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My Favorite Anime

Here it is: the list of my favorite anime of all time. This is only including TV series, not OVAs or movies.

This list is objectively accurate, and anyone who disagrees is WRONG. OK, now seriously, the only thing it’s based on is my gut feeling for how much I enjoyed each show. I don’t even agree with myself on the ordering on the list from day to day. The shows may all have flaws or whatnot, and even I may see the flaws, but I enjoyed watching them, and in the end, that’s why we all watch anime, right?

Choosing your favorite anime is hard. For me, picking number one was easy. Picking the next twenty-nine was easy too. But ordering the next twenty-nine? Not so easy. I reordered them at least twenty times while writing this, and I’m sure that since I’ve published this list I’ve already changed my mind several times more.

My tastes are pretty varied, I feel, although sci-fi, fantasy, and horror are each heavily represented. The two things that draw most of these shows together are strong characterizations and creative settings.

Without further ado, here it is: the list of my favorite 30 TV anime.

30. Gunparade March
Gunparade March is a pretty good show all around, but I wouldn’t call it great. The reason it managed to eek onto the tail end of my favorites list is because of a single episode which I absolutely loved. For those who have seen the show, it’s the episode where Hayami and Mai are stranded in the snow, surrounded by monsters. Normally Mai is complaining about how Hayami is useless because he can’t fight, but here the situation is reversed. Only Hayami can walk among the monsters, because he doesn’t hate them or fear them as he chants the children’s story to himself. He has to knock the wounded Mai unconscious and carry her around so they can survive. This episode just pulled all the right strings for me: one of my favorites of all time.

29. Starship Operators
Starship Operators has a very interesting premise: a group of students commandeer a battleship, fight in a revolution, and are filmed by a reality TV crew. It has some good politics and raises interesting moral questions, and is a solid watch from start to finish. I particularly liked one character’s turn-about towards the end of the show.

28. Gigantic Formula
Gigantic Formula follows a tournament between countries’ giant robots to determine who will rule the world (more or less). The overall plot is kind of stupid (and let’s pretend the ending never happened) but the majority of the show is spent on episodic stories about the pilots from individual countries before they fight. This is where Gigantic Formula really shines: as a character study. With this episodic format, the creators were able to fully flesh out a large cast of characters and deliver a series of touching short stories.

27. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
*Tear* The show that made me cry the most. The empathy for the characters is made possible by some brilliant characterizations— the main lead, especially, grows tremendously over the course of the series. A very moving show, with some great twists.

26. Turn A Gundam
My favorite Gundam show. Turn A uses the Gundam for farming just as often as fighting. The show involves interstellar politics and traps, but the characters remain thoroughly human. Turn A shows the absurdity of war through a lighter touch than other Gundam series, and has an understaded sense of humor. The ending was a bit of a letdown, however, descending into epic mecha battles with a villain I didn’t particularly care for.

25. Crest / Banner of the Stars
This is one of my favorite romance series. The first reason being that it isn’t all about the romance, with the first series focusing on an escape from a war zone, the second focusing on large scale galactic warfare, and the third on the breakdown into anarchy of a prison planet. I also like the fact that each season makes progress in the characters’ relationship, and they are actually monogamous (somehow, monogamy seems quite rare in anime). In addition, the two lead characters complement each other very well. We have neither an unpopular loser male protagonist nor a damsel in distress. Both of them have to work together to get through their struggles. There are also deep cultural differences between the two characters. And finally, they actually have to make sacrifices for the sake of their relationship. Shows where everyone gets what they want and live happily ever after ring hollow to me.

24. Welcome to the NHK
The reason I love Welcome to the NHK is quite simple: it’s funny. The antics of Satou and friends are hilarious. It’s a wonderful dark sort of humor too. The show takes a look at hikikomoris and their efforts to overcome their problems, as well as people who are broken in other ways.

23. Kamichu!
The atmosphere is what I love the most about Kamichu. It’s a show about a girl who becomes a goddess, and it’s able to maintain just the right amount of seriousness (or lack thereof). It’s humorous, relaxed and down to earth in spite of the outlandish premise. Most of our new goddess’ efforts are spent on getting the boy she loves to recognize her. The animation is also superb.

22. Rozen Maiden
Rozen Maiden is one of the most all-around solid series out there. Not a moment is wasted. It manages to tell a great story, develop some fabulous characters, and has a good sense of humor interleaved with the more serious moments. Rozen Maiden has a rather unique charm, being based around fighting magical dolls, with a lead male character whose main special power is the ability to sew. But for a show based around a boy who is too afraid to leave his house, Jun develops into a surprisingly lovable character.

21. Hourou Musuko
Hourou Musuko is the most recent addition to my favorites list. The cast is enormous, especially for a show of only eleven episodes. But the thing is, every one of the characters is more well-developed than many series’ main characters. Not a single moment in this show is wasted as it uses its time to flesh out the characters fully. I love the direction (especially the scene transitions, which flow remarkably smoothly for a show that jumps all over the place) and the animation style is unique. My only complaint is that the show wasn’t long enough.

20. Katanagatari
I appreciate the double length episode format: each episode has enough time to tell a self-contained story. Katanagatari has an excellent sense of humor, along with a plot filled with twists and turns. I reccommend giving Katangatri a try… but by then, you’ll have been torn to pieces.

19. Planetes
This is a science fiction story about orbital garbage collectors, but manages to keep its feet firmly planted on the ground and remain “realistic”. It treats on the absurdity of corporate bureaucracy, has an imaginative and believable futurisitc setting, and still finds the time to tell a moving tale of love and loss.

18. Monster
A truly epic show about a doctor’s quest to right his wrongs by killing the murderer whose life he saved. Monster has one of the best senses of suspense, some unforgettable and larger than life characters, and is filled with astounding twists and turns.

