2007 took anime fandom by storm. Not only did all seasons combined feature more titles than all of its predecessors, it managed to keep a certain ratio of quality. Many modern classics or potential classics were part of this epic year. Brace yourselves, this list is quite longer than the usual Year in Review. So without further ado, I present, what is in my opinion, The Best of the Year 2007.
Five Exceptional Anime of 2007:
Baccano is literally “crazy” entertainment. Pure, unadulterated, violent entertainment. No good guys or bad guys. Just a bunch of pyschos, nutjobs, alchemists, demons, homunculi, gansters, mafia, information brokers, crazed kids, explosives, immortals, cultists, smugglers, gamblers, mad scientists, news reporters, robbers, and one train filled with mass destruction. At the end of the day, all you can do is point at the screen and say “I want that…all of it.”
Don’t let the fact that this show is supposedly a “children” show scare you off. While the artwork may resemble that of a studio Ghibli production, the show is far more. The show was one of the most highly anticipated shows, having been in production for a long time. It was headed by first time director Mitsuo Iso. Despite several tiny flaws which I noticed throughout the show, it doesn’t detract from the fact that Dennou Coil is awesome and definitely worthy of being called one of the best of 2007. The show is a splendid ride from start to finish. It’s strengths lie in its world building and 80′s cyberpunk inspired themes, which we don’t see much of these days. An absolutely brilliant show.
From the moment I finished watching Ayakashi: Classic Japanese Horror, I could immediately tell that the final arc “Bakeneko” was something else. It stood out above the rest and it harbored such a great premise to boot. It was simply too good to just end with a single arc, it needed to be expanded upon in some way. Apparently the people who ran the show thought the same thing. Thus in 2007, Toei Animation created what is, in my opinion, their best work yet. There is no other way to describe Mononoke except that it is simply stunning. The artwork and animation is gorgeous and the buildup to the finale of each arc was thrillingly intense. If theres one show I’d recommend from this year to new and up-coming anime fans, it would be Baccano! But if theres one show I’d recommend from this year to seasoned anime fans looking for something new, it would definitely be Mononoke.
Moyashimon is what happens when you turn Ginko into a college student and turn all the mushi into moeshi. I’ve pretty much described the entire premise of the show. Also, theres a batshit crazy research professor who, in the first episode, drinks the innards of a bird that has been rotting in dead seal guts. Throw in a bunch of “college students doing what college students do,” and you’ve got Moyashimon. Yes, this show can be quite educational at times too. Overall, a short but great show (with a catchy theme song) that everyone should check out. By the way, anyone else get trolled by the epic trap?
Oh J.C. Staff. No other studio has managed to invoke such a wide variety of emotions, ranging from that of disappointment, some of rage, but mostly of kornheiser. That reminds me, Zero no Tsukaima was also airing this year, dear god. But wait, what is this inexplicable feeling of joy that I’m feeling? Could it be? J.C. Staff making something good for once? Yes! I can see the light now. What strange deranged abomination of lunacy doth possibly protrude out of such fiery annals of J.C. Staff’s inferno of fail? What disillusioned entity has such courage to face the maniacal cries of shame that doth breech out from such putrid anal fecal matter as that of Zero no Tsukaima and Shakugan no Shana? What show harbors such resolve as to become a bastion of hope for a studio already on its downward spiral. Oh right. It’s Nodame Cantabile.
Honorable Mention #1: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Que the drum roll and roll back the curtains. 2007 was a year of great things. 2007 was THE year of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. The entire show is basically one huge throwback and homage to the super robot genre of the past. This show is a little of bit of Getter Robo, Mazinkaiser, FLCL, Gunbuster, GaoGaiGar, and even a bit of Dragonball Z. The director, Hiroyuki Imaishi, is in my opinion one of the best animators in the industry today. The show is far from perfect, but its pretty damn entertaining no matter how you look at it. It takes everything I enjoy from New Getter Robo and magnifies them to levels of epic proportions. It even had a morning time-slot when it aired in Japan. Imagine waking up to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann as a kid. Take all my money now. If you haven’t seen this show, watch it now. There are times when its simply better to ignore all logic and kick reason to the curb.
Honorable Mention #2: Seirei no Moribito
Boasting great Production I.G. animation value, Seirei no Moribito is yet another entry into a long line of great shows from the past year. Directed by Kenji Kamiyama, one of anime’s finest up and coming talents, the show deals with many age old struggles such as foreign intrusion and loss of cultures. It gave off a very strong Phoenix vibe, especially the early chapters “the dawn” and others like it. By this time, it really does seem like everyone was making something good this year. Sunrise had Code Geass, Gainax had TTGL, Brain’s Base had Baccano!, Madhouse had Dennou Coil, J.C. Staff had Nodame Cantabile, Toei had Mononoke, GONZO had Romeo x Juliet, and finally Production I.G. had Seirei no Moribito. 2007 was, indeed, a year of “why can’t I hold all these shows.”
