Dec 312009
 

2009. Let’s call it The Year of the Anti-Hero. Or something like that.

Really. Let’s just call it “The Year Where the Villains were the Heroes.” Because most of the peeps in these series aren’t nice people, even when they’re doing The Right Thing.

Also: Hamyuts Meseta is the most moe anime girl ever. If one’s “moe quotient” was measured by body counts. And it is.

 

12. Trapeze

Trapeze is a matter of style as substance. The actual gist of the series is kinda mediocre: exploring and solving people’s anxieties. If this were done in a more conventional animation style, it’d be a fluff piece that I’d have quickly forgotten. But it’s an anime with rotoscoping. Rotoscoping. It looked like something Ralph Bakshi would have done in the 70s. His shit may not be the most brilliant stuff ever made, but I love his visual style, and I loved seeing something similar utilized in an anime series. And that’s about it, really. This series beat out the likes of Eden of the East and Bakemonogatari purely for its visuals. I’m totally shallow like that.

11. Ristorante Paradiso

Ristorante ain’t really my sort of thing on the surface. It’s a straight-faced drama for the most part, dealing with the everyday problems of a group of waiters and chefs working at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Rome. But the series manages to have a good sense of humor to it, avoiding the sort of melodrama I was afraid it’d devolve into over time. The cast is pretty damn likable, and their issues are far more relatable than that of your average slice of life moemoldooze. It might be a bit on the light side, and the humor might not be downright hilarious, but it was surprisingly charming. It’s pretty much what slice of life anime should be.

10. Umineko no Naku Koro ni

First things first: the last story arc revolving around Ange fucking sucks. It took everything good that transpired in the previous arcs, threw it out, and replaced it with an obnoxious lead character who couldn’t carry a paper sack home from the grocery store, much less an entire storyline. But the first two-thirds of this series is damn near perfect. It starts off as your typical murder mystery, but once you discover the twist to the whole thing, it starts descending into the sort of dream-logic madness of Dario Argento and shit like that. And the ending to the third arc, where Beatrice reveals her master plan from that “game” to Battler, was brilliant. This is the sort of surrealist shit that I dig. Pity it was tarnished by that Ange arc or else this’d be considerably higher on my list.

9. Canaan

Canaan suffers much in the same way as Umineko: there’s one insufferable character that brings everything down. That one character happens to be Maria, an obnoxiously happy photographer who’s the polar opposite of every single character in the series. Canaan’s all about badass assassins and terrorists and how they’re trying to kill each other in cool action sequences. Then Maria comes along and acts like she’ belongs in the latest anime with tildes and hearts in the title. It’s a shame that she brings the series down, because everything else that goes down in Canaan is assassiny goodness. You get some good gun fights, you get some crazy government cover-ups, and you get an awesome villain the form of Liang Qi. It’s probably the best girls with guns anime since… no, it’s even better than Noir. It’s probably the best one since Dirty Pair.

8. Darker than Black: Gemini of the Meteor

Ending the trifecta of “series ruined by one character but are still awesome enough to make it on this list” is the second season of Darker than Black. Suo basically plays Short Round to Hei’s Indiana Jones in this season, pulling everything down with her annoying moralizing and hesitance. Darker than Black is all about people with super powers whose sense of morality and conventions have been twisted by an unknown supernatural force. The whole thing comes off like a Cold War spy drama, with Contractors replacing the ever-present threat of nuclear war, and the second season plays off of this just as well as the first. But then Suo starts to cry about how she might have to shoot someone to save the world. Boo Hoo. Fortunately, the actual story is pretty cool, going off into some crazy stuff about creating alternate realities and shit like that.

7. Hipira-kun

Probably one of the best short anime series out there. It’s a cute kids show with a Tim Burton-like aesthetic, and it doesn’t hold back its punches. We’re talking about vampires and other monsters here, and despite this being a kids show it still manages to do some freaky, demented shit. Hell, the series ends with Hipira and his friends being devoured by a papercraft/crayon dinosaur. This is the perfect sort of children’s show, all cute and sweet and reveling in the horrors of real life.

 

6. Zan Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

Is it the same old Zetsubou shit? Yep, pretty much. Is the same old Zetsubou shit superior to most anime comedies? Yep, pretty much.

 

 

 

5. Astro Fighter Sunred 2

I want to be Vamp when I grow up. I want to be that fusion of badass world conqueror and polite, neighborly chef. Vamp is the standard that we should all aspire towards– both cunning and culinary– nefarious and noble. He’s the Metrosexual Dr. Doom, and that’s a totally awesome thing. Yeah, and the series he’s from is pretty awesome too, what with all of the sentai hero parodies and matter-of-fact humor. But it’s Vamp that elevates the series from “pretty good parody” to nearly sublime.


