My Favorite Anime

  1. Mushishi
  2. HaibaneRenmei
  3. Seirei no Moribito
  4. UchuuKyoudai
  5. JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (TV)
  6. Oniisama e…
  7. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei
  8. Eureka Seven
  9. Aoi Hana
  10. Kiss x Sis

In most previous renditions of this list, since around 2014, the top three have remained unchanged. One of the criteria for a favorite is how much of an immediate impact or lasting impression it has. Undoubtedly, the top three have had the strongest emotional impact of any anime I’d seen—or have seen since. Mushishi and Haibane Renmei in particular hit me on such a personal level that I tend to avoid casually talking about them.

haibane renmei.jpg

Seirei no Moribito is like a rare star alignment of story, character, animation, and sound. Every aspect was clearly and skillfully crafted, creating a wholly immersive world and mythology that I still reflect on. Eureka Seven is similar in this regard, though perhaps not as thematically complex. The animation in Seirei no Moribito, which really shines in the action sequences, was produced by Production IG (Jin-Rou), and the soundtrack was scored by the inimitable Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell).


The characterization in Uchuu Kyoudai (Space Brothers) may actually be more impressive. Even the supporting characters have weight and motivation. My attention span is embarrassingly fragile, and most 12-episode titles end up becoming a struggle for me to complete. Regardless, I breezed through all 99 episodes of Space Brothers with minimal fuss. The times that I did fuss was usually when I had to sleep or work, and couldn’t watch Space Brothers.

Space Brothers.jpg

It was fucking hilarious how unapologetically manly and ambiguously gay JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken (TV) was. If I remember right, I binged JoJo TV over the course of a few days so that I could watch Stardust Crusaders as it aired. JoJo TV, along with the two seasons of Stardust Crusaders, were the most fun I’ve ever had watching an anime. If a show can routinely make your stomach tighten from laughter, and make you say “oh shit!” out loud, it deserves to be ranked as a favorite.


If you like shoujo-ai, you should thank Oniisama e as it’s the spiritual grandmother of the genre. Its direct influence is visible in the classics Maria-sama ga Miteru and Shoujo Kakumei Utena. Aesthetically, Oniisama e is more appropriately categorized as fine art. The hand drawn renderings, done with painstaking detail under the disciplined direction of Osamu Dezaki, are accentuated by a moving piano and orchestral score. It delves into heavy and taboo themes, and was consequently banned in some countries at the time of its 1991 release. There’s some humor, but the subject matter is taken completely seriously, never using its gay characters as props or fanservice. **Aoi Hana** could be considered a lighter version of Oniisama e.

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Lastly, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei and Kiss x Sis, two anime that couldn’t be more different from each other, and yet are similar in that they are both unafraid of pushing boundaries, and doing the unexpected. The former does so with design and narrative, and latter does so with ecchi and crass humor. My favorite kind of shows, movies, and so on are generally the kind that take risks, that aren’t afraid of being different, or dangerous. I’m a simple man. Keep surprising me, I’ll keep watching.

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Casshern Sins

347549-casshern_sins02“Ruin is the salvation of man and machine.”

Beneath the flamboyant exterior of fast action fight scenes and fancy shot compositions are some deceptively introspective conversations and themes. The director of this series, Shigeyasu Yamauchi, also headed Kimi no Iru Machi, which stylishly explored the psychology of love. In Casshern Sins the central themes are death and hope.

The first episode establishes the premise with a satisfying level of badassery. In the distant future, Robots have evolved sentience, and can feel emotion like humans can. A global “Ruin”—with a capital R, implying that it’s more than an action—was prompted when Casshern, a highly skilled and gaudily dressed fighter, “killed the Sun named Moon.” Now both humans and robots are on the brink of extinction.

The robots hadn’t appreciated life until they knew that they’d die. Having been immortal up until the Ruin, knowing that their existence would soon end terrifies them. For some, particularly the humanoid robots, this fear is quelled by love, community bonds, or passionately engaging in their interests. For others, this fear is expressed violently through random acts of desperation and senseless cruelty.

Everyone except Casshern is affected by the Ruin. As the bodies of the other robots quickly deteriorate, Casshern’s body remains new, and regenerates when it’s damaged. There’s a rumor that the one who “devours” Casshern will become immortal. Consequently, when many robots encounter Casshere and learn of his identity, they have no qualms with abandoning their humanity—so to speak—to seize an opportunity to regain their immortality.

By the halfway point, listening to bleak soliloquies on death, hope, and hopelessness became mildly taxing. To an extent, this is forgivable considering that death is a new experience for the robots. For beings abruptly faced with inevitable annihilation, a persistent trepidation is a natural reaction. Humans, despite experiencing death for around 200,000 years, still widely suffer from denial and death anxiety.

The sentimentality and melodrama are usually complemented with slow strings or an acoustic guitar. The action scenes are scored more aggressively, often utilizing tremolo strings or heavy horns like those heard in 90s historical-action. Sometimes there’s no score at all, and the scene is simply textured with the ambient sounds of wind, rain, or debris.

The overall style is retro by 2016 standards, which is to be expected from a director who’s been in the anime industry since the 80s. Unfortunately, this old school style is accompanied by some unflattering old school stereotypes that may annoy empathetic viewers. The one prominently featured black character is a lustful degenerate, and the leading female characters are either manipulative or easily love struck. Even Ringo, an overly cute loli robot who looks like a 4 year old, fawns over Casshern when she first meets him.

Casshern Sins has brilliant ideas and beautiful animation that are hampered by repetition, occasional missteps in characterization, and some massive plot holes. The faults aren’t enough to ruin the viewing experience, but they do hold it back from being the psychological masterpiece that it could have been.

