Posted on 31 December 2010 with categories: Yearly Summaries

Okay, so this is the final part of my 2010 Summary: the part in which I talk about all of the series that aired during the past year.

Overall out of all of the years that I’ve been blogging, 2010 was the worst one so far. It had a lot of causes, mostly with the huge decrease in different series: this allowed for a lot less series that could try out something unique than usual. On top of that, less series than ever dared to go beyond 13 episodes and a lot of potential was cut short. This is the year in which you can really see the effects on the economic crisis on anime. On top of that, Gonzo died, Sunrise only focused on OVAs and Movies, Madhouse focused most of its talent on Redline and Production IG only released surprisingly mainstream series, so many of the usual heavy hitters weren’t in their top shape. Instead, AIC released more moe shows than ever, and other studios were pretty much doing the same in going for the moe and fanservice.

At the same time though, I also can’t say that this was a bad year for the anime industry. Perhaps only the Winter Season was mediocre, but there still were a lot of interesting series. Especially Noitamina had its best year ever, and there was no shortage of good comedies throughout the entire year. I in any case disagree with the people who say that “anime is dying”, because in any case 2011 is looking to be very promising. We just hit a little dip this year that simply made it not as good as the other years. There’s still plenty of good stuff, and that’s what the rest of this post will be about. Of course, these are all my opinions. Feel free to share your own in the comment section.

The Sleeper Hits of 2010
This section has been added to this list on request by Kalandra, and it’s basically a list of series that I feel went under the radar. It’s not a list of the most underrated series, instead I really want to give some attention to series that many people didn’t give a chance. It’s basically a “list of series that I liked but didn’t have many members on MAL who watched it. It’s not in any order, because I have no idea how to properly rank these. This includes sequels that may have gone beyond people’s radars. I’ve limited this list to just ten spots, and interestingly Yojou-han and Sarai-ya Goyou despite my fears didn’t make it in (though granted, they do take up places 11 and 12…)

Cobra The Animation

Cobra was just one of those series that came from out of nowhere, did what it wanted to do and then just disappeared again. Most of it is indeed forgettable, but it does have an array of pretty neat ideas stuffed into its stories. In fact, it’s the entire point of the Cobra franchise to have these dream-like adventures that may not make any sense whatsoever, but do take the viewer to many different and imaginative places.

Gag Manga Biyori+

I believe that this was the only series this season that wasn’t aimed at kids and that didn’t even get its first freaking episode subbed, so of course it’s a sleeper hit. I’m going to continue to hype this one though, because it really is hilarious If you’re looking for a hyperactive comedy, you can’t really get more hyperactive than this.

Marie&Gali 1st Season

This one is for the people who don’t mind childish series, because at heart, Marie&Gali remains a kids’ show. It’s basically there to explain science to kids, and the first season does this with so much heart. Every single episode is different, no joke is wasted or recycled and it consistently made me laugh. Now, whatever you do, though: don’t touch the second season. It’s much worse.

Heartcatch Precure

Again this is very childish, but Heartcatch Precure has plenty of charms and character development to make up for it. The Precure franchise had gotten pretty notorious for the way that it just kept releasing the same show over and over again, but Heartcatch Precure is a real breath of fresh air in the way that it takes an overused concept and somehow makes it work.

Ookiku Furikabutte – Natsu no Taikai-hen

This one actually surprised me when I found out how few people actually checked it out. I thought that the first season was really popular, but I guess that this was the reason why Funimation explicitly announced that it wasn’t going to release this series. It’s a great sports series, though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a meticulously detailed look at baseball than here. If you like depth to your sports series, then go for this one.

Letter Bee Reverse

Again a really slow first season prevented a lot of people from checking this one out, I guess. Let me just say: it is all worth it in the end. The first season admittedly does have some gruelling parts to go through, but once the character development kicked in I was really hooked to this show.

Senkou no Night Raid

Admittedly, this is one show that’s very hard to like. It is packed with historical references and analyses and yet its first half comprises of random storylines: it can be very easily found boring. It is very rewarding for the ones with patience, though, because it turns into an interesting look at China in the 1930s and a typical series where the total is larger than the sum of its parts.

Yumeiro Patissiere – Professional

This mostly went under the radar because of its really long first season. Don’t worry though: it’s only 13 episodes long and packs a surprising amount of character development. You can follow it if you’ve watched the first two or three episodes of the original series, and if you’re tired of shoujo’s trend of seeing who can rip each other off the most, then this is an interesting recommendation as it’s a unique little shoujo series. Just don’t expect it to make the most amount of sense. ^^;

Tantei Opera Milky Homes

Before the start of the Fall Season, there was one show that based on its promo art and premise was dismissed by a huge amount of people. And indeed, if the creators played this type of show straight it indeed would have sucked. Don’t worry though, because it turned out to be a parody that doesn’t take any iota of itself seriously. It had a lot of fun poking holes in the phantom thief genres and recommended if you like parodies.

Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru

In 2010, most of the attention to Shaft went to Arakawa under the Bridge and people complaining about Dance in the Vampire Bund, so Soredemo Machi really went under the radar for quite a bit. It’s definitely not for you when you like your comedies to be based on punchlines, but the animation is surprisingly good and the dialogue felt quite realistic here. It’s a nice slice of life that does a bit more than just randomly showing the lives of a bunch of characters.

My 2010 Anime Awards

Worst First Episode

KissXSis

2010 unfortunately did have quite a share of utterly abysmal series, so it took me a while to figure out which first episode really was the worst out of all of them. There are the ridiculously poorly produced flash OVAs Tono to Issho and Haiyoru Nyaru-ani, but they do have this “anyone can make this; even you!”-vibe. There are kids shows like Digimon Xros Wars and Metal Fight Beyblade that were ridiculously poorly produced, but they remain fairly innocent. That SD Romance of the Three Kingdoms Gundam show was also pretty terrible, but that one was so bad that it became hilarious, so I’ll let that one slide as well. What I can’t let slide however is how much worse the bad fanservice shows have become, though. Special Credit goes to Ladies versus Butlers for its beyond awful writing, but the KissXSis TV-series takes the cake. This is everything that’s wrong with anime today: pointless fanservice, incredibly shallow characters, stupid premise, no creativity whatsoever.

Biggest Disappointment

Iron Man

There are sometimes these kinds of series in which everything seems right, and yet something doesn’t work along the way. I’ve had that with Durarara this year: it had a wonderful first half, but something in the second half didn’t sit right with me; it wasted too much time on build-up, it didn’t know whether it wanted to be Baccano’s spiritual successor or not, and too much time was focused on angsty teenagers. That wasn’t my biggest disappointment this year, though. Oh no. There is also this little series called Ookami Kakushi, which promised a great little mystery story from the original stories of Ryukishi07, only to end up completely rushed and stupid. Or how about Nurarihyon no Mago: it had a terrific director, and yet it ended up as nothing but an entire season of build-up. None of these disappointments was as bad as Iron Man, though. Iron Man was a series where so much hype had gone into. It had a great trailer, it was really promising to be another Madhouse epic… only for the actual series to be this ridiculously cheesy superhero flick.

Worst Series

Iron Man

This award only goes for the series that I actually finished… and yeah: again I have to go for Iron Man. The plot is ridiculously corny and the characters are just stupid. Beyond that, the individual stories have no creativity to them whatsoever, there is no depth, the series never really bothers to answer the why and how of its world. Out of all of the possible ways they could have taken this series, the creators ended up choosing one of the worst. Beyond that, Togainu no Chi also was pretty bad at times. For most of its airtime it at lest was a bit decent, but the final two episodes completely trashed any potential it could have had left, leaving it completely pointless.

Best Animation Studio

Bones

This is the award I give to the production studio whose collective works impressed me the most. This goes for the large ones, ie the ones who released three or more major works. In the previous years, there always was a clear cut winner, like there was one studio that really surpassed both itself and all of the others. In 2010, there really wasn’t a studio applicable for that: Madhouse created the great Yojou-han, but their mess on Iron Man was just… bad. A-1 Pictures was very diverse with many different looking and animated series. But they also made the disaster of Togainu no Chi. And Toei in the meantime was too busy ripping itself off with the new Digimon and Marie & Gali 2 in contrast with their great work on Heartcatch Precure and Marie&Gali’s first season. Overall, I still consider Bones’ best year to be 2009 (in which it also walked away with this award), and they did produce the pretty but otherwise completely underwhelming Heroman. Still, Full Metal Alchemist and Star Driver were some of the top visual feasts of the past year, so it’s once again my favourite production company of the year.

