When you’ve spent years watching anime, you can become desensitized to the strangeness of it. Recently I sat down and objectively viewed a few titles in my collection and realized just how freakishly bizarre some of this stuff is. For this post, I want to take a moment to recognize a few of the weirdest anime to come out of Japan.
Anyone who’s ever seen this show already knows why it’s on this list. Watch five minutes of any episode and you’ll either be reaching for the remote control or so mesmerized by the randomness that you won’t even be able to avert your eyes. Nose hair powers, brightly colored afros, campy costumes, and completely random humor dominate this series and make you wonder exactly who the target audience for this show was. Kids with ADD maybe? I’d give a brief plot synopsis here, but the show really doesn’t seem to follow any recognizable story.
Satoshi Kon is well known for his odd visions. He’s kinda like the Kubrick of anime. Paranoia Agent is one of his stranger works, and his first television series. Usually he works within the time limit of a feature film, but this show gave him 13 episodes to weave a strange, psychological thriller that left viewers guessing what the hell was going on the whole time.
This show didn’t waste anytime getting into the oddness. The opening sequence is one of the freakiest in anime history.
Yup, another one of Satoshi Kon’s strange works. This anime focuses around the oddities of dreams, and at times it descends into something that hovers between a nightmare and an LSD trip. But despite the fact that the subject matter is really strange, it’s also really interesting and quite a visual masterpiece. Kind of like a slideshow of Salvador Dali paintings.
FLCL / Fooly Cooly
Most anime fans love this show for its quirky humor and frenetic animation. But those same qualities make it extremely strange. The original Japanese show is full of random cultural humor, and the English version did an admirable job of trying to translate it.
A favorite element of the series is the deliciously funny Haruko Haruhara, who shows up one day and runs over a middle school boy (Naota, the lead character), thus starting an odd, sexually charged relationship that’s supposed to be a metaphor for growing up. Other oddities include a flying robot with a TV set for a head, an alien police officer with over the top fake eyebrows, and a scene where Naota’s father gives Haruko an erotic message with his beard.
X 1999 - The movie
The original X manga is excellent. The 25 episode series is amazing as well. But the first animated incarnation of the X storyline - the X/1999 film - was a hurried attempt to condense volumes of manga story into 90 minutes. The result? A near incomprehensible story and one of the most depressing endings in the history of storytelling.
The X mythos has a ton of characters with backstory, and each has their own set of motivations. But the movie didn’t have time to explain all of this and so you’re left wondering “Who is that?” and “Why are they fighting again?”
Did I mention how depressing the ending was? Let’s just call it, Shakesperean.
Serial Experiments Lain
A truly brilliant show about a geeky girl who gets to know “god” through her computer. But its brilliance is matched by its oddness. Lain’s “father” - preoccupied with his room full of computers and maniacal laughter - is one of the odder points. Add to that a scene where Lain’s closest friend starts masturbating while thinking about her teacher and you’ve got just a taste of one of the strangest anime out there. But it’s also a wonderful woven dystopian tale of technology, philosophy, and computer geek culture. I suppose you really can’t tackle those topics without being bizarre.
One thing I will say about the series though, the soundtrack was great. The opening music is from Boa’s Duvet, this show introduced me to Boa’s work.
Strange. Frantic. Funny. Dead Leaves is one of the most memorable anime out there, mainly for its over the top humor and unique fast-paced animation style.
Story Synopsis from WikiPedia:
Retro and Pandy, two unlikely renegades, awaken naked on Earth with no recollection of their past, but with superior physical abilities. After embarking on a devastating crime spree for food, clothing and transportation in downtown Tokyo (which lasts for a minimum of five minutes), they are captured by authorities and sent to the infamous prison called Dead Leaves, on the half destroyed moon.
The story really gets freaking odd when they get to the prison. There’s no real plot to speak of, just a string of disjointed but interesting crazy scenes. Words can’t really describe it. Watch the video for a taste.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure you guys can think of others. Leave some comments, I want to know what weird shit you guys are watching.
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