What is a ‘Great Work’ in Anime?

Hey Guys

Throughout my time on WordPress, readers might have seen me bring up the words “Great Work” several times, across several different blog posts. I’ve mentioned how some series are either a great work of it’s genre, or close to becoming it. What I haven’t mentioned though is what exactly do I mean by a “Great Work”

Well since this coming June I’ll be starting a three month long blogging project investigating whether a certain series is worth of being called the “great work” of its genre, I wanted to take some time to lay out my thoughts on the idea of a “great work” in the realm of Anime. So after the cut let’s take a dive into my thoughts.

Image result for anime thinking
And the identify of the series shouldn’t surprise ANYONE who reads this blog.

So what do I mean by a “Great Work”?

There are so many pieces of work in anime and many of them range from good, to great, to masterpieces. But a “Great Work” is something more than just a good series, or a series that is extremely popular.

There are many series that are extremely popular

There are many series that have been beloved by all stripes of the anime fandom

There are many series that have influenced series of varying genres that came afterwards.

Yet I series like that I don’t consider “great works” of anime. To be a great work, is to be a series that isn’t just good or bad, but it one that transcends the time in which it was made. A series whose influence can be felt in almost every corner of it’s genre or the anime fandom in general. A series that is timeless and serves as an example for future anime or manga to live up to, or try to deviate from.

J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is an example of a Western Great Work in my eyes. Love it or hate it, the influence and pull of the Lord of the Rings can be felt in almost every corner of science fiction, fantasy and general entertainment, whether people try to live up to it like Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, or try to run away from it like George R.R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. Furthermore George Lucas’s first Star Wars trilogy is also something I’d point to as the ‘Great Work’ of Science Fiction, in that everything done in those movies from their writing to their creation has touched every single corner of the Film Industry both in front of and behind the camera. Whether you love or hate Star Wars, you can’t deny that those first three films changed almost everything about Hollywood.

So what about Anime? Where are its Great Works?

Honestly it is a hard question because art and entertainment is (to me) subjective, and we all have our own relationships and views on the anime we watch. I grew up in the golden age, and despite not having that much of an attachment. It’s hard not to deny that Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball is probably the Shonen’s Genre ‘Great Work,’  despite being surpassed in many ways by One Piece, it is a series that has touched every single corner of anime, and remains a cultural touchstone for the entire art form. You can’t watch a single anime without feeling the fingerprints, no matter how faint of Dragon Ball’s legacy.

Additionally, Cardcaptor Sakura’s influence and popularity can be see in countless anime and manga years after it had been completed. Watch any magical girl show and you will see the legacy of Sakura in it.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a show that is loved by many, and hated by just as much, but it’s effect on the medium is monumental. The same can be said for the first Mobile Suit Gundam, which established the entire Real Robot Genre.

Yet I find that many series I think of, Full Metal Alchemist, Berserk, Sailor Moon, Fruits Basket, Code Geass, Cowboy Bebop, Akira, Rurouni Kenshin, Ranma 1/2,  Fate Stay Night, Ouran High School Host Club. Even current running favorites like Attack on Titan, My Hero Academia and Sword Art Online. Fuck even hentai like Bible Black. Are those great works? Or are they just really good series? Again a ‘Great Work’ doesn’t have to be a good one, it doesn’t have to be a well received series, but something that forever leaves behind a legacy that will be carried on and either surpassed, or rejected by those who come afterwards.

I think that answer depends on the person, we all start anime at a different time. One person who grew up with Dragon Ball may look down at Sword Art Online, but a kid growing up might see that show as the former did Dragon Ball. Will SAO stand the test of time? Or will it be just remembered as a good series?

As I said, this June I’ll be spending the entire summer investigating this question, on whether a certain series is (in my mind) the great work of it’s genre. But I wanted to pose this question to my fellow bloggers, and see what they think.

Just what is a ‘great work’ of Anime?

4 thoughts on “What is a ‘Great Work’ in Anime?

  1. It’s an interesting question — and I think your example of LOTR is a great stake in the ground!

    I suspect the discussion revolves around the interpretation of “great.” I usually think a work of art is great if it leaves a lasting impression on me. LOTR is an example: After I read it, for a decade or two afterward, I couldn’t write anything in the fantasy genre without recognizable influences. Even today, I get choked up thinking about Eowyn’s stand against the Witch Kind of Angmar or Aragorn, standing on the deck of one of the Corsairs of Umbar’s ships and seeing Minas Tirith burning.

    But I take it in a little different direction. I don’t look for what influenced others; I look at what influences me. I classify Re:CREATORS as great (Shunma Suruga’s confronting Blitz Talker in the locker room? More, please!). Same thing with Chrome Shelled Regios (Layfon telling Nina that the larva are not the problem? Damn!).

    I can defend that perspective. It’s a subject take on the question.

    But I have to wonder: am I taking the easy way out? That’s why I’m looking forward to where you take this series — I want to see what an objective assessment might look like!


    • Again, art is subjective and something like this is very much in the eyes of the beholder. We all approach it and feel it differently.

      I look more at how anime influences the genre, both in and out of the fandom, which is why I feel there are only a handful of truly ‘great works’ in anime, but what those great works are, again, are depending on whose is thinking about it. Though I do think some shows like Dragon Ball can be universally regarded as a “great work”

      I am looking forward to diving into my blogging project, it’s gonna be fun.

      Liked by 1 person

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