My Former Favourite Anime

Before I figure out my current favourite anime, I want to look back at my favourites as they stood before I started this site. More than that, this is an opportunity to explore my progression in taste over the years, and perhaps it will make you think back on your own progression.

(I won’t be including movies.)

Honourable MentionsA few noteworthy titles from my past

Dragon Ball Z – Before I was into anime proper, I was obsessed with Dragon Ball Z as a teen on a level you cannot comprehend. This was before I knew these morning cartoons went by the term ‘anime.’ In fact, it was getting into the medium beyond the morning programs that broke me out of my love for this show. I realised there was so much better. Now, not even nostalgia can make me interested in Dragon Ball Z.

NarutoNaruto was my Dragon Ball Z replacement a year or two later. After I marathoned the first 50 episodes, I watched it week-to-week, eager to see what happens next as I discussed it with my friends at school. Then the filler started during the long wait for Shippuden. Episode after episode wasted our time with the crummiest writing, and without an end in sight, I dropped it. I would watch Shippuden in due course, but with that garbage filler packed between proper seasons, that too tell fell to the wayside around episode 200. I have yet to finish it.

The Twelve Kingdoms – I still love this fantasy epic and I am still waiting for a conclusion. It can’t be a favourite when so incomplete.

Orphen – one of my most watched anime that will always evoke fond memories. With age however, greater depth called to me.

Basilisk – this Romeo & Juliet tale of two lovers from rival ninja clans just missed the cut.

Cowboy Bebop – I didn’t love it enough at the time for a slot.

 

The Favourites in rough ascending order – only the final is my definite favourite of the time.

Oh! My Goddess (commonly known as Ah! My Goddess today)

My first romance anime. I didn’t intend to find this anime. It was a matter of restricted circumstance. I had a voucher for a store with a limited selection of anime and I picked up Ah! My Goddess the Movie because of Belldandy’s cover art. Loving the movie, I bought both DVDs for the 5-episode prequel series and fell in love. The sweetness of Keiichi and Belldandy’s romance filled me with the warmth of pumpkin soup. I would watch the series and movie whenever feeling down.

Initial D

If I close my eyes, I can still hear the hype-inducing eurobeat of Initial D. I must have listened to those soundtracks a thousand times, probably more, over many commutes, levelling sessions in World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars vanquishes. More than eurobeat, Initial D made me love cars (including the brilliant Top Gear). I was most impressed by how gripping this anime made the racing battles. One wouldn’t imagine that fights without a single punch could muster such intensity.

Vision of Escaflowne

I still remember the first time I saw the Escaflowne Guymelef animated on screen – coolest thing I had seen in anime. The mechanics of it all shows the creator’s love for world building. Again, the romance was a strong factor in my attachment to Vision of Escaflowne. I travelled with Van and company through the world of Gaea several times over the years.

Fullmetal Alchemist

Who didn’t love Fullmetal Alchemist? The creativity author Hiromu Arakawa infused into her world, characters, and alchemy still inspires me to this day. My reasons for favouring this anime are obvious.

Gundam SEED

Gundam SEED is still my favourite Gundam series (The Origin may usurp the throne however). There is a certain type of story I love. I don’t know what to call it. You have a group of people, almost like a family, yet with internal conflict as well as the external, travelling together is some form of vessel whether it be car, ship, or plane as they ward off enemy forces. They struggle together, always on the run from something, but they have each other. And during quiet times, they can retreat to their beds inside the vessel. Cosiness permeates this story type and Gundam SEED nails it.

Full Metal Panic

Few stories, let alone anime, have managed to balance action and comedy as well as Full Metal Panic. Full Metal Panic Fumoffu is responsible for a lot of pain to my sides from laughter. Damn that anime is funny. Furthermore, Sagara is one of my favourite characters in all fiction.

Death Note

No anime kept me in suspense like Death Note had. The pacing, direction, uncompromising brutality of character, and plot forced me to watch one episode after the next. I remember everything about my first viewing, right down to my friend recommending it to me at the Olympic Park. Even the poor second season didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for Death Note.

