Well, at the stroke of midnight, 2008 ended and the new year began, and whether you spent the night partying with family and friends or you spent your time reflecting on the past year, I hope you enjoyed the night. To me, this time of the year makes me feel reflective of the past year, but I also cast wistful glances towards the future. So, today I’ll reflecting back on the anime of the past year along with some other stories that I felt had an impact on the anime industry.
I found 2008 to be a very interesting and diverse for anime, I’ve watched parts of over 100 different anime in series form, OAV, and movies. I’ve tried to watch these shows in a subtitled form when possible, but I also watched a lot of them in the RAW format when the need arose. So, I feel that I’ve sampled enough of 2008’s offerings to make a valid “best of list”, I don’t think that anyone who has any sort of life could possibly have watched all of the anime offerings available. I’m only considering shows for my list that have at least completed 1/2 of their episodes or that have show me enough material that I can be certain that they deserve their placement on the “best of list”, so I’m leaving anime like Clannad ~After Story~, Eve no Jikan, Index, Michiko to Hatchin, and other shows in similar straights out of this years consideration, and they will be evaluated with the 2009 anime offerings.
My top anime of 2008
10. Minami-ke Okawari.
While I had many of the gripes about this series that many other fans had I felt that enough of the Minami-ke magic remained to make this series very enjoyable to watch. I never really watched Minami-ke for it’s animation quality so I really didn’t have a major problem with the perceived quality drop, and changed animation style . What I really loved about Minami-ke was the funny, loving, and sometimes crazy interactions between the three sisters. I also enjoyed all the supporting cast members that surrounded the sisters, from the cute but dumb Uchida to the cross-dressing Mako-chan.
9. Strike Witches
Last year when I placed Sky Girls (four flying girls in skimpy clothes) in by top ten list I thought that it couldn’t get any better, but Strike Witches added more fanservice and more girls. Strike Witches was a fun and energetic ride throughout all it’s episodes, entertaining and enjoyable while never taking itself too seriously.
8. Naisho no Tsubomi (OAV)
Naisho no Tsubomi while checking in at only three episodes is my shortest anime that I’m placing in my “best of list” . If you only watched the first episode you might be left with the impression that this series is a lolicon’s dream come true, but after watching all three OAVs, Naisho no Tsubomi is all heart. While the issues of puberty, menstruation, and other “adult things” are dealt with in a funny almost silly manner, the real heart of this show is about growing up and feeling the first stirrings of attraction/love towards the opposite sex. The growing relationship between Tsubomi and Daiki is gently and sweetly done, and the conclusion of Saya’s and Tsubomi’s friendship was one of the most fulfilling endings of the year.
7. Telepathy Shojo Ran
Telepathy Shojo Ran is a good natured adventure series geared towards the elementary/middle school demographic, as such, the danger/gore level is appropriately mild. But what really makes this series a winner in my mind is the interaction between Ran and Midori, while Midori is smart and sassy, Ran is pure and sometimes naively innocent (your typical anime girl next door), and when they get to bickering with each other it’s like mixing oil and water, but in a good way. Another thing I really liked about this series is that Ran’s family life is unnaturally normal for a lead character of a anime series, she lives at home with two loving normal working parents, has a normal older brother (no brother or sister complexes), and she has regular friends. Where this shows goes against genre type is that Ran and Midori’s powers, while a secret from their classmates are know and accepted by Ran’s parents and her brother, in fact, Ran’s family treats the two girls just like normal teenaged girls in spite of their powers. While this series is not perfect in terms of structure or plotting it was charming and endearing enough for me to await eagerly for each new episode.
6. Shigofumi: Letters from the departed
I felt that Shigofumi was a touching and serious tale about what was unsaid in life but should have been said, about coming to terms with what makes us a whole person, and how one should deal with issues so painful that we’d rather lock them away forever. The whole idea of special undead postal workers delivering mail from departed was interesting and fairly unique. I felt emotionally attached and really cared about what happened to Fumika and really cheered for things to turnout right for her by the end of the series.
5. Aria the Origination / Hidamari Sketch×365
When I was trying to decide where to place Aria and Hidamari Sketch in my list, I just came to the conclusion that I love both of these shows equally, so I decided to make #5 on my list a slice of life double feature.
To me, what makes a slice of life series enjoyable is if it has pleasant, soothing, and believable (as far as anime goes) primary characters who go about their daily routines experiencing the tribulations and successes of everyday life. The key here is not the level of the drama that the characters experience but how on a emotional the characters react to the situation, would a real person react that way, could a real person experience that situation, and do you feel a emotional connection to the character’s reaction? if the answer is yes, then I find that series enjoyable. If not, then the series falls into the category of a typical overwrought anime drama with stereotypical characters that masquerade as a slice of life show. Both, Aria and Hidamari Sketch×365 were loaded with so many of the good qualities that I find so endearing in the slice of life genre that they warranted placement at #5 on my list.
4. Mouryou no Hako
What do you get when you combine Clamp character designs and Madhouse animation? Another great anime series such as Mouryou no Hako, this series combines great visual quality and splendid character design, and a great plot to create what I feel was 2008’s best horror/ mystery anime. Slightly slow paced at times, disturbing at times, but every episode was engrossing and had me wanting the next instalment as quickly as possible. These qualities have earned Mouryou no Hako the #4 spot on my list this year.
3. Mahō Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora
To me, Mahō Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora perfectly exemplified the life lesson that one must suck every drop of possible joy out of everyday life, because we never know how many days we really have left. While many will consider Mahō Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora to be just a slice of life anime but it’s so much more than that, it’s really a guide to living life to it’s fullest. If we all followed Sora’s example, we would learn to slow down and enjoy the little things in life; the taste of a good tomato, the beauty of a street musician, the feel of a gentle sea breeze, the joy of a first kiss, and many other everyday thing. But, even though Natsu no Sora has it’s sad and tearful moments it’s really a celebration of how a short life well lived can affect others for years to come.
2. Spice and Wolf
When I first heard about this series I thought that it would be a typical travel tale/ buddy story/ adventure, but after watching Spice and Wolf I was surprised that it was all that, but only much better. The simple premise of Spice and Wolf is that a traveling trader named Lawrence hooks up with a stowaway wolf goddess named Horo, and the two of them travel together each becoming more comfortable and dependant on each other along the way. What I really loved about this series was the pleasant and enjoyable ride I got from watching Lawrence and Horo as they traveled together throughout the land.
And now for the grand prize.
As far as I’m concerned Kaiba showcased the possibilities of what a anime can be if you have a creative team firing on all cylinders that are allowed to bring their creative vision to reality. Almost with each new episode, Kaiba’s creators formed new and differing realities, and added characters that were memorable even if they only appeared in one episode. The use of changing color pallets, and visual styles helped make each of Kaiba’s individual worlds interesting and unique. But Kaiba was much more than an experiment in animation style and color usage, it was also an exploration on what makes us unique individuals and “human”. To Kaiba’s creators, and the show’s memorable cast of characters that included Kaiba, Warp, Popo, Neiro, Vanilla, Chroniko, and Hyo-Hyo, I salute you for being the best anime of 2008.
The end of part 1.
Part 2 will follow shortly, and will include a discussion of what I feel were the best of the rest of 2008’s anime, along with some genre recommendations, my worst anime of 2008 (will be wearing my flame retardant suit), and what I felt were the top anime news stories of 2008.