The Best Unknown Anime's of All Time!
I love anime; it's my artistic muse and my hidden "childish" vice, and I wish more people would give it a shot. Most people introduced to anime hear about the famous classics, but what about the diamonds in the rough? My list will introduce you to 10 anime titles that are under appreciated, under loved, but are wildly epic in their own hidden rights.
Yamishibai: Japanese Horror Stories
Who doesn't love a good spook? While most anime's are more gorey, or psychologically scary, Yamishibai utilizes an interesting art style and stop motion animation to create a very tense atmosphere. The episodes are only 3-5 minutes long, but that's all Yamishibai needs to scare you silly! The stories are based on Japanese folklore monsters, spirits, ghost stories, and more. This show as two seasons, totaling 26 episodes. If you like scary, unusual animes based on traditional ghost stories: you'll love Yamishibai!
Bokurano is one of my, by far, favorite under-rated animes. The series, from the advertisting, seems to be made for children about 15 kids piloting a mecha for fun, but this show is anything BUT child-friendly. The show is about 15 kids who pilot a mecha in order to save the world. There is plenty of character death, and the plot twists will have your heart and mind racing; you'll lose sleep over this anime-that's how good the story construction is! Be prepared to have a box of tissues and some comfort food nearby, because you're going to need it when watching this epic plot unfold.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (or just "Madoka" for short) is an amazing anime for a variety of amazing reasons! For one, the art styles are so dynamic; our characters are usually drawn in a regular Japanese animation style, but then when our main cast fight these "witches" the witches are drawn like so in the picture above-what with crazy textures, shapes, and character desgins. Not to mention the music is beautiful, crazy, and worth listening to on it's own after watching the show. Just like Bokurano, some of the advertising for Madoka makes the show appear to be a demure, generic magical girl anime-but despite it's looks Madoka is a straight-up deconstruction; tearing down the magical girl troupe as we know it and putting the idea into a new, darker light. The plot twists and sense of completion that this story brings is frightful in it's mastery; if you want to see an anime that will change your perspective--try Madoka on for size. You won't regret it!
Aku no Hana
Aku no Hana, which translates to "Flowers of Evil" is a very interesting show with a very interesting direction and pace. Technically I'd say the plot would fall under a "Slice of Life" genre, with a dash psychological drama. Our main character is a boy who keeps to himself and loves to read a book titled The Flowers of Evil (you can google this name if you like-it's actually a real book of disturbing and dark poems) everyday as an escape from the boring routine he calls life. He is infatuated with a pretty girl in his class who excels academically. One day, when he's in the classroom alone, an opportunity to steal this pretty girl's gym uniform presents itself, and in a moment of peverse temptation, he does so. Little does our main character know that another, more devilish, girl sees him taking the uniform and on the promise of keeping his secret, makes him into her psychological play thing. The art style is extremely realistic, and the the motions are subtle but filled with artistic weight; if you don't mind a somewhat slow paced anime, you'll enjoy Aku no Hana. And even if you don't enjoy slow paced animes, buckle down and give this one a shot because the ending information is quite rewarding as an experience! Plus the opening and ending song is great as well!
Belladonna of Sadness
Belladonna of Sadness is an older anime (from the 1970s) it's not a series so much as it is a long movie (about 2 hours), and it is INSANE. The art style is half water color images, and half basic animation and the story can be a bit hard to follow at first, but I assure you it's worth the momentary confusion. Follow Jeanne, a women who wants to marry a man (oddly, also named Jean) but because they are poor and cannot pay the taxes for a marriage, the Baron takes his "taxes" through the personal deflowering of the bride to be! (Warning, this is an anime that's NSFW, or children) They marry despite this tragedy, but the husband can't let go of his bitterness towards his wifes virgin-less status and beats her, starts to drink, etc. That's when a little, very sexual devil appears and promises Jeanne power if she sells her soul to him. From there the movie follows the trials and tribulations for Jeanne, all of which appear to be from some sort of bad acid trip. There is a lot of sexually controversial scenes, which some people may not enjoy, but from the stand point of artistic creativity-Belladonna of Sadness is a heavy weight champion!
