meta: Recommended

See in alphabetical order

2017


Netflix's 'BLAME!': Killy Walk With Me 
Recast into a two-hour movie, Tsutomu Nihei's metamorphic cyberpunk hellscape manga emerges all the more as a graduate of the 'Mad Max'/Man With No Name school of drifter/loner heroes
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Patreon 'Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran': Crouching Tigress, Nitwit Dragon 
It looks at first to be a mere genderswapped spoof of the samurai genre, but underneath it's actually a loving and observant homage to all the great things about those stories of lone wolves vs. corrupt power
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'Ghost In The Shell' (2017): The Americanization of Motoko 
The most fascinating thing about the Western remake of 'Ghost In The Shell' is how what seemed most problematic about it -- Scarlett Johansson in the lead role -- is leveraged as a thematic element in the film itself
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'Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis': Little Robot In The Big City 
In the hands of 'Akira' creator Katsuhiro Ōtomo and 'Dagger of Kamui' director Rintaro, Osamu Tezuka's early manga became a wide-gauge spectacle that retained its childlike innocence and soul
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'The Ghost In The Shell': Motoko Kusanagi, The Early Years 
If you're a first-time reader of Masamune Shirow's manga, progenitor of a whole name-brand cyberpunk franchise, the original will be as striking for its slapstick and satirical jabs as it is for its vision of a future still coming true today
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'Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence': Farewell, My Lovely 
Everything that was both grand and frustrating about Oshii's original 'Ghost In The Shell' film is redoubled in its follow-up, a visionary work that neglects to give its characters their own voices
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Patreon 'The Tatami Galaxy': Have I Been In This Room Before? 
When the director of 'Mind Game' and the author of 'The Eccentric Family' got together, they created a comedic masterpiece that plays like 'Groundhog Day' fused with both of those visionary projects
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2016


'Barakamon': The Problem With Getting Away From It All Is You Always Take It All With You 
Having a city slicker hit the sticks isn't an innovative story by itself, but 'Barakamon' has heart, humor, and some surprising insight into what makes creative people tick
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'Lone Wolf And Cub': The Boy And The Beast 
Kazuo Koike's perennial manga classic was adapted for the big screen in this cycle of six pop-pulp masterpieces, where father and son slash, stab, shoot, and slice their way through hell
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'Ergo Proxy': I Think, Therefore You Are 
Few anime intended for mainstream consumption are this avowedly experimental; fewer still pull it off to the degree this one does
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'The Fake': Closer To God 
The follow-up from the director of 'King Of Pigs' is both more artistically accomplished and more emotionally scarring, an attempt to get us to care about someone who would otherwise never warrant our sympathy
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'Her Eternal Moonlight': 'Sailor Moon' Fans, Stand Up And Be Counted 
Steven Savage and Bonnie Walling's study of 'Sailor Moon' fandom documents the way the show transformed a generation of young women, and how they transformed it right back
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Patreon 'Aoi Bungaku: Kokoro': The Heart Of The Matter 
