One of the things I’ve been able to see grow and develop in my now 34 years outside the womb (damn, when the hell did I get so old?!) is the rise of anime culture from an obscure, and some might even say seedy underground thing, to the major pop phenomenon that it is today. With all the same day streaming, HD options, and all the other goodies available to fans these days, if you have any love for the animation from the land of the rising sun, it’s hard not to weep for joy.
However, not everything has been for the better. Even with the overflow of content coming over today,we end up getting a good deal of garbage, and unless you work to keep tabs on the scene and are willing to drop a whole bunch of money, you’re never going to know where to find the gems worthy of your time.
All that said, I think right now is one of the best times in recent years to bring in new fans to anime and excite the casual viewers (which, truth be told, is where I fit on the spectrum) as well as the hardcore fanbase. That’s why I’m here to show you a bunch of totally free content out right now that I think is awesome. I’m going to be sticking to the shows you can currently watch on either Hulu or Crunchyroll, as those are the portals I use, and I want to focus on content people can check out without having any concerns or reservations, legally or otherwise, about where the content is coming from. This means no fan subs (and thus, *sigh*, no Dragon Ball Super). I’m not making a comment for or against the practice, I just want to side-step the debate and focus on the important part, which is giving you guys some really cool stuff to check out!
Oh, and I want to give a quick honorable mention to Kiznaiver. It is by Trigger, the people that brought you Kill la Kill. The first episode is up for free here, and I thought it was promising, but I haven’t seen enough of the show to make any definitive judgments yet.
With that out of the way, as Korey and Co-Host used to say, “Let’s Do This!”
4. No Objection To Ace Attorney!
If you’ve been paying any attention to the hand-held gaming market, then you have most likely have played or at least heard about Capcom’s super popular Ace Attorney series. The games blend the visual novel with adventure style gameplay to present a investigative courtroom drama with the player character trying to defend their client and find the real murderer in a series of cases. The series has been a staple of Nintendo’s handheld market for over a decade now, with the series’ main cast becoming some of the most well received and loved characters in all of video games. The series has spawned stage plays, a live action movie, and an anime series.
The series picks up right at the beginning of the first game as we follow the exploits of Ryuichi Naruhodo (known as Phoenix Wright to us in the West), as he tackles his very first case as a defense attorney. All seems to be going real well until Naruhodo’s boss and mentor is killed, and her younger sister, Maya, stands accused of the crime. With no one to stand up for her, and the police thinking the case is a lock, Naruhodo’s love and respect for his mentor, and his own drive to see that true justice is served, steps up to defend Maya, even if it means going up against his former childhood friend turned ruthless hotshot prosecutor, Reiji Mitsurugi (Miles Edgeworth). If you’ve played the games already, the show serves as a perfect reminder as to why you love these wacky characters, and if not, it’s still a perfectly enjoyable and fun murder mysteries series. You can watch the show here!
3. All Kinds Of Gundam Goodness!
Like a lot of folks here in the West, my first foray into the world of Gundam was when Gundam Wing hit the Toonami block of Cartoon Network. Despite that successful start here in America and for a whole laundry list of reasons that could be an whole article on its own, the Gundam franchise wasn’t able to maintain the spotlight stateside, and slipped into being something more for the hardcore crowd than casual audiences.
All that started to change late last year with the launch of the 14th incarnation of this landmark franchise, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. Orphans was able to put a fresh spin on things without betraying the heart of what Gundam is about and has been very positively received by old fans and newcomers alike. On Mars, a group of child soldiers are sent out on an operation as decoys and cannon fodder, while their higher ups retreated. Fed up and with their treatment, the group’s leader, Orga Itsuka, along with his best bud for life, Mikazuki Augus, stage a coup and form their own group, Tekkadan. Tasked with getting a rising Martian political figure, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, all the way to Earth to negotiate for a better life for the people of Mars, Tekkadan has their work cut out for them, but they have an ace in the hole with Mikazuki becoming the pilot of the legendary Gundam Barbatos. With the first season just wrapped and a second scheduled to drop towards the tail end of this year, now is a great time to jump into this series. You can check it out on Crunchyroll or on Hulu using the video below.
If that wasn’t enough to fill your little mecha heart, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096 has just started its run, and you can check out the first episode here. Unicorn RE:0096 is a light novel that was turned into a seven episode OVA, which is now being split into 24 to 26 individual TV episodes with some new bits of animation. The series follows young Banagher Links who through a series of events when he meets a girl name Audrey Burne ends up the pilot of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam. Unicorn is set in the UC timeline which might make it a smidge confusing for newbies, but this Kotaku article breaks down all the relevant backstory points into a quick and easily digestible read. I’m new to Unicorn so I don’t have much to say in terms of the overall story other than it shows great promise and that the animation is fantastic. Check it out!
2. Loads of Lupin!
What happens when you combine French literature, James Bond, every heist/caper flick, a dash of Bugs Bunny, and strain it all through the mind of inspired Japanese mangaka, Monkey Punch? Why none other then Lupin the Third of course!
Lupin the Third (said to be the grandson of turn of the last century novelist Maurice Leblanc’s famous thief, Arsène Lupin) has been on the scene since the late 1960s, and has become a pop culture phenomenon in Japan as well as other parts of the world. Sadly, as much as the rest of the world has come to love the character, his reception here in the US has been mixed, but the character and his cohorts have been slowly stealing the hearts of more and more fans as the years go on. Lupin and his gang of thieves have been the stars of countless anime, including the recently completed Lupin the Third Part IV, which features the titular thief pulling jobs across Italy and the micro-state of San Marino. You can check out the entire series’ run over at Crunchyroll.
Over on the Hulu side of things, we’ve got all kinds of of Lupin goodies, such as the classic The Castle of Cagliostro, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, which focuses on how the famed femme fatale, Fujiko, met the rest of the gang, as well as plenty of other TV episodes, specials, and films such as Jigen’s Gravestone, which you can check out below.
I’ve been a fan of these characters since the first time I heard the fantastic theme music way back in the early 2000’s (seriously, the main theme and its many remixes are some of the best things ever) and if you aren’t a fan already I’d love to be the guy that got you to give it a shot!
1. Jojo Is Back, Baby!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has got to be one of the most accurate titles ever attached to a franchise. Based on the manga series of the same name, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure chronicles the adventures of members of the Joestar bloodline (my personal favorite so far being Joseph Joestar) as they fight against various evil forces. The manga by Hirohiko Araki has been running since 1986, and has grown with the times as well as the trends of music and fashion. It has been able to reinvent itself time after time due to each arc following a different main protagonist and cast. Hell, it took until the third arc, Stardust Crusaders for “Stand powers,” the the series’ most well known staple, to be introduced. I’d explain what a Stand is and how they work, but it would take all day. Take it from me, just watch the show or read the manga. It will all make sense soon enough.
The anime series has just launched into the fourth arc, Diamond Is Unbreakable, which focuses on the adventures of Josuke Higashikata, secret love child of Joseph Joestar and uncle (despite being way younger) of Stardust Crusaders‘ Jotaro Kujo, as he protects his hometown of Morioh from a crop of evil Stand users that are popping up in the area.
Jojo as a whole, is less about any one time, location or person, but is about cool characters with big personalities and crazy powers going up against some of the largest threats to all mankind. With each arc a complete story unto itself that also feeds into a larger overall story, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has a little something for everybody, and the good folks at Crunchyroll are going to be your hook up. So if you want to go all the way back to Phantom Blood, skip ahead to Battle Tendency, pal around with the Stardust Crusaders, or hop straight into Diamond Is Unbreakable, they are just a click away.