Essential anime for beginners

Matt rounds up the best Japanese anime has to offer for this crash course on the genre...

There are some people who simply just don’t “get” Japanese Anime. I’m not sure what puts them off – whether it’s the vibrant colours, the bizarre hairstyles or the uber-violence – but I for one feel these people are seriously missing out. Here is a short list (the best at the end, of course) of personal favourites I urge everyone to see.

Ninja Scroll What I like about this early classic is the way in which it plays out much like a videogame; you can almost imagine certain parts of the story cut up into levels, each with its own boss, leading up to a climactic battle with a final boss at the end. A fairly ordinary story given a fresh twist and an injection of the paranormal.

Favourite bit: The girl with the moving snake tattoos generally steals every scene she’s in.

Blood: The Last Vampire So very short (only around 50 minutes!), but oh so sweet. A beautifully dark and broody tale that feels quite thin on details, but you get the sense this is merely a slice of a bigger story yet to be told (although, to this writer’s knowledge, no sequels have yet been made). And, if Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught us anything, it’s that teenaged girls who kick undead butt are very, very cool.

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Favourite bit: Kudos goes to the way the whole thing looks. The seamless blending of 3D with traditional animation is a visual joy.

Urotsukidoji (Overfiend and Demon Womb) Nothing quite tops this for utter twisted depravity, and that’s why I love it. Giant penises bursting out of hospitals, explosive battles between demons in the sky, and a fair dose of tentacle tomfoolery, Urotsukidoji is probably best watched at 3am, with alcohol, and lots of friends. It feels like stepping into some sort of neon-soaked, oversexed putrid nightmare, in the best possible way.

Favourite bit: I want to say all of it, but Megumi’s “Show me that legendary Chojin dick,” line has to feature quite highly.

Howl’s Moving Castle Anime doesn’t always have to be brutal and crazy to be enjoyable. Japanese artist Miyazaki’s output of cute little cartoons populated with cute little characters is pretty extensive, but for me, HMC is his best effort to date. It’s just such a nice, relaxing film that leaves you with that warm feeling inside long after the credits have rolled, a bit like spending the afternoon with a particularly lovely granny who spoils you and lavishes you with endless supplies of tea and cake.

Favourite bit: The castle itself is a joy to behold, but a particularly favourite line comes courtesy of the young, dashing wizard himself, Howl: “I see no point in living if I can’t be beautiful.”

Perfect Blue This remains an anime film very close to my heart. It was one of the very first Manga DVDs I bought, back when I was 17, along with Akira. The mix of cartoon, Hitchcock mystery, outright horror and psychological head-fuck blends together to form a breathtaking concoction. As chillingly haunting as it is clever, it never fails to both entertain and disturb.

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Favourite bit: “Mima” exacting her revenge upon the pervy photographer by stabbing him in the eye when disguised as a pizza delivery boy.