25 CommentsYear in Review / By Scamp /

My Top 10 Favourite Anime of 2003


Almost forgot I hadn’t posted this yet.

It’s around there that the boom years for anime hit a little. The industry had fully shaken off the awkward transitional period of the early 00s and was really getting down to business of cranking out product. The amount of TV anime being made shot up. Gonzo were on top of their game. The OVA market of old was giving way to make way for many an ambitious 26 episode TV series. Not all of which worked. In fact, not many did. From #6 downwards I don’t think 2003 was a terribly strong year for anime. But my top 5 anime from 2003 would rival any other year. Those 5 anime I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

10: PlanetES


I really like Goro Taniguchi as a director. He made Code Geass and Infinite Ryvius, two of my all time favourite anime. One of which this whole blog is named after. If you’re a proper elite critic of anime though, you are supposed to love PlanetES, Goro Taniguchi’s realistic sci-fi manga adaptation about a bunch of space rubbish collectors. Indeed I did like the first half of the show, with its great character interactions and chemistry between the crew. Its realistic approach to sci-fi concepts made for some great armchair theorising about how their crew worked. Unfortunately the second half of PlanetES got drama heavy and all the characters started moping and sulking. It killed the fun in the series and I still kinda resent it for that. It’s still an all right show, but I definitely don’t like it as much as most people do.

9: Interstella 5555


I think Interstella 5555 gets away with murder because it’s unique. It’s a movie with no dialogue and the only sound is the entire Daft Punk Discovery album, telling the story of a band of blue aliens being brainwashed by an evil corporation. The music doesn’t match what’s going on screen at all and the story is all a bit hokey. However let me repeat that description of it again. It’s a movie with no dialogue and the only sound is the entire Daft Punk Discovery album. I wish more anime like this were made, because holy shit what an awesome concept.

8: Full Metal Panic Fumoffu


Fumoffu is the weird spin-off from Full Metal Panic that completely removes all the military stuff and focuses entirely on the goofy comedic part. With that serious stuff out of the way, they really do crank up the ridiculousness, sometimes to quite alarming and slightly scary levels. Unfortunately about 75% of the show is typical bad romcom anime comedy that isn’t particularly funny nor clever. That remaining 25% is this weirdly dark black comedy that has really nasty things to say about the nature of humanity. It’s bizarre enough to be brilliantly funny but is also kinda nasty, which is what makes it so memorable. Fumoffu is another show that I think enjoys a better reputation than it deserves. People remember the rugby episode or the psychotic PONY man, and forget the rest of the show is rather dull. But hey, it’s still definitely worth it for those brilliantly darker crazy comedy moments.

7: Nasu: Summer in Andalusia


Summer in Andalusia is a Madhouse movie that is basically a Ghibli movie because it’s by a bunch of the same animators. It’s about a cycling tournament in the south of Spain and tells a neat little story about a guy trying to cycle away from his homeland and childhood but ultimately keeps coming back to it. It’s not a terribly ambitious movie, but it succeeds in exactly what it sets out to do. The cycling is presented in an interesting fashion which ramps up excitingly, and Andalusia really comes alive in the animation. Well worth the hour it takes to get through.

6: The Big O season 2


Big O season 2 was made thanks to American fans because Japan never took to it. Which is great, because The Big O is a great show and more is always welcome, but unfortunately the second season doesn’t quite live up to the first. Its head goes a little too far up its own arse with its story so its storytelling. Which is a shame because storytelling was always one of The Big O’s finest points. But it still kept everything else. The noir aesthetic, the witty dialogue, mai waifu Dorothy. It still had Big O punching giant robots really slowly and then double punching with his big piston arm. It’s a great, comic booky-style show, even if not as good as season 1.

5: Kino’s Journey


Kino’s Journey has a very unique approach to storytelling, at least by modern standards. It’s very similar to Aesop’s Fables or Brothers Grimm where the events don’t necessarily play out in a logical fashion but the messages and themes of the stories really stick with you long after you’ve forgotten the exact details. This makes Kino’s Journey practically timeless. This is an anime you could show fans in 100 years time and it would hold up just as well.

4: Cromartie High School


I’ve unfortunately seen Cromartie too many times now so I know all the jokes and it just isn’t as funny anymore. This makes grading my enjoyment of Cromartie quite difficult now. Returning to stuff like Kino’s Journey elevated it in my mind because it helped remind me what a great show that is and that my teenage self didn’t inflate its brilliance in my immature mind. Cromartie I know each gag so returning to it was just not as funny. If I was to rank it by how funny I thought it was when I originally saw it, I would tell you its the funniest anime of all time and a work of pure genius. Nowadays though I’m less confident of that assertion. Still watch it though. My 17 year old self was definitely onto something.

3: Last Exile

[Cman] Last Exile Ep 08 'Takeback' [Blu-Ray 720p][F5D064CE].mkv_snapshot_11.00_[2013.10.28_17.19.36]

One of the most complete adventure anime ever, topped only by the one at the top of this list. Each character goes through their own arc of gradual changing perspectives and goals, each one compelling in their own way. The story slowly expands in scope with each episode, continuously ramping up the stakes while never loosing track of what its main characters find important. The world is amazingly designed and realised with a lot of detail going into such minor background aspects that are fun to explore but never required to follow the main story. It’s what adventure anime should aspire to be.

