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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thoughts on Blogging + Midway Impressions ~ Autumn 2011

So, it’s that time again.
That time when I inevitably become once again interested in my blog, and vaguely try and revive it, before life piles up around me and I lose the time to write another entry.
Well, over the last couple of months, after basically abandoning the internet, I’ve slowly been rebuilding my various accounts around a number of websites, and with relative success. So, I come to my blog, which has been all but forgotten since I initially started it.

The problem with blogging is, I find, it’s difficult to come up with an interesting variety of things to talk about. My initial idea when I created this blog, was to have somewhere I could give my opinions about the things that interested me.
I’m not expecting many people to read it, and I’d certainly never expect it to become popular. However, some people out there might enjoy reading my posts, and I’m confident I’d enjoy writing them.

The problem arises when I realise that if I want to keep blogging, I’m going to have to come up with some sort of release schedule, otherwise I, being me, will just ignore it for months. Now, the schedule itself is fine, I’m quite comfortably able to write a deviantART journal each Monday, for example. Finding something to write about, however, is not so easy. If I could trust myself to simply write an entry every time I found something worth talking about, then I’d be fine, but I’m not good at that and instead need to force myself to commit to something.

The remaining issue is that, while I could quite easily come up with something to talk about every, let’s say, fortnight, whether or not people would find them interesting, or more accurately ‘relevant’ if a better question. Now, I know I said above I’m not expecting many people to read my blog, but it would be nice to provide posts that people are actually interested in, and if I decided to write a review for something that aired a year and a half ago, would people still care?

Anyway, that’s a basic overview of why my blog has remained as empty as it has, a combination of my own laziness and an apprehension as to whether readers would be interested in what I had to say if I forced myself to have a topic every week? 2 weeks? etc..

That said I will, starting now, try and write a blog entry to go up every other Sunday evening (UK time).
Note: This post is late due to formatting problems with blogspot.
So, in a petty attempt to stay ‘relevant’, this update shall contain my opinions at roughly the halfway point of the current season of anime, as the title of the entry suggests.

I’ve been watching a total of twelve series this season, and I’ve managed, for once, to stay pretty up to date with all of them. I’ll go through them alphabetically.

Bakuman II
[Watched: 6 episodes]

*Minor season 1 spoilers*
Having loved the first season of Bakuman, I was greatly anticipating it’s second season. The first season was involving and exciting, with a strong cast of characters. The goal throughout the first season was serialisation, and the series drew me in in such a way that I was on the edge of my seat every time they had to hear back from Jack. It was an emotional rollercoaster where you never knew what the next outcome would be.

The second season has pulled me in with the same level of investment in the series, but it doesn’t manage to catch that same true excitement. It’s a very good series, and I’m still greatly enjoying it, but with them now serialised it feels like the tension has relaxed, and the passion so evident in the first season had subsided a little.

It has been a solid series so far, but in my opinion hasn’t quite lived up to the first season so far. Luckily we have plenty of time left to go.

Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
[Watched: 6 episodes]

Boku wa Tomodachi is as predictable as they come, with a set of characters filling all the stereotypes, brought together for the sake of a harem. If you’ve seen any other harem-comedy series, you’ll know what to expect from Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. As far as harem’s go, however, you can certainly do a lot worse than Boku wa Tomodachi. While it lacks in originality, the comedy and characters generally make it entertaining enough for 20 minutes a week. If you don’t like harem series, you’ll most certainly find this generic and bland and not to your tastes, if you’re more forgiving of the genre you may find yourself smiling and laughing most episodes.

The main problem with the series, in my opinion, is that of the two lead female characters, neither is particularly likeable. They each have moments here and there where I think they’re growing on me, but they never do. They feel a lot like Kirino and Kuroneko of Ore no Imouto, but lack any of the charm.

[Watched: 7 episodes]

Chihayafuru is my surprise hit of the season. I was expecting to enjoy it, but not quite as much as I am. Every moment spent with Chihaya and her friends has been a joy for me.

I picked up Chihayafuru because I enjoyed Saki and, while I wasn’t expecting it to be similar to Saki, I was hoping it could invoke the same sort of feelings in me. I loved Saki because it had a way of drawing me in to every match, and made me care about the outcome of every single one. Chihayafuru has that same effect on me, even though Karuta doesn’t appear that interesting. The first time we see Arata play, and in his game against Taichi it genuinely excited me, and I’m greatly anticipating the next time we see him play, especially if it’s against Chihaya herself.

I’ve become quickly and deeply emotionally involved in Chihayafuru. I care about the characters, and truly want to see them succeed against all odds. I look forward to seeing what sort of opponents will arise in the future episodes and the journey the rest of this series takes us on.

