Posted on 31 December 2008 with categories: Yearly Summaries

I originally wanted to wait with posting this until Porfy no Nagai’s final episode got released, but its time is nearly running out here. The Share-uploaders have a very cruel sense of humour: out of all the episodes they could have picked to delay, it became that one. In any case, here’s the second half to my review of 2008.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Kaiba

Well, here’s a no-brainer. When I wrote my preview (apologies for the lack of images there), I originally ignored this series, mistaking it for a simple kiddie show. Then when it was finally time for the show to air, it totally blew me away. Other nice surprises this year were Chi’s Sweet Home (never knew that cats can be so awesome) and Blassreiter (which for a Gonzo action series turned out to be actually really good).

Best Action

Bonen no Xamdou

This was a tough one to decide, as there wasn’t exactly one series that really stood out in the action-department. Blassreiter featured some amazing fast-paced camera work because of the CG, the very few fight scenes of Real Drive were detailed and exciting, and Shikabane Hime featured some great typical Gainax-action scenes. But I guess that none of them really is able to beat Bonen no Xamdou: amazingly detailed animation, an amazing soundtrack and characters made for the best action scenes I watched this year.

Best Comedy

Gintama

Obviously, Gintama takes this award for the second year in a row. It’s not just funny, it’s been funny for nearly 100 episodes, and it still simply getting better and better. Runner-ups as Hyakko, Skip Beat and Chi’s Sweet Home may have been hilarious, but they still just didn’t match up to some of the most hilarious episodes of Gintama this year.

Best Old Series I Happened to See This Year

Mysterious Cities of Gold

Yeah, so what if the series is already 26 years old. It’s still everything an adventure series should be: a fast non-linear pacing, original setting, there’s always something going on. The cast of characters was awesome, especially Mendoza was brilliant, and it’s got to have the best soundtrack of any anime of the seventies and eighties. Runner up is Air (more than simply a bittersweet series).

Best Character-Development

Porfy no Nagai Tabi

Yeah, it’s probably no big surprise that a WMT-series is running off with this award again. This series has 52 episodes of nearly pure development in not just Porfy, but every other important character of the series, making them feel not only incredibly real, but also extremely dynamic, with lots of different sides. Especially Porfy is an excellently rounded character, and it’s an award well-earned. Runners up include Saiunkoku Monogatari (obviously) and in terms of shorter series: Blade of the Immortal (the growth of Rin, and the bond between her and Manji is definitely memorable).

Best Animation

Bonen no Xamdou

I can’t really give this one to Macross Frontier. Sure, it had a huge budget, but nevertheless the characters art kept looking inconsistent. A good use of messy animation would be something like Kurenai: things didn’t always flow well, but it was nevertheless full of life and detail. The only series that managed to beat Kurenai in that aspect this year was Bonen no Xamdou: the animation shined in everything through the series, and the creators really managed to pay attention to some small details. While not as good as the series that got this award last year (Seirei no Moribito), the work that the animators did on Bonen no Xamdou remains very impressive.

Best Script

Casshern Sins

From the outside, Casshern’s individual episodes seem like mere fillers, and yet the creators manage to use the time of each episode to the full potential through imaginative dialogues that get the best out of each characters. The scripts of the runners-up as Amatsuki and Mouryou no Hako was also very impressive.

Most Imaginative Setting

Kaiba

This is an award that I didn’t hand out last year, but I decided to include it this time for the series that have spent a significant amount of time to flesh out the world they’re set in, with the key word being imagination. Real Drive is an excellent example of this, with the vision of the world in sixty years it tried to create. Bonen no Xamdou also has some excellent ideas that are hidden in its setting, from the Xam’d designs to the imaginative locations that the series visits. But yeah, none of them can match up to Kaiba: there was hardly anything about the series that didn’t feel imaginative.

Best Slice of Life

Mokke

The definition of Slice of Life is of course a bit ambiguous, as it can mean different things depending on how you look at it. Still, I consider the daily lives of Shizuru and Mizuki to be part of the genre, and the combination of the two of them made for a compelling slice of life drama, with both parts equally interesting.

Best Thought-Provoking Anime

Mouryou no Hako

Runner-ups as Kaiba (questions what it means to have a body) and Jigoku Shoujo Mitsuganae (never afraid to be completely politically incorrect and yet it’s very critical of this) were already very interesting, but none of them really match up to the dialogues of Mouryou no Hako. There’s always something going on, and even when the characters aren’t discussing the plot, they’re delving into some sort of topic that vaguely has something to do with it, in order to flesh it out.

Best Supporting Character

Vanilla – Kaiba

The guy remains a total bastard for some of the things he did, but you can’t help but love the guy as the story unfolds. His quirks were a lot of fun, and also the serious scenes around him were downright awesome. The runners-up for this category probably are the side-casts of Amatsuki and Shion no Ou: thanks to them, there always was something interesting going on in their respective series.