2: Tokyo Godfathers


Tokyo Godfathers is perhaps not Satoshi Kon’s best movie per say. Some of its twists are maybe a little too convinient, even taking into account its Christmas miracles theme. That said, it’s still probably my favourite of his because of how it got to me. I fell in love with the characters and so desperately wanted them to pull themselves out of their predicament. The miracles theme gave the movie that feeling of magic that things would turn out great. When characters sink down as low as the ones in this movie have, watching them get any gratification, any improvement is just so rewarding. It’s the perfect Christmas movie. Watch it.

1: Fullmetal Alchemist


I like both versions of Full Metal Alchemist. Yes the 2003 version sorta falls apart towards the end and its story isn’t as well thought out and constructed as Brotherhood. On the other hand, it has much more powerful emotional weight. The slower start gives the trauma the brother’s felt a much stronger focus and their relationship feels much stronger in this version. There’s more depth and strength of character. It’s not as exciting as Brotherhood, but its a lot more intense and powerful because it’s less shounen-y. Both FMA’s though are still great, and they’re great because of how they are continuously excellent in all categories. Great pacing, great characters, great writing. It never necessarily blows any other anime apart in any single category, but its so good in every single area that it ultimately ends up being much stronger as a whole through the strength of each individual part.

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  1. ilvanezzo
    Posted January 23, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. If you haven’t read Planetes the manga, do it now. It’s only like 4 or 5 volumes and leagues ahead of the anime adaptation. It’s tighter, doesn’t have a crapload of annoying characters who inexplicably die in a tragic accident [ugh] and has some of the most amazing imagery ever (I can’t quite remember, but I think Hachimaki’s conversations with a black cat did not make the cut).

    Might I suggest it for a possible future MangaDriver?

    • gedata
      Posted January 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

      When I found out Ai wasn’t in the manga, kinda killed my interest. Girl really grew on me.

      • Chevalier
        Posted January 24, 2014 at 1:25 am | Permalink

        Actually, Ai is definitely in the manga. There are some noticeable differences in how she’s presented though, since she’s not even introduced at the beginning, but some stuff like the whole sequence with the dead astronaut and so on comes straight from the original story.

        Arguably some of the reworking involving her is one of the biggest differences between both formats, which might disappoint manga purists but, again, I felt it still functioned well enough for the purposes of the show.

      • Posted January 24, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention that manga Ai is ugly.

    • Nagisa33
      Posted January 23, 2014 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      I liked Ai a lot, especially in the later half. Wikipedia tells us that many characters were anime only. As silly as some characters were, they made things fun or interesting and I’m glad they created them. Robbie was my favorite out of the bunch.

    • Chevalier
      Posted January 24, 2014 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      As someone who likes both versions of Planetes, I think you’re being unfair to the anime.

      The manga is more introspective about space exploration and its particular challenges, which is very good, but it also has like two whole volumes of material that would have been practically impossible to adapt since they shift the focus so radically away from Hachimaki.

      The anime chose to remain focused on Hachimaki and Tanabe, which included dealing with their relationship in more detail than the manga did and giving another spin to other aspects of the pre-existing framework. Nevertheless, I felt it was effective and enjoy having two different yet enjoyable versions of the story.

      Also, I have to nitpick your description for the sake of the record. The specific anime original characters you’re referring to (the weird moon guys) didn’t play a major role in the TV series either, outside of one admittedly controversial episode which some found funny and others disliked. As for their death, at least it served to make a point and wasn’t really overplayed either.

      But aside from them, I felt several of the other anime exclusive characters (like Hachimaki’s senpai) were better treated and did contribute more to the narrative.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 24, 2014 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      Manga Driver-wise, I’ve been reading Sakamoto Desu Ka because I was thinking of doing a review of that, but there’s too little out. Now currently eyeing up Ghost in the Shell. For whenever I have, which at the moment seems like NEVER

  2. Shikamaru
    Posted January 23, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    God damn it Scamp! I was trying to find something new to watch last christmas and Christmas themed anime movie would have been perfect. Maybe I should wait a year and watch it when it’s Christmas.

    After seeing FMA Brotherhood I noticed that I don’t enjoy the original FMA anymore. I used to like it a lot when I was a teenager when everybody recommended it for me. Brotherhood is just better.

    You should have put Da Capo as fake number one. I usually enjoy romcom harem anime but Da Capo is REALLY bad. I didn’t even like it as a teenager. If somebody wants to torture me they can show all 93 Da Capo episodes in a row. That number includes sequels but they are REALLY bad as well.

    My number one pick would have been Cromartie. I have seen it only once and that was over 5 years ago. I really should rewatch it when I have time and see if I still like it.

    • Posted January 23, 2014 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

      Putting Da Capo on anything, even as a joke, indicates the absence of any sort of rational thought.