[Watched: 7 episodes]

Fate/Zero has, without exception, been outstanding every episode. The set-up to this series was truly phenomenal, taking the viewer carefully through a brief look at each of the main players and giving insight into their motives and plans for the Holy Grail War and it’s reward. Even having watched Fate/Stay Night I had no idea of the politics of the War, its history, the fact that there were even households that expected to have a member chosen by the grail, and could plan accordingly. That masters might examine each other and learn what they could before the War started never occurred to me in Fate/Stay Night even though it seems such an obvious thing to do. It was simple things such as these that were used to foreshadow the War itself. Over the first two episodes, as the masters and servants were introduced and their personalities and relationships established, it became all too easy to find yourself anticipating the coming battles and what twists they would bring.

So far, Fate/Zero has proven to be entertaining, intelligent, exciting and thrilling, and it doesn’t appear to show any signs of slowing soon.

Kimi to Boku
[Watched: 7 episodes]

Kimi to Boku is about as pure as slice of life series come. It truly is nothing more than the story of five boys at high school and their day-to-day lives. Some may wonder where the appeal lies in sich a slow-paced and direction-less show, but the answer lies within the characters of the series. The backbone of any slice of life series is its cast, as without any semblance of a plot there’s nothing else to provide viewers with a reason to come back. Fortunately, Kimi to Boku’s cast consists of a small handful of charming characters. They play off each other well, and although they appear an unlikely group at the surface, the series does a good job of making their friendship seem genuine. It provides a calm, relaxing, easy to watch glance into high school life. If it doesn’t sound like it appeals to you, then it probably won’t; however, if you enjoy slice of life series, then its definitely worth the chance.

Kimi to Boku is a series that revels in its slice of life atmosphere providing soft, unobtrusive music; casual, natural characters and a beautiful art style.

Mashiro-iro Symphony
[Watched: 5 episodes]

Mashiro-iro Symphony provides what you expect from almost any series based on a dating sim. A harem-style series, with story arcs for each girl based on their branching paths in the game. The characters generally tend to be likeable but also fall into all the traps of being from a game, which means they end up being very stereotypical and do little to stray from that, so as to appease the fans of each archetype who want to pursue that character through the game. Mashiro-iro isn’t a bad series, it does little wrong, providing a pleasant setting, a group of characters in which it’s fairly easy to pick a couple you like, a nice score and decent art style. The noteable faults that do exist in Mashiro-iro, however, mainly lie with the tsunderes.

Airi’s story arc makes little sense, she’s completely happy to talk to Shingo at the beginning of the first episode, acting in a manner friendly enough that you’d believe they were close. Her sudden shift in disposition toward him just because he’s one of the male students attending the school isn’t natural, and it seems a fairly poor attempt at trying to provide a tsundere for the sake of having a tsundere character.
Unfortunately the second tsundere character makes even less sense, and Sana’s sudden shift halfway through the series from a friendly, bubbly, pleasant girl to one who has an irrational hatred of boys is so jarring and confusing even the series doesn’t seem to fully understand as moments after that reveal, she’s acting in a perfectly normal way around Shingo.

Other than that, the problem with the series is that is does nothing to stand out, everything is generic and has a ‘been there, done that’ feel, and that will turn off just as many people as a badly written plot or poor characters would.

Persona 4 The Animation
[Watched: 6 episodes]

I’m a big fan of the game this series is based on, although I haven’t yet finished it. The anime translates the plot of the game onto the screen very well, and the story so far has remained faithful. For this, I’m thankful as the game’s plot has been excellent thusfar. What the anime doesn’t manage to capture, whoever, is the same intimacy of character relations and the depth and analysis the characters receive in the game. It doesn’t do a bad job with these aspects, but because the game allows you to spend far more time with these characters, the anime cannot hope to reach that same level. The other aspect it can’t translate as well is the subplots; the social links within the game. During gameplay, expanding social links and following subplots feels very natural due to the way the game plays. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be replicated for TV, as shown by the 5th episode which would appear as filler to most viewers. It’s faithful to the game, but has no correlation to the main plot and seems out of place, and slightly random.

Persona 4 The Animation is a good series, that manages to capture a lot of what makes the game great, however, unfortunately due to it’s pace and that lack of input and involvement from the watcher it falls short of the game it’s based on.

Phi-Brain: Kami no Puzzle
[Watched: 6 episodes]

Phi-Brain has been an interesting series so far, taking a standard shounen hero and plot structure and applying it to a world of puzzles. While it doesn’t suddenly make the series seem unique, it keeps it fresh and entertaining, the puzzles and setups are often interesting, and the variety of motivations for the puzzles set keep it from being monotonous. Prior hints of a larger story are starting to surface now with the introduction of a character, and so it’s hard to know exactly where this series will go from here. For me, I feel if the puzzles get more challenging, the stakes get higher and story becomes more defined I’ll enjoy it from here on out.

