So, by now you’ve no doubt figured out that I’m pretty lazy. Then again, I never made any promises that I’d get these lists up very quickly. Anyways, without further ado, here are my picks for the top anime of 2001.
1. Angelic Layer
Don’t let this title fool you. When you first start watching it and see that it features a young girl playing with dolls, you could be forgiven if your immediate thought was it was a girly shoujo anime. However, you would be mistaken. At its heart, it’s definitely a series aimed at boys, with plenty of combat action, and a good mix of comedy. There is a small amount of romance, but it’s such a minor area and isn’t given a whole lot of screen time. The real meat of the show is in Misaki’s growth, both as an Angelic Layer duelist and as a person, coming to terms with her abandonment as a young child. By and large the anime follows along with the manga, although there are a few minor difference and one larger difference in that the ending takes the opposite way to get to the same conclusion. The style of this show is a bit different from most CLAMP titles. They had not yet adopted the long limbed look like in their current series’, but it’s also not quite the same as their Card Captor Sakura series. While this isn’t their best series, it’s a very solid offering, but it really comes down to personal taste. CLAMP isn’t for everyone. You’re either a fan, in which case you won’t be disappointed with this, or your not, in that case you probably won’t get much enjoyment from this.
2. Bible Black
If you remember back with my first post, I mentioned that I would include titles that are excellent representations of their genres. That includes hentai. Bible Black is quite possibly the most famous hentai of all time. The animation quality is far and away better than the majority of other hentai out there. Actually, the animation quality is far better than a lot of non-hentai anime. But there’s more to Bible Black than just flashy pictures. There is actually a rather compelling story to it. However, fear not, this isn’t like those cheesy pornos that try too hard to have a story. This knows what it is and it doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of extreme action with a lot of fetish material mixed in. Easily the most obvious one is their use of the D-girl, or chick with dick if you will. For me, the most memorable scene is the scene with the sex demon. I don’t wish to go into too much detail, but it all comes down to DP plus oral. It’s something you have to see to properly appreciate. Some things go a bit far, but if you’re looking for something to watch on a lonely night, look no further than this title.
3. Cowboy Bebop The Movie
Cowboy Bebop is one of those series that if you’re starting out and ask people what you should watch, they’ll inevitably suggest it. As long as you don’t have to hear about it every day, then it certainly can live up to expectations. Imagine a mix of westerns, film noir, and jazz and you’ve got Cowboy Bebop. With the movie, you just have to imagine the tv series, but with a much bigger budget. I would certainly recommend having watched some of the tv series first before tackling the movie. It’s not because the movie is a continuation of the series end, for that would be impossible. But it would definitely be to your advantage to have some familiarity with the characters, since the movie makes the assumption that you do. Of course, another big plus for the movie is the soundtrack. Each piece perfectly complements the mood of the moment. It is largely because of this that Yoko Kanno had risen to such promience. While she had several hit soundtracks from shows like Macross Plus and Visions of Escaflowne, most Americans are more familiar for her work on Cowboy Bebop. This movie is a great addition to the series, and helps people who cannot accept the ending to the series find a bit of closure to things.
4. Fruits Basket
While I’m sure the above image has tipped people off, this is definitely a shoujo, or girl’s anime. But, just because that’s the target audience does not mean that guys should steer clear. To do so would be to deprive yourself of one of the better anime out there. Each of the characters in this have some sort of tragic past. Normally this could come across as way too heavy handed, but they manage to keep it from getting that way. In fact, it’s awfully tough not to feel something for them, especially the ever optimistic Tohru. Here’s a girl who would have every right to snap at people from time to time, yet she’s always ready with a smile, even if it’s a bit of a sad smile from time to time. My main complaint with this is that they ended the series at the midway point. At the time the anime finished, the manga was only halfway done, so instead of just inventing an ending for the anime that felt forced, they wrapped it up there. It was an alright ending point, but it left so much undone that it prevents this title from reaching true greatness. Especially considering what happened in the manga after the anime ended. It’s a real shame that they haven’t ever made a second season to properly wrap up the series. The drama gets ramped up but it comes to such a wonderfully satisfying conclusion that it just seems unfair that is hasn’t gotten the animated treatment. But the likelihood of a property getting a second season 9 years after it last aired is virtually none. Still, while it’s not fillet mignon, it’s definitely a Porterhouse, and that ain’t bad.
There’s no gay, sparkling vampires here. This is vampires as vampires should be. Arucard would rip Edward’s head off and jam it down Belle’s throat just for kicks. And Seras can drink my blood any day. Right from the get go, you get violent vampire action, and it rarely lets up. The ending was poorly handled, and the animation quality starts to suffer, but the new version of this seems to be fixing the shortcomings of this version. Still, even though it has its flaws, they’re mostly only noticeable if you’ve read the manga. If you’re just an anime watcher, then you’ll probably be able to enjoy this just fine as it is.