Natsume Sōseki's unsentimental, heart-wrenching classic still hits hard a hundred years later; its Aoi Bungaku anime adaptation restructures it to intriguing if unsuccessful effect
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'Yoshitaka Amano: Illustrations': Amano Fans, Begin Here 
If you're leery of shelling out tons of money for artbooks devoted to only Yoshitaka Amano's 'Final Fantasy' or 'Vampire Hunter D' work, you now have an affordable starting point for understanding the man's entire career
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Tsutomu Nihei's 'Blame!': Sisyphus In The Labyrinth 
Tsutomu Nihei's debut manga is all industrial hellscapes, sudden violence, and science-fiction gloom -- and in those few things it's everything it needs to be
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'Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Vol. 2: Ambition' 
The second installment in Japan's foundational space opera de-emphasizes space war for civil war -- and for struggles within the spirits of the two main characters
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'Queen Emeraldas': Our Lady Of The Sea Of Stars 
Leiji Matsumoto's pulp action / space opera stories are really a kind of SF-tingled mythology; his 'Captain Harlock' successor, now out in English, is a fine example
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'Empire of Corpses': Dead Man's Party 
Label anything 'steampunk' and the label tends to take over, but this fantasy from the late lamented Project Itoh is about more than just clockworks and longcoats
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Patreon 'Belladonna of Sadness': Satan Met A Lady 
Restored to its original psychedelic glory, this mad masterwork from Osamu Tezuka's studio goes from chic porn to feminist parable and everything in between
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'Only Yesterday': All The Things I Was 
Unseen in English since its original 1991 release, this Isao Takahata/Studio Ghibli production was more than worth the wait, and not just for its name recognition
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'The Boy And The Beast': You'll Be A Man, My Son! 
Mamoru Hosoda's new film starts as a predictable story of irreconcilable opposites forced to work together, but becomes something more ambitious and challenging -- and worth sticking with despite its narrative bumps
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Patreon 'Aoi Bungaku: No Longer Human': The Man Without Qualities 
The first of the 'Aoi Bungaku' animated adaptations of classical Japanese literature is a keen, well-devised adaptation of Osamu Dazai's novel of downfall and decadence
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'A-JIN': Live, Die, Repeat 
After 'Knights of Sidonia', Netflix and Polygon Pictures aim -- sucessfully -- for darker and harder-hitting territory
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'Legend of the Galactic Heroes': To Every Man His Star 
Available at last in English after decades of anticipation, this broad-gauge space opera doesn't require the justification of its fans to be considered worth the wait
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'Concrete Revolutio': They Could Be Heroes 
A sprawling anime answer to 'Watchmen', with all of the ambition -- and all of the shortcomings -- implied by such a thing
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Patreon 'Night On The Galactic Railroad': We Are All Made Of Starstuff 
The animated version of Kenji Miyazawa's fable isn't just a Classics Illustrated; it finds a voice of its own with which to tell its story of eternity and afterlife
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'Astro-Boy': The Kid With The 100,000 Horsepower Heart 
Osamu Tezuka's beloved creation was more than just kid's stuff; it was machine-age mythology for young and old alike
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2015


