The best anime combine immersive world-building, a compelling plot with balanced pacing, impressive yet believable action sequences, and characters we connect with and respond to (both in support and defeat). While every show does not fit this bill, as a person who favors characterization over action (I’m a sucker for a well-crafted back story), dynamic relationships have lured me to push play next on shows I would otherwise have given up on. There is just something about two people, existing in fiction or fact, building honest bonds that is magnetic. It is these magnetic connections that can make a show worth watching, elevating the experience with their electric exchanges, even when the world around them doesn’t quite measure up.
High Rise Invasion (2021) is an isekai anime in which our main characters must survive a kill-or-be-killed rooftop cityscape complete with programmed masks and an amalgam of weaponry. While acclimating to her grisly environment, Yuri teams up with Nise, a stranger she decides to trust on sight, to increase her chances of finding her older brother and a means to escape their current reality. This genre is not at the top of mypreference list, and the title of the first episode (“I Just Don’t Get This World”) perfectly encapsulated my thoughts while deciding whether to bail on the show. But these two girls, both powerful in their own right, forging a friendship despite the risks convinced me to soldier on alongside them. The exploration of strength and loyalty within their actions led me to overlook the weaker plot points, frequent gore, and fan service camera angles.
The Vampire in the Garden (2022) is a dark fantasy with the always-compelling concept of otherness at its core: a world where humans and vampires cannot seem to collectively coexist. Fine (vampire) and Momo (human) are brought together under grim circumstances, without which they might never have chosen to interact. As we follow their journey, some aspects of their warring societies begin to crumble under the weight of insufficient explanations, but the growing bond between these two is enough to carry audience investment through to the final episode. There is examination of instinctual connections—a déjà vu feeling influencing decisions—along with a sifting of difference between having a type, selecting someone as stand-in for love lost, and truly seeing and valuing a person regardless of circumstance. It is a beautiful encapsulation of friendship, attraction, and the search for acceptance, not just in individual relationship but in all worlds in need of sanctuary.
Melissa Nunez is a Latin writer and homeschooling mother of three from the Rio Grande Valley. Her work has appeared in the winnow, Variant Lit, and others. She is a contributor at Yellow Arrow and a staff writer for Alebrijes Review.