Most Promising Studio

Daume

This is the award I give to animation studios who are either completely new and really impressed me, or the small studios who suddenly significantly improved themselves compared to previous years. Daume is one of the latter: before this point they only worked on random moe shows. Then 2010 comes and from out of nowhere they deliver the incredibly unique Shiki without any seeming effort. I really hope that they can continue this trend that goes completely against what most other production studios seem to be doing right now.

Best Old Series I Happened to See This Year

Maison Ikkoku

I watched a lot of really good stuff this year, but my three favourites were without a doubt Nana, Maison Ikkoku and Patlabor’s second OVA. They’re all series that make excellent use of their long length: Patlabor’s OVA had some of the most interesting and imaginative scenes I have ever seen in an episodic anime, Nana was an emotional roller coaster and Maison Ikkoku showed character development over a scope that I had not yet seen before. They all had absolutely lovable characters, but I have to give the nudge to Maison Ikkoku for its incredible life-like portrayal of its characters.

Best Background Art

Sora no Oto

I really loved Sora no Oto’s realistic portrayal of the ruins of a European-esque town, and the background art played a huge part in that. It all just feels so incredibly authentic. Beyond that, Durarara and Uragiri also both had really well detailed background art that made great use of CG and Full Metal Alchemist also had a ton of eye candy for its backgrounds.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Heartcatch Precure

I try to check out every first episode of each new series that airs, but back in February, I actually had no intention of checking out the next Precure series. I really thought that it would be the same thing that we’ve been seeing for seven years now. I’m really glad that I was called out on it and ended up checking it out, because that first episode immediately convinced me that this would be a very special series. Other surprises were Yumeiro Patissiere’s second season which suddenly boasted more character development than I could ever have expected and Tantei Opera Milky Holmes which made great use of its seemingly dull premise to parody the heck out of it.

Best Music

Shiki

Finally: the first year in which a Bee-Train series isn’t walking away with this award. Of course, Yakumo’s soundtrack still is excellent, but it’s not the best this time. Other great soundtracks included the one from Letter Bee, Armed Librarians, Heartcatch Precure and Panty and Stocking, but my favourite was Shiki. They’ve got one particularly stunning track, and the creators knew it. You can listen to it over and over again without it getting boring, and it created a truly magnificent atmosphere.

Best Action

Full Metal Alchemist – Brotherhood

I have to give credit here for a bunch of series, for example Sengoku Basara’s first half and especially its sixth episode for delivering one of the best action episodes of the entire year (and it probably would have been the best action scene of the year if it wouldn’t have been for FMA) and Heartcatch Precure that despite being a shoujo series contained better action than a lot of shounen series out there. Star Driver’s action scenes meanwhile are all short but incredibly sweet, but none came close to the epic action of Full Metal Alchemist this year. Especially its finale was just awesome to watch but also just about all of the other climaxes were incredibly addictive.

Best Slice of Life

Cross Game

It may seem a bit boring to hand this award out to Cross Game yet again (it also walked away with this award last year), but it’s just so damn good at it: the way in which it portrays its characters during the slice of life moments are always hilarious and entertaining to watch. Screw the baseball matches, these character are at their best when nothing is happening. If it wasn’t for Cross Game, this award probably would have gone to either Sora no Oto or Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru for their great portrayal of their characters and despite not being 100% slice of life still were very interesting to watch when it just showed the characters randomly doing something.

Best Mystery

Letter Bee

I love mystery, but it’s a tricky genre done right. Good mystery lies both in asking and answering questions. The series that was probably the best in asking them was Sora no Oto with the really intriguing setting it created. In terms of answering, Kuroshitsuji always rocked with a ton of weird and interesting ideas. The show that had the best combination of both however was Letter Bee: its mystery always kept me watching, and when it finally got to the point of answering everything, it did not disappoint in the slightest.

Best Horror

Shiki

2010 only had very few good horror titles, and most of the horror series that were shown were only half horror anyway, like High School of the Dead, which despite its tons of fanservice had a consistent and gripping atmosphere or Rainbow, which also made great use of its huge atmosphere especially in the first half of the series. Kaidan Restaurant, while a very low-budgeted kids’ show turned out to be surprisingly decent at storytelling. But yeah, Shiki completely eclipses all of them. It takes a horribly abused subject material and reduces it back to the basics with a terrific atmosphere that can get really gruesome when it wants to.

Best Comedy

Gag Manga Biyori+

2010 introduced me to the weird world of Gag Manga Biyori. It’s completely bizarre, but it really has a collection of truly priceless episodes. No other series this year made me laugh this hard, this often. Some episodes are dedicated to parodying history, others at a particular genre and others are just one big joke that slowly gets built up. It’s surprisingly obscure at times, but its energy is unlike anything else I’ve seen. Beyond that, 2010 was a good year for comedy in any case. Squid Girl, Milky Holmes and Tentai Senshi Sunred were all absolutely hilarious in their own way as well.

Best Fanservice Anime

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

I usually don’t bother with the fanservice genre, because it’s riddled with bad and mediocre shows. 2010 also had plenty of them ranging from the mediocre Asobi ni Iku Yo to the terrible Ladies Versus Butlers and KissXsis to the downright porn of Yosuga no Sora. This year however, there were two fanservice series that I consider to be genuinely good and entertaining: B Gata H Kei with a witty portrayal of a teenaged girl and her twisted concepts of sex, and Panty and Stocking, which used its mature themes with the subtlety of an elephant in a porcelain shop. The fanservice obviously wasn’t the best part of the show, but the ballsy way in which it was used was a great breath of fresh air over seeing the hordes of bad fanservice shows that just keep popping up.

Best Script

Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

Yojou-han was a series that really tried to make the most of its time. It’s really well planned out, not to mention the incredibly fast dialogue that tries to tell as much as possible about what’s going on and how the protagonist is feeling. Beyond that I also want to give credits for the Armed Librarians and the first half of Durarara, in the way that they weaved many seemingly unrelated storylines together.

Best Animation

Full Metal Alchemist – Brotherhood

Perhaps not as incredible as last year’s winner of this award, Bonen no Xamdou, it’s still pretty much no contest here: the animation for especially the action scenes is just epic, and this series keeps up this quality for 64 whopping episodes. Near the end during the non action series there are some weak moments, but they are completely eclipsed by the many, many interestingly animated action scenes. The second and third place go to the Spring Noitamina series of Sarai-ya Goyou and Yojou-han: Masaaki Yuasa ‘s animation was consistently excellent and really brought life to the characters. Sarai-ya Goyou was the same, but in a meticulously detailed way with many subtle movements.

Best Romance

Cross Game

Usually in a romance I prefer an actual relationship between the lead couple to take place, rather than them getting stuck in this endless “will they won’t they” loop. Cross Game however does it with such grace and wit that it becomes consistently enjoyable to watch. The way in which it teases the audience could have backfired horribly in the wrong hands (in the way in which for example Hanamaru Youchien refused to develop anything between the lead character and his love interest), but they do it here in such a way that subtly develops the couple without becoming annoying.

Best-Looking Graphics

Heartcatch Precure

This is the award I hand out to the series with not perhaps the best animation, but the one with the visuals that really impressed me. In 2010, there were four series whose graphics I really liked: Full Metal Alchemist – Brotherhood, Yojou-han, Sarai-ya Goyou and Hearcatch Precure. I’m still not sure why, but at the time of writing this, the fan of cute things inside of me has really won me over the most. For a mahou shoujo, Heartcatch Precure really looks amazing; it has the most awesome character designs, the transformation sequences are the best transformation scenes that I have seen since Utena. It’s incredibly cute, fluffy and sugary, but with every episode I could count on this series leaving a visual impression on me.

Most Imaginative Setting

Angel Beats

This award is for the series that puts the most interesting and original ideas into its setting. Think of fantasy series as the Armed Librarians and Full Metal Alchemist and the way in which their world works, or the way in which Senkou no Night Raid came with such an incredibly risky subject material of the Japanese actions in China in the 1930s. Index also was quite interesting with its relation between magic and technology. Angel Beats however edges this one for me. I know that the series had its problems and all, but in 13 episodes it really tried to stuff as many interesting ideas as possible. Every few episodes or so, the way that the characters looked at the setting completely changed. It’s a typical series that doesn’t really care about solid storytelling but is more interested in delivering an interesting world and having fun in the process, ad that’s what I liked about this series the most.

Best Story

Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra

The two behemoths in terms of story this year were for me easy to think of: The Armed Librarians and Full Metal Alchemist. Both had epic stories that just kept taking twists and turns that just continued to change,. I have to give the edge over to the Armed Librarians here though: in every single arc, it managed to interweave its different plot threads and make them come together in a completely unexpected way. It was amazingly planned out and written together and pretty much made every single episode a blast to watch.

