The final part of my look at the surprisingly decent fall 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 narrowed the field down to eight shows and now the task turned to ranking these shows that I considered great shows of the season. 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 eight 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.
8 – Blue Literature
The use of classic modern Japanese literature as source material pretty much assured that Blue Literature was going to be this season’s most unique and thought-provoking anime. And because it was Madhouse animating this, Blue Literature also had this season’s best production values as well as high quality storytelling. So, with all that going for it, it might seem strange why this isn’t ranked higher; I’m even a bit shocked why I just couldn’t place this higher and believe me, I kept trying. In the end, I realized what stopped this from going even higher is that, while it’s obvious the stories picked are very well written, only one of the five stories used ended happily and it’s much harder to really get swept away by sad or depressing stories. I know that sounds shallow, and maybe it is, but I read plenty of depressing books and it’s not like current events have looked positive in a long time so is it so bad to gravitate towards those anime that make me laugh or feature characters that are just a bit better/heroic then the vast majority of people walking this planet, myself included.
7 – Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
I continue to deeply love where the story of Full Metal goes; the conspiracies get deeper and more insidious, the dangers get more threatening, and the world of FMA gets more complex as new characters and their ambitions get introduced. The majority of this season, however, had the show in build-up mode with very little pay-off which explains why this didn’t get ranked higher; I expect next season to contain much more pay-off in the form of super-awesome confrontations/fights and resolutions to at least some of the plot threads that have been introduced and will probably rank much higher.
6 – Sasameki Koto
At first, I wasn’t expecting too much from Sasameki Koto but I was quickly won over by the quality of the characters and the show became one of my favorites that just happened to be a yuri show. The main character, Murasame Sumika, was dealt a very tough hand – she likes her best friend, Ushio, in that way and Ushio likes girls as well, just not tall athletic girls like Sumika so Sumika has to bite her tongue and be the caring best friend after Ushio gets rejected by the cute girls – and her struggle to do the right thing over what she wants to do help made Sasameki Koto a great show. Other memorable characters included the boy who fell for Sumika and started cross-dressing (and became a female model) because he knew she liked girls or the girl who always, and I mean always, had some sort of food in her hands. Sasameki Koto could have finished higher if the ending had been better.
5 – Sora No Otoshimono
The biggest surprise on this countdown is the presence of Sora no Otoshiomono on it; not because it’s a terrible show but because it wasn’t a terrible show. It should have been just like almost every other ecchi comedy series – generic and not very good or funny. Instead, Sora no Otoshiomono expertly cultivated an absurdist, over-the-top feel that repeatedly surprised and delighted.
4 – Cross Game
What can I say, Cross Game just continues to chug along making awesome look easy. The highlight of this season was to see how a new character shook the show and it’s characters up but that was hardly the only thing that made this cour of Cross Game good. We got a marriage proposal whose answer depends on if Kou’s team can make it to Koshien, new possible pairings like Azuma x Aoba, general Kou coolness, and new storylines like Aoba trying out for Japan’s national female baseball team.
3 – To Aru Kagaku no Railgun
After the second episode of Railgun I was ready to drop it because I was sure that the manga author had once again screwed up; this time focusing on shoe-horning as much Kuroko antics as possible into a manga and disregarding such important items as plot, characters, and story. Then a funny thing happened, the show started to actually work. The four main characters were fleshed out and developed a great chemistry between them, a deeper story was first hinted at and then expertly told, and let’s not forget how cool Misaka’s rail gun ability is (especially when J.C. Staff has the budget). I think I actually squealed in joy when I realized that Railgun was going to run past the fall season into the winter season.
2 – Astro Fighter Sunred Season 2
Okay, I admit to holding this list up so I could watch enough of this season of Sunred that I could place it on this list and feel justified in doing so. I just love this show to bits. I was a little worried that the second season would start to feel a little stale but each episode seems to offer a different reason why this show is so awesome. For example, one episode featured the leader of evil organization explain how they have to itemize all their expenses so the worldwide headquarters will reimburse them, another episode featured both the hero and evil leader attending the neighborhood meeting and the hero get called to task for not properly sorting his garbage like the evil leader, another episode featured a gadget the evil organization created that allowed them to pinpoint where the hero is but all this did was force them to attend a funeral, go to a very high-end restaurant, and almost receive a very serious beat down by two other heroes when they finally realized that they could just call the girlfriend of the hero (who has made friends with the evil organization) when they wanted to know where he was located. I’d go so far to say that once I get around to rewatching this show, I think there’s a good chance that Astro Fighter Sunred would earn a spot on my top 5 comedies list.
1 – Kemono no Souja Erin
And as much as I loved Sunred, it still didn’t get real close to unseating Erin from this season’s top spot. Once I realized how good this series was, I just knew that this last cour of episodes when all the various stories were threaded together would seriously rock and it did. What I didn’t expect was the little tease they did at the very end for the next two books of the source material that’s coming out this summer. It’s a great scene by itself but I’m already salivating over the idea of Kemono no Souja Erin getting a sequel. One of the ways this show really sets itself apart from a lot of other anime is the process in which the show’s hero is tried and tempered before stepping into the role as hero; it made her an especially memorable character and made her convictions that she fought for all that more real and worthy to fight for. I’ll say right now that Kemono no Souja Erin has better than a 50% chance of getting named my top anime of 2009 when I get to that list.
Links to the other parts of my Fall 2009 Season Awards
So this fall season turned out better then I initially thought it would but I don’t see myself saying the same thing for the winter season. There’s a couple of good shows but it’s just a couple and I’m be talking about them soon.