3 Lists of 3 Anime: Take 1

Your uncle Geekly may not be Anime Season, but he’s spent some time watching anime over the years and it may be time to share some anime for people who don’t watch anime and want to know where to begin. This may become a series of 3 Lists of 3, but it’ll differ somewhat from our typical For Starters series. A) I won’t go into too much detail, but I may break this rule on more than one occasion. B) I also want to take genres that people may be familiar with and share a few titles that could match one’s interests. Anime has a massive range of genres and subgenres and one can get lost trying to find something one likes. Think of this series of lists as if you like “fill-in-the-blank,” you may also like this title.

Disclaimer: Uncle Geekly refuses to take responsibility if you don’t like a series on one of these lists, even if you like the genre. Direct all complaints to the comments.

Superheroes

Superhero TV shows and movies dominate. Superhero novels—not graphic novels or comic books, but actual novels—infiltrate book stores, so this is a good place to start with this 3 List of 3.

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My Hero Academia

On the surface My Hero Academia looks like standard superhero fare, but it takes an interesting turn or two and it holds a special cultural significance that few anime in any of these lists possess (more on that in a bit).

The superheroes of My Hero Academia have government and/or corporate sponsors. While I’ve seen government sponsored hero work in western superhero stories, I haven’t seen as many corporations backing superhero work. The inclusion of a capitalistic view on superheroes results in different motivations for each character. Some detest the commercialization of superhero work and push back, while others are only in it for the money. Viewers are sure to find a character, or two, they can relate to. There are even some heroes who only go into the business because of a family legacy or their families force them into the business.

The cultural significance comes in the form of taking risks or overcoming risk aversion. A lot of Japan is risk averse. For every great quote like Miyamoto’s “A delayed game is eventually good, a rushed game is bad forever” there are ones like the anonymous Nintendo executive’s “I only like to take risks if I know I’ll succeed.” If you know you’ll succeed, you’re not taking a risk. My Hero Academia’s main character Midoriya is the least likely superhero and must take risks. This series shows that it’s okay to take risks. It’s even okay to take a risk and fail; it’s what you do after a failure that defines who you are. Midoriya always gets back up—eventually—and younger Japanese generations are taking this lesson to heart.

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One Punch Man

I struggled with putting One Punch Man on this list. It toes the line between parody and satire. On one hand, it’s the anime equivalent of the 1990s animated Tick. There are so many references to anime tropes and inside jokes that new anime viewers may not catch half of them. On the other hand, it takes a critical look at the all-powerful superhero and how lonely and boring their life must be if they’re never challenged—kind of an earthlier version of Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan. Does a lack of a struggle lead to apathy?

As the title implies main character Saitama can beat anyone with one punch. The superheroes in this title are government sponsored—yay, that again—and they obtain rank through a government program. Despite being able to beat enemies with one punch, Saitama is a lower rank than most other heroes. Effort goes a long way and Saitama views fighting as a bore.

No one can beat Saitama, and how did he obtain this power? A daily routine of 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats, and a 10KM run (which is a little under six and a quarter miles). That’s a good to great daily workout, but it hardly explains why he can beat people with a single punch. It’s hilarious and it does little to explain his hair loss (I’d like to know how to avoid that, asking for a friend), but it also shows how little Saitama exerts himself to achieve his goal of becoming a superhero. He possesses natural ability and it begs the question if one doesn’t have to struggle to obtain a goal, is the goal worthwhile?

But hey, One Punch Man is hilarious. Having a supervillain monologue for five minutes only to have Saitama take him down with one punch is great to watch, even if he can do it every time.

Claymore

Claymore

Claymore is the one title in this list of 3 that won’t be for everyone. To be fair, most if not all the anime on these lists won’t be for everyone, but Claymore caters to a very specific comic book fan. Here’s looking at you, Buffy, Blade, and Morbius the Living Vampire fan boys and girls.

The titular claymores fight yoma, who are shape-shifting beings akin to ogres that feed on human flesh and blood. Claymores are only female and are created by cutting open these young women and implanting them with the flesh of another claymore or the flesh of a yoma. This horrifying process conjures a lot of images and can lead to plenty of interpretations. I won’t share mine here, but after you’ve seen the process of making a claymore, you’ll have a reaction.