Best Male Character

Akihiko Chuzenji – Mouryou no Hako

A bit of a strange choice, but let me try to explain. In 2008, there wasn’t really a male character that stood out for me in a way like: “Yes! He’s going to be the best male character of the year!”, so I had to turn to the runner-ups: characters that didn’t stand out per se, but nonetheless were excellent to watch. Those were Gintoki (Gintama, whenever he appears you know you’re going to crack up), Watanuki (xxxHOlic, I really liked how his character grew through the second season) and Akihiko. While we hardly know anything about him, compared to other characters in other series, the guy has an air of presence, similar to Ginko of Mushishi.

Best Female Character

Shion – Shion no Ou

When I watched the series, Shion struck me as a very headstrong character, despite all of the things that she had to cope with. She grew into an absolutely adorable one by the end of the series, and it was always fun to watch her rise in the tournament. Runner-ups are Minamo (RD Sennou Chousashitsu, a downright lovable character) and Hatchin (Michiko e Hatchin, sarcastic, independent and awesome to watch).

Best Mystery

Mouryou no Hako

Since mystery is one of my favourite genres, I was a bit let-down by 2007 due to the very small amount of good mystery-series in that year, but thankfully 2008 came back with some excellent series of the genre. Kurozuka was simple, yet effective, and Kaiba made optimal use of the unknown in creating its downright awesome storyline. Still, Mouryou no Hako gets this award for me, due to the sheer complexity and creativity of all the weird things that happen throughout the series. The questions are satisfying, but the eventual answers even more.

Best Drama

Shion no Ou

It’s always a bit vague what really belongs in this category, since nearly all anime has some sort of drama. The best drama I watched this year came from Shion no Ou, though. It was powerful, and yet never really melodramatic.

Best Story

Kaiba

Even though it only had 12 episodes, in those episodes Kaiba accomplished what most other series can’t even do in 26 of them. Kaiba’s story is complex, multi-layered and continuously interesting. Runners-up: Mouryou no Hako, Shion no Ou, Bonen no Xamdou.

Top 20 Anime of 2008: #10 – #1

#10: xxxHOlic: Kei

A very worthy successor to the original xxxHolic series. While the series was a bit short and the Kohane-arc disappointed a bit, the beginning and ending were downright excellent, and definitely the best stories that the series has shown us thus far. Even with the many crossovers to Tsubasa Chronicle in the manga, this series still kept its identity as an anime about modern folklore, and I really enjoyed it.

#9: Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino

Perhaps a controversial entry on this list, since according to many people it ruined the first season. I, however, don’t care, since the story was downright excellent. Artland’s adaptation was definitely different, yet at the same time a very enjoyable series, with an especially haunting cast of characters.

#8: Amatsuki

Amatsuki is one of the two big “lots of talking”-series this year. Still, it worked really well, not only because of the depth of the dialogue, but also the strength of the storytelling and characters. At times it may have been a bit difficult as a raw-watcher to understand what went on, but nevertheless it was one of the highlights of the past spring season.

#7: Ghost Hound

2008 may have been a relatively bad year for Production IG, but none of this reflected in Ghost Hound. It’s a unique series with its extreme emphasis on sound effects and psychology, but nevertheless it was a very interesting series to watch, and it did the seemingly impossible by making a bunch of teenaged brats into excellent characters.

#6: Porfy no Nagai Tabi

Ah, the latest World Masterpiece Theatre series. Unlike Les Miserables, it didn’t have an enormous story to work with, and instead it was a simple travelling series, but it put such an amazing amount of detail into just about everything. Porfy and Mina are some of the most rounded characters of the year due to their non-stop development, and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing background art yet.

#5: Bonen no Xamdou

Really, if there was some sort of book called “the ultimate guide to writing a good story”, then Bonen no Xamdou would be mentioned everywhere in it. It never takes anything for granted and slowly builds up just about everything that might be important to the storyline later on. There are no forced climaxes, and yet the attention to detail is amazing.

#4: Himitsu ~ The Revelation

If Madhouse’s domination in this year’s anime wasn’t already obvious enough: 3 of my top 4 series come from them. Himitsu had a concept with so much potential handed to it, and it used this to deliver one awesome series during the past spring-season. It was delightfully unpredictable: you never knew what the next story would be focusing on, or whether an episode would be simply entertaining or downright awesome. I also really grew to like the cast of characters more and more, and especially the series’ final quarter was one hit after the other.

