The vanity press that publishes this blog gives me the freedom to post lists that are relevant only to myself. That said, in the spirit of transparency of biases that inform my reading methodology I present this list of anime that has proved influential in shaping my consumption and perhaps my discursive habits. I’ve adopted the format used by Riex in his own post, with the same reminders that this list is not a top 10 best list – or even my list of favorite shows. For a more comprehensive view, see my obsession here.
I also deem this post timely because I’m partnering with the very energetic Digital Boy in an ambitious project to map out strategies for turning someone into an otaku. I understand that there are levels to otaku-hood, but I consider myself pretty up there given the amount of material I consume and amount of effort I put in participating in discourse about my obsession hobby. Without any further ado, let’s remember love:
Choudenji Voltes V – Super Robot Gattai wonder. My first anime is this super robot story – quite romantic in that the bad aliens weren’t all bad, and that the leads were just trying to bring their father back. Introduced the folly of bigotry and the value of friendship and loyalty. Very, very violent. High kill count on both sides. Awesome weapons (LOL by today’s standards). I’ve seen a lot of super robot anime around the same time (Mazinger Z, UFO Grendaizer, Mechander Robo, Tossho Daimos) but Choudenji Voltes V was really what got me hot blooded and excited as a toddler. It had 5 separate Volt Machines that were piloted vehicles that fought somewhat differently from each other, and the gattai sequence is still one of the best.
President Marcos banned all violent cartoons (which hit nearly all anime), which robbed me of the ending for the next 20 years. The show was re-released in 1986, and again around 1990, 1999 and in 2006 with Tagalog dubs.
SDF Macross – Transformable Mecha yes! This series arrived in the Philippines around the same time as Transformers. Transformers were more accessible and popular, but Macross was different. It was more attractive to me because of the character and mecha designs, and the fact the machines were piloted so the humans were the leads. Furthermore the action was far more violent, depicting gruesome deaths, even among male characters. I was all of 7 years old at this time but I was already much hooked. The series itself was popular enough locally for some merchendise to be sold. I remember owning a VF-1A “Max” that held a pencil for a sword (!) and had a pencil sharpener on its back. Thank goodness for cheap toys! I certainly couldn’t afford the die-cast VFs, or any of the Transformers toys, but Max’s pencil set VF – that was awesome.
Macross was my introduction to real robots. It certainly had its charm being quite different from Voltes V and the other super robot series. I didn’t think about this much then, but certainly I wanted to be Hikaru and wanted Misa for him, even as I cheered for Minmei the whole time. A decade later Robotech arrived, and confused me quite a bit – since at that point I’ve forgotten much about Macross and took Robotech as canon. It wasn’t until I had regular access to the internet that I was able to distinguish. So, Robotech in a way was more influential than Macross for a time – because I certainly couldn’t get enough of it then and I’ve watched it so many times (including Southern Cross and Mospaeda which I never saw in their original form). Furthermore I’ve read and re-read the Jack McKinney books all the way to The End of the Circle too many times (I actually won’t mind reading them again). My love for mecha and anime was in bloom.
Ranma 1/2 – This show opened the world for me. Anime could be THIS crazy? Ranma prepared me to appreciate shows ranging from Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu to Toradora! I was already in college when I discovered this, and it took me over a decade to watch the whole thing (never consecutively though). But the end theme of the final season is still one of my most beloved anime tunes ever. It never fails to bring me the wistful innocence of love that is perfect for the young.
Dragon Ball Z – Totally ruined by local tv who for years only showed the Raditz arc up until the Snake Road arc. I would dutifully watch the re-runs every week only to find after a few months that Goku was at the start of the Snake Road. I never saw the whole series to this day, but my goodness – the dutiful following I gave this series was considerable. Dragonball Z is influential because in Goku and the rest, I began preferring them to Western superheroes, who by then I found to be really lame and just got retconned and re-set every few years.
Ninja Scroll – Samurai and ninja violence for the win! This was so awesome for me – the gratuitous sex and violence really left an impression: how free anime was to take things further and further to the realm of awesome. This actually spoiled my experience of Rurouni Kenshin which was really lame compared to the action of Ninja Scroll. Mind you I wasn’t interested in Kenshin’s redemption then, I wanted action. The origin story OAV made up for what I loathed about Rurouni Kenshin, but I was still comparing it to Ninja Scroll. Thank goodness for Basilisk.
