A Show for All Seasons: Top Anime Picks for the Year

Yuuichi is searching hard for some good anime.

And he’s alone…. allllll alone! So ronery.

*ahem* I’ve picked my favorite show from each season this year. In doing so, I realized that for the first three seasons of the year, this was my lowest retention rate I’ve had in the era of digital downloads/streaming, which would seem to lend credence to the shrieks and wails of those who would insist that anime these days is just utter crap. However, I am currently following nine shows for the fall season, none of which are pieces of crap (I dropped Kampfer, after all!), and a few of which are quite enjoyable, and not in a car wreck kind of way. So, as I previously suspected anyway, its just the normal ebb and flow of anime as usual. People just need to stop being such huge fucking whiners. Good lord, folks, if you’re watching anime, chances are you have a roof over your head, access to regular meals, and at least some form of income – anime isn’t a right, so shut the fuck up, the industry owes you nothing (especially if you live off of fansubs). Holy shit, the amount of racket you guys make would leave someone believing someone had killed your mother and sold your little brother into slavery before lighting your house on fire (quick, someone call Key or KyoAni! throw in some cute girls and I have a story to sell!).

Moving along.

WINTER 2009

Maria-sama ga Miteru 4th

It came down to this or Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou; since I haven’t finished the latter, and suspect that even had I this would come out on top, I of course had to give the nod to MariMite 4th. While this season certainly had its own set of the usual melodramas, it lightened up from the all-out angst-fest of the second season, mercifully so. It also focused more on one of the more interesting young ladies of the cast, Touko. Unlike the rest of the cast, Touko had initially come off very negatively, and, yeah, I hated her. But this season had me converted, by skillfully re-examining and re-positioning Touko’s personality and character.

But, hey, this wasn’t only good because the writers decided to illustrate Touko some; we also saw much maturation from the cast all around, as the older roses crept steadily toward graduation, and Yumi and Yoshino began to consider the ramifications of that fact – namely, that the clock was ticking fast on petite souer selections. Perhaps best of all, the season illuminated fully how far Yumi has come since we first met her in the first season and she was an easily flustered freshman suddenly caught up in the intrigues of a private girls’ school. If this is the final season of MariMite, it was the perfect one to go out with.

Oh, yeah, and who could forget that sweet ED animation?

SPRING 2009

Pandora Hearts

I’ll admit it – in any other season this year, Pandora Hearts wouldn’t’ve made the list. It was an entertaining show, and, daresay, a good one, but it also had its share of flaws. In one of those cases, the flaw was and is pretty large – the show didn’t really resolve anything. Yeah, Oz got over his father being a total jerk, but Alice didn’t get all her memories back, the Tragedy of Sabrie was never solved, and the Abyss itself remained largely impenetrable.

At the same time, it is probably more admirable to leave things up in the air than the tack on a hasty finish, which tends to be the route most studios follow when dealing with adapting an unfinished story.

Anyway, honestly, I didn’t stay along for the ride because of the story; yes, I did enjoy the story, but my lack of irritation at the unfinished plot indicates to me that this wasn’t my main reason for tuning in. No, it was the characters that I watched it for every week, and out of them, specifically some of our supporting cast, the unsettling Break and the deceptive Sharon. If I knew those two in life, I’d never trust them! But I’d also love to invite them over for dinner. If I could give out an award for best supporting characters, these two would easily capture the title.

Another thing which granted Pandora Hearts the distinction of my favorite spring show was the horror undertones of the piece, something you could almost forget until a demonic and bloodied rabbit doll decided to jerk you out of your complacency. Creepiest moments of the year, best supporting characters of the year. Here’s to you, Pandora Hearts.

SUMMER 2009

Uh oh, more schoolgirls…

Aoi Hana was a show I highly anticipated, having followed the manga for a while. I was really excited – finally, a good yuri series was getting the small-screen treatment! At the same time, though, I was a little leery since I loved the manga so much; I felt like there was a good chance I was going to be disappointed.

While I’ll bitch a bit about some of the little things that were changed (the school uniforms! why did you change the colors?!), Aoi Hana’s TV adaptation was… lovely.

I’m struggling, actually, to say more or elaborate, strangely enough – after all, if someone loves something, should they not be able to explain why?

