I’ve been reluctant to post my top 5 shows for the fall season for various reasons but with the first of season’s shows ending – it’s time. One of the reasons for the delay was that this has been a good season for anime and it made it hard to whittle the list down to just five. Another reason stemmed from having to figure out how to rank shows of diverse genres and being comfortable with the resultant picks. And lastly, I’m dependent on the subs so for shows like Mouryou no Hako, that have been released slower, I have less of the show to work with (6 eps. vs 12+ eps of others).
The image above contains the nine shows that had legitimate shots at being in my top 5 for the season. I first grouped shows that where somewhat similar : (Clannad, Toradora, Skip Beat), (Shikabane Hime, Kurozuka, Ga-Rei Zero), (Mouryou no Hako, Chaos;Head),and Michiko to Hatchin. I then figured out what was the best show of the group and compared the winners to determine first place. I looked for how well a show develops it’s characters, my enjoyment of the series, how well the show used the strengths of the show type it is, and if it was able to rise above the constraints of its show type. Then once a pick was made, I continued the same process for each place on the list. I still have the lingering feeling that Mouryou no Hako would have placed in the top 5 if I had seen more of the show. Hopefully when I do my entire year awards in the middle of January, more of the subs will have been released. Now, it’s time to get to the countdown.
5– Michiko to Hatchin
Coming in at number 5 is the exotic and colorful Michiko to Hatchin – the latest project of Manglobe.
What ensured that this show earned a spot in the top 5 wasn’t the colorful, lush animation or the unique setting of Brazil but the character development of Michiko and Hatchin. The animation and setting definitely helped separate this title from the pack but making Michiko into someone more then just “Generic Gang Girl A” and Hatchin into being more then “Generic Orphan Looking for Parent B” has made this a great show.
This show has also done a very good job of creating interest behind Michiko’s quest to find her supposedly dead lover. The fact that Hatchin is around seems to prove that he is still alive but no one seems to know where he is. I’m of half the mind to think he’s really dead but Hatchin does really look like the daughter of this guy so maybe he’s still alive. Also playing into this is reason why Michiko is trying to find him. I almost can’t believe it’s just because she loves him, it has to be because he owes her money but Michiko has shown to have a very vulnerable, human side so maybe she simply wants to see him again. I don’t know but you can be assured, I’ll keep watching to find out.
4– Shikabane Hime: Aka
Gainax’s latest show, Shikabane Hime (Corpse Princess), continues to illustrate that this studio likes to take risks. After the wildly successful Gurren Lagann, it could be expected that Gainax would give us more of the same because that would be easy money; instead, they do a show that feels totally opposite. This upset many but I was hoping for something different.
There are many reasons to praise this show. For starters, the animation has been stellar, but instead of being colorful and crazy, it’s been muted and restrained which has created a very atmospheric world – perfect for this show. Another reason has been the uniqueness of the bad guys that the Shikabane Hime have had to fight. We have seen everything from a vampire Corpse to a Corpse in the form of a car; truly evil Corpses to Corpses that are being forced to kill. Also, this show has displayed a strong emphasis on character development and that goes for Corpses, the main characters and many of the side characters. The biggest reason to praise this show is that it has taken the time to logically show why our normal high school student becomes the hero and protagonist of the show.
3– Ga-Rei Zero
The second most surprisingly good show of the season was Ga-Rei Zero.
I had no plans to watch this show, nothing I could find out about it pointed to this being a good show. The manga was categorized as “average at best” by everyone I found that had read the manga and it’s very rare that the anime is better then the manga. After the first episode aired the chatter raised to such a level that I decided to give the show a chance. The first two episodes shocked me. I kept thinking to myself: “Who decided that killing two complete sets of people that were obviously real cast members was a good idea?” and “What can they possibly do with the rest of the series that can live up to these two episodes?”. They answered both questions: “a genius”, “show how the killer in the first two episodes was corrupted and to make us feel sad for her even while she’s killing characters that we’re gotten to know.”
The animators took a huge chance in revealing that one of the characters that they wanted you to empathize with was going to become a killer because it’s very easy to hate a character when you know what they become. Star Wars failed to make me care about Anakin before he became Darth Vader and as a result the prequel movies lacked the emotional punch that good movies have. In Ga-Rei Zero’s case, though, they slowly and expertly showed how a very good person falls and made you understand why she did what she did and made you wish that the outcome could have been something else.
2– Clannad ~After Story
I was kinda ambivalent about this show before it started because I thought the first season was less then perfect and I hoping that KyoAni would either do something new or get back to Haruhi or possibly Full Metal Panic. My ambivalence quickly fall away when it became apparent that this second season had none of the problems of the first season and all the positives of being the most polished of the adapted works of Key.
I’m not saying that this title is for everyone, the cynics out there can safely skip this show, but I’m a sucker for any show that can feature great character development, gorgeous animation, the ability to make me laugh one second and cry the next, and can mix a bit of magic and the supernatural into the story and make it feel like it belongs.
Another reason that this season deserves to be ranked so high is that most romantic anime stop the story at the point where the guy and girl have gotten together but this season is showing what happens to Tomoya and Nagisa after they have become a couple. So as we watch Tomoya trying to make his way as an adult so he can become a person that can marry Nagisa and we see Nagisa’s efforts to support Tomoya so he can succeed and having to shoulder the pain of missing Tomoya because he’s always working – it’s a pretty unique experience for an anime and one I hope to see more in anime.
1 – Toradora
To put it simply, Toradora is on a completely different level then everything else this season. In all my thinking and rough countdowns, Toradora was always my top pick for the season.
And the thing that I keep coming back to in my mind is that this show shouldn’t be as good as it is. I’ve watched many other J.C. Staff shows and heard most of the voice actors in other shows,especially Rie Kugimiya, so I thought I had a handle on how good or bad this show could possibly be.Instead the show breaks through the ceiling of what I’ve thought was possible without breaking a sweat. The characters have real complexity to them and feel like real people. The voice actors, especially Rie Kugimiya, have been sublime and the animation has even astonished me at times. The biggest surprise, though, has been the impeccable pacing of the show – every moment of every episode has felt worthwhile and important in some way. This runs counter to almost every show that J.C. Staff has done in recent years including the other J.C. Staff show that’s on right now – To Aru Majutsu no Index.
That’s finally it for my fall picks. Like I said earlier, I’ll be giving my overall picks of 2008 at some point in the middle of January. That’ll give me time to write up my impressions of the winter season and give some of the series that I’m waiting to finish like Daughter of 20 Faces and Somedays Dreamer’s Season 2 a chance to finish.