Dream (Level 21)

My Ani-Crap Review on Blade is now up: http://www.animevice.com/profile/dream/ani-crap-review-45-blade/107-11781/. The next poll will be up on the weekend of October 3.
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As part of my exclusive work for Anime Vice to commemorate my tenth year as an anime fan, I will be doing a ten-part weekly article series where I offer you guys a look into the best anime I seen for each year throughout the decade where I started off my anime fandom: the 2000s. I will be doing either a top five or top ten list for each year depending on the number of titles I had enjoyed from that time. Be warned that whatever I present for these articles is my personal opinion. So do not take things too personally if I do not include an anime you liked.

 

10. Rozen Maiden

Don’t let the seemingly cute appearance of the dolls fool you into thinking this will be bait for the otaku crowd. Rozen Maiden is a series that mixes comedy and drama, which is focused around a middle schooler named Jun dealing not only with his life being complicated with the antics of the living magical dolls known as Rozen Maidens, but also coming to grips with a traumatic experience that has driven him to isolate himself from the outside world. The series tends to get a bit dark and serious at points in dealing with the emotional baggage that some prominent characters, both human and dolls, carry with them from past tragedies or conflicts over their very existence. In some instances, you even get to literally see the inner worlds of these characters which are shaped from their innermost thoughts and emotions as a result of the powers of the dolls. This is a beautiful looking series with plenty of vivid color and detail coming from the scenery and characters, especially with the designs for the Rozen Maiden dolls and the inner worlds of the characters. The series does have some plot elements left lingering which appear to be addressed in the later TV season of the series. But the series offers up something quite original and fun with its very premise and is worth checking out if you don’t mind the cute appearances of the show’s doll characters.

 

9. School Rumble

This fun little comedy romp takes the typical clichés of high school romantic comedies to new heights with the romantic misunderstandings between the various characters leading to enough over-the-top antics from all involved. The show was quite unpredictable with its humor as you never knew what to expect with its cast, especially with male lead Kenji Harima as he kept getting himself into one nutty predicament after another because of his misunderstood interactions with several of School Rumble’s female cast members. The cast members are likeable and have good chemistry with one another, both comically and naturally as friends or classmates. The show often parodies anime and elements of popular culture, as well as subverting some of the typical plot formulas you would find in romantic comedy anime. This is a definite watch if you are looking for something different from the typical high school romantic comedy mold.

 

8. Le Portrait de Petite Cossette

This visually impressive and disturbing anime OAV explores the deteriorating physical and mental condition of young artist Eiri as he interacts with the spirit of dead 18 century girl Cossette. The series is quite notable for its hauntingly beautiful visuals which have vivid, bright colors and plenty of details for its scenery and character designs. This detail in animation clashes with the violent and dark world that Eiri enters as he connects more with Cossette and submits to some nasty torture scenes within her world inside the old mirror that contains her spirit and more light is shed on the young man’s connection to the vengeful spirit which reveals some tragic irony in their twisted relationship. This is a wonderful twisted watch for those that get delight out of its horrific and gothic lolita themes.

 

 
 

7. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad

This was quite an original premise for a shounen series as Beck focused around the titular band members of the series forming and going through their struggles to become a successful rock band. The series prominently focuses on everyday teen Koyuki as develops more confident and assertive in himself thanks to his interactions with lead guitarist Ryuusuke and the other young men who come to form the band, as well as dealing with possible love interest and Ryuusuke’s younger sister Maho. The series believably explores the challenges faced by Beck as they try to synch together as a band, struggle to get contracted to a record label and get confronted by some problems from Ryuusuke’s past. Beck also makes mention of musical genres and influential musicians for the rock genre at points throughout the show coming from either Ryuusuke’s influences for rock music or lessons that Koyuki takes on guitar playing. Anyone looking for an original premise for an anime title should give Beck a shot.

 

6. Fullmetal Alchemist

FMA continued its solid quality into 2004 with the Elric brothers continuing to delve deeper into the origins surrounding the Philosopher’s Stone and the connection that the Homunculus have to it. The remainder of the series is where the plot starts picking up steam when secrets concerning how deep the military is connected to both mysteries and notable characters find themselves either coming into conflict with their personal beliefs as they realize their own flaws and even having to put their lives on the line to accomplish what they want. This take on FMA does offer up additional positives over the manga and later Brotherhood adaptations where the Homunculi are portrayed to be tragic, sympathetic villains and the show takes on a mature mood as it explores how characters like the Elrics and Roy Mustang come to terms with their moral conflicts. However, the series does suffer some flaws with this original take on the source material where the ending does come across as a bit sloppy with how things get resolved (and a cheap excuse for the subpar Conquerer of Shambala movie the following year) and some characters could have been given bigger roles. Still though, I still found this alternative take on Fullmetal Alchemist to be of better quality than I did for the manga and Brotherhood versions, even if there are those that prefer them for being the original source material for the franchise and more faithful to the manga respectively.

