My 5th Favorite Anime Over the Years

It’s been about due time for me to update my 3x3x3x3,  and I got to thinking about favorite anime. I’ve always enjoyed reading this post by Digibro in which he lists every anime that has ever been his favorite.

Neon Genesis Evangelion has been my favorite anime ever since I first watched it six years ago. So talking about how my favorite anime changed over time would be a story that ended way before I got more interested in finding good anime. Similarly, Utena, Monogatari and Planetes have been in my top 5 ever since I first saw them.

But #5 is a slot that has changed far more times. You’ll see a few favorites in here, and definitely some second and third favorites.

 

Childhood

“What does anime mean? Pokemon and YuGiOh are the best shows ever.”

Digimon

That terrible trio, Pokemon, YuGiOh, and Digimon were a dominating force throughout my youth, and like most kids Digimon was mostly left out in comparison to the others. When I encountered other kids anime like Cardcaptors and DBZ, they certainly surpassed it in importance.

But Digimon had a lot to love, particularly the Digimon movie. That moment when WarGraymon and MetalGarurumon come out of a near-death experience to merge together to form Omnimon was an emotional tidal wave. Fitting that years later, Mamoru Hosoda would be among my favorite directors.

I also hear that Digimon Tamers has aged really well. I have fond memories, so I really ought to do a straight watch-through of the show some time. With Chiaki J. Konaka on as the main writer, my interest is certainly piqued.

 

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Yu Yu Hakusho

Another well-received show that I need to revisit and watch in full. Just as Digimon gave me my first taste of Hosoda and Konaka, this show gave me my first taste of Shinbo. Yu Yu Hakusho was pretty different from anything else I’d seen, in that its story was on a much smaller scale. Yes, there were over 100 episodes (I saw maybe 30-40), but they were split into smaller arcs that told smaller stories, the types I would become more fond of as the years went on. Yu Yu Hakusho’s blend of romance, drama, and action was truly something else, and while it never quite replaced Dragonball Z in my child mind in terms of importance, it expanded my idea of what an anime could be. The Dark Tournament arc, and comparing it to the Tenkaichi Budokai, showed that many shows repeated similar stories and devices, but used them in crucially different ways.

 

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Cardcaptors

They won’t all be underappreciated masterpieces, I swear. Possibly the fourth anime I ever watched was Cardcaptors. I will not say “Cardcaptor Sakura”, because I have never watched Cardcaptor Sakura. I watched the terrible dub, Cardcaptors. I missed a lot of card introductions. I wasn’t let privy to which characters were gay. I just watched a little girl collect cards once a week. I’ll never forget when I showed a book to my dad, and he asked me if the show was supposed to be for girls.

Over the years, I found out the truth about Syaoran and Tomoyo, and my interest increased. But not to the point of actually watching the show. I wasn’t the type to do that yet.

 

Weebification (2006-2011)

I start to seek out “anime”, and consider myself a fan of “anime”. I realize this family of cartoons that share the same style are one thing. And I can even watch them with subtitles. At this point, I’m watching raws of YuGiOh GX and not understanding a lick of it. It’s my favorite show, dub or sub.

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Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z

I didn’t have a DBZ-fueled childhood like some people did. I heard about Frieza all the time, but never actually saw him. I did see a good deal of Dragon Ball, and everything after the Cell Games, with no GT. And I was definitely up for it. The explosions, the blood, the ability to freely talk about death and destruction. Majin Buu must have been the strongest creature ever, because it took way too long to defeat him. Dragon Ball was its own set of fun and mysteries. I couldn’t believe that the two shows’ Bulmas were the same character though.

 

Image result for zaker zatch bellZatch Bell/Gash Bell

I watched as much of this as I could on YouTube until I couldn’t find any more. Zatch Bell was addicting. The puppet battles were a cool idea, the lightning spells looked awesome, and Parko Folgore was the grossest man on the planet. The thing that really got me was Gash’s promise to be a benevolent king. The Kolulu episode where he made that promise was one of the most emotional scenes I’d seen up to that point.

 

Image result for onegai twinsOnegai Twins

Geez, it’s the Terrible Trio. When I started short-form anime, it was through three trashy shows that I was not within the proper age range for. This one was the worst. Onegai Twins is the story of two girls who fall in love with a stranger, but can’t do anything about it because one of them, and they don’t know which, is his long lost sister. It’s ecchi, takes place in a convoluted world with secret aliens, and fails to create any good romance between the protagonists. I ate it up. It helps that the opening theme was amazing.

 

Image result for chobits screencapChobits

The best of these shows, even if it wasn’t my favorite at the time. Chobits was about a porn-freak named Hideki Motosuwa, who finds an abandoned robot girl, Chi, and takes her in. It follows Chi’s development as she learns more and more, and eventually falls in love with Hideki. It was part romance drama, part sex comedy, and holds up fairly endearing. I haven’t watched it in nearly a decade, but I don’t resent having watched it.

 

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Loveless

The reason these shows take up my #5 slot is because they’re what I’m focusing on at the time, even as newer stuff takes hold. Loveless is a different case, because just as I stop considering Pokemon and YuGiOh to be particularly good anime, I start considering Loveless my favorite.

Do yourself a favor and don’t look up the plot of Loveless. I regret even knowing it.

Anyhow, from 2010-2011, I watched exactly four anime. We’ll call them the Legendary Top Four, or LTF for short. Among them was my lifetime favorite, Neon Genesis Evangelion (the second member), and the other three will make appearances further down the line. I would like to think that I liked all of them more than Loveless.

 

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Haruhi Suzumiya

Haruhi had to have been my fifth favorite anime at some point. I was in love from the moment I watched it. A quirky, tropey scenario, cute interesting girls, and a love story made just for me. It was in (universal) episode 12, Live Alive, that the show really sunk in. Haruhi’s wish to be unique, with her mathematical knowledge that she never could be, resonated like few things I’d seen before.

