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Top 5 + Guest: 5 Best Popular Anime Series

There’s a not-so-invisible chasm on the Internet between folks who tend to mostly watch popular series – such as those that air on American television – and viewers who watch a wider slate of shows.  Unfortunately, I think the latter group sometimes comes off as snobby (oh, your favorite series is Naruto, huh?), even though both sides are equally avid about their hobby.  Further, there are a lot of anime that are both popular and excellent.  And that’s what we’re focused on today – popular anime series that we also consider to be very, very good.

Our guest for today’s column is Anime Reporter, who over the past year and a half has developed a terrific aniblog with a huge index of anime reviews covering series old and new, popular and niche.  Check out his site – the Anime Reporter puts a lot of work into his excellent reviews!  And he also put a lot of work into his contribution below – one much lengthier than those we normally post from guests, but it’s worth the read (and maybe somehow appropriate when we’re talking about some series that have 10+ seasons in the books!).

Anime Reporter’s Picks

  1. Death Note
  2. One Piece
  3. Pokémon
  4. Attack on Titan
  5. Naruto

death note 1For me, a good anime is a good story, or at least one that resonates with the viewer personally. While each of my choices on this list were chosen primarily as top examples of popular anime series, each of them also ranks highly on my overall list of anime. Here’s why: Death Note is the immediate go-to when I want to draw a non-anime fan into the wonderful world of Japanese animation. Death Note is dark and driven, it’s twisted and tragic and it has exactly the right mix of psychological thriller and supernatural suspense to draw in viewers who are used to seeing the likes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead on Western television. Death Note is the top of this list because it’s not only a phenomenal example of a popular anime, but an exemplary piece of storytelling. Full stop.

One Piece is next on my list because it’s a great piece of anime in exactly the areas that Death Note isn’t. In all respects, it meets the criteria to be a pretty traditional Shonen. It’s got the virtuous, though not too bright hero, the seemingly impossible quest that makes up his life-goal and a series of intense, escalating battles. What sets it apart from other series is the blend of sheer hilarity, dysfunctional but deeply likeable characters and an acute awareness of exactly how and when to take itself seriously. The One Piece story spans years, even decades and it’s still very much the simple tale it was at its beginning but its characters and their goals have been allowed to grow and develop without dragging the story back. Good clean fun and a story that grows over the years, what more could you want?

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Throwback Thursdays: Code Geass

Code Geass is in my book a classic anime. Not classic in the sense it is old, but classic in the sense that it was popular and at the same time polarized the people watching it. I loved the show. This was the first anime that I was ever hooked on, and it quickly became one of my favorites. Never before had I seen such a complex story mixed with beautiful and intense design. To this day, I love how the main characters and their relationship pushed and at times pulled the story along. Nothing felt wasted, nothing seemed to fanciful.

code geass 2

Code Geass starts in an alternate world. In this world, the Roman Empire failed in their conquest of The British Isles. This was because of mysterious powers known as Geass. Our story takes place at what would be modern day Tokyo. Britainia has conquered the Americas and is now based out of the USA (only it never became the USA.) About seven years before this story, Britania invades Japan and colonizes it and re-names it Area 11. However, in the past a Prince and Princess of Britania were traded to Japan and become stranded after the war. They are known to be dead, but aren’t really. They are in hiding. The prince, Lelouch, gains the power of Geass and thus begins his war of vengeance against Britania. His every move though is checked by his old friend and bitter rival Suzaku, who is fighting to change the system from the inside. What ensues is basically Death Note fused together with Gundam 00.

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Top 5 + Guest: Most Overrated Anime

There are a lot of really great anime out there.  There are a lot of really bad series, too.  And then there’s that subset of anime that are held in high esteem, but don’t deserve all the praise or popularity that they receive.  For our Top 5 + Guest post this month, we’re tackling those series that get a lot of love, but maybe deserve to get a little more hate.

Joining us today is Tommy of Anime Bowl.  A long-time aniblogger, Tommy’s unique site combines his passions of anime and sports.  He’s recently started a Toonami podcast and has just finished up his annual March Madness character tournament (I was defending champion in the pick ’em, but came in dead last this year).

And as always, tell us below how we messed up and what shows would make your list!