17. Oh! Edo Rocket
Oh! Edo Rocket isn’t all that popular, but I adore this show. Why? I thought it was hilarious, it had a unique animation style, and it also had an interesting story to tell. It even has a mathematician.

16. Genshiken
Genshiken has a special place in the hearts of many anime fans, as it follows the lives of the members of a club of otaku. It’s humorous, has a lovable cast of characters, and can be touching when it decides to. The characters show a remarkable amount of growth throughout the series, and yet also remain the same.

15. sola
This doesn’t seem to be all that popular among western fans (although my impression is that it had a bigger impact in Japan), but sola is my favorite romance show. It often seems to be placed in the same category as Air, Kanon, Clannad, etc., but I honestly don’t see much similarity. All of the characters are adorable (especially the two little girls), the animation is beautiful, and it’s one of the few romance shows that has a message deeper than the glorification of erotic love. Suffice to say it has a spectacular ending as well, although I won’t spoil it.

14. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (Kai)
Who doesn’t love watching cute girls lose their minds and brutally murder each other? In all seriousness, I didn’t originally think I would like this one either. But then I watched it and was blown away. The first season is incredibly intense— it takes a while to get going, but when it gets to Shion’s arc, around episode 15— damn. I don’t think I ever wanted a show to get a happy ending quite as badly as this one. The second season is even better, where instead of horror the focus is on unravelling the mystery, discovering the truth and everyone working together to escape their terrible fate.

13. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei
This show really captured for me what it was like to be in college (well, aside from actually going to class). The format of a different alternate universe for each episode worked out beautifully, as did the wacky animation style. This show had some remarkable characters, as well as growth for the main lead as he learned to accept the choices he made.

12. Shion no Ou
This is a show about playing Shogi, but also so much more. It examines the lives of the players and their interactions, and solves a murder mystery in the process. Shion is just too cute. And an embarrassing confession: Shion no Ou inspired me to learn to play Shogi.

11. Red Garden
Red Garden is set in New York, and it actually gets the setting down surprisingly well. The characters seem genuinely American. Once again (this seems to be a recurring theme) we have an excellent characterization of four girls and their relationships. We also have an epic battle between insane vampires and immortal dolls: what’s not to love?

10. Figure 17
The second show on this list with double length episodes. The extra length helped both Katanagatari and Figure 17 a great deal, as they are able to fully flesh out a short story arc in each episode. Figure 17 has a unique format: approximately half of each episode is a down to earth, slice of life story surrounding two “sisters” and a girl’s coming of ageThe other half of each episode involves battling space aliens. The two components fit together surprisingly well.

9. Ghost Hound
Ghost Hound has strong characters (love that psychologist) and an interesting story, but the reason it’s on my favorites list is mainly due to its tense and downright spooky atmosphere. This show has some of the best production of any anime, especially the sound effects. The immersive atmosphere makes you feel fully involved with the show.

8. Book of Bantorra
Book of Bantorra has a great premise: a library collects books containing the memories of the dead. There’s also an enticing mystery regarding the true nature of the library; larger than life characters; and overall, it’s simply a lot of fun seeing what crazy things the characters will do. Volken and that ant guy are two of my favorite characters from any anime.

7. Princess Tutu
Princess Tutu is a show about little girls doing ballet. And it is beyond awesome. At first it appears to be like every other gather the magical ____ to save the prince story, but later the lines between good and evil merge and everything comes together for an unexpected but extremely satisfying conclusion.

6. Noein
Noein has simply one of the best sci-fi / fantasy settings, with heavy use of quantum physics and parallel worlds. It’s an emotional ride as we see the character’s growth and see their endless possibilities in parallel worlds, and as we watch the last death-throes of a falling world.

5. Denno Coil
This is another show that doesn’t seem all that popular. Denno Coil revolves around a group of children in a setting with a parallel virtual world that can be experienced by wearing special glasses. It explores the boundary between the real world and the virtual, as well as the relationships between the characters. Excellent characters and production combine to tell an immersive coming of age story. And Densuke is awesome!

4. Mouryou no Hako
I have a special place in my heart for mythology and religion, and Mouryou no Hako satisfied this craving more than any other anime. The deepest most anime go into these topics is shrine maidens and nuns, so an anime which spends over an entire episode with people sitting around a table discussing the nature of mouryou is a real treat. It also has an engaging mystery, some disturbing horror (that head honstly disturbed me more than most of Higurashi), and is the only show on my favorites list involving bishounen.

3. Baccano!
Baccano is simply the most fun show I’ve ever watched. We have several mass murderers, one of whom makes a moving love confession while covered head to toe in blood, a hilarious robber duo, several mafia gangs, a secret society working on the elixir of life, an intrepid news organization, and more. The show’s pace doesn’t skip a beat, and the characters are a joy to watch.

2. Haibane Renmei
This story follows a group of children who have been reborn as angels in a mysterious town, and follows them in a slice of life style format as they come to accept themselves and one another. This is yet another show with a great setting. And what I really like about it is that it actually doesn’t unravel most of the mysteries, leaving much open to interpretation. And once again, we have some fantastic characters.

1. Simoun
This is it: my favorite show of all time. It’s occupied this position ever since I first watched it several years ago, and doesn’t appear to be losing its place anytime soon. Simoun is an amazing character study. I love (or hate, in the case of Neviril) every single one of the characters, all of whom are deeply flawed. The relationships between the characters are intricate and at times tragic, and the gender ambiguity adds yet another layer of depth. Simoun has a fantastic setting (another falling world show, I am a sucker for these), and even makes a creative use of time travel. The animation is beautiful, and it has the best soundtrack of any show I’ve ever seen. Simoun even has one of the best fansubbing jobs of all time (I am honestly not making this up). I love every bit of it. If you’re afraid of yuri, as I was before my first watch: don’t be. The relationships are authentic and meaningful, and this is not your stereotypical yuri show. (I’ve since become a yuri fanboy, but that’s a different story).

