CategoryAnimations

4 Ways to Speed Up Your Animation Working Time

One of the most important things ever in any project is the ability to save time. Perfectionists need to save time, so they can improve their work. Directors need to have the project ahead of time to review the work again and again and handle any changes before the deadline. Big studios need to be ahead of schedule.

So, here comes the bummer. Who is the one with the responsibility to deliver an animation on time? Well. Bad news. You. Yes, you, the Animator. The fate of humanity rests on your shoulders, think of yourself of a Hero on a journey that needs a couple of tips to make the adventure more enjoyable and short.

I. HAVE A HIGH APM (Actions Per Minute)

To be faster at anything, you need to have a way to measure Actions Per Minute. There are two ways to copy and paste anything in the virtual world. Navigating to the EDIT Menu, and select COPY, then move your mouse again all the way to the EDIT menu, and then click on PASTE. Or! You can press and hold the CTRL key on your keyboard (CMD on Mac), and rapidly press “C” then “V”. Right? Using your keyboard can get a higher APM than navigating through menus.

Use Shortcuts! I’ve seen some professionals navigate through menus to get things done, it’s embarrassing. Believe it or not, just by using shortcuts, I’m 20% faster than other animators. So what? Well, when I do freelance projects, clients hire me because they know I deliver ahead of time, because, even though we do the same things sharing the same process, I do it faster (using shortcuts).

Customize Shortcuts. Some software like After Effects doesn’t allow you to customize your shortcuts, but if you can, DO IT! The best Keyboard Profile is the one that handles your most used shortcuts near your right hand. The less your right hand has to move from left to right on the keyboard, the better. That’s why you should try to have all the major functions close in your keyboard “mapping”. Examples could be: CTRL+F, CTRL+G, CTRL+TAB, CTRL+SHIFT+W, SHIFT+3, ALT+SHIFT+3, etc. They are all close together.

Consider using a Gaming Keyboard, Gaming Mouse or Gaming Keypad. The one I recommend the most is the Gaming Keypad (like Razer Orbweaver or Logitech G13) because when the software doesn’t support shortcut customization, you can customize your Keypad to have all the major functions next to each other, and better yet, instead of pressing 3 keys (like CTRL+SHFT+P), you only press one single key on your keypad.

Automate using Macros. You can do this if you have a Gaming Mouse, Gaming Keyboard or Gaming Keypad. A macro is a sequence of key presses that can be automated into a single press of a dedicated key on your keypad. For example. In after effects

II. OPTIMIZE YOUR ANIMATION PROCESS

Optimizing means to make the best use of the resources at your disposal for your project. So the best way to approach your animation process is by handling the 2 most important things in any project. Your Pipeline and your starting Keyframes

Optimized Pipeline. The folder structure of all your files is vital to handling the project with ease. Have folders separately for your sounds, music, pictures, video references, characters and project files (toon boom, after effects, etc.). In our studio, if we do a bit of motion graphics, we have them in a folder named AFTER EFFECTS, and the main project in a folder named TOON BOOM, then the edited animation on PREMIERE. So if any changes have to be made, we know what folder to look, and if we need an audio file, we know exactly where to find it. Every Animation school is teaching the importance of this, and is not just because it looks cleaner and more beautiful, but because it works.

Set Up Key Poses first, handle details later. Yes, yes, you want to impress your boss or your friends, with how expressive your characters can be. It’s better if you block (pose your character) the important keyframes first, the starting position, the middle of the action and the aftermath. And then add additional animation later on.

III. USE A GOOD RIG (Avoid unreliable ones)

Using a good quality rig is essential, having to modify keyframes and poses only means that the rig is not good and is making you waste time. A good rig allows you to be free and more creative, because you can make your character change it’s posing with ease, so your animation process is more dynamic. If you are unable to come up with a good rig, then outsource (have someone else do it for you) or use the rig only to get the key poses, then, forget about the rig and handle additional animation (like hands, tail, hair) manually.