Shakugan no Shana III
[Watched: 5 episodes]

I’m a big fan of the original Shakugan no Shana, and while the second season didn’t quite live up to the first, I still enjoyed it. Shana S then proceeded to get me excited for Shana III and I’ve been awaiting it’s arrival for some time now. This being the final season, the story starts pretty quickly and doesn’t currently look like it’ll give us the same story arc structure as the prior seasons, presenting us with a primary antagonist and a satisfying plot twist from the very beginning. However, despite the high stakes and what should be a thrilling series of events so far, I’ve found myself unable to get drawn into the series. It appears to have returned to the darker feel that the first season provided, but I felt was distinctly lacking in the first series, and the story so far has been fairly interesting. But, I’m not as involved as I thought I’d be. I expected to find myself eagerly awaiting each episode and watching it the moment I could, but I’m not.

I don’t think I’m disappointed with the series, it’s just not as easy to get into as I thought it would be.

Shinryaku!? Ika-Musume
[Watched: 6 episodes]

It’s hard to know what to say about Shinryaku!? Ika-Musume. It’s much like the first season, the characters are the same, the setting is the same, the style is the same and the humour is the same. I enjoyed the first season a lot, I loved Ika and the supporting cast was strong, the stories were short but entertaining and the humour appealed to me. The second season is strong in all the same areas, and so I’m enjoying it just as much. If you liked the first season, the second season provides more of the same and little else.

Tamayura ~hitotose~
[Watched: 6 episodes]

Those few of you who read my top 10 anime of 2010 will know that I greatly enjoyed the 4-episode Tamayura OVA. It had a flavour of ARIA about it that hooked me, with it’s utopian setting, it’s cast of likeable characters and it’s uplifting & positive themes set firmly in the guise of photography. Tamayura ~hitotose~ follows much of this, and it’s in the series credit that it does so, however, it loses a little something that the OVA had. The idea of photographs capturing and preserving moments of happiness is explored far less. It’s shown a lot, many times we see Potte with her camera out and the moments she saves in her pictures, however, it’s rarely talked about. Now, arguably, this is because the OVA has already done this, and so the series no longer needs to otherwise it’ll start to feel a bit samey. However, the problem with losing this is the themes the show stands for, memories and the happiness they can hold, becomes far less prevalent in the full series.

While this is a shame, the series as a whole is good and what you expect from such a series. Slightly quirky characters, living in a beautiful area living out their day-to-day lives. It’s not for everyone, but what it does it does extremely well.

[Watched: 5 episodes]

Following Gosick and Kami-sama no Memochou, UN-GO continues the recent increase in detective series, which for me is more than welcome. I enjoy series like UN-GO, I find the main characters interesting and like following the trail of clues that leads them to a mystery’s conclusion. UN-GO’s ‘defeated detective’, like many detectives, seems unremarkable at first, but is quickly proven to possess a very sharp mind and, to the viewer at least, a likeable temperament. His partner Inga is where the series starts to get interesting. Even by episode 5 we don’t know much about Inga beyond a few brief mentions of backstory, what makes Inga a strong addition to the series, however, is the ability to ask someone a single question to which they must respond truthfully. The mystery style of the series, then, often will come down to ‘what will the question be, and who will be asked?’, and while on the surface this could appear a copout, the deductive reasoning that leads to this question is always well explained. It’s set in a post-war future, though what war hasn’t been explained in much detail, which allows for occasional plots driven by a sci-fi idea, but a number of cases stick to a more ordinary case.

As UN-GO progresses it may grow in need of a more substantial plot, but for the time being, at least, it’s an interesting series with a few notable traits.

All in all, I am enjoying this season. There are a number of series that are really standing out to me, and while most have faults, I’ve found myself enjoying everything I’ve picked up. If I had to pick a personal top three, I might say Fate/Zero, Chihayafuru and Bakuman II, though don’t read too far into that.

As for blogging, I will genuinely try and be more consistent from now on. I may not be on time with every entry, but I do hope to get out a new post at least every 2 weeks. I’ll continue to talk about various topics, and if they provide to be uninteresting, I’ll work to try and improve that.
It would be nice if anyone could leave feedback, just to give me some few pointers on areas where I could improve, but I doubt anyone will.

Regardless! If you’re still here, thank you very much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Time consumption.

