Hello everyone, and welcome to Why It Works. Through the course of the Funimation migration over the past several months, we continue to be engulfed in a deluge of top-quality animation. I’ve been doing my best to highlight the gems of this process, but it seems I looked away for a moment too long and we’re now practically overwhelmed with great and as-of-yet unheralded productions. Well, that can’t possibly stand, so today I’m diving back into the loot pile and emerging with a fresh selection of classic, unique, or just plain excellent anime recommendations. Without further ado, let’s sift through the continuing bounty of the Funimation catalog!
If you’re looking for grindhouse-style action, these offerings have been ridiculously generous. First off, any fan of gritty action anime absolutely must see Black Lagoon and its sequels. Centered on a Japanese salaryman who finds himself teaming up with the Lagoon Company — a group of mercenaries who take on all manner of dangerous work in the seas of Southeast Asia — Black Lagoon is beautiful and thrilling, with setpieces ranging from “the team murder their way through an entire boat full of nazis” to “the gang must protect their target from a pursuing terminator maid.” Heck, that terminator maid segment is even directed by Tetsuro Araki, he of Attack on Titan fame, which should give you a reasonable idea of what you’re in for.
If you still need more in-your-face action, the updated library is still happy to provide it with both the original Hellsing and the more manga-faithful Hellsing Ultimate. Hellsing chronicles the various trials of the Hellsing Organization, who continue their namesake’s grand work of combating ghouls, vampires, and other assorted beasties in the hills of England. The entire cast of Hellsing employees are a fun bunch, but the team’s trump card is the vampire Alucard himself. Whichever version you choose, Hellsing is an emphatically stylish experience, featuring some of the most iconic battles of its era. Kouta Hirano seems to possess an intuitive understanding of gothic fiction’s appeal, combining that with plentiful action to spectacular effect.
To complete this trifecta of acclaimed action properties is the somewhat lighter Trigun. Though its awareness among fans has waned over recent years, there was a time when Trigun and Cowboy Bebop shared equal love among space western enthusiasts. Parts of Trigun indeed now seem like a time capsule into a different era of anime comedy, but for the most part, Trigun is simply an excellent action-adventure story, with plenty of flavorful characters and a delightful assortment of unique weaponry. It’s one of those shows that nails the feeling of a breezy adventure shared with good company, a deceptively tricky balance to strike.
That’s a whole lot of action for one day, so let’s shift gears a bit, and get more character-focused. If you’re looking for some sharp emotional drama, I highly recommend the recent Stars Align, which centers on a rough-edged young tennis team with a whole lot of personal baggage. As delicate in its animation as it is thoughtful in its character studies, Stars Align is both beautiful and sharp, thoughtfully exploring realities of family life and personal identity that few anime dare to consider. Also, the actual tennis match animation is frequently phenomenal, making Stars Align a full course meal of sports and emotional drama.
Or perhaps you’d like to get even more cerebral in your selections? In that case, last year’s Sonny Boy is a must-watch for any fans of arthouse or philosophically inquisitive animation, taking the classic “Drifting Classroom” conceit of a high school unmoored from our dimension, and using that premise to explore the ways we construct our identities, find connections with others, and discover purpose or joy in existence. It’s an admittedly heavy load, but also a richly creative one, with its broad conceptual mandate allowing it to indulge in concepts ranging from the life and times of an invisible monkey baseball league to star-crossed romances between the foundational forces of the universe. Pair all that with its remarkable art design, and you end up with a show that is undoubtedly like nothing else you’ve seen.
I am rapidly approaching my ramble threshold at this point, so I’ll leave you all with one last personal favorite: the sci-fi crime drama PSYCHO-PASS. Presenting a world where everyone’s mental stability is monitored at all times, and those who show signs of deviance are promptly removed from society, PSYCHO-PASS is one of Gen Urobuchi’s great thematic statements and a pulse-pounding action drama in the bargain. PSYCHO-PASS is as grim and gritty as any of those first selections but marries its action to a compelling exploration of what we truly want from society, the nature of a carceral state, and how we determine social value.
I’ve still got even more shows to champion, but those will have to wait for another time. For now, I hope you’ve found a show or two to explore among my selections, and please let me know your favorites in the comments!