Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Top Ten Mainstream Anime

Okay so it's Sunday morning and I'm bored. I surf YouTube and find Misty Chonexia's top ten list of mainstream anime.  And I'm not one of those assholes who troll about you didn't put my favorite anime on the list.

Well I am one of those assholes but.

I felt the title of the list was misleading. I think what Chronexia meant was anime that people new to anime would be comfortable with largely using popular anime as a reference. And that works. But what I went in thinking was that it would be a list of anime that people outside of the anime community would have reference for. Anime that had somehow made it to mainstream pop culture.

And the idea of that still kind of interests me. I still feel that anime fandom is still a subculture and examining these titles could help bridge the gap between people familiar with the medium and those who aren't. And it would also let me figure how the medium evolved by studying its heaviest hitters.

 So let's go.

10. Sailor Moon

I need to talk about Sailor Moon. For a brief period of time Madoka Magika deconstructed the magical girl genre that Sailor Moon had more or less codified. So part of me wants to revisit it post-that and see if Madoka not only deconstructed it but reconstructed it. I want to see how Madoka changes how I would engage with the show. Also they've just rebooted the series so I need to watch that as well. And it might be a good idea to take a referesher on the original before I dive into that.

But even without these. Sailor moon managed to explode just before the Toonami boom. Where I hail it aired right along side Power Rangers and a similar enough premise and cultural background to feed into and from that.

My point is if you're a pop culture nerd and devote a decent amount of brain space to Billy you have to give credence to the idea thought that Amy was fulfilling the same role in her xx counterpart series.

But that's neither here nor there. My point is that until toonami Sailor Moon was probably one of the biggest if not the biggest anime properties in the States during the early 90's. And it shows. Almost every anime convention says "Fuck it. Sailor Moon Cosplay contest"  Not just a general cosplay contest no. There are too many Usagis running around for that.

9. Dragon Ball Z

Once Toonami did take off Dragon Ball Z quickly supplanted Sailor Moon as the face of anime. If you are not a 90's kid you don't know.

A lot of people have said that anime is to my generation what kung fu flicks were to our parents and if any one show could be called responsible for that. It's Dragon Ball Z (or Fist of the North Star... No it was Dragon Ball Z.)

Now a days Dragon Ball Z has had a bit of a back lash but it still worth study. Because of it's massive popularity its a good reference point when discussing anime tropes and because some of the polish has warn off its easier to discuss flaws caused by production limitations than something people univerally laud.  The show is flawed but entertaining enough to be engaged with.

8. Naruto

A lot of people hate Naruto but I don't. I've been through this dog and pony show before. Naruto has basically supplanted Dragon Ball Z and has more or less the exact same place in the culture. And for I time I was there. Rock Lee kicking Gaara's ass was kind of badass. But Naruto still has a lot of the production limitations of DBZ which means when it's good it's great but god oh god when it's bad.

But a lot of younger fans don't care. They just want a fun show with a bunch of thunderous action scenes staged with boisterous melodrama. They watch it for the same reasons I watched DBZ and even Smackdown as a kid. Was it stupid. Sure, but it was fun.

But right now a lot of the larger anime community takes issue with the idea that people on the outside feel that Naruto IS anime.  I'll admit the show has its merits but I don't think it represents the best anime has to offer and that debate is tarnishing what for a sizable portion of this generation of fans was their show.

Love it or hate it. You have to talk about it.

7. Pokemon

I have a love/hate relationship with Pokemon. Mostly because I really want to go a nostalgia trip but can't afford a DS like the cool kids. Remember the days when you could get a Gameboy for $80. The 90's.

And that sums up how I feel about the modern Pokemon movement. While each of the individual elements are good enough to warrant a look back what made it ... was it was a pop culture phenomenon. At the time everybody was into Pokemon. The cards, the games, the merch and yes the show.

And that's not so much the case anymore. The world has moved on. People know what Pokemon is but right now it's not the juggernaut it was.

And Nintendo it would take one move to change that. RELEASE A DAMN COUNSEL VERSION ON WII. I'm still pissed that Pokemon Stadium wasn't a 3D version of the original. Do you know how much ass kissing I had to do to get that N64? Do you!?  Majora's Mask made up for it but still there is a principle here.  Heck it doesn't even have to be the Wii. You could probably do it on the DS., which is basically a portable N64 itself. Come on. People would pay out the ass for that.

