My Favorite Light Novel Anime

Light novel anime adaptations get something of a bad rap, but there are plenty of gems in that sea. If I were to list all of the light novel anime I thought were good, I’d have a pretty hefty list—big enough that even I’m surprised by looking at it. Instead, I’ve narrowed it down to a few, with reasons why I enjoy them so much.

1. My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected (aka My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)

I’ve written at length on more than one occasion about why I think so highly about Youth Romantic Comedy, but every time I think about it I come back with even more reasons. This time around, an aspect that sticks out to me is how the series positions its central love triangle with a kind of thoughtfulness one might not expect.

Even though they all have significantly different perspectives on life, the characters’ contrasting viewpoints allow them to accomplish tasks that each of them alone could not. This extends to their love triangle. Where usually girls in these series are interested in the same guy for the same reason, Yui and Yukino are drawn to different qualities in Hachiman. Yui sees him as a good person deep down inside (whether he realizes it or not), and Yukino sees Hachiman as someone on a similar, socialization-shunning wavelength.

It’s good stuff.

2. The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi

In general, I’m pretty fond of the Suzumiya Haruhi anime, even if it’s not viewed with as much reverence as it once was. The story of a girl who might very well be god of the universe without realizing it hits a lot of interesting notes. However, I put the film The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi on a whole other level. The powerful emotions swirling around the characters—especially Nagato—as well as the tough decisions they have to make, just sticks with me in a way that not even the series’ other high points can. The only significant flaw of the movie, in my opinion, is that it requires viewers to have all the background context of the series prior to watching, but I think it can still probably do fine stand-alone.

For more of my thoughts, check out my review.

3. Humanity Has Declined

I sometimes forget that this series is based on a light novel because of how witty its satire can be. Taking place in a world where humankind is no longer the dominant race on Earth—instead supplanted by a race of fairies—it often showcases the folly of humanity by having their mistakes repeated in fast-forward by the fairies, who are somehow brilliant and imbecilic at the same time. The fairies can easily fashion new and highly advanced forms of science and technology, but are extremely prone to group-think, bandwagoning, and lack of foresight. It’s all too fitting that we as a species would get outdone by more extreme versions of us.

This is another series I’ve written a review for, which you can find here.

4. Kino’s Journey

If there’s one thing more recent light novel anime tend to lack, it’s a strong sense of atmosphere. Sure, they’ll have complex environments and elaborate magic systems, but they don’t capture the sense of a world in flux the way that Kino’s Journey does. Kino is a “traveler,” an unusual profession where she travels from one land to the next, learning about what each distinct culture is like. It’s a quiet and contemplative series, but at times can swell with tension and action. I’ve written a little about Kino’s Journey before, but only one of the short films.

I’m really looking forward to the upcoming new anime.

5. Slayers

While light novel anime are sometimes thought of as a more recent phenomenon due to the increased influx over the past 10-15 years, in my opinion the true grandmaster of the light novel adaptation is Slayers. Black magician Lina Inverse fancies herself a hero, but she’s more an agent of destruction, feared for her lack of concern for collateral damage. As she continues to make allies, she finds herself having to fight for the fate of her world, but not without keeping her characteristic wit, fury, and hungers both literal and metaphorical.

It was one of my gateway anime, and one of the first series that I was proud to own. Its mixture of humor, adventure, and dramatic development at the right moments makes it forever a classic in my mind. It’s one of the defining series of the 90s, and while its age often shows, I think it still has potential for wide appeal to a current audience.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

 

 

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[Apartment 507] 3 Guest Anime Appearances in Apartment 507

granbluefantasy-lina

Granblue Fantasy is a Japanese mobile game that’s got tons of fans, and it’s so popular that it ends up crossing over with other franchises. Check out this small list of series that make guest appearances. As someone who got into anime in the 90s, I’m especially fond of the Slayers cameos.

