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[personal profile] salinea
I've watched so many series last year, I think I'm going to make a separate post for the liveaction shows.

The Awesome
Natsume Yuujinchou (S1&2): The very good adaptation of one of my favourite fantastique shoujo manga. Here's hoping to a third season!
Mononoke: Gorgeous art and chilling historical horror at its best.
Michiko e Hatchin: Action road movie series about a young badass orphan girl and a female gangster on the run in Brazil of some years back. This one really caught my heart.
Black Lagoon (S1&2): Comparable to Michiko e Hatchin with original setting and many badass female characters, this one has slightly less "heart" and compensates for it with gonzo action & dark existential musings.
Mushishi: Sublime historical supernatural cases stories!
Baccano!: Tarantinesque action & narrative deconstruction meet alchemical immortality in the 30's. Woohoo!
Aoi Hana: High school f/f romance & slice of life at its best, served by beautiful animation.
Tokyo Magnitude 8.0: Poignant catastrophe story.

The Good
Shion no Ou: Murder mystery meets Japanese Chess series, excellent plotting served by a break neck pacing.
Spice and Wolf (S1&2): Fantasy with a focus on economics & the relationship between a wandering merchant and a trickster wolf goddess.
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (on going): A pretty good adaptation of an excellent manga series; after a few clumsy first episodes it really took its strides and really delivered in the high points of the storytelling so far.
Ghost Hunt: Extremely solid supernatural case stories with endearing regular characters.
Ghost Hound: Horror & mystery series with a great creepy atmosphere and excellent characterisation.
Kodomo no Omocha (on going): An adorable and very funny old shoujo series (from the 90's) about an hyperactive ten years old child actress and her day to day life. I've been stuck in the middle of this one because I couldn't find good subtitled version of the episodes after ep 40 ;_;
Taishou Yakyuu Musume: Adorable and well crafted comedy series about a female baseball team in the 20's.
Le Chevalier d'Eon: Swashbuckling meets alchemical zombies meets esoteric conspiracies meets genderfuck in 18th century Europe.
Sasameki Koto: Well crafted High school comedy & f/f romance with very endearing characters.
Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: Reconstruction of the mecha genre. Even for someone like me who rather hates the genre this show is a love letter too, this series stood out as pretty awesome and communicative in enthusiasm.
Towards the Terra: Epic old school space opera with psychic powers.

The Okay
Ristorante Paradiso: One of the two series I finished watching this year which I failed to write a review of (oops). A slice of life show around a restaurant in Rome which focus on, err, fetishizing old men with glasses. I'm a bit at a loss about what to say about it, it's no unpleasant to watch and rather refreshing in its originality, but it was strongly lacking in plot and characterisation.
Kazemakase Tsukikake Ran (on going): A female samurai and a female kung fu warrior wander Japan and fight crime injustice. I'm only 2 episodes from the ending. It's a rather charming chambara show despite some weakness of the episodic plots and the way the sidekick is mostly used as the butt monkey of the story.
Requiem for the Phantom: Noir story about assassins, a little bit overdone and with some flaws, but still decent enough overall in terms of story and characters.
Rental Magica (on going): I'm halfway through this urban fantasy stories about a team of Magicians for hire. Pretty slim characterisation and plots, but the magical system is interesting at least.

The Mediocre
Kannazuki no Miko: Mecha & magical girl series plagued by a horrible lead and trying too hard for fetish tropes.
Daughter of 20 Faces: Great female Phantom Thief premise undercut by terrible storytelling.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2: Repetitive sequel :p (worst time loop story ever)

Mixed Feelings ones
Ayakashi: Japanese Ghost Stories: Classical horror stories anthology of very uneven qualities.
Sayonara Zetsubuou Sensei (S1&S2): The other anime series I finished watching (well, up to the season season at least) which I failed to review. Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is tough to describe... imagine South Park with better art and more fanservice? Dark&morbid humour, parody, puns & gorgeous animation meet in a crackful fest around the class of the weirdest high school students of Japan and their suicidal teacher. First season is pretty good (if frequently offensive), but the second loses most of its charm and originality.
Bakemonogatori (on going): Interesting graphics and supernatural cases stories but undermined by harem dynamics & disturbing fanservice.
Kemonozume: Weird supernatural love story with a dark and ironic atmosphere. Pretty good up through the surrealist ending. Gets prop for originality and art.
Simoun: Steampunk war story in a genderfucked world; a great setting and characterisation but too many flaws of pacing and storytelling.
Spiral: It's hard to decide if a mystery focussed series is good or bad WHEN THERE IS NO ENDING! (grrr)

The ones I dropped
Fate/Stay Night: Contemporary magical tournament for the Graal of teams of one Magician and one Heroes of Legend servant. So many bad sides to this one... a terrible lead character, annoying harem dynamics, bad graphism and animation. On the other hand one of the female lead is made of awesome and has great snarky interaction with her own servant. In the end i gave it up when I read some spoilers about more of the world/story. It's just... not my kind of stuff.
Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji: A very weird series about a desperate loser taking part in gambling tournaments in hope of winning enough money to repay his debts. Very idiosyncratic in style, so it gets prop for originality and for trying for interesting themes about the darkness of human nature and hope one can have nevertheless; although the pacing was sometimes very annoying and oddly enough has zero female characters. I dropped it because I'm depressed enough in my life, I don't need a show to increase my anxiety level. XD
Eureka Seven: Surfing mecha shows. Pretty intriguing setting and overall story, but I got annoyed by the lead - obligatory 14 year old boy - and how everything in the story is focussed on him and his romance with obligatory Emotionless girl, and all the relatively cool secondary characters only get to play peanut gallery to his antics. Bad pacing too.
Kemono no Souja Erin: Coming of age fantasy. Dropped it after 6 episodes because it seemed to much built as a children show; but with the superlative reviews I've seen of it lately, I think I'll probably pick it up again.

