The 10 Most Personal Influential Anime, Part 1

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I’ve been seeing various other bloggers doing this lately and I was bored so I thought I’d see what type of list I would create. I knew a few of these titles belonged on this list before I started but I went over every series I have and asked myself if this title influenced me or not. One of the things I discovered was that nothing from the last 2 years influenced me enough to warrant being on this list. The other thing was that a couple of the shows that made it on the list aren’t shows that I expected to be on.

Before I begin, remember as you’re reading this, the list isn’t my top anime list but a list of those anime titles that have influenced me as an anime watcher. Also, you won’t see several titles that you might expect on a list like this, no Dragon Ball, Pokemon, Sailor Moon, or even Cardcaptors Sakura because I’ve never watched any of these. And finally,this list is roughly in chronological order.

1. Rurouni Kenshin

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The first anime, Rurouni Kenshin, is the very first anime that I watched, knowing it was an anime and it was quite by accident that I did. Living in a big family, by today’s standards, means I was always more aware of what my younger siblings where doing, especially what was on the television, because there wasn’t enough room to be separate. My one younger sister started watching Yu Yu Hakusho and Rurouni Kenshin when it was on daily on Toonami and I would be in the room doing homework. Slowly, I realized these shows where different from most cartoons I’ve seen and slowly I started watching these two shows. I favored Kenshin and my sister favored Yu Yu Hakusho.

Several aspects of Kenshin entranced me. The first was the idea of a story arc that lasted dozens of episodes. This allowed a show to tell stories that were too complex to fit into a single episode. I’d given up on network television, watching only channels like the History or Discovery Channels, but this was just what I was looking for in a television show. The next aspect was the depth to the characters. Even though they where 2-D animated people, they felt like real people; they had a past and they had hopes and dreams for the future. It was easy to care what happened to them and wish for their happiness.

Another aspect was “good” and “evil” still existed and those that were good needed to battle evil. I know not everyone that’s called evil is truly evil but there is true evil out there and it seems to me that in America we like to pretend there’s no one truly evil. So when Kenshin is asked to kill Shishio to save Japan, that part of me that wants to see good triumph over evil became excited over the chance to see that happen. And lastly, because we had real characters and a complex story, there was opportunities for real moral dilemmas that the characters where faced with. These dilemmas wheren’t silly ones like – I found a wallet, should I keep the money or should I return it. In Kenshin’s case, he had taken a solemn vow not to kill anymore, so how was he going to be able to kill Shishio and not break his vow?

So for introducing me to anime, showing that animated shows could have complex stories and characters, reminding me of the fight between good and evil and how moral dilemmas develop even when making seemingly easy moral choices – Rurouni Kenshin easily earns a spot among the most influential animes for me.

2. Witch Hunter Robin

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The next show, Witch Hunter Robin, won’t make it on my favorites list but I can’t deny it’s influence on me.

After Kenshin and Yu Yu Hakusho, I was wanting to see what else anime had to offer so when I happened to see IGN positively review Witch Hunter Robin, I figured I trust their word and purchased the first volume. The first thing that I noticed was the huge bump in animation quality over Kenshin. This show looked good and I liked the Gothic styling but that’s not the reason for it’s inclusion here. The show established itself as the good witch-hunters protecting society from witches that wished to do evil. And for the first dozen or so episodes, it stuck to this formula but then something very unexpected happened. Suddenly, the organization that ran the anti-witch effort and was supposedly good went after one of it’s own and the show went into a totally different direction then I expected, it even included a surprise twist or three.

This showed me that an anime had the ability to be more then what it initially appears to be as well as allowing characters to drastically change throughout the course of the show.

3. Evangelion

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The next show, Neon Genesis Evangelion, is a show that can be expected to be on a list like this but for me it’s on for a reason that’s probably different from most others.

Around the time of watching Witch Hunter Robin, I was looking for more shows that I, as an new anime fan, should watch. I saw this series get mentioned by many people as one of the greatest series ever and one that all anime fan needs to watch. So, I decided to give it a go and see what the fuss was about.