 

5. Kurau: Phantom Memory

A sleeper hit for 2004, Kurau was overshadowed by the many popular titles that aired throughout the year. However, this hidden gem of a title is definitely worth a look. Balancing action and drama, the series focuses on a freelance mercenary named Kurau whose exposure to the energy of an alien force called Rynax caused her to be fused with the Rynax giving her superhuman abilities and creating a “pair” for her in the form of a young girl she names Christmas. The two come to bond with one another as they try to reunite with Kurau’s father following a years-long separation from one another while trying to avoid the forces of the GPO, an organization setting out to capture and eliminate Rynax-human fused beings like Kurau and Christmas. The show’s prominent focus is on the emotional bonds that connect people together and this is prominently shown with the Rynax pairs who rely on one another for companionship with the emotional connection believably shown throughout the series with Kurau and Christmas. The animation for the series is also notable as it features a solid visual presentation and fluid action scenes coming from Kurau and Christmas’ confrontations with GPO forces and other Rynax. Definitely give this series a look if you haven’t watched it yet.

 

4. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2 GIG

Perhaps my favorite part of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, 2 GIG crosses into political thriller territory when Motoko Kusanagi and the other members of Section 9 become entangled in thwarting terrorist attack which eventually becomes something much worst as more details on the terrorists and their connections are revealed. The complicated conflict slowly unveils more elements to the conspiracy with the terrorists which eventually leads to multiple factions, counting Section 9, clashing over the stability of order and government in Japan. The situation believably challenges the teamwork and skills of the members of Section 9 as they come to clash with some influential figures among the terrorists, refugees and government while tasked with preventing all hell from breaking loose in the tensions between these factions. 2 GIG retains the impressive presentation of Stand Alone Complex’s first season featuring highly detailed and vivid settings, great use of CG-rendered animation shown with robot units like the Tachikoma that blend in almost naturally with the regular animation and fluid and intense battle scenes coming from a variety of situations such as hand-to-hand, gunfights with multiple characters and the occasional clashes with heavily armored mechs. Definitely worth the time to watch if you crave sci-fi/ action titles with a smidge of political thriller tossed into the mix.

 

3. Paranoia Agent

The only Satoshi Kon work for a TV anime, this mystery/ suspense title does enough to keep you guessing over the nature of the mysterious kid known as Shounen Bat as he attacks random victims facing different crises of sorts. The earlier episodes of the series are focused on exploring the differing problems faced by each of Shounen Bat’s victims before he struck them down from a popular kid ostracized by his classmates for being suspected to be Shounen Bat to a teacher dealing with her split personality. The later episodes slowly unveil the true nature of the seemingly young assailant and all isn’t what it seems with him and what one comes to learn of Shounen Bat can be quite the surprising shocker as two of Kon’s earlier films (Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress) were effective at messing with the viewer’s perceptions of reality thanks to their effective use of narrative transitions and Paranoia Agent does just that. The series features Satoshi Kon’s trademark animation style of realistic landscapes and character designs. If you’re a fan of Satoshi Kon’s films, this is a definite watch.

 

2. Koi Kaze

As covered in my top 25 anime video, Koi Kaze offers up a believable, honest and tasteful look at how siblings Koshiro Saeki and Nanoka Kohinata handle their incestuous attraction to one another. The series allows one to take the role of observer in the pair’s developments and neither condones nor objects to their relationship as it leaves the audience to judge for themselves whether or not they would approve of such a relationship. Because of Koi Kaze’s controversial subject matter, it won’t be for everyone. But it is perhaps the best incest-themed title you can come across for an anime as it doesn’t dabble into melodrama and perversion when anime makes use of the taboo for a plot element.

 

 
 

1. Monster

Another of my top 25 anime, Monster is an elaborate mystery/ suspense title dabbling into the limitations of human morality as Dr. Kenzo Tenma hunts down serial killer Johan Liebert, a young man whose life Tenma saved and whose murders that he is being blamed for. The series introduces a wide cast of characters connected to elements of Johan’s past and slowly reveals elements to the titular monster’s past that keep you wondering if he is a tragic villain born from government corruption or an unredeemable monster. Johan also makes for one of anime’s most memorable villains for his manipulations on the vulnerabilities of his victims which drive them to the brink of insanity and usually suicide. A definite watch if you crave mature stories for your anime viewing.

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As part of my exclusive work for Anime Vice to commemorate my tenth year as an anime fan, I will be doing a ten-part weekly article series where I offer you guys a look into the best anime I seen for each year throughout the decade where I started off my anime fandom: the 2000s. I will be doing either a top five or top ten list for each year depending on the number of titles I had enjoyed from that time. Be warned that whatever I present for these articles is my personal opinion. So do not take things too personally if I do not include an anime you liked.

 

10. Rumic Theater

While I’m not normally a fan of Rumiko Takahashi’s long-running franchises like Inuyasha and Maison Ikkoku, this anthology of short works from the well-known mangaka offered up some decent quality stuff for me. The shorts are prominently focused on everyday situations with some bizarre element tossed into the mix, offering a nice mix of comedy and drama. From a housewife trying to hide a penguin from her animal-loathing apartment building manager in The Tragedy of P to a teenage girl antsy about the reasons for her family’s heavy spending despite their debts in Aberrant Family F, Rumic Theater offers up some enjoyable watches for those interested in episodic short stories.

