Anime recs please?

I’m tired of talking about writing, race, gender, politics, and all that other heavy crap. Let’s talk cartoons!

It’s no secret that I’m an anime/manga fan, especially since I mentioned in the afterward to The Broken Kingdoms that the World Tree was at least partly inspired by the giant sakura in the shoujo series Mahou Tsukai Tai!*. But I have to confess that I haven’t been a power user of anime or manga in about ten years, so I’m not up on the latest/hottest/coolest stuff. In fact, to my shame, I now get most of my anime as dubbed stuff via the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, and most of my manga in English translation. Once upon a time, I would never have been caught dead watching dubs, let alone those adulterated for American TV… ::sigh:: Alas, my geek cred has become a casualty of my lack of time.

Which is the reason for this post. I need recs! I have no time to sift through the long-tailed mountain of stuff out there these days, but I know some of that stuff is pretty cool. I’ve seen a little of it, and want more. So here’s what I’m liking these days, and why, if that will help you out:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist: I collected the manga for awhile, until a very long gap between some of the English-language volumes annoyed me into stopping. Watching FMA: Brotherhood, tho’, so may resume the manga eventually. Anyway, what’s not to love about this series? It was steampunk before there was steampunk, has magnificent characterization, plot intricacies that make me jealous, and superb artwork.
  • Noein: This is quite possibly the most beautiful anime about theoretical quantum physics I’ve ever seen. …Okay, it’s the only anime about theoretical quantum physics I’ve ever seen. But emphasis on the beauty: I didn’t actually like the art at first, but it won me over. Or maybe I just associated its artwork with its brilliant, heartrending storyline, and liked it better. Whatever. I have a thing for physics love stories.
  • Darker Than Black: I don’t know why I like this series. It’s not at all my usual thing… and yet there’s something about the badass, nihilistic, somehow pathetic Contractors that fascinates me.
  • Bleach: I’m a shoujo fan by preference, but I’m not opposed to a little standard shounen fightfest now and again. It’s cathartic. But Bleach is probably the limit of “I’ve gotta get stronger!” stuff I feel like watching these days, and it’s worn on me. Still, I’m willing to consider something new.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: (Both seasons.) Also not my usual taste. Still, I’m willing to endure the technobabble and look-how-cool-post-cyberpunk-is blather for more interesting (to me) existential questions about who qualifies as human in the time of posthumanity. Also, I want a Tachikoma. We could have long rambly arguments about the nature of existence, and then it could BLOW UP SHIT.
  • Blood+: The original movie was boring as all get out. The shoujoized reboot was perfect for me: excellent characterization, some interesting nonhuman biology, solid action. And OK, Hagi.
  • FLCL: This one took awhile to grow on me. It made no sense, and not in a good way. But a few rewatches helped, and once I figured out most of the in-jokes, I love it.
  • Code Geass: CLAMP designs, more junior Machiavellis than Utena, scads of Ho Yay and Foe Yay — it’s crack, but it’s good crack.
  • Wolf’s Rain: I’m actually not a fan of most Bones stuff. ::dodges hatestorm:: I like their work! Just don’t usually love it — but this series I loved. It’s postapocalyptic poetic, and Yoko Kanno’s score just made it.

Some guidelines:
-I miss shoujo. Not enough of it gets imported to the US. Please suggest some?
-No problem with violence or sexuality, but not a fan of sexualized violence (e.g. rape). There are exceptions I’m willing to tolerate if they’re well-handled — see Blood+. Otherwise, no.
-Stuff that does not feature racial stereotypes or caricatures would be SUPER, thanks.
-I prefer subtitled works to dubs, so don’t be afraid to suggest those to me. But my Japanese is pretty much at the level of a two-year-old’s, so nothing raw, thanks.

*Which I highly recommend. It was also partly inspired by The Little Prince, specifically the image of a planet consumed by baobabs. Also highly recommended.

ETA: I’m actually quite familiar with anime and manga up to about 2002 or so, especially in the shoujo genre. So to clarify, it’s recent recs that I need, thanks!

69 thoughts on “Anime recs please?”

  1. If you want to balance on the bleeding edge, you can check out the new releases on places like AnimeSuki. They specialize in gray market fan-subs that are not yet licensed for distribution in the U.S., and while they and the other anime torrent sites occasionally draw fire from anime studios, most of them still turn a blind eye, since pre-licensing exposure tends to build enthusiastic audiences. It’s gray market as opposed to black market because, even though it’s technically copyright infringement in Japan, it is not strictly so in the U.S., and once a U.S. distributor licenses a series, it’s removed from the reputable anime torrent sites. Most of the stuff, unless it’s obviously hugely popular, will never see a U.S. distribution.

    Of course, if you don’t have the time, energy, patience, and/or knowledge to get started in torrents (I’m not making any assumptions, but BitTorrent is still outside the mainstream), then you’ll have to stick with what you can find on Cartoon Network, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and iTunes.

  2. I just caught an episode of Soul Eater on Netflix streaming and I was really intrigued. It’s sort of like Harry Potter by way of The Nightmare Before Christmas, plus all the craziness you’d expect from anime. I haven’t seen enough yet to give an unqualified recommendation, but it’s at least worth checking out.

    I was also watching Moribito for a while, and I enjoyed it, although I’ve sort of drifted away. The story is just a bit slow-moving for my tastes, but you may feel otherwise.

  3. Well, Twelve Kingdoms is an incredible series– it came out about ten years ago, and is from the genre of girl-gets-sucked-into-another-world type shoujou. That said, it has some of the best writing I’ve ever seen; excellent world building, intricate politics and beautiful art. The characters in this series grow and develop in a way that few writers can manage– the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime is the only other one I’ve seen that really managed to do a similar kind of thing. Also: a non-white protagonist, though the world she’s in doesn’t really make of that an issue.

    Saiunkoku Monogatari (I think released as “Tale of Saiunkoku”) has possibly the prettiest art I’ve ever seen in anime. It’s set in an ancient-china style setting, and is about a young noblewoman from an exalted, but impoverished, family who wants to become a civil servant (not an option for a woman) but who is handed an offer of marriage from the emperor instead.

    Princess Tutu is another series from a decade back, and it’s kind of handicapped by its title, which scares people away. But it is the most brilliant thing *ever*. Ostensibly a magical girl show, it’s about what it means to be a character in a story, what it means to be a writer, the relationship of the two, and the struggle between them.

    Ghost Hunt is something you should watch if you have any tolerance whatsoever for horror. It does manage to be genuinely scary in the way that a good ghost story (or series of them) ought to be, and is about a group of paranormal investigators of varying levels of competence as seen through the eyes of their high school receptionist.

    All of these are available subtitled. ^_^

  4. One I really liked was Read or Die. Movie/miniseries followed by a full length series. Lots of emotional content, but also an adventure story.

    Also, it’s about evil librarians.

  5. Some of my favorite unmentioned series are quite dated now. They include:

    Tenchi Muyo – mostly just a fun series, not too serious.
    Maison Ikkoku – At around 100 episodes, it’s a powerhouse and fairly unusual for anime (Naruto being one of the few other exceptions). It’s a romantic comedy.
    Cowboy Bebop (series + movie) – space cowboys, bounty hunters, and an actual, almost serious plot buried in there: what’s not to love?
    Rurouni Kenshin – early Meiji period samurai, notable for Kenshin’s desire to avoid bloodshed.
    Samurai 7 – futuristic re-imagining of Kurosawa’s samurai classic.
    Berserk – the anime is a mess and covers a small portion of what the manga covers, and it’s, um, gory, but I haven’t seen many similar plots, so it’s fairly original at least.
    Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (the anime, definitely NOT the game; if you read any part of the Wikipedia entry, you’ll know why) – a realistic and heartbreaking look at PTSD; it’s a very artistic drama with excellent character development and artwork.

    And gods help me (fat chance), I actually like Naruto, but I was only ever interested in the non-fight-of-the-week plot lines. I don’t know what the latest incarnation has morphed into.

    Lately I am also enjoying Last Exile, which is available on Netflix. It seems to take place in a world of endless sky, and airships conduct battles similar to sea battles. I haven’t gotten far enough in to uncover much of the plot, but it’s in there.

    Of those you mentioned, FMA is probably my favorite.

    There are others I have enjoyed, but I can’t always recall the names. If they come to me, I will post them.

  6. It’s old, but have you ever seen Legend of Basara? It’s a shoujo series set in a post-apocalyptic Japan; the main character is Sarasa, a girl whose twin brother is supposed to be the prophesied “child of destiny” who will bring down the tyrannical king. Only problem is, he’s killed in a raid by the king’s men early on. Sarasa disguises herself as her brother and goes on to lead the rebellion so her people won’t lose hope. (The anime follows only the first part of the manga, but I think the manga has all been translated into English, too.)

    Someone else mentioned Moribito, which I’ve heard great things about and am about to watch. I recently read the first book of the series on which the anime is based, translated into English as Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.

  7. For some beautiful shoujo, definitely try Fruits Basket — it’s sweet, melancholy, and powerful.

  8. I can’t really suggest anything, because I’m sort of in the same boat as you. I can tell you what was big in the 90s! And I can rattle off a few older ‘classic’ series. But I haven’t watched anything new in years.

    I’m doing a little better on manga. Especially since so much of it is translated now, and even available in the library or through interlibrary loan! (Kids these days don’t know how good they have it! *shakes fist*)

    I’ve been keeping up with Arata by Watase Yuu as it comes out, thanks to the library. Our library, and I suspect a majority of libraries, is skewed towards shounen manga.

    I keep meaning to rewatch PGSM, the live action Sailormoon. So sad the Outers never made it in there!

  9. I would second the recommendation for Twelve Kingdoms. It’s a terrific fantasy anime with its source material in a series of YA books. The series is filled with Asian mythology and takes place in a very unique and well-developed world, in which a kirin chooses the ruler for each kingdom. So long as the ruler rules well, s/he is immortal, but if the ruler does a bad job, the kirin falls sick and dies, and the ruler dies shortly afterwards. The show has got a good blend of action, adventure, and political intrigue. It also has some great characters.

