Anime That Makes You THINK?

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Going with Ghost in the Shell as the most cerebral with Eva as most philosophical.

Gotta say that Kaiba was a good one.

I find that most hard science fiction pertaining to space usually gets me thinking about the future of mankind. Gunbuster and Planetes being the notable cases.

I'd also like to throw in Princess Mononoke.

There's a lot going on with the characters in this movie, in particular San and even Moro.

Death Note
Not a thinking show. It's fantastic, it's my sixth favorite anime, but it's not a thinking show. The morality is black and white, and it has a strong, simple plot. The narrative is complex and loads of fun, but it doesn't ask you to think any more than Inception asks you to think.

Serial Experiments Lain
It might be asking you to think, but more accurately it's asking you to think at the level of its creators, which means it isn't so much a heightening of intellect as a lowering of intellect.

Ghost in the Shell
I wondered for a long time why people love Ghost in the Shell so much. Eventually I realized it's because it has the best title of all time. If it had been named like...I don't know, just making up a name at random here...Mobile Armored Riot Police, it would be resting in the pile of the hundreds of other decent sci-fi anime.

Code Geass
Why the hell not? I've realized that most of the people who like Code Geass like it because EXPLOSIONS AND TITS!!11!!!!!!!1!. I love Code Geass because it's actually smarter than its creators. They thought they were making a great show and accidentally made a genius show instead. Which, naturally, is where most of its flaws stem from. Code Geass asks if there's such a thing as good and evil, but rather than asking "Is everyone evil?" it asks "Is everyone good?", and then asks that question not idealistically, but in a very cynical manner.

Bakemonogatari
It made me think about about how this is an anime I'd rather watch dubbed, because there's so much text on-screen at a time it's fucking ridiculous. It made me think about why Studio Shaft has a middle school girl fetish...okay, Madoka Magica made me think about that, too. Eh, sure, Bakemonogatari is a thinking anime.

Neon Genesis Evangelion
Pass.

Spice and Wolf
Really? Spice and Wolf? Well, I didn't know what the fuck was going on with all that economic stuff, so I guess in that sense Spice and Wolf is way smarter than I am.

Madoka Magica
Well, I think more thinking has been done about Madoka Magica than anything except possibly James Joyce and a couple religious texts...

image

...so it probably counts as a thinking anime by default.

And I can't think of anything else in which a girl gets symbolically raped by a magic cat, so...there's that.

If I were to pick one anime to add to the list of thinking anime, it'd probably be...

image
Star Driver: Kagayaki no Takuto
Partly to troll all the "eva n gost n da shell r vrey srs bsns" people, but also because Star Driver is a really subtle anime...

It really delves into the question of what anime is and why it is the way it is. And sex. It's also about sex.

.hack series.

It was a real mindfuck for me, especially the Twilight Brigade series.

And btw, considering the setting the clothing and wierd stuff actually makes sense so give it a chance :P.

Captcha: Slenderman/isslender

.......what?

Soviet Heavy:
Tis the Cowboy Bebop. It's rather straightforward in terms of plot, but it's narrative is absolutely packed with subtle commentary. I adore the intentional vagueness of the series, with nothing spelled out, you are left to fill in the blanks, encouraging you to watch for the minor details that could give you the bigger picture.

MARRY ME I mean uh yeah, Cowboy Bebop. The series is very rich with both subtext and backstories being spelled out in the dark, developing nicely rounded characters and working the central themes of loneliness and redemption in ways that are new and real and inventive according to each character. But above all, believable.

Not many do to be honest. Their morality or dilemmas are often too simplistic to require much thought, and are easily revolved within the story itself. That said, I can think of a couple that got me thinking at the time.

One interesting dilemma came up in Trigun, where a boy is trying to save a butterfly from a spider's web. Another boy kills the spider then and there, explaining that there is no other alternative - after all, if you save the butterfly, the spider will starve, and if you leave it, the butterfly will die. That's a reference to an old Buddhist koan, in which a monk saves the prey from a predator. Realising that he's condemned the eagle/tiger (depending on the version), he resolves the issue by feeding it his own flesh.

