One of the challenges of writing this column is deciding which show to write about each time. While I have a fair number of shows to choose from, I know that people’s tastes vary and my tastes in particular tend to be somewhat different from most anime viewers’. While I rarely let that stop me from trying to recommend shows I believe to be genuinely good, I do like to look at what shows others think are underrated gems to try to find a greater variety of shows to recommend to others.
Conveniently, last week, the Crunchyroll staff put out a special feature highlighting hidden gems from their expansive catalog. So this week, I will be doing something different in that rather than looking at themes from one show, I will be going over all of the shows from Crunchyroll’s recommendations, whether I have seen any of the show or not, and some of my thoughts on each show. While I will not be covering any specific Christian themes from any one show, I will note any general value the show may have for Christians, and I may cover some of these shows in more depth in the future. There’s a good variety here, including some shows I might have to start on myself, so without further ado, let’s take a look some of Crunchyroll’s Hidden Gems! (All descriptions are taken from their corresponding show page.
Description: “They are creatures only known as ‘Mushi,’ whose abilities range well into the supernatural. While their existence and appearances are unknown to the humans around them, there are a few like Ginko who is a ‘Mushi-shi’ that travels around to investigate and find out more about the ‘Mushi.’ During the course of his discovery and understanding, he helps those who are troubled by the Mushi themselves…”
Have I seen it? I’ve seen both seasons and the between-seasons OVA, but not the final movie (which is not yet available for legal streaming yet).
Thoughts: While not the type of show with mainstream popularity, this show is highly critically acclaimed across the Internet. With such shows, I tend to avoid critical evaluations and form my own judgment; in this case, the critical acclaim is well-deserved. This show features individual stories in each episode (with some continuity between some episodes), and while the “mushi” drive the plot of each episode, the stories are ultimately stories about humanity, and the different ways we react to trials in life. Christian themes can be easily found in many episodes, making this a show well worth watching for Christian anime viewers. In addition to the strength of the individual stories, the show is very well-done artistically, with the music and visuals contributing to a unique atmosphere.
Note that only the OVA and the second season are on Crunchyroll, but the first season can be viewed on Hulu.
Description: “In feudal Japan, evil spirits known as mononoke plague the countryside, leaving a trail of fear in their wake. One mysterious person has the power to slay the mononoke where they stand; he is known as the Medicine Seller, and he vanquishes the spirits using the power of his Exorcism Sword. In order to draw his sword he must understand the Form, Truth and Reason of the mononoke. Armed with a sharp wit, the Medicine Seller wanders from place to place, striking down the evil spirits in his wake.”
Have I seen it?: Not yet.
Thoughts: I can’t say too much about it as I haven’t seen it yet (not a big fan of horror, though I might try it out anyway sometime), but it definitely seems like a show that gets a lot of praise from those that have watched it. If you have seen it and want to offer your opinion, sound off in the comments!
Description: “Our human race has been slowly declining for several centuries now. In many ways, the Earth already belongs to the Fairies. Life is relaxed and care…free? Thus begins a story that is a little strange and just a tiny bit absurd.”
Have I seen it?: Yes (including the shorts available only on the Blu-ray/DVD release).
Thoughts: This is one of my absolute favorite anime shows of all-time, and one that definitely deserves a look. I’m not even going to say too much about it, because part of my enjoyment was going into the show with no idea of what it was about, and being… quite surprised at what I got. Check out the first two episodes, and if you want more, get ready for a wild ride. I will say that the show features a fair amount of social satire, which can always be analyzed from Christian perspectives; for example, check out this post and this guest post on our blog (after watching the first two episodes).
Description: “FLOWERS OF EVIL revolves around Takao Kasuga, who is caught stealing Nanako Saeki’s gym clothes by Sawa Nakamura whose cold attitude makes her generally disliked by everyone. In exchange for her silence, he makes a ‘contract’ with her, in which he must abide by all of her unreasonable demands. Initially torturous, Kasuga wants out until one day when things start to change between them…”
Have I seen it?: Yes.
Thoughts: While this show is fairly critically-acclaimed, I personally do not find it as good as others say it is. It’s not necessarily because the show is bad, per se, nor is it because I have a problem with the show’s unique rotoscoped animation style; it’s just that, for all of its nuanced exploration of the human psyche, it is very much focused on the negative, and I’m just not a negative person. It has its moments of artistic brilliance, though–Episode 7 is definitely one of the best episodes of anime in that regard. And if you’re looking for a show that really looks at how well-intentioned people can fall into deep sin, or just a general look into the sinful nature… well, I suppose this show can work for that.
