2007: The Anime Year in Review

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This is the time of year when anime bloggers are busy posting their “Top 10 Lists” or other listings of the year’s best and worst. I’m not really in a position to do a top 10 list. I don’t watch nearly enough anime to make a meaningful judgment about which of the 120-odd shows broadcast last year were the 10 best or worst. I’ve seen only a minuscule sample, and from that I’d have to exclude any shows that haven’t ended yet, since the ending often makes all the difference.

What I will do is list some shows that made a significant impression on me (not always in a good way.) If your favorite show isn’t listed below and it ended in 2007, it’s quite possible that’s because I haven’t seen it.

Outstanding Anime Series of 2007

Dennou Coil. I’ve read and watched a number of cyberpunk stories over the years, and they all have struck me as cold and empty. (Chobits is a possible exception, but that’s rarely thought of as cyberpunk.) This is very different: a gripping story, but also warm and engaging with wonderful characters. It also gives the most believable depiction I have ever seen of what life might really be like in a cyberpunk world.

Notable Anime Series of 2007

El Cazador de la Bruja. It is impossible to avoid comparing this to Noir. They have the same director, and both are female buddy pictures in which the heroines battle a mysterious faceless conspiracy that holds the secret to their pasts. However there are significant differences. This one is a Western with a bright sunlit look. The characters are more cheerful and optimistic and the ending is more upbeat. Noir may be more thrilling, but I think this is more enjoyable.

Inukami! (I count this as ending in 2007.) Very funny and very raunchy. Don’t watch if you can’t deal with jokes involving male nudity.

Kanon. (2006 version; ended in 2007.) I don’t think I have ever changed my mind about a series so often while watching it. There were times when I wished that I could track down the writers and beat them up. Still, after seeing the ending (and convincing myself that I understood it) I decided that this is a really good story.

Nodame Cantabile. This one surprised me because I thought it was going to be like Honey and Clover, which most people seem to love, but which always left me cold. They have a very similar look and setting. (This is about music students while H&C was about art students). Yet I found Nodame Cantabile much more enjoyable. I think it’s something about the characters. They’re more messed up than their H&C counterparts, but they have a fierce determination that I find engaging.

School Days. A dark, dark comedy that dares to look beneath the surface of the typical harem comedy and examine the dangerous currents that roil below.

Anime Disappointments of 2007

ef–A Tale of Memories. This has earned itself a host of devoted fans with its clever, insightful writing and splendid retro artwork. Unfortunately it turns into a massive angst-fest. I’m usually pretty tolerant of angst, but I do have my limits. In this case the angst causes one of the main characters to do something truly horrible, an act so abusive that it ruined the series for me, in spite of the subsequent attempt to proceed to a happy ending.

Lucky Star. This series was a victim of excessive expectations. People expected something fantastic from the studio that gave us Haruhi Suzumiya and Kanon. Instead we got anime cotton candy: pretty to look at but utterly insubstantial.

Sola. The enigmatic, atmospheric opening episodes suggested that this might be something wonderful, but the ending was dreadful.

Series that Looked Interesting but Were Quickly Dropped

Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. This appears to be very clever, but it seems that I just can’t deal with a comedy about suicidal depression.

Potemayo. WTF? Just the pet every boy needs: a six-inch-tall chibi girl who babbles incomprehensible gibberish and pees on him! Maybe it’s supposed to be symbolic; perhaps Potemayo represents a baby. But why would a 13-year-old boy be taking care of a baby? And what does Guchuko represent? Death?

I know, I know, I’m taking this too seriously; it’s supposed to be funny. But really, what’s so funny about a miniature girl with a scythe running around killing everything in sight and trying to patch things together with duct tape, while the hero is force to wear a dress because the other miniature girl urinated on his school uniform? I don’t get it.