I`m not a heavy anime fan but i have one in my DVD collection - "Ninja Scroll".
This might not be exactly on topic but every time i watch it i think "why don`t they do something like this anymore?".
Anime of the early nineties is something i`m missing today.
Give me some fresh meat if you think i`m wrong, i`m totally out of the loop. The only japanese stuff i currently enjoy is the Blade of the Immortal manga and i can`t stand the anime (feels out of character - the drawing/animation quality is fine).

Abomination:
Most anime makes me think "Why would you react like that in that given situation? Are you bipolar or incapable of rational thought?" or "What is stopping you from shooting them? They're RIGHT THERE. Stop staring with your mouth open. You can end this right now."

Exactly. That was my main problem with Mirai Nikki. I have absolutely no idea why certain characters are completely fine with blowing up schools full of children or shooting innocent people point blank to get to a certain target, but as soon as someone important -like, you know, THE ACTUAL FREAKING TARGET- shows up they suddenly develop crippling moral reservations. I guess that's why I think Yuno is the best character. She at least has her priorities straight from start to finish.

Neon Genesis Evangelion, although you'll mostly be thinking about how on Earth it could possibly make sense.

Baccano is another good one, with an anachronistic narrative that forces you to piece together the plot. Serial Experiments Lain is a bit of a mindfuck with some philosophical elements. You've already mentioned Ghost in the Shell, which is one of the most intelligent anime films ever made.

I would say Death Note, but I didn't actually like Death Note - the fact is that most of its suspense comes from the increasingly implausible gambits of the villain protagonist, in a way similar to the Saw films. And, like the Saw films, I stopped caring pretty quickly. It doesn't help that the protagonist is an utterly unsympathetic narcissist with zero redeeming qualities. I just didn't give a crap what happened to him. Your mileage may vary, obviously, so still give it a go.

I'm also tempted to suggest Code Geass, which despite being callously crafted to appeal to as many traditional demographics as possible, is still a really good show. It's not smart in the same way NGE or Ghost in the Shell are smart, but it's very clever in one specific area - the character arcs of its protagonist and deuteragonist, whose conflicting motives and opposing moral codes drive much of the drama. It's like Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham had a fistfight inside twenty-foot-tall robots on rollerskates. The writing falls apart in the second season, but I'd still suggest taking a look at it.

Katatori-kun:

No, you're not alone. I liked Eva when I was an awkward, angry teen dealing with some depression and other stuff. Once I grew up, stopped blaming everyone else in the world for my problems, and took some control over my life my mood improved dramatically and all of the angst in Evangelion seemed well, pointless.

I agree with you that the whole series isn't meant to symbolize some hidden meaning behind the story or behind the events that transpire. They are merely meant to visualize the angstyness and feelings of depression it's creator suffered from. But that is actually where this series draws it's appeal from: it's so completely mired in it's own feelings of darkness, negation, inadequacy and a profound misanthropy that it is just fascinating to behold. And that is what I think you are missing: this feeling of utter and complete angst IS the whole point of the series. The series is deep not because people interpret too much into the redundant pretentiousness that underlines this series but for the horrible beauty that this series has - the construction of a world and characters so broken that it just boggles the mind. The use of imagery that is so bleak, horrifying and surreal that you just can't help but wonder what the fuck the creator was thinking. It's like a bloody trainwreck. No matter how you try you can't look away. And, frankly, you shouldn't, because for all it is, it is a very vivid picture of this kind of depressed angstyness.

