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This is a guest post by Sarah Rexman.

If there is one thing I love, it’s Anime. That kitschy form of animation that comes to us from the land of the rising sun, Japan; the weirder, the better. I also love shows that are self-aware and don’t mind tearing down that 4th wall like Rocky and Bullwinkle did back in the day, that is still one of my favorite cartoons of all time. When shows acknowledge that they stink or know that what they’re doing shouldn’t in any way be considered the best this media has to offer is a nice bit of honesty, which is hard to come by these days. What makes anime so unique is the absurdity and love for play on words which most of the time gets lost in translation, but if you get a good fan-sub they’ll do a good job explaining the jokes to you. They also seem to enjoy irony, underdogs and the supernatural.

Kenichi: History’s Strongest Disciple (Original Run 2006-2007, 50 episodes, 4:3 Aspect Ratio)

In this anime, a young 16 year-old high-school boy named Kenichi dreams of becoming a great karate master, but is admittedly rather week. Sick and tired of being bullied and watching others get bullied, he thinks that if he masters Karate he can help defend the weak. The first day of the new High School year, he is introduced to a new transfer student named Miu Fūrinji. After getting in a fight on the way home from school and being beaten up, Miu steps in and single handedly makes quick work of the group of delinquents. He then confesses his dream of becoming the greatest Karate master in the world. Coincidentally, Miu tells him that she lives at a dojo that is home to the greatest fighters in the world and invites him to become an apprentice. What lays ahead of him are many fights and the hardest training on Earth.

Why I Like It:

The characters are among the most colorful and varied of any anime I’ve come across. Each resident at the Ryōzanpaku is a master of one form of martial arts, and each has a very unique character to match it. There is the wise and powerful leader and head of the dojo, Hayato Fūrinji – he’s your typical anime grandfather figure in the sense that he sees all and knows all. There is your typical pervert character, Kensei Ma, he knows all forms of Chinese martial arts and is an expert at acupuncture. Kensei is constantly trying to snap pictures of Miu and Shigure (weapons expert) in the nude or in provocative poses, but fails time and time again. Apachai Hopachai (Apa for short) is a simple man that can only say “Apa” and is known as the world’s greatest Muay Thai fighter, in flash backs we learn that he has a rather dark past and was used as a human weapon in underground tournaments. Then you have your tough guy (Shio Sakaki, Karate master), and your philosophical Renaissance man and Jujitsu master (Akisame Kōetsuji) to round out the pack of main characters. Outside of my Number 1 pick this has the best set of characters I’ve come across in anything. I also love the perfect blend of absurdity and action that it has to offer, this isn’t in any way the deepest anime, but in the same sense it’s got enough going on to make it interesting and wanting to watch past a couple of episodes.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Trigun (Original Run April-September 1998, 26 episodes, 4:3 Aspect Ratio)

Trigun is about two insurance agents that are sent to investigate multiple claims that they think are caused by the one they call the “Humanoid Typhoon”. During one of their investigations they come across a very strange man with a red trench coat and blond hair who calls himself Vash (a.k.a. the Humanoid Typhoon or the 60,000,000,000 double dollar man). Given his immature and perverted demeanor, they have trouble believing him at first but still allow him to travel the world with them and help them with their claims. Within the first few episodes they find out that he really is who he claims to be. They also find out that he isn’t a ruthless murder but a warm hearted person, and has been blamed for the crimes his evil twin brother committed.

What I Like About It

The fact that the show’s vehicle for most episodes revolve around investigating insurance claims is rather unusual. There is also the fact that the major protagonist Vash and its major antagonist his brother Knives are weird plant/human hybrids. Everything about this anime is just absurd, even their villains are just as insane; usually grotesque hulking creatures that bend genders. Vash’s partner in the later episode is a priest that carries a giant cross that doubles as a Gatling gun and houses a handful of automatic pistols to boot. Mind you the story is passible at best, but the writing episode to episode is rather decent and funny. This has some of the best, if not the best action in any anime to boot. If you like spaghetti westerns and absurdity then there isn’t a better option out there.

