Alternative anime every sci-fi writer should have seen

Planetes

This article was written for us by Steve Merrick after a discussion on our Facebook page about Steven Lyle Jordan’s Cowboy Bebop article.

Before you press play. Lets talk about the obscure, odd, or just downright explosively interesting, little known animations available out there.

I am going to assume you will have seen Final Fantasy, or some of the more famous examples, and go for a slightly more eclectic field of view, available in Japanese sci fi manga. There are many attractions to the medium of animation in the hands of the Japanese, take the ever famous Studio Ghibli, I am deliberately avoiding their work here, as it is one of the most famous animation houses from Japan, and I would just put a stamp of my approval on all of their films, and leave it there.

One of the attractions of these animations is often the very philosophical and almost poetic mindset they occupy. It’s present in most Japanese productions, a philosophical idea, and in the animes it permeates and often eclipses the story.

There’s is no order in my choices here, these films and serials are all really worth watching.

Casshern

My first choice is a film that visually blew my mind, yet it is not exactly an animation. It’s actually a live action CGI extravaganza. This particular film blends CGI animation so well, that it blurs the lines of reality as you watch it.

Casshern looks like Power Rangers on acid whilst they do battle with drunken samurai transformers.

Lush visuals just barely covers what you will be watching with this movie. Right from the start Casshern catapults you into its world beautifully.

Using extreme violence as a metaphor for the human experience, this film just takes off like an orion rocket, and with breathtaking speed the story unfolds. Its tricky to write, and not give away the story, I will just say that the plot is a solid one, whilst the harmony of the concepts flows well too. Some of you may wonder why it is here as it is not a full animation, but in honesty, Casshern is not a full movie either. It inhabits a visual zone, and has fused the two elements together.

Vexille

Right from the off Vexille successfully builds the world it inhabits, beautifully. The animation is rich, more digitised than I expected, but the story line is so well told, that it becomes completely believable.

In the matrix, when Neo awoke was a moment where that movie turned. Vexille tops that moment, all I will say is she is running, and when you put the story together, you will be sitting bolt upright. Brilliantly done, thought provoking, this is a stand alone little movie, and really worth the time to watch.

Appleseed

First off, there is this fella, Masamune Shirow, the next few films and tv series are linked to him, many refer to him as the father of? But the appleseed series, is split into four separate entities. The first series of the seventies, is still fun to watch today, but then after many years of appleseed silence, KAPPOW! I remembered the series from my childhood, and fell over when it was returned. Yet the first movie, is mind blowing and insane action, set in a war ravaged future, I defy any one to watch the opening sequences, and not fall head over heels for the heroine, Deunan.

Appleseed is seriously action sci-fi animation. I have heard others who hate this one. But personally it’s brilliant. So if you love it or hate will be up to you. However, it is a welcome return for this old school serial. Thvideo below link is just the opening sequences. Watch it and draw your own conclusions.

The Ghost In The Shell

Where do you start with this masterpiece of science fiction? The Ghost In The Shell (known as GITS) is one of the most intense in-depth looks at the impact cyberiastion and information technology has on us.

The team are Public Security Section 9, and the cyberised leader Major Motoko Kusanagi is one of the coldest and vividly brilliant creations to ever be penned in manga.

The first movie is a mind bender, the second movie, Innocence, is one of the finest works of art you can ever see. Whilst the third film, is connected to the TV series, and called The Solid State Society, is a work of terrifying and paranoid dimensions.

Masume Shirow (the same guy from Appleseed) designed the most loved robot ever – The Tachikoma. The spider-like little battle bots of GITS are charming, cute, and have a surprisingly different point of view to the human characters. They are Think Tanks, (Like a Sherman tank with a brain) and make the stories all that more enjoyable.

The final stand of the Tachikoma is heart wrenching too, (sniff please pass the hankies) you’ll be unable to resist their alluring charm.

In truth GITS in all of its forms, is thoroughly well thought out, utterly mind bending, and heavily addictive, but don’t trust me, find out for yourself. The video below is one of my favourite Tachikoma moments.

Planetes

I was watching the Hollywood blockbuster Gravity, and the opening sequence with the floating screw is taken right from this brilliant little spaceflight gem. Planetes is one of the boldest attempts at future fiction ever, looking at spaceflight over a long period of time.

It starts with the crew that collect all of the accumulated space junk, and proceeds from there. Creating a very real experience as it does.

For the genuine science buffs out there, you have no idea how good this is, and just to remind everyone, when Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon, it may have been a giant leap for mankind, but he was also wearing a nappy.

Planetes, is just a lovely one to watch.

The Place Promised In Our Early Days

This is a beautiful and dreamlike animation with an exceptional plot, and is worthy of Lem or Wyndham. Bitter sweet, poetic, this is a moving film. It also has a style all of its own, and the story unfolds in an unhurried catharsis, that you the viewer can’t object to.

The Irresponsible Captain Tylor

First up this is a comedy. Genuinely mental, it is really worth watching for its irreverent humour, and it does give more than a few nods to famous sci-fi too. If you need a lite anime that wont challenge you, then this is the one.

Ergo Proxy

This is a stylistic work of art, the story is good, but the main character, is a very unsympathetic one. However you’ll see other factors that make this a consummately brilliant bit of sci-fi.

Sora No Woto. AKA. The Sound Of The Sky

Without any spaceships, or major battles (until the very last episodes), Sora No Woto, is one of my favourites.

Picture a village, and it is protected by the Clocktower Fortress. Five maidens of Sieze, an all-female combat unit with a broken tank. Mostly seen through the eyes of a very young recruit, as she learns her way.

I fell for the characters, the charm, the philosophies, and above all else the artwork. In a number of ways this is a personal favourite.

Sora No Woto does not inhabit the hard sci fi world, but in many ways it should. Its just a simple pleasurable story of five misfit soldiers, and above all else has a humanity, and spark all of its own.

In a way, this is little more than an alternative selection of animated sci-fi, some you’ll love, whilst others you may hate. However, it should be easy to find them to make up your own mind.

Article written for us by Steve Merrick.

  • John H Reiher Jr

    OK, now i have some more shows to add to my watch list. Thanks!

  • James Pailly

    Looks like I have some stuff I need to see.

  • AlanDisqus

    PlanetES is such an amazing series. Very few accomplish what it does. It actually portrays realistic life in space, with everything that entails. It is true hard science fiction, and also very lovable at the same time.