Top 20 Anime 2010

#20: Senkou no Night Raid

The moment where Senkou no Night Raid really impressed me was the moment where it really dared to delve into some of the most controversial topics out there, without becoming drenched in nationalism unlike you see with many different anime who try to have these international plots. It’s easy to find this one boring, but I loved how it both treated itself seriously and yet made it clear that it’s a fantasy story at the same time. Its main problem was its characterization and how people were changing sides a little too often,but it still was a fascinating look at morals and values that really took some HUGE risks here.

#19: Star Driver

Now, Star Driver at this point is only half finished, and it has a long way to go before it can even get close to how good Utena was. So far though, it’s really on a good direction with its characterization: it really tries to stuff as much into one episode as possible and at the halfway point this is really starting to pay off. With battles that are short but incredibly sweet, I’m really looking forward to see whether it can actually pay off.

#18: Otome Youkai Zakuro

Otome Youkai Zakuro was another one of those series that looks like nothing special, yet turned out to be quite a refined shoujo romance. The story was simple but because of that it really was able to give the characters the attention they deserved. There are some unnecessary clichés here and there, but overall it’s surprisingly well written and directed.

#17: Shinrei Tantei Yakumo

The interesting thing about Yakumo was that it was one of the shows that was looked forward to the most, and yet when it actually aired you hardly heard anyone about it. The first episodes of Yakumo were quite rushed indeed, but it eventually came together quite nicely, even without the inclusion of Koichi Mashimo. It’s got a great cast of characters and a bunch of excellent main villains and I also really liked how well it was able to use its own build-up. It’s far from Bee-Train’s best, but still a very solid series.

#16: Gag Manga Biyori

Gag Manga Biyori+ simply was amazing. Its episodes only were five minutes long, yet I was looking forward to it every single week. It consistently had me in stitches unlike any other comedy this year. The direction was absolutely brilliant, and I don’t think that I have ever seen an anime with this much concentrated energy as this thing. And yeah sure, the graphics are really basic and there is no coherent storyline whatsoever. Who cares? It was absolutely hilarious.

#15: Ookiku Furikabutte

The big flaw of Ookiku Furikabutte this year was that it was way too short: it’s incredibly slow paced: that’s not going to fit in just 13 episodes. Beyond that though, it really was better than ever as a series: the animation received an upgrade, the characters were more interesting, the dialogue was better,. with the right time this really would have been even better. It really was one of the most detailed and realistic portrayals of baseball out there.

#14: Kuroshitsuji

Kuroshitsuji II was just… amazing. It completely let go of the manga material, trolled just about everyone multiple times and created an incredibly entertaining story that made excellent use of the unique gimmick of this show of incredibly over the top butlers, without all of the annoyances of the first Kuroshitsuji series. The beginning fillers were… annoying, but everything paid off wonderfully in the end with a bunch of excellent villains. It was silly, but also very creative and I really hope to see more of these kinds of sequels in the upcoming years.

#13: Rainbow

Rainbow always had a problem with its acting: there really was a ton of ham and cheese in this series. What managed to save it was its story, which really was excellent. The two halves of the series form a stark contrast with each other, and pack a huge amount of character development. It really was great to see everyone grow up, but even the time that the characters spend in prison was incredibly atmospheric.

#12: Kuragehime

It’s perhaps not Josei at its finest; it had too many one-dimensional characters and an unresolved plot for that, but Kuragehime consistently enjoyable throughout its entire airtime. Its characters were ridiculously addictive and its energy and acting made every episode a lot of fun to watch. It’s a great romantic comedy that was really well directed.

#11: Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin

A-1 may not have been my favourite production company of the year, they really have been dominating the lower half of my top 20 of the year (they occupy four of the spots between 10 and 20), and with good reason: they came with a lot of different, unique and ambitious series that apart from perhaps Togainu no Chi were very interesting to watch in their own way. The one I consider to be the best though was Occult Academy, a roller coaster ride that takes detours through Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds. It’s impossible not to be disappointed by it at the end in some way or the other due to pacing issues, but the highs of this series really were absolutely stunning. It had three episodes that were just absolutely amazing, and looking back, they were worth the bore of some of the strange build-up arcs that focused way too much on Maya’s character.

#10: Cross Game

Cross Game is slice of life at its finest. It was great to just watch the characters randomly interact with each other. The character development was really good, slowly showing them age through adolescence. It’s just a shame that it’s also a baseball series. The baseball arcs were just too simple and one sided. Every time they took place, I just kept wishing them to end fast so that this show could go back to what it was really good at.

#9: Letter Bee

Letter Bee is a very hard series to get into: the first season was filled with uninteresting arcs and fillers. It really took a long while to get going. Still, the cliff-hanger at the end of season one was one of the best cliff-hangers for a next season I have ever seen, and the second season is continuing to develop both its plot and characters. The characters have become absolutely lovable, and even the individual episodes that have nothing to do with the main plot are really worth the watch. it’s a unique little shounen series.

#8: Kobato

Kobato has since it aired become one of my favourite examples of a show that starts of slow, but ends wonderfully. Most of the first half was random build-up with stories that were marginally interesting. The second half however saw a complete change of pace. Kobato grew up, the characters got more and more detailed and likeable, and the series only just got better and better as it went on with a heart-wrenching conclusion.

#7: Heartcatch Precure

Heartcatch Precure just came and delivered a perfect portrayal of how a classic mahou shoujo series should be. The action is consistently excellent throughout the entire series, the different stories it tells are al incredibly charming, the lead characters are all excellent and well development. Everything about this series is just incredibly cute with a lot of frills and sparkles, not to mention that it really likes to show of its admittedly gorgeous transformation scenes but the charms and energy of this series made all of it worth watching. it really is top-notch entertainment that can both be childish and serious. It’s definitely the best mahou shoujo to have aired in years.

#6: Shiki

In this year’s top 10, I really had difficulty choosing my numbers 4, 5 and 6. In the end I admit that I liked the numbers 4 and 5 slightly better than Shiki, but this still remains an amazing horror series with a fantastic conclusion. I’ve said this many times before but the exact reason why it rocks is filled with spoilers, so just check it out for yourself.

#5: Giant Killing

Now this is a terrific example of how to do a series on a very low budget: the animation of Giant Killing is nothing special, yet it looks unique, with even the most minor side characters having unique character designs. Throughout its airtime, Giant Killing proved to be a ridiculously addictive series, and if board games aren’t counted as sports then it’s turned into my favourite sports series ever. Especially the finale just keeps the cliff-hangers coming and changes constantly. The entire cast is chock-full of lovable characters, ranging from the soccer players themselves to the coaches, supporters, journalists and managers: everyone on this series is important. On top of that, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a series that handled its foreign languages as well as this series: English, French, Portuguese, Dutch. It was an incredibly international series.

#4: Sarai-ya Goyou

Sarai-ya Goyou turned out to be a ridiculously solid character study: it’s incredibly detailed from start to finish with very subtle characterizations. It’s very realistic and an excellent portrayal of how life was like in the past. It’s got some very complex characters for a show that’s only 12 episodes long, and they all face their own issues. Masanosuke was a great character to watch and see change, and Yaichi’s conclusion also really was excellent. I’m a big fan of Tomomi Mochizuki as a director, and her really managed to breathe life into Fujimi Ono’s manga.

#3: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei

In 2010, it finally was time for Masaaki Yuasa to show his magic again. And granted, Yojou-han is not as good as Kaiba was. It comes pretty darn close though, with its ground-hog day-esque approach to storytelling that comes together in a really excellent ending that ties the entire series together perfectly. I also love the incredibly fast dialogue and the relentlessly fast pacing of this show that at the same time never rushed. It’s a great example of a mature series that had its own visual identity and really needs to appear more in anime.

#2: Full Metal Alchemist – Brotherhood

In a way my number 1 and 2 are quite similar: they both tried to be the epics of the year in their own way and it took me a long while to figure out which was the one I liked best. The Brotherhood Series was a huge improvement over the first season, it was consistently entertaining, the action was amazing, the few moments of comedy were just hilarious and the entire story just kept going on and continued to develop its story for 64 episodes long. The combination between the story and characters reached some amazing heights and even though it’s not my favourite of the year, I still love this one to bits.

#1: Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra

In the end, what sold me completely to the Armed Librarians was the way in which it was told: I mean, this show never took any breaks: it was always developing its story, pushing forth new and outrageous plot twists and trying everything together in ways that just continued to surprise me. It used its characters wonderfully and its storytelling just kept making me come back for more. It has also been by far the series that I had the most fun with blogging. I know that it’s a rushed series and that some f the characters could be more solid and all, but the good things about this series far outweigh the problems I had with this series. It entertained me like no other series this year and that’s why I chose this as my favourite show of 2010.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Kuragehime




Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen nowadays. Few however can boast to be as well directed as Kuragehime, however.