Monogatari Series Viewing Order

tumblr_meb302Gd8O1r4v7zro1_1280“In what order do I watch the Monogatari Series?”

This question gets brought up a lot.

Answer: Most people go with the airing order.

  1. Bakemonogatari (my review)
  2. Nisemonogatari
  3. Nekomonogatari: Kuro
  4. Monogatari Series: Second Season
  5. Hanamonogatari
  6. Tsukimonogatari
  7. Owarimonogatari
  8. Kizumonogatari

Robot on the Road

tumblr_nvkw4ni72M1r3rdh2o1_1280Hiroyuki Okiura, the director and master animator responsible for some of the most beautiful and hyper realistic scenes in anime, has apparently turned to the dark side. After working on such classics like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh, and Paprika, Okiura has written and directed what could be arguably classified as an ecchi anime.

With the exception of Bakemonogatari, Prison School, and a handful of other titles, ecchi anime are often produced with tight budgets, have average or below average art and animation, and their stories are rarely good enough to warrant a rating over a 6. While the story in Robot on the Road is about a low 7, the art and animation are exceptional, and are the main redeeming value of this 10 minute short.

Character designs are crisp and clean, similar to those used in A Letter to Momo, which was also written and directed by Okiura. Moreover, as is the case with much of Okiura’s work, the art and animation quality is often so good that it looks rotoscoped. When the female protagonist gestures quickly or jumps, not a motion in her hair or breasts is overlooked. When the camera cuts to a close-up of her underwear, every detail is drawn out for maximum awkwardness.

The fanservice and gags are propelled by the antics of a perverted, cowboy hat wearing robot. The female protagonist spots him hitchhiking on the side of the road, and she picks him up because—hey, why not? Very little that follow makes much sense outside of ecchi comedy logic, but it’s probably not meant to since it is a comedy afterall.

You can watch Robot on the Road on An option for English subtitles is available on the page. NSFW: contains nudity.


Support The Anime Industry

The people working in the anime industry are overworked and underpaid.

source: Shirobako

Buying a Blu-ray of your favorite anime, or subscribing to CrunchyRoll or Funimation helps them. Hulu also has an extensive anime collection.


Mushishi Zoku Shou: Drops of Bells

8UVg2gdOur journey with Ginko, which started 9 years ago, draws to an end with an adaptation of Drops of Bells (Suzu no Shizuku), the last arc of the acclaimed Mushishi manga by Yuki Urushibara.

In the first half of the story, a girl leaves her family behind when she’s summoned to be the next lord of a mountain. Thriving lands, called “Rivers of Light”, require the presence of a lord to maintain the balance of life around that area. Choosing a human as a lord is an unusual move, however. Such a task is usually delegated to animals since they live with fewer emotional attachments.

Several of the introspective themes that were explored in previous arcs are summarized, most notably interconnectedness, the indifference of nature, and letting go. All life—plants, animals, and humans—are dependent on each other, and influenced by the ripples of cause and effect. Nature, which is personified in Drops of Bells as the mountain lord, acts as the unbiased mediator. The overarching lesson is that we should appreciate what we have, and not cling when the time comes for us to move on.

The second half concludes this story without quite concluding the series. The ending leaves some of the questions that were raised in the previous arcs unanswered, but it ties up enough to provide a mostly satisfying conclusion.

The art and animation have remained remarkably consistent over the years. The backgrounds in Drops of Bells are just as gorgeous as they’ve been since the first season aired in 2005. The character and special effects animation are fluid and precise. The soundtrack features the subdued and ambient melodies that have become hallmarks of the series.

When you think about it, it’s kind of a miracle that Mushishi, which is essentially about life experiences and nature, was made with such a substantial budget. I’m grateful that ArtLand was willing to take a chance on such an esoteric and spiritual story, and that it’s been successful enough to adapt in its entirety. It’s been a truly remarkable experience.


Wolf Children

6711A person falling in love with an attractive werewolf or vampire is a familiar theme in shapeshifter stories, but it’s less familiar for the story to extend beyond their relationship and tell the story of their children, detailing the hardships of raising “half breeds” in a prejudiced society adverse to the unordinary.

On the surface, such a premise may seem absurd, but Wolf Children works thanks to the decision of writer/director Mamoru Hosoda to take a fantasy story and package it as a coming-of-age drama. There’s a lot of wonderful humor to be found in this film, but the characters and their experiences are taken completely seriously.

Hana is the quintessential altruistic mother who’s always acting for the benefit of her lover and her children. When she has time to herself, she spends it idly and alone. There’s a niceness and a sadness to this. It’s nice how helping others seems to be her biggest motivator, but it’s sad since she does so little for herself. Perhaps providing for her family is enough?

Hana’s children, Yuki and Ame, are opposites of each other. Yuki, the girl, is rambunctious and loud, and Ame, the boy, is introverted and quiet. Over the course of their upbringing, Yuki is encouraged to be more girly, and Ame is encouraged to be more confident. Since Yuki is the more fun character, more screen time is spent on her, and, as a result, Ame isn’t as thoroughly developed. When Ame makes a personal choice later in the film, it feels abrupt and overdramatic.

Visually, Wolf Children is very clean. Characters are drawn with thin outlines, and they’re animated with generous inbetweening. Character designs are neither cartoony or realistic; they’re a mix of the two, leaning more toward realistic. Background characters are in 3D with cel shading, and the background art is detailed but understated. The score is comprised mostly of gentle melodies played with piano and strings.

Wolf Children seems to aspire to the greatness of a classic Studio Ghibli film. While it doesn’t quite reach this level, it comes very-very close. There are some aspects of Wolf Children that could be nitpicked, and some aspects that could even be considered troublesome, but the overall experience of this film remains a powerful one that lasts long after the ending credits have rolled.