Choosing Anime to watch
If you wonder what anime you or your child can watch or even buy, this list gives you an idea of what exists and what they bring to you. I already drew a list of my 10 favourite Japanise anime, but there are a lot of great ones out there that cannot fit into a top 10. These anime are great in their own right, either for their entertainment value, their themes, their educational input, their psychological worth or for the richness and journeys of their main characters.
Because the list is super long, I decided to categorise them. There are many categorisations out there, some based on the target audience (teenage boys -shōnen -, girls – shōjo-, adults, children and other demographic differentiations). Some follow the typical movie genres such as comedy or drama, fantasy or science fiction, thriller, horror or romance, mecha or game, to name a few, besides any combination of these. However, this categorisation comes from my perspective of the pattern or formula that transpired out of watching anime for over, well, 20 years and the type of outcome you might want to kindle within yourself, your child or your grandchild.
Live your talent anime
There is a bunch of anime that were created around the idea of showcasing a passion. I have been thankful to them for empowering the dreamer, encouraging the passionate, opening up or showcasing possibilities to the seeker, being the spark. They acknowledge the love of its subject, and beyond all, give many children a reason to try, a strength to continue, and the courage to get up after a failure, all in an easily digestible fashion.
Hikari no Densetsu (aka Legend of Light aka Cynthia ou le rhytme de la vie as I knew it when I watched it in French), inspired me in its time to become the best dancer I could be, even though it was about gymnastics. It is also known as Legend of Light in English, Light being the English translation of ‘Hikari’. The animation follows Hikari Kamijou as she works and grows towards her dreams of becoming the best rhythmic gymnast.
アタッカーYOU!, Atakkā Yū! aka Attacker You! or Jeanne et Serge (yes, I watched a lot of animation in French and in France) inspired not just the volleyballers but any player in teams. Team players could learn to always try and surpass themselves but also to trust and play in harmony with their teammates to work their best and succeed. The strength of character of the female lead and her love and admiration for the male lead give her wings to tackle the challenges ahead, a theme that is often seen in such anime including the aforementioned, Hikari no Densetsu. But more inspiring are the secrets of team playing whereby each member plays to their strengths and works hard to turn their weaknesses to the team’s advantage.
Many more follow the “entertainment as a passion” formula, some with a male lead like Ganbare,_Kickers! (aka Un but pour Rudy in French) for soccer/football, or even two male leads like Kyaputen Tsubas (キャプテン翼 or Captain Tsubasa (or Olive et Tom, champions de foot as I know it) but also theatre (Glass no Kamen – ガラスの仮面 – in Japanese, Laura ou la Passion du théâtre in French, or Glass Mask in English), singing, performing and more. Artistic and sportive talent are encouraged, that help otakus to hold on to their passions in the real world. In fantasy and sci-fi counterpart animated pictures, the same is promoted where the natural talent goes beyond your day-to-day passion. Magic is a main element to nurture in…
Be a Hero anime
The very first anime I watched were “hero anime”: typically with one-word titles, often the hero’s name, they showcase a thousand and one ways in which a hero will save the world or a part of it from a seemingly similar attack from a unique villain or set of villains, generally helped by a set of friends. Goldorak, Albator, Capitain Flam, Ulysse 31, Jay et les monstroplantes, were only a few of those that follow the formula and had many of us either empowered by procuration or hoping to be saved by either of our favourite leading characters.
Soon the hero took a more complex turn. Rather than being predictably perfectly presented, there seemed to be an introduction of less black and white characters. The hero suddenly had flaws, and yet as best shown with Ryo Saiba (aka Nicky Larson aka City Hunter) were forgiven even within the film for these. I remember that it used to really get on my nerves, and more now when I have to subject myself to those parts to see the full story, that Ryo, the main character, was always forgiven for his perverse indiscretions because he would eventually save the girl. Talk about the end shamefully justifying the means even when the latter did not contribute to the former, except as a form of emotional blackmail. With heroes like Ken in the anime of the same name, aka in France as Ken survivant de l’enfer (Ken, hell survivor), the context brought some sort of justification to his violence.
The heroes started to be a set of people, who rather than being rallied around a principal character whose name would make the title, now appear directly as part of the title as did the Cat’s Eyes… And it was not just about families, friends also got together to make up the heroes that the title named: W.I.T.C.H.E.S (seen in English), The Three Musketeers were as many ways of promoting children coming together to save their world, no matter how small this was.
Let Love Grow anime
Catering for the girl who would seemingly dream of meeting her prince charming are a series of eponymously-titled (at least in France) romantic anime: Candy Candy, Georgia, Lady!! aka Hello! Lady Linn aka Gwendoline (France)... The themes are a given, and as would be expected, the romance is dreamt, met, puzzled by obstacles before blossoming… The last part is nevertheless often, in Western countries, an editorial change to meet the requirements of the local culture and the traditional vision of a “happy ending” dream than some of the original anime would suggest.
I can still remember the way Candy was edited in France and in Italy to give the hope of a far better ending than the Japanese writer had originally scripted or would have ever imagined! Those bits seemingly lost in translation were rather purposedly rearranged in the cultural conversion. The traditional setting of the period around the 1st and 2nd world wars gradually changed into more modern settings, bringing to this primarily romance anime a historical and grounded aspect that might have been lost with the fairytale tweaks.