    Utena is not all that new, but if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a shoujo anime that is the closest thing to a “literary” anime that I’ve seen. The story explores adolescence, gender, and sexuality through its complex plot and fairy-tale mythology. The series is rife with symbolism. The cast of characters is psychologically complex and amazing. It takes place in a school where the student council members duel for the right to possess the Rose Bride, a student who appears to have no will of her own.

    Haibane Renmei is a spiritual character drama anime. In a little town surrounded by impassable walls, angel-like beings called Haibane are born. They emerge from their birth cocoons at various ages, but lacking memories of their names, where they come from, and who they are. Each of them has a dream before their birth that gives some hint to their identity. The main character, Rakka, befriends Reki, another Haibane. But Rakka learns that not all Haibane are born pure; some have black wings that signify sin committed in another life, and if they cannot overcome their sin, they are doomed. It’s a bittersweet but ultimately very uplifting tale.

    Princess Tutu–again, I second someone on this. It’s a children’s anime but quite quirky and brilliant. Also, it’s about a duck who falls in love with a (human) prince. How much cuter can you get than that?

    Claymore is another one I’d recommend if you have not seen it. Disclaimer: while it doesn’t have any sexual violence or anything like that (unlike Berserk, to which it is often compared), it does have a lot of hack n’slash violence. Claymores are half-demon warriors whose purpose is to find and destroy yoma (demons) that have been unleashed on the helpless human populace of a medievalesque world. The Claymores are all female and are created by the Organization using humans and mixing them with demon flesh. The main character is Claire, a Claymore who picks up a human companion in the form of a boy named Raki. She finds more and more reason to distrust the Organization as time goes on. If you like anime with really strong female characters and lots of fighting, this is for you.

    These are all fantasy anime and the characters’ races are mostly either Japanese or ambiguous (in the case of Claymore). Utena does have two Indian characters amidst the Japanese cast; race is never remarked upon in the show.

  10. Chiming in again to endorse the rec for Revolutionary Girl Utena. Can’t believe I didn’t mention it the first time; in my opinion, the best anime I have ever seen. Tragically, it had a somewhat questionable commercial translation, and I believe it is also out of print in america. But if you have the chance, it is entirely worth whatever you may have to do to see it.

  11. Another ding-ding for Revolutionary Girl Utena.

    Just. *happiness* It’s good stuff. Imprints on the brain, or something. :)

  12. I’ve been remiss in my anime-watching lately, too. Gonna assume by some of your picks (Wolf’s Rain, love it) you’ve seen the best of what [adultswim] has offered (Paranoia Agent, Samurai Champloo, Death Note, etc.):

    Ergo Proxy: Post-apocalyptic, posthuman, dark and highly philosophical tech noir anime. Just started rewatching it in English and loving it even more.

    Hellsing: Most badass vampires I’ve ever seen. Fair warning, insanely violent, with an isolated scene of disturbing sexual violence, but the female characters are wonderful.

    Gungrave: Mafia-based anime with both outlandish action (superhuman zombies!) and intense family, friendship, and loyalty themes. Bad female representation, but strong bromance, and a multiracial cast.

    RahXephon: Sci-fi mecha drama vaguely similar to Evangelion, but better, in my opinion, based around music theory rather theology, gorgeous art, not nearly so bleak. Great female characters, gets a little annoying with the “everybody in love with somebody” stuff, though.

    Last Exile: For all your steampunk needs. I made it far enough into it to realize I don’t like steampunk much, but the quality is superb.

    Not a shoujo anime fan, but my best friend swears by Ouran High School Host Club. As for shoujo manga, MARS and Paradise Kiss remain my all-time favorites. If you haven’t seen everything by directors Satoshi Kon and Hayao Miyazaki yet, I recommend you do so.

    I’m sure I missed some things, but now I have to go peruse all the other recs above.

  13. FMA: Brotherhood is definitely my favorite. It’s just so good. The plot is fabulous and the characters are amazing. Also very original. The voice acting in japanese is amazing. And it’s actually extremely accurate with its source material. I just bought the first volume on blu-ray, and it looks awesome!

  14. For recommendations: I really, really love Vision of Escaflowne. It’s not exactly shoujo, but it’s a great story. There’s mecha and things like that, but seeing as though mecha isn’t my favorite, this show does it right.

    Old school shoujo: Magic Knight Rayearth. Typical magical girl story!

    Weird, goofy recent anime: Suzumiya haruhi no Yuutso. It’s a school life fantasy. The first season is great, and if you make it to season 2… well, you wouldn’t believe what the studio does. You’ll either hate it or love it.

  15. I’ve never actually seen the animes of either of the following but I was impressed by how in the mangas of Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kik? and Amanp’s Aria the authors were willing to have almost nothing happen – very slowly – while providing the reader with sufficient scenery porn to keep the eye engaged. The first is set during the long quiet decline of humanity, as witnessed by their immortal robotic replacements; the second is set on a terraformed quasi-utopian Mars.

    Grave of the Fireflies is visually stunning but be aware it begins with a boy starving to death and then manages to move into narrative space even more depressing than that.

    I am slowly working my way through Last Exile on netflix…/

  16. Aaron,

    I should’ve clarified — easily obtainable. Torrenting’s a pain in the ass, IMO.

    I get the gray market; I’m not even wholly opposed to it, given that some of the reasons it exists are because of byzantine and protectionist international business policies that do more harm than good to creators who aren’t corporations, and lots of harm to people from poorer nations… but as a person who can buy/rent legally-imported stuff (granted, only when my finances can handle it), and who’s patient enough to wait for it, I’d rather go with that.

  17. Quinn,

    I actually loved Moribito; I should’ve mentioned it. Took awhile to grow on me, but once it did, I was very, very happy. Bawled repeatedly at the end.

    OK, adding Soul Eater to the list of “stuff to check out.”

  18. J. Andrews,

    Huh — I didn’t know about Arata. I’m kind of eh on Watase; have never really taken to her other series. Still, I’ll check it out.

    And yeah, I feel you on knowing the Nineties but not the Noughties!

    ::twitch:: Live… action… Sailor Moon? ::twitch:: I… I don’t… I don’t want to know.

  19. I will say this about watching anime on netflix (Canada); it seems to be always dubbed. The dubbing generally isn’t as horrible as it would have been 20 years ago but I could swear NorAm voice actress pitch their voices an octave higher for dub-work. I don’t know why but it gets them into a range I don’t hear well in, thanks to the easy access to explosives and firearms I had as a teenager.

  20. I typed such a huge comment and somehow ended up deleting it…

    OKAY SO. Basic shoujo:

    Kimi ni Todoke. I think I fell in love with this show when I realized that everyone was terrified of the main character because she looked like Sadako from The Ring. Really, she’s cute and kind and painfully earnest. Also the love interest is nice. He is so nice. There is no secret jerk dark side to him. He is just very, very nice. I don’t think there’s a single character in this show I dislike. They’re all so cute.

    Skip Beat. So the problem I have with most shoujo is that the girl is always so cute and naive and the boy is always such a giant asshole and I’m like “GIRL YOU ARE SO CUTE AND NAIVE WHY ARE YOU WITH THIS GIANT ASSHOLE.” Skip Beat is the story of the girl and the asshole. She is in love with him. They’re living together. She is so happy! And then she finds out he’s an asshole. And proceeds to spend the rest of the anime TRYING TO RUIN HIS LIFE. IT IS AMAZING. I LOVE HER SO MUCH.

    On a more seinen front:

    Puella Magi Madoka Magica. If you google this anime, you will immediately see a picture of a group of cute magical girls saving the world. I refuse to spoil you but I will say this: this show is totally not about a group of cute magical girls saving the world HOLY CRAP. There’s a reason the show didn’t play the ending theme song until the end of episode three. It’s because…well, there’s a reason.

    Ghost Hound. Awkward boys and out of body experiences and weird creepy happenings in a small Japanese town, oh my.

    Amatsuki! How do I love this show, let me count the ways. History. Folklore. Hot lollipop-sucking ex-delinquents who quote philosophers and hack into high tech security systems. This is apparently everything I want in life.

    Michiko to Hatchin. KICKASS GIRLS. SO MANY KICKASS GIRLS. Also it takes place in an AU version of Brazil, which means that there are PoCs everywhere. It’s nice to finally be represented (and not in a stereotypical manner) in anime.

    Gintama. Okay, I’m totally cheating with Gintama. Gintama isn’t shoujo. Gintama isn’t even seinen. Gintama is just my favorite favorite favorite anything of all time. Basic premise: so it’s 19th century Japan and there’s that mess with the shogunate and the emperor etc etc AND THEN ALIENS COME. Gintama is basically the best parody to ever parody. More than that, though, it also has a huge heart. I’ve never cried harder than I have watching this show. I’ve never laughed harder, either. Sometimes within the same episode. It’s just amazing. It’s really, really amazing.

    Other anime I’d recommend but won’t go into too much detail about because they’re pretty big and you may have already seen them: Ouran High School Host Club, Fruits Basket, Nabari no Ou. I’ve also a soft spot for Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, the first season of Gundam 00, and Last Exile. If you ever want manga, also, there are a few I love that haven’t yet made the transition into anime (I will swear by Dengeki Daisy until the day I die). And I’m sure that the moment I’ll click “submit comment” I will spontaneously remember fifty others that I really wanted to mention, but for now this is as good a place as any to begin with. I hope you like even a few of these!

  21. OK, update for all, given stuff that’s being mentioned thus far:

    Please, nothing earlier than 10 years ago. I definitely know most of that stuff. Utena: been there, done that, loved it, bought the t-shirt, including the one with the car (from the movie). But I really, really want stuff that’s more recent. Surely there’s been some Utena-quality stuff since Utena?

    And I’ve actually sampled many of the more recent suggestions being made here, so allow me to refine the search!

