(The Good, The Bad, and The Vicious t-shirt now on sale at the NeatoShop)
I learned about Knights of Sidonia from Richard Eisenbeis, Kotaku's anime critic. He calls it "a mecha anime with a realistic twist." Knights of Sidonia, which is remiscent of Battlestar Galactica, is the story of the remnant of the human race struggling to survive in an inter-generational war against genocidal aliens. It is a superb series that demonstrates thoughtful and thorough worldbuilding. Some of these elements are truly original--not rehashes of common tropes. In any science fiction series, that is a tremendous advantage.
In real history, Japan National Railways--the government agency which operated that nation's rail network--was privatized in 1987. In the series Rail Wars, this event never took place and the JNR is still in operation. The series, which you can watch on Crunchyroll, shows the adventures of four young high school trainees who are trying to secure permanent positions.
Now the story of people trying to get jobs at a government bureaucracy might not sound exciting, but it is when it's a quasi-military organization beset with terrorist attacks and conspiracies. Even if you're not a railroading junkie, you'll be impressed by the complexities of modern railroading that the characters find so fascinating.
As I've mentioned before, Girls und Panzer is by far my favorite anime series. It's a surreal and thrilling story set in a world in which fighting in World War II-vintage tanks is a high school sport for girls.
That 14-episode series ran from 2012-2013. During it, the characters have matches against schools which are stereotypes of belligerent nations of World War II. There is an American school, a British school, a Russian school, and a German school.
In one episode, the characters mention a successful match against Anzio Girls High School--an Italian school. They never describe it in detail, but only note that the main characters were victorious. A few weeks ago, we got to see that match in Girls und Panzer: Kore ga Hontou no Anzio-sen Desu, a 37-minute special episode. It's a funny and exciting episode that filled in a lot of the backstory for the series as well as told a new and fresh story.
These three series are either currently airing or very recently aired. But I also found two series from the 1990s that were excellent. The first is Photon: The Idiot Adventures, a 4-episode comedy from 1997. It's about a boy named Photon Earth who finds himself caught up in an interstellar struggle for power and love. Photon has supernatural powers far beyond what anyone suspects.
Birdy the Mighty is a 4-episode series from 1996. A teenager named Tsutomu is preparing for his entrance exams. He finds himself bodily possessed by a mysterious alien agent named Birdy, who is tasked with defeating a criminal conspiracy on Earth. Tsutomu must now join her in fighting underworld monsters. It's a fun, quick-moving story with an animation style that I can appreciate.
What anime do you enjoy? In the comments, share your recommendations and any other reflections you have on anime.