22–27 min read

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of The Anime Pulse. I know it has been quite a while since I’ve done one of these columns, but that’s going to change. The issue I’ve been having is something to write a column on. Each time I get an idea, I mull it over and realize that it would probably only fit into a paragraph or two and that doesn’t make for much of a column. Sometimes people will suggest something to me and while it would make a good column, more often than not, it’s something I’m not entirely interested in. Writing about uninteresting things also makes for a pretty bad column.

So I’ve been stuck in a bit of a void as to what to do with this column. I thought about abandoning it to focus on news and anime/manga reviews, but The Anime Pulse was my intro here to The Outerhaven and I didn’t want to just erase a part of myself or my roots when it comes to writing here. One of the ideas was to transform the column into a list column and while I wasn’t really keen on it to begin with, I began to weigh the pros and cons of doing something like that.

Some pros are that would open up a myriad of different topics I could talk about, it would allow me to express my opinion on the things I love most which are anime and manga, and it would also inspire feedback on my columns. I know everyone will not share the same opinions as I and, perhaps, it can give rise to a “letters from the readers” section that I’ve been wanting to do where I can showcase other people’s opinions in comparison to mine.

The cons are that it’s a list column. Some would see it as clickbait or a cheap way to get hits on the site and that was the main reason why I, at first, decided not to go that route, but the pros outweigh the cons in this scenario. When I think about writing a column, I want to give my opinion. That’s the whole point of a column, isn’t it? Finding a topic to write a full-length column on is a daunting task. There are only so many interesting topics you can latch onto before you find yourself digging at the bottom of the barrel to find something worthwhile. Lists open up a HUGE field of things to express my opinions on and within the span of 15 minutes, I created enough topics in Notepad++ to last me a year and a half if I were to write one column per week… all of which I am genuinely interested in talking about.

So I pulled the trigger and here we are. To kick off the restructuring (or Rebranding? Relaunch? Re:Zero?) of The Anime Pulse, I’m going to start off with the big one. My Top 5 Series of All-Time!  I do want to preface this by saying that my entry into anime was a bit later than others. I am making efforts to go back and watch those “must-see” shows that every anime fan should see, so who knows. Maybe I will revisit this list once I complete that huge task.

#5: Bakuman.

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Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata have created the hit series Death Note, which I loved. As an aside, Death Note IS in my Top 10, but it did not make my Top 5. 

Ohba and Obata also went on to create Bakuman. It started off as a manga that later got adapted into an anime and is considered to be a meta series. By that, I mean that it’s a manga about two teens who want to become manga artists. While I am sure that some of the truths had some liberties taken with them, it does give you a good general idea of what the manga industry is like and how hard it can be to make it big in the industry. It depicts that no matter how good you think you are, you will fail over and over and over again. In fact, the title alone is an acronym which stands for Bakuchi Manga; which translates to “Gambling on Manga.”

It’s more than about making manga, though. You get to see Mashiro and Takagi grow up. You see them transform from wild-eyed young teens into responsible adults. The stories for the characters themselves is really well-done and even the secondary, supporting characters feel important. You get drawn in and attached to each and every one of them and it’s that intangible connection that keeps you hooked. The series also likes to put a lot of emphasis on failure, too. A lot of shounen series have the main protagonists win every single time, but not here in Bakuman. Mashiro and Takagi experience the trials of becoming manga artists rather harshly, but it sends a message that hard work and determination will pay off. You can and will hone your craft to the point where you can be successful.

The manga is definitely better than the anime because the anime does condense and even omit a lot of the material (such as leaving out the entire second arc with Nanamine.) However, if you’re not a reader, then the anime does hit all of the major, important areas and does serve as a faithful adaptation in that regard.

#4: Hajime no Ippo

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When I was first told about this series, I didn’t want to watch it. I am not a boxing fan at all so I thought that this should wouldn’t be something I would like, but Good Lord was I proven wrong. So Hajime no Ippo (or Fighting Spirit here in the U.S.) is a story about Ippo; a high school student who is bullied on a constant basis. He sees someone in the park hitting a tree and catching the leaves with lightning-fast reflexes and musters up the courage to talk to him. Turns out that guy was the boxer Mamoru Takamura. After meeting him with, Ippo decides to become a boxer and that’s pretty much it.

The story is simple. It’s about Ippo’s life as a boxer and his rise through the ranks. Even though the story has a simple premise to it, the manga has nearly 1200 chapters out and is still publishing today! George Morikawa has crafted an amazing masterpiece where he, not only, takes you inside the world of boxing, but he also takes you inside the lives of the characters. You get to see Ippo grow from some nameless high school kid to a household name in Japan for anyone who watches boxing. You see, not only Ippo’s successes and failures, but you see it with Takamura, Aoki, Kimura and so many others. You don’t just get to root for Ippo, but for everyone on the cast because George Morikawa makes you care about them.

Then, there’s the fights. Even on the cusp of 1200 chapters, the series reads rather quickly because the fights take up many chapters and you’re treated to more action than dialogue. Seeing the fights animated; however, is even better and it makes you wish real life boxing was the same way! In fact, Hajime no Ippo inspired me to watch a regular boxing match and, funnily enough, I just couldn’t do it. I needed the action lines, the coach’s expressions, all the inner monologues, the gleam of victory in the eye, etc. All of it pulls you in and makes you interested in a world that you would otherwise find dull. Don’t want to take my word for it? Go look up and watch the Takamura vs Hawk fight from the second season (Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger) then come tell me how you could not be pumped up to see more!

