Best of the Decade: 2008
This list will regrettably be devoid of the actual best anime of 2008: Detroit Metal City.
Like I mentioned in my initial post, I arbitrarily disqualified OAVs and movies from my silly little “best of” lists. If DMC were “qualified,” not only would it be the best anime from 2008, it’d be competing with the likes of Haruhi, Baccano, and Air Master for the best series of the decade. It’s right there with Azumanga in terms of comedic genius. It also dares to joke about things that never get joked about in anime. The Tokyo Tower rape scene? Beautiful.
I’ll go on record and say that I prefer the pop crap over the metal crap in DMC. The lyrics of the metal songs are great, but I have a soft spot for cheesy “swedish pop.” If only he could sing those murderous lyrics as if it were an ABBA song.
So there we go, DMC did not appear in this post.
Yakushiji Ryoko no Kaiki Jikenbo
What I love most about Ryoko’s Case Files is summed up in the opening. It has a Henry Mancini-esque opening theme. The credits play out like something from a James Bond flick, with the words projected onto Ryoko’s body. There’s nary a kid character in sight (a fact that changes about halfway through the series proper, but doesn’t make it a show about kids). Even the archetypes that are present (maids, etc) aren’t played up to the normal otaku fetish levels.
Ryoko’s Case Files, for a lack of a better world, is decidedly mature for an anime. It’s sensibilities are considerably different from most recent series. It’s less concerned with appealing to the average anime viewer. This is a fact that can apply to many of the series on my “best of” lists, but this fact seems to be most prominent with this particular series. The series revolves around the relationship between two adult characters. This is something we’ve rarely seen in the last few years of the decade.
Ryoko’s Case Files gets cool points for the way it mirrors The X-Files. Not only do you have the flirting between the two main characters, you also have seemingly unconnected cases that, in the end, all come together in a larger conspiracy. The conspiracy in Case Files may not involve aliens, but the same idea is at play. The way everything falls into place may not be as ingenious as Baccano, but it’s pulled off pretty well.
And to add to those cool points, it’s based on a series of novels by the same dude that did Legend of the Galactic Heroes. Tytania also had those honors in 2008, but Ryoko’s the better of the two series.
Astro Fighter Sunred
Another comedy. Another attempt to use a bunch of words to say “that’s a funny anime.”
Sunred’s something of a spiritual cousin to Cromartie High School. Both have similar tones, since both series turn thoroughly outrageous situations into mundane, almost banal scenarios. In that regard, Sunred succeeds more than Cromartie. With Cromartie, there were a handful of characters who were shocked at the strange goings-on. With Sunred, everyone accepts the fact that monsters and sentai heroes live “everyday” lives.
The series plays as a satire on the sentai/tokusatsu genre. Even as a kid, I often felt tat the monsters in Godzilla movies and the like got a bad wrap. They’re just doing what’s natural to them. They can’t help that they’re hungry giant monsters who have to go through cities to get to their food. And once I saw a few sentai hero shows, I saw the same thing playing out at times. Why are these heroes bullying these poor monsters? Haven’t they seen Frankenstein? Maybe there’s a heart of gold underneath those moans and murders.
Sunred takes this to a certain extreme. Yeah, the Florsheim monsters want to take over the world, and they’d take great pleasure in killing Sunred and his cohorts, but other than that they’re mostly “normal” guys just trying to get by. In comparison, Sunred himself is a bit of a prick. He shows signs of being a softy, and he’s nice enough that he looks out for Vamp’s safety when genuinely sadistic heroes come along, but he often goes out of his way to kick the crap out of the various monsters and takes some degree of pleasure out of it. He’s also an inconsiderate boyfriend to Kayoko and mooches off of her like the deadbeat that he is. He just wants to play pachinko and kick some ass. All of this gets at things that many fans of these shows see. Sometimes the “heroes” come off as haughty assholes with a superiority complex.
There’s also cooking segments scattered about the episodes where the main villain, Vamp, teaches the audience how to make cheap dishes with ordinary Japanese ingredients. Anime needs more of this. If there’s ever another Fist of the North Star series, we totally need cooking segments that teach us how to cook with ingredients that would survive a nuclear holocaust.
Best of the Year
Ga-Rei Zero has the best tagline for an anime: “Would you kill someone you love because of love?” It’s obviously getting at the core storyline of the anime, where Kagura is forced to kill Yomi due to a bunch of convoluted and convenient events, but the line itself lends itself to all sorts of possibilities. Does someone who you love ask you to off someone? Are you like Ladd Russo from Baccano, enjoy murder, and find someone that’s a masochist that wants to kill you? The possibilities were endless, and once that tagline was thrown out there I had to wonder where, exactly, this anime was going to go.
I also had to wonder where it was going due to the awesome first episode. An entire cast of characters is introduced. A few of them have cool gimmicks, like the chick that uses motorcycle-fu and has tire with Buddhist prayers for treads. The parameters for the series were established, relationships were hinted at, we thought we knew where things where going, then everyone died. Most of them died pathetic deaths, and not a single person survived. It takes a hell of a lot of guts to invest that much time in establishing a set of characters, allow the audience to sort of get to know then, and then destroy them utterly. Many fans were pissed at this, but I thought it was a brilliant move. It established the idea that Ga-Rei wasn’t quite playing by the same rules as other series and that anyone could die at any given moment. While the rest of the series didn’t quite go to the same character-killing lengths, several important characters died throughout the series, some of whom appeared to be types that would never die. I loved it.
The series takes a bit of a dip in the middle, since we see too much of Kagura and Yomi’s everyday lives (totally catering to the slice of life obsessed crowd), but at the same time it’s these mundane moments that make the inevitable a bit more harsh. We see Kagura and Yomi act as normal as two monster-killing girls can be, we see them develop a sisterly relationship (or at least what anime fans think is a sisterly relationship), and then they’re forced to fight to the death. There’s nothing either one of them can do about this. They have to kill someone they love because of love.
And it’s the fact that the series doesn’t cop-out on us that makes it genuinely great. Yomi dies. Kagura kills her to save everyone that remains. The end, no continues for Yomi. Unfortunately, I hear that Yomi comes back in the regular Ga-Rei series. This is an incredibly stupid idea. It compares to all of the bullshit that went on in X-Men. Jean Grey dies, comes back as Phoenix, turns into Dark Phoenix, and then sacrifices herself to save her friends. The whole Dark Phoenix story arc was awesome, and Ga-Rei Zero compares to it to a certain extent. Then, several years later, the writers cop-out and had Jean Grey come back, reunite with all her friends and loved ones, and everything went to shit. If there’s a sequel anime, please dudes in Japan, don’t pull a Jean Grey on us. That would suck.
Ga-Rei Zero not only had motorcycle-fu, it had wheelchair-fu. More anime needs more stuff like this. Air Master had bike-fu, but that’s about it. We don’t need another gunslinger or swordsman. We need more ridiculous weapons.
Have yet to see because fansubbers have crappy taste and refuse to complete it