Modern-ish animation suggestions
November 11, 2014 7:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm a mid-30s guy who loved the traditional animation of my youth. I never really grew out of cartoons. Don Bluth is my spirit animal. I just watched Over the Garden Wall and it touched on just about everything I love. I was seriously gushing after every episode. That is what I want more of.

I'm also a huge lover of both Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Legend of Korra. Disney's (brief) return to traditional hand-drawn animation with The Princess and the Frog made me so very happy. The visuals in The Banner Saga were right up my alley.

Now... one thing I'm not overly a fan of is anime. Aside from a few (Cowboy Bebob, Berserk, maybe another that I'm forgetting) I have not liked much anime that I've seen. Everyone is always yelling. Or always moping. I like most of the Studio Ghibli movies that I've seen, but I guess I'm pretty finicky about my Non-Western animation.

I understand that we're living in somewhat of an oddball animation renaissance. Aside from Adventure Time (which I haven't given much of a chance, admittedly), I have no awareness of what is currently out there.

So please, feel free to give me some suggestions.
posted by JimBJ9 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
We've watched Over The Garden Wall probably four times through since the ending, so I share your affection there. (Perhaps more so.) One that you may enjoy, currently in the second season, is Gravity Falls. There's just such a heartwarming spirit of love behind most of it, animation wise. We've paused it more than once to just enjoy the beauty of the background work, in a Ghibli way. There is occasional stress (one of the "bad guys" was pretty awful) since it's about a town with a supernatural mystery behind it, but there are also some moments of genius subtle hilarity that have me laughing a few days later. (A recent love interest worked at Meat Cute, for example.)
posted by librarianamy at 7:26 AM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Phineas and Ferb is consistently excellent, as is Gravity Falls. The Adventures of Gumball is pretty silly and not my cup of tea, but my kids love it.

Bob's Burgers might be one of the best shows currently on television, animated or otherwise.

If you're willing to look at children's educational animation, I can't say enough good things about WordGirl. For heaven's sake, it stars Patton Oswalt and Maria Bamford, among many others.

(Kids today have no idea how good they have it.)
posted by jbickers at 7:55 AM on November 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

While not in the style of Don Bluth, there are still some lovely traditionally animated films being made internationally. I can recommend The Secret of the Kells, The Triplets of Belleville, A Cat in Paris, The Illusionist, and Ernest and Celestine.
posted by beautifulstuff at 8:03 AM on November 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

You should check out Samurai Champloo, which was directed by the same person as Cowboy Bebop. Another anime that I always recommend is Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which is like a futuristic police procedural, with very little moping/yelling.
posted by neushoorn at 8:05 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh my god, Secret of the Kells is one of the best things I've ever seen. Cartoon Saloon just finished Song of the Sea and I can't wait to see it!
posted by JimBJ9 at 8:07 AM on November 11, 2014

Archer is hilarious, if you don't mind that the eponymous protagonist is a misogynistic covert agent with mommy issues, a drinking problem, and delusions of grandeur. The rest of the cast is just as dysfunctional, albeit for different reasons.
posted by starbreaker at 8:10 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

neushoorn, Shinichiro Watanabe also did Space Dandy... in space.
posted by starbreaker at 8:10 AM on November 11, 2014

Response by poster: I do watch Archer, which I should have mentioned.

Another one I forgot, which is criminal due to the fact that is probably the best of any of them is The Venture Bros. That might be my favorite show (sporadically) on TV.
posted by JimBJ9 at 8:12 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

OK, then I've pretty much got nothing but anime to recommend. Knights of Sidonia is a good hard SF series, though there's a bit of moping and yelling because there's at least one character death per episode. Not nearly as bad as Attack on Titan though. :)

I'd also suggest Princess Jellyfish. It's not the usual shonen shit. It's about a small, close-knit group of nerdy women living in an old apartment building and a politician's cross-dressing bastard son who band together to preserve their home when it's targeted for demolition by a real estate developer.
posted by starbreaker at 8:19 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I recommend Tokyo Godfathers and Grave of the Fireflies. They're both animated movies from Japan, but they are mature and don't fall into a lot of the tropes people find alienating about typical anime. See also The Place Promised in Our Early Days and 5 Centimeters Per Second by Makoto Shinkai. They are beautiful films.

Be warned - Grave of the Fireflies is incredibly sad.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:20 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Definitely stock up on antidepressants if you're going to watch Grave of the Fireflies.
posted by starbreaker at 8:26 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Herp, I'm a huge anime nerd so I'm going to throw some at you. :D But not from the "everybody yells" genre. ;)

Wait! First, this recent FPP about new animation Bee and Puppycat is relevant to your interests. Also I recommend giving Adventure Time a chance because it pans out to reveal some nice, if subtle-ish hidden depths. And for that matter the animation gets a bit more ambitious in I think the 5th season.