Versailles no Bara
Versailles no Bara, also know as the Rose of Versailles is another older animation featuring a female gender-bender! I just had to add this anime to the list, if not for that reason alone! I love a good gender bender where the female has to pretend to be a guy! Rose of Versailles features a women who is forced to be a male from birth; she does not know the way of a women and embraces her male qualities whole heartedly, being excellent with a sword, horseback riding, and more. She delegate political interactions, leads armies, have female and male romantic interests, and is over all a really boss character to follow! If you can excuse the older art style and somewhat slow pace at the beginning of this series, then you will be in for a historical gender-bending treat!
Umineko No Naku Koro Ni
Umineko No Naku Koro Ni, also known as Beatrice the Golden Witch, or "Where the Seagulls Cry" is a bit of a spinoff to a similarly paced and horrific anime titled "Where the Cicadas Cry" (Incase you like this one, you can always check out it's more well known originator) The story is about a family reunion that takes place on a private island in order to speak out the splitting of the families wealth, now that the head of house (a grandfather like character) is about to pass away. They are greedy, and rich, and are willing to do nearly anything for the money at stake. But there is a tablet in the house, which talks of a witch named Beatrice who funded the families initial wealth, way back when, and will demand a sacrifce of sorts if her side of the bargain isn't recieved. The sacrifice being to take all the wealth back, including lives that were created due to the wealth (such as offspring or significant others of said off springs) The interesting thing about this anime is that the main lead, Battler, wants to prove that this isn't magic at play but the evil plans of a human using magic as a tatic of misdirection. The witch, Beatrice, is a real character and bets that he can't prove that her actions are science, not magic--and so the same night of death and gore is repeated over and over again in altering variations while each side tries to prove who's right and who's wrong. This anime is a real mind-twister and definitely worth the time to watch; also epic opening music.
Shoujo Tsubaki is a bit crazy in the way that Belladonna of Sadness is crazy-so by a "bit" I mean "the craziest thing you've ever seen". The animation is more of a movie and less of series, and it features a young girl who's about 12 years old, named Tsubaki. Her mother ends up dying and being eaten by rats in a very grotesque manner. (Warning, this is another anime that's NSFW or children) Due to this misfortune, she is parent-less; an orphan. She mets a creepy man under a bridge who promises to take her away to a better place, and like a little idiot she agrees. The man takes her to a freak show/circus, and tells her shes their new carnie. She is abused, and used as a child slave before a small statured magician joins the troupe. His magic almost seems real, and he demands attention and respect. He falls in love with our main female lead, and demands the others treat her with respect as well. The story follows the romance between this older magician and the little girl, and trials and tribulations that the freakshow must go through; it's a real acid trip, just like Belladonna, and old animation. Apparently the show was written, and animated all by the same person, alone-because no one wanted to fund this wack-job of a story but the artist was desperate to get it out there...either way, it's a great watch.
Legend of Basara
Legend of Basara is another over looked gender-bender anime. (What? I love gender benders! Be thankful I only added two to this list!) It's old school and unfortunately cuts off at a weird point, but it's an amazing coming of age story. A sister takes her brothers place in leading a group of surpressed people against the tryant rulings of a crooked and cruel kingdom. There is forbidden love, romantic triangles, great fight scenes, and sad death scenes that will make you cry. It's a bit older as well, but it's animation is pretty smooth, all things considering. If you like romantic gender benders from an alternate universe, you'll love Basara!
Pet Shop of Horrors
Pet Shop of Horrors, not to be confused with the American movie, "Little Pet Shop of Horrors" is a short animation (more of an OAV than a full series) featuring one shot episodes of characters who buy a "pet" from a little shop that sells unusual and rare animals. Follow one story of a pet mermaid, one of a pet rabbit who looks just like a little girl, and more! Do know though, that each and every tale usually ends in woe. The buyers don't usually head the store owner's advice on how to manage their new pets and the consequences can be frightening.
All of the items on this list are animes that don't get enough kudos or recognition despite their interesting or well thought out stories and animation directions. My favorite by far on the list will always be Madoka, though; nothing can top the fullness of that story line, but the other 9 get pretty close! Hope you enjoyed this list and hopefully I'll be able to write more anime and Japanese culture lists in the future! Thanks for reading!