The Interim (2011-2013)

From mid-2011 to mid 2013, I didn’t watch any anime. I had an easy top 4, but one show from before then was struggling for dominance.

Image result for fumoffuFull Metal Panic? Fumoffu

I watched Fumoffu for the first time at a friend’s sleepover, and it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen. I binged it all soon after. I don’t know if I ever considered it my favorite anime, but I was certainly obsessed. I tried watching Full Metal Panic!, but as robot fights took precedence over high school comedy, I realized it just wasn’t for me. When I saw four widely beloved anime in close proximity to each other, it stayed strong in my heart. In fact, it may have even trumped one of them.

Image result for death noteDeath Note

The first member of the LTF. I’d watched the L arc of Death Note in 2008, and while I wanted to believe that the rest is worth it, I took a break that ended up lasting two years. The convoluted plans were pure magnificence in my book, but the overly cynical and depressing plot and tone of the series did take away from it. It’s also possible that a lot of the show’s spark was in those L episodes, which stay two years further away from me than the end of it. Either way, I was fond of it for a while, but I had better shows waiting in front of me.

The Re-Weebing (2013-2015)

Eventually my friends got me back into anime. It started with stuff like Sword Art Online and Angel Beats, and later spread to stuff like The World God Only Knows and High School DxD. However, there was enough really strong stuff that none of those cracked the top 5

Image result for fma brotherhoodFullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

The fourth member of the LTF. I’m not sure how much I ever really valued Brotherhood. I enjoyed it immensely, but I also had a friend who rejected it in favor of the 2003 version I could never complete. When I found out it was considered the greatest anime of all time, I was surprised. But as I made the transition to finding my favorite anime, Brotherhood was probably #5 at some point.

Brotherhood’s strength is in how it expands on what little fans had to go on in 2003. Its explanations are elegant and engaging. Its ending is satisfying and makes sense, and more importantly, it’s happy. Brotherhood is pure anime sugar, as the number of characters it rewards and the quality of its fight scenes make watching it one of the most enjoyable experiences possible.

Image result for madokaPuella Magi Madoka Magica

A super dark show. I’d seen this with Eva, I’d seen this with Death Note. There’s a lot I have to say about Madoka, but at the time I watched it, it was a pretty simple evaluation. The twists and turns, the optimism, the attention to little details I found out afterwards, and the relationship between Madoka and her mom made the show a resounding success. At this point, a fifth favorite anime was more of a passing interest. But as my list grew, that changed.

Image result for steins;gateSteins;Gate

I could tell Steins;Gate was awesome from the moment I first saw it. It was my first foray into the “Chuuni” genre of anime, so Okabe and Mayuri’s antics weren’t seen as annoying or cliche. My own Chuuni-ness made me root for Hououin Kyouma, and when his life was thrown into turmoil, we were 100% on the same page. Being consistently funny, engaging, and relatable, Steins;Gate was perhaps one of the first anime I felt was truly a masterpiece. I’ve always preferred my Gainax shows, but that first viewing of Steins;Gate blew me away.

 

Image result for flcl  sceneFLCL

I didn’t get the full brunt of FLCL when I first saw it, but I could see greatness when it was in front of me. The rapid change of styles, the kick-ass OST, and Canti’s design made the show a quick favorite for me. FLCL’s crazy, but it doesn’t let crazy get in the way of fun, or diminish the emotional impact of the story. Imagine me finding out its writer had more stories like that.

The Gate Opens (2015-present)

Revolutionary Girl Utena was my gateway anime. It wasn’t the first anime I saw and I’d binged many anime before it. But it was my gateway in the sense that when I saw Utena, a switched flipped inside me. I went from wanting to know what happens in a show, to wanting to have watched the greatest shows. I wanted to replicate the feeling of euphoria and obsession that show created in me, because after watching so many shows do that, I was no longer content to just let them fall into my hands. I watched as much anime as possible from that point on. Even if Utena was among the very best, seeing everything that came close would be enough.

 

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Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

First, to clear off some old dust. TTGL was the third, and last unmentioned member of the Legendary Top Four. I binged the first 25 episodes in about a week before realizing I still needed to finish Eva. Maybe that was a sign that I liked it better, but I saw a selfishness in it. The show that entertained me boundlessly was clearly of secondary importance to the show that elaborated on the nature of my soul.

Because I watched them at the same time, Gurren Lagann felt like an extension of Evangelion, a little brother who had achieved similar heights. Where Eva was vicious, claustrophobic, and cathartic, TTGL was nonsensical, enormous, and badass. Its spirit of somewhat-ironic manliness became my outer shell, as Eva’s fears and promise to conquer them was my soft interior. As such, it was my second favorite anime for a long time, until I saw its successor, Kill la Kill. Today, those two shows do constant battle in my mind, Gurren perhaps having the upper hand. But watching KLK let Gurren Lagann become a memory of its own, no longer entwined with its older sibling.

 

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Baccano!

Since I’d seen Baccano! pretty recently and was really satisfied with it, I figured it ought to be my fifth favorite. Its cast was a fountain of memes, its fights were bloody and breezy, and it functioned as a huge celebration of world-building and storytelling. The show was pretty much perfect in my eyes.

So why was it just a 9/10? I had something of a dilemma when it came to scoring when I got back into anime. The summer after I watched Utena, I created a spreadsheet assigning every anime I’d seen a score out of 100. Baccano’s initially high performance on this scale got me calling it my fifth favorite. Then I went back to MAL. My first instinct was to give every show its MAL score, but if I’d already scored a show it would keep that score. So old favorites like Haruhi and Death Note, and shows I felt strong affiliation towards like FLCL and Kill la Kill were 10s, even though they weren’t all shows I thought were better than Baccano!

