5 'Must Watch' Anime by MAPPA
by Stephanie Donaldson & Jacki Jing,
When MAPPA, also known as Maruyama Animation Produce Project Association (that's a mouthful!), first opened its doors in 2011, it's not a stretch to say the anime world had its eyes on it. The studio was founded by Masao Maruyama, who had already made a name for himself with the Studio Madhouse, that he had co-founded with three others. From their first anime till now, MAPPA has created a legacy of diverse stories and leading graphics. It'll be hard to narrow doing its catalogue to just five of its best, but it's a task we're happy to take on. Let's look at 5 series by MAPPA that you absolutely must watch!
It wouldn't be right to start this list off without beginning with MAPPA's first production, Kids on the Slope. The series was formed by a production team made in heaven. Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno join forces as director and composer, just as they did for Cowboy Bebop, backed by Maruyama himself as producer. In 1960s Japan, three very different high schoolers come together through the power of jazz music. The series follows their high school years filled with trials and tribulations such as first love and finding your own path. This anime is a perfect example of how a story and animation can work together to create a masterpiece. The complex coming of age story is brought to life by fluid and sharp animation. At its foundation is the hum of jazz music which ebbs and flows with the character's own stories. It's a series that, dare we say, is unmissable.
It's hard to imagine that Yuri!!! on Ice skated onto our screens four years ago. With how much it's still celebrated, you'd think it aired just yesterday! But back in 2016, no one could have predicted what an international phenomenon it would become. After Yūri Katsuki's crushing loss at the Grand Prix Finale, renowned Russian skater, Victor Nikiforov offers to become his coach. As Yūri begins regaining confidence in his skating and in himself, his relationship with Victor slowly evolves into something more intimate. The series won hearts around the world for its complex characters and gorgeous animation. The dynamic animation of the ice skating routines are, quite honestly, breathtaking. If you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for? Sit yourself down, start the video and get ready to be obsessed with ice skating!
When Dororo was rebooted in 2019, not many viewers had heard of the original series nor the 1960s manga by Osamu Tezuka it was based on. But MAPPA gave the classic new life. The twenty-four episode show follows a mysterious ronin named Hyakkimaru and his travel companion, a young orphan boy named Dororo. The duo track down the demons that stole Hyakkimaru's body parts at birth, but also learn just how cruel and unforgiving the world can be. The series' focus on humanity - the duality of cruelty and kindness - is what makes this shine. Whether it's from the duo's encounters during the fraught Sengoku period, or Hyakkimaru coming into his own humanity with each body part gained, the series doesn't hesitate to present an unflinching look at humanity. This, coupled with the gorgeous, stylised animations and music makes it a must watch.
Between 2011 and 2014, MAPPA had kept itself very busy. Between it's first anime, Kids on the Slope and the later adaptation of Hajime no Ippo Rising, the studio was truly making a name for itself. So what better to solidify their position than an original anime series? The studio once again teamed up with legendary director, Shinichiro Watanabe, to create Terror in Resonance. In modern day Tokyo two teenage boys are the masterminds behind a series of terrorist attacks. Known simply as ‘nine’ and ‘twelve’, the boys work to expose the government and gain revenge for their own suffering. Despite only having eleven episodes the series still manages to create an intriguing, well-paced story filled with characters that audiences actually invest in. But, we couldn't finish off this recommendation without talking about the score, by the iconic Yoko Kanno. You'll be listening to this show's soundtrack long after it's finished, we guarantee it!
The Dorohedoro manga by Q Hayashida was a series no one thought could ever be animated well. From the intricate art to the complex out of this world story, it would take a very dedicated studio. But, not only did MAPPA step up, it knocked it out of the ball park. Caiman is a human male with the head of a lizard. He's been cursed by a sorcerer, and the only way to undo the curse is to kill the sorcerer who cast it. Problem is, he can't remember their face. It's easy to think the series then delves into a bloodbath as Caiman goes on a sorcerer killing rampage, which does happen to some degree. But what really defines this series is its immersive world building, eccentric character designs and trippy comedy. This series isn't just a simple watch, it's a whole experience rolled into twelve episodes.
MAPPA has truly cemented itself as an animation icon. This year, we can look forward to their anime adaption of Jujutsu Kaisen and Mr. Love: Queen's Chōice . The company will also be in charge of the final season of Attack on Titan , although no release date has been confirmed. Without a doubt the future of MAPPA is bright and filled with some fantastic anime. Now, what are you waiting for? Get watching!
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