For those intrepid few who wish to step outside the graphic novel circle, there is also anime. Anime, if you aren’t familiar with it, is the name for Japanese animated programs. They’re not exactly like the cartoons you’ll find on Saturday morning television, although they are becoming more prevalent in the U.S., especially the Toon Network and Adult Swim. Anime typically has a continuing storyline, usually of a season or two, about 12-13 episodes per season. Some however, like Bleach, go on for what seems like forever.

A couple recently added anime titles are among my favorites, and they couldn’t be more different. The first is Samurai Champloo, which literally means Samurai Mash-up. Set in the Edo period of feudal Japan, it’s the story of Fuu, a young girl looking for the samurai who smells of sunflowers, possibly her father. On her journey she brings two very different samurai: Mugen, a wild child with a crazy, mixed up samurai style, and Jin, a traditional samurai, more reserved, but just as deadly with a sword. When they’re not trying to kill each other, they help Fuu in her search throughout Japan. The show is a crazy blend of modern and historical references. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before. I absolutely love it!

The second anime is a modern slice-of-life school story. Bamboo Blade tells the story of a high school kendo club and it’s coach, Kojiro (who seems to be perpetually starving and broke), as he tries to assemble a winning kendo team. When he meets Tamaki it seems he may be off to a good start. Tamaki is a crazy-good kendo enthusiast who makes grown men cry with her skills. Outside of kendo, her only other fascination is an anime called Blade Braver (think Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). As the anime progresses, you’ll see the players perfect their skills (or try to) as they go from tournament to tournament. Some will actually surprise you. I’ve watched the entire series at least twice, and I enjoy it more and more with each viewing.

Both series are welcome additions to anyone interested in manga or graphic novels who wish to try something new. Give them a try. You might just like it.

Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess (and Ambassador of Anime)