    RahXephon was more interesting to me than most mecha stuff, and I liked that it put a boy in some stereotypically “girly” positions. Liked the movie.

    Moribito: Loved. Am planning to check out the manga, of which the anime was supposedly only a part.

    Claymore: Tried the manga; bounced off hard. Too gross, and despite the female protag, too male-gaze. I’m told it gets better, but I’m not sure I feel like giving it another chance.

    Paranoia Agent: bounced hard.

    Samurai Champloo: Liked, but didn’t love.

    Gungrave: Liked the game better than the anime, but didn’t like either much.

    Ouran Host Club: Tried the manga, soft bounce. I might like it if I give it another try.

    Death Note: I watched it until [character redacted for spoilers, but you can probably guess who my favorite is] died, and then lost interest. Light’s maniacal laughter and melodrama were fun, but not enough to carry the story for me.

    Not mentioned, but Summer Wars is the most recent anime film I’ve seen, and I LOVED IT. Not the least becuase I’m a fan of Murakami.

    Am a big fan of Miyazaki, at least through Howl’s Moving Castle. Am uneasy about Earthsea, tho’.

    Adding Suzumiya Haruhi…, Yokohama…, and Aria to the list.

  22. A comparatively recent anime I enjoyed was Last Exile, which balanced out the requisite crazy elements of an anime with magic and airships by having some really interesting characters.

    Also, it’s not technically anime in the sense of being Japanese, and my natural assumption would be that you’ve already seen it, but just on the offchance you haven’t, the Avatar: the Last Airbender animated series is fucking AMAZING.

  23. I really enjoyed Xam’d. It’s on Hulu, and premise-wise, sounds mindlessly shonen, but completely surprised me by a) not making it all about the boy and b) giving characters lots of depth.

    You have an alternate history world with airships and bioweapons- turning people into monsters (etc.).

    What’s really interesting is that most of the serious growth story arcs are around the female characters with their own goals and missions, characters who are usually throw-aways in shonen get their own stories (the family the boy left behind, his high school crush, etc.) and it’s a really interesting story about how war shapes society without being violence porn.

    It takes a few episodes to get good, but I really enjoyed it.

  24. Not to beat a dead horse, but since you didn’t mention it specifically, I’ll say that Princess Tutu is the only thing I’ve ever seen that reminded me of Utena.

    That said, Star Driver, which is new this year, (and a magical *boy* show, of all things. Like, with Sailormoon style transformation sequences and everything) is by some of the same people who worked on Utena, and it is quite delightful. Not yet licensed in America, howsoever.

    Second the above rec for Skip Beat; the anime and manga both. Anime is a great adaptation, that tragically ends right when the plot really starts to kick in, but still, a lot of fun.

    The 2005 version of Glass Mask, which I believe is the longest running shoujou manga in Japan, is quite good also. It’s about a girl who wants, more than anything, to become an actress, and follows her from thirteen into her early twenties. There is a romance plot, but by far her most significant relationship is with her rival, another young actress. Over-the-top shoujou melodrama at its finest.

    I imagine you’ve seen Kyou Kara Maou, the story of a young high school boy who gets flushed down the toilet into another world where he’s crowned king of the demons, but if not, it has a certain something to it. I started watching with a kind of train wreck fascination, and then before I knew it, I was twenty five episodes in and there was a complex plot that had snuck in somewhere between the flying sheep sled race and the accidental engagement to the previous ruler’s youngest son.

    And for what it’s worth, I thought the Ouran anime was more tightly constructed than the manga.

  25. If you want to go ultra-current, there is a shoujo-mecha hybrid running as we speak called Star Driver – Kagayaki no Takuto. One of its directors is one of the crew that worked on Utena, so the show shares many stylistic elements with it. I don’t know how you feel about fighting robots, but they’re used in much the same way the duels were used in Utena. A good deal of the symbolism in the series also comes from The Little Prince. The characters are really lovable, interesting and colorful, and a majority of the girls are kickass (and it’s also showing hints of ending in a threesome right now, which would make me SO HAPPY). It hasn’t been licensed yet, but I’m certain it’s on the horizon, so you can keep an eye out for it.

    In a similar vein to that is My-HiME. It’s a show about girls who obtain powers from mechanical Elements that choose them called Children. The first half of the show is pretty much straight-up high school drama with robot and fighting conflict thrown in, but the second half takes an abrupt turn with a really fabulous twist that I actually can’t go into any detail about or it would spoil the surprise. A majority of the cast are ultra-strong girls too. It’s already available in a DVD set.

    I know you’re familiar with Fumi Yoshinaga via Oo-oku, so you may want to check out the anime adaptation of Antique Bakery, another of her works. It’s been licensed but not released yet, so it’s one to look out for. Cute chefs being awesome in a bakery with a stellar voice cast!

    If you’re looking for historical drama with a twist, I recommend Le Chevalier D’Eon. This one’s also available in a DVD set. It’s set just before the dawn of the French Revolution and involves murder and zombies and a main guy who gets possessed by his dead sister, literally turning him into her, which then enables him to kick some serious butt with a sword.

    If you’re looking for something literary-ish, GONZO’s re-imagining of The Count of Monte Cristo under the title Gankutsuou contains that plus some of the most beautiful experimental animation I’ve ever seen (everything is done in moving textures that can take some getting used to, but once you do, it’s too gorgeous). The creative team moved the plot to a futuristic France where suits of armor are now mechs, people travel through space (the first episode has a Mardi Gras party on the moon) and carriages are drawn by nightmarish mechanical horses. The focus is also shifted onto the children of the families the Count wishes revenge on, so it’s a fresh perspective. The drama is too awesome.

    If you’re looking for something super-cute and feel-good in a similar vein to Mahou Tsukai Tai!, I really recommend Kamichu! It’s about a girl who wakes up one morning to discover that she has become a Shinto god and all the things that ensue from that. Has a colorful cast of gods and a shrine maiden who won’t take no for an answer.

    CLAMP has also had a few more animated adaptations in recent years, the best of which is, in my opinion, xxxHolic. If you’re familiar with Petshop of Horrors, it’s a lot like that except with added Yuuko, who is one of my top favorite female characters ever. She runs a shop that grants wishes to those who can pay the price, though a lot of the story follows her lackey Watanuki, a boy who stumbles into her shop one day. Lots of supernatural hijinx with Japanese ghosts and creatures.

    Also going to throw in my personal recs for Read Or Die/Dream and Princess Tutu.

    And I should stop there, or I’ll keep going forever (unless there are any other particular genres you’re wondering about?)

  26. I wasn’t going to reply again, but then I remembered Baccano and Durarara and realized there was no way I could possibly leave without recommending those. Both were adaptations of light novels written by the same author, and they’re both absolutely amazing and do wonderful jobs of integrating speculative elements (immortality and Celtic folklore, respectively) into the real world (1930s U.S. and modern Japan). They’re also fairly recent (Baccano came out a few years ago, Durarara aired last year), and I’d throw these at anyone without reservation.

    Also seconding Antique Bakery and xxxHolic, though the latter sometimes makes me want to tear my hair out (especially as the manga just ended and there really isn’t enough keysmash in the world to express my hargleblarglealk;dsjf). But it’s a good thing. It’s proof that it’s wormed its way under my skin, at least, and that’s what every piece of media should try to do.

  27. The live action Sailormoon is really good! But probably only available as a torrent. Or the old-fashioned route of getting CDs from friends or fansubbers in the mail. :) (Okay, not all that old-fashioned.. back in _my_ day it was VHS tapes!)

    I feel like we need some sort of underground fansub swap at Wiscon, involving flash drives and netbooks. :)

    There’s also Tsubasa and Xxxholic if you haven’t seen those yet. CLAMP, of course.

  28. I recommend anything by Inariya Fusanosuke, particularly “Maiden Rose/Hyakujitsu no Bara” and “Hari no Hana”. These two manga have plenty of action in the political arena, battlefield, and bedroom to keep one entertained. These recommendations sort of goes against some of your guidelines: they’re yaoi and there is rape (but the subject matter is handled maturely) but they’re still great reads. Inariya is into writing dark and serious dramas packed with forbidden love, moral conflicts, discrimination, religious fanaticism, political intrigue, and fighting one’s fate/destiny. If you’re into any of those topics + complex characters + deep plot then Inariya’s mangas are definately for you. Plus her art is beautiful and epic.

    Fair warning: It’s best to read Maiden Rose before watching it since the anime was made for fans who have already read the manga so know what is going on.

    Other people may have already made these suggestions but I think you might enjoy:

    1) Last Exile (anime; steampunk~)
    2) Otoyomegatari (shoujo manga about life & culture on the silk road, focuses on various marriage practices starting with a 20yr old girl marrying a 12yr old boy)
    3) Pandora Hearts (shounen manga & anime)

    Hope that helps though it seems you have already found some titles to pursue.

  29. I glanced through everyone else’s suggestions and I don’t THINK any of these were mentioned yet, but if so, sorry! :)

    First off, Funimation provides just about every episode of every one of its many MANY anime it has licensed for viewing on YouTube, for free!! Funimation subs are usually pretty fantastic, so just search for their channel and see what they’re offering.

    Kuragehime/Princess Jellyfish (or is it Jellyfish Princess? I always forget) is my new favorite show, though it is not nearly long enough. It’s a shoujo about a group of socially-awkward girls who live together and whose lives get turned upside down with the arrival of an extremely fashionable and social girl…who turns out to be a guy…who has very deep reasons for crossdressing. It’s really weird, but it’s so incredibly charming and heart-warming.

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler (at least, I didn’t see it mentioned?), but that might be because the anime is not that great compared to the manga. It’s ok though, and you can also find it subbed on Funimation’s channel, but I would highly suggest the manga…a Victorian-era Holmesian mystery/detective story with demons and angels and other supernatural things thrown in…add to that a fantastic cast of characters and AMAZING art with beautiful costume designs, and it’s really quite addictive.
    (it also highly appeals to the yaoi/shounen-ai fans, although there’s nothing terribly blatant…just lots of stuff you can read into it =P)

  30. Since you’re on the subject, I don’t have recommendations (my anime watching has been more than virtually nill the past few years), but I thought I’d mention:

    *Hated FLCL for pretty much the same reasons you mentioned. (Ditto Paranoia Agent, for the most part.) If it makes more sense on repeat viewings, well, that’s all fine and good, but a piece of art shouldn’t require repeat viewings to at least get something out of it on the first pass.

