Top Seven Anime of the Summer 2009 Season

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The final part of my look at the spectacular summer 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 at the same time, it’s fun because it helps me focus on exactly why I like certain shows.

The first step in the process is to figure out how many places will this season’s top list include. The number changes from season-to-season based on the number of quality shows that I feel deserve to be mentioned. This time I realized that if I included all the titles I thought were “very good”, the list would be much too long so I restricted the list to those shows that I consider “great” shows.

This narrowed the field down to seven shows and now the task turned to ranking these seven shows that I considered great shows. Picking the number one spot was fairly easily but the rest of the list felt like pulling teeth so; whereas, I’ll argue that all seven of these shows belong on the list, I won’t argue to hard over the exact order.

And with that, let’s head to the countdown.

Honorable Mention – Sora no Manimani

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Of the shows that almost made it onto the list, Sora no Manimani was the closest and because it was such an enjoyable series, I figured it deserved to at least get an honorable mention.

I’m convinced if this had either had one of the big name studios attached to it or had eye catching animation like a Bakemonogatari then it would have been a popular series. Instead it was done by Studio Comet and outside of the nicely done night sky scenes, the animation was very average. Which makes it sounds like I’m calling anime fans shallow but I understand that with the sheer number of titles (and so many being good) that some way to filter down the number of shows that a person watches needs to be employed.

So, in case you’ve missed this show, Sora no Manimani is a slice-of-school-life show featuring the school’s astronomy club and focuses more on the unique challenges facing a club of this type with a lesser focus on the problems of it’s members. Almost every episode also mixes in a few interesting tidbits of astronomy. I plan on trying the easy method they showed for taking pictures of the night sky with just a normal camera. It’s strength resided in how it stayed entertaining and enjoyable without resorting heavily clichéd characters and became an even stronger series when they introduced some of the neighboring school’s astronomy clubs and their own quirky characters – gotta love the constellation fangirls.

And if the animators get a chance to do a second season (the ending gives that type of feeling), I’d definitely be excited for more Sora no Manimani.

7Aoi Hana

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The term yuri is such a loaded term for the anime fan because 9.9 times out of 10 a show with yuri is using it for comedic purposes and fan service (think Maria+holic or Kampfer) or the story is so grounded in fantasy that it can’t be taken seriously. Using this term is helpful the vast majority of the time but in that 0.1 times are shows like Aoi Hana that are completely different then the normal yuri show. There’s very little, if any fan service, and the show is a more serious one and yet the story is told in such a way with the right characters that it feels very plausible.

A better way to describe this show is that Aoi Hana is yet another quality slice-of-school-life show from J.C. Staff that will remind the viewer of other J.C. Staff shows like Honey & Clover and Toradora. This show also features the best example of the sheer beauty that J.C. Staff’s watercolor look can lend a show. And speaking of animation, remember how people would talk about the attention to detail the KyoAni would show in their works – I got that same feeling of almost obsessive attention from watching how well Fumi’s hair was animated and how the snow was animated in the last episode. This is another show that if the animators wanted to do a second season, they’re more then welcome since I’d be really happy to see more from these characters.

6 Kemono no Souja Erin

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Erin-sensei!!

Earlier in the season, I talked about finally catching myself on this series and how I felt bad about missing out on such a great show for so long. Since than I’ve patiently and not so patiently waited for the next installment because after every episode I find myself liking the show even more.

The show continues to focus on developing Erin’s character and unfolds in ways that keep the viewer guessing even after 30+ episodes. For example, in the last episode I watched, Erin has become a teacher at the Beastlord school that she schooled in and graduated from. In hindsight, it’s clear that she’s perfect for the job but I wasn’t expecting something like that to happen which just reinforces how all these developments keep the show fresh and exciting to watch. Now we’re moving to the final set of episodes and I can’t wait to see what happens; there’s a very good chance that this’ll be near the top next time.

5Cross Game

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One of the shows that will get in Kemono no Souja Erin’s way next season will be this show – I just know it. The drop in ranking (from being #1 in the Spring season to #5) might imply some drop off in quality but that’s not the case here. This show is as impressive this season as last.

