*** Welcome to the first of an ongoing series of posts that uses popular western movies and television shows to offer recommendations for anime series of a similar bent. For readers who are unfamiliar with anime, the featured series may serve as a good entry point. For the already converted, head to the comments and let me know what you think ***
The Expanse is a space drama that follows the ragtag crew of a ship as they’re pulled into a conspiracy that threatens to engulf the militarized forces of Earth, Mars and the Outer Planetary Alliance in war and plague. It’s awesome, you should be watching.
2nd runner up: Outlaw Star
Outlaw Star, or “Firefly turned up to 11: the animation”, is a simple story: Boy opens stolen suitcase, suitcase contains an unconscious nude girl, boy learns that nude girl is an android and falls in love with her, boy puts nude android girl in tube so she can fly spaceship to god, magic wielding pirates try to kill everyone, cats fly a spaceship, gumball rally in space, prison break in space, Moby Dick in water.
So, maybe not that simple. But it’s crazy and it’s fun and it’s good and it’s great.#$!&@* the heck
1st runner up: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans
Iron Blooded Orphans is the newest addition to the Gundam franchise (so new that it’s currently airing) and it’s earned its spot here.
Iron Blooded Orphans follows a close knit group of child orphans (slaves) who led an uprising against their employers (slave owners) as they endeavor to create a new and better world for themselves and others. There are battles on Mars, battles on Earth, battles in space, battles in colonies; there’s labor disputes and assassinations and backstabbing, war crimes, fratricide, child slavery, farming, sentient genocidal bird dinosaur robots and...
...well, they can’t all be winners.
Now, 45 episodes in, this anime is a tornado of emotions and machinations. Every single character is scarred by tragedy, everyone has blood on their hands and there’s not a single safety net in sight.
I think it’s time we blow this thing, get everybody and the stuff together. Okay, 3..2..1..let’s jam...
Obvious choice is obvious, right. Cowboy Bebop is a classic. Its style is timeless, often imitated, but still nearly unparalleled. Its jazz-laden soundtrack both paces the action and sets the somber and forlorn mood of the setting and the characters.
Cowboy Bebop follows a ship of bounty hunters who travel through the solar system chasing bounties, atoning for past mistakes, running out of food, helping people, day drinking, waging gangland-style war against a former associate who killed his girlfriend, opening the refrigerator, thwarting eco-terrorists and gambling.
While most episodes of Cowboy Bebop are light-hearted adventures in space, the throughline that connects the show from start to finish is each main characters’ reflection on their own past. Each one has a tortured history, with losses both physical and psychological, that they face down throughout the series. That past shapes who they are, and the heaviest moments of the show hit when the characters strive both to atone for it and also overcome it.
It’s hard for any review to do Cowboy Bebop justice, so just go and watch it.