    *Loved Fullmetal Alchemist – though have yet to see the follow-up movie. Is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood a separate series?

    *As for shounen… I don’t have the fortitude to stick with a series through a half-dozen or more BIGGEST MOST BADDASS BADGUY EVAR!!!1!!!ONE! storylines. I was into Naruto for the first twenty or forty episodes before I saw the writing on the wall (“Oh crap, this isn’t going to ever end, is it? They’ll just always trot out a more badass ninja than the last one…”) and got bored with it. I had the same problem with InuYasha (how many of the most evil demons ever are there? And just how many of those damn shards are there? Or… how many times can you fight the same damn biggest baddass badguy, beat him, and have him still come back again later?)… And with several others. I start out loving them, but after season two trots out with more of the same I get bored. Give me a complete, non-open-ended plotline with a bonafied beginning, middle, and end any day…

    *Tell me Bleach doesn’t become more of the above? I was really into it, and only stopped watching it because my life circumstances changed (i.e. got married and started grad school while still working full time) and haven’t been able to pick it back up since then, but I’ve wanted to…

  31. @Stephen – I think, as a rule, any anime longer than maybe 2-4 seasons (26-52 episodes depending on season length) starts to drag on. That’s why most of the absolutely brilliant ones are short, often as few as 6 episodes total.

  32. I saw your response about Ouran High School Host Club – this is one occasion where I would say, PLEASE watch the anime. Please, please, please. It’s readily available in a box-set with an okay-ish English dub and a well-subbed original language version and it ROCKS. Such a fantastic Feminist story, and the one that convinced me Shoujo was for me.

    Other than that…do you want any yaoi recs? Because if you do: Little Butterfly by Hinako Takanaga, Future Lovers by Saika Kunieda and Nekasenaide by Natoko Machiya (though that last one is only available in scanlation, but it’s well worth downloading – I’ll buy a copy the red-hot-second it becomes available in an English translation). If you didn’t want any yaoi recs? Sorry. I can never rsist the urge to push my favourites on people.

  33. Oh my heavens. Erm. Where to start? Please forgive me if some of the ones I mention were around before 2002; I’ve forgotten when some of them came out, and there are some that I absolutely don’t want to miss.

    Saiunkoku Monogatari (Tale of Saiunkoku) – the first season of the anime has been released officially, not sure about the second. The first two volumes of the gorgeous, gorgeous manga adaptation are also out in English. I usually describe it to people as “like Fushugi Yuugi, only the heroine doesn’t suck.” Which doesn’t really do it justice, but. Smart, ambitious heroine. Complicated characters. Pretty good animation overall.

    Seirei no Moribito – Another series with an amazing female lead, although the other characters are also great (I adore Tanda, the healer/apprentice shaman). Balsa is a 30-year-old spear-weilding bodyguard sworn to save 8 people . . . and number 8 ends up being the second son of the Emperor. The original writer of the novels is an anthropologist, so the various cultures involved in the world are very complete and fascinating.

    Mushishi – atmospheric and incredibly beautiful, with a haunting, dreamlike quality. Rather than an overarching storyline there are a series of isolated events in which the main character, Ginko, is involved. There are mysterious beings called Mushi who are somehow closer to the source of life than animals and plants, and when they come in contact with the human world there can be unexpected results. Ginko’s job is dealing with those results.

    Skip Beat – I would recommend the manga over the anime, since the anime leaves off fairly abruptly in the middle of an arch. It’s shoujo, but rather . . . atypical. Just for a start, the heroine swears off love after her heart is broken. And her desire for revenge is so strong that she spontaneously manifests limited psychic powers, like the ability to sense hatred. Conventionally, she’s an abnormally determined person pursuing a career as an actress. Hilarity Ensues.

    Pandora Hearts – not shoujo, really, but amazing plot and really great characters. Also really, really messed up in that great kind of way. So much so that I have trouble summarizing the plot. Easier to just summarize what happens in the beginning: heir of one of the 4 great ducal houses, Oz Besarius is neglected by his father for reasons no one understands. On the day of his coming-of-age ceremony, he is betrayed and cast into the Abyss . . . where he meets a mysterious girl named Alice who offers a Faustian bargain.

    Hikaru no Go – the manga is better than the anime, definitely, but it’s amazingly compelling. And, er, also not shoujo. But great! A punk kid named Hikaru finds an old Go board in his grandfather’s attic. When he touches it, he finds himself haunted by the spirit of a Heian-era nobleman, who loves the game of Go. To placate the ghost, Hikaru must start to play the game, but soon finds himself drawn into the world of professional competition.

    Amatsuki – only got a 13 episode anime, but the manga is amazing and nowhere near as popular as it should be. It’s another one that’s hard to describe, so here’s a summary of what happens in the beginning: a boy named Tokidoki lives in a future version of Japan. He fails his history class and so has to go visit a “virtual Edo” theme park. While he’s there he’s attacked by a strange monster and knocked unconscious. When he comes to he finds that his virtual reality goggles are broken . . . but he’s still in Edo.

    D.Gray-man – Japanese versions of Christianity are always hugely entertaining. The main character, Alan, is an Exorcist who works for a branch of the church called the Black Order. His job is exterminating Akuma, which are created by the evil Earl of the Millennium. Another series that has a rather high messed-up quotient. And once again the manga is better than the anime (filler is evil).

    Soukyuu no Fafner (Fafner in the Azure) – giant robots piloted by teenagers versus alien invaders. Plus weird psychology! So everything you’d expect in a mecha series. Except the characters are really great, and the female pilots are just as strong as the male ones. Also, the adults in the series never forget that they’re sending children into battle. And some of the plot twists are very hard-hitting.

    Um. Only two of my recommendations are properly shojo, but all of them are really, really good. I hope you get a chance to watch/read them, and that you enjoy them if you do. Sorry for rambling on . . .

  34. Ah! I forgot . . .

    Victorian Romance Emma – an amazingly detailed and painstakingly researched shoujo manga about a lady’s maid who lives, you guessed it, in Victorian England. The anime is likewise very atmospheric. This is the same manga-ka who’s currently working on the amazingly detailed and painstakingly researched shoujo manga called Otoyomegatari (English: the Bride’s Stories) about a young woman named Amira who lives in a rural city near the Caspian Sea in the early 19th century.

    Nodame Cantabile – a manga, live-action drama, and anime (I recommend the first two most highly; I’ve not seen the anime). It’s about two music students who are opposite in almost every way imaginable– Chiaki the uptight musical prodigy and wannabe conductor, and Nodame the messy and stunningly unique genius pianist.

    There, I have redeemed my recommending-credentials with two shoujo titles!

  35. My anime watching is a few years out of date, thanks to grad school.

    Anyway, seconding recs, all of which is stuff I found around 2005 and after… you may have seen some, since I basically stopped watching around 2001-2005. Also, uh, a ton of these are manga because I usually read more manga than watch anime. Not sure if you actually want manga recs? If not, the two big anime recs here are Princess Tutu, Mushishi Honey and Clover, and Ouran. Ones with “has an anime, but I like the manga better” are Fruits Basket, Claymore, Skip Beat. Ones with “has an anime, but I’ve never seen it” are Kimi ni Todoke. For the others, please ignore!

    – Princess Tutu: a duck turns into a girl turns into a magical ballerina and SAVES THE WORLD through the power of ballet! (Or, mostly.) I love it because it is an awesome take on the magical girl trope (complete with henshin sequence), with what I think are some Utena references, as well as references to more classic shoujo (ballet, the art style). The first half is more magical girl monster-of-the-week style (like Utena), and the second half gets progressively weirder and weirder and weirder and more and more meta (like Utena!).

    – Claymore by Yagi Norihiro: I bounced pretty hard off the manga in volumes 1 and 2 for precisely the reasons you mention: male gaze, too much gore, I have a weak stomach re: violence. If you feel like giving it another chance, I’d give a read of volume 3 and skip 1 and 2, and if the Tragic Backstory arc doesn’t catch you (female relationships galore! Female angst!), I’d definitely write it off. I watched the anime after reading the manga, and the sound effects make the gore worse for me. Also, the anime stops just as the manga starts getting really awesome.

    – Kimi ni Todoke by Shiina Karuho: adorable high school shoujo manga, with a hero who isn’t an alpha bastard and is nice and cute and makes me want to pinch his cheeks. I haven’t tried the anime yet.

    – Fruits Basket by Takaya Natsuki: (I feel really stupid reccing this, since I assume you have read it? If so, please ignore!) A really good series that looks like it’s fluffy happy shoujo with fuzzy animals, and ends up being about abuse and fucked up relationships. Takaya’s emotional bits are extremely good. I saw the anime first, which of course does that made-up ending because it caught up with the series, but all the really great stuff is in the manga.

    – Ouran High School Host Club by Hatori Bisco: One of the few I’d actually recommend starting out with the anime. Hatori Bisco’s paneling is TERRIBLE for the first few volumes, whereas the anime has some very Utena-style things like blinking arrows and commentary on shoujo that reminded me a lot of Kare Kano. There’s more stuff in the manga later, so I’d rec that too, even though I am now volumes behind and everyone tells me I need to catch up.

    – Skip Beat by Nakamura Yoshiki: the art in the manga is a style I really don’t like, and it took me a while to get into it. That said, the chibis are awesome. It’s basically shounen-style “Must defeat [person]! Must grow stronger!” only for acting. Also, Kyoko’s demons and grudges are hilarious, and it actually has a budding romance between a guy who is twenty and a high-school girl that I am not vehemently opposed to. I got sick of the shounen after a while, and then I picked it up again, and it was the funniest thing ever. Watched the anime in grad school as a way to turn off my brain, though like other people says, it stops as the arcs really kick off.

