Storytelling, at its heart, is intended to evoke a sense of wonderment, whisking you away to far-off realms and dazzling adventures. Though the science fiction genre saw its initial boom a century ago, its defining qualities have been rooted in our prose since the very beginning.
For anime, the limitations are practically uncharted. If you’re ever lacking for inspiration, you’d best give one of these swashbuckling crusades a go.
I would posit that anime and manga are capable of fantasy world-building that rivals any other entertainment medium. Lore so deep and nuanced, you feel entirely immersed.
In Fractale, we find a dystopian land populated by avatars known as doppels. Shedding the necessity of physical presence, these projections stand in for the mundane routine of day-to-day interaction. Clain, a devout retrophile, yearns for something more concrete, and ends up getting a whole lot more than he bargained for when the idiosyncratic young girl Phryne literally comes crashing into his life.
She disappears after a single night of recovery, leaving behind only the even more eccentric doppel Nessa. Accompanied by this cherubic accomplice, Clain discovers a side of life he never knew possible, free from the shackles of modern subjugation. Caught in the middle between warring beliefs, he must decide where his true allegiance lies.
Who can he trust? Which vision of the future is truly divine? Virtue is a pendulum, swinging precariously back and forth…
Fractale confronts the feeling of isolation that stems from an artificial lifestyle and questions the validity of the status quo. We can be surrounded by digital entities around the clock, yet nothing hits home quite the same as real, tangible contact. Society is constantly clamouring for the next flashy gizmo or doodad, and eventually, we’re bound to be left wondering when we lost touch with reality.
Particularly poignant when you consider the last couple years… “you’re on mute!”
Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut
Another thing that anime achieves is seamlessly melding two very different ideas together. Case in point: Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut, which sends creatures of the night into orbit. Yes. All of the yes. Then some more of the yes, for good measure.
Set during a modified version of the space race, the Union of Zirnitra Socialist Republics and United Kingdom of Arnack are in a tense competition to claim the galaxy as their own. After countless successes, the Union opt for a decidedly different course of action in order to declare victory once and for all.
Cosmonaut candidate Lev Leps is tasked with overlooking test subject N44, a vampire named Irina Luminesk. Somewhat resigned to her fate, Irina treats humankind with a kind of quiet disdain. She is very much aware that she is little more than a tool of the government and remains on alert at all times, while doing her best to shine at whatever chore she is assigned. What she’s really focused on, though, is doing everything she can to bring her dream of space travel to fruition.
This anime reveals the seedy underbelly of national ambition. The path is paved not with triumph, but the hushed whispers of prejudice and corruption that never make it to the public eye. It is indeed a chilling allegory, and one can’t help but wonder what civil liberties may have been ignored throughout history, had vampires truly existed.
We rapidly grow attached to Irina, so tenacious and fastidious, whose clock is ticking towards the point where she is no longer useful. Indeed, interpolate this further as you would and where you would, because there is a lot to unpack here. Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut just begs for discussion with its hypothesis, and it excels no less in execution.
If you feel troubled by the ramifications, it’s because you should. Humankind sure is shady.
Within the first few seconds, this anime comes at you all guns blazing — in every sense of the word. It grabs you, tugs you in, and then feeds you niceties until you order another bottle. Don’t even bother questioning it, you’re already hooked, baby.
Militaristic forces have quashed Japan’s freedom, patrolling the streets with enormous humanoid robots and overthrowing the reigning government with ease. In short order, they rebuild the nation in their own vision; one of alleged rectitude, with a heavy dose of oppression.
A small yet fervid band of vigilantes respond in kind, piloting their own contraptions that function a smidgen differently. Operated by a pilot and powered by a mascot referred to as a battery girl, their structure manifests according to the will of the user. What would yours look like? Mine would probably resemble a pizza, I think.
