I’m often asked to give recommendations for anime I think people should watch. While that’s a simple request, the answer is maybe a little more complicated for myself and our writers at Beneath the Tangles. We have series that we think are beneficial for our readers to watch; those that are both beneficial and entertaining; and series that are fun, but not necessarily ones we’d recommend because we’d consider them “morally gray.” This final group of anime are comprised of shows you generally wouldn’t see us discuss here and that many of writers might avoid because of excessive fanservice, nihilistic themes, graphic violence, themes that don’t jive with our beliefs, etc. Still, there’s still value in many of these shows, and they might be worth the watch, which is why we’ll be giving our top five lists of morally gray anime today. But, of course, viewer beware.
We’re blessed to have iblessall joining us as our guest today. You know him from Mage in the Barrel, a wonderful and very active anime blog. I highly encourage you check it out – and perhaps very germane to our discussion today, click over and see iblessall’s critique of Maria the Virgin Witch.
- Seitokai Yakuindomo
- White Album 2
- Junketsu no Maria
- Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere
For me, making a decision on whether or not to recommend a show to someone usually comes down to one particular question: do the good things about this show outweigh the bad to make it worth watching? In truth, I’m not sure any of the shows on this list are conclusively among those whose troubling elements override the good pieces (most shows like that I never even bothered to finish), but all of them certainly exist much closer to the line than my favorites do. Anyone familiar with the first two titles on my list should understand why they’re there, but the final three merit a bit more explanation. White Album 2’s ending troubles me a great deal because, although the story as a whole functions a cautionary tale, the lack of offered alternatives or even the faintest hint of possible reconciliation makes the show feel incredibly nihilistic and hopeless to me. Junketsu no Maria (on which I’ve written elsewhere and will write again) worries me with both its portrayal of Catholicism and its dangerously simplistic morality, traits that sadly compromise the quality of its likable cast. Finally, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere boasts mostly boilerplate ecchi, but it’s so copious and so egregious that I always have to pause before recommending.
- Oretachi Tsubasa wa Nai
- Monogatari Series
- Perfect Blue
- Shokugeki no Souma
OreTsuba is one anime I will always praise and never recommend. It’s less grey and more black, with an obscene amount of fan service, especially the uncensored version. But the storyboarding? Top notch. This is an amazing example of a really well adapted VN. The Monogatari series is perhaps plenty infamous already, but between fan service, toothbrushes, and the like, it’s tough to rec this to others. Morally grey aside, it is also extremely conversation based, and relies heavily on Japanese culture and language puns, making it even harder to rec. Baccano has a different kind of problem, with it being overall a very violent show, which some Christians may have problems with, but I rate the show very highly. Perfect Blue, like many works by Satoshi Kon, is wonderfully directed, but the content is most definitely mature and has a couple disturbing scenes. The last one you might notice only just started airing, so I might be jumping the gun, but I thoroughly enjoy the Shokugeki no Souma manga and consider to be a surprisingly well done shounen. But that fan service is really extreme.
- Sister Princess
- Monogatari Series
- Listen To Me Girls. I Am Your Father! (Papa no Iu Koto o Kikinasai!)
- Dog Days
- Aoi Hana (Sweet Blue Flowers)
If you are open to checking out a show that looks at the relationship trials of genuine lesbians, Aoi Hana is an excellent show, but it’s definitely something not all Christians will be okay with. I’ve praised Dog Days in the Winter 2015 anime reviews, but it’s got a fair amount of fanservice to watch out for. I’ve also talked about Papakiki on this blog, albeit in an old guest post; it’s a wonderful show, but the fanservice moments, especially with the ten-year-old girl, not to mention the pseudo-incestuous (but thankfully one-sided) attraction between the older step-niece and the main guy. And speaking of incest, Sister Princess never quite crosses that line, but it comes awfully close (and has some questionable tarot/reincarnation elements to boot); even if you can handle that, it’s admittedly not a high quality show. However, I found it a very sweet anime about family and learning to live for others.
- Attack On Titan
- Gurren Lagann
Chobits and FLCL are pretty old anime’s, but also full of fanservice and strange. Around the same time there was another wacky anime called Excel Saga similar to FLCL, which is why at that time people thought anime was very strange that were not familiar with it. Attack on Titan is an amazing series and opening doors to anime in the USA, but the extreme horror, violence and spirit of hopelessness that is all over every episode is not one I could recommend to a Christian viewer new to the genre, as well as Parasyte with all it’s gore. Gurren Lagann is a popular one as well, but the fanservice, foul language and sexual jokes that are pretty common in most anime. Having said all this, I can say that Gurren Lagann and AoT have great plots and are very good series aside from their morally gray aspects.
- Phantom ~Requiem for the Phantom~
- Love Hina
- Kara no Kyoukai
- Maison Ikkoku
My first pick is a strange one, because I actually did recommend it to Japes during last year’s Secret Santa, but I did so knowing that he could handle the series, which is so devastating and dark that I left most every episode feeling empty and even a bit nihilistic. In that manner, it’s a bit like Attack on Titan on steroids, at least when it comes to feels. Love Hina is a beloved series to me, but the fanservice is annoying (and far more prevalent in Akamatsu’s manga). Kara no Kyoukai is an amazing show, but I hesitate to recommend it due to some of the violent material, while Monogatari has already been mentioned by a couple of others. My last pick is another of my favorite shows, but man, we talk about fanservice now, but Akemi is literally topless throughout many of her scenes – talk about uncomfortable.
What about you all? What are some series you enjoy, but hestitate to recommend? Give us your top five!