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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Long Wait: Update 5

Eiga Suite Pretty Cure is available on blu-ray now.  That leaves just Kobato and Steins;Gate floating in the dark abyss.  It's been a pretty productive month in terms of subbers catching up with the backlog of available good anime.

Now for spring season anime updates:

Hyouka is the newest series to join the spring lineup.  It's apparently a group of friends who go around solving rather unimportant mysteries for fun.  Maybe this leads into the world blowing up or something, but for now it's fine as is.  What interests me most about this series is how ridiculously talented everyone involved in the project is.  This is a book written by Shoji Gatoh, the author of Full Metal Panic.  It's being animated by Kyoto Animation, the best animation company ever.  The voice actors for the cast are all stars -- Okizaki from Clannad, Cure Lemonade from Yes Pretty Cure 5, Teletha Testorossa from Full Metal Panic, Yui from K-On, and so on.  The first episode was so visually rich it was basically playing around with the audience instead of focusing on the story, and the careful selection of classical music, if it continues, will be amazingly rewarding as an auditory background.  We're talking Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and Bach's Air in G here.  There's practically nothing prettier in this world.  On top of that, the main character girl, Chitanda, is beautiful in the Kyoto Animation only sort of way.  She isn't over the top anything, just a girl anyone would like on sight, which is refreshing compared to all the freaks and idiots cast in other shows.  Furthermore, the boys aren't total losers or bland nice nobodies, which is also refreshing.  This show has tons of strengths already and no weaknesses.

Kyoto Animation has never failed in producing a ranking anime except when it tried to make its own story, instead of adapting a source they believed in.  That unbelievable track record is enough for me.  Hyouka is immediately promoted to a 'should see' and to slot #120 in my anime rankings.

Let's discuss the other spring series for a bit though.  I've now watched three episodes of Accel World.  I dislike a lot of side issues about it, but I love the central story of someone giving up the materialism of 'booster' benefits for instead the unknown glory of Level 10, and the truth behind the game.  Any story that is based around forsaking what's unimportant for what's truly important is a good story.

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is off to a shaky start in that the boy is yet again a sexual pussy.  I can forgive the ghost girl for coming on so hard to him, since no one else can see her, much less touch her, so he's a pearl beyond price to her.  I can't forgive his lame, embarrassed responses as though he's never seen or thought of a girl before.  But I do like the sudden jumping into a back story and starting over from the beginning which lets us see how everyone met.  Basically there's a lot to like and dislike about episode 2, just like episode 1.

Haiyore was predictably over the top, but still funny, which is all its really aiming for.

Zetman was confusing and made the characters way too emo in episode 3.  Consider its stock value down.

Sankarea's episode 3 also drastically lowered its stock.  In episode 2 the girl kills herself via drinking poisonous zombie juice, that she didn't realize would fulfill her dream of making herself a zombie and thought was only poison.  That was poetic and cool.  But all of that was undone by episode 3, which has her wake up good as new, not a zombie.  She then finds out that the zombie juice works, so now she can die safely knowing it will work, which throws away all the power of her decision to kill herself.  Furthermore, even then she isn't willing to kill herself, and dies by accidentally being knocked off a cliff.  So she's robbed not only of the beauty of her death, but even of intending to die at all.  She was taken from a position of having made a fateful decision, to making no decisions at all, and things just 'happening to end up that way.'  A story is its decisions.  When you take your decisions away from your characters, and make them into passive sufferers of blind chance, you erase your story from any possible worth or meaning.  After such a great episode 2, I still have hope that something can be salvaged from this story, but it's still a bitter disappointment.

Shining Hearts is apparently a dating sim that involves combat, not a war simulation that involves dating.  Even so, it was a heartwarming episode.  It reminds me of the feel-good feel of Aria.  I think this series will do just fine.

Kore wa Zombie desuka was the usual mixture of funny, pretty, and stupid that it seems to specialize in.  Whenever I think this series might become good, it makes sure to dash those expectations and be bad again.  Oh well.

Sengoku Collection is surprisingly a lot of short stories about all the various Sengoku girls who live on Earth, not the romance I had imagined it to be.  But this version of the anime is fine too.  The color blindness effect used in episode 3 was really striking.  I like this show.  I liked the previous Sengoku story too. . .  Momoiro Paradox.  I'm going to stubbornly keep liking these shows, no matter how often the concept is repeated, until they actually become bad, and not before.

Sakamichi no Apollon's 2nd ep was pretty cool, what with the random jazz ensemble and the fight with the school bullies.  I'm not sure where this series is going but it emits a cool, and unique, 'mood' or 'atmosphere,' you could say.  That's worth it in itself.

Saki Achiga and Fate/Zero are of course great.

Natsuiro Kiseki, Space Brothers, Kimi to Boku, Kuroko no Basuke and Medaka Box are maintaining their promised worth.

