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There is no doubt anime has already taken the world by storm. With anime fans all over the world, it has developed into something that is more than a subculture – it has developed into an art form in itself. At the forefront of anime’s popularity lie the classics of anime, flagship series that have garnered millions upon millions of fans. With classics like Dragonball Z at the helm, anime continues to thrive and spread by the day.
However, there are some instances when, despite the quality or the critical reception of the anime, the series just refuses to take off. This could be due to a number of reasons, but due to these unfortunate instances, some jewels of anime remain buried beneath the radar of anime fans.
This list aims to suggest a number of titles worth checking out, despite their lack of popularity in the mainstream anime world.
10. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Crystal (Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon: Crystal)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: July 2014 - present
Anyone who knows anime will no doubt be familiar with Sailor Moon, the progenitor of the magical girl genre in anime. Centering on the adventures of clumsy yet good-hearted Usagi Tsukino, the plot revolves around her exploits as the pretty guardian of love and justice, Sailor Moon.
Being a remake of the 90’s classic anime, Sailor Moon Crystal has had the unfortunate fate of being shunned by modern fans and being unfairly criticized by the older fans of the series. Taking a darker, more manga-centric approach to the plot, Sailor Moon: Crystal portrays the central character, Usagi Tsukino in a more mature, realistic way. This, however, has turned off fans of the original series.
What a lot of people seem to me missing is the fact that this remake was not designed as a rehash of the original. It is, on the other hand, an update of the story, catering to the fans who grew up with Sailor Moon. At the end of the day, the 90’s classic was a highly toned down, child-friendly version of the story. Sailor Moon: Crystal, tells the story much in line with the manga, which or course, just the way the creator of the manga wanted.
Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon Crystal Official Trailer
9. Guilty Crown
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2011 – March 2012
Taking place in a future where Japan is under oppression by the quasi-governmental organization called GHQ, protagonist Shu Ouma is thrust into the role as a key player in a plot to overthrow the current rule. Wielding the Power of Kings, he seeks to protect those he loves, while discovering the truths about his past.
Guilty Crown has received a lot of flak due to numerous aspects of its story conforming of tried and tested templates in anime. Indeed, when one looks at the characters as well as some key elements in the plot, a number of parallels can easily be drawn. The character template for the main female lead, for one, is cut right out of the mold of one of anime’s most prominent faces, Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Rei Ayanami.
Despite its shortcomings, however, Guilty Crown remains as one series that actually has a lot of entertainment value. While it is true that several aspects of the show may be far from the original, the execution that the production company employed is something definitely worth watching. In fact, in terms of music and action, it is one of the best.
Guilty Crown Official Trailer
8. Kakumeiki Valvrave (Valvrave the Liberator)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2013 – June 2013
Set in a world where the majority of humanity has migrated to space, Valvrave the Liberator tells the story of humble and unassuming Haruto Tokishima, who unexpectedly gains the power to pilot the powerful Valvrave when his home gets attacked by invading military fortress.
Compared by many to Sunrise’s more famous Gundam franchise, Valvrave the Liberator was quick to end and quick to fall down the cracks in anime fame. Criticized by many to be an anime full of cliches from the mecha genre and characters that are not in any way unique, it has garnered a reputation that far undercuts its worth.
However, those who have actually watched the series from beginning to end would beg to disagree, as the series does provide a lot of entertainment value. With over-the-top space battles with notable animation bumps, and plot devices that pull no punches when it comes to character development, it is a series definitely worth checking out.
Valvrave the Liberator Official Trailer
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1998 – September 1998
In the anime portrayal of a somewhat futuristic version of the Old West, Trigun follows the adventures of the notorious outlaw, Vash the Stampede, who is notorious for the damage he is capable and whose reputation has earned him a bounty of $$60,000,000,000.00 (that’s sixty billion double dollars), yet whose personality suggests something completely the different.
This anime actually has a number of decent reviews, and numerous fans of the 90’s appreciated it immediately after its release. However, it did not stand the test of time very well, as, despite the initial positive reception, the series ended up being pushed back behind more recent anime offerings.
This, of course, is quite a shame, since Trigun deserves to be considered as one of the classics of anime, together with the likes of Cowboy Bebop. The action sequences, the developments in the plot, and of course, the character development of Vash the Stampede himself, truly makes this anime a worthy watch.
Trigun Official Trailer
6. Groove Adventure Rave (Rave Master)
- Episodes: 51
- Aired: October 2001 – September 2002
Hailing from the same author who penned the popular Fairy Tail franchise, Rave Master tells the story of a young teen, Haru Glory, who is entrusted with the powerful Rave Stone. Travelling with Ellie, an amnesiac who has a mysterious past, and Musica, a man with the rare ability to control silver, Haru must collect the other Rave Stones in order to defeat the evil in the world, Sinclair.
Rave Master was actually quite well-received when it was released back in 2001. Though the story was typical shounen fare, it was nonetheless light and entertaining enough to keep its fans hooked. However, its popularity quickly diminished when more prominent anime got introduced, most ironically by another anime that was created by the same author, Fairy Tail.
What a lot of fans nowadays miss is the fact that despite the lack of popularity of this anime, Rave Master is actually quite superior to Fairy Tail in terms of plot. In fact, a number of concepts from Fairy Tail were taken directly from Rave Master, most notable of all being Plue, which was used in both series (though a reference to Rave Master was made in Fairy Tail). Any fan of shounen, of Fairy Tail especially, should pick up this title, as it definitely deserves to be checked out.
