Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009 Year-Ender Anime Rankings

This is my last post for 2009. I'm spending the holidays with family in the province and don't expect to log on to the Internet for the period. I'll come back next year and hopefully pick up where I left off. Before that, let me offer you my list of the best anime (IMHO) that 2009 has to offer. (NOTE: included are titles from the Winter 2008/2009 Season)

Most Highly Anticipated Series
Eve no Jikan
(Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou, CANAAN, Eden of the East, Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom)
Only six episodes with one-month interval between each. As if that wasn't bad enough, after episode 4 Studio Rikka and Yoshiura decided to release the last two installments of Eve no Jikan only after two months. The anticipation almost killed me. XD But when it finally came out, it was so good I forgot how much I hated those two months. As wonderful as the last two episodes (and indeed, the entire series) turned out, I say take your time, Studio Rikka.

Naked guy in the middle of a busy street? Check. Cute token girl character with likeable personality? Check. But those aren't the only reason why the first episode of Eden of the East is a winner. It had everything going for it: mystery, likeable main characters, a possible romance, the evil shadow of an unseen villain, the list could go on. I can't say the same for the middle and final episodes but at the onset the series showed so much potential.

I cried shamelessly when Masaki made up with Tex. But it wasn't just the dramatic moment; it was everything about the final episode of Eve no Jikan. It was able to tie all the important loose ends together to create a tightly-packed vignette about a not-so distant future and the more presently-felt human condition.

I was only made aware of Eve no Jikan through one of my favorite blogs, Mono no Aware. The blogger wrote such a raving review about the series and I trust him enough to give the series a look-see. Let's just say I wasn't disappointed.

For a series that I only randomly picked up, Eve no Jikan turned out to be a big favorite of mine. In fact, it is one of my top 5 all-time favorite anime titles.

Favorite Female CharacterGod/Dorm Manager (Maria+Holic)
I liked Nakiami for her taciturn but thoughtful personality but God.is.made of Awesome, hands-down.
  • Nakiami (Xam'd: Lost Memories) - I was completely taken the moment she appeared on screen. she was so cool and her beat kayak was so cool and her facial tattoos were so cool. anyway, she's just a really cool character
  • Alphard Alshaya (CANAAN) - she's a frickin' terrorist, dude!
  • Michiko Malandro (Michiko to Hatchin) - I chiefly like her character design. as for her personality, well, she's a bit of an idiot so...uhh yeah
  • Erin (Kemono no Souja Erin) - her development from carefree girl to a thoughtful young woman was brilliant to see

Favorite Male CharacterMihai (DOGS: Bullets & Carnage)
An assassin! And he's got a scar and a Russian-sounding name! Guy is absolutely kick-ass!

Funniest CharacterMiyamae Kanako (Maria+Holic)
My favorite lesbian. XD Even though I dropped Maria+Holic, Kanako remains one of the most memorable and funniest characters from the 2009 line-up, if not because she's a flaming closet lesbian then because of her helplessness in the face of so much female pheromones. Excessive nose-bleeding and a certain blond cross-dressing boy making her life hell also helped.

Favorite VillainAlphard Alshaya (CANAAN)
Alphard-sama! CANAAN wasn't the best series to come out in 2009, although I had high expectations of it. But Alphard made it worthwhile, especially in the last few episodes. I can totally understand why Liang Qi is obsessed with the woman. Why is she better than all the ass-kicking female superheroes out there? The answer is simple: She's a terrorist and very, very bad. If she had real balls and no boobs, I'd make her my waifu. ^.^

Favorite CoupleCasshern and Lyuze (Casshern Sins)
I was rooting for them right from the start although I had no idea at the time where Casshern Sins was going to take their relationship. So when it did happen, Madhouse rendered it so artistically I was wowed beyond words. Currently, the two are a top contender in my OTP list of all time.
  • Koji and Rina (Eve no Jikan) - sure it's two androids pretending to be human but it's still love
  • Kuronuma Sawako and Kazehaya Shouta (Kimi ni Todoke) - they are so cute
  • Benikawa Ishuu and Tsunomata Raigyo (Xam'd: Lost Memories) - my crack couple that went canon. for about five seconds before they went and blew up Raigyo

Favorite CrackNakiami and Yango (Xam'd: Lost Memories)
It's not pedophilia. 0.o Yango eventually gew up in the final episode of Xam'd: Lost Memories. Too bad Nakiami turned into stone. Still, with the phenomena called fanfiction, one can still find ways of getting them together.
  • Rikou and Sammy (Eve no Jikan) - I have a thing for an android x human couples
  • Ein and Zwei (Phantom ~ Requiem for the Phantom) - well, Zwei at least had a thing for Ein but I don't know about the latter; when the feelings of one-half of the couple are ambiguous, that makes their pairing crack
  • Hamyuts Meseta and Mattalast (Armed Librarians: The Book of Bantorra) - I just like looking at the two of them together so imagine my surprise when they turn out to have a past together

Favorite Slash CoupleEdward and Alphonse Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
Elricest WOOH! That's all. Honestly, Youko and Sei should have occupied this spot but since they only appeared for like two episodes in Maria-sama ga Miteru 4th Season, it hardly seems fair to make them win the top slash couple just because I have a sick obsession with yuri crack.