 

These shows are the ones I love the most, and the reason I watch anime.

What are your favorite anime? I look forward to hearing about your favorite shows in the comments.

A Seasonal Review: Spring 2011

I’m a bit late due to my trip, but better late than never. I’ve loosely ranked this past season’s show’s below, starting with the worst and ending with the best. I’m only including TV series that I watched past the first episode. Overall, I think it was a pretty decent season. There were the usual disasters, but we had a good crop of shows on the other side of the spectrum as well.

25. Sengoku Otome: Momoiro Paradox (dropped)
It’s like Koihime Musou but in the Sengoku period and with some half-assed attempt at time travel. It also somehow manages to be even more boring than Koihime Musou.

24. Hoshizora e Kakaro Hashi – 4.5
The unbelievably generic galge adaptation of the season. This series represents everything I hate about anime.

23. Maria-Holic Alive (haven’t finished)
Another SHAFT sequel. Why do they keep pumping these out? I can’t think of a single one that has been half decent. Even Zetsubou-sensei and ef had crappy sequels. Why do they even try? It doesn’t help that the original season wasn’t all that great either.

22. A-Channel (haven’t finished)
I want to like this, I do… but it just hasn’t really clicked for me. A-Channel is all about cute girls doing cute things, but it just lacks the charm and polish that K-On had. The animation may be part of the problem – if your anime is about cute girls, I feel like you should at least have them look human, not with humongous heads. Although it works in Himawari Sketch, so… maybe it’s just this particular style. I’m about halfway though with A-Channel, and I intend to finish it eventually.

21. Dororon Enma-kun Meramera (haven’t finished)
I actually liked the first few episodes of this, but kind of forgot about it. The toilet humor just isn’t my favorite thing. I will finish it eventually though.

20. Astarotte no Omocha – 6.0
Had an interesting premise, but devolved into a stereotypical harem. The execution was solid, if uninspired, but the idea of a romance between a stepfather and an (unknowing) stepdaughter is too much for me.

19. Hidan no Aria – 6.0
The latest installment of Shakugan no Shana. Aria is one of the more annoying Rie Kugimiya characters. I’d rank her right below Rose from Dragon Crisis. The plot is a mess, and they don’t do a very good job at fitting everything in the limited amount of time of a single season. On the brighter side, Kinji isn’t too bad for a protagonist, and Riko is fairly entertaining.

18. Dog Days – 6.25
I’ll admit, I was extremely disappointed by how Dog Days turned out. Granted, it had one of the dumbest premises imaginable, but in the first few episodes it managed to not take itself too seriously and have a lot of fun. The initial wars, the economics of war, petting and playing catch were all good fun. Eclair is win. But after the first few episodes, the creators tried to make us take this ridiculous world seriously, and failed miserably. No one thought for a moment that the princess would die, or cared about her and Shinku’s love story. This also suffered from poor direction and wasted time. Were two episodes of Shinku saying goodbye really necessary? And the characters waste so much time exchanging pleasantries.

17. Hen Zemi – 6.5
It was entertaining, but didn’t have the “charm” of the OVA. Most of the entertainment value from this show comes from throwing all social norms out the window, and this was beginning to get old towards the end. Going with half length episodes was an excellent decision.

16. The World God Only Knows II – 6.5
Somehow this adaptation just doesn’t succeed at capturing the humor of the manga. They spend too much time on each girl, and actually try to take each of their stories seriously (they even take Elsie seriously, whose only use in the manga was drooling over fire trucks). I enjoy the manga because of Keima, not because of his captures. The anime has wandered too close to the galge adaptations it was meant to parody.

15. C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – 6.75
A creative setting that was wasted on an incoherent plot. They try to use economics terms, but it’s just gibberish, and they make up the rules of the world as they go along. The creators really didn’t seem to know where they were headed. And the lead characters were annoying.

14. 30-sai no Token Haiiku – 7.0
30-sai isn’t going to make anyone’s favorite list, but it was a solid comedy. The short episode length helped it retain interest, and the characters were memorable. For a show about helping people lose their virginity, it has its head in the gutter surprisingly little.

13. Gintama’ (still airing)
The continuation of Gintama has picked up again after the downward spiral at the end of the first airing. The thing with these episodes though is that they are hit or miss. The Otose arc and the more serious parts were great, but I do feel that the comedy isn’t quite at the level of the first 100 episodes. That’s a tough standard to meet though.

12. Softenni – 7.25
Softenni is fanservice done right. The show’s ridiculous sense of humor is hilarious even without the fanservice. And with some brazen and ridiculous fanservice on top of that it’s only better. Oh, and the national champion helps too. She needs her own show.

11. Ao no Exorcist (still airing)
Ao no Exorcist is a solid shounen series. It has some good characterizations and a promising setting. The problem that I see is one that befalls most shounen shows: the plot is moving at a snail’s pace. They’ve been training at school for the entire first season, and the only true villain we’ve seen so far is Satan, who hasn’t even appeared since the first episode.

10. Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – 7.75
Shaft’s moeblob offering for the season. If you like cute girls being cute you’ll like this one. I’m ambivalent. I find most of the characters to be a bit on the obnoxious side. The production is excellent, however.

9. Deadman Wonderland – 8.25
This has a beautifully dark setting, with a plot and action scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat. My main complaint is that the main character is downright pathetic, and remains so even in this terribly dark and deadly setting.

8. Tiger and Bunny (still airing)
So far, I’ve been quite impressed with Tiger and Bunny. It takes the superhero genre and turns it into a competition (which raises some interesting ethical questions). I love Kotetsu, because he certainly isn’t your usual high school boy protagonist- he even has a daughter. And his relationship with Bunny is quite dynamic. This series also does well at mixing the serious and non-serious moments. My biggest complaint is that the first season’s villains left much to be desired. Except for the midboss, they never seemed like much of a threat. And the midboss turned into an anticlimax of sorts.