    – Emma by Mori Kaoru: seinen manga (started around 1999, so you may have read) about very carefully researched Victorian maids. There is class stuff in there I disagree with, along with an Indian character who … is not portrayed badly, but is portrayed in a way that doesn’t look at social institutions of inequality. That said, Mori Kaoru’s side notes are made of awesomesauce, and even though it’s seinen, I read it more as shoujo. The art is gorgeous, and unlike Yuki Kaori, Mori actually researches all her stuff (which is why the author’s notes are so fun. She is always “And then! I wanted to put in these period nightgowns I found except my editor did not like them!”)

    – Mushishi by Urushibara Yuki: (started in 1999, so you may have read) seinen manga about a mushishi, who basically investigates this not-quite-bugs, not-quite-animal beings called mushi, which often infect humans. The stories are mostly one-shots, but the art is sketchy and beautiful, and there’s a lovely sense of rural Japan that I love, along with the awesome mushi Urushibara keeps coming up with. The anime reorders some of the episodes, but it’s just as good as the manga, if not better. The music is gorgeous, and the watercolor-like colors are absolutely lovely.

    – 20th Century Boys by Urasawa Naoki: (ahaha, starting in 1999, so you may have read) shounen or seinen manga all about shounen manga! Normally I am not a huge shounen fan, but I love how Urasawa takes on childhood memories and play and shounen tropes and makes a compelling, scary thriller about it. Falls apart a bit at the end, and usually has the single awesome women among lots of men Urasawa does (the women do talk to each other, they are just… very outnumbered), but I also like that it has ethnic minorities in Japan. I don’t always like how he does them, but overall it is just nice to see acknowledgment of non-Japanese non-white people in manga.

    – Yotsuba by Azuma Kiyohiko: A single father raises a girl in suburbian Japan. I love Yotsuba (the girl), who is weird and funny and baffling in that way all kids are, and I love the neighbors and how everyone interacts. Great slice of life, and this was my go-to series to cheer me up when I was in grad school.

    – After School Nighmare by Mizushiro Setona: A beautiful, creepy manga about nightmares and a creepy school that is just as internal and incestuous as Utena (albeit less literally so). Gorgeous imagery, and the protagonist can be read as transgendered or intersex. I kept thinking Mizushiro would do politics fail, and she manages not to. I don’t totally agree with how it ends, but there is so much awesome in the middle and even in the end that I don’t care. (It’s not a faily end! Just, not my perfect end?)

    – Honey and Clover by Umino Chika: This is another one where I watched the anime first. I think the anime and the manga follow the same story, with a few chapters in the manga that aren’t in the anime, but overall, very similar. The anime has beautiful watercolors and an awesome soundtrack, and it’s about five art students going through school. Originally it feels very male-centric, but I really like what Umino says later about women and art. The manga is also good, I just have only read 5 out of 10 vols or something.

  36. Uh, meant to say “the FOUR big anime recs” and that some of the stuff I watched in 2005 was me catching up during the 2001-2005 gap of not watching anime, thereby I may overlap some with stuff you’ve already seen that I was catching up on.

  37. Hmm. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll be much help as I’m in almost the same boat. So, thanks for asking the question as I’ll probably pick up some of these recs as well!

    Ones I torrented and later bought on DVD: FMA (although the sub makes me want to throw things at the screen), Soul Eater, XXXHolic (watching it now but I prefer the manga to the anime – don’t rate the Tsubasa anime), Fruits Basket, Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou (His and Her Circumstances), Serial Experiments Lain, Appleseed (the 2004 and 2007 movies), Kino’s Journey, Gasaraki, Vision of Escaflowne.

    Probably will buy: D.Gray-man (minus the filler if possible), ToraDora, To aru kagaku no railgun (A certain scientific railgun – although I would avoid the previous series at all costs), Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.

    Strictly for fun: Ouran High School Host Club (feminist?!), Sengoku Basara.

    Himself would definitely vote for GitS and Haibane Renmei.

    I do have a few box sets of Naruto, mainly for Kakashi. My advice on Bleach is to check the episode lists and avoid buying the hideous filler arcs. The first few box sets are good but it may be worth abandoning it at some point to preserve your illusions. And I loathed Wolf’s Rain with a passion, whatever that says about my taste in anime. Never seen anything quite like Utena, although I’ve missed a lot.

  38. How could I forget! This one’s manga-only, as far as I know, but . . .

    SAINT YOUNG MEN – Jesus and the Buddha decide to take a vacation in Japan. They move into a small one-room apartment. HILARITY ENSUES.

    Yes, it’s just as crazy as it sounds. And also awesome.

  39. I will stop spamming soon!

    Anyway, I can’t believe I forgot Nana by Yazawa Ai! Technically, it’s shoujo due to the magazine it’s published in, although it feels more josei to me. It is one of my favorite manga series ever. I think it started coming out in Japan in 1999, but afaik, it wasn’t available until it got licensed in the US a few years ago. There’s an anime too, which I’ve seen some of, but I love the manga art a ton. That said, it’s nice having the music in the anime. It’s about two women named Nana who meet and become friends, and their loves and lives. I read it as a love story between the two, platonic or not. One of the Nanas is a punk rocker, ergo the music. Yazawa is incredibly good at creating very human, very fallible people; half the time I want to shake her characters and yell at them even while I’m aching for them or know I’ve done the exact same thing myself. Warning: it’s currently stuck on v. 21 because I think Yazawa is sick?

  40. I nearly flipped when I saw–something I can help with and be conversant on! (sadly I am…not eloquent at the best of times, so I mainly lurk and look on awe at those who can vocalize themselves coherently)

    1) FRACTALE ::ahem:: Its currently being subbed-streamed through Funimation. Its the future and everything seems pretty utopic except for utopia is failing and for the first time in centuries humanity may have to learn to live in the real world again. Stuck in the middle, ’cause he’s such a swell guy, is Clain. He saves a girl, who gives him a pendant that winds up having him kidnapped and hunted. Fun ensues.

    2) Level E This is currently being subbed-streamed through Crunchyroll (though I prefer fansubs like HorribleSubs). Its by the creator of YuYu Hakusho, but that’s about all that really ties them together. The 12 episode anime is broken into smaller arcs all pretty much based around Prince Baka’s twisted sense of humor. Its kind of Men in Black (aliens constantly coming to earth and blending in) with multiple traps.

    3) Kimi ni Todoke season 1 and 2(still airing) This is my first shoujo in a looong while. Sawako is about as awkward as you can be and Kazehaya is about as subtle as you can be. Together they struggle through peer pressure, friendship troubles, first love pangs and that beast called High School. Its sweet and 100% normal (as in there is nothing paranormal, supernatural, science fiction related).

    4) Kuroshitsuji–do NOT watch this dubbed. Its so painful with the fake british accents. SO SO painful. It get kind of…weird…once it begins to divert from the manga, and the second season in general is kind of what the hell? but its set in Victorian times with pretty clothing and assuming Ciel doesn’t make you see red, lots of fun.

    5) Last Exile–which I’m pretty sure someone else recc’ed, but the new series begins this summer so it never hurts to revisit right?

    6) Hakushaku to Yousei–only avail subbed from groups (to my knowledge) another Victorian-era show about a ‘Fairy Doctor’ named Lydia who is beset by troubles when the ‘Blue Knight Earl’ Edgar pretty much blackmails her into helping him. Its also shoujo and lots of British and other folk tale fun (Kelpies!!)

    7) Summer Wars its a movie, but its a fun blending of genres as a young teen boy experiences first love, large family gatherings and an elite virtual fighter fights to protect the world from a viral hacker bent on its destruction.

    8) Library Wars its kind of brain candy and its fun to see that somehow librarians became a militant force to protect books from being burned and the right of citizens to read what they want.

    Hm that’s all I can think of right now….

  41. A number of my friends are reading and very impressed with ?oku: The Inner Chambers. As I understand it, it’s an alt-history set in a Japan where most of the male population has been wiped out, and it does some very smart things with gender relations. There’s a series of pieces about it by Jonathan McCalmont on Gestalt Mash that I’ve been enjoying:

    And (like other people) I *have* to recommend the Ouran High School Host Club anime series. Hilarious and incredibly smart.

  42. I don’t watch a lot of anime, but I own the entire series of Cowboy Bebop on DVD, plus the feature film. My friend Lena at Clarion got me hooked on it. Definitely recommended.

    Plus, you know, anything Hayao Miyazaki has ever been involved with. That man is a magician of story.

  43. Oh no you watch dubbed versions now? I personally hate dub because I’ve learnt Japanese and I find the voices for dubbed anime really horrible.

    I was surprised when I read in your interview that you watch anime – I’m not sure why exactly. But I’m happy that you like Darker Than Black! I always recommend that to my friends even if I’m not even sure I understand it much. I just really like the concept of Contractors and the action scenes.

    I’d recommend the works of Hayao Miyazaki because he’s the father of anime in my eyes (Tales of Earthsea doesn’t really count because it’s by his son and I was actually quite disappointed with it..) I watched his films since I was about 5 and even now, I learn something new from it =). My favourites are Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind and Spirited Away.

    I’m really picky with what I watch for anime because I can’t stand cutesy little girls. You’ve actually mentioned the anime that I enjoy most in your list. But recently I’ve been watching an anime called Level E which is by Yoshihiro Togashi (who also made an amazing series called Hunter X Hunter which you should try out if you haven’t already) which is the most interesting anime I have seen for quite some time. I’ve been streaming it through and watching it subbed =D

    Black Lagoon is alright as well – I mainly watched it because I like to see girls with guns kick ass.

    I’ve heard Gundam is great if you like mecha anime but I’ve only watched Gundam 00 before and it really was interesting and not boring at all.

    Oh and if you want comedy I strongly recommend Nodame Cantabile (which is music orientated). I didn’t finish the anime for it but I finished the drama instead and I really enjoyed it.