4. Cobra: Time Drive

It’s all of the goodness of Cobra packed into a two episode OVA. It has a batshit crazy villain in the form of a giant lava walrus dude who has slave girls dangling from him like pimp chains. It has Cobra traveling back in time and creating all manners of paradoxes, and he’s so badass that his actions don’t fuck up the space-time continuum. It has man-eating water. It may not reach the blissful heights of 2010’s space piranhas, but it’s awesome stuff.

 

3. Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance

I forgot to insert the second Eva movie when I did my initial revision of this list. Had it in my head that it came out in 2010. That’s when the DVD release was, but let’s go by the original theatrical release. Just because. This is where the Eva movie remakes finally became true remakes rather than simple retreads. It isn’t just a matter of tossing in a new character, it’s a completely different worldview being explored. The original Eva was all about personal failure. Shinji refused to act. Asuka was filled with personal issues. All of the adults were fuck-ups. With Eva 2.0, a lot of those issues are no longer as pertinent. Failure comes from the outside. Shinji seems to overcome all of his problems and saves the day, only to have all of his hopes crushed by godlike forces from the outside. Failure is no longer self-created and avoidable. It’s wholly inescapable. That shift is what’s making these movies worthwhile as true remakes.

2. Shin Mazinger Z Shougeki Z-Hen!

Ashura is one of the greatest heroes of all time. You heard that right. Hero. He/She is fighting for the will of the gods. They may seem to be malevolent beings bent on humanity’s destruction, but who are we to question the will of the powers that be? It is but one of the mysteries of the universe. But what isn’t a mystery is that Shin Mazinger is a masterpiece of mecha action. The only mecha series I like more than this is Evangelion, and Mazinger’s awesome ending may even trump Eva’s.

 

1. The Book of Bantorra

I’ve talked about Bantorra a lot. I’m one of the few bloggers to champion this fucking awesome series. It has one of the greatest anime characters in Hamyuts Meseta. It has some of the bests twists and surprises I’ve seen in a series. It doesn’t pull its punches. It doesn’t cop-out. It doesn’t give a fuck what you think or whether you love a character or not. It isn’t safe. It isn’t pretty. It’s everything I love about anime.

Dec 312009
 

When I originally compiled this list, I left out Detroit Metal City because I made some silly “no OVA” rule.

Then Krauser had his way with me and all of that changed.

But DMC didn’t quite make it to the top despite all of that. Yeah.

 

 

12. Michiko e Hatchin

I wrote about Michiko e Hatchin in this post, and the gist of the series’ problems is that it just doesn’t quite come together. There’s a lot going for it, with its music and action and interesting Latin America/exploitation movie fusion, but all of these elements don’t blend into something cohesive. But those individual elements are strong enough on their own to make the series a pretty cool thing. It has a lot of the cool one-off characters like its spiritual predecessors Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo that make each individual episode enjoyable on its own strengths. The main characters have lots of potential, what with them being two strong-headed women (well, woman and young girl) who defy your usual anime stereotypes for the most part. Unfortunately, they don’t get to do much beyond run and bicker. That might be the series’ biggest flaw: there’s a lot of cool things going on around the lead characters, but half the time they’re barely involved. They just sort of stumble across things Forrest Gump style, and things get resolved through coincidence and happenstance. But yeah, cool style, cool details, the big picture just isn’t quite there.

11. Fireball

It’s CGI. It’s made by Disney. It’s episodes are, like, three minutes long. Despite what some of you may be thinking, yes, Fireball is anime. It’s a cartoon. It’s made for a Japanese audience. That fits the traditional English definition for “anime.” And it’s easily the best of the “lasts as long as most anime openings” series out there. It’s pretty simplistic, since it comes down to two robots bickering with each other, but it has more wit and charm about it than most series ten times its length, episode-wise. And despite it being a comedy filled with puns and sight gags and shit like that, there’s also some really cool undertones. The robots acknowledge that they live in a distant future where humans have died off. They may even be the last two sentient beings on Earth, since no other robots demonstrate any real sentience and nothing outside of their “palace” is ever seen. We may be witnessing the last vestiges of “life” on Earth in the form of a buddy comedy. The sun may be ready to die out any minute in the background, and all of that’s just background fluff. That’s awesome stuff. Also, Drossel is the best Disney Princess. No contest.

10. Kaiba

I don’t pay a lot of attention to anime directors, mainly because most series come of so “samey” when it comes to style and whatnot, but Masaaki Yuasa is one of the few I do care about because his stuff is so distinctive. That said, Kaiba is the weakest of his major projects, but even with that it’s a pretty great series. It plays off of a lot of cool transhuman concepts and other sci-fi elements and it hits on a bunch of philosophical shit about identity and whatnot. And the art style is brilliant, what with its old school cartoon vibe. That style matches the themes of the series perfectly, since the “toon” look makes everything that much more alien and foreign. It’s a shame the ending pretty much sucks and brings the series down from genuine brilliance to being merely “really cool.” Still worth watching, even if it isn’t as great as Mind Game or Kemonozume.