#3: Mouryou no Hako

Mouryou no Hako really took me by surprised. Before it aired, I was almost certain that nothing would be able to beat Amatsuki this year in terms of complex dialogues, and then this series came and either equalled or even surpassed it in just about every aspect. Even though the series is filled with dialogues, the creators also succeeded in a very subtle chemistry between the characters, and wasted no moment to further flesh out its cast through either this dialogue or through their expressions. Clamp’s character-designs and the very solid production values made it continuously pleasing to look at, and the plot itself also was really well written.

#2: Kaiba

This year I again had a lot of difficulty choosing my number one. Both Kaiba and my number one pick for 2008 were downright incredible and just as good -if not better- than my top picks of 2007, though in the end I put this one on number 2 because of its rushed ending. Apart from that, though, this series felt like one that was its time far ahead. Masaaki Yuasa succeeded in delivering by far his best work. It’s series like this one that show the beauty of experimental series to its fullest.

#1: Shion no Ou

In the end, I really have to give my top pick of the year to Shion no Ou, the only series of 2008 to make it in my top 10. I hardly knew anything about Shougi, and yet it turned into an awesome series that managed to exploit the tournament setting to its fullest. The awesome cast of characters also made nearly every episode a success and the addictive pacing never let any episode get anywhere near boring. The animation was also daring, but ultimately it gave the series a unique and excellent look. I’m hoping to run into more series like this one in 2009.

Okay, that was it from me for 2008. A happy new year everyone, and the best wishes for 2009!

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Mouryou no Hako


The past fall season aired a lot of good and great series, but none of them was as good as this series: Mouryou no Hako, Madhouse’s latest masterpiece. This is one series that did just about everything right. Obviously it’s not for those who don’t like people talking over and over again, but it’s perfect for those who are looking for mature and complex anime. This is how mystery should be done!

I honestly can’t recall any other anime apart from a Mamoru Oshii-production that puts more emphasis on talking as this one. The series follows a string of bizarre murders, and the people who try to solve it. This whole mystery is multi-layered, it’s full of flashbacks and references, you’ll never know when something that passes the screen is important for the future. There are lots of scenes that don’t necessarily have any direct meaning, but instead are there to flesh out the setting or throw the viewer on a side-track, and yet the series itself never loses track of its goals, and everything comes together in the end in one of the best endings I’ve seen.

Another big selling-point of the series is its cast of characters. They hardly get as much screen time or background as your average anime, and yet they’re utterly amazing. The animation knows exactly what it needs to do to show their subtle movements and gestures in order to flesh them out while many other things happen, and the background that’s there is meaningful and has a huge impact. Every character has his or her own distinctive presence, with the best ones being Kanako and Akihiko, both for very, very different reasons. The entire cast is colourful and a delight to watch, despite the huge amounts of talking within this series.

Also, if you thought that shows as Code Geass is disturbing, then you haven’t seen anything yet. I refuse to spoil anything here, but like a few other Madhouse productions, this series breaks taboo after taboo. This is nothing near your average tame detective story.

Then the visuals: they look utterly incredible. Especially in the beginning episodes and episodes, the characters all look crisp and very detailed. The animators throw the most beautiful shots and visual effects at the viewer. Combine that with an awesome soundtrack, and you’ve got some amazing production values.

The only possible turn-off is, like mentioned above, the large amounts of talking: if you don’t like it, then it’s going to be hard to enjoy this series. There are two particular consecutive episodes, where nothing else happens apart from three guys, sitting in a room and talking to each other. This anime isn’t afraid to take risks, even though it might turn off some people.

So overall, this has been an amazing series. The script is fresh and creative and has a huge impact. There’s a lot of symbolism, both visual and in the storyline, and an excellent recommendation for those who look for a short mature series. The storytelling is strong yet subtle, and it’s yet another masterpiece by Madhouse.

Storytelling: 10/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 9/10
Posted on with categories: Mouryou no Hako





Short Synopsis: It’s finally time to reveal who is the real culprit behind this series.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 9/10 (Fantastic)
What an awesome way to close off 2008! I must say, this episode was absolutely incredible. It was the best episode of Mouryou no Hako yet, it had some of the best visuals of all the series I watched in 2008, it’s the second-most disturbing episode of 2008 and it has without a doubt the best ending of 2008, and in fact one of the best endings I’ve ever seen. Oh my god, how everything came together in the end!

