When you see writer Mari Okada’s name in the credits of an anime, there are a number of elements you’re likely to find: plenty of melodrama, an emphasis on communication and human relationships, as well as exploration of alternative sexualities. Her works are often love ‘em or hate ‘em, which is why I’ve put together this list of my Top 10 Mari Okada Anime.
Just to make sure to acknowledge where credit is due, Mari Okada is often not the only driving force in these works! Many are based on original manga, or have strong directors and other staff behind them.
10) Selector Infected Wixoss / Selector Spread Wixoss
Wixoss is what happens when you cross Madoka Magica with Yu-Gi-Oh! A card battle anime that’s less about revealing trap cards and more about investigating the tragic wishes of those who participate in this TCG gone wrong, I think it holds a lot of appeal for fans of both aforementioned series.
9) Aquarion Evol
The sequel to Genesis of Aquarion, there’s actually no need to have watched the original. In fact, of all the Aquarion series, I think this one is the best. Featuring giant robots powered by teenage libido and other emotions, it’s a series where “anime as hell” is a compliment.
Watch Aquarion Evol
8) Wandering Son
As a young boy struggles with his gender and sexual identity, he meets a girl who shares his dilemma. As the two begin to crossdress together, they fight against society’s expectations while going through childhood. Of the works on this list, Wandering Son is arguably the most serious.
Watch Wandering Son
7) Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
One of the latest entries in the storied Gundam franchise, Iron-Blooded Orphans follows a team of orphans forced into mercenary work. The personal relationships in this series are among the best in all of Gundam, and I personally believe it’s an especially great show for old fans of Gundam Wing looking for something more solid and powerful.
Watch Iron-Blooded Orphans
Simoun is a feminist yuri science fiction anime that takes place in a world where all humans are born girls and must choose a gender when they reach adulthood. The pilots of the Simoun, ancient aircraft whose exact science is a forbidden secret, defy the conventions of their world and the pressures put upon them as young women.
A great show whether or not you care about the Japanese idol group AKB48, this anime is actually directed by Macross creator Shouji Kawamori. Taking place in a world where music and other forms of entertainment are banned, the girls of AKB0048 fly across the galaxy performing illegal guerilla concerts to inspire the masses.
Ryuuji is a nice guy but scares everyone off because his face is that of a gangster. He meets Taiga, a tiny girl with a huge chip on her shoulder. Together, the two decide to work together to help each other find romance. In my opinion, Taiga is Kugimiya Rie’s greatest role, and all other tsundere pale in comparison.
3) Hanasaku Iroha
When a city girl moves to the country to work at her grandma’s old-fashioned Japanese inn, she learns more about herself, as well as the small dramas and passion of her new coworkers. Hanasaku Iroha has an amazing first opening that I think perfectly captures the series.
Watch Hanasaku Iroha
2) The Anthem of the Heart
Also known as Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda., this film is in many ways the most perfectly tuned Mari Okada anime. When a young girl named Jun has her voice taken away so that she can’t hurt anyone with it, her struggle to bring her voice back becomes the catalyst for her classmates to change as well. Of all the works in this list, I find this one to be the most emotionally moving.
1) Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
[WARNING: VIDEO IS NSFW]
Fujiko Mine is the classic femme fatale of anime. A friend, rival, and accomplice of the legendary thief Lupin III, no one could have predicted that an anime starring her would defy her primary image as a sex object. Instead, we’re treated to a highly feminist work that explores how we view women with respect to tragedy and the very status of Fujiko Mine as anime’s most legendary sex symbol.