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Old 2008-05-18, 02:17   Link #1
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Existential, Philosophical, Psycological or Sociological Anime

So, recently (for some unknown reason) I've been watching a tonne of relatively mindless, unchallenging anime. I now need to find an movie/series that gives me something to stew over and become absorbed in.

Ideally, I'm after something that has an emphasis on the above themes. Something that puts a microscope on a certain aspect of humanity or society.

Similar series that I loved include:

Simoun - which touched on a vast array of issues (war, love, gender roles, politics, religion) without making it feel like an after school special and without having every issue resolved.

Neon Genesis Evangelion - as frustrating a series as it is, the examination of the human mind (and its subsequent meltdown) is one of the most gritty and uncomfortable in its realism. Also helped by its apocalyptic setting.

5 Centimetres per second - I loved how it examined the feelings of the protagonist through 3 different periods in time and how even if two people have mutual feelings for one another, things don't always work as planned.

Ef ~ a tale of memories - the metaphors, the symbolism, the message-breakdown scene, and the beautiful way in which the series was handled.

Heres a list of series I have seen: MyAnimeList

I hear Serial Experiment Lain is supposed to be good. Thoughts?
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Old 2008-05-18, 02:48   Link #2
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Sorry, your link is not working currently, so I will only post my immediate ideas (whihc you have probably seen).

Satoshi Kon's work (Paprika, Perfect Blue, and Paranoia Agent) immediatly spring to mind. Kon deals mainly with psychological issues, specifically ideas of self versus society. He also does a good comedy about homeless life in current day Japan called Tokyo Godfathers, definetly worth seeing.

Boogiepop Phantom is another good one.

some others are
Scrapped Princess - Is the murder of someone justifiable if others will be saved? (Sociological with some Philosophical)
Saikano - everything you ever wanted to know about war, but too afraid to ask (not really, but still pretty interesting) (Mainly Existentialism, with a great degree of Sociology and Philosophical mixed in)
Trigun - does an ideal world of peace really exist? (Philosophical with some Existentialism)
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Old 2008-05-18, 02:59   Link #3
Join Date: Jan 2008
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Originally Posted by Fweakin View Post
So, recently (for some unknown reason) I've been watching a tonne of relatively mindless, unchallenging anime. I now need to find an movie/series that gives me something to stew over and become absorbed in.
More recent seasons have been rather disappointing...

I greatly enjoyed loved both ef ~ a tale of memories and 5 Centimeters per Second and am currently watching through Neon Genesis Evangelion (though I'm not far) and Serial Experiments Lain.

I can tell you that so far (I'm about halfway through), Serial Experiments Lain isn't as straightforward with its symbolism as ef is, but it does follow several themes much more closely than ef did.
EDIT: Actually, I highly recommend SEL, since it's very thought-provoking (which is what you seem to be looking for), I have personally (over)analysed the OP sequence as well.

Other stuff I'd recommend (MAL is down at the moment, so hopefully you haven't seen all of these):
Elfen Lied - Some themes are followed through the series, though not as much as ef or SEL. However, like ef, you don't even need to realise it to enjoy it.

Kino's Journey - Kino (it's been a while ) is arguably an existentialist, and its episodic layout follows short accounts of raw humanity with some displays of psychological and sociological themes.

Shigofumi - Like Kino, Shigofumi's Fumika shows displays existential traits. Also similar is the short stories (as opposed to episodic plots) that often show the darker side of humanity.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni - It's a psychological anime by some interpretations. We both have the internal mental conflict of characters and the interpretation of certain events by the viewer that make it "psychological". Also like ef and Elfen Lied, it's enjoyable on a superfical level as well.

And Psychological has an "h".

Last edited by qtipbrit; 2008-05-18 at 03:19.
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Old 2008-05-18, 04:57   Link #4
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Definitely Welcome to the NHK! I'm surprised that you haven't watch it. It's basically about someone who have a hikikomori lifestyle. It's a must watch. It's a lifestyle that isolate themselves from society.

Any you could also watch Texhnolyze. It's a dark anime with dystopia setting. It's not as likable as N.H.K, but a lot darker.. and it's not a happy ride.

