Top 10 Anime Openings of 2009

As I did last year, here is the list of what I thought the top 10 anime OPs of 2009 were. Enjoy!

10. “Aoi Hana” by Kukikodan – Sweet Blue Flowers OP

This is a nice little song to start off the countdown.

9. “Super Driver” by Aya Hirano – The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya OP2

While the ED was the good song from the first season, the OP was the good song from the second season of Haruhi.

8. “Kimi ni Todoke” by Tanizawa Tomofumi – Kimi ni Todoke OP

Another nice soft rock song that I think is pretty good and matches the show pretty well.

7. “Kimi Shinitamō Koto Nakare” by May’n – Shangri-la OP

I wasn’t too sure about this OP to start with, but it kind of grew on me after a while

6. “HANAJI” by Yu Kobayashi – Maria Holic OP

Rather ecchi, but how can one not like this OP?

5. “Karma” by KOKIA – Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom OP1

KOKIA once again makes the list, this time for her excellent, if not eerie, OP for Phantom.

4. “Parallel Hearts” by FictionJunction – Pandora Hearts OP

This OP just stuck on me from the very start.  I think it’s pretty good, anyway

3. “Oyasumi Paradox” by Etsuko Yakushimaru – Natsu no Arashi! Akinai-chū OP

I didn’t watch this show, but I love this OP.

2. “Falling Down” by Oasis – Eden of the East OP

One of the very best OPs of the year, if not for the past few years. And being sung in English (being that it’s sung by Oasis) probably doesn’t hurt either.

1. “kiseki” by NIRGILIS – Birdy the Mighty DECODE 02 OP

However, the #1 OP of the year goes to a show from all the way back in the winter season.  It was a tough choice between #1 and #2, but I thought this one just won out.

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First Impressions: Birdy the Mighty Decode 02

So far, I think the best verdict on Birdy the Might Decode 02 is that, if you liked the first season, you’ll probably like the second season. If you didn’t like the first season, you probably won’t like this either. One of the things I like is that last season largely fed directly into this season, so most of the background information we already knew from the last season.

We get more Shion in this Season

Also, it looks like Tsutomu has a romantic rival over Birdy, just as Birday has one over Tsutomu in the form of Natsumi. I do get a feeling that the overall plot of this season may be better than the last season, though, which is a good thing. I have increasing hopes for this show, so I hope it lives up to them.

Top 10 Anime of 2008

It’s that time of year again…time to rank the top 10 shows of 2008.  Of course, the usual caveat: this only includes shows which I watched, which this year was only about 20, so it was a kind of slow year for me.  Nevertheless, this list still boasts a pretty impressive list of shows.

10. Birdy the Mighty: Decode

Birdy the Mighty Decode LogoIsn’t it every boy’s dream to have easy access to a female body?  Well, Tsutomu in theory is living that dream, except the girl is in control of the body because she accidentally destroyed his.  Oops!  What results is a mix of action and comedy which is pretty well executed all told, with Tsutomu frequently getting freaked out by Birdy’s alien ways.

Two things held this series back: animation, which wasn’t exactly top-notch, and the fact that, after Tsutomu gets his body back, they find away in the end to make him and Birdy share bodies again.  I guess Tsutomu just thinks that he can be immortal as long as Birdy is there to absorb him whenever he takes a notion to destroy his body.  The one minus that this sets up is that it implies that the gimmick of them changing bodies is the only real draw of the show, and the writer’s belief that they can’t have a successful show without that gimmick.  I’m not sure that bodes well for the second season, but that doesn’t necessarily impact this season all that much.

9. Kurenai

KurenaiKurenai ekes into the top 10 list by doing a reasonably good job at two things: writing and animation.  Perhaps the best part of this series is watching the struggle and growth of the characters as they have to adapt to new environments, particularly Shinkuro, who is trying to find his true strength, and Murasaki, who has to adapt to living out in the “real world” now, all while having a powerful family chasing after them.

However, this show has a few weaknesses as well.  First, the show’s conclusion in a sense made a compromise with the devil – accommodating an evil family which probably shouldn’t be accommodated in the least, taking the air out of a lot of what everyone was fighting for and protecting throughout the show.  Second, I think overall this series, despite it’s overall good writing, missed some chances to turn Kurenai from simply a good series into a great series.  The theme music, particularly the opening theme, also didn’t seem to match the show at all and just seemed kind of weird.  However, overall it was still a pretty good show.

