2007 was really fucking uneven. The first few months got by on the better titles that carried over from 2006, but between April and August it was something of a wasteland. I managed to get my fix for good modern anime by way of genius works such as Gurren Lagann and Hayate no Gotoku, but all the other offerings during that period of time where somewhere between mildly amusing to plain bad. Thankfully, August saw the debut of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and Zero No Tsukaima 2, both of which restored my faith in the industry somewhat. October once again impressed with Minami-ke, Kaiji and Clannad.
What follows will be something similar to my monthly posts, but for the Year In Review, I’ll be ordering things by quality using letter grades, starting from the worst to the VERY BEST. I cover a lot of shows in the post, but it’s not everything I watched during the year.
Here’s my rankings.
F Grade Anime
- Doujin Work, F (Dropped): All signs pointed to this one being nothing short of excellent, what with being based off a very strong work and being produced by a studio which seemed to be rather capable. For some reason it was simply not meant to be. The studio decided to cheap out on the animation, put little to no effort into the writing and generally just screwed it all to hell. At least the dakimakura are nice.
D Grade Anime
- Ayakashi Ayashi, D (Dropped): With promises of Toshihiro Kawamoto designs, an epic story set in old Japan and high production values, this one seemed like a winner. But then I remembered it was a Bones show.
C Grade Anime
- Darker Than Black, C-: Another Bones show. This one however had Yoko Kanno behind it, and seemed to have something of an interesting premise. But once again, like with most Bones shows, the bulk of it was extremely boring and pretentious. Yin was cute, though.
- Dragonaut- The Resonance, C- (Incomplete): Gonzo takes aspects of every popuplar show from the last couple of years, throws them in a blender, and tops it off with some awful CG. Often times it’s so bad that it’s good, but that can only last for long. I do like the production values and Uno Makoto’s designs, though.
- Jigoku Shoujo Futakomori, C-: Kicked off with stronger stories and better animation than its predecessor, but near the end it got rather pear-shaped. They ended the season with one of the most trainwreck endings I’ve seen in a while. Sure, it was entertaining, but I can’t rate it highly.
- Dennou Coil, C (Dropped): The interesting premise and big budget attracted me to this series, but it just never managed to grab me. Far too boring.
- Negima!?, C (On hold): This show is actually what got me into Akiyuki Shinbo’s work. The first couple of episodes were masterfully done, but after a while the show lost the plot (literally), production values went down hill and Shinbo just stopped trying. On hold because I guess the subbers lost interest in the show, too. I may finish it raw, eventually.
- Manabi Straight, C: After Futakoi Alternative, I came to expect excellent things out of UFO Table. Coyote Ragtime Show was fun, but far too long. I wanted Futakoi Alt style stuff out of Manabi Straight, but instead I got some boring iyashikei anime. People love it for having heart and stuff, but all that’s lost on me since I’m an emotionless shell of a man. Nice production values, though.
- Moyashimon, C (On hold): I was really expecting great things out of this one. The opening animation is an absolutely marvelous mix of computer animation and live action footage while the microbe designs are positively adorable. Sadly, the show proper is mostly boring with some fun moments here and there. It needs to stop being a science lesson.
- Shakugan no Shana II, C (Incomplete): The first Shana series had interesting elements, but was brought down by muddy visuals and weak direction. This second series has a sharper visual style, closer to that of the original designs, but the first half spends a lot of time walking in circles. It’s somewhat entertaining, but I’m beginning to understand the moans of those fanbois who want to see their sword swinging loli in action again. As of this writing, it’s Getting Better.
- Bokura No, C+ (Dropped): I really wanted to like this, I really did! I thought the premise was cool, and each individual story was nice, but after a while I just wasn’t motivated to watch it anymore. I can only handle so much of this stuff.
B Grade Anime
- Clannad, B (Incomplete): Not striking me as hard as Air or Kanon, mostly because the drama doesn’t seem as overdone. I’m sure that’s fine for most people, but I like the stupidly overdone drama of the other two shows. The girls are all nice though, but not very memorable as of yet. Production values are amazing, which is typical of Kyoto Animation. Really, after Air and Kanon, Clannad just feels very “been there, done that.”
