Wondering what to get an anime fan who’s on your holiday shopping list? Here’s a list of series that I’ve personally enjoyed. The links represent my Amazon affiliate account, so if you buy using these links, you can bask in the glow of the warm feeling of helping keep Crow’s World of Anime alive and well!
Kenji Kazama wants to make a name for himself as the toughest delinquent in school. The Game Creation Club (provisional)‘s members have different plans. Just what those plans are isn’t certain, and I’m not convinced they even know! But when Kazama tries to put out a fire that the club members started in their room, they attack him with strange and fictional powers like Roka Shibasaki’s Moe Moe attack.
This series has a lot of fast-paced visual humor, as well as hilarious references to games, manga, and other anime series. It’s an interesting (though hardly deep) plot as well. It culminates in a showdown between the Game Creation Club (provisional) and the real Game Creation Club. The boss battle involves a vicious twin-tail attack. Really! It does!
Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun
Umetarou Nozaki secretly writes a shōjo manga (a manga targeted at teenage young women). Yet he’s a huge and nearly clueless young man. Chiyo Sakura is completely in love with him. But when she tries to confess her love to him, he mistakes the situation and gives her his autograph. That’s Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun in a nutshell!
The show uses misdirection humor a lot. Another example is Hirotaka Wakamatsu’s intense dislike for Yuzuki Seo, whose brash personality rubs him the wrong way. However, he hears a recording of her singing in the choir without knowing it was her, and he her voice so enthralled him that now it’s the only thing that can relax him — especially after she drives him to distraction.
One of my favorite episodes has Nozaki’s editor criticizing him for not having more nuanced female characters. So, Nozaki does what any serious writer would do: he tries to research the subject. He makes lunches for all his friends, and he frets when they seem hesitant to eat and glows when they enjoy the bento. He wanted to accurately portray the school uniform, so he asked Sakura to model it. When she was too embarrassed, he tries to put it on himself — only to curse his huge muscles because the uniform wouldn’t fit!
If it’s not misdirection, it’s personality conflict that drives the humor in this show, but only in gentle and humorous ways. The show doesn’t have a mean bone in its body! I really enjoyed it. I also liked the OP and ED.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
It’s the far future. Humanity has spread across our galaxy and has achieved an unprecedented level of peace and prosperity. The Hideauze, a race resembling terrestrial mollusks, threatens all of that. The show begins with Ledo, a lieutenant in humanity’s Galactic Alliance, as he prepares for combat in his mech/ship/tutor Chamber K6821. Ledo and his squadron, along with a huge armada of humanity’s ships, launch a make-or-break attach against a Hideauze nest. What follows is perhaps the most astonishing space battle that I’ve ever seen. Everything from the technology to the strategies and tactics to the animation was gripping. Humanity was on the verge of victory when the Hideauze’s main weapon regenerated more quickly than they had anticipated. Its counter-attack destroyed humanity’s main weapon and forced their retreat.
During the chaos, the wormhole that Ledo’s squadron needed for escape destabilized. When he awoke, he found himself on an ancient ship that didn’t look like anything he’d seen before. He was even more astonished to find that the ship wasn’t in space. Instead, it floated on a planet’s ocean.
The show follows Ledo as he tries to make sense of where he is and what’s going on. The plot moves quickly, and the characters, like the energetic and inquisitive Amy, feel very real and vital. The plot has some powerful reveals about humanity’s past and about the nature and power of the Hideauze.
In the year 7207, the Earth has seen better times. Most of the surface is desolate and nearly uninhabitable. Life’s only good under the dome of Romdo, where the major and council keep tight control over the population. At least, that’s the plan. A string of brutal murders has scarred the peace, and Re-L Mayer is called in to investigate. With her trusted AutoReiv (Entourage type) named Iggy by her side, she’s surprised but not overwhelmed by the viciousness of the attacks. Her calm’s challenged when a huge and powerful creature, its face a kind of baroque mask, breaks into her home. Instead of ripping her apart, it confronts her and sheds a tear — then it defends her against another of its kind.
She later learns these creatures are called Proxies.