Oh and I'm saying this as someone who does not like NGE very much for a host of reasons, but you have to give credit where it's due.

the doom cannon:
So question. Am I the only anime can in existence who doesn't like Eva? Seriously I just didn't enjoy it at all. I could barely finish it, but then similar stories like rahxephon and asura cryin I couldn't stop watching. I mean this in an interested way and in no way as a thinly veiled insult/I'm better than you kinda thing

I actually wrote a whole review comparing NGE to Rahxephon because they are very similar to each other but differ significantly in in the technical execution and it's underlying stance. First, technically it's much more focused in terms of storyline, and it's characters aren't (for the most part) the walking mental illnesses of NGE. It's also much more coherent in it's themes. However, where it really differs is it's tone: where NGE is depressive, bleak and miserable, Rahxephon is hopeful, active and essentially optimistic - it is as such very positivist vision in contrast to NGE. So if you aren't particularly fond of being overly angsty, Rahxephon is much more appealing. Hence, I don't think it's really unusual that you would prefer Rahxephon over NGE. I sure do :)

BENZOOKA:
I would also like to mention Death Note. The characters plowing their ways through the story offer a delightful stimulation for one to simultaneously contemplate on the possibilities and all of the mind games put into motion.

Okay...I think I have to ask. How the hell can you call Death Note deep? I mean okay, it's a very exciting ride and has some very strong artistry at times but it never really explores it's theme, discusses it's moral implications or, hell, has any kind of character development. I can see why it's interesting to explore the ways of the mindgames but I wouldn't exactly call that "deep". Oh and a disclaimer: I'm not out to troll, I'm really curious.

Lain, Evangelion, PSYCHO-PASS, Madoka, Akira, GiTS

If you're not already following PSYCHO-PASS start doing so immediately.

Chromatic Aberration:
Okay...I think I have to ask. How the hell can you call Death Note deep? I mean okay, it's a very exciting ride and has some very strong artistry at times but it never really explores it's theme, discusses it's moral implications or, hell, has any kind of character development. I can see why it's interesting to explore the ways of the mindgames but I wouldn't exactly call that "deep". Oh and a disclaimer: I'm not out to troll, I'm really curious.

This is really my opinion of the series. It's suspenseful, well-written and it has a very complicated and twisty plot, but there's zero character development and no discussion of the moral implications of what the main characters are doing. Light Yagami goes from honour student to omnicidal maniac in the first episode, and stays there for the rest of the series. He never progesses beyond that point, and we're never given a reason to sympathise or agree with him.

I'm probably not one to talk, though, considering I suggested Code Geass earlier. But at least the characters in Code Geass change.

I would go with C: Money of Soul and Possibility Control


World economic crisis in a Yu-Gi-Oh! way

bastardofmelbourne:
I'm probably not one to talk, though, considering I suggested Code Geass earlier. But at least the characters in Code Geass change.

Considering I suggested Code Geass already much earlier in this thread for exactly the same reason you outlined in your previous post...don't worry about it too much :)

In fact, I always personally argue that Code Geass actually is what Death Note should have been because it actually devotes time to explore this core conflict and actually makes it a major plot point coupled with a narrative that is (at least) as exciting and involving (and at least equally ridiculous) as that of Death Note. And if I then count the themes it just barely brushes on and yet somehow thematizes (the whole responsibility of science deal in the nina-arc, the actual conflict between individuals (Suzaku vs. Lelouch, Rakshata vs. Lloyd, Shirley vs. Kallen vs. CC as Lelouch's love interests that drives the whole series and subsequently fucks everything up royally, the whole price of determination-deal that is the gist of the whole tragedy etc.) I feel that Code Geass is actually smarter than it lets on. So, I'm really okay with calling it "deep". Or, at least, "deep enough" in comparison to....err...something like that.

Trigun.

The ending was so surreal when I realized Vash adopted Knives' policy of killing the spider. What's more symbolic is Vash abandoning his red coat, which was a representation of Rem and her ethics.

That made me question Vash and his entire journey. Again. After 20+ episodes of pacifist attempts (which were never boring thanks to the creators' creativity).

Huh, I'm surprised no one has mentioned 'The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.'

It was a pretty big anime back when both seasons aired, and it definitely requires you to think if you want to get some of the deeper interconnected stuff. Though the light novels are the best for that, as they go way farther than the anime ever did. As to what it's about...well, the basic summary is that a "normal guy" has found himself the interest of a reality warper/possible God who doesn't know her own power. Also, it goes to great lengths to never reveal the arguable main character's name. They just call him by a nickname.

