Sunday Select: 7 Thought-provoking Anime

There about 50 interesting and decently entertaining psychological shows I know of in the anime world. I decided to choose just 7 of them here and talk a little bit about each. I purposely chose anime series which are not mainstream, and which most people don’t know about. I hope that at least one of them will pique your interest and you’ll check it out! If you have time, let me know in a comment if you’ve seen any of these shows and if you liked them.

7. Chaos;HEAd

This series aired in Fall 2008 and was produced by studio Madhouse. You’ve heard of Steins;Gate, but did you know there are other series that happen in the same universe? These include Occultic; Nine, Robotics;Notes, and this one, Chaos;Head. Takumi is a paranoid highschooler, hikikomori, and anime otaku. One day, the bizarre, grotesque New Generation murders begin in his home city. Rimi, a girl Taku saw at the scene of the third murder, is posing as his classmate and friend. Is she really a murderer? What does she want? What about the other strange girls who appear in his life? Taku is overwhelmed, but must try to find enough sanity to prove his innocence after he is accused of committing the murders.

This anime is interesting partly because there are a few mentions of real, scientific concepts and techology mixed in with the sci-fi and fantasy. Other reasons it’s interesting are the plot and character concepts introduced, such as an organization with the ability to make people see delusions and hallucinations, the concept of the di-Sword, and the delusions of Takumi. I recommend Chaos;Head if you like complex stories and psychological thrillers. However, don’t bother watching if you can’t stand wimpy main characters. Takumi is up there with Yukiteru Amano in his annoying and cowardly attitude and voice.

6. Shadow Star NaruTaru

Aired in Summer 2003, and produced by studio Planet, NaruTaru is about the psychology of Shiina Tamai and some of the other students in her school. A strange creature that looks like a starfish with a face begins to accompany Shiina after summer break. She calls it a “child/ ko” and names it Hoshimaru. To Shiina’s surprise, her timid classmate Akira also has a “child” she’s keeping. Not everyone is as nice as Shiina and Akira, though. There are some students who will use their accompanying “children” for evil.

This series will throw you for a loop. It starts out seeming like it will be a cute and fun show a little bit like Pokemon. Before long, though, you’ll see that it’s unexpectedly dark. I think it’s an interesting and vastly underrated show. It deals with topics like sociopaths, sexual desire, social anxiety, revenge, personality differences, trauma, and bullying. Yes, it’s very dark, but if you’re mentally prepared for some heavy stuff, Narutaru is thought-provoking and thrilling.

5. Shigofumi (Letters from the Dead)

If you like shows like Boogiepop wa Warawanai, you’ll probably like Shigofumi. It just has a similar feel, though it’s nowhere near as complex. I’m surprised I’ve not heard anyone talking about this show. It was produced by J.C. Staff and aired in winter 2008. Fumika and her talking staff Kanaka deliver letters from the recently deceased in the afterlife to the people still alive. Sometimes, Fumika stays and watches the drama and situations of the people to whom she delivered the letter. At first, Shigofumi is very episodic, but soon it dives into the mystery of who Fumika really is, and how she can find peace with all she has been through.

I love this series because it touches on psychology subjects such as identity, dissociative identity disorder, trauma, abuse, and more. The supernatural elements are entertaining, too.

4. Casshern Sins

Neo-Human Casshern is an old franchise I know very little about, other than it had a 2004 movie and an anime way back in the 70s that I haven’t seen. All I’ve seen is the 2008 anime Casshern Sins, and I personally fucking love it. It’s done by studios Madhouse and Tatsunoko Productions. For a long time, the sentient robots populating the world were immortal. Suddenly, they all begin dying because of a phenomenon they call The Ruin. It started when Luna, the loli robot who could heal the whole world, was violently killed by a human-robot hybrid named Casshern. In the present, Casshern wakes with no memories of having killed Luna or brought about The Ruin. He sets out on a journey to learn about the world and the truth of what he did and why.

This anime isn’t for anyone. The story is incredibly slow-moving, and there are a number of plot-holes, inconsistencies, and unanswered questions left to viewer interpretation. The over-arching plot of Casshern Sins isn’t the most important part, though. It’s an atmospheric peace meant to inspire thought and let you get into the heads of the different characters. I find the world lore in Casshern Sins, and the characters within in, intriguing.

3. Paranoia Agent

Mousou Dairinin should be called Delusion Agent, but it was translated to paranoia instead. A mysterious boy with a hat and roller skates is using a dented golden bat to attack victims. The show starts off as a mystery, with victims and detectives trying to uncover the identity and motive of “Shounen Bat.” However, keep watching, and Paranoia Agent becomes a bizzare, oddly funny, and sometimes very creepy social commentary, of sorts.

It’s like you could teach a psychology or sociology course on this show. It shows and discusses lying, suicide, amnesia, sex, abuse, art and entertainment, dissociative identity disorder, generations gaps, and the ways of modern society. There is still an element of mystery in it, and good for you if you can guess the answer, but if not, just enjoy the ride. It’s a mature, weird, but thoroughly fun show.

2. Ergo Proxy

This anime aired in winter 2006 and animated by studio Manglobe. Compared to some on this list, Ergo Proxy is more widely known, but still nowhere near being mainstream or widely popular. In my opinion, it’s a very underrated anime. The story follows the journeys of Re-l Mayer and Vincent Law as they try to survive, understand their world, and understand what they themselves are. It’s classic sci-fi, set in the distant future, with androids and robots, some of whom gain sentience, plus modified humans, and societies of humans living in futuristic, domed cities. There are also mysterious, godlike beings known as Proxies.

What are Proxies, and why does Vincent encounter them so much? Who is the real Re-l? The story on its own is fascinating enough to warrant watching it, even without any interesting philosophical or psychological themes. (And it has some of those, too!)

1. Serial Experiments Lain

A lot of people have at least heard of Serial Experiments Lain, but most still haven’t seen it, especially the younger and newer anime audiences. It aired in 1998 and was produced by Triangle Staff. Lain seems at first like a normal, if somewhat withdrawn, school girl, but there’s more than meets the eye. Strange events and phenomena, all having to do with Lain, begin happening after she delves into the world of the Wired. Most viewers interpret the Wired as the internet, but some believe it’s an alternate dimension with properties and accessibility very similar to the web. Will Lain lose herself in the world of the Wired, or will she find her true self?

Serial Experiments Lain is famous for being “convoluted” or difficult to follow, but it’s never been particularly so for me. The series is fascinating for so many reasons I can’t even begin to describe well here. I recommend everybody watch it at least once. There are numerous videos, comments, and blog posts with interpretations of Lain’s story in case you didn’t get a solid understanding of it. It did take two watches for me to “get it,” I admit.

Thank you for joining me for my Sunday special, “Select Seven.” I appreciate your readership and I’d love to hear from you if you have time for a comment! Ja ne!

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