The Claymore series follows Clare, the newest and lowest member of the group, as she travels from town to town fighting yoma. As she uncovers more of the mysteries surrounding the Organization (the ones behind the claymores), she becomes less inclined to follow this path. Of all the main characters from the anime in this list, Clare is the most reluctant hero. If that’s something that interests you, you should give Claymore a try. Claymore also does a great job of depicting a hero who partly becomes that which they hate and in turn, how that choice causes them to question with their own humanity.

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Heroman

I’m cheating here a little bit, but I had to include Heroman as an honorable mention in this list because it was co-created by the late, great Stan Lee and features Stan Lee in anime form. We need more anime Stan Lee.

Firefly Fans

I’m amazed by how many anime could fill the void left by Firefly. In fact, Firefly borrows more than a little from some of these anime. Firefly can trace some of its influences back to at least a couple of the anime on this upcoming list—particularly the first two that came out five to seven years prior—so if a single season, one movie, and a few comic book series aren’t enough Firefly for you, you should try one or two of the following anime.

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Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop had to make this list. Spike and company avoid the inner planets’ predominant government and travel the edge of the universe, collecting bounties. Along the way they befriend fugitives with hearts of gold and build their own makeshift family. Yep. That’s pretty much the Firefly formula, and Cowboy Bebop doesn’t take itself too seriously to boot.

Cowboy Bebop is one of the most respected anime of all time and a lot of that comes from series director and creator Shinichirō Watanabe beginning his writing process with the characters. Watanabe wanted the series to be character-driven and he had a definitive ending for Cowboy Bebop early on, citing that he didn’t want Cowboy Bebop to be like Star Trek, something he’d be tied with doing for the rest of his life.

Sometimes the best things in life are finite. The rarer something is the more valuable it becomes and speaking of rare, Cowboy Bebop is in rarified air. Each episode plays like its own mini-movie and that was another concept adopted by Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

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Outlaw Star

Outlaw Star never received the critical or commercial success of Cowboy Bebop because it didn’t do enough to break away from a few clichés, but it’s still a series with some excellent moments and a good fit for folks who can’t get enough Firefly.

Again, we have a ship of misfits traveling the edges of the universe and avoiding the chaotic law of four governments, but this time the governments are weak, at best, and at war. Captain Gene and company must take on odd jobs to fund the ridiculous maintenance costs of the titular Outlaw Star spaceship. This, again, tracks with Firefly.

A bio-android Melfina is the only being capable of interfacing with the ship, but her past is shrouded in mystery, she doesn’t know why she exists, besides to pilot the Outlaw Star, and she has fragmented memories that reveal that she does have a higher purpose and greater abilities. Melfina’s character is like River Tam’s as she looks as if she’s 18, acts like she’s a young child, and the first Outlaw Star captain steals her away from one of the governments—that had bigger plans for her—in an oversized suitcase. Yep. That is, for the most part, River’s backstory, except she’s not an android—or is she?.

But that may be where the similarities end. Captain Gene resembles Captain Kirk if Kirk suffered from space sickness. Seriously, he sleeps with any alien with appropriate parts, but he must use a barf bag each time the Outlaw Star launches. That must be one of my favorite Outlaw Star ongoing gags, but Outlaw Star succumbs to these gags and that may be the chief reason it doesn’t get as much love. It’s not a long series and worth a try.

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Space Dandy

The anime in this list have gone from serious with a touch of comedy to comedy with few serious themes. Space Dandy is first and foremost a parody of Firefly and other sci-fi shows. The titular Dandy, an alien bounty hunter who is “a dandy guy in space” explores the universe for rare aliens, so Space Dandy shares a lot with Star Trek if the crew of the USS Enterprise were imbeciles. Dandy and his crew (his robot assistant QT and feline-like friend Meow) have the best intentions, but they’re dimwitted and often make situations worse.

