THE TOP ANIME SHOWS OF 2010, part 4
It may be a couple months late, but I'm finally ready to reveal my list of the Top Anime Shows for 2010! Over the past several months, I have sampled EVERY SINGLE ANIME SHOW that was produced between December 22, 2009 and December 21, 2010, and was subtitled into English. I only excluded blatant pornography and hard-core yaoi shows; in total, it added up to over 150 television series, movies, specials, one-shots and OVAs. And now, the results are in!
First, a quick link to Part One, where I revealed numbers 20 through 16:
(#20 - Kuragehime; #19 - Kaichou wa Maid-sama; #18 - Bungaku Shoujo; #17 - Katanagatari; #16 - Mobile Suite Gundam UC: Unicorn)
Then a quick link to Part Two, where I covered numbers 15 through 11:
(#15 - Arakawa Under the Bridge Season 1; #14 - Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru; #13 - Mudazumo Naki Kaikaku; #12 - Broken Blade; #11 - Highschool of the Dead)
Finally, Part Three, looking at numbers 10 through 6:
(#10 - Yondemasuyo, Azazel-san; #9 - Occult Academy; #8 - Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt; #7 - Time of Eve; #6 - Kowarekake no Orgel)
And now, on to the Best of 2010, continuing on from fifth place and working towards Number One!
#5 - Shinryaku! Ika Musume
Shinryaku! Ika Musume a.k.a. "Invasion! Squid Girl" is a 12-episode weekly television series that aired through the Fall of 2010, based on the ongoing manga series by Masahiro Anbe. Ika Musume emerges from the ocean on a Japanese beach one Summer, bent on punishing humanity for defiling the seas. But subjugating humans proves more difficult than she imagined, and before she knows it, Ika Musume is working as a server at a small family food stand. Over the next few months, she meets many new friends, and learns that humans may not be so bad after all. Shinryaku! Ika Musume is a delightful little comedy series that never failed to produce plenty of cute moments and guaranteed laugh-out-loud jokes every week. With her incredible bravado and indefatigable personality, Ika Musume was the most fun character in anime for the entire year. Not only that, but the show did not have to rely on lowbrow, potty humor for the yuks -- both G-rated *and* funny, a rare combination in anime these days. Shinryaku! Ika Musume ended up being the unexpected hit of the year.
#4 - The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya
The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya a.k.a. "The Vanishment of Haruhi Suzumiya" is a feature-length theatrical movie that was released in February 2010, the continuation of the wildly popular Haruhi Suzumiya story after the previous two television series, based on the light novels. On a freezing winter day, Kyon arrives at school to learn that everything has changed overnight. It is as if Haruhi Suzumiya had never existed, and he is the only one who remembers. Desperately, Kyon searched around everywhere to find proof that he is not going crazy, and it all seems hopeless until he finds one tiny clue left by Yuki. Now it is up to Kyon to reform the S.O.S. Brigade and try and return the world to "normal"...but is returning everything back to the way it was the right thing to do?
Following the seemingly-interminable Endless Eight storyline, which really left a sour taste in my mouth for the Suzumiya series (well, pretty much *everyone*, actually), I was really hoping that the "Disappearance" movie would redeem the series. And, in large part, it did -- they hit just the right melancholy tone that left me captivated. Invoking feelings of sadness and yearning, even though the movie clocked in at an astounding 160 minutes, I was never bored. Even though Haruhi is the center of the universe, this movie is about *removing* her from that role, instead Yuki takes center stage as she explores her humanity in vanishingly painful little steps. The moment when Yuki quietly grabs Kyon's jacket midway through the movie, wordlessly asking him not to leave, is in my opinion the single most powerful (and thunderingly understated) moment in all of anime for the entire year.
However, this is definitely not a movie for the uninitiated -- it is clearly designed for the existing fans. If you're not already a follower of Haruhi Suzumiya, you're going to be left a bit lost as to what's going on.
