I can say that I’ve been a fan of anime since I realized that animation from Japan existed with the advent of Toonami around 1996. However, I feel like I only started being “serious” about this hobby around the time I started college in 2003 (you know, with a computer, an anime club, and greater avenues to access anime more than just what the TV said). So I can’t say that I’ve “been around” even as much as some of my fellow anime bloggers (or even my co-writers, I believe) regarding diving into the hobby, much less all of the fans out there who’ve been around for decades.
But that doesn’t matter in many aspects, since we all watch different series and we all have different responses to those series regardless. This post is more of a timeline for series throughout each of these ten years that have grabbed me in some way based on the long ANN list of titles that omo had been so kind to link in one of his posts. Though I’ve completed 350+ titles, and though I tend to like a lot of what I see, this post is not going to be that long. Okay, at least 2 posts worth.
Banner of the Stars (2000-04-14 to 2000-07-14): As others have said, the first series of the world of the Abh in Crest of the Stars was solid enough. But this story expands the relationship of Lafiel and Jinto, the circle of intriguing personalities that the pair interact with directly or indirectly, and the scope of the universe as we learn more about the Humankind Empire of the Abh and United Mankind Front as their conflict have important consequences for all involved. Besides that, the interpersonal relationships between characters are among the strongest and most enjoyable I’ve seen in an anime series, and the battles were very visceral (in a good way) because it felt like I “knew” the characters well. I also enjoyed the (un)intentional use of a cat as an intermediary in a developing triangle.
FLCL (2000-04-26, last episode, but hey): It took me about three watches before I realized that the whole OVA was basically a coming-of-age story for Naota. However, that didn’t matter at all those three watches, since I had a fun time trying to figure out the point of the OVA while just sitting down and enjoying the beautiful GAINAX madness and rocking Pillows soundtrack. Episode 5 (“Brittle Bullet”) is still one of my favorite single episodes of all time, as the stylishness, insanity and breakneck pace nestled itself well into epic gun battles.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie: It was basically a movie length Cowboy Bebop episode, but that wasn’t a bad thing at all. It has Spike, Jet, Faye (well maybe not Faye), Ed and Ein at their best, the slick, stylish attitude we knew and loved, and another solid Yoko Kanno soundtrack. The one off also introduced a interesting new supporting lead and a new protagonist that was the second person to make me fear for Spike’s life (the other is Pierrot Le Fou, and I’m surprised that Vicious never made me worried. Probably because it was destined and all). My favorite moment was the (unnecessary for the movie) sequence of Spike and co dogfighting the authorities to the tune of “What Planet Is This?”.
Animation Runner Kuromi: A fun movie showing off yet another job that is integral to the production of animation. But what keeps a job of rushing to and fro to make sure that keys frames are completed from being boring is an enjoyable cast of characters with simple characteristics and silly antics who bounce off each other well. And it’s hard not to enjoy the gumption that the title character takes to a hard, apparently thankless job.
Millennium Actress (2001-01-23): Vivid, beautiful, and entrancing, the Satoshi Kon direction/Susumu Hirasawa music combination was out in full force again, this time telling the life story of Chiyoko Fujiwara, a renowned actress who above all just had a desire to go after the one she loved. I loved the seamless transition from interviews with the actress (as well as the bumbling director and cameraman who were covering her) to works that she starred in during her past, and the movie pulled some unintentional emotional strings in me (the best kind of emotional strings) in the bittersweet ending.
Digimon Tamers (2001-04-01 to 2002-03-31): AKA the third season of Digimon as it was shown in the US. I enjoyed how the story ended up being not necessarily more darker, as had been shown in other season, but more “mature” in terms of the story. Maybe it was because the story was set in “reality” compared to the other seasons. Maybe it was because one Chiaki J. Konaka might have had something to do with the tone. Maybe it was because the things the children had to deal with were tougher than before. Whatever it was, I enjoyed the departure from the first couple of seasons, and it felt like one of those shows where you could say that anime “wasn’t just kids’ stuff”. Course, that might also be why this season didn’t seem to be as popular with people as others have been.
Read or Die OVA (2001-05-23): This OVA exuded “cool” to me in many different ways from Yomiko Readman’s paper manipulating powers, to the way that her enemies would refer to her as “Za Paper”, to the 60s spy atmosphere of it all (must have been the British vibe), to all of the good guys involved (which makes it interesting to see what happens to them in The TV), to the kickass soundtrack from Taku Iwasaki. This might have also been the first time where I thought about subtext in an anime (and it feels like it might have been realtext, given how things were in The TV). I don’t want to say “slick and stylish” again, but this the first thing I remember when watching it, and it’s not a bad thing.