Kuragehime may not have the characters with the biggest amount of realism or depth. In fact, a lot of the characters in the series are one dimensional. It may not have the best storyline. In fact, it’s second half is unbalanced and the ending leaves a lot of things unresolved. It may not have the most original premise. In fact, it’s centred around a bunch of fujoshi and cross dressers. From the outside, it may not look like much.

It is however one of those series where the execution totally makes up for it. The chemistry between the characters is downright addictive. This show bursts with energy while not losing itself in it. The characters, while lacking dimensions are incredibly fun to watch, and the acting is consistently excellent throughout the entire series. the characters here all have their own charms, from the super serious Shuu to the flamboyant cross dresser Kuranosuke. They all combine really well with each other and nearly each episode is a blast to watch.

In this day and age, female leads who aren’t designed to be as attractive as possible are hard to come by. The fujoshi in Kuragehime, including the lead Tsukimi are a breath of fresh air in this way so I really hope that this catches on. The series loses a bit of its steam in its second half, but despite that it’s a ridiculously fun and refreshing series to watch.

Storytelling: 9/10 – 11 episodes is not the right length, but it’s still presented with a ton of addictive energy, making it very accessible.
Characters: 9/10 – A lovable cast of characters. They’re all adults, so no teenagers whatsoever. Especially the chemistry is really addictive here. Some of them are pretty static, though.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Dynamic visual, very few still frames.
Setting: 8/10 – Solid, but doesn’t really come together well in the end.

Suggestions:
Honey and Clover
Nodame Cantabile
Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge

Posted on with categories: Kuragehime



Yeah, this episode was rushed. At the same time though, I’m amazed at how much the creators managed to put in just this single episode.

Overall this series should have been better balanced in order to avoid this problem. I’d say, that stuffing episodes7, 8, 9 and 10 in just three episodes would have already done wonders, but this episode still was really enjoyable. It’s just that it didn’t resolve half of its plot and the things it did resolve were… yeah.

As for the cliff-hanger at the end of the previous episode: it turned out to be a mistake by a bunch of construction workers. In the end the problem gets solved in a way that does make sense in the end… but still remains questionable: Chieko’s mother just arrives with the message that she doesn’t intend to sell the thing after all. It’s one of those “why didn’t you say so in the first place!?”-twists at the ending, though granted this is a decent version of it: it was established episodes ago that Chieko’s mother’s phone was broken so she had no way of contacting them.

This episode also went back and forth between a fashion contest from out of nowhere at the same time. And remember that girl that Banba and Jiji ran into? She’s a supermodel and is at the same fashion show. Apart from a few “ah, I remember you!”, that encounter was never really used. At the same time we also see Shuu and Shouko who bump into each other at the same plane.

And don’t get me wrong, this was a very entertaining episode: the creators knew that they’d never be able to wrap everything up so they tried to stuff in as much as possible in this episode. Overall this is a series that doesn’t do well in terms of the big picture, but rather shines through its individual scenes and jokes, and that’s something it really was excellent at.

Probably the worst thing about this episode was that none of the romances were resolved. Shouko and Shuu were literally on a plane together when we last saw them, and the tension between Kuranosuke and Tsukimi is the same that it ever was. Unlike Shiki, which ended Perfectly, Kuragehime really should have had a normal time-slot to really show its best.

Next season’s Noitamina should prove to be significantly different: from a silly and over the top Josei comedy about cross dressers, we’re moving to a realistic and down to earth slice of life series about cross dressers and from a brutal horror show with lots of mystery we’re moving to a moe show with lots of mystery. Again, the question is whether they’re right for Noitamina or not: are their mangas small enough to fit within 11 episodes or will they be as incomplete as Kuragehime?
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 30 December 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews, Shiki




Shiki is a very hard series to talk about without spoilers. It’s a show that you really need to see for yourself. Still, I consider this to be the best show to have debuted during the past half year, so I’ll at least try to vaguely explain why I consider it such an awesome and unique series.

Shiki is another one of those series set in a tiny Japanese village that’s set in the middle of nowhere. One thing that immediately stands out is how well it manages to colour that village: even the simplest of residents are given an identity. The entire town has about 1200 residents, and this show manages to make them so life-like that you actually feel like part of the village as the series goes on. It creates a truly excellent backdrop for the series to take place in.

First and foremost, Shiki is a horror series. It’s got a really thick atmosphere and most of the time it’s just building up and dragging the viewer within this atmosphere. It’s got plenty of disturbing scenes though, and that’s really where it’s at its best at. Now, there are times at which this show feels like this series is moving a tad slow and that it’s building up a bit too much. But trust me: it all pays off in the end with a fantastic conclusion. That’s all I’ll say about it.

The character designs in this series are… unique. I admit that they take their time to get used to, but that’s not really a problem considering the charms of the different characters. It’s perhaps not the series with the best characterizations, but they are written really well: when they’re developed, it’s done very boldly. The characters are also incredibly diverse, ranging from teenagers to adults well in their thirties, forties and fifties and that overall makes it into a great and huge cast to watch.

Most of the best episodes of Shiki are located at the end so it takes some perseverance to really get to great parts of the series, but the weak moments are very few and far in between. It’s got a haunting soundtrack and a stunning atmosphere. It’s not something you should watch when you can’t stand gore, but it’s a must-watch for anyone even remotely interested in horror.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Gripping atmosphere, excellent use of build-up, everything horror should be.
Characters: 9/10 – the cast is HUGE, diverse and surprisingly engaging.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Good animation, great soundtrack, excellent artwork.
Setting: 10/10 – The village this series takes place in really feels alive and constantly changing.

Suggestions:
Ghost Hound
Jigoku Shoujo
Shikabane Hime

Posted on with categories: Shiki



That really was just an amazing conclusion. It was just stunning, and without a doubt the best ending of the entire season and in my top 3 of best ending of the year. I mean, December has been a fantastic month for Shiki, it turned out to be significantly better than just about anything else that was airing at the moment. This ending was just its crowning moment.

Now, in terms of storytelling there was that point where Natsuno found Tatsumi perhaps a little easily, but in terms of storytelling it was just amazing to see everything just fall apart for both the Shiki and the humans as well. A fire (probably set by the Shiki in a desperate attempt, but more explanation on that will probably follow in the final two DVD Specials) also put an end to the hopes of Toshio to come out of this unscathed either: it’s impossible to explain to the police what happened and if this were set in the real world, it probably would have made the headlines throughout the entire world.

The interesting thing is that strangely enough, the creators refused to kill children under fourteen years old. The ventriloquist is killed off screen, Akira turns out to be alive, and Sunako survives thanks to Seishin’s injury that didn’t turn ot to be serious enough to actually kill him. At the same time though: Tomio Ookawa really was about to kill that girl, and Megumi also got a really gruesome death scene.

Now, I do wonder what the two DVD episodes are going to focus on, though: they’re titled episode 20,5 and 21,5, but this episode showed the preview for an actual epilogue. In any case, I see no way for these episodes to not be utterly amazing. Shiki has just shown how to perfectly make use of Noitamina’s timeslot, with finally another 22 episode series and an array of episodes on DVD only in order to complete the story.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on with categories: Yearly Summaries

I’ve noticed that usually when doing these end of the year lists, most people (myself very much included) tend to ignore the OVAs and movies that came out that year. So, here’s an entire post devoted to the OVAs and movies that came out in 2010, because it was a great year for both of them. I decided to make a top 10 for both of them separately, because they’re just too different to be properly compared.

I especially liked Sunrise and Production IG this year, and it’s interesting how both studios have been treating these mediums: Prodiction IG’s television series of 2010 were surprisingly mainstream. Instead they used the OVAs and movies to experiment with A TON of different concepts which covered the entire spectrum, from absolutely abysmal to incredibly good. Sunrise meanwhile completely put its attention to its OVAs and Movies this year, with its only new TV-series being that really cheesy Romance of the three Gundams, or whatever the title was.

Worst Production

Haiyoru Nyaru-Ani

Usually with these kinds of summary posts I try to hand out most awards in a positive way, but this time I feel that there are too few entries to really make it worthwhile without making me repeat myself. I’ve said everything I wanted to say about them already in the top 10s below. I however do want to say a few things about the bad stuff this year, because dear lord: the anime creators again turned out some crap here. Haiyoru Nyaruani goes in particular. I’m currently lumping both the OVA and the TV-series together because they were equally awful, but seriously: this could have been made by a bunch of 12 year old kids with the right equipment. And it still would have been better. Atrocious dialogue, dirt-poor animation. It only lasted a few minutes and it still was painful. Why was this made in the first place?