8. The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka

The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka logoThe mantle of “Otaku Show of the Year” probably goes out to The Secret of Haruka Nogizaka this year as there are anime references galore, as well as every otaku’s dream:  A girl otaku. A hot girl otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku who likes you because you don’t shun her once you discover her secret of being an otaku.  A hot, popular girl otaku who likes you because you don’t shun her once you discover her secret of being an otaku and who likes to cosplay as Shana.  I mean, can it get any better than that?

I guess one of the nice things about this show, as opposed to something like, say, Lucky Star, is “normal people can be otaku too.”  However outwardly odd Konota is in Lucky Star is how outwardly normal Haruka is in Secret.  Yes, she illicitly sneaks off to Akihabara every now and then, but overall she’s your normal high schooler.  Of course, the series is also hilarious on top of all of this too.  The main problem is that it’s a little thin in the plot department, but given that the purpose of this series is to have fun, and I had fun watching it, it goes into the top 10 list.

7. Shion no Ou (2nd half)

Shion no OuThe conclusion of Shion no Ou dealt with the big shogi tournament being sponsored by Satoru, Hani-meijin’s brother, from the start of the final state of the tournament where the 9 bracket winners plus 3 of the bracket runner-ups face off in a 12-person bracket to determine the winner of the tournament.  As a result, a few of the games played last through multiple episodes, but the writers are able to keep the show interesting nevertheless.  Increasing the attention on solving the mystery of who solved Shion’s parents just adds more intrigue into the show as well.

The main weakness of this show is that, if watching people play shogi bores you to death, then this show may not be for you, as a lot of time is spent with the characters playing.  I thought that the show did a pretty good job keeping the episodes interesting despite this, but I can easily see if people disagree with that.  However, overall I thought the conclusion to Shion was pretty well executed.

6. Nijuu Mensou no Musume

Nijuu Mensou no MusumeI should note before starting: fansubs have only come out for 20 of 22 episodes.  However, I felt that it was complete enough that I could put it in the rankings.

Having said that, Nijuu Mensou is a show with a very good premise and animation.  It’s set in the mid-20th century – an era which you don’t see a lot of anime shows set in, so it is unusual in that aspect.  And Twenty Faces himself makes this series pretty compelling, to say nothing about Chiko, his all-but-adoptive daughter and title character.

Two things keep Nijuu Mensou from being a truly great show however: reuse of the “OMG Twenty Faces died! Oh, nevermind!” gimmick probably one too many times, and the fact that the series goes into stranger territory than I was expecting for the show.  Nevertheless, Nijuu Mensou still puts together a very solid performance.

5. Soul Eater (first 3/4)

Soul EaterSoul Eater is a very fascinating show.  It’s quite different from just about anything else, yet Bones is able to pull it off pretty well.  However, the thing that really drives Soul Eater is the wealth of unique characters.  While some of the character development is a little odd (Maka and Soul don’t seem to be very powerful for a pair to have almost created a Death Scythe – especially with only six Death Scythes existing the world, suggesting that it’s a very hard thing to accomplish), it is generally pretty good.  All three pairs are compelling in their own unique ways.

If I have one beef with this series (actually two), it’s that it veered off it’s original premise – gathering 99 kishin eggs and one witch’s soul – pretty quickly, and it has a bad habit of drawing things out to death (how many episodes did it take to get through the battle at Shibusen, anyway?)  However, all told, Soul Eater still puts in a very solid performance.

4. CLANNAD (2nd half) / CLANNAD: After Story (1st half)

CLANNADFor the second straight year, CLANNAD comes in at #4 in the list.  Since the first series of CLANNAD exited it’s “four-episodes-an-arc” mode and got more into mixing arcs or telling an overarching story, and since we got into CLANNAD: After Story which, until the lastest episodes, centered around more minor characters, this series has fallen in favor a little bit (though obviously not very much).