 
 

9. Full Metal Panic: Fumoffu

The more comedy-driven season of the Full Metal Panic franchise, Fumoffu expands on what I found to be the best element of the series: Sousuke letting his military training lead to crazy predicaments due to his lack of common sense in living life as a civilian and Kaname having to reprimand him for his antics. This season offered up quite a number of memorable laugh-out loud moments for me compliments of Sousuke’s antics such as being a drill sergeant to a team of timid school rugby players Full Metal Jacket style, thrashing criminals under the guise of a Bonta-kun costume and setting up traps to deal with Kurz’s perverted intentions during a hot springs resort trip. This is a definite watch for anyone who is a fan of comedy anime titles.

 

8. Twelve Kingdoms

With the series pushing on into 2003, there are three more arcs that Twelve Kingdoms dived into with two expanding upon elements to the world of the series and another focusing more on Yoko as she becomes the ruler of the kingdom of Kei. Your mileage could vary on how well you enjoy the two expansive arcs as they don’t add on much to the main story of Yoko and one of them concludes without a proper ending. The second arc with Yoko makes for more of the better stuff you can expect out of the series as she tried to adjust to her duties as Kei’s ruler and better understand the living conditions of the commoners within her country’s provinces. Yoko’s developments crosses paths with two young women around her age facing dilemmas of their own such as a former princess exiled because of her father’s corrupt rule and a girl from Yoko’s world whisked into the world of the 12 Kingdoms. This arc separately explores the developments of Yoko and the two women as their fates become entwined in dealing with corrupt activity from some of Yoko’s subordinates governing Kei’s provinces trying to manipulate political affairs to obtain more power with no regard for whoever is in the way of their goals. The content for this arc is noticeably more violent than Yoko’s first arc featuring some nasty death and torture scenes, as well as bringing up some interesting themes relevant to the world of Twelve Kingdoms such as questioning the divine workings in which a ruler is chosen and how a person responds to the great amount of power they receive as a ruler. Despite the minor setbacks of the mentioned two arcs, Yoko’s second arc more than makes up for their shortcomings by offering up some of the title’s best developments and dramatic material.

 

7. Rumbling Hearts

There aren’t too many dating sim adaptations of anime I’d be willing to admit I enjoyed watching with how clichéd the plot and characters can be in them. Yet in the case of this adaptation to Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Rumbling Hearts offered up some powerful romantic drama coming from the complicated love triangle involving male lead Takayuki Narumi and two possible love interests Haruka Suzumiya and Mitsuki Hayase. While the series does start off as your typical dating sim knockoff, some shocking events that develop with Haruka by the end of the show’s second episode serve to drive much of the drama you come to see throughout the series as she develops amnesia from the circumstances that lead her to being hospitalized and in a coma for over three years. The situations regarding romantic developments are quite shaky throughout the show and the characters are shown to make stupid decisions as a result of the emotional trauma they faced from Haruka’s situation. It believably explores the ramifications of the character’s actions where relationships become strained and even end as a result of their decisions showing how life doesn’t always go the way you would imagine. This helps keep the series fairly unpredictable as you keep wondering what will develop with the characters as events press on in Rumbling Hearts and it is a definite watch if you like romantic dramas in your anime viewing.

 

6. Gunslinger Girl

This worthwhile and character-driven action-drama focuses on a secret Italy counter-terrorist organization called the Social Welfare Agency which makes use of young girls as cyborg assassins. The show’s prominent focus is on exploring the backgrounds of many of the girls within the Agency and the unique chemistry they have with both each other and their handler. Each of the girls we come to connect with come from tragic backgrounds and have differing relationships with the older men who are their handler where they can be anywhere from surrogate siblings to tools of the trade depending on the mentality and personal beliefs of the handler. The series is notable for its great looking artwork and animation sporting realistic details of firearms and various Italian settings, as well as fluid movement coming from characters as they move about and engage in battle scenes. While the show does have its shortcomings with offering an actual plot and fleshing out backgrounds on the various handlers and cyborg Triela, the series is still worth a look if you are into character-driven dramas.

 

5. Kino’s Journey

This interesting little gem focused on the journey of young traveler Kino through various exotic and sometimes hostile countries as he experiences the lifestyle of said country and leaves after three days of being within each country. The series is philosophically driven with the series exposing some pretty dark elements to the seemingly peaceful countries Kino visits such as oppression, censorship, tyranny and self-preservation; which make for great debates for one to question whether the choices of culture and government in said countries are justifiably right. What makes this series notable is that Kino takes on the role of a neutral observer where she doesn’t meddle in the affairs of each country unless the people drag her into it or her life becomes threatened. It is an episodic series featuring different points of Kino’s journey where she is either helping other travelers, pondering over her observations of a country she visits, dealing with those who threaten her life or conversing with her talking motorcycle Hermes. There is even an episode which explores the heroine’s past before she became a traveler offering the same dark elements to its seemingly innocent setting. Those who enjoy deep-thinking anime titles like Serial Experiments Lain should give this series a look.