So in the end, the culprit was Amemiya. I’m pretty surprised that I forgot this myself, but amongst all the clues that were thrown around, two of them pointed at the real culprit really clearly: the time when Kiba saw him outside of the research institute: he was trying to get Kanako’s limbs back, though didn’t take into account that Kiba would be there. Then, later as we saw Kanako lying in bed, it was indeed he who was watching her from the peek in the door. He then met Suzaki, who just smuggled Kanako’s head outside and killed him, taking away her head. It then seems that he met Kubo in the train, and showed him Kanako’s head, JUST LIKE IN THE STORY. It turns out that the story from Sekiguchi was from Kubo! Kubo then became jealous and wanted to create something like that too, not realizing that it took some advanced science to keep her alive in that state and… ah, forget the bloody summary, Hayase does a much better job at it.
And I must say that this is one disturbing story! Mimasaka slept with his actress daughter and got her freaking pregnant! People chopping up girls’ bodies, keeping them alive and distributing their limbs all over the country.

I must say, that of the past fall season, Mouryou no Hako has definitely been the best series of all airing shows. I already was convinced of that after the previous episode, and then it came with this episode. Even though Casshern Sins, Michiko to Hatchin and Bonen no Xamdou are already amazing, they’re going to have to be really good in order to be able to top this one. I realize how much of a hassle this series is to translate, but it would be such a shame if this gem would remain unsubbed.

My only question left is: what happened to Amemiya and Kanako’s body? Were they found? Did they disappear?

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews


Well, time for a quick review about another very obscure OVA from a few years ago. It’s basically about fifteen minutes ling, and what you’d call a minimalist anime: there’s no real animation, but instead the story is told by showing a number of drawings in quick succession, combined with sound effects, a bit of music here and there and two voice-actors. The result is a nice way to spend 15 minutes.

What’s especially nice is that the short starts with one big question-mark, and as it goes on it gradually starts explaining itself, until everything makes sense at the end. There’s a continuous haunting atmosphere, and especially the few fights simply delve into the surreal. The characters aren’t anything special, but so what? Who cares, it’s only fifteen minutes.

I like these kinds of short movies that only take up such a relatively short time. They’re able to experiment a lot with different animation techniques and concepts, which would be too risky for full fledged movies or even TV-series. Things as Genius Party, Robot Carnival or individual shots as Atama Yama, She and her Cat and Comedy. They lack the time to fully flesh out their storyline and characters, but nevertheless, they’re all interesting to watch. G-9 seems to be part of the GA-Nime franchise, and I hope to see the rest of it subbed some day.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 6/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 7/10
Posted on 30 December 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews


A modern Japanese cruiser that somehow through some strange cosmic reason travels back in time to 1942. Of course, for these sorts of premises it’s easy to simply fall into a “let’s use this chance to show those American pigs how superior we are”-formula, though it’s one that Zipang does pretty well at avoiding these clichés. Instead, it becomes an intense and thought-provoking war-drama.

The interesting thing is that despite this being a series about the Second World War, there’s hardly anyone that’s really portrayed as a bad guy, apart from a number of high Japanese officials who hardly ever get any screen-time. This series isn’t looking to provide excuses for what happened back then, but instead focuses on completely different issues: if you had the power to prevent the loss of thousands of lives, yet this involved a radical change of history in who knows what kind of direction, would you do it? And what do we people who have lived in these times of peace, know about what being in a real war is like?

It’s a surprisingly intense series, and what makes it so interesting is that every single character has a different view on the events that happen through the series. Everyone has different ideals and priorities, which quite often clash with each other. Characters like Kusaka, Yonai and Kikuchi and their ideals are a delight to watch.

As for downsides, this series showed me why Studio Deen’s series hardly ever feature any major use of CG: they’re just not good at it. They were unable to evade it with this series, and the CG-warships look pretty fake. It’s a shame, because the characters look excellent and down to earth, not to mention the terrific soundtrack. Then there’s also that final episode: it’s rushed, doesn’t really solve anything, and simply stops at a point where the manga went further. Sure, I can understand that the series was planned for 26 episodes, and that the manga’s storyline simply doesn’t fit in such a length, but at least some kind of closure would have been preferred.

Overall, Zipang is for those who are looking for series about realistic warfare, which lacks humanoid mecha and instead focuses on traditional military weaponry. In fact, most of the action here is psychological warfare, rather than fast-paced and flashy dogfights. Thumbs up to Kazuhiro Furuhashi, the director of Chevalier, Amatsuki and Rurouni Kenshin Tsuiokuhen.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 8/10
Setting: 9/10
Posted on with categories: Yearly Summaries

Well, it’s the time of the year again for the obligatory posts that look back at the highlights (and some of the lowlights) of the past year. This time, I decided to split this entry in two halves, otherwise the list would simply become too huge. I’ll post the second half tomorrow, after Porfy no Nagai Tabi and Mouryou no Hako finish.

Overall, what has struck me the most about 2008 is the surprising amount of series that just took up 13 episodes. When compared to previous years, there was a much bigger share of series that just went on for one single season, or that divided its airtime up in multiple of those short seasons. It’s perhaps because of this that there weren’t as much top-tier series as in previous years, and yet at the same time the average quality of the series that aired did rise, and this year had a fine selection of outstanding series.

