For the second year in a row, on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we take a stroll through an area where the Japanese actually hand our asses to us on a regular basis. In America, animation is all singing animals and excuses to sell cereal. In Japan, cartoons can be that as well, but they can also be genre defying, violent, visually exciting, and a funhouse mirror of a culture that has some really bizarre fetishes. With the DVD industry booming, we have access to more of the good stuff than ever before. Watch them subtitled, 'cause dubbing is for wussies!
• Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie (1999)--A condensed version of the TV series about an androgynous girl who stumbles into a secret world of swordfights and soap opera, this film has some of the most mind-blowing images of the last decade. The animation is seamless, matching the story with layers and complexity.
• Battle of the Planets vol. 1 & 2 (1978)--Old school anime nostalgia. Thanks to the genius of Rhino Home Video, these DVDs give us the neutered versions of this classic childhood cartoon, as well as the very cool original Japanese versions. High action with space-age superheroes taking on big monsters. The G-Force character designs are still some of the best ever.
• The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)--From the true master of anime, Hayao Miyazaki, comes an expertly crafted adventure film. With an evil count, counterfeit money, and funky music, it's a mad dash for the secret treasure and the chivalrous thief Lupin leading the way.
• Windaria (1986)--Though sadly only available as an English-language VHS (complete with superfluous narration), the quality of Windaria is not to be denied. This tragic romance follows two doomed couples struggling to maintain their love, while war ravages everything around them. Set against a fictional techno/agricultural backdrop, you'd have to be made of stone not be moved by its heart-wrenching pleasures. (NOTE: If you want to see Windaria in its original language, then steal my tape back from my ex-girlfriend for me. I'd be willing to share.)