Rave Master OP
5. Shadow Skill: Eigi (Shadow Skill)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: July 1998 – December 1998
Shadow Skill tells the story of Elle Ragu, an elite ighter from the land of Kuruda known as a Sevaar. With her adopted younger brother Gau Ban, she seeks to fill her role as protector of the Holy City of Julianess, while trying to pay off her enormous debts.
Shadow Skill was one of those anime series which may have been produced at the wrong time. Though it was received quite warmly when it was released, a number of critics bashed the series due to its inconsistent production values. Though the concept of the anime has a lot of potential and a number of unique elements, its popularity waned after its initial run.
Despite the inconsistency of the quality however, the anime nonetheless delivers a powerful experience that is rarely seen in current anime offerings. With gritty battles and characters that are unique and memorable, Shadow Skill is a classic of the battle genre that deserves more attention that it has garnered thus far. As it fans say, they just don’t make anime like this anymore.
Shadow Skill OP
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: January 2005 – April 2005
Air tells the story of Yukito Kunasaki, a travelling puppeteer who is on a journey to find the mysterious Sky Maiden. Arriving on a small, nondescript town, he meets a quirky, mysterious girl, Misuzu Kamio, which may be somehow related to his goal of finding the maiden of the skies. As his relationship with the mysterious girl deepens, Yukito starts witnessing revelations that will change his life forever.
Air is one of those anime shows that got eclipsed by more popular offerings of its author and its production studio. Produced by the same creative minds as the architects of anime greats Kanon and Clanaad, Air’s popularity has diminished after its initial run. One of the things that a lot of people pick on is its length, since the series is only 13 episodes long; hence, a lot of the elements of the plot feel very rushed.
Just like the other anime on this list, the fact that this series has garnered a fairly small audience is something that is quite a tragedy, since the story of Air is something that definitely deserves a very wide audience. With an excellent score and with an atmosphere that gives out a sense of wonder, Air is definitely something significant in the slice of life/fantasy/romance genre.
Air Fanmade Trailer
3. Hunter x Hunter
- Episodes: 148
- Aired: October 2011 – September 2014
Hunter x Hunter follows the story of 12-year old Gon Freecss, a boy who has lived all his life thinking that his father was dead, only to find out years later that his father has left his family when he was a child to pursue a career as a Hunter. Mystified as to what kind of career can drive a man to leave his family, Gone decides to become a Hunter himself. However, the journey ahead of him is a long, uphill climb.
Hunter x Hunter is actually critically acclaimed, garnering almost universal approval from anime critics around the world. However, despite this, the anime has never quite reached the same level of popularity as anime like Bleach, Naruto, or Fairy Tail. Considered a masterpiece by those who have actually viewed it, it nonetheless has failed to become as big a mainstream success as it could have been.
The fact that this anime has not made it to mainstream anime fans is an injustice in itself. As stated in the opinions of the hundreds of critics who gave this anime a perfect score, Hunter x Hunter is possibly the most well-written and mature shounen anime ever made. This anime definitely deserves something more than what it has received.
Hunter x Hunter Official Trailer
2. After War: Gundam X
- Episodes: 39
- Aired: April 1996 – December 1996
As one of the three Gundam series that were produced in the 90’s that takes place in an alternate timeline (the other two being Gundam Wing and G Gundam), Gundam X takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth, where most of the human population has been wiped out after the colonists decide to initiate a massive colony drop during the war. Fifteen years after the catastrophic end of the war, street-smart Garrod Ran pilots the Gundam X to keep the powers from repeating history.
Gundam X has garnered a pretty notorious reputation for being only one of two Gundam series that got cancelled midway through its run. Just like the original Mobile Suit Gundam classic, Gundam X was pulled out due to low ratings. As a result, many viewers criticize the fact that the plot got really rushed midway through the series. Its different angle from its more popular siblings Gundam Wing and G Gundam also did not help its popularity.
However, it should be known that behind the cancellation and the rushed plot during the final episodes, Gundam X is the one Gundam entries of the 90’s that captures much of the spirit of the original Gundam series. With characters that echo favorites like Amuro Ray and Char Aznable, as well as Gundams and battles that are quite realistically portrayed, this entry into the Gundam franchise that should not be overlooked.
After War: Gundam X OP
1. Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku (Now and Then, Here and There)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 1999 – January 2000
Now and Then, Here and There tells the story of Shu, a typical teenage Japanese boy with an unwavering optimistic spirit. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious girl with strange blue eyes up on a smokestack, Shu gets entwined in a deadly game of survival amidst a post-apocalyptic future world. As he attempts to save the girl, Lala-Ru and go back home, his resole and heart will be put to the test.
This anime has silenced critics and shocked mature viewers all over the world when it was released. However, despite this fact, very few people have known about this anime. Until now, this series can only be said as obscure as very few anime fans even know of its existence.
However, Now and Then, Here and There is an anime that is certainly beyond average. Though simplistic in its art and soundtrack, the rawness and veracity of its portrayal of the horrors of war and fascism in a post-apocalyptic world is something that has jarred those who have been fortunate enough to view it. Just like Clannad: After Story, this is one anime that will change you and your outlook in life after watching it. In a lot of ways, no one leaves this anime unscathed.
Now and Then, Here and There Official Trailer
So here are ten of the most underrated anime that have been produced off the best studios in Japan. Though a number of them have actually garnered great reviews from professional critics, some of them have unfortunately been eclipsed by more mainstream anime series.
These series are but the tip of the iceberg. If there are any that you feel are worthy parts of this list, then do mention them in the comments below!
Oh, and let’s support these anime while we’re at it too, therefore making them much less underrated.