One quick way to know if the Rig is good, is by understanding Inverse Kinematics, and having them in your rig.

IV. RECYCLE WHAT YOU CAN

Recycle Keyframes. Don’t waste time blocking the character again, when the pose is very similar to one previously blocked, you can copy and paste keyframes and tweak them. For example, if you have a fighter giving a low punch, and you later need a high punch, copy and paste the pose, and then modify it. You will have the correct hip rotation, foot position, and will only need to modify the height position of the fist and maybe the torso. That’s faster than having to block everything.

Recycle Animations. I’m referring to a sequence of keyframes here. The most common example is eye blinking. Instead of manually opening and closing the eyes in the timeline, you copy and paste keyframes across it. Another example would be a walk cycle: if you need to have the character walking and doing something with the hands, like giving orders to other characters, you can recycle the animation, but delete the keyframes for the torso, hands and head, and animate them. This way, half of the work is already done.

Use Older Animations as Reference. Sometimes the timing is perfect and the animation curves (for the interpolation) give you the smoothness you were looking for, but now, you are working on another project and are having problems, you just can’t figure out what you did. This is when a previous animation can help as a reference. All you do is check the number of frames between keyframes, to get the timing right, and check the animation curves.

Instead of wasting time trying to achieve the same result, you can save time by getting the correct calculations checking a previous project. Like the timing and interpolation for the keyframes of the legs in an Angry Walk Cycle, in which every step was so energetic that made kids burst into laughter.

Produce No Budget Animation

The key to produce animation with no budget is by getting all the resources for free, like software or training.

Production Workflow

Of course, to produce animation you need to understand the complete process. Here is the summary of what is needed: Script, Storyboard, Audio Dialogue Recording, Music, Sound Effects, Sound Editing, Animatic, Character Design, Animation, Scene Compositions and finally, the Editing.

And if you want to achieve this, you need software. Don’t worry, at the end of this article you will find the names of the programs and applications that you can download for free.

Script and Storyboard

Before the script, you need the idea for your next story, once you have that, you can start writing. The best way to do this is by using a professional Script Writing Application that can be accessed online for free. I recommend Adobe Story.

Then, after the script, you continue to visualize your project in a Storyboard. How can you do this for free? Well, simple. Does pencil and paper ring any bells?

Audio

A word of warning for those who have projects with dialogue. you need a couple of dollars to at least buy a microphone. That’s why if you have no budget at all, stay out of stories with dialogue.

Now, if your project doesn’t have dialogue, then you need an Audio Software to mix all the sound effects and the music. I recommend Audacity, because it’s free and it has a lot of tutorials on YouTube.

Animatic

The animatic is a video of the storyboard with music and sound, maybe even some dialogue. This video can be edited in a Video Editing software. For that, you can try Avidemux.

Animation and Editing

Now that you have your animatic, you can do all your animation with Synfig, which is also free. Of course, it will not have all the features that any professional software has, but it will do the trick.

Once you have your animations ready, you can put all the scenes together using your Video Editing Software, click Render and you have your animation.

Final thoughts

You should know that everything free comes at a cost. In this case, because you are not spending a dollar, it only means you are going to work harder and invest more time because all the free software has limitations.

My suggestion is to go for two Adobe Products, one for animation (it can be Flash or After Effects) and one for video editing (Premiere Pro), which means spending $40.00 USD a month, saving a lot of time thanks to the great features they have.

And if you are a teenager reading this with no credit card, then you can try the free alternative, just keep in mind that this will mean more investment of your time.

Free Resources: Here are the names of the all the Software you can download for free. Look for them in Google.

