Ah the rom-com, a much dreaded genre by some people (mostly manly boyfriends). Known for being extremely formulaic, the romantic comedy usually centers around star-crossed lovers who start off hating each other. Everyone knows, however, that by the end of the movie and some funny twist of fate, they will have realized they loved each other all along. It’s been done to death on the big screen, usually to the same tune.
However, with anime (as usual), the formula is often rewritten to spectacular results. Throw in a robot or a supernatural twist, or simply rely on time and multiple episodes to make the romantic turn more believable. Either way, anime has produced some pretty touching, authentically funny romantic comedies. These are the top 12.
“Special A” is, in a word, special. Slightly underrated, this anime focuses on Hikari Hanazono and Kei Takashima, two characters who have known each other since childhood. Ever since their first meeting, they have been locked in an intense competition with one another over everything. They both grow up to be members of the “Special A” class at their high school, made up of the most elite students. All the while, Kei is secretly harboring romantic feelings for Hikari, and every time he thinks she might have found him out, it turns out that she has totally misunderstood. Although it may sound like it follows the exact same formula as any other rom com, the addition of the other members of the Special A class add a refreshing buffer to the drama. In addition, the episode-by-episode misunderstandings never grow stale. Rather, they add to the comedy and enhance the anticipation for the final episode.
“Chobits” may seem a bit old in comparison to some of the other anime on this list, but it deserves a place in any “all time” rom com list. Hailing from a manga created by well-known, all-female writing group Clamp, “Chobits” features on an oft-asked question in the romance world. Can human-like robots ever develop human emotions? In this anime world, persocoms are the new fad – personal computers which take the shape and appearance of humans. Hideki Motosuwa has never had a persocom, until he finds one on the street one day. She can only speak the word “Chii,” and eventually adopts it as a name. Hideki begins to wonder if Chii might be a Chobit, a rumored type of persocom which can develop human emotions. If she is, where can this lead? Will Chii and Hideki ever be able to be together?
Lone Wolf and Cub follows the life of a powerful samurai Ittou Ogami whose life is turned upside down after his wife gets murdered and he gets framed for a crime he did not commit. In order to take his revenge and save his young son, Ogami decides to become an assassin. Their fates seem gloomy, but the affection between the father and son might be the only bright spot in the corrupt Edo era world they live in.
What makes this film a must-see is definitely Tomisaburo Wakayama‘s brilliant acting and the way he portrays Ittou Ogami’s ruthless personality and willpower. The amazing acting and the magnificent battle scenes make this film a real masterpiece.
Gouda Takeo is the living proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. He is huge, threatening and scary… but has a heart of gold. The manga explores the relationship between Gouda and his first girlfriend Yamato, including his cold and handsome childhood friend Sunakawa.
The live-action adaptation manages to provide the same sweetness and hilarious comedy that manga does, while the actor Ryohei Suzuki does a great job of being the huge and frightening Gouda who is, quite surprisingly, a completely shy and innocent, often misunderstood person.
Death Note follows Light Yagami, an ambitious student who wants to become God by using a supernatural notebook known as the Death Note, and L, an eccentric man who plans on stopping him.
It is not surprising that fans will always feel biased towards their favorite anime being given the movie treatment, and consequently this adaptation may have gotten a bad wrap from some fanatics. But let’s be real; it was a pretty good film. The talented Kenichi Matsuyama is known for taking on eccentric roles and he is a perfect match for the mysterious L while Tatsuya Fujiwara manages to bring out Kira’s proud and delusional nature. The film might not follow the manga closely but the way it focuses on psychological consequences is still very entertaining.
What makes a bad guy do bad things? Most anime don’t go too far beyond classic themes like world domination, personal vendetta, power, greed, or just plain being evil. But when anime don’t gloss over the motivations for some of these villains, you might get a sympathetic villain; one you can’t help but root for.
Sometimes they’re misguided and truly believe they’re doing what’s right. Other times their reasons are just so depressingly sad. And then there are those villains who are just too awesome to hate. Whatever the reason, having a sympathetic anime villain makes it bittersweet when the hero “saves the day.” These anime villains will make you question the motivation behind your favorite anime hero — and remind you that “winning” often comes at someone else’s expense.
Note: Don’t expect to find characters like Light or Lelouch on this list — villains who are also protagonists are called anti-heroes, and we have an entire list of them here.
