5. Pokemon the Movie
It’s Enter the Dragon with Pokemon. Famous trainers are summoned for a special tournament on an island. Said tournament ends up turning into something larger. Mewtwo is Han and the Ash/Pikachu gestalt is Lee. It’s genuinely great stuff, and outside of a few episodes from the original series, I’d go so far as to say it’s the best piece of Pokemon anime ever made. It captures the spirit of the franchise and takes it in a direction that feels totally natural. It makes perfect sense to play off of the Enter the Dragon formula with a series that’s basically Magical Dragonball Z Pets.
First off, ignore the porn shit as much as you can. It’s uncomfortable to watch and isn’t necessary. Yeah, it exists, and I can’t blame anyone for hating Kite for it, but if you can toss that out of your mind Kite’s a great example of an assassin movie. The action scenes still look great after all these years. And in a lot of ways it’s another last gasp of that “mainstream” ultraviolence I so love, along with Twilight of the Dark Master. If you can find it, watch the edited cut. Normally I wouldn’t say something like that, but this is one occasion where the edits improved the product.
This is my personal favorite out of all of the post-Evangelion esoteric mecha series. Its Middle East conflict seemed quaint at the time– Desert Storm was from earlier in the decade and the current mess had yet to start– but now it feels a hell of a lot more relevant than it did then. That real world angle is a bit more interesting than the spiritual side of things, though. It turns into an attempted coup d’etat on the Japanese government coinciding with an economic attack on the United States. It’s pretty awesome stuff in the vein of Ghost in the Shell. The spiritual side, playing off of Shinto myth and whatnot, is cool and all, but it results in one of these vague, dream-like endings that’ll piss most people off. I kinda dug it, but it wasn’t as strong as the final physical battle between Japanese and US forces. It’s a hell of a lot better than the likes of RahXephon and BrainPowerd, that’s for sure.
2. Outlaw Star
In retrospect, Outlaw Star isn’t quite as great as it was at the time, but it still holds up as one of the better sci-fi series of the 90s. It’s more in the vein of Cowboy Bebop or Space Adventure Cobra than it is something like Yamato or Macross– meaning it’s about that small, intimate crew of adventurers than it is about some starship amidst a galactic war. That’s how I prefer my sci-fi– more in the western mold than in the war mold. There are some telling signs of the 90s that date this thing– Aisha Clancan’s catgirl character for one– but those bits don’t really come off as annoying as they do in series where that sort of thing is the primary focus. Nope, it’s good solid sci-fi western-inspired space operaness. Shame it came out in the same year as what may be the pinnacle of that sort of thing.
1. Cowboy Bebop