Script Writing Online Apps

Adobe Story

Celtix

Drawing Software

Alternatives for Adobe Photoshop:

Gimp

Seashore

Alternatives for Adobe Illustrator:

Inkscape

Apache OpenOffice Draw

Animation Software

Synfig Studio

Audio Recording and Editing Software

Audacity

Video Editing Software

Avidemux

Royalty free music

3 Mistakes to Avoid in Animation

There are three mistakes that amateur animators do, and if you spot them in videos from YouTube, then you know the animator is a beginner, so don’t be so hard on them. But be warned, people who make mistakes don’t know they are doing them, and nobody is telling them, so, how would you know if you are doing things correctly?

Only Action with no Anticipation or Aftermath

Taking the example of the amateurish animators posting videos on YouTube, have you noticed the problem has to do with the unnatural movement of the characters? That happens because there is no anticipation or aftermath

For example, a martial artist throwing a punch while training. You can think of three key poses: clenched fists in guard position, then the “punching arm” extended, then back to the original position. That’s what the amateur has in mind. A veteran imagines the guard position, then the elbow going back to prepare the punch (anticipation), then the arm extended (action), then the arm going back with the elbow up (aftermath), and finally the character returns to the guard position, breathing slowly. Do you see the natural flow happening all around?

Approach every action by thinking of its anticipation and aftermath. How do you prepare for that action and what do you do after it?

Cluttered Timeline

Let’s face it, when you see the timeline full of keyframes you feel proud of yourself, because right in front of you is all the hard work with millions of keyframes. Well, guess what? A timeline cluttered with a lot of keyframes can harm your animation.

The problem is not the cluttered timeline itself, think about it, if you need to make adjustments, you are going to go through hell and back, making little adjustments to every keyframe. A bigger problem would be that cluttered timelines usually lead to unnatural movement: Jerky knees, trembling elbows or weird vibrations of the head, to name a few.

The unnatural movement is generated when you make an adjustment to the movement of the character by adding keyframes to change the rhythm. For example, if you have a character picking up a box, maybe you need the character to take a little longer to extend the arm, then move a little faster to pick up the box. You can either use more keyframes (easy, but risky), or adjust the interpolation curves (harder but safer and more natural).

Interpolation curves are the answer to the natural flow of movement. The best timelines are the ones that have fewer keyframes and a lot of movement of the character. It takes time but it pays off, especially when you go back to make adjustments. For example, instead of trying to alter 5 keyframes, you only have to change one pose (one keyframe) and you are done.

Have this in mind at all times: A good curve can defeat an army of keyframes.

Impulsive Animation, No References

Amateurs are the best practitioners of impulsive animation. “Yeah! Finally, after all the preparation I can just go for it and bring my character to life!” Sounds familiar? I know how tempting it is to just go head and start animating, but the best way to approach it, is by having references.

What references do professional animators use when working on big projects? Short answer: Anything that moves. It can be a leaf floating in the air, a facial expression, a walk style, anything, even tiny details.

If you check any behind the scenes of any animation you will see that animators often do field work, like getting a camera to record nature, people walking or just record themselves doing silly actions.

The trick is that if you are willing to do it, references are the secret ingredient to get the perfect number of frames needed for the anticipation, the action and aftermath.

A Few Reasons Why Animated Videos Are Amazing

Animation is a form of storytelling that appeals to vision in a way live action movies sometimes cannot. They can present vibrant colors, unique characters, and stylistic art in order to tell a story. An animated video can tell a story in a unique way and there are many reasons for that.

1. Creativity

One of the main appeals of animation is its ability to tell a story in a variety of ways. It doesn’t even have to be grounded in reality so long as it is done well. The popular “I’m Just a Bill” video from Schoolhouse Rock is an example of that: a piece of legislation speaks (and sings) about how it becomes a law. Even as it approaches its 40th anniversary in 2015, the video is just as relevant today as it was in the ’70s and still helps young students understand the legislative process.

An animated video awards creative freedom that cannot be done with any other medium. The world, laws, and appearance of things in the video are all entirely created by the artist and animation production team, and the possibilities are limitless. It is a realm for imagination to run completely wild. It is here, in animation, where some of the greatest videos and characters are born, telling viewers stories that could not be effectively told any other way.

