I’ll let you all in on a little secret: I grew up in the nineties, and as such, my formative anime tastes were developed with those trends and sensibilities in mind. As such, I’m kind of a sucker for series that have elements of religious fantasy, end in 24-26 episodes, and have dark themes but still manage to remain idealistic.
I’ll get it out of the way quickly and say I really enjoy Dr. Stone. The premise of the series is a mysterious wave covers the world in modern day and turns every human, but no other living thing, to stone. 3,700 years in the future, a young prodigy named Senku wakes up and starts enacting a plan to restore every human and rebuild the world with science, along with the formula that revived him from his stone prison.
A lot of people fantasize about what they’d do if they ever obtained ultimate power or immortality. Some people might try to reshape the world in their own image, while others would go after every worldly delight they can think of. One of the wiser arguments I’ve heard, though, is that with that much power, you can just chill. It’s not something I’ve seen too much in fiction, but one anime that pulls it off in the funniest way possible is The Disastrous Life of Saiki K
Anime about ghosts and spirits are a dime a dozen, crossing a variety of genres, including action, horror, and mystery. Most of them frame spirits as something unnatural, whether as sinister invaders, echoes of a terrible crime, or some lack of balance between the realms of the living and the dead. In all these cases, they are to be dealt with by getting rid of them one way or another, either through allowing them to move on or just kicking their butts. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but there’s one series that approaches spirits in a novel and unique way, and that is the 2005 series Mushishi.
With current popularity of Squid Game, a lot of people have Battle Royale stories on the mind. The idea of a grand competition where there can be only one survivor makes for a compelling narrative. It forces us to engage with moral questions about the cost of victory and survival, and so long as at least some of the characters are sympathetic, it is inevitably going to hurt us when they die. There’s also the unconscious fear that there’s some prophetic truth to it, that in the not-too-distant future, most of us may be forced to compete for survival by the corrupt and powerful. But before this becomes too much of a bummer, I bring all this up to discuss my ambivalent feelings about the 2017 Battle Royale series Juni Taisen: Zodiac War. Caution: this review spoils the ending of the series; however, so do the end credits of the show, so you’ll know most of this by the end of the first episode.