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
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
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.
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
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
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.