Unfortunately, my plans from my last post are unlikely to occur for a little while, so I apologise. I am still planning to write up reviews for the series mentioned and more, including Madoka Magica, but I'm so swamped with revision at the moment that I really can't afford to. When I write proper blog posts they do take at least a few days to finish, and I just can't afford to put aside that much time with exams right around the corner. I finish on the 24th, so hopefully *fingers crossed* the summer break will allow me more time. I do want to blog, really badly. But, finding the time has been difficult until I find a schedule to fall into.
Anyway, we'll stay optimistic for the summer, but I can't guarantee anything as this summer will be very bust too due to IRL issues.
Anyway, I'll try to post soon!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Future Plans

Ok, so my blog's been effectively abandoned over the last 2 months. This is mainly due to various issues in real life, which I won't delve into. As of now, however, I'm back at university for around a month and while I do have exams in this period, so revision is a major requirement, I do have the chance to blog a bit more freely. So, for a little while, blog posts will occur at a slightly more regular rate. I'm hoping to average about 1 a week, to match my deviantART update rate.
This current update won't count as a post for this week, so anyone reading my blog, there will (fingers crossed) be something up later this week. I'm currently planning reviews for several of the series I've finished, and a 'first impressions of the spring season', though I will need to catch up a bit first.
Series I'm planning on reviewing include Hourou Musuko, Bakuman, Fractale and Toaru Majutsu no Index II, so if you're interested in any of those series hopefully you can look forward to them. I'm also potentially planning a top 10 list... maybe. However, this does all, of course, depend on how much time I have free when taking exams/revision into consideration too.

Anyway, sorry the update's so brief.
Expect a review later this week, I'll try and get one written soon.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Update + Brief Impressions

Hey, I apologise that it's been a while since my last entry...I really wanted to do a 'First Impressions of Winter 2011' post, but as work and things got in the way I began to fall behind with most of the series I was watching. By the time I'd finally caught up with them, most of them were 7 or 8 episodes in and it became way too late. So instead, I've decided to give a quick outline of the series I'm currently watching at the moment (regardless of season), a brief opinion on each, then I'll post a 'Final Thoughts on...' entry for each series individually as I finish them. Then, hopefully next season I'll learn from my mistakes and make the opportunity to write up a first impressions much earlier.
Anyway, let's begin.

Carried over from previous seasons:
  • Bleach - Generally like Bleach's story, though of course filler can be a hassle. Particularly random one-episode filler. The series seems to be pretty much over, so I'm wondering if they'll continue to follow whatever the manga's doing now or just end it here. If they're ending it now, I'm also wondering why they appear to be dropping filler on us after the end of the main story.
  • Bakuman - Absolutely loving it. I've found it very engaging so far, I love the characters and cannot wait to see where it goes.
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index II - Still about five episodes behind with Index, but still enjoying it. I'm a fairly big Index fan, but mainly for the characters, the plots often confuse me. I'd generally rate it as a very entertaining series, as opposed to a very good one.
From this season:
  • Hourou Musuko - Beautiful series so far. The art style's amazing and the characters seem so believable and real. Most likely my pick of the season.
  • Gosick - My other contender for favourite this season, I'm really enjoying it. I love Victorique's character, and really like murder mystery stories in general, so this is really my kind of thing. I was very glad to hear it's a 24 episode series as well, as opposed to just 12/13.
  • Fractale - I've liked this so far, but it hasn't been amazing. I've definitely found it enjoyable, nice characters, very interesting and quite unique setting, it's been good so far. It just hasn't quite caught me yet, if you see what I mean.
  • Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica - I'm still not sure what I think of this. I'm a big fan of magical girl series, and while I respect that Madoka's attempting a complete new take on the genre (well, almost complete, but I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to draw the parallel's with Nanoha), I'm not sure I'm a fan of everything Madoka's bringing to the table. It's definitely unique, but might be a tad too dark for me personally. At least one scene has shocked me to the point I won't be rewatching the series...ever.
  • Starry Sky - I'm still way behind with this. I've only watched the first two episodes, so I have a lot of catching up to do before I can give a realistic opinion.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Looking Back ~ Top 10 anime of 2010

So, I thought I'd get right in and start off with my top 10 anime of 2010.

In a way, 2010 was the first year I was really into anime. I started watching anime in early 2009, but it wasn't until 2010 that I grasped the concept of seasons, and that I could decide with ease which ongoing series I could choose and watch. So 2010 became the first year I started getting involved with ongoing anime series, up until that point I'd only watched a few ongoing series and had mainly concentrated on the vast amount of anime there was to watch that had finished airing.
With this new knowledge I ended up starting a lot of series each season, often too many for me to balance with my academic work and other hobbies, so several series have made their way into my 'on hold' list. However I still finished a good portion of the series I started watching, and easily enough that I can decide on my top 10 anime of 2010.
This list includes series that ended in 2010, but didn't necessarily start in 2010.