2. Reach

Animation also has a far-reaching effect. Animated videos are more accessible and can be viewed by more people in a greater range of age groups than an ordinary video. People are drawn to videos that evoke a different sensation in the mind and take imagination to a different world. Cartoons and animated videos from other countries can be viewed all over the world and it would be easier to understand the message than with live action alone.

It is easier to view an animated video, no matter your age, because it illuminates the mind and brings a level of engagement nothing else can offer. Not every animated video is the same – there are different artists, designers, and producers, bringing a unique experience to the wide variety of videos.

3. Appeal

Animation is captivation. People are, by nature, visual creatures. Through vision we take in the world around us, and our eyes look for things that please them. Animated videos appeal to that desire and engage the viewer in a particular way. Concepts are better understood when they are shown rather than told, such as the “I’m Just a Bill” video mentioned earlier. Animation makes it easy to learn a new concept or take in a story.

An animated video captures the audience’s attention, opens their eyes and minds to new ideas, and engages them in a unique, memorable experience. It is through animation that true storytelling is fully realized.

Powerhouse Animation is a traditional 2d animation studio based in Austin, Texas. Since 2001, Powerhouse has been making ideas come to life through animation, illustration, and motion graphics. With a staff of 35 in-house artists, animators, videographers and designers, Powerhouse works on a wide variety of projects and has created animation for companies including Disney, Sony, Marvel, DC, Old Spice, Miramax, the USO and more.

Revisiting Woody, Wonder Woman and the Fantastic Four

I have not written much lately. I used to write daily but that was a long time ago. It is true that work, family and a home business have taken up a lot of my time. But, I have not felt as driven to write as I used to feel, too. This entry is my attempt to get back into writing and discussing comic books and classic cartoons.

I have not watched any old Woody Woodpecker or Andy Panda cartoons for a few years. I need to spend an evening introducing my daughter to the good old cartoons I grew up watching. That said, she has watched Pink Panther and loves him. I even bought her a collection of the earliest Pink Panther cartoons. (I forgot he actually talked in a few of them.) Soon, I will find time to show my girl who Woody Woodpecker is and why he is a classic character. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, the best Woody cartoons were the earliest years when he was pestering Wally Walrus, had a larger body and crazy eyes.

Regarding animated/comic book characters, I am very excited to see the new Fantastic Four movie coming out this summer. There has been a lot of controversy over the movie and Marvel Comics fans are split on whether it will be a good or bad film. Of course, we will not really know until the movie comes out.

But, why are some comic book readers upset about the upcoming Fantastic Four movie? Some fans are upset that the tone of the movie is going to be more serious than past FF movies. Other fans are upset that an African-American actor is cast as the Human Torch. Meanwhile, others are upset that Doctor Doom’s last name has been changed. None of these changes really upset me and I am a longtime Fantastic Four fan. I am a little concerned that the Thing may be naked in the movie (as it appears in previews). However, I will be happy as long as there is heroics, drama and the four act like family.

Another comic book/cartoon character I have been revisiting recently is Wonder Woman. A few months ago I purchased a DVD set of the first season of Wonder Woman from the 1970s. I remember seeing the show a few times as a child but never really watched it back in the late 1970s and early 1980s (when it was still in reruns). However, I am very impressed by the series. The first year of the television series was set in the 1940s and has Wonder Woman fighting Nazis alongside Steve Trevor. It even had her close friend Etta Candy and sister Wonder Girl in the show. The first year of the show is a perfect representation of the Golden Age Wonder Woman. I feel Lynda Carter was the perfect choice to play the role, too. She looks like I would expect Wonder Woman to look in real life.

Let’s continue to remember classic characters of the past, such as Woody Woodpecker and Wonder Woman, while being open to new interpretations of our favorites, as in the case of the Fantastic Four.

