21 CommentsYear in Review / By Scamp /

My Top 10 Favourite Anime of 2001

2001 follows up the trend from 2000 with really terribly animated television series. The fact that Scryed is probably the best looking TV anime of the year is a really damning statement. The switch-over to full digital animation really wasn’t serving them well. I’m sure there must have been some other factors for this too. Over-stretching budgets post-Evangelion leading to a bomb around 1998/99 is another theory I’ve seen thrown around. Whatever the reason, standard television anime in 2001 look really bad and there’s very few out there worth remembering. Thankfully the movie arena picks up the slack, and there are some truly inspired short TV series.

Right, preamble over, onto my personal top 10 anime of 2001.

10: Lupin III Alcatraz Connection

After watching Castle of Cagliostro and deciding that I really like this whole Lupin III thing, I watched a whole load more Lupin III movies and specials. I discovered that perhaps I wasn’t so keen on the franchise after all. Alcatraz Connection is a nice exception to this though. It follows the usual Lupin III formula. Lupin steals something, gets fucked over by Fujiko, Goemon cuts things way too big for him, Jigen does absolutely fuck all. But it’s done extremely well here and is a massive barrel of fun. The scene that stands out for me is a high speed chase sequence involving a tram careering down a very hilly city. It’s also weirdly violent, with characters dying with alarming regularity. Probably my second favourite Lupin III thing after Cagliostro, although again that’s not as high a praise as it sounds.

9: Spirited Away

About average for Miyazaki movies in my opinion, mainly because the story seems to fall apart towards the end. I’m still not entirely sure how all the various pieces of this movie were supposed to fit together into a cohesive narrative. That said, it really is a wonderfully directed and incredibly fun movie. Chihiro’s first visit into that strange world is magical in how each scene is presented. It’s little things that make it work, such as timing the music with her steps. Those are the moments where this movie shines. There’s so little talking that it feels like a section of Fantasia. Again, not my favourite Miyazaki, but I guess it won that Academy Award for a reason.

8: Cowboy Bebop Movie

The main reason this isn’t higher is because the movie is just an extended episode of the TV series. The TV series is fantastic, and if that aired in 2001 would be ranked #1 on this list, but it’s hard to get as enthusiastic for a single episode. It doesn’t feel like a movie and the villain is one of those self-important deep voiced pseudo philosophers (although I suppose that accurately describes the villain of the TV series too). But an episode of Cowboy Bebop is still better than most anime out there. The part I particularly love is Spike being led through the North-African town, because the experience with his ‘vase that is just right for me’ captures that experience perfectly.

7: Banner of the Stars II

I can imagine the staff at Sunrise reading the novels and then burying their faces in their hands when they realised the third season would have only one episode in which Jinto and Lafiel were actually together. It’s really a miracle this season ended up any good at all. It tells a fine high-concept sci-fi story that’s less about Jinto and more about this society they’ve beamed down on. Ultimately, the writing in this franchise is good enough to make any sci-fi story well worth watching. It’s not quite the send off I was hoping Jinto and Lafiel to have, and it doesn’t hold a candle to Crest of the Stars, but a fine story nevertheless.

6: Noir

Noir could have had half the show cut out and it would be way better. It has this weird thing where nobody ever bleeds, even though at least 100 people must have been shot in the chest during the course of that show. Yes, Noir did have more than its fair share of problems. But what keeps me coming back is it remains the one show where I found a female duo to be truly fascinating and interesting to watch. That sounds ridiculous when I write it, but it’s true. Most female duos seem to be the type where one is dumb but insists on being friends while the other goes “gosh, she’s so genki she’s won me over”, which isn’t particularly engaging. There are plenty of female/male duos I love, and male/male duos. But two female characters whose relationship has complexity and depth that evolves throughout the show in an interesting and engaging manner? The only one I’ve seen is Noir. Which is a pretty damning statement on the rest of anime (or maybe I’m just sexist), but that above all is what makes Noir stand out for me.