Space Dandy has loose continuity at best, since many episodes will feature Dandy, QT, and Meow getting trapped in another dimension or turned into zombies, only to see them back to normal the next episode with little to no explanation. There are plenty of references to older science fiction properties as well as ones for internet culture. Be ready for some dank Space Dandy memes, dudes.

Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk dominated the small and big screens in the 80s and 90s with Total Recall, Blade Runner, and 12 Monkeys to name a few. The subgenre slithered its way to Japan, resulting in cyberpunk as one of anime’s favorite subgenres. Me thinks there will be more than three to this list.

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Ghost in the Shell

I had to start with this one. Major is the face of anime cyberpunk. Set in the future and blessed with high technology where cybernetic bodies (shells) become the norm the world of Ghost in the Shell still suffers from rising crime rates, and a new type of crime—cyber warfare—is given birth. Yes. Ghost in the Shell warned against cyber warfare before it was cool. Elusive hacktivist Puppet Master leads the Security Police Section 9 (the unit Major works for) into a corrupt political and corporate underbelly.

Stunning animation aside, Ghost in the Shell explores self-identity and procreation by means of mechanical replication. It shines a light on a society that prioritizes technological advancement without considering social issues. Some of these issues haunt Japan today. In Japan, there is a growing concern that some would rather reproduce by means of androids or pleasure themselves with robots instead of propagating the species. Japan’s recent population decline further fuels these concerns.

Ghost in the Shell is not only one of the greatest anime of all time, it’s a great science fiction experience and a great place to start for cyberpunk fans. Even though the series are great, I’d start with the original film.

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Akira

Akira is another quintessential cyberpunk anime. Based in a 2019 dystopian Neo-Tokyo, Akira follows a teenage biker Tetsuo and his biker gang leader Shotaro Kaneda. Tetsuo’s psychic abilities may flirt with fantasy, but Akira’s setting and themes scream cyberpunk. Gang warfare and social inequality based on technological advancement abound.

Even non-anime fans know of Akira. This 90s anime phenomena raised the West’s awareness of the artform, and Akira has influenced a lot of live action movies outside of Japan that include The Matrix and Stranger Things. Tetsuo does have killer psychic abilities after all.

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The Bubblegum Universe

The Bubblegum Universe (Bubblegum Crisis, A.D. Police Files, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, and Parasite Dolls) ran off and on between 1987 and 2003, so it predates the other two entries—so far—on the cyberpunk anime list. Bubblegum Crisis is perhaps the best and most well-known of this bunch and it tells the story of an all-female group of mercenaries the Knight Sabers powered by exoskeletons. They fight rogue robots and if Iron Man is the Elvis of high-tech exoskeletons, the ladies of Bubblegum Crisis are the Ramones. Hey. Ho. Let’s go.

Bubblegum Crisis blends cyberpunk with a crime drama and even adds a splash of superheroes for good measure. It’s also one of the most visually stunning anime of the 80s. While cyberpunk tends to lean toward the dark and grim, the Knight Sabers and AD Police give it a positive spin.

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Psycho-Pass

I told you that I’d sneak in another one on this list. Psycho-Pass is essentially Minority Report if the police used brain scans to determine whether someone will commit a crime or not instead of precognition. That said, Japan becomes one of the safest countries, but they give up some personal liberties in order to institute the Sybil system (the same system that determines if you can commit a crime), but the Sybil system can be manipulated and often is. Psycho-Pass shows a society where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual and presents a world where people are more likely to die from stress than criminal activity.

I know that I said I would stop with three, but there are too many great anime out there, especially cyberpunk anime, and at least I didn’t mention Battle Angel Alita—except that I just did and you should watch Battle Angel Alita before thinking about watching the Alita movie. The anime only ran for two episodes and it’s another great example of how society breaks down as a consequence of technological advances. A future where the have-nots must rummage through the refuse of the haves. Okay. I’m done; I promise.

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I hope there are plenty of anime in these lists for you try out. If Uncle Geekly got something wrong, I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments.

Good Anime Filler

Your uncle Geekly dabbles with anime. It’s not my forte, like it is Season’s, but I’ve watched enough to find some good examples of anime filler. Wait. There may be some of you who don’t know what anime filler is. Okay, here goes some background and a quick definition for the uninitiated.

