So there are some series that make such an impression that they seem to rock the foundations of anime fandom: Evangelion, Serial Experiments Lain, Fullmetal Alchemist, Cowboy Beebop, etc. It’s not that these shows are universally beloved, but they’re definitely universal. They’ll come up at least once in any conversation you have about anime.
And then there are shows that seem to spark, fizzle and fade away. Now for the most part, they probably deserve to. I mean how many people really are going to talk about Project A-ko or El Hazard. Not that these shows are bad, it’s just that they didn’t leave much of an impression.
And then there are shows that are good, but surprisingly don’t seem to show up in any conversations. Now none of these shows are perfect, and they may have come at the end of a glut of other shows, or they might have just gotten a little too much bad press. But these are my top five overlooked anime.
Number Five: Otogi Zoshi
Okay, so the first thirteen episodes of this are better than the second, but even with that this show has two kickass openings, swords, mysterious quests and some really excellent animation (courtesy of Production I.G.) The first thirteen episodes follow the adventure of Hikaru Minamoto as she assumes her brother’s identity to save Japan. Yes, it sounds like a cheap rip-off of Mu Lan. But trust me, this isn’t Disney at all. It’s got blood and dying and tragedy and all of the good stuff.
Now the second half does take place in a modern Tokyo and does seem more like an epilogue to the first part rather than a story in its own right. But it’s still enjoyable enough.
Number Four: Noein
There’s just something about this show. Yeah, it does focus on a bunch of elementary school kids in their last summer before they go on with the rest of their lives. But how they get caught up in this inter dimensional war is great. The kids themselves get routinely upstaged by their adult counterparts. In particular, Kurasu, who is the older version of the male lead, is at times dark and mysterious and times tragic and at times cruel and occasionally insane. He makes for one of the better heroes I’ve seen in anime. Now I wouldn’t necessarily put him in Lelouch or Suzaku territory, but he’s still loads of fun.
And the other characters are just as enjoyable. Even Atori, who at first just seems like the classic anime wack job actually gets some fairly decent development. In fact, my only complaint about this series is the ending, which just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the series. But otherwise it’s definitely worth checking out. Here’s Anime Diet’s first look at it.
Number Three: Argentosoma
Um… did you notice my banner up there? Yeah, that’s Ryu Soma. Probably one of the best anti-heroes in anime. He’s as interesting of a character as Lelouch or Kaiji. He’s probably more interesting than a lot of the heroes on my top eight list (with the exception of Brandon Heat). Now, I spent an entire analysis piece a while back going over him, so I won’t repeat everything I said there. But the dynamic between him and Hattie is really what sells this show to me.
Now the side characters aren’t necessarily as interesting, but that’s okay. The plot is fairly good and provides an excellent backdrop for the conflict between those two characters and the conflict within the main character himself.
Number Two: Starship Operators
So I had a hard time deciding whether this should be number two or number three, but it’s probably the more obscure show. I’ll be honest though, it does an amazing job at capturing the relationship between the media, the government and the military in times of war. In fact, it could just as easily be a case study for the nature of modern warfare as it is a story about some high school students who hijack a ship.
The only bad thing I can say about it is that it has a nasty case of red shirt and a missing denouement but otherwise it’s an excellent show.
Number One: Kaze no Yojimbo
Okay, so I’ve talked about this one before. But if you’re tired of hardboiled heroes who go soft halfway through the series, than watch this show. If you want a little more realism in your anime, then watch this show. If you just want something that’s different, then watch this show. I mean if Dashiell Hammett had a Japanese love child, it would be George Kodama. And if he’d happened to set The Red Harvest in Japan is would be Kaze no Yojimbo.
But… the character designs do have a bad tendency to switch a little. But honestly if you can put up with the ever shifting character designs of GitS: Standalone Complex, then you shouldn’t have a problem with this one.