The method I used to use when picking older anime to watch was to write down a bunch of titles on a piece of paper, number them 1-6, roll a dice and let fate decide what I watch. However I have grown tired of this decision method and decided to implement the same tactic I use for a new season. Watch a load of first episodes and watch the one with the best first episode and most potential of the lot. I’ve divided this list the same way am standerd new season would be. One anime I really want to watch, one anime everyone is telling me to watch and a bunch of anime I’m only watching because they just happen to be there.
The Random Choices: Hell Teacher Nube, Legend of Basara, Black Jack (2004)
The show I’m excited about: Berserk
I was told to watch: Demon Detective Nougami Neuro
Hell Teacher Nube: 1996
You can see what they’re going for here. Nube is a teacher with a devil’s right hand that he uses to exercise demons and stuff. He goes to teach in an elementary school with an exorcism of the week formula. The idea is that Nube is trying really hard to be cool in front of the kids but keeps making a fool out of himself, only to win them over by performing some badass exorcism and saving his beloved students. The one good scene from the episode came when Nube was trying to make a dramatic entrance to the classroom for the first time by hanging little fiery balls around his head like those little spirit things, only for the door to jam and for him to set his head on fire.
But for the most part it just feels like the guy who wrote this doesn’t know what he’s doing. Each method he used to show certain personality traits feel so lazy. ‘Hey, Nube sees a women, shouldn’t he make a funny perverted face about now?’ and other such methods. Nube isn’t nearly goofy enough nor badass enough at anytime to make you care enough about watching the guy. It’s very similar to Great Teacher Onizuka and I can already see the pattern that will evolve. Kid doesn’t believe in teacher because he’s a dope, but the kid also has problems that Nube fixes to win them over, except this time with added demons. I never liked this formula in GTO either but at least that had Onizuka being awesome to make up for it. Nube himself just doesn’t work.
Legend of Basara: 1998
Legend of Basara is pretty damn convinced it’s one of the most epic tales to grace the world of animation. Too bad it was only given 13 episodes to do this in. The first episode has prophecy of a saviour, meeting of the grand villain, coming of age ceremony, death of a childhood friend, time skip, not-so-subtle foreshadowing, evil army and evil leader returns, death of main character and finally a lifetime decision for the main character. It’s slightly more rushed than Angel Beats episode 6.
As I said, the first episode is so nonsensically rushed that they had to try cram in as much as possible, mostly done through miserable foreshadowing of the “hey, why can’t I go out in the desert sensei? – That’s because *insert extremely condensed version of the worlds history* dear” variety. I will admit I am interested in seeing what happens next though. While the plot may not have been presented with much grace, the story itself is quite interesting. It’s a 12 Kingdoms-esque story about a girl gaining courage to be a great leader, except without the huge amount of difficult terminology you had to learn while watching 12 Kingdoms. In Legend of Basara it’s like “See that guy dressed in red and wearing a crown? He’s the Red King”. Now that’s fantasy terminology I can actually follow.
Black Jack: 2004
This was my first exposure to anything related to the Tezuka, the God of Manga (no, the Lion King doesn’t count). Black Jack is about a freelance unlicensed surgeon with awesome hair and an annoying sidekick who wanders the world and somehow keeps getting into situations where people get seriously injured. What really baffled me about this episode wasn’t so much what was happening on screen but that this was Tezuka, the guy who men in their forties who say anime is dead go nuts about. This is quite unmistakably a kids show. The artwork is extremely cartoony, the dialogue is kept simple and every character in the show is an over the top caricature. The baddy in the episode is quite clearly a rubbish pantomime villain the kids are supposed to laugh at.
In short, I just don’t see the appeal. I suppose one episode is too difficult to get a grasp on Black Jack’s character and I quite like the thought processes he goes through, but the idea of watching simplistic stories like that over and over isn’t exactly filling me with delight. Oh, and Pinako is fucking annoying. Hearing her lisped ‘Shenshei’ is pretty darn annoying but worse is that she has random nonsense words as catchphrases. Dattebayo~
Ah yes, now I can see why everyone compared Claymore to this. I’d be shocked if the Claymore mangaka didn’t take a degree of inspiration from this manga. Berserk is a slightly darker demon filled fantasy about a dude with a massive sword. And, like Claymore, Berserk is soooo corny! Girl being abused by castle guards for slightly longer than was necessary? Evil demons cackling about pathetic humans? Plenty of references to the cracking of bones and tearing of flesh? Yup, it had everything in the corny violent handbook.
There was a lot to like about the episode though. The animation is amazing, especially when you compare it to Nube and Basara, both of which aired within 2 years of Berserk (Nube’s animation was so bad I actually laughed at it more than once). The pacing was perfect and I’m already interested in what’s going on with this big-sworded fellow. The next episode preview showed the guy when he was younger which should be interesting to see. Although I’d personally prefer less references to the tearing of flesh.
Demon Detective Nougami Neuro: 2007
Wondering what that poll on the sidebar for the past few days was? Yup, Nuero narrowly beat Aria to take the spot of ‘anime people keep telling me to watch’, which I was surprised at because I was under the impression almost nobody had seen it. Nuero is a demon who loves mysteries so turns a teenage girl into a detective and ‘eats’ mysteries, all the while performing constant acts of women beating. That last bit, as you can probably guess, is by far the best part of the show. Nuero is a fantastic character because the guy just oozes suave evilness and has the right edge of controlled insanity to make him thoroughly believable as a demon-on-earth.
The mystery of the episode was pretty stupid though. The sudden leap to revealing of the crime was pretty nonsensical but even that was out-nonsensefied by the roid-rage hulk chef that the episode finished with. If that’s the standard of mystery this episode is going to have then that’s quite a fatal flaw in a series that bills itself as a detective series that thrives on mysteries. Of course, Neuro is more than enough to carry this series by himself but it would be nice to have some proper mysteries to go with it.
And the winner is…Berserk
Totally unsurprising result, although I was rather disappointed that the three random titles I picked all ended up being rather poor. I definitely plan to take a look at Neuro again sometime in the future but Berserk has to take the spot above it because it felt a lot better constructed, even if Neuro did a lot better job of making a demon’s scary. See Berserk, you can make something scary without resorting to constant references to the tearing of flesh.