2009, the first full year of anime blogging in my life and also the first year where I’ve reached the end knowing that I’ve watched pretty much everything of worth that season. So I feel pretty damn capable of providing a proper review of the year this time round, where as last year I did the post before watching both One Outs and Detroit Metal City. In fact, there is only one anime from this year that I haven’t given a proper look at: Phantom. I watched the first three episodes, really enjoyed them and then stopped watching. I have no idea why and I’ve been meaning to go back but never got around to it. Otherwise, everything else has been given at least one episode to prove its worth. A quick note though, the only anime I’m including are those that began in 2009. Right, lets do this shit!
This was actually a difficult category since there were no real shows that blew me away animation-wise this year. Third place went to Eden of the East, for some of the most gorgeous and detailed background artwork I’ve ever seen, although that was a bit of a cop-out choice amongst many other well-animated shows. Ride Back takes second spot for one of the very few instances where CGI was integrated to phenomenal results. I drooled at those Ride Backs for the entirety of that show. First place goes for a movie I haven’t actually seen yet. The Kara no Kyokai movies bore me, I mean really bore me, and yet I’ve watched 5 of them. Why? Because I have yet to see better animation in my life. If the last Kara no Kyokai movie is at the same level the it easily outscores anything else this season.
Top Opening Songs:
This was really tough to cut down and I felt terrible leaving out the first FMA opening but eventually third spot went to that epic Umineko opening song. It was perfectly OTT with all the yelling and dramatic music flying about everywhere, man I loved that opening. Second place went to the Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou opening, which never failed to plaster a big grin across my face. First place was insanely obvious though. You could spend ages dissecting the messages in that opening song (and people sure did), what with all the now famous imagery of the Selecao numbers and Noblesse Oblige. Eden of the East, Falling Down by Oasis.
Top Closing Songs:
Ah, the humble closing song. Never as great as their opening counterparts and constantly looked over. And for good reason, they’re never as good as the openings. But hey, I’ve picked out three I certainly enjoyed from this year. The Spice and Wolf ending I actually enjoyed even more than the engrish ear-worm from last season, a mighty achievement indeed. There doesn’t seem to be anyone out there who doesn’t like the Bakemonogatari ending and I’m not about to buck that trend. However my favourite ending goes to the other Shaft series that everyone sorta forgot about. I love that Natsu no Arashi ending, such a damn funky tune. Shame the second season sucked.
Best Insert Music
Now this was a tough category except this time it was because this year just didn’t have that many memorable soundtracks, especially compared to last year (although, as I said at the start, I need to watch Phantom). I’ve always liked the music in Spice and Wolf, although it’s hardly amazing. Eden of the East gets the nod for second place, mainly because of that song when Takizawa was shooting down the missiles. The winner was insanely easy to pick. I watched Hellsing this year and Yasushi Ishii’s work on that series was fantastic, but it doesn’t compare in the slightest to the Darker than Black soundtrack. I know people out there disagree with me but damn did I love every single chord of that soundtrack.
Best Male Character
Not many great male characters this year. Guin was in with a shot here but I ended up giving Roy Mustang third spot thanks to a combination of the gradual collapse of the Guin Saga anime and Mustangs epic performance in episode 19. Second place goes to my favourite expressionless character, Azuma from Cross Game. My winner is a bit of an unorthodox choice considering he’s probably only the 4th most important character in the series, but Xerxes Break stole the show every time he was on screen in Pandora Hearts. There was so much to this guy going on behind the scenes that everytime he appeared you found yourself wondering what on earth was he thinking now.
Best Female Character:
Oh lordy was there ever a bucketload of fantastic female characters this year, so much so that I can’t give anything to Hime from Sora no Manimani or Minami Chiaki bar a passing mention. Alice from Pandora Hearts takes third spot. Pandora Hearts had a multitude of fantastic characters, not least my favourite male character of the year Break, but Alice was the best of the lot. I was as fascinated as everyone else was by Senjogahara. She’s made it into my top 10 anime characters of all time and in any other year I would’ve laughed at the possibility that anyone else would top her performance. But no, this year had Horo. And nothing beats Horo.
A genre that didn’t get enough love this year, mainly thanks to the painful lack of mecha, but still produced some damn memorable pieces. Ride Back takes third spot, mainly for that fantastic rescue scene in episode 4, which was memorable for more than just the hopeless aiming abilities of those soldiers. Second spot goes to Full Metal Alchemist. The truly epic fights may only show up every 4-5 episodes but they are certainly worth waiting for (episode 19, again, deserves a mention). The winner is obviously Darker than Black. The combination of excellent choreography, clear-cut animation and some ingenious twists that is inherent with those bizarre contractors made every battle in DtB a huge amount of fun to watch.