Elsewhere, Vincent Law has migrated to Romdo in the hopes of earning his citizenship. He disposes of AutoReivs who are infected with a virus called Cogito. He botches one recovery, then legal issues cause him to flee the city to join a band of outcasts. He meets an AutoReiv (Companion type) named Pino, who is also infected with Cogito.
Vincent’s also in love with Re-L.
The show feels like a cross between Blade Runner and a much darker Logan’s Run. The show has a beautiful, multi-layered texture that mixes influences from many cultures and time periods. It can be ultra-modern, like the medical facilities of Daedalus Yumeno, or it can be like a journey to ancient Rome, complete with Classical-period statues, like the seat of Romdo’s government. The music strays into Gregorian chant from time to time. The action’s brutal, and the plot’s cerebral. The central mysteries keep driving until the very last episode.
If I have a complaint, it’s that the show is dark. I don’t mean philosophically or metaphorically (it is dark on those levels); I mean it’s hard to see sometimes! Other than that, this is a powerful work.
Ryuuji Takasu has inherited his father’s scowl, a trait his mom Yasuko Takasu adores but that tricks his schoolmates into thinking he’s a delinquent. Only his friend Yusaku Kitamura knows better. Ryuuji is in love with the sporty Minori Kushieda, but he has no idea how to tell her. One day after school, he has to go back to the classroom because he’s forgotten his book bag. He’s confused to find Taiga Aisaka, nicknamed the “palm top tiger,” acting embarrassed. He’s even more confused when she reacts with alarm as he tries to retrieve his book bag. He eventually has to wrestle it away from her.
That night, he’s awakened by an intruder — and it’s Aisaka with her bokken! She’s come to a) retrieve the love-letter she intended for Kitamura but mistakenly put into Ryuuji’s bag and b) to beat the memory of the love letter out of Ryuuji! He’s only able to calm her down after he promises to help her win Kitamura’s affections.
Oh, and the love letter’s envelope was empty. Aisaka had forgotten to insert the letter before delivering it.
The show works because the characters are so danged likeable! Despite her terrible temper, Aisaka is not a cruel person. She just doesn’t know how to express herself. Her inability to even speak clearly around Kitamura is endearing. Kitamura himself is a gracious character who tries to help everyone around him. That includes the wildly popular teen model Ami Kawashima, who’s as arrogant and condescending as she is lonely. Ryuuji’s mom Yusaku works as a hostess in a nightclub to afford their home, and while she’s almost helpless when it comes to housework, she loves and cares for her son. Perhaps the most surprising character to me was Kushieda, with her jubilant exterior hiding complex feelings toward Ryuuji and herself. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this show, but I still have a hard time getting my head around where she’s coming from. That’s a good thing in this case, because it means her character was authentic.
This show is a future Caw of Fame entry.
Amazon’s selling a deluxe version here. It’s a little pricey, but the extras are interesting, and it includes both the dubbed and subbed versions.
Engaged to the Unidentified
As long as she can remember (and her memory of her past is hazy), Kobeni Yonomori has had a weak constitution. Despite that, she happily takes care of most of the cooking and house-cleaning for her mom and sister Benio Yonomori. The morning of her sixteenth birthday, she’s happily reflecting on her life when her mom introduces her to Hakuya Mitsumine, who is to be her husband through an arranged marriage.
Needless to say, Kobeni’s shocked and doesn’t agree to such an archaic arrangement. However, Hakuya and his sister, Mashiro Mitsumine (who insists on being called sister-in-law), take up residence with them. Though she rejects an arranged marriage out of hand, Kobeni’s not cold-hearted enough to kick Hakuya out of her life — at least not right away.
As much a comedy as a romance, Engaged to the Unidentified is a warm-hearted story of Kobeni coming to terms with a personal history that she cannot remember. As we learn what had happened to her, we also learn more about Hakuya and Mashiro, who are way more than they seem at first. I don’t want to say much more for fear of giving away some of the more enjoyable reveals, so I’ll just say this: Kobeni’s as gentle as Aisaka was wild, yet both were admirable characters who I was happy to cheer for.
Are there any shows you’d recommend for anime fans this holiday season? Feel free to list them in the comments!