Hiroko Matsukada is an “editor” at Jidai, a weekly magazine. What this means in practice is that she researches and writes articles, as well as working with at least one outside author who submits a serialized novel for the magazine. At 28 and still single, Hiroko sometimes worries that she’s missing out on a woman’s “proper” existence–she and her boyfriend Shinji haven’t had sex in months due to their conflicting schedules. But when the deadline looms and her creativity is engaged, Hiroko enters “Hataraki” (hard-working) mode, shutting everything else out, and the thrill of being published makes it all seem worthwhile.
This 11-episode anime was based on a short manga series by Moyoco Anno (Sugar Sugar Rune) which has also been turned into a live-action TV drama. Each episode focuses on Hiroko or one of the people in her life (including her masseuse!) as they deal with their work and personal issues. For example, the photographer who would much rather be taking pictures of nature, but is stuck as a paparazzi, taking scandalous shots because that’s what sells magazines.
Many episodes compare and contrast Hiroko with other characters. Hiroko has a relatively brash, serious approach that comes off to Japanese people as “masculine” as opposed to, say, her co-worker Yumi Nogawa, who projects a pliant, traditionally feminine image to succeed in the world of sports reporting (what often gets denigrated as “feminine wiles.”) Hiroko also often clashes with rookie editor Kunio Tanaka, who is laid back and tries not to let his job take over his life, but often turns in slipshod work and evades responsibility.
Towards the end of the series, Hiroko’s relationship with Shinji hits a crisis point at roughly the same time she gets a huge career break that will decide if she’s going to be on the fast track for promotion.
Hiroko smokes and drinks (as do other characters) and grouses about the sex she’s not having. We see her topless a couple of times (the camera angle keeping the audience from seeing too much.) Sexism is a running theme, both in direct actions by Hiroko’s male co-workers, and the question of whether fitting into a gender role or defying it is a better life plan.
Overall, it’s a reasonably realistic look at working in the world of magazine publishing, full of little epiphanies and setbacks. Even Hiroko’s large successes don’t come without their costs, and the ending is bittersweet.
Bonus feature–here’s the ending theme from the live-action version!
In the Year of Our Lord 1770, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and King Louis XV of France decided to seal an alliance between their countries with a political marriage. Thus it was that Louis-Auguste (later Louis XVI) and Marie Antoinette were married. So it was in our world too. But in this story, the commander of the Royal Guards, protectors of the young princess, was Oscar Francois du Jarjayes, youngest daughter of General Jarjayes, who had been raised like a boy.
Soon Antoinette, Oscar and Oscar’s faithful servant Andre, were plunged into the swirling politics and complicated romantic relationships of the court. Thus begins the ultimately tragic tale of the Rose of Versailles.
This popular and highly influential 1979 anime was based on the best-selling shoujo (girls’) manga Versailles no Bara by Riyoko Ikeda. The manga had started out as a biography of Marie Antoinette, with Oscar as a supporting character to be involved in combat scenes where the ruler could not be placed, but the princely woman was immensely popular with readers and eventually became the star of the story. (Especially once the queen retired from public life to raise her children.) The anime therefore expanded her role at the beginning a bit.
The series is highly dramatic, often melodramatic, with shocked expressions, flowing tears and glittering roses. Some modern viewers might find this all a trifle overdone, especially as many newer anime series have homaged famous scenes and effects from this one. Romantic tension is high. At least initially, Marie Antoinette and her young husband do not get along well, and she develops an interest in the Swedish Count Axel von Fersen, who reciprocates. Oscar also has a thing for von Fersen, but is not reciprocated, while her childhood friend and servant Andre pines for Oscar but knows that a commoner can never marry a noble.
In addition, while Oscar is known to be a woman by most of the nobles, her handsomeness and chivalry cause her to be admired in an almost romantic fashion by various ladies, most notably a young woman named Rosalie, who turns out to have a secret of her own.
While the broad historical outlines of the series are accurate, many of the details are fictionalized or exaggerated. For example, the Duke of Orleans was probably not directly behind every plot against Marie Antoinette.
In addition to the standard sword-fighting and the horrors of the French Revolution, there’s an attempted sexual assault at one point (the man stops when he realizes what he’s about to do) and a twelve-year-old commits suicide rather than submit to an arranged marriage. (It’s pretty clear that her much older intended husband intends to consummate the marriage immediately.) Towards the end, the narration specifically tells us two of the characters get it on. The imagery is tasteful, but the content may be too much for younger or more sensitive viewers.