Interstella 5555 (2001-08-31): Let’s call it a concept animation based on the album Discovery from Daft Punk, which I enjoyed by itself. With the album providing the main audio to the work and providing a backdrop to a story of an alien band that just wants to jam and spread the fun around, but gets forced into a plan where Hard Rock Almost Rules The Universe, the movie is a fun romp with Leiji Matsumoto character designs and common elements in tow. If One More Time doesn’t get you moving, well hey.
.hack//SIGN (2002-04-04 to 2002-09-25): This was the first time that I ever heard the music of Yuki Kajiura, much less music of a Eastern European/Celtic influence in anime, and the music remains one of my all-time favorite anime soundtracks. But besides that, I enjoyed the plot of Tsukasa trying to find out if he could ever log out of the game and if he would ever know his real life identity. Though the pace was slower than people might have liked to deal with, it was fine by me, though it was probably helped by the burgeoning romance of Tsukasa and Subaru, despite us not knowing the former’s identity until the end. It was an interesting way of looking at an MMORPG as well, and it might have been part of the reason why I still haven’t partaken of the genre yet, though that isn’t necessarily fair.
Azumanga Daioh (2002-04-08 to 2002-09-30): Spawner of all those unnecessary comparisons with other 4-koma, the adventures of a group of classmates throughout their times at high school ended up being hilarious, heartwarming, and thoughtful in a strange way. While I don’t think the show was as great as many others do, it was still a strong piece of work. Of course, Yomi was my favorite character, and Norio Wakamoto was the man even when I didn’t know who he when I watched the show (in 2004ish).
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002-10-01 to 2003-03-25): The Tachikomas. The hauntingly beautiful OP by Origa (yay Russian!) with the awesome OST from Yoko Kanno. Motoko, Batou, Togusa and the rest of Section 9 kicking ass in their own different ways. The political intrigue combined with interesting technobabble, interesting sidestories, and the interesting idea of what a ghost really is. I still haven’t watched 2nd Gig yet, but if it continues to be the same entertaining work the first series was, then I’d be overjoyed.
Haibane Renmei (2002-10-09 to 2002-12-18): One of my all-time favorites, and I still haven’t watched the complete series again since my first viewing because it was that good and I worry about the possible change in my enjoyment of the series. But then I think about the awesome visuals (to me, at least) and another all-time favorite OST in Kō Ōtani’s music for the series. I think about how I, like Rakka, was enthralled with the mysterious new world with it’s different customs, and how I was fine with not knowing answers to many of the mysteries at the end. I think about how the shift in focus of both character and tone just works and grabs me. I think about how I’ve been thinking about the world and the characters on and off for these past couple of years. And I realize that I shouldn’t be worrying at all. I’ll probably write a post about it once I get to rewatching the show sometime in the future.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou ~Quiet Country Café~ (2002-12-18): Watched this and the first OVA before reading the manga, actually. And this OVA introduced me to the idea of “slice of life”, so this is one of the things that made me who I am as an anime fan. Alpha and her adventures around Japan after her café was devastated in from a storm were enjoyable (yeah really), especially considering the situation that she is in (the slow gradual end of the world). I always get hooked on stories where people spend time exploring the world that they’re in, though you could say that it was almost forced by nature in this sense. Reagardless Alpha enjoyed just living and experiencing an expansion of the small world that she knew, and that was enough for me. Well, that and a longing female robot with a crush on Alpha in Kokone as well.
Tokyo Godfathers: For Satoshi Kon, this is as probably as straightforward as things could be from him, with a tale of three homeless people consisting of an alcoholic, a drag queen and a runaway trying to return an abandoned newborn to her parents during Christmastime. What it shows is life, pure and simple: the beginning and the end, the good and the bad, and just living. And it works.
Last Exile (2003-04-07 to 2003-09-29): An interesting setting with an alright story, great character designs by Range Murata, awesome art and another all-time favorite soundtrack from the trio of Dolce Triade (of which only Hitomi Kuroishi apparently is still active in anime) made this show for me. If only there was more Lavie.
Kino’s Journey (2003-04-08 to 2003-07-08): Another one of my all time favorite series. Interesting stories of places Kino and Hermes visit that show off both the wonder and fallibility that we as humans have, and it’s another show that made me think after watching it, as well as made me want to explore the world a little bit more.
Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (2003-08-25 to 2003-11-18):While the wacky hijinks in FMP:F weren’t hysterical most of the time, this was a comedy that was consistently funny (by which I mean I constantly laughed, but rarely lol’d), and there aren’t a lot of shows that you could say have done that. I also liked how it showed that you can remove one element of a formula that worked (though YMMV on that one, and granted, I’ve seen most but not all of FMP, including the end, and none of FMP:TSR, so), and still have what’s left over be enjoyable.