I found Shinji to be really annoying but the odd, interesting story and great action sceneswere more then enough to make me enjoy the show. Therefore, I was caught off-guard when Gainax bungled the ending. This was incomprensible to me, didn’t they iron out the story before they started the series? I look at my DVDs of the series, unwatched since that first time, and can’t help but feeling duped.

So, for teaching me that it’s important to make my own decisions about a show – regardless of what fandom might say – and learning that how an anime ends is vital in determining the show’s worth, Neon Gensis Evangelion earns a spot on this list.

4. Kino’s Journey

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The fourth anime, Kino’s Journey, marked the first time I really strayed from shounen/action titles and I was a bit apprehensive.

It was very different from what I had come to expect, there was no overarching story arc or even much linkage between episodes; however, I quickly realized I liked this show a great deal. Each episode presented at least one question, mainly ethical or moral, to ponder and it was presented in such a way that often it was difficult to come up with a quick or easy answer. For example, in one episode two city-states had been locked in constant war for almost 200 years until a mother on each side decided something needed to be done to end the bloodshed. Their solution was once a year each side would compete in a contest to determine that year’s winner. Sounds good but the competition involved a third city-state that was very technologically inferior – the two sides would attack the third one and the side that tallied the most kills was the winner for the year. Peace between the two nations was achieved and has held for 15 years and the overall body count has greatly diminished because neither side wants to eradicate the third.

The show also didn’t have a real ending to it (not that it really could) which fit the show and later I learned was a characteristic of slice-of-life shows. Therefore, for making me a fan of the slice-of-life genre as well as showing that it was possible to make me think and be entertaining at the same time, Kino’s Journey takes it’s place on this list.

5. Spirited Away

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Fifth on the list, Spirited Away, happens to be the sole movie to make the list. I wanted to put Millennium Actress on the list but was unable to point to how it significantly influenced me as an anime fan.

I still remember surfing on Aintitcoolnews.com and seeing a headline that pointed to the trailer for an animated film called Spirited Away. The writer seemed excited so I watched the trailer and was likewise blown away. I wanted to see it so badly but realized the chances of it playing anywhere near my house was very remote. However, a couple of months later, a local theater did advertise they were going show it and after convincing one of my sisters to go with me, I got my chance to watch Spirited Away on the big screen.

And let me tell you, it was a real treat to have the chance. There are many reasons to like this movie but the reason why it has influenced me was that it showed that anime was capable of producing a reaction called ‘sense of wonder’ in the viewer. This can be thought as when your jaw drops because you’ve encountered something new and so amazing that it makes you think of the world differently. This reaction is discussed pretty frequently in print SF circles because this was something that many feel that written SF of the last couple of decades lacks when compared to earlier SF. One moment that particularly sticks out in my mind was when Chihiro was running on a very narrow pathway trying to fit in-between bushes that were covered in a profuse amount of flowers. My jaw dropped at the beauty of the scene and how Miyazaki was able to turn flower bushes into something amazing – it really changed how I looked at the world around me.

I’m going to cut this into two parts so you won’t have to scroll through a behemoth of a post. Part 2 should be up within a day.

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17 thoughts on “The 10 Most Personal Influential Anime, Part 1”

  1. Not knowing sci-fi speak, I’m glad of that ‘sense of wonder’ link you dropped in.

    I’m sure the memory of feelings like that makes a massive contribution to most fans, even if it’s not always so clearly expressed. That you could get ’4 big influences’ in before getting that precise feeling of changed perspective is quite interesting – and, I’d imagine, probably a result of starting anime when young.

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  2. Cowboy Bebop was the first anime I ever saw, sitting up with the kids late at night. I vaguely liked it, but it wasn’t till after I watched Kenshin that I knew how to watch anime. When I rewatched CB years later, it rang with so much story and depth the second time around. There was an undertone of despair and loss that I totally missed. And I don’t think I would have “got” CB unless I had seen Kenshin first. I wonder how many other people where introduced to anime “for real” through Kenshin?

