For those of you not familiar with the concept, the term "anime" covers an enormous range of animation. A specific definition of anime is difficult to acquire, but most often it characterizes all animation of Japanese origin—or of the Japanese style. Dr. Osamu Tezuka is considered to be the real father of the anime-style and gave birth to the commercial industry of anime and manga as we know it today. Some people call him the Disney of Japan. Unlike American animation which is primarily developed for children, anime can run the gauntlet of subject matter ranging from PG to XXX. In the case of American animation, the medium is the message. In anime, it’s just the opposite.
Why is it said that people can watch as little as five minutes of American animation and still find it entertaining, but not so for Japanese anime? Whenever someone says that they saw some anime but didn't like it because they couldn't understand what was going on, the anime fan will answer by explaining that the person must watch more of it in order to begin to like it. The more time you spend watching it, the more you'll like it. Of course, this is true of almost anything! You can learn to like anything if you expose yourself to it for a long period of time. In an interesting aside, the Wachowsoki Brothers cited anime as a major influence on their Matrix movies.
The Birmingham Public Library has an excellent anime collection, containing a wide variety of anime. Some of the more well-known and popular titles are:
Akira - Set in a ravaged future Tokyo, this complex science fiction, action tale highlights the dangerous consequences of using science to play God. Engaging the viewer on a mature and intelligent level, Akira triggered the realization in the United States that animation could be for adults.
Ghost in the Shell - Like Akira, this film astonished U.S. audiences with its smart take on international surveillance in a world where cyborgs are the norm and the difference between man and machine is dwindling. Less successful are the sequels, but the TV series, starting with Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, is much closer to the multilayered source manga, allowing in-depth character development and extended story arcs.
Cowboy Bebop - Bounty hunters Spike Siegel and Jet Black work the space around Mars from their ship, the Bebop. Living from prize to prize, they pick up the shady Faye Valentine and teen hacker tomboy Ed along the way, creating a kind of dysfunctional family. The resulting adventures are a mix of traditional noir and Old West showdowns sprinkled with bursts of snide humor, all set to a hot jazz score.
Fruits Basket - Cute, earnest, and sweet, Tohru discovers the Sohma family curse—when hugged by someone of the opposite sex, each member turns into an animal from the Chinese zodiac—and decides it's up to her to break it. This charming and gentle fantasy is a favorite among younger teens.
Samurai Champloo - In Tokugawa-era Japan, Jin is an unflappable, ruthless, and honor-bound samurai, while Mugen is untrained, reckless, and deadly. When they meet, they can't wait to fight to the death, but loudmouth waitress Fuu tricks both into agreeing to help her search for the “samurai who smells of sunflowers.” This show is most famous for its combination of anachronistic elements (a hip-hop soundtrack, fashion) with a classic samurai tale. The action is exhilarating, the humor sassy, and the trio's uneasy bonds lend just enough emotion to keep it all together.
Get Backers - This well-reviewed series follows the crime-solving adventures of two super powered "Get Backers" who track down victims' belongings after burglaries. Fueled by equal parts action, comedy, and mystery, the series thrives on the contrasting dynamic between its two main characters: the blonde and optimistic Ginji, who can generate electricity with his body; and the brooding Ban, who possesses a powerful hand grip and can hypnotize people with his eyes.
Lupin the Third - Along with ASTROBOY, the Animé industry was virtually built on LUPIN THE 3RD, an integral part of Japanese pop culture that has been consistently popular since its first televised series in the early 1970s. The crime-caper comedy follows master thief Arsene Lupin III and his allies--marksman Jigen, samurai Goemon, and femme fatale Fujiko--as they steal from the rich and dodge Lupin's angry, bumbling nemesis, Interpol Inspector Zenigata.
Spirited Away - In this multiple Academy award-winning fantasy, legendary anime director Hayao Mikazaki introduces us to a young girl, trapped in a strange new world of spirits, who must call upon the courage she never knew she had to free herself and rescue her parents. This 2003 Oscar winner for Best Animated Film and anime top seller is a favorite among fans.
Submitted by Lorraine Walker
Five Points West Regional Library
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