My two favourite genres. Action and Comedy. Thankfully, comedy got a much better deal this year compared to last year, where the only comedy anime worth noting was Kannagi. Third spot here goes to Natsu no Arashi, for doing a little bit for making me dislike Shaft a little bit less after the dull Maria Holic and total saturation of Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei series. Bakemonogatari took that slight dislike for Shaft and turned it into full-blown love with the brilliantly witty script writing and the constant stream of uber quotable dialogue between Senjogahara and Araragi. But the winner was easy. Hetalia Axis Powers, for being one of the few anime that can make me fall out of my chair from laughing, trumps everything else this season comedy wise, even if it is a bit inconsistent.
A year of dumb decisions don’t you agree. I’m torn between giving third spot to either the first episode of Mazinger Z (who the hell thought it would be a good idea to provide a mish-mash of everything to come as a first episode?) and the choice to leave Cencoroll as just that one-episode anomaly when it clearly needed a proper airing to get anywhere close to its potential. Second place goes to the combined intellect of Shaft deciding to announce that they would air the final three episodes of Bakemonogatari on the internet when they hadn’t animated them yet…yeah, really smart there Shaft. First place is painfully obvious. Endless bloody Eight.
Most Memorable Quotes
I sealed it with fire!
I think I’ve mentioned this episode of FMA twice before already but who cares! It deserves even more. Episode 19 of Full Metal Alchemist:Brotherhood was the turning point of that series. No longer did it live in the shadow of the original. Finally it had produced something far better than even the first season could achieve. One of the best episodes in anime history, with one awesome scene after another until the sheer awesomeness exploded with this line. Mustangs GAR shot through the roof and FMA:B was never the same again.
It would be great if that became popular
Sometimes when watching an anime you find yourself wondering whether the creators do this stuff on purpose. It’s as if they knew exactly how popular Senjogahara would be and knew all they needed was a handy catchphrase. Anime Fandom had been enthralled by this character and nothing said it better than this quote. And it did become popular, oh boy weren’t we all fascinated. I never said it when it aired but I fully support the Senjogahara Fascination Movement.
Noblesse Oblige. Please continue to be the Messiah
There are some quotes in anime history that become synonymous with the anime itself. All you need to do is say that quote and everyone in the vicinity will nod in unison as they remember the awesomeness that was the anime in question. Even so, I’m struggling to think of one better than Juiz’s famous line in Eden of the East. Whether you’ve just asked for missiles to hit Japan or just to make the Prime Minister say ‘uncle’, the response will always be the same. Order received. Noblesse Oblige.
Hey, where is that anime?
I fall quite nicely into the moe-haters category. That said, I don’t think K-ON deserved the amount of abuse it got from certain sections although that doesn’t change the fact I thought it was dull and repetitive. Shojo is not a genre that has ever interested me and I totally fail to see the appeal of Kimi ni Todoke. Combine cuteness and shojo together and you could probably guess that I didn’t like Kobato. Canaan was terrible and anyone who thought that was a good show needs their head examined. Maria Holic looked pretty but never made me laugh. Umineko was entertaining, although for the wrong reasons more often than not. Summer Wars is actually a decent movie and probably the best anime that didn’t get a mentioin in this post.
Wish for 2010
Well my wish for 2009 was that Shangri-la would be a hit and turn Gonzo back onto the trail of glory…errr…yeah, that didn’t turn out so good. Because of that, I’m a bit wary of making some wishes for 2010 but here it goes. First, I hope that Crunchyroll will improve its subtitles and at least equal the quality of fansubbers. I hope that Brains Base’s first foray into making an anime 24 episodes, Durarara, will sell well enough to make them into a true bigwig in the anime industry and hopefully for Shaft to follow suit and also make longer series. Mark my words, these two will the the next two great anime studios. Finally, I hope that Break Blade will be a success and more companies will follow the Kara no Kyokai route of making these uber-long, straight to dvd episodes as the reign of the tv anime slowly dies out.
Overall Best Anime:
1o: Cross Game
To be quite honest, I think some people are over-rating this anime slightly to show off their elitism by proclaiming their love of an obscure series. Now that’s not to say this isn’t a good anime. I’m really enjoying watching the characters personalities bounce off each other, especially the best tsundere of the year Aoba. Herself, Azuma, Kou and the rest of them, ah I’m really going to miss them once the series ends. It’s slice of life done right and it’s a real delight to watch. But please don’t go around flaunting your knowledge of this anime as if you’ve unearthed an absolute gem. It’s a very well-made series but no masterpiece.