    Anyway, I just wanted to add in that I bought your ‘The Broken Kingdoms’ a few days ago and I can’t wait to start reading it this weekend!! =D

  44. I’m in a similar boat as you and some others as well- I actually just started to look at anime again myself. Things I’ve noticed so far:

    *Oh yeah if you’re watching Brotherhood and didn’t see the first FMA anime I highly recommend that one as well. I tried to watch Brotherhood afterward and it didn’t rev as well with me- if it is better than the first than I need to go back to it.

    Nightschool- Okay it’s technically not manga in that she’s Canadian (I think- either way not Japanese), but it is in the same section at least, and I really like the series. It’s an urban fantasy with a pretty diverse cast that’s not uber faily, I don’t think. And it’s pretty funny.

    I also co-sign on Fruits Basket. I just finished the series a couple of days ago and loved it.

  45. I’m going to second two ealier recs: Gankutsuou and Soul Eater.

    Gankutsuou I enjoyed for its nice twist on the classic “Count of Monte Cristo” story (as only the Japanese would do it), and for the art style. Instead of filling spaces with regular colors, they used photoshop textures and other effects. It’s a bit dizzying and incredibly mesmerizing.

    Soul Eater is something my boyfriend has gotten me watching, and I’m defintiely enjoying it. I think the explanation in the comment above does a better job of describing it that I would, but I would just say to try a few episodes – it’s sure to grow on you fairly quickly.

    We also recently watched “Gunslinger Girl” – just the first season though. They did the second season much later, and while the story was reportedly much clearer, the art style suffered. I’ve heard the manga is much, much better. It’s about a secret program that takes young girls with traumatic pasts and no personal connections, and turns them into cybernetic killing machines. It spends a lot of time considering what it means to exist, and how much of who we are is created by those that “raise” us. Plus, the end of the last episode brought tears to my eyes, and there aren’t many series that have doen that.

    The Funimation site is an excellent resource for any American anime watcher. They also stream episodes on Hulu and Youtube, but a lot of the times the regular site is the most reliable source. Also, when new series come out in Japan (like when FMA: Brotherhood started airing), they will stream them subbed within a week of their release in Japan. Which: Wow!

  46. Ahh, a topic I can DEFINITELY help with~~~ :D

    Since it sounds like you like anime with strong characterizations, strong/well fleshed-out women and interesting existential questions, I would STRONGLY recommend Fafner (Soukyuu no Fafner), the TV series. There’s a 1-shot OVA/TV special subtitled ‘Right of Left’ which is also very good (extremely moving), but I think you should start with the 26-ep TV series. It was Xebec’s first outing (a small spin-off studio from Production I.G.) and you can see how there are some starting/growing pains toward the beginning, but they REALLY tried hard and put a lot of heart in this series.

    I mean, you KNOW they mean business about wanting to make this series good when they go so far as to actually SWITCH SCRIPTWRITERS halfway through the series, going from a not-so-talented veteran to an untried young Sci-fi novelist! (untried only in the anime industry–he’s an award-winning novelist and WOW does his dialogue and fresh spin on a lot of the “usual” anime tropes really make the second half of this series something EXTRAORDINARY!!)

    Which is not to knock the first half (even though the dialogue is a bit cheesy) because the animation is pretty good for a TV series/from a new studio, the score is AMAZING (it absolutely put composer Saitou Tsuneyoshi on the map for me! He may not be quite Yoko Kanno or Yuki Kajiura, but just listen to the beautiful opening overture of the series and you’ll see what I mean–the man has talent!), and the VOICE ACTING…! They absolutely hit a home run with the casting of this series!! They were all pretty much unknowns when they were hired, but WOW did they find a talented bunch of young voice actors! Especially the main charas–there are some monologue scenes later in the series from the main chara that just BLOW ME AWAY. He can make me go from 100% dry-eyed to tearing up in under 3 seconds, just by the subtlest cracks of insecurity/emotion that he can inject in his voice when he wants. And the insanely talented Kobayashi Sanae (Akira from Hikaru no Go–if you’ve seen that, you KNOW how talented this woman is!), their biggest name (though not as big back then as she is now), joins the cast midway through the series and gives THE PERFORMANCE OF HER LIFE in episode 17. I would’ve said “performance of the series” but she has some formidable competition from the hero (voiced by Makoto Ishii) and another fantastic character who enters midway through the series (voiced by Tamaki Nakanishi)– lol, see a pattern? That scriptwriter change was so incredible, it took a very good, fairly original series (I’ve never seen an apocalyptic mecha series that looked so closely at the child pilots’ PARENTS, teachers, community as well as the pilots themselves as they do in Fafner), and makes it absolutely TRANSCEND ITSELF in the second half. I really can’t recommend Fafner enough!! (just slog through the first few, somewhat shaky eps w/ cheesy dialogue–I promise it picks up!).

    That said, Fafner is not the newest series (2004), but it’s pretty unknown and seems to hit a lot of the bases of stuff you look for. Plus, the beautiful writing in the second half of the series combined with really fresh, original (and also possibly “honestly LGBT” as opposed to BL fanservice) characters who actually GROW and have EVOLVING RELATIONSHIPS (OMG! So the hero *doesn’t* end up with the first girl he sees?? :P) and AMAZING voice acting makes this series something really worth checking out, I think–even if you’re not usually a mecha fan, etc.

    P.S. Greatest opening theme song EVER. Fafner also completely lucked out hiring a then-brand-new musical duo, angela, to write them an amazing set of theme songs. Seriously, Fafner is like “the little anime that could.” ^____^ ? How I love it~~

    Here’s the opening:

  47. Ah, I also meant to recommend a few shoujo titles like you requested. ^^;; (sorry for getting away with the Fafner rec. Six years later and it still makes me so passionate… dang!)

    1. Princess Jellyfish (anime) – BRAND SPANKING NEW! Eleven eps, just finished airing this winter and is available with excellent official subs for free on Funimation’s youtube channel. In short, it’s a contemporary slice-of-life/romance starring… FUJOSHI. As in, Japanese female otaku/fangirls, but of various things (not just anime). It’s a wonderful series with a lot of heart and does a great job portraying and exploring *shock* not-pretty/non-objects-of-fetish anime girls! Very smart and heart-warming series. ^^

    2. The Story of Saiunkoku (manga) – Adapted from the hit YA novel series and much more faithful (and featuring better artwork) than the anime adaptation. It’s like Fushigi Yuugi–except with a smarter/less annoying heroine who REALLY chooses her career over love. Features lots of beautiful men, well fleshed-out main charas, some fantastic court intrigue & a smart heroine who wants more in life than a hot boy. ;-) Very good translation/adaptation from VIZ!

    3. After School Nightmare (manga) – Hard to find since CMX went out of business but VERY worth the effort. This is a fascinating story of a possibly hypothetical/existing-only-in-a-collective-mindscape-of-some-kind school (think the Utena movie) where students must pass a special after school class in order to graduate. However, it’s a class where they enter a shared dream and each person manifests as their “true” or inner self (i.e. a cute-looking girl who is actually full of fear/hatred/rage pent up from when she was raped as a child manifests as a deranged, knife-wielding murderer, a “perfect”-seeming overachiever girl manifests as herself but with giant holes where her face and heart should be, etc). And our hero… manifests as a girl. He was actually born a hermaphrodite but his parents chose to raise him as a boy. So now that he’s hitting puberty and getting his period for the first time, he’s extremely confused about his gender identity and has the humiliating trial of being “outed” to his classmates when he manifests as a girl in the dream class.

    Anyway, this is getting too involved again–suffice to say, “shoujo, psychological thriller, gender and sexual identity issues, lovely artwork” — I think you’ll like this one. ^^

    4. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (anime) – This one is pure eye candy and has the zen sensibility combined with gorgeous, intricately choreographed fight scenes of a good Miyazaki flick. (plus the amazing background artwork!) Set in a mythical/magical ancient Japan and stars an extremely buff female warrior (spear wielder) names Balsa who has sworn to save the lives of 8 people to make up for the 8 she took when she was younger. Having saved 7 people at the series’s beginning, she finds her final “charge” to be a bit more difficult–the prince is being targeted for assassination by his own father because the embryo of a water spirit has taken up residence inside the prince and when it hatches, it may drain the entire kingdom dry with drought (quite fatal to a farming kingdom). So it’s up to Balsa to somehow get the boy to safety/hidden and fend off the many, many people sent after him. From Production I.G. (thus the strong female lead :P LoL~)

    5. Le Chevalier D’eon – Another from Production I.G. and the second anime series written by the talented Ubukata Tow (the award-winning SF novelist who did Fafner). This time, it’s a murder mystery–set in pre-revolutionary France and involving cross-dressing chevaliers, spy conspiracies and ZOMBIES. Yes, you heard right–ZOMBIES. There’s a touch of the alchemical/British occult charm of FMA in this series, though it is much darker in tone overall. Beautiful animation, amazing sword fights and an intriguing plot that really keeps you guessing till the end. Seriously, you’ll NEVER guess whodunit!

    Hope you’ll enjoy these! :D

  48. @Thea — OMG, girl–who are you?? Your recs hit so many of my “best series of all time” it could’ve been my own list! (I mean, for Fafner and Hikago alone–those are my 2 favorite series of all time and very few people have seen/read them!) Have you seen the new Fafner movie yet?? The consensus seems to be that it was worth waiting these past 6 years for. XD (but I haven’t seen it yet–gah, can’t wait!!)

    Oh… uh, maybe I shouldn’t be stealing space on Nora-sama’s blog to do this. ^^;;; Visiting your blog~~

  49. Well, you’ve already seen the top two I was going to recommend (FMA and Code G). BUT, never fear, because I have a few more. Not sure if they’ll be up your alley, but I enjoyed them.

    Michiko to Hatchin – I can’t really say why I like this, as I’m usually a fan of intricate plots, BUT…the one good thing about it for me is that it was set in a Brazil-inspired setting, and it shows. PoCs abound, and they’re not stereotypes. Oh, and don’t ask me why this matters, but…the main character actually changes clothes…sometimes more than once per episode!

