[Hello all and welcome back to Weeb Analysis where this month we’ll be taking a break from the glut of new content for recommendations of underrated anime. Weeb Analysis is a monthly column dedicated to analyzing new anime and seeing which titles are true classics in the making and which ones are worthless shlock not worth your time. The question now stands: are these titles worth your time or not?]
Spring is in the air, or at least it would be where I live if we didn’t decide to skip over spring and go right to summer. Instead of having mild 60-degree weather in New Jersey, it’s in the 70s and is expected to get into the 90s over the weekend. It’s unusual, to say the least, which has put me in a bit of a different mindset for this installment. Usually, I have some new title to examine and pore over, something that I think is notable for one reason or another. Except right now, I don’t have a new title to examine.
That isn’t from a lack of good anime to discuss. Far from it, actually, as the Spring season has given me plenty of titles that I want to talk about in the near future, such as the immensely popular Spy x Family, the super underrated Ya Boy Kongming!, and Summertime Render, Disney+’s first anime title it has licensed out. While I intend to cover most, if not all, of those shows, I feel like there hasn’t really been enough time for me to sink my teeth into them and formulate a clear thesis surrounding them.
So in the spirit of the weather being a bit untraditional, I’m doing something untraditional as well: a general anime recommendation list! I watch dozens upon dozens of anime a year and there are only so many titles I get to talk about at a given time. So for this post, I’m going to give you a general rapid-fire look at five titles that I’ve seen that I feel are worth discussing. As always, these may not be the best titles in the world, but they’re distinct and worth watching at least once.
You may have heard of some of these titles, or you may not have, but if any of these strike your fancy, give them a watch. None of them are super long and can be watched over a weekend easily. Plus, if you all like this style, maybe I can do another list like this in the future if people want some more underrated or unknown anime. And so, in alphabetical order, let’s begin our anime recommendations with…
Eden of the East
A man wakes up naked in front of the White House with no memory of who he is. All he has is a cell phone that tells him to go to a hotel, wherein he chooses a new identity and discovers he has 8.2 billion yen. He is a Selecao, and he is involved in a game. The goal of the game? To save Japan. The methods of how to accomplish this goal are unknown. The only tools he has at his disposal are the money on his phone and the woman on the other end of it. All he needs to do is voice a request and the necessary funds are drained from his account. The catch is that there are 10 other players and only one of them can be the savior of Japan. It’s entirely up to him to decide how to use that money to save Japan and win the game.
As far as premises go, Eden of the East is immediately interesting. We’ve seen series that are similar to an extent but they usually devolve into a game of death where there can be only one winner. Sure, elements of traditional games of death are at play here. Some people’s fates are left in limbo and many are hospitalized, but you’re always left wondering what’s going to happen next. While there is a central romance between our main character, who eventually takes on the name Akira Takizawa, and a college student named Saki, most of the series focuses on the 4D chess matches between Selecao and the thriller elements within.
The series is split into three parts: an 11-episode anime series and two feature-length movies. As far as the recommendations for today’s post go, it’s the longest series, yet it does have some flaws. For as great of a premise as Eden of the East has, it burns out by the time the second movie rolls around and doesn’t fully go into its concept. It doesn’t even give us detailed looks at all of the Selecao. Plus the romance between Akira and Saki, while sincere, isn’t anything to write home about. But if you want a series with an immediately interesting premise, one I took notice of back in high school, then it’s worth a watch.
There’s no other way to describe Keijo!!!!!!!! other than pure, dumb fun. Keijo!!!!!!!! is stupid. It is one of the most shameless fan-service anime I’ve ever seen. Yet it’s also a brilliant sports anime and one that is so ludicrous that you can’t help but laugh at it and admire it simultaneously. Yes, those eight exclamation points are a part of the title. You can’t have Keijo!!!!!!!! without them.
In the competitive sport of Keijo, female competitors stand on top of floating islands. In order to win a round of Keijo, they need to knock their opponent off the island, but they can’t use their hands or feet. They’re only allowed to use their breasts and butts. With that out of the way, Nozomi Kaminashi is going to become the greatest Keijo player ever with her secret technique, the Vacuum Butt Cannon, which is a butt attack so powerful it creates a vacuum burst of pressurized air. Yes, all of that is real.
I’m not really a fan of sports anime unless they’re absolutely ridiculous. I need huge amounts of melodrama, lunacy, and a heaping amount of self-awareness to make any sports drama exciting to me. Maybe this comes from me just never getting competitive sports, but watching the heightened drama of Sk8 the Infinity or this season’s Birdie Wing: Golf Girl’s Story somehow makes sports like skateboarding and golf go down smoother. Keijo!!!!!!!! is all about lunacy and ridiculousness, but goes the opposite direction of these other shows. While the entertainment value of those shows comes from everything else besides the sport (the characters, the plot, etc.), Keijo!!!!!!!! has the sporting event itself as the most entertaining thing about it.
There’s just something mesmerizing about a show where a legitimate tactic that can lead to victory is memorizing your opponent’s butt. Outside of the sporting event, there are your standard training montages, pep talks, and developing friendships that you would find in any sports title. We’re not watching Keijo!!!!!!!! for those moments, however. We’re watching it because this is a series where a person’s butt is so fat that it deflects all attacks, leading her to constant victories.
Even with the premise, the show never devolves into pure eye candy for the audience. I mean, that’s not the sole purpose of it. There’s an earnestness to the series that makes you forget that this is a show all about T&A. The fact that a sports anime with as stupid of a premise as Keijo!!!!!!!! can present itself in a way that deflects debauchery in its most climactic moments is worthy of praise. So if you want to see the stupidest sports anime in existence about female butt warriors, Keijo!!!!!!!! is impossible to beat.
