A while back I did a column about some anime series that I'd started watching: Azumanga Daioh, Gunslinger Girls, and Texhnolyze (it's pronounced just like it's spelled...)
Those three were my introduction to the semi-wonderful world of anime and, since that time, I've embarked upon a journey the likes of which have not been seen since Benji went searching for that old, red sock that was stuck in the dryer.
Today, I am an older and wiser anime-viewer... slightly less naive, perhaps... and, yes, I'll admit, a tad bit jaded. It turns out that I was very fortunate with my first three picks... sadly, that luck abandoned me, and so I, much like a seagull whose wings have been clipped, have plummeted into the cold, murky waters of bad, bad anime.
Fortunately, like a Japanese tourist anxious to fulfill global stereotypes I have duly recorded my viewing experiences, that others might benefit from my experiences and perhaps avoid my mistakes...
What follows is a list of every anime series I've watched thus far, from best to worst. 10 means super-outstanding and 1 means "Dear God please kill me now!!!"
Or, in comic-book lingo, 10 = Alan Moore and 1 = Dan Didio's weekly column in which he yammers like a yammering yamster about how great it is that he's killing off C-list characters and re-jiggering DC continuity yet again, like a re-jiggering jigger-er from the planet Jig-ton.
Please note: The fact that I've listed and graded the following series does not in anyway indicate that I've watched the entire series. Some of these things have over a bazillion episodes. I'm only human, and sometimes barely that, so in many cases I've only watched one disk's worth of episodes (which usually translates into 4 episodes).
And now, without further ado, the list...
Azumanga Daioh - 10
Gunslinger Girls - 9.5
I don't want to say much about these first two because I've already reviewed them. Suffice it to say that Azumanga Daioh is super-dooper funny and cute and nifty and I like it a lot.
Gunslinger Girls is melancholy, like a beached whale that writes one final letter, in which it details its entire life's journey, only to then take the lit cigarette from its blubbery whale-mouth and use it to set fire to the letter that it spent the past several hours writing.
Neither of the series are flawless, but they're both pretty damn good. I've purchased both series and have no regrets.
Kino’s Journey - 9
This one's about a guy and his talking motor-cycle who visit strange countries. It's sort of like a series of Zen Buddhist parables. Very surreal and wonderful. Each episode is its own, distinct thing.
Satisfying like hot tea.
Haibane Renmei - 9
Haibane Renmei is also very slow and surreal. In fact, it's actually quite similar to Kino's Journey in terms of tone. It's about this village where some people, after death, are reborn with wings. They may be angels, but it's hard to say for sure. No one knows why they are reborn in this particular place or what kinds of lives they lived previously. They aren't allowed to use money, but work small part-time jobs around town to help earn their keep. One, for example, works in the clock-tower. Another helps out in a bakery.
It is strange, strange, strange. But lovely.
[And no, it's not about Christianity... or if it is, it's subtle enough to slip under my radar... this is not a "Here are the answers" thing. It's a "Here are some questions" kind of thing, which is much my preference.]
Last Exile - 8.5
Crest of the Stars - 8.5
These two are both outer-space-y sci-fi stories. Last Exile is more along the lines of a Star Wars-esque kind of adventure. Two orphans, working as couriers, get sucked into a huge adventure that ends up having all sorts of major consequences for interplanetary wars and stuff.
Very fun series and some of the art is phenomenal. VERY worth your time.
Note: The series is incredibly expensive. Seriously. It's something like 90 dollars for the 6 dvd set. I have no idea why.
There is a crappy import version, apparently, which is "only" about 40 dollars, but I've heard only awful things about it. So, this is a good one to rent...
Crest of the Stars is a bit more with the talky-talk than Last Exile. But also very good. I can't say much more than that because I still haven't gotten a strong feel for the series. Very interesting, but not what you'd call action-packed. More of a contemplative kind of sci-fi.
Dai-Guard - 8.5
This is a "mecha" series, which means that it's about a big robot-y thing that is used to fight giant monsters.
This is a "mecha" series, which means that it's about a big robot-y thing that is used to fight giant monsters.
NOT my genre, at all.
But this one is actually very funny. The robot-y thing is owned by a corporation and there's always all kinds of paper-work involved whenever they want to use it. So, a giant monster will be crushing the city and then we'll cut to the boardroom and they're discussing how much it costs to use the robot-y thing and insurance premiums and so on.
Good stuff. Very fun.
So, here is an official cut-off line. Everything above this line is well worth your time. I recommend that you rent it and share it with your loved ones.