- ef- a tale of memories, B: SHAFT, Shinbo and some other guy rock the world of bishoujo game adaptations with one of the most visually imaginative and well presented series out there. The only reason this gets a B is because the stories only grabbed me half the time. My interest jumped between Miyako’s and Chihiro’s arcs, and because of that my experience with the show was somewhat inconsistent. I applaud SHAFT for not chickening out and applying their usual visual weirdness to this series, despite its genre.
- Ghost Hound, B (Incomplete): As of right now (about 10 episodes in) the show offers up some interesting ideas, but story-wise it’s a bit slow. I enjoy it, but nothing I’d write the folks about. It’s good to see Mariko Oka’s character designs in the hands of a competent studio, as the main loli is quite attractive.
- Hidamari Sketch, B: I love anything by Akiyuki Shinbo, but in my eyes this is probably his least entertaining work. It’s good to see him trying out new things and taking on quieter story, but shows like these don’t really do much for me unless I’m really in the mood for them.
- Lucky Star, B: Incredibly uneven. I’m not sure if I could blame it on my mood at certain times, but some episodes worked and some episodes didn’t. It did have a fun cast though, and no one can deny the mark it left on the otaku community while it was airing. And once again, the show was very technically sound, being KyoAni and all.
- Code Geass, B+: Sunrise makes a wide variety of shows, and I can say with some confidence that among their library there is something for everyone. I can’t say I’m a fan of their newer Gundam shows, or trash like Xenoglossia, but Code Geass was really quite impressive. The story was gripping, and the production values were scarily consistent. My only real gripe probably lies in minor character design issues, some slower sections of the show, and its fanbase.
- Death Note, B+: It’s really hard to tell with Madhouse. Sometimes they’ll produce a work of pure genius, and other times they’ll push out absolute poo. Thankfully, Madhouse got it right this time, since Death Note is probably a very good example of a perfect manga adaptation. It’s well produced, stays true to the story, and cuts down on any extraneous stuff that may have been in the original. My only problem with Death Note is that right after the first episode aired, I went out and bought all the manga volumes and read them in a day, so a good chunk of the show wasn’t new to me. It’s still worth watching if you read the manga, since they nail all key moments just right. Rating it down because of problems with the second arc, and some instances of rough animation here and there.
- Kanon, B+: Following Kyoto Animation’s spectacular work on Air in 2005, fans wanted to see their take on an earlier Key work, Kanon. Kanon was previously made into an anime in 2002 by Toei, but I heard fan reception was somewhat mixed (and if you watch it, you can see why.) Kyoto Animation’s approach to the work was far more stylish and polished. Top of the line animation, attractive character designs, and a full 24 episodes to allow the story to breathe made Kanon one of the most well-liked anime of ’07 (at least in my neck of the woods. I’m sure other people would think differently.) Kyoto Animation injected far more spirit into every scene, happy or sad, than Toei could probably ever hope to do. My only problem with this show really lies in the original work, since some of the stories just don’t work out for me.
- Sky Girls, B+: This one had a lot of potential for failure, but after JC Staff’s one-shot OVA, I had hope. Good to see that hope wasn’t completely misplaced. While not totally perfect, I commend JC Staff for taking a ridiculous concept, and turning it into something that was generally fun and somewhat charming. While inconsistent, the show managed to stay entertaining and only got too serious for short periods of time. The things this show did well were probably the combat and the fun character relationships. The top-notch animation helps, too.
- Zero no Tsukaima 2, B+: It took me a few episodes to appreciate the original Zero no Tsukaima. After a while I came to treat it as nothing more than a harem comedy. The characters were amusing, the fanserivce was nice, and in general it was a fun show. Given this was all I was really expecting out of the franchise, the second season season pleased me greatly, especially considering it focused a lot on my two favourite girls (Henrietta and Siesta.) Now, I’ve heard two very different complaints about this show: 1) The normal “they messed with the story of the books” argument and 2) “There was too much story and not enough fanservice.” I can understand number 1, but I don’t really care, since if you want a good story just watch Zeta Gundam or Giant Robo, not some silly moe comedy anime. Number 2 really makes no sense to me at all, since I felt the show was brimming with lovely fanservice, and the scenes that did focus on LOL PLOT were serviceable padding between all the porn. Hopefully the third season will continue to service my needs, and also shut the annoying fanboys up by supplying them with their retarded fantasy story shit.
