FEATURE: The Best Action Anime Series For Fans of The Fast and the Furious
Hello everyone, and welcome back to Why It Works. Have you all seen the trailer for the new Fast &Furious movie? As expected, the franchise is continuing its efforts to perpetually one-up its prior incarnations and introduce levels of car-adjacent insanity previously unknown to mankind. The Fast and the Furious began as a relatively straightforward racing franchise, but as the years and entries have built up, it’s moved from races to heists, flying cars, and what I’m pretty sure I’d describe as vehicle-based martial arts, all while insisting it’s ultimately about Family. You could easily describe modern Fast & Furious movies as superhero movies, but I think they feel even more like anime — and in light of that, today I’d like to offer some anime recommendations for all you Fast & Furious fans!
First off, if we’re sticking to anime that’s specifically about racing — and in particular combines that racing with the larger-than-life theatrics you expect from The Fast and the Furious — then your best selections are likely in the movie sphere. If you haven’t seen Redline, it’s an absurdly entertaining and beautifully animated production, where a group of interstellar speedsters conduct a race on “Roboworld,” a militant planet that attempts to destroy them all along the way. For a more vintage production, Riding Bean offers a concise jolt of racing adrenaline as the titular Bean Bandit is chased by cops, criminals, and whatever else the animators can throw at him.
But to be honest, I feel like The Fast and the Furious is more a state of mind than anything specifically to do with driving. It is a magical place where dreams can soar as high as cars and the logic of the universe must make way for the logic of cool stuff happening. In light of that, I think perhaps the most useful The Fast and the Furious recommendation would be Girls und Panzer, a production by the ever-entertaining Tsutoshu Mizushima (SHIROBAKO, Prison School, Witch Craft Works). It may seem like a strange pick, but Girls und Panzer embodies both the perpetual one-upmanship and the strong ensemble focus of The Fast and the Furious, presenting action sequences that proceed with the jubilant energy of a great heist film. Watching tanks trade blows as they screech down the curves of a rollercoaster is probably the closest you’ll get to The Fast and the Furious outside the franchise itself.
The way I see it, The Fast and the Furious is propelled by two irreducible elements: its emphatic, earnest focus on found family bonds, and its exuberant commitment to topping itself every time. As it turns out, anime is positively brimming with shows like that, with none more committed to lunacy than the magnificent Symphogear. Symphogear’s first season features a villain who’s determined to blow up the moonand the show only gets more over-the-top from there as powers are stacked on top of powers, missiles are ridden like surfboards, and ancient artifacts summon unkillable monsters. If your goal is action at its most excessive, Symphogear is a pure embodiment of excess, with a charming cast to boot.
Of course, The Fast and the Furious is also partly driven by the raw machismo of its leading men, which isn’t exactly Symphogear’s specialty — aside from its one-of-a-kind sensei, who survives on a diet of action movies and jerky. So if you’re looking for the one-upmanship and the charming cast bonds in a somewhat manlier package, you couldn’t do much better than Gurren Lagann. Director Hiroyuki Imaishi is essentially the modern successor to Go Nagai's hot-blooded action throne, and in Gurren Lagann, he essentially frames machismo itself as the most powerful force in the universe. If you're looking for a pure celebration of guys being dudes, Gurren Lagann is absolutely happy to provide.
Lastly, I am delighted to recommend one of anime’s most long-lasting institutions, as I’ve recently learned it embodies all the classic tenets of the great Fast and Furydom. I’ve spent the last month and a half or so powering through hundreds of episodes of One Piece, all of which has convinced me that One Piece is an undeniably Fast & Furious-style masterpiece. It’s all there — the preposterous tone, the charming familial bonds, the perpetual one-upmanship … heck, One Piece even finds time for The Fast and the Furious’ heist influences, frequently breaking the team into small groups to pull off One Big Job. From the pure exhilaration of its visual setpieces to the warm trust shared by its crew, One Piece consistently offers thrills to match that of a car using a safe as a kind of car-nunchuck attack.
The Fast and the Furious feels so close to anime already that it’s not too tough finding shows that embody its spirit. I hope some of my choices can entertain you in the lead-up to the next film, and please let me know what other shows you’d recommend in the comments!
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