With summer blasting the remaining sanity out of my head, I took a look back at previous years and tried to remember what I used to do to stay away from that unforgiving ball of flame in the sky.
Apart from avoiding beautiful sunny days by lounging on a bed playing video games, the majority of my childhood and teenage life was spent watching anime that wasn't of the tentacle variety. And while most people like to thank Pokemon, Dragon Ball, and Naruto for their abuse of animals and physical injuries, some of the anime my friends and I partook in could be considered hipster before it was even a thing.
Though some were more popular than others, I'm more than happy to place
these cartoons within that empty crevice which once held my heart. Take note
that these are in no particular order, as I am not an otaku by any stretch of
1. Beyblade (2001)
A lot of anime that aired on Cartoon Network were ploys by toy companies to get kids to buy overpriced toys (as you will see on this list). It only seems fitting that the first cartoon after Pokemon to get my folks' money was based on a traditional children's game of spinning tops.
The first season of Beyblade followed a team of Japanese kids with outlandish hair as they toured the world and competed in worldwide top tournaments.
These pieces of plastic and metal could do everything!
Though you would think that they could only be used for competing against other top owners, Beyblades could be used to cut ropes, break rocks, and store ancient animals. The strongest Beyblades held "bit beasts" within them; and when called upon by their unkindly masters, would level an entire playing field and cause untold problems for the venue's insurance company.
The anime even included one of the team members leaving the group in an
angsty way before being brought back by the leader. Not even Naruto was able to do this within
the span of 51 episodes!
2. Shaman King (2001)
While Beyblade held souls within tops, Shaman King's whole premise was based on people getting possessed by colored ghostly spirits.
The anime took on a completely different story from the manga and saw shaman Yoh Asakura's efforts to become the next ghost master. By channeling spirits into either himself or his weapon, Yoh joins up with a group of ghost whisperers and enters the Shaman Fight tournament, a contest held every 500 years which crowns the next... Shaman King.
If you thought the hairstyles in Beyblade were weird, this anime features a guy whose head resembles a triple chocolate roll.
Shaman King ended abruptly after 64 episodes but was
nevertheless a good cartoon because instead of letting their lackeys take the
fall, the mediums did the actual fighting by using their chosen souls as
3. Zoids: Chaotic Century (1999)
Though Gundam came way before this did, I was always of a mind that all those giant robots look the same. The pointed heads, the beam sabers, the needless metallic goatees - if you have the budget to make a big-ass robot, then why not make it resemble a dinosaur?
That's what this anime did.
Instead of immediately focusing on politics and an opening song composed of more than one word, Zoids: Chaotic Century starts off small with a young teenage orphan called Vaan and an amnesiac he names Fiona. After finding her in a human-sized Easter egg alongside the tiny cyborg dinosaur Zeke, Vaan goes off in search for the girl's memories while trying to stop a new war from emerging on his planet.
But never mind that; almost all of the episodes involve robot dinosaurs beating the crap out of each other because this is the best way to settle people's differences! Laser sabers, particle beams - this is no doubt how humongous reptiles showed their dominance before mankind entered the picture.
The entire story spans two years, letting you see how the characters and
their prehistoric-looking future weapons change from soft-looking kids to
adults who wear clothes that showcase their newfound abdominal muscles (I'm not
even joking about that last one).
4. Crush Gear Turbo (2001)
Though not on par with other money-sapping anime like Beyblade, Pokemon, or Yu-Gi-Oh!, Crush Gear Turbo was a nice, lighthearted break that told the story of an androgynous boy and his quest to do justice by his brother who died of an unknown accident (so much for lighthearted).
With his more popular, deceased relative's club slowly dying like his brother did, it's up to Kouya Marino to bring it back to its former glory by competing in a game he knows absolutely nothing about.
Crush Gear, as the sport is known, involves little children throwing small mechanical cars with moving parts at one another in attempts to force the other machine out of the stadium.
These stadiums were not safe at all. Some of them even included buzz saws and working flamethrowers, which would easily demolish any toy or young child foolish enough to enter it.
The anime was pretty silly now that I describe it; so what redeeming factors did it have?
Apart from giving young viewers a chance to use their built-in gaydars, Crush Gear Turbo's only redeeming
quality was its opening song by anime music supergroup JAM Project, who were
responsible for the title songs of shows like Scrapped Princessand the recent One Punch Man. This almost made up for the lackluster
cartoon, as the track is a good example of an anime song that gets stuck in
your head long after the show itself is relevant.
5. Digimon Frontier (2002)
Though many people like to dismiss Digimon as the knock-off Pokemon, you can't deny that the writers of the franchise were miles ahead of Pikachu and his abused animal pals. While Ash Ketchum has been touring a monster-ridden world, forever remaining 10 years old, the ever-changing protagonists of Digimon have used cards, battled computer viruses, and have struggled through real life troubles such as divorce and abandonment.
The fourth show in the series does away with virtual cock-fighting and lets the heroes use ancient spirits in order to transform into the humanoid monster of their choice. Over the course of three acts, these teenagers attempt to save the digital world by gaining new abilities while fighting their own personal demons.
The first act even has them saving one of their own from falling into
evil, and comes off as both deadly serious for a kids show while still
remaining accessible to those who just want to see cute monsters and angry-looking
final forms beat the hell out of the bad guys.
6. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)
Most youngsters will no doubt reference 2009's Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood when talking about the franchise, but old farts like myself will remember that in 2003, a darker, completely different adaptation of the manga series was aired on Animax, a channel that was around when TV actually mattered.
After a failed alchemical experiment leaves Edward Elric a cripple and Alphone Elric a disembodied suit of armor, the two brothers go on a quest to get their bodies back by joining the military and exploiting them for answers. This version of the brotherly tale followed the original story for the first half of the episodes before unveiling a completely new antagonist and a parallel world in which alchemy does not exist.
It would do no one any favors by spoiling this 51-episode series, because the best way to learn about the differences in the manga is by watching it yourself.
Fullmetal Alchemist also solves the constant problem of anime movies being unnecessary or crap by making its animated film, Conqueror of Shamballa, necessary to the conclusion of the series. Like its predecessor, the movie doesn't recycle anything from the source material, instead featuring an entirely alternate world with different rules and characters that the brothers interact with.
... Or will it?
These were just the first 6 anime in a two-part list full of spiky hair, gigantic eyes, and senpais failing to notice you. The remaining 7 will be featured at a later date, but unlike most of these cartoons, this piece won't end in a cliffhanger.