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'I'm an Englishman in New York' - The top 20 list of Stig H

January 8, 2010

Right now, I'm not sure what worries me the most: that I have made a list around the anime made in the last ten years, or that I had to cut out a lot of titles because they were too old, despite being new when I first watching them.

Tim already went into the changes in anime titles, which only served to remind me just how much of an outsider I feel like when it comes to anime. Norway has anime fans, and lots of them. But even so, I've never really met anyone face to face save for fleeting moments in stores. There are no cons here, and I'm pretty sure my little hobby is viewed as a bit of an oddity here on the west coast where I live.

Of course, anime interest varied greatly from country to country. The French, for instance, watched Dragonball Z and Captain Harlock even before I knew what anime was. From what I can tell, the Italian were hardly far behind, if they were behind at all.

There's also the two stages of my own fandom to consider. As an anime fan, I started out collecting UK released VHS tapes, which meant I was pretty much limited to what they released. (Never mind that importing from the UK was expensive enough as it was.) Heavy editing and, curiously enough, fifteening of scripts weren't uncommon at all. Although UK releases were, mostly, PAL conversions of US releases, there was still the odd UK licensing company picking shows more or less directly for release. (Like KO Beast and its hilarious dub.)

I've been a THEM member for close to seven years (and believe me, I feel every single year), which is about when I started using and importing region 1 discs. Needless to say, this greatly expanded my selection of titles to choose from, and it's probably also when my tastes started diverging a lot more. My sources of influences increased; review sites, magazines... hell, even the odd TV program.

But enough about me. Let's see what my favorites 2000-2009 are.


#20: Kanon (2006)

If I may choose one moe-centric show for my list, then Kanon would be it. Starring a lovable, sarcastic young man and the numerous girls he meets, the show wanders somewhat blindly through a mysterious and slightly magical town. The jokes and the dialogue are a hoot, and the eye-candy is just sublime. And no, I'm not necessarily talking about the girls.


#19: Banner of the Stars

starting as a rather unassuming title in 1999, the Crest/Banner series really took off when Banner of the Stars made the rounds the following year. Lafiel, an Abh princess, meets up with Jinto, a lander from a conquered planet, and the two form a tentative relationship through the trials they face. The show take the topic of spacefaring technoloy, war and the concept of the very alien race of the Abh and crafts an interesting tale out of it.


#18: Sketchbook ~Full Color's~

Sora, a shy and absent-minded girl, is a member of the art club. Wherever she goes, she makes sure to bring her sketchbook, and together with her friends and art club associates, she takes in all the things around her, whether it be a clubroom meeting, a walkabout in the neighborhood, a festival or even another attempt at drawing fluffy Mike, one of the local stray cats.


#17: My Beautiful girl, Mari

My little nod towards Korea's contribution to the art of animation comes from this title, starring a young boy on his way into adolescence. Through some of his childhood trinkets, he forms a connection with a fantastic world and the girl he meets in it. The unusual art style lends the movie its surreal visual flair, marking it one for the art fans as well as those looking for a homage to their childhood fancies.


#16: Gunslinger Girl

Through the eyes and hands of little girls rescued from their own deathbeds, the tale of the Social Wellfare Agency is told, and its brutal fight against terrorism. Gunslinger Girl's concept is awkward and does not come without some feelings of dread over the concept of using little girls as tools of murder, but it's brutally honest and actually far more neutral in its political stance than I initially expected.


#15: Space Pirate Captain Herlock: Endless Odyssey

Leiji Matsumoto is no stranger to epic space soaps starring swarthy men and women, who, more than anything else, stand up for what they believe in. Among the best known is Captain Harlock and his crew of pirates who sail the stars under the flag of the skull -- of freedom. Among those, the only show so far centered around the venerable captain is this latest offering, where he and his friends go up against the Noo, horrific beings from another dimension who prey on the fear of mortals.


#14: Natsume Yuujinchou

Rushing in at the nick of time to be included on my list, Natsume Yuujinchou really came straight out of nowhere and completely shattered my expectations (not ot mention whatever I had of macho pride left over.) And while none of the episodes straight up including the sequel; Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou, managed to measure up to the soul-punching level of the first two episodes, the show still steadily kept up its reflective serenity for the most of its duration.


#13: Ah! My Goddess.

Even though Verdande went through Berudandi in Japanese and then onwards to Belldandy in English, Ah! My Goddess still remains one of my favorite manga technically starring Norwegians. And it's pretty telling that an old wish-fulfillment manga from 1988 -- where techhead Keiichi Morisato makes a stray wish and lands a goddess for a girlfriend, not to mention everything that goes with it... erm, her -- finally got a proper anime adaptation made for it, in the year of 2005.


