Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My "Favorite" Anime

I don't watch anime much, but the ones I do watch, I tend to really enjoy, but since I don't watch many, it'd be kinda pointless to make a "Top 10", so here's the anime I've enjoyed the most over the years.

Now as far as my opinions go with anime, I haven't found one I'd call perfect, but there are several who've come close. And by perfect, I mean an anime I find no flaws in; I simply enjoy every aspect about it. And, of course, by "perfect", I mean perfect in my eyes. When it comes to anime, I REALLY have different likes and dislikes than most people; so this list could be baffling to some, heh.

In this list, I'll list all of my favorite anime and give concise (as best I can) explanations on why I like them, as well as what I don't like about them (meaning, why I don't think they're perfect). Also, to note, this anime is not ranked in any particular order. And, with that, here I go:

- Cowboy Bebop. Probably the one anime on this list that is part of the "mainstream". I enjoy it for the obvious reasons of great animation, characters, stories, and music. My favorite aspects of Cowboy Bebop are the movie-like execution of each episode and the superb and stylish soundtrack from Yoko Kanno. Surprisingly, despite some mature tones in some of Bebop's stories, I never got that uncomfortable feeling I get with other violent anime; probably because each episode is separated from one another, so I knew everything would go back to normal in the next episode. I loved the stylish execution of the episodes, as well as the variety there-of; sometimes an episode would be full of action, sometimes it was a comedic episode, and other times it was a serious affair. This episode variety combined with the incredible soundtrack made for a truly entertaining anime.

My only problem with Bebop lies in the melancholy tone of the series. Overall, the series isn't that fun. It's definitely enjoyable, but the atmosphere was always a dark one; which worked in Bebop's favor, but as someone who likes to leave an episode with a smile on my face, I couldn't get that every episode. Regardless, Bebop is easily the best runner for my favorite anime of all time; rivaled only by...

- Nichijou. I freakin' love this anime. It is basically the polar opposite of Cowboy Bebop, and yet I enjoy both series immensely. Nichijou is the funniest anime I've ever seen and also one of the most entertaining. The animation by Kyoto Animation is the most impressive I've ever seen in an anime; it's insanely stylized yet beautiful, and never does the animation take a dip in quality throughout the 26 episode length. What is most impressive, however, is the superb direction of the series. The pacing of each episode is superb, leaving little to no time for dull pauses of boredom. Furthermore, the voice acting is incredible, and each voice actor really gave it their all. Overall, Nichijou just felt like a blank canvas where all of the talented artists and directors at Kyoto Animation got together and just had a lot of fun. The result is what is perhaps my favorite anime of all time.

If I had a problem with Nichijou, it would be that there were a few episodes that weren't as funny as others. This isn't a huge problem, but if the anime could have remained consistently superb all the way through, it would easily be my favorite anime. But, I suppose I can't expect an anime to run flames blazing all the time.

- Kill Me Baby. Here's an anime that, at first glance, is very simple. There are only 4 characters in the whole anime, and it focuses on two of them for 90% of the series. Luckily, the anime is written very well and the voice actresses to a superb job on their characters. What really sells this series, however, are the two main characters and how they work off of one another. The end result is something both funny and relatable, for nearly everyone has had a friend like Yasuna or Sonya.

My only problem with Kill Me Baby would be that there were times when Sonya was a bit too mean to Yasuna. I know that's how they work off of each other, but I think Sonya went two far three times. Also, I think the series would've benefited from some yuri subtext; their interactions were practically begging for it.

- Bodacious Space Pirates. A series that is actually currently running, but is easily one of my favorite anime of all time. The series is beautifully directed and has a superb sci-fi setting. BSP also has some great leading female characters who really started off great and continued to impress as the series went on. What I a lot about the series is how it handles conflicts. Whenever conflict arose in the series it was often settled in non-violent ways; often becoming a battle of wits and savvy. I love this aspect about the series, as it is really refreshing to see conflict play out this way rather than with fists and guns like in most other series. The most impressive aspect of the series is the writing. BSP is the most well written anime I've ever come across; rarely are lines wasted, episodes are superbly paced and executed, and all of the sci-fi "mumbo-jumbo" is explained very well and in just enough detail for everyone to understand the complexities of the technology in the world setting. Also, the series contains some nice yuri subtext, as well as a canon yuri couple (though they aren't main characters).

My only problem with the series is also something I enjoy about the series: it's very relaxed. While there is definitely conflict, rarely does it feel like the characters lives are in grave danger. While this makes the conflicts a little less impactful, it also lets me come away from episodes with a smile on my face; so it's a double-edged sword.

- Queen's Blade (Exiled Virgin, Beautiful Warriors, Rebellion). The first and favorite of the "all-girls" anime to hit this list. I am a huge fan of "all-girl" anime, and often I will watch any "all-girl" anime I can find. By "all-girl" anime, I mean an anime that has a main cast consisting of entirely females. I enjoy these types of series because I like to see how writers develop and execute female characters in anime. I feel like I've seen enough male main characters to last a lifetime; so when I come across a series that consist of only female main characters, I become immensely intrigued; and I've actually never been disappointed so far when it comes to "all-girl" anime series.

Queen's Blade is my favorite as it not only has an all-female cast, but it's also set in a medieval fantasy setting, which is really rare in anime, especially nowadays. The cast is what really makes Queen's Blade shine; each character is designed by a different artist, and as a result, the cast is extremely varied. And it is when this varied cast begins to interact with one another that QB truly shines. I love good character interaction, and when it is combined with a unique setting, varied characters, and some fanservice and yuri subtext, magic is made. Also, the QB anime has some of the best music I've heard in an anime, and, alongside Cowboy Bebop, is the only anime where I've gotten the OSTs to listen to in my spare time.

My only problems with QB lie in a few scenes (spread throughout the series) that I think went a bit too far (often in terms of violence) to get a point across. An aspect of QB that I love is how light-hearted it tends to be, but sometimes the writers went a little to far to prove a point. Also, the fanservice can be a little much at times, but overall, it's fine.

- A Channel. Now here is one under-appreciated slice-of-life anime. At first glance, A Channel appears to borrow heavily from K-ON; and it does in a few aspects, but it differs heavily from K-ON in its unique execution. A Channel keeps episodes very light on conflict (though there are some serious episodes, but it's never anything major) and really just keeps things enjoyable, funny, and "soft, alongside this are insert songs that really add to the style and characters of A Channel. The end result is an anime that always keeps a smile on your face, even though it isn't that funny. The characters really shine in A Channel, especially Tooru, who is the most original character in a slice-of-life I've seen in quite some time. Overall, while it may not be the best anime out there, it's truly an enjoyable anime that always left a smile on my face when it was over. I really didn't want this one to end.

I really can't think of anything bad about this series; I suppose it's only flaw is that it wasn't mind-blowing in any way. It was a standard, though superbly executed, slice-of-life; nothing more, nothing less.

- Kanamemo. Another great slice-of-life series. The series sets itself apart by having a diverse cast of characters. The focuses on a girl named Kana who just lost her grandmother, and it's from there that we see Kana grow in maturity alongside her new "family". It's all very heart-warming as well as funny. Also, this series has a canon yuri couple that consistently show their affection for one another. I love how the anime portrays them not as any type of fanservice or plot device, but rather they simply are a couple and they love one another. I hope more anime have similar canon yuri couples in the future.

I have no real problems with this series. It balances the comedy and drama very well, and it always enjoyable. I suppose, like A Channel, there's nothing mind-blowing here, but the canon yuri couple was a pleasant surprise.

- Strike Witches. Another "all-girls" anime, and one of my favorites. I really enjoyed the setting of SW, and I love how it continues to expand though light novels and manga. The characters of SW are really the bread-and-butter of the series, and when combined with a very interesting setting, it leads to some great action, comedy, and drama. At times SW comes across as a slice-of-life, but other times it feels more like a drama; these different genres never clash with each other, though. Like I said, the characters are really the best part of the anime, and anime's execution really lets the characters shine by having stories focus solely on the characters and their interactions with each other. The end result is a great anime that allows us to see these characters interact and develop over the course of 26 episodes. I really hope a third season is made at some point.

My only problem with the series is that I feel it could have used some more action. There are some great action scenes spread throughout the series, but it's never much.

- Sengoku Otome. Another great "all-girls" anime. This anime truly impressed me. At first, I was expecting an all-female Sengoku Basara, but instead I got an anime more emotional, impactful, historically correct (ironic, I know), and fun than Sengoku Basara. The series' focus on characters, like Queen's Blade and Strike Witches, really helps it shine as both an entertaining and fun anime. The character of Oda Nobunaga is particularly interesting, as we see her develop through her interactions with a young girl from the present. The set-up for Sengoku Otome may be cliche, but its story development in later episodes is anything but. This series really surprised me in how well it executed its story-telling. It may have only been 12 episodes, but it was a great story and time well spent. Also, there's some nice yuri subtext and love woven into the story, and its superbly done.

My only problem with this series is Shiro, who is a dog and acts as the only male character in the show; except he doesn't act like a dog, rather he acts like a man. So he's basically the source of the "bad fanservice" I spoke about in an ealier blog post. It isn't too bad, but the anime would have been perfect without him.

- Arakawa Under the Bridge. Before Nichijou came along, I would have said that Arakawa was easily the funniest anime I've ever seen. Animated by Shaft, Arakawa is an anime that is both hilarious, stylish, original, and thoroughly enjoyable. The sheer amount of personality that stems from each unique character in Arakawa is something to behold, and their interactions with one another make for some great humor. Arakawa is also quite charming, as it mixes drama in with it's comedy quite well. A very original and funny anime.

My only problem with Arakawa is that the main character, Ric, can be annoying at times. It's never a problem, but it can be irksome at times.

- Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. OK, so Bebop wasn't the only mainstream hit on this list. I have to say though, I didn't expect Madoka to erupt in popularity the way it did. Madoka is probably the only "dark" anime on this list. I honestly don't have much to say on Madoka. I originally watched it because it was advertised during Arakawa and it was an "all-girl" anime. Overall, I feel that I respect Madoka more than enjoy it, as it was pretty dark. But I really enjoyed the characters and the stories they had to tell, especially Homura. Episode 10 of this series is one of the best episodes of anime (or anything) I've ever seen; it really touched me.

My only problem with this series is the character of Miki Sayaka. Who I understand was supposed to be the tragic character, but I really couldn't get behind her actions (sacrificing herself for a boy; tch, worst way you could go, imo).

- Tantei Opera Milky Holmes. Here's an odd yet enjoyable series. It's full of visual gags, parodies, and slapstick humor, and yet it's superbly animated and has some of the best action scenes I've ever seen in anime. It's definitely a weird one, but very enjoyable nonetheless. I really enjoyed the characters of this series, particularly Henrietta/Arsene, who has a very interesting and complicated relationship with the main character of Sheri. It's really interesting to see how the characters interact, even among all of the craziness.

My problems with this series stem from the simply fact that I'm not savvy to Japanese culture, as a result, I miss a lot of jokes and parody gags in the show. Also, I kinda wish the show was serious more, as the show is really at its best when its serious and focusing on the character relationship between Sheri and Henrietta.

- Mitsudomoe. This show is just insane. It's the type of comedy you can't really respect until you're done laughing. As the comedy in Mitsudomoe is based solely on misunderstandings. This may sound like it gets old, but the writers managed to make it last two seasons of hilarity. Mitsudomoe is also quite perverted, and yet its not. So many jokes have a perverse context (the fact that the main characters are children doesn't help, heh), and yet nothing perverse ever happens in the show. It all works out superbly, and it's just so funny.

If I have a problem with Mitsudomoe, it would be that, like Nichijou, some episodes are just funnier than others, and some jokes just aren't as funny as others. But, hey, I may just be asking for too much.

- Yuru Yuri. Finally, an anime focused solely on yuri! Huh? What do you mean there's no actually yuri? Well, regardless, YY is heavy on the yuri subtext and basically feels like a story showing us the budding of several yuri relationships between the cast of young girls. Like A Channel, the anime is very well directed, and really doesn't try to be anything more or less than what it set out to be: a slice-of-life focusing around yuri subtext. The characters are all great, and make for some interesting character interaction, whether for yuri purposes, comedic purposes, or dramatic purposes.

As with A Channel, I have no real complaints to make, simply that it just didn't blow my mind with any of its content.

- Astro Boy (90's anime). This anime is the perfect example of how I like my plot-focused stories to be executed. Have drama and mature themes present, but present them in a light-hearted way, i.e. through the eyes of a boy. This anime brings up a lot of dramatic story themes, particularly concerning the uneasy relationships between humans and robots. Astro Boy has been around for as long as anime has been around, and while I enjoyed the original series, I feel this series executed the themes of the story in just the right way so get them across better without having them shoved in our faces. This anime has made me cry several times, and yet I always end an episode with a smile. That's some good story-telling.

My only problem with this series is that it's hard to find it in a good-quality video. Even the remastered DVD set doesn't look that great. Also, the english dub isn't too great.


OK. That's my list. Now, I may have forgotten some anime, but I'm pretty sure these are my favorites. I didn't include a lot of those classic series like Gundam Wing and Outlaw Star because I think a large part of why I have fond memories of those anime is because they were the first ones I watched back in the Toonami days, so I'm not too sure if I'd like them now. Also, if you're wondering why Fullmetal Alchemist isn't on the list, its because I don't think its that great. It's definitely not bad, but I do think its over-rated, not as much as other anime like Bleach and Fairy Tail, but still kinda over-rated.


Bonus Round: Anime I Hate

- Harem anime. Holy crap! Do I hate harem anime! I mean, if the female characters are meant to be the focus of the anime since they're the most interesting characters, why bother having a male character there in the first place?!? Why!?! It just demeans the female characters to be reduced to an item to pick off the shelf at the end of the series. This genre is also responsible for 90% of "bad fanservice". I hope this genre dies out soon.

- Gainax anime. Now, I truly respect Gainax's animation style; it's creative and very stylish. With that said, I really don't like their anime. With the exception of Evangalion, they always give off the vibe of an anime that's about having fun with crazy visuals and wacky characters, but when they actually get underway, they're always the story about how a teenage boy gets a boner. Every freakin' one (with the exception of Diebuster).  My hate for these anime really comes down to their characters; I hate basically every Gainax character. I find none of them likable, especially the female characters, which is a big deal coming from me, heh. It just annoys me how such talented animators waste their time with these stories; they could do so much more if they just stopped trying to be do deep with their stories all the time. The end result is often just confusing and uncomfortable. I know my opinion here is childish, but this is just what I think.

- Dark anime. Sex and violence. No, thank you.

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