My top 15 anime-series (part 4.)

This list is based on my opinion and it belongs to me. I have been reading manga and watching anime for many years now (according to MyAnimeList I have seen over 15 000 episodes) which means I had difficulties deciding 15 best of the best.

Thanks for reading the fourth part of my list!


 

9. Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin

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More commonly referred as “Rainbow”, this anime is directed by Kōjina Hiroshi and is based on the manga written by George Abe. This is one of the most hidden and underrated series I’ve watched, but I wonder how can it be so unknown since it has elements people mostly like: drama, action, great characters, beautiful visual art and unusual developments.

The story takes place after the second world war Japan. Those times were brutal for everyone, since Japan was bombed and cities were destroyed. After the war Americans settled in Japan in order to create a new pacifistic constitutional law and make Japan a modern country. The anime follows the story of seven young men who have been locked in a Disciplinary school/Reformatory. On the outside, it seems like an ordinary place for delinquents, however once inside the faculty they notice the true nature of that hellhole. They suffer pain, humiliation and different horrors as they wait for their freedom. The first part of this anime focuses mainly on their life in imprisonment, but in the following episodes they face more trouble once they have regained their freedom. The thing that makes this story so raw and emotional is the fact that it might have actually happened. The characters aren’t based on real people but it doesn’t make the story less real. History has repeated itself many times and even if this anime is a work of art, a fiction, these kinds of things have happened many times, and still might be happening.

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”I wonder what they’re doing right now. There were seven me who survived through rather grand days…at the bottom of the cauldron of Hell, inside a cell, fifty years ago. The things that supported them…were courage, guts and their bond. They placed their hopes upon the seven-colored rainbow and swore to survive. You can’t make out the text anymore, but the dream which they held was undoubtedly carved in this tree.”- Narrator

First six of the characters are introduced when they enter their new home- the Shōnan Special Reform School near Tokyo. The mood is rainy, suffocating, sad and for some reason pitiful. All of them are assigned to the same cell and there they meet their soon-to-be mentor Rokurouta Sakuragi. They learn to respect him, as he is the only adult-like adult they have met for a long time, some of them are treated with sincerity for the first time. Under his guidance they survive and learn new things about life. They get to know each other well under hellish conditions, and their bond becomes unbreakable. The hopeless situation seemed to get better and they made a promise writing their dreams into a tree. However sadistic a guard and a perverted doctor are interfering with their lives, even after they live their lives as free men.

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“Don’t think about the probabilities. The smallest chance will take us a long way. It’s not like we have anything to lose.” – Sakuragi Rokurouta

This anime reminds me of those educational children stories, except that no children should ever watch this, nope this is for rated R-17+ for a reason.  I see no reason, that under 17 years old should not watch this, but it is much more meaningful for “adults”. Besides some scenes are brutal and triggering (even if this won’t be the most “gorey” or “twisted” anime on my list, not even close to that). Still I’d call this anime like a realistic fairy tale with unusual setting. This anime is very heavy and the setting is dark. Its themes are tragically realistic, for example: neglect, abuse of children, inequality, torture and death. On the other hand, these dark points are very balanced because of the other themes such as friendship, loyalty, beauty in darkness, family, inner strength and promise. The art supports the two worlds colliding: the environment as well as the atmosphere is unsettling, grey and rainy, but even in those conditions there is also beauty and colours which could symbolize the presence of hope in the middle of seemingly impossible conditions.

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“A load that’s heavy to carry alone is lighter when several people share the burden.” – Narrator

The pace is perfect, focusing on every character nearly equally. The audience follows the growth of the characters, as they struggle forward year after year. Rainbow is a beautiful story but it has its flaws. It had the potential to focus equally on every main character, but it was clear that some characters were more important than others. It was also partly predictable: for the sake of the plot the characters were rightful and some more than others were “perfect”. Though even the main main character was not perfect and sometimes made stupid decisions, which made the show more realistic and interesting. The characters were humane and acted upon their feelings making mistakes which in turn made their growth so much more moving.