  3. Posted January 23, 2014 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I wish the dramatic execution from FMA stayed with Brotherhood, but alas the perfect holy anime sandwich shall never be.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 24, 2014 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Alas we shall never have the perfect anime

  4. Chevalier
    Posted January 24, 2014 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    Well, it looks like I’m a little on the opposite side of Scamp here. I actually really liked the second half of Planetes more than the first, generally speaking, because it raised the stakes beyond just more slice-of-life antics and also gave the main characters a lot of development. I felt most of the drama worked and made for some extremely memorable scenes, especially during the final few episodes, which I can’t wait to rewatch again.

    On the other hand, I think I’m closer to your views on Fumoffu. It’s good but not the masterpiece of comedy that some think it is. Then again, comedy is one of the most subjective aspects of entertainment for a reason.

    The same thing goes for Big O S2. It’s a decent but slightly weaker sequel that got a little too abstract for its own good.

    It’s been many years since I last saw Full Metal Alchemist and I wouldn’t really know how to properly rank the 2003 series next to Brotherhood, outside of the fact it handled the early material better, mostly because of the obvious pacing issue.

    I still need to watch Kino’s Journey one of these days, though at least I believe the DVD set should be somewhere around here.

    • Sjg
      Posted January 24, 2014 at 2:19 am | Permalink

      With regards to Planetes, I don’t think it really matters which half of the show people enjoyed more, rather it had a fundamental fault as a series because of how the transition between the two halves was handled. A lot of effort and time was spent to develop a specific tone which was hastily thrown out and replaced with an intense drama that felt foreign. I think that kind of rapid change does a disservice to the viewers who had been acclimating to the show, effectively telling them what they watched no longer matters.

      It’s really some of the same criticism you see against Samurai Flamenco and the Star Wars prequels. A sudden shift in tone can feel like a betrayal to the viewer and be very polarizing as a result.

      • Nagisa33
        Posted January 24, 2014 at 3:01 am | Permalink

        I enjoyed the entire show and I think it shifted effectively. Quite a few shows transition from something more lighthearted or funny to serious or heavy and it works out just fine. I wouldn’t say the shift in Planetes is comparable to SamFlam. There was no indication that
        Flamenco would change in such a dramatic fashion.

      • Sjg
        Posted January 24, 2014 at 5:04 am | Permalink

        I was exaggerating a bit with the comparisons, and a myriad of other flaws contributed to the problems with Samurai Flamenco and Star Wars 1-3, but what I recall from watching it was that the two halves of the show were disparate enough that it definitely felt jarring. I feel that such transitions in tonality can be made effectively, but I think it has to involve a lot of groundwork being laid.

        Admittedly, it’s been ten years since I’ve watched Planetes so I hope I’m not mischaracterizing it, but it definitely crystallized my opinion enough at the time that the shift in tone remains the primary criticism to come to mind when I think of the series. Not to impugn those who enjoyed the show, but it was certainly a polarizing moment to me, especially as critical opinion was sky-high at the time.

      • gedata
        Posted January 24, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know guys, PlanetES was touching on some real major socio-economic shit in the earlier half of the series, you know like all that stuff dealing with poverty, terrorists and whatnot. There’s also the matter of Hachimaki’s aspirations too. A dramatic shift in tone was probably necessary to do justice to all that stuff introduced in favor of funny SOL stuff.

      • Scamp
        Posted January 24, 2014 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        A new general rule: You are not allowed compare anything to Samurai Flamenco because nothing compares to what Samurai Flamenco did. It’s called Guillotine Gorilla Rule

  5. Fumoffu!!
    Posted January 24, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I remember when I was looking for a really good series to watch, and I watched Kino’s Journey with high hopes.

    It’s on of those rare times when I have had a completely different opinion to what I was expecting I was going to have, and it confused me that I didn’t like it. Basically it had really poor storytelling. It introduced her to a town (“country”) where most of the time the people there acted completely unrealistically and strangely, and we basically got insight into someone’s thought experiment of “what would happen if a society were fucked up enough to do _______”.

    Didn’t impress me at all, unfortunately.

    • Popka
      Posted January 24, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      It struck me more as “why would this happen?” than “what would happen if people were this fucked up?” combined with “why is Kino OK with this?”

      The situations are bizarre and absurd, but I always thought the series was more or less celebrating that there was enough variety between people that the situations could be conceived of at all, or at least portraying Kino as someone who was happy about it.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 24, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Why would the hare sleep for an entire race. That’s really silly. In fact, why are they even racing. They can’t talk. How come Cinderella is the only person that shoe fits? That’s dumb

      • lmm
        Posted January 26, 2014 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        Um, yeah. A lot of those stories really are dumb, that’s why adults don’t take them seriously, we just fob them off on kids.

  6. Someone Else
    Posted January 24, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh gonzo, what happened to youuuuu

    • Scamp
      Posted January 24, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Lots and lots of awful CG

      • gedata
        Posted January 24, 2014 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

        You were planning on trying Gantz for 04 right? Oh lord.

        They also have hilarious quality control issues sometimes.

  7. sandberm
    Posted January 26, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    5camp recommends Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem…coincidence? ;-)

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