Last edited by Frans; 2008-05-18 at 05:09. Reason: addition
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Old 2008-05-18, 05:16   Link #5
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Bokurano and Dennou Coil come to mind.
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Old 2008-05-18, 06:30   Link #6
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I second pretty much everything qtipbrit92 said. Although personally i was bored to tears with Lain, it is generally a well acclaimed title and indeed touches upon the issues you want.

If you liked Evangelion, you should definitely have a look at RahXephon. The two series share a good amount of similarities theme and plot wise, and touch upon a number of similar issues ... although you will find the cast of RahXephon much less annoying. I like Evangelion a good deal, but ended up prefering Rah in the end.

Two other mecha shows that might interest you are Zegapain and Soukyuu no Fafner: Dead Aggressor ... incidentally both are my two favorite mecha series, although for different reasons.

Fafner shares a level of similarities with Evangelion as well, and the most remarkable effort of the series was the atmosphere - it had a well crafted sense of impending doom and despair woven through it, and the new facts you learn when deeper in to the series only reinforce that. It took me a few episodes to get in to the series, but i ended up highly appreciating it. The one ep OVA (watch it after the series) is among the saddest things i have seen.

Zegapain is generally different in its mood and approach, but it is directly connected to themes like survival of humanity and other issues you might find to your liking. The mecha design might take some getting used to, but its worth it. It is a very solid story with likable cast. Just remember when starting: everything is not what it seems to be
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Old 2008-05-18, 07:38   Link #7
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Originally Posted by Frans View Post
Definitely Welcome to the NHK! I'm surprised that you haven't watch it. It's basically about someone who have a hikikomori lifestyle. It's a must watch. It's a lifestyle that isolate themselves from society.

Any you could also watch Texhnolyze. It's a dark anime with dystopia setting. It's not as likable as N.H.K, but a lot darker.. and it's not a happy ride.
Yeah NHK is awesome so second.
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Old 2008-05-18, 07:39   Link #8
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RaXephon. Similar to NGE and it's pretty heavy.

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Old 2008-05-18, 07:40   Link #9
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Most of the shows that I'd suggest have already been mentioned, but let me toss out a couple more:

At root a meditation on the psychology of evil, Monster is one of the most compelling shows I've watched in any medium.

Ghost Hound
A strange brew of brain science, psychology, philosophy, and mysticism presented in a beautifully animated package with an extraordinary sound track. GH is definitely one of the more underappreciated shows of 2007-08.

Ergo Proxy
Like Evangelion, Ergo Proxy wants to discuss philosophical issues in a science-fiction package, and like NGE its reach often exceeds its grasp.

Black Lagoon
Beneath the gunfire lies an existential plot. The last story arc (ep 19-24) specifically discusses Sartre and Heidegger. The Wikipedia article has an interesting discussion of the philosophical issues raised in this show.
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Old 2008-05-18, 07:46   Link #10
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Originally Posted by qtipbrit92 View Post
And Psychological has an "h".
You know why eating near a computer/laptop is bad? Crumbs fall in between the keys so when you press down, sometimes it doesn't register on the screen. ::sigh:: Serves me right. And of course it had to be in the one place that you can't edit.

And thank you all for the suggestions so far. I really appreciate when people take the time to explain how they think their suggestion fits.

::throws rep around::
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Old 2008-05-18, 07:53   Link #11
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I heartily recommends the animated movie Mind Game, one of the best experimental animation to come out of Japan in a while. It was...brilliant. I'm not going to bother to try and explain what is essentially postmodernism in animated form, but I sincerely doubt you'll be disappointed. The creator is also directing a current series called Kaiba, which I haven't watched yet but the comments from its viewers show that it deals very heavily with existentialism, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. So yeah.

Extra points for the Mind Game movie for being totally cool and reference Zidane and Figo, master sportsmen of the real Football these barbaric Americans I'm surrounded with insist on calling "soccer."