Biggest Disappointment

Nijuu Mensou no Musume

Disappointments are the worst if created from high expectations, and that’s exactly what happened for me with this series. It went so well during the first half, the premise was intriguing, the plot twists kept you guessing, and then it all went down the drain because of that lacklustre final arc. Such a shame. Also disappointing were Hatenkou Yuugi (promising manga ruined by downright lazy staff members) and Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (went from absolutely hilarious to incredibly dull in just one season, but then again it had it coming).

Worst First Episode

Akikan

At the start of December, I was certain that I would be handing out this award to Bihada Ichizoku, the cheesy shoujo series that was advertising make-up products to young kids. Then KissXSis and Akikan aired, surpassing even that one in terms of badness with their ridiculous premises. In the end, Akikan gets the award because of the most pathetic excuse to get a guy and a girl to kiss each other.

Worst Series

Chocolate Underground

Of course, this only goes for series that I managed to finish. Who knows, perhaps Bihada Ichizoku became the best thing since sliced bread after its first episode? In any case, this one pretty much goes to Chocolate Underground. I kept watching it because I had faith in Production IG, and I’d like to thank this series for destroying that faith…

Best Cheese

Suteki Tantei Labyrinth

Um, yeah. I just had to include this series somehow. ^^; There’s good cheese and bad cheese. I’m not going to deny that Suteki Tantei Labyrinth was bad at times; it really had some horrible parts, and yet it never ceased to be amusing, especially the second half was just full of weirdness and delicious cheese.

Most Promising Studio

P.A. Works

In 2008, these guys for the first time went and produced a series of their own, rather than simply assisting random projects. The result was True Tears, a very solid romance series with equally excellent animation. If their future projects are as solid as that one, then these guys are something to watch out for.

Best ED

“Candy Line” by Hitomi Takahashi – Gintama

There were not many EDs that stood out for me this year. The ones that did the most were Mission E (way too much sweetness and yet somehow it worked), Shikabane Hime (Excellent vocals and nice imagery) and Gintama’s fifth ED: an excellent song, that also succeeds in putting its cast into a completely different setting and making it actually seem plausible. No really, Gintama: The High School Days would actually have lots of potential.

Best Movie 2006/2007

Kara no Kyoukai – Remaining Sense of Pain

I didn’t watch that many movies this year, so I don’t have many choices for this one. I’ve yet to see Ponyo and the Sky Crawlers, which I suspect would have gotten this award if I did. Still, the third Kara no Kyoukai movie was a good movie, with excellent visuals and a nice story to keep the viewer busy for an hour.

Best Suspense Series

Himitsu ~The Revelation

In terms of Suspense, Himitsu really was the best this year. A number of episodes was simply mind-boggling. The creators knew exactly how to keep the viewer’s interests, revealing just enough information at a time while keeping the viewer hungry for more. Also excellent in this depart are Kurozuka and the third season of Jigoku Shoujo.

Best OP

Mononoke Dance – Hakaba Kitarou

Lots of great OPs this year, but the best of them definitely was the one from Hakaba Kitarou. It’s a funky song, and the comic-book effect that pays homage to the original Gegege no Kitarou manga really works. Other series with great OPs this year include Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (so the show went pretty downhill, but at least the opening rocked), Ultraviolet (surprisingly good Engrish), Mokke (just cute), Shikabane Hime (great vocalist) and Kaiba (haunting). I was also going to list Kurozuka, but then again, that’s basically a song you get when you drink too much and happen to be near a recording studio…

Best Romance

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora

This was a tough award to decide, since I’m usually not that much into romance, although there were a few series that really stood out. Porfy no Nagai Tabi had a very strong episode dedicated to it, and Saiunkoku Monogatari and True Tears also were really good in this aspect. Still, in the end the best has to be Natsu no Sora, with its incredibly subtle storytelling that really shows the best and most natural form of romance, rather than the overblown and overly cheesy one.

The This-Needs-A-Sequel-So-Badly Award

Amatsuki

Gunslinger Girl, Blade of the Immortal and Amatsuki: three excellent series that have so much potential left if they receive another season. The most annoying is Amatsuki, though. It really ended just as things were getting good, and it’s a Studio Deen-series: it usually makes sequels for every one of its series that needs one, APART FROM THIS ONE.

Best Background Art

Porfy no Nagai Tabi

Sorry Macross Frontier, you may have a very amazing backgrounds here and there, but in no way did it match up to Porfy no Nagai Tabi: every single episode treated us with the most amazing and detailed backgrounds, perfectly representing the area that Porfy was in at the time, and it did so for fifty-two consecutive episodes.