The Melancholy of Anime Openings

As I imagine is the case with many fans of anime, one of the first things about anime that caught my attention, one of the things that helped make me into a fan, was the quality of openings. Whether it was the music itself or the animation that accompanied it, anime openings felt like they blew the cartoon intros I was accustomed to out of the water, not to mention the dubbed anime openings which populated American TV. This is not to say that anime music is the best music ever, but once upon a time I often felt that way.

Recently I began to reflect on this feeling. What was the appeal? What was different about them? The more I think about it, the more I believe that it has to do with the sense of melancholy, angst, and forlornness that often appears briefly in anime openings.

A lot of anime openings make the viewer feel as if they are privy to the characters’ inner turmoil. In some cases, this is almost the entire point of the opening: see, for example, the “Tsubasa Cat” arc from Bakemonogatari (warning, it’s kind of not work-safe). The Galaxy Express 999 opening above doesn’t even have characters in it. In others, this feeling will be concentrated into a single, perhaps introspective moment. Think of the first Gundam W opening and Relena in the snow, or the Slayers NEXT opening when Lina reaches for Gourry. This melancholy is even mildly present in the opening to Fist of the North Star until it roars into overdrive during the chorus, accompanied by images of Lin, Bat, and the other destitute wanderers.

However, its ubiquity doesn’t end there, as it will appear in shows you might not expect to care about that sense of melancholy in the first place, such as Bistro Recipe (aka Fighting Foodons) and Medarot (aka Medabots). The openings for these anime both feature brief scenes where the main characters appear to be lost on an emotional level, despite the fact that they’re largely absurd comedies vaguely built around the concept of competition. It even shows up in one of the openings to the Japanese dub of the 1990s X-Men cartoon!

On some level, I wonder if openings might be a make-or-break moment for some as to whether or not they become anime fans. It’s the kind of thing that can easily cause someone to exclaim from the rooftops that anime is the best, or to dismiss it for not being as aggressively powerful as, say, the 1990s X-Men opening!

This is not to say that having this quality automatically makes an opening better, even if it is what likely caught my attention every time. Rather, just the fact that so many openings in a whole slew of genres utilize it at least to some extent feels like it speaks to something more deeply ingrained into, if not Japanese society, then how anime is viewed by society. Anime has gone from having openings designed specifically for the show itself to becoming vehicles to promote musical groups and back again, and consists of both shows designed for large audiences and hardcore fans, and yet somehow these melancholic moments have persisted over the years through all of these changes. I can only believe that there is a tacit assumption that anime openings, more often than not, should on some level evoke a strong sense of sympathy in the viewer, and this influences their structure.

And Then He Bunker Rushed Shabranigdo

(Don’t worry, this is from last season so it isn’t a spoiler.)

(Ooohhhohohohoho…)

In a dream I found myself watching an episode of a Slayers anime. It wasn’t an OVA or a movie as it featured the TV series cast, though it did make a reference to the OVAs. In the one scene I “watched,” an unidentified character who knew Lina Inverse’s history notices a sleeping Lina and decides to mess with her. She gets close to Lina and then whispers a Naga-style laugh into her ear. No effect the first time, so she tries it a little louder, which startles Lina out of her slumber and puts her on edge.

When I woke up, I thought about my own history as a Slayers fan and recalled that, despite my anticipation I had never finished Slayers Revolution or even watched its sequel, Slayers Evolution-R. I laid there thinking that, for someone who once prided himself on having watched as much Slayers as he possibly could, this was quite a disappointment that needed immediate rectifying.

Then I checked Hulu and saw that both series are on there, and I thought, “This is a pretty good time to be an anime fan.”

Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun and the Mystery of Moe

Slayers is a 90’s anime series which arrived in a time before moe became a commonplace word. The most recent series which began airing this year, Slayers Revolution, is extremely faithful to that era of anime. So faithful, perhaps, that it can be jarring when put up against the other shows surrounding iSlayers Revolution at the moment. It is with this contrast that I began to wonder about the character of Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun and how, in her very 1990’s anime characterization, she is not quite moe as we know it today.

Young and cute with a bit of sexiness.

Honest and kind, but overly naive.

Tries her best but is often clumsy.