Creating Engagement to Clients

What is an Animated Explainer Video?
Animated explainer video is this short video that is used to engage your audience both online and offline. In most cases the animated explainer video usually explains what you do, or what your company or product is all about. Many companies across the globe have utilized the power of animated explainer videos to simplify complex ideas and concepts to customers and prospects. This has helped them tremendously to both increase their sales and build their brand.

Big and small companies alike have experienced the power of these animated explainer videos in marketing their products, explaining complex procedures, teaching what they do and offer. They have also seen an increase on their Return on Investment, increase in number of clients and prospects because of the responsive engagement the video are creating.

What is an animated explainer video and how is it produced? Just like I have pointed out in the sub paragraph above, these are short animated engaging videos that can be placed on a website. The animated videos can also be used for TV commercials to explain in a simple and effective way who you are and what you do.

There are several stages during which your highly converting explainer video will go through. Firstly the producers of the video need a highly converting video script written by a highly skilled copywriter. The copywriter must be able to synthesize your sales message or ideas into a 150 words script that will communicate your message clearly and to the point.

The video script is the most important element when it comes to animated explainer video because the script will either make or break the video. A good and quality video script must summarize the message within the one minute cap that is the standard duration for most videos. Nonetheless, most animated explainer videos have a range of 1 to 2 minutes in length and each minute is approximately 150 words when counted.

The copywriter must therefore ensure that the message to be passed must be within the 150 word count for a one minute video or so. The script must be written in such a way that the audience will be engaged awesomely when watching the video. The script must have a very clear call to action that will allow the viewers to take a given specified action after watching the video.

After ensuring that you have your well crafted and well written video script, then you need a voice over for your video. You can choose to have your own voice over produced by yourself or engage a professional voice over artist. I would rather recommend a professional artist to do the job simply because you may have the right script with the right message but a bad or poorly recorded voice-over may send the wrong signals to your audience.

After you have ensured that a good and high quality voice over is ready. The video producers then choose to have a storyboard created to visualize how the video will look like. In this case a talented storyboard artist with the appropriate skills to illustrate the video through the script is given the task of bringing your ideas to life.

The storyboard artist creates the video on a scene by scene basis for the approval of the client who wants the video produced. The approval of the storyboard by the client would mean that the video finally needs to be move into the final stage which is the productions stage.

The final video production phase would then begin after all of the other stages are completed. The stage would involve animating the video to match with the voice over. It may not just involve mere animation of the explainer video; every aspect of the animation must reflect the message to be passed and the engagement needed. The viewers must stick to the video to the end.

And after the final animated explainer video with the right format is produced, then it can be uploaded to YouTube or any other video sharing site to create more views. It can also be placed on a website on the landing pages of the website for the site visitors.

Paprika Anime Analysis

Paprika is an amazingly complex and entertaining anime. It takes us into a different world and shows us incredible events mainly from the perspective of Doctor Atsuko Chiba and Detective Toshimi Konakawa. Chiba leads a research team in the development of a device to be used for psychotherapy called the DC Mini. She starts using it to treat Konakawa, but somebody steals the DC Mini and throws the world into chaos as dreams and reality begin to merge. Paprika is a representation of contemporary Japanese society as it deals with issues of becoming an increasingly technological society.

Paprika shows the dangers and benefits of technology. The idea that technology can have good and bad components is common to many other anime in science fiction, apocalyptic, and mecha genres. J. P. Telotte terms the idea of celebrating technology while being wary of its destructive and dehumanizing potential “double vision” (Napier 86). Paprika shows various examples of how technology, represented by the DC Mini, can be used to benefit humankind. Chiba uses the DC Mini medically to treat Konakawa’s recurring nightmares and ultimately resolve his psychological conflict. The DC Mini is also a device of empowerment. It opens up the dream world in a way where people can learn to actively resolve their internal, psychological problems. Konakawa ultimately resolves his issue of dealing with his friend’s death by confronting his problems in the dream world. Chiba uses her alternate personality named Paprika in the dream world to help others through psychotherapy. The DC Mini is shown as a technology that can have a great potential to help others.