Everything below this line is not really recommended. The top ones are okay-but-not-great. That quickly slides into oh-my-god-this-sucks.
Ergo Proxy - 7.5
Sci-fi series about some thingie that was made in a lab but escaped and is now killing people. There's one honest cop who wants to find out what's going on, but she's blocked at every turn by the conspiratorial government powers-that-be who are somehow responsible for this killing thing.
This is an okay series. The art is very good and it moves at a good pace. But there's nothing terribly original here and after a while it starts to feel like every sci-fi movie you've ever seen before.
And it takes itself so damn seriously. Everyone's very morose and serious. I wanted them to ask them to please lighten up...
Witch Hunter Robin - 7
A sort of Ghost Busters-ish set-up chases and incarcerates witches. Their newest member is a witch herself but she uses her power to help capture other witches, and that makes everyone pretty uncomfortable.
I've heard that this series gets much better about halfway through as we learn more about those hunting the witches and there's all sorts of conspiracy stuff going on, but I'm still at the early part which is pretty dull. So, I'll give this one another chance soon, but thus far I can't really recommend it.
Chobits - 6.5
Horny teenage guy finds cute robot girl that has no brain but is very obedient.
Comedy hijinks ensue.
I'd heard a lot about this one and was hoping that it would be fun but really it just bored me to death. I'm assuming that the robot girl eventually develops a personality beyond following him around and making him uncomfortable by walking around nude and stuff, but I just couldn't take it anymore.
Fullmetal Alchemist - 6.5
A lot of people really, really like this series.
Two brothers tried to use alchemy to save their dead mother but it backfired and now one of them is missing some limbs and the other is sort of a body-less spirit that inhabits a suit of armor. They go from town to town, having adventures and trying to find a way to cure their conditions and maybe save their mom.
So many people like this series so much, that I feel like I must have missed something.
That said, I can't recommend it because I found it... dull.
Royal Space Force: Wings of Honneamise - 6.5
All the other anime I've reviewed are series, but Wings of Honneamise is a movie. Visually, it's outstanding.
Story-wise, it's a little bit slow. Kind of interesting in a "oh, that's interesting.. but now my mind is drifting to something else.. I wonder how much longer this movie is... oh, dear, there's still another hour to go... la-la-la... I'm watching an interesting movie... la-la-la... I wonder if it's almost over...?" kind of way.
Texhnolyze - 6.5
This is the third of the three anime series that I reviewed before. I gave it a pretty high recommendation at the time because of the very interesting graphics and such and so forth, but this thing is really, really slow... and the more I watched, the more I felt like the interesting graphics weren't nearly interesting enough to make up for the slooooooow storyline.
Petite Princess Yucie - 6.5
This would be a great series for girls age 9-12. Seriously.
I am not such a girl, however, and so it didn't do much for me.
Highly recommended... but for someone else.
Escaflowne TV Series - 6
Ditto. This is a fantasy series about a girl who falls through a portal or something like that and ends up in a magic realm of fantasy-ish things. Dragons and stuff. You know. And she has some special powers or ancestry or something that I can't remember. One of those "you are destined to save the world even though you thought that you were just a normal girl" kinds of things.
I hate those things.
That said, if you like that genre, this is probably pretty good.
Paranoia Agent - 6
Sort of a horror/mystery story.
I respect the skill with which it's done, but I really hated it. I couldn't say why, exactly, but I found it almost physically excruciating to sit through this. It made my brain angry and unhappy.
Interestingly, many weeks later I went to see a new anime movie in the theater, called Paprika. Anyway, it was sort of very interesting and the sort of thing that I should totally dig, but I hated it. Hated it, hated it, hated it. But, again, I couldn't tell you why. It just somehow really disturbed me, but for no clear reason.
So, a few days after I saw Paprika, I suddenly thought "I wonder if they're both by the same guy?" and, sure enough, they are.
So, I don't know what it is with this guy and his work, but I loathe everything he does. I respect the right of the rest of the world's population to really enjoy it because it's clever and stuff, but it just hits me the wrong way. To me, it is the food poisoning of anime.
It is the cactus in the eye.
Kurogane Comm - 6
A girl lives on a planet where everyone else is dead. She has three robot friends who hang out with her.
This wasn't bad, but it wasn't terribly good either. Maybe interesting for young kids...?
Fruits Basket - 6
Very famous, popular anime. A girl lives with a family of people who, when hugged, turn into animals from the zodiac.
I like the premise because it's completely insane, but the actual show was a bit dull for me. Again, I think this is probably intended for much younger audiences, though.