RahXephon

RahXephon, RahXephon, RahXephon… Of all the anime on this favourites list, RahXephon is the most important to my anime fandom. Sitting down in the viewing theatre at an anime convention, watching the first episode to merely pass the time while I waited for friends, buying the first DVD with the box to fit future discs, the free t-shirt that faded over the years, the anticipation of the next DVD each month at $30 per, the delays that made the wait agony, that one volume with only 3 episodes, and the rush home to dive into the next chapter are all as clear as day. I had rewatched several anime many times each before, but RahXephon was the first I studied, dissecting every character, every motivation, and every action. The wait between volumes led to many rewatches, and even more once I had the set. This dissection is probably why I love RahXephon more than anyone and why I understand how niche it will forever be.

Code Geass

Code Geass is the last anime I watched on this list. If I recall correctly, I only watched this because it was something to watch. I acquired several live action series, films, and an anime or two off a friend, Code Geass included. As I charted the entire world of Guild Wars one day, I started on the anime to ease the tedium of rubbing my character’s face against every wall and mountainside of Tyria. It wasn’t long before I stopped playing and gave all attention to Lelouche in his quest for revenge. Like Death Note, Code Geass was edge-of-your-seat intense that kept you guessing to the end (and what an end it was). I did not watch much anime for several years following.

Gungrave

Why was Gungrave my favourite? It was a combination of factors. First, it took great effort for me to acquire the episodes with no legal means, when torrenting was in its infancy and data caps made the wrong download a month-long error. Second, the grit and style gave a mature tone I hadn’t seen at the time. Most of all, the dynamic between Brandon and Harry and the tragedy of their friendship resonated with me. The turmoil they and the rest of the characters go through engaged me so. I’m sure everyone has that one story you connect to in a way you can’t explain. It’s what makes the oddest story, the most niche story, or even perhaps the worst story somebody’s favourite.

 

On Reflection

Looking at this list, I notice two recurring themes: romance and righting a wrong. Gungrave, Code Geass, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, and RahXephon all fit the latter, while every entry has a strong romance element save for Death Note (though it still plays a twisted role) and Alchemist, whose romance I wanted more of (wouldn’t flesh out until the remake).

The romance interest is obvious. I was a teenager looking for love, (I found it, but that’s a story for another time) and the romance genre, one I considered dumb and, to own the truth, for girls, was a new avenue. It’s was like discovering a new type of music I hadn’t considered before. Now I can’t get enough of romance across all mediums.

As for the prevalence of plots about righting a wrong, often portrayed as revenge, I guess it appealed to my sense of justice. I abhor an imbalance of justice and seeing people get even is engaging. However, should the means of getting even be illegal, then there must be consequences. And that’s what these anime did well – they didn’t let their characters get even by any means necessary without consequences.

You may have noticed that there are several notable absences from this list. Where’s Evangelion? Didn’t you give Monster your highest rating? For the sake of all anime gods, high and trash, what about Gankutsuou? Well, Evangelion wasn’t a favourite (full review coming soon as to why), Monster rather bored me – believe it or not – and Gankutsuou fell to the wayside for some mysterious reason. We shall see what has changed since then in my New Favourites article.

So, now I ask you, what were your favourites years ago (or currently, if you are new to anime)? Remember, there are no wrong answers.

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Video Girl AI – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Den’ei Shoujo Video Girl Ai

 

Similar: Ah! My Goddess

DNA2

Chobits

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Ecchi Romance Drama

Length: 6 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Remote control of the video girl.

Negatives:

  • No foundations to the infatuation.
  • Dumb as bricks characters.
  • Little happens.

(Request an anime for review here.)

I feel like a broken record at this point – when you write a romance, you must give reason for the characters to love each other. Starting with lust is fine, common even, but if you want the audience to believe in the ‘true love’ your characters profess, there must be more. Video Girl Ai is yet another romance without foundations.

