Animes You Can Watch Without Being Labelled a Weeb

An article about anime

I genuinely cannot believe I’m writing an article on anime for a school blog, but well, if by any chance this article does get  posted (tea: the core members hate anime with a burning passion), I’ll start off by saying this: The anime community needs a representative. We have been ostracized, insulted and trampled on for long enough. It is about time that we step out and start questioning the norms around the medium we hold so dear. That isn’t to say that anime itself has not contributed to the foundations of its terrible image. And while I could go on and on about the “downfall of anime” in recent times, the point of this article is the exact opposite. It is to show and appreciate just a select few of the gems which the anime industry has produced (and maybe make some friends in the process).

One of the things I love most about anime is the diversity you find in its genres. From sports anime which make a university volleyball match look as thrilling as the world cup final to dark fantasy shows which have inspired some of the most popular games in the world, anime has it all. And with that, here’s a list of anime you better watch after reading this article (I’m sorry but that’s how we do things here).

For people who have an interest in ancient history: Vinland Saga

Set in 11th century Europe, Vinland Saga focuses on the life of Thorfinn, a boy from Iceland who becomes a slave to revenge after the death of his father at the hands of a viking mercenary, Askeladd (or popularly known as Askechadd). Swearing to defeat and kill his father’s murderer in a duel, Thorfinn joins the mercenaries squad in order to prove his worth and become strong enough to kill Askeladd. Unfortunately for him, this senseless pursuit for revenge would turn him into the very thing his father despised. Meanwhile, a war brews between the English and the Danes, which completely changes the world around him.

Vinland Saga is simply put, heartbreaking and overflowing with all sorts of emotions. Focusing on the essence of life and morality, the anime crafts some of the most beautiful characters and plot twists in modern anime. Set in the era of the vikings, Vinland also has some of the most gruesome and intense fight scenes you will find in anime. While it may be a slow burn at times, the world of Vinland and the adventures of Thorfinn as he struggles to find his meaning in life is genuinely amazing and heart shattering to witness. Oh and you really wouldn’t want to miss out on the sheer badassery that is Askeladd.

For people who have an interest in history, magic — and Fortnite: Fate/Zero

Fate is a massive franchise. With over a gazillion visual novels, anime series, books and games, the franchise is synonymous with the word ‘otaku’. Unfortunately, most of these adaptations are very subpar, with some being straight up horrible. When the concept of Fate is done right however, you get something like the marvel that is Fate/Zero.

Fate/Zero is, simply put, a battle royale with 7 teams. Each team has 2 members. The master, also known as the mage, and his servant. The servant is a figure from ancient history, literature or even folk tales. This means you get to see heroes like King Arthur and Alexander the Great fighting each other in an urban city in Japan(just saying). The last team standing attains what is known as the “Holy Grail”, a holy relic said to grant any wish. 

The greatest thing about Zero is that it doesn’t have a proper main protagonist. Each master and servant have their own motives, morals and stories, all of which are focused upon equally in this 25 episode thriller which questions the morality of individuals, what it means to be a hero and how far can one go before realising just how important their morals are to them. It is popularly, and quite aptly termed as a “Greek Tragedy”.

Being a series with breathtaking visuals, a diverse and human cast ranging from a sadist to a wimp, and a story which incorporates philosophical thought into an extremely fascinating concept, it would be unjust not to put it in this list.

For people who have an interest in cyberpunk: Psycho Pass Season 1

I can already hear anime fans reading this article screaming at why Psycho Pass is the one I recommended for this particular genre. It’s true. Anime really has given us some of the most iconic cyberpunk stories in pop culture, including Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion to name a few. However, Psycho Pass is what I believe to be the gateway to the genre of Cyberpunk for someone who may just be getting into anime.

In the 22nd Century, Japan has closed itself off from the entire world and  has enforced the ‘Sibyl System’ upon the entire population. The system is a means of objectively measuring the criminal intent of a person to determine their threat level to society. This ‘crime coefficient’ is known as the person’s Psycho Pass which is constantly being registered. If this crime coefficient is high enough, Inspectors, leading armed enforcers, are ordered to either subdue or in extreme cases, annihilate the person. In this way, a crime is stopped before it happens and justice prevails. Or does it?

