Archive for December, 2007

Year-End Anime Awards for 2007

It’s that time of year again.

The air is cold, the night is swift, and Dick Clark is still alive and no one knows why.

Yes, it is the end of 2007, and that means we get the end of the year “best of” awards ceremony. Criteria: the show must have started its broadcast in 2007. So, everything from winter season to fall season is fair game. So here we go!

Best Drama About Drama: Hitohira

Refreshingly original characters, a slight hint of yuri, and some real emotional power drives this series. I kind of glossed over it, and then heard about it from a friend of mine, and then watched it, expecting it to be some kind of mild schoolhouse comedy. Instead I got an incredible and moving drama. It came from nowhere and socked me with both cute and poignancy. How many of your average moe shows get that done, tell me?

Best Space Opera That Was Based on Seventies Manga: Terra e…

A rather inauspicious start led into a flurry of emotions and an actually epic plot, something its contemporary Heroic Age could have only wished it was. Not only that, the anime actually improves on the original manga, making it much more affecting.

Best Show With Immortal Gangsters: Baccano!

I’ve already said my piece about this show, of course, but to review: incredible characterization and a very tightly scripted plot turned this show into one of the real winners of 2007. The whole series would have flopped, in my opinion, had it been 26 episodes, due to the slow pacing that would have been brought on it.

Best Comedy About Little…Things That No One Knows What They Are: Potemayo

The 4koma nature of the manga this was adapted from led to a totally nonsensical anime. And it was good that way. It’s been a while since an anime comedy made me laugh as consistently as Potemayo did, and doing it all without making references is a plus.

Best Show About Drills: Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann

I don’t think I actually have to talk about this one much. I was relatively unimpressed by the first episode for some reason (hype got to me, I think–I kind of expected it to be a hilarious episode, and not an episode of burning passion for some reason) but I quickly warmed up to the series and ended up loving it all the way through. It was, indeed, manly as all get out. And well-paced past a certain point, too.

Best Romantic Drama Wherein There are Numerous Visual Tricks Because Shinbo is Crazy: ef – a tale of memories

I just wrote a post on this since it just ended, so it’s still fresh in my mind, but it’s definitely one of the top-tier series this year. See previous posts on the topic for reminders on why it’s listed here.

Honorable Mentions

“Honorable Mentions”, in this case, usually means “this show is really good but I haven’t actually finished it yet”.

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Minami-ke

We got not one, not two, but three rather clever comedies this year, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei being the funniest Shinbo Akiyuki show to date, and Minami-ke being….Minami-ke. All three of them are worthy of note, but I just haven’t finished these two. For shame.

Hidamari Sketch

Notable simply because it marked a point where Shinbo stopped being Pani Poni Dash Shinbo and became the Shinbo I can actually find amusing and interesting to watch. I was apathetic before this show; now I’m as much of a Shinbo whore as the next person. So, uh, yeah.

Lucky Star

I actually did finish this, and it was really fun to watch, and I will be buying the upcoming DVDs, so I can’t really explain why it’s down here. Notable, however, for turning a relatively mediocre manga into a huge otaku phenonmenon. Amazing what Kyoto Animation can do, isn’t it?

CLANNAD

Again, you probably know my stance on this show. The relationship dynamics between Tomoya and Nagisa are great, and the one arc I’ve seen so far has been pretty good. And I hear the Kotomi arc is great.

Moyashimon

Yes, let’s make a show about bacteria! And it will be the greatest thing ever!

Mobile Suit Gundam 00

Nothing’s changed since I last watched an episode. It’s still going strong. 30th anniversaries are wonderful things.

Sketchbook ~full color’s~

The other slice of life show about artists. It’s not as viusally clever as Hidamari Sketch is, but it’s a lot more relaxing and funny, thanks to Team Aria.

Dennou Coil

I still can’t figure out why I’m watching this so slowly. I think I’m trying to preserve the awesome as long as possible. Yeah, that’s it.

Darker than BLACK

I’m still only partway through this, but it’s been fairly good thus far. I don’t think it’ll make it into the top-tier up there, but I like the way every arc is focused around character development over action. It could just as easily have been an straightforward action show, but, instead, it’s a pretty nifty study in character.

Ghost Hound

It’s finally shaped itself up to be a good, creepy show. Even if it’s not allegedly as bizarre as Serial Experiments: Lain, I still like it.

I think that’s everything. As you can see, this year has been quite bountiful with the goods.

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Gundam X got rather good all of a sudden

I don’t know what actually happened, but After War Gundam X, mid-series, just got a hell of a lot better. It’d been quite enjoyable before, although I could really see why it got canceled. Gundam X is a strange beast of a Gundam. It feels really weird, and a lot more “episodic” at first. Oh, there’s multi-episode plot arcs galore, but they all felt rather standalone. However, in episode 21 we got the introduction of the midseries upgrade, the Gundam Double X. It looks suitably scary and imposing and like it’s about ready to blow up small islands at the drop of a hat. We also get the actual antagonist entity for Jamil and co. to fight against by 24.

