I’m adding Attack on Titan to my top 5 anime list. It’s a distinguished list, but it deserves the accolade. It maintains an incredible number of interesting, sympathetic characters. Really strange world-building. Sci fi in fantasy/steampunk clothing, excellent plot with unpredictable twists and a nuanced take on the human condition. That last part is rare, especially in anime, which tends to prefer visual expression of fairly simple emotional situations.
It’s hard to say more without ruining the experience.
Talked to Doom a little about what makes a show “substantial”. I claimed that a good heuristic is to ask “what is this show really about?” Here are some examples from my top five:
1. Evangelion: The interaction between the ego and the id.
2. Berserk: A better take on the Gervais principle than The Office. Plus paganism.
3. Trigun: The psychology of ubermenschen.
4. Outlaw Star: Masculinity and manhood.
5. Attack on Titan: Uncertainty, death, grieving, humanity, more Hero’s journey stuff, and if I say the other one it’ll ruin the plot.
Pony’s contribution: Cowboy Bebop is about wildness, and scavenging on the outskirts of civilization. I counterclaimed that Cowboy Bebop is all style, no substance, though I enjoy rewatching it regularly. Same with Baccano, which is a simplistic speculative sci fi about immortality. Still really good though.
More thoughts: Fullmetal Alchemist is about reconciling one’s desires and abilities with the limitations of reality, though it’s mostly a political conspiracy thriller. Death Note is about information and power. These were both pretty okay, not great. Inuyasha was about a girl being drawn into her badboy boyfriend’s secret world and vision, and then after the first couple of seasons it was about making easy money for everyone involved. (Shit tons of potential doomed by success.)
Planet of the Beast King was a subversion of the hero’s journey bit that is kind of a tragedy at the same time. What happens when the superman meets his maker? Fun stuff. It also answers an age-old question in the affirmative: “Can you make a good show with the worst theme song of all time?”