May 02, 2010

Ten shows to watch

If you're gonna watch ten anime from the last ten years, these are the ten you should watch.

I'm trying to make a list of ten anime series (OVA or TV, not movies) from 2000-2009 that I would consider the must-see shows from that decade.  Not necessarily my favourites, not necessarily even the best, but the ones that, if you're only going to watch ten shows from that period, these are the ones.

So says Pixy, and he's trying to come up with that list. It's an interesting concept, but when I started thinking about it I initially came up blank.

He's approaching it from a bit of a goofy point of view, but it could be an interesting, serious challenge to come up with such a list. The difficult part, of course, is limiting it to ten. (The other difficult part is putting up with all the other people who insist in editing your list instead of creating their own.)

The idea is that this is a survey for people who don't know anything about anime, to give them a broad look at the field. I think the first thing would be to come up with the list of ten categories:

1. Cute girls doing cute things
2. High school romance soap opera
3. Panty fighter. Look, it's a common genre.
4. Fan service harem comedy
5. Huge boobs show. Sad, but needed.
6. Mecha show. There has to be one.
7. Magical Girl
8. Goofy weird-out
9. Gainax Ending
10. It can be pretty awful.
 

1. So you need a "cute girls doing cute things" anime. That was one of Pixy's categories, and Pixy ends up with Azumanga Daioh for that, but it's hardly the only possible choice. Another would be "Ichigo Mashimaro". Or "Sugar, a little Snow Fairy". For that matter, "Lucky Star" would work, too. Or "Hidamari Sketch". Or "GA whatever-it-was". I don't feel confident enough in this category to really make a choice, but I'm not sure AD is really the right one.

2. You need a high-school romance soap opera, and that should probably be "Toradora", though I could be convinced that it should be "Kanon 2006". I haven't seen either of those and this is one of my least favorite genres, so again I'm not competent to judge.

3. On the other hand, I know a lot about panty fighter shows, and in my mind there's no doubt that it ought to be "Samurai Girl Realbout High School".

4. There must be a fan service harem  show, and for this one there's no doubt whatever that the choice is "Hand Maid May". Still, after all this time, the best example of the form.

5. Anime boobs, and the ridiculous size that many of them achieve, is a fact of life in this genre and there needs to be an example of it. That would be "Divergence Eve".

6. Mecha shows. Like it or not (and I generally don't) there needs to be an example of this. I'm not qualified to suggest a title. It can't be "Gasaraki" (it reeked) and it can't be "Gravion" (a terrible example of the form) and it probably shouldn't be "Sakura Wars" (atypical) or "Vandread" (likewise).  Probably it ends up being one of the Gundam titles, and Gundam titles are on my "never watch" list.

7. Magical Girl. In as much as "Realbout High School" can't satisfy this need, I'm tempted to include "Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's". But it isn't a very good example of the genre. This is yet another category where I'm not really qualified to make a call, because I hate the pure form of this. Absent a better choice, I'll go with "Nanatsuiro Drops", but there's gotta be a better choice out there.

8. Goofy Weirdout. Something like Excel Saga, except not that one because it isn't very good. Pixy ended up with "Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi" and that is probably the best choice. The point is to include a show which demonstrates how strange things can get, and I think I can live with this one.

9. If you're going to learn about anime, you have to learn about Gainax endings. That's why "Cowboy Bebop" should be on the list (even though it's not a Gainax show) -- to demonstrate how a great show can be ruined by its ending.

10. Most of these are "this is (mostly) really good" choices. There needs to be at least one really bad choice, to show that there's crap out there. That's why "Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan" needs to be on the list. It's an example of a tsundere show, which also helps, but the real point of it is to demonstrate that there do exist shows that you will regret having watched.

So my list of ten?

1. Ichigo Mashimaro
2. Toradora
3. Samurai Girl Realbout High School
4. Hand Maid May
5. Divergence Eve
6. Gundam something
7. Nanatsuiro Drops
8. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
9. Cowboy Bebop
10. Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan

And you know the hell of it? I only really liked four of those.

Substitutions: I could be convinced to substitute "Zero no Tsukaima" for #7, which gets also gets us a decent example of a tsundere show. I'm just not sure if ZnT counts as mahou shoujo.

But if we did that, then we could put "High School Girls" in for #10 as the show you'd wish you hadn't watched.

UPDATE: Can I get away with using "To Aru Kagaku no Railgun" for the "cute girls doing cute things" category? No? Pity.

UPDATE: Oh, heck. Cowboy Bebop is disqualified because it's not from the last ten years, which is part of the rules of the game. So I go with "Venus versus Virus". And dammit, I am going to use Railgun. Our new list:

1. To Aru Kagaku no Railgun
2. Toradora
3. Samurai Girl Realbout High School
4. Hand Maid May
5. Divergence Eve
6. Gundam something
7. Zero no Tsukaima
8. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi
9. Venus Versus Virus
10. High School Girls

UPDATE: I think my brain is going. Replace "Venus versus Virus" with "Mahoromatic: Something more Beautiful" as an example of a show which is retroactively ruined by its ending.