'Time of Eve': Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto 
The modest scale and gentle touch of this fantasy about androids with a human side are what make it work so well
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'Planetes': (Inner) Space, The Final Frontier 
Before there was 'Gravity', there was 'Planetes', as significant for its psychological insight as for its vision of garbage haulers in a spaceborne future
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Patreon 'Rurouni Kenshin': For The New Age, A New Man 
When the first film in this live-action trilogy is among the very best adaptations yet of an manga/anime property, we can forgive any weaknesses in the whole
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'Oh My Goddess!': Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel 
Lightweight and frivolous as 'Oh My Goddess!' may be, those qualities might well also be what guarantee it can be reissued across the years and find an audience
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'Fullmetal Alchemist': The Road Not Taken 
Placed side by side with its anime and manga brother incarnations, 'Fullmetal Alchemist' deserves more to be seen for where it rethinks and reinterprets, and less for how it deviates from the playbook
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'When Marnie Was There': My Girl 
The last Studio Ghibli film, at least for now, aims for the good-hearted timelessness of all the studio's best films, and by and large achieves it
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'Tokyo Ghoul': The Inhuman Condition 
It's tough sledding at first due to its focus on a hapless protagonist, but the way 'Tokyo Ghoul' picks up steam to redeem itself is impressive
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Patreon 'Kill la Kill': The Empress's New Clothes 
Studio Trigger's rip-roaring follow-up to 'Gurren Lagann' embodied its intentions, by wearing a suit of style as gaudy and theatrical as the ideas it entertains
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Tears Of Joy For 'The Art of Satoshi Kon' 
A splendidly curated art collection from across the career of an anime and manga luminary reminds us of what we had, and what we lost
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'Prophecy': Watching Big Brother Right Back 
On the face of it, a techno-thriller in the Michael Crichton vein; underneath that, a meditation on the way society is shamed into doing the right thing
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'Robot Carnival': Machines Of Loving Grace 
Back in print at last, this anthology of robot-themed shorts is a delight, and also serves as a time capsule of anime's state of the art in the mid-'80s
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'Ping Pong The Animation': Tennis, Anyone? 
Calling this a 'sports story' falls so far short of describing how its seething visuals tell a story that'll hit home with most anyone, ping-pong players or not
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'Darker Than Black': What They Do In The Shadows 
With pieces borrowed smartly from across other entertainments, the 'X-Men meets X-Files' 'Darker Than Black' holds up well after nearly ten years
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'The King of Pigs': Man Is The Animal 
One of the few original animated productions in recent years from South Korea demonstrates just how much nascent raw emotional energy there is waiting to be unleashed from that country's animation scene
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Return To The 'Black Lagoon' 
After five years, volume 10 of 'Black Lagoon' -- but was all that made this series great only an artifact of its moment in time?
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'The Eccentric Family': Tanuki & Sons 
One of the very few shows that gets it all right: funny, dazzling, charming, thoughtful, and sporting a cast of characters that never fail to enlist our sympathy and fascination
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'Space Dandy': The Cosmic Jester 
This colorful slice of cosmic slapstick only looks dumb from the outside; it's one of the slyest fusions of comedy and science fiction anime has produced
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'The Tale of the Princess Kaguya': Her Life To Live 
So much more than just a lavish Classics Illustrated story, Isao Takahata's brush-painted picture scroll of a movie asks where the real meaning of any of our lives lies
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'Seraphim: 266613336 Wings': Oshii And Kon's Fragment 
An unfinished but tantalizing collaboration between two of anime (and manga's) most idiosyncratic creative personalities, Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Oshii, this book inspires a close reading -- and no end of wonder about where one man's imagination began and the other one's ended
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'Porco Rosso': A Red Pig On The Wing 
With this pre-WWII adventure, Hayao Miyazaki gave audiences young and old both a rollicking romp and a thoughtful drama, both in complement and not conflict
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'Pom Poko': An Imitation Of Life 
It's easy to overlook how many layers of meaning there are in Studio Ghibli's bawdy, raucous tale of shapeshifting raccoons holding out against human encroachment -- especially when you're laughing this hard
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'Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade': I Therefore Am No Beast 
The best Mamoru Oshii film that Oshii never directed remains affecting and relevant fifteen years later
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'Paradise Kiss': There's More To Love Than Boy Meets Girl 
Far more than just a 'romance' or a 'love story', this is a story about becoming worthy of being loved -- and a sprightly, funny story at that
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Usamaru Furuya's 'No Longer Human': The Downward Spiral 
Osamu Dazai's despairing novel galvanized postwar Japan; Usamaru Furuya's modernized manga adaptation does justice to all its hearts of darkness
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'Utsubora': The Book Thief 
Somewhere between thriller, noir, mystery, erotica, and tragedy lies this absorbing, if convoluted, story of the thefts of both ideas and lives
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'Bubblegum Crisis': Yesterday's Tomorrow, Today 
How well has this vintage 1980s homage to action-oriented SF held up? Better, perhaps, for its use of female main characters than for its technology or plotting
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'Opus': Satoshi Kon's Unfinished Symphony 
Never finished and lost to time, Satoshi Kon's mini-epic about a manga artist caught in the interpenetration of reality and his imagination works both on its own terms as an adventure -- and as an unintentional metaphor for its creator's own career
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2014