Description: “MOYASHIMON RETURNS picks up where the last season left off as our protagonist Tadayasu Sawaki, a first-year college student at an agricultural university, continues to have the unique ability to see and communicate with micro-organisms and bacteria. Still alongside good friend Kei Yuuki, whose family runs a sake brewery, he devolves an even deeper understanding of bacteria world with his special ability!” (Note that while this description is for the second season, it should give you a good idea of what the first season is about.)
Have I seen it?: Yes.
Thoughts: Here’s another great little gem, which manages to have a solid story, be absolutely hilarious, and be very educational, all at the same time! Whether you get attached to all the cute microbes or get drawn in about the story of a guy trying to figure out his way through college life, this show is worth a shot. Christian themes definitely can be found, though I cannot remember any in particular at the moment; still, with a show like this about personal self-discovery, there’s bound to be some value. At the very least, you can learn all about different microbes and the brewing process!
Description: “It is the year 2030, and the stage is the capital of Japan, Chou-Tokyo. Through “Buddyfight”, humans have started cultural interactions with residents from other worlds called “Affinity Dimensions”. Buddyfight is a game with selected humans as the “Buddyfighter”, and residents from the other world as the partner (known as “Buddy Monster”). These battles have high significance and sometimes it is even used to decide the fate of a nation, and naturally there are those who seek to use the Buddy Monsters for evil purposes.”
Have I seen it?: No.
Thoughts: While I can’t offer any particular thoughts due to never having seen the show, it’s worth noting that of all of Crunchyroll’s recommendations, this one is a children’s show, and thus probably the most suitable for showing to kids, while still (I presume) being enjoyable enough for adults. It’s a shounen show, too, so a lot of themes common to the genre and Christianity can probably be found.
Description: “This story takes place at the end of the 19th century in London. A famous dog detective, Sherlock Hound, was relaxing with his pipe… Dr. Watson is, of course, with Sherlock. The night is very foggy. From the light of a street gas lamp, one can only see for a few yards. From the distance, a coach comes dashing towards Baker Street and stops in front of Hound’s flat. Someone violently knocks at the door. “Watson, something’s afoot!!” Hound in his well-known deer stalker hat and Inverness cape, leaves his flat in his prototype Benz with Dr. Watson.”
Have I seen it?: No, though I’d definitely like to.
Thoughts: So what happens when you take the most iconic detective of literature, turn everyone into dogs, and bring onboard the legend Hayao Miyazaki to direct the whole thing? Well, apparently, you can watch this show to find out! The one “old school” title in this list, this show should appeal to mystery (and Sherlock Holmes) fans as well as those looking for just an overall good time.
Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World)
Description: “Five children living in the future are the protagonists. The story begins when they are 12 years old and starting their lives at an advanced school to learn the ‘cursed power’ of telekinesis.”
Have I seen it?: Only the first five episodes.
Thoughts: While the dark nature of the show kept me from following it for more than a couple episodes, it does seem to be a show that gets a fair amount of praise. Also, in addition to a full blog post on one episode, it’s a show that has come up a lot in the “Something More” series. Others can probably give a better recommendation on this one than I can, so leave a comment if you’ve seen it all the way through.
Crunchyroll closes out with some recommendation for some comedy shorts: Tonari no Seki-kun and Teekyu. The former has seven-and-a-half minute escapades of a guy who does imaginative stuff in class and the girl who can’t keep her eyes off of it, while the latter jam-packs as many off-the-wall jokes as it can muster into two-minute episodes. The short nature of both make it easy to try them out (you can blast through an entire season of the latter in the time it takes to watch one full-length episode), and while there isn’t a whole lot of deep Christian thematic material in either, Jesus probably would have liked them for their comedic value, so it’s all good.
I hope this post gives you some shows to look at when you want something off the beaten path of mainstream anime. If you have your own recommendations for overlooked shows, I always welcome those in the comments, and may even watch and write about them later. Feel free to share your own opinions of the above shows too if you’ve watched them!
8 thoughts on “The Secret Stars of Anime Special: Crunchyroll’s Hidden Gems”
So many gems in just one post! I haven’t seen a few of them, so I look forward to checking them out!
Shin Sekai Yori is not in my top 10 list, by any means, but if I were to make a top 25 I could see it making the list. It flubbed a few episodes here and there, and it presents some themes that will probably make many Christians uncomfortable, but it’s definitely great food for thought! For every storyboarding mistake it made, I believe it mostly made up for in overall story.