7. Ore Tachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai – 8.5
One of the best galge adaptations that has come out in a long time (if not ever). Usually in these kind of things the male lead is pathetically weak, but here the lead male(s) are even more interesting than their female counterparts. The humor and the fanservice are excellent as well. The first episode is awful though, you may want to skip it.

6. Gosick – 8.0
Gosick’s first season was mediocre, but the second season was great. So my overall rating isn’t particularly reflective of how it was for this season, which this list is ordered by.  We had an adventure story with some mystery, which was both grand and endearing. It helped that Kujo finally gained some minimum level of intelligence after the first season.

5. Nichijou (still airing)
The funniest show of the season, it made me laugh out loud every week. It’s just so over the top ridiculous. Half the fun is seeing what kind of insane overreaction Yuuko and Mio will do next. That cube skit was legendary. I don’t like the segments with Nano and Hakase quite as much as the school segments, but with Nano going to school now, this won’t be an issue for the second season.

4. Hanasaku Iroha (still airing)
Sometimes Hanasaku Iroha will have you sitting on the edge of your seat with its drama. At other times it will have you laughing out loud. And sometimes you’ll be HNNGing over how cute it is. It’s a jack of many trades, and honestly it’s pretty darn good at all of them.

3. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai – 9.25
Ano Hana was the best straight-up drama of the season. It’s quite the tearjerker, and has some of the best characters of the season. Bring tissues. The final episode was a bit of a let-down, however.

2. Hyouge Mono (still airing)
A show about drinking tea. This is one of the most manly shows I have ever seen. If you haven’t watched it, do so now. The only  reason I’m not blogging it is because of the slow (but steady) subbing. (a big huzzah to the subbers!)

1. Stein’s; Gate (still airing)
Time travel, conspiracy theories, mad scientists, evil laughter, smooth and entertaining banter. What more could I ask for?

Feel welcome to share your thoughts on the past season’s shows in the comments.

Anime of Summer 2011: First Impressions

For this season, I’m publishing a single post with my impressions of every show for the new season, instead of the usual post per show since I was away last week. In spite of all the usual complaints in the blogosphere that this is the worst season ever (which crop up every season), I actually think things look pretty promising.

We do have a bunch of crappy shows (don’t we always?) but I also feel there are a greater number of shows than usual which have the potential to become truly excellent. And I judge a season by its best offerings, not its worst. For reference, I would label the first nine shows on the list below crap, the last nine shows with the potential to become excellent, and I would consider only the remaining six shows “average”. Of course, some of the excellent shows will likely drop down to the average category as time wears on, but usually I would only put two to three shows per season in the excellent category (last season was also an exception, with four: Steins; Gate, Iroha, Ano Hana, and Hyouge Mono). With eight shows that could become great, and three of the best shows from last season carrying over, I would say that things are really looking up.

I’ve loosely ranked all of this season’s new shows in order from worst to best, and briefly given my impressions below.

24. Manyuu Hikenchou
Pure, unadulterated porn. Half of the episode appears to be censored with bright stripes. Dropped before the OP started.

23. Double-J
Two girls join the traditional arts club, where they carve the back ends of toothpicks. This one is as dumb as the premise sounds. The animation is horrible. The jokes aren’t funny, just pathetic. The only saving grace and reason I was able to finish the first episode is that each episode is three minutes long. But it still isn’t worth spending the time on. Dropped.

22. Morita-san wa Makuchi
This is pretty much the same thing as the OVA, for those who have seen it. Morita doesn’t say anything, people talk to her, and there is a misunderstanding. I didn’t fit it funny in the OVA and I don’t find it funny now. At least here the episodes are only two minutes long. But again, it isn’t worth the time. Dropped.

21. Nyanpire
Yet another short of several minutes. A cat becomes a vampire, and must drink blood. He drinks the ketchup and juice, but is stopped before he can drink tabasco sauce. His owner gives him a fish. What was the point of this? Nothing happened, the cat isn’t that cute, and it wasn’t funny at all. These three minute shows are so terrible I can’t figure out why they even bother making them.

20. Twin Angel –  Twinkle Paradise
Our lead characters transform into magical girls and fight crime. I think this was supposed to be a parody? But it wasn’t funny. At all. Not to mention that the girl in orange hair sounds exactly like Asuha from Astarotte no Omocha (and her voice was annoying enough the first time). Dropped.

19. Nekogami Yaoyorozu
Chibi cat girls in frilly dresses are the goddesses who protect the town. It’s not all that funny, just hyperactive. Dropped.

18. Ro-Kyu-Bu!
This one’s for the lolicons.  A high school boy becomes the coach for an elementary school girl’s basketball team. The characters seem interesting enough, and the execution is surprisingly decent. But that’s assuming you can look past the premise and the gratuitous fanservice with elementary schoolers. I can’t. Dropped.

17. R-15
A budding erotic novelist with vast literary ambitions begins attending the Inspiration Academy for geniuses. On one hand, this show is a thinly veiled excuse for porn. On the other hand, it does have an interesting cast of characters. The main character especially is not your typical harem lead: he actually has ambitions and a personality, even if his ambition is writing erotic novels. But the main focus seems to be on his perversions.

16. Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi
A high schooler remembers that he made a dark magic pact with his childhood friend and lover, dies and comes back to life, meets his lover again and she is killed. I wasn’t  too impressed with this first episode. The male lead’s goal is to be a supporting character. He has a female childhood friend. The villain is a popular pretty boy who the entire school fawns over but who treats everyone like trash. The main female characters are lolis. All the fanservice is completely out of place, tactless and unoriginal. The only thing this show has going for it is that the original light novel is by the same author as Legend of Legendary Heroes, so I’m going to stick with it for a while just to see if it will pick up. But I think a lot of my problems are with the adaptation and not the source material.