'Helter-Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly': I've Got You Under My Skin 
This caustic satire of the meat-market beauty industry works as both a manga and a live-action production, although it is more concise and less distractingly glamorous on paper than it is on a screen
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'REDLINE': Faster Than The Speed Of Love 
Even if the story's little more than a placeholder, 'REDLINE' seethes with visuals so propulsive and uninhibited, they alone guarantee it a place in anime history
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'Cowboy Bebop': Bohemian Rhapsody 
Under 'Cowboy Bebop's rollicking humor and sassy action lives a question borne from the long dark night of the soul: are you living, or just existing?
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Short Takes: 'A-Jin: Demi-Human Vol. 1' 
From a simple premise can be spun any number of stories, and 'A-Jin' unfolds its premise with savage cleverness and whiplash speed
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'Princess Mononoke': The Blood Of Eden 
Let's not shy away from calling this not only Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki's greatest achievement, but one of the finest of all films, animated or not
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'Kiki's Delivery Service': Little Witch In The Big City 
At the heart of Hayao Miyazaki's most effortlessly charming film is a character of equal charm, learning her magic alone isn't what is most important about her
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'Patema Inverted': The Gravity Of Love 
Its story may be straight out of the tattered young-adult dystopia playbook, but 'Patema Inverted' boasts a central visual metaphor so dazzling it begs for IMAX
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'Welcome To The Space Show': The Kid-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy 
When five kids get whisked away on an interplanetary adventure, the splashy and spectacular results walk a line between a movie about kids, a movie for kids, and perhaps even a movie by kids
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'Chaika: The Coffin Princess': Carry That Weight 
An endearing cast, a creatively elaborated setting, and a strongly character-driven story combine to make 'Chaika' many cuts above the run of the mill
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'Shiki': Human Monsters, All-Too-Human Monsters 
The horror at the heart of this horror story lies in how it toys so adeptly with our understanding of 'human' and 'monster'
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'A Letter To Momo': I'll Get By With A Little Help From My Ogres 
Despite some pacing problems and a few fumbled story elements, the first film from Hiroyuki Okiura since 'Jin-roh' is a good-hearted treat
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'Claymore': The Beautiful And The Damned 
Rare these days is the series with an all-female cast where character, story, and drama are the goals, not titillation or eye candy
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'Berserk': War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning 
Limited and fragmented as it is, this brutal fantasy still achieves wonders, thanks to the sheer strength of its storytelling and the force of its vision
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'Ghost in the Shell': The Dreaming Machine 
Twenty-five years on, one of anime's seminal groundbreakers remains as alluring, intriguing, confounding, and problematic as ever
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'Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit': Have Spear, Will Travel 
Unfairly overlooked by audiences, this engrossing and intelligent adventure fantasy deserves cherishing -- doubly so now thanks to its welcome re-release
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'Cardcaptor Sakura': (Re-) Release! 
After a wave of successors and deconstructions, the sweetness and directness of one of anime's most-beloved magical-girl shows still holds up
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'Toradora!': No Paper Tiger 
Under the clichéd surface of this lively romantic farce run undercurrents of something smarter and deeper
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'Flowers of Evil': O Rose, Thou Art Sick 
An overwhelming experience, and a finely crafted one, but also harrowing and unpleasant from beginning to end -- even if that's supposed to be the idea
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'Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth': Japan Through A Glass Un-Darkly 
A gem of a show that confronts what it means for Japan and the West to be curious about each other -- and also how 'moé' can be an actual theme and not just a fetish
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'Red Data Girl': A For Effort, B- For Content 
Despite a meandering plotline, this mini-fantasia about one girl's spiritual powers is still worth the time
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'Eureka Seven': The Way Young Lovers Do 
Nominally a giant-mecha fantasy, 'Eureka Seven' also explores the awkward pain of young love -- and the even greater pain of trading childhood for adulthood
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'Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress': The Beauty Of The Beasts 
A gorgeously-designed surface isn't all that's beautiful in this compelling reworking of elements from the classic tale of 'Hakkenden'
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'Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III: The Advent' 
The third of the 'Berserk' films brings us to the long-awaited end of the beginning, and reminds us the TV series still did some things totally right
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'Psycho-Pass': Do Androids Dream Of The Silence Of The Lambs? 
Somewhere between 'Blade Runner' and 'SE7EN' lies this show, which sees its dangerous ideas all the way through to the bitter and brilliant end
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'Ranma 1/2': Love Runs Hot And Cold 
After twenty-five years, this seminal anime comedy is still both funny and a reminder of how shows like this are harder to make than it might seem
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'[C] - CONTROL': Money Is Not Our God 
As money becomes increasingly abstract, from Bitcoin to bubble-bursting financial derivatives, this series becomes all the more prophetic and fascinating
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'Attack On Titan': Titanic, In Every Sense 
One of 2013's best shows, which manages to both shoot itself in the foot and not be limited by that
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2013


'Last Exile: Fam The Silver Wing': Fly Me To The Moon 
Steampunk, science fiction, fantasy -- does everything need a singular label? This show freely spans all those things, somehow without contradiction
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'AKIRA' At 25 
How the anime that created an English-speaking audience for anime still divides those very same audiences decades later
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'Wolf Children': A Mother's Work 
Mamoru Hosoda's story about two of the greater agonies a mother and a wife could endure is impeccably observed and emotionally true
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