CLANNAD is still very much the class of both 2007 and 2008, and presumably will contend for a top spot on this list in 2009 as well.  We might not be in arcs for the main girls, but the storytelling is still pretty good, if not a little slow going at this point, which is why it only comes in 4th on the list.

3. Toradora! (1st half)

Toradora!The choice between 2nd and 3rd was very close, and I think the fact that Toradora was in it’s first half while the 2nd placing show was in it’s concluding half was the main reason why Toradora came in at #3.

Toradora is a very, very good show – one which I think may challenge for the #1 spot in 2009 if they keep up what they’re doing in the first half into the 2nd half of the show.  While Toradora has a somewhat familiar flavor – it is, afterall, essentially a slice-of-life harem show – there is still something about it and (especially) it’s characters which makes it different, and a lot better than shows that it might be compared to.  It pulls off good drama and comedy almost simultaneously and still gets in some good character exploration and storytelling to boot.

2. Shakugan no Shana II (2nd half)

Shakugan no ShanaThe first half of this show didn’t even grace the top 10 list in 2007, just to show how far it came in the second half of the series.  We started with Pheles, then moved to Sabrac, then on to the Bal Masqué’s ultimate plan at the end.  There was hardly time to breathe and Shana and friends moved from one major confrontation to the next, making the second half of Shakugan no Shana II one of the best action shows in quite a while, not just 2008.

1. ef – a tale of melodies

ef - a tale of melodiesImproving on it’s sibling’s 3rd place finish last year, ef – a tale of melodies was nothing short of epic.  And to think that 40% of this show (the Kuze/Mizuki arc) was pretty dull, that just shows how good the other 60% of the show (the Yuu/Yuuko) arc was.  If the entire show was just that arc, ef – a tale of melodies would not only contend for best show of 2008, but also perhaps for best show, period.

This show had (almost) everything – romance, drama, shocking plot twists, and more.  You almost couldn’t help but me drawn into the show.  And the fact that the show isn’t afraid to put your heart at ease, only to tear it out in the next episode just makes this show all that much better.

Top 10 Anime Endings of 2008

I thought I’d make some top 10 lists for 2008, and the first is the top 10 best ED songs in 2008. The only requirement is that they premiered in 2008 (sorry Shion and CLANNAD EDs!).  I’m also judging it more on the song than the animation of the ED. In any case, let’s get to it…

#10 – Birdy the Mighty DECODE
“Let’s go together” by Afromania

This is a little nice rock/pop song that has a nice rhythm and is better than most. Good enough to place it at #10 on the list.

#9 – Someday’s Dreamers: Summer Skies
“Kawaita Hana” by micc

I struggled on where to place this one, as the battle for 6th through 9th was close. In the end, I guess the fact that this was a slower and softer song (which I still like) had this slip down to 9th. Still a nice song, though.

Sorry, this video is no longer available anywhere :(

#8 – Soul Eater #1
“I Wanna Be” by STANCE PUNKS

This is probably the “heaviest” song on the list, but it still flows nicely and has a nice sound, and so this comes in eighth on the list.

#7 – Kuroshitsuji
“I’m ALIVE!” by BECCA

I believe this series is getting a new ED during it’s second half, which will air in 2009. Despite that, and even though I haven’t actually seen this series, when I was looking at EDs on you tube, this one immediately seemed to jump to the top. Also, it’s nice to have English song which doesn’t have any blatantly obvious Engrish as far as I can tell by just listening.

#6 – Shugo Chara! Doki!
“Rottara Rottara” by Buono!

I guess I have to find one guilty pleasure on the list, and this song kind of became one once I heard it while going through songs on youtube. It’s very poppish, but it has a nice beat.

#5 – Zoku Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei #2
“Marionette” by ROLLY and Zetsubō Shōjo-tachi

This is a somewhat kookie song, but it was a really nice beat, and for some reason, I just like the “Marionette” part…

#4 – Shigofumi
“Chain” by Snow*

If you’re going to do a softer sounding ending, this is how you should do it. It’s kind of hard to describe exactly what I like about it, but it’s soft…but not too soft, and still has a nice rhythm or sound to it.

#3 – Shakugan no Shana II #2
“Sociometry” by KOTOKO

When I first heard this song, I really dug it, and I still do, but it ended up not being the top song of the year. In any case, it’s still up there, and tend to dig KOTOKO songs anyway.

