Ever heard of Naruto, Pokemon, Bleach, InuYasha, YuYu Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, Durarara, or Rurouni Kenshin? Most likely, you have heard of these, because they are just a handful of the most popular anime from the past few years or so, and if you haven’t heard of any, then you need to look up at least one and watch it immediately. These are, by popular opinion, the best anime that Japan has to offer and are considered the anime that raised the bar.
Even with all the popular anime out there, there are those that tend to fly under the radar for a number of reasons, including limited release, lack of advertising, or lack of widespread appeal. You tend come across these anime purely by accident or by a recommendation from someone else who came across it by accident themselves. You see the title and go, “Hmm. I wonder what this is?” Then you watch it, and you might find that it is surprisingly good and wonder how come other people haven’t heard of it (and then, if you’re like me, you realize you don’t want your precious anime to become popular and be ruined by obsessive poser fans).
However, it should be our duty to spread these hidden gems to the world in the hopes that people do become more aware of them, mostly so I don’t have to answer the same question about which character I’m cosplaying. With this in mind, I begged and pleaded a few of the The G.A.M.E.S. Blog writers and powers that be to relinquish their hold on some of their favorite but lesser known anime and hopefully give you a few new series you might enjoy.
Michael Riel — Staff Writer
Tattoon Master (1996): So, I won a contest at school and got a $25 gift card to Target. Since we didn’t have a Target nearby, I went online and bought a couple movies from the online store. This is how I found Tattoon Master, and no, that’s not a misspelling. Hibio is a delinquent who hates women and lives at home with his father, who is a struggling writer. His mother abandoned them both to go about the world and discover exotic places. She runs into the Tattoon, a tribe of people who are gifted with magical powers because of the tattoos that are inked onto their skin. When Hibio’s mother finds them, she makes a deal with the leader, Nima, that if she is allowed to stay to study the Tattoon, then Nima can seek out and marry Hibio. I would say more, but that would spoil most of the plot, and since there are only two episodes…well, you get my point. However, even with those two episodes, they do squeeze a lot into twenty minutes. There is plenty of action, romance, comedy and a surprising amount of character development. A word of caution: under no circumstances should you watch the English dub. It is lazily done, and they even change the major characters names, which could get confusing to some.
Jungle de Ikou (1997): It’s a magical girl anime, and it’s raunchy; what more could you ask for? I found this one On Demand a few years back. Jungle de Ikou, which is translated as Let’s Go To The Jungle, stars Natsumi, a girl who is pretty much average in every way. Her father, ironically, is also an explorer, and he brings home a statue from New Guinea for Natsumi. When she breaks the seal on the statue she has a weird dream about an old man who gives her a necklace and shows her a dance that will transform her into Mii, a well endowed fertility/flower spirit. She also meets Ongo, a wood spirit who is also unknowingly the spirit of destruction. In this very short anime series, which is three episodes long, Natsumi (as Mii), must save the world by preventing spirits from possessing her friend, saving Japan from a herd of whales, and stopping a monster from ending all life on the planet. Jungle de Ikou is just one big pile of perverted fun thrown in with a bit of action and magical powers.
Jimmy Stephenson — Staff Writer
Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team (1996-1999): Most of the different variations of the Gundam franchise are long, drawn-out epics. Friends become enemies, enemies become frenemies, and viewers are asked to keep track of the twisting political alliances and schemes that play out over dozens of episodes. However, this is not the case with The 08th MS Team, which offers a much more focused, private look at the types of drama that occur during war. Instead of a top secret battlecruiser or a young pilot with unexpected potential, this anime follows a single group of average soldiers as they attempt to complete a top secret sabotage mission. This is a refreshing change of pace, and the 12-episode run time keeps things moving quickly. Every member of the squad is well-characterized, giving the whole situation a more grounded feel. The artwork and animation are also surprisingly good, with some well done battle sequences that look and feel much more gritty and meaningful than the 100 to 1 space battles of Wing or Seed. Overall, its a great anime that boils down Gundam into its most basic parts and trims off the fat. For anyone who likes giant robots but doesn’t want to practice reading the Geneva Convention, this show is for you.
Dan Furnas — Editor-in-Chief
Golden Boy (1995-1996): Golden Boy, based on Tatsuya Egawa’s manga series, follows Kintaro Oe as he travels across the Japanese countryside doing odd jobs to get by. Kintaro quit law school just before finishing, freeing himself up from having a career to continue a life of learning. Sounds incredibly boring, right? Well, it’s actually far from that. Each episode of the 6-part OVA follows a similar formula: Kintaro meets an attractive woman whom he falls for on sight, and he learns whatever their current plight may be. He then goes all-out to help them despite the fact that he often comes across as a fool to them because of his actions. He uses whatever knowledge that he has, combined with his seemingly endless font of energy, to help them and jumps at the chance to learn something new in return. Much of the show’s humor comes from physical comedy or sexual humor, which may keep a number of people from watching it. However, the writing is actually better than one would expect for an ecchi comedy, and Doug Smith’s rendition of the protagonist also did wonders for the show. You see, Golden Boy is a rarity amongst hidden gems: a series where the English dub was better than the Japanese. Sure, there are Studio Ghibli movies and big-named series (e.g., Cowboy Bebop) that accomplished this, but in the 90s, English dubs could be pretty hit and miss. To this day, I can still replay snippets of the show in my mind for a quick laugh. The last episode is a little over the top, but it serves as a better conclusion than many modern shows get. If you’re not bothered by sexually suggestive incidents, it’s certainly worth a shot.
The world of anime is so vast and insane that there are still countless anime that are still hiding under the ground, just waiting to be dug up by hungry anime fans. What anime have you seen that no one else has even remotely heard of? Let us know in the comments below so we can add another show to our “Must Watch” list! This is only the first part in a series, though, so tune in next week for another decade of anime you might have missed.