Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 5 Anime of 2011

#5 - Eden of the East: Many contemporary espionage/action films or television series draw the bulk of their inspiration and formula from the familiar, like James Bond or the Bourne Identity. There are certainly some similarities between the latter and Eden of the East, but this anime takes a rather different approach. In trying to recover his memories, Takizawa relies heavily on Juiz and an everday girl, instead of playing the role of a lethally-trained badass. Because everything plays out like a game, action is often swapped out in favor of mystery, lending this genre a fresh new spin on things. It's not quite perfect, but I found it a welcome break from so many copycats.

#4 - Devil May Cry: Far too often, licensed material becomes so bogged down in trying to recreate whatever it is based off in anime form that it loses any creativity or logic. Devil May Cry maintains the signature style of the games through Dante's characteristic cool nature, but takes a step back from slaying one giant demon after another. The anime chooses to instead focus on lesser demons, allowing Dante's relationship with young Patty - often humorous as the two are - to take center stage. The soundtrack and fantastic animation courtesy of Madhouse make this a standout series for its kind, and others would be wise to take notes from it.

#3 - Darker Than Black: I generally steer clear of anime that tries to sell itself as 'dark' or 'mature-themed', as a lot of these end up being violent and bloody without much in the way of plot. Darker Than Black certainly has its violent moments, with Hei driving his knife into another Contractor's hand and Wei throwing his own blood to puncture gaping holes through bodies of those opposed to him. But it isn't so reliant on these elements. Instead, the story makes its primary focus on what it means to be a contractor, and how being a human correlates to that. With a thought-provoking story and incredibly catchy soundtrack, Darker Than Black is as cleverly-scripted as it is entertaining to watch.

#2 - Mushi-Shi: This series stood out to me for two major reasons. First, the episodic nature of the relatively unrelated episodes made it really easy to pick up and watch a lot of episodes in one sitting, or set down for a while, knowing exactly where I left off when I returned. Second, the combination of traditional fantasy elements and old Japanese folklore gave the series a very unique identity and really boosted the quality of the storytelling. It doesn't try to force the mystical aspect on you, but somehow it's still difficult not to be mesmerized by this show, one bizarre Mushi after another.

#1 - Full Metal Alchemist: It may break away from the manga source material a number of times, but there is no denying that this is not only among the best anime in recent years, but among the greatest anime of all time. The story of the brothers Elric is a very human one, as the two stick together for better or for worse, even as the darkening forces of the Homunculus and the Amestrian military close in on them. It's a fantasy story that, frankly, can hold its own against a giant like the Harry Potter series - and in some cases, FMA manages to trump HP.

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