Eventually, I changed everything’s scores, and also rethought Baccano’s individual category scores. When I started rethinking my scoring and ranking criteria, Baccano! sank. It’s recently made a comeback though, hitting an 8 again.

 

Image result for kids on the slopeKids on the Slope

This show is perfect. Great relationships, great characters, great music. I loved Samurai Champloo, but this was the show that made Shinihiro Watanabe one of my favorite anime directors of all time. Upon reflection, I’d say that rather than being a great show, Kids on the Slope is great at being a show. Nothing else has really felt so consistently right.

Image result for mawaru penguindrumMawaru Penguindrum

Another show from one of the greatest anime directors of all time. After loving Utena and liking Yuri Kuma, I finally got into “the penguin show”. It was hilarious and weird, like his other works. It also crushed me emotionally much like Utena did. But it looked so much better. This one was real competition for its predecessor, with its intense twists, abstract plot, and absolutely perfect aesthetic.

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Kill la Kill

This show is a longtime favorite. Intense action scenes, a kickass Sawano soundtrack, and a focus on family made this the perfect adventure for me. Was it juvenile? Were its themes vague? Were its characters developed in a bunch of different directions? Yes, maybe, and yes. Kill la Kill is in a weird place between a hasty mess and plotted masterpiece.

Image result for katanagatari 12Katanagatari

My favorite punchline in anime appears in this show. That’s all you need to know, go watch it for 12 hours. A NisioIsin samurai action show with kickass music, this one was bound to go high on my list. Its world is one of the most interesting I’ve encountered. While it wasn’t the hot-blooded action that I’d wished for, the last three episodes are excellent, and in distinct ways.

 

Image result for ping pong the animationPing Pong the Animation

Ping Pong was another show that I picked up expecting something hot-blooded and brightly-colored. When I finished that first episode, I felt somewhat disappointed but also certain that I was watching a perfect show. By the end, I’d found a show that was not only perfect, but that resonated immensely with me as an artist. Ping Pong’s choices are staggeringly good, and whenever I revisit it I gain another layer of appreciation for it. That first episode is now one of my favorites.

 

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Planetes

In fact, Ping Pong was so good it made me doubt whether Planetes should be #4. Yes, Planetes makes me sob in its best moments. Yes its themes of space travel and corporate greed were incredibly compelling. Yes its breadth of situations and acuity in writing and directing them makes it above and unlike nearly anything else I’ve seen in anime. That’s why it has never left my top 5.

 

Image result for cowboy bebopCowboy Bebop

In some ways, I started Cowboy Bebop expecting Planetes. Personal drama, action comedy, space conspiracies. The show seemed so dull compared to what it promised. Then “Speak Like a Child” broke me. Then “Hard Luck Woman” hit and it all came together. Faye Valentine is one of my favorite characters in anime. Her arc alone made this show one of my favorites.

Faye aside, it’s kind of everything about Cowboy Bebop that makes it one of my favorites. Take her out and you still have the Big Shots sequences, you have Mish Mash Blues, and Real Folk Blues. You have Edward’s whole journey and Spike’s pathetic struggle with his past. You have Pierrot le Fou’s last moments. You still have the setting, which in itself is a concept that evokes great emotion in me.

Bebop’s not my type of show in the same way that Evangelion and Utena are. But its insight is the same. It’s saying the same things, just a little softer.

 

Image result for planetes hachimakiPlanetes

Bebop is really good, okay?

The Current Champion (2017)

 

Image result for madoka momPuella Magi Madoka Magica

Is Madoka the deepest show? I’d say Welcome to the NHK and Legend of the Galactic Heroes explore their themes in greater and more relatable depths. Is Madoka a show that makes me particularly emotional? I’ve cried at Madoka, but I’ve sobbed at Anohana and Gunbuster.

Madoka’s fun though. Madoka gets me. The show’s train of thought, as it is expressed through its characters, as it is expressed aesthetically, as it is generally communicated through me by the experience of watching it, is completely in tune with mine. So much anime feels protracted and hesitant to me, but I always have fun watching this show.

So I like Madoka more than any other anime listed here, with Planetes as the only exception. When I want to engage with the story, it’s amazing. When I want to engage with the characters, I find them incredibly sympathetic. When I want aesthetic, I get aesthetic. Shows just don’t tend to do as much as this one does, and few others in the anime canon bring out what I love about writing.

 

 

What are some of your favorite anime? Do you have a place on your favorites list that’s constantly switching? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Anime Shows of 2016

Before we get to this list, I’ve got some honorable mentions to give out.

This year had some great movies. While the list could go on (and be mostly films I haven’t seen yet), special mention goes to the first two Kizumonogatari films.

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They were stunning, both visually, and in how they articulated the normally wordy conflicts and themes of Monogatari into a breezy action horror spectacle. It’s possible that the trilogy as a whole would surpass anything else on this list.

Next, a show that would go in my top 5 2016 anime if it had been animated: Thunderbolt Fantasy.

Generic anime action sequences turn into a mix of comedy and high art when puppets are doing them. Great hammy atmosphere, a plot full of subtly meta twists and turns, and all weaving in an expression of Urobuchi’s regular themes regarding optimism and what motivates a hero. Silly stuff, but it’s also solidified his place on my list of favorite writers.

But enough of movies, and enough of Taiwanese live action. Let’s get to the Japanese animated TV shows.

10. ReLIFE

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This show was an utter joy. There’s a lot to say about the concept of relearning life lessons, or the ability to insert yourself into a high school anime and sort out misunderstandings, and ReLIFE makes it into a really cute time. Things get twisted and changed up a couple times in the series, but it never loses its core charm.

9. Yuri!!! on Ice

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Who doesn’t love an underdog story? Perhaps the biggest anime of the year, YoI was a bunch of fun. Great performances, a uniquely modern world, and general high energy had me looking forward to this show every week. The OST, containing a plethora of amazing performance songs, is my favorite of the year.