From the pensions and mansions, anime got into schools and colleges, giving the 21st century children a more familiar setting and a more relatable set of events, whether happy or sad. The characters grew in complexity as well, shedding the perfect black and white image of flawless princess-like person to a more realistically multifaceted personality. Tora Dora (Tora Dora is streaming on Netflix at the time of writing) showcases this really well, even going to show how first impressions and superficial knowledge can mistakenly make a deceptive cover for the entire book.
The Power Of Kindness and other Virtues
Many shōnen anime typically feature the theme of kindness. The female protagonist remains kind in spite of every ordeal, against all odds. The Let love grow anime suchg as Candy or Lady!! showcase this. Thankfully, they don’t all involve a romantic plot. The following cases depict expressions of kindness shown in slices of relatively ordinary life. aka Princess Sarah aka Little Princess Sarah in English) is the anime adaptation of A Little Princess by British-American novelist and playwright Frances Hodgson Burnett. The anime retells the story of a rich heiress who loses her fortune and falls into poverty and hardship. In spite of her new condition, she never loses her kindness and life rewards her for it in a sense as she regains her financial status.
Kindness and empathy are at the heart of great relationships and healthy friendships. And so is honesty. Nowhere is it as obvious as it is in my favourite of all those tales, the adaptation of Swiss tale Heidi. The Japanese anime TV series Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji (アルプスの少女ハイジ or Heidi, Girl of the Alps in English and simply Heidi in French) is produced by Zuiyo Eizo studios. It is my absolute favourite of all the adaptations of Heidi’s Years of Wandering and Learning by Swiss author Johanna Spyri.
Adventure and discovery
There are lessons to be learnt in many disciplines in the journeys of these anime’s protagonists. to educational anime. In history, The Mysterious Cities of Gold (Les Cités d’Or in French or Taiyō no ko Esuteban – 太陽の子エステバン – in Japanese) inspire themselves from The King’s Fifth, a children’s historical novel by Scott O’Dell to take us on an adventure . This studio Pierrot anime is a collaboration between France, Japan and Luxembourg
Ochamegami monogatari korokoro Pollon (おちゃめ神物語コロコロポロン aka La Petite Olympe et les Dieux) revisits Greek mythology thanks to its main character, Pollon, granddaughter of Zeus. Cute and entertaining enough. Mixing life, adventure and martial arts is one of the most successful anime series and anime franchise of all times, Doragon Bōru (ドラゴンボール aka Dragon Ball).
The anime Seaton dôbutsuki : Kuma no ko Jacky inspires itself from the works of prolific author of animal-related books, Ernest Thompson Seton. It tells of the adventures of the little boy Moy and the little bears Bouba and Frisquette. The two bears are brother and sisters who were orphaned when hunters shot their mother.
The Japanese anime series Haisukūru! Kimengumi (ハイスクール!奇面組, known to me as Le collège fou fou fou! has made a lot of afficianado when it showcased comedic caricatures mixed with extreme transitions and maddening silliness. But it definitely conveyed that feeling that high school / college was an adventure and that silliness was a way to bewitch its madness. On the other side of school adventures, there is the school skipping of TomSawyer. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the adapted story of Mark Twain’s book of the same name. The Nippon Animation production Tomu Sōyā no Bōken (トム・ソーヤーの冒険) is known in France as simply Tom Sawyer. Ranma Nibun-no-Ichi or Ranma ½ (らんま ½ in Japanese aka Ranma One-Half) adds comedy and martial arts to the adventure mix.
There is also Franany’s feet, Clementine’s Enchanted Journey (a 1985 French animated TV series which about the adventures of Clémentine, a 10-year-old girland the blue bubble that took her there), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (right there in the title), Nobody’s Boy (Remi sans famille)
Spirits and other super or extra beings are among us anime
A lot of anime exploits ideas of the supernatural, the extraterrestrial and the magic. At some point, Japan started to more openly share their traditional beliefs in the spiritual realm, animating characters. Hotarubi no Mori e, Kamisama Kiss are some of the examples in the genre. The genre has got itself enough fans to cross continents all the way to America in one of its first incarnations there, Avatar, The last airbender.
Mushishi is similar in acknowledging other types of beings, in this case, a most primitive being called Mushi and invisible to most people.
Taking it a step further are the anime that feature extra-terrestrial beings. Urusei Yatsura (うる星やつらLamu) is one of those.
Many more anime feature magic and/or fantasy and many of them always add that touch of silly comedy.
Recap of some of the anime listed
- Glass no Kamen (ガラスの仮面) – drama, romance, theatre, shōjo
- Ganbare, Kickers! (がんばれ!キッカーズ) – comedy, drama, romance, shōnen, sports (soccer / football)
- Haisukūru! Kimengumi (ハイスクール!奇面組) – comedy, teenagers
- Hikari no Densetsu (光の伝説) – drama, romance, sports (rhythmic gymnastics), shōjo
- Kyaputen Tsubas (キャプテン翼) – comedy, drama, romance, shōnen, sports (soccer / football)
- Ranma Nibun-no-Ichi or Ranma ½ (らんま ½ ) – comedy, romance, adventure, martial arts
- Taiyō no ko Esuteban (太陽の子エステバン – Education (History), Adventure, Children, teenagers
- Tomu Sōyā no Bōken (トム・ソーヤーの冒険) – Comedy, Adventure, boys and girls.
- Urusei Yatsura (うる星やつら) – comedy, extra-terrestrial, romance,