Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I am, by and large, not a huge fan of anime. For the most part it seems to target a particular demographic of which I am not a part, and furthermore I find it annoying that many terrible shows will become popular for no other reason than being a part of that format. That said, there are certain anime shows from which I have derived great enjoyment.

Cowboy Bebop, for example, was a show that I absolutely loved. It had an interesting enough story to pull it together, but most of the episodes stood alone quite well. It's use of music is arguably amongst the best in television history, and its visual sense was far better than most anime I've seen. Far and away, though, the greatest thing about Cowboy Bebop was its characters. Sure, Ed was little more than comic relief designed to appeal to younger viewers. Past that, though, the leading characters were probably the best any anime has ever had. Jet's odd combination of hard-boiled film noir detective, bounty-hunting cyborg, and caring paternal figure made him a very unique character in the anime world both stylistically and behaviorally. Faye, who could have easily fallen into that "sexy dangerous woman with her own agenda" role that we've all seen 500 times too many is instead given an actual past, skill set, and collection of human flaws that make her deeper and far more interesting than most leading female action characters. And Spike, as corny as it may sound to say about a cartoon character named "Spike", is so compelling and fascinatingly complex that I think a good case could be made for including him on a short list of the greatest fictional characters of the 20th century, regardless of format.

A somewhat lesser know anime which I found highly worthy of praise was Ergo Proxy. That one is a tad tricky, though, since by its very nature it could never develop much of a following. It seems that the vast majority of rabid anime fans in the US are in the roughly 12-16 age range, give or take, and as is the case with most things teens flock to, most of the rest of us avoid it like the plague. The trouble with Ergo Proxy is that it's geared toward an adult audience. By that I don't mean that its content is especially lewd or graphic, though it does have a reasonable amount of violence. Rather, it should be watched by adults simply because I don't think most 14-year-olds would be able to understand it. It's too slow and too complex for younger viewers, who will almost invariably either get bored or confused or both. As such, I've noticed the show tends to have a sort of cult following, with those rare anime-watching adults who've seen it singing its praises, while the unwary teens who have picked it up all complain that it's "boring" or "confusing" or "not as good as [insert thing with lots of boobs and explosions here]" etc. Well for anybody over 18 who, like me, is still a big enough geek to occasionally dabble in anime: if you want proof that anime isn't just for pervs and weeaboos, I submit Ergo Proxy as Exhibit 1. And I say that realizing that I've given you no idea what the show is even about. I guess that's just a mystery you'll have to decide whether or not you care enough to solve.


  1. I used to be an anime fan back when the only place I could find it was a local Suncoast Video at the mall, and subtitled VHS tapes cost $30 a piece. Yeah, I had quite the collection; but I sold it all years ago.

    Nobody understood what I was going on about back then and nobody understands today. Even the few people I was able to chat with about Anime were extremely specific about what they were into.

    I haven't actually sat down to watch Anime in many, many years; so I assume that means I'm over "that phase".

  2. I feel the same way about anime. Why the hell do people go apeshit over FLCL? But like you, I fucking love Cowboy Bebop (I have the full series and the movie on DVD). It's kind of like Firefly in terms of setting and cast (which is the only other series I own in full) but 5 years earlier, and brilliant for different reasons.

    I may have to look into Ergo Proxy.

  3. Well Cowboy Bebop is a better show than Ergo Proxy, but yeah, I'd encourage looking into it. The one bit of advice I'd give, though, is that the end of the series really pulls it all together. So, if you plan on watching it, you really need to see all 23 episodes before passing judgment.

  4. I see. I realize my above comment might have been confusing. I meant the only other TV series I own in full, and I was of course referring to the Joss Whedon Firefly. I'm not aware of another one.

    Another anime that's very close to CB quality is Trigun. I also really like Neon Genesis Evangelion. The original FullMetal Alchemist was great too, right up until the end (I didn't like the twist), and I've been liking the new one too but it's not as dark. Another one that was good was the Ghost in the Shell series (the original movie was excellent), except for the very end. Why do something awesome and then make the series say, "Just kidding!" I felt cheated, like when a character wakes up and finds out it was just a dream.

  5. I have Trigun, and I enjoyed it too. The late portion of the series annoyed me, though. I have the first Ghost in the Shell series, but I've still not finished it, and I haven't seen any of the movies. Never really got into Fullmetal Alchemist for some reason, and I have not seen NGE. I did enjoy Samurai Champloo, though in many ways it's like 'Cowboy Bebop Light'.

  6. I had forgotten about Samurai Champloo. You're right, it is quite similar, but still very good except for the music.

  7. Yeah, though the similarities certainly aren't accidental. Same director, and the same voice actor who did Spike also did Mugen.