As you might or might not know, Japan had occupied parts of Southeast Asia during WWII, causing them to leave behind traces of their culture and media. Instead of growing up with merely Malay and British culture, Japanese culture was also embedded into my life. Ever since I was eight, anime had secretly been a part of my life. My oldest brother wasn’t an otaku, however, he did enjoy the classics such as Naruto and Bleach, and would ask me to watch with him. My friends would also watch after-school specials and invite me over to watch, and before I knew it, I had taken a liking to anime.
My father was stationed to move to Kobe for two years. My mother was excited as she loved history and wanted to see the country with her own eyes. My sister appealed to the fact that she had another country to be in and adapt to, but for me, it was a new experience. Having been born in an English-speaking country, I didn’t understand the fear of moving to a new place, especially one that didn’t speak English. I was terrified as everyone around me spoke a mixture of English and Japanese, dubbing it a right of passage I needed in order to fit in.
I started browsing the internet for things to watch due to recommendations of dramas and anime. I remember seeing a Crunchyroll link to the anime “We Were There” and I thought that it sounded like a typical love story, which was why I clicked ‘play’. The anime itself changed my perspective on happy endings in fiction and it made me wonder what other seemingly innocent anime was actually meant to tear out your heart. From then on, my love for anime simply grew.
5. We Were There (Bokura ga Ita)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: July 2006 — December 2006
Although starting off as a typical shoujo, “We Were There” actually holds heavy themes that are not only meant to tug at your heart strings, but to remind you that sometimes, bad things happen to good people. It introduces the main girl (Takahashi Nanami) as being shy and unable to defend herself against the main boy (Yano Motoharu). The anime explores their backstories and growth, but it also creates realism in romantic and platonic relationships. Although Nanami and Yano experience various problems which ultimately caused them to grow apart, there’s an element of hope present throughout the anime. This anime was clearly targeted at girls, however it is atypical in that it doesn’t necessarily “butch things up”, and even tells the story from Yano’s perspective.
Apart from this anime being the very first one I paid attention to, the story and the message it gave stuck with me for years. At that point, I knew of different anime titles, but “We Were There” made such an impression that even when anime wasn’t in my life, I still remembered the name. I was sixteen when I went to read the manga, and as a teenager, you are always searching for things to make you believe in hope again. Ultimately, the reason this anime stuck with me this far was because it displayed the hardships that individuals experience, but despite that, things will work out.
Bokura Ga Ita - Opening (Kimi Dake Wo)
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: October 2007 — March 2008
Having a reputation for being a heartbreaking anime, “Clannad” was an anime I didn’t expect to like. Laced with heartwarming moments and humorous interactions, it’s a slice-of-life that’s sure to have you invested all the way to the end. Okazaki Tomoya is a guy who’s shown to have no passion for anything he does. After Furukawa Nagisa is introduced into his life, his perspective on passion and trying hard for something you love start to change, and we find that he was not always an apathetic person. The two seasons of this anime show Tomoya and Nagisa’s relationship as they grow older, and although an understatement, this anime is certainly is an emotional roller coaster ride.
Three words: I am masochistic. Despite the various warnings from a good friend, I proceeded to watch both seasons of this anime and consistently felt like my heat was being ripped out of my chest. Clannad making an impression on me is a huge understatement, because I fell in love with all the characters and could not hate any one of them — especially the parental figures. In the long run, while this anime was painful in more ways than one, the message that love, romantic or familial, is pure and untainted will leave your heart touched.
Clannad PV 1 English Subbed
- Episodes: 201
- Aired: April 2006 — March 2010
Tinged with adult themes and vulgar humor, “Gintama” is an anime that you shouldn’t be watching when you’re under seventeen. Although introduced as being humorous, the more you watch Gintama, the more you ask yourself what anime has become. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing, as Gintama caters to questions that you yourself can’t answer, but it also includes hilariously bizarre episodes that will drive you to laugh so hard you can’t feel your stomach. It’s difficult to pinpoint what Gintama is about, and even fans who have been following the story since it was serialized do not know how to answer that question. Interspersed with aliens, samurai, ninjas, and old-fashioned Tokyo, Gintama is sure to bring a whole new perspective of humor to the table.
As soon as I finished high school, I dove right into “Gintama”, not knowing what to expect. Thirteen episodes in and I still wasn’t sure what to tell my friend when she asked what it was about. The reason that it continues to stick with me is because each character has a fruitful backstory. Despite the seriousness that is hidden underneath layers of humor, each character is more lovable than the last because of their ability to look past the surface and ultimately want to protect what’s dear to them. While it didn’t captivate me from the very start, there was a level of ambiguity that kept me coming back for more.
Gintama (2015) PV 2
2. Natsume’s Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujinchou)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: July 2008 - September 2008
Normally, slice-of-life anime are too slow-paced for most people to enjoy, however “Natsume’s Book of Friends” is an exception I am more than glad to have come across. The plot follows a high school boy named Natsume Takashi who has always had the ability to see demons and ghosts, otherwise referred to as youkai. After being chased by a demon who repeatedly refers to him as Natsume Reiko, he discovers an entirely new world of spirits via a book of names of ghosts that his grandmother had while she was still alive. With the help of a sealed youkai that can take the form of a fat, tubby cat named Madara, Natsume ventures the world of the supernatural and gives back to the spirits something they lost when his grandmother was alive: their names and dignities.
Let’s get the facts straight: I finished all four seasons of this anime in eleven days. It was certainly something I wasn’t expecting to like, because of how slow-paced it deceptively was. The animation also wasn’t exactly top notch, since it’s an older anime, but I stuck it out mainly because of Natsume’s character! Despite most youkai anime portraying their protagonists as outcasts who are incapable of human contact, Natsume is shown to be the opposite: instead of isolating himself from everyone else, he wants to reach out to them and create an emotional connection. Ultimately, Natsume’s desire to be a good person despite the power he obviously has is what keeps me loving this anime.
Natsume’s Book of Friends Season1 & 2 - Official Trailer
1. Death Note
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: October 2006 — June 2007
“The human whose name is written in this note shall die.” Surely enough, if you see the title “Death Note”, you know that it’s about a high school boy who has a God complex. Light Yagami is a boy who finds a notebook belonging to a shinigami (death god) named Ryuk, one day on the grounds of his campus. The story is about how Light goes from being an individual entity that wants to rid the world of malicious people by writing their names in the notebook, to being a man that wants to control the world based on who he deems as harmful. Eventually, we experience his downfall as a “god” as well as a human, through Ryuk’s eyes.
Aside from the overall tone of Death Note, the strategies and personalities of each character in the anime that try to solve who the murderer is always kept me on the edge of my seat. I have re-watched it about three times and it never fails to keep me sucked in, because I just keep finding new things about the characters and the plot that I did not notice the time before. Despite the fact that I’m not very into psychological anime, “Death Note” was definitely an exception to my tastes. Although not my favorite, it definitely deserves a place in my top five anime.
Death Note - Trailer/PV
Ultimately, the goal of media is to make an impression on its viewers and audience. I believe that as a writer, there are so many different ways to immerse yourself in media. However, you can simultaneously make contributions so that there’s more content for other people to look at. This way, there’s an endless supply of content and it’s made easily accessible, too!
I have had a lot of experience writing for different types of literary magazines, though to be fair, they were mostly when I was in high school. Considering the fact that I am only nineteen, I still have a lot to learn! I hope that I can bring a fresh perspective to you when it comes to anime, and that you will understand there isn’t just one way to view such media!