Lost in Animeland Archives

Lost in Animeland: Lain, Boogiepop, Paranoia Agent

Today I’d like to look at three shows that aimed to create a roughly similar atmosphere, with varying levels of effectiveness. Serial Experiments Lain, Boogiepop Phantom, and Paranoia Agent all try to create a kind of creeping horror. Not jump scares, or sprays of gore, but a weird, oppressive feeling that keeps the watcher disoriented and in suspense. They share some storytelling and visual techniques in places, too: surreal imagery, washed-out color palettes, an emphasis on repetition and paranoia. All three have things to offer a viewer, but in my final judgment only Paranoia Agent, the late Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece, is ultimately successful as a single work. Let’s have a look!
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Lost in Animeland: Read or Die

Read or Die deserves its place on the list of Best Anime Ever, but I’ve always had a extra fondness for it, both because I identify with the heroine at times and because it was one of the first truly great anime I watched when it was actually coming out, as opposed to it being presented to me as part of the canon. I can still remember watching it for the first time (a pirated copy on my old Dell PC, please don’t tell on me) and realizing that this was something special and much better than the endless action shows I’d been watching to that point.

There have been two animated series so far (based on the original manga and spin-offs), set in the same continuity — a three-episode OVA series and a full-length TV show. The OVA series comes first, both chronologically and in-universe, so let’s look at that.
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Lost in Animeland: Hare+Guu and Nichijou

Comedy is hard. To date, I haven’t talked much about anime comedies, for a couple of reasons. First, and most important, in my experience they are much more of a subjective experience in terms of quality. There are shows that inexplicably “click” with me, comedy-wise, that leave others baffled, and vice versa. That makes recommendations, or preparing a best-of list, a tricky business.

Second, a lot of comedies — at least the sort that I like — depend fairly heavily on Japanese cultural and language knowledge. Shows like Lucky Star, for example, are only funny if you understand where the jokes and parodies are coming from, and thus are not particularly suited for a non-otaku audience.

Other brands of comedy, though, cross through cultural boundaries more easily. Here are a couple that I think are worth a look, even if you’re not steeped in anime fandom.
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Lost in Animeland: Winter 2014, Part 2

Today we have the second half of the Winter ’14 season, alphabetically speaking. We’re now four weeks in, so I’ve seen three or four episodes of most of these shows, but I will keep the spoilers to episode one.

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Lost in Animeland: Winter 2014

Well, we’re almost two weeks into the Winter season, which has given me a chance to take a look at the first episodes. This season I’m trying a slightly different format — instead of covering every show, I’m including only the ones I either liked or found ridiculous/hilarious. Winter is traditionally a weak season (Spring and Fall are when the big-money shows air) but there’s a few shows shaping up to be good!

Side note: I’m leaving out a few shows with no SFF interest (Sakura Trick) and sequels to shows I haven’t talked about (Chuunibyou) so this isn’t 100% representative of my own viewing habits. Entries may contain spoilers, but only for the first episode.

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Lost in Animeland: Lyrical Nanoha and Gunslinger Girl

In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!

In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!

The tradition of schoolgirls fighting things — monsters, criminals, each other — is an old one in anime, going back through Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura. It’s such a common trope (especially since high school is the default setting for most shows) that it has spawned a whole set of adaptations, genre-twisters, parodies, and so on.

Someday I will get around to talking about Madoka Magika, a show that is in this genre and is probably at the top of my “favorite anime of all time” list. (It’s very difficult to write about because so much of its awesomeness is embodied in a few plot twists that are hard not to spoil. Short version, just go watch.) Today, though, I want to talk about a couple of other shows that have interesting takes on the basic concept.

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Lost in Animeland: Black Lagoon and Black Heaven

This week, we have two shows that (a) are called “Black Something” and (b) fall well outside the norm for anime in terms of setting and protagonists. Anime fans apparently never get tired of high school students saving the world from monsters, or hapless guys with more magical cute girls than they know how to deal with. And while I’m certainly on board with those shows (when they’re good) it’s nice to do something different for a change. So today: Salaryman protagonists!
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Lost in Animeland: Index and Railgun

Going Forward

Now that I’ve done a once-over of the present season, here’s the plan. I’m going to talk about some shows that I have seen which (a) I think would be of interest to SFF fans, and (b) are not well known outside the anime community. Part of the stated purpose of this column is to be a sort of missionary from Animeland to SFFland, and my observation has been that many of the shows that people who live in Animeland consider required viewing are essentially unknown in the wider SFF world. So, if you’re already an anime fan, some of these are pretty old news, but take it from me that a lot of people still haven’t heard of them.

I’m also not going in any particular order, nor necessarily starting with the Best Shows Ever. (Really, that just provokes arguments.) I’m just going to talk about some shows I think SFF types might find interesting to watch, and try to explain the reasons and explore the flaws.

There will probably be some information in these columns that might be considered “spoilers” in the very strictest sense, but I’ll do my best not to ruin any big surprises, reveals, or endings. In the event that I absolutely can’t avoid it, I’ll slap a warning on the top of the column.

On to the shows!
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Lost in Animeland: Fall 2013, Part Two

Here’s my look at the rest of this anime season. Most of the shows I’d been particularly looking forward to were in the first installment, so this was a matter of sifting through the rest looking for gems — fortunately, some quite watchable stuff turned up! Once again, this is roughly in order from most interesting to least, with a few at the end that I plonked early on for idiosyncratic reasons.

Next time: some favorites from past seasons, all time classics, and more!
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Lost in Animeland! First Episodes, Fall 2013

Every quarter there’s a new anime season, with a whole new lineup of shows to take a look at! I watch through the first episodes of anything that might have some genre interest, and try to sort out what’s worth watching. Here’s the first part of the fall season, roughly from most to least interesting to me. (This isn’t all by any means — more to come!) I’ll try to say a bit about the show, and whether I plan to keep watching it.

My goal with this feature is to be comprehensible, even to the non-anime fan. To that end, there’s a Lost in Animeland FAQ and glossary which I’ll be updating as I go along. Feel free to leave questions in the comments here!
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