I've been Netflix-ing and sloooowly watching the anime Last Exile over the last few months, and finished it over the weekend. It's all very pretty, but I really don't understand what the hell happened at the very end. Some fun stuff along the way, though.
This means that I have once again run out of Japanese cartoons to watch, and the mystery anime I was recommended in Japan are not available from Netflix at present. Which means I need new stuff to watch on Friday nights after happy hour, when network tv sucks.
So, oh all-knowing Internet types, what should be on my Netflix queue? Serial format things are slightly preferable, as they require less of a committment, but movies are good, too.
If you'd like to know what I've already seen, there's a list here, to which you can add:
Trigun: Great fun. Awfully slapstick-y in places, but a good overall plot, good characters, and nice visuals.
Last Exile: see above.
Princess Tutu: Not my thing, but Kate loved it.
My Neighbor Totoro: There are little Totoro dolls and figurines everywhere in Japan, so we figured we really needed to see what this was about. It's basically a Japanese Disney movie, without the treacly musical numbers.
I think that's about it.
Additional data point: _Princess Tutu_ was so not your thing that you stopped watching after two episodes. Not that you were wrong to do so--it gets a lot less slapsticky, but I think you still wouldn't have liked it.
The thing I was contemplating next is _Twelve Kingdoms_, though I realize it may be tricky because apparently some of the characters are annoying at the beginning.
And I keep meaning to give _Crest of Stars_ another try.
Depends on your tastes, really. I'd highly recommend a 13-ep serial called Paranoia Agent, however I'm well aware it's sort of an acquired taste. Very dark, very surreal, very psychological.
For a long-running serial in the same sort of vein as Trigun, there's Bleach. Mind you, it's still in production in Japan, but up to at least ep 52 has been translated so far.
Finally, another plug for the entire milieu of Miyazaki. His stuff is all of a high caliber. Personal favorite is Nausicaa.
If you want something darker and more philosophical in tone, try Serial Experiments Lain. It's my faaaaaavvvvorite. (No, the first six episodes or so don't make sense. Just roll with it.)
If you want something LIGHTER in tone, try Someday's Dreamers. It puts a smile on my face like even Kiki's Delivery Service can't.
These two are 13-episode serials, so, hey, not even that much invested, right?
The movie "Tekkon Kinkreet" just came out on DVD, and is available on Netflix. It got good reviews, but I haven't watched it yet.
You HAVE to see Twelve Kingdoms. It's really wonderful. Yes, one of the central characters is unlikable (not really annoying) in the beginning. But she changes, and that's one of the wonderful things about this anime- character development!
My single greatest recommendations are Death Note and Code Geass, but they may not be out yet. I really like Nodame Cantabile as well. Also, try Mai Hime and Samurai 7.
I'm seconding the motion of films by Miyazaki. I've seen three of his--none were Totoro--and loved them. What I have seen from him (all recommended):
Howl's Moving Castle
As for not-Miyazaki:
Samurai Champloo (Series. Awesome. Action, humor, well-handled serious themes.)
Ghost in the Shell (As in the first movie. Also awesome. And philosophical to boot.)
Samurai X (Action!)
And actually that about covers it.
I definitely suggest "Read or Die" - there's a movie and a TV series, both on Netflix. Quite a lot of fun.
The .hack series are some of my favorite, even if you don't play the video games. .Hack//Sign and .Hack//Roots feature some very good music, although they're probably more enjoyable subbed.
Ghost in the Shell:SAC (the series is very good)
I've read _Planetes_ and didn't like it, though I don't know if Chad would have the reaction or if the anime shares those traits with the manga.
We've seen _Champloo_.
My comments on what is recommended above:
Anything Miyazaki: certainly recommended. My personal favourite is Nausicaa (which very roughly corresponds to the first part of the fine manga that was written by Miyazaki himself), and the equally good Princess Monokoke is somewhat similar in theme.
Almost everybody I know was very pleased with Spirited Away, but it is somewhat less plot-driven than Nausicaa and Mononoke, so this might or might not be an advantage to you. If you liked Totoro, you might like this one as well.