10. Tamayura

Tamayura was a short OVA released at the end of 2010, running only 4 15-minute episodes from September to December. While it seemd to slip under the radar a bit, Tamayura instantly struck a chord with me when I saw it was a slow-paced slice of life OVA by the director of ARIA, which is one of my favourite series of all time. And while Tamayura couldn't possibly hope to capture the same scale and depth in just 4 short episodes that ARIA did over the course of its 3 season run, the essence was still there. The main characters each with their individual quirks placed in a utopian setting and left to just do their own thing. 

While this may sound like a recipe for disaster, or at least boredom, the beauty which these characters can see in such mundane, every day things really does allow the viewer to appreciate the smaller things in life, as long as they're in the right mindset. While ARIA does this through Akari's personality and experiences, Tamayura sets it up in a very clever way and uses photography as the staple for the series. Photographs, that which can catch a moment of beauty and preserve it forever.

9. Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai

Ore no Imouto's take on otaku life in Japan, while not necessarily 'accurate' is at least credible, as it doesn't paint the country as the otaku wonderland that some seem to believe it is. The first few episodes display this best, and in a sense that's good as these are the episodes that are there to draw people in, and they manage to do so. What Ore no Imouto does well is the drama between Kirino and her family and friends, how the different people react when they learn about her hobby and how the relationships are eventually fixed. It also examines friendship within the otaku community. 

However, after the first few episodes Ore no Imouto does seem to lose its way a little and meander a bit too far into the realm of fantasy. I won't totally fault the series for this, though, as it generally remains entertaining even if it isn't what the beginning of the series set us up for.

The characters in the series are either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you want. In their character designs most of them are oozing with moe, but in terms of personalities, most aren't particularly developed. Kirino gets the most screen time, and this will either keep you happy or frustrate you to no end. Kirino is not a particularly likeable character, however, she is relatable. Well, her position is. Most people watching this series will find at least one point where they can think 'I know how that feels', and in some respects that helps Ore no Imouto, where Kirino's character lets it down. The rest of the cast are likeable if not occasionally a little bland. My personal highlight of the cast is Kuroneko, one of Kirino's 'otaku friends' (though she often doesn't show it), who manages to be a forthright, mature and overall plain likeable character from her relationships with the other characters to her older sister role at home and her openness about her hobby.

Ore no Imouto is not a spectacular series by any means, it has plenty of faults, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

8. Amagami SS

A high school harem based on a dating sim isn't an original concept, and Amagami SS's fairly generic appearance may only harm it. Amagami SS does nothing more than what it says on the tin '6 girls, 6 story arcs', however, it does what it sets out to do very well. It is in all senses a harem series and it delivers 6 very satisfying tales of high school romance. The characters may not seem much at first glance, particularly our protagonist Junichi, as you'd be hard pushed to find a more generic looking character.

However, as you watch the series, the individual traits of each character start to become apparent and they each build their own personalities. Each of the girls is memorable in their own right, and while 4 episodes is a short time, the 4 episodes we see of each girl are well-constructed and do justice to the blossoming relationship between the characters. Junichi also has admirable character traits that aren't instantly recognisable, but as we see his interactions with each girl over the course of the series they become more apparent.

The 6 story arcs approach is a good one for this series. In other harem series like Kanon or Clannad there's an ongoing narrative, where the protagonist is given a set time in which he helps each of the other girls with their problems. In most cases in Amagami SS the girls don't have such problems and the main driving element is the relationship between them and Junichi and this wouldn't work with an overarching story.

Amagami SS doesn't do anything that unique, and while that may not be a commendable quality, everything Amagami SS sets out to do it achieves and in the end presents a very entertaining series, full of romance and likeable characters.

7. Kaichou wa Maid-sama

Kaichou wa Maid-sama is the type of series I can't help but love. A classic example of a shoujo, romance, comedy series, similar in style to the likes of Special A and Ouran High School Host Club. Kaichou wa Maid-sama is primarily an episodic series with the occasional longer storyline spanning a few episodes, most noticeably at the end. It's a format that's worked before and continues to work well here, keeping the series entertaining and fresh.

If you watch Kaichou wa Maid-sama, you'll generally know what you're getting into. Misaki is our heroine, Usui her love interest. Misaki will generally be a strong female lead, but in her occasional moment of weakness Usui will step in to help (this happens about once per episode). The main elements that keep you watching a series like Kaichou wa Maid-sama are the characters and the comedy, and Kaichou definitely delivers on both of them.

