Some of you may have seen my Favourite Anime Characters and Watched Anime pages, but you may not know which ones I like a lot. In this post I'd like to highlight three unique animanga series that I like a lot and try to convince you all to check them out or at least add them to your to-do list. Let's get started.1) Uma Musume: Pretty Derby
Okay, so the premise of this franchise is a little weird, but bear with me. It's about horse racing, but the "horses" are anime schoolgirls with horse ears and tails who can run fast and have crazy stamina. And after racing and winning a race, these girls do a "victory concert" where they sing and dance for their fans. As weird as this may sound, this franchise was insanely popular in 2021, with the main flagship product, a gacha game, being one of the most popular and most profitable games in Japan last year. To promote the game and to give people something fun to watch there is also an Uma Musume anime with two seasons (so far?). I strongly recommend watching this anime, but I just want to give you a heads up that the way it goes is a little bit unusual. The first season is a solid 7/10. It's a good watch, but nothing too impressive. The second season, however, is just so great and is one of the best anime I've ever seen. I cried both tears of sadness and tears of joy over a bunch of anime horse girls and you probably will too. Season 2 of Uma Musume is seriously really really good.
What's neat about the Uma Musume anime (and the franchise overall) is that all the characters are based off of actual real race horses from Japan, and their character designs and personalities reflect how the actual race horses looked like and behaved like. For example, the race horse Gold Ship was large, weird, and impossible to train, and the anime Gold Ship is exactly the same. What's even cooler is that in the anime, almost all of the races that happen in the show actually happened in real life and were recreated almost exactly. You can find videos on YouTube that compare the real race with the races in the anime. There is also this channel that explains the backstory of the real life race horses that were in Uma Musume.
Huge warning though, you might run into some anime spoilers if you choose to learn about the IRL ponies behind the characters before you finish watching the anime. A lot of stuff in the show is dramatized and doesn't resemble anything related to actual horse racing, but some of the things that happened in the show were actually what happened in real life such as a situation where spectators booed at a horse that won a race because it beat a popular horse that people expected to win. One final thing you should know is that most of the major characters in Uma Musume were stallions (male horses) in real life, but there are definitely a few IRL mares (female horses) in the show. A neat little detail that the creators of Uma Musume put into the character designs of almost all the characters is an ear accessory which is on a different ear depending on if the character was a mare or a stallion IRL. An ear accessory on the left ear means that the character was based off of a mare, and a right ear accessory means that the character was based off of a stallion.
If you won't watch this anime, at least give a listen to this song that plays at the end of the first episode of the second season. The name of the song is "winning the soul" sung by Tokai Teio in case the upload I linked gets taken down.
I also should mention that I liked Uma Musume enough that I named my computer after one of the characters in the show: Twin Turbo. Currently I've only got the user account name set to Twin Turbo, but I'll probably get a Twin Turbo Sticker to put on the computer case.2) Talentless Nana
It is basically impossible to explain what Talentless Nana is about and what happens in it without spoiling anything. It's a psychological series with many twists and turns, and it is best enjoyed going in completely blind. I'll try my best to explain as much as I can without spoiling anything important. To start off, here's the squeaky-clean non-spoilery synopsis from MAL:
Fifty years ago, horrific creatures dubbed as the "enemies of humanity" suddenly appeared around the world. To combat these threats, teenagers gifted with supernatural abilities called "Talents"—such as pyrokinesis and time travel—hone their powers at an academy on a secluded island.
Nanao Nakajima, however, is quite different from the others on the island: he has no Talent. With many "Talented" teenagers around him, Nanao is often a target for bullying, but even so, he still strives to complete his training. Soon after, two transfer students, the mysterious Kyouya Onodera and the mind-reading Nana Hiiragi, join the class. But just as everyone starts blending as comrades-in-arms, mysterious disappearances begin to threaten the class's entire foundation.
Okay, that's it, that's the synopsis. I'll add two things here. First, T-Nana is like My Hero Academia combined with Death Note and Among Us (at least in the first arc). Second, the main character of this series is quite controversial. Some people wholly support the MC, while others want the MC basically crucified, though many people of course understand that things are complicated.