Howl's Moving Castle is also good, but I thought it lacked somewhat of the flair of the previous movies. Still worthwile to watch.
On to the others then. I'd recommend against .hack//Sign. While I found it pretty entertaining myself, everybody else apparently hated its guts. Their main criticism (it's amazing slowness) is justified, though.
Serial Experiments Lain is good in the 'completely weird' category. It's weird, confusing, somewhat creepy, dark and likes to go of into some kind of 'philosophical' pondering. If you like that sort of thing, it might be a fun watch.
Finally, I found Read or Die to be a very nice series to watch. Fun and not-too-serious excitement. If I remember correctly, the OVA Movie (being a sort of prequel to 'Read or Die the TV' anime series) offers a decent taste of how the series will be, so you won't need to order the whole series if you don't like the movie.
Not to get into the "me too" style, but you probably want to hear the multiple votes for a particular movie. If you have not watched the Miyazaki films, or others he helped produce out of Studio Ghibli, you are missing something. NOTE: If possible, be sure you are getting the Ghibli/Disney widescreen set so you can watch it in wide screen in japanese as well as dubbed. Several of the movies have a different intro or exit animation (and different music) in japanese. [Meaning you have to select japanese language before playing the movie to see it.] We watch it in english first, then again in japanese with subtitles, then watch the storyboard version. [Many of these movies have the full length film as storyboards synched to the actual audio.]
Besides being great animation, you should find the sci-fi aspect of it interesting. I don't like this as much as the others, but my wife (the sci-fi fan) loves it.
2. Princess Mononoke
Lots of sword work in this one, and a good story.
3. My Neighbor Totoro
This may be a kids film, but it is as ageless as Wizard of Oz and remains my favorite. There is a real good reason that you saw Totoro all over Japan and also saw Totoro (and Howl's Moving Castle) in the latest South Park episode. I absolutely love the CatBus.
4. Spirited Away
Kid saves family. Thin on plot, but thick with a wide range of japanese mythology and beautiful artwork.
5. Grave of the Fireflies (by Takahata)
This is not fun. Few of the great war films are fun, but this one features US aircraft firebombing Japan rather than Japan bombing us, and there are no heroes in the usual sense of the word. The view from the losing side.
6. Others: Porco Rosso is fantastic if you like flying. Whisper of the Heart is an interesting story but your wife might like it more than you will.
Haibane Renmei, for fantasy/religion. Which religion, I'm not sure.
Noir, for the Female Assassin with Amnesia genre.
Shingu or Full Metal Panic for the Middle School Students with Giant Robots/Mysterious Transfer Student genre. (Yes, that's a genre). Shingu if you think fanservice is stupid, FMP if you like it.
Cowboy Bebop for the whole Space Opera thing.
Probably you are not reading this anymore, but there is a really fun quantum mechanics/parallel universe anime Noein. I recommend that :) Has a few "That is not how quantum mechanics really works... but it's cool." moments.
The best anime I saw recently was "Mushishi," a gorgeously atmospheric fantasy series about a sort of psychic naturalist who studies the lifecycles of mushi (sort of supernatural forces of nature) and helps people with mushi-related problems. It's episodic rather than arc-driven, but gathers emotional force as it goes along.
Twelve Kingdoms - boring, annoying characters, for kids
Bleach - better than Naruto...if you wanted to watch Naruto...
Someday's Dreamers - BORING, if you want something mellow try Mushishi
Noir - boring and silly
Serial Experiments Lain - youtube...watch?v=SZMh_nBSn-0 is pretty accurate
Ghost in the Shell - watch the series, not the movies
Code Geass - you'd probably like it, but not on Netflix
Well, Netflixable is a somewhat harsh criteria, but
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - intelligent, engaging SF
Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal - good samurai action and drama
Gankutsuou - The Count of Monte Cristo...in space! Really, though, good drama.
Ooh am I feeling nerdy right now.