The adult’s guide to anime #2: Lesser known gems

If you missed out on Part 1, where I talk about big popular anime shows, find it here. In Part 3, I talk about some of my favorite anime music. Find it here.

In the last post, I dealt with the really popular anime shows. While the mainstay of anime, I personally did not enjoy any of them as much as the ones on this list.

Now this is where anime gets really interesting. In no specific order, the following is a list of shorter, lesser known shows that I personally loved. Most of these can be loosely clubbed under the genre: Psychological / Mind Games

Like before, all title link to pages where you can watch the whole show for free.

Death Note

High school student, Kagami Light(cool name, right?) finds a notebook that fell from the sky. The notebook belongs to a Death God, and has the power to kill anyone who’s name is written into it. Kagami aspires to be a new god and starts killing criminals. Anonymous detective, L, gets on the case to find out what/who is killing criminals around the world. 52 episodes of heart stopping thrill.

The show has one of the best soundtracks in all of anime. Here’s my favourite from the show:

Watch it for: Edge of seat thriller that compares well to any live action show, fantastic soundtrack, an incredible battle of wits.

Monster

Dr Kenzo Tenma realizes that a child he had saved years ago has turned into a dangerous serial killer. He believes it is his duty to kill this child, while the people close to him try hard to keep the good doctor from becoming a murderer.

The show has a great theme track:

Watch it for: Storytelling style similar to Breaking bad. An incredibly relatable regular-joe protagonist dealing with a moral dilemma, a haunting sound track.

Kaiji

All rounder loser in life, Kaiji is given a shot at redemption on a casino ship where you bet your redemption for your life. If you enjoy watching battles of wit, this one is a great choice.

This show also has a fantastic soundtrack:

Watch it for: Gambling / Board game strategies. This is also the only show with a loser for its protagonist. You will also pick up some mind bending party games from this show.

One Outs

Baseball pitcher, Tokuchi, makes a deal with his team’s manager. He gets 5 million yen per strike out and pays back the team 50 million for every run that he gives up. Turning the game of baseball from a physical battle to one of wits, this show delivers as Tokuchi springs out surprising strategies to win from impossible situations.
Watch it for: Again an intense battle of wits. I learned most of what I know about baseball from this show. So its worth a watch even if you don’t understand/like the game

Tokyo Ghoul

The story follows Ken Kaneki, a college student who barely survives a deadly encounter with Rize Kamishiro, his date who reveals herself as a ghoul, and is taken to the hospital in critical condition. After recovering, Kaneki discovers that somehow he underwent a surgery that transformed him into a half-ghoul by transferring some of Rize’s organs into his body, as she died when she attacked him, and just like them, he must consume human flesh to survive as well. With no one else to turn to, he is taken in by the ghouls who manage the coffee shop “Anteiku”, who teach him to deal with his new life as a half-human/half-ghoul, including interacting with ghoul society and its conflicting factions, while striving to keep his identity secret from other human
Watch it for: A philosophical treatment on our position as the most dominant species on the planet.

Akame ga Kill

A young countryside boy sets to the capital with the dream to become part of the country army. Unsuccessful he encounters a women who promises him a chance to enter the army if he pays her enough, the young boy unaware gives all his money and then finds out the he was tricked. Not having any money decides to sleep in the streets, the same night a young and beautiful women picks him op from the street and takes him home. Tatsumi stays a night since they promise him a position in the army as well. One night the house is visited by a group of assassins called night raid but who are the real bad guys of this story. Tatsumi ends up joining night raid and finds out that he identifies his self in this group more then in the army.

Watch it for: Heart pounding action, great soundtrack, a strong sensible female lead, unlike the impractical brats who crowd up the mainstream anime world.

Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack of the Titan)

Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by giants. Giants are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence, devour human beings and, worst of all, seem to do it for the pleasure rather than as a food source. A small percentage of humanity survived by walling themselves in a city protected by extremely high walls, even taller than the biggest of giants. Having lost all their history, the story takes place in a time when humans are starting to fight back for the first time.

