Saturday, January 10, 2009

Favorite Anime of 2008

Natsu no SoraAs if anyone cared, here's my personal list of top anime of 2008.

I'd say "best" anime, but "favorite" is more accurate. I can't imagine how to be objective about this. We all have our own likes and dislikes. Even adding up points in various categories -- animation, story, characters, etc. -- seems pretty bogus to me.

I'd at least say that all the shows on my list are good anime. I have left out lesser shows that I enjoyed, such as Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, and Hakushaku to Yousei. I don't think I'd call any of this year's shows a masterpiece, but Natsu no Sora, Eve no Jikan, and Kannagi all have a chance, and Toradora is getting better and better.

Here's the list, followed by my comments on each show. The first few may be in order of preference, but I find it hard to put shows in a firm ranking order. (Click photos to enlarge, mouseover for captions.)

KannagiMahoutsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto - Natsu no Sora
Eve no Jikan
true tears
ef melodies
Vampire Knight Guilty
Candy Boy
Macross Frontier
Xam'd Lost Memories
Nijuumensou no Musume
Michiko to Hatchin

Mahoutsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto - Natsu no Sora -- This was widely ridiculed for its photo-realistic backgrounds, simplified drawing, and angst. Those were three of the things I loved about it, lol. I watch dramatic art for the emotions, and this show gave me a delicate symphony of them. Along with strong visual style and a unique ending.

Eve no JikanEve no Jikan -- A little gem of a series. Real science fiction with real characters and subtle feelings. A deeper take on the humanity of robots. Great pacing, sound, and voice-acting. Fukuyama Jun is excellent, for a change, and we hear Tanaka Rie, Yukana, Satou Rina, Itou Miki, and Sugita Tomokazu, as well. Young director Yoshiura Yasuhiro has a future. Check out his previous one-shot OVA, Pale Cocoon.

Kannagi -- A minor masterpiece of comic moe by bad-boy director Yamamoto Yutaka ("Yamakan"). Excellent animation, with great visual comedy and a wonderful performance by Tomatsu Haruka as Nagi. And another great OP from the hand of Yamakan, like the Lucky Star OP and the Haruhi ED.

ToradoraToradora -- As we enter the second half of this series, it just gets better. Characters you can care for, stumbling through their lives together. I had no idea this show would be so good. Not your ordinary harem comedy. Great voice performance by Kugimiya Rie as the Palm-top Tiger.

true tears -- I was completely captivated by Takagaki Ayahi's performance as Noe. The bittersweet story also worked for me. And Nazuka Kaori's Hiromi was deep and strong.

ef melodiesef melodies -- I love the extravagant Shinbou Akiyuki visual style. I think it adds to the richness of most of the shows we see it in. And I enjoy Oonuma Shin's version of Shinbou more than Shinbou's own work. I didn't think melodies was quite as powerful as memories, but it was very good.

Vampire Knight Guilty -- I enjoyed the first series, but Guilty took it to a higher level. There was a lot of fine voice work in this show, even if the star, Horie Yui, didn't seem to me to get the character right. But this is one case where having read the manga didn't turn me off the anime. An interesting dark shoujo take on the vampire genre.

Candy BoyCandy Boy -- Subtle feelings and not-so-subtle yuri. Nabatame Hitomi and Yuzuki Ryoka create a beautiful world of comedy and emotion.

Macross Frontier -- There was a lot to like here -- setting, music, female characters -- but the story began to slide off-track as the series progressed. I felt as if the writing was rather aimless. Alto seemed to have no feelings, and that made it hard to build a story. But I think this show will be the springboard to stardom for Endou Aya (Sheryl).

Kurenai -- It started so promisingly, with good characters and an interesting situation. But it bogged down halfway, and when the protagonist started making clearly stupid decisions, it was hard for me to maintain my suspension of disbelief. Great voice work by Sawashiro Miyuki (Shinkurou), Kuroda Takaya (Renjou), and young Yuuki Aoi (Murasaki).

Xam'd Lost MemoriesXam'd Lost Memories -- I'm not a shounen fan, but I am a fan of science fiction. Stylish, with a great OP. And outstanding voice work by Sanpei Yuuko (Nakiami), among others. The story and the world make sense to me.

Nijuumensou no Musume -- Another show that started promisingly and then meandered off into strange byways. The early episodes gave us a unique story and setting in 1950s Japan. Hirano Aya was great as Chiko, but the story started going in circles and the character didn't develop. I loved both the OP and Hirano's ED.

Tytania -- A classic, slow-developing space opera on a grand scale, with characters whose emotions and motivations are gradually filling in.

