Western audiences appear to believe that cartoons are still for children, and that includes anime. Over the years, since Sailor Moon, Astro Boy and Dragonball Z aired in the US, the stigma associated with anime hasn’t changed much. Many people still enjoy watching the shows, though the audience remains small. What the West might not realize is the significance of these films and shows and how anime isn’t just for kids, as there is a lot of content that is geared more towards highschool and adult viewers.
A popular film and television fad that has been going on for years now is America’s obsession with superheroes. Whether it’s Tim Burton’s “Batman” or the old Superman movies, most of the current generation of viewers in the US grew up with superheroes. America, however, isn’t the only place with superheroes. Anime has superheroes as well. If you’re interested in Marvel and DC, then there are plenty of animes that you may enjoy.
My Hero Academia
Geared towards a 13+ audience, this anime follows the story of a young boy who grew up watching his favorite hero, All Might, and strives to be like him. All Might is a hero reminiscent of Superman, with a red, white and blue uniform and powers similar to the hero, such as super strength, the ability to run fast and jump high as well as fly. All Might’s moves are also a parody of America’s obsession with superheroes, such as Detroit Smash or Texas Smash. Each hero in the anime is either born with powers or they don’t have any. The hero of the story doesn’t have any powers, but wants to be like his hero. One day, he is given power, and now attends a school for younger heroes to learn and train with actual heroes. The use of parody, satire and multitudes of heroes with different personalities makes this an anime for fans of the superhero genre.
Tiger & Bunny
What if heroes had sponsors and relied on stopping criminals and saving people to gain points to make money and get more sponsors? “Tiger and Bunny” is the story of a superhero team and other teams in their city whose feats are broadcasted by journalists who watch everything they do. This new take on superheroes has not been done here in America, and the show’s unique take on the superhero genre has garnered a multitude of fans. Everyone can enjoy watching the bumbling but sincere Tiger and the younger, sophisticated Barnaby as they learn to work together to help the city. The show is geared towards a 13+ audience.
One Punch Man
As the name implies, imagine if there was a hero that could beat anyone with one punch? This anime does just that as Saitama, a hero for fun, fights multiple enemies and saves the world multiple times without anyone knowing. The well known heroes pass an exam that tests what rank they are and the highest ranked heroes have meeting, similar to the Justic League where they decide what to do with different threats. Saitama howeverisn’t ranked highly but together with a cyborg, the two of them help protect the world. The anime does a great job of parodying the hero genre and is one of the most widely known franchises amongst those who watch and don’t watch anime regularly.
Another popular genre amongst Western audiences is Disney and Pixar films. With the popularity of these films, it’s no surprise that Jon Lasseter of Pixar and Disney has been good friends with former Studio Ghibli Director, Hayaoi Miyazaki. They have distributed most of Miyazaki’s work in the US, and some of his films have even won awards such as Oscars. If you love Disney movies and haven’t seen anime, here are some of the best Miyazaki films to watch.
Miyazaki’s most popular film tells the story of a girl who’s moving with her parents and gets trapped in a spirit world, where she meets new people and strange spirits. The girl must find her parents and escape the spirit world or be trapped there forever.
Howl’s Moving Castle
Sharing similar traits with Beauty and the Beast, the film has a jealous witch that casts a curse a beautiful young girl, making her an old woman, because the girl was getting close to the gorgeous young wizard Howl. Later on, she stumbles upon Howl’s castle. Together they go on a journey where they find each other and she learns of Howl’s role in the current war going on.
My Neighbor Totoro
Totoro is Miyazaki’s most beloved character, and even had an appearance in the last Toy Story movie. The film follows sisters who move to a country village to be closer to their sick mom and they come across the spirit of the forest, Totoro. They go on an adventure with Totoro that culminates in riding a “Cat Bus.” The film has some of the most memorable characters created by Miyazaki.
If Disney and/or superheroes aren’t your things, then maybe you like murder mysteries or shows like Sherlock. Anime has got you covered for more serious stories like that as well.
This anime is the story of Isana, a boy who is being hunted by a gang with supernatural powers after a film is released showing him killing one of their members. Isana then gets caught up with a police task force trying to stop the gang from wrecking the city as well as capture the killer. Meanwhile, Isana must prove his innocence and figure out what actually happened, since he lost his own memory, or else he will be killed by one of the supernatural powered groups. Each group encompasses a color and behavioral trait, which makes this show so interesting, and they do a great job of leaving you with a bunch of questions that get answered as you continue watching until the truth is revealed towards the end.
If you prefer the cat and mouse, Moriarty vs. Sherlock, then watch “Death Note.” Imagine a god of Death gave you a book that let you kill anyone whose name you write in it. The son of the police chief receives the book and uses it to kill criminals to rid the world of crime, but murder is murder. His role has now brought the top detective, known as “L”, to Japan to stop him. Nobody has ever seen “L”, though, and that isn’t his name, so now it’s a race against time to find the other. Will the hero find “L” and learn his name, or will “L” catch him? Watch the show to find out in this dark tale that is now being made into a live action show on Netflix.
With companies like Disney distributing Ghibli films, Netflix making live action versions of anime and multiple streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon and Netflix showing anime, it has definitely increased the audience. However, Americans still need to realize that anime isn’t just for kids. If Scarlett Johansen’s “Ghost in the Shell” film is successful, Americans may realize what anime has in store for them. I’ve only scratched the surface with some anime shows that exist, but there is more than just these shows if you give them a try.
Collegian writer Kevin Avis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kevinavis_626. Leave a comment!!