Posted by psgels on 30 December 2008 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?

20 Responses

  1. I agree with the worst first episode. It was worst in some way because of the weird fanservice and with those wtf scenes.

    The worst series was yes, really bad. But I watched that anime for the lulz. XD A place where chocolate is banned? Oh shhhss that will never happen.

  2. Westlo says:

    I have to agree that Madhouse was the studio of the year and I think they will be the studio of Winter 2009 for sure. Rideback looks to be the Casshern of that season (best title noone is watching!) and Hajime no Ippo will continue to be awesome.

    Also you need to mention the fluidness of Casshern, they really went all out there Madhouse.

  3. Windspirit says:

    No Code Geass ?
    I thought it was the most entertaining series of 2008. Not exactly for the same reasons as everyone finds this entertaining, actually…

  4. Vangui says:

    Bihada Ichizoku actually improves later. I mean, it becomes more hilarious.
    That was the problem with this series. A lot of people were expecting an anime about girls participating in beautiful contest using cosmetics and a lot of other things that really aren’t appealing.
    But this is actually a parody of old shoujo animes. It is supposed to be a comedy, with over exaggerated dramatic moments.
    If you think doing acrobatics to put sliced cucumbers in your face to make you beautiful or using a pink bazooka to kill your sister aren’t stupid and ridiculous, then people are taking anime really seriously…

  5. Kim says:

    I would have put Natsume Yuujinchou and Casshern Sins higher but I am glad they made your list.

  6. senerikfred says:

    Yes, Gintama has great EDs, but. . .Candy Line. . .? That was one of the lesser ones, IMO, even if the pictures in the background were cool. The current one is better, but that wouldn’t qualify as ‘ED of the year’ for me either.
    I’d watch Amatsuki if it got a sequel, and more of Saiunkoku would be great, so let’s keep hoping.

  7. Marmoset says:

    An unusual and interesting list as always though I’m not sure about the inclusion of unfinished series in the list. Nijuu Mensou no Musume was alright for a time before completely falling apart and I don’t think you should assume second halves will live up to firsts.

  8. Katapan says:

    I have to strongly back up Vangui’s comment – actually, I was really surprised to find out people were expecting Bihada Ichizoku to be a series that took itself seriously. I thought the very first promo picture showed it would be a parody, and the first episode only confirmed this… then the series just kept on seriously delivering in that department.

    I know I had never laughed that hard in front of anime. You just never could tell where this was going, and the completely weird characters didn’t help (SMK and his cat? Kamatama-san?). The voice acting was also definitely praiseworthy (Kitamura Eri’s 80’s shoujo laugh is nothing short of awesome). Of course, I guess you’d have to have a very odd sense of humor to enjoy this as much as I did, in a “so bad it’s great” way.

    I’d really love to get a sequel for Amatsuki, but I just don’t think the DVD sales were good enough to drive the producers into allocating the right budget for a second series (apart from the first two episodes on volume 1, none of the DVDs ever made it to the Oricon charts on their first week… meaning the sales were most likely under 1k copies sold, quite far from a commercial success). A real shame, since I thought it was definitely one of the most interesting series of the year.

  9. Archer says:

    i most definitely agree with Madhouse – studio of the year and next year seems to be another good year for them,while Production IG disappointed me quite a bit this year especially with RD,to have such a good premise and such superb,high quality animation but ruin it with some stupid plot ideas afterwards,such a waste of budget
    also i agree with Ghost Hound,it was a very good horror and probably one of my favorite anime of the year,Gintama also as funny as ever,Kurozuka and Gundam had the best action imo and now i look forward to part2

  10. Denizen says:

    My Top Ten would be:

    1. Xam’d: Lost Memories
    2. Casshern Sins
    3. Kurenai
    4. Ghost Hound
    5. Shikabane Hime
    6. Michiko to Hatchin
    7. Birdy the Mighty: Decode
    8. Macross Frontier
    9. Kaiba
    10. Soul Eater

    I swear Ghost Hound is a 2007 anime but everyone seems to include it, so why not? Fall/Winter shows tend to drop off the scale due to confusion of what year they are from. I guess it would make more sense to judge an anime on what year it ended.

  11. PhuzyBuny says:

    I’d actually thought RD would be in the top ten but that’s just my opinion.

  12. Windspirit says:

    @Denizen : This is how it’s done on AnimeReactor and it makes a lot of sense, yes.

  13. midenz says:

    great list ^_^! enjoyed reading it ^.^ This year was pretty rockin good !

  14. Mu says:

    My personal top 10 would be:

    1. Xam’d Lost Memories;
    2. Mouryo no Hako;
    3. Shion no Ou (yeah, I know it started in 2007 but ended this March so I would place it in this list);
    4. Real Drive;
    5. Mokke;
    6. XXX Holic: Kei;
    7. Ghost Hound;
    8. Natsume Yuujin-chou;
    9. Mugen no Juunin;
    10. Amatsuki;

  15. Machi says:

    Surprised you added unfinished series. But I wholeheartedly agree on madhouse being the best studio this year, they created Kaiba and thats more than enough reason just for the risk they took on that series.

  16. BlueYoshi says:

    Also agreeing with Madhouse being the best studio, and that’s probably just because of Kaiba, and the small amount of Kurozuka and Himitsu I have watched. I still need to start Casshern too. Kinda wished I didn’t download Chaos Head, hearing that it’s quite disappointing.

    While I never really got the time to finish Hakaba Kitarou, I loved it’s OP, and it’s good to see it as your fav of the year.

  17. Cody says:

    Amatsuki needs a sequel so bad it’s scary.

    The final episode sucks/is completely awesome at the same time.

    I would have ranked RD higher as well but that’s me. I NEVER have trouble with pacing issues as long as the stories are interesting, and to me RD gave a very interesting story. Seriously, all the characters were awesome and I loved the idea of the series combined with slice of life.

  18. mulligan says:

    Must have been quite an effort to put together such an extensive and thorough review for the year’s worth of anime output. Well done! always looking forward to your reviews :)

  19. F0r7y_2 says:

    X’amd: Lost Memories is easily my favorites for best of ’08. I also really liked Soul Eater and Toradora but neither of those really stand out as anything particularly special outside of this year the way that X’amd does.

  20. PROOV22 says:

    what episode is that Mokke( with judo clothes) what EPISODE ?

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  • 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.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:49 AM)
    *make that Dostoevsky’s great-grandson.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:48 AM)
    @Bam the famous Osamu Tezuka made one that was so shit that even Dostoevsky’s own grandson called it blasphemous, and Ochiai Naoyuki’s modern adaptation makes me want to kill him.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:43 AM)
    @K-off: how does one go about making a manga adaptation of a Dostoyevsky novel? That guy must’ve been clearly over his head.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:39 AM)
    I’ll probably try it over Christmas if I can, we’ll see. But the title, obviously a reference to Crime and Punishment, reminds me of a conversation I had with Emma concerning the novel where she said she only read the manga. I should make it clear that I absolutely HATE manga adaptation of literary classics. The art style doesn't fit, and they're just mostly awful.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:35 AM)
    @Bam If someone is a neocon, they usually have a bible open on their desk, a library full of Ayn Rand and Chuck Smith, a picture of Thomas Jefferson on one side of the room, and one of Ronald Reagan on the other.
  • Bam
    (Sunday, Nov 23. 2014 11:34 AM)
    @K-off: try it m8, this is genuinely different then most adventure games that I’ve played, and I’ve played a lot. It also helps immensely that the game looks really good and the character models are based off the Granada series’ actors. The new voice-actors take a bit to get used to tho.

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