I haven’t seen or watched much anime, but there are of course a select few that I really enjoy and would like other people to know about. These aren’t particularly underrated so if you have found a certain niche that you would like; these may not apply that well. I made this short list of three based on anime that I’ve really found enjoyable. Although they aren’t the best or one of the most extraordinary; they’ve provided a lot of entertainment — enough to make me watch them straight or not to put them off for too long. I’m sure that at least one of these three would appeal to anyone who’s looking for a general recommendation.
Chihayafuru is a sports anime over an unusual Japanese game. Kyogi Karuta is a traditional Japanese sport that involves a deck of 100 cards, based on Ogura Hyakunin Isshu; selected pieces of poetry from a hundred different poets. A reader dictates the poem and the players are supposed to touch the card with the following verse on it. Each player starts with 25 cards each, and the first one to get rid of all of the cards on their side wins. The anime centers around a female protagonist named Chihaya Ayase and her childhood friends named Taichi Mashima and Arata Wataya.
Karuta may seem like a strange sport; at first I even questioned its stance as a sport. I was proven wrong; as not only is it a game that challenges one’s mental wits with the memorization of all the poems and the sheer strategy involved; but there is a lot of physical skill as well. What use is intellect when you aren’t able to actually reach for the cards? Speed is extremely crucial, as well as accuracy and precision. Combining wits and physical skill is crucial, and other tactics such as blocking, being able to ‘feel the game’ and anticipate the next syllable, as well as being able to endure game after game through physical and mental endurance — karuta is more than what it seems.
Aside from the introduction of an interesting sport that I’ve personally never heard of before, (and of course — subsequently being dragged into it, who hasn’t developed even the slightest interest in karuta after watching Chihayafuru?) the anime introduces a realm of characters, each with considerable character development and things to relate and identify with. Surprisingly, I found none of the characters detrimental towards the story — they all added to it, even in the slightest of ways.
Although I can’t really say much on how impactful it is since this is truly the first sports anime I’ve watched; it explores the dynamics, playstyles, and motives behind each character — even ones that are just supporting, astoundingly well. You may even think that the karuta done in the anime is an intense exaggeration of real-life karuta, including the prodigy of a karuta master who started her reign as a teenager when it in actuality, borrows from real life. Kusunoki Saki established her reign at the age of fifteen as the female karuta master, reigning from 2005 to 2014. Actual karuta doesn’t differ much from what is displayed in the anime, unlike for example — the little I’ve seen of Haikyuu and how off it is from actual volleyball. The anime intrigues you with the sport, lets you cling on with the matches, the different playstyles and interpretations of the game by the various players; the relationships built between team members, rivalry; and so on.
I could go on and on about how amazing Chihayafuru is for bringing attention to a traditional sport, and somehow being one of the most interesting and appealing series that I’ve had the delight of watching. At the moment of writing, I had just finished the first season and absolutely had to write about it. It’s as if I want to share the greatness of this story to the world yet keep a bit of it for myself as well.
If you haven’t watched this anime yet; don’t let anything about it stop you, just give it a shot. The introduction is amazing and I personally didn’t find the premise of sports anime attractive, but the reviews and wonderful praise towards Chihayafuru that I’ve seen made me give it a chance, and I wasn’t disappointed. I only wondered why I hadn’t watched it sooner.
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
One of the most popular anime released during the winter 2017 season; Boku Dake ga Inai Machi or ERASED is certainly no stranger to the majority of people who follow what goes on in anime. Easily standing out and extremely hyped, this psychological mystery is about a man named Satoru Fujinuma, not particularly special except for the fact that he experiences a phenomenon known as ‘revival’, in which in the case of accidents or certain events, he is able to jump back in time to be given a chance to revert tragedies and accidents from occurring. He eventually gets set back in time to eighteen years ago and is set on a quest to prevent a series of murders starting with his classmate, Kayo Hinazuki.
ERASED is thrilling; it’s one of the most interesting anime that have been released recently (in my own opinion) and has stood out tremendously. Each episodes ends with a cliffhanger, leaving you restless and unable to resist watching the next one. It pulls you in with understanding for the characters, providing a wonderful cast of female characters and sensible people; who even as children rival the maturity and sense of most adults. Although somewhat predictable (the killer remains right in front of you the whole time and they love stating that fact over and over) and erratic at times, the show is still a wonderful mystery and psychological show that is of course, truly welcome.
Although certainly not a masterpiece, the art and immense detail placed into each episode; from the props in the background that foreshadow future events happening, you are left rewinding and going back to see what you missed. The show presents a ton of details which are thoroughly addressed (although not all in the way you’d expect), setting up everything that makes it a wonderful thriller. The emotions of the characters, especially Kayo’s, leave you feeling empathy for their experiences. The smallest of moments bring an immense amount of reality, in particular — one scene wherein a character is offered a home-cooked meal springs into mind.
