Last year I turned 30 years old. The Otaku Expiration Date, according to some. It’s a pretty big milestone for otaku dorks, I think. Many people drift away from anime–to be honest, I thought I would too–but for some reason I am still watching the stuff every season. Sure, I watch way less than I used to, and my general interests have expanded quite considerably since my induction into extreme otakudom 10 years ago.
A lot changes in a decade. I was probably at peak otakudom when I turned 20. Hell, I made posts like this. I watched a lot of shows, many of which I can barely even remember now. As such, I decided to task myself with an exercise–what anime from the past 10 years can I really claim are my “favorites”?
It is here where I hit a wall. To me, a favorite is defined by something I can watch over and over again. And, to be honest, most of the shows I’ve watched over the past 10 years I’ve only seen once. Hell, I loved Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann when it aired back in 2007, but come to think of it, I’ve only seen the damn show once. I’m sure I would like it again if I watched it, but I just haven’t found the time. As such, most of my “favorites” date back to when I first started watching anime–as it is for most people, I presume. With limited access and lots of free time as a junior high school student, you just start watching Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop over and over again.
That said, this turning point in my life got me thinking about what I’ve seen over the past 10 years. Specifically, what still sticks in the memory–things I want to check out again. Things that have strong potential to be “favorites.”
It is under this criteria that I have assembled a list of anime titles from 2008 to 2018. In some cases, I have watched certain series once or twice again since, but for the most part this list is made up of things I only watched once. For the sake of simplicity, I will stick with TV series, as things will careen into chaos if I include random OVAs and films.
Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
This is cheating right off the bat, because the original Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei animated series started in 2007. That said, it’s worth mentioning because Zoku was a turning point for the series. While the first season was a SHAFTED-up anime comedy with a negative edge, Zoku injected a very sharp and distinct brand of darkness and insanity not present in the previous show, giving the sequel a heavier punch. Sure, the first series’ opening had stylish bondage imagery, but the second seasons hits you with grotesque dissections of the human body taken from the Kaitai Shinsho and nods to ero-guro illustrator extraordinaire Maruo Suehiro, letting you know that you’re in for a crazier ride.
Kure-nai is a show that fell under the radar in its time, and is all but forgotten now. I would still dig it now–the naturalistic animation, the realistic characterization, the amazing music, and bitter sweet story sealed the deal on this one. I prefer the approach the TV series took to the original material as opposed to the OVA series, which changed the character designs to be more faithful to the original work, and lacked the stark realism that made the TV series feel down to earth.
Zettai Karen Children
This is definitely one that defined me as an insufferable internet creep, but I know I could still get into it today. It’s like how I can still get into the first Hayate no Gotoku TV series, because both shows share the same staff with a style of humor cut from the same cloth. Also, Zettai Karen Children had an engaging shonen-manga plot behind it that kept me tuning in. Love those 90s character designs, too.
Astro Fighter Sunred
I was immediately taken by Astro Fighter Sunred, because it took a bold, limited animation style lifted from an Adult Swim show and mixed it with long spiels about nothing, akin to Seinfeld. Also, the airings of the show’s first season and second season book-ended my stint studying abroad in Japan, effectively giving me a taste of mundane Japanese daily life prior to departure, and letting me continue to experience it upon my return. (I would end up visiting Mizonokuchi for entirely unrelated reasons years later.)
This won me over for the cool, grim atmosphere and overall feeling of dread that permeated every episode. I have a feeling Casshern Sins is something I would appreciate more now as a “hardened adult”, and I seem to remember the action being pretty unique as well.
I remember binge-watching this due to positive buzz during its time on the air. I knew about the “Gotcha!” first episode, which may have put me off because I liked what it was going for. That said, after sitting down to watch Ga-Rei: Zero, I remember it being one of the most gripping things I had seen in a while. It likely hurts to know all the surprises, but given a decade has passed, it may be worth giving it another spin.
Boy, was this a drama fest, especially at the height of the insane moe movement with crazy people crying over Nagi’s purity, or whatever. Then there was director Yamamoto “I Will Save Anime” Yutaka: he didn’t really change the world with this one, but he did put together a very strong comedy that would probably still make me chuckle if I watched it today. I think I have some un-watched DVDs sitting around for this somewhere…
Michiko & Hatchin
This is one I really need to sit down and watch again. I remember being initially disappointed with Michiko & Hatchin, as the slower tone of the show went against the energetic tone of the opening, which brought to mind Lupin III or Cowboy Bebop. Turns out a lot of the show was a lot like the downer episodes of Bebop, but that seems like something I could connect to easier now.