 

4. Fullmetal Alchemist

The first FMA series was off to a solid start in its Fall 2003 debut when the manga source material was adopted and the anime is notable for its different style of pacing, plotting and mood. While the manga was fairly conventional in exploring the different adventures of the Elrics with fast pacing and black and white morality with the convictions of its characters, the first FMA series took on a more mature and slow-paced storytelling style where the Elrics often find their personal beliefs challenged by those they encounter and took its time for one to connect with its characters thus making dramatic developments with them more effective. For instance, compare the Elrics’ failed transmutation of their mother and the Nina incident in pacing and mood to see how effectively the drama of the scenes are conveyed between this series and the manga/ Brotherhood remake. The series also knew when to properly time its comedy, a major problem with earlier chapters/ episodes of the manga and Brotherhood as comedic gags happened quite frequently and killed the mood of more serious scenes. With these major differences in the feel for this first animated adaptation of FMA, it stands as my preferred adaptation of the series which I enjoy.

 

3. Gungrave

Appearances can be deceiving when you come across this anime adaptation of the subpar Playstation 2 video game. While the first episode seemingly comes across as your typical revenge-obsessed story with Brandon Heat and Harry MacDowell, the story transitions into the past the next episode and you get to see perhaps one of the best anime adaptations of a video game you can come across. Gungrave’s anime adaptation expands upon its video game material by exploring the past bond between Harry and Brandon, how they became involved with the Millenion crime syndicate and eventually drift apart due to their differing personal beliefs on how to work within Millenion. The various characters that the series introduces are fleshed out enough where you can connect with them and everybody has their redeemable traits and not portrayed to be completely evil as when one witnessed them in Gungrave’s first episode. The first half is mostly down-to-earth in exploring the crime-infested affairs that Harry, Brandon and others within Millenion get involved with thus one shouldn’t expect the undead armies created by Harry to pop up at all throughout Gungrave’s first half. Still if you don’t mind crime action-dramas mixed with elements of the supernatural, then Gungrave should be a title worth your time to look into.

 

2. Tokyo Godfathers

As I covered in my top 25 video, this third Satoshi Kon film offers enough exploration on the backgrounds of the likeable homeless trio of Gin, Hana and Miyuki as they try locating the parents of an abandoned baby throughout the streets of Tokyo during the holidays. The movie features Kon’s typical animation style of realistic details for characters and the city environments of Tokyo. This is a definite look if you are a fan of Satoshi Kon’s work.

 

 
 
 
 

1. Planetes

Another anime I discussed in my top 25 video, Planetes features a near-future look into man’s colonization of space and the potential issues that could develop from it such as space pollution, diseases, monopolization of space resources and terrorism. It also explores the inner conflicts and developments faced by a space sanitation worker named Hachirota “Hachimaki” Hoshino as he ponders over whether or not he can follow his dream of being an astronaut despite his low-paying job and the potential rift it would have in his relationships with people close to him. I found it to be one of the best sci-fi titles I have had a chance of seeing from the world of anime and believe it is worth a look if you have an interest in looking into a believable “what if” scenario of the challenges that develop from space colonization.

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As part of my exclusive work for Anime Vice to commemorate my tenth year as an anime fan, I will be doing a ten-part weekly article series where I offer you guys a look into the best anime I seen for each year throughout the decade where I started off my anime fandom: the 2000s. I will be doing either a top five or top ten list for each year depending on the number of titles I had enjoyed from that time. Be warned that whatever I present for these articles is my personal opinion. So do not take things too personally if I do not include an anime you liked.

 
2002 was where things began picking up with the number of worthwhile titles I came across. TV anime did enough to get my attention, particularly titles running longer than 26 episodes, and some OAVs were worth watch due to their visuals and engaging plots. Some of the titles on this list are hidden gems worth your time to look into while others are what I’ve covered already from my Top 25 Best Anime of All-Time countdown video. Otherwise, here’s a look into what I found to be the ten best anime titles from 2002.

 

10. Read or Die

This fun action series put some nice twists in the action genre with its literature-focused plot and the anime’s heroine, bibliomaniac and paper manipulator Yomiko Readman. Focused around Yomiko and a police force version of the British Library, the series focuses on their efforts to get possession of a rare book from the I-Jin, a criminal group of superpowered clones of well-known historical figures. Read or Die’s plot is quite engaging for its 3 OAV episode run featuring a number of twists in its plot, some engaging and well-animated action scenes coming from the fights between the British Library and I-Jin and the bond Yomiko develops with one of her partners, Nancy Makuhari. Character depth isn’t this title’s strongest area which could turn off those who are saps for characterization in their anime. But if you are looking for a fun and original premise for an action anime, Read or Die is well worth a look.

