First anime on the list is Kaleidostar. The first season is great but the second season is pretty bad. The director is the same person who did Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu and many others. The second season was not done by him. The Kaleiso Stage is a Cirque de Soleil type thing that the main character wants to join. At first glance it seems cliche but there is a lot of struggle. She was just good enough to get in but has to work really hard to get better since the other members of the troupe are even better than her.
The next series is Fractal, which is part of the sci-fi/steampunk. The director was involved with Haruhi Suzumiya although it’s a much more serious show. What we have is the main character who is living in this utopian world that is living in a neural net that provides people with all the pleasures they would need – “4chan taken to the extreme.” One day she runs into a nother person who drops out of the sky on a bike and introduces her to the idea of human interaction. The main character is torn between the idea of the utopian concept and the connection between people. It’s only 13 episodes so it’s not even that long. The animation is also really good.
Up next is a show that won the Japan Academy Prize 2010 for feature animation – Summer Wars. It’s from the director of the Girl Who Leapt Through Time. A quick summary is that the main character wants a favor from a guy for him to act as her boyfriend. The girl’s family is a descendent of a really amazing well off family. The program “OZ” is like the super internet in which everything is run by it including traffic lights, etc. Someone unleashes an AI on it and it starts rage destroying everything and some of the family has ways to fight against it. Each member of the family has some amazing mundane ability such as being really good at folding cranes or playing cards. It’s a movie so it doesn’t even require that much of a time committment.
They then segue into The Girl Who Leapt Through Time which I watched last year. The movie is about a girl who finds herself with the sudden ability to go through time. I really enjoyed the animation which was smooth and crisp. The story was unique and overall it was just very enjoyable to watch. Whenever she jumps she ends up going back in time. What starts out as a really funny charming anime ends up being a lot darker and might make you want to throw yourself off a building. Summer Wars is a bit more upbeat and has a lot more characters but the panelists suggest both.
Le Chevalier D’Eon is another one they recommend. It’s a vaguely historical drama set in pre-revolutionary France whose sister has been murdered and injected with mercury to prevent a proper religious burial. His sister’s spirit possesses his body to try and exact her revenge. She murders people who are somewhat of a threat to the crown so the queen actually endorses it. There’s a lot of people keeping secrets on all sides so it’s full of mystery. The main character is an actual historical figure although the story isn’t exactly based on his actual story. It’s made by Production I.G. so obviously the animation is top notch.
Next they show the opening sequence to Outlaw Star. I can imagine why alot of peple haven’t seen it since it’s older so a lot of the younger people in the audience won’t be familiar with it. It’s a really great series and I watched it back in the day on Toonami. The opening sequence is pretty epic in of itself. It’s a great action anime but the characters are believable. It has parallels to Cowboy Bebop save for some of the more depressing episodes. The characters are trying to get to the Galactic Layline and are trying to get there using a stolen pirate ship they have acquired. The main characters are morally ambiguous and are classified as chaotic good or chaotic neutral. The characters stay true to themselves. The ships also have grappler arms which make for some pretty amazing space battles. It’s long enough to give you a lot of fun but not long enough to be too drawn out. The soundtrack is also really good and the main theme is one that most people should recognize. It’s got so much to offer – space, pirates, ninjas, and pretty much anything else you would want.
The next one is Ergo Proxy. I remember starting to watch this on Hulu. I’m not sure if it’s still on Hulu but if it is I might go back and watch the full series. It’s a cyberpunk series that has the screenplay done by the same guy who did Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell. We have a utopian society that is run by an iron fist which means it’s more of a dystopia since the people don’t feel anything. The main character investigates a virus where the robots are gaining emotions and those emotions are getting really dark. The government doesn’t want her getting to the bottom of this. They live in a bubble city because the rest of the world is a wasteland and if you leave you will most likely die. The series consists a lot of twists and turns. It’s a mind screw similar to Serial Experiments Lain except that there is information there and you’re not left wondering what just happened at the end. That most likely means you need to rewatch it to get the full story. The only thing is that at times it gets a bit slow and it requires a lot of thinking. Also there are references to things but they give you information about the references. It’s a standard 26 episode series.
Some honorable mentions
Neon Genesis Evangelion – Made by Gainax but it’s held back by a lot of plot holes. They’re now remaking it as four movies that makes it much better.
Last Exile – good characters and animation but the ending was very vague and confusing. They released a compendium of information that answers a lot of the questions you may be left with but it hasn’t been translated.