…there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh!
For a good few years now, I’ve tried to greet each new anime season by tweeting out a rough, unvarnished list of past anime worth trying. It occurred to me that I might as well store a copy of the list on this site, and talk through its rationale.
Sometime early last decade, I used simply to note at each season’s start that people could be watching older anime. Then someone justly challenged me: like what? The list started then, at first as an off-the-cuff compilation.
I write the list not because I find present-day anime bad—for this post’s length, I recuse myself from that question—but because I think a more flourishing anime life involves older anime.
Attention to older anime adds variety, which in turn makes anything newer you watch more piquant by contrast. Turning to the past also lets you cherry-pick titles which suit your tastes from a far larger body. The past has most of the the best tunes, because it has a larger library.
Plus, and I think this reason’s less obvious, temporal breadth in your watching habits insures you against change. If airing anime gives you just what you want right now, I can guarantee that that won’t last forever. The Gion Shōja bells toll the passing of every thing; all flesh is grass; anime will change. I’ve not followed anime for nearly as long as some, but I’ve lived to see its shifting currents mystify once-well-served people.
What gets on the list, and what stays off, and why? Well, I hope that anyone should find anime on it which they’d enjoy, but I don’t imagine that anyone will enjoy all the anime listed. I therefore list things which reasonable numbers of people might like.
I attempt to pursue enjoyment without shame, throwing the frothy and frivolous in together with chin-stroking material.
And I make personal aesthetic judgements: there’re reasons, for example, why Tenamonya Voyagers appears while Shin Hurricane Polymar and Yamamoto Yōko don’t. At the same time, however, I maintain sympathy for messy oddities such as Simoun, when I think they possess a certain something despite rough edges.
I exclude things which seem, in the circles in which I move, very well-known and well-watched: Gosenzosama Banbanzai gets in, but the ’95 Ghost in the Shell doesn’t need mentioning. I exclude anime which don’t have even partial English translations.
I’ve also ruled out many titles which I like but which seem to me to serve quite niche desires, or to require a heavy burden of prior context, or to lack polish. Ginga Senpuu Braiger is one of my favourite anime, but, beyond its soundtrack and banging opening animation, I’m not sure that it offers much to most people. I love (deep breath) Super Robot Wars Original Generation: The Inspector, but I don’t expect others to follow suit, or to fancy grasping the requisite Super Robot Warring background.
I don’t aim to be exhaustive, and I’ve never been trying to set out to form a canon.
For all these reasons, the list stays slapdash as it grows, which will no doubt frustrate mechanistic minds. But let them cavil! I care not. Better slapdash than prescriptive. Someone who wants to have loud anime views must watch many titles, but for the rest of us, well, there are no anime which we absolutely must see. It’s a hobby.
I worry more about not easily folding in those things which fall outside the normal channels of distribution and attention among English-speakers. Does Sazae-san belong here? In my judgement at the time of writing, no: it holds more importance than interest. On the other hand, the ‘Minna no Uta’ / ‘Songs for Everyone’ NHK segment has produced some very charming and impressive shorts. I regret not finding a way to accommodate these—yet, at least. The list doesn’t cover shorts in general nearly as well as I’d like. Or gag shows. Or certain types of kids’ anime before the last couple of decades.
Indeed, it doesn’t cover a great many things as well as I’d like, and it tapers off when it reaches recent years—though it’s also, despite my best efforts, disproportionately tilted towards the present. At least it exists, though, and a few people over the years have told me it’s been helpful.
I’m very open to suggestions, for both my benefit and the list’s!
(The first and second images in this post are from Panzer World Galient and Space Cobra, respectively.)