December 10, 2010

Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Of All Time: The Honorable Mentions

What makes a favorite a favorite?  Ask that question to a dozen people and you'll likely get a dozen different answers.  But just as everybody who watches anime has favorite shows, they'll also have some series that fall just short of that lofty goal, and I'm hardly an exception to this rule.  So before I get into my true favorite series, it's time to look at those that just don't make the cut.  Understand, all of these shows are quite good but have a shortcoming or two that keep it from making it to the top of the heap: Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Of All Time.  Without further ado, in no particular order here's the slightly not-as-great shows!

(Image from Toshokan Sensou, which didn't even make the Honorable Mentions list)

Honorable Mention #1: FATE/STAY NIGHT

Based on a visual novel, F/SN has just about everything that any anime fan would want.  There's a ton of action, magic, swordplay, drama, humor, good animation, cute girls, all mixing into the story of the fifth Holy Grail war.  By any standard, the show is very good indeed... so why didn't it make it onto the Favorites list?  There are a couple of reasons.  The first is the use of "boss fights" as a dramatic vehicle.  There are four, a goodly number for a 24-episode series, but they're horribly spaced.  The first doesn't occur until ep12, but then they come in rapid-fire format.  The second boss fight comes just two episodes later.  It would have been nice if there had been some sense of drama behind the fights, but other than the fight against Berserker (which had been brewing for most of the first half of the show), they just seem rushed.  Heck, one of the Big Bads is a schoolteacher, hardly the most threatening of enemies.  The second reason F/SN ends up off my list of Favorites is the main character, Emiya, is something of a self-destructive, over-protective jerk.  By my count, he dies three times (he gets better), making his attempt to gain control of the Holy Grail somewhat pathetic in appearance.  He's kinda hard to like.  The third reason the show doesn't make the cut is the downer ending.  Oh, it's not a "rocks fall, everybody dies" ending, but it's just bittersweet enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth.  I liked the show a lot, and would happily recommend it to anybody, but it's not an all-time favorite.  The recent movie, F/SN Unlimited Blade Works, goes a long way towards correcting the faults of the TV show, but would be incomprehensible if you haven't seen the show or played the game.

Honorable Mention #2: GA-REI ZERO

Cute schoolgirls with swords, defending Tokyo/the world by fighting off supernatural horrors, angst, a lot of humor, drama, Pocky, bloodshed, a rocket-powered, gatling-gun equipped wheelchair of awesome, what's not to like about Ga-Rei Zero?  Heck, it's the only series I've ever done an episode-by-episode recap for though it was a year after it originally aired, totaling somewhere around 30000 words.  It's pretty clear I like it, and when it's (finally) released here in February, I'll happily pull out my credit card.  So why isn't it on the true Favorites list?  Well, to be honest, it just isn't that good.  It's an enjoyable enough show, but there are a dozen anime released every year that are as good or better.  I happened to stumble upon it at a time when it could strike a particular chord with me.  I love the show, it was worth the watch to be sure and I'll be watching it again soon enough, but it's on the list more for the memories involved than for the show itself.  Probably the weakest show on this list.

Honorable Mention #3: GUNSLINGER GIRL

In a story that could only be created in Japan, terminally ill or horribly injured little girls are healed by the implantation of heavy cybernetics, brainwashed in a way that isn't obviously brainwashing, and turned into cute widdle assassins under the control of the Italian government.  Ripped from the headlines for sure!  GSG is visually stunning, the music for the show is just about perfect, and the plot is quite skillfully handled.  If you can accept the concept, it's a great show.  The problem is in accepting the concept: there's something... distasteful... in the brainwashed little girls coldly gunning down their targets, then being given a teddybear as a reward.  Throw in the fact that each girl will die before they hit 20 due to the cybernetics, and the whole thing becomes even more icky.  That basic premise keeps it from being on my Big List, though it's close.  The sequel, GSG Il Teatrino, has a better story, concentrates on a more interesting character, but the amazing artwork gets thrown out the window; if it had the visual quality of the first series, it'd probably be on the main Favorites list.

Honorable Mention #4: HIDAMARI SKETCH

Actually, this entry is for the entire HidaSketch franchise rather than just one of the seasons.  A cute, gentle series about four (later six) students at high school art students, all of whom live in the same apartment building.  It's almost the blueprint for a show that Wonderduck would like, and to be sure, I really really like HidaSketch.  However, take a look at that screencap up there.  If you look at it for 23 minutes, you've just watched a HidaSketch episode.  Quite often in the series, nothing happens.  If you like that sort of thing, it's great, but even I found myself wishing something dramatic would occur.  It's lighthearted, fluffy, and warm and that's great: fluff for fluff's sake is perfectly legitimate.  But the fact that it's often just six girls sitting around a table chatting can be a little too much (or too little) to take, and despite my love for the show, I just can't move it onto the Favorites list.  Yuno's duckie is a bonus, but even that can't do it.

So with the Honorable Mentions out of the way, Wonderduck's Favorite Anime Series Of All Time can truly begin... and it will tomorrow, with #4.  See you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:55 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 1040 words, total size 8 kb.

1 My real problem with Hidamari Sketch (in its various iterations) isn't even that nothing happens in the show.  I'm fine with that; the characters are engaging and I don't mind spending time with them.

It's just that they do all kinds of stupid things with the artwork.  Okay, using real textures in an animated production occasionally will work; but not when you do it all the damn time. 

In fact, all the artsy stuff they do ends up being a serious distraction, and I end up wondering if the point behind the animation is to show how artistically complex they can make it, rather than to tell the story of a few girls living in the same apartment building.  That's why I don't enjoy it as much as I otherwise would.

Posted by: Ed Hering at December 11, 2010 12:34 AM (Dh1KI)

2 I couldn't get too far into GSG:IT, due to the horrid downgrade of production quality between the two series. I'd read the manga so I knew the (quite good) story, and this is one of the few cases where I didn't really care to see how the anime portrayed it further. (Usually I prefer the animated medium.)

You're spot on about GSG, though. A well told tale about a downer, somewhat squicky premise.

I keep meaning to finish F/SN... taken two stabs at watching and keep falling off before the halfway point. Sigh.

Posted by: GreyDuck at December 11, 2010 01:13 AM (7lMXI)

3 Ga-Rei Zero didn't make the top four?!?'s got  Laser Weasels and Pocky sticks!  And two girls eating Pocky sticks in the back of a Hummer!

Posted by: Siergen at December 11, 2010 01:05 PM (Gqqsw)

4 F/SN just has three storylines, and unlike a lot of games where it's just "which girl do you end up with", the stories are pretty radically different. Archer is almost completely missing from the Fate storyline path, but the UBW path is all Archer all the time; the Heaven's Feel path is a ghastly nightmare of continual rape that I don't even WANT to play through.

You couldn't possibly integrate all three into the same TV series (other than Higurashi-style, but this was before that aired). So the TV series did the Fate storyline but threw some other stuff in there, mostly to keep some of the secondary characters from being purely "extras". It was... not really an improvement; the show could have been a much more tightly-paced 13 or 14 episodes and done quite well.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at December 11, 2010 03:45 PM (mRjOr)

5 I think I have a pretty good idea what the top four are, now that you've eliminated HidaSketch. Still looking forward to finding out, though.

Posted by: Andrew F. at December 11, 2010 04:42 PM (OVQR0)

6 You might guess three of them, Andrew, but I'm pretty sure that nobody will guess the fourth.

Posted by: Wonderduck at December 11, 2010 05:28 PM (vW/MM)

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