Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spring/Summer 2010 - The AND HOW! Award

We've witnessed all of the bad that has come in 2010, so now it's time to say what we liked from anime this year (and there was a lot to sift through!) While the last five awards have all been question-based, this one is definite, and our opinion regarding the best hasn't been swayed (without cash exchanging hands). Here is the list of Spring and Summer 2010 anime shows that have made us stand up and say...

And How! - Not as much a question as it is a statement, but it fits the category. This is to be given to the one show that came out as the without-a-doubt BEST show of the spring and summer.
So here they are, folks, from the runners-up to the champ.

5. Giant Killing

In all honesty, it's almost impossible to really narrow down the rest of the field and pick one show that stands with the other four as being the best of the best. So far, there has been plenty of praise for shows like Tatami Galaxy, Highschool of the Dead, Rainbow, and House of Five Leaves over the past few months, while I've grown to prefer the storylines woven in Shi Ki and the lighthearted romp that is Ôkami-san. Even Black Butler 2 proved to be good with the addition of an "evil" side.

In the end, I admit that I chose the anime that finally reflected the sport that I love in a different light than the other ones. Instead of focus on insane attacks and the personality of a lone player trying to win at all costs, Giant Killing took the road less traveled and told the soccer story with the coach as the focus. While shows like Whistle! and Captain Tsubasa focused on the development of one in many, Giant Killing opted to unite many—players, coaches, opponents, and especially the fans—into one.

Considering Giant Killing managed to do all that with a different art style that reflected more of the manga's image (and during a World Cup year, no less!), I'd say that it should be considered one of the best of the year.

4. Occult Academy (Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin)

It was hard for me to really settle on thoughts concerning Occult Academy. The hype for it becoming a good series was there, and the first episode certainly provided a spark of hope with its twists and comic timing amidst the drama. However, along the way, it felt that the show was trying to focus too much on its secondary characters, as the stories involving Maya's friends didn't exactly leap off the page, and the "Bunmei-loves-Mikaze" spin-off felt even more forced in terms of grabbing laughs.

When the show determined that it had time and space to come to a conclusion, it wrapped the ending up very nicely. While the show could have become an X-Files clone with a non-believer teaming up with a believer, it was actually nice to see Maya's commandeering personality working with Fumiaki's mother complex. It was probably best for the show to wrap up after a season, as there isn't a manga to work with, so the result was something satisfying.

3. Mitsudomoe

There is no doubt to me that Mitsudomoe turned out to be the sleeper hit of the year. All signs pointed to the show being too crass for actual elementary kids, as there was everything BUT poop jokes involved, but the interactions between the Marui triplets and the misunderstandings with the other classmates never got stale. Normally, jokes about the following don't jive well separately, let alone in one program:
  • Urine
  • Panties
  • Bras
  • Boobies
  • False stalker accusations
  • More panties
  • Hamsters named "Nipples"
However, Mitsudomoe managed to make each misunderstanding funny, and in the end the bond between sisters wasn't shattered in the slightest. In fact, the show made a good attempt to make the other characters more twisted, and the crude comedy that resulted made the touching moments even more likable. The news that the show will get eight more episodes is both fantastic and disappointing, as the show's so good that it deserves more than two-thirds of an additional season.

2. Arakawa Under The Bridge

As I had stated before, the works of Akiyuki Shinbô are flying so far under the radar. His directorial prowess, combined with the humorous atmosphere of the original works, have really made some of SHAFT's animations (Sayonara Zetsubô-sensei, Maria Holic, Hidamari Sketch, Dance in the Vampire Bund, Bakemonogatari) a thrill to follow. It was a bit surprising that Arakawa Under the Bridge or its current sequel have not been picked up for online streaming, but there is likely an excuse for that somewhere.

The show about self-made man Kô and his sudden relationship with a self-declared Venetian girl along the river Arakawa on paper could have been considered dull, but it's the other characters—oddballs that would rival anything Lewis Carroll composed—that make the show great to watch. So far, Kô's neighbors include a star-faced guitarist, a militant male nun, two research-fearing iron-masked kids, a ditzy gardener, and their mayor, who still refuses to admit he's only dressed in that kappa costume.

The comic give-and-take is superb, the animation angles and perspectives are unique, and the addition of a new season and more crazy characters will only make it better.

1. Durarara!!

Some people may claim that this is an unfair proclamation. Since the show actually began in Winter 2010's anime season, it shouldn't qualify for the Best of Spring/Summer 2010, should it?

The heck with that opinion. Durarara!! is easily the best animated show that ran on Japanese television this year.

The signs are there that Durarara!! just overwhelmed the senses and impressed people. The show managed to keep itself so shrouded in mystery that each of the full two seasons' 26 episodes were fresh and inspired. The music had a terrific jazz feel to it, and the Ikebukuro setting provided just enough of Tokyo's various atmospheres—nerdy otaku, tough-guy yakuza, clueless ganguro, and hipster gaijin, to name just a few—to make them all clash in a cultural traffic jam.

The plot was certainly reflective off its odd cast. The characters had so many sides to themselves that it made guessing the next character's identity all the more fun to do, and each of them were tied to the other through Izaya's wonderful duplicity. Just to make sure the story didn't drown in too much reality, the inclusion of the "horsewoman" Celty gave anime its first memorable headless character.

At first, the ending felt like a bit of a disappointment, but self-reflection only made me appreciate the series even more. Aniplex's gamble into dubbing a series it had already aired as a sub may be risky, but I'm all for it—Durarara!! won't have many equals for some time in anime.

So what do you think, folks? Let us know what you thought the best of the year has been so far!

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