True Mazinger Impact! Z Chapter
Boy, this was a big one. One of the first big TV anime from Imagawa Yasuhiro in ages, based on one of anime’s most influential robot titles–all the while crossing over with a bunch of other works, Giant Robo style. While the show didn’t quite have the muster production-wise to really get to where it needed to go, it was still a fucking blast. This one is especially notable for me, as it began airing exactly as I started studying abroad in Japan.
Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu Season 2
Another cheat, as this is a sequel too, but it is worth mentioning. Slagged on as the “ultimate troll”, or whatever else people said back in the day, the long-awaited sequel to 2006’s original Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu turned heads by boldly playing back the same story eight times in a row–I have fond memories of me and my sharehouse mate tuning in to TeleTama (we lived in Saitama) weekly, hoping that this would be the week the arc ended. Given this is a list of things I would watch again, I can’t say with full confidence that I would watch the entirety of season 2 when I inevitably get around to watching Haruhi again, but the parts around Endless Eight continued to demonstrate same quality present in the first season, and some of those Endless Eight episodes were alright.
Along with the collective ire for Endless Eight, K-ON! did not get a warm welcome back in the day, especially as it was a time when the Pro-Moe VS Anti-Moe debate was at its most heated. Alongside Kyoto Animation “trolling” fans with Haruhi, K-ON for many people represented another dangerous step into the maw the of moe beast, with its focus on “girls doing nothing” and its “blobby” designs. I of course dug K-ON! back in the day for the cute moe antics, but with 10 years of hindsight and 2 and a half years of teaching at a Japanese junior high school, I have a feeling I could get more out of it. While to some Sound! Euphonium may be the ideal evolution of K-ON!, I still think the show deserves a lot of credit for accurately capturing those mundane moments of Japanese high school life, with great attention to detail in the animation and sharp direction. Also, when I first saw the show, it was adjusted to 4:3 for TV, which is quite quaint nowadays.
Natsu no Arashi!
As a rabid fan of SHAFT and Shinbo Akiyuki, picking up on Natsu no Arashi! was a no-brainer. While not as visually inventive as other SHAFTXSHINBO shows back then, it did have a strong brand of comedy that worked well with SHAFT’s approach to making anime. The show also had elements of the paranormal and hints of science fiction, which did well to draw me in. I obviously need to take a look at it again, because for some reason I drew a lot of fan art for it, and the killer opening song is what got me into one of my favorite bands.
This one came at the peak of my SHAFTXSHINBO fandom, and had the added bonus of character designs from Watanabe Akio, bringing about fond memories of The Soultaker. Given I downloaded the Blu-ray rips–and eventually physically bought the goddamn Blu-ray boxset–putting this on the list is a big cheat as I have seen this show several times, and it likely resides in “favorite” territory. The reason why I am including it is because it occupies a special place in my heart. The show started airing right as I was wrapping up my stint studying abroad, and I have fond memories of watching the first episode raw on my tiny analog TV fixed up top my sharehouse room’s mini-fridge. There was also the pained production process of the last three episodes, which only worked to build expectations for the finale–expectations which the crew managed to exceed in brilliant form. With the exception the impeccable Kizumonogatari trilogy, I lost track of this franchise at around either Monogatari Series or Owari Monogatari, but this first series will always be one I can keep coming back to.
Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzuu
This was a super weird one–while at a glace, the show seems similar to other magical girl outings like Pretty Cure or Ojamajo Doremi, but has the pedigree of Kawamori Shoji as its creator and the opening theme is in… Thai? Also, it was my first and last foray into fansubbing. While the show’s hefty 50-episode run makes multiple viewings difficult, Anyamaru Tantei Kiruminzuu at times took bold steps past the typical monster of the week formula, had a strong cast of characters, and an engaging visual pop aesthetic that made it a more memorable entry into anime pantheon of magical girl shows.
This is definitely one that I would benefit from another look at now that I’ve hit the big 3-0. Me, at my most pretentious, found myself disappointed with this show because it wasn’t experimental enough, and it took snot-nosed college student me a while to get hip to the genuine human insight that drove each story. A second viewing of Kuuchuu Buranko at the MIT Anime Club (I didn’t go to the school–just to make that clear) helped a lot, and endeared me greatly to the work. That said, now more than ever, I think I would be able to fully connect with all of Irabu’s patients upon another viewing. Also, Denki Groove rules, and Pierre Taki does NOT deserve what happened to him.
So… that’s two years out of a decade. Don’t worry, the amount of anime I watch drops off severely in the coming years, which means further posts will cover more ground. Stay tuned!