    Chevalier D’Eon – this one’s got a nice political story, combined with some mystical elements – and par for the course in Japan, a subversion of Christianity. Fun! Good, non-over-the-top swordfighting scenes, and based on a historical cross-dressing French spy, but now with an interesting twist.

    Oh and I share your opinion on Darker than Black. The show makes no sense to me at all, but there’s something really appealing about it.

  50. I was glad to see others have recommended Skip Beat, Princess Tutu, Nana, Ouran High School Host Club (manga is much better than the anime!) and Library Wars already.

    Here are a couple more I don’t think I saw:

    -Saiyuki: a radical retelling of the Monkey King story, Journey to the West. 4 anti-heroes go on a journey west to stop the bad guy. Cool characters with a lot of attitude (the priest smokes, drinks, curses, carries a gun, his favorite lines are “shut up,” “die,” and “I’ll kill you”), amazing art. The manga consists of 10 vol for the Saiyuki series and 9 vol so far for the sequel Reload series. There is a prequel Gaiden series that hasn’t been released. Season 1 and 2 of the anime are excellent—the English dub is so much more colorful than the Japanese dub. Skip the Reload anime. . . they must have switched directors or writers or something. . . it is an awful adaptation.

    -Alice in the Country of Hearts manga: take Alice in Wonderland, add a reverse harem for Alice and lots of guns and violence. Interesting story.

    -NG Life manga: cute hilarious shojo story. My brother even recommends this title. A cast of characters are reincarnations of people from Pompeii who died when the volcano erupted. Keidai, the main character, remembers his past, and it weirds him out to see the other reincarnated people in his life with new relations to each other who do not have memories of the past, such as his wife is now the boy next door, his best guy friend is now a girl, his sister is now his mother, and his rival is now his father, etc.

    -Maid Sama manga: high school romantic comedy shojo series. Misaki is the demon president of her high school (formerly an all boys school), ruling with an iron fist to clean up the boys’ behavior and make the school appealing to girls. The problem is she works part time as a maid in a maid cafe, and she does not want the boys at school find out. Of course, you know her biggest rival is going to find out. Anime available only in Japanese.

    -Bride of the Water God manwha: the water god, Habaek, takes a human girl as his bride. He has a secret, though. By day, he appears as a little boy, and at night, he appears as a man. Of course, his bride does not know, so drama ensues. Beautiful art.

    -Princess Ai manga: Courtney Love collaboration about an angel who can rock and roll.

    -Descendants of Darkness manga and anime: Tsuzuki is a slacker shinigami and is one of the most powerful around but does not apply himself, plus dealing with the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Death. This series features one of the creepiest villains. Anime is 12 episodes long and features a couple of the stories from the manga, and you can hear Yugioh when Tsuzuki gets serious and fights. Manga went on hiatus a couple of years ago.

    -Pretear: Anime take on Snow White, magical girl style with a reverse harem. It features one of the spunkiest heroines. A villainess is destroying nature, and only one girl has the power to fight her, except the 7 “dwarves” (a group of guys ranging from cute little boys to hot guys) have to find her first, convince her she is the One, and get her to fight. Not really for little girls, though. The first episode alone featured just about every curse word, except for the f word, and there are some scenes that are a little risque, like the transformation scenes look a bit wrong. Short manga series availiable with different story development.

    -Dramacon manga: Maybe not technically manga because it is written in English. A hilarious look at the what goes on at anime conventions.

    -Yakitate Japan! manga: This is a shonen series, but it is a hilarious series all about bread making. There are bread making contests and tournaments that fit right in with other fight mangas. Anime available only in Japanese.

    -Gokusen anime: Slightly older series. It’s like a female GTO (another good series about a former delinquent and gang member who becomes a high school teacher). A female yakuza boss has big dreams of becoming a high school teacher, and her dream seems to be coming true, but she is saddled with the worst class. Her yakuza background keeps coming up (and her yakuza family keep showing up to keep an eye on her, too), so there are a lot hilariously awkward situations.

    -These titles were released a few years ago by smaller publishers, so they may be out of print.

    -Land of the Blindfolded (a girl can see the future and a boy the past, so what do they when the others around them are “blind” to what they can see?)
    -Penguin Revolution (a girl finds herself hired to be a manager to a budding actor at a prestigious agency)
    -Her Majesty’s Dog (a girl psychic and her dog demon. He is usually a cute guy but can fight in demon form when she gives him energy via a kiss, but no one can know about their powers. So yeah, they seem a bit weird to others, but there’s room for plenty of comedic moments and stories involving misunderstandings and cover ups.)

    I don’t consider myself particulary familiar with what’s big or popular, but these are some of my favorites :)

  51. Ergo Proxy is a killer. You’d love it. It’s got a sophisticated plotline with loads of twists and cliffhangers. Also has a very deep story, based on Descartes works (also other philosophers.)
    And since you’re watching Bleach, I think you’d like Naruto, too. Ninja stuff, daring heros and heroins, twists and angst + thrill.
    Also, Samurai Champloo is a good watch.
    Eden of the East is a good one. Not as good as something like Code Geass, but still good.
    Noir, is the story of a professional killer suffering insomnia.
    Vampire Knight – both the anime and the manga, though they differ greatly in the way they end – is a really well-crafted series.

  52. First, some seconding. I, also, would recommend Kamichu!, Mushi-shi, Eden of the East, Moribito, Ghost Hound, Gintama, Fruits Basket, and Princess Jellyfish.

    You mentioned your unease re: Tales from Earthsea. It’s not the best Ghibli film and wasn’t terribly faithful to the books. Knowing that going in though, I found I did enjoy it. However Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo, the films released before and after Earthsea, are better I think.

    Some stuff I don’t think has been mentioned:

    Monster- a crime drama where a man goes on the run after being accused of a series of murders he didn’t commit, but he knows who did and tries to clear his name. Dark with a emphasis on psychology. The anime is somewhat slow paced, but I really enjoyed it. The manga was Junot Diaz’s answer when Time asked him what his guilty pleasure read was, which since I loved Oscar Wao piqued my interest. It ran in a seinen magazine. The anime is on Hulu

    Beast Player Erin – a fantasy about a girl raised in village of beast tamers. Her mother is an outsider so both she and the protaganist are view with suspicion by society. Her mother’s people have a different kind of relationship with the animals. This philosophy results in both professional success at times but persecution at others. It’s also a little slow at times but really enjoyable. My only major gripe was that the sub on Crunchyroll was pretty shoddy and became a distraction at times, not sure if there’s any better options out there. It was originally a novel and I think it could easily be shojo but the manga version ran in a shonen magazine. As I mention the anime is on Crunchyroll.

    Natsume’s Book of Friends – another fantasy series (my favorite kind). This time about a boy who inherited the ability to see spirits as well as a book binding several powerful ones from his grandmother. Since the owner of the book can command the bound spirits, Natsume is frequently harassed by spirits trying to take possession of it. He decides to solve this problem by finding the bound spirits and releasing them. Rather than the find-them-all-quest tone that setup could have had, the series is more about the relationship Natsume establishes with these spirits and some of the humans who are also connected to the spirit world. I found it touching at times and always engaging. In something of a reverse of Erin, despite the male protag the manga ran in a shojo magazine. The anime is on Crunchyroll.

    Spice and Wolf- another fantasy though a little different since the male lead is a traveling merchant and a lot the action centers on economic intrigue. The female lead is a wolf god who takes the form of a girl with wolf ears and tail. How you feel about this one from the reactions I’ve seen largely depends on how you feel about economics and animal-girls. I’m interested by the former and can enjoy the latter so long as things don’t get too fanservice-y so this one was right up my alley. Originally a series of light novels, the manga ran in a seinen magazine. The first season is on Hulu.

    For some further recs, you might want to look up Noitamina on Wikipedia. It’s a programming block on Fuji Television that seems to specialize in non-shonen stuff and the article lists the past shows aired. I’ve been using it as a way to find new-to-me anime and thus far haven’t hit a bad one yet. Several of the shows that have been rec’d here are from it like Eden of the East, Princess Jellyfish, and Fractale. The shows range from relationship dramas to horror and from contemporary to period pieces but in my experience so far they’ve all been quality. And it’s been on since 2005 so it fits your time range. It looks like a lot of these shows are on either Crunchyroll or Hulu and some of those that aren’t are available on DVD.

  53. You should check out One Piece. There’s so much in that series that I think you would love, especially the development of characters. Best anime ever.

  54. Actually, FMA the manga came to a (very satisfying, I thought) close last year, so this might be as good a time as any to start to read it again. And it’s not TOO long, compared to other successful shonen series (yes, I’m looking at you, N.)

    Manga (not anime) featuring strong and well developed heroines, based on what I’m reading here and as far as I know :

    Definitely Basara (by Yumi Tamura), extremely strong and thoughtful storytelling and character development over the course of the series, which is a staple of that author. (Anything by Tamura IS good for you, as much as I understand “you” through your work. Which I love.) Most people I know can’t get past the way she draws though… which is a shame.

    Skip Beat is good too, mainly for it’s atypical heroin. The actor’s journey is interesting too.

    I’d give Claymore another try, if only because it does takes a bit to get it’s own vibe, and because the author isn’t the type to abuse the “male gaze” thing a lot of shonen-seinen-and even shojo authors are complacently using. I was a big fan of his previous series, a shonen who featured another very strong female character (not the hero of the series, but very clearly the second main focus) and never showed her in a way that made me uncomfortable. Which is why I was a bit surprised by the way the claymores were sometimes depicted. I suspect a bit of editorial interference there, actually.

    Is Fumi Yoshinaga’s “My Darling Daughters” translated in English ? If yes, it’s a one shot little jewel that you have to read. It’s a very insightful collection of intertwined stories about mother-daughter relationships, women in today’s (japanese) society etc. It’s really good and weirdly one of her lesser known manga.

