2009 was year of few winners and many losers. Except the losers are actually winners as the winners had no recognition whatsoever. It was a year where fandom wallowed in exhausted life boats waiting for the rescue chopper to come. Suffices to say, it did not. Yet most of us were able to make do with what we got. Granted, most of us were still spoiled from 2007, with a little adaptation to the times, we survived. Without further ado, I present to you the titles that distinguished themselves from the rest, The Best of the Year 2009.
Five Exceptional Anime of 2009:
Theres something peculiar about Kuuchuu Buranko. Once I began watching it, I couldn’t stop, a rare case especially given the show’s episodic nature. Show’s like Monster keep people glued to the screen with plot twists and cliffhangers. But what about a show such as Kuuchuu Buranko? Despite the innovative animation, superb soundtrack, and interesting characters, those are not what sets this show apart from the rest. The answer lies in the Denouement. It takes great directorial skill and writing prowess to end each and every episode spectacularly, start of scratch the next episode, and repeat for an entire season. Kuuchuu Buranko does exactly that.
Eden of the East
Eden of the East is, in a round-a-bout way, the spiritual successor to Stand Alone Complex. Once again directed by Kenji Kamiyama, Eden of the East is a provocative social commentary as well as a great all-around mystery/thriller. The production values are top-tier, produced by the reliable Production I.G and aired on Fuji TV’s noitaminA block. This is easily one of the greatest shows of the year. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that it requires 2 movie sequels to wrap up the story, it would easily be this year’s best. A great show for any type of anime fan.
Hajime no Ippo: New Challenger
Fans of the original Hajime no Ippo have been waiting nearly a decade for this. While the show wasn’t as much of a godsend for me, it was still a very good show. Bringing back the manliness in an age over-populated with moe, New Challenger brings back one of the better protagonists in anime. It is technically a sports show, but retains a lot of classic shounen fighter tropes. Along with this year’s Cross Game, the sports sub-genre is surprisingly well-represented in 2009. A well rounded show worthy of its admittance into the Hajime no Ippo franchise.
Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou
The sequel series to the last year’s Natusme Yuujinchou, a wonderful slice-of-life series by Brain’s Base. The show continues to follow Natsume and his encounters with various youkai. A stark contrast from the first season, Zoku takes on a calmer tone, being set in the winter time (despite what the name may suggest). A great “feel good” series that everyone can sit down and enjoy anytime.
Spice and Wolf II
Yet another sequel in a season littered with them. Spice and Wolf II, however, succeeds in improving upon the first season. It continues the story adapted from the light novels, and follows Lawrence and Horo as they travel across a medieval-esque world (and get this, for once there is no war). For some reason, I always though of Lawrence as Griffith without the power mongering and rape. Features a great soundtrack, very likable characters, Economics 101, borderline furries, and even a slight NTR arc.
Exceptional Movies of 2009:
Summer Wars is the movie to see in the year 2009. Directed by the “other” Mamoru (aka Mamoru Hosoda), Summer Wars is a rare case where a studio other than Ghibli produced such a popular family film. It follows an 11th grade boy who is one day invited to a friend’s estate to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday. Everyone in the family is invited and we get to see the nuances of the Asian nuclear family come to life on screen. However, things go awry when the boy is falsely accused of hacking the virtual world of “OZ.” A very popular movie, so much so in fact that it was almost nominated for Best Animated Feature for this year’s Oscars.
Male Character: Hei, Darker than Black: Ryuusei no Gemini
With the mask, Hei is pretty much the “chinese electric batman.” Without the mask, he’s a hobo. Yes, contrary to what people may think, there is indeed a second season of Darker than Black. A season where Hei continues his back-handing ways, except this time he’s got long hair and signs of a neckbeard. But what makes Hei different from, every other shounen action series protagonist? Collar BONES.
Female Character: Baron Ashura, Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-Hen
You know what, screw the naysayers. If people are allowed to list Mariya Shidou as the best Male character of the year, I am allowed to list Baron Ashura as the best female character. I mean if you think about, half is better than none. This abomination of Go Nagai right here is THE giant robot antagonist. The prototype if you will. In Shin Mazinger, the character experiences a surprisingly high amount of character development. Perhaps the manliest woman in anime history (literally).
Ensemble Cast: Hetalia Axis Powers
Can there be any other show fitting for this category? The show with the nations of the world anthropomorphized as pretty boys and chibi figures. It’s quirky at times, insane at times, and some times even slightly funny. Yet it’s hard not to acknowledge the popularity of Hetalia Axis Powers. It’s due to the memorable (for whatever reason) characters that the show was able to become so big.
Directorial Contribution: Kenji Nakamura, Kuuchuu Buranko
This ultimately comes down to the two best anime series of the year, Nakamura’s Kuuchuu Buranko and Kamiyama’s Eden of the East. A close struggle between the two “Kenjis.” In my opinion, the former edges out the latter, if only by a little. Kenji Nakamura is one of the best young directors in television anime today. The previous year, he directed the masterpiece Mononoke which has become one of my favorite anime of all time. I expected the same from Kuuchuu Buranko and needless to say, the show delivered.
Story Contribution: Mika Abe, Osamu Dezai, Aoi Bungaku: “Run Melos”
Aoi Bungaku was one of the year’s dark horse titles. A show which no one watched but featured top quality production values. It differed from a lot of other shows as it was essentially an anthology of “modern classic” written by a variety of renowned Japanese literaries. One of these authors is Osamu Dezai, who wrote the original source that was to become the No Longer Human and Run Melos segment. These short stories are both powerful, provocative, and in my opinion, they are the best Aoi Bungaku has to offer.
Production Contribution: Production I.G, Eden of the East
Production I.G went out of there way to make Eden of the East absolutely beautiful. The show featured great sound, visuals, character designs, pretty much everything you could ask. The CG animation, for the most part, worked to the show’s advantage (much like in Ghost in the Shell), reaffirming my hope that someday, animators would learn how to properly use CGI technology.
Voice Talent Contribution: Hiroshi Kamiya, Bakemonogatari (Koyomi Araragi), Natsume Yuujinchou (Takashi Natsume)
This guy’s voice has a surpassingly wide range. He was obnoxious in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei and he was on high on weed in Natsume Yuujinchou. His role in Bakemonogatari as Araragi was a middle ground of sorts. I’m not usually a fan of typical high school protagonists, save for a few. Kyon is one of them, as well as none other than Araragi. Perhaps its because of the narrative style, which focuses more on the inner thoughts of these characters, that make these characters appealing. Okay, the vampire thing doesn’t really sit well with me, but give the guy a break. He can’t help it if they’re the “thing” these days.
Music Contribution: Kaoru Wada, Casshern Sins, InuYasha: The Final Act
And finally, we reach the final category and the end of the list. 2009 featured many great shows with many superb OSTs. However, Casshern Sins sweeps the floor with its grim dark premise and the equally magnificent musical score. Definitely one of the more underrated shows of the season.