As shocking as it sounds, some people hate anime. With some of the oddities and quirkiness of the medium, it is understandable. Kawaii, high school heroes, and chibis are not everyone’s cup of tea. However, as us anime watchers know not all anime is created equal. Not every series has to do with high-schoolers swinging katana or teen-drama. Here are 4 anime that even those who absolutely hate anime could enjoy.
Yeah, Cowboy Bebop is almost always on these types of lists. It is (rightly) considered one of the best shows made. Period. It deserves the reputation; although, it could also be considered overrated. Anyway, Bebop does many things right. The characters are all adults and act as adults would. They are likeable and complex. There is a main story threaded through the episodes: Spike’s story with Vicious. However, most of the episodes stand alone. Spike, Jet, and Faye run the show. There isn’t any ridiculously epic, world shattering confrontation as most anime try to do. The gang is only working to keep food and fuel coming in, just like any other adult. Each also has a past they cannot be avoided, no matter how hard they try.
I know of many anime-haters who enjoyed Cowboy Bebop. It lacks teens, high schools, and other anime-centric things. The show doesn’t try to be overly cutesy or funny to the point of being annoying. There isn’t any long-winded explanation about their special attacks moves or powers. There is simply frantic action and sardonic humor.
Samurai Champloo is the cousin to Cowboy Bebop. Produced by the same writers and team, Champloo mixes hip-hop culture with Edo era Japanese culture. Surprisingly, a samurai beat-boxing works. Like Bebop, the characters Fuu, Mugen, and Jin drive the story. Each are trying to avoid or discover their past, but most of the time they are struggling for food and red-light district money. They are very human; Jin falls for a prostitute. Mugen, like Bebop’s Spike, has a history he cannot avoid. Fuu just tries to keep the boys in line and on the trail of the “samurai who smells of sunflowers.”
Champloo, like Bebop, is a road story. The characters don’t have any epic long-reaching influence on Japan, but they do cause a lot of trouble for the towns they visit! Adventures range from Mugen learning to read and painting graffiti on a castle to a psychedelic mushroom episode that points to Bebop’s Dinner Leftover episode.
Champloo is more violent than Bebop in many regards. The fights are swift and brutal; blink, and you will miss the flash of steel. Champloo has the same type of humor as Bebop but is a bit harder edged.
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell should be considered an animated crime thriller instead of an anime. You will not find a single anime element in this series. The series wrestles with national conspiracies and criminal psychopaths. Ghost also deals with questions of being human when technology is more common than human flesh. The Major, for example, only has her brain. The rest is pure technology. Ghost really plays on this ethereal world of realities. There are psychopaths that force their victims to watch through their eyes as they skin the victim alive. There are sex-perverts that like to split their awareness so they can have sex with themselves through a cyber-doll and experience both aspects at once.
Ghost has an overarching conspiracy for each season. In addition to this complex and confusing mystery, there are various side cases. Each character has a past; they are complex adults. Batou, for example, fought in the US Army with the criminal who likes to skin his victims alive. The Major is the most complex of them all.
Ghost does get mired in philosophy at times. It is also confusing. However, it is an excellent crime drama that puts Law and Order to shame in its subtlety and complexity.
Spice and Wolf
I have to first write a disclosure. Spice and Wolf is my favorite anime on this list. Okay, with that out of the way: Spice and Wolf has a few more stereotypical anime elements than the others on this list ( a girl with a tail and wolf ears, for example). However, the story itself is, like the others, character driven. The characters Lawrence and Holo are traveling north to Holo’s home. Along the road through medieval Europe, Lawrence tries various things to earn a profit. He is a merchant, after all. Spice and Wolf focuses on economics for sources of conflict: currency devaluation, economic bubbles, smuggling, and debt. Surprisingly, economics makes for very tense drama. At the core, Spice and Wolf is a romance. Holo is a wolf deity who can control wheat harvests but wants to return home. She is tired of being alone. Lawrence just wants to have his own shop and raise a family. Nothing earth shattering.
The way they interact, like the other anime on this list, is what steals the show. Lawrence and Holo won’t do the usual teen-love stuff you find in most anime. They deal with the issues of trust and loneliness. They are equals and more than a match for each other. Lawrence has issues with greed. Holo is haunted by loneliness.
These shows are examples of what anime can become. Not all anime is focused on high school students fighting demons and saving the world. Not all anime has the annoying comedy relief characters and odd Japanese-centric references. Before someone says they hate anime, they should watch these shows. Then they can say they don’t hate anime…only most of it!