If you had asked me eight years ago if I would ever be as entrenched in what I know as “geek culture” as I am right now, I would have laughed my head off at you. I had never stepped foot into a comic book shop, save for on Free Comic Book Day. I didn’t play many video games–much less ones that were online. I definitely didn’t watch anime, aside from the one or two series that my college buddies would watch on their laptops in between classes. It’s funny. At age 30, I’ve finally found my place with all of these things. I have a pull box at my local comic book shop (number 42, incidentally. Ah…my inner book nerd is showing), I’ve run a guild in a popular MMO, and at least two or three times a week I sit down to catch up on my latest simulcasts of anime. Yes. I’ve become that girl.
I think the thing that probably surprised me most out of these changes was my love for anime. My family has never been one to accept other cultures, and Asian culture has always been this “other” in my house. My mother still teases me when I sit down to watch an anime, even though both my little sister and I watch it now. I don’t know that I can explain to her why I watch it, or why I started watching it. She’ll insist that it’s because of my husband, or because of my goofy friends on the internet, but I’ll insist that it’s something else—something that we don’t generally get here in the States in our cartoons: the story.
One of the biggest misconceptions that I’ve heard from people who don’t watch anime, is that, “They’re cartoons. They’re for kids. You’re an adult.” When was the last time that you watched a cartoon about people being torn in half and killed by giants, complete with all the gritty details, or a cartoon series simply about the awkward stage between individuals where they’re trying to figure out their relationship…and only about that? Anime touches on subjects that “kiddy” cartoons stay away from, and they do it with grace and beauty.
The world of anime can be something that is quite intimidating to get into at first. Someone new to the genre may ask where to start, or which series they will like. I am insanely picky about my anime, and I feel your pain. I can wax philosophical about why someone could like anime, but they’re only going to like it if they can find something with which they connect. Here are my latest favorites, and you can take them or leave them.
Okay, so I’m the first one to admit that I was not going to jump on this bandwagon. It was so hyped up when it started, that I was going to attempt to stay away from it for forever. My husband watched it, my sister watched it, my best friends watched it, but I refused to. Thankfully, I gave it a chance, and I’m so very glad that I did. Attack on Titan tells the story of a group of people who live on an earth run by Titans, giant, human-like creatures hell bent on eating any people they come across. The lead character is Eren Jager, who has had his whole family taken from him. He’s sworn to become one of the Survey Corps, a military branch that sets out to take down any Titans they can that are outside of the walled city they live in. It is a story about the relationships between Eren and his friends, as well as the discovery of what the Titans are themselves.
I thought that this would be simply an action anime, in which people yell and attack things, and fight amazing battles, and that would be it; but there is so much more to the story behind this anime. The way that it is crafted, the storytelling, the visual beauty of the images all form a cohesive piece of anime that will tug at your heartstrings even if the fighting isn’t your cup of tea. I found that I could see myself in some of the characters, particularly Sascha, one of the friends that Eren makes along the way. If you’re looking for some action, with well developed characters, and a plot that keeps you guessing until the end, don’t overlook this title.
This anime appeals to the side of me that plays MMO games. In fact, that’s what drew me toward it in the first place. When I first watched this anime, I hadn’t watched Sword Art Online yet, the other MMO anime that people have recommended as amazing (which it is, but I still like Log Horizon better). The premise of Log Horizon is that people have logged into the latest expansion of the MMO Elder Tale and found that they can no longer log out. Instead, they are in the video game as their characters. While this is a trope that is often explored, the difference with Log Horizon is that it isn’t necessarily about getting stronger and fighting the next boss. Sure, there is some of that in Log Horizon, but the main focus of the anime is about how the characters come to terms with what is going on around them, and how they try to make a home for themselves inside the game.
The main character, Shiroe, is an easily relatable character to many. He seems to be stand-offish to the other players of the game, helping people when he can, but not making close relationships with anyone in particular. The joy of this anime is watching his character grow and realize that sometimes taking chances on people doesn’t get you hurt, but instead helps you to be a better person.
One Week Friends
This anime is one of the lesser known gems of last season. If you’re into cutesy, slice-of-life stories, then this one is for you. This is the story of Hase, a young boy who decides to befriend a classmate, Fujimiya. The only problem is that Fujimiya has a strange form of amnesia that makes her forget all of her friends every Monday. The resulting story is sweet and slow, showing the awkwardness that often pervades the early stages of friendship among teenagers.
Another thing to love about this anime is the art style. The colors are soft, and feel very whimsical. Even the music that accompanies the story is light and plays well with the visuals to create a calm atmosphere for the story and characters. That being said, it is a very cutesy anime, so it definitely appeals to a select audience.
Okay, so I’m going to leave off with this anime, because I don’t think a lot of people really get this one without sitting down to actually watch it. Free! is currently in its second season, which says something about this anime. At first look, it appears to be simply an anime about boys who swim half naked all the time, which is true, but it’s more than a fan service for girls.
What really struck me about Free! is the story behind the main characters. It is the story of childhood friends who are reuniting for the first time as high schoolers. So, while this anime is a sports anime, it’s also something more. It really is all about the power of friendship and what you can do when you have friends to support you. I didn’t think that I would like this anime at all, but I can’t wait for the newest episode to be out each week.
There’s my picks for right now. Again, if you have any other suggestions or commentary, please leave it in the comments. Recommendations are always welcome as well!
-by Alex Adams