I like anime. But not everyone does, and I can understand getting weary of its stereotypes or never having found an entry into its realm. So, I have compiled a few series (in alphabetic order, feel free to just pick any which sounds appealing) that come with my highest recommendation but require no previous familiarity with or pronounced sympathy for anime tropes. (The ones marked with an * are, in my humble opinion, great beyond measure.)
Bakemonogatari / Nisemonogatari / Nekomonogatari
A very wordy and pretty weird, but immensely rewarding, series of novel adaptations. Has some disorienting effects which only served to increase my fascination with it.
Lighthearted, adventurous, beautifully realized coming-of-age fantasy drama series. There’s also a great movie set after the finale.
Retro sci-fi series whose episodes vary wildly in tone and topic. Very stylish; plus, it has an excellent soundtrack.
Eden Of The East
A rather down to earth and relatively realistic suspense story; overall on the light-hearted side.
Introverted, subtle, immersive, atmospheric, poetic fantasy drama.
An adaptation of the excellent and masterfully woven manga narrative by Naoki Urasawa.
Part period piece, part fantasy; a strikingly beautiful, almost meditative viewing experience.
Paranoia Agent *
A surreal, brilliant masterpiece from Satoshi Kon, a stellar director at the height of his craft (I also strongly recommend checking out his movies, especially Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika). If this doesn’t blow your mind, you’re dead inside.
Classic and very realistic sci-fi, without aliens and spaceship battles and all that distracting nonsense.
Super-stylish martial arts series infused with hip-hop culture; by the creators of Cowboy Bebop.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
A scientifically accurate depiction of the aftermath of a massive earthquake hitting Tokyo. Caution: very sad.
Following a pack of mythical wolves on a trip to paradise in a dystopian future. Brilliant, allegorical, multi-layered apocalyptic fantasy epic.
There has been a trend recently of turning anime into live action films. The most prominent of these is most likely the American Ghost in the Shell film though in Japan, the trend has been going on for quite some time. There have been adaptations of Space Battleship Yamato, Yatterman, Ruroni Kenshin and Kagaku Ninjatai Gatchaman plus there are upcoming versions of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and Fullmetal Alchemist.
However, this adaptation idea goes both ways and sometimes, there are anime adaptation of live-action properties. Some of these stick very close to the original version while others veer of wildly from their tokusatsu originals. Here are just a few of them. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a taste of what is out there.
Giant Robo is based on a manga by Mitsuteru Yokoyama and originally appeared in live-action form in 1967, produced by Toei. It followed the adventures of the titular robot and his controller, a young boy named Daisaku Kusama as they help the secret organization Unicorn battle the interstellar terrorist organization Big Fire. The live action version was adapted for English and released as Johnny Socko and his Flying Robot.
In the early 1990s, it was decided that an anime adaption entitled Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still would not only be about the titular mechanoid but incorporate aspects of all of mangaka Yokoyama’s works. This time Daisaku and Robo work with the Experts of Justice, a group of super powered heroes fighting once again against the evil of Big Fire and their inner circle of powered agents, the Magnificent Ten.
It’s a great anime, directed with style and substance by Yasuhiro Imagawa (who would later direct Mobile Fighter G Gundam) and has some very memorable characters (especially Experts of Justice agent Ginrei), a fantastic retro-futuristic settings as well as dynamic and exciting action sequences. I highly recommend it to anyone, even those utterly unfamiliar with the live action version.
Jinzo Ninger Kikaider (人造人間キカイダー) was a tokusatsu series created by Shotaro Ishinomori that started in 1972. It was accompanied by a manga from the legendary author being publish concurrently with the TV version in the pages of Weekly Shonen Sunday. The series follows the adventures of Jiro, an android created by the kind Dr, Konmyoji who opposes the evil organization DARK and its Master, Professor Gill. Gill sends out evil androids each week with plans to conquer Japan and capture or kill Jiro. When things get tough, Jiro can transform into his stronger form, the android hero Kikaider!
In 2000, an anime version of the series, much more faithful to the manga than the live-action version was released. It was entirely Android Kikaider: The Animation and was followed by a 4 episode sequel entitled Android Kikaider 01: The Animation which was an anime version of the sequel to the tokusatsu series of the same name. This version was dubbed into English and aired on Cartoon Network as part of their Adult Swim programming block.
Of special note was a one shot OVA unreleased in the US entitled The boy with the Guitar: Kikaider vs Inazuman which created and anime crossover between Ishinomori’s live-action heroes Kikaider and Inazuman.
This one might be cheating a little but there is no way I could mention anime adaptations of Tokusatsu shows without talking about the anime versions of Tsuburaya’s classic Ultraman series. The thing is, the various anime versions are not straight adaptations but sequels, series that happen in the same universe or comedic spin-offs of the original.
For example, 1979′s The Ultraman (ザ☆ウルトラマン) is actually the 8th entry in the Ultraman franchise, following 1974′s Ultraman Leo. As such, it is set in the same universe as the other Ultra series but introduces a brand new hero, Ultraman Joneus (or Ultraman Jonias) who is also referred to as Ultraman Joe. Like Leo before him, Joneus does not hail from the Land of Light in Nebula M78 but from another planet, U40. He works in his human form of Choichiro Hikari with the Scientific Defense Guard to protect Earth from aliens and monsters. The series was co-produced by Tsuburays Productions and the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). It was animated not by Tsuburaya themselves but by Nippon Sunrise, who would find fame as the animators of the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise that started the same year.
It was released on video in the US as Ultraman II: The Further Adventures of Ultraman which included only a dub of the first four episodes. The name were altered for the Americanized version and episodes 3 and 4 were swapped in order.
In 1987 there was another animated Ultraman, this time a co-production between Tsuburaya Productions and American animated studio Hanna-Barbera entitles Ultraman: The Adventure Begins or, in Japan, Ultraman USA.
This series followed the adventures of three American stunt pilots who crash after a sudden, mysterious flash of light but emerge from the wreckage unscathed. They are later told they have become merged with a trio of heroes from the planet Altara in Nebula M78 and tasked with captured monsters who escaped from an offworld prison planet. The three, headquartered out of Mount Rushmore, call themselves collectively the Ultra Force and are made up of:
Though the series was co-produced in the USA, these Ultra Heroes are an official part of the series’ canon, appearing in Live Action form twice; once in the Shinseiki Ultraman Densetsu featurette and most recently in 2009′s
Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend The Movie.
The film was released in the US by Ultra Action Video and L.A. Hero but has since gone out of print and is no longer available. It has also never been re-released on any modern video format and so lingers in the realm of VHS only lost releases.
There have been other animated Ultraman productions and spin-offs including the cat version Ultranyan:
As well as last year’s super deformed series focusing on girls who have inherited the souls of past Ultra Monsters: Kaiju Girls:
This is only the first part of what may end up being a lengthy series about anime adaptations of tokusatsu. Thank you to @tokugami for the idea!