Your list is also missing Ghost Hound, so there you go:

It's Shirow Masamune and I.G.'s foray into some seriously complex psychological story. I shan't spoil the plot but the 13 episodes I've watched so far are brilliant stuff; the mood, the plot, the pacing, the characters, even the cute crush between moe-boy Tarou and Miyako -- they're all perfect. I hear it ends in a rush, though, sadly enough.

Oh, and seconding everything Satoshi Kon. He is the Japanese master of psychological stories. Paprika is one of the best animated movies made in recent years, if not *the* best (certain types of fans, labeled differently from elitists to sophisticated animation fans, were clamoring some time ago on the "injustice" of it not getting a chance to compete for Oscar...); Paranoia Agent was a masterful thriller/psychological piece that even got shown on Adult Swim; and even his light-hearted movie Tokyo Godfathers was intelligent.
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Old 2008-05-18, 08:14   Link #12
Join Date: Apr 2006
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Existential, philosophical, psychological or sociological anime, eh? My favourite kinds of anime.

Mushishi (philosophical)
Ginko is a "Mushi-shi" who travels around to investigate and find out more about the "Mushi". In the process, he also lends a helping hand to people who face problems with supernatural occurances which may be related to the "Mushi". Each mushi encounter is basically another excuse to explore a facet of life from a philosophical perspective. Philosophical anime does not get any more gorgeous than Mushishi.

Twelve Kingdoms (sociological)
We've seen countless Western fantasies based on medieval Europe. We seldom see drama based on Confucian political and sociological philosophy instead. Twelve Kingdoms is superficially similar to Fushigi Yuugi, but its inspiration is very different. It transposes the Confucian concept of a "heavenly mandate" to rule into a fantasy realm and creates an interestingly thought-provoking drama in the process.

And if you enjoy Twelve Kingdoms, follow up with Seirei no Moribito. Although Seirei is more of a fantasy/historical drama epic, it draws heavily from the anthropological experience of the novels' writer. If you pay attention to the details (which happen to be deliciously beautiful), there are plenty of sociological lessons to be learned.

Millenium Actress (existential; sociological)
This is my favourite Satoshi Kon movie. It's his tribute to Japanese cinema, from the early Japanese post-war years to present day. The movie follows the adventures of a retired Japanese movie actress who had spent her whole life chasing the love of her life, and in the process, the audience experiences Japanese history through a play within a play. A must watch.

Ghibli movies (sociological)
Several Ghibli movies have heavy sociological themes, not least of which are Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Grave of the Fireflies. No serious anime fan should ignore Ghibli movies in any case.

Haibane Renmei (so philosophical that it's almost religious)
This series will forever remain very, very special to me. On the surface, it's a simple story about a group of angel-like children, complete with flightless wings and halos. We learn about their way of life, about the many mysteries of their enclosed world. Halfway through the series however, the plot takes an unexpected turn and becomes a powerful story about friendship and salvation.

Cowboy Bepop (existential)
This might seem like a strange suggestion, given that Shinichiro Watanabe's anime (eg, Samurai Champloo) tends to be heavy on flair and light on substance. But that is part of this show's charm. If Ernest Hemmingway wrote an anime, it might turn out a bit like Cowboy Bepop. It is imbued with a lingering sense of hard-boiled ennui, of hard drinking, tough fighting heroes who are so removed from living that they can't even talk about their feelings honestly anymore, and prefer instead to ride into sunset with all guns blazing. This is the very essence of existentialism, as Nietzche sees it.

Last edited by TinyRedLeaf; 2008-05-18 at 08:31.
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Old 2008-05-18, 12:06   Link #13
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Elfen Lied (psychological, sociological)
-People will disagree with me here, but if there's ever a sociological series, it would have to be Elfen Lied. It describes the flaws of society and asks you to decide who the true victims of violence is.

Gunslinger Girl (existential, philosophical, sociological)
-This excellent series offers a great mix between pure enjoyment and hidden themes. While the plot itself is exciting and engaging, you can't help but think about the morality of the issue at hand.

Haibane Renmei (philosophical, masterpiece)
-This is pure bias, but Haibane Renmei is among one of the most beautiful series I've ever seen. I'm not sure how to describe this, but like TinyRedLeaf said, it is more than it seems, but as we find out more about the "angels," we discover the true mystery behind them.

