I have been a fan of anime before it was known as anime. In the 60’s and 70’s, it was just a Japanese cartoon dubbed in English to American kids. Shows like Speed Racer, Gigantor, Marine Boy, and Star Blazers were an absolute joy to watch, after school and on Saturday mornings.
In the 80’s, anime became more frequent with Mobile Suit Gundam, Captain Harlock, Sailor Moon, Voltron, and more. Then came the great Hayao Miyazaki and movies like Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the Academy award winning film Spirited Away. There so many more that I didn’t list here. That’s because anime has become a global phenomenon.
There are so many different types of anime, from story and style to genre and sub-type. There are terms like Ecchi, Harem, Shounen, Mecha, Shoujo, etc. There are so many different anime out there, there isn’t enough time to watch it all. A lot of them seem formulaic in their writing, but they do have their own quirky characteristics.
I am currently binging on Crunchyroll, an anime app and website that plays dozens of anime, old and new. There is such a wide variety available, I can’t watch it all. My favorite genre is magical fantasy, and they don’t stick to just one type. There are dozens of different combinations, from your basic fantasy (Full Metal Alchemmist) to Angels vs. Devils (High School DxD) and supernatural (Tokyo Ghoul) to fantasy/sci-fi (Infinite Stratos).
These anime is so different and so expressive that it comes up with new ways of approaching fantasy. The Irregular at Magic High School is a great example. The story takes place in an alternate history where magic exists and is polished through modern technology. However, the ability to use magic is determined by genetics, limiting the amount of magicians in existence. Due to the limited amount of magicians, they are treated as commodity and are forced to enter magic related schools and professions. It follows Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba, siblings who enroll into First High magic high school.
The thing I love about this anime is how they combined technology as a way to better use magic. Instead of using chants and spells, magic users cast spells with their Casting Assistant Device (CAD). The CAD is infused with the user’s Psions (a substance-less thought particle) that activates the device and constructs the magic ritual. The spells are programmed into the CADs that allow them to use their magic more efficiently. It’s an incredible concept that, to me, brings the fantasy/magic genre to a new level.
A lot of the fantasy genre revolves around magic schools, training young men (but mostly women) in the arcane arts. There is a strong obsession in these anime with school girl uniforms and how they “fill” them out. I’ve been told its called a “fan shot” by name. Quite peculiar but fun to watch.
Another one of my favorites is Is it Wrong to try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon. This anime is like Dungeons and Dragons but better. The story takes place in the fictional city of Orario, whose main feature place is the Dungeon which contains an assortment of monsters from goblins to dragons. The people of Orario join groups called Familia, who serve a range of functions from dungeon crawling to crafting items. The story follows the exploits of Bell Cranel, a 14-year-old solo adventurer under the goddess Hestia. He is a “Level 1 Noob” who is trying to do good by his Familia and impress Ais Wallenstein, a powerful swordswoman who once saved his life, and with whom he fell in love.
Watching this anime is like playing D&D on Saturday night. This anime goes as far as the dungeon crawlers leveling up, with their statistics tattooed on their backs. Their deity updates the stats through magic. They can buy armor and magic items, just like in the game. You can’t help but laugh out loud through each episode.
For a writer, freedom to express your stories is vital to creativity. Anime has such a broad range of genres that it has inspired my own writing for more than 40 years. I watched it as a child because it was entertaining and imaginative. I watch it now because it inspires me to broaden my imagination. You should too!
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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Chapter 3 of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.