Rainbow is mostly realistic and raw, but conveniently dramatic and epic. Music suits that switch very well, and to be honest Rainbow contains one of my favourite soundtracks of all time. There is no English dubbed version of this anime, however the audience hears English every now and then. Some of the songs are in English and there are English-speaking characters (though their seiyū are from Japan, meaning that their English is a little rusty). English was mostly used as a tool to create dramatic moments and make some serious scenes more epic (although sometimes the language was too much and was cringe worthy). The music however was near perfection: even without moving parts the music was enough. Visually this anime was beautiful and at times only one colourful picture was used instead of a moving scene. These pictures had to rely on the music (plus voice acting and timing) to create the correct tone. And I just have to mention that the opening song to this anime is awesome: “We’re not alone” by Coldrain

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“A life without happiness is a terrible thing.” – Sakuragi Rokurouta

This anime is well-balanced and uses its elements cleanly. The characters are interesting and the plot brings out their potential using both their “epic sense of good and justice” as well as “the darkness within” which makes them relatable and humane. It was a shame that a few characters did not have as much screen time as others, including my personal favourite (and nope although An- chan is one of the most epic characters on my list, he is not my favourite). The music and art completed each other and the seiyū brought the characters alive. The character design was obvious though, since the “ugly” characters were rotten from the inside out and the “good-looking” characters were “right and just”. I liked that the anime focused on both the life in Disciplinary school and the life outside of it. However, the timeline went a little strange at times, as well as some characters development. Yes, self-sacrificing is cool sometimes but please note that you are not alone (no pun intended (see the opening song)). Besides it got a little too emotional in my opinion, it felt so forced. This anime is still very balanced and beautiful. All in all, Rainbow is one of my favourites, claiming the number 9 on my list.

 


 

8. Cowboy Bebop

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Watanabe Shinichirō is the director of this praised piece of art which is labelled as a gateway and introducer of anime to the Western viewers in the early 2000s. This anime is probably one the most known anime in my list and true to its form it truly is unique and worth of attention. I find it also important to mention that Kanno Yōko is the composer which means that the music is near perfection. The anime was adapted into two manga series and later a movie was released.

This anime tells the story of residents of Bebop- the spaceship. In the beginning, there were only two of them: an ex-policeman named Jett and the main focus of the series Spike Spiegel. These two are bounty hunters -cowboys if you will-  and they travel throughout space to find criminals worth of something. During those trips, they meet other main characters: a corgi named Ein, a gambler Fay and a hacker prodigy Edward. These characters differ from each other very much and the few things connecting them are Bebop and a dark history seasoned with loneliness. They were designed as “unfit to the society” and they are often very cynical about the state of society.

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“You know the first rule of combat? Shoot them before they shoot you.” – Faye Valentine

At first all of the characters are being very private and the audience learn new things about them surprisingly slowly, considering that there are only 26 episodes. I try not to spoil anything, but it is difficult since there is not much I can say without revealing something (personally I find it more entertaining if I learn about the characters and story by myself). Cowboy Bebop is a mixture of comical situations, smooth jazz, beautiful scenes and epically tragic moments. First episodes introduce the characters and their ways are crossing from time to time only to end up separating again. The characters are individuals and their personalities are different from “most anime- series” characters because of their independency. The main character is not as perfect as he seems at first and everyone is fighting their own battles. The characters are so unique that they can move as they please but they leave the audience wondering their fate.

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“Men only think about their past right before death, as if they were searching frantically for proof they were alive.” – Jet Black

It is almost ironic how much the situations can change in the matter of minutes: from funny to sad and from epic to hilarious. Spike as a main character resembles the flow of the timing. He is a complex character with a complex past and according to him “whatever happens, happens”. He possesses the charisma of a main character, as well as the appetite and laziness of that. He claims to be uncaring, but can also behave compassionately towards others. Although he is the main focus of the story, Spike isn’t always the main focus of the episodes which allows the audience to both get to know the others and also hide Spike’s character. Spike is amusing and relatable, but what is more intriguing is that he is an adult. No more high school kids since the other characters (excluding Ein who is a dog and Ed since she is a childlike teenager) are also adults.