15. Mayo Chiki
A high schooler walks into a butler in the toilet, and discovers that he is a girl. She tries to kill him to keep her identity secret. Her master turns out to be a sadist who proceeds to torture the pair of them and force them together. So this is another fanservice show where the main character is a spineless wuss who gets the crap beat out of him by lots of girls. Still, it did have a few funny moments and doesn’t lack for energy. Most of this energy is channeled towards violence and fanservice though.

14. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni!
This was a beach episode, so a lot of focus on the fanservice and proportionately less on the comedy. The episode had its funny moments, but not as many as I remember the first season having. I’m kind of worried that the humor in this show might be growing stale. All of the jokes have been repeated a million times by now. But the funniest parts have typically been when they were at school, so I’m holding out hope that this episode was simply the obligatory beach trip fanservice episode, and that the rest of BakaTest will be up to the usual standards.

13. Blood-C
The first episode had a truly amazing action sequence with a beautifully choreographed fight. It also had 15 minutes of a boring ditzy girl walking to school, complete with carbon copies of random characters from other CLAMP works. And the long CLAMP legs. The fight scene was great, but I don’t see all that much potential for the school life scenes. Why can’t CLAMP make new characters? I honestly just don’t get the whole CLAMP thing and why they’re so popular.

12. The iDOLM@STER
We follow a group of aspiring idols. So the characters in this show are walking stereotypes: we have the twins, the poor girl, the rich ojou-sama, the shy girl, the tomboy, the animal lover, the onee-san, the mysterious girl, the serious girl, the big breasted girl, and the clumsy girl. But, the production is really quite good. I like the idea of an interviewer following the girls in their day to day lives. The transitions flow smoothly, and everyone on the large cast gets a piece of the spotlight. Unfortunately, I don’t have much interest in the characters or in idols in general.


11. Sacred Seven
Sacred Seven is the corniest show imaginable. A guy has special powers and is feared at school because of them. He hates his powers and is afraid to use them. He meets a girl who he rescues with his powers. She joins his school. We have an army of maids. Still, it’s good dumb fun if you’re in the right mood for it. The fights were entertaining, and the characters are unique even if they’re one-sided.

10. Kamisama no Memochou
A boy transfers to a new school, and meets an underdeveloped girl who is a NEET detective. The characters so far seem a bit stereotypical, but I am optimistic that this show will turn out well. The mystery that they solved this week was interesting and not what I would have predicted. And second, this show has double the usual episode length. I think that this format has a lot of potential: another show that used it was Figure 17, and there they had a lot of time to fully flesh out each substory and all the characters due to the extended length. A single arc per episode can even work with this length. Still, I do hope that this show develops some kind of running storyline rather than an arc format.

9. YuruYuri
Another four girl tea-drinking comedy. But unlike K-On, the focus here is really just on the comedy. And the jokes work. The creators have an excellent sense of humor and comedic timing, and I would say that this looks set to be the best comedy of the new season. Kyouko especially is hilarious to watch.

8. Natsume Yuujinchou San
The third season of Natsume Yuujinchou follows the pattern of the first two: Natsume meets spirits, solves their problems and returns their names. If you liked the first two seasons, you’ll like this one as well. It’s a great character study with some excellent short stories. I haven’t watched the second season though (it’s on my list, just haven’t gotten around to it) so I’m going to pass this one up.

7. Ikoku Meiro no Croisée
Yune, a young sign girl, moves to Paris to work in a sign-making shop without speaking a word of French. This show is absolutely adorable. Yune is just too cute.  The animation is bright and colorful, and I love the historical setting. I’m hoping we get to see more of the cultural differences between France and Japan.

6. Nurarihyon no Mago Sennen Makyou
Man, this episode kicked things off again with a bang. The episode was a flashback to when Rikuou was a child, and how he decided to become the third heir. It served as a summary episode to reintroduce the cast, but also fleshed out Rikuou and his classmates.  It was interesting to see how much they have changed (or not changed, as the case may be). In the first season, Rikuo in his day form seemed to have little desire to be the Third, but now we know that he does have the motivation, and his day and night forms are more tightly connected than I’d thought. We also have a great explanation for why he (and he alone in his household) is so concerned with keeping the yokai a secret from his classmates. And kid Rikuou in his night form is bloody awesome. I would say that this episode was better than anything the first season had to offer. Let’s hope they continue this trend.

5. Usagi Drop
A 30 year old man returns home for his grandfather’s funeral, only to discover that his grandfather has a five year old illegitimate daughter, Rin. When his relatives decide to send his aunt to an orphanage, he decides to take her into his home instead. Usagi Drop looks like it has the potential to be very touching. It’s quite rare in anime that we get to see either middle aged men or young children, and the intergenerational gap should make this especially interesting. This show handles emotions right: many things are communicated without words, instead of the more typical (for anime) people yelling out their feelings. I really love the art style as well: it’s a bit reminiscent of Hourou Musuko. I think that Usagi Drop should be an excellent addition to the noitaminA timeslot.

4. Kamisama Dolls
A college student, while attending a party with his crush and neighbor from back home, finds a corpse in the elevator. He goes home to find his sister with a god, the village heirloom. They fight an escaped criminal, but their house is destroyed and they move in with the crush. I thought that this first episode seemed really promising. The show feels like the bastard child of Bounen no Xamdou and the Tsukihime dark side arcs. We have some promising characterizations (I’m loving the little sister already, so cute!), beautiful artwork, excellent music (one of the best OPs and EDs this season),  unique character designs, and a compelling,  mysterious and original plot. My only complaint is that the lead female’s chest is disturbingly large. Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes.

