Turns out it takes three posts to cover 10 years of anime, especially when one’s anime intake drops dramatically over the course of a decade.
This is the third and final Part of my look anime from 2008 to 2018, following Part 1 and Part 2. This set of years defines another pivotal part of my life, as it was when I finally quit my easy-peasy teaching job and submitted myself to corporate slavery. But even through these tough times, Japanese animation was there to cheer me on. Let’s take a look at what stuck in the memory.
Space ☆ Dandy
It’s a miracle that Space ☆ Dandy got green-lit. With its ensemble of amazing creators from the worlds of music, design, and animation, backed by the robust Studio Bones, it’s amazing that someone was bold enough to fund this experimental and absurd sci-fi romp. Yeah, I know the popularity of Cowboy Bebop in the United States helped, but I still wonder if the producers eventually saw a profit as a result of this crazy artistic investment. Adult issues aside, this show was a motherfucking good time. While there were some duds among the mountain of amazingly fun episodes, the consistently high production values and the eclectic nature of both its visuals and sound made Space ☆ Dandy a show I definitely want to check out again. You can read my review of season 1 here.
Strangely enough my experience with Yuasa Masaaki is quite limited, as a lot of his major works came out before I could really appreciate them. Ping Pong is probably the first series by him that I watched and fully took in–making me want to go back and give Tatami Galaxy and Kaiba another look. One thing that stuck out about Ping Pong was how Yuasa’s exaggerated style worked so well to drive the the show’s drama and action, which resulted in a very compelling series about… table tennis.
Shirobako entered my life just at the right time–I had just made my way into the Japanese corporate world, and was feeling the pressures of office life at full blast. Being set in an anime studio, Shirobako does not focus on the “traditional” office setting, but the personalities and dynamics are similar. While the show is deceiving with its stereotypical cute character designs, it has a lot of genuine heart. It is adept at accurately depicting the hardships of adult life, while also being a very informative and self-deprecating look at the anime industry.
To be honest, it was Kyoto Animation’s amazing production work on Sound! Euphonium that really brought it home. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have paid attention to this youth drama–and it is a great youth drama, but under the watch of another studio, it would not have hit as hard. Their finesse in bringing the drama to life in Sound! Euphonium brought me back to my days of confused youth, while the palpable atmosphere of the school setting brought me back to my days of teaching at some random junior-high in the middle of rural Japan.
Dragon Ball Super
Who knew we needed another Dragon Ball? Especially after Dragon Ball G-oh wait, that one was written out of existence thanks to Dragon Ball Super. To be honest, Super didn’t start out very “super,” with the first third of the series being a very poorly animated retake of Battle of the Gods and Resurrection F. But after it becomes comfortable in its skin, Super outplays the original Z (which I never watched to the end because it was too long… Kai got me through it). With a comfortable pace, galaxy-busting action, and a healthy helping of comedy, Super proved that there is a lot more this franchise can do.
I love Lupin III. I have watched all of Lupin III series 1, along with a third of series 2, snippets of series 3, and a handful of the movies, specials, and OVAs. Part IV: The Italian Adventure and Part 5 are both great, modern takes on the classic franchise. Despite the modern-day tech, Part IV plays close to the original, with its incorporation of the supernatural, and several moments that challenge the viewer’s suspension of disbelief. Meanwhile, Part 5 is comfortably set in our modern day, and does turn key parts of the Lupin formula on its head, along with satisfying amounts of realistic blood and violence in a call back to the original manga. I did have expectations for the recent TV special that followed, but unfortunately it fell extremely short of what these two series achieved. At least Koike Takeshi’s take on the franchise is also turning out quite nicely! More on that in future posts on this blog.
One Punch Man
I never found myself on the My Hero Academia train, so–outside of Dragon Ball–some how One Punch Man became my first shounen fighting fix since Black Cat. I know the hype at the time had something to do with it, but more than ever the mix of super heavy-duty action animation plus Saitama’s blase approach to his shounen hero existence won me over. With production of second season having changed hands from Madhouse, I am failing to find myself engaged with the sequel.
I actively avoided this one. I knew it was big among the fujoshi, and since I was in the middle of a major move from Ayase to Nakano, quite frankly, I had no time for this shit. That said, upon my move, I was looking for a bar in Nakano to call my own. During this search, I found myself in some cosplay/girls bar joint, and they just happened to be playing Osomatsu-san on the TV. I chuckled, but still blew it off. I wasn’t until my partner–who I was moving in with–suggested that we watch it, that I gave it a shot. Both seasons of this fucking own–it’s like Pani Poni Dash, but this time each of the characters is a mid-20s loser shithead–something I can totally identify with. That said, I think the show stretched its premise throughout its two seasons, but the film did an alright job of tying it all together in the end.
While the design of leading lady Hotaru initially drew me into Dagashi Kashi, as I continued to watch it, I was taken in by the nostalgic country-side setting and the show’s focus on obscure dagashi junk food. While Dagashi Kashi does fall victim to some otaku cliches, all of the characters are fun, and the show does have a strong and engaging edge. It also falls victim to planning issues, with the gag-focused first season being long-form, and the more personal second season being short-form. Maybe it’s because of the middle-of-nowhere setting that reminds me of my early years of living in this country, but despite its flaws, I would watch Dagashi Kashi again, and I am keen to check out the original work.