Exceptional Movies of 2007:
Sword of the Stranger
Sometimes, its nice to return to the old style of samurai period pieces. As much as I loved Samurai Champloo, it could have only been done once. No matter what people say, Afro Samurai was still a colossal abomination. These days, you don’t see a lot of good old samurai movies in the classic sense. There were the Kenshin OVAs, and I’m pretty sure several more that I’m missing. But whatever the case, Sword of the Stranger really succeeded in bringing back classic samurai action back into the anime movie world. It is, in my opinion, the best movie of 2007.
Male Character: Kusuriuri, Mononoke
Kusuruiri is not the narrator of this show. Unlike certain protagonists such as say, Kyon, we don’t get to hear exactly what goes on in his head. We simply get to sit back and watch this bad ass medicine man do his thing. The script writing played a huge role here. Not only were the mysterious elements kept reserved until the final moments, so were the characters and they way they reacted in these situations. In every arc, we see the side characters change little by little as the various mononoke threat draws nearer. Also, in every arc, we see the medicine man keep his composure no matter how dire the circumstances. This guy made the show so much more gratifying to watch; he is most definitely the male lead of the year.
Female Character: Balsa, Seirei no Moribito
It was a toss-up between Balsa from Seirei no Moribito, or Clare from Claymore. Both are proficient with their weapon of choice; the spear and broadsword respectively. Both end up saving people. In the end, I went with Balsa since the ending of Claymore sucked. On a completely unrelated note, Angel Densetsu anime series fucking when?
Ensemble Cast: Baccano!
When it comes to the ensemble cast, I’ve noticed that they usually fall into two main categories. First you have the “team” of characters bound together by comradery or something similar. These include the likes of Section 9 from Ghost in the Shell, or the crew of the Bebop from Cowboy Bebop. Then you have shows like Baccano! whose entire cast of characters consist of crazy lunatics who have little to no relation to one another at the beginning of the show. The magic of the show is watching all of these characters and factions, slowly come in contact and start to interact. This is one of the reasons why Baccano! was such an entertaining show to watch.
Directorial Contribution: Mitsuo Iso, Dennou Coil
Dennou Coil was Mitsuo Iso’s directorial debut. Not a bad way to start off, especially given the fact that the show won multiple honors including the Seiun Award for best science fiction anime. Iso’s work in Dennou Coil reminds me a lot of another one of my favorite shows from the 90s, Serial Experiements Lain. This guy has worked as minor staff on a number of productions before his debut, including personal favorites RahXephon and Roujin Z. I hope we see more of him in the future.
Honorable Mention #1: Makoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters per Second
Makoto Shinkai, the one man studio wonder, has once again trolled the entirety of anime fandom into thinking his latest movie is any different from his first two. “But wait, that’s heresy! This was the best movie to come out in 2007!” someone is bound to say. Well I’m telling it how it is. This thing currently holds the number one ranking, as far as 2007 productions, on the ANN top 500. I really have to ask: why? I mean after five years, one would think fandom would have grown tired of Makoto Shinkai’s “stories.” Or maybe its the scenery porn that diverges the gaze. Who knows.
At any rate, the reason why I list this title here is not because I like the movie. The reason is because I have great respect for the director. Matoko Shinkai is one of the few people in the anime industry that has potential to become the “next big thing.” People often times speculate, what will become of the industry when big names such as Miyazaki, Takahata, and Oshii pass on? Who will become the next “leader” if you will. Matoko Shinkai may very well be that person. Voices of a Distant Star was a milestone in the history of animation. It proved just how much one could accomplish with the right skills and enough motivation. Now if only he’d stop telling the same story over and over again, maybe we’ll get somewhere.
Honorable Mention #2: Shinichiro Watanabe, Genius Party: “Baby Blue”
In all honesty, this is what 5 centimeters per second should have been. Yeah, I understand the entire point of Voices of a Distant Star and 5 centimeters was to highlight the separation of the characters, and their life long struggles to slowly come to terms with it. It was an interesting and emotional concept the first time. I loved Voice of a Distant Star. However, once you’ve seen one, the effect really diminishes in all the rest, no matter how pretty it looks.
Then all of a sudden, Shinichiro Watanabe comes in, and achieves the same level of emotion, from the same exact premise, in merely 20 minutes. He does this by essentially making the primary struggle the events LEADING up to the separation. This, in essence, is the climax of the film, and by the end, the characters have already resolved their struggles and can move on. Of course, the movie simply cuts off at that point leaving things to our imagination. But it is still, in my opinion, a better method of dealing with the same premise, except this time, the story doesn’t actually move forward at 5 centimeters per second.
