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5 Animes You Must See Before You Die

Author: Darryn King and Geoff Larsen
Friday, 21 September 2007

So, you want to check out some Anime but don’t know where to look- Look no further! The NL takes a quick look at some of the finest anime out there.

AKIRA (1988)
Even if you are a newbie in the anime field chances are you’ve heard of this one. Released in 1988, Akira is probably the most important title on this list. Set in Neo-Tokyo post-WWIII, Akira follows Tetsuo Shima, a character with a severe receding hairline, on an adventure that starts with government conspiracies and ends with psychokinetic explosive powers. Akira pretty much single-handedly brought anime to the west with it’s, then, jaw-dropping animation and super-complex storyline. It is generally considered to be one of the greatest animated films of all time… though it could just be that when no one could understand the ending everyone just said it was a brilliant piece of art.

It’s easy to see why people call Studio Ghibli ‘the Disney of the East’. Their films have a majesty and scope reminiscent of the early days of Disney, when animated pictures took your breath away (as opposed to just your money). If Akira was what started the West’s fascination with anime, Spirited Away was what pushed that fascination into overdrive. It is a sort of coming-of-age story - without being heavy-handed - following a girl named Chihiro into an enchanting and terrifying world of spirits. What’s most obvious is that there is room for ambiguity in anime: none of the black-and-white good versus evil in this story. From the hand-painted backdrops to Joe Hisaishi’s delicate and exotic soundtrack, there is one word for this movie, and it is ‘beautiful’.

While the original Ghost in the Shell had more impact than its sequel, it can be argued (by me) that the second was the better film. The movie follows Batou, a nanti-terrorist agent, as he tries to establish a dividing line as technology and humanity begin to become one... lots of stuff gets blown up too. While the authors of the film over pack the film with abstract philosophical references to the point where it seems contrived, the storytelling and animation is first-tier stuff and allows you to overlook some of the manufactured dialogue. The third movie and continuation of the Stand Alone Complex TV series will invade our DVD players in mid-October.

DRAGONBALL Z (1989-1996)
It’s probably fair to say that Dragonball is the most well-known anime series the world over. This particular segment of the Dragonball mythology entails 291 episodes based on Akira Toriyama’s original manga - but the most fascinating point about this is that the manga and anime were being produced simultaneously. This meant that the makers of the cartoon, waiting for Toriyama to get ahead of them, had to stunt the story - which is why you got fights and single-cel close-ups of character’s faces that went on for far too long. It makes for surprisingly compelling viewing, though: sort of having the spirit of an animated soapie.

You probably won’t find Last Exile on many other ‘Top Ten Must See Anime’ lists but if you have more than a passing interest in anime this is definitely a series you want to get into. Following two delivery pilots around the front lines of a three sided airship war, Last Exile deals with themes of duty and friendship in the midst of chaos… okay, so they are the themes in most anime titles but what sets this one apart are the strong characters, the flowing plot development and the awesome CG. You won’t find graphics on par with recent releases like Appleseed but it still looks pretty swanky and you’ll forget about shortcomings once you hop on board the Last Exile flight.