Oh Japan, where would modern sci-fi be without you? With your vivid and thought-provoking visions of what the world could be, robots and all, you've given us countless rich and spectacular new arenas for our imaginations to run around in. From the philosophical man-and-machine melds of Ghost in the Shell to the adventurous natural majesty of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, science fiction is a genre well-covered by our friends in the Land of the Rising Sun. Just like anime as a whole, their sci-fi selection has a little something for everyone. Whether your love futures or alternate worlds peppered with robots, romance, grit, speculation, or just plain fun, there's a title or two or ten for you. Here's a little gathering of noteworthy TV series and movies available at the Library.
For romantics: Eureka Seven
Based heavily around 20th century underground surfer culture and electronic music, this futuristic series gives us a vast world of sprawling skies, an eclectic cast of characters, and did I mention the wind-surfing giant robots? 14-year-old Renton Thurston is bored with his life in his average town, despite being the son of one of humanity's greatest heroes. His only real joys are a form of wind-surfing called "lifting" and fantasizing about his idols, the counterculture group Gekkostate. As luck would have it, Gekkostate is not just countercultural but also anti-military and their latest exploits have led them to crash-land (literally) into Renton's life. Amongst them is a beautiful and enigmatic mech pilot named Eureka, whom Renton promptly falls head over heels for. After being recruited to Gekkostate, Renton begins an epic journey of growth and discovery about life, love, and the world he lives in.
For explorers of the old-school: Cowboy Bebop
One of the great anime classics of all time, this space western follows humanity to the not-so-distant future where mankind has successfully colonized the habitable worlds of the solar system. Unfortunately, crime is as big a problem as ever. What isn't taken care of by the cops is handled by freelance bounty hunters called Cowboys. Aboard one Cowboy ship, the Bebop, we find our heroes: Spike, a Cowboy with a dark past; Jet, an ex-cop; Faye Valentine, a sticky-fingered femme fatale; Ed, a highly eccentric young computer genius; and their dog Ein. The series is notable for its stellar jazz soundtrack and surprisingly episodic and laid-back pacing for an action show. The various backstories of the crew of the Bebop gradually come out over the course of the series, but their general misadventures and weekly criminal chases tend to take center stage.
For everyone who gushed over Inception: Paprika
Fiercely imaginative and visually stunning, this feature film by the legendary late director Satoshi Kon tells the tale of Dr. Atsuko Chiba, a specialist of a new device called the DC Mini. With it, she gives people therapy by entering and interpreting their dreams in the form of her peppy young alter-ego, Paprika. When the DC Mini is stolen, Dr. Chiba must work together with her best friend, a corpulent but brilliant scientist, and her current patient, a troubled detective, to discover who took it and why. They'll need to work fast, for in the wrong hands the DC Mini could be capable of melting the barrier between dreams and reality.
For fantasy lovers: Fullmetal Alchemist
A fan-favorite of the last decade, this richly thought-out series provides a seemless blend of science and the mystical. After the death of their mother, brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric attempt to use the science of alchemy to bring her back to life. Unfortunately their transmutation goes horribly wrong, literally costing Ed an arm and a leg and Al his entire body. Bonding Al's soul to a suit of armor, Ed has his missing limbs replaced with mechanical prosthetics and the two brothers set out on a journey to learn the secrets of the legendary Philosopher's Stone which could restore their bodies. Along the way they become agents of the military, learn harsh realities of the world, battle the courrupt and wicked, and learn the truth about their missing father. The title has two seperate anime series: the first (aired 2003-2004 with a concluding movie in 2005) veers off from the plot of the original manga but nonetheless delivers a solid and complete story. The second, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (aired 2009-2010), is a more direct adaptation of the manga.
For action fans: Gurren Lagann
In the far distant future, humanity has been driven underground after the surface world was taken over by creatures called Beastmen and their giant robots, Gunmen. In one underground village, a curious orphan boy named Simon is taken under the wing of the town troublemaker, an obsessively energetic and hot-blooded young man named Kamina. Insisting that Simon calls him "bro," Kamina recruits him to the cause of breaking free to the surface. The surface winds up coming to them in the form of a Gunman falling through the roof pursued by Yoko, an agile sniper from a neighboring village. Using Lagann, a relatively pint-sized robot that Simon discovered in the tunnels, the trio set out to amass an army of rebels against the Beastmen and their Gunmen and return mankind to its rightful place. But the battle doesn't stop at the Beastmen. Beyond them are the challenges of government, a falling moon, and beings that threaten the end of the universe itself. Not to mention the everyday trials of love, loss, and a boy having to become a man.