The original manga author has a real knack at creating good, believable characters and then finding ways to tie these characters together and the animators have done a great job carrying this through into the anime. And if new opening/closing animation is to be believed, we’re in store for another big shack-up among the characters. Another strong point of the show is how the show can be riveting and full of tension without having to resort to cheap tricks and creating bad guys that need defeated. Occasionally, there are people who show up and feel like they should be considered bad guys but so far almost every character like that has been given the chance to redeem themselves. (Azuma is a good example and the spoiled, rich baseball manager is an example in progress.) The only two that haven’t still have time and I won’t be surprised if they see the error of their ways.

And you don’t need to like baseball to enjoy this anime, my younger sister only has a rough understanding of the game and zero interest in it but this is one of her favorite currently airing anime.

4 Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei Season 3

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SZS reminds you to troll or be trolled. 🙂

Conventional wisdom states that Goodbye, Mr. Despair is either – not funny, too cultural for English speakers to find funny, or that the only decent season was the first season and from there it went down hill rapidly. I disagree with all three; I think that the majority of the comedy is gettable by even a newbie anime fan (if you like the type of comedy present in the show – which is a different matter all-together) and that the second season was the best season so far.

The difference between the second and third season almost wholly stems from Shaft being overtaxed doing this series and Bakemonogatari. The result was while the material of the show held up well to the second season, the animation looked very poor compared to the second season. I normally hate to dock a show for items not related to the actual content of the show but SZS is different, in that, the presentation of the show became a very important part of the show. I still haven’t seen the final two episodes of the series but I’m pretty sure Shaft has left the door open to make more and I think they should because when the world runs out of things to despair over, it’ll be the day the world ends.

3 Taishou Yakyuu Musume

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Real pitchers use the knuckleball.

On one hand, I’m surprised that Taishou Yakyuu Musume ended up this high but on the other hand, I wish I could have ranked it higher. This type of show normally doesn’t garner much praise – that goes to shows like Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 or East of Eden or Bakemonogatari so I might have chickened out and put it lower. What stopped me is that of all the summer series I finished this is the only one I’m already re-watching and loving every second of. If anything, I’m enjoying this show more the second time.

The show featured a theme I love to see – the underdog vs. the world. I loved it in Rocky, Karate Kid, Major League (am I showing my age yet??) and I loved it here. I deeply wanted to see the boys put in their place and have to acknowledge the girls as equals which ensured that I’d tune in every week to see what happens next. Taishou Yakyuu Musume also showed how the girls had to work hard to get to level of being able to challenge the boys which is another thing I like to see – hard work paying off. (Not saying they beat the boys because I’m not going to spoil the ending here.) At the same time though, the show was never boring or overly sports anime-esque; it was perpetually entertaining and light-hearted and slice-of-lifeish that I wished it had run 26 episodes. I don’t expect this show to be totally historically accurate but I also liked how the show was set in 1925 and they spent a little time showcasing how in this era the people where really caught between the old customs and the western influences that where invading all aspects of the country and culture; for example, some of the girls wore kimonos to school and others where wearing the new thing – sailor uniforms. So for all that, Taishou Yakyuu Musume earns it’s number 3 spot in the top anime of the season.

2 Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

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With the overlap of the original series finished by the start of this season’s episodes, Full Metal Alchemist had no reason not to shine and has easily proved that remaking the series was the right decision. That part of me that has never stopped believing that shounen shows are the most awesome thing in the world is a very happy camper right now and even the slice-of-life part of me has to grudgingly agree that this show deserves it’s high position.

Watching the show and seeing it’s fights, revelations, twists, and reveals leave me on the edge of my seat and forgetting to breathe until the credits start to roll.

1 Bakemonogatari

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Like I said earlier, picking Bakemonogatari was a fairly easy choice for me. It had the characters, the witty dialogue, the story, the animation, the OP/ED, and it had the single best episode of the season (episode 12). Thankfully, this gem was picked up by much of the anime fan community so I don’t need to go into a long rant as to why this deserves the spot. So, I’ll end it here saying that Shaft better put together a second season quickly – I’m not going to patiently wait 3 years.

Well, it’s finally done. 🙂 Now I can fully get to the fall season which I’ve sampled a few shows so far but will get to a full recon now. A couple of the shows, Kampfer and Nyon Koi, have left me really torn about how I should feel about them so they’ll need a couple more episodes before I can write their impression posts. Then there’s Natsu no Arashi season 2, it seems that Shaft has kicked the show up a notch over the first two episodes and that will make it one of the stronger shows this season – I’m sure.