Mecha anime are a tried and true formula, so any divergence from the norm is sure to command our attention. Here, the efficacy between crew and machine is influenced by the energetic connection the duo shares. In the case of the disingenuous host Kudo Hosomichi, when his life is threatened and a seemingly abandoned robot becomes his only hope of salvation, he encounters the zealous battery girl Rin Akagi, who feeds off pure otaku encouragement.
Machines fuelled by passion crossing paths with a career sycophant? It’s a clear recipe for success. There is a definitive contrast between the hypertensive world of the Garanndolls and the largely apathetic Hosomichi, however their strengths conveniently intertwine upon the manipulative whim of the latter.
Of course, the instability of emotion can also have adverse effects. Battery girls are susceptible to self-doubt, and without their enthusiasm, the whole apparatus lurches to a halt. Just imagine having a really bad day at work when everyone’s counting on you, except your office is a mecha and your chipper attitude is what’s keeping the lights on.
Watching RUMBLE GARANNDOLL is reaffirmation that it’s okay to be anomalous, as long as you’re remaining true to yourself. Embrace your goals as well as your foibles, wear your heart on your sleeve and proclaim yourself to the whole darn globe. Be nerdy! Be weird! Just be you.
As iconic as they come, Cowboy Bebop is a masterclass of pacing and characterisation.
The term ‘space western’ is bandied about a lot, but it is such an incredibly apt descriptor in this instance. Cowboys nonchalantly drifting through life as they seek out their next bounty, listless dreamers striving to escape memories of a miserable past…
It somehow strikes a balance of being glitzy and subdued all at once, and a lot of that comes down to the portrayal of its cast. Spike Spiegel and Jet Black have done and seen it all out there in the cosmos, and to them, dangerous missions are familiar territory.
Even the locations they visit resonate with the viewer. Everything feels so alive and organic, whether it’s the denizens of the planet or the treacherous back alleys. One could write a thesis on the art direction alone. You’d earn a PhD in Bebop. You could call yourself Dr. Bebop. Or Dr. B, among casual acquaintances.
It has earned its place among the peak of the anime canon, and you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t try to find out what makes it so revered. Many laud it as a fantastic starter anime, due to its accessible themes that make it appealing to a broad spectrum of viewers. True though that may be, it is in actual fact all-encompassing for any level of fandom. It is impossible to overstate its merit, Cowboy Bebop simply exceeds whatever expectation you place on it.
Allow us to introduce you to the world of Megalo Boxing; a dangerous form of pugilism where two competitors are equipped with mechanical exoskeletons known as Gears. Each punch is strengthened to a lethal extent, and a solid right hook is enough to draw blood. Count your blessings, count your teeth, and pray you don’t get counted out.
In the dingiest part of town lurks Junk Dog, an underground Megalo Boxer who ekes out a meagre existence throwing rigged fights at the command of his manager. His passion for life has been all but extinguished, finding no challenge in his underwhelming opposition and yet having to hit the mat for them, regardless.
It isn’t until a chance meeting with the sneering champion Yuri that Junk Dog finds his purpose: chiefly, to enter the Megalonia tournament and knock his block off. The kid’s sure got moxie, alongside more bruises than an overripe banana. He’s powerful while remaining fallible, and his vulnerability reinforces his position as the underdog, true to his moniker.
This rugged, enticing anime splashes the faintest wisps of aspiration on an otherwise bleak outlook. It serves as a reminder that, even at our lowest point, we’re never out of the fight. The journey to the top appears an unfeasible order, and the slightest mishap could spell an inglorious doom — if not in the ring, then at the hand of some unscrupulous thug.
MEGALOBOX also has an aesthetic unlike anything of its era, touting an undeniable throwback spirit that suits it rather elegantly. Dare we say its features are timeless? Hell yeah we do.
Gosh, just reeling off these titles is enough to get the blood pumping, but don’t take my word for it (I’m quite suspicious, after all). Funimation has a range of titles at your fingertips that are worth marvelling over, and we’d love to hear your suggestions on your top action and sci-fi anime selections.
So go forth, cadet, and schmooze your way through the comments section. Discuss at your leisure, argue respectfully, and remain hydrated!