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Where could I start? Guess I’ll start with a confession. I have watched anime since I was a baby. Seriously! My mother used to put me in front of the TV and tune in anime to distract me. I couldn’t talk yet, but I was laughing and crying with it. That, for a foreigner, is a weird upbringing, but to be fair with my mother, she tried other things. So since I was young, I needed my dose of anime and Japanese culture.
As you can understand, I don’t even remember all of the series I have watched. To choose only five anime was challenging. If I could do a list of honorable mentions, it would be pretty long too! So, I had to go to the absolute core of why I am an anime fan. Although I enjoy all sorts of stories, I tried to choose the creators who truly have marked me in ways that are even irrational. I also went for original anime and anime based on manga to limit the selections a bit. So, here we go!
5. Boku no Chikyuu wo Mamotte (Please Save my Earth)
- Episodes: 6
- Aired: Dec 17, 1993 to Sep 23, 1994
This is a series of OVAs released between 1993 and 1994. It was created as a manga by Saki Hiwatari, who was inspired by strange dreams about the moon. The anime was also notable for its superb music by Hajime Mizoguchi and Yoko Kanno. The plot follows two storylines: the story of seven alien scientists who travel to the moon to study the Earth; and six teenagers and a little boy who have dreams about their past lives as the alien scientists. Although at first the teenagers are excited about finding out more, life at the Moon base became difficult when the scientists’ mother planet was destroyed, leaving them isolated. Things in the present days turn nasty when the boy starts manipulating everyone around him, as something pretty dark apparently happened in the Moon base.
Saki Hiwatari knows human nature to the point that she was able to create a story that shows the effects of war and destruction. These effects are portrayed at both large and individual scale. Her protagonists, the scientists Shion and Mokuren, are among the most multilayered and contradictory characters I have seen in an anime. Their reincarnations (Alice and Rin) are highly conflicted! I think that what captured me the most in this series was the unusual combination of romance and science fiction. The fascination Mokuren has for the Earth and her strong wish to protect it are at the very center of the anime, going beyond the typical romance story of the time. It’s no surprise that several manga authors have mentioned Boku no chikyuu wo mamotte as an inspiration to them.
4. Chikyuu Shoujo Arjuna (Earth Girl Arjuna)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Jan 9 to Mar 27, 2001
Shoji Kawamori has produced several great anime throughout his career (starting with the Macross series), so I simply couldn’t leave him out of this list. Nevertheless, the Kawamori anime that speaks the most to me is Arjuna. Although it is rather short, Chikyuu Shoujo Arjuna weaves a complex story packed with the most overwhelming information and visuals. Kawamori combined real life footage, 2D and 3D animation with the intention of talking about life. Yoko Kanno was absolutely astounding with the music on this one too, coordinating perfectly with the director’s ideas.
The story follows Juna, a typical teenager who suffers a motorbike accident and dies in the first episode. Her soul separates from her body and she encounters Chris, a peculiar boy who shows her visions of a dying Earth and offers to save her life in exchange for helping the Earth. Juna, a normal girl who is scared and apprehensive at first, starts on a journey to learn how to use her new powers with her boyfriend Tokio, who is a wonderful contrast to show us how Juna senses everything around her differently. Despite the fact this anime was released in 2001, its topics are up to date and ideal to wake your curiosity up. It truly was a life changing experience to watch this anime.
3. Shin Seiki Evangelion (Neon Genesis Evangelion)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Oct 4, 1995 to Mar 27, 1996
Hideaki Anno is another director whom any otaku has to have heard of. Evangelion became world reknown, right? Shiro Sagisu made a pretty good job with the music, combining European classicals with terrifying and psychologically induced original tracks. Just in case you don’t remember the story, let me summarize it here for you: a group of teenagers pilot mechas to confront strange beings denominated “Angels” in a post apocalyptical world.
What is at the center of Evangelion is the psychology of its characters. It is well known that Anno suffers depression, thus his deeply existentialist topics in Evangelion. Contrary to many otakus in the distant mid-nineties, I didn’t think Shinji was a terrible character. His vulnerabilities were his strong points. But what truly did the show for me was Asuka. I could see why she was such an interesting and multilayered character when the director confessed that Asuka was conceived as the protagonist at first. The battles against the Angels were open to interpretation, and I found fascinating how many conversations could spring from that. It is because of this anime that stories involving mecha became less black and white… and we are still waiting for more! Hope Anno gets out of his creative crisis and delivers the end of the story someday.
2. Tsubasa Chronicle
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Apr 9 to Oct 15, 2005
The manga quartet CLAMP are among the most successful female creators from Japan. Not bad for a group of friends that started as doujinshi artists, huh? Their stories are so varied in both story and art style, that they surely have something for everyone. Nevertheless, my top favorite from these authors has to be Tsubasa Chronicle. With music by the great composer Yuki Kajiura, this anime follows the story of a group of dimension travelers who, for diverse reasons, end up having the same objective: to defeat the evil Fei Wong Read.
Talking about Fei Wong, this guy is one of the cruelest villains I have seen in an anime. Manipulative, obscure and capable of everything apparently just to prove he is the most powerful magician. The two main protagonists (or should I say the four main protagonists?) were inspired by Sakura and Shaoran from CardCaptor Sakura, another successful CLAMP story. Only these versions of the characters are much more grown up, having to make very difficult choices that have complex “butterfly effect” like consequences.
Tsubasa Chronicle is full of shocking revelations and several heartbreaking moments, which make you wonder whether the characters will achieve what they want or not. It truly is a shame that the anime didn’t tell the whole story till the end. All in all, I suffered watching Tsubasa Chronicle, but I wouldn’t change the experience. This anime exists to remind us that choices have consequences, that there is a price for every single thing we want and that we have to be brave enough to take the risk when necessary.
1. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal (Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: Jul 5, 2014 to Jul 18, 2015
And finally, this is my most biased choice ever. Although I have watched anime all of my life, no other series has had the impact Sailor Moon had on me. I deeply admire its creator (Naoko Takeuchi), as a woman of science who was able to achieve her dream of becoming a mangaka and making her fortune out of it. I mean, who doesn’t know Sailor Moon? It broke so many shoujo anime stereotypes that it is hard to count them!
Some purists might hate me, but I prefer the remade Crystal series instead of the nineties anime. This is because I always felt closer to the clumsy Usagi who slowly matures in her role of protector of the world. I also liked the dynamics between the characters better in the manga. Usagi has the best boyfriend ever who is there when necessary, plus a cute daughter and the best friends in the world. Thus, now that there is a decent rendition of Takeuchi’s story, with much better animation and a serious plot, I am more than thrilled to watch it and rewatch it again. The music was made by Yasuharu Takanashi, which meant that the quality improved, adding extra points to the experience. We just have to listen to the first track of the first OST (Tsuki no Densetsu) to be transported to the moon.
PRETTY GUARDIAN SAILORMOON Crystal TRAILER
Well… now I think you will understand where my nickname comes from (laughs). I am the ultimate shoujo otaku, I know. Yet, I also have my shounen moments. Anime should not have gender tags by now. Guys have enjoyed Sailor Moon and we enjoy Evangelion, don’t we? But well, we can simply ignore the tags and watch all the marvelous anime that exists out there.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this short trip to the memory lane. Maybe now you are itching with curiosity or simply want to rewatch one of your favorite series. So, I won’t stop you! See you in the next article!