8. Planetarian

Image result for planetarian anime projector

Ah, five episodes of sadness. Planetarian takes you to a deserted Earth where a futuristic dumpster diver finds an abandoned planetarium. These are all obvious ingredients for sentimentality and tragedy, and Planetarian mixes them together like a master chef. The ONA has no set episode lengths, so none of the five vignettes seems rushed or like it’s overstaying its welcome. Take a visit to the planetarium and learn more about the cosmos.

7. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu

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If you haven’t heard of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, that is a travesty. This tightly written drama about performance, friendship, and stagnation was easily the highlight of the Winter season. Yakumo’s moments of development and reflection were powerful, and his arc made a good story in and of itself. On the other hand, I’m very optimistic about the second season since it will follow up on the events of the post-plot pilot.

6. Sound! Euphonium 2

Euphonium 2 was not the sequences of laughs, squees, and gasps that defined season 1 for me. In fact, some episodes felt more like the decent-but-not-for-me show that I expected going into season 1. But there was one aspect of season 1 I loved that this second season had plenty of: Asuka Tanaka. Meeting her not just as an eccentric presence but as a complicated character with dreams, motivations, and stories was more than I could have asked. And how perfect to have it culminate in her graduate. I wish we could’ve gotten another Reina/Kumiko date, but this season was pretty darn good. In addition to the great story and characters, Euphonium continues to be one of the best looking anime around. I wish I could watch the Kitauji band grow forever.

5. Concrete Revolutio: The Last Song

Image result for concrete revolutio the last song angel's egg

Concrete Revolutio is not a show that involves the viewer. In ConRevo, things happen and we are welcome to stay and watch them. Superhumans have conflicts, and these conflicts span multiple years and characters and resolutions. So it’s not the easiest sell. But in the second season, the show hits its stride. There were bold episodes, there were tragedies, and Jiro’s development finally hit its peak. Concrete Revolutio is a tough watch, but another ambitious, beautiful, and cathartic original project is more than welcome.

4. Mayoiga (AKA The Lost Village)

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There’s a lot of arguments concerning the intent behind this show, but intent is not what makes top lists. While a lot of us who think Mayoiga is a comedy argue out of love for dear Mizushuma (and maybe also Okada), we also argue it because we think it’s funny. Mayoiga is a show where 31 caricatures who would die ten minutes into a B-horror movie are put into a non-lethal situation. While it’s often compared to the likes of The Room and Plan 9, a lot of the time its meaningless arguments and failed romances felt more like reality TV. Throughout its meandering and its lack of seriousness, the show never seemed bad so much as obsessed with cracking jokes at its cast’s expense. And some of the jokes were quite clever. Even the incredibly bland OP makes me smile. A character name montage with 31 characters? Genius.

(and some of the names are behind the characters! I love that!)

3. Flip Flappers

flip-flappers

Like The Last Song, Flip Flappers also had sparse exposition. But it handled its lack of execution far better by presenting its characters in a compelling light. Cocona and Papika’s journey through Pure Illusion was great fun, and was complemented by great drama and magnificent direction. It’s perhaps 2016’s densest anime. Within the blitz of homages, personal stories, and worlds, there’s an episode for anyone.

2JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable

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JoJo turned out to be awesome. Just plain awesome. Diamond is Unbreakable is a show that just doesn’t know how to stop adding things. Even to the last few episodes, new characters and stands kept entering the picture, and by the end we have a huge wacky of the town of Morioh. JoJo’s always been good at making you fear for its heroes, but this time around it was able to make you fear for its villain. Yoshikage Kira’s story is quite terrifying, and made a great complement to one of the best action ensembles I’ve seen.

1. Mob Psycho 100

Image result for mob psycho 11

You ever just see a show that’s just so right for you that you can’t believe it exists? Well, Mob Psycho 100 gave me that this year. Between its unique design style, astounding Penguindrum-esque color palette, fluid animation, and great soundtrack (particularly the OP), Mob Psycho 100 was the aesthetic powerhouse of the year. But with those aesthetics came great characters in Mob and Reigen. The interplay between Reigen’s deceptive nature and the real life advise and care he gives to Mob is rather beautiful, and it’s one of quite a few ideas and relationships in this series that make it not just the aesthetic highlight of the year, but for me, the highlight of this year in anime.

 

There were far more than 12 good Japanese things to talk about this year. Leave a comment telling me what you’d list. There’s definitely more shows I’d love to talk about.

Re:Zero vs Every Other Show That I’m Watching

Every show I’m watching had a better premiere than Re:Zero

I expected a dramatic, bingeable show with some cool plot ideas. The premiere would be some melodramatic call of action for the protagonist, with over the top violence and maybe some cliche anime/LN humor.

What I got was an hour of some guy babbling about being trapped in a video game. Subaru’s personality so far is that he likes video games and he wants to be a hero because he’s in a video game. White-haired girl (Satella? Emilia?)’s tsundere monologues weren’t interesting, they just made her character sound cliche. Puck was kind of fun, mind you. In the end, I was kind of interested in how the premise would turn out, but a lot of that will be fueled by how the show continues to be loved and not the premiere in and of itself.

So this is not a show I would have continued when it started airing. Here’s some shows I did continue, many of which when they started airing.

 

Amaama to Inazuma (Sweetness and Lightning): A young widower goes on restaurant adventures with his adorable preschool daughter. I can support these characters right off the bat. The situation is inherently sympathetic, so I don’t feel like I’m missing something about them, like I do when I see Subaru’s attempts at heroics. None of the characters feel like archetypes. Sure, Kotori’s two plotlines (hot for teacher and being the incompetent daughter) are fairly standard, but they’re handled gracefully and they aren’t the main focus of the episode.

