Tuesday, January 27, 2009

:anime: Decade's Best…So Far (2008 Edition) :: Anime (Top 20) ::: Introduction and #20 to #16

Last year's introduction started off with a mention of the debate about whether this decade has been a "golden age" for anime or not. While that argument has lessened some and has gone to the way side in turn for the more dire matter of the worldwide economic downturn's effect on the industry as a whole, a number of well-made titles that have come out since then, despite the circumstances. As good as they are, they will have to contend with an already crowded list of stellar anime, much less one centered around the top twenty anime of the decade--so far. The anime in contention (shows, movies, OVA, etc.) are judged primarily on their 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 Note" with each entry, which details why that particular anime is there, at times a bit of history behind it, and of course, my own personal opinion of it.

Because much of the information in this introduction and in the entries to follow were more informational and insightful than time-related, there was little need to rewrite everything all over again. As such, what is displayed is nearly the same as before, only with some parts updated with newer information, reflections on why a title's ranking may or may not have changed (whether it might in the future), and additional opinion.

The rules remain as followed: only anime that have either begun showing since January 1, 2000, have been shown in their entirety from that date to December 31, 2008 (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 once more, 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
Previous Spot: #20

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?! It’s still at #20?!” Some of you may be thinking 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. It has staying power, but whether it will climb up the list may depend largely on if it gets more exposure with a television broadcast, video-on-demand or digital distribution showing and how new viewers would react to it. The chief hurdle to that may be how the show is presented: in its “chronological” order, which is how it was presented on DVD on both sides of the Pacific, or in its original “broadcast” order, which shuffled the episode order (rather ingeniously) to create a seemingly disjointed, yet wholly connected, storyline that undoubtedly was a major contributor towards TMoHS’ success when it first aired in Japan.

19. Black Lagoon
Format: TV (as two 12-episode seasons)
Debut: April 4, 2006 (Beginning of first season, ended on June 24, 2006)
End: December 19, 2006 (End of second season, known as “The Second Barrage”; debuted on Oct. 3, 2006)
Studio: Madhouse
Website: Japanese, English
Previous Spot: #19

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, wild characters, 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, which got additional praise thanks in part to its much-lauded Ocean dub (which I didn’t like anywhere near as much as the original Japanese performance). 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 Sunao Katabuchi 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
Previous Spot: #18

Formerly known as “Hajime no Ippo” prior to its release as “Fighting Spirit” in North America, the long-running boxing anime (76 episodes and two OVAs) developed a small, yet very dedicated fanbase became a show that many critics swore by, many of whom naming it one of the top anime of all time.

Personal Note: Being a boxing aficionado (this is an anime & boxing blog…), 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). However, with Geneon’s closing in late 2007 and its downsized reemergence in the following year with a partnership deal with FUNimation, it is unknown if the series will see a rerelease like some of Geneon’s other series. I think, though, that its chances might be good...

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

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, with that number possibly increasing with its upcoming release by Viz Media.

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

One of the most widely praised series in the past few years, 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, most notably from the early mid-episodes on (and nothing has changed since then to alter my opinion). 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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