Psycho Pass poses the question of the free will of man. With its sophisticated characters and philosophical references, the anime portrays a post-apocalyptic Japan and asks the viewer themselves to choose which side they are on. The characters too, when faced with the reality of the system in which they live in, are forced to contemplate whether such a society is truly good for man. This is where I get into one of the most intricate parts of the series. That is, the main villain of this show, Shougo Makishima.

Shougo is the antithesis to the status-quo, the world of Psycho Pass. The question is, are his motives justified? If yes, are his means justified? If any of these two questions have answers in the affirmative, then is he the villain, or the system itself. 

Psycho Pass is complicated but also quite intense, emotional and insanely aesthetic, as expected from a cyberpunk anime.

If you want to watch a relatable depressing comedy: Welcome to the NHK

Now, if you didn’t already know, reality isn’t a happy optimistic place where you’ll attain everything you want. For some, it can get so difficult to handle the unfairness and harshness of reality, they decide to escape and shut themselves in. NHK is about one such person. Satou, a college dropout with no job, who spends his days living off his parents allowance in a small apartment watching anime day and night. Having an extreme case of social anxiety, Satou finds even the slightest social interaction frightening and on top of all this, he blames his condition on a conspiracy plotted by the Japanese media who wish to use anime, manga and gaming as means to turn all young adults into Hikikomoris(shut ins) such as Satou.

The themes of NHK deal with an unfulfilling life without ambitions, depression, family abuse, toxic relationships, self loathing, loneliness, and even suicide. The show handles all these themes with extreme care and presents them almost immaculately. However, the show doesn’t chiefly depend on these dark themes. Using comedy as its main tool to express the daily suffering our protagonist has to go through, the world of NHK doesn’t feel as gloomy as it really is.This does not however mean that the show ever strays from its themes. Infact, the ‘dark comedy’ creates an effect of self realisation and is executed with brilliance.

Finally, NHK is an anime which has personally affected me alot. The characters are human and we can relate with them every step of the way. All in all, it’s a masterpiece which deserves recognition.

And finally:

An anime everyone reading this should watch if they want to evolve from their current state: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

This cultural phenomenon has given rise to one of the most widely known fanbases in the world. Having been adapted into a proper anime series over 20 years after the start of its manga series, Jojo’s has set its place as one of the most outrageous series to exist. If I could do a review on this series, it’d take another article but the beauty behind this series can only be witnessed once you start watching it.

This anime holds a very special place in my heart for quite a lot of reasons. From its jam worthy OST’s, opening songs and the oh so infamous ‘Roundabout’, its insanely bizarre plot to its absolutely mind boggling action sequences, Jojo’s really has it all. And most important of all, the memes. The blissful feeling of understanding all the countless Jojo references in the world around us is second only to the series itself.

Divided into 8 arcs each focusing on a descendant of the ‘Joestar’ family, Araki focuses on a new time period and a new storyline in each part, while maintaining a continuity. Each Joestar has their unique personality and story which gives Araki a lot of leverage to do A LOT of different things. One part can be a slice of life murder mystery while another is about a teenager attempting to become a mafia overlord to…stop the circulation of drugs in Italy? While another is about a priest aiming to reset the universe and one focuses on the President of the United States aiming to retrieve the corpse of Jesus for his own sick purposes while a transcontinental horse race is going on in the country. And…I haven’t even mentioned the Stands. 

Needless to say, the world of Jojo’s is one which you would definitely not regret getting into. 

Now while I would love to go on and on about how much I love Jojo’s (and all the other anime), the article is getting way too long. Needless to say,  anime is a medium which has its beautiful bits and the ugly ones. While we all know and hate the latter, the former I believe deserves much more recognition. While these five would serve as good gateway anime, they are only the tip of the iceberg and one article could not suffice for the diversity and rich storytelling which Japanese animations can offer. And to conclude, if any of you like anime or want to get into it, feel free to message (yes, I need friends).

Hassan Saeed Khan
TLC Writer

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