6. Rio: Rainbow Gate
Rio could have been perfect. It misses out on becoming perfection due to its conceits to modern trends. There has to be attempts as character arcs and pandering to the sort of tropes that fans key off of, and all of that brings Rio back down to this realm of mortals. But when Rainbow Gate gets to what it’s really about, it’s a love letter to NES-era video game logic and storytelling. It’s an anime based on a fucking pachinko machine, so the creators reveled in that fact and made something that plays by the same sort of arbitrary, nonsensical outside of its own context rules. And it results in ghosts who have buffalo wing minions, space pinball games with sharks swimming in the void, and old school characters from 80’s Tecmo games playing supporting roles. It all may come together purely on accident, but that doesn’t detract from the series’ genius. Now if only they didn’t have to bog us down with all that friendship and relationship bullshit.
5. Dororon Enma-kun
Enma-kun has one of the greatest finales in anime history. Seriously. “Let’s stop the end of the world” is a typical anime climax, and Enma-kun goes down that route, but it’s how the world will end that’s damn brilliant. Rather than Hell being unleashed or some explosive MacGuffin detonating or the hearts of people breaking because volatile, temporary emotions are all that matters in the world, Enma-kun’s apocalypse takes the form of a universe-wide orgy. Yes. A literal orgy where every organic and inorganic organism on Earth gets it on in an hilariously grotesque, uncontrollable sex spree. It’s as if all of the puritan, virgin-cult worshiping otaku were right all along– the dirty, filthy, whoring out of the body is the downfall of everything we hold dear, because when everyone in the world partakes in the deviant act of sex the world will end. If I was doing that 12 Days of X-Mas thing this year, this would by my number one moment. Easily one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in an anime. If not for the last episode, Enma-kun would still be on this list, but it’d be several notches down. But that one episode elevates everything else that happens in the series and casts it in an awesomely satirical light.
4. Tiger & Bunny
Had Tiger & Bunny not pulled its punches in certain spots, it’d likely be in the #1 or #2 slot on this list. When it’s doing things right, it’s the best super hero story ever animated, rivaling the best episodes of the Justice League cartoons. In those moments, Tiger & Bunny gets the super hero. The problem is that this is an anime catering to anime fans, and the climax of each half of the series pulls back and refuses to let things go their natural course. It was especially annoying in the finale, when Tiger was denied both of his deserved endings. He could either die a hero, sacrificing himself for the greater good like many comic book super heroes, or he could get the retirement he so deserves. Instead, the series cops out and has him return to being a hero despite that being the least satisfactory ending possible. Yet despite blundering every climactic moment, Tiger & Bunny is still great stuff. The characters play off of each other beautifully. The action is pretty great. It makes me want Tiger & Bunny comic books and spin-offs for the various supporting characters. I don’t think I’ve liked a super hero story this much since the Claremont-written heydays of The X-Men.
3. Level E
Level E is an exercise in the art of the anticlimax. What’s awesome about the series is that no matter how many times it pulls the rug out from under you, Level E manages to dupe you into thinking it’s totally serious this time. Prince Baka is one of the best anime characters of all time, playing the role of deviant trickster god above the silly concerns of mere humans with a hell of a lot of charm and humor. Damn hilarious stuff.
2. Yondemasu yo Azazel-san
Azazel-san has everything that I love. It has the sort of uncouth humor I love, ranging from over-the-top bathroom humor to mean-spirited gags. It has the corruption of that which is cute and innocent with the demons taking the form of cute Pokemon-like animals when in the mortal realm. It plays off of “real” demonology, making the whole thing steeped in the speculative madness that made me love the likes of Occult Academy. It has great comedic timing and has much of the same anticlimactic attitude as Level E. It even had the most emotional moment in an anime this year with the real, no going back death of Moloch. It was sad because there wasn’t much they could do about his demise and never gave you the notion that they could fight back or will him back to life. It was genuine, heartfelt loss in a fucking joke anime about cute demons. Also, it has God making poop jokes and admitting that he just cares about dicking around with His creations. Easily the best anime TV series of the year.
Redline is everything that made me love anime in the first place. I’ve already raved about it here and here. I demand a TV series that further explores the Redline universe, since in its two-hour runtime I saw a world far more rich with potential than any other anime I saw all year. If there’s a benevolent god in this universe, Redline would be the new hot thing, spawning spin-offs and the like. And not only is it the best anime I saw this year, it’s one of the best movies that I saw this year. I can rarely say that about anime movies.
Best Anime I Didn’t Watch: Kaiji 2
Didn’t get around to watching the second season before making this list. Wouldn’t be surprised if it nudges Squid Girl 2 off this list whenever I get around to it. I really dug the first season when I barreled through it earlier this year. Figured I’d pseudo-marathon it after it was finished and then totally forgot about it until I started making this list.