Anime of the decade: Epilogue
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
- Five Centimetres Per Second
- Kara no Kyoukai
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
- Code Geass
- Black Lagoon
Eleven days, almost twelve and a half thousand words, nineteen videos, one hundred screenshots and ten anime later, the summation of a decade of anime is complete.
About the list
To call this anything other than a monumental effort would be understating precisely how long was spent working on this feature. The easy part was coming up with the top ten, in comparison to the writing, editing, video encoding and screenshot sorting that needed to be done, simply picking ten out of less than a couple of thousand of releases was straightforward. There was little hand wringing over the entries, the top three and last one were already fixed and most of the remaining seven were predisposed towards certain places. The most contentious slot was number nine, a myriad other shows and movies could have easily replaced Black Lagoon but in the end the silly-serious juxtaposition it manages won out. Kara no Kyoukai was also a late entry into the top five but the final movie confirmed that it definitely belonged in the list.
The decision not to do a standard one-post summation had already been made: for a year end summary perhaps but for many of the entries, this would probably be the sole chance to speak about them in context, especially some of the earlier decade entries such as Texhnolyze and RahXephon which were around only when internet distributed fansubbing was only just taking off. The full extent of the media required to achieve this was monumental. Transcoding from DVDs provided good quality screenshots but not all DVDs are created equal and foibles such as changing video types and interlaced field orders caused havoc at a time when order was desired. Travelling during the Christmas period required all of the media to be ready prior to the list being posted which prompted late nights and early mornings.
Many of the entries had not had screenshots produced for them before and sorting through a fifty two episode series, each episode generating two hundred and fifty screenshots, was a task not best suited to slight inebriation so common during the holiday season. Other problems ranged from writer’s block for several key entries to an abject lack of time for the final ones resulting in screenshots for Ghost in the Shell added shortly after it was published. Regardless, the list is now complete and a new decade begins.
There are of course numerous other releases not mentioned which are still brilliant in their own right including greats such as FLCL, Wolf’s Rain, Gunparade March, Xam’d: Lost Memories, Azumanga Daioh, Witch Hunter Robin, Claymore and Tokyo Majin to name but a few; the ones which missed the shortlist for the top ten list and would likely go into a hypothetical 11 – 20 and beyond list were, in no particular order:
The second series, Il Teatrino, proved just how precious the first series of Gunslinger Girl was. Atmospheric and heartbreaking, the story of a group of young girls given a new lease of life only to become assassins at the behest of their adult handlers sounds trite and creepy but instead it was brilliantly poignant look at stolen childhoods and Italian organised crime.
From a generic manga came this stunner of a series; beginning in media res, the first episode is a tour de force on how to twist the expectations of an audience and toy with their formative attachment to characters. The rest of the series scales back the violence but portrays a touching look at typical high-school romance and comedy.
The most epic of Studio Bones’ productions spanning fifty two episodes, a recently released movie – Pocket Full of Rainbows – and innumerable manga adaptations, Eureka Seven was bold, ambitious and engaging. A magnificent series in its own right, it hovers just outside the top ten for its lack of emotional resonance and a lamentable focus on young children who veer too often onto the side of annoying more than they do tolerable.
One of the classic harem erotic games from Navel turned into a very respectable anime series. Despite its source, there is very little fan service and instead the focus is squarely on the relationships, histories and ongoing interactions of the characters. Setting out the paradigm for many subsequently released games lends it a familiarity, but it will be the protagonist’s eventual choice of girl that defines one’s enjoyment of the series.
A unique manga turned into a raucous series, the tale of an adolescent who can see anthropomorphic microbes and his misadventures in an agricultural university is supremely entertaining. It’s hard not to fall in love with all of the characters: whether it is the seagull sucking professor Keizo, the harsh postgraduate Haruka, or the disappearance prone Kei; all are portrayed succinctly and in a bright, superbly animated series.
Stellvia of the Universe
Close to being a guilty pleasure, Stellvia of the Universe is the story of a young girl joining an elite planetary space station whose mission is to stop a destructive wave emitted from a dying star. Twee and melodramatic, Stellvia mixes teen angst with science fiction resulting in a series that is easy to watch and wholly engrossing.
Diebuster / Aim for the Top 2!
Following on from one of the most loved series GAINAX have ever produced and the one that put them on the map as a top-tier studio was always going to be difficult. While it doesn’t manage to capture the original’s boundless imagination and emotion, it has a great try and after a rocky start manages all the grandiose pomp necessary from planet sized machines and galaxy spanning swarms. Somewhat eclipsed by Gurren Lagann, but still massive fun.
Veering away from the manga in the latest iteration was slightly contentious, but Genshiken is still the premier series for the discerning otaku. An aggrandised view of the typical socially-awkward young adult but the core story of an honest passion for their obsession and the internal relationships between all the members of the group is best viewed as a wonderful otaku soap opera.
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
Adapting a supposedly impossible to adapt manga was not going to be easy, but SHAFT proved that it had the madness capable of doing just that. The first series was a riot of disparate animation styles, quick-fire jokes and zaniness, unfortunate then that each successive series after it got progressively sloppier. The overriding feeling was that if the studio weren’t going to put the effort in, don’t bother.
A slow burning science fiction opera that borrows liberally from Greek mythology – the title not withstanding – and presents a character led drama on the search for a universal saviour who was raised by the Golden Tribe. Sweeping in scope, it is a poised and thoughtful series that doesn’t shy away from interstellar combat, but always maintains a pseudo-scientific grip on events.
Probably one of Gonzo’s last great series, Gankutsuou is a loose adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, following Albert and his dealings with the titular Count as well as numerous other aristocratic families. Polished and visually unique, Gankutsuou takes some liberties with the source material but with Jouji Nakata voicing the count and the impossibly pretty Haydee present, there’s a lot to fall in love with.
There were of course numerous other decade and year end lists.
Taking the difficult route with fifty entries:
- Martin / Mono no aware: Part 1, Part 2
- Sasa / Heterochromia: 50 animes [sic] of the decade
- Gaguri / Ha Neul Seom: Top 50 Anime Series of the Decade
- Japanator: 50 – 41, 40 – 31, 30 – 21, 20 – 11, 10 – 1
Carving up by category:
- Psgels / Star Crossed Anime Blog: Part 1, Part 2
- Spiral / Bokutachi no Blog: Anime, Manga, Flops, Anime movies, Couples, Male characters
- Kurogane / Kurogane’s Anime Blog: Part 1, Part 2
- Executive Otaku / THAT Anime Blog: Trends and moments that made me suffer in 2009
I’ve obviously missed loads, drop any other ones into the comments and I’ll see if there’s enough to do an aggregate total.
I’m also wondering who in the world had enough time on their hands to create this insane video… – ink.black.sky
This video makes me feel like I need to watch more anime. – Desbreko
The comments so far on YouTube are traditionally erudite:
nice – Bloodheaven7
gud job – bozzjmoney