It’s that time of the year again, when, after we’ve seen the shows the year had to offer, we adjudge them upon their merits and critique them with their faults. It’s surely going to be different with every person, but here’s my personal top five (I’ve seen enough to write about a top ten, but I don’t really like them enough to put them even in a top ten for this year).
1. Kara no Kyoukai: Mujun Rasen
unlimited blood works
For the people who have read the past few posts, this comes as NO surprise at all. A lot of people may have been turned off by the complicatedly heady storytelling, but since I’m an absolute fan of that stuff (my favorite author is Faulkner) I marveled and attempted to digest the besotting and inebriating anachronism of Kara no Kyoukai. The best movie among the seven was this, the fifth, primarily because it took this kind of storytelling to the limits and pulled it off majestically.
The purpose of the highly fragmented progression of the story was to draw similarities to a spiral, and I thought ufotable did it successfully. There’s also a well-created central villain for this movie (and for this series, I guess), and an obvious pathos admixed with the awesome animation merits it to be the best anime of 2009. (It actually came out theatrically during 2008, but the subs and the DVD came out early January this past year, if I remember correctly.)
2. Kara no Kyoukai: Satsujin Kousatsu (Go)
This was during Garan no Dou, but Shiki looks awesome in this image.
There are some series that start wonderfully, have a very good bridging and explicative middle part, but an ending that’s very disappointing. Toradora and Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini are such examples, at least personally. They had endings that were disappointing, especially when compared to the whole series. This did not made them bad; it only put them down a notch or two from the top.
Kara no Kyoukai did not have such a weakness. While I don’t even think it’s arguable that the best movie was the fifth, if for the sheer balls of experimentation and pulling everything off, the final movie served as a wonderful and eclat-filled conclusion to a majestic and avant-garde series ultimately about the transforming power of love. Saying more about the series will sadly spoil it, but the ending was just as strong as the entirety of the story, and seeing the true pain and suffering of Shiki for the sake of love was simply beautiful.
I loved this scene.
I can’t believe I almost forgot this beautiful and wonderful anime
slideshow series. This series is quite divisive because of the method of storytelling SHAFT and Shinbo did with this series, focusing on choice shots and close-ups rather than animating everything. It may perhaps been a method to save money, or genuinely a unique way of storytelling, but it grew on me and I really liked it.
I loved how the individual arcs tied together with one another, and I loved the perfect cocktail of drama, humor, and romance. I also really loved how they ended the TV airings of the show, and I think episode 12 is one of the most memorable ending episodes in anime, especially because the ending theme was so apt with the ending itself. It’s certainly a memorable series somewhere in my top ten, but Kara no Kyoukai is simply transcendent.
4. Kara no Kyoukai: Boukyaku Rokuon
Shiki and Azaka as drawn by Kobayashi Jin
This was probably the most tangentially related of the movies among the series. Instead of featuring the tribulations of Shiki, it features Azaka. Simply put, it demoted the series’s protagonist into a side character for this movie. It’s a filler for the most part. Does that make this movie bad?
I thought the sixth movie was as entertaining as the other six movies, although not as deep or focused. It was not bad by any means, still blowing me away with amazing animation and characterization. Nevertheless, it still had a decent plot. This was how anime movies should be made: whether they are intrinsically or tangentially related to the plot, they should be made properly and with quality.
Besides, it also moved the plot forward. It paved the way to Shiki knowing more about the past she had forgotten, and was an introduction to the moving and conclusive Satsujin Kousatsu (Go).
5. Hatsukoi Limited
The girls of the series
I possess quite a fondness for J.C. Staff, but it’s not because of my fondness that I am rating this series highly. It’s because it was an adaptation of a manga that was better than the manga itself. Ultimately, we’re made to realize that the characters we’re observing are still children, and that they’re still on the way to realizing what life really is. Nevertheless, what they have experienced or are currently experiencing will be an indelible memory that will forever shadow their future decisions. The series possessed a wonderful balance between comedy, drama, and fanservice and ended in such a way that was pleasant, with closure, and yet open enough for the viewer to know that their lives are still beginning. It was a good show.
6. First Squad: The Moment of Truth
This was one of the most misleading images EVER.
I will probably like Summer Wars, but I have not watched it since there hasn’t been a proper RAW yet. Although the subs have been made, and I assume they have been made properly, it’s quite distracting to watch a movie hard-subbed with Korean text. I found it distracting, and I think many others have, as well.
I had expected much from this movie. After all, it was from Studio 4C, creators of such avant-garde masterpieces such as Tekkon Kinkreet. I was expecting more of the same from them, and more of the same quality as well. What I got instead was a quasi-documentary laced with an animated OVA, which were both decent, but not awesome or groundbreaking.
