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Sure, there are stories that are simply silly or funny, or incredibly unreal and unbelievable, but we can find great wisdom in even some of these shows as well.
You might not think of this pretty, magical, girl anime as the most life-changing anime there is, but no animated show has done more for women than Sailor Moon. This show inspired thousands of young girls that they can be confident, powerful, and save the world—and they can be pretty while doing it if they want to.
Sailor Moon also changed a lot about the whole anime genre. Before Sailor Moon, there were relatively few TV shows for girls—TV was filled with action-y violence and stupid comedy, but nothing specifically aimed towards female viewers. Sailor Moon really led the way in creating TV and animation content for girls.
From the first few episodes, Trigun may seem like just another shoot-em-up action adventure show, and that is certainly at the core of this anime. But eventually, as you learn the backstory of Vash the Stampede and his brother Knives, you find a heartbreaking tale of humanity in these two angelic beings.
Trigun shows that when you face a tragedy, or unfairness, you can choose one of two ways to deal with it. You can be Knives, and become angry and vengeful. Or you can be like Vash, and become empathetic and want to help people. This shows that even if you suffer in your empathy, good will ultimately prevail, and that you will find friends and supporters along the way.
Returning to another girl-centric show, Kaleido Star is the story of a Sora Naegino, a young girl who travels to the United States to fulfill her dream of performing on the most famous stage in the world, the Kaleido Stage. It is a story that teaches that you can only reach your dreams with hard work and perseverance, and that while you will encounter obstacles, you can always overcome them.
Death Note—what could a person learn from watching Death Note? Well, the morals taught in Death Note are deeper and less on-the-surface than that of many of the other shows on this list.
In Death Note, one person, Light Yagami, is given almost infinite power. We see him then spiral down into madness while using this power. At first his intentions are good: rid the world of evil. But then his judgement of who is "evil" and who is "good" simply turns into who is "for" him and who is "against" him. The classic result of what happens when you accumulate too much power.
In the end, Death Note teaches us the importance of compassion. For individuals who are doing nothing but seeking power for themselves, Death Note offers a grave reminder that you can't have infinite power without consequences.
Fullmetal Alchemist emphasizes just how bad war can be. If you're political, knowing the depths of horror that war can create can be a major influencer in your world views. More importantly, this show teaches the importance of family and not being overly risky.
Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse's first action in the show is to try to use alchemy to bring their dead mother back to life. In doing so, they only create a monstrosity and lose parts of their bodies as well. Excessive risk taking is incredibly dangerous, and overconfidence in your abilities can contribute to taking unhealthy and unnecessary risks. In this show these risks leave permanent physical reminders.
'My Neighbor Totoro'
My Neighbor Totoro is an absolute classic in the world of anime. From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro is a masterpiece. This movie shows exactly how a child sees the world, and it is almost impossible to watch the movie without remembering exactly what it feels like to be young again.
Totoro is similar to many other Ghibli films, with characters such as dust-bunnies and other spirits, it presents a child's view of the world in the most beautiful way. This mesmerizing show is sure to change your perspective on things and will help you see the beauty in the world that perhaps you may have missed.
Send your life-changing anime suggestions to @ryankopf on Twitter! Be part of the story with #LifeChangingAnime.