"Venus versus Virus" is more of a trainwreck, but the Mahoromatic ending hurts more.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in General Anime at 08:07 PM | Comments (23) | Add Comment
Post contains 1061 words, total size 6 kb.

1 Toradora is a good choice for that category.  Kimi ni Todoke is a better show, but it continued on into 2010 and is disqualified by my own rules.

For the mecha show, either Gurren Lagann or Godannar (and the latter amply fills the anime boobs requirements as well).

Personally I'd put Shana in as the tsundere show; it's flawed, but it's still better than Zero.

The show you'll wish you hadn't watched category is interesting.  I'll have to give that one some thought.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 02, 2010 08:55 PM (PiXy!)

2 Oh, never mind, tsundere isn't a category to itself (which is something of a relief!)

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 02, 2010 09:03 PM (PiXy!)

3 "Fight! Ippatsu! Juuden-chan!" might qualify as the "show you'd wish you'd never watched". In some ways that would be a better choice than "High School Girls".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 02, 2010 09:05 PM (+rSRq)

4

As to Shana versus Zero, remember your own rules: this isn't about which show is better. It's about which is more typical, a better representation of the genre. And my category 7 wasn't about tsundere, it was about mahou shoujo. I think Louise is a better example of a magical girl than Shana, though admittedly not by much.

No doubt that Shana was a better show, though, even with all its flaws.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 02, 2010 09:07 PM (+rSRq)

5 Card Captor Sakura ended in 2000, does that count?  If so, it's the obvious magical girl show.

The only problem I have with your categories is that you don't leave room for any kind of sci-fi/thriller/mystery (maybe call it non-mecha action?) unless is happens to be mecha, have big boobs, etc.  That leaves out Cowboy Bebop (which I don't really consider a Gainax ending), Ghost in the Shell, Eden of the East, Blood+, etc.  I'm not sure Shana fits in any other category you have, Code Geass is out unless you stretch to call it a mecha show, etc.
Railgun probably goes in this category naturally.

Of course, given that you personally don't seem to watch or like these kind of shows, it's not surprising that you omit the category, but a lot of important anime qualifies.  I'd pull out the 'huge boobs' category, because while a lot of anime fit in one or more character that fits, it's hardly a genre, and you're certainly going to get enough huge boobs to get the point across from the rest of the list anyways.

Posted by: David at May 02, 2010 09:14 PM (rlE2m)

6 Yeah, there isn't any such category, but Divergence Eve is that kind of show.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 02, 2010 09:19 PM (+rSRq)

7 I don't think CCS qualifies. Anyway, Pixy (in his comments) has a different point: if this list is supposed to be a survey for the outsider, we don't want to  include any series which are ridiculously long. For my purposes that means one or two cours. (In other words, nothing longer than 26 episodes.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 02, 2010 09:39 PM (+rSRq)

8 I chose Azumanga Daioh for cute girls doing cute things because it defined that genre for the decade.  Ichigo Mashimaro, Hidamari, and K-On! all exist because Azumanga Daioh blazed that trail. 

Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar is a bit different - all the others are taken from seinen manga; Sugar is distinctly sho... nen?  It's a shonen manga?  Okay, never mind then...

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 02, 2010 09:40 PM (PiXy!)

9 Wow, Sugar is shounen?  I never would have guessed, though I'd probably have pegged it as the younger, non-gender-specific kodomo demographic.

As for cute girls etc., I agree that Azumanga is the defining example.  It's also the only show of the genre most of my friends (who tend to be more stereotypical mecha- and action-loving otaku) will admit to watching and liking, so there's that.

Clannad is another good example of a high school romantic drama, though it doesn't get really soap opera-y until After Story... and including both seasons is a total of 4 cours, so it would be outside of the qualifications.

Posted by: EYanyo at May 02, 2010 10:24 PM (wZCd9)

10

Wow, Sugar is shounen?

I assumed Pixy was joking when he said that.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 02, 2010 11:04 PM (+rSRq)

11 Second Gurren Lagann for #6.  It certainly had enough of a footprint.

As an alternate approach to #8, how about Princess Tutu?  It's more creepy/weird than wacky, but it definitely has a high WTF factor.

And for #10...School Days probably wins for sheer mental trauma.

