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Best of the Decade: 2009

December 31, 2009

K-On is nowhere near this list and Bakemonogatari is relegated to “also-ran” status. Therefore, most anime fans can quit reading this list now, since your favorite shows aren’t present.

Also, Hamyuts is better at “moe” than Mio. If by “moe” I mean “mass murder.”

Honorable Mentions

Canaan

I don’t think Canaan would be in this spot if it weren’t for Liang Qi. I have a soft spot for this sort of character. She likes to kill. She wants nothing more than to kill Canaan and please her “sister” Alphard. She’s also batshit insane. She isn’t cold and calculating like Alphard. She’s boisterous, aggressive, and completely over the top. She’s a bowling pin and an “I drink your milkshake” away from Daniel Plainview.

Had Canaan boiled down to Canaan vs. Alphard, it would have been an OK rehash of the Noir formula. It’d be better than the rest of the Bee Train girls-with-guns series, Madlax and Brujah, but it’d be fairly remarkable. Instead, we get Liang Qi thrown into the mix to contrast with their relatively low-key cat and mouse game. Her “GET SOME” bit, where she bombed the hell out of an anti-terrorism meeting in Shanghai by means of a Wii-mote, is one of the most hilariously awesome moments of the year. Senseless sadism is always best with an added dose of humor.

The gunplay is pretty good as well, and it isn’t ruined by Canaan’s synesthesia shtick. I was a little worried that her super-senses thing would turn her into some Vash-like unbeatable gunman, but the series did a good job of tempering her skills and working them into her fighting style. The synesthesia didn’t become some sort of Naruto-fox-demon crutch they could use when they wrote themselves into a corner, and that’s a good thing.

Just a note: Umineko was in this slot, then Ange came along. Where Liang Qi elevated Canaan, Ange ruined Umineko. Fuck you, Ange. Liang Qi’d totally kick your ass, magic or not.

Eden of the East

I feel dirty for having Eden of the East as an “honorable mention.” When I first compiled this list over a month ago, it was in the top slot. But that isn’t the case now, and I think I’ve committed a horrible sin.

Eden of the East boils down to one revelation: There’s no way that one person can change the world. No matter what great deeds one accomplishes, no matter how many people may admire you for your actions, there’s no way that a single individual can create change on such a scale.

Twelve people are tasked with “changing Japan for the better.” They’re given massive amounts of money and access to some sort of “system” that allows them to spend this money on anything fathomable. Almost everyone that’s involved in the matter is extremely intelligent and capable of thinking on a “large” enough scale to bring about genuinely change. The catch here is that no single human can think on a large enough scale, and no single human is capable of thinking outside of their own “box.” In order to bring about the sort of change that’s sought after in this game is impossible to obtain.

Each of the selecao go about their task in seemingly narrow-minded ways. One uses his money to establish a state-of-the-art hospital where many people can find cures to horrible diseases and conditions. This is a great, selfless act, but it doesn’t meet the standards set by the game. A hospital, regardless of how advanced it is, isn’t bringing about real change in Japan. The only people affected by the hospital are the select few who need its services. Anyone else remains unaffected. The man who created this hospital was well aware of the fact. He knew that he couldn’t meed the expectations of the game, so he chose to follow his own ideals, regardless of the consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences resulted in him dying for failing at the game.

Every other selecao in the series is equally as “guilty” as this man. Even Takizawa’s scope is narrowed to “helping” the hikkikomori/NEET population of Japan. The fact that no one is capable of concocting a scheme worthy of the game’s standards points out the inherent flaw in the idea that one person can change the world. Even great people like Martin Luther King, who are celebrated for bringing about major changes in society, are ultimately “guilty” of changing very little in the grand scheme of things. This doesn’t detract from their deeds, it merely puts them into perspective. Anyone who honestly believes that “change” is something that can happen as the result of one person’s actions is a fool. One person can help motivate a generation, but that aid is irrelevant if other forces don’t act in accordance. Martin Luther King’s actions would be for naught if the rest of the civil rights movement didn’t take place. While he may be the symbol of that movement, it was the actions of an entire cultural movement and the actions of many people who came before and after that led to true change.

This is the concept that Eden of the East is criticising. Many people look to individuals to change the world. In the US, many people on the “right” looked to George Bush to magically wish away terrorism in the wake of 9-11. In the last election, many people on the “left” looked to Barak Obama as some sort of beacon of hope in the wake of a lousy presidency that preceded his. Both sides are fools for thinking that these men would be the sole deciding factor in bringing about any sort of change in the world, much like how the mind(s) behind the game in Eden of the East are fools for thinking they can give a handful of people money and create cultural change in Japan. Without larger cultural forces at work, no change is going to occur.

