So, 2012 found me pummeling this corner of the internet with my presence on yet another blog, thanks to the magical compulsion power of vucub_caquix. Now he’s compelled me to do yet another deviant, uncharacteristic, and hateful act: a top 5 post. So let’s skip the ado and get on, in no particular order.
My first entry into the franchise — unless you count watching Robotech on TV as kid and owning a couple Valkyrie toys — was also one of my earlier manifestations of fandom. I did some of the usual suspects of the 90s (Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Ninja Scroll, etc), but until I saw Macross Plus I didn’t really get that anime could tell such an emotional story. The idea of Sharon Apple fascinated me, and the computer imagery was, for the time, incredibly advanced. But though I was drawn in by Itano’s dogfights and Watanabe’s fistfights, it was the very human and surprisingly mature heartbreak of the central love triangle that made the whole thing work. Sadly, the other entries in the Macross canon were not so nuanced or mature, but it did help me become a lifelong fan of Kawamori’s franchise, pursue the works of Shinichiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno, and dive into mecha anime. So you could say it’s responsible for a lot of my other favorites that almost made it to this damnable list, including Cowboy Bebop and Zeta Gundam.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Yep. That’s right. Haruhi. In case you forgot, this series was something of a revelation when it came out — and to me, out of love with anime at the time for whatever reason, it kickstarted me for the second time. While I’d say its influence has yet to produce anything of equal value — in fact, its influence has been largely horrible on anime as a whole — it floored me at the time. The production values were off the charts, the cleverness and comic timing felt natural. And to me, removed from anime as I was at the time, the fun it poked at its own audience and animated heritage was on par with Nadesico, an anime that probably belongs on this list. I’m not sure I still think those things, but it’s still one of the high water marks of the 21st century, for better or worse.
Revolutionary Girl Utena.
It’s funny, this is the only anime on the list that I saw after I started blogging. I always saw it there in the video store as I was renting new volumes of Evangelion every day, but I never reached for it. I wasn’t that adventurous in those days, and it wasn’t until Cardcaptor Sakura that I learned that something for the girls could be an intense and enriching experience (compared to the neatly-packaged pink inanity of most western girl cartoons). I wish I had seen it at the time, but watching it for the first time when I had a lot more anime context under my belt was a great thing. Now I eagerly await anything remotely connected to Ikuhara and Enokido (whose FLCL I was already a fan of), but nothing quite compares to the sheer mental and aesthetic assault of Utena.
At times, I try to figure out what my favorite anime might be, and it’s a dumb question (even dumber than “what are your top 5 anime?” am I right?), but the only thing I’ve ever really settled on is FLCL. It has a lot going for it: a typically sex-obsessed and multi-layered story by Yoji Enokido, a Looney-Tunes-influenced dynamic directing style by (now-former) Gainax madman Kazuya Tsurumaki, a soundtrack consisting of Tsurumaki’s favorite tunes by power-pop group The Pillows, and a short length that can be digested over and over. I can even name a favorite moment: that’d be Ninamori’s great reveal in episode 3, “The Marquis de Carabas.” Here, Enokido’s signature three-or-more-level story culiminates into a single point, and it’s heartbreaking. But what ensues is a cartoonish sequence that’s hard to top, followed by a triumphant fist-pump as “Little Busters” begins to play. It’s all packed into an amazing ten minutes of cartoon power.
Neon Genesis Evangelion.
The no-brainer to end all no-brainers, the anime that launched a billion fanboys, the most predictable choice that’s so predictable it’s come full circle to unexpected. As a fan, I’ve found myself faced with a new generation of anime lovers who just don’t get the “hype,” who only see an over-merchandised dinosaur with a whiny protagonist and a confusing, depressing mess of a plot. But I’m not here to give the grandaddy of moe its due in any other departments than my own personal love. It did for me what it did for so many other people: it combined enough elements in a guaranteed recipe for success that I couldn’t resist. It made a monster out of me. Though I backed off, and I’ve waxed and waned, I was never not a fan after seeing the ultimate ode to (and perhaps condemnation of) the otaku species. Kimochi Warui.