Paprika is about five years too late to the party (#6). The whole “computers/etc altering our perception on reality” bit had already been told pretty damn well between Dark City and eXistenZ (and I guess The Matrix). Paprika tackles a lot of the same topics and doesn’t really add much to the discussion, but it’s damn pretty. That’s pretty much it. Paprika’s a well-made but derivative “is this reality” story, and it’s elevated by the fact that Satoshi Kon was brilliant when it came to visualizing this sort of thing in animated form.
4. Welcome to the NHK
This series hits home. I had my fair share of nigh-crippling funks when I was younger. Nowhere near as bad as the main guy in this series, but enough that I think I can empathize rather than sympathize. At the same time, despite feeling for the dude, I can’t help but take some perverse pleasure in seeing his descent into patheticness. I genuinely enjoy that sort of thing. But what really sold me on this series was the pyramid scheme arc of the story. I have a friend who got wrapped up in one of those “yeah, we’re not a pyramid scheme, but we really are, but if you say we are we’ll get all pissy” things. He wasn’t nearly as pushy as the girl in this series, and I never bought into it, but when I was watching this show I knew exactly how the main guy was feeling. You wanna help your friend, but you know better than that. At the same time, your friend is so wrapped up in “the business” that it’s almost an evangelical thing on their part. Yeah, it’s one of the few anime series where I could genuinely see some sort of reflection of myself.
3. Coyote Ragtime Show
It’s 12 episodes of pure stuff. No character development of any real significance. We’re just tossed into the mix and follow along as a crazy conflict between an old man badass and the space mafia all while people are trying to stop a planet from being blown up. There’s a cyborg dirty dozen decked out in gothic lolita gear going around blowing shit up. A cyborg gets decapitated and spends the rest of the series with her head in a birdcage. The main cyborg has the fucking Golden Gun. It works much in the same was that Giant Robo and the recent Mazinger remake work: pure, irrational action that doesn’t give a damn about your petty concerns for character development and the human condition. Seriously, this is one of the most underrated anime series of all time. Awesome stuff.
2. Black Lagoon
I’ve harped on this series enough in the past. It’s the perfect love letter to 80s/90s action movies. If you don’t like that sort of thing, I don’t know man, there’s something wrong with you on the genetic level.
Crazy perfect. The art is beautiful, with its chaotic, fluid animation. The story is simple (Beauty and the Beast reversed? Classic werewolf stories? Romeo and Juliet? Pretty much that sort of stuff.), but it leads to some awesome bits. I love the spirit guide monkey, whose seemingly innocent actions are interpreted as profound insight by the main character. The monkey himself may not be the greatest mascot character ever, but he’s the best-utilized mascot in any anime. It’s another “adults doing adult stuff” series like the previously mentioned Bartender (GASP! Characters have sex?!), and it also has an awesome jazz opening. And that finale. Damn. It isn’t quite as brilliant as, say, Occult Academy’s or Mazinger Z’s, but it’s right up there in terms of sheer audacity, especially in terms of how the villain is portrayed. Yeah, I fucking love this series.