Biggest Waste of Great Visuals

Shoka

This award is for OVAs that had gorgeous graphics, but left a lot to be desired in the other departments. Black Rock Shooter surprised many by hardly focusing on the Black Rock Shooter at all, despite the gorgeous graphics. There was one OVA however that did this even worse: Shoka. It really had some great animation and the visuals were quite imaginative. It’s all messy, but in a really good way. The rest though… shallow at best. The characters aren’t really characters but just stereotypes, everything is just there for the style.

Worst Commercial for a Manga

Toriko

Even though I’m not the target audience, I like watching these one-shot OVAs that come bundled together with manga volumes in an attempt to reach a broader public. This can be done well (Azazel-san)… or not well at all. A huge example is that latest Kurenai OVA, or the awful Nougyou Musume. At least Kurenai was supposedly faithful to its manga, though. Toriko is apparently a manga that is really awesome, but by watching the OVA, I really had no idea why. Sure, it has nice monster designs, but that gimmick got old after five minutes. It’s full of people screaming and overacting to the slightest things and boring fights. If the TV-series is going to be like this, then I’m going to drop it very quickly.

Biggest Rip-off

Hiyokoi

Hiyokoi is pretty much a poor man’s Kimi ni Todoke: shy girl joins school, is alienated and suddenly the most popular guy in school falls in love with her. If that’s just the whole story, then I could have just forgotten about it, but after writing an entry about it, I suddenly discovered that it wasn’t produced by a cheap studio trying to cash in on Kimi ni Todoke’s success, but by Production IG itself. It also wasn’t directed by some random guy, but by Naganuma Norihiro, the assistant director of Kimi ni Todoke. What the hell? These are the kinds of cash-ins you’d expect from Toei or Sunrise, not Production IG…

Biggest Disappointment

Musashi – The Dream of the Last Samurai

It’s Mamoru Oshii, for god’s sake! A documentary about Miyamoto Musashi sounded really interesting on paper, but if I knew that it would be ninety minutes of a very poorly animated old man rambling incoherently about god knows what (I’ve forgotten most of it already at this point), then I would have passed it up. Another big disappointment was Loups Garous. Trans Arts is the production company that I really want to like: unlike just about every other company out there, instead of going towards safe and marketable moe or bishies, they continue to come up with potentially interesting and diverse premises…. only they don’t know how to execute them. Loups Garous was the same: a HUGE waste of potential due to poor writing and no opportunity given to flesh out the cast and setting.

Top 10 OVAs of 2010

#10: Kou, Koi wo Hajimemasu

Kyou, Koi wo Hajimemasu is a shoujo that very nicely takes advantage of its OVA format to deliver a compact yet touching little story about a couple. There’s nothing of the “will they won’t they” stuff that usually drags these shoujo series down, and instead it’s all about their relationship. It’s low budget, but the visuals are still quite nice, and I especially love the character designs for the lead female. It’s a bit cheesy, but I liked it.

#9: Hen Zemi

2010, especially its first half, showed a disturbing trend of a whole slew of series that tried to upstage each other in terms of controversy and risky topics like Chu Bra, Ladies Versus Butlers, Seikon no Qwaser KissXSis, etc. Most of them were forgettable or just abysmal. Then… Hen Zemi came along. I mean it’s far from the funniest comedy out there, but its dialogue unlike any other fanservice show this year really managed to get under my skin. It’s completely disgusting, vulgar and perverted and that combined with its energy pretty much took along with Panty and Stocking the cake in terms of disturbing comedies this year.

#8: Yondemasu, Azazel-San

Azazel-san is only ten minutes long, but it won me over with its very cute sense of humour. In fact, its length really works in its advantage here because that turned into such an easily accessible comedy here. It’s a real recommendation for someone looking for a bite-size chunk of comedy.

#7: Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn

The thing with Gundam Unicorn is that I’m not much of its target audience: it’s pretty much a nostalgia trip for Zeta Gundam, and I didn’t really like that series. Nevertheless though, it’s still worth watching because of how ridiculously solid the overall production is. It’s absolutely clear that the creators spent a ton of time and money on it, and that makes it definitely at least worth watching.

#6: Black Lagoon – Roberta’s Blood Trail

2010 only showed the beginnings of Roberta’s Blood trail so it was mostly building up, but the way in which it was done caught my attention. It’s really well directed, with over the top action that at the same time tries to remain believable. Episode 2 actually had very little action, but the tension it built up was nail-biting.

#5: Tales of Symphonia

Tales of Symphonia turned out to be an excellent example of how to adapt a game by keeping a great balance between faithfulness and own input. The events are rearranged to get to the essence of the game and it worked really well. 2010 finally showed us the parts that I personally had been really looking forward to: the focus on the side-characters of Sheena, Presea and Regal and they really lived up to my expectations.

#4: Yozakura Quartet – Hoshi no Umi

This one is mainly this high on the list because it has a fantastic animation director as its director. The way he breathes life to all of the characters is just amazing, and the action scenes are great to look at. At this point only one episode has aired yet, so there’s not much to say about the story yet, but the characters are a quite interesting to watch in a way that makes me wonder how the TV-series managed to screw it up anyway?

#3: Darker than Black Gaiden

With this OVA, Darker than Black yet again proved what an incredibly diverse series it can be: the four-episode Gaiden OVA is again unlike anything I’ve seen so far of the franchise, detailing Yin and Hei together. The scenario is slow, but stunning, as it answers a ton of questions that the two series left behind.

#2: xxxHolic Rou

The Tsubasa Chronicle anime has turned into a bit of a mess of continuity issues and I’m not even sure how many manga chapters were skipped between the Shunmuki and Rou arcs of xxxHolic. It worked really well, though. The developments were really shocking and gave a total new spin to just about the entire cast.

#1: Armored Trooper Votoms – Phantom Arc

Like with Darker than Black: just about every part of Votoms is significantly different, only this universe is twice as big and has many different instalments. The Phantom Arc just came and tied everything together, working both as a nostalgia trip and an original story of its own. It had many things that made Ryousuke Takahashi into a unique director, like the down to earth battles and the focus on religions, but at the same time it also brought new topics into the franchise, like the children of God, and one of the oldest casts you can run into in an anime nowadays. Seriously, more than thirty years have passed at this point.

Top 10 Movies of 2010
This is a list of my favourite movies of 2010, and by “2010″, I mean the ones that got released on video this year and that I had the chance to check out, so no Redline or Space Show.

#10: Symphony in August

Nishizawa Akio is a criminally underrated movie director. His best work still is Furusato Japan, but Symphony in August is also a really interesting look and one of the few non-fiction anime out there. It’s a great portrayal of Kawashima Ai‘s rise to fame. It’s realistic and surprisingly touching. And it’s a shame that the entire ending that the movie was building up to was so cheesy. They were the crowning moments of awesome of Furusato Japan and Nitaboh, and if it was better executed I would have ranked this movie much higher on this list.

#9: Mai Mai Miracle

Mai Mai Miracle was another one of those movies that portray a young child growing up, filled with gentle slice of life only to get darker near the end. It’s a pretty uneventful movie for those standards and mostly just focused on portraying the life of a bunch of kids (who are portrayed very life-like by the way). It’s also well balanced: the quiet parts at the first half of the movie don’t feel like they’re just build-up, but everything is equally important. It wasn’t an ambitious movie at all, but what it did it did well.

#8: Eden of the East II – Paradise Lost

It’s a shame that pacing issues turned out to be the major flaw of Eden of the East: there was so much that it wanted to do, but it just didn’t mesh well together. Paradise Lost really felt like a rushed conclusion to the Eden of the East Saga, which could have been amazing if given the right time. It’s still a very good movie, though. It’s an action and plot twist packed finale with strong messages and ideas.

#7: Rebuild of Evangelion 2.22:You Can (Not) Advance

Evangelion may not be my favourite movie of 2010, but I do agree that it had without a doubt the best action of the entire year. The entire movie is pretty much a visual orgasm: incredibly imaginative and well directed. It’s just a shame that the characterization wasn’t nearly as good as compared to the TV-series.

#6: Eden of the East I – The King of Eden

The King of Eden is after the first two episodes of Eden of the East most likely the most solid instalment of the entire franchise, and the part that I enjoyed the most. Whereas Paradise Lost tried to stuff too much in its airtime, this one did not and felt perfectly paced if you ignore the pacing of the other instalments of the franchise. It’s slow but very down to earth that allowed the story to catch a breath after the really rushed finale of the TV-series.