The series switched directors about halfway through; the earlier part has much more incidental humor, while the later half is more somber, befitting the way events get worse and worse for both Oscar and Marie Antoinette.
This is a classic, and now legally available in the United States with subtitles. Recommended for French history and romantic tragedy fans.
The year is 2035 in an alternative history Japan, and the city of Tokyo is rapidly recovering from the Third Quicksand Disaster, which turned much of the metropolitan area into quagmires. Powered armor units called “Willwear” have helped the reconstruction immensely, and are spreading into other industries, but there are people who use Willwears for crime. Thus the Metropolitan Police have created the Fifth Special Public Security Section to battle Willwear crime. The focus of this series is on Unit 8, a collection of oddballs and marginal officers who are assigned to a difficult part of the city and wear special prototype Willwears.
Assistant Inspector Azami Kazari has been assigned to the Eighth to run an assessment on them for Internal Affairs, but being a young idealist, her plan is to whip the oddballs into shape as respectable police officers. She soon discovers that her strait-laced ideas may be less useful in the field than the more laid-back attitudes of the rest of the team, especially as a series of unusual crimes hits the city.
This recently-concluded 12-episode science fiction anime is available legally on Crunchyroll as of this writing. It bears some resemblance to Patlabor, a classic series about an oddball collection of future cops who use special weapons to deal with criminals using similar technology. However, it’s crammed into much less time than the earlier series, so the characterization is shallower, and there’s no breather episodes that allow the writers to stretch their worldbuilding legs. Most of the unit get one episode that focuses on them, and in a couple of cases have a single line in any other episode.
The opponents are Logos, which is not so much an organization as three temporarily allied teen hackers whose motivations clash, and who initially act through pawns with seemingly random crimes. The real problem is Japan’s social ills, and ultimately, while combat is important it is understanding that saves the day.
A source of humor in the early going is that despite their destructive reputation, the Eighth actually does follow regulations; they have to get authorization from the government to pursue a criminal, to fire weapons, etc. And since several different governmental agencies have jurisdiction (at least one of which hates the Eighth) the unit commander spends much time trying to navigate the bureaucracy while incidents are ongoing. And of course, when the hostile governor finds an excuse to close down the Eighth, he does, playing into the hands of Logos.
A Jim Jones-style mass cult suicide is part of the backstory. There’s also a few fanservice scenes, as the police must strip to underwear to don their Willwears.
This is an enjoyable but disposable series, worth a look if you like powered armor stories with some comedy.
Black Jack was a manga series by Osamu Tezuka, about a renegade doctor who performs miraculous feats of medicine, but demands outrageous fees. (Unless he decides to do it for free or a token.) As Dr. Tezuka was an actual M.D. before he chucked it to become a full-time artist, the series was remarkably realistic in its depiction of anatomy and medical techniques–except when he made stuff up for dramatic purposes. It explored themes of life and death, and medical ethics. It’s had several animated adaptations.
Fairly recently, there was an authorized prequel made, Young Black Jack, set in the 1960s when Hazama Kurou (his birth name) was still an idealistic medical student. The anime version is currently streaming on the Crunchyroll website.
The 1960s setting allows the show to bring in social topics that were relevant then. There are plots dealing with student riots, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and corruption in the medical establishment (this last a recurring issue in the original Black Jack series.) Time and again, Hazama exceeds his authority to perform medical miracles; sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not so much so.
This series is notable for bringing in bits from other Tezuka works, such as the nerve gas MW, which was central to the MW manga. Most striking of these transplants is Dr. Hyakki. In the Tezuka manga Dororo, Hyakkimaru was a swordsman whose body parts had been taken by demons, and replaced by artificial parts with hidden weapons. As he defeated the demons, he got his original body parts back, becoming more “human.” In this series, Dr. Hyakki is a surgeon whose limbs were lost in a car accident, and must rely on prostheses. He begins his own battle with “demons” once he learns that it wasn’t an accident.
There’s some period racism and sexism, more sensitive viewers might find the depictions of wounds and disease distressing. Others might disagree with the political viewpoint of the Vietnam War episodes.
The acting is good, and there are some lovely sequences. (The surgeries themselves tend to be abstracted.) Recommended to fans of medical drama shows and Tezuka fans.