Gunslinger Girl (2003-10-08 to 2004-02-19): Another all-time favorite here. Manipulative? Sure. Do I mind? Hell no. It’s an interesting, and I think also realistic (given the implausible situation of course) look at how people respond to the hand they’ve been dealt in life. It’s somewhat depressing at times though, especially with what our main girls have to deal with (traumatic pasts, a shortened future while being used as conditioned assassins). And it does like to bring up the idea of if there’s always a hidden motive behind the actions that we do “for good”. I also have to give a nod to some of the more realistic animation and art that I’ve seen in anime, along with some awesome music (yay Delgados OP).
Lunar Legend Tsukihime (2003-10-09 to 2003-12-25): Yes yes, crazy bastards, “There is no Tsukihime anime”, or so the joking delusions go. This was before I played the source material, and I thought it was a decent enough introduction to the world of Type-Moon, though I could understand complaints about how much material is left off, how badly they combined some of the routes, the many loopholes that were left unsolved (though they did finish off the anime’s main story nicely) but possibly could have with more episodes, and so on. But I enjoyed the mood, as it drew me deeper into the story and the world that Shiki and Arcueid inhabited than otherwise would have been possible. Plus, regardless of how it’s presented, Shiki Tohno’s Eyes of Death Perception is still cool enough to be a hook for me. Though, of course, Kara no Kyoukai’s Ryougi Shiki one ups him on this one. Just wish there was a longer version of the OP though.
Maria-sama ga Miteru (2004-01-07 to 2004-03-31): Ah Marimite (which I pronounce wrong on purpose). That apparently “gateway” to yuri, although there was only one confirmed lesbian in the group. Besides that, the adventures of members of the student council of an all-girl catholic high school were entertaining enough to keep me watching for the next three seasons after this first one (and this last one being my favorite of the four, in my opinion). And for those who have watched the series, but not the Maria-sama ni wa naisho specials that come with each season, you are seriously missing out. My only complaint is that the show needed more Sei.
Paranoia Agent (2004-02-02 to 2004-05-17): Classic Satoshi Kon in a TV format, or so I’d like to say. A story about an apparent phantom child on rollerskates bludgeoning people with a golden bat becomes another study in some of the more negatives aspects of the human condition, covering topics such as suicide, gossiping, voyeurism and being an otaku in both a serious and sometimes darkly humorous manner. Susumu Hirasawa’s music helped here as well.
Le Portrait de Petit Cossette (2004-04-11): Shinbo’s directorial moves and oddities + intriguing supernatural concepts + gothic horror + epic visuals and art + one of Yuki Kajiura’s best soundtracks (IMO) = a winning combination. When you got right down to it, you could say that the story was not that hard to understand, but it sure wasn’t necessarily presented that way. Definitely one of the more uniquely presented anime that I’ve ever seen, and one that is a nice example of how “artistic” one could say the medium is as well.
Samurai Champloo (2004-05-19 to 2004-09-09): Anachronisms abound as an anime set in what seems like an earlier period Japanese history has a underlying hip hop flavor to it under which two swordsman and their female “employer” go in search of a samurai that smelled like sunflowers. And it worked, as I enjoyed the trio’s many episodic adventures (the drug episode, the baseball episode, a glimpse into Mugen’s past among others), along with the bittersweet ending. And what does a sunflower actually smell like, I wonder.
Mai-HiME (2004-09-30 to 2005-03-31): “The Best Worst Show Ever™”. This show probably made me care about the characters more than any other anime I’ve seen, and the best thing about it was, I didn’t realize that until the series really started getting going near the midway point. All the wacky hijinks to get to know the characters actually meant something important, and the last couple of episodes really brought that point home when the characters were faced with the challenge they were faced with. And if the show had stayed in that first half silliness, I would not have minded at all, since they produced some of the most enjoyable “filler” episodes I’ve seen in anime (like the Natsuki’s missing unmentionables episode, or the iron chef episode, or the karaoke episode). Even now, I’m still annoyed that there was never a direct sequel or prequel to this show like there have been for Mai-Otome. I can always dream though.
Genshiken (2004-10-10 to 2004-12-26): Very self-referential and very realistic, this show was one that made me feel like it was okay to be an anime fan, and there aren’t that many other anime shows that have done that for me. It helped that this show demonstrated that people fanatically interested in anime, cosplay, video games, and different interests related to those ventures are still people. And while being an obsessed fan isn’t something to brag about (though some people in the club enjoyably do), it’s not necessary to be embarrassed about. I definitely wouldn’t mind being a member of Genshiken either. Probably.
Shows that I remember from years 2005 to the summer season of this year mostly will be coming in the next couple of days. As always, if you’d like, you can mention other shows that I should have watched, or talk about how shows that I actually did watch aren’t on this list.