    And for something completely different, how about reading Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk, or Real ?(are those even translated ? Sorry about that, I’m actually not a US citizen and I read my manga in japanese.) I have no interest in Basketball, but Slam Dunk is genius, if only for the graphic evolution you can witness thought the series ^^. And it’s actually a great character series. And Real is the same (wheelchair basketball this time, still a great character series).

    Mushishi I didn’t read, but it has a great rep among people I know whose taste I mostly trust.

    Otherwise, I’d concur on most of was posted here, except for Yû Watase (fushigi yûgi), whose idea of an heroine makes me cringe.

    As anime series go, the only one I saw lately was Ergo Proxy and I really liked it. I’m a lot out of touch anime wise too (I might take advantage of this thread of comments for my own viewing purposes, by the way. ^^)

  55. For light but totally off the wall comedy I would recommend My Bride is a Mermaid. Its as if an animator heard studio Ghibli was doing an anime version of Hans Christian Anderson’s little mermaid and decided that they should combine that story with Tenchi Muyo, Ranma 1/2, and Sailor Moon. I am not saying its derivative its quite unique I’m just pinwheeling to find something to compare it to because its so strangely appealing.

    For best overall recontamination I would say F.L.A.G.
    It is a mecha anime that examines the role of photojournalists in war. Its a beautiful stylized animation that is actually seen through the perspective of a camera lens the entire series shifts from the different types of cameras on a warzone whether it be a webcam or a soldiers night vision camera. You would think this was bad but in a way only a good anime can it makes the potentially ridiculous amazing.

    There is action but it is mostly about the impact images can have on the world. Even this cynical world can be moved to peace and war over the strength of photos. In this case the title comes from a photo of the United Nations Flag flying in the moonlight silhouteing the leader of an embatled country praying on a rooftop with a young girl. A completely unplanned and beautiful photo that became splashed across every possible screen across the world. That Flag became a symbol for peace and because of that it was stolen and the journalist who snapped the photo is assigned to the task force going to retrieve it. Which just happens to have the worlds first functioning mecha. I’m not doing it justice. Please consider it. Its a plot you have to see and experience to understand why it was dubbed an instant classic.

    I have long heartily recommended the two films of Mamouro Hosda. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and his latest Summer Wars. Both are instant classics that defy any genre other than anime

    I’d also recommend any of the post 2002 releases of the late Satoshi Kon you might not have seen. Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika, paranoia agent.

    I’d also read or Die a short OVA about a girl who can control paper and again you can’t condense the plot in a way that does it justice without your own examination.

    Kino’s Journey is my favorite anime. It’s like Galaxy train 999 on earth with a talking motorcycle. It’s aurally brilliant and its episodic nature makes each story feel like a self contained gift. The ending may be shocking or bittersweet but the Journey that’s what makes the whole thing worth it. It’s a meditation on travelers themselves but filled with plenty of action and triumphant synchronization of everything that makes anime great. I can not recommend this enough.

  56. I apologize for my apparent lack of grammar and context above. I blame the fact that its much later than I generally stay up and your blog was a welcome diversion. A recent lack of anime accompanying a lack of sleep are colluding to addle my brain. I’m off to bed now.

  57. Read or Die (OVA + the TV series)
    Guerren Lagan (WARNING: resembles FLCL)
    Slayers Series
    Twelve Kingdoms
    His and Her Circumstances (Shoujo)
    The Girl Who Lept Through Time

    Also, I love Studio Ghibli, but NOT Tales of Earthsea (it was directed by Miyazaki Gobo NOT Miyazaki Hayao).

  58. Yay, anime! I looked over it a second time and there is sort of a distinct lack of shoujo (I watch it sometimes, but it doesn’t generally stand out to me as being excellent).

    Natsume Yuujinchou ( with a guy who inherits his grandmother’s book full of spirits’ names and undertakes (with some help) to give them back. A nice, quiet show.

    Occult Academy: ( Time travel! Demons controlling a dead body! Psychic powers! And one pissed-off granddaughter in the middle of it all coming to terms with her grandfather (who is the dead body in question).

    Star Driver: Bones. it’s sparkly. And really focused on libido. Don’t let that turn you off, though, it’s awesome. (Huh, it really is like Utena with mecha if I phrase it like that.) (fansubs:

    Durarara!!: ( This is how to do simultaneous storytelling. The first two episodes drag; after that they all start weaving together and it turns into this katamari of a story that runs out of control (to awesome effect).

    Katanagatari: (fansubs: Yes. It says “Sword Story.” It is pretty as a picture and twelve one-hour episodes of fantastic journey, evil ninjas, betrayal, love, and command.

    Also, all the episodes of fullmetal alchemist brotherhood in both sub and dub form:

    Madoka Magica (same link as star driver) is also an excellent series but so very dark.

    I loved Saiunkoku Monogatari (I have no idea where to find it now besides ‘on my hard drive’) but it isn’t the prettiest anime, or the fastest moving. Someone else above had prettier words for it.

    There’s always more anime, but those have stood out to me as stellar examples of the current form (besides Haruhi which you mentioned was already on the list).

  59. Just a P.S. – I’ve seen the first five episodes of Madoka Magika now and definitely recommend it. It has that “wonderland gone wrong” vibe from Magic Knight Rayearth and some fascinating graphics. Jarring sometimes, but beautifully done.

  60. Revisiting this thread to look for more anime to watch!

    Have watched all but the last ep of Princess Jellyfish (Kugarehime) and I’m quite enjoying it.

    Intend to watch Stardriver.

    Both based on recommendations here.

    Someone mentioned Yakitate! Japan manga. I watched the anime and boy, is it compelling. Somehow! If you like watching Food Network, it’s a definite must. It’s about bread!!

    Earthsea was tragic, especially coming so close to SyFy’s whitewashed trainwreck. But watch Ponyo. I won’t say it’s my favorite Studio Ghibli, but it’s right up there.

  61. Beck

    Sorry, not really new (though its been rereleased recently as a slow priced single box), and probably not exactly to spec (I really just kinda glossed over the post, double sorry for that, and didn’t read the comments except to do a “find” to see if anyone else had recommended it), but I love your work and I see that your taste (and recent non-hardcore-ness) in anime intersects with my own quite a bit, so I had to mention it.

    Its all about the music (as in being performed by characters in the show, not just background stuff), and this is a strange case where the English dubbed version is light years better than the original Japanese (I know because I hunted it all down so I could listen to whole tracks rather than just hearing it chopped up in the show, an OMG is some of it just hideous, and one of the best tracks just doesn’t exist in the Japanese; the US producers did some really clever slight of, well, mouth I suppose, and came up with something alot better for the climax of the show). Actually, that starts at the beginning of the last disk of the show, and I spent an entire NaNoWriMo, going down to my basement/office after everyone else went to bed, and firing up this disk, minimizing its window, and hammering away at the keyboard for the hour-and-a-half-or-so that it runs. Worked pretty well for me, so another reason I felt I should recommend it.

    Disclaimer: Beck, along with my father-in-law’s retirement crisis and some “fortuitous” employee discount/gift card circumstances, is responsible for me now playing a bit of bass and guitar. In fact, I’ve already been through the initial OCD period of learning all the technical and historical minutia about guitars that I could stomach and spending my weekends haunting guitar stores, fondling the kit I didn’t need and couldn’t afford. Out the other side of my OCD period, I’m the proud owner of one of the best electric basses that I’ve played at any price (and I paid like 17% of its MSRP, 10% of which I had as a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, to boot), an inexpensive semi-hollow electric 6-string, a cheap but nice classical, and a fantastic, stress relieving hobby that some folk don’t even mind listening to (in small doses, at least ;-p ).


  62. I would definitely recommend Aoi Hana and Hourou Musuko. The mangas are written by the same author, and both are really beautiful animes. They are also some of the best stories of lesbian and gender identity that I’ve seen, and the graphics are gorgeous.

  63. as a late reply to this….i think you would like Katekyo hitman reborn and tengenn toppen gurenn lagann (i think that was righ) and also mayeb kuroshitsuji…maybe~
    uhhhhh shoujou wise ummmm ouran high scholl host club? pretear sailor moon yadda yadda yadda >.< also chobits :D
    so yea…thats all i can think of umm manga wise try trinity blood….cant really think of anything else…
    hope that helps ^.^

  64. Another late reply, whoo! (although by this point you have enough good recs for a year)

    Fantasy/sci fi, shoujo and shounen:

    Pandora Hearts: similar to Darker than Black with the noir style and psychology, but more fantasy-oriented (and a lot of Alice and Wonderland callouts). Shounen, but more than a bit of Ho Yay.

    Crest of the Stars – I don’t usually like space operas; I find their gender dynamics annoying. But I had to make an exception for this one; it’s familiar yet gloriously free of stupid clichés that normally come with the genre, and there are a lot of fun space battles as well.

    Twelve Kingdoms – Ditto what people said about it earlier, although it’s not certain the series will ever be finished and there are a lot of loose ends… I really hate that!

    Wagaya no Oinari-sama (aka “Our Home’s Fox Deity”)– A fox god comes to live with the heirs to an old Japanese priestess family; wacky hijinks ensue. It is cute and funny, but also puts new twists on old tropes. Not really much romance, though; technically shounen. (and I second whoever recommended Kamichu; if you like Aria, I think you’ll like Kamichu)

    Non-fantasy shoujo:

    Nodame Cantabile – Lovely manga/anime about music and love. Nodame is my kind of heroine; she’s bright, stubborn, and persistent almost to a fault. As it’s about music, you should probably watch the anime.

    Princess Jellyfish (Kugarehime) – I like, but it also just aired and it’s super short. I’m holding out hope it’ll be reserialized (I can dream, right?)

    Kimi ni Todoke – see Kugarehime, except it actually DID get another season. (which just finished)

    Lovely Complex – Nicely self-contained high-school romantic comedy about a couple of hilarious teenagers and the crazy antics that teenagers get up to. They’re a bit overdramatic, but never annoyingly so.

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