Kino's Journey (existential, philosophical, psychological, sociological) and
Shigofumi (existential, philosophical)
-Both of these anime are episodic, telling many stories that touches on many concepts. The difference is Kino's Journey is more relaxing and arguably more "deep," although Shigofumi is more enjoyable and more touching. They are too similar to not be grouped together.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the wind (existential, sociological) and
Grave of the Fireflies (existential, sociological)
-These two series remain to be my favorites of Ghibli movies, mostly because they explored things that I failed to notice and made me realize many painful things.

SaiKano (existential, philosophical, sociological)
-Moreso than any other series I've watched, this series not only depicts the cruelty of war in a shocking yet beautiful way, but it shows the home front, the innocent civilians affected by war.
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Old 2008-06-21, 12:56   Link #14
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Age: 43
I'm reviving this thread to add a few more suggestions, and to prevent other members from posting repetitive suggestion threads (fat chance I know, but one can always hope).

Planetes (sociological)
It's a rubbish anime about rubbish collectors. Except that it's set in space. It's the year 2075, roughly one century after the first Apollo missions to the Moon. Man has successfully colonised the Moon, drawing much needed energy resources from it even as oil has run out on Earth. There have already been several manned missions to Mars, and at the time the anime begins, the first seven-year manned mission to Jupiter was about to begin.

The anime takes a highly realistic approach to space travel, going to great pains to portray the details and problems of adapting to a cold, hostile environment. In space, no one can hear your engines roar — that is the case in Planetes as well. More importantly, the anime also explores the social divide between the haves and haves-nots. Humans are reaching out into new frontiers, while leaving old problems behind on Earth. Viewers are invited to think about the possible consequences of space travel, while reflecting on the problems of capitalism we see around us today.

Hataraki Man (sociological)
If you've ever wondered about whether you live to work or work to live, then this is the anime for you. The anime is about a highly ambitious reporter/editor who works in a large Japanese tabloid magazine. It explores her obsessive pride over her job, and contrasts it against her co-workers and her boyfriend. To her, it's about maintaining high standards of professionalism. To most viewers, particularly if you're from outside East Asia, it's about sacrificing too much of your life to work. Western viewers are probably not going to agree with some of the perspectives offered in Hataraki Man, but it'll at least provide insight on how the Japanese approach work. And as a fellow member of the media industry, I'm especially fond of this particular anime.
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Old 2008-06-21, 13:25   Link #15
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Originally Posted by qtipbrit92 View Post
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni - It's a psychological anime by some interpretations.
Yay for Higurashi evangelism!

I'll second (or third?) Perfect Blue and tack on Ghost in the Shell for pop philosophy ala Evangellion. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei seemed to have interesting artistic things going on ala Ef albeit in black... it didn't really click with me though so I didn't watch much and can't say for sure.
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Old 2008-06-21, 13:29   Link #16
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Boogiepop Phantom and Elfen Lied I would say. Very psychological. I would also highly recommend Gunslinger Girl!
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Old 2008-06-21, 18:43   Link #17
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Originally Posted by Amray View Post
Boogiepop Phantom
Least you got one right

Try the novels.
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Old 2008-06-21, 19:23   Link #18
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Can't beat Lain, I'd also highly suggest Arjuna, and because you seem like a smart guy, Martian Successor Nadesico.
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Old 2008-06-21, 22:05   Link #19
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For some of the titles mentioned above (Saikano, Elfen Lied, Gunslinger Girl), you might want to check out the manga version as well. Storylines get cleared up, and generally not bad reads at all.
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Old 2008-06-22, 17:42   Link #20
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Death Note is really good. A person finds a book where if any name is written in it, that person will die. He uses it to kill criminals of the world. But, there is a detective who believes that he is evil. It deals with the issue of capital punishment and whether it is right to kill criminals. The protagonist and antagonist both have greatly opposing views on the matter and they have a psychological duel to see who will find the other's identity first. It also has another psychological aspect which shows as the main character's personality constantly changes throughout the anime, where at first he is a very intelligent student with a promising future and as time passes...well you just have to watch it lol.
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