I've always been annoyed that many of the media I love, like comic books, video games, and anything animated, are often looked down upon as lower forms of similar media. I think people are even willing to champion sitcoms by saying "yea I really relate to the people in Sex in the City" before they would admit that anime or comic books have real social value. So, for my own sake and anyone else who can't quite put their finger on why reading comics and playing video games seems like less of a waste of time than everyone else seems to think, here's a list of some works that have really changed the way I see the world:
Neon Genesis Evangelion- Eva is only really impressive the second time through. At first it seems like a mix of slow paced teen drama and entirely too short kaiju battles. Once you learn what the Human Instrumentation Project is, though, and once you've really gotten the final episode (and the movie, the movie's pretty important), it really becomes amazing. The slowness of the series becomes a meditation on loneliness and alienation, and the battles become emotional punctuation to illustrate how serious the ideas are. The entire series is perched on the idea that loneliness and individual loss is so hurtful that it is better to do away with all of humanity and the world than suffer through emotional hardship. The profundity of embarrassment and segregation are so palpable that I end up thinking about this series whenever I feel isolated.
Paranoia Agent- Similar to Evangelion, Paranoia Agent is only really impressive after you understand the permeating theme and purpose. This series, like Eva, is trying to convey something intangible through episodic meditations. Knowing the series' end, I find myself next to tears watching the opening of the first episode. If you haven't seen it, or didn't care for it, it's about responsibility and the misguided notion that guilt and responsibility are things to be avoided. Also like Eva, the supernatural aspects seem to be designed to emphasize the gravity and near invisible nature of the issue. This is one of the few works that actually makes me fear the modern world and electronic culture. I've never bought into the idea that automation and depersonalization are necessarily bad things. However, the idea that escapism and anonymity are breeding grounds for artificial and incomplete moralities is something that really affects me.
Sin City: The Hard Goodbye- I should say "The Dark Knight Returns", but that would take too long to talk about, and Sin City's value is pretty similar. The first of the Sin City books really strikes me as a great dive into masculinity. Marv is such a great character, so obviously perfect as a masculine ideal, so utterly broken as a person. His bizarre/not-so-bizarre treatment of women, his his utilitarian view of violence, the complete intertwined nature of his ego and sexuality all are things that have reminded me why I never felt discouraged when I didn't feel macho. However, reading it makes me feel pity and pride for men. It glorifies the strengths of stoicism while offering sympathy for the pathetic shortcomings and childishness that Marv embodies. I read this book as Masculist.
Epileptic- All these works mean something to me because they help me understand things that are hard to explain with words and simple images. They all require time and variations on a theme. Epileptic lets me into someone else's dreams and dazed memories better than any psychedelic music that I can think of. It uses simple language to convey the sort of information that's conscious and readily recalled; abstracted, surreal, aboriginal figures flesh out the emotional backdrop to events. The book manages to feel like those nostalgic memories that you have a hard time explaining to people, those mundane moments that are only valuable to you, but universally experienced. Everything that makes this book wonderful is invisible yet perfectly projected into my mind.
Shadow of the Colossus- I wish there were more video games to list here, but I really don't think there are than many good artistic achievements in video games at this point. This one, however, is a good'n. This is one of the best examples of romantic visual art that I know of. Aside from the fact that the player is...basically destroying natural edifices...this game exalts nature in a way that few paintings and movies manage to do. The act of moving through an expansive space and the fact that you really are forced to sit back and take in the scenery makes this one of the few effectively ambient I've seen. The sheer slow power of this game gives me the feeling that I can only assume Wanderer Above the Mist was going for. This game makes me want to walk out in the rain and look up.