Tue, Jan. 2nd, 2007, 10:40 pm || 2006 anime write up

add to memories

I watched A LOT of anime this year. I largely blame credit rilina and umadoshi for this, although octopedingenue and rachelmanija also deserve incriminating glares praise for their enthusiasm.

It seems a little lopsided to have 5 out of the 10 series I watched in the "favorite series" section, but I watched a lot of good anime this year. Also, it helped that I was getting the cream of the crop; rilina was doing a lot of the screening for me by watching a whole lot of series and then pimping her favorites to me. I also finally watched some oft-praised series which I've had on the to-watch list for a few years (namely, Princess Tutu and FMA).

This was actually a great way to watch anime, since I got the fun experience of the FMA and Princess Tutu pile up, and I got to squee to other people most of the time.

Unsurprisingly, I watched a whole lot of shoujo. Again, unsurprisingly, most of my favorite series were shoujo.

No spoilers below for any of the series. I'm also including pimping information for my favorite series, since I naturally want people to watch them. If you want more information on the other series, I'd suggest checking out rilina's giant 2006: the Year in Anime post, since she includes helpful links and info for all the series she watched, which overlap all of my series, with the exception of Gunslinger Girl. Or you can check out the series-specific tags below, or my Memories in the sidebar.

Series that I am not really fond of but don't actually dislike

Bleach: I only watched nine episodes of this this year. I feel a little bad putting it on the "not really fond of" list, since the parakeet cockatiel of DOOM has provided so much glee and delight and insane cackling and awesome icon-age that it feels ungrateful, to say the least. The thing is, I really do like Bleach. A lot.

But I like manga even better, and because of this, the anime pales a bit in comparison.

I haven't felt tempted to continue watching yet, even though I've been reading ahead on the manga. I know the voice actors are great (particularly Rukia's), and I do want to see some of the cracktastic omake at the end, but so far, not enough to plow through the multitude of episodes.

Last Exile: This is a gorgeous steampunk anime with fighter planes and complex politics. Unforutnately, it never quite lives up to its promise. The characters end up doing things that make me roll my eyes, the women are pushed to the side while the men get meatier roles, and the plot sort of stops making sense around the end.

Also, there are Poisonous Roses of DOOM.

Actually, that would almost make up for the disappointment, except for the fact that the series isn't trying to be over-the-top Gothic or over-the-top anything.

In the end, I'm not unhappy with it, because it was really pretty and stylish while it lasted, but I wouldn't rec it to people unless they really, really, really liked fighter planes and didn't mind the bits about plot and character.

Yami no Matsuei: This is another series that I feel sort of bad about, since I really like parts of it. Unfortunately, The X-Files done as anime about bureaucratic shinigami has too many not-good parts for me.
There are cheesy video-game music and somewhat boring cases and heads in jars and insane but beautiful serial killers with crushes on the protagonist (this is the bad) and sakura of DOOM and grumpy Hisoka and Pure and True Love That Conquers Fear of the Dark (this is the good). It's too bad that there isn't more of the Pure and True Love and less of the boring cases.

Series I am fond of

Gunslinger Girl: This is a short series, only 13 episodes long, and it's all available on DVD. A mysterious agency in Italy rescues girls about to die in hospitals, refits them with cybernetic parts, and trains them to be assassins. Each girl is assigned a fratello, always an adult man, to supervise them and train them.

This sounds like it could be so exploitative, but it's not. The girls all have very different relationships with their fratellos (for anyone worried, it never turns sexual), and the series consists of many stand-alone episodes that explore the pains and difficulties of the girls' lives. It's a remarkably quiet and understated little series, despite the subject, and I'd recommend it to most people.

Links:
My tags and memories

Saiunkoku Monogatari: I may be cheating by putting this in, since I've only watched 14 episodes so far. But it's been charming and light and surprisingly surprising, and moreover, it's a series chock-full of bishounen that has very little romantic subplots and a whole lot of talk of government policy. I'll probably write this up in more detail next year when I've finished watched, but for now, I'll just note that I'm enjoying this.

Favorite series of the year

Honey and Clover: Again, I cheat by sticking in a series I'm still in the middle of watching!

I've only seen 10 episodes so far, and that was enough to push this to my favorite series list. Yes, it is that good.

The series is complete, but currently only available through fansubs. There are 24 episodes in the first season, with TV specials "L" and "F," and then 12 more episodes in the second season.

Honey and Clover really isn't about that much -- some art school students live together and work together and experience love and loss. But I found a series on college students worrying about jobs and grades and the Real World to be a refreshing change from the usual shoujo high school students, and the way this series treats its characters makes it even more refreshing.

The art is beautiful and muted, watercolors and hazy gold. There are moments of bizarre humor, particularly in the opening credits, but what I remember most are the quiet times. There's a remarkable amount of details in this; one of my favorite scenes involves a home run hit in a batting practice area. It's at night, and there are only two people there when the cheesy "You hit a home run!" sign starts flashing. Two of the lightbulbs are out, and for a while, all you hear is a tinny rendition of "Take me out to the ballgame" playing.

I know I haven't finished it yet, but it sounds as though the series continues to be good, and right now, I want to rec it to everyone and push it on everyone.