The not sure yet
Ergo Proxy (on going): Post apocalyptic/cyberpunk mystery. I'm a bit more than halfway through and it's a pretty interesting stories if a bit tough to get into at first. My final opinion will depend a lot of the ending and how it resolves of the mystery, but it'll probably be at least "good".
Legend of Galactic Heroes (on going): Very old, very epic, and very long Space Opera drama series. I'm in the middle of S2 on a total of 4 seasons (not counting the movies and side stories). It's really good, with excellent characters, plotting and political intrigue and battle scenes, with most of the flaws I can blame on the age of the series (mid 80s to early 90s).
Bokurano (on going): Deconstruction of the humongous mecha genre, with a lot of death and character exploration. It's been pretty good so far, although I'll need to compare it to the manga sometimes.
Kobato (on going): CLAMP's latest slice of life/supernatural adaptation. Cute and pretty pleasant to watch so far.
Armed Librarians of Bantorra (on going): Action/mystery series in a weird diesel punk world where everyone leaves a "book" (a stone tablet than can be read by touch) behind them when they die. So far I have mixed feelings: animation is pretty bad and characters are somewhat clicheed but the storytelling has been pretty good and the setting is intriguing.
Aoi Bungaku (on going): Anthology adaptation of Japanese Literature classics. So far what I've seen has been stylistically awesome, but the source material is seldom to my taste.

NB:
- on going means I'm still in the process of watching it, not that it's still being broadcasted. Although, in some cases, it is still being broadcasted.
- Links go to my reviews of the series, when I made one




Total series: 41 (well shit)
Best series overall: Mushishi
Best Male Lead: Natsume
Best Female Lead: Michiko
Best Art/Character Design: Mononoke
Best Animation: Baccano!
Best Plot: Baccano!
Best Storytelling: Mushishi
Best Soundtrack: Mushishi

See the recap of the year before

Mushishi

Sep. 15th, 2009 01:29 am
salinea: (Default)
[personal profile] salinea
Mushishi



In early 20th century Japan, but in rural areas where the time period isn't quite obvious, Ginko is a wandering Mushi-Shi, a man whose job is to deal with the creatures known as Mushi when they trouble the lives of people. What are Mushi? Invisible to most people but those who are sensitive to them, they are very much like supernatural faeries or ghosts, yet they are also described in very organic terms, as part of the natural world rather than part of the supernatural world. Mushi are also frequently just phenomenon, and few Mushi show intent and personhood in a way understandable to humans, and those few that do are still very alien, and come across as very differently than creatures from a yokai story. Yet they are forms of life, not beings either good or evil, just life that seeks to live its own life, and the ways they cross human beings' path is never simple, and never entirely good or bad.

Adapted from a seinen manga series, Mushishi is a thoroughly episodic anime, working on cases basis each time. In 26 episodes, only one character asides from Ginko is seen several times. Despite this, it manages some of the best characterisation and most beautiful storytelling I've ever seen. Seriously, this anime is sublime, utterly captivating in its melancholy atmosphere, quietly understated yet poignant, beautiful in its animation and gorgeous in its detailed natural landscapes. Each story makes splendid use of the 20-so minutes of an episode to be told fully, with a beginning, a middle, an end and often an epilogue, at a serene, deliberate pacing, yet with a storytelling alchemy and a fullness of conclusion that leaves you under its charm long after it's ended. Each story develops its characters with nuance, subtlety and a unique character design that let them be fully realised.

Thematically, Mushishi is also very strong and mature. Most mushi play as a metaphor for something of nature - not only nature as the wilderness, but also nature as the natural laws that affect human beings, from the things we use to survive and prosper like agriculture to the thing that plague us irremediably like diseases and aging. Some mushi are wonderfully beautiful. Some mushi are terrifying and horrible. Some mushi are useful. Some mushi extremely harmful to humans. Many mushi are both, to some extent. The solving of cases isn't ever a given, and frequently quite difficult. (Some of the episodes aren't about cases, as such). Most of the times, it's a matter of how you can live along, live with the problems caused by the mushi, or live without. A lot of stories have bitter-sweet endings. Several of them have sad endings. Some only end many years after the case. Some are up in the air.

I especially love how the anime focus on very ordinary people. That are several very varied range of mostly rural work and crafts underlain by the story, and there's something very refreshing in that kind of focus, and in the variety of ways people made their life, as well as the naturalistic treatment to storytelling.

Ginko himself is an interesting lead. He's not quite the cypher that the Medicine seller is in Mononoke, for example, he's got his own personality as a sardonic man who has his own ethical ideas about things yet is fairly cynical about people. Yet he's not at the forefront of most of the stories (there are several stories in which he appears very little) and is a rather quiet man. There's a handful of episodes dedicated to developing his character and his backstory, but not much. Of course, Mushishi is a great example of the less is more kind of storytelling.

In conclusion, this is easily one of the best anime I've ever seen. Watch it.

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