Fans often wonder what defines a cult classic, beyond the people who say it. Every outlet has its dormant hits and surprise hits, offset by stories that don’t live up to the hype. It’s easy to see how some anime doesn’t deliver what an audience wants. Many series initially attract very few people and later they attract a lot of people.
Some shows make the smallest of splashes, but the ripples of their impact can be felt for years afterwards. These cult classics have the power to reshape what anime can be and their legacy is only honored in hindsight. Whether weird, ambitious, bizarre, or just plain unforgettable, cult classics leave an indelible mark on the anime landscape.
9 Odd Taxi is far from conventional (Odd Taxi)
It may seem premature to declare a 2021 series a cult classic, but strange taxi is anything but conventional. A series featuring a fully anthropomorphized cast of characters, centered around the passengers of a walrus taxi driver, feels more eccentric than substantial. However, weird taxi is about doubting your first impression of someone or anything, a metacognitive journey into the modern world.
On time, weird taxi is as realistic as any show featuring animals in clothes. weird taxi centers on a failed comedy duo joking around in the backseat, a kidnapped girl, and an employee who dedicates his life to a phone app to the detriment of everything else. Like the best cult crime movies, these stories are intertwined and the taxi is what ties them all together. In the end, viewers walk away knowing they’ve never seen anything like this weird taxi.
8 Widely ignored but has its loyal followers (Blood Blockade Battlefront)
Everything written by Yasuhiro Nightow of Trigun fame is bound to be explosive success. Unfortunately, Blood Blockade Battlefront was not. Blood Blockade Battlefront marked the first Nightow anime in over a decade. Although it received some critical fanfare, bolstered by Studio Bones’ legendary reliability, Blood Blockade seemed destined to be largely ignored.
The second season, helmed by a new director, seemed unlikely to generate new interest. Today, the show has no shortage of lawyers. As Trigun, Blood Blockade offers more than meets the eye, spawning many fans over time.
7 Creating a New Generation of Otaku (FLCL)
Without FLCLthe world may not have had gurren lagann. FLCL A stint on Toonami introduced thousands of otaku to the wacky possibilities of anime. This six-episode OVA heavily reshaped Western expectations of what anime could be with its weird art, bizarre characters, distinct grunge attitude, and experimental animation. With a single stroke of the guitar, Haruko Haruhara became the dream pixie maniac for an entire generation of fans.
With FLCL inspiration, gurren lagann ultimately led to the creation of a groundbreaking brand new studio, Trigger. Trigger went on to reinvent animation once again, with hits like kill her kill her and Promare.
6 Overlooked But Not Forgotten (Legend of Galactic Heroes)
Considering the few young otakus who watched Legend of Galactic Heroesits consistent ranking in the Top 10 Anime of All Time on MAL is something remarkable. Legend of Galactic Heroes began airing in 1988 and ended airing in 1996. During that time, over 100 episodes were produced. While classic series like Berserk, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventureand dragonball have maintained a steady influx of new viewers, many overlook the legend of galactic heroes.
Its continued success is a testament to the devotion of its fan base. Hero inspired a fanaticism that spans decades, nurtured by those who see it as a masterpiece.
5 A staple of the science fiction genre (Serial Experiments Lain)
Strangely, Serial Experiments Lain predicted the trauma of the Internet when public Internet access was still in its infancy. Released in 1998, Layer looks its age but feels oddly timeless. The story follows a girl who is seduced by an online world, a black mirror– as a premise.
In the 90s, people started investing fully in a virtual world for the first time in history. It’s hard not to look back Layer as a landmark in the story, and it’s no surprise that it’s frequently recommended by those who don’t even watch anime.
4 Kunihiko Ikuhara’s works are always loved, but only by some (Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum)
Fan reviews of Mawaru Penguindrum are split, either people loved the show or they couldn’t finish it. In general, this fits with director Kunihiko Ikuhara’s legacy as a whole. The author perhaps best known for the legacy of Utena made as many missteps as masterpieces in his career, leaving much of his work to be considered cult classics. Depending on who you ask, his shows can be interpreted either way.
defects of Utena and Penguindrum aside, there’s no denying Ikuhara’s impact. His shows contain a level of surrealism, existentialism and sexuality that many creators will not approach. While it alienates some audiences, it earns the devotion of others. If a project is associated with Ikuhara, it will look like nothing else.
3 Leaving a silent but defined impact (Princess Tutu)
For a while, “meta” became an irritating buzzword. Every series with an ounce of self-awareness has been described as meta and soon enough that label was slapped on everything from viral videos to kids’ cartoons. While a lot of great fiction is metacognitive, aware of its own existence, the word has begun to lose its impact.
Among the greatest and oldest metacognitive experiments is an unlikely shoujo romance called princess tutu. An ode to fairy tales, a storyteller pulls the strings in this spellbinding tale of Swan Lake which features a heartless prince and the duck who falls in love with him. princess tutu looks simple on the surface but contains a level of darkness. princess tutu received little recognition when it was released in 2002 but gained a cult following.
2 A Confusing But Beloved Sci-Fi Series (Shinsekai Yori)
Sometimes futuristic fiction misses the mark. Whether it’s because the world is too dark to accommodate another entry in the genre or because the messages are too clunky, people are getting tired of watching the aftermath of the apocalypse. It doesn’t help that most post-apocalyptic series lean into dystopian rather than utopian themes.
With Shinsekai Yori, enough time has passed since the apocalypse for humanity to have evolved and the world to be verdant and green. While early episodes confused early audiences, Shinsekai Yori has earned a place on the pedestal of sci-fi storytelling over the past decade. There is nothing quite like this vision of the future.
1 Masaaki Yuasa has raised the bar many times (The Tatami Galaxy, Devilman Crybaby)
It is not difficult to recognize a Masaaki Yuasa series. His direction always contains a characteristic surrealism and is not afraid to be ugly at times. His works established him as the successor to iconic directors like Satoshi Kon, Miyazaki and even Tezuka.
The Tatami Galaxy is the college arthouse anime, and crybaby devilman is one of the strangest reboot success stories in recent memory. Ping-Pong: entertainment is a sports anime that feels more like an existential exploration, and Don’t touch, Eizouken! is one of the few stories to explore the essence of what animation is all about. Anything Yuasa directs is sure to garner acclaim and provoke the thought and admiration of a legion of dedicated fans.
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