There's one theory about the series that I absolutely love and it honestly seems the light novels are heading in that direction.

Warning, serious spoilers for the series here.

I can give you a list of animes that made me think "What the fuck an I watching".

Seriously though, I thought Mushishi was a really good anime. There's hardly any violence or intense action scenes but it was interesting and quite thought provoking in a few cases, and looks really pretty.

Nouw:
Neon Genesis Evangelion.

I discovered it when I was 14 and funnily enough it struck a unique note with me. It makes me ponder my own life and even though I don't have to pilot giant mecha to save the world I find myself relating with Shinji.

The last few episodes of evangelion made me think "what the fuck did I just watch?, what does any of this have to do with giant robots"

None, really. Anime is a universally vapid medium. Most anime series make the claim of 'depth' and that's enough for most people to concur, but just because something says it's deep and bludgeons you across the face with "philosophical" themes(The Matrix, The Dark Knight, Evangelion) doesn't mean it's deep. It just means it's pretentious.

"Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it was a simple love story. Other people can read
the back of matchbook and unlock the secrets of the universe."

Bubblegum Crisis/Crash & AD Police Files
An exploration of the themes earlier explored in such works as "The Cyborg", and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"where does the line between human & machine start to blur? When do the machines become people, and when
do the people become machines?

Outlaw Star
Kind of surprised this one hasn't been mentioned previously, considering how well known it is, and the fact
that there's a character who literally walks around asking "Why am I here? What is my place in the Universe?"
constantly. Now that I think of it, this was also played out in the second series of Digimon.

Also going to throw in with those who have already mentioned Haibane Renmei, Gundam Wing
and Full Metal Alchemist.

It's easier for me to point out the titles that I disagree with, cause most of the titles suggested are acceptable.

First off, I'm not going to deny that I am heavily bias.

(right off the bat on the OP) I don't consider Stand Alone Complex particularly thought-provoking. In terms of political setting, it's interesting.

Ergo Proxy is just filled with references, there's no thinking outside of using wikipedia to find every thing they tried to shove into it.

Death Note doesn't make you think, it makes you anticipate tactics. The morally grey message was lost after he decided to kill off anyone who opposed him, and the anime leaves out one of the best parts of the original ending (which calls the protagonist out on his bullshit).

As a poster above me said, Code Geass tries much harder at making you think, and yes the second season was completely rushed that is no secret and it's a shame we well never get the series as it was intended.

Fate/zero is about as deep as a game of DnD (mechanics explanations), otherwise it never goes further than one type of moral dilemma (do ends justify the means etc).

Dr. Cakey:
Death Note
Not a thinking show. It's fantastic, it's my sixth favorite anime, but it's not a thinking show. The morality is black and white, and it has a strong, simple plot.

Death Note is by no means a particularly deep manga (at least not intentionally), but black and white morality? You've got to be fucking kidding me.

The "was Light right?" question is practically a base splitter.

Abomination:
Most anime makes me think "Why would you react like that in that given situation? Are you bipolar or incapable of rational thought?" or "What is stopping you from shooting them? They're RIGHT THERE. Stop staring with your mouth open. You can end this right now."

And so much this.

I'm not sure if it's just a Japanese writing trend in general or something else but by fuck is it annoying.

Sword Art Online has a lot of underlying exploration of people's relationship with the online/virtual world.

Chromatic Aberration:

BENZOOKA:
I would also like to mention Death Note. The characters plowing their ways through the story offer a delightful stimulation for one to simultaneously contemplate on the possibilities and all of the mind games put into motion.

Okay...I think I have to ask. How the hell can you call Death Note deep? I mean okay, it's a very exciting ride and has some very strong artistry at times but it never really explores it's theme, discusses it's moral implications or, hell, has any kind of character development. I can see why it's interesting to explore the ways of the mindgames but I wouldn't exactly call that "deep". Oh and a disclaimer: I'm not out to troll, I'm really curious.