Michiko to HatchinMichiko to Hatchin -- A unique setting in Brazil, and characters that do seem to develop. Some of the comedy leaves me scratching my head, but it is always exciting to see what unusual situation will come next, and how it will affect the main characters' relationship.

Kurozuka -- The story lost force for me as it progressed beyond its strong early thrust, but the wonderful pace and look of it continued, and the voice work of Paku Romi and Miyano Mamoru was superb. I am probably in a minority when I say that this also has one of the top OPs of the year, with the driving techno-punk of Maximum the Hormone.

Some of the most popular and highly rated shows of the year were in genres or styles I have trouble appreciating, so I probably undervalue them. Soul Eater, Gundam00, Code Geass, Kaiji, Shakugan no Shana -- most of those just seemed shallow and boring to me.


Panther said...

Got to admit, Niijuu Mensou's OP is totally great, while Hirano Aya's ED grows on you.

Tytania, the show of 2008's fall season that people probably never bothered to watch, and I wonder why. It is indeed good, but maybe too slow or old-fashioned for most? :\

Ryan A said...

Hey, making a good case to do year in review sometime around the Spring start; in order to consider start dates in a full year.

I like the choices, haven't gone through everything in 08, but the year had a good spread.

dingmajiao said...

i liked most of them that i've watched from your list.. except for vampire knight guilty which i felt was a little boring..

happy to see u included mahou tsukai.. cause i thought it was really really touching at the end..

no idea if u watched them but code geass 2, ga-rei zero and soul eater are 3 of the best series out there for 2008..

Anonymous said...

@dingmajiao Ga Rei Zero is totally a guy's anime though. Massive violence killing and tragic bloodshed, with yuri bath scene/affection.

Soul Eater is watchable but really generic. It's on the same wavelength as Naruto or Bleach; not anything spectacular. I don't think you're missing out, hashihime. Kaiji could've been good but they screwed it up at the end. I liked Akagi though.

Kurenai, VK:Guilty and Nijuu Mensou were all amazing, and made up the only 3 that were on my personal list.

Though I notice you don't seem to be as much a shoujo anime fan 'cause I thought S.A. and ItaKiss were cute.

hashi said...

@Panther -- I've been surprised that Tytania isn't generating more buzz. It took me 3-4 episodes to really get into it, myself, however. I think the pace may have been a bit slow for people at first.

@Ryan A -- Good point about the fact that a number of shows only finish at the end of March.

@dingmajiao -- code geass 2, ga-rei zero and soul eater are three of the shows that I know are good, but that I myself couldn't really get into. I ran out of interest in CG1. A couple of eps of Soul Eater didn't turn me on: I didn't care about the characters, well-done as they were. I only watched one ep of Ga-Rei, and I expect to go back and look at more, since you and so many people are praising it.

@Anonymous -- Kaiji and Akagi are also shows I recognize as good, but that I couldn't get into myself.

I do like a lot of shoujo, but SA, like Ouran, was a show I couldn't get into: the humor just didn't strike my funny bone. I enjoyed Itazura, but not enough to get onto the list. I even enjoyed Hakushaku to Yousei, as I said. Skip Beat is the one shoujo that I debated putting on the list. I love the manga. But the anime still hasn't taken off for me. I'd say Vampre Knight is the one real shoujo show on the list, and it is a special type of shoujo.

dingmajiao said...

@anonymous : i kinda like ga-rei more on the plot and the character development.. i do agree the massive killing at the first episode got me going though..

code geass 2, soul eater probably more for the plot, action fanatics..

kurenai were really good..
thought the just ended kemeko dx was really good too.. made me laugh so lot almost every episodes.
koihime musou is also one of my favourites because of my affection to the story of san guo zhi.

gaguri said...

Kurenai was great, if a little disappointing towards the end. ef - tale of melodies was definitely disappointing but still enjoyed it. Tytania I'm waiting for it to finish first. Same goes for Mouryou no Hako, which seems to blow everyone out of their mind. Kannagi and Casshern Sins I'm interested after hearing favourable reviews.

The ones that aren't in your list, but imo more than worthy of mention are Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Aria the Origination and Kaiba. Those three are my favourites for 2008, with Kaiba being number one.

Anonymous said...

As the previous poster mentioned, some of the best shows are not even mentioned, starting with Kaiba.

hashi said...

@Anonymous -- As I said, these are my favorites, not the "best" shows of the year. I watched a couple of episodes of Kaiba and found it well-made and inventive, but quite boring. Your mileage evidently varied.

I'd say the same about all the ARIA shows, Mushishi, Natsume Yuujinchou, and some other supposedly "high-class" anime. I'm in this mainly for emotions, and those didn't provide emotional content that moved me.

I tend to save copies of such shows and try them again from time to time, but my opinion hasn't changed on any of them yet.

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