Anime has rapid production schedules and usually an anime that’s based on a manga (Japanese comic) gets far ahead of the source material. It’s the same issue Game of Thrones has with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire if Game of Thrones was on 49 weeks out of 52. Like I said, anime has a rapid—crazy!—production schedule.

To combat this, most of these anime add episodes into the storyline to mark time until the source material can get ahead. These extra episodes are “filler.” A lot of filler stinks, because they’re marking time for the source material to get caught up, but some good episodes have graced the small screen as a result too. This quick list will show some of those moments.

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My Hero Academia (Everyone’s Internships)

I’m going to be honest. I watched My Hero Academia before reading any of the manga, and I’m glad I did. The way the My Hero Academia anime integrates the cast’s internships was so seamless that I didn’t know it was filler.

Full disclosure: this is My Hero Academia’s only episode of filler to date, but these internships fill the audience in on what every other classmate of UA Highschool (My Hero Academia has a massive cast) is doing while Midoriya, Todoroki, and Iida are facing Stain. Many fans call this episode their favorite. With so much character development going on, it’s easy to see why.

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Cowboy Bebop (Toys in the Attic)

For a 26-episode anime, Cowboy Bebop has a shocking amount of filler, but a lot of that filler is great. Wait a minute. Cowboy Bebop and the show it inspired Firefly only have a runtime of just over 10 hours. What’s with 10 hours and shows of this type?

Anyway, “Toys in the Attic” is one of the best Cowboy Bebop episodes and it happens to be filler. An unknown poisonous creature terrorizes the crew, and they spend the bulk of the episode running from it and formulating plans to rid themselves of the creature, only to find that the creature is attracted to a fridge filled with moldy food.

Crap. I should’ve said spoilers before saying any of that because viewers fear for the crew’s safety and that’s in stark contrast with the moment they chuck the fridge out of the space station. For added levity, the episode ends with Ed eating the creature. Oh darn. Spoilers!

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Naruto (Lesser characters during the filler between the two series)

Yeah, this one may be controversial because most Naruto fans hate the five or six seasons of filler between childhood Naruto and company and their young adulthood. But Naruto also happens to be a show where few people cite the title character as their favorite and so many characters, who are most likely viewers’ favorites, receive much needed airtime.

We’re talking the characters who weren’t a part of the main cast. Unfortunately, most of the filler involving the title character Naruto was unwatchable. Three words: Curry of Life.

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Dragon Ball Z (Goku’s Ordeal)
Many fans would argue that Goku is anime’s answer for Superman. His power level is over 9000, and usually, he can do no wrong. Those powers don’t mean a thing in Goku’s Ordeal.

ChiChi asks Goku to do things around the house and that means that he needs to get a driver’s license—that lazy bum. This episode does a lot to humanize Goku as he struggles to complete day-to-day chores and fails during driving lessons. It also doesn’t hurt to have so much comedic mayhem.

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Soul Eater (Excalibur)

This one is less a single episode and more of a character. Depending on who you ask, Excalibur is the best or worst part of Soul Eater.

While the legendary sentient blade who dubs himself the “Elder God of Madness Born from Rage,” appears in the manga, his character is more fleshed out in the anime. Fool! Excalibur says that a lot. Fool!

That might be why he’s polarizing. Oh, well. The Soul Eater anime wouldn’t get into nearly as many shenanigans if it wasn’t for Excalibur. A fight with King Arthur? Check. Screw around with Sherlock Holmes? Yep, that’s Excalibur’s doing. I could go on, but half the fun is not knowing what to expect.

Buffoon!

What’s your favorite anime filler? You can yell out your window, but make sure you punctuate each sentence with “Fool!”. Or you could leave a comment, and I may respond with an idiotic reply.

Great Anime Available on Hulu

It’s been a little while since your uncle Geekly talked anime, so let’s start by dishing about some great anime available on one of the big three streaming services: Hulu.