Exploring its theme, moral implications and the reasons why the characters do what they do, are left for the viewer. I can't see how offering more premasticated views from those aspects would do anything else than crop out material to think about.

I'd see it rather pointless to dwell deeper on the matter of something being 'deep' or not; definition, subjectivity and personal taste play a far too large role. Those, and similar discussions also tend to pick up too much on noncontextual factors.

Baneat:
Lain, Evangelion, PSYCHO-PASS, Madoka, Akira, GiTS

If you're not already following PSYCHO-PASS start doing so immediately.

Yes! Psycho pass is really good and explores its themes from the start. Definitely suggest it.

Milk:

Dr. Cakey:
Death Note
Not a thinking show. It's fantastic, it's my sixth favorite anime, but it's not a thinking show. The morality is black and white, and it has a strong, simple plot.

Death Note is by no means a particularly deep manga (at least not intentionally), but black and white morality? You've got to be fucking kidding me.

The "was Light right?" question is practically a base splitter.

I'd argue a painting is black and white even if the viewer is color-blind, but you've got a point. It might be less important that some sort of moral question exists than that people think it exists.

On the other hand, it could just be me. I tend to find 'deep' works to be pretty rote and trite, and more mainstream stuff to have layers of philosophical and symbolic complexity.

Blank Verse:
Trigun.

The ending was so surreal when I realized Vash adopted Knives' policy of killing the spider. What's more symbolic is Vash abandoning his red coat, which was a representation of Rem and her ethics.

That made me question Vash and his entire journey. Again. After 20+ episodes of pacifist attempts (which were never boring thanks to the creators' creativity).

I think we watched two different endings, because I'm pretty sure the opposite happened...

While I did praise Cowboy bebop earlier in this thread, I do have to say that I take recommendations with a grain of salt, since I've seen people promote garbage like Elfen Lied saying that "It makes you THINK". No, because your show has a message does not always mean that message is presented thoughtfully or even effectively. If I can't watch your show without getting turned off by the relentless violence, unlikeable protagonists and endless exposition, you're not making me think in the way you expect me to.

I'm not thinking about the ethical, social or moral implications of the story, I'm left thinking "who the hell greenlit this mess?"

Another one for Fullmetal Alchemist here. The manga and Brotherhood anime, I mean, not the first anime (a.k.a. the depressingly bleak spin-off that was riddled with poor pacing and time-wasting filler, fucked over the majority of its characters, not least of all Hohenheim, and had a piss-poor ending in a follow-up movie that made no fucking sense whatsoever). I'm currently writing an essay on Mustang and Hawkeye's relationship just because of how much I've found myself invested in it, even though it's not as blatant as so many other relationships in other anime.

Not to mention that FMA probably has one of the most well-rounded character casts in not only anime, but fiction in general. The only characters that I genuinely dislike (discounting the ones that I just find bland or superfluous, like the Elrics' chimera comrades) are Winry and May Chang (because I don't like their character designs, and I find them annoying characters who just get in the way most of the time).

Even though I think author Hiromu Arakawa could've probably stood to explore the philosophical themes of her manga, since she did apparently research a lot about alchemy as well as drawing from her own life experiences, it does reasonably tackle some things that just may irk at you at certain points (like Edward's constant moralizing over not using the PS to get him and his brother's bodies back just because of how it was made. Look, kid, it happened, it can't be undone, GET OVER IT. Do you want your brother to stay as a hunk of metal forever?).

Gungrave, - for an anime made after a shoot-them-all game it made me think a lot about human connections and how strange they might be.

A little off-topic rant... "deep" and "philosophical" and "makes-you-think" and other such words are in my own experience used in everyday speech in so many different ways, contexts and with so hugely varying intentions and intended meanings that expectations tend to vary greatly when a movie/anime/book/whatever is recommended to someone as "deep" or "philosophical". Hence, I would say, all those good old disputes follow...
And to add something as someone with a Masters Degree in Philosophy, everyday use of the word "philosophical" and its technical use are two quite distinct things.
I, personally, would consider stuff like GitS, NGE or the afore-mentioned and non-anime Matrix or Dark Knight "philosophical" in the everyday meaning of the word but, like I said, we would first have to settle on what this everyday meaning is supposed to mean. Maybe then weŽd see that most of our disagreements are more about words than about our actual opinion on said work of art...

