This was originally a list of anime for Kyle to watch (mostly focused on film and specific auteurs in the medium because getting Kyle to commit to watching any series that isn’t limited to under thirteen episodes is like pulling teeth), but, in the spirit of coaxing other folks into watching some potentially new works, I wanted to make it public!
This also totally sidesteps anything from Studio Ghibli (because they’re almost entirely very accessible and widely seen, although some folks have skipped out on Isao Takahata’s work in favor of Miyazaki and you should remedy that ASAP) and Satoshi Kon’s films (because Kyle has also seen those and, if you haven’t, you totally should). This isn’t a definitive guide of any kind and there are plenty of other anime recommendations I would happily make for other folks, but I hope y’all enjoy this little thing I made for fun.
1. Wolf Children (Mamoru Hosoda, 2013)
A gorgeous melodrama about a mother who tries to raise two kids who also happen to be werewolves. This is basically my top recommendation for you specifically. It’s also just the perfect example of a film that couldn’t exist in live-action form with some of the most gorgeous animation around.
Available for rental (or you can watch my copy).
[If you like this, see: Mirai (on Netflix) & Summer Wars (for rental)]
2. Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! (Masaaki Yuasa, 2020)
Yes, it’s twelve episodes, but I sincerely believe that this is a perfect coming of age story that also doubles as a love letter to the medium of animated filmmaking. Just a real whirlwind of style and creativity that showcases the passion that exists behind folks who just want to make art.
Available on HBO Max/Crunchyroll.
[If you like this, contact Juan for specifics on what other anime by Masaaki Yuasa to watch because everything he’s made is excellent]
[If you want a film by Yuasa instead of a series first, I’d go ahead and suggest Night is Short, Walk on Girl, available on HBO Max/Crunchyroll]
3. Devilman Crybaby (Masaaki Yuasa, 2018)
Ten episodes. I’ll quote myself: “Showcases the best and worst of humanity in ten episodes better than most shows can ever hope to. It’s a stunning work that rather brilliantly adapts its source material to fit an entirely different era, blending works of other artists that exist on the same scale with the artistic sensibilities of the director at its core. A surprisingly human tale — one that documents the relationship between two individuals as different as they are similar — grounds a story that grows to apocalyptic proportions. As biblical, heartbreaking and ambitious as few other anime in the same vein (say Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion and End of Evangelion) can manage to be.”
Available on Netflix.
[If you like this, see above statements]
4. Liz and the Blue Bird (Naoko Yamada, 2018)
I’ll quote Willow: “The melding of Yamada’s distinctly tactile sensibilities and the house style of Kyoto Animation creates a poetry in bodies. The opening sequence of Yamada’s most recent film Liz and the Blue Bird (2018), is breathtaking in this regard. Protagonist Mizore is a quiet, introverted young girl on the cusp of graduating high school and moving onto the next chapter of her life. She’s an oboist in the school band and her only friend, Nozomi, who occupies most of her thoughts, is the flutist. Mizore has a crush on Nozomi, and it’s complicated because Nozomi is a girl. Mizore is nervous today at school. She is most days. She’s introduced quietly, with her shoes clacking gently against the hill. She twirls, and a close-up is used of the edge of her skirt moving with her as she sits. The next shot is of Mizore clasping her hands, and she taps her feet together. Mizore has no time to settle herself, because Nozomi can be seen gently striding up the hill accompanied by music. Both characters can be seen in the wide framing. Mizore’s heart races as her friend draws near, and there’s this uniquely KyoAni cut to a close-up shot of Mizore gripping the hem of her skirt tightly. It hangs just a little longer than you’d expect. You can practically feel the skirt too, before the image then turns to a close-up of her eyes fluttering gently. Mizore is introverted, but she struggles to be that way around Nozomi. She’s expressive, but because she tries to hide it, and KyoAni illustrates her emotional state formally, there’s this duel between repression and liberation in the images — like a bird learning how to fly and struggling to take off the ground.”
