Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Here is the thing. Everyone who squees about this talks about, like, the plot, and Aang and Zuko and Katara and Sokka and Uncle Iroh, and the world and the worldbuilding, and while they are right to do so - all those things are so awesome I basically cannot stand it, especially Uncle Iroh, who can be my uncle any time, I tell you what - they are also wrong, because they fail to mention the single most awesome thing about Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is:
Appa is a six-legged flying bison, and he is wonderful, one of my favorite characters of all time anywhere. (This is, uh, not surprising. When BB had watched the first season of A:TLA, she decided it was time to try to get me to watch it. Normally this is an uphill battle, to say the least - I hate trying new TV shows. It's hard! It's scary! There could be - stuff! I suspect she sets aside six months for the persuasive conversations alone. But not with Avatar. It took one conversation:
BB: You will like it.
Me: Um. I don't know.
BB: There is a FLYING BISON. He is best friends with Aang. He is loyal and wonderful and true. Also huge and furry. His name is Appa, and you will love him.
Me: Can we watch it right now?)
I love Appa so much I forced cherryice to make a vid about him. I love Cherry, and I was really excited to win her in a Sweet Charity round, but I also knew we were about to have a painful conversation. See, I have been the winner more often than the person won, but I do know what that initial "Here's what I want!" email feels like from the other side. You're all tense, thinking, Oh god what if she wants something I can't do? What if she wants me to rec only Pride and Prejudice crossover AUs? What if she bid on me and thought she was bidding on calf's-foot jelly? Oh god I cannot possibly make calf's-foot jelly. Both of my winners were awesome, with awesome ideas, but the fear was still there until I actually knew what they wanted. And when I won Cherry I knew I was about to make all her fears come true. No one wants to do a vid about a bison. And normally I give people choices, because I do not want to make them wretched, but with Cherry, I just, you know, got carried away.
It went like this:
Me: APPA. APPA PLEASE. A VID ABOUT APPA.
Cherry: ...But I'm not sure there's enough footage.
Cherry: Well, you know, um. Maybe, maybe with the right song choice -
Me: PLEASE USE TAMACUN, WHICH HAS NO LYRICS OR ANYTHING TO HELP YOU OUT. I AM REALLY WEDDED TO THIS.
Cherry: It's a wonderful song! But. See. Um.
Me: PLEASE. APPA NEEDS YOU.
Cherry, bravely: I'll try.
And she did it, and it is fucking brilliant. So I can confidently say that Cherry, if you win her, will try just about anything, and succeed at it beyond your wildest dreams, and also she does not give up. She is worth your top charity donation currency unit of choice, people. Assuming I haven't scarred her for life and driven her out of the charity auction world forever.)
So, yeah, the world is fabulous, the plot is great, the characters are awesome, and all of that is true. But the real reason to watch this is that it has the best damn flying bison in the multiverse. And if you need more reason than that, I don't understand you at all.
Hikaru no Go
I remember the first time I heard of this Hikaru no Go thing. It was before I had heard of animemusicvideos.org, and I was new to vids, and really really really new to AMVs (as in, I don't think I had seen any before), and I somehow came upon obsessive24's Rivals. (Scroll down; it's under Hikaru no Go. And please note that because I was seriously vid-impaired when I first watched it, and I've now seen the canon and memorized basically every detail of it, I can't really say if this works as an intro vid.) Now, this was before I got vids at all, but Best Beloved was already the Vid Ninja, so our post-viewing conversation went like this:
Me: There's anime about Go? And, um. Who dressed the dark-haired guy? Because those clothes...
BB: I think I'd like to see that show.
(For the record, everyone who sees Hikaru no Go has at least a moment or two of wondering about Akira's clothes. They are worth pondering, let me just say.)
So I still had no clue, but then I got my hands on the scanlated volumes of the manga, and I remembered that BB had been interested, and we started reading them. The two of us spent the next few weeks mostly huddled around my laptop, not so much reading as breathing each page, squeaking or shrieking or crying as necessary. It was amazing. And then we got the anime. And it was also amazing.
It's also one of the slashiest canons I've ever read or seen. I can't even tell you how slashy it is. The whole thing, as BB has pointed out, borrows the structure of a classic romance novel, except instead of sex, there's Go. And, in all honesty, most of the later Hikaru/Akira Go sequences are more slashy than an actual sex scene would be. (If you're skeeved out because in the beginning the characters are all wee and cute, don't be: one of the great things about this series is that they grow up, visibly and noticeably, and by the end it does not seem at all inappropriate to be planning their eternal wedded happiness. During which they will probably break at least one Go set a week, but that's fine. That's just how they show their love.)
But here's the single biggest reason why you should read or watch Hikaru no Go: there are long sequences in which two people play Go, and that is all that happens, and it is amazing. You watch all tense and on the edge of your seat. You care deeply about each play (and this is even if you know nothing about the game at all). I'm quite serious.
I mean, sure, there are other reasons - Sai, Touya Meijin, the epic romance, the incredible plot that never misses a step, the secondary characters, Akira's wardrobe - but really you should just watch it so you can become profoundly invested in imaginary Go games.
I believe there are some people reading this who are interested in writing or storytelling or meta about stories. Could I get a show of hands? Okay, who out there is interested in fairytales? Or ballet? Mmm-hmmm. And ducks? Does anyone like ducks?
People, Princess Tutu is for you. Seriously: this thing could have been written for fan-fiction-writing fandom.
Princess Tutu is another canon I first learned about through a vid (on AMV.org and on YouTube), the justly famous Hold Me Now. (Seriously. It was a canon I didn't know set to a song with lyrics I couldn't understand, and I still watched the thing a million times. It's that good.) I didn't know entirely what was going on - there were ballet dancers? And there was a duck? And there were crows? And also sword fights and writing? But I knew this thing had to be awesome. And I was right.
Princess Tutu is anime that has faith in your intelligence. It doesn't just hand you all the answers, and you have to keep watching for a few episodes to get into it, and then suddenly you're so fucking into it and OMG on the edge of your seat and simultaneously thinking Deep Thoughts about Stories and really really concerned about a duck. (For everyone out there like me: the duck is fine. Repeat: the duck is fine.)
It also defies your expectations. In the commentary, one of the English voice actors talks about how shocked she was when she found out the entire plot. (I totally appreciated the expectation-defying, since the expectations it defied for me were largely ones I was happy not to see go through, but be warned that some people may have issues here. I am thinking specifically of the Amazon reviewer I saw, many years ago - sadly, her review is no longer with us - complaining about a character getting "the rear end treatment." For the record, there is no actual buttsex in this. Nor do I think anyone got metaphorically fucked in the ass. But, well. Obviously someone thought so, and Best Beloved and I have been referring to the rear end treatment ever since.)
And - look, you want a strong heroine? She's here. You want a male damsel in distress? He's here, and he's also, uh, passively kickass, which I think you will admit is a neat trick. You want a slash pairing? Indeed you can have one, my friend, and you can choose your flavor: boyslash or girlslash! You want character development and secrets revealed and characters you think one thing about and then you learn more and change your mind? It's all here! You want random talking animal characters? You've got them! You want to learn about ballet? YOU CAN HAS. This series is just so, so incredible. I can't tell you how much. Every time I meet a media fan who hasn't seen it, I cry a little.
Also posted at Dreamwidth, where there are comments.