A Grade Anime
- 5cm Per Second, A-: Makoto Shinkai is probably one of the most important men in anime today. He made his big splash in the industry with his one-man-production of Voices of a Distant Star. Since then, Shinkai’s been known as the guy with the pretty backgrounds and the depressing love stories. It’s a little hard for me write about 5cm, since it’s been a while since I saw it, and I’ve only ever seen it once. My initial impression was that it was very pretty, but somewhat shallow in terms of characters. I really need to watch it again, though, so don’t pay this too much mind.
- Genshiken 2, A-: Since the end of the first season of Genshiken back in 2004, fans have been hoping for a second season for quite a while. Eventually we got some OVAs, which furthered the story by a little, but given their rather poor production and short length, it wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy both fans of the anime and manga (well they didn’t satisfy me, anyway.) When definitive word came in that there would in fact be a proper second season, my certain corner of the interwebz was overjoyed. Studio ARMS did a fantastic job with this second helping of Genshiken. They improved upon everything from the previous animated works ranging from the character designs, the animation quality, and even anime-original content. Genshiken 2 gets a thumbs up for being one of the few anime adaptations to add content that actually builds and expands on the original rather than feeling like filler. Only rating this one down for some spotty production near the middle, some un-needed recap scenes and the fact that the story still isn’t over! Though, I guess the all the brilliant fanservice makes up for it.
- Kaiji, A (Incomplete): I watched exactly five minutes of Akagi one late night at Otakon, but it was probably one of the most awesome five minutes of my entire life. I haven’t yet made it around to Akagi, but when I noticed Kaiji, another Nobuyuki Fukumoto manga, was being made into an anime, I had to check it out. Works by Fukumoto are often doomed to obscurity due to having a distinct lack of pretty men or women, and a focus on niche topics. Kaiji is one-half Death Note-styled mind puzzles, and another half NHK-styled examinations of people at the bottom of society. The more clever parts of the series are probably the most entertaining, but the kind of human suffering shown in these newer episodes is fine, too. It really does help that all the characters are ugly as sin, considering what goes on in the show.
- Kodomo no Jikan, A: I had my doubts about Studio Barcelona after their work on the Dai Mahou Touge OVA. While the animation was generally fine, it was below-average TV animation, and hardly OVA quality (but what is OVA quality anymore?) Their work on the first four episodes of Nanatsuiro Drops was inspiring, given they stayed extremely true to Noizi’s designs, plus the show was generally well animated. By the time Kodomo no Jikan hit, I had decently high expectations, and Studio Barcelona met them quite well. Watashiya’s designs are rendered beautifully in every frame, and each sequence of animation explodes with the colour and energy that the manga lacked, simply because it was a manga. Kojika is a story of children, so it needs a medium like anime to breathe, rather than being constrained by comic panels. Story wise, the anime stays fairly true to the original, but steps up the drama near the end for something of a finale. I eagerly await the DVD rips and hopefully the announcement of a second season!
- Minami-ke, A: Minami-ke is probably one of the most delightful anime of 2007. Produced by studio Doumo of Ichigo Mashimaro fame, it’s no question that these guys were perfect for the task of adapting Minami-ke. Minami-ke has some the funniest humour out there, which ranges from cute to rather bizarre. Every character is full of life and gets a time to shine. The only real problem is that it ends. Hopefully ~okawari~, by asread, is just as good!
- Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, A: After cashing in on Negima!? and breaking old habits with Hidamari Sketch, Shinbo strikes once again with one of the most delicious dark comedies I’ve seen in a while. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is probably one of the most consistent and well produced anime comedies out there. Shinbo’s take on Kumeta’s art style goes above and beyond the typical anime colour job. He gives things texture, manipulates light accordingly, and rounds it off with his usual directorial madness. Sharp writing, clean animation, and awesome direction make this one of the best comedies of ’07.