Paprika also presents apocalyptic visions of Japan through its interaction with the DC Mini. The chairman steals the DC Mini in an attempt to merge everyone’s dreams resulting in blurred lines between reality and dreams. This shows the potential for technology to be used selfishly to carry out an individual’s personal desires leading to chaos in the world. Furthermore, this could be interpreted as a criticism on technology’s capability to disengage people from reality and rely on “comfort-through-escape” (Figal). Figal applies this idea specifically to media as represented in Paranoia Agent, but a similar idea may be applied to the concept of the DC Mini in Paprika. In the dream world, even when people are dragged into the chaotic parade of dreams created by the chairman, people are shown to be in a crazed happy state.

Technology also has an ambiguous influence on identity. This is shown through Chiba’s personality contrasted with Paprika, her alternate form. Chiba is shown to be a very serious, somewhat introverted woman committed to her work while Paprika is very extroverted and carefree. This might represent the struggle of identity on an individual level for people living in a high tech world. This presents both positive and negative aspects of technology. The DC Mini allows Chiba to explore and display different aspects of herself in different worlds (the real world and the technological/dream one accessed through the DC Mini), but her two sides conflict with each other. This is manifested in actually arguments between the two characters. So while technology may provide a way for individuals to express various aspects of themselves they may not otherwise be able to, it also may present conflicts between different aspects of the self that someone may not be able to reconcile with.

Paprika presents the idea of “double vision” of technology. The DC Mini can at once be used for healing and empowerment, but also be used to take over the world and destroy order. It can provide a method for individuals to express conflicting sides of themselves.

Animation – It Has Life In It

‘Animation’ the word itself bespeaks loud that it has life in it. It is all about putting life into characters and models and making them look real and life-like. The story goes, to a couple of years back when becoming an animator was like a dream come true. But going down twenty years, the dream was practically impossible, for many to achieve. Then becoming an animator meant going to college, studying an illustrative graduation degree or probably if you are lucky enough you might get yourself an apprenticeship from a professional animator. It was earlier a mere diploma degree. But these days the path to becoming an animator is easier as many of the colleges are offering a certified degree course in animation.

Disney Dreams are no longer intangible. With the advent of Pixar, Toy Story 3D, aspirations soared high in dreamy eyes and the animation industry got changed forever. Consequently, the demand for animators, both traditional and 3D including visual effects got increased with the success of each 3D movie. However during the economic recession that had hit worldwide, the booming industry saw a setback. Yet the spirits of the true animators could not be canned down and they fought their way out. Adversaries should never be allowed to dominate your spirit. Your goal is to put life into every non-living character and bring them closer to the human heart and life. The challenge is to make them appear so real that people are able to relate to them and yearn to see them even after the movie gets over. They become such real super heroes, that the fans go crazy about them. Films like Madagascar, Ice Age and Despicable Me got made into several sequels because there was a great furor amongst the public for the animated characters.

You might have dreamt to become an animator all your life, but have always discouraged yourself, only because you are not very skilful when it comes to drawing. You might have heard that the very foundation to animation is drawing. He who is good at sketching or drawing sees his future as a good animator. Then let me tell you, that drawing is a crucial part of animation, but not the only thing about animation. Do not feel intimidated if you turn out to be bad in drawing? Not all are naturally gifted. But it is through practise that one can acquire expertise in his skills. Drawing is like a muscle that requires to be flexed everyday, making your will and skill stronger with every passing day.It takes a lot to become an animator. Every shot is like a new challenge even to an experienced animator. Being able to produce a good quality animation, is not an easy task. Learning of animation does not end with the animation school course. It is just the beginning. Animation of every new character is a new chapter that requires thorough learning. One has to be meticulous and observant in his work. It is like your baby to whom you put in life and allow it to breathe.