 

 

9. Azumanga Daioh

This anime was one of the major titles that introduced the high school slice-of-life comedy genre involving a circle of several female friends and their sometimes mundane, sometimes strange interactions with one another. While this genre has gotten somewhat stagnant in recent years thanks to oversaturation, Azumanga Daioh hasn’t lost much of its comedic charm for me as it is still fun seeing the sometimes bizarre and crazy behavior exhibited by the teachers and students seen in the series. From Yukari’s reckless driving to Osaka’s random and nonsensical observations, the series is clever in its comedic timing for its gags and lays out its episodes in five 5-minute shorts for each episode. Definitely worth a look if you are looking for a great comedy title.

 

 
 

8. Twelve Kingdoms

This epic style fantasy adventure series features the exploits of a high school student named Yoko Nakajima and two of her classmates being whisked into a world similar to feudal Japan where supernatural creatures and the divine are part of the norm in this society and the citizens of the country they land in don’t seem to have a strong liking to those entering their world. Much of the anime’s first arc aired during 2002 focused on Yoko learning that her meek and accepting character won’t allow her to survive in this unfamiliar world and she comes to learn of some shocking details concerning her connection to this mysterious world as she appears different from when she lived in Japan and is capable of understanding the language of the feudal world’s residents. The show does enough at developing Yoko’s character, introducing other prominent character serving to aid or deter Yoko in her struggles and allowing the viewer to know more of how the society that the world of Twelve Kingdoms works with its supernatural creatures and divine influences. The show does have a bit of a rough start as it seemingly tosses you into its world with little details explained on what was going on and Yoko not being the best heroine to connect with at first thanks to her meek and submissive personality. However getting past these episodes reward you with a compelling plot of Yoko’s struggles with her own identity and trying to figure out the reasons behind those plotting her death in the first arc of Twelve Kingdoms.

 

7. Princess Tutu

This clever take on the mahou shoujo genre mixes elements of Grimm’s fairy tales, ballet and classical music in its focus on Ahiru, a duck given human form by a mysterious man named Drosselmeyer who is tasked with gathering the missing pieces of the heart of a prince named Mythos. With the elements of Grimm’s fairy tales put into the series, Princess Tutu does tackle some pretty dark themes for a children’s series focused on tragedy and suffering for the characters connected to Drosselmeyer’s manipulations of the characters centered on Mythos. For instance, Ahiru can’t fall in love with Mythos without vanishing into a speck of light and Rue desires the love of Mythos despite these feelings maker her into a pawn of the major foes in the series as her alter ego, Krahe. The series even starts off with an introduction from a narrator covering a tragic and dark tale connected to the plot of the show’s episodes. The show’s ballet theme is shown through Ahiru and other characters being part of a ballet school and our duck hero making use of ballet to calm down the emotions of those having a fragment of Mythos’ heart within them as her alter ego, Princess Tutu. Classical musical pieces are added to the show and make for a good mix with Tutu’s ballet and fairy tale themes. If you like mahou shoujo titles that are different from the norm, then Princess Tutu delivers well in incorporating unique elements to the genre to help make it stick out.

 

6. Hikaru no Go

Perhaps one of the best shounen titles I’ve had a chance of seeing, Hikaru no Go is unique in that it believably explores the challenges that young Hikaru Shindo undergoes to become a professional player for the board game of Go. The series is quite meticulous in its focus on the game where it explores the professional gaming scene, the game’s history and basic and advanced techniques of playing the game. The anime even has a live-action segment at the end of the show where an instructor and her two students help the audience learn of different rules, techniques and scenarios for the game; as well as introduce well-known professional players of the game and even bring the game into different schools throughout Japan. Hikaru no Go was so influential in its depiction of Go that the series helped revitalize popularity of the game among younger gamers as it had a niche following before Hikaru no Go’s airing. Outside of focus on the game, Hikaru no Go also featured decent development on the characters of Hikaru and his rival Akira Toya whose characters mature as they interact with one another and progress through various stages in their experience with Go from school clubs to amateur players to becoming famous in the professional tournament scene. They even have their occasional setbacks as they do not win all their games and even have moments of disillusionment from developments they face throughout the series from Akira’s desire to face Hikaru to Hikaru’s desire to be recognized for his own skills without relying on the expertise of his ghostly companion, Fujiwara no Sai. The show’s strong focus on Go won’t be for anyone. But it is free of many of the typical clichés expected from many shounen anime titles and it is a real life board game that anyone with interest can pick up on thanks to the anime.

