Trying to get into anime is a lot like trying to get into celebrity culture. There are so many things going on at once that it can be hard to know where to start. Where do I get my news? What should I start watching? What’s the difference between shoujo and shounen? People tend to look towards the most obvious sources for answers. A person interested in celebrities might start reading magazines that feature their favorite actor to start with, before learning about other famous people.
Most take this approach with anime, starting with success stories like Dragon Ball or Naruto. Famous shows are famous for a reason, but in all the hype and glitter some get overlooked. So in today’s post, I bring you my (first?) list of 4 anime that could be mainstream, but aren’t for some reason.
#1 Rainbow: Nisha Rokubou no Shichinin
Let me get this out of the way first: this anime isn’t for the light of heart. It’s definitely a mature anime, but in a different way than a casual observer might think. Centered around the lives of 6 young men in a 1940s Japanese prison, the show is brutally real at times. It’s a testament to tasteful maturity: it is explicit without being pandering, with thoughtful restraint. No character is a plot device: each has an understandable backstory and developed personality that fleshes them out.
The plotline is unique enough to make it stand out, and the story has an air of historical fiction that reminds me of Joker Game and 91 Days. With something of a renaissance of period anime these past couple seasons, I feel that Rainbow: Nisha has the potential to make a big impact.
#2 Space Patrol Luluco
One of the underappreciated gems of the Spring 2016 season, Luluco is a short-form anime produced by studio Trigger. Yes, the same people who made Kill la Kill in all its’ over-the-top glory. They continue their traditions here, with a tale of intergalactic justice, famililal bonding, and true love. Its’ 7-minute timestamp makes it easily consumable in small bites or long periods, and the story is as ridiculous as it is entertaining.
Luluco and her friends really make this anime shine, and there is some surprisingly deep character development for a show this short. Combining ease of access with Saturday morning charm, I don’t see why Space Patrol Luluco isn’t the next big thing.
#3 Witch Craft Works
I’ve always been a fan of school-based anime, but I also love a good fantasy story. As a fun, action/comedy mélange of both, you can imagine how surprised I was to find Witch Craft Works. The main reason I love the show is that it plays with sterotypes in a way that makes the entire story better. You have the overpowered hero character…who’s not the MC, but the friend of the MC. You have the MC with superpowers…but the MC can’t use them: in fact, his powers are a catalyst that makes him a target.
You have your dastardly villain faction and your courageous hero faction…which act a lot more like rival sororities than actual warring clans. As you can tell, this anime is full of juxtapositions that make it a lot of fun to watch! While not perfect, Witch Craft Works is definitely an anime I wish more people knew about.
#4 Silver Spoon
Fourth and finally, we come to an anime that’s something of a diamond in the rough. A slice-of-life about a boy’s journey through agricultural school, Silver Spoon really crystallizes the essence of life during the high school years. The struggles and the triumphs of life at the cusp of adulthood are hammered out through the means of animal raising and crop gathering, and it’s definitely a change of pace from the typical high school anime.
This unconventional setting paves the way for lovable characters and an overall plot that feels both familiar and new. Coming from the pen of Hiromu Arakawa, the mind behind Fullmetal Alchemist, the series is unexpected but retains her usual level of polish. Easily one of the most accessible anime out there, Silver Spoon is well worth a watch.