The Movie

Utena is the perfect example of a shÅjo anime. The movie is complete with a naïve fantasy of princes and princesses and adolescent girls with characteristically big eyes, flowing hair, and magic powers. ShÅjo themes remain clearly present throughout the film. It includes intensely emotional scenes overflowing with roses and relationship conflicts. But this story is not a traditional shÅjo tale. Utena is unique because the storyline overtly displays the shÅjo using her abject female identity to overcome patriarchal societies’ expectations of the ideal female.

Utena appears similar to a regular fairy tale on the exterior but is clearly different underneath. The fairy tale-like story is used to critique the illusions found in fairy tales (Napier 176). Like a classic fairy tale, Utena arrives at a castle-like academy dressed like a prince and must fight other duelists in order to save the Rose Bride, Anthy. But Utena diverges from the regular fairy tale because Utena is female and the castle-like academy and princes are only illusions. Utena and Anthy created the illusion when they denied and rationalized the negative aspects of their princes’ identities. After their idealized fantasy is shattered, Utena makes the revolutionary decision to leave their current fairy-tale world with Anthy. Upon leaving, the fairy tale academy is shown to be a dark and empty place filled only with straw dolls. The world is destroyed once Utena and Anthy decide to leave it behind since it was a fantasy upheld only by their imagined ideals of a patriarchal fairy tale land.

Utena really brings home the idea of shÅjo and possibilities available to the abject female identity because Utena uses her identity to carry out an apocalypse of the fairy tale world. According to Frenchy Lunning, the shÅjo is the perfect vehicle for potentially creating new female social identities because she is able to escape patriarchal societies’ expectations of a woman by switching between the image of an innocent girl and a mature woman (Lunning). Utena is a unique shÅjo because she consciously recognizes her potential to change the world. Utena carries out in the storyline what Lunning states that the shÅjo does through repeated manifestations in our society. Shes takes it one step further by seizing the opportunity created by her abject identity to create a new identity. She does this through conscious rejection of patriarchal ideals. Utena and Anthy reject the existence of princes and the idealized female by deciding to leave behind the role of the oppressed Rose Bride and false memories of their princes. Utena used the potential in her adolescent, not-quite-set shÅjo identity to pursue new identities and a relationship with Anthy. Utena takes the shÅjo story one step further because she is a shÅjo character herself but actively uses her identity to create new possibilities for herself.

Top 11 Anime to Watch

If you’re into anime, you’ve probably already seen all these.

But if you aren’t… you MUST try it! Anime is NOT like your regular cartoons. These stories are unique, chock full of intense characters, and beautiful animation.

Action, drama, sci-fi, psychological, horror, apocalyptic, comedic, what it means to be human, humans merging with machines, the meaning of life. Anime’s got it all!

You might have seen Pokémon or Sailor Moon. There’s many more complex storylines and characters than that. Much of anime is a reflection of Japanese and modern society’s reaction to globalization and technological changes of the 21st century. So don’t be surprised to find intense themes in these stories. It might even be a bit difficult to completely digest the meaning of some of these anime.

So… there’s my pitch. By the way, I have only recently gotten into anime, so feel free to suggest other great anime in the comments below!

11. Tokyo Ghoul

Length: 12 episodes
Genre: Action / Drama / Horror / Psychological / Dark Fantasy

Plot: Kaneki gets into an accident and receives organ transplants from a ghoul. He struggles to maintain his humanity while living as a half-ghoul who must eat human flesh to survive.

Intense character development and symbolism included! There is a postmodern feel you can see in Kaneki’s hopelessness. The story criticizes modern society’s excessive consumption and discrimination.

10. Haikyuu!!

Length: 25 episodes
Genre: Sports / Drama

Plot: Hinata has wanted to play volleyball since junior high. He finally gets the chance in high school. This is a story of teamwork and motivation between friends.