No doubt about it. Aoi Bungaku is only into its fifth episode but I've already made up my mind that this definitely tops the dark series genre. It has everything I require from the darker side of anime: a brooding character, lots of psychobabble, stylized animation, suicide and insanity.

Toradora! won last time so I think it's time to name another title and what is better than Maria+Holic? I dropped this series before I could finish it but I am planning to pick it up again. Trap isn't my type of humor as I am more into deadpan or witty repartees but Maria+Holic proved to be a mixture of all sorts of comedic moments from slapstick to black to zingers and at the center of it all is, of course, Kanako, whom I've named the funniest character this season.

Best Drama Series
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
(Casshern Sins, Aoi Bungaku)
Actually, this anime surprised me. I was expecting it to be good and have awesome animation (it's by Production I.G.) but I honestly did not expect the show to take this direction. It's a disaster anime that focuses on the human aspect of it, particularly a couple of two kids (one of them irrepressibly optimistic, another a bitter thirteen-year-old going through the awkward teen years) and a female delivery bike driver all trying to go home and get back to their loved ones. It's just undiluted human drama that's surprisingly touching and deep.

Best Production Value

Casshern Sins came very close but it proved to be a non-contender against Eve no Jikan. I think the latter had the advantage of shorter length and longer gap between releases. Because of that, the studio and creator were able to really give each episode everything they've got.

Best Opening Theme"Falling Down" by Oasis (Eden of the East)
"Shut Up and Explode" by Boom Boom Satellites (Xam'd: Lost Memories)
"Paraiso" by SOIL & "PIMP" SESSIONS (Michiko to Hatchin)
"Marigold" by orange pekoe (Ristorante Paradiso)

Best Ending Theme"Ai Shiteru" by Kourin (Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou)
"Hikari to Kage" by Kuno Shinji (Casshern Sins)
"Vacancy" by Kylee (Xam'd: Lost Memories)
"After the Rain" by cossami (Kemono no Souja Erin)

I actually have the OST and the Special Best Album. That's how much I love the music of Casshern Sins. The tracks helped create the fantastic mood of the anime but standalone they are surprisingly easy listening.

The anime that first got me interested in seiyuus. Of course, Maria-sama ga Miteru was going to win this spot.

It was more than the retro hair that gave Casshern Sins its unique look. It was the whole old school feel to it -- the handrawn figures, Casshern's sleek body despite its mechanical deadliness, the graceful figures of the rest of the characters, the steampunk-inspired rogue robots and the colors...oh, the colors! For an anime that shows a lot of deserts, it's a pretty colorful production.

It's by BONES so yes, I can understand why Xam'd: Lost Memories has flawless animation. It's not just the fight scenes (although they are always beautiful in this series); it's Benikawa smoking her pipe, Nakiami riding her beat kayak or Akiyuki trying to suppress the hiruko in his arm -- the ordinary things so to speak.

Kemono no Souja Erin has a very child-friendly character design but the backgrounds are another thing. Far from realistic, they are akin to watercolor paintings in all their washed up, textured glory.

Casshern Sins has one of the sexiest character designs, this despite the fact that most of the characters are robots.

Eve no Jikan is probably best described as a series of six vignettes with one overarching plot. Each episode is a complete story in itself. A classic story within a story and the greatest thing about it is that it was able to deliver without leaving any loose ends.

Production I.G. was all mysterious about what Eden of the East is. There was only that interesting-looking, politically-flavored poster. Then the synopsis revealed that it's about this girl who went to see the White House only to meet a strange Japanese guy who is wandering around the streets stark-naked with only a gun and a cellphone loaded in 12 Billion Yen. WTF? But it got me hooked.

Of course, was there any other choice? Eve no Jikan has won nearly all the important categories in the list. Xam'd: Lost Memories was a very enjoyable series, but it faltered a little bit in the last few episodes and some of the plot points did not add up. On the other hand, Casshern Sins was almost perfect but the pace was too slow for my taste. So that means Eve no Jikan.

Movie of the Year
Summer Wars
The movie you simply cannot miss about a tradition-bound family in rural Japan coming face to face with a state-of-the-art A.I. seemingly intent on destroying the world and their family along with it. It's the geeks vs. the machine, humanity vs. virtual reality, Denno Coil for the whole family! and much, much more...

And that ends 2009's year-ender report. Happy Holidays and a bountiful New Year to all! See you again in 2010!