On Anime: An If/Then Guide to What You Should Be Watching

On Anime: An If/Then Guide to What You Should Be Watching (photo)

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Neophytes tend to have the same reaction when they’re about to be introduced to anime or manga: “Is this the tentacle stuff?” It’s amazing how a niche subgenre you’ll likely never run across unless you’re actively seeking it out in the deepest bowels of the Internet has become so notorious. The majority of anime out there exists in the form of TV series that — despite a preponderance of over-endowed ass-kicking ninja women — are far from a lewd free-for-all.

Whether you’re settling down with animation of the Japanese persuasion for the first time, or just looking to get a little deeper than the tried-and-true classic titles that populate the average chain video rental store shelves, the sheer amount of titles now available is daunting. Asking a hardcore fan for help can be akin to looking to “The Simpsons”‘ Comic Book Guy for gentle insight, and current trends in anime are far-reaching and run a wide gamut.

You’ve got the boy-centric shonen formula, under which you could group titles like “Bleach,” “Fist of the North Star” and the ubiquitous “Dragon Ball Z,” narratives in which the hero is on a seemingly unending journey to fight bad guys, get stronger and spend time “powering up” to overcome the current threat. There’s the girly answer to that, the shoujo stories like “Hana Yori Dango” and the also inescapable “Sailor Moon.” Then there are the so-called space operas of the “Gundam” and “Macross/Robotech” series, bleeding off into mecha and futurism, encompassing everything from the raunchy “Space Adventure Cobra” to the drastic realism of “Planetes,” about a group of salvage workers who snag debris floating above the Earth.

Latching onto the type of anime that’s right how you is tough, but that’s why we’re here. In the old-fashioned compare-and-contrast format of recommendation (and inspired by current chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle, Armond White), the list below offers fresh alternatives to anime titles you’ve probably heard of to get you started on the path toward fandom expertise.

04032009_gurrenlagann2.jpgIf you liked “Gundam,” then you should watch…

“Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann”

The space opera that caused an entire legion of people to ask, “Who the hell do you think I am?” before uploading their own countless YouTube tribute videos, this series starts with the usual sci-fi set-up of an apocalyptic wasteland where humans live underground in fear of the surface. Our main foil is Simon, a kid who just wants to be left alone but who’s constantly being dragged into mischief by Kamina, a sword-slinging, tattooed, blue-haired guy who has more motivational speeches than Tony Robbins — and they involve kicking ass, too. From Gainax, the same folks that brought you “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” “Gurren Lagann” quickly goes past giant robots and mutant beast-men into the sort of show that incorporates the “Hero Myth” perfectly and isn’t afraid to kill off characters to make an overtly dramatic point. In an unexpected side-effect, it inspired countless nerds to start talking about their drills piercing heaven.

If you liked “My Neighbor Totoro,” then you should watch…

“Chi’s Sweet Home”

Tthis short, mini-episode series is about a tiny kitten taken in by a single-child family told through the narration of that little feline. It’s probably the anime equivalent of Cute Overload. It’ll be appearing soon on Crunchyroll.com.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.