So here's the new tiers, and remember, we haven't seen Akb0048 yet so the spring season's surprises aren't over yet:

Must See:

One Piece
Smile Precure

Should See:

Hunter x Hunter
Saki Achiga

No Harm in Seeing:

Kore wa Zombie Desuka?
Kuroko no Basuke
Ginga E Kickoff
The Knight Area
Sakamichi no Apollon
Medaka Box

If You're Bored:

Kimi to Boku
Mouretsu Pirates
Natsuiro Kiseki
Shining Hearts
Space Brothers
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia
Accel World

Everything Else:

Not worth watching.

What's surprising about the spring season isn't its best series, but its mediocre ones.  Virtually every spring series is watchable, passable, entertainment.  Perhaps the art of storytelling has become such a refined science that you just have to plug in a few constants and bam, you've got another masterpiece.  But for whatever reason dozens of shows, while not being great, have also avoided being bad.  That makes the spring a pleasant surprise, and much better than it could have been.

But wait, what do I mean rank #120?  My rankings only go to 110?  Well, there's a story behind that.

With so many watchable spring anime series, now that I've crossed the 3 episode barrier, my ability to extend my rankings has also flourished.  Technically I can only legally extend my series rankings by another 9 slots, following the rule of only ranking the top 1/3 of watchable series I've seen, but increments of ten are just so much more elegant, that I think I can fudge my numbers just a bit and just go already.  I'll watch some more series and make it up this summer, I promise!

1. Clannad (2007-2009) 
2. Pretty Cure (2004-2012+)
3. One Piece (1999-2012+)
4. Code Geass (2006-2009+)
5. Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (2004-2010+)
6. Seikai no Monshou/Senki/Danshou (1999-2005)
7. Fairy Tail (2009-2012+)
8. Naruto (2002-2012+)
9. Dragonball (1986-2011)
10. K-On! (2009-2011)
11. Kanon (2002-2007)
12. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni (2006-2012)
13. Haruhi Suzumiya (2006-2010)
14. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007-2009)
15. To Aru Majutsu no Index/Kagaku no Railgun (2008-2011+)
16. Angel Beats (2010)
17. Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011+)
18. Da Capo (2003-2011)
19. Katanagatari (2010)
20. The Idolm@ster (2011)
21. Full Metal Panic! (2002-2006)
22. Bakuman (2010-2012+)
23. Kobato (2009-2012)
24. Working! (2010-2012+)
25. Record of Lodoss War (1990-1998)
26. The World God Only Knows (2010-2011)
27. Hayate no Gotoku (2007-2012+)
28. Vandread (2000-2001) $
29. Sora no Woto (2010)
30. Toradora! (2008-2011)
31. Evangelion (1995-2009+)
32. Basilisk (2005)
33. Galaxy Angel (2001-2006)
34. Saki (2009-2012+)
35. Major (2004-2012)
36. Prince of Tennis (2001-2012)
37. Inuyasha (2000-2010)
38. Ranma 1/2 (1989-2008)
39. Sailor Moon (1992-1997)
40. Air (2005)
41. Hanasaku Iroha (2011+)
42. Usagi Drop (2011-2012)
43. Angelic Layer (2001)
44. Rurouni Kenshin (1996-2011+)
45. Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
46. Ef (2007-2008)
47. Ore no Immouto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (2010-2011+)
48. Uuchuu no Stellvia (2003)
49. Utawarerumono (2006-2010)
50. Summer Wars (2009)
51. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu (2010-2012)
52. Cowboy Bebop (1998-2001)
53. Samurai Champloo (2004-2005)
54. Battle Athletes (1997-1998)
55. Bleach (2004-2012)
56. Bake-(etc)-monogatari (2009-2012+)
57. Amagami SS (2010-2012)
58. Macross (1982-2011)
59. 12 Kingdoms (2002-2003)
60. Mononoke Hime (1997)
61. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (2011)
62. Berserk (1997-2012+)
63. Claymore (2007)
64. Valkyria Chronicles (2009-2011)
65. Negima! Magister Magi Negi (2004-2012)
66. Sora no Otoshimono (2009-2012+)
67. Strike Witches (2007-2012)
68. Nichijou (2011-2012+)
69. Hunter x Hunter (1999-2012+)
70. Fate/Stay/Etc (2006-2012+)
71. Card Captor Sakura (1998-2000)
72. Gundam (1979-2012+)
73. Shakugan no Shana (2005-2012)
74. Martian Successor Nadesico (1996-1998)
75. Read or Die (2001-2004)
76. Break Blade (2010-2011)
77. Kimi ni Todoke (2009-2011)
78. Spice and Wolf (2008-2009)
79. To Heart (1999-2012+)
80. Bastard! (1992)
81. Mahoromatic (2001-2009)
82. Akane-iro ni Somaru Saka (2008-2009)
83. Fatal Fury (1992-1994)
84. Lucky Star (2007-2008)
85. Azumanga Daioh (2002)
86. Alien Nine (2001-2002)
87. Iria: Zeiram the Animation (1994)
88. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
89. Guyver (1986-2006)
90. Spirited Away (2001)
91. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
92. Scrapped Princess (2003)
93. Steins;Gate (2011-2012+)
94. Gunbuster (1988-2012)
95. Shamanic Princess (1996-1998)
96. Boku ha Tomodachi ga Sukunai (2011)
97. Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai (2012)
98. Akira (1988)
99. Moshidora (2011)
100. High School of the Dead (2010-2011)
101. Flame of Recca (1997-1998)
102. Hikaru no Go (2001-2004)
103. Shinryaku! Ika Musume (2010-2011+)
104. Ghost in the Shell (1995-2011)
105. Tamayura (2010-2011+)
106. Zero no Tsukaima (2006-2012)
107. Soul Eater (2008-2009)
108. Sora no Manimani (2009)
109. Kanokon (2008-2009)
110. Gosick (2011)
111. Baccano/Durara (2007-2010)
112. Ninja Scroll (1993-2003+)
113. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
114. Death Note (2006-2008)
115. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (2009)
116. Saint Tail (1994-1996)
117. RG Veda (1991-1992)
118. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006)
119. X  (1996-2002)
120. Hyouka (2012+)