Best Music

Blade of the Immortal

And for the third year in a row a Bee-Train series walks away with this award. It’s not as much overkill as in last year with El Cazador, though. The soundtrack from Himitsu, Gunslinger Girl – Il Teatrino, Kaiba and Bonen no Xamdou were also simply awesome, but Blade of the Immortal’s soundtrack really delves in the surreal at times. It’s completely unpredictable and will work on many people’s nerves, and yet for me it strangely really worked.

Best Animation Studio

MadHouse

No question possible here. Sure, they may have had a few screw-ups here and there, but some of the strongest series of the year came from their hands. In this year, they’ve proven to create a wide variety of different series with imaginative premises and excellent executions. Runners up for me were Studio Deen and Nippon Animation. I’d love to list Production IG with them, but for that to happen they really need to break their ties with Trans Arts…

Best Horror

Ghost Hound

With horror, I obviously mean the Japanese psychological kind, that tries to capture the viewer with intense storytelling, rather than lots of scary images (anime never was that scary anyway). The best horror this year came from Ghost Hound for me, since I absolutely loved the way it emphasized sound effects to create its creepy atmosphere. The other excellent horror shows this year were of course Kurozuka (combining horror with action) and Hakaba Kitarou (combining it with comedy).

Best-Looking Graphics

Casshern Sins

For this category, I’m not looking for animation quality, but simply a series that “looks good”. Madhouse was very good in this department this year: Himitsu ~The Revelation~ was a visual feast, despite the at first sight simple character-designs, and Kaiba too looked very original. Outside of the studio, Michiko e Hatchin also had lots of eye candy, but I’m going to give this award to Casshern Sins, the series with definitely the best character-designs of the year, and the architecture of some of the buildings also looks downright gorgeous.

Top 20 Anime of 2008: #20 – #11

#20: Saiunkoku Monogatari

This series isn’t as high on the list as usual, due to the constant hiatuses that the series kept taking and that it ended at the point where the juicy part was only about to begin. Still, despite that the series’ final episodes were great at building up, and making every character count despite the already huge cast of new and old characters.

#19: Blade of the Immortal

This turned out to be an experimental series, where Bee-Train was trying out a few new things here and there. The result was a series witha number of creative and interesting fights, surrounding a very enjoyable leading couple. The only shame is that there still isn’t some sort of second season announced.

#18: Hakaba Kitarou

Combine horror with comedy. You just have to think of it. Hakaba Kitarou stood out in the past winter season as a series with incredible amounts of imagination stuffed into it. The different goons that Kitarou would run into were all fun to watch, and it made this series nothing like its Gegege-counterparts.

#17: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

Brains Base have proven themselves yet again to be a high-quality animation studio. Natsume Yuujin-Chou is the perfect summer series, with a calm atmosphere, and yet very impressive episodic stories and characters. Not to mention the awesome Nyanko-sensei.

#16: Michiko e Hatchin

Anime that are set outside of Japan are already a minority, but setting a series in South America is nearly unheard of (I can only recall two other series that did the same, but both are more than twenty years old at this point). Michiko to Hatchin may have only just started, but it’s already an engaging and true to life series, with a staggering contrast between on one side the cute adventures of a ten year old, and on the other side the brutal and complex inner struggles of gang wars.

#15: Gintama

As usual, Gintama is the best comedy on this list. What makes this series so special, and a step above 95% of all other comedies is that it’s not just funny, but it’s been funny for NEARLY 100 EPISODES ALREADY, and the series is just getting better and better. Not to mention that the best moments of the series actually aren’t the comedy-ones, but the moments when the serious storylines pop up, filled with manly tears.

#14: Crystal Blaze

This year, I became a big fan of the kind of short series that don’t try to go extremely deep, and simply want to tell an interesting story or create a nice atmosphere. These shows were Ultraviolet, Kurozuka and Crystal Blaze, of which I enjoyed Crystal Blaze the most. From the outside it doesn’t look like anything special, and yet it succeeded in making optimal use of its short length by providing a thriller. It was a lot of fun to watch from beginning to end, and that’s why I’m including this series on this list.

#13: RD Sennou Chousashitsu

So it had a few balance issues, but nevertheless RD Sennou Chousashitsu or Real Drive did succeed in creating a very imaginative view of what the world would look like in sixty years time. The genre combination between slice of life and science fiction really worked and it was overall a very interesting series.

#12: Casshern Sins

If this series would already have been finished, I just know that it would have ranked even higher on this list. Casshern Sins has already proven to have an excellent sense of storytelling. The individual episodes may be episodic, but they’re masterful in fleshing out the characters that appear in them. It’s a very emotionally powerful series, which you wouldn’t suspect from a series that is about robots.