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  3. That’s a pretty varied list, I’m interested to see what your next 5 will be. Quite a number of Ghibli films have given me that sense of wonder you describe. In Spirited Away it was the train scene for me. It was just so utterly beautiful and strange yet seemed to make perfect sense… I found myself wondering why I’d never thought of the idea of a train running over water before.

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  4. I’m going to test my predictive powers (and probably fail). The next 5 will include at least 2 of the ff:

    5 cm per second
    Tenggen Toppa Gurren Lagann
    Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu
    Honey and Clover (no one mentions this, but it’s due)
    Clannad

    I realize I made very safe picks. Nonetheless, I’m prepared to be surprised.

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  5. @LBrevis: The train scene was another spectacular scene and I had the same thought of Ghibli films.

    @ghostlightning: All good picks but you got only one totally correct and one is similar to a show that made the list.

    @coburn: I actually got into anime while in my early 20′s and pretty much separate from any other fans. As a result I missed many great shows – add Cowboy Bepop to shows I’ve never seen (though I know who dies at the end) – that other fans would have clued me in on sooner. Outside of my family, I still don’t think I’ve met another anime fan in real life.

    @sarah: I think I saw a survery done and something like 12% of people cite Kenshin as their gateway show into anime.

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  6. well, for me, lots of anime have influenced me, especially my emotion..

    (Love) = Daddy Long Legs, Lovely Complex, Emma, Beautiful World, Howl’s Moving Castle

    (Sports) = Slam Dunk, Eyeshield 21

    (Friendship n family) = Natsume Yuujinchou, Spirited Away, Totoro, Ponyo..

    i’ve watched lots but above are the one that really influenced me till now…

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  7. I have to agree with your choices, especially spirited away seeing as it was one of my favorites and in my opinion, miyazaki’s best work to date. I’m an avid anime fan and I thought that I should recommend a show called Ergo Proxy. If you havent seen it, you should because its has great style, a very dark feel and an incredibly interesting story that includes some great action scenes, and thats not to mention the rediculously awesome soundtrack. Its not too long, but it definately packs a big punch in terms of what I think you’re looking for.

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  8. This is a good idea for a post. I’ll be working on a blog post on this theme.

    For some short comments to start off, I think Legend of the Galactic Heroes was a major impact on me after the shounen animes. I started on Sailor Moon… not even realizing it was anything different than the other cartoons. I did like the aesthetic quality and something about the music made it memorable. That got replaced by DBZ several years later. The other shounen titles were Yu Yu Hakushou and the anno… guy with the Big Fang sword and the battle priestesss. Inuyasha.

    I can’t quite remember which anime I saw after that. I think it was Naruto, after I saw some Miyazaki films. Naruto and Bleach then replaced DBZ, a few years after DBZ went on permanent repeat or something.

    Anyways, the great thing about shounen anime is that it is set in Beowulf, epic poetry, story telling. By epic I mean this. You fight a weak enemy and get strong. You fight a stronger enemy and get strong. You fight the boss of the stronger enemy, which is even stronger, and you get really strong now. Then you fight the Ultimate Strength and you need even More Strength to do it.

    You know how it goes. It doesn’t get boring, in other words. There’s always some “plateau” the characters can climb. For a boy, that’s exciting to a certain extent.

    Shows for teenagers on tv were mostly about family dynamics, school tensions, or something that was very very… boring. It was not something you could stake your entire existence on to win. It was absent Passion.

    Naruto was the best of the lot in specific fashions. It had a lot to say on death and the cruelty of the shinobi world. It had a lot to say about personal relationships in a team. It had a lot to say about the burdens of leadership and how societies perpetuate themselves through their children. In this respect, Bleach was far inferior. Bleach had none of those aspects when you think about it. None, whatsoever. Rather unfortunate.

    However, it was slow going and intentionally went into non-original material to create artificial delays. So I eventually looked around and found LOGH. Which was really anime for adults and required a rather mature perspective. There was no kid origin or growth like in Naruto. Start at adult. End at …. It ended up pushing me to think much more carefully about strategy. While I watched all this anime, I was consuming military history, Sun Tzu, philosophy, tactics, Roman military history, Greek city states and Sparta’s Thermopylae, as well as fictional histories involving all kinds of ancient weapons and gunpowder army tactics.