During the Second World War, Russians and Germans have gone into studying the occult and using the supernatural and paranormal to aid them in their conquests. I guess both of them were that desperate. This movie-cum-documentary featured a young girl who joined an army department that trained them mentally and psychically. Her friends died in war, but she was able to contact them to prevent a Soviet catastrophe. It doesn’t sound great, and it isn’t. The trailer, however, was very dissimulative, featuring the girl battling zombies with a katana. I instead got a lot of dialogue with a smattering of action here and there. The movie wasn’t great, but the technical prowess of Studio 4C prevented it from falling into being a bad OVA. It was a decent show, and after I destroyed my expectations when I saw real-life old men being interviewed regarding the occult tactics of the Second World War, I just enjoyed the show for what it was.
* * *
There have been some anime with notable first series but with disappointing second seasons, such as Spice and Wolf, and Darker than Black. The first seasons of both series are probably in my top twenty, but their second seasons have been disappointing, at least from a personal perspective.
Spice and Wolf barely had any development for Holo, and developed Lawrence even more, who was already developed a lot during the first season. I disliked the unevenness of the series, because while it showed that Lawrence really loved Holo, it didn’t show her reciprocating that love. There remained much of the same verbal fencing, much of her teasing, and much of her characteristic queenly attitude, but there was little progress of her, from what I saw. It was a letdown, but at least I have the comfort of knowing that it is highly probable that there will be a third season.
Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini, on the contrary, was just disappointing. It was awesome at the beginning up to the middle, but simply fell apart with its highly inconclusive end. While some people like pondering about quirky endings (I’m also like that), I also want to be given a few answers. All I currently have, however, is an interpretation of the ending that some people agree with, and some people disagree with. It doesn’t help when the creator and the director of the show blatantly says that the show has ended, and goes as far as explicitly saying that there will be no third season. It was not bad by any means, but I can personally say that I would rather there have been no second season since the first season left things open, but had a lot more closure. The focus of the series was on Hei’s choice, and I liked what he chose by the end of it all. I thought the ending was all right, and the series all right as well, but it wasn’t as good or as riveting as the first season.
This is Darker than Black 2 summarized.
At least there’s the OVA, I guess. I am by no means a fan of Yin as I am a fan of Hei, and I just did not really want Hei to suffer more than he did during the first season. Yet from what I see, Tensai gives me that. He turned his back on the choice that was most comfortable and beneficial for him the first season to give both humans and contractors a chance to exist with one another, and the only one left for him was Yin. During the second season, Tensai just had to take it away from him, and probably left Hei with nothing more than himself. Its level of tragedy is comparable to that of Chrno Crusade with other people’s interpretations, and it is not pleasant. Unless proven otherwise, I will stick with my own interpretation. It makes sense, anyway.
How about you, guys? What are your top five anime of 2009 and your reasons why you listed those series as such?
I hope everyone has a happy and enjoyable new year later (or tomorrow, depending on where you’re from!).
I have been highly productive with regard to anime. After waiting about a day reflecting on the second season of Gundam 00, I decided to start viewing (on just a whim) Bakemonogatari. I could not stop watching it, and I realized that it was among the best anime this year has offer. I loved it not because it was trailblazing or totally original like Mononoke; I loved it because aside from its story (which was entertaining enough) it was also stylistically both unique and pleasant. While it borrowed concepts from Mononoke (I thought this was evident enough as I went through the series), xxxHolic and Requiem from the Darkness, it still was original and witty enough to be an excellent watch for this year.
I also loved how the subplots (the different oddities encountered and the person suffering them) contributed to the development of the characters. One can see how Hitagi grows from a callous and totally cold woman to someone who has learned to care for another, but it is a testament to the greatness of the series that Hitagi does not become perfect: she is still verbally abusive and offensive at times, but she usually more than makes up for it with her kind words. There is a similar development among the others featured in the series, with Mayoi, Kanbaru, and Nadeko, who have changed directly or tangentially because of Koyomi’s involvement with them.
Unlike Mononoke, however, the series is of a lighter tone. It still got bloody quite a few times, but the presence of the amusing wordplay, the allusions to memes and other series (the one I found most notable were allusions to Doraemon and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) contributed to a more jocular series.
I laughed out loud when I saw this. This is quintessential 4chan.
Finally, the TV ending of the series (of course one knows that there are still three episodes left) was a great culmination of the series. It could be seen that Hitagi has finally opened herself up not merely because she was rid of the oddity that befell her, but because she has truly fallen in love for the first time with our lovable and heroic protagonist. Even if one ended with the 12th episode, one could see that the series has come full circle: it started with Hitagi, and it ended with her as well. From an ice queen she has become transformed into a human, and she has become (despite all her quirks and idiosyncrasies) a woman who loved with all her heart. The emotional aspect of Bakemonogatari (aside from its interesting stories) gives it humanity. It does not dwell on man’s evil but cherishes life, love, and forgiveness, and this gives it an advantage other horror series don’t really possess.
It hasn’t been the best anime I have ever seen, but I can say that it ranks among the best. In my own, personal ranking it’s probably a 9.25/10.
What did you guys think of Bakemonogatari? Is it utter pretension, or a work of art?