Talentless Nana started off as a manga, but there is a good 13 episode anime that was made for it. The adaptation is perfectly
If T-Nana sounds at all interesting and you want to see it, just go directly to where you get your anime or manga, because the interwebs is littered with spoilers of this series, even the Google search results for it has spoilers. If you want to see it legally online, the anime is on Funimation, and Crunchyroll has the manga.3) Love Me For Who I Am
This is a wonderful manga about a non-binary person called Mogumo and their friends and coworkers. After getting a recommendation from a classmate, Mogumo goes to work at a "girlyboy" (otokonoko?) cafe where they are first mistaken for a crossdresser, but eventually Mogumo's coworkers figure it out and a story of self-discovery and acceptance rolls along. The manga doesn't exclusively focus on Mogumo though. A lot of the characters in this manga are some form of LGBT, and some of these characters also go on their own mini journey of figuring out their sexuality or gender identity in this manga. I think that Love Me For Who I Am is a great manga to read if you are LGBT or are an LGBT ally. Overall this manga is mostly chill and cute, but there are some tense/scary and dramatic moments that involve the bad aspects of being LGBT. Good news though, this manga is completed, so you don't need to worry about waiting for new stuff to come out.
One important thing you should know before going into this manga is that Japanese expresses gender differently compared to English. If you pay attention you'll notice that the characters in the manga are only concerned with what Mogumo is and are not concerned with how to refer to Mogumo. Japanese doesn't use he/she/they pronouns like English does, and also in Japanese the words for "I" and "me" are said differently by people depending on their age and gender. So any JP2EN translation where gender is important will possibly end up omitting things that were said by someone in Japanese, while also inserting things that weren't. There are two English translations of Love Me For Who I Am that you can run into: Hachimitsu Scans, and the official English translation. I've only read Hachimitsu's version, but from what I understand reading around, Hachimitsu's translation is closer to what is literally being said in Japanese, while the official translation is closer to what the characters would be saying if the story took place in an English-speaking place. It's useful to keep this in mind when reading whatever translation you choose.
When I first found out about this manga I was a little bit surprised because I had assumed that Japan was overall quite conservative in regards to LGBT issues, but then I found out that that is not the case really. Sure, the laws aren't ideal for LGBT people, but regular everyday life for LGBT people in Japan is comparable to most Western countries. Sure, there's a stigma and all that, but most of the younger generation is supportive, and Japan seems to be slowly moving toward better LGBT laws right now. A YouTuber once made a video where they asked Japanese people what they think of LGBT people, and most of the responses that came in were supportive. That video was made back in 2013, almost a decade ago, kind of a completely different time, and people in Japan certainly haven't gotten more opposed to LGBT people since then. So, Love Me For Who I Am in a way reflects a Japan that is growing more and more tolerant and accepting of such things, and its existence isn't really a surprise in this context.BONUS: Link Click
Didn't expect an extra one did ya? Well here you go.
Link Click is a donghua (Chinese anime) that is super-duper interesting. I originally watched it because of a video the anituber Gigguk made about it, and I think that that video might sell this show better than I can, but I'll try to explain it here anyway.
Basically the show is about two friends that can visit the past with just a photo. One guy can observe what happens to a person who took a photo after it is taken for up to 12 hours, while the other guy can possess the person who took a photo from the moment the photo was taken and feel and interact with what that person experienced in the past (also up to 12 hours). These two guys get past-visiting assignments/missions from a friend who takes requests from clients and collects the money for these tasks. When they visit the past the observer guy guides the possessor guy through what needs to be done. One of the rules that they follow is that they can't change what happened in the past. So the guy that possesses people has to essentially relive and recreate what the person he possessed did in the past or at least make sure that everything important that happens ends up happening in some way anyway. However, a major question that this donghua subtly asks as the series progesses is: what would happen if they break their rule and try to change the past? And is it even possible to change the past with their powers? You'll have to see the show to find out the answer to all that.
Yeah, so Link Click is actually quite good. Both the idea and the execution are excellent. Except for the amazingly done intro, the animation isn't superb, but it doesn't have any flaws or issues and tells the story that needs to be told perfectly. The intro and outro songs however are definitely superb. I only skipped those when watching because I was so interested in finding out what happens next in the story, but you'd probably might not want to skip them when watching. The Chinese voice acting is also good of course. I guess I should say here that I did not expect something this cool to come out of China. In case you're worried about political stuff, don't worry, the show is apolitical, there's no Chinese communist stuff in here or anything, just a story about two guys with special powers and the people that they observe & possess. Basically every episode ends on a cliffhanger in this series, and you'll probably be on the edge of your seat towards the end of the show. I seriously can't wait for the second season of this donghua.
So that's the few cool and unique animanga recommendations I've got so far. What do you think of them? Are you planning on trying one of these because of my recommendation?