Space Patrol Luluco
I had actually meant to write this one up right as it was ending, but I never found the time. While not quite on the level of Panty and Stocking, Space Patrol Luluco was another entertaining and frenetic action-comedy by Trigger that didn’t overstay its welcome. And with a studio like Trigger at the helm, the show looks very good; and gets experimental depending on which planet the crew decides to visit in their interstellar travels. Writing this also reminds me that I need to get around to watch Inferno Cop…
Tonkatsu DJ Agetaro
This one’s just a fucking good time. It takes two things I love–making tonkatsu, and DJing–and combines them into one slappin’, crispy package. That said, I have tried both of these things before, and I am not especially good at either of them. Anyway, the comedic combination of tonkatsu and DJing immediately establishes a weird atmosphere for the show, which at the same time very accurately and amusingly depicts the bizarre nature of the Shibuya club DJ scene. It’s short, snackable, and I could chew on it again and again.
Seems like nothing stood out for me in 2017. Sure, I watched the last Kizumonogari film, and some sequels, but no new shows really impressed me. 2017 was a bust, folks. But don’t take my word for it… prove me wrong in the comments!
Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro
2018 saw the sixth iteration of the long-running Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro series hit airwaves. While I had seen Noitamina’s Hakaba Kitaro, I never sat down to watch a full Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro series, as they are so fucking long. However, the airing of this new series provided the perfect opportunity for me to keep up with the latest version of the franchise in real time. Running at just over a year as of this writing, the show captivates with each episode. While it is ostensibly a children’s show, its approach to teaching snot-nosed kids lessons is closer to that of the old fairy tales–it isn’t all doom and gloom, but there are a handful of episodes where people die as a result of their own greed and foolishness. Meanwhile, some episodes have nothing to say for children, and are just grim commentaries on society.
So, naturally, I dig it.
I was never a sports guy growing up, but strangely enough circumstances of me living in Japan resulted in me getting into a number of sports. These circumstances involved a close friend of mine turning me on to baseball, with the two of us regularly watching games at the local stadium after work for a time. It was between the influence of this friend and a certain Twitter personality that I really wanted to watch Gurazeni. And it didn’t disappoint–the team it depicts is the one I used to go out to watch–and at the same damn stadium–but more than that, the show’s realistic look at pro baseball really drew me in. Not the games, but the behind-the-scenes stuff. While not overbearingly depressing, the show does take a hard look at what it’s like to be a pro baseball player, especially with regards to struggles around salaries. This is evident from the title, which is wordplay referring to how money (zeni) is figuratively “buried” in the baseball diamond (guraundo/ground). Many of the players depicted in the show aren’t bestowed with happy endings, but everyone ends up drinking it off anyway, and quietly accepts their fate. Such is life.
I love Hokkaido, I love its food, and I love stuff set in early 20th century Japan. As such, I got a kick out of Golden Kamuy, with its classic Hokkaido setting and focus on local cuisine–specifically Ainu food. Oh yeah, and there’s also a high-stakes treasure hunt headlined by a rogues’ gallery of maniac characters. Sure, the anime looks kind of dodgy, but the voice cast is great, and carries the absurd proceedings. I should sit down and read the manga at some point.
Chukan Kanriroku Tonegawa
I fucking love Kaiji, and after enduring three years in a Japanese corporation, I have come to appreciate Japanese office dramas. As such, I was all over Chukan Kanriroku Tonegawa when I first heard about it. The work is spot-on in highlighting all the absurdities of traditional family-run Japanese corporations, all the way down to how Tonegawa being able to read the chairman’s weird facial expressions is a required “skill” for his job. The show totally nails the age-dynamics–and later on gender-dynamics–between co-workers, the banality of Japanese corporate life, and even small things outside of the office such as the sanctity of a salaryman’s lunch hour and his days off. Once the show introduces Otsuki–the notorious foreman from the Teiai mines–and his days off away from the trenches (bought by swindling people like Kaiji, as seen in season 2 of Kaiji) we get a look at both the subtle and ridiculous aspects of regular oyaji life in contrast to the executive-level oyaji life enjoyed by Tonegawa. But a paragraph isn’t enough to convey how great this show is–this requires a full review.
When this one dropped, I was past picking up new moe comedies. I was satisfied with now titles of old, like K-ON and Pani Poni Dash!, but people close to me insisted that I watch Asobi Asobase. So I dug in… and it was fucking great. While the moe comedy genre fell into a rut at some point, Asobi Asobase puts a new, vulgar spin on it, shining a realistic and unpleasant lens on high school girls, complete with some very grotesque expressions and barf-inducing lines of dialogue. I wanna watch this one again–hell, I would like another season.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
I was always too scared to chomp into the manga monster that was Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Why? Because everything about it was big–the artwork, the dialogue, and just the entire fucking series itself. It was just a lot to take in, and I didn’t have the confidence to plow through it–especially since I couldn’t read Japanese back in the day, and a majority of it was only available through poor fan translations that I had no patience for. While I have badmouthed the Jojo anime on this blog, it has gotten way better through its multiple iterations, and the currently-running Part 5 may be the best looking. Also, Jojo is just way easier for me to take in through weekly, 24-minute doses. By the time it gets to Part 3, it finally starts to live up to its Bizarre Adventure moniker, and Part 5 just ups the ante.
…and that’s it! A decade of anime, folks.
I would like to say that I blew through 10 years of anime in 3 months, but I am pretty sure I spent the better part of a year drafting this series of posts between working and being a raging alcoholic. But it is very important to look back at what sticks, and to that end I found this exercise very satisfying. Now that I am a full year into my 30s and have been less inclined to fuck around in izakayas and bars after long work days, this may be a great time to go back and actually watch some of these damn shows.