5 streamable, must-watch anime to prepare for MTAC

Characters from the gritty, sword-swinging anime "Samurai Champloo." (MTSU Sidelines / Madman.com/au)

With the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention opening its doors on Friday, March 25 and closing on Sunday, March 27,  anime fans from across Tennessee and neighboring states dust off their best cosplay outfits to celebrate the genre. Guests such as Vic Mignogna, Eric Stuart and Martin “LittleKuriboh” Billany will interact with guests and lead panels ranging from serious topics such as “Women and Non-Whites in Animated Mediums” to more playful discussions like “Your Favorite Anime Sucks.” But for those otakus who can’t be bothered with crowded conventions and cosplay, we’ve compiled a list of five animes to stream from the safety of home.

5.) The Seven Deadly Sins (2015) – Netflix

Demons. Giants. A talking pig. The Liones Kingdom is full of magic, non-human creatures and holy knights. But the holy knights have staged a coup d’état against the kingdom, and the only hope remaining is The Seven Deadly Sins: The strongest of all holy knights, said to have betrayed the kingdom 10 years prior before vanishing completely.

This is where the story begins, but where it goes is what makes this one of the best new animes. Throughout the first season, you slowly learn about and meet most of the Sins: heartfelt rebels with individual motivations that bring them toward a common goal and sometimes set them against each other.

Fundamentally, it’s a story about pursuing justice, righting wrongs and sticking up for those who deserve it. But that’s all woven into a narrative full of deeply personal emotions, dynamic characters and stark attitudes

That may sound typical for anime. But this is one of Netflix’s few forays into the genre, and it’s surprisingly entertaining. Not to mention, it only released last year. The story progresses very quickly, rarely losing momentum of intrigue. Still, it has a lot of room to grow into something epic.

4.) Hunter x Hunter (2011) – Crunchyroll, Netflix (most seasons)

A boundless world full of mystery and danger is the ultimate challenge for those qualified as “hunters.” In this world, 12-year-old prodigy Gon leaves home to find his father, but first he must become a hunter just like his father before him.

He befriends almost everyone along the way, charming the world with his innocence and curiosity. But it’s the three close friends he makes during the hunter exam that drive the story forward. Their adventures in the treacherous undercurrents of the world and the subsequent bond forged between them make it an enrapturing journey.

With the world itself being an enigma, this series is as intriguing as it is expansive. But the greatest flaw of Hunter x Hunter is that it ended too soon due to the creator overworking himself into illness. That isn’t to say it didn’t finish well or isn’t worth watching. It’s a magnificent extravaganza of creativity and characters, but it had much further to go before completion. However, the manga recently came off hiatus, so maybe there is hope for the anime to continue.

3.) Samurai Champloo (2004-2005) – Netflix

Two trouble-making, vagabond outlaws roam a post-feudal Japan stylized with modern accents. One is withdrawn, mannerly and calculating. The other is a rude hot head with acrobatic flair. Both wield deadly precision with a sword, unmatched except by each other.

A lively but unlucky girl does her best to keep these two together instead of at each other’s throats. Though they are often involved in their own business, fate has a way of bringing the three of them together. But it’s not all about these three characters.

Each episode brings side characters with substantial depth of personality into the mix. It’s gritty but comical, dredging up the pariahs of society and serving them with a dash of humor. The animation style and jazzy hip-hop music makes it distinct from almost any other anime and was a large inspiration for The Boondocks.

Underneath it all, Samurai Champloo is about independence despite necessity to conform interdependently. The main characters could stand on their own, but their individual actions clash in a contrast that makes this a must-watch anime.

2.) Fairy Tail (2009) – Hulu/Crunchyroll

The Kingdom of Fiore runs on magic, and being in a wizard guild is the paramount ambition for anyone seeking adventure or recognition. The most infamous of these guilds is Fairy Tail, a ragtag assortment of rowdy wizards brimming with spirit.

This a show full of characters as diverse as they are powerful, as powerful as they are disorderly and as disorderly as they are compassionate. With diverse characters come intricate plotlines that aren’t always clear but are always enthralling upon reveal. Of course, a complex story is to be expected from an anime inspired by the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

In addition to the character and plotlines, the various styles of magic grow into a menagerie of imaginative powers: dragon slayers, celestial spirits, takeover magic and so much more. To call the world rich is an understatement, because it’s not a world — it’s a universe.

While it is certainly as epic as The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, it’s much more comical. Because of this, the early episodes come across as campy from its pervasive, blunt humor. And the original animation style looks cheap compared to series two of Fairy Tail. But if you invest in the anime, you will not be disappointed. It transforms through each story arc into a delightful show about the power of comradery with characters that inspire and a universe that astounds.

1.) Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999) – Hulu

In the year 2071, spacefaring bounty hunters do their best to scrape by a living. A smooth-talking former assassin, a soft-hearted ex-military dog, a fierce yet haunted femme fatale, a crazy, expert hacker and a genius corgi: The characters are as vivid and deep as the universe of this series. Nearly every episode tackles a new story in a style that displays the vast, riotous galaxy in vignettes through the character’s lives.

The underlying stories of each character tie the series loosely together, the same way the characters are joined by only necessity, convenience and fate. The show conveys strong existential themes, pondering inevitable finales and examining unstated loneliness. But it approaches these ideas with an unassuming grandeur that connects profoundly with the human experience.

Few animes receive as much critical acclaim as Cowboy Bebop. Anime News Network’s Mike Crandol described it as “a unique television show which skillfully transcends all kinds of genres.” It’s been called a masterpiece so many times, saying so has lost meaning. But it has become iconic for several reasons beyond character and story.  
Its explosive jazz theme music and bluesy outro pair perfectly with the show’s wild west feel. The animation style seems effortlessly fluid, putting animes of it’s time and even those of today to shame. Most distinguishing of all is the subject matter. Cowboy Bebop is unequivocally mature, evoking philosophical wonders and analyzing interpersonal relations with intimate clarity. If you don’t watch any other anime on this list, at least watch Cowboy Bebop.

For more stories and updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter/Instagram at @Sidelines_Life.

To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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