Beyond Anime-tion: It’s All Fun, Games and Revenge When Comic-Con Breaks Out the Anime

Cute little monsters that you capture and train, the alien hero who powers up to godlike status to save the world, a tentacle monster having relations with a scantily clad woman that is somehow related to her and giants robots. Those are typical anime stereotypes that are burned into people’s brains. However, over the years, anime has gone from a relatively obscure art form to a worldwide cultural phenomenon that shatters the stereotypes surrounding it.

Many people’s first encounter with anime here in the States was through the Cartoon Network action show block Toonami and its featured programs such as “Dragonball Z” and the “Gundam” franchise. The anime phenomenon grew from there with other networks such as Fox and the now defunct WB network airing anime blocks of their own, popularizing shows such as “Pokémon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh.” Viewership grew and soon enough the anime blocks became some of the most popular and highest rated on the respective networks.

The Internet also played a big role in spreading anime like wildfire. Sites such as Crunchyroll and Hulu make it possible to upload shows as their credits start to roll in Japan. Streaming sites like Ustream can be utilized to stream an anime in real time to fans all over the world.

It was only a matter of time before anime became one of the biggest attractions at the mecca for nerd culture: Comic-Con.

Anime and Comic-Con go hand in hand. The biggest studios such as Funimation, Toei, VIZ Media and Aniplex go all out for the biggest event on the west coast. Cosplayers plan months and months in advance for what characters they want to portray on the show floor. Panels make it possible to talk to the minds behind the madness and to get a sneak peek at upcoming episodes or films. It really is a spectacle.

The shows that premiered over the past year have elevated anime to another level. They pushed the limits of creativity, animation and storytelling. They have provocative characters that that anyone can relate to and the seasons are filled with the perfect blend of comedy, action, drama and cuteness.

But of course some are better than others. Here are some of the most popular anime from this year, guaranteed to make a big splash at Comic-Con.

Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin)

A hundred years ago, giant humanoid beings called Titans attacked and left humanity at the brink of extinction. In the aftermath of the assault what remains of humanity now lies behind three walls; the outermost Wall Maria, the middle Wall Rosé and the inner Wall Sina. One day the Colossus Titan attacks the outermost Wall Maria letting in smaller but deadly Titans to wreak havoc on the city. Eren Yeager, his adopted sister Mikasa Ackerman and best friend Armin Arlert are among the few survivors. As time goes by Eren and company grow up and the Titan attacks are more frequent. After joining a branch of the military known as Survey Corps, Eren, his sister, best friend and the rest of the military have only one goal in mind: stop the Titans or die trying.

“Attack on Titan” is undoubtedly one of the best anime from the 2012-13 season. The non-stop action, compelling storyline and high quality animation have made it an instant fan favorite among both anime fans and non-anime viewers alike. “Attack on Titan’s” intense and emotional moments are relatable and will make you feel for all that the characters are going through. The show is also a good watch because it touches on serious situations that most anime tend stray from like overpopulation, politics and famine. An “Attack on Titan” live action film is in the works for next year and the show will get two anime compilation films recapping the first season starting later this year. “Attack on Titan” is destined to be one of those shows that will stand the test of time and will serve as an influence for future high action anime.

“Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal”

“Fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight …” That’s right, your favorite Magical Girl crew is back and better then ever. Created by writer and illustrator Naoko Takeuchi in the early 1990s, “Sailor Moon” grew from just a serial in a Shōjo manga magazine to an international hit that spawned an 18 volume manga, a five season anime, video games, musicals and a live action TV show. “Sailor Moon” centers on 14-year-old Usagi Tsukino (or Serena, as she’s known in the States), who one day discovers a talking cat named Luna and learns of her destined identity as Sailor Moon. It’s up to Usagi, along with her four friends known as the Sailor Senshi (or Sailor Scouts) and her tuxedo clad love interest, to save the world from destruction and evil.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the beloved franchise, a reboot of the internationally popular anime “Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon” was announced. Rather than remaking the previous anime the producers are starting at square one and adapting the original manga to screen. The reboot also includes famous voice actors such as Kotono Mitsuishi reprising her role as Usagi Tsukino/Sailor Moon from the original series. “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Crystal” is set to premiere July 5. It will be released in a simultaneous worldwide stream with subtitles in ten languages, including English, on video streaming site Niconico.

“Space Dandy”

Brought to you by the creative minds of “Cowboy Bebop” and “Fullmetal Alchemist,” “Space Dandy” is more than a show about a “dandy guy in space.” Rather than having one central plot throughout the entire series, it relays different adventures of Dandy and his crew, made up of his robot sidekick QT and a cat-like Betelgeusian named Meow, as they hunt aliens across the galaxy in his ship the Aloha ‘Oe. Unbeknownst to Dandy and his crew, he is being chased by Dr. Gel of the Golgo Empire for reasons unknown.

With the laundry list of anime veterans involved with this project fans expected nothing less than a stellar piece of work, and boy did they deliver. At face value, it would seem like “Space Dandy” is a just a comedy about alien hunters, but underneath that is an interesting albeit sporadic plot, beautiful animation sequences, a good script and a decent English dub that doesn’t make you want to rip your hair out. It’s a funny and entertaining show that has something for everyone. “Space Dandy” also made history as being the first anime to have its world premiere in America first, when it aired on Toonami in at the tail end of last year. The anime was just renewed for a second season so there’s plenty of time to catch up and as Dandy would say, “Live with the flow, baby!”

“Kill la Kill”

A fearsome student council, powered up school uniforms and the quest for revenge; just another typical high school experience right? Honnōji Academy is a high school under the rule of a ruthless and fearsome student council led by president Satsuki Kiryūin. Transfer student Ryuko Matoi enrolls at the academy in order to find her father’s killer and the second half of the Red Scissor Blade; the weapon that killed her father. Armed with the other half of the blade and Senketsu, a living seifuku (sailor uniform) made entirely from Life Fibers (sentient parasitic organisms of extraterrestrial origins); Ryuko seeks to release Honnōji Academy from the rule of the student council and find out the truth behind her father’s murder.

“Kill la Kill” is so much more than the run of the mill fighting anime that dominate most Internet and TV screens. The mix of well designed, detailed animation and the cartoon like presentation of certain character moments and fight scenes make this aesthetically pleasing for the eye. The characters are also very well rounded, which is a refreshing change of pace from most of today’s shows. There are even some animation sequences that pay homage to other popular anime series. “Kill la Kill” is a reminder of just how creative, fun and entertaining anime can be.

Sakura Trick

If there is one thing you can count on every anime season, it’s that sakura (cherry blossoms) will be involved in some way. Most of the anime that has sakura in the title can be a little cliché cute character design and predictable plot. While “Sakura Trick” can be a tad bit predictable at times, cliché it is not.

“Sakura Trick” is about two close friends, Haruka Takayama and Yū Sonoda, entering their first year of high school. Upon finding out that they aren’t seated together in their new classroom the girls find ways to spend more time together and quickly gain another understanding of their friendship after kissing in an abandoned classroom.

“Sakura Trick” isn’t your average yuri anime with tiny school uniforms and sexually suggestive sequences and themes. It’s about love, relationships, trust, experimentation, friendship and unrequited love all under the guise of a slice-of-life comedy. What makes this anime different is that it touches on the subject of sexuality in a way that isn’t overtly sexualizing its characters like many of the same genre do. The exploration of Haruka and Yū’s relationship is done in a very natural and genuinely cute way complete with comedic commentary provided by the secondary characters. After all, an anime season isn’t an anime season without a cute sakura show about love.