We’ve come to realize that there three distinct types of anime villains that we love to root for:
Villains who are a product of their past
Bad people aren’t always bad. Some bad people are victims of circumstance, who turn into villains after life throws them a few too many negative moments than they can handle. You can’t help but feel bad for these “bad guys,” even when some of the things they’ve done are appalling. It might be due to the knowledge that they had little control over the hand their life dealt them. “He has a tragic past” is an overused trope for any character, but we’re suckers for it, and the feels we get for these anime villains proves it.
At first glance, Johan is a monster. He is, after all, the titular monster of the anime. But nothing is black and white in the series, and as it progresses, we learn more about this “monster.” The more we discover, the more sympathetic Johan becomes, and while we probably never outright root for him, we do begin to feel more for him, and understand why he is the way he is. Is evil born, or made?
As an Earthling on Mars, Slaine has to deal with hardships right off the bat. He is picked on for his origin, and later develops an obsession over the Martian princess. After a certain event transpires, he completely snaps and turns into a villain. Having seen where Slaine came from though, it’s easy to understand how he turned out the way he did.
The slick fighter Chloe may come across as cold and distant, but a peek into her past reveals very good reasons for this. She is a remarkable fighter, and would make a powerful villain if it weren’t for one thing: her feelings. Whereas other villains bury their emotions, Chloe is driven by hers — a trait that may very well cause her trouble. Meanwhile, the true baddie Altena is the kind of villain who has good intentions but poor judgement on how to carry them out… but more on that type of villain later.
Zero took the anime world by storm, progressively becoming one of the most widely viewed and talked about anime during its time airing. There are a lot of obvious reasons why this anime would appeal to so many people. For example, the choice to have it set in a fantasy world resembling any given MMORPG – especially given the success of other popular anime to do this such as KonoSuba, Sword Art Online and Log Horizon.
The other element of the show, and the one we will be focusing on and which I believe is even more essential to Re:Zero’s success, are the “resets”. Much like save points in video games, the main character Natsuki Subaru is able to start over his journey from a certain point in the story after he has been killed. Although this power is shrouded in mystery within the series itself we know that it is somehow connected with an entity simply known as “The Witch”. It is through this reset feature that the audience is able to closely connect with our main character, not only because much of the audience are probably gamers and know the pain of having to replay a certain portion of the game, but also because it highlights the anxiety that is created when you know that your choices truly matter and have an impact on you and the people around you.
To explain this idea with more clarity I will be relying on the lens of existential philosophy. What exactly is existential philosophy though? What sets it apart from other schools of philosophy, and most importantly, what does this have to do with Re:Zero? Existentialism started to arise in the late 19th century and as the name would suggest it is the analysis of existence and of the way humans find themselves existing in the world. What differentiates existentialism from other branches of philosophy is its focus on the individual, free will, and personal responsibility. This is in contrast to other schools of philosophy that will look at things from a much larger societal context. Some of the prominent philosophers that have contributed to existentialism are Søren Kierkegaard, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger, and my personal favorite philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.
So hopefully the pieces have started to fall into place as to why the existentialist lens fits so well for discussing this show. There are many concepts in existential philosophy, but the ones are that most applicable here are no doubt the freedom of choice, the weight of personal responsibility and the anxiousness that follows it. If there is one show that highlights that your choices do matter and that you as an individual define your own fate through your actions it is Re:Zero. We are shown time and time again that Subaru always has a choice. It bucks the trend of fatalistic and deterministic thought that nothing could have been done and it wasn’t your fault. It instead embraces your responsibility. That when character like Rem or Ram or Emilia died, it was a direct result of Subaru’s actions or often inaction.
It is certainly an empowering and fulfilling feeling when you know that you are in control of your own life. That there is nothing holding you back but yourself – but what about when things go wrong? What if you can’t protect the ones you care about? What if you’re never able to achieve your dreams? What if you keep failing? It would be easy to blame someone else, blame the system or society; to give up and say nothing can be done. This is not the way of the existentialist though, and certainly not the way of Natsuki Subaru. He has to continually relive and experience these moments of failure, until he can finally get it right.
We all make mistakes, but we often don’t think about how we could have improved or what we could have done differently. It’s easier to just blame others and society. It’s much harder to blame yourself, recognize your faults and take personal responsibility. Freedom of choice is a double edged sword; when things go well or if things fall apart it is your responsibility to bear. Unlike in video games or Re:Zero there is no “reset point” What if you mess up? What if you fail? You have only yourself to blame.