Ghost in the Shell (movie) – Akira’s great, but Mamoru Oshii’s movie solidified the awesomeness levels of anime for me over their US counterparts (what counterparts?). This was the anime I would tell non-anime fans about. It was pretty ok science fiction, but it was the Major’s feats and the cool action in general what made this a favorite. I started expecting action scenes at this level from subsequent shows, anime or otherwise.
Slam Dunk – Hanamichi Sakuragi is still one of my favorite characters ever. He’s dumb as bricks, talented in ridiculous ways, loud and obnoxious, and GAR. This is the best of sports anime, about the basketball that I love. Amazingly, the whole thing is played straight even if in a very comical way. No ridiculous power moves a-la-Prince of Tennis here. It’s great and intelligent basketball. Mai waifu is solidly behind Rukawa though. Bishie-loving fangir! Did i just say that?
Neon Genesis Evangelion – I had loved all of the above, but I wasn’t OTAKU until I watched this show. I started cross-referencing everything about it. I treated it as serious literature. And, it was violent with giant robots! I started taking anime really seriously, seriously enough to blog about it years later. I didn’t see this series until 2004, but that late period gave me access to the internet where my obsessiveness for information was given a wide ocean to traverse.
Cowboy Bebop – Showed me how cool anime can be, and endeared Kanno Yoko to me for good. I had heard her work in Macross Plus, and I was watching The Vision of Escaflowne at around the same time as Bebop, but it was the Jazz, the Blues, and the dripping with cool vibe that powered this dark and dreary comic bouncing around the solar system anime that really got me. I played the tracks from the OSTs every day for the next 4 years. I can’t believe it took months of convincing to get me started on watching this. It’s prepared me for shows as diverse as Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, and of course Samurai Champloo. Now I pay attention to all OSTs, and has thoroughly gotten me into J-Rock/Pop.
Umi ga Kikoeru – Favorite Ghibli movie hands down. This prepared me to appreciate shows like Honey and Clover, movies like 5cm per second, manga like Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. If you pick only one anime from this list to watch, this is what I recommend. Utterly beautiful in its quiet, restrained way.
Gundam 00 – This show paved the way for my appreciation of the Universal Century shows. Gundam is important, especially to a mecha fan like myself. It’s this show that is my gateway Gundam. Obviously it’s not the best of the franchise, but it merits mention here because it allowed me and prepared me to appreciate the Gundam universe. I’ve seen other Gundam shows prior to this (or at least attempted to view them) but I never really got into them. It took Exia’s sexy design and the Celestial Being gang to hook me. Now I’m in for good.
Tenggen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Validated my attraction to GAR, and my faith in GAINAX.
Mononoke Hime: I really can’t go wrong here. It’s nearly impossible to dislike.
Millenium Actress: Fantastic without being a genre-fantasy anime. It involved me hard and made me love it.
Junni Kokki: I can’t help but think of it as gems on a rocky beach. It moved me and made me think better of anime.
Lucky Star: Charmed me like nothing else. Maybe it isn’t even a ‘good’ story. There’s hardly any. But I’m glad to feel let into the lives of these girls.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- SDF Macross
- Voltes V
- Cowboy Bebop
- Umi ga Kikoeru
- Slam Dunk
- Ninja Scroll
- Ranma 1/2
- Gundam 00
- Dragon Ball Z
There it is, how I ranked them in order of influence. Eva wins because I really am a mecha anime fan and Eva really stood out. I watch Gundam 00 and still cross-reference it with Eva in some way. I don’t see it stopping any time soon. Any time I come across with a character with problems, I remember Asuka… she definitely had problems. Also, I really do think that Misato is one of the finer female leads. She’s vulnerable yet strong. She’s madly in love but never really an idiot about it. She’s funny and full of fanservice. She’s badass, and really cared about what she did.
As for SDF Macross, well… I remember love. I’m sure there are better love stories out there – as unexposed as I am to shows like Kimagure Orange Road as well as Key game adaptations. However the love triangle as a narrative trope will somehow be always exemplified by Misa, Minmei, and Hikaru. The fact that the Macross franchise has these awesome transformable mecha as well as my favorite music in anime is just amazing.
It’s not really that diverse a list, as there are no fantasy, horror, or even mystery/suspense titles. It’s not that I can’t appreciate those kind of shows, just that they won’t be the first things I look for when I need an anime fix. Another thing, I don’t think this is a ‘dead’ list. This can change, even though I may be older than most otaku these days. I feel very young and very much a n00b about many things about anime. There are many shows that people rave about that I haven’t completed or truly gotten into (Mushishi, FLCL, ARIA), though I feel that they would be more like effects and not influences at this point. What are the shows that influenced your anime lifestyle?