Part 2 of my 2007 anime awards will complete the coundown of my top 10 anime. I was thinking more about Manabi Straight after posting part 1, I did not mention that it is a SF series. It takes place in the 2030’s, uses technology that doesn’t exist now and postulates that Japan never turns their declining birth rate around. All hallmarks of a SF story but it doesn’t feel like a SF story which is something I’ve noticed more frequently when the Japanese do SF as opposed to in America. Another series that is a SF story but doesn’t’ really feel like a standard SF story makes it into my top 5 at #5.
(5) Dennou Coil
Imagine a show that deals of the same cutting edge technology that’s found in works by Charles Stross and Vernor Vinge. Imagine this show centers around characters still in elementary school. Finally, imagine this show running on the Japanese equivalent of America’s PBS station. If you could imagine a show like this then you’ve probably already watched Dennou Coil. This delightful show deals with the trials and tribulations of living in augmented reality for a group of elementary school kids. My favorite episode was 12 – “Daichi’s Hair begins to grow” in which small civilizations of hair-sized illegals (any programs that is illegal on the AR network) living on a low level of technology have their societies quickly advanced in complexity from contact with the show’s characters. It’s all fun and games until these societies advance to weapons akin to nuclear weapons and then suddenly the main characters have to try to advert nuclear war between the illegals. Watching these elementary school kids trying and ultimately failing at preventing nuclear holocaust was probably one of the most sobering things I have ever seen. The next episode was another great but sad episode and episodes like these help show that you can have emotional mature characters that are still child.
With animation production by Madhouse, characters you feel for, a SF story with enough meat to satisfy someone looking for a good SF story but at the same time steering away from being just being a vehicle to show off cool gadgets; this show makes it number 5 on my countdown.
My personal favorite comedy of the year. Minami-ke follows the lives of the 3 Minami sisters, their friends and their would-be boyfriends. There are so many moments that helped propel this in front of other comedies, though one of my favorite moments was when the youngest sister, Chiaki, was turned into a teru teru bozu by the middle sister, Kana, and the eldest sister, Haruka, let it happen. Then the kicker was that it actually worked. But what I really enjoyed was watching the family dynamics between the 3 sisters because they reminded me of my own family life. I wish more anime would involve three or even four or five siblings in one show since there is so much comedy from living with many siblings that rarely get shown (probably due to low birth rates in Japan and other industrialized nations there are fewer cases of larger families as compared to past generations).
At a length of 13 episodes this comedy hits the ground running and runs on all cyclinders the whole time. My only hope is the second season, Minami-ke: Okawari, is worthy of placement when I count down 2008.
I decided since 2007 had the back half of Kanon and the front part of Clannad that I’d make Kanon eligible for this year and move Clannad to next year. After being introduced to Kyoto Animation by watching the Melancholy of Haruhi and then AIR, I was so pumped for this series. I was not watching fansubbed anime when the first version came around so I did not know what to expect other then the comment that Kanon is full of sad girls in the snow. The comment was right, there were lots of sad girls in the snow, though the saddest girl to me was Nayuki at the end of the series. People might quibble about how the show is put together (story arcs that are only vaguely connected) but the fact that Kyoto can construct an overall story from the source material is a testament to their skills.
Shows like AIR, Kanon, and Clannad might not be for everybody but if you like to cry and laugh with your anime or just like to watch gorgeously drawn anime then you should really seek this anime out.
(2) Lucky Star
Kyoto Animation’s second entry and the more controversy of the two since so many people after watching AIR, Haruhi, and Kanon where expecting something as instantly awesome as the first episode of Haruhi and something as pretty as AIR and Kanon or something that was like Azumanga Daioh. I hadn’t seen Azumanga Daioh yet and after reading the first couple of pages of the source material – and not finding it very funny – I lowered my expectations a lot and just tried to watch the first episode with a neutral frame of mind. I was still underwhelmed by this series, I’d probably have rated it a 6/12 or B- with the opening song and Lucky Channel carrying most of the weight. As the first few episodes dragged by it got a little better but I couldn’t help but feel disappointment starting to eat away at my bones. This changed though with the announcement of a director change after episode 4. Episode 5 was better than 4, 6 was better yet, 7 even better, and so it went. I found myself liking the show more and more – maybe it was the change in director or because I came to enjoy the characters – laughing at skits like Tsukasa and her cellphone or when Miyuki wins the race using her physical assets. Once I understood the show, it clicked. The show was not meant to be a comedy, at it’s core it a slice-of-life show – the normal everyday life of real people do not make good fodder for a comedy and that’s okay.
The picture above references episode 22 which is about Konata’s mom who passed while Konata was a baby. This episode pulls at the heartstrings and helped answer why Konata is like the way she is. It kind of sticks out from the other episodes since it feels like it belongs in a show like Kanon but it’s a welcome change of pace. And speaking of Konata, she was voiced by Aya Hirano who once again shows why she’s one of the top seiyuu; just try to figure that she’s the same person who voiced Haruhi last year.
Reading my writeup you might wonder why this placed as high as it did and the best thing I could say is that looking back at 2007 there isn’t a series I’ll miss more and hope that another 13 episodes get made in the future. If somehow you missed this title or stopped watching within the first few episodes then you should give this show an honest try.
(1) Gurren Lagann
If you told me that the people at Gainax sold their souls in return for the ability to create Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann I’d believe you. Saying the name Gainax probably conjures imagines of Evangelion or maybe FLCL or “Gainax Ending” or even “the Gainax bounce” but after watching Gurren Lagann, I have to say not only is Gurren Lagann the magus opus of Gainax, it’s one of the best animes ever. I’ll leave a long analysis why this show rocks on so many levels for another time and if you haven’t seen this series yet I won’t spoil the show but to say they didn’t screw up the ending.
The one thing I wanted to point out is that I feel this show has a message that we all need to take to heart in this day and age. It seems like so many people are despairing and turning into anti-Spiralesque people whereas the only way to overcome our troubles is to rise up and use our innate abilities to fight our problems and only then will we overcome them.
That’s the list. I’ll post another entry with some individual awards at a later date. What do you think of my list, feel free to comment on it or leave your own top ten list in the comments section.