Looking at my list, 2001 was a pretty good year for action anime. We don’t even get this many action series over the course of a single year anymore, much less this many good ones in addition to the other bad-to-mediocre ones that came out as well.
Yeah, more than half of this should could be edited out and you’d be left with the same exact show. For every awesome gun fight you had minutes upon minutes of still shots and repetitive dialogue that served less to explain anything and more to pad out the run time. Despite all the needless bits, Noir managed to be a pretty damn good action series. It may be a bit too self-serious (hence why it’s at the bottom of this list) and ponderous over topics that don’t really deserve the pondering, but it isn’t stupid. But those moments of action are pretty sublime. I especially dig how the two girls’ styles juxtapose one another. Kirika is your John Woo two-fisted type while Mireille is more along the lines of your stoic action hero from older movies. It’s no Black Lagoon, but Noir knows its action movies well.
The first half of this series is damn near perfect. Everything leading up to the Valentine Brothers’ attack on Hellsing’s base, and the attack itself, is perfect horror/action shit. It lays down the characters, makes their motivations clear, and places them in a situation where we actually give a damn about the outcome. And to make it all the more awesome, there’s a genuine threat presented by the Brothers. Sure, Alucard goes all Shoggoth on us and shows that he’s way more powerful than we imagined, but until that revelation there was genuine tension in that storyline. Then the next story arc began and everything kinda tanked. I don’t hate that African vampire stuff as much as some people, but it doesn’t quite do it for me like the first half. It’s still pretty watchable, but nowhere near as great as the first half. Had the series maintained that level of awesomeness, Hellsing’d likely be much higher on this list.
What I love about this series is how, in a world where people have all sorts of crazy super powers and stuff, the main dude’s power boils down to “I punch stuff really, really, really hard.” He’s able to use that super-punching to do all sorts of stunts, like super-leaping by punching the ground, but it all comes back to hitting stuff with his fist. That’s, like, so damn elegant a power that it’s beautiful. The actual series is pretty standard action anime stuff, with conspiracies and battles and rivalries and stuff, but it works pretty good. It’s stuff like this and Tiger and Bunny that Sunrise should do more often. Fuck that Gundam shit.
7. Shiawase Apartment’s Okojo-san
I feel weird including this one on my list since I haven’t seen it all. It has yet to be fully subbed and it likely won’t be finished anytime soon. But screw it, I love this show. It’s a comedy about a dude who has a pet ferret thing. Said ferret is a badass. In the wild, he tamed bears and made them into his lackeys. Now that he’s living in a domestic setting, he uses his magnificent martial powers to rule over his apartment building. But no one notices but the ferret and his hamster buddy who lives next door. Yeah, it’s a basic “animals talking to each other like they’re humans and the humans are unaware of what’s going on” show, except instead of having a cutesy mascot it has a mean, nasty thing with a bad attitude who likes to boss people around as the lead. It’s hilarious stuff.
6. Read or Die
60’s James Bond spy stuff mixed in with X-Men-styled super powers. Yeah man, this shit is awesome. And the master plan of the villain involves creating a song that will kill all of humanity when it’s broadcast across the globe from the villain’s flying satellite base. Awesome. Totally awesome. Still not sure how we got from this sort of pure, perfect action stuff to that horrendous, banal TV sequel. That’s the sort of thing even God can’t comprehend.