Best of the Year

The Book of Bantorra

This is why I feel dirty for not having Eden of the East as my favorite anime of the year. The Book of Bantorra is pure pulp schlock. Most of the characters are slivers of personalities. The animation is relatively poor. Despite this, I’m absolutely loving the series.

Like Ga-Rei Zero, Bantorra isn’t afraid to kill characters. Unlike Ga-Rei, Bantorra doesn’t always let you get to know a character before he or she dies. A seemingly important character dies within minutes of the first episode beginning, and numerous characters die in subsequent episodes. Bantorra isn’t concerned with meeting audience expectations. Most anime viewers expect to get to know a character and they rarely want to see a character die, especially characters they like. Bantorra gives audience expectations the proverbial bird and kills people with reckless abandon.

Despite characters dying, this rarely means that said character’s story is over. A character who dies in the second episode becomes an important plot point several episodes later, and many characters get “development” after they’ve died. In Bantorra, death isn’t the end of a character’s story, and this makes sense due to the fact that people become fossilized “books” upon their death and that these books tell the life stories.

Bantorra is also thoroughly amoral. The leader of the Library, Hamyuts Meseta, that defends these “books” is an admitted murderer. She enjoys killing people, boasts of her “mass murdering” skills, and looks down upon anyone that is weaker than her and incapable of the same sort of deviant behavior. Many of the other Librarians share similar, if somewhat toned-down, views of the world. Mattlast, another high-ranking member of the Library, sees the world as being filled with “irrationality and dissatisfaction” and doesn’t see the point in defending it. The so-called “good guys aren’t very good. That’s not to say that all of the Librarians are like this (Noloty is an idealist to a fault), but it goes to show that one can defend those aspects of the innocent masses of the world and not be the most ideal individual.

I’m also enjoying the villains. The villains aren’t domination or destruction or anything like that, they’re seeing personal enlightenment. The purpose behind the Sendeki Church is for each member to seek out the best way to ensure that they’ll “go to heaven.” The means by which they go about this task is up to the individual, and many of them do so at all costs. They willingly turn other humans into “meats,” humans whose memories are wiped and act like non-brain-eating zombies, and use these “meats” as bombs, assassins, and other nefarious ways. While these actions may seem to be traditional “dominate and destroy” methods at first, in the end the Church is seeking personal fulfilment.

The Church personifies the ideology of Objectivism and how this ideal can be taken to extremes. At the same time, The Library represents an “one for all” mentality that’s also taken to extremes. The Librarians are tasked with defending the books of the dead, and there seems to be just as much of an “at all costs” mentality within the Library as there is within the Church. The only difference between the two sides is what they kill for: personal fulfilment or defending the memories of the dead.

In the grand scheme of things, is either task really better than the other? At the same time, is either one really worth the cost of someone’s life? Despite focusing on the Library, Bantorra doesn’t answer either of these questions, and it’s all the better for it.

Also-Rans

BakemonogatariThriller Restaurant, Umineko no Naku Koro ni

Regretfully lost track of after the first brilliant episode

Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z Hen

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2010 2:21 PM

    I know Book of Bantorra is good. Hamyuts is badass and everything. The problem is when I finish an episode I [i]instantly forget about it[/i]! I just can’t get emotionally attached to the series or any of the characters where as Eden occupied my mind for the entire 11 weeks of its airing time.

    Still, it’s good to see some love for Bantorra from somewhere

    • Landon permalink*
      January 2, 2010 3:08 PM

      I enjoy how detached Bantorra can be. I don’t care about the characters, but at the same time I don’t care that I have no attachment to them. I get that most fans like to feel attached to characters, but that’s never been an issue for me. I find it refreshing that a series seems to intentionally avoid trying to make a cast of likable characters and focuses on other aspects of storytelling.

      But yeah, not everyone’s going to feel that way.

  2. zammael permalink
    July 6, 2011 9:21 PM

    Another failure at not ranking Bakemonogatari properly. Off to the Otaku Board!

    I’ll argue my pick at the drop of a hat — and I’m re-watching it right now. Shaft’s simply divine brilliance is too much, it seems, that some of us prefer to ride the backlash just to recover from the searing light…. ;)

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