Shin Sekai Yori is an absolutely brilliant piece of work, but it is a thematically cruel piece of work. It pulls absolutely no punches in its blatant condemnation of both the society it’s describing and of our own. I can see Christians being very uncomfortable with some of the things that go on, particularly since it involves genetic tinkering on a huge scale.
*SPOILER ALERT* XD
The main thing I love about it…Is that it talks about racism in a way I’ve never seen anyone talk about it before— By making the audience themselves think like a racist. Basically, throughout the show we view the world from the perspective of the very human, very beautiful, very gifted young characters….but we also see another set of characters. The very ugly, creepy, alien naked mole rat creatures. But the thing is, we see these guys from the perspective of the main characters themselves, who don’t view them as human beings (Despite the fact that they’re very clearly just as smart as the humans), We regularly see the naked mole rat creatures being brutally killed like it was nothing, forced to follow absurd and paternalistic sets of rules, forced to work for the humans, never allowed to develop more than a rudimentary culture. And even we see it as normal, because these guys are weird and ugly and they don’t speak Japanese very well. ….starting to see my point?
At some point, they run into easily the second most conniving character in the show- A naked mole rat creature named Squealer. He is inarguably deceitful and manipulative, with a seeming lust for power that dupes others to further its own ends. In fact he acts exactly like some oppressed people do everywhere, desperately clinging to life and cheating other people to survive. That is an ugly truth. That some of us aren’t, even can’t be, the supposed “deserved poor.”
Squealer eventually does something so spectacular and evil and twisted that you hate him utterly. But at the end of the show, he explains that he did it all to try and uplift his people. To fight against a race that has done nothing but brutalize his own kind and he expects won’t do anything kinder. And he is right. He did such terrible evil, but he’s horribly right. They laugh at him for saying “We are humans!” to the entire crowd…..and torture him until he is a ball of writhing flesh.
So that’s my take. 🙂
Another interesting thought I had when I was watching the series was its portrayal of homosexuality. It didn’t play it off for laughs, like many comedic anime, nor did it explicitly condone nor condemn. In the context of the series, it was explained as an evolutionary necessity, as it were, which actually greatly bothered the main character. So fascinating!
Shin Sekai Yori’s take on homosexuality was intriguingly ambiguous. And I think it was also very Japanese. Both the society of the show and Japan tend to portray homosexuality as a natural “phase” in life that teenagers go through. They believe that the wayward teenagers will, as part of their adaptation to a collectivist society, eventually marry someone of the opposite sex and have children. But that “that time” in a child’s life is neither evil nor precisely good— It’s a time of tremendous passion instead. Idealistic and emotionally rich, where your close friendships are stronger than any romantic inclinations.
What this says about the socio-cultural nature of the concept of sexual orientation, and about the form that it exists in in America, has always interested me. Because on some level what it must mean is that black-white, strict sexual orientation is itself a backlash reaction of sorts to a society that says that you “must” be attracted to one thing or another to be normal. To be pure. Mine, at least, was always much more ambiguous than that.
I think that one’s identity and Self are not “lifestyles,” as if such things were so easy to change on the flip of a switch, but they are created by social and environmental pressures as well as biological pressures. What we need to get over, I think (At least in my country, America), is, as Dumbledore put it:
“Just because it’s happening in your head doesn’t mean that it isn’t real, Harry.”
Christians have long treated homosexuality as entirely mental and, therefore, easy to “fix.” This mindset has had terribly negative effects both on homosexuals and Christians, as it has pushed each away from the other. Thankfully, I think we’re finally beginning to see a trend of Christians taking it more seriously, incorporating information from “nature” and “nurture” instead of simply trying to “convince” it away.
Like most media, while Shin Sekai Yori doesn’t necessarily provide the correct answers to all philosophies, it’s incredibly valuable in causing viewers to reconsider why they believe what they believe!
I highly recommend Shin Sekai Yori also. I saw it as a condemnation of socialism (always a good thing to do in my book), and one strongly sympathizes with the main characters, especially because of how dark their world is.
I second your recommendation of Humanity Has Declined. That show had a ton of surprises.
Thanks for the recs, going to definitely check out Humanity Has Declined and From The New World. The Sherlock Hound one looks really dated…but I dont’ mind watching a few eps to see how I feel about it. God bless.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’ve had half a mind to check out ‘Humanity Has Declined’ for a while, and now I think I will.
‘Moyashimon’ also looks like a lot of fun; I’ll have to add that one to my list as well.