Homeward bound after a heart-breaking rejection, Youta stops by a video store to make a purchase in the hope of a distraction. He gets more than he bargained for when a video girl called Ai emerges from the TV. He can control her with the remote – slow-mo, rewind, frame-by-frame, and even adjust boob size. He flattens them. She’s supposed to be meek, but damage to the VCR gives her a feistier personality than intended. Even so, she promises to help him find love.

Youta’s object of obsession is Moemi, a girl at school who only has eyes for the popular Takeshi. Really though, the key player in this relationship is Youta. He will do anything for Moemi, even help with a gift for Takeshi. He has the classic “nice” guy mentality. “If I do everything she wants, eventually she’ll break up with her boyfriend and realise I’ve been beside her the whole time!” Thankfully, Ai makes fun of him for it and Takeshi calls out Moemi’s selfishness, which points to the writer almost getting it right. Had the story been one of a wimpy guy realising he’s acting the loser, clinging to a bimbo with no interest in him, it could have been interesting. As is often the case with wimp romances however, this isn’t meant to reflect reality. It wants to give false hope that having no spine will make you attractive.

The cringe reaches new heights when he confesses to her loudly in public, but she thinks he’s just practicing to tell someone else… Really? Forget him having no spine – why would he be interested in such a dimwit?

To no one’s surprise, the twist is that he should have realised he had a loving girl in Ai beside him this whole time. Gasp! And he sure jumps into her arms quickly after it fails with Moemi. What a nice, considerate guy. After this, the finale involves a test of true love decreed by the villain in a visually creative setting. But remember what I said about foundations? Well, when you have no foundations, the audience is unlikely to make an emotional connection with the couple in a life or death struggle. Youta is screaming about his love for Ai, yet his words are hollow. He never showed us he loved her when he had nothing to gain.

Did he once get to know her?

Did he ever do anything selfless for her?

Did he share an interest with her?

Anything?

He’s so obsessed with doing frivolous favours for Moemi that he ignores Ai until the end, where – if realistic – would have made her little more than a stranger, not the object of true love.

Never forget your foundations. There is more emotion to be found in a man asking a woman how she has been lately than in a grand stunt off the Eiffel Tower to impress her. Yes, the stuntman is more impressive, but emotional resonance is about more than being impressive.

Art – Low

Video Girl Ai looks the same as DNA2, down to a girl cloned across both series.

Sound – Medium

The acting is average either way, as is the music.

Story – Low

A heartbroken teen thinks that watching a video will get his mind off things, only to have a girl emerge from his TV. What should have been a fun anime devolves into a romantic drama with no foundations.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Don’t bother. Video Girl Ai needed a lot of work in the draft stage – more chemistry, conflict, and complexity. DNA2 is so much more fun.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Lacks Conflict

The State of the Review Schedule

As many of you have noticed, recent weeks have missed the consistent ‘two reviews a week’ schedule. This is due to my increased workload in real life. It isn’t the first time extra work reared its menacing gaze, but in the past, I had a stock of reviews to tap into (the manga reviews were the last time). Sadly, my stock has run dry.

I don’t want to reduce the schedule to one review per week, nor do I want lower my standards to rush through series and churn out reviews for the sake of it. My problem is time. I simply don’t have the free time to watch enough anime – watch it properly. Writing the reviews is no strain at all, but it’s difficult to speed up a series without compromise.

So, what’s changing?

For the next couple of months, the schedule will be as follows:

  • Anime review on Sundays, as normal.
  • Mid-week will still have reviews where possible (anime or manga), but also anime related articles when I don’t have the time for a review.
  • No long anime until I have time again – focus is on movies and 13-episode series, maybe a 26-episode one, if lucky.

I’ve wanted to do some non-review content for a while now, so this is a good opportunity. Many readers have asked for my favourite anime, which I haven’t thought about in years. Before I list my current favourites though, I want to recall my favourites as they were before I started this site. It will be interesting to see how the list has changed since.