Amanchu!: This was an atmosphere I could buy. Nothing really happened in the first episode of Amanchu!, but I could look at that ocean forever and I loved the feeling of starting a new school year. Meanwhile I could name all sorts of things that happened in Re:Zero, but it didn’t hook me. The fact I don’t remember much about this episode (Pikari’s a diver, new year is starting, etc.) makes it one of the weaker ones here. I’ve got no problem if someone thinks Re:Zero’s premiere is better.

AnoHana: Like Re:Zero, this has a pseudo-realistic art style, starts by introducing us to a gamer, and has a bunch of scenes from another point in the story cut in with the regular scenes. Let’s focus on the latter for now. AnoHana’s cuts weren’t just there for atmosphere, they made the story. They showed how Jintan’s past contrasted with his current self, established the Super Peace Busters from their first day to their last day, and came during moments where they enhanced what was going on in the present day by filling in the blanks. Meanwhile the death cut in Re:Zero is just a repeat of a scene later in the episode. There is no reason yet established for why it would be shown with the beginning. Even if it’s justified later, it’s just not as well done as the Busters flashbacks. The best point in Re:Zero’s favor is that I already care about the AnoHana characters because it’s a rewatch, but some of this stuff was apparent even from my first viewing.

Casshern Sins: Better atmosphere, more distinctive art style, and understandable conflict. Both shows start with immortal protagonists largely trying to do good for goodness’ sake, but the people around Casshern face huge stakes, while Subaru can just bring people back to life.

Days: While I could spend a whole post on how much the rest of Days easily beats its cute first episode, the first episode does pretty well on its own. Kazama and Tsukamoto bonding over their game of futsal works way better to endear them than Subaru and Emilia(?) looking like parents for half of a second.

Ginga Eiyuu Densetsu (Legend of the Galactic Heroes): Do I talk about My Conquest is the Sea of Stars or Overture to a New War? The former was pretty plain, but it left enough blanks in Reinhard and Yang for me to be curious about how they’d turn out. In contrast, Subaru says so much, but doesn’t give me any character traits worth investing in. Overture to a New War, on the other hand, is easily a better premiere and it’s not really fair for me to compare them.

Hourou Musuko: This show introduced a full fledged cast in its first episode. While pacing out the introductions of the main characters is a good idea, it’s a bit awkward just talking about the premiere when everybody loves Rem. The characters’ actions are believable without screaming “Hey this is what a normal person would totally do in this situation!”.

Love Live! School Idol Project: Stakes: the inevitable closing of the school and the council’s resistance to the MC’s ideas. The characters were silly but at least they were exciting. I totally expect the characterizations in Re:Zero to pay off, but if we’re just talking about the premiere, I can say they don’t open much for interpretation.

Mob Psycho 100: Now this is how you construct a mystery box! Ominous percent counter increments throughout the episode. Wild creative visual aesthetic mixing Bones’ talents with ONE’s wild style. Mob in this episode is largely a recycled Saitama, but this episode’s goal was to look awesome as hell and it succeeded. And Mob and Reigen were precious.

Orange: I didn’t like this one that much better, but it covered very similar time travel plot development with a more relatable protagonist and half the time.

Planetarian: Like with Casshern Sins, a meditative robot apocalypse premiere doesn’t need much to beat fantasy world tsundere shenanigans for me. This one’s more a case of “I know what I’m waiting for next episode”.

Re:Zero: Even Re:Zero is better than this show.

ReLIFE: Like the other two TMS shows, instantly relatable. I’m not saying a NEET going into a fantasy world and trying to discover his superpowers and quest is inherently less relatable than a pseudo-NEET going into a modern high school and trying to discover his place as a functional human being, but Re:Zero’s interactions are nowhere near this level.

Rurouni Kenshin Tsuioku-hen: Fight scenes are some of the best. Nothing else to really say about this show.

 

Anyhow, I won’t be surprised if later episodes of Re:Zero address these concerns. I hear it’s a lot about treating people like NPCs and the implications of cheating death, so I’m still hoping for a strong show with a fitting premiere. I’m just surprised that just these two episodes propelled so many people forward in the first place.

Re: Cutie Honey Has an Episode for Every Angle

This week I watched Re: Cutie Honey, a three episode OVA based on the classic Shonen manga. Like the live action film adaptation it shares a story with, the OVA is directed by Hideaki Anno.

The first thing to note about Re:Cutie Honey is that much like one of Gainax’s later, similar shows, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt, each episode has a different director. Shows like Space Dandy use this structure to create distinct episodic adventures, but with only 132 minutes to work with, Re: Cutie Honey tells a compelling, focused story through three unique lenses.

The overall story is simple enough. An organization called Panther Claw is terrorizing Tokyo, so a tough police officer named Natsuki and a shape shifting vigilante named Cutie Honey are on the case. Honey and Natsuki, despite the latter’s initial reluctance, form a tight friendship/romance and fight together against Panther Claw leader Sister Jill and her Elite Four. Honey’s naive, friendly demeanor and Natsuki’s abrasive competence make for  a great dynamic, and this dynamic is what makes each episode of Re: Cutie Honey feel like an episode of Re: Cutie Honey despite the differences.

Now let’s get to the differences. Episode 1 is directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi. As you’d expect from him, there’s a lot of focus on gag comedy and colorful visuals. The crowds of useless policemen form imply an inspiration for Kill la Kill’s One-Stars, and also establish Natsuki’s place in the series’ social dynamic. Sister Jill and the Elite Four have clear parallels as well. My overall impressions with this episode were “this is a story Imaishi felt the need to tell all over again”. But aside from what it can tell us about its director, episode 1 of Re: Cutie Honey is mainly a start to these characters and their situation. Natsuki is serious, Honey naively juggles a job and fighting evil, and Seiji and Kyoko help where they can.

Episode 2 is directed by Naoyuki Itou. While he hasn’t had his name on top of many projects aside from the recent anime Overlord, he has done smaller jobs on several anime, including Chihayafuru and Aku no Hana.

