Last time, I shared my five favorite fantasy anime. This time, the science fiction genre gets the focus as I share my five favorite sci-fi anime. Instead of being a top 5 list that ranks these series, I am listing them in alphabetical order.
Cowboy Bebop is set in the year 2071, and the series features a crew of bounty hunters traveling around in a spaceship called the Bebop. The crew of the ship includes Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward, and Ein. This unusual group of people travel the universe as bounty hunters. Many of the episodes focus on a particular bounty that the crew is trying to apprehend, and sometimes there will be an emphasis placed on the backstory for one of the main characters.
One thing that makes Cowboy Bebop stand out is how the series is able to combine several different influences you wouldn’t normally expect to see together, yet the writing makes these disparate influences work well together. Over the course of the series, you can see influences from kung fu films, westerns, science fiction, and film noir.
I appreciate how the character development is handled in the series, and how it turns out that everyone aboard the Bebop is damaged in some way. The series perfectly infuses lots of Western influences into it, and combining this with the storytelling, characters, and the music, it becomes a very enjoyable anime to watch. It’s this uniqueness that helps Cowboy Bebop rank among my top five favorite sci-fi anime.
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is an anime film produced by Toei Animation and supervised by Leiji Matsumoto. The members of the band Daft Punk specifically asked Matsumoto to make this film to bring their Discovery album to life.
One of the most fascinating things about this film is the fact that the story is only told through animation, music, and minimal sound effects; there is absolutely no dialogue in the film. However, the lack of dialogue doesn’t hurt the production, because a viewer can piece together what’s taking place in the story with relative ease.
The story features four blue-skinned aliens who perform together in a band. They are kidnapped by humanoids, their memories are altered, and their skin color is changed to make them look human. The kidnapper, who makes himself their manager, also implants mind-control devices on the band members. A pilot named Shep, who is the same race as the blue-skinned alien band, tries to free the band from their captor’s control.
Overall, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is an incredible viewing experience, and Matsumoto was able to effectively utilize the music and visuals to convey the story.
Martian Successor Nadesico
The series takes place in 2196, a year after a race of aliens known as the “Jovian Lizards” attacked Earth’s colonies on Mars. Earth is now at war with the aliens, and a company called Nergal designs a battleship known as the ND-001 Nadesico.
The main protagonist of the series is Akito Tenkawa, a young man who had once resided in Mars’ Utopia colony and escaped its destruction. When he escaped, he awakens on Earth with no memory of how he got there; however, he has a fear of the Jovian Lizards. He doesn’t want to fight and dreams of becoming a chef. After a chance encounter with his childhood friend, Yurika Misumaru, he ends up on the Nadesico. Yurika is the ship’s captain. After coming on board, Akito is constantly asked to act as a pilot for an Aestivalis, which is a humanoid combat robot.
There are actually quite a few characters among the crew of the Nadesico, and they all add something important to the mix. But even with all of these characters, the primary focus falls onto Akito. The series follows him as he changes from the frightened young man who’s forced to pilot a mecha and fight the enemy to someone who’s more decisive and realizes what it is that he needs to do.
Martian Successor Nadesico has a mix of comedy and drama, but the mixture works well for the story that’s being told in the series. While the characters either fall into character types or may be exaggerated at times, I still came to like them and to care about them. Ruri was one of my favorite characters, and I never got tired of her constantly referring to the rest of the crew as “fools.”
As I watched Martian Successor Nadesico, I found myself recognizing references from some earlier mecha and space opera anime series. I was primarily finding references to Space Battleship Yamato and Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and I believe I even found a couple of references to Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam in this series.
One of my favorite elements, though, was that Gekigangar III, an anime that’s popular in the world of Martian Successor Nadesico, became an “anime within an anime.” But it’s not included just to help provide some of the jokes and humor in the series. It actually plays an important role in the story of Martian Successor Nadesico.
Neon Genesis Evangelion
The story of Neon Genesis Evangelion goes back to the year 2000, when a global catastrophe known as the “Second Impact” occurred. During this event, Antarctica was destroyed, and half of the human population of Earth was wiped out. The government announced that the cause of the disaster was due to a large meteorite landing on Antarctica. However, it turns out the “Second Impact” was caused by experiments authorized by an organization called SEELE. The experiments were actually done by a research organization called Gehirn. They were experimenting on “beings” that are referred to as Angels and Adam.
Three years later, Gehrin evolved into a paramilitary organization called NERV, which is located in Tokyo-3, a militarized civilian city located in one of the last dry areas of Japan. SEELE has given NERV the mission to locate the remaining Angels and destroy them, and accomplishing this through developing biomechanical mecha called Evas. Each Eva has its own designated pilot, and operates by synchronizing the pilot’s soul and the human soul inside the Eva. This is done by using a liquid substance known as LCL.
The series itself starts in the year 2015, and the main focus is on Shinji Ikari, the 14-year-old son of Commander Ikari. Shinji is ultimately guilt tripped into piloting an Eva after seeing Rei Ayanami, an Eva pilot who has been injured. Shinji suffers from anxiety, depression, lack of self esteem, and loneliness, which are qualities that probably aren’t the best for an Eva pilot. When Asuka Sohryu Langley joins the other two as a pilot, this causes more problems for Shinji.
Neon Genesis Evangelion seems to start out normally enough, but as the series progresses, the viewer comes to realize there’s a lot more going on than there appears on the surface. By the end of the series, there’s been a serious look at the psyches of all three of the main Eva pilots. While the evolution of the feel and storytelling of the series can be a little frustrating the first time you watch it, it actually turns out that this element is what makes Neon Genesis Evangelion stand out from other sci-fi anime. The series ultimately takes things to “the next level,” and it’s a series you’ll never forget after you’ve watched it. For me, I find that I gain a greater appreciation for the series each time I see it.
Space Battleship Yamato
Not only does Space Battleship Yamato rank among my top five favorite sci-fi anime, it also ranks among my top five anime from the 1970’s and 1980’s.
I first encountered this series when I was a young child. Of course, at that time, I saw the English dubbed version, which aired in the United States under the title of Star Blazers. I’ve never had the opportunity to see this series in its original Japanese version, but I have seen the first five anime films in the franchise in Japanese.
As a child, and even now when I watch this series as an adult, I’m riveted by the quest of the first series. The story features a group of people going out into space and into the unknown in order to make a journey to a distant planet to obtain a machine that will rid the Earth of the pollution that was brought about by “planet bombs” dropped onto our world by an alien race. It’s fascinating to see this crew trying to adapt to being together on a spaceship, leaving the known galaxy, and heading out into the unknown.
With the second series, it was interesting to see how the Earth had been rebuilt after the successful completion of the mission in the first series. As a kid, I always thought it kind of sucked that Earth was in danger again from the Comet Empire after being restored to its former glory. While this series didn’t have quite the epic scope as the first one, it still included some mystery and intrigue.
While I have seen the third series, The Bolar Wars, on two or three occasions as an adult, I have to admit that I don’t remember it as well as the other two series. That’s probably due to the fact that my sister and I taped the Iscandar and Comet Empire episodes off of television and had the ability to watch them over and over as we were growing up, so I have the nostalgia to go with that. The Bolar Wars isn’t bad, but it’s just not as memorable to me.