6. Hikaru no Go
An anime about Go, which is this fairly complex board game possibly requiring more thought than chess, is supposed to be good? I know it sounds like it would be as dull as watching paint dry, but you’d be very wrong. Hikaru does indeed start off as a bit of a whiny little brat, but as the anime progresses and as his skills and love for Go increase, Hikaru no Go just draws you in. It’s almost as if you too are in Sai’s shoes as he watches over Hikaru. The main thing is, that other than the presence of a ghost of the greatest Go player in history, the show comes across as believable. For a shounen title, this is no small feat. Usually shounen is all about having super powers, and inventing new attacks to save the day. Here, there are no magic powers helping Hikaru improve, other than the aforementioned ghost. But even after awhile, Sai is pushed more and more into the background as Hikaru comes into his own. Hikaru wins (and loses!) with his own abilities. There’s no super special unknown Go move that saves the day for him. This is an anime where your patience through the early episodes will definitely be rewarded.
This is a title that for me marked Gainax’s return to their roots. After the over-hyped stinkfest that is Evangelion, and the horribly handled His and Her Circumstances anime, Gainax went back to a title that has good fanservice to complement a surprisingly good story. Honestly, Suguru is one lucky little SOB. Oh sure, his parents are dead, but he has three cute female friends fawning over him, an oversexed teacher with a penchant for young boys, and add in the mix a cute maid willing to dedicate her life to him. But this is no ordinary maid, oh no. It’s a butt-kicking android maid to boot! The only downside to her is her distaste for anything perverted, hence Suguru’s porn stash is constantly in danger, but with all these girls around, I’m not sure why he’d need it. But even though this is a harem title, you can tell that not everything is going to have a happy ending. Mahoro, you see, only has just over a year left to live, and at the end of each episode we’re reminded of this fact by it counting down the days until she expires. Plus, it isn’t a simple fact of just having X amount of days left. If Mahoro has to use up her energy faster by engaging in combat, her lifespan decreases more rapidly. And of course, with an invading alien race to fight off, her days are far from relaxing. This first season though is much more lighthearted than the second one, so most episodes maintain an upbeat feel to them. The ending foreshadows the mood that’s to be set in the second season, but it still ends on a positive note.
8. Millennium Actress
Every now and again, you come across a director that just plain makes good films. Hayao Miyazaki is of course the first name that comes to mind for most anime fans, but another big name in the anime film industry is Satoshi Kon. His movies just have a way of drawing you in with engaging characters and interesting story. This movie chronicles the life of a prolific actress throughout her career, not only showing her roles, but how many events in her personal life helped her to draw inspiration for the characters she played. This is told from the point of view of a journalist who is interviewing her, but he finds as he is conducting the interview, he is practically being drug into the worlds in which she helped create. Much like in Miyazaki films, Kon’s films don’t use the cutsey, moe style that pervades most anime today. I wouldn’t call the character style to be real, but it’s a more natural look. Certainly a refreshing change from the modern day look. Here, there’s no enemies to defeat, no mysterious powers to be had, just good storytelling. And really, what more can one ask for from their anime?
9. Read or Die
Read or Die gets points for using a very unique power. The power to control paper. Yup, with just a few sheets of paper, Yomiko can make an arrow, a blade, even a hang glider, all while working for the British library. Of course, just like with the real Britain, you can’t trust these guys fully. There’s a good story behind it all, and even though some aspects come across as a bit predictable, it can be forgiven since it executes it very well. One could be forgiven for getting very annoyed with Yomiko, since she’s the oblivious bookworm type that just needs a good smack to get her to wake up. But, her innocence is a good contrast to the backstabbing colleagues of hers. Also, it’s a short OAV, only comprising 3 episodes, but the story doesn’t feel too rushed, so it’s well paced. It’s the perfect anime for when you just want some quick, good entertainment.
10. Spirited Away
The inclusion of this should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. Spirited Away is arguably the most famous anime among non-anime fans due to it having won an Oscar, the first anime to ever do such. One can argue that this isn’t the best film Miyazaki has ever made, but it’s hard to argue that it isn’t worthy of its recognition. From a technical standpoint, this is a fantastic example of the genre. It does rely on some of the usual Miyazaki plot elements, but the man knows his movies well so even though it’s familiar, it’s an enjoyable familiar. I don’t feel that there’s a lot that really needs to be said about this, due to its fame it has gotten enough exposure to where most who are interested have seen it, and those that aren’t probably wouldn’t read this anyways.
So, that wraps up the top 10 for 2001. I make no promises as to when 2002 will come out, whenever I get bored enough to do so would be my bet. So hold your breath waiting, I could use a good laugh as you pass out.