2010 A Year in Review Part I: Highlights and Personal Picks for the Best Anime of 2010

I’ve been watching anime for a while now, however, the year 2010 was the first year I actually followed it extensively. That is, instead of watching only what I could come across and what was deemed popular among Americans, I actually started to follow shows as they were airing on Japanese television. Suffices to say, my shift into full blown geekdom had begun and thus I can do things like this now. So without further ado, I present to you The Best of the Year 2010.

Five Exceptional Anime of 2010:

The Tatami Galaxy

Directed by the unique Masaaki Yuasa, The Tatami Galaxy aired during the latter half of the noitaminA programming block during the spring 2010 season. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. The Tatami Galaxy, as a whole, captivates everything that makes makes the noitaminA label so coveted in the anime world. The show is pure genius in both narrative and artistic style. The cyclical story and captivating atmosphere paints each character in multiple facets. The narrative is purposefully fast, witty, and disjointed, a stark deviation from almost all of its contemporaries. The show as a whole acts a beacon of hope for quality animation in the future. Quite possibly Madhouse’s finest product since Monster back in 2002. The Tatami Galaxy is one that is not to be missed.

Arakawa Under the Bridge

2010 saw two seasons of Arakawa Under the Bridge. The first season in the winter, the second one during the fall. Riding the wave caused by Bakemongatari, SHAFT goes and makes what is one of my favorite comedies in recent years. Arakawa Under the Bridge is something that grows on you the more you watch it. The wide cast of quirky characters need a bit of time to become developed and fleshed, but once they do, the show becomes so much more enjoyable. Another great title to come out of 2010.

Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

I wrote about Panty and Stocking in one of my first reviews. This show is something unique. It is also a show with a great amount of divergent opinions. Personally, I enjoyed the hell out of it. Leave it to Gainax to create a piece that is artistically and literally critical of past and present credo and they will give us exactly that and more. They will present to us the dreams of every nerd, geek, and otaku; a re-envisionment of science fiction and storytelling in animation. Panty and Stocking is, above all else, a work of entertainment that harbors many of the same aspects which personified the Daicon animations. A breath of fresh air in an otherwise stagnant season.

Katanagatari

A change of format from most traditional TV series, Katangatari aired on a monthly basis and featured double-length episodes. The show is the second major Nishio Ishin work to be adapted into anime form following the footsteps of 2009′s Bakemongatari. Unlike its predecessor however, Katanagatari was animated by Studio White Fox and not SHAFT. Bakemongatari proved that Nishio Ishin is one talented storyteller. Katanagatari simply reinforces this claim. The scripting is fantastic and the artwork is gorgeously minimalist. This creates the “picture book” feeling which interestingly enough fits the premise of the show quite well. While Katanagatari is often criticized for its formulaic structure, it remains a decent source of entertainment for those looking for a little action, adventure, and drama.

Durarara!!

From the renowned author who created Baccano! comes its spiritual successor Durarara!!, an urban thriller taking place in modern day Japan. Brain’s Base produced the Durarara!! anime adaptation which aired during the winter of 2010. The show was highly popular during its initial broadcast, garnering an American license the next year, a rare sight to behold in current times. Durarara!! is a great show that hasn’t even begun to tell its full story. It all depends on Brain’s Base’s willingness to adapt the rest of Narita’s novels. Until then, Durarara!! is 24 episodes of thrilling action that will kept me coming back for more. Definitely deserving of its praise.

Exceptional Movies of 2010:

Time of Eve

While the ONA release of the series was a thing of last year, 2010 saw the release of Eve no Jikan in movie format. The movie compiled the six episodes seamlessly into one full length feature and in my opinion, it works. The movie itself is another take on the Shirow-esque, Asimov inspired futuristic cyborg integrated society. It currently ranks as one of my favorite science fiction anime movies of all time. A great movie and homage to Asimov science fiction as well as Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell.

Male Character: “Watashi”, The Tatami Galaxy

By far my favorite character of the year, ironic since he doesn’t have an official name. The entire series, he refers to himself in the first person merely as “Watashi.” In The Tatami Galaxy, we follow this nameless protagonist who begins his college career expected a “rose colored campus life.” As he first walks under the clock tower onto campus, he is presented with various “circles” of which he can join. Among them are the tennis club, film club, bicycle club, literature club, and many others. Each choice leads the protagonist down a different path over the course of two years, however he can never seem attain the “rose colored campus life” he so dearly wished for.

The foundation and driving force behind the show’s inspiring narrative lies in the portrayal of this main character. The character itself is a rather pitiful one in a physical sense. He has no “redeeming” traits or talents and his pessimistic attitude creates an increasing nihilistic view toward life. However, his actions are what tell the real story. Each decision that the main protagonist makes is logically, morally, and emotionally sound. His intentions, mistakes, and failures are genuine and each passing choice helps bolster his multifaceted identity as a character.

Female Character: Celty Sturleson, Durarara!!

My face when “headless” is the new thing. My face when I have no face head, literally. Celty Sturleson is the memorable poster lady for the winter 2010 show Durarara!! She is a Dullahan who arrives in Ikebukuro in search for her lost head, said to contain her memories. I’ll admit, I found this character quite charming. She’s a mythical figure from Irish folklore, and we see her in modern day Japan on image boards and chat rooms. That, and the great character interaction with Shinra added to the overall entertainment value of Durarara!!