There's a fairly wealthy cast of memorable characters who each have their own roles over the course of the series, ranging from merely comedy to relief to having story arcs based around them. Most of the characters are given some back-story or development throughout the series, and while it's largely in vain with the series' finale, it does make them seem that little bit more 3 dimensional as characters. Our main characters Misaki and Usui both fit their roles perfectly, displaying all the necessary traits for leads, but remaining unique as characters and not falling to genericness.

Of course, the main draw of the series is the relationship between Usui and Misaki. This mainly consists of Usui teasing Misaki and Misaki stubbornly denying any feelings she has for Usui. Their relationship's development is one of the best parts of the series, with Usui coming on much more strongly than male leads in similar series. At times it can feel we've seen it before, particularly on Misaki's end, but it's entertaining, involving and certainly has its touching moments spread nicely throughout the series.

6. SoRaNoWoTo

When So・Ra・No・Wo・To was first announced, the first thing that came to most people's minds was K-ON!. An endless list of comparisons was made between the musical elements, the art style, the character designs, the characters themselves and so on. Even after the series finished airing, plenty were happy to just call it a K-ON! clone and discard it, but for those paying closer attention it wasn't that simple. While there were certainly aspects reminiscent of K-ON!, in essence it was far more like ARIA and similar series.

So・Ra・No・Wo・To creates a deep, beautiful and at times quite dark world with a rich history and culture. It then proceeds to explore that world through the characters the series follows. The characters themselves may at first glance seem standard archetypes, but each has a history that is explored over the series and adds a noticeable depth to them. The bulk of the series is seen through the eyes of Kanata who, like Akari in ARIA, is new to the setting and so can see mystery or beauty in that which the other characters see as every day. This appreciation for the land she's in acts as the perfect gateway for the viewer to become immersed in this world. The episodic format follows a similar goal in that it allows each episode to explore different aspects of life in Seize and the area the girls live.

Unlike ARIA, however, SoRaNoWoTo takes the chance to explore a war-torn past and introduces some very heavy and dark elements through it. It's not afraid to show the horrors of war and the long lasting effect it has on people even after its end. Every character's past has been heavily affected by the war and each character's life has been changed because of it, and over the course the series takes they each have to confront that past. So・Ra・No・Wo・To is more than just a group of girls getting together to play music, it creates a vast world, presents us with deep characters and tells a beautiful and touching story.

5. Shiki

Generally when one hears a description that includes 'isolated village' and 'mysterious deaths', it's hard not to think of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, so just as with So・Ra・No・Wo・To and K-ON!, comparisons between Shiki and Higurashi were inevitable. Whether the comparisons are just are more up to how the viewer interprets the series. Higurashi spends an entire first season creating nothing but questions for the viewers, then proceeds to throw out answer after answer in the second, revealing the entire mystery to the viewers. Shiki on the other hand condenses this heavily into one season, setting up the questions in the first few episodes, answering them in the next, and then spending the rest of the series on the equivalent 'battle with Miyo', though this doesn't harm the series. As we are shown the answers fairly quickly, we're then treated to seeing how each of the main characters tackles the mystery in front of them, and who comes to the correct conclusions, how they do so, and their actions from there.

What I felt Shiki did well in comparison to similar series was its ability to show the human side of all of the characters. None were presented as either good or evil, all were just fighting for survival. This allowed the viewer to sympathise with any character, where other series with the same setup might not allow this. The characters themselves are very varied, and in the best of ways. As I said before, there are no good or evil characters in Shiki, they're all merely human, and just like normal humans they come with a variety of personalities. Some are selfless and will do what they can to help others, some will make sacrifices to achieve their goals, believing it to be for the greater good, some just aren't nice people and take joy in others' suffering. They all have their own ideals and their actions are defined by them. It's likely that almost all of them will, at one point, spark some emotional response from you.

The plot of Shiki is followed from the viewpoints of several different characters, each of whom get involved in the events of the series for different reasons. The way the events unravel throughout the series kept me very interested, and there are plenty of plot twists in this series from the first revelations early on to some events that take place long after these mysteries are revealed to the audience. The slightly open ending does leave possible room for a sequel, but generally the series is well contained and complete in itself. I feel the series would benefit from being just a few episodes longer, as events tend to feel slightly rushed towards the end, but it doesn't mar what's otherwise a very good series.

(*whew* managed to get through that spoiler free, I hope...)

4. K-ON!!


K-ON! quickly became a moe phenomenon upon the release of its anime adaptation in 2009, experiencing huge popularity. A sequel was not unexpected. The first season condensed the first 2 years of Ho-kago Tea Time into a short 13 episodes. K-ON!! would then take a further 26 to see the girls through their next year and the graduation of the four older girls. For those invested in the series and the characters, this was already guaranteed to be a touching and tearful finale to the series. The subtle signs over the course of the series leading up to this end helped the realisation that this would indeed be the end of K-ON!.. Except for the film.

