The Trigun movie is coming to the US, and I was surprised to discover that many of the members of the anime club I used to belong to have never watched Trigun. Okay, it's not the best anime to be released in all time or anything, but it had such a profound impact on anime fandom in the US in the late 90s and early 2000s that it seems like a shame they missed out on the fun wild west sci-fi action (what would technically be classified as steampunk today.)
So I started thinking about what other series are ones that someone who wants to have a broad understanding of anime ought to have watched at some point. As I was going through them, I realized that some of them exist for different reasons - there are some series that arguably aren't that great, but pop up as references in modern anime. And then there are other series that exist on their own merits, or impacted the animation industry in Japan or the US enough to be worth watching.
Here's my list of the two different sorts. Your mileage may vary.
10 anime you probably ought to have watched because of their cultural impact on Japan and references in more recent shows (in no particular order)
- Doraemon - This show had as much impact on many of Japan's adults today as Sesame Street did to American adults today. Three separate anime series were made since the 70s, the most recent one being from 2005. Watch a few episodes to get an idea of what the big blue cat robot from the future is about.
- Sailor Moon - The **** of many jokes, the Sailor Moon anime in Japan is far far far different than the watered down US releases. Mock it all you want, unless you've seen an original unaltered episode, you can't quite get how much this show affected Japan. To this day, parodies of Usagi's final attack speech make their way into anime and manga.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - Not the first giant roboto show, not the last, but probably one of the most influential. The series is best watched chugging beer, the last movie is best watched sober since it's trippy enough on its own.
- Rose of Versaille - The gender bending story of the last years of the first French Empire. References to this creep into shoujo all the time (arguably the series Revolutionary Girl Utena is one giant reference) and often make it into shounen too. The series may be a bit dated animation wise, but it has one of the most gripping and tragic stories I've seen in anime. Yeah, I cried.
- Tenchi Muyo - Probably the weakest series on the list, but parodied all the time nonetheless. (Again, the series Dual! is more or less one giant reference.)
- Urusei Yatsuru - Rumiko Takahashi's first big hit, and one of the first to establish certain character tropes that haunt shounen harem shows to this day.
- Mobile Suit Gundam (the original) - This needs no explanation.
- Galaxy Express 999 - Another seminole movie that gets references left and right in modern anime. Also just a great sci-fi story.
- My Neighbor Totoro - If you only watch one Miyazaki movie, make it this one.
- Dog of Flanders (1975) - Even today, anime characters make references to crying at the end of the series, probably because their animators did.
10 anime you probably ought to have watched because they had a large impact on US anime fandom. Also, less filler, more substance.
- Revolutionary Girl Utena. Watch this after you watch Rose of Versaille for the most impact. Then watch the movie. The movie is NSFW (actually, neither is the TV series if you pay attention to what's happening.)
- Irresponsible Captain Tyler - Probably the best space comedy Japan has produced. Watch the OVAs too.
- Trigun - What spawned this whole list. You could argue that it was overrated because so little anime was available in the US when it first came out, but it's a show that never gets stale on rewatching.
- Serial Experiments Lain - Probably the weakest one of my list, but I put it here because it was one of the first series available in DVD in the US, and the animation was recorded in clean, digital perfection. The entire series has been likened to a drug trip.
- Haruhi Suzumiya (first season): Those who watched this know what. Probably the newest series on this list, but also one of the best series to come out of the late 2000s.
- Monster - One of the few long series I believe is worth the long time investment. A gripping drama of a doctor framed for murdering traveling accross Europe, tracking down the killer who set him up.
- Card Captor Sakura - The other long series on the list. CCS and its two movies are the best of CLAMP, and probably the height of the unadulterated mahou shoujo genre.
- Kimigure Orange Road - This is a shounen love triangle show, with a lot of sci-fi elements (it's about a family of ESPers.)
- Fruits Basket - Although they only made 26 episodes of the manga, those 26 episodes are some of the strongest shoujo to ever be animated.
- Nodame Cantabile - A josei drama about a strange pianist, a cranky conducting student who can't fly, and their unlikely love story.
Edited, Jun 16th 2011 4:43pm by catwho