Top Seven Anime of the Spring 2009 Season

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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.

7Sengoku Basara

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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

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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

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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.


4Phantom

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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.


3Hatsukoi Limited

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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.


2Ristorante Paradiso

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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.


1Cross Game

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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.

Read part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Read part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Read part 3: VMA Awards

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10 thoughts on “Top Seven Anime of the Spring 2009 Season”

  1. Really can’t disagree with these picks since this season was really lacking compared to the spring season from prior years. FMA and Guin Saga still need to improve their stories to become really enjoyable, but until they do, they won’t be knocking any of the shows you’ve listed here off their pedestals.

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  2. No FMA? I do love Cross Game but the animation is so…well basically whenever somebody isn’t talking and it’s just a shot of their face, my eyes get drawn to their humungous ears.

    And why not, I’ll toss out my top 7.

    7:Hetalia
    6:Pandora Hearts
    5:Cross Game
    4:Guin Saga
    3:Natsu no Arashi
    2:FMAB
    1:Eden of the East

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  3. RE: Sengoku Basara

    I think the action is actually underwhelming. The real draw of this show for me is the excellent delivery of the actors when the characters deliver speeches, grand pronouncements, and quotable soundbytes and the like.

    It’s really quite something.

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  4. No K-On! lol?

    I can’t think of any anime not on that list that I’d say is worthy of recognition. I’d (probably) have Cross Game, Eden and Paradiso as 1,2,3 and then a large gap, and then Natsu no Arashi at 4. I keep hearing good things about Hatsukoi Limited so I might watch it now that it’s done (I was apprehensive at first since it was by the same writer as the forgettable Ichigo 100%). I have no interest in Sengoku Basara, and I’ve fallen behind on Phantom, so I won’t make a call on that yet.

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  5. That’s a nice list 🙂 I am glad you also enjoyed Ristorante Paradiso 🙂

    Thank you for putting these posts together – it was interesting to learn about your preferences this season 🙂

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  6. nice list steel………..im glad u piked up cross game and enjoyed it i dont know why i get satisfaction out of recommending anime and then having people like that the show……..i guess its just the fact that i like to discuss them anyhow i guess ill drop my top 7 while im here

    7. Hajime no Ippo New Challanger
    6. FMA
    5. Natsu no Arashi
    4. Eden
    3. Hatsukoi Limited
    2. Phantom
    1. Cross Game

    a little about my choices…..i put hajime no ippo in there even though it was a continuation of last season but i think that it still counts……..i piked up the first season and checked out the second while this season was running and its such and epic show …………..its a simplistic plot but its so addicting………

    im enjoying the new FMA more than the original even though most of this season was basically recap it still felt new and it was definitely worthy of its spot

    eden and nastu got pushed back because of their endings…..natsu no arashi is going to have a second season and eden has its movies so i didnt feel they were all that complete so they didnt make it in ma top three

    hatsukoi was three on ma list because this season was short on romance and as the sole show representing that genre it did a good job managing all the characters it had……overall this show was pretty conclusive and enjoyable

    phantom and cross game will probably make next seasons list too………..they are such good shows……..phantom has an awesome story, good animation, and great characters…cross game has the most memorable characters, the best character development and while the story of getting to the koishien has been used before this show does a great job and not making itself feel like any of its predecessors……by focusing more on its characters than on the baseball side of things……..its just a plus that i find the baseball interesting so when the show gets into its three ep long matches i can sit back and still enjoy the show

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  7. i checked out Phantom, and It was very good, did not expect to be pulled into the plot like I was, And Cross Game, does deserve to be right where it is. It captured my full attention right from the start, Its amazing.

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  8. Thanks for the comments,

    The super-compressed storytelling in FMA meant, to me, that it wasn’t as compelling as it should have been. As for K-ON!, it was fairly entertaining but wasn’t up to snuff compared to other similar shows.

    I also love that feeling of recommending something and the person goes on to really like it. It’s one of the perks of doing a blog that I discovered.

    I do think there’s room to improve the fights of Sengoku Basara; In the end, none of the fights were able to compare to the final battle in Birdy season 2 (the fight that most impressed me over the recent seasons). Maybe the sequel will have a larger budget and they can improve that and make it an even better show.

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