BTW, as a big fan of anime, thanks for this thread that gives me a lot of inspiration about what I have not yet seen that might be worth seeing :-)

Chromatic Aberration:
Considering I suggested Code Geass already much earlier in this thread for exactly the same reason you outlined in your previous post...don't worry about it too much :)

I am not alone! Sweet, glorious validation.

Raika:
None, really. Anime is a universally vapid medium. Most anime series make the claim of 'depth' and that's enough for most people to concur, but just because something says it's deep and bludgeons you across the face with "philosophical" themes(The Matrix, The Dark Knight, Evangelion) doesn't mean it's deep. It just means it's pretentious.

There's a very thin line between "intellectually complex" and "pretentious." A lot of the time, it's about how trivial the viewer considers the messages put forward by the work.

For example, I dated a philosophy major in my first year of university who'd never seen any anime. I put Ghost in the Shell on one night, figuring she'd appreciate it, but she thought it was shallow - the focus on Cartesian dualism put her off, since Descartes is old hat in philosophy circles. As far as she was concerned, it was as intellectually stimulating as a Disney movie, and saying you thought it was smart was basically saying "I'm too dumb to realise how dumb this is."

But basically, and I don't mean to offend you here, if you run around saying such-and-such a work comes off as pretentious because its themes are so simple and vapid as to be beneath your understanding...you come off a little pretentious. Thin lines! :P

Milk:
Death Note is by no means a particularly deep manga (at least not intentionally), but black and white morality? You've got to be fucking kidding me.

The "was Light right?" question is practically a base splitter.

The Death Note fanbase must be insanely myopic. How could Light possibly be justified in murdering tens of thousands of people so that he could rule a terrified world?

Even if you're a fan of the death penalty for purse snatchers, what about all of the innocent people he killed solely so he could evade capture? And what was his goal? He doesn't even want to solve problems - he's just a megalomaniacal asshat. It's like arguing over whether the Joker was right in blowing up half of Gotham because he thought the explosion would look cool.

High School of the Dead(No I'm kidding, really, don't watch it. It's bad.)
Steins;Gate
Another
Elfen Lied(Dem symbols man)
Higurashi no Naku koro ni(When They Cry is the English title, but less used)

One that comes to mind is Code Geass. Goes into free will and questions of advancement over stability and vice versa. Really interesting and has excellent characters.

Casual Shinji:
NGE

I know it's seen as pretentious and full of itself, but I fucking love wrapping my mind around this crazy show and its selfishly screwed up inhabitants. Which is why I found the Rebuild movies not as engaging... They were just too lean on the nitty gritty mind probing.

Also Berserk. The manga, not the anime - I never saw that one, except for the newer movies which were incredibly lame.

As much as I love thinking about both these properties, I also love talking about them.

I actually like the rebuilds, they are a lot better quality and fun to watch. On their own they would be okay but if you look at them as an extension of the original they are great because you can fill in a lot of the blanks with what you already know about the original characters. I believe in the sequel theory and I cant wait for the third one to come to America. From what I hear the third one goes completely off the rails and into uncharted territory.

Berserk is also awesome, the whole backstory arc should be considered a masterpiece in the manga world.

OT:
An anime I would add to the list is The Animatrix. Its a bunch of shorts but the ones that stand out to me the most are the two parts of Second Renaissance. It makes you wonder how we would react to machine intelligence. The whole thing is on youtube if you want to watch it. Here is the second part, warning EXTREMELY brutal(both of them are I guess). Id also suggest checking out World record, another animatrix short short.

Mid Boss:
Sword Art Online has a lot of underlying exploration of people's relationship with the online/virtual world.

Im gonna have to disagree with you. Its amazing for the first three episodes and then it falls flat on its face. So much wasted potential...

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