3. Dantalian no Shoka
A young man’s grandfather dies and leaves the mystical Dantalian library as his inheritance. The library turns out to take the form of a young girl, and they work together to seal a phantom book which is running amok. This is yet another show this season with great animation (there sure seem to be a lot of these). The soundtrack is top-notch, and so are the action sequences. As for the plot, it’s hard to tell so far since it looks like it’ll be episodic, but the first episode was good at least. The characters seem promising, particularly the male lead. It reminds me of the characters in Gosick, except the male lead isn’t a moron. But the thing that really stood out the most for me in this episode was the scene where the male lead read the grimoire (his voice actor was superb here). If we can have that level of language, imagery and intonation every episode, I’m already sold.

2. No. 6
In a dystopian society, a teenage boy meets a wounded boy who is on the run from the Ministry of Peace. This seems to be quite promising, both for the setting and the relationships between the characters. Unlike Fractale, it appears that the creators know what they intend to do with the setting. The relationships between the main character, his friend and the runaway have already been fleshed out, and the plot is already thickening. A tantalizing preview of the setting has been given which gives us a peak at what’s really happening behind the scenes, but there is still much that remains a mystery. The main way I can see this going wrong is if it turns into yaoi (although I would still probably like it).

1. Mawaru Penguin Drum
Two brothers live with their sister, who will die soon due to an incurable disease. She passes away at the aquarium after they buy her an emperor penguin hat as a gift. While she is sitting in the morgue, the penguin hat possesses her and she returns to life fully healed. But her life comes at a cost, and three penguins move in with the family. This episode was seriously trippin’. It had some of the best animation I’ve seen in a TV series, with a staggering amount of detail. The plot is zany and the pace is fast. That scene where the sister was possessed for the second time was crazy. My main fears are that with that kiss at the end, this might turn into some siscon love triangle.

 

What do you think of this season’s crop of shows? Feel free to share your impressions in the comments below.

A Seasonal Review: Winter 2011

I decided I would do a seasonal wrap-up of sorts with my thoughts on the last season. I was planning to put this out last week, but better late than never. I’ve loosely ranked the shows in terms of my enjoyment with some brief comments about each. Obviously, I’m only including the shows I’ve (partially) watched.

This season seemed to have fewer shows than usual, but it made up for it with a few stellar shows of top quality. There was also very little continuing from the Fall season— the only ones I’m still watching were Star Driver and Index. And only Gosick is continuing in to the Spring season.

#15. Freezing
This is basically a poor excuse for porn. Dropped.

#14. Rio: Rainbow Gate

See above, except Rio was partially redeemed because it was unbelievably ridiculous. I don’t even know what they were doing half the time with the “gambling”.

#13. Dragon Crisis

Wins this season’s awards for most obnoxious character (Rose) and most cliched cast. “Ryuuji! Ryuuji! Ryuuji! Ryuuji!” There, I spoiled most of the show for you.

#12. IS: Infinite Stratos

This season’s obligatory standard harem show. Complete with falls, roommates and walking in on girls in the shower.

#11. Gosick

As a mystery show, this leaves a lot to be desired. Mainly that the mysteries are painfully obvious. I will say however that it’s been picking up lately, especially in the arcs where they went to Victorique’s mother’s hometown and to the department store. Aside from the problems with the mystery, I think the other issue is that the characters are kind of dumb. The main character and the unicorn hair guy especially. It doesn’t make Victorique seem particularly smart when she spends most of her time outsmarting idiots.

#10. Onii-chan no Koto nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!!

Onii-chan started out with an enjoyable first episode and then devolved into an infinite chain of stalking. People hiding in bushes and stalking each other is only funny up to a certain point. Ten episodes is way past that point. The creators completely shafted Nao for the entire middle segment of the show in favor of Shuusuke being dragged around by random people and being disgusting.

#9. Yumekui Merry

Yumekui Merry was beautiful visually, but the story and characters left much to be desired. Three years ago I would have loved this, but now I’ve become so immured in these shounen-esque tropes that the show was just too predictable. It’s unfortunate that as I’ve watched more anime I’ve managed to become sick of this entire genre…

#8. Toaru Majutsu no Index II

Touma continues his crusade to punch as many girls as possible in the face. The main problems are too much talking, especially during fights, and so many characters that they can’t spend enough time on each. The best part of this show is the imaginative world they have created.

#7. Fractale

Fractale also has an imaginative idea for a world, but becomes bogged down in the execution. It wastes too much time with jokes about how the main character is a pervert, and just overall does not make the best use of its short timeslot. Still, many of the ideas are good, and it’s a fun show.

#6. Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu!!

The second season of Mitsudomoe continued the antics of the Marui sisters which made the first season fun, but toned down the repeated jokes and replaced them with new ones to make it even better. Yabechhi and Hitoha even resolved their misunderstanding about the Gacchi rangers, which after an entire season I didn’t think would ever happen.

#5. Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka?

I wouldn’t accuse Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka of making any sense, but it more than made up for it by being hilariously random. Where else could we have an orchestra of ninjas in maid costumes fighting against a fleet of flying whales, or our main villain getting a happy ending by being reincarnated as a penguin?

#4. Star Driver

Star Driver had a fantastic buildup and development of its characters, but unfortunately failed to deliver in the ending. It definitely could have been a much better show with twelve more episodes, but still, the path there was quite the ride.

#3. Level E

Level E had the best comedy of this season. It really knows how to build up a joke properly, as evidenced by the amazing first arc which took an entire episode pretending to be a serious show about aliens before revealing the punchline. The rest of the show didn’t quite live up to the standards of the first arc, but still, a fun watch nonetheless.

#2. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka has all around been excellent: well-developed characters, shocking plot twists, gorgeous visuals, and tightly choreographed fight scenes. The only problem is it hasn’t actually finished yet!

#1. Hourou Musuko

Hourou Musuko was my favorite show of the spring season. It really knows how to treat its characters right. In only twelve episodes, we’ve been introduced to an emormous cast, and the creators have succeeded in fleshing out all of them fully. Hourou Musuko is a perfect example of how to develop your characters and how to use time effectively. It also has beautiful art and an excellent sense of flow: in spite of jumping around all the time between the different characters, the viewer never feels disoriented.