Despite my lack of a reference point for what works may influence it, I found Episode 2 to be the most interesting episode of Re: Cutie Honey.  While episode 1 played up the manga’s comedy elements, episode 2 is all about the serious consequences of this world. As Panther Claw starts to target Honey, she is blamed for all the damage to the city. The voices of those who support her are easily covered by those who do not. In the end, the villains demand Honey come forward or they will do worse to the city. This fairly standard superhero narrative mixes well with the fact that this superhero is an attractive young woman. A lot of the sentiment against Honey is quite sexist, especially that which comes from the man in charge of her civilian workplace. When Panther Claw makes its move to kidnap every woman in the city with Honey as the ransom, this boss is left helpless without his female subordinates. In this world, women are simultaneously an easy target yet integral for society to function.

The third episode feels like a copy of End of Evangelion. Appropriately, it was handled by Anno and Rebuild of Evangelion director Masayuki. It is an apocalyptic test of Natsuki and Honey’s bond. Honey finds out the truth about what happened to her father, why she was made, and why Sister Jill desires to reunite with her. Honey wants to keep her own existence, and Sister Jill chooses to try and destroy anything rather than disappear. Through Honey’s miraculous power, a happy ending is attained.

The existential worries presented in the finale don’t do much to answer the question of Honey’s responsibility to the populace. They don’t make any big statement about the value or treatment of women in this world, but the finale does have some small resolutions. Honey was never meant to be a hero, but in the end she continues being one because it’s what she wants to do. Another female character also turns out to embody the type of hero society needs to function. These are payoffs, but they’re much smaller to what could have been attained if episode 2 were the main focus of the story. But there is no main focus.

Re: Cutie Honey manages a coherent mix of action, comedy, and romance while moving through these three different tones. It is simultaneously one film and three. All three interpretations of Honey’s story; action comedy, feminist superhero drama, and apocalyptic romance, are true to the life she leads. She is fun, her busy lifestyle has consequences, and Gainax never makes an apocalypse feel out of place. And that’s why the show grabs me.

On my personal scale, at time of writing, I consider the OVA to be a 6/10 (Favorable). My rough approximation for this on the MAL scale is 8/10 (Very Good). Each episode is as entertaining at the last, and it won’t bore you.

Let’s Talk about 3x3s

A 3×3 is a picture collection of 9 of one’s favorite anime. Here’s mine.

3x3

 

These aren’t quite the best of the best anime I’ve seen, in my opinion, but they’re my current favorites.

But what if I haven’t seen them? Then what would be my 3×3? Well, I’d probably want to start with the shows that I think are the best, but not quite as favorite as those not-best favorites. Then add some other shows I think are amazing.

3x3 part 2

But what if I hadn’t seen these nine shows? And what if I hadn’t seen the next nine, and so on? So behold, here is my ultimate 3×3 3×3.

3x3x3x3

At the fifth one, I started including stuff that I haven’t quite finished.

 

But that’s not all I can do with 3x3s! I can also show how my 3×3 changed over time! Here’s a GIF of the order of my top 9 changing.

And here’s a more seamless progression that doesn’t take order and preference shifts into account.

Bread’s Spring 2016 Week 8

Another update on what I’m watching right now.

Diamond is Unbreakable 7: This was basically a really good Stardust Crusaders episode. You’ve got an enemy whose Stand is powered by deception, and they get the crap non-lethally beaten out of them in the end. We got to see Koichi and Josuke work together, we got to see how last week’s guy fits into the group, and we even got to see Nijimura and Josuke, which is always welcome.

Concrete Revolutio 2-7 / 20: Well that was sad. All the cultural implications in this episode are interesting. That last statement was good – even if he could have never succeeded, the fact he wanted to was enough that Jiro doesn’t regret helping him.

Boku no Hero Academia 7: Wow, Bakugo is an asshole. Thought this fight was pretty great, albeit slow, and the closer this show gets to finishing the more I hope for a prompt second season (then again, I’ll probably read the manga since I hear it’s better anyway).

Mayoiga 7: Well we’re in horror territory now! This show teeters on a weird line between effective drama and parody. On one hand, Mitsumune’s quest for identity is relatable if you phrase it in those words, but the events that caused it are absurd. The group’s mob mentality on its own is dramatic, but Lovepon’s inner conflict caused by her backstory and Speedstar’s treatment of Mitsumune stay over the top. Sadly, we didn’t get another Catacomb Assbound.

Kiznaiver 6: So many emotions. Why does the show have to be half over already? I’d say the biggest idea this episode touched on was the contradictory nature of its premise. The Kizuna project aims to bring people together by force. But if people are forced to help each other and sympathize with each other, acts of kindness don’t carry the meaning they would if they weren’t. The gang saving Maki is a touching moment, but it’s ruined by the fact that it’s a mission. While a lot of the episode was about Maki’s issues with the past and Noriko’s isolation, I hope this idea continues to be addressed.

Kiznaiver 7: So of course I jump ahead. It’s still great, it’s still touching,  and that shot of Yuta running on the beach is my favorite in the show. In it’s better moments, this show has such an awareness of its characters! Another cool touch is that the visit from the beginning kind of echoes the visit from AnoHana.

Uchuu Patrol Luluco 7: Kill la Kill episode? Well this is exactly what I wanted. Since I know the next episode is Little Witch Academia, I wonder if we’re getting Gainax or Inou Battle themed episodes. They’re probably just gonna keep it to Trigger’s original properties though. So maybe a Kiznaiver episode? An Inferno Cop episode is an option, except he’s already a character.

Flying Witch 6: I probably paid more attention to this one than any of the other episodes. The silly gag and bits of world building solidified its status as a show that’s really not bad at all. I’m just not quite sure how good it is for me. But I do feel somewhat healed by it!