#2 – Soul Eater #3
“Bakusou Yumeuta” by Diggy-MO’

The second Soul Eater song on the list, I just really dig this one. It’s just rockin’.

#1 – Toradora!
“Vanilla Salt” by Yui Horie

Those who read this blog at all in December should probably have known that this was going to be #1, though it didn’t end up being as clear cut as I thought it would be at first. Still an excellent song, though.

Winter 2009 Blog/Watch List

It’s time that I actually decide what series I’m going to watch and blog for the upcoming season.

As I decided and noted earlier, the only series I’m going to blog is the second half of CLANNAD: After Story, to give me as light a workload as possible as I go into the final semester of getting my masters (yay!).

As for series that I’ll watch.  I’ll definitely continue to watch the two other series that are carrying over from the Fall 2008 season: Toradora and A Certain Magical Index, and with Soul Eater getting licensed, that gets dropped as a show I’m watching.

As a result, my target was to add 3 or 4 shows to my watch list this season.  In my season preview, I already said that I would watch Birdy the Mighty DECODE:02, Maria Holic, and Minami-ke Okaeri, so that gets three shows out of the way right off the bat.

Black God (aka Kurokami) probably would be added to this list, but Bandai licensed it and appears as like they won’t distribute it online, so I won’t even get an opportunity to watch it.  However, if they pull through on having it online, I probably will watch it.

That leaves me torn between the Munto TV, the second Druaga series, and White Album as series to watch.  However, in the end I think my decision will be this:

I’ll watch Munto, I’ll hold off on Druaga to see if I hear good things about it, and I’ll pass on White Album for now.

That makes my slate this season thus:

Blogging
CLANNAD: After Story

Watching
A Certain Magical Index
Birdy the Mighty DECODE:02
Maria Holic
Minami-ke Okaeri
Munto
Toradora!

Pending
Kurokami (pending it being distributed online by Bandai)
Tower of DRUAGA -the Sword of URUK- (pending good word)

Winter 2009 Anime Preview

It’s that time again: It’s time to look at what anime is airing in the Winter 2009 season. Shows are listed in alphabetical order.

There are 5 possible levels of ratings that I’ll give a show:

  • Will Blog
  • May Blog (presumes Will Watch)
  • Will Watch
  • May Watch
  • Won’t Watch

As usual, I’m leaving out anything that seems to obviously be a children’s show. Like always, thanks to the Fansub Wiki for keeping a great list of upcoming shows.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…here we go!
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First Impression: Birdy the Mighty: DECODE

This was a “I’ll wait what I hear about it first” show, but enough people recommended it on various websites that I decided to check it out, especially since I ditched Strike Witches.

My main worry was that this looked like it would be a fan service fest show, and things didn’t necessarily start off extremely promising with Birdy’s fairly revealing outfit as well as the photo shoot scene at the start. Luckily the fan service isn’t really bad, and this is the only place it exists in the first episode.

The rest of the episode shows the series to be a rather promising comedy/action show. While Birdy may be a tad on the ditzy side, she looks like she would be a rather competent female lead, while the boy she possesses (due to accidentally killing him in a battle) Tsutomu doesn’t seem to be your normal loser male lead either, which may this series interesting as well.

I loved Tsutomu’s last line of the episode, though: “Is this the next part of my nightmare? I turn into a beautiful girl?” because, of course, a boy turning into a beautiful girl (even one that does modeling as a cover) is typically one of those fantasies that turn out being not so much of a fantasy.

Having seen the first episode, I can see why people recommended it, as this series may be the most promising of all the summer series I’ve seen so far.

Summer 2008 Anime Preview

It’s that time again: It’s time to look at what anime is airing in the Summer 2008 season. Shows are listed in alphabetical order.

There are 7 possible levels of ratings that I’ll give a show:

  • Will definitely blog it
  • May blog it
  • Will definitely watch it
  • May watch it
  • May watch it if I hear good things about it
  • Probably Won’t Watch it
  • Won’t watch it

As usual, I’m leaving out anything that seems to obviously be a children’s show. Like always, thanks to the Fansub Wiki for keeping a great list of upcoming shows.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…here we go!

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