Cowboy Bebop is considered as one of the best anime-series of all time and I can fully agree to that. It explores very philosophical themes such as existentialism and loneliness. Although there is a lot humour to the series, there is also hidden pain behind that. The past and present are constantly competing with each other, while future seems completely abandoned. The characters show no interest towards the future and arrange plans only to ensure their momentarily survival. This also brings out the concept of existential ennui: boredom. No interests or plans, life seemingly dull and nothing worth waiting, which argues with the all of the action these series show. There are no silent moments and something is always happening. Even if this anime is a sci-fi, it doesn’t include aliens or any basic form that normal science fiction works have. Cowboy Bebop is actually better without those, since it relies on its characters and the whole setting to keep up the interest of the audience. There are questions about the lack of aliens or other life forms though. What have I learned? Never ever leave a lobster in the fridge for too long.

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Do not fear death. Death is always at our side. When we show fear, it jumps at us faster than light, but if we do not show fear, it casts its eye upon us gently and then guides us into infinity…” – Laughing Bull

It is interesting to see how the world is different and how people in the 1990s imagined the future. VHS is considered old nowadays, but it was the common technology back then soon to be replaced by DVD. The setting is also interesting because of the cowboy- theme, which is not all too common when referred to futuristic world. The style of animation looks good even in the eyes of a millennial, the scenes are very detailed and smooth. Everything works together perfectly and the style is looks finished. Since jazz is highlighted (the name Bebop and the opening theme for example) the music doesn’t sound particularly old either, instead reminding that specific genre. Also, both the original Japanese dubbing and the English dub are great, which is rare.

This anime unites many things from the style of animation and art to philosophy, future and ethnical cultures. The world of 2071 is large, people are born in Mars for example and there still remain old traits and habits. Spaceships and holograms exist in the same world as cowboys and apparently Native American descents. There are large cities and slums. There are bars filled with jazz and spaceship screaming heavy metal. There are traditional bonsai trees and fighting styles inspired by ancient martial arts (and Bruce Lee). There are same problems as today (and back then): drugs, environment, leadership and violence. This might sound a little bit messy but for some reason it just works.

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“When angels are forced out of heaven, they become devils. You agree, don’t you Spike?” – Vicious

I can’t figure out what more to write about this. This anime is near perfection, and in my mind the only flaws are some unnecessary scenes and melodrama. Still, even these points can be ignored because they just proof just how realistic the characters are. They act according to feelings and try to protect themselves. Eventually it came down with a perfect ending. With just animation it was awesome, but when added one word it made the ending pure perfection. The ending was so golden and open, the audience can decide the true ending by themselves, the elements are all there. Still, why is this anime “just” the eight? It is too “perfect” that it had no more. The philosophical questions were amazing, however they made this anime seem dull at first. The first episode pulled the audience in the anime without a problem, but keeping it entertaining was difficult. Some scenes felt a little forced (according to the staff it was not easy to write comical scenes, they nailed the most of them). When dealing with dark themes, one has to be careful, Cowboy Bebop is difficult since it’s not actually dark. It is more like slowly suffocating and the darkness disguises itself. Therefore no one can be prepared for anything, especially when there are so many things to look at. Once you start there is no going back and each time the audience re-watches the anime, they are able to find new things. I truly like Cowboy Bebop and I highly recommend it, but I can’t place it any higher since it did not have that much presence in my mind as some others. All I can say, it ended with a bang.

 


Both of these anime- series are work of art. They are beautiful and educating while also being interesting and entertaining. It is not my intention to offend any fans of these amazing series, but please remember that this is just my opinion and my own list. These series are known as classic series and while it is true, I consider these in great series worthy of numbers 9 and 8 on my list, based on analysis of my own.

Unfortunate Fate

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