Okay, now with the anime. No, wait! Actually before that you have to watch this primer to some less-than-well-known animated films, albeit most of them aren't really modern or modern-ish per se. But a lot of them have a somewhat Bluth-ish feel, in style if not in tone.

Right, now with the animes that have great/interesting animation and are about (hopefully) interesting things rather than 'Children Can Be Heroes Too If They Yell Loud Enough'.

Mind Game
Anything by Satoshi Kon
Tekkon Kinkreet
Redline (okay it has some yelling but it's just about my favourite piece of animation!)
Aku no Hana

Humh, in fact I'll just go ahead and link to an old comment of mine where a lot of them should fit the bill, although not all of them necessarily have outstanding animation or entirely avoid yelling teens and robots and similar silliness.
posted by Drexen at 8:28 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seriously: Steven Universe. Everything you said in your question made me yell "Steven," followed by "Universe."

Consider my username, and know that I would not lead you astray, friend.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:37 AM on November 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: My main issue with anime is that some of the Japanese/American cultural differences get really highlighted in anime and drive me nuts. Based on my very limited experience:

One Piece/Naruto: Zany, manic, wacky, over the top characters that I hated so much
Witch Hunter Robin: Seemed like a really cool premise until the third episode in a row consisting of an emo fellow staring off into rain in angsty silence
Fullmetal Alchemist/Inuyasha: I don't remember a whole lot about watching these, as they didn't really make much of an impression. Mostly late-night Adult Swim stuff from my 20s. Meh. Life is too short for ho-hum entertainment.

If anime was less like that and more like, say, Princess Mononoke, I'd be all into it.
posted by JimBJ9 at 8:41 AM on November 11, 2014

I don't know if Death Note would be your cup of tea, but it was the most grabbing, thought-provoking series of anime I've ever seen.

A teenager finds a notebook that has the ability to kill the person whose name is written within. He tries to make the world better by killing corrupt, evil people. But power corrupts and he is opposed by law enforcement who believe that vigilantism is wrong. So, soon, he has to kill police.

The series turns into a game of chess between the owner of the Death Note and a genius detective whose name he does not know.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:53 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

( The stuff you hate about anime is what my examples are hopefully the opposite of. ;)
posted by Drexen at 8:56 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cartoon Network is the best network for animation in the US. They've got Adventure Time and Over the Garden Wall, but a lot of their other original series are definitely worth watching. My favorite shows on their current lineup are:

*Steven Universe is emotional and pretty and funny.
*Uncle Grandpa is the most "cartoony" of the shows on right now, it's really imaginative and surreal and silly and dumb.
*Clarence really accurately captures the feeling of childhood like nothing else I've seen.
*Teen Titans Go! is kinda like Archer or It's Always Sunny but for children, and with lots of background jokes about DC Comics stuff. Some of the episodes can be kinda grating.

There are a bunch of shows that ended within the last few years that were really good and a bit more mature than the current lineup:

*Sym-Bionic Titan a giant robot cartoon by Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of Samurai Jack. It was mature and dramatic but had a running plot that was left unresolved. This is kind of a running theme in shows like this.
*Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (previously, contains spoilers about the ending) was really clever and deep and much, much different from any other Scooby Doo series - that is to say, actually good. The ending is really out of left field and it's better if left unspoiled.
*Young Justice was by Greg Weisman, creator of Gargoyles. It was kind of a teen drama but with superheroes and subterfuge and an ongoing plot.
posted by Small Dollar at 9:00 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love this question! I can't wait to check out some of these suggestions. I am exactly like you, in that I adore traditional cel-drawn animation, especially that 80s-y Don Bluth style animation.

BoJack Horseman is a traditionally animated sitcom which is very funny - there's a whole post about it over on the green which I have not checked out yet for fear of spoilers. It is very well-written and the voice-talent is brilliant.

(Also, even though the Kung Fu Panda series is CGI, i would recommend it to lovers of traditional animation because it has so many affectionate callbacks to classics of the genre. Note the rhino guards who are dead ringers for the guards in Disney's Robin Hood, for example. It is also beautifully animated and has a rather old-school, epic 80s Disney feel. I also loved Enchanted which is only animated for part of the running time but that animation is beautiful and the rest of the movie is filled with in-jokes for people who grew up loving Disney movies.)
posted by Ziggy500 at 9:13 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

JimJB9 wrote:
One Piece/Naruto: Zany, manic, wacky, over the top characters that I hated so much
Welcome to shonen anime, where the protagonist is always some hotblooded teenage boy with bad hair who doesn't know his ass from his elbow, constantly gets his ass kicked by superior opponents in fights that stretch over at least two 25-minute episodes, and eventually prevails by being too goddamned stubborn to die.