Draggle’s Top Fourteen Couples

Happy Valentine’s Day! (or singles appreciation day, as the case may be!) Have you given or received any cards, chocolates or flowers? If not, don’t worry; they’re all worthless, superficial commercial products. Instead, you should give your lover a list of the reasons you love them. In celebration of true love, I give you a list of the top fourteen anime / manga couples of all time!

Top Couples

I’ll note that I’m not including do they / don’t they couples where they oscillate back and forth and never come to a decision. First, the runner-ups, in no particular order:


Akira Okuzaki and Takumi Tokiha (Mai-HiME)

They’re just both too cute. And their relationship really has plenty of time to develop— Takumi isn’t even aware of Akira’s gender until around the halfway point of the show, and Akira only becomes aware of her own feelings slowly. And she’s a ninja.


Tomoe Kashiwaba and Jun Sakurada (Rozen Maiden)

Ok, well, they aren’t technically lovers (otherwise they would be ranked higher). Jun at least seems to care deeply for Tomoe since she spends so much time with him and puts up with him. But Tomoe and Jun really have great chemistry— they are able to communicate without words in a medium that is dominated by none-too-subtle blushing and confessions of love. Plus, they (sort of) have a cute daughter together. I’m sure that in a few years they will officially be a couple.


Shouko Kirishima and Yuuji Sakamoto (Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu)

Shouko certainly knows how to keep her man under her thumb. And as much as he Yuuji tries to avoid her it’s certainly mutual.


Firo Prochainezo and Ennis (Baccano!)

The star-crossed meeting of a homunculus and a suave suit-wearing gangster, what’s not to love? Their chance meeting and Firo’s quest to return her button lead Ennis to offer to sacrifice her life for him, and Firo eats something that must have tasted absolutely disgusting. They’re just both so likable.


Volken McMarney and Mirepoch Finder (Book of Bantorra)

I’ll confess, I have a slight bias towards all things Volken as evidenced by this site’s banner. Volken is my favorite male character in any anime – in the world of Bantorra, filled with moral ambiguity and confusion, Volken walks the straight and narrow path even when it contradicts everything he has believed since he was a child and requires him to give up everything he has. Even when he reunites with Mirepoch and realizes she has drunk to erase all her memories of him, he doesn’t hold it against her- just smiles and walks away, and continues to trust her. Mirepoch is cool too- she has good taste in men. Unfortunately, Volken dies an untimely death and was not able to progress his relationship into the next level where he would have made the top fourteen.

And now for the top fourteen!


14. Chikane Himemiya and Himeko Kurusugawa (Kannazuki no Miko)

This show has the dubious distinction of improving immensely over the short course of its run. The first half is about Ookami (in the upper rankings for most annoying male protagonist) and giant robots driven by neko-mimi-nurse-maid-lolis. But in the second half, Chikane rapes Himeko and the show transforms into an intense emotional rollercoaster, leaving Chikane and Himeko’s relationship as one of the most passionate I’ve seen.


13. Shuunpei and Nui (Oh! Edo Rocket!)

Shuunpei answers once and for all the age old question: can mathematicians have girlfriends? The answer is a resounding yes, although said girlfriend may be an animal.


12. Kraft Lawrence and Horo (Spice and Wolf)
Lawrence and Horo’s banter and flirting is so enjoyable to listen to. There’s none of this lovey-dovey crap and they actually just enjoy one another’s company.


11. Renji Asou and Chihiro Shindo (ef – a Tale of Memories)
My appreciation for tragic romances has been somewhat spoiled by my attempts to watch Key shows. On Kanon and Shuffle I made it about halfway before I gave up in disgust. Air I finished since it was only one season, and Clannad I managed to sit through even though it was painful (although, the Tomoyo and Kyou OVAs were excellent). The problem is that it takes two to make a couple, and Key shows really only have half of that. The male characters have no faults (or personality) except for the fact that they are man-whores. And the tragedy is generally superficial (car accidents, disease, turning into foxes) that seems to happen only to introduce conflict which can be overcome by magic and the power of “love”.  However, Renji is certainly not a whore, and I found his relationship with Chihiro rather touching. It also manages to one-up Key on the level of tragedy by having Chihiro forget her memories every single day. The ending was a bit of a cop-out, but still, this is a tragic romance done well. Strength needs to come from within and not from some magic sparklies.


10. Yuukiteru Amano and Yuuno Gasai (Mirai Nikki)
I prefer couples who manage to overcome conflicts with each other, where everything isn’t always rosy in lovey-dovey land. Yuukiteru and Yuuno certainly have enough conflicts between them. Yuuno ties Yuukiteru to a chair and tortures him for over a week and tries to kill his parents. She lies about who she is and is a creepy stalker. Yuukiteru (quite understandably) pushes her away and fears her. And yet they still manage to forgive and love one another.


9. Atsushi Hayami and Mai Shibimura (Gunparade March)
Gunparade March doesn’t seem to be that popular, but I really loved the series (let’s pretend Gunparade Orchestra never happened). There are so many mecha shows with similar premises, but none of them have the same authenticity in the relationships of their characters. Atsushi and Mai fight all the time and really have to struggle to understand each other – their is a huge gap between them, but they are able to bridge this gap and appreciate their differences. But the part that really sold the show for me was the episode where Atsushi knocks Mai unconscious so that he can carry her on his back through the show while chanting to safety. It’s common to have a strong character in the relationship who needs to protect the weaker one. It seems at the beginning of Gunparade March that this is Mai – she is much better at fighting. But it’s only Atsushi who is able to move safely through the wilderness and not feel hatred for the beasts. Mai and Atsushi are truly codependent, and this makes for what is a relationship between equals.


