Maybe we didn’t have to walk uphill through the snow back in my day, but if we wanted to watch anime, we did have to scour obscure tape stores and drop $30 for just a couple episodes a time. Before that, otaku had it even worse; only getting their sweet fix through the dicey underground of tape trading. Though, even if you did find the show of your dreams, there was always that awful feeling of being late to the party. Anime took months, or even years, to arrive after it had aired in Japan.
So, otaku have it far, far easier today. Make no mistake: this is the best time to be an anime fan in America. And that boast could be supported by just one word… simulcasts. There ought to be a sexier term for them, but they’re still a true marvel of modern TV. Fans never have to wait, now. Streaming enables us to watch a show within an hour of its broadcast. We’re actually living in the future!
VIZ, FUNimation, and Hulu have whole simulcast sections, while sites like CrunchyRoll and Daisuki are entirely devoted to them. Different shows are licensed to different channels, and there are myriad options to suit tastes and budget. Some have paid subscriptions. Some make episodes free-for-view after their airdate. And some even offer dubbed episodes as close to the original broadcast as humanly possible–something unfathomable just a few years ago. It’s never been easier to get into anime, so if you’re finally hopping on this train, here are a handful of current shows you ought to try.
If you’re going to watch anime week-to-week, it’d be downright embarrassing not to know at least a little about what’s going on with the #1 show ever. Two-fisted, rubber-faced man-child Luffy and his crew of superheroic oddballs, the Strawhats, have made it past 800 episodes for good reason. They may never find that treasure of treasures, the One Piece, but you can always count on them for the wackiest and most whimsical adventures every time you tune in. Right now, they’re battling the flamboyant villain Donquixote Doflamingo around the exotic island of Dressrosa; but don’t feel intimidated about hopping into this already-in-progress mega arc. A sense of overwhelming delirium is really what the whole appeal of One Piece boils down to.
The good news? In the future, mankind discovers an infinite power source and sets up countless “coils” to siphon energy from it–effectively ending the global energy crisis. The bad news? It doesn’t take long for a mega-corporation to monopolize these coils. Dimension W may look like a colorful cyberpunk romp, but it’s actually got some delicious moral grayness. Our lead is a borderline-Luddite who makes his bones hunting pirate coils and shutting them down for that big ol’ conglomerate. His job gets a lot more complicated, of course, when a rogue coil-powered robo-girl unexpectedly links up with his operation. Now wouldn’t be the greatest time for our guy to question if he’s working for the bad guys, would it?
Here’s a magical realist thriller just dripping with atmosphere. Our lead, Satoru, is a manga artist with a somewhat-subtle super power that allows him to travel back in time to the moment just before a life-threatening incident occurs. When his mother is murdered by a serial killer, however, his power takes him back to the mind of his ten-year-old self. Turns out, the killer has been operating for nearly two decades. But… what can a child do to stop an adult murderer? Has Satoru traveled back only to be a helpless witness this time? The answers are fascinating, and the show takes proper time to focus on their emotional implications instead of the flash and spectacle that typify other time-travel jaunts.
Another anime institution. The show also known as Detective Conan has about 100 more episodes than One Piece under its belt, but it remains the more accessible of the two. Think Law & Order: the Anime, perhaps. The premise is simple. Master detective Jimmy Kudo is chemically de-aged after a criminal organization poisons him, but he keeps his super sleuthing right up, assuming the nom de guerre “Conan Edogawa.” So, it’s a bit Encyclopedia Brown too, perhaps. Week in, week out, he solve mysteries. Sometimes they’re one-shots, sometimes they take three episodes, but it’s always a delight to watch lil’ Conan crack a case.
This is actually even more cutting edge than any simulcast on this list. Why? Well, it isn’t produced in Japan. Rooster Teeth, the house behind the Red vs. Blue machina comedy series, animates this CG show out of their headquarters in Texas, so it’s an extremely rare breed of American-made anime. It might also represent the future of television in general, since it “airs” primarily on Rooster Teeth’s own site but is also “syndicated” to CrunchyRoll and other streaming sites. It’s a really fun show, too, with loads of heart. Watch it, and be charmed by the all-heroine super-group Team RWBY (pronounced “ruby”) as they compete against other squads of magic warriors at the prestigious Beacon Academy.
If we’ve preached to the converted here, we invite any otaku in our readership to suggest their fav ongoing simulcasts in the talkback. We want to hear your picks, too!
Featured Image Credit: FUNimation