What was my point again. Right you just couldn't ignore Pikachu back in the day and now you can. Don't get me wrong rock on Pokepeople. But part of the fun was being a part of this big giant pop cultural thing that was happening and the moment is gone.

6. Miyazaki Just Miyazaki

Before Crunchyroll, before Funimation, before Adult Swim, before Toonami, there was Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Friend Totoro, and Kiki's Delivery Service. To this day this is what anime is to people and it ain't exactly a bad representation.

But Miyazaki has his quirks. You can always tell you're watching a Miyazaki film, and some of those quirks are not essential to the medium.

All the same the man has been able to consistently create films with nearly universal themes over the course of his career. There are very few bad Miyazaki films and that has allowed him to not only become Japan's Disney but the closest thing my generation has had Walt period. And while Don Bluth comes close if I'm being truly honest most of his better movies came out before I was born. Miyazaki is my Walt Disney.

5. Akira/Ghost in the Shell

The original dub of Akira is not a good movie. There is a good movie in there and later dubs fixed some of the problems but it's not a good movie. The story is all over the place and characters make no sense. But damn it if doesn't look badass.

And well that was enough. Akira set the minds of a whole generation of animators and film makers ablaze by expanding the language of the image. There is stuff in there that we've been trying recreate for decades.

Furthermore it is one of the pantheon of movies recognized striving against and mostly coming out victorious over the notion that animation is soley kids. Teenagers maybe, but unless I'm being a bastard and deliberately trying to give kids nightmares (I'm evil.) I ain't showing them Akira.

It expanded the types of stories and visuals animation could incorporate and is widely recognized for that.

Also everything I just said goes for Ghost in the Shell for the same reasons.

Except it has the added bonus of being intellectually mature. This is a movie that requires you do homework to enjoy it. And that makes it flawed but still overall pretty important and worth watching.

4. Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop is often touted as being the best anime ever. You can debate whether it deserves that title but because of that it often serves as people's gateway into the medium. If a friend asked me. Hey I know you like anime, but I know nothing about it, whats a good example. "BALLAD OF FALLING ANGELS".

And I'm not the only one. Heck outside of kid cartoons Cowboy Bebop was my introduction to anime and also animation as a medium. Lighting, color, hue. Visually it's amazing. The writing is brilliant. And Yoko Kanno's soundtrack is the soundtrack by which all anime music is judged. 

It's good show is all I'm saying.

But beyond that because it's a good show its also the show the fandom choose to represent the medium for a long time. And as I get older and get a little distance I wonder if that's the right way to go. Anime is really diverse and for a time in the mid 2000's it felt like everything was trying to be the next Bebop.

That's not a knock on the shows. But it is what it is.

3. Gundam

I'm late to the Gundam party so most of the versions I've seen aren't the classics. All the same  for a good while the giant robot genre was synonymous with anime. Even now how much of the new line up features a big ass robot. Yeah you can't talk about anime without talking Gundam. And since the franchise has been around and going strong for about 35 years for anybody over 25 this IS anime.

2. Full Metal Alchemist

You know adult swim back in the day was responsible for introducing a lot of people to anime. Full Metal Alchemist is not my favorite show of that era. But it seems to be the most institutionalized. Cowboy Bebop had 26 episodes and a movie. Alchemist had a 50 episode run, another 50 episode run, and I think right now about 3 movies oh and that OVA that came out a while back.

If you're into anime you can't escape it. That said I really like it. And as a show it holds up pretty well. Both the first one and the reboot.  They're both still fresh enough so that its hard to examine their place in the culture except to say they are a big part of it.

 1. Attack on Titan

The phenomenon that is Attack on Titan is interesting to me. The show had massive buzz outside the community even before being dubbed in English and that is weird. I just want take a knife and disect how the hell that happened.

Short answer the internet. Long answer is a lot fandom trends most of which but not all of have to deal with the internet converged at the right time. People who saw the show and were excited about it cosplayed and made fan art to their hearts' content. Sites like Devart and YouTube, which recently came into their own, gave a place where those pieces of artwork could be displayed to people who were curious but not as enthused who then justifiably felt that if the show as good enough for someone to spend 6 months of their life reanimating the title with Nintendo characters it must be good.

We're still seeing this play out but I'm curious how Attack on Titan will affect the perception of anime in the future. Most of the stuff on this list was targeted towards kids and gained that notoriety because parents had to buy merch.

And that's not the case with Attack on Titan.

P.S. I misspelled Miyazaki's name so many times. I am so sorry.

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