Posts from 2009

Anime of the decade: #6


Looking over the list of anime Sunrise have produced, it's clear that sequels and continuations are their bread and butter. Before them however there must be a seed, a rare series that sparked the continuations and alternate universes and other tortured ways of wringing all possible money from an idea. My-HiME is one of those sparks, a precious mixture of innovative ideas and superlative execution that, as is so often the case, much better than the follow ups and subsequent adaptations.

one of the most gloriously over-the-top underwear focused episodes ever conceived

Mai and her brother recently obtained scholarships to the prestigious Fuka academy but while travelling to the school, their boat is attacked and eventually scuttled. It transpires that Mai is a HiME - an obtuse acronym for Highly-advanced Materialising Equipment - a valkyrie able to summon a beast forged more of metal than flesh, a Child, and tasked with fighting wayward monsters known as Orphans. All is not as it seems though when the source of the Orphans is defeated: prior alliances begin to crumble and the school becomes a battleground. As the fighting intensifies, a distant star draws closer and threatens to bring a cataclysm to Earth.

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Anime of the decade: #7

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was born as a dream project: bringing together some of GAINAX's finest in an original concept with all the flamboyance and energy the best works from the studio are noted for. An ensemble of animation and episode directors could have easily birthed an amalgam of half-cocked ideas and tepid action; instead a rare gem, vast in imagination and rich in breathless enthusiasm, was created and took the varied mecha genre to outlandish heights.

the spiral becomes a standard for the loud, energy filled cries that characterise every duel, skirmish and battle

Beginning deep underground, Simon is a reticent young digger for a village sequestered from the surface; his companion, Kamina, is brash, forthright and instantly charismatic. After a giant robot falls from the surface - swiftly followed by the sparsely clothed Yoko - they begin an adventure across the surface and all the trouble that entails. For many series this would be the entire narrative, however after a monumental battle with the aggressor of the surface, the Spiral King, time moves forward. Characters are older and divisions deeper, it is only then that the true threat appears which threatens not just the world or the galaxy, but the entire universe.

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Anime of the decade: #8

Code Geass

What started as an unholy union between Sunrise and CLAMP quickly became one of the most watched and talked about series on its release in 2007: Code Geass. Measuring its popularity would be impossible, but interest is still high even after a two season television run, numerous manga adaptations and other merchandising paraphernalia with a recent cryptic post on the official website rippling across innumerable blogs and outlets, reported as news.

The extra budget galvanised the already spindly CLAMP characters by subtracting clothes and adding cup sizes

Code Geass succeeded in bridging many different genres garnering it a wide audience: at times it slipped into bipedal mechanised combat, others a tortured love story. The main narrative drive however is the story of a minority facing a majority, the oppressed revolting against their oppressors; it gives the story sharp pathos and universal appeal. It also doesn't hurt that the series is completely crackers, continually attempting to one-up itself resulting in rapidly escalating insanity. What was once a brilliant tactical manoeuvre becomes de rigueur and the increasingly ridiculous situations require similarly absurd solutions. Called a trainwreck by many, the series managed an ending that was supremely satisfying and tied up enough loose ends to provide closure to all but the most ardent fans.

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Anime of the decade: #9

Black Lagoon

The first two episodes of Black Lagoon are a carnival of ridiculousness. The climax of the opening story sees a boat use a ramp to launch torpedoes at a pursuing helicopter while the instigator of the plan flips off the doomed pilot. To say the series is quite silly would be an understatement. Even through two seasons it doesn't ever forget just how absurd a lot of it is, but tempering that craziness is a slick and very poignant look at villainy, existentialism, obligation and trust. What makes this mix so rare - gunfights, car chases and philosophising - is how well they meld together and crucially how entertaining the entire package is.

The duality between childlike abandon and adult seriousness is unique and gifts the series with sentiment that one wouldn't expect it capable of

The series starts atypically enough with a Japanese salaryman, Rock, being kidnapped by a mercenary company, the titular Black Lagoon, and opting to stay with them after his initial ordeal is over. The story follows him through the exploits of the company and his attempts to come to terms with his new life within a city a villains. The narrative is broken up into a collection of stories lasting anywhere from two to five episodes and involve a transport job gone wrong to an overseas gang war and all points in between. As well as the three other members of the Black Lagoon company, Rock collides with an eclectic batch of characters including combat maids, scarred Russian soldiers and pistol toting nuns.

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Anime of the decade: #10


Bringing back the creative forces behind the 1998 series Serial Experiments Lain came Texhnolyze in 2003: a thoroughly peculiar name and the decade's best example of mind-bending anime. Scenario creator Chikai J. Konaka was riding high after 'Lain and the well received Hellsing TV series, around the same time Texhnolyze was released he had already lent his hand to the RahXephon movie (Pluralitas Concentio) and would go on to do the Air Gear TV series as well as Masamune Shirow's Ghost Hound. Character designer Yoshitoshi ABe meanwhile had leant his hand to a number of series previously including Haibane Renmei and Nie Under 7, however this would remain his last character work for anime for the foreseeable future.

a meditative look at the effect machines have on humanity when all barriers between them are removed

The setting could not be more verdant for exploration: an underground society - the only place on earth where the component for artificial limbs can be harvested - carved up by ceaseless gang fighting. The company-sponsored Organo tussle with the anti-prosthetic Union while in the middle is a religious sect who worship prognosticators born only once in a generation. Ichise, a bare-knuckle brawler, is mutilated by his employer and only saved after being taken in by an arrogant and capricious doctor, eager to experiment. He is fitted with the latest prosthetic limbs, texhnolyzed in the series' parlance, and eventually joins the Organo in their ongoing fight. However those who control the city, the Class, begin to move and the streets of the decaying city, Lux, become a warzone.

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