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.
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
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.