On paper, Amelia seems to be an obviously fall into the “moe” category in its most obvious and stereotypical sense. And yet, something doesn’t add up. While she has a lot of endearing traits similar to those of characters such as Arika Yumemiya (My-ZHiME) and Nono (Top o Nerae 2), Amelia is somehow different. She is not a character easily called moe, and her immediate loss in round 1 of the first Anime Saimoe’s main tournament says she was popular enough to get there, but not popular enough to overcome others.

Just to make things clear, I believe moe to be a personal, subjective thing. It is okay to moe over Amelia. What I mean when I say she is not quite moe is that she is generally not viewed as a “moe character” despite being so similar to characters who are.

One possibility is that while it’s possible to enjoy her character, feel empathy for her, and even perhaps become infatuated with Amelia, it’s much more difficult to feel sorry for her. Amelia is the confident princess of a powerful kingdom. She is skilled in diplomacy and magics both offensive and defensive. Her personality flaws are in sort of a no-man’s land, where they’re real flaws (and not just ones to make her cuter), but not so detrimental so as to turn her into damaged goods. She has both a gentle side and an agressive side, but it could never be mistaken for the ever-popular tsundere category.

I do not have the answers, but I believe that with a careful study of Amelia’s character, we can begin to unravel the clues explaining why anime has increasingly made this turn towards moe as she sits on the precipice between two worlds.

The Beginner’s Anime

If people ask me what they should show to others to introduce them to anime, Slayers is usually one of my first recommendations. It was one of the first anime I was proud to own, albeit in bootleg VHS fansub form. It was Slayers, specifically Slayers Gorgeous, that I believe got me into anime fandom in a major way. Sure, I loved Voltron as a kid, and I got into Dragon Ball Z as early as 4th or 5th grade, but it was Slayers that told me that Anime is Different when I walked into my high school’s anime club. Slayers was the type of thing you could show to a large crowd and get them all into the moment no matter how much anime they’d watched, which has made me always think of Slayers as a  good Beginner’s Anime. I’m sure you can think of plenty of other titles, like Cowboy Bebop, Robotech, or Naruto.

Actually, I don’t even know if anyone else besides me uses the term “Beginner’s Anime.” Pushing aside that fact, as well as the fact that people are different from one another and that there is clearly no universally acceptable standard for introducing anime to others, the term “Beginner’s Anime” implies that there are anime out there which may be too much for initial viewers, that there is a sort of conditioning or familiarizing that must occur before a fledgling anime fan can be introduced to the Good Stuff, distributed by some shady-looking guys in trenchcoats (hands up, you know who you are) in dark areas. Is it the way stories are structured? Is it the cultural differences and symbolism, the most prominent and perhaps infamous examples being the sweatdrop and the nosebleed? Is it a matter of attention span? This could go on forever and I doubt there’s an answer.

When I examine myself, I am not the anime fan I used to be. Sure, there’s a lot of factors both inside and outside the realm of anime which have influenced me and my watching habits, not least of which are the increase in availability of anime itself and the fact that I’ve simply gotten older, but I have to wonder what could have been. What about the time period I was in? I mean, the president of the anime club at the time was so proud of owning all of Cowboy Bebop that he could not wait to show it to us. It was the very beginning of the digisub age, when Napster was picking up steam and of course buying bootleg vhs fansubs was still a viable process. What about the fact that this was an anime club, a relatively social experience? Anime clubs are a dying breed today, and having a good social experience through anime may become less and less of a requirement. I even remember that when I took over this anime club a year later after the previous president had graduated, I noticed a sudden increase in the number of girls in the anime club. And then I tried to show them Serial Experiments Lain. As it  turns out, Lain is not a very good Beginner’s Anime, at least not as a social experience.

It’d be all too easy to say that every anime is a potential Beginner’s Anime. I mean, there’s a grain of truth to it all, but that sort of open-ended statement reduces the significance of all of the factors  outside of the anime-fan-to-be and the anime being watched. There are clearly some titles that succeed more than others at bringing in new fans, and I think it deserves research.

You’ll probably be seeing this topic again.