Akira is overrated in my opinion. I think it’s more admirable for what it is attempting to be than revered for what it is. Plus, there’s some issues with the filmmaker (he’s highly facist if you didn’t know. Since Akira, he’s made a live action movie called something like “The Horror of Japan” and the horror turns out to be foreigners who live in Japan corrupting the purity of the Japanese people).
I’m a bit familiar with anime and I have to say, some of the other films on other people’s list, I’ll be honest, I’m not to a big fan of. Namely films like Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D, Wicked City, Doomed Mega, etc. The thing is, they’re usually the type of anime that are used to introduce people into anime but the thing is, they are so underrepresentative of the width and breadth the format has to offer. I mean let’s be honest, they’re all super violent, highly sexual action spectacles that appeals mostly to preteen males with raging hormones. In fact, for a long time, before the whole Pokemon explosion, these films are what left so many first time viewers with a bad taste in their mouths. They thought that all anime was like this, which isn’t true. Actually only a very small percentage of anime, less than 5%, follows this type of genre rules.
When I was starting to get into anime, I was such a hormonal preteen and saw these films. At the time, I was like, “Holy crap, this rules!” but I have to say, I’ve “moved on” to what I consider more mature, and better titles.
Princess Mononoke is one of such title. Spirted Away too. In fact, any of Hayao Miyazaki’s work is classic. Though don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all bloody anime is bad and the only good ones are ones with little violence (Princess Mononoke is somewhat violent actually). Just that, don’t get attracted only to those that show excessive amounts of gore.
The thing about anime is, I think anime’s best work comes in TV series. The really good anime series, unlike a lot of American series here which I feel ultimately mean nothing. American TV shows have a premise, which they keep making stories for. They go on and on for seasons, but they don’t have a real archplot in mind (Babylon 5 being an exception). The better anime shows though are different. They usually have a particular story they want to tell and they spend one season to tell that story (which explains why a lot more shows in Japan end after one season, because they want to tell a particular story adn that’s it). Really great shows, like Neon Genesis Evangelion, His and Hir Circumstances, Maisson Ikku, Cowboy Bebop, Raxephon, Escaflowne, etc are more like super long movies shown as a TV series. I know it is expensive to get into an entire series, but I say for particular titles, its worth it.
I know I gave a bunch of titles back there and you might not know where to start off, here’s three avenues I present
- Cowboy Bebop - this is probably the most conventional choice between the three. It’s action packed, very entertainging, great music, etc.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - a real deconstructist take on the giant robot genre. Some people don’t like it, I think it’s because it’s too “heady” for them. If you are into psychology, philosophy, existentionalism, etc, this show is for you (by the way, this is my favorite anime series of all time, probably my favorite show of all time)
- His and Her Circumstances - You probably won’t get into this, but this is a romantic comedy anime series. I put it up here to show action isn’t the only thing anime does. In fact, the romantic comedy genre is just as popular, if not more so in Japan than the action genre. It’s super good though, this series, check it out.
Actually there’s also a 4th option I give, which might be the easiest actually. While I think anime shows are the bomb, I think if you just want to get a taste of it, without breaking the bank, first, then try Escaflowne The Movie. There’s also a series, which is equally good, but I think I actually like the movie better. The Movie is kinda a retelling of the series, though they change a lot of critical points to tell a new tale. This movie has violence but not the over the top crazy style of Ninja Scroll and the ilk. It’s also a genre bender in that it’s an action/sci-fi/fantasy/romance all in one. Really great stuff. There’s an “Ultimate Edition” which is a bit pricey, so if you just want to sample it, there’s also an inexpensive regular edition. Well whatever you pick, happy hunting!