No spoilers below for any of the series.
Series that I am not really fond of but don't actually dislike
Romeo x Juliet: The animation is gorgeous, and I love the reimagining of Verona as a flying city and Juliet as a cross-dressing Robin Hood figure. There's a lot of interesting stuff that was going on in terms of gender roles; several people noted that Romeo and Juliet's roles seem to be switched from those in the play. I also really loved the idea of Juliet being the lost heir to a destroyed house. Unfortunately, though Juliet starts out as a Robin Hood, she ends up fighting less and less, especially when she's not cross-dressing. And the addition of
Series I am fond of
Gundam Wing: Bwahahaha! Even though this wasn't my favorite show of the year or the best show I watched this year, this was my favorite watching experience of the year.
This is the first anime I ever watched, and as such, I have a crazy fondness for it. Because of that, watching other people get sucked in via rachelmanija's reports was absolutely AWESOME. And! Better yet, the series stands up to rewatching, even if you've seen it about 4 times over 7 years ago. It's got insane and suicidal pilots, more factions than you could shake a stick at, rose petal bubble baths, diabolic eyebrows, produce of DOOM, and cracktastic yet affecting plot arcs. The bad part is that it also has interminable speeches about pacifism, politics that are nearly impossible to follow, bird masks, largely unuseful women (except Sally), and the most annoying heroine ever.
I racked up a huge phone bill while watching episodes over the phone with Rachel, the two of us madly cackling the entire time. Totally worth it.
Mushishi: This is a gorgeous anime series adapted from a manga series about Ginko the mushishi, who goes around learning about mushi, primitive, nearly supernatural lifeforms. The episodes and the manga don't go in the same order, but reading/watching both at the same time or one before the other doesn't seem to matter. The music, animation, voice acting, and pacing of the series are all gorgeous; the only reason why it's in this category instead of the next is because I'll watch a few episodes, completely forget to watch more, and let it sit for a few months. Highly recommended if you like folklore -- it's lovely and delicate and sad and spooky.
Nana: Also an adaptation of a manga series. I didn't watch the entire anime, just bits and pieces of my favorite scenes in the manga. This would go on favorite series, only I love the manga too much. The adaptation is incredibly faithful, down to preserving many panels, and it's great to be able to hear the music, but... I don't know. I just couldn't wrap my head around the voice actors or the music because the manga is so near and dear to my heart (that, and the music isn't punk enough). Still, if it's your first exposure to the series, GO FOR IT. This is one of my favorite manga series ever, and the anime is a great introduction.
Favorite series of the year
Haibane Renmei: This is a small (13 eps.), quiet series about the Haibane, children with wings who mysteriously appear in Old Town. No one knows why the Haibane are different or where they come from. The wings may make people not want to watch it, but don't be put off by them. They're the complete opposite of the usual floating feathers shoujo wing trope, and the series isn't about cool wings, it's about a few young (and not-so-young) girls and their quiet lives and also about learning to live. I hope more people watch this.
Honey and Clover: I had this on my best of list last year after only watching ten episodes. No that I've finished, it is my favorite series of the year and possibly my favorite anime series period. I suspect one of the reasons why I didn't watch much anime this year was because I wanted another H&C, and nothing really lived up to it, though Haibane Renmei does a good job of capturing the quiet sweetness and wistfulness.
The series is about five art students in college, along with their friends, loves, relatives. Nothing happens, but at the same time, everything happens. The characters deal with unrequited affection, doubt about their futures, the stress of deciding what to do after college, and people leaving and coming back. I'm not sure what I can say about it that I haven't already said, so I lazily quote myself:
"I wish more people had seen this. It's such a comfort show, not because it's happy, but because it feels so real, and yet has such compassion and understanding for its characters. I watch it and feel better because it's about change and friendships and growing apart and coming together and trying to figure out what you want, trying to be the person you want to be and do the things you want to do. And it understands that the last two are even more important and earth-shaking than almost anything else."
Even though many of the plotlines are romances, many also aren't. I love how the series touches upon art and talent, from the points of view of those with talent and those without and how they all handle it. I love that it's about work and finding your place in the world, how it has grief and letting go, and how it's about friendships that change your life, even though people separate after graduation.