In general K-ON!! continues the formula that the first season laid out; a generally episodic series with occasional ongoing elements such as the approach of an upcoming performance. However, while K-ON!! may follow what the original started, the second season eclipses its predecessor in almost every aspect. The increased length of the series allows for much more time to focus on each of the characters, and while character development may not be at the forefront of K-ON!!'s mind, the increased screen time allow us to get to know characters we skipped over or barely glimpsed in the first season. The episodic plots are each enjoyable to watch, but on top of that there are several stand out and memorable episodes for various reasons, be it memorable events or simply interesting premises. Many episodes also contain nods to the season's finale that add extra emotion to the season. Even the already excellent animation gets an improvement from KyoAni, making it look that little bit crisper, cleaner and smooth.

As expected, a variety of new songs have been written for the second season, and if you like the style of K-ON!'s music, these will probably sit well with you. The new OPs and EDs all reflect the essence of the series well, and have surely already become fan favourites among the series' now rather large backlog of music.

Most importantly though, what K-ON!! does well is have fun. It's a series that doesn't take itself seriously, yet it still maintains that down to earth slice of life feel. It's all too easy to get swept away by it's casual pace and light-hearted fun only to find yourself deeply invested in these characters. They may not be the most developed or deep characters, but they're certainly among the most likeable in anime. Each one has their own quirks and charms that become ever more apparent over the series and saying goodbye to them at the end of the series is definitely every bit as emotional a moment for the audience as it is for the cast. 

3. Angel Beats!

We have already seen AIR, Kanon and Clannad adapted into very successful anime series (courtesy of KyoAni), so even those who aren't familiar with the KEY games now know what sort of story we might expect in Angel Beats!, an original anime with story written by KEY. Most likely, a school life setting, a group of loveable characters, a fair quantity of humour and a series overflowing with emotion. Angel Beats! fits these characteristics perfectly. At the beginning of the series we're presented with the premise that this is the afterlife, the characters don't know why they're here but they do know if they fall into a regular pattern of life they'll disappear. So, naturally, they rebel and the mysterious character only known as Tenshi is there to prevent that. What follows is a beautiful series, full of heart-wrenching scenes as the characters learn the true reasons they're there, the identity of Tenshi and the mysteries of the afterlife.

Angel Beats! sports a very large cast of characters, and while some don't quite manage to leave a memorable impression, the majority are distinct personalities in the series who you'll quickly become emotionally attached to. Unfortunately, a large portion of these characters aren't given the development they deserve, and many remain mysteries even until the end of the series. This is one place where Angel Beats! loses potential and could have been vastly improved upon had the series been 24+ episodes in length. However, even while the majority of the supporting cast isn't given the time they should have, the main cast and select few supporting characters who are really given the chance to develop have such a powerful influence on the viewer, it becomes forgiveable. These are the characters the truly emotional scenes will build around, and tears will be shed. From as early as the second episode we start to receive hints as to the true reasons for the characters' presence here, and as the answer slowly becomes apparent we witness some truly touching moments. Friendships grow, dreams are fulfilled, relationships blossom and on more than one occasion a truly inspiring and powerful scene will emerge.

Possibly the largest surprise of Angel Beats! is the music, with the OP, ED and insert songs selling incredibly well, competing even with the releases that came with K-ON!!. The soundtrack for Angel Beats! is incredibly well suited to the series, with a song to fit every mood the series creates. The opening and ending songs are both beautiful additions to the soundtrack, the opening accompanied by Tenshi's very memorable piano performance and the ending playing over a simple yet moving image of the characters as a group. The musical success is also helped by the series' band Girls Dead Monster, who provide several of the insert songs of the series.

This series is one that truly makes the audience feel, and for that a lot can be forgiven. The problems Angel Beats! has are not once too great for the emotional pay-off, and that's why you watch a KEY series. KEY has always had this amazing storytelling ability to allow you to laugh with their characters one moment and weep along side them the next. You truly care about these characters, and for all the ups and downs the series has, the ending is all the more amazing for the emotional investment you've been forced to make.

2. FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

By now FullMetal Alchemist should need no introduction as one of the most well-known shounen anime of the last decade. The first season was highly praised for its fresh take on the shounen genre and it's rather dark themes. However, because of it's release early in the manga's lifespan a large portion of the series had little to do with the manga it was based on. Eventually it was decided a faithful adaptation should be produced, and so we were handed FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Based entirely on the story of the manga, Brotherhood's story differs vastly from the original series', though they do have some similarities which primarily stem from their shared roots. Comparisons to the original should be left for another time, however.

FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood creates a wide world and introduces a vast cast of characters, each with their own story to tell. It's plot tackles politics, religion, racism and a variety of other themes, not the least of which are sin, despair and redemption. The first three are usually tackled on a larger scale, for example in the history and people of Ishval, the war that took place there and the repercussions it had. The second 3 are generally explored on a more individual level, as each character has a past they must tackle. The inclusion of the Homunculi being named after the seven deadly sins is the biggest hint to the theme of sin, but it's present in other aspects from the very beginning of the series. The act of human transmutation and the idea it treads on God's domain fit well with the themes of sin and religion, and there are plenty of other smaller nods to these running themes throughout the series.

One of the strongest elements of FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood's plot is how tight the majority of it is. Even a passing comment in conversation could then be brought up again at any moment. It gives a feeling that the story has been well thought out, everything's been planned and much of it is interlinked. It feels much more complete because of this and there are very few if any dangling plot threads left by the end, even the frayed ends of the threads seem neatly tied together.

The cast of FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood comes (literally) in all shapes and sizes. There is a huge amount of diversity among characters, and this creates an incredibly interesting cast. While the series primarily follows Edward and Alphonse's journey to regain their bodies, a lot of attention is given to the wealthy list of supporting characters. Van Hohenheim is also given a complete new back-story that is the essential point to the new story. Many characters who never appeared in the original series come to be key parts in the story that unfolds in Brotherhood, also bringing, for the first time, culture from countries outside of Amestris. The expansive list of developed characters in FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is definitely one of the more important factors of the series, as it's this cast allows the series to explore many different and often dark themes in a number of ways, while also vastly increasing the many different elements and stories that create the overall plot.

1. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is the film adaptation of the 4th book, of the same name, of the wildly successful Haruhi Suzumiya series. The original novels received their first anime adaptation in 2006 which gained instant popularity among anime fans. The second season released in 2009 then lost it a vast amount of that popularity. After forcing the fanbase to wait 3 years between seasons, then airing the now infamous Endless Eight and holding back the heavily implied story arc The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, people began wondering what KyoAni had been thinking. With the end of the series, when most were about to give up all hope, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya was announced as a film to be released the next year. To pull the Haruhi franchise back, it would have to be good.

Luckily, both for the fans and for Kyoto Animation, it was. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya clocks in at a little over 160 minutes, and it uses every bit of time to its advantage. Once again, while Haruhi's name is the one in the title, this movie centers around Kyon. Everything about the film is designed specifically to get us into the head of Kyon. His inner monologue, now a staple of the series, is just the tip of the iceberg in the variety of techniques used. The audience is lulled subtly and yet quickly into seeing everything the way Kyon does, this happens through the way events are presented, the camera angles, the music, everything reflects Kyon's emotions and state of mind. This is done perfectly throughout the film.

Putting Kyon aside briefly, the other character that gets the most attention is Yuki. Yuki, as a character, has always appeared as a constant in the Haruhi universe, never showing any noticeable signs of change. Regardless of how she may appear, however, Yuki has developed. More slowly and less noticeably than the other characters, but the change is there. This development in Yuki's character is then emphasised greatly in the course of the film. And just as Yuki's character is given a large amount of development in Disappearance, so is Kyon's. Kyon's character is thoroughly analysed throughout Disappearance, and the conclusions drawn by the end are extremely satisfying.

Of course, none of this character development would be possible without the plot. Disappearance stays very true to the original novel, changing and leaving out very little, if anything at all. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is easily both one of the best and one of the most interesting tales in the series. As with most Haruhi plots, it's based around the paranormal elements that hang around the series, however Disappearance takes a slightly different angle on the ideas, and while the film certainly has plenty in terms of the usual supernatural elements, how it gets there is new and unique.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya takes the already great story from the original novel and does everything it should when adapting it to film. Everything is taken into account; the direction, the scope, the music, the visuals. All the right choices were made in the creation of this film, and it really shows. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is almost certainly one of the best, if not the greatest, anime films of all time.

And that's my list. Thank you for reading (I really hope someone reads it as it took me three days to write), and I hope you enjoyed hearing my long and rambling opinions on what I thought were the 10 best anime of 2010.

Now, I should also mention that there are some anime that were released in 2010 that, had I watched them, could be on this list. The two that I most regret not yet watching are Durarara!! and Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha: The Movie 1st. Either could easily have the potential to change this list, Durarara!! because I've only heard good things about this series and Nanoha: The Movie because of my personal taste in anime and my love for the series.