Land of the Lustrous
One of the most critically acclaimed animated shows of the past decade here in the States was Steven Universe. The show focused on a young boy and his Gem-based friends defending Earth from evil Gems wishing to conquer it. It would be easy to describe Land of the Lustrous as an anime version of that, but that would honestly undermine just how artistically brilliant the series is.
Produced by Studio Orange before they began work on Beastars, Land of the Lustrous follows a young gem named Phos as she tries to discover what her purpose is. All of the other gems are engaged in a war against beings from the moon named Lunarians, who wish to destroy them and harvest the jewels they’re made of for some unknown purpose. Phos is not a fighter, so the Gems’ human master, Kongo, tasks her with creating an encyclopedia of all of the life she encounters so she can contribute to them in some way.
The series is a slow burn, with the first season only chronicling four of the eleven volumes currently in circulation, but even with the show not reaching those truly heartbreaking moments, Land of the Lustrous is outright gorgeous. 3D animation has often been looked down upon in the anime community, and frankly, there are plenty of reasons to look down on it given its track record in the industry. Land of the Lustrous manages to buck all of those assumptions. The series is beautiful. Even if you decide to mute the show as you watch it, you’ll still be enamored by it from the visuals alone.
I tend to focus on the plot of a series when I give a recommendation and rarely recommend a show solely based on its aesthetic, but it’s warranted here. That isn’t to say that show’s plot isn’t great, because it is, but the show ends on a cliffhanger that is a major status quo changer which five years later, hasn’t been continued. Also, given that the series was exclusive to Amazon back when they decided to give anime streaming a try, it slipped by a lot of people’s radars despite the critical acclaim that it achieved. Don’t sleep on this title because hopefully, if the gods are willing, we’ll get a second season once Studio Orange concludes Beastars.
Magical Girl Raising Project
In 2011, Puella Magi Madoka Magica changed the anime industry as we know it. The series was a dark subversion of the magical girl genre of anime made popular by shows like Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura. It elevated a childlike subgenre into something darker and more mature. While the series itself is excellent, its impact has led to a lot (and I mean A LOT) of imitators that missed what made that series so tragic and wonderful. They only seem to grasp the dark subversion angle of the show, so they revel in grimdark seriousness in a vain attempt to appear more complex than they actually are.
Magical Girl Raising Project walks a fine line between success and failure. The series centers on a group of magical girls tasked with saving the world, but very quickly it devolves into a violent blood sport where the magical girls are killing each other due to some cute mascot’s evil machinations. Calling the series an imitation of Madoka Magica is probably apt and I may be giving the series a bit too much credit, but there’s something I find entertaining about watching a show with over a dozen magical girls and wondering who will be the last one standing and how much blood is going to be spilled.
The sadness behind each series comes from different circumstances. In Madoka Magica, the tragedy that the girls endured stemmed from the necessity of the situation. If they were to stop their crusade the world would be destroyed, but their end would undeniably be a gruesome, yet needed one. In Magical Girl Raising Project, the horror that the girls endure is entirely a human creation, where they actively decided to be horrible and cruel to one another despite there being alternatives to the situation they’re placed in that would lead to a non-violent resolution. It’s more mean-spirited in a sense, but in a way, you feel like you learn something from it. Give it a try, though be aware it will not be a wholesome ride.
Watamote, also known as No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular, is a dark comedy. Considering the fact I put this right after a show about little girls killing each other, I would go so far as to say that the content in Watamote is darker, which is really bizarre given that I find this show hilarious. Watamote centers on one Tomoko Kuroki, a high school girl who tries to be popular despite being an anti-social loner. Plus she actively hates everyone and everything and socializing with other people gives her extreme anxiety. So that’s a factor against her.
It’s similar in that regard to Komi Can’t Communicate, but Tomoko is a very different beast from Komi. Whereas Komi is constantly trying to improve her communication skills and genuinely wants to have friends, Tomoko is selfish, egotistical, yet highly pitiable. Tomoko is angry and insults other people in her head, but never is able to break through that negative state of mind. The series is so negative, in fact, that some may even question if the show is a comedy and not some dark examination of social anxiety. I haven’t heard anyone ever come down the middle on Watamote. You either love it or you hate it. There are even people that claim you should only watch it once as one time will be more than enough to get what the show’s shtick is.
Damn it, I can’t help but love this show. I don’t have social anxiety so I can’t speak to the authenticity of Tomoko’s experiences, but I find the show’s pitch-black sense of humor such a breath of fresh air compared to most other anime. Humor in the anime industry tends to be wacky, over-the-top gags with high-energy characters making loud noises or having exaggerated reactions to events. Watamote is more subdued. The humor comes from the patheticness of the situation Tomoko always puts herself in, yet the series never shies away from also acknowledging that you should feel a little bit bad for laughing at her.
I know I’m probably not doing the best job at explaining why it works so well despite how mean it can get at times, but it’s the same reason why you laugh at Zim in Invader Zim. You can’t help but chuckle at someone you should be rooting for, but who is constantly sabotaging themselves at every turn all while boasting about how amazing they are. Sure, Tomoko is a good person… I think… but the jokes are set up because she thinks she’s an expert at socializing because she plays visual novel dating games. That’s a little funny. Give Watamote a chance because while it isn’t for everyone, if it’s your cup of tea, you’ll love it.
And that’s all for this first volume of anime recommendations! I have plenty more to choose from, so next time there’s a lull in anime releases or meaningful discussions, I’ll be back with another list of titles to give you a couple of new additions for your anime viewing pleasure. Next month, an actual analysis of a Spring anime!
January 2022: Anime of the Year Awards 2021
February 2022: Demon Slayer: Entertainment District Arc
March 2022: My Dress-Up Darling
April 2022: Platinum End