#3 - The Tatami Galaxy
The Tatami Galaxy a.k.a. "Yojouhan Tatami Taikei" is an eleven-part weekly television series aired during the Spring of 2010. An unnamed narrator ("Watashi") has decided to try and live the "rose-colored life" during his college years, putting his full effort into joining social clubs, meeting new people and stirring up romance. He meets the questionable Ozu, who always seems to steer him into trouble, and falls for the demure Akashi. However, after two years in the club, he discovers he has wasted his life, and at the end of each episode Watashi rewinds back to the beginning of his college years to start his life anew, joining a different club with different results, unaware that he is repeating his life with slight variations over and over again. Trapped in an endless loop of heartbreak and disappointment, he yearns to find his way out of this endless cycle. One one hand, the eclectic, crowded animation style is a visual wonder that is always a sight to behold. On the other hand, the series is maddening for the non-native Japanese speaker in that the narration is extremely rushed (on purpose), forcing the viewer to keep eyes fixated on the subtitles to understand what is going on. With any luck, a dubbed version will be produced at some point in the future, allowing the English-speaking viewer to fully watch the show without having to strain to pay attention. Even so, this ended up being a terrifically entertaining series, richly complex with several hidden thematic subjects that you do not realize tie together until the very end; blogs endlessly examined every tiny detail of the show, from color schemes to the true metaphorical meaning of the smallest of items. I definitely need to go back and watch this again, I feel like I missed half the show the first time around.
#2 - Shiki
Shiki a.k.a. "Corpse Demon" is a 22-part weekly television series that aired during the Summer and Fall of 2010, based on a horror novel and manga series. In the small, isolated farming town of Sotoba, there have been a number of mysterious deaths reported during the hazy Summer months, shortly after a reclusive group of foreigners move into a grand mansion on the hill outside of town. Ozaki, the head of the town clinic, begins to investigate these strange deaths, first suspecting that it might be an emerging epidemic. But he soon uncovers a far darker cause, which would ultimately threaten the very existence of the town itself.
I really don't want to reveal too much, but I don't think I'm giving anything away at this point by saying that it turns into a dark and bloody vampire fight. At first I was extremely bothered by the unnecessarily cartoony character designs of all the main characters, but *eventually* I was able to see past that. Shiki builds very, very slowly, ratcheting up the tension bit by bit until you don't think it could get any worse. At the moment of deepest despair when it seems all is lost, the tide finally turns and the real battle begins. Throughout the series they keep introducing more and more characters, until there are literally dozens of named characters running around...good thing, too, because at the rate they are picked off (one by one), there's hardly anyone left at the end. It really was a wild ride, and I was always left looking forward to the next episode.
#1 - Durarara
Durarara a.k.a. "DRRR!" is a 25-episode weekly television series that aired during the Winter and Spring of 2010, based on the light novel series by Ryohgo Narita. Mikado arrives in the big city and meets his childhood friend, Kida, to begin his life in the busy urban district of Ikeburuko. It's hardly an ordinary town, filled with strange and surreal people, including a headless, black-suited motorcycle rider who mysteriously appears out of nowhere. As the gang warfare slowly heats up, we soon learn that not everyone is as innocent as they seem. At first I was intimidated by the rather large cast of characters (dozens!) that are quickly introduced, and I was also intimidated because everyone said it was a great show. Durarara had me from the moment I saw the first preview trailer in later 2009, however, and I was soon hooked. The first several episodes are not really a linear story, jumping around from story to story, from character to character, more to set the mood and introduce everyone rather than advance the plot. But eventually everything is set in motion and it's a wild, unexpected ride to the end ...well, to the end of this season; there's still plenty of more story to tell, and I would be gobsmacked if there wasn't a second season. I look forward to more the the insane antics of Heiwajima, the dark secrets of Anri, the emerging humanity of the inhuman Celty, and more (in fact, I would say the at the side characters eclipsed the main characters). In the end, Durarara ended up as my favorite anime show for the entire year.
Coming up next:Sharpen the knives and turn up the snark, because I'm going to dredge up the worst 20 shows of 2010 (in four parts, because the awfulness cannot be contained in just one post); after that, it's time to preview the Winter 2011 season!