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.
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.
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.
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.