You learn a lot about volleyball from this anime. It is a fun, light story. If you’re looking for something not too dark but with fun characters, this is the story for you!

9. Death Note

Length: 37 episodes
Genre: Psychological / Drama / Detective

Plot: Light Yagami is a genius high school student who one day picks up a Death Note. He discovers its power to kill humans and constructs a crazy elaborate plan to rule to world and eliminate corruption through strategic murders.

It gets pretty intense and complex. The number of crazy plot twists in this story will keep you on your toes. This story looks into institutional corruption. But the most interesting part is how Light keeps coming up with such intricate plans that somehow work every time.

8. Attack on Titan

Length: 25 episodes
Genre: Dark Fantasy / Post-Apocalyptic

Plot: Eren Jaeger lives in a peaceful town walled off from man-eating titans. But after a colossal titan breaks through the outer wall, chaos ensues. Eren joins the military in order to fight against the titans.

This story brings to light the pain of losing innocence and the illusion of peace. It presents issues of the current state of Japan’s military, calling for forces to be at the ready1.

7. Blood: The Last Vampire

Length: 45 minutes
Genre: Action / Horror

Plot: Saya is a vampire who kills other vampires aka chiropterans. She goes undercover as a student on a US military base in Japan to destroy the threats. Her reasons for doing so? Unknown. Where she comes from? Unknown.

Saya is an interesting character. She’s super hardcore and cool. Besides the action, this story is also a reflection of Japanese and American relations.

6. Steins Gate

Length: 24 episodes
Genre: SciFi / Mystery / Romance / Drama

Plot: Okabe is your average guy with an intense interest in time travel. He stumbles upon a conspiracy involving the use of human subjects in time travel experiments. Okabe and friends must use their wits and determination to prevent the world from descending into an authoritarian dystopia.

Time travel makes this story a bit confusing, but once you get past the first few episodes, things begin to make sense. The best part about this story is the deep and meaningful relationships between characters.<

Length: 124 minutes
Genre: Fantasy / Miyazaki

Plot: Chihiro is moving to a new home with her parents. They stumble upon a spirit world and her parents are transformed into pigs after eating the spirit food. Chihiro faces many challenges in order to save her parents.

This is a coming of age story that incorporates deep themes about disappearing traditions, environmental degradation, optimism1, and courage.

4. Grave of the Fireflies

Length: 89 minutes
Genre: Drama / Anti-war / Historical Fiction

Plot: Seita and Setsuko become orphans as a result of the war. They struggle to take care of each other and survive in desperate times.

This story talks about WWII in an incredibly humanistic way. It is intensely sad.

3. Ouran High School Host Club

Length: 26 episodes
Genre: Romantic Comedy / Drama

Plot: Haruhi gets accepted to the prestigious Ouran High School on scholarship. She befriends the host club members and shares many hilarious adventures with them.

Many of the other stories I listed were intense and deep, but this one is just funny. It rates so high on my list because I’ve seriously never seen anything this funny before.

2. Ghost in the Shell

Length: 82 minutes
Genre: SciFi / Cyberpunk

Plot: Kusanagi is a cyborg woman working for public security agency Section 9. Their mission is to find a hacker known as the Puppet Master who has been taking control of people’s minds and making them commit crimes.

This story explores technology’s potential for enhancing or degrading the human race. It addresses philosophical and social ideas about what it means to be human.

1. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

Length: 64 episodes
Genre: Adventure / SciFi / Action / Drama

Plot: Edward and Alphonse Elric learn alchemy at a young age. In an attempt to bring their mom back from the dead, Al loses his entire body and Ed loses his arm and leg. The two brothers travel the world searching for a way to regain what they have lost.

This story has everything. Adventure, drama, hope, courage, inspiration, a good soundtrack. Ed and Al’s story is motivating as they face hardship after hardship with strength and a genuine belief in the good of mankind.