Wednesday, January 02, 2008

:anime: Decade's Best…So Far (2007 Edition) :: Anime (Top 20) ::: Introduction and #20 to #16

Many a debate has swirled around whether this decade has been a "golden age" for anime or whether it has been not. While that sort of label is not the topic of interest here, what is is what are the top twenty anime of decade--so far. This list of will be updated accordingly after the end of each year until a final master list is achieved at the end of the decade. The anime in contention (shows, movies, OVA, etc.) are judged primarily on its own merits and critical opinion, with slight attention being paid to popularity (this isn't exactly "Decade's Most Popular") and a dash of my own personal discretion (the list is unbiased overall, outside of the accompanying "Personal Opinion" with each entry). Only anime that have either begun showing since January 1, 2000, have been shown in their entirety from that date to December 31, 2007 (2009 in the end), or have aired a vast majority of its episodes (i.e. long-running shows of 75 eps. or more) in that given period of time are eligible. Five will be revealed until the number one anime of the decade--so far--is revealed.

And so, we start, from #20 to #16...

20. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Format: TV (14 episodes)
Debut: April 4, 2006
End: July 2, 2006
Studio: Kyoto Animation
Website: Japanese, English

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya has been one of the most popular and widely-praised series in 2006. Based on a hit light novel series, its eccentric, somewhat philosophical story, top-notch production values, and unorthodox broadcast episode order helped place Kyoto Animation on the map and made the anime a major sensation worldwide.

Personal Note: “What?!” Some of you may be saying right now. As good as TMoHS was, it certainly was not the only good anime among a large, strong field of contenders in the decade. Popularity does count, though a good number of critics have not shown the same sort of enthusiasm as others have.

19. Black Lagoon
Format: TV (24 episodes over two seasons)
Debut: April 4, 2006
End: December 19, 2006
Studio: Madhouse
Website: Japanese, English

Black Lagoon has been regarded for its unflinching, and at times unflattering, look at the shady business of underworld activities and those that participate in it, as well as its mature story and intense action.

Personal Note: The best action/adventure series of its kind since Cowboy Bebop, BL is one of many great shows from animation studio Madhouse in the past near-decade. While it does have the praise and the popularity, it, like No. 20, are lower on the list due to the sheer number of other shows that are of high or higher quality. On a separate note, BL was helmed by the same individual who directed the far more tame Princess Arete

18. Fighting Spirit
Format: TV (76 episodes, plus a special and OVA in 2003)
Debut: October 3, 2000
End: March 27, 2002
Studio: Madhouse
Website: Japanese

Formerly known as “Hajime no Ippo” prior to its release as “Fighting Spirit” in North America, the long-running boxing anime developed a small, yet very dedicated fanbase and became a show that many critics swore by, a number of whom naming it one of the top anime of all time.

Personal Note: Being a boxing aficionado (*points to HardDoor’s heading*), I have long wished to see FS, but the high number of volumes (and lack of boxed collections initially) and the lack of accessibility outside of the DVDs themselves (i.e. digital distribution, VOD, TV broadcast) kept me from getting in on the action—and probably many others. For such a highly-regarded and –praised series among fans and critics, as well as themselves, it was a little puzzling to see Geneon not take the initiative to get it out there more (and I’m sure a generic title like “Fighting Spirit” wasn’t helping, either).

17. Monster
Format: TV (74 episodes)
Debut: April 6, 2004
End: September 27, 2005
Studio: Madhouse
Website: Japanese

Monster is one of a number of recent stories that have had the good fortune of being told first through a highly rated manga and later adapted into a highly rated animated series (with a live-action movie in the works).

Personal Note: Like the series before it, Monster has had the large amounts of praise heaped upon it, but not the similarly sized fanbase. That has not stopped it, however, from slowly obtaining more believers who have come across its high-caliber storytelling and plot twists.

16. Le Chevalier D'Eon
Format: TV (24 episodes)
Debut: August 19, 2006
End: February 23, 2007
Studio: Production I.G
Website: Japanese, English

One of the most widely praised series in the past year, and continuing Production I.G’s tradition of providing top dramas, Le Chevalier D’Eon gained great support thanks to its imaginative use of historical figures and events, and excellent production values.

Personal Note: Sigh…Chevalier was a show that had me absolutely *hooked* from its premiere episode, only to lose my own support as it went on. Despite my reservations with what occurred, there is no denying the amount of admiration many anime fans and critics have for it. If it were not for some of the other titles above it, it would at least be in the top ten.

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