Take note that this is essentially Satoru, with the mind of an adult and the body of a kid attempting to do all he can to unravel the world around him and solve the string of murders. He gains allies and accomplices who aid him in his mission, but it never is an easy task. The music, the atmosphere, the words and aura of each and every scene set tense moods when needed while also adding lighthearted moments, taking you back to the beauty and grandeur of the childhood that we often long to simply forget and tread past. The art and backgrounds are astonishing and there are some scenes that simply stick out and tug at your heart, in a midst of suspense and darkness.
In my opinion, the series is simply flawed in some parts of its execution. The story is very enthralling, although the abuse of cliffhangers each episode may be a bit cheap, they certainly know how to run the story and keep you begging for more. The very first episode in particular, is masterfully crafted and although feeling a bit rushed, it sets the perfect pace and mood for such a series to unfold. The rest however — most especially the end, feel a bit off. There are some episodes that could have dealt with more time, others with a lot of time shaved off. The last episodes especially are victims to the lack of time in a mere twelve-episode anime. The pacing is thrown off and I felt like with all the hype and praise the show was getting, it could have at least had a better ending. This of course, wasn’t the case — but I digress. It was good for what it is.
Although not living to the hype and all the expectations around it — don’t let that throw you off. Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is still a wonderful mystery thriller anime that deals with psychological issues, a wonderful cast, enchanting visuals and backgrounds as well as a storyline that really tugs at your heart and makes you think. Perhaps not the best anime of winter 2016 but still one of the most striking ones, this show is definitely worth the watch. It’s simply twelve episodes, but it’s twelve-episodes that you won’t stop watching.
I hold so much love for Death Parade. Dark, grim, a pain to the gut and heart due to how real it is — each episode tells a different story with the same premise. A person or two find themselves at a bar wherein the bartender, Decim invites them to play a game where they put their lives at stake. Their lives are uncovered, their lifestyle, actions and thoughts throughout their entire existence are slowly unraveled as it is revealed that Decim is an arbiter that judges their lives as they play the games — and that these visitors are actually dead. Decim decides whether they are meant to be reincarnated or sent to the void. Different people, different games, different backgrounds, the stories that are told in this short and sweet twelve episode anime are incredible. As this unfolds, we find out more about Decim’s assistant, Chiyuki as well as the lives that the arbiters themselves live.
Death Parade is episodic, each one telling a different story as it starts out with the guests finding themselves in a bar, confused and in disarray — eventually being judged as their nature and heart as a status is discovered. The anime not only centers on these guests, but also on the bartender and his assistant — they provide a sense of humanity, that they aren’t just marionettes existing for the sake of judgment. They hold personalities, traits and stories that make them who they are. The series is also dark and grim, a color scheme of dark purples and pinks perpetuates throughout and leaves you feeling unsettled as the eeriness and null mood warp your views towards life. As you watch, you find yourself more entranced in the symbolism and what the anime is trying to reflect onto you.
As each episode occurs, you find yourself relating to the characters, finding yourself in the shoes of them through certain actions and personal hells. You find yourself feeling empathy even towards the ones who are supposed to simply be labeled as bad or evil. Psychological at heart, the anime twists your mind and makes you question yourself; what exactly is considered as morally good? Even under dire circumstances in life, what are the borderlines between a good-hearted action or one that is destructive? Sometimes, you may even disagree with judgment, sometimes you wonder what kind of fate you yourself would meet if you suddenly find yourself in this bar. The games are interesting and much more gruesome than what I myself initially expected, and as you discover more and more about the nature of the bar and the way that this judgment is done, the more you get involved in their stories.
There’s not much that I can say about Death Parade since of course — I am not going to tackle each individual story in this review. But each episode brings a lot to the table, it keeps you wishing and leaves you needing more stories, more people, more lives that you can see your own self in. The show really made an impact on me, my perception of life and one’s actions throughout. It is moving, beautiful, with an especially stunning soundtrack that is chilling yet gentle; if you adore that type of sound you should definitely give it a listen.
Death Parade brings out so much life in death, so much stories in little time. Although it’s confusing at times with morality a bit warped, I found the show very entertaining — it is easily one of my favorites. Its premise is wonderful to me, and it is executed amazingly. The storylines are well-crafted with realism bound at every corner, you find yourself in the shadows of these lost souls. Also, I shouldn’t just categorize it as an episodic anime, as the story itself wraps up into something so much more. Definitely give Death Parade a try, the first episode should be enough to hook you in. It’s a wonderful psychological anime, as well as a mystery one — so if you’re into those kinds of genres you will love this.
That’s the end of this short recommendations list, there are many more to come. It’s quite worthy to note that these anime are all quite recent — there are an amazing array of anime that are a bit dated yet are still great.
Hopefully you would enjoy at least one of the three, and if you’ve given them a watch I hope you found them as moving as I did. These recommendations are based on my enjoyment, and I am essentially offering a look into my taste — again, they aren’t utter perfection, but the enjoyment and the non-stop episode after episode marathons (with sadly, the ending skipped) makes me find them stunning in their own ways. Again, I hope this helped!