 

5. Heat Guy J

A definite underrated gem, Heat Guy J oozes with plenty of style and substance in its 26-episode run featuring detective Daisuke and his robotic partner J tackling cases in the crime and poverty-infested city of Judoh. There is plenty of detail fleshed out on Judoh’s various residents and the world of the series introducing characters of different upbringings and factions with different goals and motivations for their actions. These seemingly irrelevant details about Heat Guy J hint to bigger events yet to come within the series, which become mingled with the frequent episodic cases that Daisuke and J get involved with. The characters in the series have their backgrounds explored and carry with them their own personal beliefs that become challenged at points in the series. The series isn’t afraid at exploring Judoh’s corrupt underbelly with crime syndicates having influence over the city’s political affairs with influential city officials having their own underhanded methods they wish to apply and having their own connections to Judoh’s crime world. For a TV series, Heat Guy J wasn’t afraid at experimenting with different visual and aural styles of presentation. The show is notable for having a diverse number of different action sequences such as hand-to-hand, sword battles, mecha fights and even a fun land-to-sea clash between a tank and nuclear submarine. The show’s soundtrack consists of variety of upbeat and intense musical tracks coming from various instruments like electric guitars, keyboard and woodwind. Heat Guy J is a very well-rounded action/ buddy cop anime well worth the time to check out if you are into the action anime genre.

 

4. .hack// SIGN

This first anime series in the hack franchise won’t be for everyone as it is slow paced and quite conversation heavy despite its focus on the virtual MMORPG known as the World and the issues surrounding a user of the game named Tsukasa incapable of logging out of it. If you don’t mind these elements, then you can look forward to a solid character-driven series where the various users of the World try to figure out the nature surrounding Tsukasa’s unique character and his connections to a mysterious being who is seemingly manipulating him for her own ulterior motives. These characters come with diverse personalities and their own personal beliefs over how to interact and play within the World. The anime is notable for its unique way of presenting the differences between reality and the World with the former being shown in grayscale with only the sound of static being heard showing how drab and plain reality can be, some of these scenes serving to show the true identities of those playing in the World. Meanwhile, the World is saturated in color and shown to be livelier with its activity and the interactions between characters, helping to depict the MMORPG as a form of escapism from reality, a theme prominent with the back stories we come to learn of some of the anime’s prominent characters. Being one part of a media franchise of different mediums like video games and novels, .hack/SIGN does leave an incomplete feel once Tsukasa’s story is resolved as the nature surrounding the mysterious being and her activity in the World are not explored in great length for this series. Still, the struggles involving Tsukasa and those who come to aid him in his search for a way out of the World make this for an engaging watch if you like seeing character-driven anime drama.

 

3. Comedy

As I covered in my video, Comedy proved that anime could create engaging stories to run in 10 seconds flat shown through Studio 4C’s project on a young girl recruiting the services of a mysterious Black Swordsman to halt the advances of incoming English troops during the Irish War for Independence. The short keeps you wondering of the nature surrounding the swordsman and makes use of dark color in its visuals to enhance the suspense with events leading up to the swordsman’s battle with the English. This is worth a look if you are an enthusiast of any sort of animation.

 

 
 
 

2. Haibane Renmei

Another of my top 25 anime titles, Haibane Renmei is an emotionally powerful drama that focuses on the existential conflicts that undergo the characters of Rakka and Reki. The series dabbles into religious symbolism concerning the nature of the two main characters and their friends at Old Home from their unique status as Haibane and why they remain in a domed town until their “chosen day”. This is the easiest work coming from Yoshitoshi Abe and those he worked with for one to get latched on as it is easier to follow than Serial Experiments Lain in its themes and symbolism. It is a definite look if you like anime dramas.

 

 
 
 

1. Rahxephon

My favorite mecha anime of choice, Rahxephon features a wide cast of characters between TERRA and the Mulian alien threat as they ally with or oppose the show’s male lead Ayato in his search to figure out his true identity after learning the life he lived within the space phenomena known as Tokyo Jupiter was a complete fabrication. The series slowly takes its time at unraveling hints to the true nature of the world that Ayato seeks to believe as reality and the viewer coming to learn that the young man could have some past connections to characters helping him out. Besides Ayato, other characters within TERRA and the Mulians also get their focus in regards to how they feel about the conflict and their connection to Ayato. The presentation for the series was great for its time featuring slick and detailed designs of the show’s settings, mecha and characters; as well as sporting a tense and energetic soundtrack coming from well-known composer Yoko Konno. This is a worthwhile mecha anime to look into and those claiming it to be an “Eva knockoff” are simply jaded as this is a series with its own identity despite borrowing from some of the typical clichés of the mecha genre of anime.

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As part of my exclusive work for Anime Vice to commemorate my tenth year as an anime fan, I will be doing a ten-part weekly article series where I offer you guys a look into the best anime I seen for each year throughout the decade where I started off my anime fandom: the 2000s. I will be doing either a top five or top ten list for each year depending on the number of titles I had enjoyed from that time. Be warned that whatever I present for these articles is my personal opinion. So do not take things too personally if I do not include an anime you liked.

 

 

Much like 2000, 2001 was a fairly light for year for me in terms of finding anime that stuck out for me. There were some more titles that hooked my interest, but not enough where I could put together a top 10 list. But don’t worry. Next week will be more plentiful and tricky for me to come up with a list! Here’s yet another countdown where I offer up five anime titles that stuck out for me in 2001.

