Titles, boxes don't tell you what's inside Plots: In the best anime, magic, intrigue, transformations and characterization grab your attention.


Say you want to see what anime is like where do you start? Hundreds of titles are available, and not all of them are classics. Moreover, it's not always easy to tell what an anime title is about simply by looking at the box. So here are a few recommended titles:

"My Neighbor Totoro" (Fox Home Video, 86 min. minutes, $19.95, English dubbed). Directed by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki, this delightful children's film boasts a truly magical story, in which two girls enlist the aid of a "totoro" (a forest spirit) to visit their sick mother. But Miyazaki's well-written characters and sparkling, good-as-Disney animation make this a film adults will enjoy, too just as much.

"Ranma 1/2 TV Series" (Viz Video, nine volumes, $29.95 each, English dubbed). This is the best-selling anime series in America and no wonder. It starts when martial artist Genma Saotome brings his son, Ranma, to the dojo of Soun Tendo. The idea is that if Ranma marries one of the Tendo girls, the "Anything Goes School of Martial Arts" will continue. But because of a "training accident," whenever Ranma is splashed with cold water, he becomes a she. The occasional nudity may make this unsuitable for young children, but the credible characters and ingenious sitcom antics make the series otherwise irresistible.

"Record of Lodoss War" (Central Park Media, six volumes, $29.95 each, Japanese with subtitles). Based on a popular Japanese role - playing game, this fantasy-based epic chronicles the struggle to control the island of Lodoss. Although the overall plot is intricate enough that you may need to take notes, the individual episodes are so packed with magic, intrigue, political gambits and sword fights that even non-gamers will be captivated.

"Spirit of Wonder" (AnimEigo, 45 minutes, $19.95, English dubbed). Set in Australia during what looks like the late 19th century, this quietly fantastic story takes place at the Tenkai Restaurant, where the proprietor, Miss China, tries in vain to get her boarder, the disorganized inventor Breckenridge, to pay his rent. But Breckenridge has big plans afoot and eventually talks Miss China into helping make an, er, earth-shattering breakthrough.

If only Julia Roberts still made romantic comedies this likable.

"Patlabor 1: Mobile Police" (Manga Entertainment 100 minutes, $19.95, available both dubbed and subtitled). Set in the near future, when large, computerized robots have revolutionized the construction industry, this tightly paced techno-thriller follows an elite police unit as it works to unravel -- and ultimately defuse -- a deadly trap left by an ingenious (and deceased) software designer. Yet as much as the mecha holds the screen, it's the characters that hold your attention.

"Oh My Goddess!" (AnimEigo, five volumes, $19.95 each, subtitled). Engineering student Keiichi Morisato is low man on the totem pole in his college dorm, so naturally he's the one who gets left to answer the phone when the others are out. But one day, while he's trying to order lunch, his call gets misdirected, and instead of food he gets Belldandy, his very own goddess. An engaging comedy romantic enough to warm the heart and boasting enough car and computer stuff to keep even teen-age guys watching.

"Macross Plus" (Manga Entertainment, four volumes, $14.95 each English dubbed, $24.95 each subtitled). Isamu Dyson is a brilliant pilot, but a terrible soldier. That's how he ended up assigned to the test-pilot program on planet Eden. But he never expected that his competition in the program would be his old rival, Guld Bowman. Nor did he know that the woman behind "virtual idol" Sharon Apple was his high school sweetheart, Myung Lone. Imagine "Top Gun" in space and you'll have a

general sense of the plot.

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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