The final part of my look at the best of the spring season is the countdown of the best titles of the season. This is always a difficult process since I enjoy so many different types of shows and there’s no clear-cut way of comparing a slice-of-life show to a shounen action show to a thought provoking SF drama set in the near future. But it’s also fun because it helps me focus on exactly why I like certain shows.
For the spring season I discovered that I had four shows that where the cream of the crop and that made it especially hard to order them. So even though a show at only number 3 or 4 might imply there’s a significant difference between them and the top ranked show there really wasn’t this time. And I stopped the list at 6 7 shows because these where the only shows that I felt deserved special recognition. I dislike when a system is in place that unduly rewards people or groups that don’t really deserve it (like the NFL playoff system – plenty of teams make it that shouldn’t). For those curious, the next two spots would probably have gone to Sengoku Basara and K-ON! . Watching the final two episodes of Sengoku Basara made it clear that it would be unfair to leave it off so I expanded my top shows from six to seven.
And with that, let’s head to the countdown.
One of the shows later on in the countdown dealt with first love and all it’s variations. Sometimes it turns out perfectly and other times it doesn’t. I bring that up because my first love in anime was shounen action shows but in the years since, the genre has lost some of it’s luster for me. There’s still a place in my heart for it but the genre’s faults really limit it’s appeal for me so I didn’t start watching Sengoku Basara with the highest hopes. So I was pleasantly surprised when I got a show that was decidedly weighted towards the good parts of shounen action series and as the series unfolded, I continued to be taken by it.
It’s not perfect but at the end of the day the show is an meant to be a fun, entertaining, over-the-top romp of hot-blooded action and it delivers without being overly seriously about it. It’s was able to walk the same line Gurren Lagann did in regards to this and as a result this show felt similar to it. I’ve already touched on some of the reasons for liking this show already so I won’t bore you with repeating the same reasons but I’ll mention the ending since that was what got this show listed. When the show was getting close to the end, I was convinced that they were going to fudge the ending and leave a bunch of stuff unresolved but turned out I was wrong. We got a great final battle that tied many of the plot strings up. This put me in a tight spot, I could pretend I hadn’t watched these two episodes and finish this post up already but missing this opportunity to give the show it’s just due felt wrong. (And with the recent announcement of it’s license in America, maybe I’ll convince at least a couple people to check this show out on DVD when it get’s released.) So here it is, at number 7.
6Natsu no Arashi
Like a broken record, I’ll repeat the phrase, “I really wasn’t expecting too much out of this title” with the slightly different qualification of “after the disappoint of the last Shinbo/Shaft production – Maria+holic.” And what little expectations all but disappeared after (what I thought) was a poorly drawn and poorly developed first episode. I figured I’d give it one more episode before pulling the plug and was literally shocked when episodes 2 and 3 wholly and completely got me hooked.
The time-traveling angle was definitely one of the hooks to the show but I just positively loved how time-traveling was used in this series. I’ve read countless stories that included time-travel and the various angles you can do with it but it feels right that a normal person would do normal things with the power. If, in the case of Arashi, she originally lived during the 1930’s and 40’s, she would like to visit that time because it would feel like home compared to living in today’s society. She would also, because of the type of person she is, try to use her future knowledge to help people from her hometown who were killed during WW2 and she wouldn’t care about time paradoxes and alternative universes and changing the course of history. The differences in time periods also made for an interesting undercurrent of the changing societal norms between the 1940’s and today.
I’m glad this is getting a second season because, even though I have a feeling on how it’s going to end (it appears that Arashi and the others only exist during the summer), I want to see what happens next.
5Eden of the East
In this day-n-age, anytime an anime not based on existing source material is attempted – the people behind it should be applauded. It’s the tougher thing to do and as a result, there’s only a few done each year. Eden of the East is an original creation from Production I.G. and Kenji Kamiyama. It being an original creation isn’t the reason why it’s here, it’s here because it attempted to tell a grand story and it succeeded doing so (for the most part). Some will focus on how the small imperfections of the show and totally gloss over the difficulty of trying to balance making a show thought provoking and entertaining.
