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Anime is the neglected stepchild of geekdom, a category widely considered nerdy, but one that many geeks don’t know much about. If you’re interested in the rich, cartoon worlds Japan has to offer, but don’t know how to make the transition from geek to otaku, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten anime series that will speak to your nerdy soul.
1. Big O
A millionaire playboy defends a shadowy city under the cover of another identity; he’s also assisted by a butler and working together with a city law enforcement officer. This may sound and look like Batman, but this is Big O, where the main character, Roger Smith, operates a giant robot instead of the Batmobile and uncovers the secrets of an amnesiac city. Smith’s aging butler also has an eyepatch and wields massive machine guns. Take that, Alfred.
Few hallowed, nerdy franchises is as beloved in Japan as the Fate series, in which mages compete to attain the Holy Grail. In Fate/zero, a prequel which is the most stunning and best of the Fate anime, magicians battle one another by using famed warriors from history and legend, including a bulked-up Alexander the Great, villainous Gilgamesh, and female King Arthur. It’s a violent battle royale that is as heart wrenching as Game of Thrones.
3. Noein: To Your Other Self
Here’s a cool idea – instead of just some entity time traveling to the past to alter a timeline, what if two entirely different timelines were warring with one another both in the present and the future? Noein puts a unique twist on the apocalypse with characters in the current timeline meeting soldiers from the future, including possible versions of themselves, who are desperate to save their timeline from Noein, a powerful entity from a different line intent on ending all universes. Full of good old time-space theory and confusion, Noein is also a coming-of-age tale for the young protagonists who are thrust into complicated relationships with their future selves.
4. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
What would happen if you woke up in a roleplaying game with no memory of your previous life and discover that living in an RPG is much more difficult than simply playing one? Grimgar takes us into the life and death struggle of RPGers who are confronted with the frightening reality that they need gold to survive, and to earn gold they must kill living, breathing, terrifying enemies. And losing a friend in this world isn’t like losing a companion on your PC; death here is painful and permanent.
5. Last Exile
Last Exile is thrilling just to look at, especially for aficionados of steampunk creations and early 20th century weaponry, both of which serve as inspiration for the series’ production design. But the show is more than style; it is a wonderful adventure featuring a young pilot whose mission is to deliver a mysterious girl to a perilous destination. She holds the key to ending a war between two nations, where good isn’t always good and evil is not what it seems.
6. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Haruhi is beautiful, athletic, brilliant, and totally bored with school. Forget the mundane life—she wants to meet espers, aliens, and time travelers! Little does Haruhi know that she’s more unusual than any of the individuals she longs for, as she has the ability to reshape the universe to match her desires. This show doesn’t just hit so many of the nerd buttons, it does so with a ton of style. Best watched as it originally aired, completely out of chronological order, this series looks and feels like traditional anime, but turns the media’s conventions completely on its head. Oh, and its accompanying movie is absolutely fantastic.
7. My Hero Academia
Harry Potter meets Marvel in My Hero Academia, where the most promising students in a world of superpowered people attend a school that teaches them how to become heroes. A personal story of growth for a hero born without a power, or “quirk,” and his talented classmates, it also demonstrates what it means to be heroic and how that ideal can be destroyed, MHA balances a line between intense and exciting, fun and humourous.
8. Outlaw Star
Otaku will never let Joss Whedon forget how River Tam’s first appearance in Firefly is almost frame for frame the same as that of a character in an earlier vehicle, Outlaw Star. A space adventure featuring outlaws, pirates, assassins, and cat girls, this series carries a strong western sensibility and reminds me of the Star Trek reboot films. This fun romp through space also features a unique weapon system, “caster shells,” which are magic projectiles, each with its own spell, shot from specialized handguns.
Natsuki Subaru doesn’t enjoy dying. I know this because he’s done it often, waking at a “save point” in the world afterwards. He is able to relive his actions and change the plot of his story, though he doesn’t know how many lives he has before his chances to save his newfound friends run out. Mixing elements of gaming, fantasy, and Japanese mythology, Re:Zero drops us into a world of demons, witches, knights, and elves.
What begins as a strange little show about a self-proclaimed mad scientist whose experiments involve microwaved bananas turns into a haunting and non-stop thriller about time travel. The main character’s obsessive quest is to find hope when each leap he makes back in time proves that there is none. With an eclectic cast of characters and plot points declaring that John Titor was a real time traveler and that CERN, the real-life particle physics laboratory, is placing science above the value of human life, Steins;gate is a difficult entry-point anime for many, but exactly right for the science fiction lover.
He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.
A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.
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