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.
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.