The central idea of the show – how to save a country with only a hundred million dollars (10 billion yen) has really made my brain itch this season. On two occasions I’ve even tried to work up a post about how I would save my country with that amount of money but both times I gave up after several days of writing because while it seems like with that amount of money it should be able to positively affect society, I can’t really make a convincing case of it.
I wanted to place this higher in the countdown but with the real ending of the series being pushed back to the movies, it meant the ending of the series wasn’t as satisfying as it should have been.
I like to read other blogs when they do their seasonal previews because it’s very helpful to get many different viewpoints but in this case, almost everyone that talked about this show pretty much slammed it based on the company behind it. As a result, I approached the series with a slightly negative standpoint but figured I’d watch a few episodes to either confirm or deny what everyone was predicting. After a few episodes, I realized that I wasn’t going to dislike the show but I was still unsure where it was heading. I decided to keep watching and slowly the pieces fell into place and I was able to see that this was a very good series.
It has good animation, great characters and character building, a nice amount of action sprinkled throughout and it’s well plotted with an interesting story. Or to rephrase that – it has everything a person needs out of quality show. I’m really looking forward to see how the rest of the story unfolds.
Sometimes it’s not necessary for a show to be different or unique; sometimes a show can be full of every well-known and well-worn cliché of a genre but it’s told with such love and warmth that the result is magical. This is the case with Hatsukoi Limited. It’s not ground breaking or new by any stretch of the word but J.C. Staff did such a good job – I don’t care. The show (if you’re not familiar with it) is a series of interlocking stories about the various characters as they fall in love for the first time. See, I told you it’s not original nor was it difficult to figure out what would happen. For example, Enomoto was one of the top beauties of her class and talked about how you pick a guy by his looks but as soon as they showed her and Kusuda interacting together for 15 seconds – I realized they were going to end up together (and they did).
The one thing that saddens me about this show is that the manga it’s based on was abruptly ended at about this point and that means that we’ll probably never get the rest of the story. It does end at an important milestone but there’s still plenty of life left with the different stories. Maybe the success of the show will jump start the manga back up or maybe J.C. Staff will attempt an anime original sequel.
If I wanted to, I could start off by saying “I wasn’t expecting much too much from this show,” but I’ve already said that twice already but it fits this title as well. Instead I’ll start off by saying that I almost pushed this up to number 1 for the season even when I was positive that another show would get that spot. The reason – as a slice-of-life show, the viewer doesn’t normally expect a truly definitive ending since by definition the show was only a slice of life and not the whole life but Ristorante Paradiso was able to give an ending that felt satisfying and really wrapped up the story of the show. It was unexpected and awesome at the same time.
And the rest of the show was truly enjoyable. Many of the episodes centered around an individual character of the restaurant and I loved how every person had a very unique and interesting history. It’s was a great argument of including older characters into shows. Another thing about the show I really liked was the style of animation. It almost felt like a hodge-podge of different styles thrown together at random but it worked great together and provided the show with a glorious feel to it. This is the type of show that is a great example of the wide variance that can be found in anime; it’s a shame that many of these types of shows don’t get licensed in America because there’s people out there that could become anime fans given the right type of show and exposure to those shows.
Probably not a shock to many at this point that I’m picking Cross Game. It almost feels anti-climatic. I almost slide this down to number 2 because Ristorante Paradiso’s ending was so good and because this show is continuing on and so there was no equivalent ending. A well-timed viewing of a new episode reminded me how much I love this series and made sure I kept it where it belonged.
Instead of spending a bunch of time trying to come up with something different to talk about in regards to Cross Game, I’ll just end it here – if you like a show with great characters and a character-driven story and haven’t given this show a chance yet – please watch Cross Game because you (probably) won’t be disappointed.
Well, that’s it; my picks of the spring season. I’d like to thank everyone that read and commented on this 7,000+ word look at the season’s best shows. Looking over my top shows of the season, my rather wide range of tastes is in full display since everything from slice-of-life to mindless action to thought-provoking SF make their appearance. I doubt there’s anyone out there that would have the same countdown as me. 🙂
Looking forward to the summer season, I believe there might be a few gems in it, which combined with the carry-overs, should make it a good season.