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For this article I thought I'd go back to my first foray into the world of pop culture writing: anime. I love anime and manga; I've read and watched so many titles that I've lost count. It should come as no surprise that, when the chance came to write about anime, film, gaming and other pop culture stuff I jumped for it. I wrote a piece which eventually became the Top 15 Underappreciated and Obscure Anime.
This quickly became one of my most popular pieces and I thought it'd be cool to do a second one. So, here are 15 Underappreciated Anime II; enjoy.
15: Rosario + Vampire
Adapted from the manga series of the same name, Rosario + Vampire follows Tsukune Aono, a human boy who ends up accidentally enrolled in a secret school for monsters.
Hilarity ensues as he ends up befriending several beautiful girls including: a vampire, A succubus, a snow woman and two witches. He basically ends up in the middle of a love...ummm...square? Is that even a thing? Oh yeah, he's also got to keep his identity as a human secret.
The show was produced by Gonzo Studios and ran for 13 episodes from January 3rd to March 27th of 2008.
Many of the people I've spoken to over the years have stated plainly that they did not care for the anime citing the over-reliance on fan service and a lackluster story. In terms of my thoughts...well, I think it's fine as an anime and as an introduction to the world of the story. As an adaptation, however, I can't help feeling a little bit cheated. The manga ran for 10 volumes and if I remember correctly the series covered just the first volume; or at least parts of it.
To be fair; the show has garnered something of a following and, if nothing else, is a decent enough comedy.
14: Blue Gender
Okay so I haven't seen this one in a while but it's basically an anime version of Starship Troopers except with more sex and nudity thrown into the mix. It's not a bad series but it does tend to fly under the proverbial radar so to speak.
The story follows Yuji Kaido, a man who is diagnosed with a rare disease and placed in cryogenic sleep until the cure is found. When he wakes up, he finds that the world he knew is gone replaced by a post-apocalyptic ruin full of gigantic alien bugs—the blue.
He teams up with a military unit to fight these nightmarish creepy crawlies.
Blue Gender ran for 26 episodes from 1999 to 2000 and much of the gory violence, sex and nudity were removed for its TV broadcast. I have an idea as to why this series flies under the radar the way it does: Its pacing is all over the place.
Don't get me wrong, it's a great series but if memory serves it's also incredibly slow in places before going to ludicrous speed (kudos to you if you got the reference) in the blink of an eye. The tonal whiplash can be jarring and off putting for first-time viewers.
Based on the manga of the same name by Kentaro Miura, Berserk follows Guts, a swordsman who joins a mercenary group—the Band of the Hawk—to aid the leader Griffith in obtaining a kingdom of his own.
The series ran for 25 episodes from October 1997 to March 1998 and you could easily make the argument that Berserk isn't underappreciated. After all, it's an absolute classic in the dark fantasy genre. That said, many anime fans I spoke to when I was looking into watching the series had only negative things to say. This contrasted with the reviews that I found online raving about how good the series is.
I was curious enough to check out the series and while I personally really enjoyed the series I can understand why people may not like it. The art style is a bit dated and some of the episodes can be very uncomfortable to watch. It's not for everyone but if you like fantasy stuff then I'd recommend you at least give Berserk a fair chance to impress you.
12: Samurai 7
This 2004 series is, as you may have guessed, based on Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film Seven Samurai. The show ran for 26 episodes from June to December of 2004.
The story follows a village of rice farmers who hire seven samurai to protect the village from bandits. The music, fight scenes and overall story and characters make Samurai 7 an enjoyable sit. Sadly, it doesn't seem to get much recognition anymore.
Now, I love this series but I will admit that I think it should've ended with the conclusion of the battle with the bandits instead of continuing on for a few extra episodes. The addition of the steampunk elements provided some interesting visuals but not much else.
11: Dance in the Vampire Bund
Okay, Dance in the Vampire Bund is based on Nozomu Tamaki's manga of the same name and ran for 12 episodes from January to April 2010.
The story is fairly simple; the existence of vampires is revealed to the human populace of the world and princess Mina establishes a safe haven for vampires—the bund—to pursue a goal of peaceful coexistence.
Much like Rosario + Vampire, this series is fine until you examine it as an adaptation. Of the 14 volumes of the manga, only the first one is covered; this is understandable as they only had a 12 episode run but why not make the series 20-26 episodes? At least then you have a better chance of actually giving your characters some depth and sticking with viewers. Instead we have a 12 episode anime that is just 'fine' when it could have been fantastic.