 

5. Banner of the Stars II

The Stars space opera franchise was still grabbing my interest into 2001 with this third season of the franchise, though I have to admit this is perhaps the weakest chapter within the main storyline. Focused on Lafiel and Jinto visiting a prison planet, Jinto is taken hostage by the male prisoners of the planet which results in Lafiel having to make difficult decisions to maintain order and save Jinto’s life. While this chapter of the franchise had the potential to perhaps be the best chapter of the franchise with the drama coming from Jinto and Lafiel’s situation and the decisions that the latter would have to make to prevent all hell from breaking lose on the planet, some decisions in the show’s plotting screw things up and result in the drama seeming somewhat meaningless with the worst and most infamous decision being that the show’s makers were dumb enough to spoil the ending to the whole series by showing it right at the very beginning to make the whole ordeal look like a flashback. Despite this somewhat ridiculous decision however, this series does put a more prominent focus on Lafiel as she sorts out how to ensure order and Jinto’s safety, as Banner of the Stars II does a solid job at believably showing how much she cares for her human companion. This is still a good watch for those who enjoyed the earlier two chapters of the Stars space opera, as long as you are aware that this chapter of the series has some bumps in the road to get past.

 

4. Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

This movie follow-up to the classic 1998-99 series might not be as memorable as the TV show, but the Cowboy Bebop movie was still quite worthwhile to check out in 2001. The movie retains the TV show’s memorable elements with the Bebop crew’s hunting of bounties, some philosophical emphasis shown through the actions of main villain Vincent, some comedy moments compliments of Ed, Yoko Kanno contributing her composing talents with the show’s trademark Western genre soundtrack and the visuals for the movie bumped up a notch in quality from the TV show with more defined detail, some great-looking far shots of city landscapes and many moments of fluid and intense action scenes. The movie plays out like a 90-minute Cowboy Bebop episode with Spike and the Bebop crew getting entangled in Vincent’s plot to wipe out the human population on the lunar Jupiter colony of Titan with some hints of government corruption dropped to boot. This is definitely worth a look if you have watched your way through the Cowboy Bebop TV series.

 

3. Fruits Basket

Being the first major hit series for a shoujo series here in America, Fruits Basket offered up a solid mix of comedy and drama focused on the bonds that teen orphan Tohru Honda accomplishes with the members of the Sohma family who are cursed by animals of the Chinese zodiac that they transform into when hugged by someone of the opposite gender. The series is mostly character-driven in its drama and comedy focusing on how the Sohmas come to deal with the curse affecting their lives and their unique chemistry with one another due to personality clashes, misunderstandings and the aftermaths of their pasts. Tohru comes across as a likeable heroine due to her selfless devotion to putting others before herself to ensure their happiness despite having her own tragic past to deal with as well. Because the anime’s manga source material was ongoing at the time the anime was made, Fruits Basket does lack a proper ending and a number of plot elements from the manga are either left unexplored or any that were hinted to from the earlier eight volumes of the manga which the anime adapts were removed entirely from the show’s plot. Despite this shortcoming though, Fruits Basket does make for a great comedy-drama that explores how Tohru helps the various cursed Sohma family members to come to accept themselves as being more than cursed beings from their unique condition.

 

2. Arjuna

Those of you who read my earlier blog posting of out-of-print anime needing more love will know what I will mention for this title. It is one of the few anime titles I’ve seen that seriously explores environmental issues with the difficulties of humanity coming to a reasonable understanding with one another due to differences in personal beliefs, particularly as Juna tries juggling her new duties as the Avatar of Time, advancing her relationship with Tokio and understanding more about how man messes up the environment. Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack offers up an epic score to listen to and the series has beautiful settings and fluid movement throughout its run. Definitely give this a look if you want a less conventional anime title.

 

1. Millennium Actress

I already elaborated on this title during my top 25 best all-time anime video. It offers up a more dramatic side to Satoshi Kon’s works focused on retired actress Chiyoko Fujiwara retelling of the days that led to her acting career from her complicated family life to the pressures she experienced as an actress. The movie retains Satoshi Kon’s trademark visual style of lifelike character designs and settings mixed with its “play within a play” narrative style as the director and cameraman interviewing Chiyoko find themselves literally immersed within flashbacks of the actress’ past. Definitely give it a shot if you were hooked on any of Kon’s other works.

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As part of my exclusive work for Anime Vice to commemorate my tenth year as an anime fan, I will be doing a ten-part weekly article series where I offer you guys a look into the best anime I seen for each year throughout the decade where I started off my anime fandom: the 2000s. I will be doing either a top five or top ten list for each year depending on the number of titles I had enjoyed from that time. Be warned that whatever I present for these articles is my personal opinion. So do not take things too personally if I do not include an anime you liked. 
 

To be honest, there weren’t too many anime I had a chance to check out in 2000 nor any of a reasonable length compared to other years in the decade. A good number of the titles I seen for the year were either continuing from 1999 thus it wouldn’t be fair for me to judge them based on 1-3 months worth of content or they only had one or two episodes released as an OAV series for the year. Some titles like Angel Sanctuary and Descendants of Darkness I found to be too subpar to be worth even bothering with. Still, there were a few gems I could see from the year which got my attention. Here’s a look into the top five anime titles I enjoyed from 2000.