Saitama used to be an unemployed salaryman (white-collar worker) whose life was going nowhere. When a (relatively weak) monster attacked, Saitama remembered his boyhood dream of becoming a hero who could defeat any opponent with a single punch. He trained really hard, and became that hero…but if you can defeat any opponent in a single punch, your victories become hollow.
There is now an anime series based on the manga I have reviewed before, streaming on Hulu as of this writing. In twelve fast-paced episodes, it covers all the way up to the Boros Saga.
It’s a comedic series that parodies superhero comic book conventions, but also touches upon deeper themes. The best example of this is the Sea King Saga, which asks (and partially answers) the question of what it truly means to be a hero. (The Boros Saga is more about how the world’s most powerful hero group, the S-Class heroes, haven’t grasped this concept yet–they’re a collection of loners, many with dubious motives, not a team.)
Good animation and some excellent voice work make this series a good adaptation of the manga. Also appreciated is some expansion of minor character roles, foreshadowing of things in future plotlines and cameos of characters from previous storylines, letting us know how they’re getting on.
Content issues: There’s quite a lot of violence, some of it gory–these heroes and villains mostly use physical attacks to deal with their problems. The Mosquito Woman is, as one viewer described it “proof that ‘Sexy Halloween Costumes’ have gone too far”, but there’s quite a bit more male nudity. Speaking of which, one hero, Puripuri Prisoner, does all his fights in the nude…and he’s a gay stereotype that may make some viewers very uncomfortable. I’d recommend parents of younger viewers skip this one.
The season finale provides lots of sequel hooks, to the point that it raises more questions than it answers.
Hajime Kindaichi is a high school junior who has a reputation for laziness and poor grades. His childhood friend Miyuki Nanase alternates between being sweet on him and irritated by his antics. What makes Kindaichi different from most teenage underachievers is that he’s the grandson of famous detective Kosuke Kindaichi, and learned mystery-solving at his grandfather’s knee. Since the first time the lad got mixed up in a murder investigation, he’s been constantly stumbling into complex cases that baffle the police.
The Kindaichi Case Files manga originally ran from 1994-2001 and was enormously popular. A second series began in 2004. The earlier series was brought to America by Tokyopop, but with that company’s collapse, the volumes are out of print. The series takes off from the written adventures of Kosuke Kindaichi by Seishi Yokomizo written from 1946-1980 (sadly only one volume, The Inugami Clan, has been published in English.) The creator of the manga appears to have been under the impression that the earlier stories were in the public domain, and there were some legal issues when it turned out they weren’t at that time.
A new anime adaptation began in 2014 and is currently running a second season. I watched the first season on the Crunchyroll website.
The stories are pretty formulaic; Hajime and Miyuki go somewhere or get invited to an event. A gruesome and baffling murder takes place, often seeming to relate to a legend or monster (or the murderer takes on a cool nickname.) Several more murders take place, but young Kindaichi, along with gruff police Inspector Kenmochi and smug Superintendent Akechi, spots the killer’s tricks. Everyone is gathered together for a summation, as Kindaichi exposes how the murders were done, and then the murderer explains their motives.
In almost every case, the murderer’s motive turns out to be at least somewhat sympathetic, some of them being tearjerkers. There are times when their motives are mistaken. And then there’s the Puppeteer from Hell, the series’ recurring villain. In his first appearance, he had the standard sympathetic motive, but at the end, he turned out to really enjoy coming up with elaborate murder puzzles. Now the Puppeteer finds people who’ve been wronged, and manipulates them into using his plans.
There are a few episodes in the first season that break from the formula; one has recurring starlet Reika trying to get some time alone with Hajime, only to snare a murderer as well with her rigged contest. Two others are flashbacks to when Hajime and Miyuki were in junior high–these episodes are high in the male-oriented fanservice, which I found off-putting.
While the individual stories (usually taking three or four episodes) are interesting puzzles with some comic relief, the formula makes them feel too similar to each other, and I recommend taking a break between arcs. The continuing characters never grow or change beyond their second appearance, as the series is frozen in that junior year, so the romance never goes anywhere. (And some of the stories require the characters to forget contradictory events in previous tales.)
For lovers of locked-room mysteries and teen detectives.
