We’re finally here, the last part of my reflection on the best anime of 2008 – the top 5 anime. If you’ve looked at the other parts then this list probably won’t be much of a shock so let’s not waste anymore time and get to the list.
The show I called the second most surprising show of the fall season starts this half of the countdown.
I like to see animators willing to take chances with a series because that means creativity isn’t dead. The creators of Ga-rei: Zero could have just done a straight adaptation of the Ga-Rei source material; instead, they decided to create a prequel that would fill in the scant information given in the manga and explain how things got the way they did. Since this would involve a lot of character development and not action, they had to make sure to hook action-philes that might grow bored of the character development and they came up with a doozie. It was probably the best first episode hook since Haruhi and left me completely mystified and wanting to know more.
Overall the show kinda felt like watching the Star Wars prequels because you knew what was going to happen but Ga-Rei: Zero differed in that this show was actually good. I loved the character development, the animation was very well done, top-notch seiyuu work, action scenes where well done and cool weapons. All that and the animators gutsy-ness propelled this show to #5.
I absolutely loved Kamina’s voice – Katsuyuki Konishi - and after Gurren Lagann, I wanted to hear more so when I saw that Bamboo Blade was going to feature him as the kendo teacher, I had to watch. After enjoying a few episodes of listening to Kamina’s voice I realized that I actually liked the show itself. It wasn’t a kendo sports show but a show about a group of characters that happened to all belong to the school’s kendo club.
In a lot of ways it’s similar to Wagaya no Oinari-sama. It let the characters drive where the story went, it blended a bit of comedy and drama into itself, and it never tried to be overly complex or forget to be entertaining. Where this show had an edge over Wagaya no Oinari-sama was the kendo actions scenes were suspenseful and generally very well done. I was really sad to see this show end and I hope when there’s enough source material to do a second season that a second season is made.
I just adore Toradora.
Last year I mentioned that I could believe if someone told me that Gainax sold their souls to the devil in return for Gurren Lagann because it didn’t seem possible that Gainax could do something that great anymore. This year, I could almost believe that J.C. Staff sold their souls over Toradora because they haven’t shown this level of ability for quite a long time and their other show right now, Index, is no match for Toradora either. Is this really the same group of people that mutilated the first half of Shana 2?
I could spend 2000 words praising the different parts of this show that deserve praise like how the characters feel like real people and not clichéd character types or how they never act intentionally dumb to force the story to go in a certain direction or how well the individual episodes flow together or … you get the idea. This is one of the few shows that I think that any anime fan could watch and like a lot, even those fans that hate school-based anime shows. As an aside, I was just reading that the author plans to end the light novels series at 10 volumes so with like 6 episodes left and 7 volumes already covered, we might get a real ending to this anime series.
Natsume Yuujinchou, aka Natsume’s Book of Friends, was the best slice-of-life show of 2008 and definitely one of the best of all-time. Watching it felt akin to watching a world class orchestra perform – every note was struck perfectly and nothing felt out-of-place. Even when the show ran, late summer into early fall, helped contribute to giving the show a bit of a melancholic, reflective mood which I associate with good slice-of-life shows.
One aspect I thought real different about this show is that the spirits that appear are mostly very lonely creatures. If they want to harm humans, it’s often because of cruel things that humans have done in the past or because they’ve been lonely so long, they get all twisted up inside. This loneliness reminds Natsume of his own loneliness that being able to see spirits has caused in his life and this pushes Natsume to help these lonely spirits with their problems.
If the second season wasn’t already airing, I’d take this opportunity to complain about how it was only 13 episodes long but it’s running, so I’m happy right now.
No other show was discussed more on The Null Set this year then Kaiba and with good reason because it was the best show of the year. The story was definitely intellectual but at the same time it focused that on the individual characters and was able to remain compelling and entertaining. I was surprised on a couple of occasions that this show was able to get me to shed a few tears. The animation was artistic and unique but it never forgot that it needed to tell the story and impress the viewer. I remember there were several sequences that literally made my jaw drop.
I don’t know what else I can say that I already haven’t repeated several times by this point about Kaiba so I’ll just end now saying this show was awesome and one I’d really like to buy on DVD but probably will never see licensed.
Well, that’s it. I hope everyone that took the time to read this look back at the 2008 year of anime found it worthwhile. I tried my hardest to make it so. This year, I’m kinda sad that two of my favorite bloggers, Jason from Derailed by Darry and Jeff Lawson from Hop Step Jump, are taking a break from anime blogging and thus haven’t written their look back at the year. I wouldn’t want to see them forcing themselves to write when they didn’t feel like it but I do miss their writing.
Read Part 0 – Introduction and Anti-awards here.
Read Part 1 – Character Awards here.
Read Part 2 – Cast and Assorted Awards here.
Read Part 3 – Genre Awards here.
Read Part 4 – Music, Voice, and Animation Awards here.
Read Part 5 – Memorable Moments and Favorite Episodes here.
Read Part 6 – Top 10 Anime of 2008: #10 – #6 here.