#11: Mokke

Yeah, this series completely sold me with its heart warming and sappy atmosphere. It’s not the first time where we have a series where the lead characters interact with youkai, but Mokke did it with personality. Mizuki and Shizuru were just too cute to not watch.

Well, so that’s the first half of the list, the rest follows tomorrow. In the meantime: what were your favourites of 2008?

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews


I remember how I one had a very strange bias against sports anime. I’m still not sure exactly why it was, but after watching shows as One Outs and Princess Nine, this bias is completely gone. Princess Nine makes baseball look fun.

You shouldn’t go into this series as a baseball-fan, however. At heart, this is a typical shoujo series about a bunch of characters who simply happen to play baseball. If you want baseball action, you should go and watch One Outs. Princess Nine is really about its characters. To give you an indication: episodes 1 to 20 only feature two official baseball matches. The rest of the time is really used to flesh out the cast, and give them depth. It’s a formula that works surprisingly well, although it’s not the most perfect execution.

Nevertheless, the creators succeeded in bringing an entire baseball team alive, including coach and manager. What especially shines is the series’ team spirit, as a baseball team that’s made up of girls tries to break through in a male dominated sport. It’s very well explained: while overblown a bit, but if you take talent from the entire country and gather it in one team, then you’ve got a pretty strong team that’s able to compete with males in a professional level.

The problem with this series come from its shoujo roots. The creators just love to let things play out like a soap opera, by throwing in lots of dramatic plot twists whenever they can. Think of random punks that arrive, just before a male and female character are about to meet each other, and especially the love triangle between the main characters gets a bit too melodramatic as the series goes on.

The series’ finale is without a doubt the weakest point of this series: not only does the love triangle really get in the way of everything that makes the series good, but the creators also tried to stuff an entire tournament in only four episodes. There’s no way to make these short matches have any impact, and so every unnamed player becomes a total noob, rather than the formidable opponents that they were portrayed as in the earlier parts of the series. I also think that the creators made the powers of their female lead a bit too powerful, up to the point that she only throws weak balls when she’s feeling lovesick, rather than standing against powerful opponents.

Nevertheless, I really liked this series, if only because of the downright awesome soundtrack. The creators managed to get the Warshaw Philharmonic Orchestra to perform for this series, and it shows: the soundtrack is rich, varied and epic. The series is most definitely overblown, but the characters nevertheless remain lovable, and of the kind that you can’t help but root for, despite that the matches themselves are perhaps a bit predictable.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 7/10
Posted on 29 December 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews, Blade of the Immortal


Blade of the Immortal is Bee-Train’s latest series, based on the rumoured excellent manga of the same name. It’s a series that’s definitely not for everyone, especially fans of the manga who are hoping to see a faithful adaptation, neither is it for those who have a very slim taste in music. However, if you’re looking for a number of well-coordinated fights and engaging characters, then you’re at the right address.

The series basically follows an immortal samurai (Manji), helping a weak but determined young girl (Rin) in exacting revenge on the death of her parents. What makes this series especially worth watching is the growth of Rin, as she questions what it means to take revenge, and whether it’s going to be worth it, and what her purpose is if she just keeps going to be rescued by Manji. In only 13 episodes, she grows into a strong character, despite her weak physique. Manji himself doesn’t exactly grow too much, but instead the creators manage to flesh him out really well in a relatively short amount of time, and he becomes a fun and interesting character to watch.

Fights also form a large part in this series, and for those who were afraid that Bee-Train has lost the ability to create good action-scenes, this series is there to prove them wrong. It’s daring, but the creators decided to go for an experimental animation style for the battles. The characters look fairly normal, and the animation budget isn’t particularly high either, but the series is full of interesting and creative camera-angles and poses. Overall, it’s a really nicely choreographed series.

But the biggest experimental feature of this series is the music. Bee-Train was already know as the studio with awesome music, but they carry that even further with this series: the soundtrack is unlike anything ever heard in an anime series. Kou Otani managed to produce an incredibly varied piece of work that feels incredibly random, yet somehow works. It’s a soundtrack you’ll either love or hate.

The biggest weakness of this series? It’s too damn short! The series ends just at the point where the series is done warming up, and there’s so much potential left in it that it would be a huge shame not to have some sort of second season. Blade of the Immortal is an excellent horror-series that may not be really faithful to the original manga, but nevertheless managed to create an excellent atmosphere.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 8/10
Posted on with categories: Blade of the Immortal



Short Synopsis: Rin tells Manji about who she met last episode.
Overall Enjoyment Value: 8/10 (Excellent)
Okay, so this felt absolutely nothing like an ending. The final battle? A sparring match between Rin and Manji. This episode was much more about the side-characters, and actually introduced much more than that it wrapped up. Is this really the end of the Blade of the Immortal anime? I most definitely hope not!

