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Welcome to part three of my series on “Recommending Anime to your friends”. I’ve been debating over whether or not to separate my part two and three into two different sections; one will focus on Action and Drama, and the other on Romance and Comedy. If I decide to do that, we will have in total five parts to the “Recommending Anime” section. I may make revisions to the list over time, and things will change accordingly. Please be patient with the updates.

  1. Recommending Anime to your Friends (Part 1)
  2. List of Anime to Recommend to your Friends (Part 2)
  3. Special Anime Recommendations, K-On! and Angel Beats! (Part 3)

What falls under the “special” anime category? A good question..

This is where I recommend anime that clearly defines its genre; ones that separate themselves from the rest, ones that truly shine and are ranked very highly in my personal favourites. Keep in mind this is my personal suggestion, and many of you may have differing views on what is or is not considered the best anime of its “niche”. As always feel free to agree/disagree with anything I say (respectfully!), and/or offer your suggestions on Anime that I may have missed.

 


 

1. K-ON!

– Season One: 13 Episodes
– Season Two: 26 Episodes
– Lots of Specials
– Movie to be released in December 2011

Many have described this series as “cute girls doing cute things”, and honestly it is literally just that. Despite such a simple premise for an anime, it has grown so popular that merchandise such as figurines and albums are instantly sold out when they become available, and that’s on top of the fact they have regular re-stocks on their products. A perfect example of this is on the popular hobby purchasing website HobbySearch Japan, who just had restocks (September 26th) of the main characters from the K-ON! series. As of today (Sept 28th) they are sold out once again. Live concerts have been held by the voice actresses of their respective characters, and even after two seasons have concluded, a movie is in production due for release in December of this year (2011).

So what makes K-ON! so special? Ignoring the fact that I am 24 years old, watching 5 highschool girls have fun in a musical environment >_>, I have to say it is due to its simplicity and down-to-earth story-telling. The high school and coming-of-age genre gets used so often in anime, but K-ON! separates itself from others by removing the majority of drama and focusing on the cute and bubbly side of life. What you get is a story of five maturing girls who take high school life one step at a time, but do it together in a way that makes the viewers want to join in on the fun. Add to that some really great voice acting and very catchy songs (trust me, you’ll start downloading them if you like anime music in general), and you have a recipe for success.

This is a big Key Success Factor (KSF) for what I think makes K-ON! amazing: the music. It’s not just the three OP and ED sequences, but a bunch of insert songs that eventually make their way into the anime. The songs are sung by the voice actresses themselves, and while they are not amazing singers, they do extremely well. These songs are sung in-character, and truly add to the characters’ personalities and give them life. I would provide some audio clips, but all my songs are in 320kbps bit rate meaning they’re very large in filesize. Instead, you can listen to some youtube links found near the end of this post.

Often you see anime try to mimic or copy the success of K-On. Upcoming anime that have the same genres are always being compared and reviewed against K-On!, meaning K-On! obviously did something right in attracting its fanbase. A-Channel is an anime about 5 4 high school girls doing K-ON-like things, but in a watered down version of it, and made weak attempts to copy the style and slice-of-life moments. It even had insert songs sung by the voice actors, but it didn’t have the same effect—or at least I didn’t think so anyway. Another example is the recent OVA release by Manglobe who produces Kami Nomi zo Shiru Sekai. 5 4 girls who just so happen to want to start their own Keion-bu (Light music) club must overcome challenges that would make or break the group. It had striking, and I mean STRIKING resemblances in a obvious attempt to copy K-On.

I will conclude and say that K-On has become a worldwide craze, much in the same way the SOS brigade become popular due to the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. You have Cos-players all over the world, merchandise being sold left, right, and center, a full-length movie dedicated to fictional anime characters, live concerts held just to promote their popularity and improve its fanbase, and last of all music albums that held the #1 and #2 spots on the Japan weekly Oricon billboards. K-On has made a name for itself being the best high school/slice-of-life/coming-of-age anime to date.

Post Scriptum: The slice-of-life genre gets used all too frequently, and many people get confused as to what exactly is considered “slice-of-life”. There’s a nice little blog post on MyAnimeList written by 8thsin that explains from his viewpoint what slice-of-life is.

To quote, “‘Slice of life’ means a cutout sequence of everyday life, often used to make examinations/observations that reflect the real world. NOT “plausible setting” or “drama” or “slow pacing” as many tend to believe, nor simply “Daily life” of characters doing everyday things, although those are more likely than not. They usually don’t have obvious themes, and extremely low volume of dialogue.’

8thsin has his own website, devoted to fansubbing many different anime. He is well-versed in his Japanese, and I trust his viewpoint to be accurate and educated. For those that get lost in genres, maybe this can clear up some of that confusion. Now then, moving on to the next Anime!

As promised, here is one of my favourite songs from K-On!! second season: No Thank You!

 


 

2. Angel Beats!

– Season One: 13 Episodes
– One OVA
– One Special

The premise of this anime begins by defining a unique environment and setting. Students are mysteriously given a second chance to live in the afterlife, only to find out that they are part of a purgatory. For those that don’t know what a purgatory is, it is essentially a place where sinners undergo “purification”, or repent for their sins they have committed.

To start, obviously you don’t have to be religious to watch this series, and even for those that have religious views they will find this very interactive and captivating as well. The story evolves into this afterlife being a dream-like state where characters cannot die, even though they can be “killed” over and over; it is the afterlife after all. God is the main antagonist according to the main characters, who fight against Tenshi (Angel in Japanese) in an attempt to rebel against his wishes. They see the afterlife as punishment for living an unfulfilled or regretful life, and as such they will do any means necessary to resist God’s will and get back to their “real” world. You will find out all of this information from within the first episode, so there’s no real threat to ruining the story. Spoiler-free don’t worry!

Angel Beats! has taken a lot of criticism in regards to its popularity and story. Some will find that it is extremely frustrating to watch, and not original whatsoever. Others—like myself—will find that the story has a very deep meaning and intriguing plot that will blow your mind. And lastly there are those that are just unsure what to think of the anime, and I will of course try my best to convince you in right direction.

Angel Beats! comes with a broad range of genres; it includes bits and pieces of themes like comedy, drama, romance, action, supernatural, mystery, and others that can probably be traced to every single genre you can come up with. The main reason I think this is special is because of the way the story unfolds in the last couple of episodes. It separates itself from other anime by having a plot that seems highly controversial to begin with, i.e. fighting against Kami-sama (God).

Again, whether your religious or not, the idea is not whether God exists or not, but that God wants them to suffer or purge themselves of fault and failures. Traditionally God is seen as just and orderly; he is not an entity that destroys, correct?

Tenshi acts as the liaison between God and the students, and her role is to enforce law and order as the student council president. At first glance this story seems so unnatural; God is viewed as good, so why does he make students suffer? And thus begins this deep, enveloping story that takes you into the mystery behind the afterlife.

Lastly, within this story you find almost every single major genre listed above. The ending is very bittersweet and keeps you begging for more, the action is serious but also comedic in nature, and both girly and manly themes are ever present in the story. For those that don’t like long anime, you will be happy to know this is only 13 episodes, and while I personally thought it could be extended to 26, this is definitely a great series nonetheless. I highly, highly recommend this to any anime fan.

Next up, the Mahou Shoujos, and Supernatural anime! (Part 4).

To follow suit with K-On, here’s the Ending song to Angel Beats!: Brave Song by Aoi Tada: