The Summer of Anime

The past few months have been pretty good for television.  Because I don’t have cable, much of my TV viewing is done via Internet, leading me to follow only a few series.  This past season, though, provided me with a lot of great shows for nighttime viewing — “Burn Notice”, “Ugly Betty”, “Big Bang Theory”, and “30 Rock” to name a few.  With much of my leisure time split between watching my handful of shows, reading, and gaming, I had very little time remaining for one of my other interests: anime.  The timing for giving up anime worked out pretty well, anyway.  Bleach had recently switched to filler episodes (despite having finished a filler arc only 10-20 episodes previously) and I had just finished several series of older anime that I was watching for the first time (Alice Academy, Onegai Sensei, and Best Student Council).  Boyfriend had convinced me to start watching Fullmetal Alchemist, but we only got two episodes in before I was ready for my break from anime, meaning I didn’t feel too guilty about leaving a series unfinished.

Now that most of my television programs are on hiatus for the summer, and there is still a full month before a new season starts (True Blood) or a new game comes out (The Sims 3), I feel ready to return to anime.  I’m especially excited to finish Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the few really famous anime series that I have yet to watch and one of Boyfriend’s favorites.  I constantly ask Boyfriend to name his Top 5 anime series, a task he can’t usually manage since he has seen so many and loved them all.  In honor of my return to anime viewing, I’m going to take on the challenge I usually pose to Boyfriend and create my own list of my Top 5 Favorite Anime Series.

5. Trigun

trigun_tva_top I considered leaving Trigun off this list.  It’s been a while since I watched it and there are a bunch of other anime series that I enjoy and have viewed more recently that could have made the number five spot in its place — Get Backers, History’s Strongest Disciple, Fruits Basket.  Nevertheless, I include Trigun because of its complexity and its depth.  There are plenty of anime series that have moments of darkness or deep storylines beneath the comedic fluff, but none can compare to the emotional journey that Trigun conveys.  The anime is one of those famous series that demands to be watched by anyone who wants to call himself an anime fan, a phenomenon I typically find obnoxious and tend to resist.  I’m glad I gave in and watched Trigun, though.  In spite of occasionally poor pacing and a few laughable, cringe-worthy villains, it’s a top-notch series and deserves its lauded reputation.

4. Naruto

Naruto was the second anime series I ever watched (the first being Chobits, a good series but one that doesn’t make this list) and my fondness for it and the nostalgia I feel for it are what keep it in this list.  I started watching the series just before it began its first filler arc, devouring the 100+ episodes at an insane pace, sometimes staying up until 4am watching episodes.  I now follow the manga instead of watching the anime, mostly because the pacing of the anime is just atrocious now.  As much as I hate it when anime series resort to using filler arcs, I would rather the team behind Naruto do that than continue stretching brief arcs into multiple episode crawls. naruto1fg0

The heart of the anime sticks with me to this day, though.  The inspiring story of determination, the wonderful supporting cast, and even the music of the series (I have most of the opening and closing songs on my mp3 player) are all stellar, adding up to make a great series.  I’m only sad that the pacing has effectively ruined the current arcs, as it dashes any hope I had of collecting the DVDs.

3. Love Hina

galera-love-hina Who doesn’t love a good harem anime?  I suppose that statement isn’t truly accurate — I’m not a big fan of harem anime series and consider Love Hina one of the few that are worth viewing.  Unlike many harem anime series that I’ve seen/read about, Love Hina has a rich cast of characters.  The protagonist isn’t choosing among a group of carbon-copied girls — the big breasted one, the shy one, the slutty one, etc., though the characters do exemplify some of the characteristics of those archetypes.  Also unlike many harem anime protagonists, Keitaro is a truly likable guy who actually seems to earn the affections of the girls he encounters.  Those qualities, combined with a fair amount of fan service, plenty of comedic violence, and a few questionable references to one character’s ethnicity make for a wonderful and hilarious series.  The cast is also great, with Yui Horie — an adorable J-pop singer — lending her voice to the main love interest.

2. Bleach

If I had known two years ago that I was going to like Bleach enough to put it at the number 2 spot on this list, I wouldn’t have been so damned resistant to watching it for the first time.  For what it’s worth, I was such a diehard Naruto fan at the time that I felt incredibly skeptical that any other series featuring a teenager with orange hair fighting off baddies could be enjoyable.  Amusingly enough, it was because of Naruto that I finally agreed to watch Bleach.  Boyfriend was playing the PSP game Bleach: Heat the Soul and was fooling around with the collectible card feature, where gathering the cards unlocked little voice clips of the characters’ dialogues from the show.  I heard him play a voice one night and thought it sounded eerily similar to the voice actor for Sasuke in Naruto.  I was instantly intrigued and agreed to watch the show, excited to see what role the character (Ishida) had in the series.  Even more amusing is that I now associate the voice actor primarily with Ishida and less so with Sasuke, simply because I have watched Bleach more recently and more often now. 10xdqpy

The incident with the voice acting inspired my obsession with tracking voice actors in new series I watch.  Bleach happens to have a number of famous Japanese voice actors who have been a part of other anime series I enjoyed, even some on this list.  The actors for Vash and Wolfwood are particularly notable, as they play reluctant allies in Trigun and sworn enemies in Bleach.  Bleach also introduced me to one of my favorite artists, Yui, who performed both an opening and closing song for the series.

In addition to these little facts, I just generally love the series.  The characters are great, the fight scenes are epic, and the series seems to bring a novel approach to the genre, even if its “power up” style is somewhat formulaic.  I enjoyed the series so much that I started following the manga as well.  I’m a tad frustrated with Bleach for employing filler arcs so much lately, but it’s certainly better than enduring the snaillike pacing that Naruto favors.

1. Nodame Cantabile

It’s an anime about two music students.  Yeah, I was skeptical, too.  Boyfriend told me it was a great series, that he loved it and that I would love it.  When I asked him what it was about?  “Well, she plays the piano and he wants to be a conductor and they go to conservatory together, but he doesn’t like her.”  It seemed odd, and I thought it was going to be boring or weird or dumb.  I was absolutely wrong.  True, much of the series deals with music, but it isn’t boring.  It’s also true that the male lead doesn’t like the female lead initially, but it is a love story at its core and ultimately the two come together in the end, as you might expect.  There are some weird aspects to the show, but they’re extremely funny, the most notable being Nodame’s odd speech habits.

nodame-cantabile-paris-hen-sky-high-500x281I watched the series last year and felt content with the ending.  It was a full, complete series that ended well and on a high note.  Not a month later, Boyfriend discovered that a new season of the show was coming out that picked up where the finale left off.  I was cautiously happy.  I wanted more Nodame, but I worried that it would spoil the magic of the first season.  It turns out I was silly to worry, as the second season (dubbed the Paris Chapter) was just as entertaining as the first.

Despite their happy ending in season one, Nodame and Chiaki go through a number of trials during the Paris Chapter, enough to keep the story moving and make it just as addictive as the first time around.  The author of the manga had to put the series on hold due to pregnancy, but there will evidently be a new season of Nodame coming out later this year.  I can’t wait!  In the meantime, I watched the live action version of the series.  I was very skeptical, but it turned out great!  I’d never watched a J-drama before, and I really loved it.  The series is just so wonderful, with such an amazing story, I don’t think anything could be done to ruin it.

I have no idea how many of you are anime fans, but if you enjoy anime as I do, please feel free to leave your own top 5 list in the comments (or post to your blog if you need post fodder).  You needn’t be as detailed as I was, a simple list will suffice.  I’d also appreciate any recommendations you might have for new series to watch.  I’m a bit picky, but if you’re really fond of the series there’s a chance I’ll give it a shot.  One caveat, though: I really don’t like watching older anime series.  I watched five seasons of Ranma last summer and that was a stretch.  I also don’t like horror or, for the most part, space-themed anime series.  Otherwise, bring on the recommendations!  It’s the summer of anime!

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15 Responses to The Summer of Anime

  1. Pete S says:

    I’m no anime expert, but a couple I’ve really enjoyed were Samurai 7 (a retelling of The Seven Samurai) and Haibane Renmei, which was a sweet story about…heaven, maybe? It was never really clear, but a little girl is reborn into a world with wings.

    I also enjoyed Samurai X and for stand alone stuff, Grave of the Fireflies was one of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen in any medium.

  2. Brutal says:

    There are so many different sub-genre within
    the anime medium it is hard to pick up just 5.
    I enjoyed Bleach up to a certain point , but
    as the series became successfull it became more
    and more riddled with fillers . i like my series
    short and to the point.
    so here’s my recommendations

    as a general rule , anything by Hayao Miyazaki.
    his works include spirited away , Nausicaa , princess mononoke , Howl’s moving castle , Whisper’s of the heart , my neighbour Totorro and many others .

    samurai/Ninja
    ————-
    + Samurai X (classic)
    + Basilisk (13 eps of bloody brutal awsome)
    + Samurai Champloo (26 eps, great art and story)

    space / sci-fi
    ————–
    + Evangelion (classic , 26 eps great series , wth ending imo)

    + CowBoy Bepop ( another classic , bounty hunter in space with good back story)

    + Ghost in the shell ( series / movies)

    General
    ——–
    + FLCL (6 eps of wicked awsome )

    + Hellsing (10 eps , vampire turned vampire hunter)

    + Fullmetal Alchemist ( 48 eps ,story that blows your mind away, incredible cast of characters that are all likable, emotional and funny, and never dragged on for long periods like bleach , what’s not to like ? ) and best part is being re-released in 2009 with the intention of sticking more closely to the manga .

    + Claymore (26 eps , demons attacking populations , and silver haired / eyed female warriors that hunt them down instructed by the mysterious organization .
    good cast of interesting characters and intriguing plot )

    + Death Note ( must watch , The series centers around a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook that allows him to kill anyone by writing the victim’s name and picturing his or her face . great psychological thriller . it is a classic in its own rights )

    Damn ,sorry for the Long post .
    got carried away , had to stop somewhere .
    Haven’t seen a good anime in a while , hopefully
    this will generate some recommendations .

    /cheers

  3. tarisai says:

    i’m more into anime as a showcase for creative animation. it’s shallow, i know, but i just can’t get into animated dramas. there has to be some dynamic fight scenes, film noir style monologues, and an atmosphere of unsung hero fighting to supress internal conflicts.

    the only two anime’s i’ve watched over and over are:

    Cowboy BeBop – excellent, well developed characters. the over arching story line was subtle yet personally epic at the same time.

    it’s very film noir in the way it’s “shot” (for the most part), and spike, arguably the main character is everything cool about han solo without the cheesy one liners and “get the girl” attitude.

    love the animation (even though it’s getting old now) which is even better in it’s feature length incarnation.
    music is also awesome (the best theme song for a tv show i’ve heard).

    Afro Samurai – this anime has a bit of a bad rep. the story is tres passe, seriously so. “afro” has hardly any dialogue which makes it hard to develope the character. i don’t think character development was ever considered when drawing up the story though…

    a brief synopsis would be: little sees his dad die at the hands of some pistol whipping cyborg ninja cowboy. little boy goes a bit mental. little boy grows up thinking of nothing but revenge, and sets out to achieve said revenge.

    however, the animation is SUBLIME. the simplicity of the story is post modern as it’s based on blackspoitation movies which kind of makes it really cool (in the same way tarentino makes his films “hip”). the atmosphere is excellent as it crosses fudile japan with hip hop and modern neon machinery (it makes NO sense!).

    it’s very short, i’d reccomend just watching the 1st episode to see if it clicks.

    it also has a feature, but is a rehash of the series’ non story. more eye candy i guess…

    i think i’ll give bleach a look. a guy in my old work used to swear by it (though he also swore by “one piece” and lent me the first season. i got maybe 10 mins into the first episode…)

    sorry for the long comment!