I will say that the animation, music, and fight scenes do sort of make it up to us as viewers...but only a little bit.
10: Bubblegum Crisis
This 1987 OVA is an absolute gem of the sci-fi genre!
The series followed the adventures of an all-female mercenary team who, with the aid of special exoskeleton suits, fight various villains/threats—mostly rogue robots called 'Boomers' in a futuristic Tokyo.
An absolute classic, Bubblegum Crisis was initially planned for 13 episodes; unfortunately a legal dispute between the two joint distributors led to the series' premature cancellation after only 8 of the 13 episodes had aired. The series makes several references to sci-fi films of the 80s; for example the Boomers that the team fights look like the T800 from James Cameron's 1984 film, The Terminator.
This series is well-liked by those who've watched it—if you grew up in the 80s or 90s I'm guessing you may have watched this show. Sadly, it seems that Bubblegum Crisis has faded into obscurity; buried under all the newer series which keep popping up and anime viewers now are more likely to watch something more mainstream i.e. Sword Art Online or One Punch Man. I almost wish I could see a comment on social media: "You kids and your One Punch Man. Why, back in my day..."
09: Blood: The Last Vampire
More vampires? Well...no, not really.
Blood: The Last Vampire was released by Production I.G. in 2000 and follows Saya, a young woman who hunts winged creatures called chiropterans for a shadowy organization. This organization sends her undercover to a school on an American airbase to find and kill chiropterans who have infiltrated the base.
I liked this one. I know, big shock; but I'm serious this was a good anime—in my opinion at least. The story's pretty solid, the animation and music are fantastic and I have to give credit to the voice actress who did Saya for doing lines in both English and Japanese. The action scenes are great too so why is this anime on this list?
Well, if I had to complain about anything it would be the lack of character development in the film. It's only 45 minutes long so I guess a lack of development is understandable but it would've been nice to get to know the characters—especially Saya—a little bit more. As it is all we get about Saya is that she's the 'last remaining original' and that the organization needs her to hunt the chiropterans. This whole thing plays out like the pilot episode for a series and technically we got 2 different ones: Blood+ and Blood -C.
I'd love to see this one get some more attention and maybe, just maybe we could get a Blood: The Last Vampire TV series? What do you guys think? Good idea or not really?
Originally a six volume manga by Shotaro Ishinomori (of Cyborg 009 fame), 009-1 follows an all female team of cyborg secret agents in what I think is an alternate history where the Cold War is still going on...it’s never really explained. Now, in spite of its ‘00’ name and some similarities to Ishinomori’s previous work (Cyborg 009); 009-1 is not related at all to that series.
Think of it like a female James Bond and her colleagues—I’m aware that this isn’t the best analogy but stick with me. Each episode follows the same formula of something bad happening/being plotted, the agents are sent to investigate and a shootout will typically break out followed by a narrow success/failure of the mission at hand.
Airing in 2006 and running for 12 episodes, it’s not really hard to see how this one misses out on attention. There’s not much in the way of story and character development is, at best, bare bones. The art style can also be a bit off putting for some viewers. All that said, it’s a pretty good series and it’s a shame it doesn’t really get much in the way of attention.
07: Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
Okay, so the Gundam franchise is huge; we all know that and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing most of the titles in the franchise. Of all of the smaller miniseries’ that form part of this anime juggernaut, I have to admit that I probably like Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory more than any of the others.
The show ran for 13 episodes from May 1991 to September 1992 and from what I can tell it was fairly popular. Taking place in the Universal Century timeline of the original series, the story here focuses on the crew of an Earth Federation warship as they attempt to recover a stolen mobile suit and prevent a small remnant of the Principality of Zeon’s old military from essentially reigniting the war between them.
I’ve always preferred the Universal Century timeline in the franchise because it just seems so much darker than the other timelines and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Surprisingly though, most other fans of the franchise I’ve spoken to over the years will list the longer series (0079, Zeta, ZZ) and one or two miniseries. I’m sure you can guess which one is hardly mentioned in conversation…
The story is solid, the animation and music are beautiful and this one really deserves more love than it gets.
06: Armitage III
This 4 episode OVA aired between February and November of 1995 and follows two police detectives on Mars working to solve the brutal murders of several high profile citizens by a crazed assassin.
