[This article is my reply to Alex's excellent 'For the anime fan in 2008, is it essential to watch online anime?']
I came across this recent news article at ANN, ‘Dennou Coil Wins Award from Japanese Sci-Fi Writers‘ and more than anything else, it annoyed me. Here’s why.
‘Dennou Coil‘ was amongst the most acclaimed anime TV series of 2007, a beautifully animated, whimsical science fiction story with broad appeal and notable production values, often likened to the adventurous mainstream story-telling of ‘Studio Ghibli’. Naturally, it wasn’t a particularly big hit with the hardcore anime fans, or at least, not on the same level as something like ‘Haruhi’, but it is capable of capturing of the imagination of someone (or some kid) not usually swept away by the conventional tropes of Japanese animation.
I’ll say at the start of this blog that I’m not the most knowledgeable anime fan around. I like what I like, but I don’t have an exhaustive knowledge of series, directors, studios, voice actors, and the industry as a whole. Nor am I the sort of person who has to watch things as soon as they come out – I’m happy to wait a while, and if there’s something I want, I know I’ll get it eventually. The good stuff will always filter through, given time. So this isn’t going to be an in-depth analysis of the anime industry – that’s beyond my knowledge at this stage.
I like buying anime and manga. I like the feeling of ‘owning’ something, of building up a little library of releases, however modest mine may be compared to others. I’m also in the lucky and privileged position of being a reviewer for AUKN, meaning I get review copies of DVDs and manga volumes. Aside from that, I always try to watch anime when it’s on television. I saw Cowboy Bebop for the first time on the ill-fated Anime Central channel. And this winter period, I’m looking forward to Channel 4/Film 4 hopefully showing some Studio Ghibli films, as they often do.
But there’s one medium that’s always escaped me. I have never got into watching anime online. I’ve been thinking about this lately. I think there’s a few reasons why this is.
A lot has been said about the current crop of anime airing in Japan; some have described it as the worst ever, but then, someone will always say that anyway! What is clear is that there is no massive franchise sweeping all before it; there is nothing as well-animated and as thoroughly entertaining as Death Note, nothing as colourful or as fun as Gurren Lagann. Gundam 00 may well get there eventually, but right now it’s playing more like superficial trash and to be honest, I’m still struggling to get past the angsty guys that look like angsty girls thing. Never fear though, dearest reader, because listed below are three autumn anime series that are actually worth watching.
- Kaiji offers several things; a punk rock opening theme, a main character with a mullet and a premise built around the age old sin of gambling. It’s a hard-boiled bitch of a story about a bunch of losers sent on a yakuza arranged cruise; all of them are seriously in debt – while half will return to Japan free of money concerns, the others will become slaves sent to work in some non-descript foreign outpost; the titular Kaiji is one of the losers fighting to survive. Things to expect: fully-grown men openly crying, constant back-stabbing of so-called friends and absolute nerves of steel; Kaiji’s mantra is that this isn’t a nice world, and nice guys finish last!
- This is going to sound weird, but stick with me. Moyashimon is all about this university fresher who can literally see bacteria floating all around him; think Sixth Sense, but replace the scary ghosts with impossibly cute microbes of bacteria. They innocently float about their business and whisper in very high-pitched Tachikoma-esque voices. All this in what is an otherwise very typical slice-of-life anime that follows a young man discovering the ups and downs of normal university life (friends and romance); drama ensues when his attempts to be an average student are twisted by his extraordinary gift (spotting spoiled food and illegal alcohol fermentation practices). It’s quirky, funny and really quite odd, not to mention educational!
- This is something of a predictable choice, but I can’t help recommending Genshiken 2. For those who don’t know the synopsis, it’s about a bunch of people in an anime/manga club. They cosplay at conventions, sit around playing video games and perv at erotic doujin. The second season continues to be an honest and nostalgic portrayal of life as a Japanese otaku, though it occasionally dabbles in outright parody of anime stereotypes too; arguably the finest episode so far sees the newest female member of Genshiken fantasizing about (and then drawing) what would happen if all the male members suddenly transformed into horny bishonen and became hard gay for each other. Genshiken is such an utterly down to earth look at the universal truths of geekdom that in between the painful cringes and knowing laughs, you’ll find yourself quietly rooting for the rather familiar personalities.
That’s my humble top 3 from autumn 2007, what’s yours? Is there anything else we just have to see?