Dragon Ball Super 44: Looks like we’ve got a filler arc starting. Or maybe this will tie into the gods issue. I liked the direction in this one. Good transitions, the radio bits were interesting, and Goku’s training scene was epic, even if it was super brief.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V 105: It was cool seeing a bit more of the relationships between the Xyz characters. Between Edo and Kaito, looks like a really tough slate of antagonists, and it’s good to establish that. If Kurosaki were carded, we’d be able to start talking about how carding can be reversed, but so far it’s easier that he was spared.

 

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GiG: This show is very political. I’ve seen the first six episodes now. Episode 2 was interesting, while episode 3 was a real highlight. I like Motoko, and seeing her act as a deceiver and the way people treat her was interesting. Other episodes feel very steeped in setting up the political climate. I hope it’s used well!

Nana: Speaking of set up, Nana spends a lot of time in flashbacks after that brilliant first episode. Such a shame, since there’s so much we were already able to work with! Still, it’s not a total loss. Current recommendation for this series: skip episode 1. Therefore you don’t have all those questions during episodes 2 through 5, and you can enjoy episode 6 more. Well, actually episode 6 misses a lot of important stuff in episode 1. But I haven’t seen episode 7, so maybe that stuff will be in there. Maybe just watch 2-5, 1, then 6. Or just watch it in airing order and be frustrated.

I also saw the first couple episodes of Bake Neko, which is a prequel of sorts to the anime Mononoke. It feels a lot like Mushishi so far, the story of the suspiciously stoic professional performing exorcisms on tense families.

I saw Scott Pilgrim vs the World too. It was a lot of what I’m about. Super dry comedy with a completely surreal setting established through a painted fourth wall. It’s like we’re in Utena but with Michael Cera and a lot less to analyze. Breathtaking effects, particularly the 5/6 fight. I loved the characters, particularly Scott’s own exes and how they informed the situation (Knives is precious). Hated fight 4. Awful. But overall, it’s a really cool movie. I recommend checking out either version of the story.

Bread’s Spring 2016 Week 7

Feel like I’m kinda copying Wrong Every Time’s thing with this post, but this is (almost?) something different. For a lot of shows I typically don’t watch new episodes right as they come out, so these posts will be more like a diary of what anime and other media I watched in the last week. I may keep doing this, or as I figure out what I want to use this blog for I might not.

So let’s break down the… scattered week I have had, starting with the previous Tuesday. I think I’ll have more to say other weeks than this week, since here I’m working a lot from memory.

 

Diamond is Unbreakable 6: This episode was so fun. I love Koichi, because here we have this wimpy, Armin-like character, and you think he’s gonna be put in a Speedwagon type role. But nope, he’s got a Stand and he has to become a badass now. While this wasn’t at the heights of episode 5, it’s still another great episode of JoJo.

Concrete Revolutio 2-6 / 19: I think I’m starting to get into the groove of this season. Concrete Revolutio has a similar feel to Mushishi S2 for me, where I appreciate the atmosphere, but can hardly process when anything’s actually happening. After the silliness of the olympics episode though, the last couple have actually been quite engaging. This one really solidified my engagement with the themes about gray morality, and I’ve come to really sympathize with Jiro’s quest to “help superhumans”. And it’s got the best Bones fight animation of the season so far.

Boku no Hero Academia 6: Speaking of which… no complaints here. This episode actually had a small fight, and it looks like it’s gonna be followed with a bigger one! We’re getting into Deku’s relationships, and a bunch of great moments throughout. I like him embracing his nickname because of the girl he likes, I like him befriending the nerdy dude, and I like the fact he considers Bakugo a hero to look up to even though he’s obviously not.

Mayoiga 6: After all the hype about the giant boob, this one didn’t draw me in all that much. I hear episode 7 will be interesting, so that’s something to look forward to. One thing I’ll say about this show is that the OP is more hilarious the more you watch it.

Kiznaiver 5: I’ve been finding Kiznaiver an interesting experiment in existential teenage storytelling, but this episode really sold me on it. Sonozaki and Kacchon’s relationship developed – Kacchon’s detached enough from the situation that he realizes Sonozaki’s involvement in the Kizuna project is really a projection of her own ideas about people. Much like Instrumentality, the Kizuna project is a really lonely thing, and it’s interesting going into the fact that the people behind it are supposed to be people. The direction also ramped up this week. Kacchon and Chidori’s big moment was also really touching. The interactions between the Kiznaivers really remind me of AnoHana – the way these kids are kinda shallow, but there’s a freshness in the way they interact with each other. Meanwhile the character development is coming to evoke Oregairu. Those are two shows I really like, so this show may end up in my favorites. Here’s hoping for that second half!

Uchuu Patrol Luluco 6: I think I first started getting into the groove of what this show’s doing. Imaishi’s got a great energy, and it’s cool seeing that energy put into having a chill time. A lot of people compare this favorably with Inferno Cop, but honestly I think paper background explosions are the best thing.

Flying Witch 5: Same old relaxing cuteness with this show. Nothing to note.

Dragon Ball Super 43: The first half of this episode was super adorable. Piccolo is probably the best babysitter out there. Filler is actually a pretty good time now that this series has got me hooked. DBS is probably a huge disappointment to a lot of people, but as unambitious as this show is, the slice-of-life Saiyan antics are really endearing.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V 104: I caught up with Arc-V last week. I’m happy to see Asuka and Edo again (sorry Kaito, I didn’t watch ZeXal). I found the Synchro arc really disappointing, other than the great Tsukikage vs Shinji duel, so I’m hoping for something a bit better this year. I can hope, can’t I?

I haven’t been catching up with Macross Delta lately. Musical mechas in space sounds like a lovely franchise, but it’s not drawing me in the way that first episode did. How many episodes are there now?

Now you know my weekly spread! Onto what I’ve watched that isn’t airing.