Rating: 4/5

 

Baka & Test- Summon the Beast ( Original Run January-March 2010, 13 episodes, 720p)

At Fumizuki Academy scores are everything and how you place on the entrance exam at the beginning of the year determines not only what class ranking you get (A-F), but the quality of your education and time at the Academy (A’s are pampered and F’s are treated like idiots. The story focuses on the dumbest person at the school, Akihisa Yoshii. Throughout the school year the lower classes can challenge the higher classes with their Demons (or Avatars as the US version calls them). Each Avatar’s strength is proportional to a person’s test scores and you can increase it by taking more tests and scoring well on them. If the challenging team loses the battle then they get one learning item replaced with a lesser item, and if they win they get to exchange an item with the losing team and give them one of their lesser items.

What I Like About It

The premise of the anime is borderline offensive, a school that punishes the weak and puts them at a great disadvantage for learning. Then there are the characters of Class F, even though they fail time and time again, they never quit or turn down a challenge. They also have two aces up their sleeve, one being the protagonist and the other Mizuki Himeji. Mizuki is easily one of the smartest people in the school, but since she was sick on the day of the entrance exam she was given a score of 0 placing her in class F, it’s not until she takes the make-up test that she proves her intelligence. This gives class F an advantage since she has one of the strongest avatars in school. Then there is Akihisa, his low score gives his avatar a unique ability that allows his to interact with the physical world, because of this, teachers constantly use him and his avatar to do chores around the school. All these add up to being rather funny and light hearted. There is a season 2 but it hasn’t been localized and isn’t available on Netflix.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Gurren Lagann (Original Run April-September 2007, 27 episodes, 4:3 Aspect Ratio)

Simon (pronounced See-moan, Japanese pronunciation) and Kamina live underground, and are forced to dig tunnels with other orphans. The more they dig, the more likely they will get treated to some mole steak (a delicacy). Kamina dreams of one day breaching the ceiling and busting through to the surface he saw when he was a kid with his father. One day a beast from the surface comes crashing into their village and brings with it a girl who’s fighting the beast. Using what Simon discovered one day they fight the beast and win (not without a lot of difficulty). Later on in the series (the next few episodes) they discover a headless mech and pair Simon’s weird giant head dwarf mech with it and create Gurren Lagann. That day they promise to drill a hole through the heavens, and overcome any challenges that may come their way.

What I Like About It

This anime has the best character growth of any series I’ve ever seen. Simon starts out as a boy with great ambitions but without any drive to go after what he wants and relies on Kamina to support and motivate him. Though early on in the series tragedy befalls Team Gurren and forces Simon to mature rather quickly. That early development is rather shocking and since it happens about a quarter of the way in the series it leaves you wondering how the rest will play out. The characters aren’t the strongest, but the story is quite great and the characters that do matter are very well fleshed out. In a genre that I normally couldn’t care (Giant Mech Anime), this one does something that this series normally fails to do and that is, have a great and interesting story.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Oh! Edo Rocket

Seikichi Tamaya is a simple man with a simple dream and that is to bring joy to the people with his fireworks. During this period though anything that can be deemed as “fun” has been outlawed and anyone who breaks that rule is thrown into jail. One day a mysterious visitor comes to the Row house and claims to be from the Moon and asks Seikichi to build her a rocket to take her back to her base on the moon.

What I Like About It

This has easily become my favorite anime of all time. It’s rare to get an anime that is so extremely quirky and yet has so much heart. Every character in this anime is funny and thoroughly entertaining. This is an anime that never really takes a break from being absurd; every minute there is something weird and crazy going on. This anime is the only one on the list that I know of that is constantly breaking down the 4th wall; in one episode Commissioner Torii Yozo (in charge of monitoring the South District which the Row House resides) accuses one of the characters of being a “liberal” and is then corrected by another character that he knows very well that term was never used in the 1840s and should refrain from making references outside the time period. This is rather confusing since throughout the series various characters mostly Toyama Kinshiro (a bodyguard who is secretly the Commissioner of the North district) can be seen constantly referencing the show’s blog page to get clues as what the characters are supposed to do next or how to get out of a predicament. Even though this is the most light-hearted and weirdly drawn anime I’ve seen, it is also the most moving. You feel for the citizens and their simple wish to one day have fun once again.

Rating: 5/5

 

Sarah Rexman is working toward her degree in psychology with a focus on marriage.Her most recent accomplishment includes graduating from Florida State, with a degree in environmental science. Her current focus involves the elimination of pests and rodents including the process of preventing bed bugs by using a specific brand of bed bug mattress.