8. Yorito Morimiya and Matsuri Shihou (sola)
C.S. Lewis categorized four kinds of love Storge (affection), Phileo (friendship), Eros (romance), and Agape (unconditional love, the greatest of loves). In anime, the first three are common, but Agape is relatively rare. On this entire list, I would say that the only characters who really demonstrate Agape are Volken, Chikane, Ellis and Iriya. But the strongest example of Agape is from Yorito and Matsuri. They feel an Eros love for one another – usually, this is the highest calling and trumps all other considerations in anime. Yorito and Matsuri, on the other hand, are willing to throw all this away along with their lives for the sake of Aono.


7. Dominic Sorel and Anemone (Eureka Seven)
First of all, their confession scene takes place UPSIDE-DOWN falling from the sky. That’s pretty much enough in and of itself to make this list, but all the difficulties they went through to get there are the icing on the cake. This is one of the few points in an anime which made me cry (along with 6, 8 and 14). This is a relationship between two deeply flawed people, and it is their ability to love one another in spite of this which makes them so heart-wrenching. It’s a shame that Eureka and Renton couldn’t make nearly the same impact….


6. Naoyuki Asaba and Kana Iriya (Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu)
The best tragedies are about overcoming yourself, not some external thing like sickness, injury or class. The thing which really sells this relationship is how Iriya and Asaba’s romance doesn’t go smoothly at all – not only is Iriya going to die and being chased by the army, she fights with Asaba, and after she’s raped they won’t even talk to each other. It’s the way they overcome this and not the aliens or army which makes Iriya no Sora truly heartbreaking. It’s a selfless love as well – in the end, they care more for each other than for their relationship. (also, I have to give props to the army guy, because even after what Iriya does he manages to steal the show)


5. Jinto Lin and Lafiel Abriel (Crest / Banner of the Stars)
I’m a sucker for relationships which span differences of culture, race and other adversities, and Jinto and Lafiel are one of the best examples of this. Their relationship (and love itself, among the Abh) is a social taboo but they are able to proceed in spite of this. We also see the same issues of co-dependence as in Gunparade March- in space, Jinto has to rely on Lafiel, but on the surface it is the other way around. Plus they’re just so cute together in the coffin.


4. Seiji Amasawa and Shizuku Tsukishima (Whisper of the Heart)
Whisper of the Heart is my favorite Studio Ghibli movie. It manages to capture the innocence of first love so well. It isn’t too realistic; in reality, they’d probably break up after a couple months, but hey, I’m a cynic. Shizuku begins the story not being aware of Seiji at all, and the way it shows her slowly warming up to him as it is revealed that he already liked her really drew me in. It also helps that I’m quite partial to the music.


3. Fakir and Ahiru (Princess Tutu)
This is one of the few relationships in an anime that I absolutely did not see coming. I think that’s great – things are less boring that way. Ahiru really matures over the course of the show, transforming from someone bound by the superficial desires prevalent in shoujo manga to someone able to form relationships on a much deeper level. 


2. Claire Stanfield and Chane Laforet (Baccano!)
Best. Confession. Ever. PERIOD. Rail Tracer and Chane really take the phrase “love at first sight” to its logical conclusion, even if your lover is pointing a knife at you or completely drenched in blood. This one was even less predictable than Fakir and Ahiru.


1. Kanji Sasahara and Chika Ogiue (Genshiken)
Sasahara and Ogiue just work so well together as a couple. The reason is that the manga really takes the time to develop them and their relationship. Ogiue isn’t even introduced until halfway through the manga, so Sasahara has plenty of time to develop as an individual. He seems boring at first, but has plenty of worthwhile qualities when you look past his calmness and permanent half-smile. Ogiue is well developed by herself as well – she hates otaku, and I initially had no inkling at all that she would end up with Sasahara. The amazing part is how the manga takes these two separate people with little in common and gradually shows how well they complement each other and slowly realize their mutual attraction. Many romances tend to gloss over how or why people fall in love and use tricks such as love at first sight, a pre-existing relationship or convenience. Genshiken excels at showing how the attraction and trust in Ogiue and Sasahara’s relationship begins and develops.

Are all you singles feeling depressed now? Well, don’t worry, I’ve included a bonus just for you.

Top One-sided Crushes

Since each one-sided crush has only half as much love, I’ll only list half as many crushes.


7. Paraietta → Neviril  (Simoun)
I had a hard time picking only one relationship from Simoun, which had so many amazing ones. Most of the best relationships in the show (Kaimu and Alti, Simone and Dominura) aren’t really lovers, so I settled on this one. I should begin by saying that Neviril is an arrogant little prick. I can’t stand her and she irritates me to no end. But a great character incites great passions, and Neviril is certainly a great character. The way Paraietta is willing to do so much for Neviril in spite of the fact that she is a jerk just speaks volumes. The fact that Neviril doesn’t return her feelings at all, and that Paraietta realizes this, makes it truly heart-wrenching.


6. Hinagiku Katsura → Hayate Ayasaki (Hayate no Gotoku)
This one could arguably be two ways, but Hayate is a wuss so I’ll leave it here. Hinagiku is too cute (but, of course, not as cute as Hayate).


5. Harunobu Madarame → Saki Kasukabe (Genshiken)
Most of the things I mentioned about Ogiue and Sasahara for how their relationship developed apply here as well. I love how Madarame is unable to give up on Saki in spite of how hopeless he knows it is.


4. Yakumo Tenma → Harima Kenji (School Rumble)
Eri was a close second in my choice from School Rumble. But Yakumo and Harima just have so much in common that they would go well together. It’s a shame Harima likes her stupid sister.


3. Shizuru Fujino → Natsuki Kuga (Mai-HiME)
Yes.


2. Albert Morcerf → Peppo (Gankutsuou)
Yes!


1. Natsumi’s Mother → Masa  (Seto no Hanayome)
Yes!

Feel free to mention your favorite couples / crushes in the comments section! (also, ghostlightning has a post on his favorite love stories.)