  4. Yulian says:

    Well there are a lot of good old ones, but this spring season there are a LOT of good anime.

    1. Ristorante Paradiso
    2. Asura Cryin
    3. Hayate no Gotoku (ongoing from previous seasons)
    4. Gintama (ongoing from previous seasons)
    5. Higashi no Eden
    6. Pandora Hearts
    7. Natsu no Arashi
    8. Shangri-la
    9. 07-Ghost

    There is more but thats the gist of it. I’m part of an anime fansubbing group, so I am always up to date on anime. You can check these anime out on Anidb.net for more details or myanimelist.com.

    You can also go to my myanimelist for all the anime I’ve seen and their ratings. 7 is average, watchable but nothing special. 8+ means its good. 10 is super duper. 6 and lower means its not worth the time really.

    http://myanimelist.net/animelist/Daegalus

    If you ever decide to look into Asura Cryin, Shangri-La or Kurokami, make sure you get them from the fansub group AllOfThem [AoT]. Since for those we release the best releases, and its the group I am part of. I do most of the work on Asura Cryin’ except the translation.

    Email me, msg me or Twitter me if you want to know more (I think we have each other on twitter, at least I have you. Daegalus is my username.)

  5. […] Top 6 Anime This is in response to Girl Unplugged’s Anime Post. She is 1 of a few blog authors i started reading due to the content being realistic in the gaming […]

  6. Caladwen says:

    I don’t even know how I came across this post… But I’m glad I did! I love anime and watched Nodame Cantabile after reading your post and it’s AWESOME! It’s so hard for me to rate anime, cos they are all so different and special in their own way… People have already suggested these on the other comments, but these are some shows I enjoyed.
    Cowboy Bebop (I know you mentioned you don’t like space-themed anime but still… it’s worth mentioning!)
    Full Metal Alchemist
    Death Note

    🙂

  7. mastah says:

    I’m never going to pay full price for a game again, flash cards for the win!

  8. Ty_Sylicus says:

    I found this Googling images for Love Hina; a great anime I started many years ago and never finished.

    I’m very happy to see TRIGUN make your top 5. I’ve always felt it to be a stellar anime; one that I watch almost yearly. Along with Cowboy Bebop, these were my first two anime.

    Ramna 1/2 was very entertaining, as was Chobits (the one and only manga I’ve ever finished).

    Full Metal Alchemist is by far the most impressive anime I’ve ever seen. The show plays out like a beautiful RPG game with such a wonderful cast and meaningful storylines. A new second part is being added entitled “The Brotherhood”. I haven’t watched any of it yet though.

    I’m surprised no one mentioned the famous Inu Yasha. Yes, it’s long and, yes it can be cliche. Even still though, the show was such an enjoyable ride for me. I’ve very much looking forward to the final parts of the anime being released now.

    Definitely watch Samurai Champloo. The art, story, characters, and direction are all great. You can thank Bebop’s Shinichirou Watanabe for that; he’s brilliant.

    I’ve watched 115 eps of subtitled BLEACH. Don’t think I’ll ever finish that though. Also, I’m still holding off on ever starting Naruto, though it is on my “to watch” list.

    As far as Japanese Dramas go. I would recommend “Taiyou no Uta”. It’s the story of a girl who cannot go out into the sunlight. She plays her guitar in the park at night and dreams of being a music star. Kenji, the male lead, bumps into her and the love story begins. I found it heart-warming.

    YUI is also my favorite artist. I’m glad you found her! =D She starred in the film version of “Taiyou no Uta” in which the drama series is based on.

    I’m going to give Nodame Cantabile an add thanks to your smile-worthy recommendation of it. 🙂

  9. ryuksaky says:

    hola ami me yega el anime el anime es lo mejor yeeea

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