Note: This review will have SPOILERS for the manga, so if you’re wanting to take the manga slow, check out my review of that instead.
Delinquent high school student Ryu Yamada and honor student Urara Shiraishi accidentally discover that they can switch bodies by kissing. Then it turns out that Yamada can also switch bodies with anyone else he kisses! Hilarity ensues, and then it’s learned that there are other “witches” with kissing-related powers. Can Yamada catch them all?
This twelve-episode comedy with romantic elements has many good points. It’s funny, has a bit of fanservice, and the voice actors clearly had a ball imitating each other’s vocal inflections to indicate when bodies have been swapped.
Kissing is something of a metaphor for connecting with other people. The initially isolated Yamada and Shiraishi must reach out to each other and their schoolmates to advance. This is made manifest when things get more serious towards the end of the series–connections are broken, and Yamada must mend them to bring about a happy ending.
The plot structure turns out to be “the seven school mysteries”, a common bit of superstition in Japanese schools. There are seven “mysteries” (urban legends) to learn or discover the truth behind, but if you know all seven, something (usually bad) will happen to you.
There’s a lot of kissing, including same-sex kissing, and some male-oriented fanservice, plus some slapstick violence. It should be okay for junior high viewers on up–younger viewers probably will tune out because of the mushy stuff.
More of an issue for the purist is that in order to fit in all seven witches in twelve episodes, the plot has been streamlined considerably, and some of the relationships feel rushed as a result. The ending has also been changed to make it definite, while the ongoing manga has continued with new plot arcs.
A short, enjoyable series for comedic romance fans.
Jotaro Kujo is a bit of a juvenile delinquent, sassing his mother, wearing his school uniform out of regulation style, and getting into fights. But when he notices that there’s now a strange being that only he can see and does things for him, like bring comics he wants but can’t afford, that’s a bit too much for our young hero. He decides that he’s become demonically possessed and insists on being locked in jail.
He’s surprised when his grandfather Joseph Joestar shows up to bail him out, with a mysterious Middle Eastern man in tow. It turns out that what Jotaro has is not a demon, but a psychic projection known as a Stand. Some people, like the Egyptian fortuneteller Avdol and his fiery Stand Magician’s Red, are born with these powers. The Joestar family, however, only recently gained these Stands, including Joseph’s clairvoyant Hermit Purple and Jotaro’s martial arts-oriented Star Platinum –and the reason is unsettling.
The vampire Dio, who had been decapitated and trapped in a chest at the bottom of the sea, was released a few months ago, and attached his head to the body of Joseph’s grandfather Jonathan Joestar. Somehow. This also for reasons not fully explained in this plotline caused Stands to awaken in everyone blood-related to Jonathan. This includes Joseph’s daughter and Jotaro’s mother Holly. Unfortunately, she is for insufficiently explained reasons unable to fully manifest her Stand, which instead is slowly killing her. DIO (as he is now called) needs killing anyway, but this puts a time limit on it, and our small band must make their way from Japan to Egypt and destroy the overpowered vampire before Holly dies.
This is the third storyline of the Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure series based on the manga by Hirohiko Araki. I reviewed the adaptation of parts one and two, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, earlier. This part takes place in the 1980s (when it was written) and replaces the martial arts vs. vampires and super-vampires battles with bizarre psychic abilities that take a physical form. This provides many chances for tactical innovation as the characters must try to use their specialized powers to overcome the strange abilities of their opponents.
DIO has gathered a motley crew of mostly evil Stand users, though the handsome Kakyoin (wielder of the liquid Hierophant Green) and the comical Polnareff (master of the fencing Stand Silver Chariot) were mind-controlled and join the heroes once freed. One of the running gags of the series is that the main characters cannot keep a vehicle for more than a day or two before it gets destroyed or made inoperable. This slows their journey across Asia considerably.
In addition to everyone being named after musicians or music, the Stands are patterned after the Major Arcana of the Tarot until the arrival in Egypt, at which point most of the enemies have Stands patterned after Egyptian gods. This is probably because Araki was told to stretch out the manga while its ratings were high. Also in Egypt, the team picks up a sixth member, Iggy the Fool, a very unpleasant dog.