Thank you for bearing with me and I hope to have you around for many reviews in future.

Planetes – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Planetes

 

Similar: Moonlight Mile

Space Brothers

Cowboy Bebop

 

Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Science Fiction Romance Drama

Length: 26 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Final act.

Negatives:

  • Romance has no chemistry.
  • No characters of note.
  • More slice of life than drama for acts one and two.

(Request an anime for review here.)

Does this really fall under the ‘drama’ category? I asked myself this question a lot when watching Planetes. Until the third act, this should be classified as ‘slice of life’ for how little occurs and how dull the characters are.

Planetes is about a crew aboard a space station and their jobs as space debris collectors. The opening scene is of a loose screw shattering a space liner’s window, killing all inside. Ever since then, Earth has made an effort to clean up space. Tanabe is the newest member of the collection crew, joining an odd bunch of misfits who have no manners, including Hachimaki, a 25-year-old with dreams of owning a spaceship of his own. Their equipment is trash. At this rate, they are likely to add more trash to space instead of reduce it.

After the disaster in the opening, I expected similar tense situations to be a regular occurrence, similar to Moonlight Mile. A few episodes in, no such event has occurred. Alright, Planetes is a better Moonlight Mile, giving characters time to grow in between disasters rather than the end-to-end disasters of the latter. The characters still haven’t given me reason to care, but let’s give them a chance. So far, it’s mostly about putting up with living with each other, bickering, and corporate bureaucracy.

Several more episodes pass, and still no significant events wake me up from my stupor. They had time to give us an episode on space weeaboos – funny, but does nothing for the plot – though not a moment of tension. The downtime with character hasn’t developed them into anything interesting either.

It is at this point I realise Planetes isn’t good. It’s middle-of-the-road boring.

You have a mismatched crew trying to emulate Cowboy Bebop with none of the chemistry that made Bebop’s crew great. Tanabe using the clichéd anime introduction of yelling your profile put me off her right away. A story-lite series can’t sustain itself unless the characters are some of the best in the business. The episode about the girl born and living on the moon for research on the human body is interesting, though still not about the main story.

You have a romance between Tanabe and Hachimaki with as much electricity as a rubber gasket. He’s an ego-driven brute who constantly reproaches her and keeps flaking on the relationship, while she’s a woman of zero strength that rarely stands her ground against his selfishness. I despise female leads that never find strength.

Even so, I stuck with it for the sake of the review and to my surprise, the third act finally starts the story. Hurrah!

Humanity prepares to send a manned mission to Jupiter, calling on everyone in the world to apply. Hachimaki signs up in some desperate bid to do more with life. What follows is a series of trials to find the best candidates – Tanabe is a background character by now. Finally we have intense character-to-character conflict that isn’t the bickering of daily life. The theme of corporate morality also becomes a focal point, as only the rich will get richer when they colonise Jupiter, widening the wealth gap for the rest.

Planetes is quite preachy in its morals. It is many characters telling you how you should feel, rather than expressing their own opinions and leaving it to audience interpretation. Even though the story picks up in the third act, I don’t find myself much invested because the characters mean nothing to me. Those prior episodes didn’t use their time well.

Planetes and Moonlight Mile need to have a baby, combining the former’s ability to slow down with the latter’s penchant for disasters.

Art – High

Clean character art and detailed enough environments are nice, but the tech detail is where it’s at.

Sound – Medium

Voice work could be better – why is there so much shouting? Tanabe’s girlfriends sound so annoying.

Story – Low

Planetes tells of the lives of a crew aboard a space station collecting space debris. With so many characters, few of which have much to say, a flaccid romance, and conflict that doesn’t start until the third act, this story is more slice of life than drama.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: Try it. You may find Planetes more interesting than I did. Outside the third act, it has no pulse.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Poor Pacing

Scum’s Wish – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Kuzu no Honkai

 

Similar: Rumbling Hearts

White Album

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Romance Drama

Length: 12 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Beautiful art and shot composition.