In terms of anime, Hulu has a huge head start on the other three streaming services. It has the rights to some of the greatest movies and series in anime history—or at least the ones that put anime on the map for westerners. It’s also done a good job of gaining the rights of some of the newer stuff that anime fans won’t stop talking about. Sure, you could buy Crunchyroll and there are other services that can be add-ons for Amazon, but Hulu has more than enough anime to have a fan covered.

There is so many anime to get through, so I’ll stick to short blurbs, but here are some anime highlights. They are by no means the only ones you can find on Hulu.

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My Hero Academia

Stop me if this sounds familiar. A once-powerless boy gives his all to follow the path of his idol. The government monitors superhero activity and regulates it. Okay. The concept won’t sound new to anime and superhero fans, but My Hero Academia has earned its place as one of the biggest new anime series. It’s also more culturally relevant than a lot of other anime.

A famous Japanese CEO once said that he takes risks if he knows he won’t lose. If someone knows they can’t lose something, then that’s not a risk. Several generations of Japanese have followed a similar path and refuse to take real risks. My Hero Academia challenges that pervasive line of thinking. It empowers a younger generation to take risks, even if it means you may lose.

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Yu Yu Hakusho

One action can change someone’s fate. That’s at least what Yu Yu Hakusho seems to suggest. This fun series tackles ethical issues without getting preachy. It’s a character-driven series centered on a 14-year-old street-brawling delinquent Yusuke who died as he saves a young boy from being run over by a car. He’s met by the pilot of the River Styx who informs him that there isn’t yet a place made for him in either heaven or hell. Yusuke’s tasks toward redemption are many. His world is hellish and varied.

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Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan is a blockbuster the likes anime has seldom seen. Large humanoids called titans terrorize a dwindling human populous. The stories play out like a fusion of The Walking Dead tension for survival and the blood-pumping action and espionage of Mission Impossible. Throw in some Spider-man like powers with the Survey Corps’ vertical equipment, and it’s easy to see why this series has so many fans.

One-Punch Man

One-Punch Man

Sometimes you need something light. One-Punch Man is to anime and manga what The Tick is to comic books. Its humor is off-center. Everything in the show has some relevance to the genre as a whole, but the best thing it introduces is that idea that someone who has as much power as Saitama can grow bored with his strength. The series doesn’t navel gaze for too long as it’s a parody and a lot of fun.

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Cowboy Bebop

Decades after its release Cowboy Bebop is still a lot of people’s default recommendation for anime newbies. It blends westerns, sci-fi, and noir and has some of the most diverse episodic adventures. It’s an unmistakable gateway anime that has one of the most iconic soundtracks—and not just for anime. It also doesn’t hurt that Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) called it “better than most sci-fi films.” Cowboy Bebop inspired Joss Whedon’s Firefly. It’s a must watch.

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Akira

From one classic anime to another, Akira is set in the post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo of 2019. Akira, like Cowboy Bebop, introduced Western audiences to anime as a medium and showed that the genre could cater to more adult viewers. It’s influenced so many anime that came after it that the list would be too long to state here. Even though it came out in 1988, the animation holds up today and the world is a wonder.

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Grave of the Fireflies

I’m sticking with the year 1988 and another anime masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies. A lot has been said of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, but this classic comes from the director who many say influenced Miyazaki, Isao Takahata. I don’t want to say too much about this one, lest I give too much away, but this film is set in the city of Kobe, Japan in the final months of the Second World War. It focuses on two siblings struggling to survive. It’s difficult to keep a dry eye with this one.

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Princess Tutu

I like my anime to get a little weird. Most anime that do get weird tend to go a psychedelic route, but Princess Tutu combines fairy tale and ballet to make a magical girl anime that’s surprisingly grounded. I won’t reveal too much, but trust me, the themes are familiar and blended in a way that’s new and interesting. Princess Tutu is that rare non-standard anime that can be shared with younger audiences, but there’s plenty to unpack for adults.

That’s it for my list at this point. I may be making another one of these soon. There are so many other series I could put here. Heck, shonen anime like Bleach and Naruto could dominate this list, and I didn’t even mention Death Note. How could I have not mention Death Note? You can belly ache about Death Note or any other anime I didn’t mention by leaving a message on my answering machine—or by leaving a comment.