Here’s an interview with the show’s brilliant, reclusive creator:

Watch it for: Possibly the best show on this list, that is still running. Strikingly beautiful art-work highlights this gem of a show. Dark and foreboding, this show might be the only one where the heroes don’t always win, so don’t just assume that’s how an episode will end.

Mirai Nikki(Future Diary)

Second-year middle school student, Amano Yukiteru, finds it difficult to make friends. He only thinks of himself as a bystander, just someone who watches the world go by, writing down everything he sees in his cell phone diary.
Tormented by solitude, Yukiteru begins to imagine things like a friend called Deus ex Machina, who is apparently the Lord of Time and Space. Seeing Yukiteru in such a miserable state, Deus gives him a new ability. His diary now spells out events that will happen in the near future, updated daily, for the next 90 days. This gift inadvertently forces Yukiteru to participate in a game where the winner — the last one alive — will become Deus’ successor. Should Yukiteru lose the diary he will be dead, and there are quite a few other scrupulous players participating in this very deadly game.
Watch it for: A race to find the successor the the God of time. A battle of wits where you pine for the dumbest one.

Death Parade

Every episode, two humans find themselves in a grisly bar, with no recollection of how they got there. The bartender forces them to play a game(which usually involves hurting the other person, games are different every episode), where the winner gets to live. During the game, the individuals realize that they’re already dead and this game decides their fate.
Watch it for: A philosophical deep dive into the nature of life and death

Code Geass

Japan has been invaded and conquered by the Britannian Empire. Japan is now known as Area 11 and its citizens known as Elevens. The Britannian Empire takes away Japan’s autonomous power and imposes its rule through the use of Knightmares.
The Britannian youth, Lelouch, received a special power from a mysterious girl. GEASS. An absolute power which allows the user to give orders to anyone. Lelouch decided to plan the destruction of the Britannian Empire by using this as a weapon. His goals are to take revenge for his mother, and to create a world in which his little sister, Nunnally, could live in peace. All while knowing that what lies ahead is his father, the Emperor of Britannia.
Watch it for: An action oriented battle of wits. This is the show most people will suggest if you are looking for something similar to Death Note.

Psycho Pass

In the future, it is possible to quantitatively measure a person’s emotions, desires, and every inclination. In this way, it is also possible to measure a person’s criminal tendency factor, which is used to judge criminals.
This is the story of a team of policemen dedicated to maintaining public order. Some of them work in the Enforcement Division,responsible for the apprehension of criminals, while others belong to the Supervisory Division which oversees their colleagues in Enforcement.
Watch it for: Minority report-esque world, dealing with the a world where most human choice and decision making has been left to an AI system.

One Punch Man

The story takes place in the fictional metropolis of City Z, Japan. The world is full of strange monsters that mysteriously appear and cause many disasters. Saitama is a super powerful hero who easily defeats the monsters and other villains with one punch. However, after becoming too strong, Saitama has become bored with his powers and is always trying to find stronger opponents who can fight him.
On his adventures, he meets new friends, enemies, and his own disciple, the cyborg Genos, and also joins the Hero Association in order to gain fame for all of his actions to prevent evil. Despite defeating many strong monsters that even the Hero Association’s top heroes are unable to defeat, Saitama struggles to gain respect. Most people discriminate him due to his plain physical appearance and some accuse him of being a counterfeit hero. Only a small number of individuals recognize his incredible talent and humility towards others.

I think the protagonist’s usual facial expression in the show is enough reason to watch it. Remember this dude is a superhero:

Watch it for: Its incredible humour. One Punch Man is easily one of the funniest shows. It’s irreverence and parody of all loved conventions of anime is fantastic.