Negatives:

  • Immature view of sex, masquerading as maturity.
  • So much ‘almost sex.’
  • Boring lead.
  • Everything is a few beats slow.

(Request an anime for review here.)

You want a messed up love polygon? Hanabi is in love with her brother and teacher, but he’s interested in another teacher. Meanwhile, Hanabi’s classmate is in love with that other female teacher. To cope with the heartache of unrequited, forbidden love, Hanabi and the guy date each other for sexual and emotional comfort. They are each other’s replacements. However, another girl is in love with Hanabi, while the pretend boyfriend’s loli sister is also in love with him. Got all that? Lesbian -> Hanabi -> brother/teacher -> co-worker/teacher <- pretend boyfriend <- little sister.

Despite the messed up premise, my first thought was to question if Scum’s Wish would go far enough. The crueller the setup, the more likely an anime drama will chicken out before the end and not deliver the promise. When Scum’s Wish revealed that the brother wasn’t Hanabi’s real brother, I knew how this would end.

Scum’s Wish engaged me with its beautiful cinematography and emotional weight. Hanabi latched onto her brother and father figure, thinking they’d be together forever after the lack of a real father left her with emotional issues. It’s tragic.

Then the classmate’s little sister enters the picture, breaking the tone. She feels like a character from a trashy harem, not a tragic romance. Throw in the lesbian best friend with the hots for Hanabi, and the love polygon goes from tragic to comical. The teachers and students were enough. These extras comes across as characters meant to distract you from the shallowness of the main threads.

The ‘doesn’t go far enough’ problem is no more prevalent than in sex scenes. There’s a lot of almost sex. The artists put their all into animating each sex scene with smoothness and detail to maximise sensuality and eroticism. (Just imagine One Punch Man’s action scene animations, but for characters feeling each other up.) Yet, someone always backs out at the last moment.

Scum’s Wish was pitched to me as “the anime most mature about sex in years.” Now I don’t know what to think of the people who told me this – they were adults, too. Look, just because you censor less than a shoujo romance, it doesn’t make the sex any more mature. Almost every sex scene is “Gyaaah! Not there! Don’t look at me. Nyaaah!” They sure use the ‘one character on top of another, when the top starts crying and tears fall on the other’s face’ scene five times too many. It’s no different from any other immature relationship anime.

The villain of this story is the female teacher, surprisingly enough. She is aware of Hanabi’s desire, as well as all those who are after her, and she loves it. The teacher thrives on how much people want her – if she’s taking away someone’s crush in the process, then all the better. A unique villain, to be sure. Sadly, even she doesn’t go far enough. Her arc – hell, everyone’s arcs – resolves with the tension of wet toilet paper. Scum’s Wish simultaneously puts its characters in cruel scenarios while treating them like fragile ornaments that can’t suffer the slightest nudge, lest they break.

The fragility also weakens any emotional impact. March Comes in Like a Lion conveys emotion much more effectively, all while using a quarter of the words – silence instead of the excessive internal monologue found in Scum’s Wish.

The story has nothing beyond the relationship drama – no one feels like a real person with a life, even if a miserable one. Hanabi is worst of all. She is a passive, feeble character that rarely takes action. The plot doesn’t move forward at her behest. Someone else takes charge while she lies there going, “Gyaah! No…”

Maturity? Look elsewhere.

Art – High

The art is gorgeous, soft and elegant – I love the eyes. The shot composition is great at conveying multiple perspectives and emotions at once. Editing could be quicker. Character heights are oddly inconsistent – in the first scene, Hanabi bumps into a guy, coming up to his chin, but then two shots later, she is half a head taller than before!

Sound – Medium

Decent acting and calm music.

Story – Low

A love polygon of ridiculous dimensions messes with the emotions of every student and teacher involved. Scum’s Wish tries to be mature about sex, but devolves into immature melodrama that stretches reason beyond intrigue.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Skip it. Scum’s Wish won’t be for you unless you love sexual melodrama.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None

Negative:

Shallow

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