#5: Macross Frontier – Itsuwari no Utahime

This was the biggest surprise of the year in terms of movies. I had many problems with the original Macross Frontier TV-series, and here this movie comes and actually avoids most of them. It’s much more tightly paced and doesn’t have the useless and annoying moments of the TV-series. The animation is either recycled or even better than ever, the love triangle is actually interesting. If you’re interested in Macross Frontier I really recommend this movie over the TV-series.

#4: Halo Legends

I love these compilation movies that consist out of several smaller, separately produced works. Halo Legends was very diverse and it sure had some hits and misses, but in the end the total is larger than the sum of its parts. There were a vast amount of different styles and stories on these shorts and the creators really made use of their creative liberties in order to portray the Halo franchise.

#3: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

This was without a doubt the best thing I’ve seen from the Haruhi Franchise. It’s a really long movie (two hours, forty minutes), but it’s amazingly told and packs a huge amount of character development for especially Yuki and Kyon. It’s excellent mystery and it’s almost scary how often the creators are able to create perfectly fluent animation here.

#2: Tales of Vesperia

Here is another one who caught me by surprise. It started out as your average fantasy story, but it packs a ton of character development throughout its airtime with great life-like characters and excellent yet down to earth action scenes. Most RPG adaptations go for these epic stories, but by taking the scale down a notch the creators were really able to focus on the characters themselves and this worked really well.

#1: King of Thorn

Now, I probably have some explaining to do here, as I did rate this series lower than Tales of Vesperia when I reviewed it. The reason why I’m considering this my favourite movie of 2010 is a very subjective one, and it all has to do with the effect the movie had on me. Seriously, I thought that along the middle it pulled a few too many twists and that the CG overuse was a little too glaring, but the ending and the movie itself haunted me for weeks. It’s that indescribable feeling you get when finishing something really impressive, that’s what hit me here. And of course, this movie has an absolutely fantastic opening. In the first twenty minutes, nothing really is happening and it’s simply counting down for the action to really being. The atmosphere during the prologue was just perfect and another reason why this was my favourite movie of 2010.

Posted on 29 December 2010 with categories: Yearly Summaries

And here is the second out of four 2010 Summary posts I’ve planned for this year. I’ve noticed that during previous years, I paid rather little attention to the different characters that appeared in each year, so this time I decided to devote an entire post to them. This post contains a bunch of character-based awards, along with my top 6 of favourite supporting characters, male characters and female characters. These were really the characters who caught my attention the most and made the biggest impression on me, so yes: they’re quite personal lists. Feel free to share your own favourite characters of 2010 in the comment section. ;)

Most annoying character

Ookami Kakushi – Hiroshi Kuzumi

This award only goes up for the series that I finished watching. If I didn’t drop Amagami SS on its half-way point, half its cast would probably have walked away with this award. Another character who really annoyed me this year was Elcea from The World God Only Knows as an incredibly obnoxious moeblob, but Hiroshi, the lead character from Ookami Kakushi takes the cake. Throughout the entire series, he’s supposed to be the central character, and yet he does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. He just runs around randomly, says the most generic lines and never gets the story anywhere. This guy… who found it a good idea to make him the central character?

Worst Character

Iron Man – Tony Stark

Again, this only goes for the shows that I actually finished this year, but dear god. At the start of this year, I really could not have guessed that I’d pick an adult for this category. Still, there’s so much wrong with Tony Stark’s character that I hardly know where to start. It’s a complete bastardization of a Cobra-wannabe, who runs after women with cheesy one-liners at one time and keeps on sprouting ridiculously corny morals the other. As a superhero he also makes some of the dumbest decisions out there. I really hope that Wolverine will fare better. A honorable mention goes to Il Re from Togainu no Chi, just for what the heck he turned into in the final two episodes of that series.

Best Cast of Minor Characters

Giant Killing

This award goes to the series that had my favourite side and supporting characters, both major and minor. With this award, I especially want to congratulate the series that came with huge casts, and yet gave every character his own purpose, story and development. Full Metal Alchemist and the Armed Librarians were especially good at this, but also Shiki and the way that it gave a unique feel to all of its villagers stands out and Star Driver is also doing a pretty good job so far. None were as good as Giant Killing though: the entire series is about teamwork, and how everyone involved with football is important, from the players to the coaches, the management and the supporters. All of the characters in Giant Killing were great to watch and together they painted a wonderful whole.

Best Voice Acting

Sarai-ya Goyou

This year had a lot of comedies where you could really hear that the voice actors were having the time of their lives: Gag Manga Biyori and Tentai Senshi Sunred had very simple animation, but this gave their voice actors a lot of freedom that they used really well. Beyond that, Full Metal Alchemist also had a very inspired voice cast and Yojou-han’s endlessly fast monologues were also a delight to follow. Ookiku Furikabutte delivered a greatly realistic and down to earth performance, but in the end I decided to pick Sarai-ya Goyou for this category. The voice actors are both restrained and deliver with a lot of emotions, and they really seem to understand their characters.

Best Character Development on a single character

Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei – Watashi

There were a few characters this year that were really well developed throughout their series. A simple form of this is Kobato, who grew up wonderfully as a character. Then there also are these long-running series like Full Metal Alchemist and Cross Game who make great use of their time to show the span of several years. Especially Kou, Aoba and Edward go through these great, subtle changes. For great changes that are anything but subtle, there was Shiki with Toshio who really hardened up as a character with all of the things that happened to him. The best though, was Watashi: the entire series is devoted to showing his antics, and in how many different ways he can change depending on the choices that he makes. Usually the series with the great character development are the long ones, but this is one series that puts more character-development in than most other.

Best Character Development on an entire Cast

Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra

Armed Librarians was just amazing: in every arc, it just took a bunch of characters and developed them in a way that just kept surprising me. Even the long series of Cross Game and Full Metal Alchemist, which both had around twice the amount of episodes to develop their cast didn’t do it as interesting as Bantorra did it. They do take up the second and third place, though: the way in which they show several years subtly change their entire cast made them into some really memorable series. I also want to give a honorable mention to Rainbow: granted there was a lot of stuff wrong with its characterization, but it really tried to give its seven main characters as much development as possible, and that’s really what saved that series from being yet another cheesy drama.

Top 6 Supporting Characters

#6: Rainbow – Ishihara

Ishihara is actually a character that I for a long while considered way too over the top to be likable, often dubbing him “Psycho Guard”. But in the end that’s what his charms turned out to be: he was such a ridiculously over the top character that he became priceless at the point where Rainbow’s plot really got interesting. He’s the ultimate of sadistic characters, but at the same time his development and conclusion had me nailed to the screen.

#5: Kuroshitsuji – Alois Trancy

I only noticed this once I had fully compiled this top list, but my favourite supporting characters of 2010 are chock full of testosterone while surprisingly this isn’t necessarily the case for my favourite main characters. The characters on this list are just so out there that they immediately caught my attention, despite not being the central characters. In the end, Ciel and Sebastian remained the central characters of Kuroshitsuji’s second season, despite all of the hints that previously pointed at this sequel. I still believe that Alois should have been good enough as a lead character himself: his flamboyance totally dominated every scene he was in and it was always great to see his rambling.

#4: Giant Killing – Kazuki Kuroda

Much less over the top than the two previous entries, Kuroda was the lovable nagger of the series: he was constantly complaining and annoying the people around him, but he did it in such a way that it just instantly became charming. Especially when he was trying to pick a fight with people much taller than him. As the series goes on, we also learned quite a bit about him and some of the soccer players around him.

#3: Shiki – Tomio Ookawa

Tomio Ookawa is hard core. He mostly stood out in the latter half of Shiki through his actions, but this guy genuinely impressed me. The exact reason why is riddled with spoilers, but as a supposedly random villager, his change and development were a part that made the final act of Shiki truly memorable.

#2: Full Metal Alchemist – Brotherhood – King Bradley

The thing with King Bradley is that even the animators loved him as a character: every single action scene involving him portrays him as an unstoppable beast with absolutely gorgeous and imaginative drawings. This guy is ridiculously competent and at the same time his backstory gives him a surprising amount of depth.

#1: Shiki – Tatsumi

When I first saw Tatsumi, I laughed at his ridiculous haircut. Throughout the series however, he really made me take all of that back. He is an excellent villain: just when things are starting to look good, this guy shows up. His loyalty and aggression really made him stand out as one of the top characters of 2010, especially considering how he as a villain has so relatively little airtime.

Top 6 Male Characters

#6: Cross Game – Kitamura Kou

First and foremost, Kitamura Kou is a wonderful character to watch during the many slice of life moments in this series. His often-faked nonchalance is consistently witty and enjoyable to watch. He forms a good combination with just about every other character of Cross Game, but his relationship with Aoba really stands out with the way that the creators just consistently kept subtly poking it. His development is amazing, with fifty episodes dedicated to his growth from elementary schooler to a high school student.