Sword Art Online

Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya enters a virtual-reality, massively multiplayer online role playing game called Sword Art Online. There is no escape from this world unless the player clears the game; however getting a “game over” results in the death of the player.
Watch it for: Hypothetical situations around the ethics surrounding Virtual Reality. This show deals with human emotions in a completely virtual world

Log Horizon

30,000 Japanese gamers become trapped in the fantasy online game world Elder Tale. What was once a sword-and-sorcery world is now the real world. Shiroe attempts to survive with his old friend Naotsugu and the beautiful assassin Akatsuki.
Watch it for: Hypothetical situations around the ethics surrounding Virtual Reality. This show deals with creation and organisation of a civilisation from scratch.

Stein’s Gate

In Akihabara a group of friends have managed to customize their microwave into a device that can send text messages into the past. As they perform different experiments, an organization named SERN who has been doing their own research on time travel tracks them down and now the friends have to find a way to avoid being captured by them.
Watch it for: Time travel! And the cutest love story you’ll ever hear.

Kuroko no Basket

In the story, Kagami Taiga has just enrolled into Seirin High School when he meets Kuroko Tetsuya of the school’s basketball team. Kuroko happens to be the shadowy sixth member of the legendary Generation of Miracles basketball team. Together, Kagami and Kuroko aim to take their team to the inter-high school championship — against Kuroko’s former teammates.
Watch it for: Learning what the game of basketball is about, pining for the tiny player who uses his lack of presence to turn basketball into a game of wits.

Hungry Heart

Kanou Kyosuke, a 16 years old boy, is our central character. He used to be a good soccer player in a junior high school, however he has decided not to play soccer anymore… because of his older brother, Seisuke. The inferior complex against Seisuke refrains Kyosuke from soccer…
When he is in the first year of a high school, his destiny suddenly starts to move again… By accident, he becomes a coach of a female soccer club. And this event reminds him of how much he still loves soccer. Kyosuke decides to join a soccer club to play soccer again. Playing soccer in the team and meeting various attractive people, Kyosuke grows up to be a great soccer player as well as an independent adult.
Watch it for: Football, insane goals, trash talking

Eyeshield 21

Kobayakawa Sena is a little guy who always get picked on by the bullies in school. Since elementary school, he always play the role of the errand boy to the extent that he has become swift and fast in his movements. Coincidentally, Hiruma Youichi and Kurita Ryukan are looking for a fast running back for their American Football team (Amefuto) and want to put Sena in the team. To hide their new star player from the eyes of other High Schools, Hiruma encases Sena in a Amefuto helmet with a dark visor and name him Eyeshield #21.
Watch it for: Battle of wits, trash talking. Don;t worry if you don;t understand American football. You’ll walk away knowledgable about the sport.

Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu

17-year-old Izumi Shin’ichi lives with his mother and father in a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo. One night, worm-like parasitic aliens invade Earth, taking over the brains of human hosts by entering through their ears or noses. One such parasite attempts to crawl into Shinichi’s ear while he sleeps, but fails since he is wearing headphones; it enters his body by burrowing into his arm instead, taking over his right hand and eventually receiving the name Migi from him.
Because Migi matured in Shin’ichi’s hand, it wasn’t able to travel further up into his brain, and as such both beings retain their separate intellect and personality. As they encounter other hosts to these parasites, they capitalize on their strange situation and gradually form a strong bond, working together to survive. This gives them an edge in battling the other aliens, who have taken over their human hosts’ brains and attack the pair upon realizing that Shin’ichi’s human brain is still intact. Shin’ichi feels compelled to fight the other parasites, who devour humans as food, and he enlists Migi’s help to that end.
Watch it for: Similar to Tokyo Ghoul, this show also deals with a young boy grappling with the position of humans in the grand order of things, when faced with a stronger aggressive alien species.

If you missed out on Part 1, where I talk about big popular anime shows, find it here. In Part 3, I talk about some of my favorite anime music. Find it here.