Available on Hoopla, or for rental (or you can watch my copy).
[If you like this, see A Silent Voice on Netflix, and/or the series K-On! available on most streaming services including Hulu and Netflix]
5. Metropolis (Rintaro, 2001)
I’ll quote Carol: “Fritz Lang’s Metropolis set the groundwork for the entire sci-fi genre. Rintaro’s animated elaboration on that silent classic looks back at the roots that Lang established for something equally daring.”
Available… nowhere? Apparently? (You can watch my copy)
6. Angel’s Egg (Mamoru Oshii, 1985)
I’ll quote Alex Engquist: “Along with End of Evangelion, one of the most persuasively phantasmagoric visions of apocalypse I’ve ever seen. If EoE is the death, this is the rebirth from that all-encompassing sense of desolation and loss, a world of monstrous fossils, rising water and vast, empty expanse. That it was made over a decade earlier than EoE suggests how pervasive the idea of world-ending catastrophe has been in Japanese art since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and how their recurrence makes such visions of destruction and creation seem inextricably linked.”
Available nowhere, but you can stream a copy on YouTube easily (or you can watch my copy)
[If you like this, see: Ghost in the Shell & Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which I can lend you copies of happily]
7. Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016)
I’ll quote Jake Cole: “Breathtaking animation of light, a wry body-swap tale and a gut-punch twist that sincerely floored me when it came. A gorgeous film in every respect.”
Available for rental (or I can lend you my copy)
[If you like this, you can check out the ~40ish minute film The Garden of Words on Netflix, or 5 Centimeters Per Second, which I’ll happily lend you, or Weathering With You on HBO Max/Crunchyroll]
8. Cowboy Bebop (Shinichiro Watanabe, 1998–1999)
You can ignore this recommendation if you want but I did want to include some tv shows on here that are on the shorter side. This is 26 episodes and I specifically suggest it because it has a lot of fun energy and plays with sci-fi, noir, westerns, comedy, and that sort of freewheeling action that you don’t get a lot nowadays.
Available on Hulu
[If you like this, see: Space Dandy (silly space opera) & Kids on the Slope (coming of age & jazz) & also some others that I won’t list here because it’ll get annoying]
9. Neon Genesis Evangelion (Hideaki Anno, 1995–1996)
Look, Kyle, just fucking watch Neon Genesis Evangelion. It has everything. Existential crisis, depression, penguins, religious imagery, psychological breakdowns, queerness, mommy issues, daddy issues, big robots that aren’t just robots, evil organizations, etc. And then you can watch End of Evangelion. And then we can watch and discuss the Rebuild’s together. And also you should totally watch Hideaki Anno’s Shin Godzilla, which is leagues better than most recent Godzilla movies.
Available on Netflix (or I can lend you my copy of the old sub/dub that also includes the original closing credits music, which fucking rock)
[Also, if you like this, an out of left field recommendation is Revolutionary Girl Utena, and I’m only saying this because I’m trans and want to force everyone to watch it]
10. Fullmetal Alchemist (Seiji Mizushima, 2003)
This recommendation only comes for once you’ve watched everything else and have given me a better idea of what you like in anime, but I think you’ll really vibe with it. It’s a longer form show (51 episodes) but it’s a really exciting and nuanced work of art that Dan, Carol, and I would all highly recommend and think you’d really dig. Also, never listen to anyone who tells you that FMA Brotherhood is better.
Available on Netflix
11. Nichijou (Tatsuya Ishihara, 2011)
Adding this one in as a bonus because, realistically, I think it’s one of the most delightful and absurd anime series that can be watched in short bursts and never gets old. It’s an excellent comedy of errors/slice of life anime broken up into vignettes and kind of a perfect entry point for folks who want to dive into a longer anime anime and aren’t sure where to begin.
Available on Funimation (or I can lend you my copy)