Video Girl Ai - 5.5
Very much like Chobits, discussed above. Apparently this is a sort of anime genre. Horny, awkward, spastic guy finds super-cute, super-obedient girl with super-powers but also with a flawed brain which makes her very sweet but also very naive and in need of protecting.
In this one, the obedient, cute girl isn't a robot but instead is a girl on a video-tape who can come out of the video-tape and interact with the viewer. She's supposed to give the sex-crazed, hopelessly clumsy guy advice on how to win the girl, but she falls in love with him (though it's impossible to guess what it is that she loves about him since pretty much all he does is ogle women and freak out a lot) and blah-blah-blah.
Dumb and not funny.
Kurau: Phantom Memory - 5
I can barely remember this one.
In fact, even as I was watching it I could barely remember it.
A girl is in the lab when her father is doing some kind of weird experiment and some kind of energy alien thing ends up possessing her. Then we cut to many years later and she's an assassain or something like that, but she has super-powers because of the alien thing inside her. Then she finds this younger girl who's like her sister or maybe it's some other aspect of her or something like that. I don't know.
Anyway, we then have several stories about the assassain lady going off to do various jobs using her super-powers and leaving her other-half sister-y person alone in the apartment, where she gets attacked by some mysterious group that's observing them.
I don't know.
I think this story really needed a giant, purple gorilla to work. Or something like that.
And it didn't have one.
And so... it didn't work.
The place promised in our early days - 5
This was a movie. I can't remember much more about it than that.
No, wait, it's coming back to me... there are three teens who hang out together. Two guys and a girl. And they share their dreams and whatever. Then we flash to the future and the girl is dying and the guys are working on some experiment thing that, if it works, might somehow save her.
I don't know. I found it all kind of boring. They spent way too much time setting up the backstory about these three teens hanging out together. Seriously, it was like an hour of just that. So, by the time they jumped forward to the potentially interesting part, I was already pretty much asleep.
Planetes - 4
I expected to like this because it's about sort of outer-space janitors... they go around cleaning up all the space junk. Blue collar workers in space kind of thing.
The voices were really screechy though and the humor was really, really lame. It tried too hard to be "wacky" and it finally gave me a headache.
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust - 4
Vampire movie. Highly regarded because of the graphics.
Same old, same old vampire-y stuff.
Elfen Lied - 3
Okay, I actually hated this one.
Sci-fi kind of series about killing-machine-person-monster-thing escaping from a lab and killing everyone. It's a girl, though. A very naked girl.
She ends up finding some nice people after she escapes but she has complete amnesia, so she doesn't know that she's this experimental killing machine monster thing.
So far, so good.
Then it sort of devolves into a Chobits rip-off for a little while, with the amnesia girl being sort of brain-dead and always doing things like rubbing her breasts against the guy... but, y'see, she's totally innocent and stuff, so then he feels all perv-y because she's super sexy... and then he has to changer her underwear because she doesn't know how, but then his female friend shows up while he's in the middle of doing it and gets really mad because she thinks he... and then he.. and so they...
And then, just when it's gotten really boring and stupid, it gets really nasty too. There's another naked girl killing-machine-monster thing and it's sent after the first one. But this second one has been chained up and tortured for years. And it calls the evil military guy who sends her on missions "Daddy". And so we have this sort of 4-year-old girl in a very breast-y adult woman's body... chained to the wall but covered with blood and cuts and...
So, you get it, right?
This really ought to be at the very bottom of the list but I felt I had to give it a few points because, technically, it's well made.
But, really, it sucks.
Kamichu - 2
A normal girl finds out she's a god.
Nice premise. But the girl is the typical anime girl who is very shy and stutters incessantly and after a while I just got really sick of her.
Y'know, as badly as women are portrayed in Western media, and especially in our comic-books, I've gotta say... we appear to be miles ahead of the Japanese in this regard.
Mobile Gundam 08 - 2
Some kind of war sci-fi thing. I can't remember it, to be honest. I just remember that it wasn't at all memorable.
And that's our list!!!
Man, that really took forever, didn't it? Well, that 's okay... I haven't done much in the way of reviews lately, so this'll help make up for the void in the universe that had been created by my slackness...
In conclusion, you should really go rent Azumanga Daioh, Gunslinger Girls, Haibane Renmei, Kino's Journey, Last Exile, Crest of the Stars, and Dai Guard. They are very worth your time and they will enhance your quality of life immeasurably.
And then you should clean your room. Because it's getting messy. And I've been getting a lot of complaints about it.
So, on that note... I'll see y'all next week!!!
- Paul, anime'd out for a good long while...