- School Days, A: This is kind of a joke grade, since I hardly think School Days is Grade A material. But hey, those last seven episodes were pretty entertaining, and we got a Nice Boat out of it, so that counts for something, right? If anything, this show should probably be remembered for breaking new ground in lulz trainwreck bishoujo game adaptations. I had fun with it, but I doubt I’ll get the same high watching it again. I’ll probably watch the DVD episode 12, though.
- Hayate no Gotoku, A+ (Incomplete): While Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei tickled my cynical side, Hayate no Gotoku does all kinds of unspeakable things with my otaku side (it is no longer fit for marrage!) I really had no expectations for this show at all when it first hit. I had heard the manga was good, and had a vague idea of the premise, but never really gave it a look. I didn’t know what I was in for when I clicked open the first episode, but 24 minutes later I was instantly in love. The mixture of referential humour, fun characters, and wacky plots is a rather potent one for me. The show really hits you on so many levels. One moment I’m laughing at an Eva joke, and the next moment I’m screaming “MOEEEEE” whenever Nagi’s face gets all red. Perfect production values, attractive character designs, and sharp direction certainly don’t hurt, either. It’s a wonderful show, and I wish it would go on forever.
- Rebuild of Evangelion 1, A+: Mostly a cut and paste of the series, but that’s fine since all that stuff is A+ material anyway. The real highlight of this film is the re-imaging of operation Yashima, which turned a weaker part of the series into something extremely epic and memorable.
- Shuffle! Memories, A+ (Dropped): Another joke grade, kind of. I actually didn’t finish this one since I’ve seen the original already, and I didn’t really like this series’ awkward way of telling the story. Basically, to me, this show is just the Kaede episodes, the Primula episodes, and the last episode. As far as I’m concerned, all those are Grade A material.
Best Anime of 2007
TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN, A+++++++++++++++ WOULD DO BUSINESS WITH AGAIN: Ever since I first saw Neon Genesis Evangelion as an impressionable 12-year-old, Gainax has always struck me as one of the most creative and daring studios in the industry. That said, I can’t say I’m all too familiar with the studio’s complete body of work. I’ve seen all of their OVAs (save the last episode of Blazing Transfer Student) but not many of their TV series. It seems after 2000, the studio went into something of a rut. The last TV show I saw out of them was He is My Master, which was fun for what it was, but certainly didn’t rock the cosmos or anything. After HiMM Gainax was rather quiet, only spitting out a few Diebuster episodes here and there. I should note that I had (and still have) Gainax’s site as my homepage, with hopes that I’d get an inkling as to what new project they may be working on. I remember one day I opened up my browser to see the most amazing image ever– the first piece of Gurren Lagann promotional art. It was at that moment that I knew it would be the best show of 2007.
Gurren Lagann easily lived up my extremely lofty expectations, and then proceeded to go higher and higher with each episode, breaking the sky, space, and the entire universe itself. By the end of episode 27, I was thoroughly blown away. It was one of the most amazing shows I had ever experienced in my entire life. It’s an epic tale of heroes, one which spanned many years. Each character was bursting with personality, to the point where I could easily love them (or in some cases, despise them) as a real person. The animation was mostly awesome, really going all out where it counted.
One thing I really loved about the show was how there were no true villains. When the two sides fought, it wasn’t necessarily because one side was good and one side was evil– it was because they simply had two opposing views, and thusly they fought for what they believed in. It gave the show a nice touch of realism to balance out all the universe smashing. Another thing I also loved was the crazy character development. By the end of the series, Simon had completely changed, and quite realistically too. It was very inspiring to me, personally, and helped me a little with how I approached my own life.
I can’t say any show is perfect, but in Gurren Lagann’s case the overwhelming amount of good easily rolled over what little bad there was. I could go on and on, but I want to keep this somewhat brief. I’ll just say this show really had everything– memorable characters, epic story, balls-to-the-wall direction, awesome music, hot blooded scripting, intense battles and lots of pure heroic energy. You can’t really get much better than that.
And there you have it, 2007! It’s been fun, but now it’s time to move on! Hopefully 2008 will serve out the awesome in a more consistent manner than its predecessor!