Some things go together like peanut butter and jelly, or apples and cinnamon. Others seem like they shouldn’t work together (like peanut butter and celery!?) but somehow, the odd combination just… works. Plenty of anime combine situations and genres, but it takes real skill to put together two completely unrelated ideas in a thoroughly entertaining way. Here are X anime that put together two ideas that shouldn’t work… and yet make a delicious combination.
Yuri Kuma Arashi is weird. Really weird. It’s the kind of weird you might expect from the creator of Mawaru Penguindrum, only after it’s been dipped in some acid and left to dry in a field of mushrooms. Yes, that kind of weird. On the surface, the anime is about a society where cute and cuddly bears suddenly develop a hunger for human flesh. In the middle of this strange society, two girls are placed on literal and figurative trial for their love for each other. It’s a trip full of allegory and self-searching. Everything is a symbol, and everything is weird on overdrive. Lesbians and man-eating bears have no right being in the same anime, but no one told this anime that.
Minor spoilers for the first few episodes: School-Live is not a slice of life. It’s more like a slice of undead (see what we did there?). Ostensibly about some adorable girls doing cute things in their sleepover school club, it’s actually about the zombie apocalypse. In the club room, the girls do everyday things and have silly adventures. Outside, all hell has broken loose as zombies prowl the school grounds. The juxtaposition is insane but it works so well, giving everything you see an ominous overtone.
You may remember this one from your childhood, and it’s just as silly now as it was back in 1990. This series is actually a combination of more than just two random things; pretty much everything about it is an odd mixture. The show takes place in an alternate reality city called Little Tokyo, where society is a mix of modern and feudal Japan, and everyone is an animal-human hybrid. It’s this setting that gives rise to the legendary Samurai Pizza Cats! Pizza delivery cats by day, vigilante warriors by night, these modern samurai cat-beings deliver a side of justice with every pizza slice. Aw yeah!
At some point, everybody dies. Except these guys. And even if they do die, it is just a quick rest stop down the road of eternity. Granted there are different rules pertaining to immortality, with few individuals being truly immortal. This list will cover what type of immortality each character has before delving deeper into their individual profiles.
C.C. possesses a power known as the Code, which allows her to bestow another power known as the Geass upon human beings. Beyond this, the Code also makes her ageless, immune to disease and gives her healing powers that would put Wolverine to shame. Although it is never fully explained, even having her body completely vaporized would not kill C.C. However, individuals who have mastered the power of Geass can take away the Code, which would in turn strip C.C. of her immortal status.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
Kars is the leader of the Pillar Men, four survivors of an advanced race of humanoids that once ruled over mankind. The Pillar Men increased their power over time by creating stone masks that would strengthen humans by turning them into vampires and then consuming them for their power. The ultimate goal was to make a stone mask that could make them fully immortal, which Cars succeeds in doing. Even sunlight and the power of Hamon, the only two weaknesses of the Pillar Men, now have no effect on his body.
Originally a denizen of another world, Kaguya came to Naruto’s home planet in search of the legendary God Tree. In time she consumed the tree’s fruit, gaining immense power and becoming a monster known as the Ten-Tails as her absolute power began to corrupt her. Ultimately she was stopped by her sons who were forced to rip her power out of her, split it into nine smaller (but still super powerful) giant monsters, and then seal her in the Moon (which they made) after she still would not die.
Sadness is an incredibly powerful emotion. Many of us know this from first-hand experience, whether it be short term grief, lingering sadness, or chronic battles with depression. Thankfully, entertainment can provide a bit of relief from these emotions when they become too overwhelming. Interestingly enough, the entertainment we turn to in these times can vary wildly in terms of its tone and theme.
Some people attempt to cope with sadness by trying to watch something that will potentially infuse them with happiness; watching something upbeat, comical, or zany might impart some of that happiness onto them, or at least distract them for a while so they can focus on something more positive. Then you have people who can’t stomach the idea of watching something so bubbly in times of distress and need to find something that speaks to how they’re feeling right now, something in-sync with their sadness. Other people tend to withdraw from the world and want to turn to something comforting and familiar; regardless of whether it’s happy or sad, they just want something they know and can give them a sense of stability.
