K is a fighting game OVA from the 90s stretched out to a full TV series. It’s kinda awesome in that regard. Had it been a bit shorter (Going back to what I said when talking about Thermae Romae.) it might have been even better. As is, it kinda lingers on a few plot points a bit too long (Did we really need that much school-related stuff?), so the overall package isn’t quite as fun as it could have been. I still like what it’s getting at, since it’s cramming all sorts of things into one incoherent, beautiful mess.
I think I’m the only person in the entire universe who liked Zetman. It’s a pretty cool super hero story, playing off of the moral dilemmas that come from masked vigilantes doing their thing. It also manages to avoid the worst thing about super heroes: the origin story. The first few episodes are something of a blur, telling volumes of story in a short amount of time in order to get to the meat of the story ASAP. We get all the formative details about Zetman and ALPHAS’ early exploits without needlessly dwelling upon them. You also get some fun interplay between two different types of Japanese super heroes. Zetman’s a kaijin sort along the lines of Devilman, while ALPHAS is a tokusatsu sort who based his personal around a Kamen Rider-like hero he watched on TV. It’s kinda like one of those Superman/Batman team-ups that play off of the differences between those two heroes.
8. Blast of Tempest
I really like Tempest. It should rank several spots higher than 15th based on the first half of the series. The catch is that I didn’t realize it was merely the first half as I was watching it. It wasn’t until the 11th or 12th episode that I realized this was gonna be at least two seasons long. I loved how it seemed like half the series was devoted to the “final confrontation” between the main dudes and the new head of the Tree of Genesis cult. It was a whole series devoted to ridiculous magical logic straight out of the likes of Mage: the Ascension. Apparently it’s gonna keep going, and more stuff goes down as the Trees of Genesis and Exodus start ripping apart the world or whatever. That’s why Tempest is this far down on the list: I really like it, but I also don’t know where it’s gonna go from here. A few other series on this list haven’t wrapped up, but I have a good feel for where they’re gonna go. They might surprise me, but I can see what’s up. I can’t do that with Tempest. It could shoot up this list or it could drop off completely depending on how things play out. But yeah, I like its interpretation of magic. I like the Shakespeare references. I like the old school Hollywood epic musical score. I just don’t know what to expect from here on out. UPDATE: Yeah, this thing played out about as well as it could. Good stuff. Jumps up and stuff.
I love Psycho-Pass’ nastiness. People blow up real good. People get turned into awesome corpse art. People get murdered because their online personas don’t meet otaku standards. It’s a horrible little world, and I wanna see everyone suffer. Especially Akane and her doped up sleepy eyes. But what really does it for me is how Psycho-Pass is something of a monster-of-the-week anime. The main villain, Makishima, recruits individuals who rebel against the Sybil system in some way. They’re all peeps who probably wouldn’t be criminals if they lived in modern society, but the rigid, thought police world of Psycho-Pass has broken them in some way that makes them interesting to this dude. He then unleashes them upon society as a part of some elaborate plan, like they’re kaiju waiting for their chance to try to beat the proverbial giant robot hero. And each villain’s shtick is their particular philosophy. Most shows like this have one villain who has one particular way in which they’ve twisted logic to suit their demented means. Psycho-Pass gives us a completely new outlook every couple of episodes, each of which could probably carry a villain for an entire series. We have a dude who is upset hunting is outlawed, so he goes to the extremes and hunts humans. We have a chick whose father was broken by the system when his art was banned, so she recreates his visions using human corpses as her medium. We’re getting all sorts of awesomely ugly approaches to this shit. This thing might shoot up a few notches depending on how things play out in the second half. UPDATE: Liked how it ended, but not enough to bump it up beyond where it was to begin with.
Gyo is the perfect sort of OVA. It’s gory and violent. It’s pure exploitation. It’s also the sort of horror I dig. Seeing fish come out of the ocean with robot feet is more awesomely ridiculous than it is scary. What makes it frightening is how all of this seems to be nature’s way. The universe wants this sort of apocalypse to happen. It’s as if the creation of life on Earth is happening all over again, except said building blocks are using pre-existing life as their raw material. This is cosmic, existential, Lovecraftian horror done right– the universe is an incomprehensible, terrifying thing beyond malice and evil. This shit’s scary because it just doesn’t care and because this is simply the nature of things. You’re gonna become some bloated corpse melding into some new primordial soup, and no amount of pleading with the gods or fighting back will do a damn thing. Also, sharks with legs eating people.
