The first thing that will probably strike you about Tokyo Ghoul is the opening. It’s a visually stunning minute and half that blends together vast, impossible skyscapes with cracked glass and twisted reflections of the main cast. It establishes this as a series about duality, about masks and, most of all, about the nature of monsters.
That opening is attached to the second episode and had I baulked at the first episodes’ unrelenting viciousness, I would have missed out on what turned out to be a supremely rich and entertaining series. It definitely isn’t my usual fare. Primarily because of that misanthropic sadism that is more or less the entirety of the opening episodes, reminding me far too keenly of clunkers like Elfen Lied or Brynhildr in the Darkness. Make no mistake though, this isn’t just self-indulgent gruesome violence, it has a purpose that goes miles beyond trying to make the series edgy and “adult”.
The Dangan Ronpa anime accrues a lot of pop-culture debt during its thirteen episode run. The most obvious being to Phoenix Wright (Gyakuten Saiban) with its near carbon copy of the hyperactive trials, only the iconic “Objection!” being replaced with a bizarre ammunition mechanic. More surreptitiously is its desire to be even a fraction as stylish as Persona 4 with a funky-smooth Engrish opening and questionably bold style. Tertiary influences seem to include the torturous logic diatribes from Death Note as well as the “children versus children” storyline from Battle Royale (and by extension the recent BTOOOM among others).
Combine these with a day-glo colour palette, retro video-game motifs and a cast of charicatures rather than characters and the final presentation is a muddled hodge-podge that, somewhat ironically, barely has an identity of its own.
The third episode of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia (Tasogare Otome x Amnesia) has a fascinating hook: perception.
it is critical to the nature of Yuuko - she only exists because others can see her
In the context of the episode it arrives when Kirie challenges Teiichi's vision of Yuuko as a busty, alabaster skinned school-girl and instead claims she is "dripping with hatred" with filthy, cracked skin. From then on Teiichi can only see this ghoulish visage of Yuuko until he forcibly excises it from his mind. It's claimed in an earlier episode that Yuuko only exists in the form of the beholder, so if someone believes her to be a wandering spirit then that's what they'll see her as.
Rewatching Code Geass R2 set my mind working on something that has been gnawing at me for a while, and it's only recently that the semblance of an answer began to take form. The part in question takes place towards the end of the season and is when the Emperor's plan is revealed to Lelouch concerning the Mental Elevator, C's world and the Sword of Akasha: that of unifying the world into a single, super consciousness. Depending upon the anime one has watched this will likely be a familiar concept and one that has underpinned many influential and subversive series.
everybody ends up all warm and fuzzy and with a greater understanding of Mayan philosophy
The most obvious proponent of this concept is of course Evangelion which constructed elaborate systems based upon Jungian psychology, theology and science and implying that the next evolution of humanity isn't as discrete individuals but as an amalgam. Without delving too deeply into the labyrinthine plot of the series and movies, End of Evangelion demonstrates this with everyone melting into a fluid, whereas the final episodes of the series give a fractured glimpse at the emotional montage Shinji suffers during this. Released in 1995-96, this was mostly the result of Hideaki Anno who it is anecdotally said spiralled into neuroses around the half-way point of the series which is coincidentally when it shed all pretences of being a fluffy children's show and went full bore for dark and symbolic.