5: Hare+Guu

Re-watching Hare+Guu dropped it down in my estimation a fair bit. I remembered it as being an utterly hilarious yet strangely heart-warming with a remarkably mature and sympathetic approach to serious issues like single mothers and youth pregnancy. The rewatch confirmed that the second part of my original impression remains true. It’s a massive achievement to have a comedy series so utterly bonkers as Hare+Guu to be able to give these serious subjects the respect they deserve while still keeping the tone humorous  It speaks to the ability comedy has, something I feel particularly strongly about. The first part though about it being utterly hilarious…yeah, that’s not quite the case. Still incredibly funny at parts, but it has too much yelling and could really do with being 13 episodes rather than 26.

4: Popee the Performer

Popee is disturbing. It takes the aesthetic and tone of a toddlers TV show with the slightly creepy tone they sometimes have, and ramps it up to create something truly terrifying. It uses that same cartoon logic and exaggerated actions and facial expressions to create visions of nightmares and pure horror, all while keeping a wacky tone with jolly music. At times its physical humour can be laugh out loud funny, but just as often I’d screech in horror and shove the laptop away from me. It’s also a series that I’ve come back to twice already to try understand its particular brand of brilliance, and it’s then that you realise how deliberately crafted the experience is. I’m not sure how much I’d say I ‘like’ Popee, but I know the work of a genius when I see it. A disturbed genius, but a genius nevertheless.

3: Kogepan

Out of all the new anime I watched for this 2001 list, Kogepan was easily the best. It’s no more than 30 minutes long, has a very simplistic art style that makes everything look like it was drawn in crayon, and could easily be passed off as some show for kiddywinks. But kids wouldn’t be able to get all the DEEP THEMES in this story about a burned piece of bread. As by my interpretation, it’s a story about old age and how you feel envious of those young ‘uns with their energy and their youths, but on the flip side you have the benefits of respect and experience that makes you a valuable member of society. Kogepan is marvellous and everyone should watch it.

2: Hellsing

Yes yes I know, the story falls apart pretty quickly and ends up going nowhere. But fuck it, I don’t care because it’s so damn cool. I love its style, with the circular glasses and oversized hats. I love the English dub, with Integra Hellsing yelling in that wonderfully vicious British accent. I know most people prefer Hellsing Ultimate, but I say fuck that version and it’s wallowing in excess and fetishistic love of graphic violence to the point of ridiculous overkill. Hellsing has the cool frightening sexiness of danger, but it’s mostly implicit, and the actual moment where Alucard goes berserk is presented as being frightening and shatters our view of him being a cool dude. That, if anyone cares to ask, is why I think Hellsing rules and Hellsing Ultimate droolz.

1: Millennium Actress

The ‘best’ Satoshi Kon film. I may have a bigger soft spot for Tokyo Godfathers because its themes and emotion got to me more, but Millennium Actress is the best constructed and well-realised. It’s got this fantastic way of telling several stories at once without any of them getting in the way of each other. The way it manages to weave in the story of this actress with the 20th century history of Japan is great. Plus, even with the rather dark themes and incredible amounts of emotion it has, Millennium Actress never loses its sense of humour. The best anime of 2001 by quite a considerable distance. RIP Satoshi Kon.

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21 Comments

  1. Posted December 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    Given what happened with Hare + Guu, you afraid that Chobits isn’t going to hold up well when you get to the 2002 list?

    • Scamp
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      I’ve re-read part of the Chobits manga. It’s already started…

      • Erif
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

        Well you probably shouldn’t expect much. :/

  2. Karry
    Posted December 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    “I know most people prefer Hellsing Ultimate”

    Idiots. Funny how people cry about defiling of manga story, but the honest truth about Hellsing manga is that its pretty shit, with no coherent story to speak of ! It falls apart even faster than in TV show.

  3. Karry
    Posted December 2, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    “The best anime of 2001 by quite a considerable distance.”

    No, no, that was Hikaru no Go. One that moved tens of thousands over the years to…go and buy a board. EVERYONE in my 220+ strong Go club except three older gents were inspired by that show. And ripples from Mazinkaiser are still alive. Who remembers Millenium Actress today ?
    And seriously, i wouldnt personally ever put movies and TV shows under same category.