Nana: The Josei marvel itself. I’m at episode 5 right now, and I’m pretty hooked. I loved the relationship set up in the first episode. While I wish there wasn’t three episodes (and counting?) of exposition, the OP and ED have me hooked. When I was darkness Saturday. The thin lanky character designs are also… something. Like I said in my introduction, the soundtrack’s atmosphere has been a big draw for me, though it also evokes what I like about certain manga. Nana and Shoji’s interactions in episode four were also quite cute.

K-On!: I finished the first season of what is probably the cutest anime ever. I thought the show was absolutely gorgeous and a blast to watch. The concert at the end was a really cute wrap-up in particular. I felt the show was a bit empty here and there, but overall I’m excited for starting the second season eventually. I expect it to improve a lot, because a quadruple length senior year sounds like it’s exactly what I want from this club.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes: After the heartbreak of season 1, I’ve gone back to the war between the New Galactic Empire and the Free Planets Alliance. Right now the show feels kinda loose. It’s the same old of planning battles and unraveling schemes. The status quo of LOGH is a pretty entertaining thing, but I hope soon enough I’ll get to the stuff people are really talking about here.

Kemonozume: I usually only go through two or three non-airing shows at a time, but I suppose I just got really bored this week. Finally I end my reverse journey through Yuasa’s shows right at the beginning. Kemonozume has a great first episode! Lots of energy, wonderfully styled animation. The plot was maybe a bit bonkers for my sleep deprived self, but “man falls in love with monster woman” should hopefully be all I need for now.

Aria the Animation: Aria is… interesting. After five episodes, I think I’m putting it on hold. Not so much because I don’t think I can watch anymore, but because I want to save it for a couple weeks ahead. The setting and atmosphere have stayed great, and I certainly think I’ll have something to talk about even before getting to the Origination.

I finished my re-watch of Puella Magi Madoka Magica (which I accompanied with this wonderful series of posts). I’d forgotten just how good that show looked, and I’ve come out of it with a new appreciation of the characters. I was kinda surprised which scene at the end caused me to choke up, but I really should’ve seen it coming. I love Famdoka.

I also watched the first episodes of Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GiG. Both are promising starts, though I’m really glad in particular to be back to Stand Alone Complex. The first episode was lots of political discussion, which reminds me of ConRevo and Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

 

Non-anime:

I’ve been checking out some manga by Inio Asano. I heard good things, so I checked out a couple one-shots and found them interesting. Bakemono Recchan was overall good, and Kinoko Takenoko wasn’t quite as compelling but still interesting. Next up will be his shorter manga.

I’ve been reading The Count of Monte Cristo, to prepare for its anime adaptation. It’s a lot wordier than I’d like for a preface to a 2-cour anime, but I do love the conversations the Count has with Albert. That over-complimentary style is really stuck in my head now. I want to some day soon watch Gankutsuou, Aria, and LOGH in one day, so I can be fully immersed in space. It’d be great for getting over Planetes. Such a wonderful show.

Thursday I saw Winter Soldier. I know, I’m behind. Definitely better tension and characterization than the Avengers movies, but I did miss the over the top comedy-laced style. It’s a good action thriller, but… not life changing. Maybe it would be if I saw First Avenger. I really liked Sam and Steve’s meeting at the beginning of the movie. A lot of that dialogue was just plain good across the board.

 

Introductions!

Hey everyone, call me Bread. I’m a writer, and lately I’ve really gotten into analysis and criticism. So I’ve decided to share those thoughts in the form of a blog. This way, I get to practice my writing while I think about all those great things I like.

Over the past year, the majority of my media repertoire has become anime. My current journey to find my favorite anime stems from when I watched Revolutionary Girl Utena last year. I thought the show was marvelous, and was driven to keep looking for shows that would make me feel the same way. While it’s still hugely important to me, and the inspiration for the title of this blog, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve learned about my taste in media through this experience.

Here’s my MAL by the way. Still got a ways to go. And yes, my tags are a mess.

So now I’ll talk a bit about my taste.

I’m a writer, I like books (though I need to read more). So obviously this means the writing of a show should be important to me. I like it when a show’s situation and characters can evoke something that I’ve experienced, either firsthand or through my vague understanding of others. A recent show that works interestingly here is Kiznaiver. The show takes a very philosophical, high-minded view of human nature, like what a teenager who has just seen Evangelion (*cough young me*)  would say, and shows the chaos that results when one thinks they can impose those ideas on others. Some shows feel very poetic to me in their dialogue, like Gatchaman Crowds and Cowboy Bebop. Good quotes are definitely an attention grabber too.

But recently, I’ve realized a big thing that drives me to anime over manga is music. I recently decided to continue watching the Nana anime rather than switching to the manga for the fact that Nana always gets positive marks on sound quality. I love music, and I think it’s a big part of what heightens a manga adaptation. I like reading the Shokugeki no Soma manga, but a big part of what drew me to the anime was its soundtrack. Two of my favorite manga adaptations are Ping Pong the Animation and Kids on the Slope, which feed on their triumphant soundtracks.

I’d say the last major element of an anime is the art and animation. After talking about how much literature and music matter to me, you’d think visuals would be a last consideration. But it seems to me, troubling enough, that a lot of my favorite shows have amazing visual styles, which also forms an inspiration for my blog title. Examples include: Kill la Kill, Mawaru Penguindrum, Gatchaman Crowds, The Tatami Galaxy, and Shiki. One way of sorting this contradiction may be that bright colored visuals make me speak favorably of a show, while soundtrack lets me enjoy a show in the moment. Kaiba, possibly my favorite soundtrack, is relatively low on my favorites list (though it is a loose favorite). But that kind of falls apart because Kaiba also has exactly the visuals that I like.

Maybe it’s that what makes a good art style and soundtrack for me is how well they can tie into, and thereby heighten, the writing.

Anyhow, I’ll use this blog to talk more about what kinds of things I like about certain shows and what not.