Honorable Mention #3: John Woo, Shinji Aramaki, Appleseed Ex: Machina
I have very mixed feelings about Appleseed. For one, I am a huge fan of Shirow Masamune and his works. The Appleseed manga in particular is my second favorite manga of all time. However, I had found that every time someone tries to adapt it into anime form, it always ends it disappointment. Such was the case with the 1988 OVA, such was the case with the 2004 Appleseed movie, and sadly, such is the case with Appleseed Ex Machina. But for the sake of this post, I shall put aside my blatant partiality and view this movie from a regular fan’s perspective.
Two names immediately jump out upon seeing the cover art. The movie features director and mechanical director Shinji Aramaki, one of the best in the business. It also features famous Hong Kong film producer John Woo, yes the one and only. If theres one thing Aramaki is good at, its mech designs. If theres one thing John Woo is good at, its people shooting each other. Combine the two, and you basically get a movie where mechs and power suits blow each other up. Characters? What characters? This is Ex Machina we’re talking about here. If you want (better) character development, go read the manga.
Honorable Mention #4: Hiroyuki Imaishi, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
I’ve said this again and again, but Hiroyuki Imaishi is one amazing animation director. This guy followed the tutelage of the great Kazuya Tsurumaki, who incidentally acted as Anno’s assistant, who in-turn worked alongside Miyazaki. It’s a glorious cycle and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is the ultimate result. As an animation director, this guy animated many of the fight scenes in FLCL, he also animated the film Dead Leaves in 2004. GAINAX finally let this guy direct their next TV show. To great success if I say so myself.
Story Contribution: Michiko Yokote, Mononoke, Genshiken
I really enjoyed the structure of Mononoke. It’s a show that splits up its episodes into individual arcs, each focusing on a different plot point and different side characters. What impressed me about the writing, is that each individual arc kept two things in common: the suspenseful buildup and the spectacular denouement. These two things kept me watching this show and was what made the show so enjoyable. Mad props to Michiko Yokote, Kenji Nakamura, and the entire Toei Animation staff for making this happen.
Production Contribution: GAINAX, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Who could have possibly produced such a colossal amalgamation of manliness as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann? BONES? No, not with their angst problem-child protagonists. Sunrise? Not with their pedigree for self righteous borderline-emo protagonists, hell no. Satellite? Yeah…no, real robots and physics aren’t going to cut it here. Well then, I guess we just have to go with “that.” Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was a show that GAINAX made, and in all respects, it was a show that ONLY GAINAX could have made. I’ve already talked about Imaishi, but not enough can be said about the man. This guy made Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann what it is. He is an integral part of the GAINAX team and I am eagerly awaiting his future endeavors, both with GAINAX or elsewhere.
Honorable Mention: J.C. Staff, Nodame Cantabile, Ghost Hunt
J.C. Staff, to me, is a studio that requires patience. It seems that for every good show they produce, they have to go and make five shitty ones. But once that good show comes along, we are definitely rewarded. Revolutionary Girl Utena is still one of my favorite series from the 90s. Even today, no matter how many shows try to imitate Azumanga Diaoh, they still can’t seem to get it right. Since this is a “look back” at the year 2007, I have the luxury of knowing what they’ve made since then. Suffices to say, I think they were at the top of their game during the period of years spanning from 2005-2007. However, 2007 was really the last stand for J.C. Staff as far as good shows are concerned.
Voice Talent Contribution: Takahiro Sakurai, Mononoke (Kusuruiri), Code Geass (Suzaku)
This guy played Suzuku Kururugi in the popular Code Geass this season. However, the role that really made him stand out is the medicine man from Mononoke. It’s kind of odd, since as far as talking goes, the medicine man doesn’t do a lot of it. He keeps to himself most of the time and won’t engage in conversation unless he has to. And even still, he refrains from talking a lot, to the chagrin of most of the side characters. However, when this guy does speak, you know shits about to go down.
Music Contribution: Yuki Kajiura, Kara no Kyoukai: Garden of Sinners
2007 was also the year that the first Kara no Kyoukai movie came out. I’m a closet Nasuverse fan to a degree. That is to say, even though I enjoy the stories, I don’t think they are of any particular merit. If I had to choose a favorite, however, it would definitely be Kara no Kyoukai. The grim atmosphere and ambient music is magnificent especially during the first several episodes.
Honorable Mention #1: Hitoshi Sakimoto, Lena Park, Romeo x Juliet
What is GONZO doing, trying to become the next Wold Masterpiece Theater? Here is yet another GONZO show that adapts a classic literary work. This time its Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While definitely not as great as Gankutsuou, it’s still an interesting retelling of the story, once again placing the characters in a futuristic world. Both the themes for this show are excellent.
Honorable Mention #2: Kan Sawada, The Pillows, Moonlight Mile
The darkening sky and the teasing wind make our hands cold but we don’t let go; we want to walk together. We don’t need vows; we believe in each other. I WANT TO CALL YOU SCARECROW~