 

5. Card Captor Sakura 2: The Sealed Card

If you were to ask me what mahou shoujo title I would be a sap for during the 1990s, I would say Card Captor Sakura in a heartbeat. The series offered enough fresh material to subvert the typical clichés of the magical girl genre, featured a cast of likeable characters who were fleshed out enough for you to connect with them, it wasn’t afraid of delivering enough teasing of romantic angles to its audience and the characters were drawn to be cute without being too overbearingly so like the many moeblob titles that have come out in recent years. This second movie from the series serves as the finale to CCS focusing on the developing relationship with Sakura and Syaoran that was left hanging from the TV series. The movie introduces a new Clow Card called The Void which gets released from its seal from the remains of Clow Reed’s old home and is after all of the Clow Cards in Sakura’s possession. The means in which Sakura would have to seal The Void would literally cost her the relationship she is developing with Syaoran, which is enough to put her character in conflict over how to handle this new threat without having to sacrifice her potential first love. The movie retains the light-hearted humor and character quirks one would love from the TV series, while at the same time having a better quality visual presentation and more fluid animation than the TV series. Watching the entire TV series is a necessity to know of all the developments that led up to this point in the Card Captor Sakura series. But if you pressed your way through the series, then The Sealed Card makes for a solid conclusion to this well done work from CLAMP.

 

4. Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust

Those of you who crave vampire action titles will get a treat out of this more recent anime adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s well known novel series. Bloodlust offers up thrilling action and romantic developments as it focuses on our dhamphir (half man, half vampire) hero D being hired to rescue a young woman named Charlotte from a vampire named Meier Link. As events press on with the movie, there are points in which we see that not all is what it seems with the situation at hand. Compared to the original 1985 film which has a cookie-cutter plot with its villain Magnus Lee, Meier Link is painted as more of a tragic villain with what we come to learn about his reasons for abducting Charlotte and the movie also sheds some light on the challenges faced by D and bounty hunter Leila with the former’s status as a dhamphir making him an outcast to many and the latter struggling to be remembered in some way. Bloodlust is quite notable for its impressive animation sporting dark, vivid colors; plenty of details with scenery and character designs; and Western/ gothic settings that go along very well with the movie’s vampire-focused plot. It also sports fluid and intense battle scenes which are quite a sight to see onscreen. Fans of Vampire Hunter D or any vampire titles in general should give this movie a shot.

 

3. Ayashi no Ceres

This fantasy/ romantic drama offers up some pretty tragic developments mainly focused on the struggles of teenager Aya Mikage when she learns she is the reincarnation of a celestial maiden named Ceres and members of her family are either out to kill her or seek her out for experimentation. Besides Aya, the series focused on other prominent characters who have tragic backgrounds connected to the celestial maidens and romance, including those who are seemingly inhumane and villainous in their actions at first glance. The series tends to dabble into the typical subjects explored in shoujo anime such as love, fate, hate and tragedy. But with much of its cast having justifications for their actions from their tragic upbringings, it is quite easy to sympathize with these characters as they clash over their personal beliefs and get into conflict with one another. Anyone looking to bring tragedy into their shoujo titles can’t go wrong with giving Ayashi no Ceres a shot.

 

2. Banner of the Stars

This second chapter of the well-known Stars space opera saga continued its focus on the bond between Abh princess Lafiel and planetary lord Jinto three years after the events of the first series, Crest of the Stars. This season of the franchise features Lafiel and Jinto experiencing first hand the challenges of war as Lafiel leads her own fleet against the United Humankind forces and Jinto serves as one of her subordinates. Much like the first series, Banner retains its grey morality in exploring events of the intergalactic war from the perspective of the Abh as there is some subtle humor provided from the eccentric personalities of the commanding officers of Abh fleets and we see first hand the decisions they make in battles. Focus is also retained on Lafiel and Jinto’s bond as you get to see their thoughts on the challenges they face in battle and also one occasion where they attempt to make reprimands with the daughter of a corrupt planetary lord the two kill off from the first series. This season does greatly limit its focus on how the Abh are viewed by those in the United Humankind empire compared to Crest of the Stars. But the focus on how the Abh handle situations in battle and the continued developments of Jinto and Lafiel’s bond throughout the conflict more than make up for this minor shortcoming.

 

1. Great Teacher Onizuka

Some folks might scream foul at me for including the series on this list since part of the series aired in 1999. But considering much of it ran into 2000, I think enough developments from the series were presented where it was worth adding to and deserving this top spot on my list. If you’ve already seen my Top 25 Best Anime of All Time video, then you know what praises I already have to say about GTO. It’s a fun comedy/drama coming off the ridiculous actions from Eikichi Onizuka to tame the antics of the middle school students he has to teach and we learn of the differing problems of each student that Onizuka either tries to either help or reprimand. It is perhaps the best overall shounen anime I have had a chance of seeing thus far in my ten years of fandom. Whether you get anime legally or not so legally, definitely give Great Teacher Onizuka a shot when you can.

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