5. Polar Bear Cafe
It’s the classic sitcom situation recast with animals. You have a bunch of self-absorbed cafe-goers whose eccentric personalities play off of one another, and it leads to all manners of wacky hijinks, touching moments, and vacuum cleaner porn. At the same time, without really knowing it’s doing it, Polar Bear Cafe also brings up a lot of questions about race, prejudice, accommodating handicaps, and all sorts of stuff like that. In a world where penguins are a part of normal society, why don’t cell phone makers take their flippers into consideration, especially when they seem to take other animals’ appendages into consideration when making touchscreens? How can an animal who hibernates get away with it at his job? Do they get paid time off, or do they have to be like Grizzly and own their own business to get that luxury? The series doesn’t directly ask or answer these questions, but by presenting these animals in such mundane situations and showing the awkwardness of instinct vs. civilization, you can’t help but think about this shit. It’s irrelevant whether it’s intended or not, this stuff just comes up naturally as you watch the series.
4. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
If it weren’t for the existence of Air Master, JoJo would be my all-time favorite shounen fighting anime. As it stands, JoJo takes that formula, tosses out the traditional pacing of such series, cranks up the insanity, and brings in influences beyond standard anime tropes. It isn’t just the rock references when it comes to characters’ names, though. That first half of the first story arc plays like a Hammer horror movie, with Dio playing the role of Dracula and Johnathan playing Van Helsing. It’s all gothic locales and Grand Guignol violence. Then we get one of the greatest training arcs– which takes all of one episode– which starts with punching a frog and ends with Jack the Ripper exploding. The colors and the posing makes the otherwise minimally animated show look brilliant. And then there’s Dio, who quickly became one of the greatest anime villains of all time. He’s arrogant and disgusting, but he’s also honorable in his own demented way. He’s the Dr. Doom sort, grudgingly admiring his mortal foe while continuing to grandstand and gloat about his greatness. And the second story arc as Nazis and Mesoamerican monster men. It’s all some awesome pulpy goodness.
3. Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
No, Shinji, you can not fucking redo this shit. No. Stop that. You can never win. Loser.
2. Tantei Opera Milky Holmes 2
High School Boys is the equivalent of someone pointing at moe and high school anime and all that shit and laughing. Milky Holmes is the equivalent of having your eyes taped back as you’re forced to watch every grating minute of every insufferably nice girl anime series on repeat for 6 months, only to be forced at gunpoint to write a light novel about four high school girl detectives who exemplify everything you just witnessed. You’ve absorbed every nuance of the varying genres within the banner of “moe,” but you’re also grown to hate them, much like a dog groomed for a dog fight. Milky Holmes isn’t just making fun of modern anime trends, it’s ripping them apart and giving us the corpse as a present because we’re such faithful, loving masters. It knows just how horrifying such tropes are at their core, and it proudly exposes said rancid center for all to see. It’s punk rock moe. It’s dada crafted into a gashapon figure. Milky Holmes is modern anime, and Milky Holmes wants to kill modern anime.
1. Lupin the Third: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine
And just how Milky Holmes seeks to destroy anime and leave nothing in its wake, the new Lupin series seeks to create something new out of the old. It takes Fujiko, a character considered by most fans to be pretty shallow and stereotypical, and transforms her into something wholly modern and sophisticated by embracing said shallowness. We go through 13 episodes believing we’re getting an in-depth background story for Fujiko– as if we’re getting the sort of historical fiction backdrop possessed by Lupin and Zenigata. Then, when that final episode rolls around, it’s revealed that all of these details belong to another woman. Fujiko is Fujiko, and there’s not a damn thing wrong about that. On top of that, I loved the look of the series, with its sketchy character designs and the way shadows are shaded with lines, not unlike the manga it’s based upon. This new Lupin series is exactly what’s needed right now in anime– embracing past trends while doing something new at the same time.