This editorial is the second of a two-part series. The first half was published on October 17th, and can be found here.
6: Durarara and Baccano!- Because these two shows are essentially the same. Drrr/B! managed to do for me the same thing FMA did back in 2007- they taught me how to have fun again. Much like the earlier series broke me from a glut of heavy mecha series, Drrr showed me that large casts can in fact be a good thing. And B! managed to include a cast so colorful that it was impossible to ignore any of them. But most important of all, these two series were shows I devoured, and devoured quickly. It’s rare these days that I can marathon episodes of anything, but B! took me just 2 days and a long train ride to chain through, and left me wanting more long after it was done.
Now these two series are far from flawless. Both have anticlimactic endings. Both lose track of what they want to say at times. And both jump around relentlessly during the narration, to the point where you can skip an episode and not even realize it until three down the line. But these are small prices to pay for shows with incredible entertainment potential, that will linger with you long after the last episode ends. And make you beg for a second season.
7: Death Note/Hell Girl/Bleach- Wow look, another multiple series entry. Three this time. Well, actually, these chosen three could have been joined by so many more. Because I’m not referencing these shows in particular, but what they all have in common. Aside from good storytelling and suspense. They all have shinigami.
Shinigami are something of a passion of mine. One of my oldest, and most potent, interests lies in ghosts, monsters, death and the supernatural. So when I got the idea last year to do a panel on Death Gods, it was these series that I turned to first, alongside Gundam Wing, Princess Mononoke and others to look into the phenomenon of the shinigami in Japanese media. Eighteen months, and some 1000 attendees, later the panel , “Dead Like Us,” is one of my most recognized and requested at conventions, and the one that has allowed me to research and lecture on something wholly my own. More than any other recent series or game, the shinigami-based anime have given me the chance to give back to the medium in ways that I never had considered when I started my work back in 2009. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
8: The films of Hayao Miyazaki- I’m sure a bunch of my readers were wondering when I was going to get around to Miyazaki-sama. Much like the shinigami in the previous entry, I owe a lot to him, in terms of enjoyment, awareness and furthering my own reputation as a lecturer and academic. Unlike the shinigami, Miyazaki has also had a profound impact on my life through the films themselves.
I discovered Miyazaki-sama through Princess Mononoke, way back in 2000, when I found a VHS copy of the dub at Coconuts (remember them?) for $6.99, and recalling the name from an anime club meeting. I watched the film maybe 4 or 5 times that weekend, I could not look away. It was little surprise then, that when Spirited Away came out the following year, I of course made time to venture to the only movie theatre in Queens showing it just to see it. Or that I changed my weekend plans when I found out Howl’s Moving Castle was showing near where I was going to be that night.
Miyazaki-sama speaks to me through his films. Unlike any other anime I have seen (with the possible exception of Usagi Drop), his films have caused me to look at my life and examine who I really am inside. Unlike any other anime, his are the films I watch the most, and share the most. Miyazaki-sama has a gift with storytelling and crafting that is nearly unmatched in the industry. There is little wonder, then, that he is so respected and loved by so many. Watching just one of his films can uplift the spirit and add to the experience of life. Sound a bit pretentious, or idealized? Possibly, but only if you have never seen a Miyazaki film before. Watch just one, and you will understand.
9: Eden of the East and Summer Wars- Seeing a trend here: this list is a lot more than just ten anime. Which, I suppose, is fitting, seeing how hard it would be to distill over a decade of fandom into just ten series or movies.
I watched Eden of the East and Summer Wars over the spring this year, and the thing they share in common, is they blew my mind. Not just enjoyable or entertaining, but literally mind-blowing. Summer Wars had the same effect on me as Mononoke did a decade earlier, making my jaw drop open and forcing repeated watchings over the weekend. Eden was the latter half of the long train rides to and from Anime Mid Atlantic back in June. Both made me think while they were busy rewriting my idea of what anime was. Both got me excited to be a fan and viewer again. Both left me wanting more.
I suppose what separates these two from other, similar entires into this list (read: Drrr/B!, FMA) is the emotional connections they formed. The other series taught me how to have fun. These two made me think while I was having fun. They others were very open to marathoning. So were these, but I kept noticing more and more things, and making long lists of notes of other things to look into. The others made me laugh. These made me say “Wow!” And that, in the end, is worth mentioning. Because a lot of series are fun. Precious few make you say “wow.”
10: Gundam Seed- This was the Gundam that changed Gundam for me. Prior to Seed, I had a love for Wing and it’s military-rebellion storyline. I thought G was quirky with it’s take on tournament fighting. War in the Pocket made me cry. And 0083 had some beautiful suit designs, but was over too fast. Then came Seed, and a whole new world opened up to me.
Seed rewrote what Gundam should be, at least from my point of view. Beautiful suit designs, interesting characters, and a story that was close enough to the UC to nostalgic, but different enough to still be compelling. Seed brought Gundam into the 21st century, and set the bar for what could be accomplished in a Gundam series. Dual narratives, counterplots, intrigue and self-discovery- these were what Seed set out to do, and did wonderfully. And while the series (and its sequel, Seed Destiny) left a sour taste in the mouths of some veteran fans, it brought new fans into the series with its flash and flare. I doubt I would be the Gundam fan I am now if not for Seed.
This is my list. What’s yours?