Tommy’s Picks

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
  2. Attack on Titan
  3. Sword Art Online (I)
  4. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
  5. Durarara!!

fma 4All my picks are incredibly popular shows which have appeared on Toonami/Adult Swim recently; shows that are household names amongst otaku, yet ultimately missing something that causes them to fall into mediocrity. The top choice is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which failed to live up to the reputation of its predecessor due to a reliance on deus ex machina – which will be a recurring theme amongst my choices. Over and over again, Edward Elric, who was a very well-developed character in the first series, ends up in Brotherhood somehow always magically making the right choice no matter what, making him as close to a Gary Stu as you can get. And while I love how Brotherhood ends – I rank its final episode second only to Cowboy Bebop’s “The Real Folk Blues” – the major conflict is resolved by a dose of deus ex machina reminiscent of Frozen (just “love,” Elsa!). Next are Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online, which are two peas in a pod. Both suffer from a never-wrong shonen lead (like Edward Elric, to an extent), and both never live up to the over-the-top hype they received upon airing. Both make heavy uses of deus ex machina – in particular SAO. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a tough one to criticize; it’s got lots to like, and it has some really strong characters. However, if your bar is set at “Evangelion,” anything short of “masterpiece” is to fall short. (Plus my heart was ripped out in the finale. NIA!!!) Finally, Durarara!! doesn’t really fit anywhere amongst these, but I can’t figure out why everyone else loves this one. I watch it asking, “am I just watching people chat in chatrooms? How is this entertaining?” So while I do enjoy all these series, they ultimately fall short of the hype. Except Durarara!! – I can’t enjoy that. Read the rest of this entry

Not This Fan’s Service: An Alternate Viewpoint on Code Geass S1 22-23

I avoided watching Code Geass for a long time, partly because I am picky about character design in anime (I happen to like my characters to be somewhat under eight feet tall), and partly because I had watched two episodes without beginning to care about any of the characters. In the end, two things made me change my mind. One came from the preparations I made before creating my anime fanart group at deviantART, in which I learned that Lelouch Lamperouge ranked third in the Anime-Planet poll for character all-time popularity (an influx of votes for Kakashi-sensei has since lowered Lelouch to fourth place). Granted this is not the most scientific poll in the world (nor does it claim to be), but when over twenty thousand named characters got ranked in that poll, scoring so high must mean something.

The other reason I gave Code Geass a second chance was TWWK’s earlier post on this series, in which he was clearly quite exercised, even appalled, at the violence later on in the series. I couldn’t help being curious about the show that elicited this response from him. Of course, since TWWK wrote this essay with a backdrop of real violence happening too close to home, and since he didn’t know Code Geass would go in that direction whereas his post gave me the benefit of being prepared for it, there was no possible way I could react as he did. Still, I am holding off watching the last two episodes in the first season, so as to put myself in as similar a position as possible to TWWK’s when he wrote his post.

(SPOILER WARNINGS for Code Geass, Death Note, and Steins;Gate below!)

Read the rest of this entry

Untangled: Have you guys heard/watch/considered “Code Geass”?

From time to time, a reader will send us a question about our thoughts on certain series or various ideas related to religion.  For instance, Albert asked about iDOLM@STER, leading to one of our most popular posts.

In an effort to encourage further questions, I recently added an “Ask the Staff” button to our toolbar.

Do you have questions for us in regards to anime or manga?  Christianity?  Religion?  Or anything else in between or all around?  Please feel free to send it to us.

Esther, another reader, recently sent us this query:

Have you guys heard/watch/considered “Code Geass”? I think the ending had a great impact and I also think that it can relate to “sacrifice for a loved one” or just “sacrifice”. It’s a short series with just 25 ep. in 2 seasons. (50 in all) Great action scenes and connections.

Thanks for the question, Esther.

Indeed, most of us have watched (or are in the middle of watching) Code Geass.  In fact, it’s one of Zeroe4’s favorite series.

I’m not as big of a fan.  Well, more accurately, I was a huge fan until one particular scene affected me so deeply (in a negative way) that I dropped the show:

I turned the computer off and proceeded to be angry for days, thinking of little but this episode.  I never did finish the series, and never will.

I’ve read a summary of the ending, though, and I agree with your analysis – maybe one day one of our writers will address this strong connection.

In the meantime, stay tuned!  Your question is very timely because  “The Professor” (R86) is working on a post for the series, which should be going up soon.  Please check it out – he’s a gifted writer and I’m sure you’ll enjoy his thoughts.

And for everyone else, please send any questions you have our way!