What sets this series apart from other Gundam series (and why the first 20 episodes feel so weird) is that it’s not about fighting a war so much as fighting the spectre of war. The name of the timeline is well suited to explaining this–since the series takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, it is indeed After War. This isn’t a Gripping War Melodrama like most other Gundam series tend to be (except for G, because Imagawa Yasuhiro is…well, Imagawa Yasuhiro), it’s a Gripping After War Melodrama. See what I’m getting at?

What do we find as the focus of many of the early arc plots? We find that they tend to revolve around old, abandoned projects that might have been table-turning in the war, if they had ever actually come to fruition. There’s the whole sequence in the snowy fort dealing with the Patrouria and artifical Newtypes to destroy the world again. Then there’s the whole sequence on the ocean where first they’re helping Newtype dolphins escape the fate of being turned into radar systems (The Newtype dolphin, by the way, is quite gar) and then they’re confronting Project L, another remnant of the war that poses a threat to the crew of the Frieden.

This isn’t quite a war to end all wars, like we’re getting in Gundam 00 right now. Instead, it’s something more subtle–it’s trying to, as is bandied about before the Double X gets stolen,  fight against the future and prevent another large-scale disaster like the massive colony drop. It’s not quite the same, but there’s a clear semantical difference between X and other Gundam series. I think it’s that difference that contributed to why it ended up “failing”, but it’s also that difference that makes it a good series. It’s one of those series that, while not ahead of its time, people just weren’t ready for it at the time it aired.

We’ve got 00 airing right now, and I’d really like to see what Sunrise does with the franchise after both seasons of 00 have finished airing. The only Gundam I’ve ever been disappointed in was Destiny, but I also haven’t watched Wing and ZZ, which are usually the most reviled, but I plan to when I get the chance to. It’s quite fun to see what each new alternate Gundam universe does that’s different and strange from the others.

G is still the best, though. I refuse to budge on that matter.

Well, that was unexpectedly cheerful and upbeat

I just want to know what that other paper airplane was.

Just when you think the Renji x Chihiro arc is over with, whoops! It’s not! Contrary to my predictions, ef was ultimately not quite a tragedy, or even very bittersweet–instead, it’s something more. Since episode 7, the series has sent its loyal and devoted viewers on an emotional rollercoaster of sorrow and triumph and heartache. As with all things, I value the getting there much more than the conclusion (a value that is almost essential to being an anime fan) but, in ef’s case, the conclusion is very strong indeed. ef really is a romance story done the right way–it’s not comfort food like those slim Harlequin paperbacks you see at Wal-Mart, but rather a twisted, tangled path to the ultimately happy conclusion.

I guess the ending in bittersweet in the sense that all the characters had to prevail over intense emotional suffering before ending up in an ultimately happy position–Chihiro over the pain of trying to forget about Renji, Renji over Chihiro forgetting about him, Hirono over being torn between two girls, Kei over the pain of losing Hirono to Miyako, and Miyako over the pain of a meaningless existence. The video director guy (who I still can’t remember the name of, and I’m sure it was in this episode somewhere) is just kind of…there, to give Kei someone to be foisted on after Hirono chooses Miyako. One weak character in this cast, however, I can forgive.

The coda was quite nice, and we get to see that everything seems to have worked out happily for everyone involved, which is never a bad thing. The ending didn’t feel like they artificially made it happy just because it’s easier to end on a high note. Rather, it felt more like the logical next step. Of course Chihiro wouldn’t forget about Renji quite so easily (although if she was really determined she would have conked herself in the head with a mallet and remained unconscious past the time limit). Of course Hirono would choose the lonely Miyako over the almost domineering Kei, whom he sees more as family than as a potential love mate. Foregone conclusions never hurt something on their own; see previous post for the emphasis placed on execution over originality.

ef is certainly a high watermark for the eroge conversion genre, and if more eroge (and their adaptations) learn from it, this can only be a good thing. I said before I’d like to have strong stories (with sex) rather than sex with a bit of plot in it. Still stands.

Fuko + Party Hat = Win

Fuko ;_____________________________________________________________;

As one of the few Fuko fans around, the actual conclusion to her arc was beautiful. I was afraid they’d kill her off or something horrible like that, but instead we get a bittersweet wedding. The best part of it was the milling crowds outside the school after the wedding–after everyone forgetting about Fuko and the wedding, they all mysteriously remembered the day of the wedding and showed up to wish congratulations upon Fuko’s sister. I, personally, am incredibly happy that Fuko got to hand her sister a starfish–I didn’t quite cry, but it was about to happen.

Speaking of crying, that’s what I like about Key games (or, rather, their respective anime series)–the actual resolutions to character arcs are, when deconstructed into their most basic form, sound really, really cheesy. I’m a firm believer in the power of execution over concept, as there are really no concepts that you can’t boil down into a really silly sounding sound bite, and Key games prove this. It’s hard to put my finger on why, exactly, but, somehow, with a combination of good writing and Kyoto Animation’s always extremely competent directing, even the most trite and ridiculous of resolution can fill one with emotion. They’re not anime masterpiece classics in the making, but they are extremely fun to watch, if your deal happens to be getting all tied up emotionally with an anime girl. They’re extremely good at this, which is something I’d expect from what is essentially one of the pioneers of the moe trend.

Another highlight of episode 9: Fuko forcing Nagisa and Tomoya to refer to each other by first name. They’re such a charming couple, it’s wonderful to watch their relationship take little steps like this. I guess I’m just a big ol’ softy.

And I remember seeing screencaps of Fuko in PARTY HAT in a later episode, so that means I get MORE Party Hat Fuko and I can die of cute overload. Party hats are now the most moe headgear ever.

Extra Special Bonus Contentless Post With Haiku: Felt Grace Edition

Since I never got a chance to post an actual post yesterday because somehow I found myself roped into cleaning house, here is a free totally worthless post with a picture of Felt Grace. Yes, I took mercy upon those of you who search “felt grace” on google and vainly click my blog in hopes of cute Felt Grace and get…a kind of silly screencap. So now you get this actually decent fanart! Rejoice!

Also you get a haiku:

Oh Felt Grace, your
hair is pink and may be used
as a small pillow

Now don’t say I never gave you anything.

Nyan nyan nyan nyan, ni hao nyan!

GREEN. PREHENSILE. HAIR. Also best commercial ever.

I am most pleased at the first episode (really a special) of Macross F(rontier). We have singers (in hot outfits). We have cute potential love interests. We have a guy with a ponytail. And the whole thing is so pretty I just sat there slack-jawed at the beauty of it all.

We unfortunately don’t know much about the story at all yet, which makes this special largely a 26 minute eye candy feast, but it’s an excellent first episode that sets the stage for what is to come. Judging from the special, Sheryl seems pretty sinister for a pop star. I mean normally pop stars don’t look all menacing and speak with an evil tone of voice, so the whole bit toward the end with her in the car was a bit…weird. I also give Sheryl’s two songs 7 out of 10 Fire Bombers. (No song Macross churns out will ever be as awesome as the songs in Macross 7)

The CG was really nicely done, as expected from Satelite. I only ever watched the one episode of Sousei no Aquarion (I somehow can’t muster the courage to watch more, despite not disliking the first episode), and CG mecha rarely look good, but Valkyries are about twice as awesome in CG as they are in not-CG. One of the best things about the Macross series is its combination of plane-style combat with the Valkyrie form (oh, you delicious Itano ciruses) and mecha-style combat with the Gerwalk and Battroid forms. Gerwalk is always fun because it’s a PLANE! WIth LEGS! The alien ship was quite nifty too, and certainly more imaginative than 7’s “oh the enemy pilots Valkyries too.”

In short: this series cannot broadcast fast enough for me.

I’ll take one Graham Special, with strawberries on top

What, did you think it was a kind of cheesecake or something?

It kind of depresses me to think that, even 300 years from now, the Middle East is still going to be a huge hotbed for ethnic hatred and sectarian conflicts. Or, at least, that’s what Gundam 00 tells me. The episode prologue and the Amuro Ray-narrated chunk of exposition at the beginning of the episode were incredibly fascinating to me, from a projected-history standpoint. The whole episode being about Azadistan and the coup d’etat there just shows Mizushima Seiji at his best–i.e., pointing out that, yes, the MIddle East is a huge problem that is not going to go away without any effort. I don’t know if Mizushima plans to actually get all political and start taking snipes at current events, but the future world of 00 is, unfortunately, a fairly accurate representation of what the world might become. Of course, in ten years or so, all this may look as silly and outdated as Soviets in Gunbuster.

There was not as much Setsuna F. Seiei development as I would have liked, or hoped, but it looks like he’s getting his multi-episode arc to explain his past like Allelujah Haptism just had, so I’m assuming everyone moaning about Setsuna being an underdeveloped tool (he’s a guy, okay, he can’t grow breasts) will be shown exactly why Setsuna F. Seiei is an underdeveloped tool. In place of Setsuna development, however, was some nice scenes of Marina. I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor girl, she’s acting exactly like I would if I were head of state. If you ever needed a clear and concise reason as to why I shouldn’t be head of state, well, just look at her. She’s learning just how hard it is to juggle factions and still come out on top. The hard way. Still, she’s the most moe head of state since Sabe–err, I mean, Yulia Tymoshenko of the Ukraine left office. The woman has computer wallpaper of herself, that’s how moe she is.

00 has made it through half of its run, give or take half an episode. I only foresee good things for the future. Keep up the good work, Sunrise–and try not to have too bad a cliffhanger, okay?


NOTICE SHAMELESSLY STOLEN FROM G.K. CHESTERTON

I cannot understand those that take anime seriously, but I can love them, and I do. Out of my love I warn them to keep clear of this blog.

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