Naturally there are other methods of coping that people go through, but those three methods tend to represent the majority of people’s experiences. Because of that, we’re going to take a quick look at nine different anime, with three of them each fitting one of the aforementioned coping strategies. Now in fairness, there are a lot of great articles you can turn to for a list of tragic or happy anime, but this list is going to try and avoid at least some of the more obvious choices and touch upon things that are more relatable. For example, Grave of the Fireflies certainly deserves its place in discussions as one of the saddest pieces of anime ever created, but most of us can’t entirely relate to living through the American bombing sorties of Japan during World War II. On the other hand we can all relate to the subjects of death, mortality, and the preciousness of time; which leads us to our first title…
Chrno Crusade doesn’t immediately inform the viewer of its tragic characters, but we’re soon enough informed about the connection between the protagonists, Rosette and Chrono, and the toll it’s taking on the former of the two. Rosette is an exorcist who belongs to the demon hunting Order of Magdalene. When she was younger, she formed a pact with Chrono, a demon with the appearance of a young boy, that effectively saved his life. Unfortunately for Rosette, the same contract that’s keeping Chrono alive is slowly killing her. This isn’t a secret to anyone; Rosette, Chrono, and the rest of the Order are all aware of Rosette’s ultimate fate. Parallels can easily be drawn from this to more traditional terminal illnesses. Rosette tries to face the knowledge of her impending death with strength and joy for the time she has left, but not even she can maintain that levity all the time. Death is unavoidable for everyone and so we can sympathize with Rosette’s plight.
Even if we haven’t directly faced discrimination we probably know someone who has; whether by society itself or by individuals. Despite its heavily violent and gory nature, Elfen Lied is largely a sad tale of heartache, friendship, prejudice, and bullying. The series’ main character, Lucy/Nyu, was born into circumstances beyond her control, facing prejudice and bullying for the horns on her head as a result of being a mutated human species known as Diclonius. Despite the friendship she formed with the young human male, Kouta, society itself pushed Lucy to a breaking point that made her lash out with extreme violence, changing the life of Kouta forever. It’s an anime filled with one devastating event after another. If you can stomach the incredibly graphic imagery, the heart of the tragic events is surprisingly relatable; something that makes the story even that much more heart wrenching.
When it comes to mature anime, we’re certainly spoiled for choice. The anime industry has never shied away from horror, gore, violence, nudity and depictions of sex. More importantly, the anime industry has never balked at venturing into psychological dramas and artier fare, which can only be appreciated by a more mature audience.
And while the anime in this list is aimed at an older audience, younger anime fans have a lot to look forward to once they come of age. The recommendations here are a mix of popular, underrated and hidden gems. However, they’re all stand out titles that are worth checking out.
One of the true masters of mature anime is non-other than Satoshi Kon. Unfortunately, this brilliant director left this world way too soon, but his work lives on and continues to fascinate us.
Perfect Blue is one of the very best psycho-dramas, and certainly holds up well when compared to Hollywood and European art-house films in the same genre. Furthermore, Mima Kirigoe entrances and shakes us up as she delves into the darker side of her psyche.
Tekkonkinkreet stands apart from other anime on so many levels. For one, it’s directed by the American-born Michael Arias who brings along his own unique vision. Secondly, the British electronic music duo, Plaid, created the soundtrack which is both sublime and experimental.
At its core, Tekkonkinkreet feels very indie but with high production values. This is definitely one for more adventurous and eclectic anime fans.
What makes for perfect Friday night entertainment? Well, how about kicking back with a big bowl of popcorn and an action-packed vampire epic?
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust and its prequel from 1985 – Vampire Hunter D – should really be watched back to back. Not only are they both excellent anime with just the right mix of gothic flair and heroism, but are incredibly re-watchable. And it doesn’t hurt that D is one of the most visually appealing male lead protagonists ever!
Tudukimi was an event I went to last week where I was forced to watch 52 anime trailers back to back, in an cruel experiment designed to find the breaking point of the human spirit. I actually kind of enjoyed myself.
At the Tudukimi event (a contraction of several Japanese words meaning ‘watch the next’), 52 anime trailers were shown in groups of 4, and punctuated by commentary from the lively hosts of the evening, with an occasional industry guest appearance. It was apparently livestreamed to over 20,000 people, and was attended by all sorts of people from the anime world, including bloggers, journalists, and streamers.
