6 (more) Anime for Authors

Are their more? Definitely! This list, however, has 6 with a special focus on character growth/descent and the nature of relationships.

Death Note

(Dubbed available and +1 from me)

You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Death Note is the personification of this quote in one of the most well written and iconic psychological thrillers of all time. Chances are, if you watch anime, you’ve watched Death Note. If you’re just getting started, then time to get busy.

A bored Shinigami (Death God) drops a a Death Note into the human world where it is picked up by the genius Light Yagami. Anyone whose name is written in the Death Note will die within a few seconds. Light decides to use this book to enact justice upon the world, finds himself matched against the detective L, and slowly spirals down into the madness of playing God.

This anime has two endings: episode 25 and episode 37. I recommend stopping at episode 25 because a lot of what makes this story and Light and L’s cat-mouse relationship an emotional roller-coaster masterpiece completely falls apart. Alternatively, for the curious author, watch to the end of episode 37 and ask yourself why you did that/why it doesn’t work.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

(Dubbed available and +1 from me)

Friggin. Galaxy. Boomerags.

That is all.

On a more serious note: Gurren Lagann is the coming of age story of a boy named Simon as he leads humans up from their life underground to reclaim life on the surface and their place in the universe with robots powered by yelling/willpower.

Explosive imagination, epic motivation, interesting characters, and fantastic spiral-up story aside, an author might find this anime especially interesting because of one simple plot device: grief. See, plot armor in this anime doesn’t exist. Characters die. They die and they don’t come back. As a result, everyone — even the antagonists — deal with grief in their own unique way. Some grace through the 5 stages in silence. Others get stuck along the way and need help completing them. Others are forced to go through it more than once. Watch with a box of tissues.

Orange

(Subbed only)

Naho is receives a letter from herself 10 years in the future which conveys the exact events of the day a new student, Kakeru, transfers to her school. Future Naho also lists several regrets which she wishes past Naho to fix, especially in regards to Kakeru, who is no longer with them 10 years in the future.

Now, I have something of a pain point with Shoujo (target audience: young/teenage girls). It has an over used formula that doesn’t seem to change no matter what country or language or arrangement of words tries to convey it: a generic high school girl with no love experience becomes the central tug-of-war love interest between two types of boys: a boy with “personality problems” (whom she must fix and/or learn to love) or a boy who is her life long friend and general nice guy (who learns to let her go). Orange doesn’t divert from this. If you’re fine with that, you’ll like this anime. If you can’t stand it, you’ll be cringing most of the way through. Also, don’t expect the part of parallel worlds/time traveling letters to be addressed beyond “it happened.” If you want to watch an anime about time travel and parallel worlds, I recommend Steins;Gate instead.

Orange is included on this list because it deals with a topic a lot of literature, media, and society itself often fails to grasp: Depression. If you are an author who dabbles in accurately depicting mental illness, this is an anime for you.

Depression sucks. It doesn’t go away just because someone tells you they care. Its’ not something you get over by thinking happy thoughts. It’s not a bad day. You can walk around laughing and smiling and hanging out with your friends, but it’s still there, hanging over like a dark cloud you try hard to ignore for the sake of trying to not be a burden on everyone else.

Orange is a bittersweet, rather innocent tale of Naho and her 4 classmates charged with the monstrous task of being there for a friend who needs one.

Saraiya Goyou

(Subbed only)

Akitsu Masanosuke (Masa) is a skilled samurai, but has trouble keeping a job due to his timid personality. One day he meets Yaichi, who invites him to join “The House of Five Leaves,” a small gang which kidnaps and holds people for ransom.

Now, you’re probably expecting a fast paced thriller, dragging the introvert out of their shell, and stand up for what’s right sort of anime. But that’s not what this anime is about. It’s a historical fiction about everyday people who happen to collaborate in the occasional kidnapping. The atmosphere in akin to John Steinbeck, the story has similar pacing to a novel, and the plot focuses on the relationship between the Five Leaves members as Masa tries to figure out their motivation for doing what they do. A sleepy anime, yes. Flashbacks make it hard to follow sometimes and if you can’t get through the first episode, don’t feel obligated to watch the rest (very niche taste). However, this is a unique anime that shows you don’t need exaggerated personalities, a colorful world, lots of action, or a clear antagonist to make a story memorable.

Gankutsuou

(Dubbed available and +1 from me)

What is any list for authors without this beautiful anime based on Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo? This adaption, in particular, focuses on Albert and is famous for its art (which will take time getting used to).

But dear darkness, my old friend, the complexity and depth in the characters is borderline flawless. If I had any complaints about them, it would be complaints I have on basic personality traits. Albert is extremely naive, Andrea is immature, and that’s the point. Gankutuou also stands as a shining example of a story that tells itself by telling very little, leaving the plot to develop naturally over dinner conversations and lives founded upon a lie slowly falling apart in their own greed. It’s a bit sci-fi and surreal at times, so you’re expected to accept that aliens and foreign planets exist, and again — the animation is exactly like the picture above. However, it’s truly an original adaption which maintains the heart of a classic.

On a personal note, I owe this anime gratitude for reopening my interest in love stories and The Count of Monte Cristo in general. If you are a fan of Broadway, I recommend the looking into the (not anime) musical as well.

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu

(Dubbed available and +1 from me)

Assassination Classroom in a fun little story about high school students trying to murder their teacher, Koro-sensei…because if they don’t assassinate him by their graduation, he will destroy the world.

Starting off with a waterfall of characters, if there is one thing that makes this anime a must for authors, beyond all the ways to murder someone and analysis of body language, it is every student in the classroom plays an important roll in the story. They help each other grow, learn to work together, and — with their classroom regarded as the worst in their school —gain confidence and respect for themselves. Koro-sensei is the most complex character of the series, offering life lessons to his students (and his audience) whom he deeply cares for, and you often wonder whether or not he truly does intend to destroy the world in the end.

There is also one particular episode in season 1 which can serve both authors, new writers, and most people in general quite well because it gives a middle finger to a cultural phenomenon that is both damaging and misunderstood: The romanticization of “smart people.” For a moment of pretentious gloating, I am considered a “smart person.” I graduated high school #3 of 500 with a GPA of 5.103/4.0 due to straight A’s in honors, AP, and college classes I took for fun. I was selected for the honors program at a UC school, where I spent a year before transferring to one of the top engineering schools in the country. I’m grew up treated like I was some magical unicorn, who could do anything, who could be anything. Then, like most smart people, *that day* happened. The day I learned what failure was and that the only difference between a master and a student is time, effort, and the number of mistakes they’ve made. Yet in literature magical unicorns always come through in the end with a checkmate. The opportunity to address the harsh and painful reality of not being as good as the whole world raised you to think goes unaddressed. After all how can “smart people” become better when they’re already perfect?

*That day* happened to me when I was 13. If you are a writer (or another smart person) and your friends and family have spent your whole life telling you how amazing you are and that is why you’re set up to succeed in life, *that day* has yet to come. *That day* happens in this anime. It happens in very few.


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