9. Ryoko’s Case Files

Ryoko’s Case Files reminds me of The X-Files. You have two law enforcement officers investigating oddball cases. You have the sexual tension between said characters. You have some of the same humor running through both series. The main difference is that Ryoko is something of a “perfect” character, being your “smart and sexy and an asskicker and…” type. But she manages to be more like someone like Cobra than some bland, generic, annoying type since she’s brash and hotheaded at the same time. She can do all of this shit, but most people find her a bit irritating and unbearable. And she’s pretty cool for that. And there’s plenty of weird stuff going on in the series as well, making the whole thing a hell of a lot of fun. It’s one of those “forgotten” series that doesn’t deserve being stuffed under the rug.

8. Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei

Is it the same old Zetsubou shit? Yep, pretty much. Is the same old Zetsubou shit superior to most anime comedies? Yep, pretty much.

 

 

 

7. Urusei Yatsura: The Obstacle Course Swim Meet

 

 

 

 

 

6. Ranma 1/2 Akumu! Shunmin Kou

Took these one-off, throwback OVAs to get subbed, but when they did I was finally able to bask in their awesomeness. They’re both more of the same when it comes to their respective series, but since Ranma and Lum are two of my all-time favorite comedies, that’s more than welcome. That’s about all there is to say about these things. If you’re one of those heathens that’s never gotten into Lum or Ranma, you’ll be at a loss. If you dig this shit, they’re a welcome return. I’d totally be down with a revival of either series. Especially Ranma.

5. Mnemosyne

Repulsive, grotesque exploitation. Awesome, repulsive, grotesque exploitation. It’s more than a little hateful. It’s more than a little trashy. It’s about immortals screwing around with each other over petty conspiracies and grudges and some fucked up spiritual shit. I love this stuff. It’s unforgivably violent and nihilistic. People, especially women, are treated horribly. There’s absolutely nothing nice about it. The story’s secondary to the sensationalism. It’s everything you, dear reader, dread about anime. It’s the shit that gave anime a bad reputation back in the 90s. It’s kissing cousins with Urotsukidouji. And I fucking dig it. Yeah.

4. Ga-Rei Zero

I’ve said it before in other posts: Go watch the first episode. That one episode is one of the greatest things ever put in animated form. Seriously. Just go watch it already. The rest of the series is decent, but it’s just there to take up time since they can’t just air one episode and call it a series.

 

 

3. Detroit Metal City

Let me say this about DMC: I hate heavy metal. Totally. It’s obnoxious. The tough guy posturing and faux-Satanism and “GRRR! RAARRARAR!”ness of it all sucks. Even when I was an obnoxious teenager filled with baseless angst, I hated the shit. And yet I fucking love Detroit Metal City. It’s fucking funny. Funny as raping Tokyo Tower funny. So funny that it makes me forget about my loathing of the musical genre in question. So funny that it lets me forgive the series for making fun of a genre of music much closer to my own personal tastes. Yeah, I’d rather listen to his “Swedish pop.” Go To DMC!

2. Astro Fighter Sunred

I really love the dynamic between Sunred and Kayoko. It’s probably one of the most realistic relationships ever depicted in anime. Sunred’s an inconsiderate bum, but he genuinely loves Kayoko. Kayoko’s suffers through Sunred’s idiocy and supports him financially because she also genuinely loves him. It isn’t some fairy tale relationship, where everyone’s all doki doki and shit, and it isn’t some ridiculous “tsundere” relationship where one character is so insufferable and annoying that it’s impossible to believe anyone would put up with their shit. With Sunred we get two flawed people who deal with each other shit because there’s some connection there that we outsiders can barely glimpse. Oh yeah, and Sunred’s damn funny too. Blahblahblah sentai hero gags and cool monsters that I’ve already talked about elsewhere.

1. Cobra the Animation: The Psychogun

It might be the weakest Cobra story I’ve seen, but Psychogun is still the best thing I’ve seen from 2008. It deals with the Pirate Guild wanting to get a hold of a three billion year old snail whose shell contains the history of the universe, and said history tells the location of a device that contains what amounts to a portable Big Bang. There’s three duck people who look a lot like Huey, Dewey, and Louie who craft dimensional space drives. There’s worm creatures that eat people and turn their “people juices” into nerve toxins used to turn women into sex slaves. People ride flying vehicles that turn you into a skeleton frozen in Carbonite while piloting it. SAND WHALES. It has all of the awesome details that makes the Cobra series my all-time favorite shit. And it has the return of Crystal Boy. Awesomeness.