The amount of anime that is available these days is near mind-boggling. With numerous series, returning and brand new ones, landing on streaming services every season, just knowing what is worth checking out this season can be daunting. So it’s understandable that many anime fans may be reluctant to risk their time on older titles that aren’t talked about as wildly as classics like Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, or Neon Genesis: Evangelion. If you are one of these anime fans who would love to discover a “new to you” classic but are wary to risk your time, you’re in luck. Because I happen to know three classic anime you may have missed, but you can easily check out on stream.
You don’t make it far into weeb culture without at least being able to recognize the name The Seven Samurai. Filmed in 1954 by legendary director Akira Kurosawa, the film is considered to be a masterpiece of storytelling to this day. The dauntless task of not just adapting such a classic story to a new medium, but even retelling it into a drastically different setting seems ripe for a horrific failure. And yet, back in 2004 Gonzo managed to produce Samurai 7 with such skill that it manages to do its source material an incredible amount of justice, while still standing tall on its own.
Based in a distant future Japan that is still recovering from a devastating war, Samurai 7 focuses its narrative on the village of Kanna. The village’s troubles stem from a group of bandits that plagues their town, stealing their rice and leaving them with little for themselves. What’s worse, these bandits are no ordinary thugs, but former samurai that have fused their bodies with machines, turning themselves into literal engines of war.
Out of sheer desperation, the town elder sends three of their people to the closest city to seek samurai that they may be able to hire to defend the village. But with no money to offer, the villagers must hope that they can find samurai willing to work for the rice they have. As the title suggests, eventually seven of these samurai take up the cause.
Samurai 7 earns a spot in my classic anime you may have missed list for several reasons. The first among them though is for the uniqueness of the experience. This series manages to perfectly fuse the classic tale told by Kurosawa and merge it with a sci-fi setting. It is remarkable how true to the characters and themes of the original production the series manages to keep. Some moments, including one of my favorite all-time speeches, are pulled directly from the original film. It’s clear that the people behind this story truly loved the original work.
While Samurai 7’s seamless blending of the original tale with the new setting is the highlight of this series, it also houses some of the most bonkers sword-driven action I’ve ever witnessed in anime, or anywhere else. As the series progresses it continues to up the ante, delivering some truly incredible moments of action. Some of these guys would even give the Battosai pause.
The final reason why I have to recommend Samurai 7 is the emotional depth of the series. As the series enters its back half, the story expands beyond the original work and sees the samurai take on the larger problem of the government’s overall corruption. As the samurai challenge the greatest power in the land, the casualties start to rise. By the time the dying starts in earnest many of these characters have already won a place in the viewer’s heart. This makes these brutal moments land all the stronger.
Between the awesome action, deep characters, heartbreaking moments, and impressive ability to adapt a classic tale, Samurai 7 more than earns its spot on this list.
Next up in our list of classic anime you may have missed is 1998 classic space western Trigun. Produced by Madhouse, this single season anime follows the lone gunslinger Vash the Stampede as he tries to live a peaceful life on the planet Gunsmoke. Unfortunately for Vash, his peaceful existence is frequently interrupted by bounty hunters looking to cash in on the 60 billion double dollar bounty on his head. How did so peaceful a person come to have such a bounty on his head? Turns out being blamed for the destruction of an entire city can put quite a price on you..
Whatever Vash’s intentions may be, there is no doubt that wherever Vash goes, destruction follows. The situation soon becomes so costly that Bernardelli Insurance Society soon dispatches two agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson to travel with Vash in an attempt to keep the collateral damage and by extension the insurance claims, surrounding the gunslinger’s many battles down.
The single biggest draw for Trigun is its memorable lead. Happy go lucky Vash is a fun, kindhearted soul who, despite the many threats he faces, refuses to give up his belief in a pacifist lifestyle. Much like fellow 90s anime start Kenshin Himura, Vash refuses to take the lives of those who threaten him. Always preaching love and peace, Vash tries to be a font of positivity in his trying world. A concept that makes the character all the more appreciated given the times we find ourselves in.
While Vash is certainly the star of this show, he doesn’t do all the heavy lifting on his own. With a supporting cast that is filled with both personality and memorable gimmicks, Trigun’s story is always an entertaining journey.
While the series is mostly a fun and upbeat adventure, it isn’t without its harder moments. The general positivity of the show’s story makes these moments hit with all the more force when they come.
These emotional moments, coupled with the show’s great characters and energy are what make Trigun a classic anime you may have misse, but should check out.
Last on our list of classic anime you may have missed is the 2001 girls with guns series Noir. Produced by Bee Train, this series follows two young women, Mireille Bouquet and Kirika Yuumur, as they work as paid assassins and seek out the mysteries of their shared history. As the title suggests, one of the series key elements is a focus on the noir style of storytelling. And at this, it certainly succeeds.
The primary story arc of Noir follows the two protagonists as they attempt to unravel an ever-growing conspiracy that seems to have links to both of the young women’s pasts. Though why someone would be so interested in them is hard for the duo to discern as most of Mireille’s family was murdered years ago leaving her with little clear knowledge of where she comes from, and Kirika is suffering from amnesia.
Key elements of the narrative are delivered at a perfect drip pace. As the story slowly unfolds, the viewer is taken on a journey that explores the depths of the criminal underworld. This slow-burn story is augmented by a one-two punch of stylish action and a hauntingly memorable soundtrack. While the action is kept more grounded than many anime, there is a coolness factor to the way Mireille and Kirika can dispatch the legions of enemies they come to face. The stone-cold application of Kirika’s skills is an often chilling thing to see. The fact that the character is as chilled by the things she can do as the viewer only adds weight to the action.
Combining this paced story and sleek action is one of my all-time favorite anime soundtracks. Every piece in this soundtrack delivers something particular and excellent. Whether it’s the somber tones of Solitude by the Window, the upbeat tempo of Corsican Corridor, or the fight augmenting beats of Salva Nos, the soundtrack always works to augment the on-screen moments.
The last element of Noir’s story that stands out to me is the developing relationship between the two leads. As the show opens, Mireille and Kirika have no knowledge of each other. Mireille has pointed in Kirika’s direction thanks to a mysterious email that triggers the show’s story. Upon meeting, and learning that Kikrika seems to have a connection to Merielle’s past, Mireille decides to keep Kirkika with her until they can unravel the mystery of how the two are connected. However, since Kimrika now knows Mireille is an assassin, Mireille informs her she will have to kill her once the mystery is solved.
This initially cold relationship develops in some interesting ways. As the two characters face death and explore their shared past, the two grow into a cohesive unit, while never betraying who the two are always presented as being.
While I think Noir ultimately delivers a story well worth experiencing, it does have one aspect to it that may turn some viewers off. It tends to retread previous scenes a lot. This is particularly true for the first half of the series. As Mireille and Kirika search for answers, they are often left with moments to consider what they have already learned. While these moments work in the story as they feel like the characters are searching for previously missed clues in their memories, or just simple obsession getting the better of them, they can fall into the repetitive at times.
If a slow burn, noir-style story filled with mystery, sleek fights, and an amazing soundtrack sounds good to you, even if there is a bit of repetition in the presentation, Noir is definitely an anime to check out.
And there you have it. My thoughts on three classic anime you may have missed. If any of these series sound interesting to you and you wonder where you may find them, you are in luck. All three are currently available from FUNimation through their streaming service. Enjoy!