A good year for sci-fi anime. A damn good year, in fact.
10. Twilight of the Dark Master
“Twilight” is a pretty apt name for this thing, since it feels like the death kneel of the ultra-violent OVAs of the 80s and 90s. It’s your standard “angelic beings fight secret war against demonic beings” thing from this era. It has some alright gore. It has two villains who play like the Wonder Twins from Superfriends. There are a couple of nice-looking shots, like one where a guy’s face if plastered over a bunch of TVs littering the walls of some back alley fix-it shop. The pieces are perfectly serviceable, delivering on everything I like about these sorts of things. And while it’s decent enough, it rings pretty hollow. When people complain about this genre of anime, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the thing their memory calls up, since it’s that mediocre representation that would turn away most fans unfamiliar with this stuff. But for those of us who like this sort of violent, exploitive anime, it’s perfectly alright.
9. The Adventures of the Mini-Goddesses
I was hyped about this show when I first heard about it. I was still in my Ah My Goddess phase of fandom, and I was itching for more Belldandy anime after the still-pretty-good OVA series. I knew it was gonna be a comedic shorts thing, but I was hoping it’d have the same vibe that made me like the series proper back then. Turns out the thing was wildly uneven. For every awesome episode like the one where their rat buddy turned into Godzilla there were two or three episodes that didn’t do much of anything. But those good episodes made the series as a whole pretty fun. Go Go Gabira!
8. Serial Exerpiments Lain
The way Lain portrays the internet seems downright quaint now. It was still steeped in that alien-like attitude born out of early cyberpunk, where the internet was a strange thing where you might just find God amidst the digits and codes. That isn’t to say it’s bad or anything, it’s no different from looking at early sc-fi from the 30s-50s. The tech might not feel right, but that’s irrelevant when looking at what the series is going for. All this stuff about isolation and finding something with meaning in a “new world” is still pretty relevant today, even if Lain is steeped in that late 90s vibe that some might find dated. And it’s still a damn good-looking show, and it has a killer soundtrack. I might not dig on it as much as others, since by the time I saw it I’d already seen plenty of Hollywood movies that tackled similar concepts (The Matrix, eXistenZ, and the like), it’s still solid stuff that’s still worth watching.
I have a love/hate relationship with Trigun. I hate the first few episodes, since they focus on Vash and his wacky antics. I hate the series once Wolfwood dies (spoiler) since it portrays his way of thinking as downright wrong rather than a reasonable alternative for humans incapable of Vash’s inhuman feats. But for a little more than half the series’ run, it’s downright brilliant. It nails that “space western” ideal almost perfectly. Vash and Wolfwood’s clashing philosophies make them an interesting pair. But DAMN, Vash is such an irritating character who can’t carry a series on his own, so when he’s left to his own devices he drags everything down. I still like the majority of this series, but it’s kept from true greatness by its own lead character.
6. Cardcaptor Sakura
It’s probably the pinnacle of the straight-up magical girl genre. Sailor Moon and other older series deserve credit for forming the genre, and Precure ain’t all that bad, but Sakura pretty much nails the formula perfectly. It has the right mix of kid-friendly suspense and wackiness. It has likable characters who never grated on my nerves. It even has the awesomest magical pet ever in Kero. It also manages to pull off a good bit of CLAMP’s trademark weirdness while still being a kid show (Really, Yukito is fucking weird for a kid show character.). Other superior series might borrow from the magical girl genre– Magic Users’ Club comes to mind– but yeah, Cardcaptor Sakura is the best traditional one out there.