Posted by: pflorian at May 02, 2010 11:09 PM (wuOWG)

12 As per Gurren Lagann, remember that this isn't about footprint or popularity. Gurren Lagann simply isn't a very typical mecha show. (God knows.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at May 02, 2010 11:13 PM (+rSRq)

13 On Sugar, nope, I kid you not.  I was about to say that it had a different lineage from the seinen moe shows, being a shoujo manga, but I looked it up, and it's actually shonen.

As for Gurren Lagann, it actually exemplifies the older style of crazy over-the-top robot show that Go Nagai was famous for, albeit updated and taken to the next level.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 02, 2010 11:24 PM (PiXy!)

14 It also touches upon pretty much every other period of Giant Robot genre development, too.  Therein lies the problem in using Gurren Lagann for this purpose.  Its not an example of the genre so much as a deconstruction/reconstruction of the genre.

Posted by: metaphysician at May 03, 2010 06:20 AM (/YIPx)

15 I think the key point of the "cute girls being cute" shows is their plot structure. These are shows that are free of the categories of conventional conflict, by and large. The girls in Azumanga don't overcome challenges from their teachers, their parents, their classmates, space aliens, or anyone else. We're not viewing the "progression" of a plot. If there's any conflict at all, it's the whole "character growing into themselves" thing, and honestly most of the characters don't change much either... the only two characters that really experience any growth are Kagura and Sakaki. The enjoyment of the show isn't in seeing what happens next, so much as it's enjoying the nostalgia of what's going on right now. (Peanuts?) Not only are there no cliffhangers, there aren't any -cliffs-.

By that criteria, Railgun definitely doesn't qualify. It's a little episodic here and there, but it also has big plot arcs where exciting and dangerous events happen. It's a good show, but for completely different reasons than Azumanga et al.

I'd put Kanon 2006 over Toradora just slightly for category two. Toradora's not bad, to be sure, but Kanon was already a classic of the genre, and the remake was quite a bit better in just about every respect.

Mecha... You could make a good case for Gurren Lagann, as it's definitely an inheritor of the spirit of the old giant robot genre. I'd also say "a bit difficult to appreciate if you don't already have a decent grounding in mecha", but you know, a lot of people without a decent grounding in mecha seemed to like it or not, so I'm probably wrong there. Personally I'd pick RahXephon, but maybe not; it's got a tremendous Evangelion influence (more like "homage") and might not be representative thereby. Full Metal Panic, maybe?

ZnT is emphatically not a magical girl show. But there's damned few of those these days, and most of them subvert the genre at least a little (I couldn't recommend Pretty Cure with a straight face, for example). Maybe Zettai Karen Children? I haven't watched it yet, but from the descriptions I've been seeing here lately, it might qualify.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at May 03, 2010 09:55 AM (mRjOr)

16 All I have to say to you, sir, is ~uguu~.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 03, 2010 02:36 PM (PiXy!)

17 Full Metal Panic is a good idea, if you need to make space for more categories.

You can get "mecha," "high school romance," and "rule of cool," with a hint of "goofy" and "harem", and the "tsundere lead female," category, all in one show.

I believe my internal monologue halfway through was "wow, this might be the most 'anime' anime I've ever watched."


Posted by: Mikeski at May 03, 2010 02:40 PM (GbSQF)

18 The problem with FMP is, if you continue into the novels, you get the Gainax ending too.

Posted by: ubu at May 03, 2010 03:16 PM (RPHPb)

19 So, basically, the idea is to check off as many of the top anime Tropes of the last decade as possible, with an emphasis on picking the most representative stereotypes over whatever level of entertainment was provided?

Posted by: BigD at May 03, 2010 07:28 PM (LjWr8)

20 Incidentally, if we're going for representative, Shuffle! might be a good candidate for #4, as it pioneered the trend of harem shows .  I can think of several harem shows that came out after Shuffle! that followed that pattern, and there are probably more that I haven't seen.

That said, Hand Maid May is vastly superior.

Posted by: pflorian at May 04, 2010 12:43 AM (wuOWG)

21 I'd think that Princess Tutu would be an excellent fit for magical girl show, in addition to being a good show it's got quite a shoujo feel. Of course the old hands here may know a better show or a reason that it doesn't really fit all that well. For weird it would be hard to top Kaiba.

Posted by: SporkLift Driver at May 04, 2010 01:30 AM (O8Vdd)

22 Princess Tutu is too bloody weird, even for me, even though the main character is a duck.  And I'd second Shuffle!'s nomination, though I've not reached the SPOILER part... really enjoyed what I've seen, though.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 04, 2010 03:29 PM (JWQqT)

23 I just started watching Princess Tutu last night - after SporkLift Driver mentioned it I thought it was about time I checked an episode to see what it was like.

It's awesome.

The internal logic is completely consistent and completely disconnected from reality, the music is wonderful (of course), and Nanae Katou delivers a brilliant performance as Ahiru.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at May 04, 2010 03:49 PM (PiXy!)

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