Some of my favorite pieces of fiction:
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Revolutionary Girl Utena
- Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
- Welcome to the NHK!
- Gravity Falls
- Steven Universe
- Valhalla, Ragnarok, and Gudsriki.
They have a whole lifetime’s worth of stuff to say. Whether it’s an anime that a man used to communicate about his depression, a fanfic that doubles as a textbook for someone’s motivations and thought patterns, or a cartoon that mixes a woman’s childhood with ideas she learned growing up and wished she’d experienced as a kid.
So many of my favorite things are ones where I can name the creator and, even it’s not true, have an idea of what that person values through their work. I’ve called Masaaki Yuasa one of my favorite directors, but one thing I’ve found difficult to square is how little an idea of Yuasa I get out of the work by itself. I know his sense of humor and aesthetics, and I know that he works with and adapts from an array of intensely talented people. But I haven’t really gotten a picture of a real person out of this directing style. My favorite works of his are adaptations too, so perhaps it’s Matsumoto and Morimi who really know the way into my heart.
Regardless, creators who are absent in their work are entirely worthy of being called my favorites. I can recognize that what Yuasa’s doing is great, and it’s all the more impressive that without that sense of personality, they’re still among the best anime I’ve seen.
But I think that’s a barrier between me and a lot of thematically rich anime.
- Serial Experiments Lain
- Casshern Sins
- Ergo Proxy
These are good shows. I don’t think they can touch Utena. Is the problem presentational? I don’t think Texhnolyze and Casshern Sins are visually inferior to Utena.
Fear of death, exploration of the internet, and the myriad themes of Texhnolyze are all comparable in thought and interest to my favorites.
But the personal element, the chance to see someone learn along with you, is a big help. I like hearing things explained and examined – the verbose prose of Isin and Fink tells me not just the fictional story, but makes me flash back to the story of how these ideas figured into my life and how they may have occurred to the people writing them.