Why anime? Beats me. Maybe because I don't read a lot of books like Dan does. If this seems inconsistent with my usual content, gosh, a shame, truly.
ANGEL'S EGG (Tenshi no Tamago, 1985, Yoshitaka Amano and Mamoru Oshii)
Angel's Egg is distilled from the mysterious memories of animated films people have seen as children and have been stronglyimpacted by in their visual thinking, but cannot remember the name of, nor what it was about. Watching this film will always feel like you've found something that has been forgotten about and stowed away somewhere, despite the entirety of it being on youtube. In a way this is a very sad film, but that's what makes it so remarkable.
I know. But still, I can't not mention it. That's why I'm doing this one early in, to get it out of the way, but not first, because I want the picture from Angel's Egg to show up as the thumbnail. I like Evangelion a lot, despite the criticisms that may be raised against it. When I saw it, there were a few moments where as a writer/creator I thought, oh, you can actually do that. Wild.
The original episode 25-26 ending is, in my opinion, the most important one, regardless of how experimental it may be. You can watch End of Evangelion somewhere after.
PAPRIKA (2006, Satoshi Kon)
Paprika is a very fun and playful film, which is odd, because so much of its content is eerie and a little grotesque. The music by Susumu Hirasawa contributes a lot to this- the opening credits and their accompanying score have one thing they need to convey: miss Paprika is delightful. While Christopher Nolan's Inception, similar in premise, is wearing Hollywood aviator shades indoors, Satoshi Kon's Paprika is a film from the heart.
FLCL (Fooly Cooly, Furi Kuri, 2003, Yōji Enokido and Kazuya Tsurumaki at Studio Gainax)
Fooly Cooly is juvenile, and that's not meant deridingly. It's just that there's no other way to put it: don't let appearances fool you, there are no adults in Fooly Cooly, it's not adult terrain. Fooly Cooly is the energy that fuels a teenager smugly making a sex joke just because it's naughty and exciting, while at the same time having little to no idea what they're talking about. Fooly Cooly is wacky as all hell and then some. I think the name might just be perfect.
MUSHISHI (2005, Artland, from manga by Yuki Urushibara)
Mushishi possesses a naturally profound calm and serenity, despite its ghost story-like appearance if you were to only look at the topics and proceedings of it. In Mushishi, nobody is really at fault or has ill intentions, and it wouldn't be the same otherwise. There's nobody to be annoyed by or hate or ball your fist at in Mushishi, not even by the show's intention. There's only people that you can feel compassion for. That's what gives this series its unmistakable, deep sense of tranquility.
BLACK LAGOON (2006, Geneon Entertainment, from manga by Rei Hiroe)
Black lagoon is a slice of life show. Despite its clear opinion that guns, smoking, and Revy's butt are very cool and definitely need to be in most of the shots, it really does feel like that. The bullet hell sequences are pretty much par for the course, but the bits outside of that are what gives this show its distinct darkly humoristic character. Don't expect this show to be serious.
LITTLE WITCH ACADEMIA (2017, Yoh Yoshinari at Studio Trigger)
This is my favourite Studio Trigger show, because I think I watched it exactly when I needed to. Across the echoing vastness of space resounds that primal cry of existence in the face of despair, and all shall know that it is: Yay.
EIZOUKEN ni wa Te wo Dasu na! (2020, Masaaki Yuasa at Science Saru, from manga by Sumito Ōwara)
When going into these reviews I decided not to review anything that Dan already had. This is the exception.
There's an expression people have that if a show is very good, it "saves anime." This couldn't be more apt, because anime is in constant need of saving from, well, itself. Eizouken is filled with wonder and imagination, but it's also very fun in a mundane kind of way, just from seeing the characters do what they do, be who they are, and get to be who they are. Eizouken is a series you can show to anyone. Because it's made for everyone. It only needs its sense of heart to sell itself. Not shiny effects, d-cups, or earth-shattering fight scenes. There's animated bits in Eizouken that are very imaginative and wonderful, yet I don't think it needs them. Eizouken is special, because it's normal.
Dan mentions that this show really understands what he and some other people I have talked to call The Moment, a lasting impression as a kid where you are first inspired to pursue your creativity. But you know what? I think the person I relate most to in terms of temperament in this show is Kanamori, the business-minded, demanding, managerial friend of the main set. And I don't think I have a The Moment. At least I don't remember it. When I see it happen in Eizouken no related memory of my own clicks in. There's no real central moment of inspiration at the core of my creative identity. There's no origin story episode. So when Dan et al. all seemed to instinctively understand what The Moment was, I thought to myself just briefly: did I do creativity wrong?
Heh. Yeah right. That'd be rich, wouldn't it, if you could actually do that? But you can't. You can't do it wrong. You can only do it.