If you have read my debut novel, 3 (Tiga), you will know that I often draw inspiration from Japanese culture.
After all, there are a lot to be loved from their culture, don’t you agree? From the scrumptious food, elegant buildings and traditions, and to the ever so popular anime and manga culture—I can comfortably say that they helped me shape my identity through my younger years.
An inseparable part of this Japanese culture is, of course, has something to do with their animation industry.
Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Naruto, One Piece—those are just some titles that you might have heard about at least once or twice, even if you have no interest in watching them. The culture of watching Japanese animation—dubbed anime—has become so immensely popular that a lot of people has even built some sort of a cult around it.
Now, as much as I love anime, I can’t say that I watch them 24/7. I used to enjoy them almost every day during my younger years, but nowadays I turn to anime as a short escape from my daily grind. Think of it as my way to recharge my mental energy after I forced it to work all week long.
Here are some anime titles that I thoroughly enjoyed. You might have heard of them, or you might have not. But I really think that these titles are worth a try when you’re bored. Who knows, you might get hooked and become a fan of these anime titles yourself!
1. XXX Holic
I have been a fan of CLAMP’s work ever since I watched Cardcaptor Sakura in the past. (They recently released a sequel to Cardcaptor Sakura in HD, and I’m eagerly waiting for new episodes every week). CLAMP’s work has been quite diverse—they created a heartwarming story like Kobato one day, and then blew our minds away with a very tense CODE GEASS.
XXX Holic, in this sense, is quite different. The show tells a story of Watanuki Kimihiro, a high school student who has the ability to see and perceive beings that are not of this world. This includes ghosts, demons, and youkai (monsters from Japanese folklores). These creatures often target him for his life, until one day he stumbled upon a magical shop which could grant any wish for a price.
As he told his wish to the shop owner—which is to get rid of those monsters from his life—he immediately was thrown into quite a predicament, as the price for granting his wish is to work for that shop as a part time worker. The show follows Watanuki’s daily life as he works in the magical shop and encounters various customers; often times very normal looking people who has some kind of problem in their lives, and wishes for something.
Something, that often times come at a price too high to pay.
I thoroughly enjoyed how XXX Holic shows that behind every smile, behind every normal looking human being, there lies a wish they dare not to say. The show teaches us that even a wish granting shop, it really boils down to each individual whether they would get what they wanted, or be thrown into oblivion precisely for the same reason.
You might get what you want, but is it really what you need?—the show told me just that. And I was really impressed.
This anime is also blessed with really good music scores. Some of them, in fact, I used as my very own writing playlist when I was writing the draft of Unspoken Words. Kudos to S.E.N.S. Project who made the majority of the scores.
2. Chrno Crusade
When I was younger, I enjoyed the story of Chrno Crusade a lot.
The show is about Rozette, a Roman Catholic nun who is contracted with a demon to find her long lost brother. This contract allows her to command the demon to fight for her, in exchange for her lifespan.
The show tackles questionable morality, dualism in how a servant of God made a contract with the devil, and exposes how fragile human heart truly is. For a show that talks about very heavy topics like these, Chrno Crusade delivered it really, really well.
I remember when I was younger, I watched the last episode of Chrno Crusade with a box of tissue right beside me. I started the show expecting crazy fight scenes and interesting dialogues. Never did I imagine that in addition of getting crazy fight scenes and interesting dialogues, I would also be getting heart wrenching story about a single girl with a pure heart, who was forced to sacrifice everything that she has for her brother.
I can say with confidence that one line stood out to me, even after all these years.
‘Would a demon contractor be accepted in heaven?’
Even now, the question resounds in me. Would they who are deemed heretics be accepted by the hands of God? Would He welcome sinners, the same way He accepts His saints into His kingdom?
I think this question is still relevant to us in this modern age. And although I can’t say I know the answer for certain, I’d like to wish I know the answer to that question.
I finished the show, drenched in tears. I was crying for Rozette, who had pure intentions, no matter how wrong the path she took was. I was crying for Chrono—the demon she contracted with—for showing that even the lowest of sinners are still capable and worthy of love.
The show is not without its flaws, but it is definitely one that I will remember for the rest of my life, simply because it made me feel so much.
3. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wa Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana)
I know that’s quite a mouthful. The title literally translates to “We Still Don’t Know the Name of Flower We Saw that Day”. It was released back in 2011, and it took the anime community by storm.
The premise started very simple: a young boy named Jintan started seeing the ghost of his childhood friend, Menma, in one summer afternoon. He then pursues to grant Menma’s wish to help her pass on, which mostly involves reconciling with his other childhood friends who had grown apart after 10 years.
Who would know that such an innocent premise would be the major tearjerker anime in 2011? I remember when I finished watching it, I was crying non-stop for a while, and felt like my heart was smashed by a wrecking ball.
This show covers the topic of regret, friendship, and forgiveness. I love all three of these topics, as I also write a lot of stories about them. As an avid anime fan myself, I can say for sure that they successfully delivered the message of the story, and left fans such as myself with tears on their eyes.
And the music.
They remade a very popular Japanese song titled “Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta Mono” exactly 10 years after its original release. The lyrics of the song felt like stab after stab to my heart, as it talks about childhood friends exchanging promise to meet again 10 years in the future, as they were separated in one summer’s day. You see how the song was very befitting to the story?
I know you do.
The show starts rather slow, but it picks up pace quite fast after about the 4th episode. If you’re short of TV shows to binge-watch during summer or dry season, please go ahead and give this show a try. AnoHana will either drown you in your tears, or it will give you a significant pang to your heart.
4. Kamisama no Memochou (Heaven’s Memopad)
I came across this anime by accident. At first, I didn’t think that it would suit my taste, and that it might be quite boring. Judging from the previous three anime titles on this post, you might have noticed a trend of some sort: I’m a sucker for tear-jerker stories.
Kamisama no Memochou, however, is not a tear-jerker story.
The story is about Fujishima Narumi, a normal high school student who got dragged to a bunch of misfits playing detectives in his neighborhood, simply because he witnessed a crime scene they were investigating. This detective group consists of a shut-in detective, gamble addict thug, gigolo information broker, and an army freak security consultant who frequents a strange ramen shop which sells better ice cream than noodles.
Throughout the show, I was entertained by how they interact with each other. For a bunch of misfits, they did seem like a very fun group, and there were times when I envy them. I mean, I’m sure everyone of us has felt like we’re not supposed to be part of society at some point in our lives—and this show celebrates that.
This show celebrates how a bunch of misfits—those who are deemed weird by society, could still function normally, or even better than normal, as detectives. Together, they solved a murder case, assisted a local yakuza group to banish a drug dealer from their territory, and even solved feuds between gang leaders.
Overall the show was really exciting and felt new to me. I remember I wished that my high school years was just as exciting… which unfortunately it was not.
This is probably the one anime show I could rewatch every month without getting bored. And that’s saying a lot, because I usually get bored easily.
5. Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope)
Sakamichi no Apollon is about three high school friends: the introverted pianist Nishimi Kaoru, rebellious drummer Kawabuchi Sentarou, and high school sweetheart Mukae Ritsuko’s friendship.
Unlike other school stories, this anime is set in early 1960’s. The three friends enjoyed playing Jazz music immensely, and they found solace of comfort in that mutual interest. Day by day they spent their afternoon at Ritsuko’s house (which was a record shop) to practice. The show was a very heartwarming one that reminds us about our high school dreams.
What stood out to me the most was perhaps how vintage this show feels. The music scores were really good, and at the time of its release, anime shows that has jazz music at its core was scarce. The pacing of the show was quite problematic at times, and I still couldn’t sit very well with the rather rushed ending, but for some reason I really hold this show dear to my heart.
Maybe it’s because of the brotherly relationship between Kaoru and Sentarou.
Maybe it’s because of the cute love triangle between them
Maybe it’s because of how innocent their dream was.
I can’t describe it really well, but watching this show turned out to be one of the best decisions in my life, and I’m not even exaggerating. There is something about the art style, the laid back story telling, and the friendly neighborhood that makes me feel just at home watching this show.
And for a lot of adults, I believe that’s what we need the most: the feeling of being home. You might have been away from home physically, or you might have been pursuing your ambition too much that you have been putting aside your family and friends—either way, this is one of those shows that will bring you home.
Although, a fair warning: I have to say that you might not enjoy it as much if you’re not into jazz music.
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