But with Aoi Hana I am so impressed by the skillfull job that JC Staff did that I am having trouble giving adequate reasoning for why I picked this as my top show of the summer. I suppose part of the problem is that the easiest reason I can think of is due to the fact that the summer had a lot of crappy shows, and of the non-crappy ones, none even came close to this in terms of quality. Except that that doesn’t give Aoi Hana its due, because, unlike Pandora Hearts, Aoi Hana would’ve put up a good fight for favorite in any of the other seasons of this year.

Alas, all I can say then, really, is that you should watch it yourself.

AUTUMN 2009

Aoi Bungaku

Aoi Bungaku is one of the few anime TV series which I would show to someone if I wanted to demonstrate what anime for adults is. Like Mouryou no Hako a year and a half ago, Aoi Bungaku is one of the few series right now that caters to an older audience that seeks more sophisticated entertainment from anime. It deftly weaves truly literary stories, managing to both retain the texture of the original format (read: you can tell the source material was a novel – not a light novel, but an actual novel) while at the same time avoiding the usual pitfalls adapting “real” books has. I don’t feel like I’m at a bad reading hour when watching this; I feel wholly immersed in the world of the story. Its fascinating.

Let me put it to you this way – I essentially found the first story arc (if you can call them arcs) traumatizing… but I couldn’t look away because it was just too good to, even if I did feel harassed and bewildered afterward.

I can only hope that Madhouse keeps it up with these impressive literary adaptations; Mouryou no Hako (someone please, please sub the last episode!) was entrancing as well, and Aoi Bungaku has me feeling that perhaps Madhouse will continue this trend (assuming one can call two shows a trend…). One can hope!

To-morrow: worst shows from every season!

Never: best or worst shows of the entire decade! Come on folks, as if anyone could really actually look back and objectively say what shows they liked or thought were best ten years ago. The only way I could do a decade review is if I actually went back and re-watched the stuff I thought was awesome. Stuff that crap, I’ll stick to squealing over new episodes of Yumeiro Patissiere, thanks.

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10 Responses to A Show for All Seasons: Top Anime Picks for the Year

  1. Shinmaru says:

    Agreed on winter and fall, although now that I have actually seen Natsume Yuujinchou and its second season, I might put it ahead of Marimite 4th — would probably have to think about that for a bit. Aoi Hana as the best summer series is something I can get behind as well. I love the pace at which it unfolds, and the show in general is just wonderful to look at.

    I dropped Pandora Hearts at the beginning of the spring season; sounds like one of the many series that went on to become much better after I dropped ’em, haha.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      Honestly, I think one’s mileage on Pandora Hearts also has a large part to do with what one will tolerate from animation quality; I liked the throwback-ish feel of the Pandora Hearts art and animation, but I know many people found the appearance to be a complete turn-off.

      Mileage also has a TON to do with the lack of a ‘true’ ending, and whether that sort of thing is troublesome to you or not.

      If you haven’t checked out the Aoi Hana manga yet, I can’t recommend it enough – Lililicious has been scanlating it, and they released the latest chapter just a few weeks ago.

  2. I really like what you said about Aoi Bungaku. I couldn’t have said it better really, and more people should enjoy this kind of show so that we get more of it!

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I’m glad to hear that you think I said it well, as I wasn’t entirely sure I was doing a very good job of conveying it.

      On a related note, have you seen or do you like Mouryou no Hako?

      • No, I’m sure that I’m completely ignorant of Mouryou no Hako. I skim writing related to it for fear of spoilers I’m afraid; as is my wont for shows I haven’t seen.

      • adaywithoutme says:

        Well, I mention it because I was going to recommend checking out the novel series its based on if you had liked it; the first book in the series was translated into English recently. Hopefully they’ll also translate Mouryou no Hako itself, as that is the second book in the series.

  3. Baka-Raptor says:

    I forgot that sweet ED animation. So I went back and watched it. I think whoever uploaded that video replaced the sweet ED animation with still images of girls hugging.

    • adaywithoutme says:

      I was using the term loosely. You should’ve been happy, though, it was a total yuri-fest.

  4. Kairu says:

    No Bakemonogatari? Hurr durr.

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