In the world of American comics, fantasy, and sci-fi, most of the big stuff consists of assloads of stories set in one central universe. Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Warcraft – stuff like this has a big universe of works that fans can devote themselves to. Anime has it’s fair share of universes as well, ranging from immensely huge and decade-crossing, some of a great size that are relevant only to otaku, and many smaller universes lying around.
Standing high above anything else are the big guns like the Gundam Universe(s), the Macross Universe, the Leijiverse, the Pokemon Universe and so on. Then we have some universes that are less universally known but still enormous, especially for otaku. The Type-Moon Universe is certainly up there, but for sheer unbridled scope, the Touhou Universe stands above everything. I want to talk about my own favorite universes, most of which are a little smaller and more homely but still large enough that they should be called a universe and popular enough for a strong cult following. (NOTE: Please don’t comment in regards to what should or shouldn’t be called a universe or metaseries, I’m just trying to make a post.)
Boogiepop began as the light novel Boogiepop and Others by Kouhei Kadono released in 1997. This novel is credited with literally single-handedly popularizing light novels in Japan and just redefining novels for young adults altogether. The original novel is a trippy, disjointed, and amazing psycho-social experiment that combines elements of thriller, drama, school life, romance, and thick style. It is incredibly thorough and carefully put together, rewarding multiple readings. Its story introduced and developed plenty of characters, mysteries, and a world that was obviously much more complex than what the reader actually sees. Factions are operating behind the scenes, but their nature is kept a mystery. Kadono didn’t likely intend to expand on them in the beginning, but Boogiepop would quickly become a much larger series, giving him the opportunity to open this world up.
Kadono began expanding at an incredible rate, with 15 main-series novels having been released as of 2009. The organizations and explanations of the Boogiepop world started coming to light slowly as old and new characters become involved and entangled with the business of others. The way the novels are written, some characters can find themselves heavily involved in many of the plot while others may only exist briefly in one of the stories. The timelines of novels overlap in places and often the acts of one novel may unexpectedly effect the situations in another. This creates a very complex and crazy world that all happens in just a bit of time, but all over the place.
The novel series isn’t where it ends though. There is a 4-volume side-series of novels, a 2-volume side-manga (as well as a 2-volume manga based on the first novel), a number of short stories, and the anime, Boogiepop Phantom, which takes place between the first and second novels. Many have accused the stories not created by Kadono of not really capturing the essence of Boogiepop, but this adds to the story’s all-encompassing nature of capturing a little bit of everything in it’s world. These side stories also effect or explain events from the rest of the universe.
I am personally a very huge fan of all the Boogiepop media I’ve been able to come into contact with. Thus far, the first 3 novels and the backstory novel have been released in English, as well as Boogiepop Phantom and both of the manga series. The novels were translated by Andrew Cunningham, who is in my opinion the undisputable best translator ever. Everything he puts his hands on is pure gold and he creates a style in the Boogiepop novels that no other translation I’ve read has ever accomplished. Boogiepop and Others is probably my favorite piece of media ever (higher than any anime, manga, etc.) It’s written so perfectly and thoroughly and it’s views on society are just perfect. Kadono’s writing speaks to me, and ultimately this story is everything I could possibly want.
The Taniguchi Goro Universe
This one might be a bit of a stretch, but here me out. Goro has directed Infinite Ryvius, s-CRY-ed, Planetes, GunXSword, and Code Geass, and I’d say all but Planetes and maybe GunXSowrd are connected through him. Besides Planetes, they are all original shows by Sunrise that Goro put assloads of effort into, directing and storyboarding himself and evidently creating most of the stories (especially Code geass which was all his idea.) I started to look at his shows as one central universe after an interview I read with Goro in Animerica where he called s-CRY-ed a spiritual sequel to Infinite Ryvius.
Basically, he explains that Ryvius is an anime about how people have to learn to communicate with one another in order to form a functioning society. s-CRY-ed is supposed to take the society that already functions and explore an individuals place in it, seeing how they must fall into, interact with, or come at-odds with theat society. I think it’s easy to see Code Geass as the next step in this evolution, being as it is a show involving whole societies in conflict with one another, sort of how a unified society of individuals would react to a whole other society.
All of Goro’s shows focus on being entertaining, dramatic, at times a little over-the-top, and always just thoughtful enough that you can watch it with your brain mostly off and be entertained, but still walk away from the experience feeling fulfilled. When you watch a definitive Goro anime, you can definitely feel his essence on it, and every show is to him a message he wants to send out in a fun and cool way.
GAINAX Original Universe
It isn’t a stretch to consider all the GAINAX shows to be in one universe because they often have the theme that everythign is connected, that you can control the universe with your mind and will, etc. GAINAX originals are similar in many ways, mostly in the fact that they are always absurdly epic and usually contain similar messages. You can always tell a Gainax original when you see it. Sure, it’d be safer to say any single show of their has it’s own universe. Neon Genesis has no small amount of spin-offs and side crap and even stuff like Evangelion Re-take which could almost be considered canon. Howevre, for the sake of space, I’ll just consider it all one Gainax Universe.
What are some of your favorite universes? Do you like finding the connections in all of the Tales games, or perhaps traversing the many inter-related CLAMP series? Talk about it in the comments!