9: Hetalia Axis Powers
In some quarters of anime fandom, 2009 has been the year of Hetalia. In fact I’m not sure if many people realise how big an impact this series has made. From the realms of an obscure online webcomic, Hetalia has risen to become one of the top-selling dvds in Japan over the course of the year, with a third season and a movie just announced, and that’s not even getting into the realm of the copycat series. It isn’t the most consistent anime (understatement of the century) but when gets it right it is the funniest anime ever created. At least, that’s my minds telling me when I’m curled up on the floor in pain from laughing so hard.
8: Ride Back
Yes, the ending was a total let-down and really overshadowed the rest of the series. I keep having to remind myself that when I was watching Ride Back for the first 3/4 of the series, I found myself honestly thinking that I couldn’t see any other series this year topping it. I drooled at the animation and more than anything in the world I wanted one of those Ride Backs for myself. It awakened a fanboy inside me that I never knew existed. A fanboy of motorbikes with arms!
7: Pandora Hearts
One of the best cast of characters ever. In fact, the only anime I can think of with a better cast is School Rumble. Alice, Break, Gilbert, Oz, ah I loved them all. And that’s just the main characters! How could anyone forget the most fabulous character of the year, Jack Vessalius, or the slightly crazed character of the Chesire Cat. Another anime that ended on a bit of a whimper but boy did I enjoy the ride it took me on.
I’m unsure what title I should give this anime. Should I call it my sleeper hit of the year? Or the totally incorrect pre-conceptions of what it would be about (I was really expecting some depressing stuff). In fact, I think the most suitable title for this anime would be the feel-good anime of the year. Never did an episode end without succeeding in plastering a giant smile across my face. I wasn’t able to give it any awards, although I was sorely tempted to give Irabu one of the best male-characters award. That guy is such a total nutter. Or maybe Fukkuichi. He was awesome.
5: Darker than Black: Meteor of Gemini
This season of Darker than Black easily matched its predecessor. The linear storyline suited the pace of DtB better than those double-episodics. However the biggest difference was the change in Hei. I never liked Hei last season. I thought he was a prick being portrayed as someone we should look up to and that never sat well with me. This season he was a prick, shown to be a prick but did the whole ‘gradual healing and gaining respect’ progress that when he finally turned back into normal Hei, I found I had grown extremely fond of the guy. Shame the ending was a bit…yeah…wasn’t a great year for endings was it.
4: Spice and Wolf II
I didn’t think my love for Horo could grow anymore. Pfft, in comes Brains Base, knowing a business opertunity when they see one, and make this fantastic sequel to the first anime I ever watched as it aired in Japan. I could watch Horo and Lawrence flirt away in their unusual, bickering way for another 10 seasons and not get bored. I’d probably just love Horo even more than I already do. And here’s a surprise, an anime with a good ending! So join me folks as we pray for yet another season of Horo…and Lawrence too I guess. It’s not that I don’t like you Lawrence, I think you’re a great character in your own right. But face it, you’re in an anime with Horo. You never stood a chance.
I had never really loved a Shaft production before. However I could see the potential in there and I knew it would be only a matter of time before they produced something I loved. Every season I looked at the most recent Shaft production and thought ‘will this be it?’. It wasn’t Maria Holic, it wasn’t Natsu no Arashi, and then came Senjogahara and I was hooked. Such intelligence and wit in the writing, I’d never seen anything like it before. We were all fascinated. Well, I certainly was and if you weren’t well then sucks to be you. Mwahaha, go my biased views go!
2: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Have I mentioned episode 19 yet? Like, several times? Before that, FMA:B was just not needed and, while still certainly entertaining, never really in with a shout of being remembered with much fondness. But then in came the story that we had yet to see, the pacing finally slowed the fuck down, and we were treated to Brotherhood. I’m going to stand my ground on this one: Brotherhood is equal to the original. No better and no worse. Quite frankly, that is one of the highest praises you could give an anime.
1: Eden of the East
Not really a surprise this is top of the list is it. If you are surprised then you haven’t read the rest of the post yet so go back and read it now. If you had read the post and were still surprised to see this up here then you need to drop everything and go watch this now. For Eden of the East is the best anime of 2009. Noblesse Oblige. Please continue to be the Messiah. Now bring on those movies!