#3: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

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What’s not to love about children spending their days in an old country village laughing, playing and murdering each other? Ryukishi07 created a mind-twisting masterpiece with Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry in English) that left you wondering how and why everyone kept coming back to life and killing each other. It does a masterful job of making you think that it’s just the same story happening from different perspectives, but when the second season is introduced, it drops a bomb on your mind that subsequently blows it up.

Going from horror/thriller to sci-fi is a bold step to take, but this series pulls it off so well. Plus, this series gives us some of the most disturbing scenarios in anime and is one of the series responsible for the kind of censorship we have today. Scenes such as Rika jamming a knife into the wall and then repeatedly slamming her own neck against it, Shion whipping her dead grandmother in front of her sister in their family’s basement, Keiichi clawing his own neck out in a phone booth as he desperately tries to call for help… all wonderful examples of some of the glorious gore you will experience in this show.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni does a superb job of keeping you in suspense and it’s definitely an anime you will find yourself binge watching just to see what happens next. Ryukishi07 did create Umineko no Naku Koro ni as well as Ookamikakushi, but neither of those series were able to capture the same magic and charm as the original Higurashi. This is one of those shows that should be on a must-watch list for any anime fan. Plus, you get to experience the beautiful opening music done by Eiko Shimamiya as well as the much-acclaimed “Dear You” insert song. It’s hard to do this show justice without revealing the major plot points, but it’s worth it to watch it. WELL worth it.

#2: D.Gray-man

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This was, at one point, my favorite anime, but another show came along in knocked this off from its #1 spot. While my friend introduced me to anime through Naruto, this was the first shounen series that I discovered on my own. The character designs were amazing, the whole religious overtone of the plot was interesting, and the humanization of the akuma as well as the feelings Allen Walker had for them created a special feeling about the show that really set it apart from the typical shounen formula.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the typical shounen formula didn’t exist. You had characters with powers that got stronger to defeat enemies, which also got stronger, but a nice touch here is that the enemies didn’t just get stronger… they gave you a reason to fear them when they did. When The Black Order was attacked by the world’s first Level 4 Akuma, you felt a strong feeling of dread. The reason being is that they made the Level 3’s incredibly strong and difficult to defeat. The exorcists at The Black Order even talked about what would happen if a Level 4 ever evolved and then it happened. The devastation that came to follow in the wake of the Level 4’s attack pretty much said everything and confirmed everyone’s fears.

Katsura Hoshino also did a great job with the main character, Allen Walker. She wove a very interesting backstory for him and while the anime didn’t reveal much of it, it did provide us some subtle hints and clues. The manga; however, is finally shedding some light on all of this mystery and while it is confusing, it has definitely given us a tremendous spin on things. The current season of D.Gray-man (D.Gray-man Hallow) is rushing the material, but it is still giving you a glimpse into this backstory for Allen Walker (as well as Yuu Kanda.) Even though the anime’s art and voice cast are atrocious, it is making sense of the manga.

There was a time where Hoshino was drawing the manga with a hand injury and D.Gray-man Hallow is adapting the manga during that time. The quality suffered greatly and, at times, you had to re-read the chapters over and over again to even try to discern what was happening so the current season is a great tool to make sense of everything that has happened. Still, despite the disappointing quality of the second season, the first 104 episodes in the first season is still amazing to watch

#1: Steins;Gate

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Time travel is my favorite genre of science fiction and it’s really hard to find a show that does it right. Steins;Gate is not perfect by any means, but it comes damn close to getting it right. The notion that when you go “forward” or “backward” in time, you’re not going into the past or present, but you are creating different world lines where everything is the same except for the changes you make, is a very intriguing concept. Although I doubt you can achieve this yourself by hooking your cell phone up to a microwave, they do use this gimmick to alter the world lines by sending text messages to people and through those messages, change their actions which affects the world.

The turmoil that Okabe Rintaro (or Okarin as Mayuushi calls him), experiences after he loses the ones he loves over and over and over again without coming up with a solution, is one of the major draws/hooks to this show. There is a lot of comedy throughout the show that will keep you entertained and it’s because of this that the show does get off to a slow start. It isn’t until Episode 9 where the show begins to take a turn for the dramatic side. The cast of characters is vast and mere background characters become so much more important as the show goes on. The non-importance of these characters is used as a form of misdirection as they want to make a scenario where you don’t see the plot twists coming and it works rather well.

If you are a fan of science fiction in general and just want an amazing anime take on that genre, then Steins;Gate is going to be your go to show. It still ranks within the Top 10 anime of all time according to MyAnimeList.net and it has instantly become an auto-include in anyone’s to-watch list. When people talk about animes that any fan needs to watch, people usually go to things such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, etc. Rarely do you see any modern anime given that nod, but Steins;Gate is fast becoming a show that is fitting into that category. I cannot say enough good things about this show and this is show that made me a huge fan of Mamoru Miyano. I enjoyed him as Takuto from Star Driver and I was elated to hear him perform the ending theme to season one of Ajin, but it was his performance at Okarin that did it for me.

Of course, all of this is my opinion. What are your top five shows? Do you agree with mine? I’d love to hear from you. Send me your thoughts at joshpiedra@theouterhaven.net or respond using the comments section below. If you enjoyed what you have read, consider following me on Twitter @TheAnimePulse

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ja ne!

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About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years!