Five Lesser-Known Anime You Can Watch Right Now
In earlier decades, if you wanted to watch anime, you watched what a few US distributors thought would be lucrative – and maybe you could get fifth-gen unsubtitled Betas of rarer stuff from your expat friend in Tokyo. Tape trading took off over time, and then came the internet and file sharing. Soon, groups of intrepid fans with laserdiscs and insane work ethics started releasing fansubs of harder to come by shows – and studios got upset.
But after a bunch of cease and desist letters, a few studios got smart and started streaming their own shows online. This happens primarily with new shows, even to the point of occasional simulcasting. However, in recent months we’ve seen an increase in older series, both well-known classics and some that might otherwise go unnoticed.
If you’re even remotely an anime fan, you’ll know what the “required viewing” is. But don’t miss any of the ones that fellow fans might not tell you to dig up … because even those are getting noticed.
This buried treasure from 1981 is one no one ever expected to see the light of day in anything but bootlegs. Based only tenuously on the manga Mars by Mitsuteru Yokoyama (who also brought us Tetsujin-28, a.k.a. Gigantor), it focuses on a kid named Takeru who discovers he’s a space prince named Mars and is doomed to blow up the world with a giant robot bomb. Instead, he uses the combining robot to fight evil and – indirectly – sell toys to the young viewing audience.
The first arc is pretty solid, but once it ventures outside its basic storyline it starts to get a bit thin. Nonetheless, it’s a fun watch and a look at the good old combining robot genre. Incidentally, if the combined God Mars robot looks familiar, it should: the design was lifted for Mighty Orbots three years later.
God Mars is available on Hulu, with episodes being added regularly.
Lupin III – Pink Jacket
Probably one of the most widely known and best regarded old-school anime, Lupin III has been running for decades in various forms. Nowadays it’s seen almost exclusively in annual TV movies in Japan, but initially it was a long-running TV series divided into three seasons. The second was dubbed and run on Cartoon Network for a bit, but the first and third were hard to find – until recently.
The show’s seasons are categorized by fans according to Lupin’s outfits: Green Jacket (first season), Red Jacket (second season), and Pink Jacket (third season). Pink Jacket does not sit well with many fans, but in actuality it’s just as fun as the previous seasons … even if the character designs are a bit weird.
All three seasons of Lupin III are available on Hulu, with third season episodes being updated over time.
Magical Angel Creamy Mami
If you’ve ever in your life enjoyed Jem or Sailor Moon, this is probably somewhere you should end up. This 1983 anime is the story of Yuu, a ten-year-old girl who receives a magical compact from a pair of alien cats. She uses it to become a teenaged version of herself and land a singing career she doesn’t actually want, while establishing an awkward love triangle in which she and her alter ego make up two points.
Creamy Mami is adorable, harmless fluff – and also one of Anime Sols’s most popular crowdfunded releases. It’s already going into funding for its third DVD boxed set, and it shows no signs of stopping. Which is fortunate, as the site pulls any shows that don’t reach their goal.
New Creamy Mami episodes are streamed every Sunday on Anime Sols.
Osamu Tezuka’s “24 Hour Television” Specials
Even people who aren’t anime fans are familiar with the works of Osamu Tezuka, primarily in the form of Astro Boy and Kimba. What people might be unfamiliar with are his feature-length specials, made for Japan’s annual “24 Hour Television” charity telethon. The movies stand alone, but make use of Tezuka’s “star system” – that is, his tendency to recycle his own characters into various roles. The specials tend to have a sci-fi/fantasy bent, and it’s not uncommon to see major Tezuka characters like Black Jack, Kimba, and Astro Boy showing up on a regular basis.
Several of Tezuka’s 24 Hour Television specials are available on Anime Sols, with more being added over time.
The Rose of Versailles
Riyoko Ikeda created the now-legendary anime heroine Lady Oscar, because she didn’t think she could write for a male soldier. But Oscar soon became the star of this 1979 French Revolution piece, usurping Marie Antoinette herself as the protagonist over time. With a few historical tweaks for the sake of drama, Rose of Versailles is a beautiful show with equal parts understated humor and out-and-out heartbreak.
A two-volume boxed set was rushed out recently by anime distributor Right Stuf, and it’s a gorgeous set. If you’re more into streaming or are a bit short on cash, however, Crunchyroll has all 40 episodes available to watch online.
And once you get on to any of these sites, poke around for a minute. If you see an unfamiliar title from the 80s or so, give it a look. Before long we may well have studios’ entire libraries open to us.
Better get started.