#5: xxxHolic Rou – Watanuki

Watanuki only appeared in one single OVA this year, so he counts too as a character of 2010. I mean, before this OVA Watanuki already was a really well developed and sympathetic character, and here the Rou OVA comes and SPOILER is suddenly SPOILER and not to mention that SPOILER. It’s a very spoilerific OVA so I’m not going to detail what happened in this Summary, but he really impressed me.

#4: Sarai-ya Goyou – Yaichi

Sarai-ya Goyou had sublime characterizations, so a few characters were bound to turn up in these lists. Yaichi was an enigmatic character throughout the entire series, subtly menacing, yet he had a ton of different sides. His conclusion was especially stunning, but he was portrayed consistently excellent throughout the entire series.

#3: Shiki – Toshio Ozaki

The reason Toshio is amongst my favourite characters has a lot to do with the things he does through the series. Again due to spoiler reasons I can’t exactly explain what part of him left such a huge impression on me, but those who watched the series can probably imagine what I’m referring to. I will say that we don’t often get doctors as main characters, and this makes him a unique main character for this series to work with.

#2: Sarai-ya Goyou – Masanosuke Akitsu

Masanosuke was completely unlike your average samurai, lacking in confidence due to his timid personality. He had a subtle background, and the entire series was about him coming to terms with both himself and his new friends where he was forced to question his own morals. He was a terrific lead character with excellent development throughout the series, and the chemistry he had with the rest of the cast worked in just about every way.

#1: Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei – Watashi

This top 6 is really dominated by Noitamina, but both Shiki, Sarai-Ya Goyou and Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei featured some truly terrific characters, al in their own way. My favourite was Watashi, though. It’s like I said above: every single episode was dedicated to developing Watashi in a different way, depending on the choices he made. He was generally a loser, but in some he was actually successful. In some he was an idiot, in others he turned into a prankster and in others he completely wasted his time. Everything comes together wonderfully at the end, everything about his development feels completely calculated. And that’s what made me chose him as my favourite male character of 2010.

Top 6 Female Characters

#6: Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra – Noloty Maruchie

Noloty could be a main character or a side one; Armed Librarians always was a bit vague on who its main characters were, but with the impact she made on the story, I’m considering her a main one. The thing is that with Noloty, she could have easily been a really annoying character: she’s the epitome of morality. But the creators played it so pure, making her naivety both a cure and a curse with long-lasting implications. Because of this she avoided the problem that most characters with strong morals have: becoming preachy.

#5: Seikimatsu Occult GakuinMaya Kumashiro

Occult Gakuin’s biggest fault was that it spent too much time on Maya’s character, and too little on the plot. This left a really unbalanced series. But granted, Maya was an awesome character in the end. She was ridiculously fun to watch as a strong character with plenty of flaws and her deadpan attitude to everything was consistently entertaining. On top of that, Occult Gakuin is one of the first shows who can actually boast some good five-minute DVD-specials that show a very cute younger version of her.

#4: Cross Game – Tsukishima Aoba

The creators really had a knack for portraying Aoba in situations that turned out completely different from what you first thought they were. Aoba is a very talented baseball player and teacher to Kou, and yet it’s tragic that due to being a girl, she can’t really participate in official matches. Her loyalty to Wakaba combined with her wonderful realistic portrayal made her a character who was consistently enjoyable throughout 50 episodes.

#3: Letter Bee – Nichi

Nichi is awesome in just about everything she does. Her innocence is both comedic gold and captivating in the serious scenes. She works well in combination with just about every other character due to her childish jealousy and loyalty.

#2: Kobato – Hanato Kobato

Clamp… you did it again. I’m not sure why, but they really have a talent to create captivating characters with really strong developments, and Kobato was 2010′s addition to this. For most of Kobato’s first half, she was this typical ditzy female character who just runs around, but as the series moved on, she more and more grew up, found her identity and her conclusion was amongst the best of the year. I usually like strong characters, but Kobato’s charms and innocence really won me over.

#1: Armed Librarians – The Book of Bantorra – Hamyuts Meseta

This number one spot was a no-brainer for me. Hamyuts Meseta is in a completely different league from all of the other characters this year. She single-handedly took the concept of a strong female character and gave a totally new meaning to it. She was just a fantastic anti-heroine throughout the entire series, and her wishes to die were only a slight hint to her eventual back-story. Hamy consistently kicked ass when she appeared on the screen and her entire appearance was like a steam train: nearly unstoppable.

Posted on 28 December 2010 with categories: Monthly Summaries

As usual in December this summary is a little earlier and smaller than usual in order to give me some time to work on my 2010 summary. I’ve planned three posts and for some reason I found it a good idea to make this year’s summary much bigger than I did with previous years, so I really need that time.

As for the past Autumn season, it was definitely an interesting one. In all of the years I’ve been blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a major season (as in Spring and Autumn) with so few series that go beyond thirteen episodes. This lead to a lot of short but sweet series. Nothing is really in the realms of classics, but there still was a lot to like about the different series that aired. Probably the thing that I liked the most about this season is the many surprises it carried: for every show that performed disappointingly, there also was a show that came from nowhere and turned out to be much, much better than expected.

#24 (new) – Starry Sky – (3,75/10) – Ten minutes, just to glorify an incredibly overused cliche. Studio Deen, what the heck do you think you’re doing?
#23 (25) – Iron Man – (5,25/10) – The end was completely generic, just like the entire series. Any hope for this show to redeem itself went down the toilet with the decision for who got to be the final villain.
#22 (23) – Togainu no Chi – (5,5/10) – This show completely lost it in its final two episodes. It really feels like the creators stopped caring, that’s how bad it was. Il Re’s changes were just completely baffling, and the entire conclusion was just a mishmash of poorly built-up plot twists and incredibly poor animation.
#21 (20) – Arakawa Under the Bridge – (6,75/10) – Well, this ended with a big resounding “meh”. I hoped that the final episodes would at least show the journey to Venus, but even that got shafted in favour of this random unfunny fighting tournament that just went on forever.
#20 (17) – Nurarihyon no Mago – (7,25/10) – Agh, what a disappointment. This entire month I was waiting for some sort of hook for a second season, and it never came, delivering a boring final battle against a boring villain instead. That second season is really going to have to make up its mind: either go entirely for an anime original arc, or just stay faithful to the manga. This series just showed that you can’t do both at the same time.
#19 (21) – The World God Only Knows – (7,5/10) – the book girl arc was certainly not the worst of the series, although it still was rather cheesy. That final episode was just weird, though. And I’m still not sure whether this was in a good or a bad way.
#18 (19) – MM! – (7,5/10) – So in the end, this show never really concluded anything. It has passed by as a very messy harem, but this month again was quite enjoyable enough.
#17 (16) – To Aru Majutsu no Index – (7,75/10) – The current arc of Index is about average. The back-story is nice, and the characters have their good moments… but also their annoying moments. It’s a good thriller, but a number of the female side-characters were just beyond obnoxious: Mikoto’s mother is just a giant boob joke, while Index is more annoying than she ever was in this arc.
#16 (18) – Fortune Arterial – (7,75/10) – The ending was strong, but I really would have liked to see a 10 minute epilogue: the way it is now this show is inconclusive. I have to praise this show though, because the build-up to the finale was surprisingly good.
#15 (14) – Bakuman – (8/10)

This show is nicely bubbling along. The pacing is sloooow, but nothing bad has happened yet: every episode so far did progress the characters, so only time can tell whether it’s going to work out or not.

#14 (9) – Yumeiro Patissiere – (8/10)

I really did not expect this show to end at episode thirteen. It was also a completely silly conclusion that just screamed convenience. Still, it advanced quite a few relationships and it was a lot of fun to watch in the process.

#13 (15) – Katanagatari – (8,25/10)

I didn’t really like Emonzaemon’s final fight, but overall the end here was a pretty interesting one, with nice twists that still retained the dialogue.

#12 (12) – Shinryaku! Ika-Musume – (8,25/10)

The ending sucked! Seriously, I have no idea what the creators were trying to do with the final two segments, but it didn’t work. But also, that’s about the only thing of this series that I didn’t like this month, so it all evens out. Especially Squid Girls interpretation of Teruterubouzus was just completely hilarious.

#11 (13) – Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru – (8,25/10)

Overall this was a solid conclusion to a solid series. Its trips into the supernatural were unexpected, but worked well most of the time, and I especially liked that old guy. This month too gave a lot of neat characterization to the main cast, and overall I’m very happy with how things turned out.