    That kind of reading list automatically stuck me to something like LOGH, with its battles and political drama. Then sometime around that time I went and learned H2H striking. Popularly known as self-defense, although more applicable to war than peace. All the Shounen stuff about power was a good motivator on that path, you see. I had always wanted to learn martial arts or something equivalent. I got that “equivalent”.

    P.S.

    Forgot Robotech. All of these I were introduced in pieces and disconnected bits. I never saw the shows before Naruto, in a continuous series. Yet I still liked them. Even though I never realized the Invid were part of the world linked to the man shaped spaceship. Until I read the novels at least. It was a grand epic sweeping tale covering numerous generations. It was broad. It increased my horizons of what could be.

    Shounen anime pushed me expectations of myself internally and personally. Robotech gave me an appreciation for a scorched earth and how to revitalize it.

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  9. Dragon Ball def deserves to be there. I never even heard anyone of my friends, or ever strangers mention Juno’s journey or witch hunter robin. Never even heard of those, and im a big anime fan >.>

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  10. I disagree with you on the point that a shows ending is what calculates its total worth. Evangelion was an amazing anime, sure the ending blew. That’s why the creator of it rereleased his vision of it. Perhaps you should check into it. And please don’t be so quick to judge just because the ending sucked.

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  11. A bad ending might take off as many as half a star or an entire star (20%) of the whole rating. It was such the case in Scrapped Princess, when the beginning and middle were great setups and development, but with a badly orchestrated ending and some ill thought of plot developments. It was easy to figure out, given the clues of the rest of the series, but just one episode downgraded it from 5/5 to 4.5/5.

    This blog post is about the 10 most “personal” influential ones, and does not cover anime which influenced other people but not the author.

    Evangelion has so much of a bad reputation as a psychological twister, that I’ve delayed any decision to watch it or ignore it for awhile now.

    Shows like Scrapped Princess or Chrno Crusade are powerful plotwise and emotionally, but not something I would recommend as a work of artistic vision. It’s because the negative emotions invoked are due to bad quality, rather than intentional scripting and drama. It’s not necessary, thus I feel it isn’t necessary for viewers to be tortured unnecessarily. My resistance to despair and drama shows is pretty high, and if even I am negatively affected, I would not dare recommend it as a valuable experience to others.

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  12. Oh the other hand, Busou Renkin had an awesome and stellar ending episode, but lackluster beginning and middle. I rewatched the ending episode more than 6 times, but the rest of the show I only watched once. It’s funny because the ending episode would not have been very powerful without the rest of the series. So this was the reverse phenomenon when a series that would normally rate a 3.5 or 4 for “average enjoyment” suddenly gets a half mark increase to 4.5 simply because of the ending. Thus going from “kind of liked it and kinda disliked it” to a recommendation of a “mostly valuable experience” (4.5/5). A five star rating from me would mean that it was an excellent and almost perfect, or perfect, experience and enjoyable for many rewatches as well. The shows that get ratings of 3 or lower, are so below average that I generally don’t even finish watching them.

    Most people rate shows they dislike with .5 or 0 or 1 or 2, but I’ve found that even those kinds of shows, if it was good enough to hold my interest at the end, deserved a 3 to 4 rating, and even if my reaction was negative, at least it was a reaction and not just sheer boredom. That’s entertainment of a kind.

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  13. I know that this is an old blog post but I just had to say it: I’m glad that I found my animes’ kindred spirit! I too watched Rurouni Kenshin years ago. Then not that long ago stumbled into WItch Hunter Robin and Kino’s Journey (and .hack//SIGN) which re-sparked my love affair with anime and animation in general. They showed me so much about what the medium could become, and I too can tell that you are somewhat into sci-fi (which I am a huge fan of). From my observation I think you and I have somewhat the same taste (even if we don’t, you have a good blog nonetheless), so I guess you earned one more reader!

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