Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009 Year in Review: Anime

2009 has come and gone. This past year was a big reintroduction to anime for me. I watched quite a few series in full, as well as some that I have yet to finish. I am a little behind with the times, so bear with me as much of the anime I watched this year is older material. While I do plan on writing more in-depth reviews for many of these anime, below is a short list of the anime I watched in 2009, as well as my ratings for each (out of 10).

- Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket: This is an odd Gundam series, as it tries to weave an innocent kid’s view of the Zeon vs. Federation war in and out of the more realistic and gruesome experience of the mobile suit pilots. As awkward as the plot feels at times, it does a nice job of conveying various emotions and gives an alternate perspective on the war from the Zeon side. Rating: 7.0
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/retrograde-review-mobile-suit-gundam_17.html

- Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory: Perhaps the most important segway between the original Mobile Suit Gundam and Zeta Gundam, Stardust Memory is a tense series that portrays a last-ditch effort by the Zeon remnants to carry out an attack against the Earth Federation. The plot is slightly confusing towards the end, and the second half of the series falls victim to rather slow pacing. Still, there is plenty of space-bound action to be found and the differing personalities of the characters play off each other nicely. Rating: 8.0
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/retrograde-review-mobile-suit-gundam.html

- Gundam SEED Stargazer: A dark miniseries that occurs as a sidestory during SEED Destiny and chronicles a desperate battle between the coordinators and the naturals. The characters are nicely developed but don’t overstay their welcome. As brilliant as the series is for such a short time frame, my only complaint is that the series wasn’t longer. Rating: 8.75
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2009/09/i-just-wanted-to-look-up-for-time-being.html

- Gundam 00 (seasons 1 and 2): Perhaps the best alternate universe Gundam series, Gundam 00 takes place in the near future where three super-nations fight for resources and global control. The Gundam meisters intervene and uncover a plot more elaborate than they could have imagined. Both seasons are great, but the character development is stronger during the first season. The transition to season two is fluid and the conclusion is of epic proportions. Rating: 8.9
Full review of season one: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/retrograde-review-gundam-00-season-one.html
Full review of season two: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/retrograde-review-gundam-00-season-two.html

- Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (seasons 1 and 2): Though the first season is considerably stronger than the second, Sunrise has created a fantastic mecha series set in a dystopian world. There are some obvious inspirations from Gundam, but this series does an excellent job in separating itself from the crowd, giving the lead role to someone who is far from the stereotypical ‘good guy'. Rating: 8.75
Full review of season one: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/06/retrograde-review-code-geass-lelouch-of.html
Full review of season two: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/06/retrograde-review-code-geass-lelouch-of_23.html

- Princess Mononoke: Though certainly one of Miyazaki’s more mature-themed films, it still carries a heavy emphasis on the concept of imagination and childlike wonder. This fantasy epic pits man against beast, though the latter could have been elaborated on better. Though the main characters are rounded out well, some of the supporting cast is a little shaky. Still, the soundtrack is exquisite and the animation flawless. Rating: 7.25

- FLCL: A brilliant satire on Evangelion, Lupin III, and even non-anime material such as South Park, FLCL is fluid and dishes out a gigantic helping of action and comedy until its climactic end. Though it is only six episodes long, this comedy is a strong series all its own and delivers some fantastic stylized sequences. Rating: 9.5
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/flcl-review.html

- Dokuro-Chan: A short series that is certain to coax a few good laughs out of viewers. Its plot is thrown off track multiple times and the ending fails to give any sort of resolution. The humor therein is a bit sick and twisted, and the comedic sequences do seemed forced from time to time. But for a series that doesn’t try to take itself too seriously, there are plenty of gags and parodies to be found. Rating: 6.0

- Suzuka: A high school drama intended for the younger teen group. It’s a modern day Romeo and Juliet, but the manga is far more elaborate and creative. Still, for what it’s worth this series does a decent job of creating some colorful characters and the plot closes up decent enough at the conclusion of the anime. Rating: 7.75

- Welcome to the N-H-K: A dark comedy that is definitely not for the younger audience. The story follows Sato, who has dropped out of college and has no job. He stays in his apartment all day, convinced of a conspiracy by the Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai, until the arrival of Misaki, who promises Sato that she can cure him of his reclusive ways. The series pokes fun at depression, suicide, sex, and drug addiction in ways that seem neither forced nor over-the-top. The series shows how susceptible everyone is to these issues, and the ending throws viewers a surprise twist. Though technically appropriate for ages 17 and older, this anime will likely be most appreciated by those in the college group on up. Rating: 9.5
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/welcome-to-nhk-review.html

- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Possibly the most controversial anime of all time (both for its ending and its subject matter), Evangelion is a series that changed the giant robot genre forever. That said, Evangelion is truly a breed of its own and delivers many plot twists that will really force viewers to think. It is a psychological analysis of every character in the series, though I often found myself probing my own psyche while watching it. Simply put, this is one of the greatest anime of all time, despite its rather clumsy ending. Rating: 10
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/retrograde-review-neon-genesis.html

- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death and Rebirth: A film version of the original series, I would only recommend this as a refresher course for those who have already seen Neon Genesis Evangelion, but have yet to see End of Evangelion. Major points of the series are covered, but minor things that make the series enjoyable are left out entirely. Death and Rebirth’s portrayal of the characters is bland and the intended setup to End of Evangelion is rather pointless and almost insulting to the series. Rating: 5.0
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/05/retrograde-review-neon-genesis.html

- End of Evangelion: The ending that should have been, the story feels appropriate in almost every way. However, that fact that it took Anno and his team so long to release it may leave fans with a bit of a sour taste in their mouth. The story is dark and moody, picking up exactly where episodes 23 and 24 left off in the tv series, and leads up to an incredibly thought-provoking climax. However, the psychological aspect of the film seems rather forced in comparison to its tv series predecessor, and as such the overall product just doesn’t quite meet the caliber of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion. Rating: 8.5
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/retrograde-review-end-of-evangelion.html

- Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: You Are [Not] Alone: Anno’s groundbreaking series brought back to life in a theatrical reimagining, this first in a line of four films is essentially a rehash of the first six episodes of the original 1995 anime. The new style of animation is beautiful and the soundtrack is epic. The character development is given second string in order for the action to shine through, but the plot twist at the end is sure to confuse even the most die-hard fans and leave them wanting more. Rating: 7.75
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2010/04/retrograde-review-rebuild-of-evangelion.html

- Rebuild of Evangelion 2.0: You Can [Not] Advance: Picking up exactly where Rebuild 1.0 left off, Rebuild 2.0 does a much better job with pacing and character development, an impressive feat to handle, considering the number of characters in this film. In contrast to traditional Evangelion style, this film is primarily about Asuka during the first half, focusing almost entirely on Shinji in the second half. While this feels like the Evangelion fans have come to know and love, there are plenty of differences that set it aside from the original, including a massive cliffhanger ending that seems only appropriate for the new story. Rating: 9.75
Full review: http://kuragawa.blogspot.com/2009/09/earlier-this-year-i-watched-first-of.html
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