Now, this is an odd pick for me because on the one hand I liked the idea behind the story, I liked the music and animation and just overall I thought it was a fine anime. On the other hand, several things in the series don’t make sense, the pacing is disjointed and erratic, character and plot development are hardly present beyond the “we need to move the episode along now” sequences. Although, now that I think about it; someone once told me it was a show that required repeat viewings to get all the subtext and development and so on...maybe I’ll try again.
It’s not great and definitely not for everyone but I think this is a series that you should at least try to watch once.
05: King of Thorn
Alright, don't feel bad if you've never heard of this one. I hadn't heard of it either; I just sort of stumbled across the name while browsing the web.
The film was released in May of 2010 and follows a group of people who are selected for a cryogenic sleep program when a virus appears on earth and starts turning people to stone. The idea of the program is that the selected candidates will sleep until a cure is found. Unfortunately, things don't quite go as planned and the candidates wake up in more danger than they were initially.
I first watched this back in Summer of 2016 and it was really, really confusing. There are so many twists and turns that you find it hard to keep your head on straight. Since then, I've seen the film a few times and it has quickly become a favorite of mine.
04: Appleseed OVA
Okay, so this OVA was released by Gainax Studios and Manga Entertainment in 1988 and is based on Shirow Masamune’s manga of the same name. In a post-apocalyptic world, the Utopian city of Olympus is a safe haven for humanity. Deunan Knute and Briareos Hecatonchires (yes, those really are their names) are members of E-SWAT—I’m not sure what the ‘E’ stands for—who are tasked with bringing down a terrorist before he can destroy Gaiea, the city’s computer mainframe.
This OVA...I don’t know where to start. I like it and I don’t like it. I like the story and animation, the music is fine and the action scenes are fun but the script is just really bad! I don’t have a problem with it really but it’s just that in some cases it sounds like the actors are trying to perform without cracking a smile or laughing at the cheesiness of the dialogue.
Now, there have been a couple computer animated films as well which I thought were pretty good. In spite of its flaws, however, Appleseed is a fun time waster anime that you can sit and watch if you’re bored.
03: Lily C.A.T.
This sci-fi horror anime is hardly ever talked about now and honestly I can't say I'm surprised.
Lily C.A.T. is essentially an anime version of Ridley Scott's Alien and its okay. It's not bad but it's not good either; it's somewhere in the middle. The story is practically the same thing with a few differences.
The crew of a spaceship is on a deep space mission to survey planets for habitation and they pick up an alien organism which quickly becomes quite the threat and the crew have to try and beat this monstrosity before it kills everyone.
Now, the animation, soundtrack, story and performances are a mixed bag; sometimes they're good and sometimes they're not. There is, however, one aspect of the film which is very interesting: It discusses deep space travel and the consequences of cryogenic sleep. In the film, technology has advanced to the point where you can take a tour of duty in space where you sleep for 40 years (20 years there and 20 years back) and age only two years physically. An easy way to explain it would be with the question: If you could live forever, would you? The captain talks about how all his friends and family are long dead and how he missed being part of their lives.
It's not much but it's still interesting enough to note and this film is sadly ignored.
02: Space Battleship Yamato
Space Battleship Yamato is a 1974 anime series which is, in my opinion, vastly underrated.
The story takes place in the far future where the earth's surface has been irradiated by an alien adversary's missiles and the whole planet is basically dying. The survivors get word that there's a chance to save the planet and refurnish an old WWII battleship, the Yamato, for space travel (don't ask me how) and the journey to get this planet saver begins.
The 1970s animation is very, very dated but the story itself is fairly solid, the music, humor and character development are all pretty good and if you're really into sci-fi classics then this is a good one to try.
01: Black Magic M-66
Black Magic M-66, where do I start with this one? The OVA is based on another of Shirow Masamune's manga series' and was released in 1987.
The story is pretty simple, two high-tech combat androids go on a killing spree to kill the granddaughter of their creator. Ferris (the granddaughter) ends up under the protection of Sybel, a journalist looking for a big scoop.
Honestly, I think this is a very impressive anime. The voice acting isn't bad—considering the time it was released, the humor and action scenes are pretty good. The story is okay, it's not fantastic but it's good enough to keep you interested.
Now, this is an odd one for me because I've only just started reading the manga so I can't say how far the OVA deviated from the source material. I can say that the first chapter has sparked my interest and I hope it's as good as it seems.
Fun Fact: Black Magic was Shirow Masamune's manga debut.
Final Thoughts: That was fun
Well, that was fun; I didn't think I'd do another of these massive lists but I'm glad that I did. So much so, that I'm likely to do a few more of these. Maybe next time I can find some really, really obscure titles.