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.
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
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
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.
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…
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.