Ensemble Cast: Arakawa Under the Bridge

When all is said and done, the cast of nutjobs who live under the bridge, while perhaps not the greatest cast of characters, are most certainly the ones I cared for the most. At the end of the day, that’s what matters in my opinion. In the case of Durarara!!, certain characters stood out more than the rest. Not with Arakawa Under the Bridge, as crazy as it may sound. Yes, the show revolves around Recruit and Nino for the most part, however, the cast of characters is the beating heart of the show. Without those nutters, the Arakawa isn’t Arakawa.

Directorial Contribution: Masaaki Yuasa, The Tatami Galaxy

This guy is a beast. Thrice before hand he has impressed me with this work on Mind Game, Kemonozume, and Kaiba. When The Tatami Galaxy finally rolled around, this man did not fail my expectations. He in fact, blew them away. Masaaki Yuasa’s unique and dynamic form of storytelling creates nearly an enlightened form of entertainment, putting a spin on an often times mishandled narrative structure. I’m of course talking about the Groundhog’s Day effect, made infamous by Endless Eight one year ago.

There are some people who insist on comparing The Tatami Galaxy to Haruhi Suzumiya due to this similarity. While the premise is vaguely similar, only by virtue of the Ground Hogs Day element, one cannot even begin to compare the two. The greatest distinction lies within the show’s execution. One can tell that The Tatami Galaxy is a product of the ethics of “doing things right.” Madhouse did not cut corners on this one. Each episode can stand on its own; each episode contributes to the overall story. To compare The Tatami Galaxy with Endless Eight without noting such discrepancies is a travesty in and of itself.

Story Contribution: Ryohgo Narita, Durarara!!

I still think Baccano! was the better overall adaptation of Narita’s work, but as far as source material goes, I think Durarara!! is certainly his most prominent. There certainly is no shortage of material for future seasons. What volume is on now, volume 8? Whatever the case, I hope Brain’s Base continues its partnership with Narita, whether it be Durarara!! season 2, or Baccano! season 2 (one can only hope). Although, I’ll admit, a part of me wants Baccano! to stay where its at.

Production Contribution: Brain’s Base, Kuragehime, Kurenai OVA, Durarara!!

Brain’s Base is quickly becoming one of my favorite studios. They produced several great shows this year. One for noitaminA, Kuragehime, which was intended for more of an older audience. The Kurenai OVA also came out this year, a side story to a decent series. Finally, as if it wasn’t mentioned enough already, they made Durarara!! for the winter season. While Madhouse traditionally creates quality stuff (and this year is no different with the release of The Tatami Galaxy), they’ve been stumbling recently with Highschool of the Dead and the Marvel adaptations which no one seems to be watching. Gainax has Panty and Stocking, but not much else besides the disappointment that was Shikabane Himi last year. And finally, while I’ll always be a closet Shaftard, I can only acknowledge about half of their shows.

Voice Talent Contribution: Tomokazu Sugita, Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Kyon), Arakawa Under the Bridge (Hoshi)

The final third of Suzumiya Haruhi no Shoushitsu was brilliant and the person who made that happen was Kyon. If there’s one thing I like about the Haruhi franchise, it’s definitely Kyon. And while the cast of Haruhi feature many prominent seiyuu including Miss Japanese Paris Hilton herself, I think that the voice of Kyon is what really carried that show from day one. The movie is no different, once again making use of Kyon’s narration as its primary means of exposition. Oh and if that’s not reason enough, theres always HIMO HIMO HIMO.

Music Contribution: Teddy Loid, Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Finally, to end this post of fanboyism, we have the best OST to come out of 2010. What can I say? DJ Teddy Loid is awesome.

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5 Responses to 2010 A Year in Review Part I: Highlights and Personal Picks for the Best Anime of 2010

  1. gaguri says:

    Just a minor correction: Yuasa didn’t direct Mononoke or Trapeze, they were directed by Nakamura Kenji, who is also directing C1 this season. Yuasa had a cult following before Tatami with Mind Game, Kemonozume, then later Kaiba, all amazing works. But yea, he definitely deserves to win the director’s award

    • Tronulax says:

      Yeah, you’re right. Kenji is C, Trapeze, Mononoke, while Yuasa is Mind Game, Kemonozume, Kaiba and Tatami.

      I got a little ahead of myself and somehow made the erroneous connection that since Yuasa directed a noitaminA show, he must have directed Trapeze and Mononoke. But yeah, it was indeed Kenji and now I feel silly. Oh well. They are ALL amazing shows, perhaps thats why I got them mixed up.

      • Anonymous says:

        Dammit my brain is full of fuck now. For a minute I was thinking that Kenji also directed GITS, but that was Kamiyama Kenji, and not Nakamura.

    • Cyborg99 says:

      I believe Nakamura and Yuasa collaborated on Kemonozume, whether it was a co-directing setup or something else I’m not so sure. Perhaps thats why they are easy to get mixed up. They are both known for their “unique” animation styles which rub off on each other. Yuasa’s Mind Game featured Cells, CG, and Live Action portions which I think played a huge influence years later on Nakamura’s Trapeze, which also featured live action shots. So both of them have worked together, and both are very similar styles.

  2. The Freeman says:

    Finally, someone else who acknowledges Time of Eve. Such a great movie, that no one seems to have seen.

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