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Aniblogger Faith, the Number Three in Rinne no Lagrange, and Unmasking Lelouche

Jordan wrote an interesting article about the role one’s faith plays in watching anime, quoting Naru, Canne, and myself from interviews he conducted for the post. [The Otaku HQ]

Ephemeral Dreamer makes some wonderful connections between Rinne no Lagrange and various religious motifs, including those in Buddhism and Hinduism. [Ephemeral Dreamer]

Zeroe4 continues his “Under the Mask of Lies” series by examining Code Geass, reaching the conclusion that Christ can unmask us. [Zeroe4]

Also, wish Zeroe4 luck as he starts on his trip to Japan for Discipleship Training School! [Zeroe4]

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As part of the Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere series of posts, each week, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included. 

Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere: Religion in Darker Than Black and Key the Metal Idol

John Noel analyzes themes, characters, and other components in Darker Than Black, including the role religion plays in the work. [chaostangent]

Zeroe4 begins a series on the nature of truth, entitled “Under the Mask of Lies,” in which he’ll use to Code Geass to dive into the topic. [Zeroe4]

John Samuel is working on another “Twenty Days” series – this one about Key the Metal Idol.  Religion plays a role in the anime, including in the episode, SCROLL II. [Pirates of the Burley Griffin]

Finally, new aniblogger, Wikketcrikket, emphasizes that the words “Christian” and “otaku” need not be “mutually exclusive.” [Wikketcrikket]

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As part of the Spirituality in the Anime Blogosphere series of posts, each week, Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included. 

First Impressions – Guilty Crown

"Guilty Crown"

From the writers that brought us Code Geass, we are graced this season with Guilty Crown.  This was one of the few series I was excited for this season and while it got off to rushed start, it presents a promising premise.

First impressions through the first episode:  “Genesis”

The episode starts out with a beautiful song about peace and the sorrow of why people have to fight. During the smooth song, we are thrown into a high tension escape of an oddly dressed girl who is being called a terrorist, together with her small robot companion called Funell. The chase ends with the girl falling off a bridge, then we cut to the next morning where our main character, Shu Ouma, tells about the current situation of Japan in the year 2029.

A virus called the “Apocalypse virus” spread and put Japan into a state of emergency.  Beyond that, we are not told how this virus affects a person, but simply that Japan had to request aid from and is now under the martial law of foreign countries. Read the rest of this entry

Aniblogger Testimonies: Called to Anime

This is the ninth in a series of Aniblogger Testimony posts, where select writers will discuss their personal faith.  Today’s post is by Zeroe4.  The previous posts in this series were written by Lauren Orisini, R86, Nikko, Arianna, Ed Sizemore, Canne, an anonymous blogger, and Annalyn.

When I was growing up, anime was the greatest thing ever. Pokémon was the pinnacle of anime fandom, except in my house. My mother had lived in Japan for a while and had a very negative view of anime. She viewed all anime as being sexually explicate and violent. So my mother did not allow any anime in here house. I learned to love Pokémon through my best friend. Then my family moved.

I didn’t get back into anime tell the same best friend came to visit me and introduced me back into anime. I didn’t fall in love with anime till I saw Code Geass. It captured my imagination. The depth of characters, the amazing art style, the complex story, and above all, the Knightmare Frames all pulled me into the story. I was in love with anime. Read the rest of this entry

OreImo Episode 07 and “The Line”

As I watched the 7th episode of OreImo (Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai) the other day, I felt a sort of uneasiness throughout.  The episode was just as good as others so far.  But…I just couldn’t get comfortable enough ti simply enjoy the show.  I tried not to think too much as I watched and it wasn’t until the end of the episode that the reason for my discomfort hit me on the head.

Episode seven was flirting with crossing the line.

You know, the line.  That invisible mark where one turns off their television or computer.  The place where one sighs and leaves a series behind.  The imaginary point where we move on to another series, like I did after the bloodbath episode of Code Geass.

Kirino OreImo

Source: Pixiv Member 14563677

The line is where we decide a show is no longer worthy of our attention.  And I’m not talking about the quality of a show.  I’m strictly discussing the point in which our morals, sensibilities, values, beliefs, conscience, religion – whatever it is – takes over and tells us that we won’t take anymore.

Truth be told, nothing in this episode was repugnant.  In fact, some of you right now are thinking, “Why the heck would this guy stop watching OreImo because of this episode?”  Well, first of all, I haven’t decided if the show has crossed that line for me yet – you see, lines are often blurry and not always straight-edged and bold.  And secondly, I might stop watching because this was the first episode for me where the point was clearly to establish the beginning of a romantic relationship between Kyousuke and Kirino. Read the rest of this entry

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