Anime opens up a lot of possibilities. The medium itself not being live action allows for it to simultaneously not be taken to serious as well as exploring areas that can’t be covered using conventional approaches. Psychological exploration and character profiling are some of the areas that the anime medium is able to explore to its maximum potential. Many show come out each year trying to preach to higher values, but aren’t taken to seriously mainly because although what the anime is saying is great the rest of the show leaves a lot to be desired. But every now and again a show comes along and fully explore the psychological aspects of it, by having the viewer not only emphasise with the characters and their hardships but envision themselves as these characters. Whilst other question the way we see reality, and how the past and the future should be seen and understood. I will be looking at 3 of these animes, I not only consider them to be masterpieces in their own right but as art pieces of the medium that had a great effect on me in changing the way I look at the world whilst also being confused the whole way through. I could have done a top 5 or even a top 10, but I feel that since these show are so mentally taxing that overflowing you with so many different shows one after the other wouldn’t be beneficial to you. So I instead chose 3 that I feel as if provide everything you need, this is somewhat of a starting point into the genre and not the be all and end all of it.
3) Paranoia Agent
This anime is a 12 episode series created by the legendary anime director Satoshi Kon. After creating the simple but effective christmas movie Tokyo Godfathers and before creating the movie that would later inspire Christopher Nolan’s Inception: Paprika. Kon created this work of art, to try to explain the plot of Paranoia Agent would be like trying to explain Quantum Physics to a toddler, it just wouldn’t end well for both parties. Paranoia Agent is my least favourite work by Satoshi Kon, but considering that it still affected me in such a way just shows the talent that Kon had. Paranoia Agent tries to do everything in anime, it crosses genre lines as well as not really considering how the audience views the events that are happening. It starts of a mystery detective solving story before transitioning to a commentary about bullying and humans mental limits, to then evolving to a psychological profile of people battling mental issues such as dissociative identity disorder to then becoming an action RPG to then becoming god-knows-what. The point I’m trying to get at is that Paranoia Agent doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be therefore it tries to be everything, which confuses the viewer as now they don’t know what to follow. But it doing this: it taking risks and not limiting itself to genres and structure and is the reason why I liked it so much. It gave us concepts without feeling like it’s forcing it down our throats. It gives them to us and lets us run with it.
2) Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is all kinds of fucked up. The story has any number of ways to interpret it and all of them are valid, as the creators of the show said that they didn’t want to make one definitive viewpoint of the show but rather leave it up to interpretation. Lain coming out in 1998 just two years after Japan first got internet, Lain was revolutionary. It could be seen as a prophecy on the dangers of online interconnection and how online personas end up meddling with real world human beings. That is the most agreed upon interpretation of it, but Lain could be seen as a girl struggling with existential crisis and ultimately deciding who she wants to be, or it could be seen as pondering the notion of God and not only his existence, but his supporters. Their are multitude of ways Lain can be viewed, and if you fully understood it directly after seeing it then I applaud you as I had to take a couple of days to think about this show. Lain is one of the few shows, if not the only show that I didn’t know how I felt about it right after viewing it. Many shows have me confused on exactly how good the show was or how bad, but Lain is the first to have me confused on whether it is actually good or bad.
1) Neon Genesis Evangelion + End of Evangelion
Where to even begin with this show. It is an unspoken rule in the anime community that you can’t be considered as a “real” anime fan unless you’ve seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. Some people hate the show, some like it, some don’t understand it and other pretend to understand it. Neon Genesis Evangelion is probably the most divisive anime ever created, some applaud it as being a masterpiece and praise creator Hideaki Anno, whilst other blast those who support it as pretentious and regard the anime as absolute garbage, I am in the former of those two categories. I love NGE and it’s follow up movie End of Evangelion, I think it is the best psychological analysis shows ever created, and one of the best anime’s ever created. Unlike Lain where they explore the concept of having an existential crisis and how that changes you, NGE made me have an actual existential crisis. NGE channeled every emotion from me during it 26 episode run, and the final two episodes which most people blast as unforgivable and atrocious writing and animation were the best episodes in the whole series for me. After viewing End of Evangelion I immediately knew I loved this show, it shot up to my favourites list surpassing other great shows that I had enjoyed for ages. NGE just had that much power…
And there we have it, the top 3 most pretentious anime’s that most elitists will mentioned to seem like they have impeccable taste in anime, and if you don’t like these particular anime’s then it was just “too deep for someone like you to understand”. All jokes aside these anime’s are great and although I wouldn’t recommend them to the vast majority of anime viewers as I feel like they meet a niche market of anime watchers, they are amazing and had a huge effect on my day-to-day life.