Provided that you are not jaded as all hell, every year it is not usual to come out with a select few shows you absolutely love, and would most certainly watch again. These are special shows. Shows that you look forward to each week. Shows that touch your heart. Shows that do nothing but fill you with joy. Here’s the shows that did that for me in 2008.
- Ga-Rei -zero-, A-: Ga-Rei -zero- is an interesting approach to the twelve episode infomercial that most anime adaptations of popular manga are. Instead of taking the plot from the existing work, it provides new fans with a prequel story that requires no prior knowledge to understand. The main problem with Ga-Rei -zero- is that it seems far more interesting than the manga it’s advertising! Ga-Rei -zero- is a really solid series. It does a good job of capturing the viewer’s interest, and keeping it up until the very satisfying conclusion. The plot itself is nothing new, but it works due to pretty stellar execution. It however doesn’t strike me as very rewatchable.
- Hakaba Kitarou, A-: Shigeru Mizuki’s art is known for being very different from the standards set down by Tezuka, yet all the anime versions of Gegege no Kitarou tend to deviate from his style, opting for a more mainstream look. Hakaba Kitarou goes back to the roots of Mizuki’s work, and a paints a wonderfully dark world in each of its stand alone episodes. Hakaba Kitarou has no real plot, nor does it attempt to bring any closure to itself. It’s simply a series of well told scary stories, that are brought to life with top-notch art direction. This show would get an A, but I still can’t get over how badly they shafted Nekomusume…
- Kannagi, A-: In the wrong hands, Kannagi would have found itself in one of my previous lists. Its setup is the same thing we’ve seen time and time again, but what saves it is the love lavished upon it by director Yutaka Yamamoto and A1 Pictures. While not exactly avoiding the trappings of a harem show taking itself a bit too seriously, Kannagi often ignores its plot in favour of funny one-shot episodes with truly professional quality direction. A1 Pictures’ animation work is always consistently great, and the amount of detail put into certain cuts is quite astounding. As far as writing goes, the show carries itself on a great cast of characters, well timed humour, and it generally has a good grasp on what makes a situational comedy funny. Unfortunately, the show shoots itself in the foot in its last two episodes with some really forced drama for the finale.
- Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, A: My taste in romance shows tends to be more on the more gentle side, and not on the frenetic, harem antics driven side. I mean, I enjoy a good harem show, but I don’t watch Zero no Tsukaima because I’m interested in Saito and Louise’s relationship. Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu is a great little romance show that doesn’t really go out of its way to impress, but it knows its audience. What usually makes these shows are their casts, and Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu has a great cast, with some of my favourites being the the titular Nogizaka Haruka, and her sister Nogizaka Mika. The writing won’t win any awards for originality, but it’s all executed well, and the whole otaku angle adds a nice level of wish-fulfillment, along with a host of great references.
- Strike Witches, A+: I wasn’t all that impressed with the initial Strike Witches OVA that Gonzo put out a few years back. It had a good fight scene, but that’s about it. As such, even I wasn’t looking forward to the Strike Witches TV series. I went so far as to emphatically declare my alliance with Sky Girls before episode one of Strike Witches even aired. That said, after one episode, this show really impressed me; and after twelve, it nearly became the greatest show of the year. Strike Witches is admittedly a mix of a bunch of a great things that shouldn’t work together, but the show pulls them all off so well. Animal ears! World War II! Aliens! Mecha Musume! Panties! Lots of panties! These things have no right to work so well together, but they do! Though, what really makes the show memorable is its wonderful cast of characters. They’re all pretty basic moe archetypes, but once again they’re all executed very well, and there’s something for everyone. There’s also the fanservice. All the tight butts and crotches in this show pushes it up to a cool A+.
- Zoku Sayonara Zetusbou Sensei, A+: The second series of Zetsubou Sensei takes series one and pushes everything up to eleven. Zoku gets rid of all the first show’s pacing problems by jamming three sketches into one episode, and generally playing it more loose and free. The humour is slightly darker, and on the whole the show is just way more cartoony that its predecessor. Zoku also ups the ante with a slightly larger budget, a new musical score, and one of the greatest openings of the year.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
Best of 2008
Kure-nai, A+++: I must be a psychic or something, because I can always pick out my show of the year before it even airs. Kure-nai is a show that had me right at its first bit of promotional art–a lone picture of Murasaki holding on to the hand of a faceless gentleman, who later turns out to be the eponymous Kurenai. This image alone gave me some real Gunslinger Girl vibes, and it was then that I knew that I had to watch this series.
So Kure-nai didn’t turn out much like Gunslinger Girl. At all. That’s fine, because it managed to be its own great little show. While I was drawn to Kure-nai for its darker undercurrent, the lighter parts of the show are what really gives it its charm. All of the characters are realized incredibly well, both through the show’s top tier writing, and the great performances by its actors and actresses. What helps this is the show’s unique approach to recording the dialogue before animating, making the flow of the show feel more natural than what you see in most anime.
Kure-nai also looks very good. Brains Base is in top form here, and expertly renders everything from fight scenes to Murasaki taking her clothes off. The show uses its colour scheme to speak more than its shading, so shading is minimal while colour choices are all strong and effective. The backgrounds are also consistently excellent, and look realistic while also retaining imperfections like brush and pencil marks.
While not really a plot-driven show, Kure-nai has a wonderfully dark underlying plot which drives things to a fine conclusion. I’m personally not a fan of the ending, but it works well in the context of the show.
I wrote this about eight months ago, but I’ll say it again–In the same way that I was wowed by Gurren Lagann’s brand of epic, Kure-nai wows me with how smooth it all is. It’s well directed, well animated, and just well done. I can see myself watching it again and again for years to come.
Next Time: FUTURE WAR 2009
PS: No offense Colony Drop we’re still bros right :(
PPS: Yes I know I switched between American and Japanese name order in one entry, give me a break.