Jotaro is on the surface a very different protagonist from Joseph, a stoic, quiet young man who prefers to let his fists do the talking. As the series progresses, however, we learn that he shares some of his grandfather’s goofball sense of humor. Joseph himself remains the trickster hero, his new powers requiring subtlety and clever tactics to defeat enemies. Avdol is the dignified one, though quick to anger, and Kakyoin is a bit more intellectual than the others. Polnareff is, while competent, very much the comic relief, and gets stuck with repeated potty humor gags.
DIO spends most of the series in shadows, barely interacting with his minions, but once he becomes active, takes center stage. He’s learned not to underestimate the Joestar clan, and his new power The World is seemingly unbeatable. He’s considered one of manga’s most iconic villains for a reason.
In addition to the violence you’d expect from a shounen fighter series, there’s a fair bit of nudity, some of it very creepy.
This part of the series has been animated before, but the new adaptation is much more faithful and as of this writing is available on Crunchyroll. (Note: due to trademark issues, some of the names are changed in the subtitles. So you will hear the characters saying “Vanilla Ice”, the name of a villain, but the subtitles will read “Cool Ice.”)
This series inspired a lot of later shounen battle series, but the clever fights, roadtrip plotline and fun characters are still some of the best in the business.
Ooezo Agricultural High School is the best agricultural vocational/technical school in Hokkaido, and farm kids from all over the territory come there to pursue an education. But there’s a different student this year. Yuugo Hachiken is from the big city of Sapporo, and for…reasons…has decided to join the dairy science program at Ooezo in lieu of the prestigious prep school he’d been aiming for.
As a city kid, Hachiken is woefully unprepared for farm life, and has no clue where food actually comes from. “Chickens produce eggs from their what!?” He’s warned not to get to attached to a piglet he’s helping raise, but names it anyway. He’s certainly not ready to wake up before dawn to take care of the chores!
But life at Ooezo does have its compensations. Fresh air, exercise, good food…and Hachiken discovers talents he never had the opportunity to exercise before. He joins the Equestrian Club, and there’s this girl named Aki that just might be interested in him. There’s a silver spoon mounted outside the student cafeteria, symbolizing a wish that their graduates will never starve.
This series is based on the manga by Hiromu Arakawa, who also created the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. The story takes full advantage of her background growing up on a dairy farm.
Hachiken is kind of rude and surly early on, initially seeing most of his classmates as hopeless rubes. However, he quickly catches on to the fact that they have their own useful skill sets and acquired knowledge, even the ones that are actually stupid. We see that his true nature is helpful and tender-hearted, which gets him in over his head more than once.
The other characters are more complicated than they may first appear, and Hachiken’s friends have their own stories to live through, not all of them successful.
Parents of young children should be aware that animals have natural functions and the show does not shy away from this. Hachiken skins a deer at one point, and assists with a difficult calving at another. One episode does have some disturbing imagery from a slaughterhouse (when Hachiken must send Pork Bowl off to be turned into meat); the story specifically warns that this is coming up and sensitive viewers might want to leave the room for a bit. Overall, if your child is not yet ready for the “where food comes from” talk, they’re too young for this series.
There are some hints of romance and sexual thoughts, but Hachiken points out (when he is falsely accused of an affair) that the students’ schedule just doesn’t allow time for any serious hanky-panky.
The manga is still ongoing, so the anime stops abruptly about three-quarters of the way through Hachiken’s freshman year. It is unknown at this time if there will be an animation of the remainder of the manga.
Those of you who grew up on a farm will certainly nod along at parts, and big city dwellers can learn new things. Highly recommended.
Once again this year I participated in the “Anime and Manga for Speculative Fiction Fans” panel at Minicon. As promised at the panel, here’s a list of the items mentioned–I make no representations regarding the quality of the ones I have not seen.
.hack: A series of interlocking video games, anime, manga and light novels about a virtual reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) called “The World.” The anime involves a player who abruptly discovers that they can’t log out, and their memories of their real life have vanished. Some parts of the universe have never appeared in a legal English edition, so the explanations contained in these are missing.
Akira: Members of a biker gang in post-apocalypse Tokyo get involved with psychic children, enmeshed in a government conspiracy. Both a really good manga and a decent movie (one of the first anime movies to come to the US labeled as such.)
Assassination Classroom: A junior high class must kill their teacher before graduation or he will destroy the world. Manga and now an anime series–see my previous review.
Attack on Titan: The Earth has been overrun by gigantic humanoids that eat people. The last remnants of humanity huddle behind enormous walls, but now those walls have been breached. It is up to a small army of specially-trained warriors to defend the humans from being devoured. An adequate manga that became a very popular anime. Violent and gory.
