sad scenes about loneliness and friendship. Expect some tears.
Fractale is certified 15, and is quite IT related with the chaos of the breakdown of virtual reality- beautiful story and nicely drawn. Haibane Renmei is a fantasy where you (and the characters) do not know where they are, where they came from- or where they are going, nicely told and well drawn.
Hibike Euphonium is a musical anime series about a school band and its members (two series). Tokyo Magnitude 8 was made after the big earthquake in Japan to help children cope with a terrible situation- a remarkable anime. Serial Experiment Lain is very strange and somewhat more violent than I really like-- I bought the expensive boxed set and my DVD player didn't even identify the disks as DVDs, the reflective layer was completely dimpled and useless.
I must admit that there are some seasons when I find no new series to interest me, but there are anough new titles trickling through that I find enjoyable- many more than the short list above.
Can't not mention Sailor Moon which is better in the subtitled Japanese than in the US TV
dubbed version, but even the dub is OK. In 2014 the series was remade as Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal - usually shortened to Sailor Moon Crystal. The story is retold from scratch and is closer to the original manga than the earlier tv series. Unusually the new series is almost as good as the original although the Philippine animation can be rough (couldn't afford Japan?). There is also a live action version...
Of course as a human owned by a cat, What's Michael? is especially endearing- if only I could find DVDs with subtitles!
The Shaw family are greatly entertained by the comedy present in Marmalade Boy, and greatly enjoyed both the tv series of Little Women and the movie from Toei.
Another beautifully animated show in the World Masterpiece Theatre series of anime, which included Moomins, Little Women, Nadia and so on - Romeo's Blue Skies, a Swiss story which seems not to have been translated to English. The story is over a century old, the anime is very attractive.
More recent discoveries I can recommend:
Mahoraba - Heartful Days; Victorian Romance Emma; Rose of Versailles.
Kanon is beautiful (genres moe, bishojo - it is an adaption of a PC game). Go for the 2006 version.
Eve No Jikan (Time of Eve) is a short series or film with an interesting SF/Android theme. There are interesting subtle anti-discriminatory comments.
Chobits is a trifle more mature than some others listed here, the BBFC gave it a 15 cert (15 for moderate sex references, 12 for fantasy violence), but it is great story telling. This is one for serious fans of SF, robotics, Blade Runner and so on. There is some humour. I liked it. My link is to the reviews on IMDB, which seem more about the show I watched than the negative reviews on specialist anime sites who really didn't understand the show.
I could not end without mentioning the 39 episode NHK TV series
NADIA (The Secret of Blue Water)- a long story arc, cute leading teenagers, conspiracy;
aliens; cute lion cub... superb story and good animation. Episode 5 requires a handy box of tissues. Wow. Gainax advise that the central
13 episodes, based on the island, were farmed out to Korea, hence differing animation and characterisation - they suggest that their 26 episodes can be watched on their own. (first 21, last 5 episodes).
Several strong similarities to a later Disney feature animation.
21k picture of Nadia
There are many other excellent titles. Discover and enjoy. And take a look at some of the newer Western graphic arts books, the major publishers are now becoming involved- Faber, Penguin, MacMillan and so on. There is a splendid book from Penguin on Lovelace and Babbage and the invention of computers.
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