    • Anca
      Posted December 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      And it pretty much single handedly revived the Japanese Go scene, and in some countries even *created* such a thing.

      Hikaru no Go is my favorite anime of all times, bar none. Millennium Actress was good, yes, but it didn’t have the sheer emotional impact and inspirational worth Hikaru no Go had.

      • Scamp
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been reading the Hikaru no Go manga and I do like it quite a lot. However it is nowhere near as good as Millennium Actress.

      • Anca
        Posted December 4, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        The anime in this case is better than the manga – it’s a 1:1 adaptation with good pacing, what sets it apart is the fantastic soundtrack.

        Although purely objectively speaking Millennium Actress would be better… I still liked HnG more.

  4. Posted December 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    For fans of Cowboy Bebop‘s eclectic travelogue-like vignettes steeped in multi-national urban culture, and also looking for “two female characters whose relationship has complexity and depth that evolves throughout the show in an interesting and engaging manner”, I highly recommend revisiting Michiko & Hatchin. I’m struck by the superb quality of the episodic stories; possibly the best of this kind I’ve seen since Bebop itself. I’m stunned that an anime this surprisingly great seems to have been forgotten by the community at large. So yeah, go watch Michiko & Hatchin. /rant

    • Scamp
      Posted December 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Hey man, late to the party much? I was hyping that up in my first season preview calling it the next Champloo/Bebop. I even blogged the show, that’s how hyped I was for it.

      • Posted December 3, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Yet you didn’t finish because…?

      • Scamp
        Posted December 3, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Because it was crap?

  5. gw_kimmy
    Posted December 2, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    it’s not you who’s sexist. trust. what was that test movies needed to pass in order to be considered “more progressive” in the feminist spectrum or something? bechdel? 99% of anime fail it, i’m sure. truth is i think some writers are a little uninspired when it comes to writing women so their interactions often end up being cliched, stereotypical and boring.

  6. blargh
    Posted December 2, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Is it bad of me to have only enjoyed Millennium Actress out of all the Kon films I’ve watched? I can’t deny that they looked wonderful, but they just didn’t tug at my soul like it seems other people seem to have experienced. I’ve attempted to watch Paranoia Agent at least 4 times now and haven’t been able to get past episode 6 or so.

    /agree to the Michiko & hatchin watch recommendation. I think I marathoned that show once I got started.

  7. Posted December 3, 2012 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    You got the right one, baby. Uh-huh. If it wasn’t for FLCL, I probably would have said Millennium Actress was the best thing from the Aughts, period.

  8. hint
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Ugh. Hellsing Ultimate only gets fun to watch from episode 7 onwards. Episodes 4 to 6 are bad & sluggish.

  9. Mormegil
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    It’s always nice to see some love for Millennium Actress. Certainly Kon’s most emotional film.

  10. Thrashy
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    I assume you’ve seen the 2-episode Banner of the Stars III OVA? It kills me that Sunrise hasn’t seen fit to revisit that universe since. One of my all-time favorite series.

    Speaking of all-time favorites, there’s a bunch of mine represented here. Bebop, Hellsing, Noir… 2001 was a good year.

  11. luffyluffy
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    ALCATRAZ CONNECTION? OUT OF ALL THE RUPANS YOU PICKED ALCATRAZ CONNECTION???

    Do me a favor and watch Fuma Conspiracy, It’s a Goemon centrict one and it’s easily one of my favorite lupin specials. Also Toshio Furukawa plays Lupin and SHIOZAWA FUCKING KANETO voices Goemon, so it’s just a very wild and fun watch over all.

    If you saw it and didn’t like it then shame on you. Baka.

    • cybustier
      Posted April 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      As fun as the Fuma Conspiracy is, it wasn’t made in 2001. Which is what this list is entirely about. Baka yarou. Ahem.

  12. Erif
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    “But fuck it, I don’t care because it’s so damn cool.”

    Sums up your anime preferences Scamp.

    Also what’s that post where you wrote about how much you hate Ultimate and that war speech? I remember laughing pretty wildly at it.

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