Berserk: The nigh-unstoppable warrior known as Guts battles demons invading a medievalish world. The twist is that his former best friend Griffith is the leader of the demons–but the public at large sees him as a savior. A long-running but very slow manga, and two anime series (the first cuts off at the worst possible moment.) Warning: extremely violent, including sexual violence, lots of gore.
Bleach: Ichigo Kurosaki can see ghosts, which is mostly an annoyance until he meets a mysterious girl who gives him the ability to become a Soul Reaper, a kind of psychopomp. After some adventures fighting the evil spirits known as Hollows, Ichigo gets caught up in Soul Reaper politics. Long-running manga and anime, which has been in its final arc for the last two years.
A Certain Magical Index/Scientific Railgun: Interlocking series of light novels and anime taking place in a world where mystics and mutants both exist and attend school together. The series differ primarily in their viewpoint characters. “Index” stars Touma, an unlucky lad with an anti-magic punch, while “Railgun” stars Misaki, an electricity-wielder.
Corpse Party: Originally a survival horror video game, this has also been manga, anime and a live-action movie. When a new school is built on the site of the former Heavenly Host Elementary (torn down after a massacre), some of the students decide to perform a mystic ritual of friendship which goes horribly wrong–they wind up in the old school with the ghosts of the murder victims.
Cowboy Bebop: In the not-so distant future, the solar system has been colonized, but a skyrocketing crime rate allows there to be a subculture of bounty hunters. We follow the quirky crew of the Bebop as they try to stay afloat in the business. Anime series and a really cool movie.
Crest/Banner of the Stars: A light novel series that became an anime and manga. Jinto’s home planet has been taken over by the Abh, a humanoid alien race which has the largest local empire. His father sold out his homeworld in exchange for a position of power, and Jinto has been sent off for education in the empire’s ways. He meets and befriends the Abh princess Lafiel on the way, but they get sidetracked by a war with the remaining human alliances.
Deadman Wonderland: In the near future, Tokyo is destroyed and a prison is built on it, where prisoners are required to battle for the pleasure of viewers. A boy is framed for the murder of his class, imprisoned, and discovers he has bizarre blood-based superpowers. Both manga and anime.
Durarara!!: A light novel series and now anime about the odd happening in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, It’s urban fantasy with some added elements; everyone has a secret, but few of them are the secrets you might immediately guess. Very entertaining.
Eden of the East: A naked man with a cellphone and a gun but no memory is met by a Japanese tourist at the White House. This begins a rollicking adventure as they try to unravel who he is and why he doesn’t remember anything. Anime series and a couple of wrap-up movies.
Evangelion: In a now-alternate timeline, the Earth is being attacked by alien monsters known as Angels, and must be defended by fourteen-year olds in giant robots. However, not all is as it seems, and the reason the robots require teen pilots is sinister. Started as anime, has had a couple of manga series, is being done as a series of reboot movies. Very influential.
Fairy Tail: Lucy Heartfilia is a young wizard who runs away from home to join the wacky Fairy Tail guild, teaming with a fire specialist named Natsu. They and their guildmates have exciting and long running adventures, both in the manga and anime.
Ghost in the Shell: Cyberpunk action with a special ops group in a future Japan overrun with cyborgs, robots and less definable cyber-beings. Major Motoko Kusanagi, a full-body cyborg, is our main protagonist. Manga and several different anime, both TV and film. Very influential.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: A high school student discovers the ability to jump through time (literally) and promptly abuses the heck out of it. Eventually, she comes to realize that just overwriting events doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, and there’s a hidden cost to her powers…oh, and they’re about to stop working. Very well done.
Higarashi-When They Cry: A small mountain village is trapped in a time loop–each repeat ends in murder. The characters slowly realize what’s going on, but can they stop it? Originally a “visual novel”, also now anime and manga.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: A series of series about people with strange powers, all of whom have a “jojo” sound in their name. Check out my review of the first two seasons of the anime adaptation! (The third season, “Stardust Crusaders”, is currently running.)
Kill la Kill: In the indefinite future, a girl seeking revenge for her murdered father comes to a high school ranked by special uniforms, and must partner with a sentient costume to battle against what turns out to be a much larger threat. Warning: nudity, sexual harassment. See my review!