It was kind of a long evening, and there’s already a bunch of info out there about most of these anime, so here were my thoughts on all 52 trailers shown at the event. See my condition slowly deteriorate over the course of the evening as my notes get less and less informative.
I’ve noted the special picks by bracketing them; either I decided that i’m definitely picking them up this season, or they drew enough attention/applause/squeals of delight from the Japanese crowd that I decided well, I kind of have to check them out now.
Sports anime fans, this is the one. Rugby. Lots of male butts. Small – but fast – player seems to feature as the star of the show; Eyeshield 21?
2. Gi(a)rlish Number
About seiyuus. Seems to be part of this emerging genre of anime focusing on the behind the scenes of the anime/manga world.
3. [3-Gatsu no Lion]
People in the crowd were psyched for this one.
In their heyday, pirates were a violent bunch that were to be feared, the equivalent of modern-day terrorists. But history has romanticized this once feared profession and it’s become something draped in awe and mystery. Whether sailing the seas in ancient wooden ships, or soaring the stars in spacecrafts from the future, our modern interpretation of pirates can rank anywhere from dastardly villain to outlaw with a heart of gold.
Gol D. Roger is the catalyst for the events of One Piece. Once a legendary pirate king, Roger was eventually captured and stated that he left an open invitation to his fortune, the “one piece”, moments before his execution. While it is not exactly clear what One Piece truly is, Roger’s final words were enough to propel the entire world into a new Age of Piracy. Roger sailed further into the dangerous oceans of the world than any other man before or since; crews have scavenged the seas for his fortune – frequently causing chaos along the way – in their quest to become the new pirate kings.
Harlock is a roguish man who lives by his own rules. Space Pirate Captain Harlock exists in a shared continuity, causing Harlock himself to appear in several other series such as Queen Emeraldas. While Harlock is a self-proclaimed pirate, he is more in it for challenging the status quo than anything else. At one point, he comes across some other pirates who boarded a civilian ship and slaughtered the crew and passengers. Harlock boarded the ship himself and massacred the pirates single-handedly. A pirate he may be, but Harlock lives by his own moral code.
Marika was once a simple schoolgirl who was interested in space yachts (the show takes place in the future) and working in a café. Until her daddy’s status as a powerful space pirate forced her to begrudgingly take over the family business, which she has a natural knack for – despite her initial reluctance for the job. Marika may not be a pirate in the traditional sense, but she still gets the job done and flies away with a cargo hold full of booty.
Most texts in manga consist of spoken dialogue. When translating spoken lines, it is crucial that translators select words and expressions that recreate the feel and nuance of the original Japanese spoken lines.
The English words and expressions used must be appropriate for the characters speaking those lines. Males and females express the same thing in different ways. Children’s vocabulary is more limited compared to adults. People speak differently when talking to friends, to acquaintances, to parents, and to superiors.
The way each character speaks to each other is also influenced by their relationships to each other. The contexts of those conversations (such as love confessions, quarrels, and everyday conversations) also influence how they speak.
Monologues, on the other hand, reveal the characters’ true feelings, as they’re not spoken aloud. Monologues are often combined with spoken lines to contrast what characters are publicly saying and their own, private thoughts. Thus it’s important to maintain the difference in style when translating these lines.
The big difference between novels and manga is that manga stories unfold using both dialogue and drawings. Translators should be careful not to focus solely on dialogue when translating spoken lines. It is important to also pay attention to what is drawn in and around the panels the spoken lines are laid out. Drawings often contain clues for translating those lines, as the characters’ facial expressions and body language may indicate their true, unsaid feelings.
I split up the translation process into three phases. I first begin with the literal translation, converting all the information contained in Japanese into English.
I then go over the translation, correcting grammatical errors and rewriting the dialogue so the words and expressions used are appropriate for each character. I smooth out the dialogue so the spoken lines sound natural in English. I also fine-tune the dialogue so the translation recreates the nuance of the original spoken lines. I aim for the end result where the characters sound like they’ve been talking in English from the start.
In the final phase, I compare each panel of the original manga and the translated script, making sure I haven’t missed any spoken lines, background text, and sound effects. I make corrections here as well, as I occasionally realize that the rewriting has cut out information I shouldn’t have. Depending on the quality of the translation, I repeat the second and third phase as necessary.