#10 (11) – Tantei Opera Milky Holmes – (8,25/10)

Haha! Even the finale was taking the piss out of itself. It really was brilliant, and at the same time an action-packed finale, which is something that you don’t often see in comedies (see Squid Girl).

#9 (9) – Otome Youkai Zakuro – (8,5/10)

It’s a great conclusion for this series: most of the characters received a final bit of development, and this final month really did justice to them. The backstory of Zakuro’s mother was especially interesting and it’s as wonderfully told as ever.

#8 (6) – Star Driver – (8,5/10)

Star Driver is finally coming together as a character study now that it’s revisiting previous characters, and the cast is definitely getting more and more depth. Let’s hope that it can keep this up for its second half.

#7 (10) – Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt – (8,5/10)

Panty and Stocking really was on fire this month: they tried out a ton of interesting ideas, and the finale kicked ass in many different ways. My only complaint was that the pre-finale was a tad cheesy, but apart from that the creators really made up for the lackluster first episodes of this series.

#6 (2) – Kuragehime – (8,5/10)

Kuragehime is still great, but it lacks the energy that made the previous two months so addictive. Most of this can be blamed on a sulking lead character, but even when this show kicked down a notch, it still packs some great characterization and jokes.

#5 (3) – Shinrei Tantei Yakumo – (8,5/10)

Completely opposite of what the first half of the series was, the final arc of Yakumo really took its time to fully tell its story and it was a great little ending that did justice to the different characters.

#4 (8) – Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu – (8,5/10)

For its finale, Densetsu no Yuusha no Densetsu pulled something completely unexpected for its final two episodes… and it actually worked. I mean, there still are huge holes in the story with so much material left unanimated, but for a series that once really annoyed me, the final two episodes really left a good aftertaste for this series.

#3 (5) – Letter Bee – (8,75/10)

Letter Bee has a wonderful cast of characters, and that really was the main focus of this month, as they really allowed the plot to shine. On top of that, it was also a major month for the storyline itself and I really like how things are developing.

#2 (1) – Heartcatch Precure – (8,75/10)

This month was mostly building up for the big finale, and it was utterly adorable while doing so, which made the latest episode in which Dune finally arrives hit extra hard. Now that the ending is so near, this series really managed to stay true to itself, while also carrying on to add to its different characters.

#1 (4) – Shiki – (9,25/10)

This series just became utterly amazing in its final stretch. After months of build-up, it finally ends up using its final trump card and that has lead to an incredible climax. It hasn’t ended yet, but I see very little that can get in this series’ way of delivering the best ending of the season.

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews




Otome Youkai Zakuro was another one of those series that went under the radar this season. And granted, when looking at its premise it seems like a very simple youkai series. However, it’s a series that really shines through its execution and it does a great job combining the youkai genre with the romance one.

It’s the kind of series that perhaps doesn’t do anything new, but what it does it does really well. The three lead couples are all charming, each in their own way and especially Agemaki and Zakuro are two very good main characters who are both more than just romantic stereotypes. The simplicity of this series also allows the creators to put in a lot of detailed character development, and that especially manifests itself in Zakuro’s background, but the entire main cast emerges from this series with some depth.

the only real flaw of this show is its restriction to some cliches, like Zakuro the Tsundere, or a villain who listens to a few overused archetypes. It’s well told though, so despite these cliches it’s really able to put an emotional charge to just about every episode. It’s very consistently told and at the same time the drama is genuine enough to get nowhere near the levels of cheese, thanks to some subtle characterization.

It’s a great recomendation if you’re looking for some light romance. the story itself is well paced and keeps a great balance between the romantic developments between the characters, and the actual story and the growth of their characters. Autumn 2010 had many sleeper hits. This is one of the biggest ones.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Well balanced, treats its cast seriously and can be both very subtle and pack a punch.
Characters: 9/10 – Characters are neatly laid out, the main ones have a lot of depth and backstory, but it’s especially the relationship between them that really well done.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Great artwork throughout the entire series.
Setting: 8/10 – Youkai series aren’t new, but it’s nevertheless a very solid setting for this series.

Suggestions:
Rozen Maiden
Ga-Rei Zero
Natsu no Arashi

Posted on 27 December 2010 with categories: Autumn 2010 Kaleidoscope



I really would have liked to see Otome Youkai Zakuro go on for 26 episodes instead of just thirteen, but ah well, at least this was a great ending that was simple, yet very well told: all of the important characters reached their catharsis and the creators managed to add a very nice emotional charge to it. The three main couples all grew even closer together, Byakuroku and Daidai got themselves a great conclusion, and the final twist on Zakuro’s mother also made her into a really sympathetic character, where her love as a mother, that has been questioned throughout the entire series, was restored.

Only Omodaka got a bit of a short straw here with that suicide ending of his. I’m not sure what was up with that and what the creators wanted to prove with him just dying without any reason: he just chose to sit next to his mother as the house around him burned down. And I know that there is the golden rule of anime and all (no character is dead unless this is confirmed), but this is the final episode: there was no hint whatsoever that he survived, despite half the episode being dedicated to the epilogue.
EDIT: oh wait, it seems I missed an epilogue and he really did not die. ^^;

At the end of the episode, the bureau of spiritual affairs also got disbanded, only to reappear only minutes later (with a plausible reason, though). That twist was mostly there to get that kiss out of Zakuro and Agemaki. I guess that there wasn’t time to let it flow naturally between them (because granted, it’s probably going to take a long time for them to stop arguing if their relationship ends up happily ever after in the first place). It in either case was a charming bit of romance.

Overall, this blogging a different series each week turned out to be a nice experiment, that I might do again in another season where there a lot of shows about which I have something I want to say. I’m not going to do it next season, though: when Heartcatch Precure ends I’ll be able to cover nine new series: that’s half the total amount of series in the entire season.

I’m not yet sure which series those are going to be, though. I’m guaranteed to blog Level E, and things also have to be pretty strange if I’m not going to cover Yumekui Merry, Fractale and Hourou Musuko. For Supernatural it’s all going to depend on how the heck they plan to release it. For Rainbow Gate, Freezing and Infinite Stratos it’s going to depend on whether or not they have their mind in the gutter. Madoka Magica, Wolverine and Beelzebub have very notorious staffs so any hints towards that will play a big role in whether or not I’m going to blog those, and Gosick and Dragon Crisis will get covered if they’re not as childishly stupid as they seem to be at first sight. In any case though, I never had to choose nine new shows to blog in such a small season, so I’m at least thankful that it’s going to be a very diverse one.

Going back to Otome Youkai Zakuro, my initial worries were that it wasn’t ambitious enough with its story, and granted its story isn’t as complex as, say, Shinrei Tantei Yakumo, but it still developed into a very nice and simple story that pushed a lot of right buttons. A definite recommendation for those looking for some light romance.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 12:29 PM)
    I just read the book. Never saw the films.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 11:18 AM)
    Lolita is one of my favourite films of all time.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 11:17 AM)
    It is easy to see however how people would wander to seeing lolita herself as a victim as people traditionally see the child as the victim in that situation.
  • Emma
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 11:15 AM)
    @Aidan: My opinion of lolita matches yours. However I would like to ask of the film adaptations which one worked better for you, the one with James mason or the one with Jeremy Irons?
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 10:47 AM)
    I didn’t like how people tended to degrade the characters just to match their view and forcefully paint black and white over it. It ain’t that simple.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 10:47 AM)
    For example I read Lolita recently. In my opinion it was about two remarkable flawed indivuals. Horrible in there own ways. However when I looked at reviews of it I couldn’t help but notice that people tended to take sides. Either Humbert was the naive man taken in by a succubus or Lolita was the poor stupid girl abused by a monster.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 10:40 AM)
    One of the reason I feel we hear about world war 2 far more than world war 1 is that it can be so easily be portrayed as good vs evil. Hitler was a perfect supervillain. Maybe even birthed the supervillain in fiction. It wasn’t like world war 1 which was not just one countries fault and was mainly boring trench fights. Moral complexity isn’t really what the masses like. They have a tendency to paint things black and white.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 10:27 AM)
    @Friend, heard of it. No real interest in playing it.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 10:27 AM)
    @Mikey, I know apocalypse now was based on heart of darkness. It’s just that the man who made spec ops said it was based on Heart of darkness but he took way more from apocalypse now than he did from Heart of darkness.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 10:25 AM)
    @Ninjarealist, I had a peak at the congo free state. Damn. You gotta wonder how someone pulls shit like this off and look in the mirrior and not think “Man, I am such an asshole.” Surprising that you hear bitching about 9/11 all the time and yet barely anything about this.
    It’s surprising the kind of unbelievable stuff that went down in history. For one I never knew Columbus was such a monster.

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