Laputa–Castle in the Sky: A Welsh boy has a girl drop in from the sky–it turns out she’s the last rightful heir to the flying island of Laputa. Another descendant of that dead land wants to use it to conquer the world, and the kids must seek help from sky pirates. Vintage Miyazaki.
Last Exile: An “aeropunk” series set on a world at perpetual war–courier pilots must protect and deliver a girl who is the key to a peaceful resolution. Anime with a manga adaptation.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: A sprawling epic space opera concerning the clash between two great star nations, and the heroes on each side. Originally a novel series, turned into a lengthy anime. Very rich in character development.
Log Horizon: Another MMORPG gone horribly wrong story–this one is notable for the development of “non-player characters” who suddenly are developing actual personalities and free will.
Medaka Box: A girl who’s good at everything takes problem solving requests from a suggestion box at her school. Several volumes in, it turns out superpowers exist and (according to the fans of the manga) it gets really good. Was turned into a less well received anime series.
Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: A girl forms a club at her school to look for science-fiction beings, not realizing that she and everyone else in the club are themselves science fiction character types. Light novels, adapted into anime–skip all but the first and last episodes of Endless Eight.
Millennium Actress: A Satoshi Kon film about an actress who played many roles over several decades who’s being interviewed for a retrospective. It interweaves her life story with the history of Japan’s film industry. Some magical realism.
Moribito: A richly-imagined light novel/anime series about a spearwoman who becomes bodyguard to a prince supposedly possessed by an evil spirit. The truth is much more complicated. The author is an anthropology major and it really shows.
Patema Inverted: An experiment to control gravity as an energy source goes horribly wrong and much of Earth suffers inverted gravity, killing billions. The story picks up much later when two young people with different gravity orientations meet and their civilizations clash. This is an Internet-original series.
Record of Lodoss Wars: A Dungeons and Dragons inspired series set on the fantasy island of Lodoss, wracked by periodic wars between good and evil. A band of adventurers discover that there is a hidden hand behind the chaos. Two different animated series–the second is much longer and involves a second generation of heroes.
Redline: A “Wacky Racers in Space” movie–much motor action. The art style takes some getting used to.
Revolutionary Girl Utena: A girl was rescued by a prince as a child. Now Utena has come to Ohtori Academy to become a prince herself. But first she must fight a series of duels. Lots of symbolism and hidden agendas.
Sailor Moon: Wimpy junior high student Usagi discovers that she is actually the reincarnation of a moon princess and becomes a magical girl to fight evil, along with the rest of her Sailor Senshi pals. Manga, anime, live action series, and now rebooted as Sailor Moon Crystal.
Samurai Flamenco: A metafictional series about a male model who decides to become the first real-life superhero. Goes all the way down the rabbit hole and pulls it out the other side. See my review!
Samurai Jack: Japanese warrior trapped in a future where the evil spirit Aku has already won. Not anime, but clearly inspired by it.
Space Dandy: An “alien hunter” (he tracks down new species to register for the government) and his wacky companions run into various bizarre circumstances. Each episode appears to happen in a slightly different reality. Heavy on the fanservice.
String (?): Someone mentioned this, but I have no information on it.
Summer Wars: A math prodigy is invited to his crush’s family reunion to pretend to be her fiance. Meanwhile, an amok AI is taking over Japan’s primary Internet provider. These events are more related than they appear. Very heartwarming movie, but the English dub is heavy on swearing.
Sword Art Online: Our third series about an MMORPG where the players are trapped inside. Very uneven–the first arc is pretty satisfying, but the second is painful and subsequent storylines become divisive. See my review!
Tenchi Muyo–Ryo-Ohki!: Teenage boy discovers that he’s part-alien and has all sorts of alien girls coming on to him. This installment heavily features Ryo-Ohki, the adorable alien cabbit (who might also have a crush on Tenchi.)
Twelve Kingdoms: A very well-done example of the normal(ish) teenager sucked into a fantasy world plotline. Good world-building, and she’s not the first person to be brought over.
Yokohama Shopping Log: A quiet series about a gynoid who runs a cafe after most of humanity has gone away. Very peaceful.
Yukikaze: After an alien invasion, a pilot with an intelligent plane tries to battle the invasion despite interference from other humans.
Your thoughts, comments, anime or manga you’d add?