The most important event of this episode was the death of Taito’s sister, through the hands of Shira. It seems that he is indeed working together with Hyakurin and Giichi to get rid of the Ittou-Ryuu. The question now remains whether we’re ever going to see that one animated. This episode also shows how Rin comes to accept that she’s weak, and that she wishes to improve (hence the sparring match between her and Manji at the end).

But what I loved most about this episode is that the music really went all out on this episode. The soundtrack of this series is truly original, even though many people will dislike it. The wide variety of instruments and mood changes felt awesome.

Posted on with categories: Some Quick First Impressions

Akikan

Short Synopsis: Our lead character turns a can in a cute girl (no, really).
Chance of me Blogging: 0% (No way in Hell)
So, this is an early start to the upcoming Winter-season, and I hope that this isn’t some sort of premonition, because oh my god. The creators of harem anime are getting desperate here. To what kinds of depths do you have to sink to create an anime about cans that turn into girls, for goodness’ sake?! Out of all the uninspired premises I have seen this year, this has got to be one of the worst ones. On top of that, the dialogues are very poorly pasted together. Still, I admit that it made me chuckle one or twice. Still, the comedy is one thing, but the drama in this episode was downright abysmal. It was forced, non-sensical and way too cheesy for its own good. I can really see that lesbian in love with the lead character by the end of the series…

Maria Holic

Short Synopsis: Our lead character enters a prestigious high school.
Chance of me Blogging: 10% (Very slim)
If you’re wondering about the “Chance of Blogging”-bits, it was requested, and I personally think it as appropriate as well, rather than those ambiguous episode ratings that were quite inaccurate the last time I used them. In any case, Maria Holic started out incredibly dull: the character-designs are bland and uninspired, the maid feels out of place, and the concept of a girl entering a prestigious high school has been done many times before. Then, however a nice twist in the second half made the show a bit more interesting, and at least the second half enjoyable. My fear is just that I’m not sure whether the premise is large enough to fill 12 episodes. The cast still feels most like stereotypes. Also, even though this seems to be a Shinbo-series, it feels like the blandest thing that he’s managed to produce since Tsukuyomi Moon Phase. What this series needs to do is develop the characters beyond their stereotypes, but we already know that Shinbo is simply not good at that.

Kurokami The Animation

Short Synopsis: Our lead character lives in a city where trucks like to hit people.
Chance of me Blogging: 20% (Only if the rest of the season is baaad)
With a title as “Kurokami”, I pretty much guessed that it would involve somehow around a female character with black hair, and indeed: that was spot-on. What we have here is again a seemingly random guy who meets a mysterious girl and gets involved with a huge plot. What’s interesting about it is the concepts of doppelgangers. I’m not sure about everyone with a doppelganger being hit by a truck, but there’s nevertheless a lot of potential with such a concept. The show also featured a number of pretty and varied background arts, so that’s all good. What wasn’t so interesting was that female lead… The male lead is actually pretty decent: he has a lot on his mind with the death of his mother, but he doesn’t seem like an idiot and instead is curious. The female lead was very annoying, however. The main villain also seemed too much like a “Muahaha, look at me: I’m evil because I’m evil!”-villain, which also could cause lots of problems for this series in the future.

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  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:16 PM)
    It was only really entertaining for how nuts it got.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:15 PM)
    Aku no hana’s manga never really felt like much more than “crazy shit happening and femdom” = guilty pleasure to me.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:07 PM)
    @Emma: Gankutsou was fine in my opinion tho, as it was so out there that I never saw it as a real attempt at adaptation.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:06 PM)
    I don’t have much exposure to Cumberbatch beyond seeing him talk on film programs and also his role in that Star Trek movie, kind of want to see him in imitation game.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:06 PM)
    @K-off: Don’t give ‘em ideas m8, that actually sounds like a pitch that they would pick up.
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 12:04 PM)
    There is a shoujo manga adaptation/rework of King Richard, there is also a romeo and juliet anime, it was one of the worst thing Gonzo produced, still didn’t dislike it as much a gankutsuou though.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:58 AM)
    @Bam He’d probably find some dumbass way to make it into shonen. Maybe Raskolnikov battles Alyona Ivanovna before he kills her.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:55 AM)
    Whoever made Aku no Hana should totally make a Catcher in the Rye adaptation tho, as they’re both fittingly pretentious and empty.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:52 AM)
    @K-off: and that was the great Tezuka, now imagine whoever’s writing Akame ga Kill attempting that lol
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:49 AM)
    There used to be a long-running and widely internationally syndicated anime series known as World Masterpiece Theater, which adapted many famous stories and novels into anime format. Interesting some stories such as Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs turned into a pretty decent Shoujo.

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