#12: Fruits Basket

Despite being somewhat incomplete when compared to the manga, Fruits Basket still remains to this day one of the best shoujo shows I have seen. In it, we follow the hapless Tohru Honda as she becomes involved with the Souma family, a family cursed with animal shapes somehow being connected with hugs from the opposite gender. Whatever makes you look it up, it's the character gallery and its impeccable comedic timing that'll make you stay.


#11: Interstella 5555

Interstella is a movie born from the music of Daft Punk, but also the imagination of its members, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, both huge fans of Leiji Matsumoto and his work. The movie follows the exploits of fictional music group The Crescendolls before and mostly after they're kidnapped by an evil music conglomerate who might have bigger plans for himself than selling platinum. It's a story full of music and beats and lights and color, and it's the culmination of one hell of a dream.


#10: Spice and Wolf

The show that put a wandering merchant and a wolf goddess together and made it work, and work well. Lawrence is one of the few anime leads who's in his twenties, and for Holo, twenty years is barely even a blink in her eye. The two of them get together over a merchant's deal, but there's going to be much more than that holding them together by the end of it all. Spice and Wolf earns its place on this list by strength of its amazing cast.


#9: Maria Watches Over Us

Despite a rather clunky start, this show managed to stretch into a full four seasons going into the story about a group of girls attending a catholic school. While the whole catholic part might just be so much window dressing, the characters are anything but. Once again, this show won me over with its colorful cast and near-perfect balance between humor, drama and character introspection.


#8: Azumanga Daioh

Azumanga Daioh is kind of a classic with most of the THEMers, and for good reason. The story recants the day-to-day school activities of a group of girls and a few of their teachers throughout high-school, spicing up their everyday ponderings with a pinch of humor and a quirky soundtrack. Azumanga Daioh is, simply speaking, a very memorable show.


#7: Gankutsuou

Based on the classic tale "The Count of Monte Christo", Gankutsuou spins a tale of deceit, betrayal and horrible, horrible revenge. Showcasing a visual style that's unique, to say the least, the show takes you for one hell of a ride throughout its 26 episodes of sci-fi upgraded awesomeness, Alexandre Dumas style.


#6: Snow Queen

Based on an old folk tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Snow Queen tells the story about Gerda, who goes off in search of her missing friend who is taken to the Snow Queen's castle due to a mishap with the Queen's magic mirror. The show has a rather old-fashioned style of storytelling, and the artwork seems purposely made to mirror this. Nevertheless, Gerda's strength is one to rival the female protagonists of most Ghibli movies, which is something to acknowledge, and the story, while occasionally campy or surrealistic, nevertheless has a grand feel to it.


#5: Princess Tutu

Princess Tutu holds the honor of taking two things extremely low on my scales of interest -- ballet and magical girl shows -- and turns it into something truly magical. Much like the show above, Princess Tutu plays out like an ancient tale, but instead of just using that style, the show actually makes a point out of it, since "the Story" is the center of that tale. When this is over, you'll truly believe that a duck can dance with the grace of a ballerina, but more than that, you'll be glad you were swept up in a truly epic tale.


#4: Spirited Away

While this is not one of my favorite two Ghibli movies (they were both made in the 90's), Spirited Away is still one of Studio Ghibli's finest works. Taking place in a chaotic spiritual dimension, Chihiro must work to free herself and her parents from a curse that binds them to this world, and maybe she'll learn to have some more faith in herself.


#3: You're Under Arrest

More than even Ah! My Goddess, this show brings forth the finest of Kosuke Fujishima's work; the story about Bokuto Police Station and their ace pair of police officers, Natsumi Tsujimoto and Miyuki Kobayakawa. Together, they turn the (admittedly rather sedate) crime network on its head in the name of justice. This entry encompasses the second season, which almost holds up to the downright fantastic first season.

(Note: This entry does under no circumstance acknowledge the "No Mercy" special as a part of the YUA continuum. In fact, this reviewer would like to forget that it ever existed.)


#2: Haibane Renmei

It really pains me to do this. Haibane Renmei has long been my favorite show until just recently. The story of Rakka, lost in her new existance and born to journey through her life as a Charcoal Feather in seek of answers and maybe redemption hit me hard where it really counts the first time I watched it. I absolutely love this show, and I want to stress that fact so that you will understand that I did not choose my first place entry lightly.


#1. Aria

And finally, at first place, we have Aria. Kozue Amano's healing manga that, through the able hands of Junichi Sato, had a wonderful anime made to its name. It's a delightful story about a group of girls who doesn't take a single thing for granted in their lives, and despite some iffy handling of art and animation every now and then, the settings, the music and the endearing voice acting on the part of the VAs make this a must have.

- Stig Høgset


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