Dragon Ball Z is pretty much the archetypal shonen anime, and if you've seen that shit you don't really need to bother with One Piece, Naruto, or Bleach.
posted by starbreaker at 9:14 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention that there is an incredible tradition of animation in Russia stretching from Soviet times to today, most of which is very obscure in the West (and indeed in Russia). Compared to most anime and most Western animation -- even Disney or Bluth -- it's packed with character, expression, fluidity, originality, variety, and also, just... Russianness. :P

Here/here, here and here are a great place to start, although unfortunately that incredible archivist, Niffiwan, was hit by a rash of copyright claims that has taken down a lot of what he posted. :/
posted by Drexen at 9:23 AM on November 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are a few anime series being discussed on FanFare. You can check the discussion thread or search on the anime tag within FanFare (which I can't do for you because tags and search are inaccessible on mobile).
posted by ardgedee at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2014

Grave of the Fireflies is one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen, and yes I was crying throughout almost the whole thing.
posted by Blitz at 10:44 AM on November 11, 2014

The new Mickey Mouse shorts are beautifully animated and they have some of the best backgrounds I've ever seen.

My favourite animated feature of recent years is Don Hertzfeldt's It's Such a Beautiful Day.
posted by Chenko at 11:12 AM on November 11, 2014

Here's what comes up on the anime tag in FanFare.

A couple I've watched and recommend:

Aldnoah.Zero: This is a mecha (giant robots) series about two boys on either side of the war between Earth and Mars. Speaking as somebody who has no patience for Gundam etc., I found this really good; they manage to stay reasonably realistic about the circumstances of living in wartime without slipping into grimdark technodystopia, and the kids are neither superheroic nor infallible geniuses, and the adults are adults with adult responsibilities, rather than just background characters. The first series (12 episodes) concluded in September; a second and final series of 12 episodes begins in January.

Gugure! Kokkuri-San!: A girl who has given up on her humanity becomes haunted by a fox god. Instead of being a twee or sentimental coming-of-age fantasy, this is more like gothic slapstick comedy. Knowing about Japan and Japanese folklore definitely helps, although you don't need to know much to get enough of the story to stay entertained. The shows are episodic but there's definitely a story arc building as the series progresses. This show is currently being broadcast, so only about six episodes are available so far.

Rage of Bahamut: Apologies for the Wikipedia link, there's no FanFare thread for this. This is adventure in a high-fantasy setting: Elves, dragons, magic, the usual run of stuff. Worth recommending purely for its eye candy quality; the production scale is HUGE. Despite having no connections (that I know of) with the talents behind Cowboy Bebop, it evokes some of the same sensibility. Personally I only watched the first episode and decided to backburner the rest, but I strongly recommend giving it at least that much of a shot, because if this is the sort of thing you like, you'll really like it. This is also in weekly broadcast rotation, also with only six episodes out so far.
posted by ardgedee at 3:32 PM on November 11, 2014

Yeah, I love anime but I can't stand any of the stuff you can't stand. Basically, you don't want anime that was made for 10-year-old boys, and you know what, neither do I! If you've missed any of Studio Ghibli's less popular works, such as Whispers of the Heart or Only Yesterday, be sure to watch them. Beyond Studio Ghibli, Satoshi Kon, etc., I recommend:

- Planetes, hard sf about space debris haulers
- Mushi-shi, an eerie, dreamy series
- Moribito, about a female bodyguard (I think adult Avatar fans would like this)
- Gankutsuou, which is literally The Count of Monte Cristo in space
- if you can get your hands on it, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

All the US shows I'd recommend have already been recommended--but I will say, do give Adventure Time a chance!
posted by wintersweet at 5:54 PM on November 11, 2014

Steven Universe!
I literally cannot recommend that show enough. Based on your love of Venture Bros and studio Ghibli and Over the Garden Wall, you should REALLY get into Steven Universe.

Seconding also Sym-Bionic Titan and Adventure Time (though it takes almost 2 seasons to get into plot-stuff).
posted by sleeping bear at 10:54 PM on November 11, 2014

I also love anime and hate the things about anime that you hate. I strongly recommend you take a look at Serial Experiments: Lain, Paranoia Agent, and most especially, Haibane Renmei, which is just lovely.
posted by jbickers at 5:19 AM on November 12, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! So many great suggestions. It got a little heavy on the anime, but there's some pretty awesome stuff in here.

I'm certainly going to check out Sym-Bionic Titan (I have much love for Samurai Jack and Genndy Tartakovsky) and maybe give Samurai Champloo another shot (I watched a bit when I was younger and lost interest).

Steven Universe and Gravity Falls both sound pretty neat and I'm definitely going to delve into the international stuff that was posted. And I should probably jump into Adventure Time, as my wife is already a fan.

Thanks again! You guys are the best.
posted by JimBJ9 at 7:05 AM on November 12, 2014

We have pretty similar tastes -- I found your AskMe while trying to fill the Korra-shaped hole in my heart -- and I liked Big Hero 6.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:10 AM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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