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15 thoughts on “Top Seven Anime of the Summer 2009 Season”

  1. Oh, there are plenty of other yuri shows that aren’t based on a gimmick and take themselves seriously: take Sasameki Koto, Candy Boy, Blue Drop, El Cazador, Simoun (which is fantasy, okay), Strawberry Panic and Maria-Sama ga Miteru.

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  2. I do admit, I’m surprised that Aoi Hana only made it to six place, but you watched a lot of shows that I didn’t including the famous Bakemonogateri. Still, great to see what you thought–and I do plan to watch Bakemonogateri soon.

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  3. Bakemonogatari is awesome. Good choice, and with Tokyo Magnitude 8.0’s end unfortunately Bakemonogatari takes a place over it with its deeper insight, which I hardly expected.

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  4. Indeed, the first two seasons of SZS were really good, with Zoku, perhaps, the best. Zan failed in the art department, unfortunately 😦

    I enjoyed Aoi Hana and Canaan the most 🙂

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  5. Good point.

    One of the reasons I loved the first season of Darker than Black was the fact that every character was an adult and didn’t have any annoying teenage angst.

    Unfortunately, the second season started off in a high school, and has introduced a handful of teenage characters. Caving to the market perhaps?

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  6. Spice and Wolf II = where?

    I’d replace FMA:B with Spice and Wolf II and shuffle the order of the list slightly, but other than that, I mostly agree with your top 7. And I’d have Bakemonogatari at the top as well (despite the fact that it’s still on-going).

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  7. @Sorrow-kun: There was so much to like with Spice and Wolf 2 but I thought the economic side of things was a bit of a disappointment. It still almost made it onto the list, though.

    @Alex_AnimePacific: No problem, thanks for the comment.

    @Kitsune: There’s always the next season to look forward too. 🙂

    @Panther: Yeah, you don’t really expect that outta Shaft.

    @Janette: Even though Aoi Hana was seventh, I’d still give the show a perfect score (whenever I get around to writing the series review).

    @psgels: Mention a bunch of shows that I haven’t watched 😉

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  8. The light novel original of Bakemonogatari is very witty and clever.

    the author’s sense of suspense and drama is often times better than the anime director’s in the particularly emotional climax parts.

    On baseball, I heard it once said that it was a game played by normal sized people, thus it had far greater accessibility than basketball. That goes double for the Japanese.

    Much like the Tsukihime visual novel, there’s an edge and surrealism present in the characters. For the BakemonoG light novel, you get presented with this setting along with much of the main character’s thoughts. It really adds dimension, and fast too, to the character development between the individuals.

    I would say the light novel is better on characterization and inner dialogue narration while the anime is better on portraying the surrealism and conversational gambits.

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  9. One of the things I miss in the initial episodes of the anime is the very perceptive observations made by the main character with unspoken narration. You get a lot of voiced over narration in the anime, but that was just the main plot ones. The observations the main character makes about the actions of the other characters, really brings a whole new dimension to how you see those other characters.

    In a sense, it was designed to add additional content for a short light novel that neither had time nor animation to communicate what body language would communicate.

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  10. @ymarsakar: I wanted to thank you for all your insightful and well thought out comments.

    I’d really like the chance to read the light novel for Bakemonogatari someday but I doubt they’re’ll ever get licensed and translated by a gifted author that can retain the awesomeness of the originals (unless I missed something already).

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  11. www dot baka-tsuki dot org

    has some fan translations of light novels. Incomplete often times, but you can read a volume or two. Chrome Shelled Regios? Utawarerumono? The original works were like 10X better than the anime. Which is amazing, because if someone really really liked the anime… what would happen if they read the original material? heh

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  12. I think BakemonoG was already licensed. I presume that would include the light novel set as well. There are English translations of manga, but the market is probably still immature on VN and light novel. Actually what am I saying. The market is non-existent for Japanese visual novels in the US. But only because of lack of awareness.

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  13. Steel, I’m pleased you find my comments worthwhile.

    I think the eventual solution for people who can’t get enough Japanese original stuff is that they…

    learn to speak, write, and read Japanese. After all, isn’t that why Japanese schools teach English, so that they can gain access to certain things mostly limited to the Western world.

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