Links:
My tags and memories
rilina's tags and memories and her description that convinced me to watch the show

Ouran High School Host Club: Oh, Ouran, I love you so much! This completely on-crack series is about Haruhi, who breaks a precious vase and thus must become a host at the high school's host club. I've seen the first episode about five times already, and I still nearly fall off the couch laughing every single time. This has got manic energy and a fondness for its characters; it's a huge piece of meta commentary on fangirls and fannishness in general, but in a way that makes you feel like you're included and not being poked fun at. This is largely because Ouran manages to comment on the shoujo genre and those who partake of it, parody shoujo tropes AND still use said tropes for some very affecting drama.

This series has cheered me up so much, and it's great fun to rewatch as well. I particularly love all the sound effects and assorted subtitles and visual cues.

This series is completed at 26 episodes, but only available via fansub.

Links:
My tags and memories
rilina's tags and memories

Princess Tutu: It's another meta shoujo show! But this is on a duck-turned-girl-turned-magical-ballerina, and it's less meta on shoujo and shoujo tropes and more meta about storytelling in general. The animation vaguely resembles the style from the fifties, in which heads were rounded with giant curls and bodies were stick-thin. I love this because of the meta commentary on the act of authorship and creation, I love the random animals (it makes complete sense in terms of world-building, really), I love the frequent references to classical ballets and the use of classical music.

The best part is, every episode, I kept thinking that it couldn't possibly get more meta, and yet, it did! The first arc ends at episode 13, and then the series takes a giant left turn into the middle of nowhere and just keeps going. At episode 13, I thought that I would have been satisfied if the series had ended there, but episode 26 is even better and more fitting and more heart-warming. I can't believe how much I grew to love the characters.

But most of all, even though all of the above is more than enough to make me love the series, I love Ahiru and her giant ducky heart.

Links:
My tags and memories
rilina's tags and memories
rachelmanija's first exposure to dancing ducks
octopedingenue's tags and memories

Samurai Champloo: Two men walk into a bar restaurant, fight, set it on fire, nearly kill the waitress, and somehow manage to get rescued by her while being condemned to death, hating each other the entire way through.

Jin and Mugen (the two men) somehow get roped in by Fuu (the waitress) to be her bodyguards while she attempts to find a samurai who smells of sunflowers. They have many, many wacky adventures along the way, accompanied by hip-hop music, and slowly but surely, the three of them find that they actually -- sort of maybe if you really insist -- care for each other.

I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the couch during some episodes, and during others, I ended up crying. In the end, the thing that got to me most was the prickly camaraderie among the three characters, though the Gay Dutch Guy didn't hurt either.

The series consists of 26 episodes, all out on DVD.

Links:
My tags and memories
rilina's tags and memories
rachelmanija's memories
kate_nepveu's tags

And my very favorite series of the year was easy to pick this time:

Fullmetal Alchemist: I almost don't want to write out the premise so I can just start burbling about this.

Every episode begins with a voiceover explaining the law of equivalent exchange: you can't get something without giving something in return. This is supposedly the ironclad rule of alchemy in the FMA world, though the voiceover warns us that the law turns out to be false.

Edward and Alphonse Elric once tried to bring their mother back from the dead; in the process, Ed lost his leg and his arm and Al lost his entire body (his soul currently resides in a large suit of armor). This is all in the first few minutes of the first episode; we go from seeing the brothers grinning at each other in anticipation, faces lit up with light from the alchemy circle. And then, everything goes horribly wrong.

This is a series about consequences; coffeeandink writes:

Nothing will save any of the characters from the consequences of what they do, good or bad: not innocence, not ignorance, not good intentions, not intelligence, not strength. The farther the series goes, the clearer it becomes that consequences don't end: they just snowball. The rules of this world are: You get what you pay for, and you pay for everything you get.


Ed and Al search for the Philosopher's Stone in the hopes of breaking the law of equivalent exchange and getting their original bodies back, but they soon get caught up in military schemes and strange creatures called homunculi start tailing them.

FMA addresses war, colonization, the aftermath of war and colonization, and the fine line between what makes us human and what makes us monsters. There are some real monsters in this series, but not the ones that you expect; and even the monsters have souls of a sort. I love how the series never takes the easy way out, how it never lets the characters take the easy way out. I love that I couldn't possibly see how the series would take something all the way, but it still did.

More than that, I love the characters of the show. I love how human they are, how scared they can be. There's this one moment when Ed fights for his life, and he's afraid and panicked and really wants to kill someone, and when it's over, he kneels over, terrified of himself. I love how fleshed out the minor characters are and how so many of them are informed by the past war.

Most of all, I love the relationship between the Elric brothers and how they care for each other and are willing to give up everything for each other, even as Al complains about Ed getting into all sorts of trouble and Ed yells at Al for being too soft-hearted.

I may be cheating a little by putting this in 2006; I watched eps. 1-25 back in 2005, but I rewatched the entire thing this year after having forgotten most key plot points.

This series is complete at 51 episodes, with a movie (The Conqueror of Shamballa) that takes place afterward. The movie is ok, but not essential, and the series stands very, very well on its own (as it was planned to). All are out on DVD.

ETA: there are possible spoilers for the ending of the series on the DVD cover, so don't peek! This is a series you definitely don't want to be spoiled for.

Links:
My memories and
coffeeandink's memories and general write up with lots of links
kate_nepveu's tags
rilina's tags, memories, and giant list of commentary and resources (spoilers)
yhlee's posts
fmanalyst's tags