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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Five Anime For Your Post-Black Friday Blues

This one's for the American otaku out there. Sorry, international readers, but last weekend was kind of a big deal in the U.S. of A. We spent Thursday eating and drinking until our pants popped opened collectively while watching football and various parades (and for some of us, kicked off a once-in-a-lifetime holiday known as Thanksgivukkah), then woke up in the wee hours of Friday to tackle Black Friday, whether in person at the malls or online while stalking Amazon's hourly specials. Saturday was spent either in a holiday-induced food coma or braving the stores yet again for amazing deals thanks to Small Business Saturday (anyone else get a cute free tote bag?) across the country.

We have all (over)eaten our share of food, endured more contact with extended family than we'd ever care to voluntarily admit to, and a good portion of us can now claim to have witnessed the first musical Lady Gaga x Muppets meet-up in pop culture history (not counting the Kermit dress, natch). If ever there was a time for otaku to unwind and relax with anime, this is definitely it. I've got five titles that will wash away all your post-Thanksgiving/shopping blues.

5. Attack on Titan/Shingeki no Kyojin: "On that day, mankind received a grim reminder. We lived in fear of the titans, and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls." So begins one of the most bloody, violent and hopeless strikes against the heart of humanity in the past decade. Am I trolling with my first pick? Certainly, watching human beings being eaten by hideous-faced gargantuan superpowers is not what anyone wants to watch during the holidays?

Wrong! Despite all odds, the cast of AoT are shining examples of the strength of humanity in the face of despair. Look at Eren and Mikasa and their fellow soldiers in the ongoing battle against the titans. They keep on fighting even when it looks like they will certainly be killed, because what they are fighting in - the future of those they love, a future without being scared of living freely - is worth risking their lives for. (You can watch AoT streaming via Crunchyroll.) And this theme is continued in the next show...

4. Maho Shojo Madoka Magica: That famous maho shojo story with a dark, Faustian twist is just what viewers need after AoT. Madoka stumbles neatly into the rabbit hole that is the battle between magical girls and witches, waged secretly in the shadows by young girls just like her, including some of her classmates. What she doesn't know is that Kyuubey's offer to make her into a magical girl like her classmate, Mami Tomoe, will change her life forever.

Much like Eren and Mikasa in AoT, the girls of Madoka Magica are shining examples of humanity fighting against the darkness, although in drastically different circumstances. No one is a better paragon of the show's spirit than Madoka, who embodies hope itself for the entire planet. She proves that there is so much good in everyone and that is worth protecting. And after being elbowed in the face by someone's mother so you could get the last PS4, it's nice to know that at least in these worlds, not everyone is an inherent jerk. You can watch Madoka streaming via Crunchyroll.

3. Kannazuki no Miko: Family drama got you down? Friends fighting, parents squabbling, that one uncle still asking you why you watch 'Pokemon and porn' all the time? Chikane and Himeko got you beat in the drama department. They are destined to fight an ancient evil that threatens the Earth while performing magic, piloting giant robots, and swinging shiny swords at their opponents, all while one deals with their romantic feelings for the other. Now, that is worth crying about. 

KnM is twelve episodes of "OH GOD THE PAIN" as we watch Chikane and Himeko try to navigate regular life with the lives of humanity's saviors. Unrequited love and deep-seated powers with a level of kowtowing to Japanese tradition make their actions more difficult than ever. The ending is a little melodramatic and high on the cheese level, but totally worth it. You can watch it via the Anime Network.

2. Panty & Stocking With Garterbelt: And then sometimes you don't want to be reminded that fictional folks have it harder than you. Sometimes, you just want to shut your mental facilities down and watch something incredibly dumb in nature. A series in which women turn their underwear and undergarments into weapons to fight creepy monsters? That sounds about right.

The main girls, Panty and Stocking, are banished angels looking for a way back into heaven through fighting the scourge of the Earth for special coins. Their weapons? Panties that turn into a pair of pistols and stockings that turn into a long-bladed katana. Their boss is a huge priest with a large afro with a S&M fetish who yells at them to stop being so lazy. Their occasional sidekick is Briefs, a redheaded kid with a Ghostbusters hang-up who is such a virgin, it should be illegal.

This show? It's so very silly. It's crude and inappropriate. It's colorful, loud and raunchy and fun. If you have a high tolerance for fan service, double innuendo, and outlandish fight scenes, P&S is your jam for this holidays. Unfortunately, this series is no long available on Crunchyroll to watch :/

1. Tokyo Godfathers: Or . . . you want to look ahead, toward the near future, toward the end of December and the oncoming Christmas break. You are someone who believes that even though life is crazy and goofy and not nice, that in the end goodness always prevails and our heroes come from the most unlikely of places. If so, then the late Satoshi Kon's 2003 Christmas film should be tonight's title for your viewing pleasure.

On Christmas Eve, an abandoned baby finds a new home with a group of homeless oddballs, a family brought together by circumstance alone. This trio of folks have stuck together through everything only to be tested by a newborn left behind in a pile of garbage. But this baby also brings into their life an unbelievable amount of happiness and love, things that they end up fighting to keep when it looks like their bundle of joy might be leaving them forever. You can watch it streaming via Netflix.