I've already explained why Hyouka gets the phantom 120th slot, which I haven't even watched enough anime to deserve.  So what about the remaining new 9?  What makes them so great?

Baccano/Durara I decided to include as a single, united franchise because the characters from Baccano appear in Durara for a cameo.  Furthermore, it's the same author and the same style of series, an enormous bunch of characters whose relationships extend out into a dizzying spider web and who hilariously affect each other in so many ways that you just have to hold on for the ride.  It's a very unique, very artistic style that I really love.  My only complaint is the plot itself, which tends to be over the top, dark, and unrealistic.  I feel like this storyteller is some sort of avant garde movie choreographer who's more interested in messing with the audience than telling his story.  There's a place for such geniuses, but it's at #111, not #1.

Ninja Scroll has been in the rankings before.  It has strong legacy value.  Like Ghost in the Shell and Dragonball, it's what really started the entire modern feel of anime.

Howl's Moving Castle has been in the rankings before too.  It's another chance to show off Miyazaki's hatred of war and love of love.

Death Note finally enters the rankings at 114.  My main complaint with Death Note is the 2nd half, where Kira, the genius who managed to even outwit L, loses to a bunch of nitwits after having conquered the entire world.  It just doesn't make sense.  It's a total letdown.  Death Note should have ended with Kira's victory and the beginning of a new, totalitarian age.  Then it would've been awesome.  Instead, it's #114.  There's a certain place for shows like Death Note and School Days which exceed the field of entertainment and become an independent meme of their own, as well.  Some attention should be given, and points awarded, for series that manage feats like that.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is a very short, very sad story of just everything going wrong.  The fact that it was shortly followed by the tsunami which really did kill tens of thousands of innocent Japanese people just going about their day makes it all the more poignant.  This story leaves you so desolated I'm not sure what positive message it was trying to give.  But it certainly is powerful, and maybe that's enough to be art.

Saint Tail is the original magical girl story, about a girl who actually practices magic tricks, like magicians do in the world today, you know, that sort of magic  (Confusing isn't it!).  It's Card Captor Sakura's senpai.  Saint Tail is almost as pretty as Sakura, the plot is almost as good, the romance is almost as touching, and so on.  But the 'action' was kind of silly, since Saint Tail never met her match in battle, and the art/animation was pretty low budget, which is understandable given how ancient it is.  I'm just so thankful to Saint Tail for popularizing a genre which eventually gave birth to Pretty Cure.

RG Veda has been in the rankings before.  I finally found a place to squeeze it in again.  Clamp's story about the battle between gods is still as visually and musically great as ever.  It was only two episodes long -- but they were two really good episodes!

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has been in the rankings before.  It's a classic about time travel's dangers as well as delights.

And Lastly there's X.  X is another work of Clamp's.  The manga was cancelled because it became too violent for the reader's or editor's taste, so like usual the anime didn't make much sense and just tried to navigate out its own ending.  Even so, X was just so freaking cool.  Seven heroes and seven villains, each with their own set of magical abilities and fighting styles, in a death match for the future of the world.  Not only was the action amazing, and the art, and the characters, but the dialogue between the competing sides was often classic too.  For instance, when someone asked why killing was wrong, the answer given was that those left behind who cared about the dead person would be sad.  The answer immediately given was, "then if I kill everyone, no one will be sad."  That put an end to that debate!  Lines and scenes like that will always give X such a memorable, unique feel.

So there we have it.  4 series that have always deserved to be ranked but keep getting shoved out by new shows, one new show which is only 1 episode long as of yet, 2 Clamp shows, one spiritual predecessor to a Clamp show, and a whole lot of violence and death.  111-120 is a pretty exciting lineup, well worth watching, which is the point of exhibiting only the best 1/3.  Since so many high quality shows hadn't been ranked yet, the rankings had to expand to include them.  It was their right to join the stage of the best.

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