When the Otaku in You Grows Up: Part 1

I spent much of early puberty soaking it up watching anime and playing video games, a reality my parents had to give into when they uprooted their only child from our old home in the suburbs where we had the security of a village and neighbors with kids. I actually had a childhood that I spent running around outdoors, learning to ride a bike, had grand (mis)adventures. But when we had to move to the city, the child who would be impossible to stay indoors was suddenly forced to stay put…with no where to go, and no one to play with.

Guilt easily set in with my parents (mwehehehehehe) and I was suddenly granted my first gaming console, and exposure to cartoons from Japan (thanks to the local networks and Laserdisk rentals). Though I’ve watched some anime in the ’80s, nothing really stuck to me in the way YuYuHakusho, Sailormoon, Slayers, Ranma 1/2 and a host of other titles did. I became an Otaku, a term that didn’t exist back in the ’90s here in the Philippines but best described me then.

But now I’m older and in my early 30’s (with the responsibilities of adulthood taking priority over my hobby) the amount of anime I watched has dwindled in the years. As my taste changed, I stopped being enthusiastic for the new shows that came out and realized to my dismay that very few anime shows appealed to me anymore. I won’t go on an angry rant on the state of anime shows now given how it is aimed at the much younger generation than I am, but lets just say that the direction the majority of anime shows are taking is not the direction I’m all too willing to follow.

Thankfully, there are still some anime shows that are worth picking up on for those whose taste in anime’s matured (as our age) beyond frenetic sword princess school girls, blatant fanservice and random stupidity.

This is my anime list, starting from shows aired in 2005, around the time when I was 24 and working full-time (and taking care of a cancer stricken parent), and I felt showed how my tastes in anime were beginning to change. Understand that this list is based on my preferences, so I don’t expect people to fall in love or enjoy them the say way I did, but I would still recommend them none the less.

So lets begin!

001 FMA Brotherhood1. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood – The story revolves around the Elric brothers search for the Philosopher’s Stone, an alchemical artifact said to be able to amplify the powers of an alchemist. They need this artifact in order to restore their bodies, lost or damaged due to an alchemical accident. In Edward Elric’s case, he lost his right arm and left leg, and his younger brother Alphonse had his whole body taken, his soul now bound to a suit of armor.

A previous anime was shown with the difference is that Brotherhood follows the original manga to its conclusion. As a series (both animation and manga) this comes highly recommended. The storyline, the character development, writing and even animation and voice acting are all top-notch. It’s a series that shows Arakawa’s skill in creating a believable world and people you can ultimately relate to and cheer for. And if you watched the previous Full Metal Alchemist, I guarantee Brotherhood will blow you out of the water.

Episode Aired: 2009-2010
Total Episodes: 64
Status: Finished

002 Mushishi2. Mushishi – Is an episodic show that chronicles the travels of Ginko, a Mushi Master (Mushi-shi) as he travels the Japanese countryside as an expert studying and helping people who encounter the Mushi, a mysterious creature that is neither plant, animal but simply a “basic form of life” found and thrives in nature.

It is a series that explores mankind’s relationship with nature, the fear of the unknown and how it shapes society and lives. As an episodic show, this is something you can watch casually from time to time if you don’t have a lot of free time to watch entire series any more, as each episode can be watched independently from the other. The series sports fairly good and consistent animation and music.

Episode Aired: 2005-2006
Total Episodes: 26
Status: Finished

003 Mononoke3. Mononoke – The series started as a spin-off of the Bakeneko story arc of Ayakashi – Samurai Horror Tales. It follows the story of the mysterious man known only as the “Medicine Seller” as he deals with various spirits or “Mononoke” in feudal Japan. The Medicine Seller, is merely a front as he is actually an exorcist that travels the land investigating supernatural events. But in order for the exorcism to happen, he needs to know the following things: Shape/Form (Katachi), Truth (Makoto) and Reasoning/Regret (Kotowari).

What makes this series interesting is that it’s presented in a traditional Japanese storytelling. This is evidenced in the closing and opening of the shoji doors to denote Acts or Scenes, and taking into account the art style used, and the fact that the Medicine Seller acts as the bridge between audience and the play/story.  As one fan puts it, it’s likened to an Agatha Christie mystery in the style of traditional Japanese theater/storytelling. The series is also steeped in a lot of interesting Japanese cultural symbolisms, which makes this series of a treat to those who also take interest in Japanese culture.

Like Mushishi, Mononoke tends to be episodic in a sense that each story can take place independently from the other. The only difference is that each story takes 2-3 episodes each. Despite the length, I never felt horribly bored with it, as the dialogue, music and animation had kept my interest enough to finish the series.

Episode Aired: 2007-2008
Total Episodes: 12
Status: Finished

004 Bartender4. Bartender – Bartender was an adaptation of the manga of the same title, which tells the story of the bar called Eden Hall, and the genius bartender named Ryu Sasakura. What makes this a little different is the fact, that unlike the manga which also tells of the Sasakura’s personal story, little is shown in the series and focuses instead of the stories of the various clientele that visit Eden Hall.

The series are also episodic and fairly independent from the other. However, the various narrators who tell the story are they themselves the people previously helped by Sasakura in previous episodes. It’s a nice touch, but still watchable without needing to watch the entire series. It’s part slice of life, part drama and part instructional video.

Over all it’s a very pleasant short series to watch, not to mention educational (ending with a real bartender showing you how to mix drinks during the ending credits is a nice touch). After watching this series, you’d wish you had your own Eden Hall bar to visit.

Episode Aired: 2006
Total Episodes: 11
Status: Finished

~ ♥~

I plan to keep this list short for now, as it allows writing them much manageable. I’ll have follow-up articles as there are a few notable series I want to list.

Author’s Note: Other than FMA: Brotherhood, the last three series I watched later than the time it was aired in Japan, roughly 1-3 years after it was aired.