Okay, never mind what I said last time; let's start by talking about Fullmetal Alchemist.
This anime has become one of those cartoons that you can be fairly certain many of your classmates have seen or heard of, at least a few of your coworkers and possibly your boss have watched a bit of, and has roughly a 30% success rate as way of striking up a conversation at a bar, which puts it in the vaunted realm of success somewhere between college hockey games and American professional soccer. It's often mentioned in the same breath as Sailor Moon, Cowboy Bebop, and other near-mainstream successes. It was many fans' first anime, and for some, it would be the only they would ever want to watch. When describing the recent success of Attack on Titan on an episode of ANNCast, Funimation reps described it as potentially a new "Fullmetal" for them, and it's telling that they didn't have to clarify which of their two successful licenses that starts with "Fullmetal" they meant. This was, and in some ways still is, a really popular anime, and it seems the only thing that took some of the shine off it in popular opinion was when Studio Bones went back and made a bigger, better "Fullmetal" in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Which raises an interesting question: is there any reason left to watch this, now that Brotherhood is as easily available as its predecessor on home media and does a better job retelling much of the same story? Does nutjob screenwriter Shou Aikawa's bizarre ending still hold up all these years later? I remember loving it at the time, but I'm not sure now. Can we still forgive those short bursts of filler in its early and latter episodes? Is the Lupin parody episode as great as I remember? The answer is probably easy, because when asked, I have always recommended people watch Brotherhood instead. But I kind of wish it was more difficult.
Rumiko Takahashi was an unassailable icon in Japanese pop culture, and her success was closely tied to the success of anime adaptations of her work. Inuyasha was huge in Japan and soon to be big in America too, and since it was still ongoing in 2003, that year would actually see three Takahashi manga adapted into new anime. Since Inuyasha was my first anime, and Urusei Yatsura is my default reply when people ask what my favorite anime is, I've always had a fondness for any adaptation of her work, even the obscure or disreputable stuff. Rumic Theater is certainly not the latter, though--while most of her work could be fairly boxed in as "romantic comedy" or "romantic fantasy," Rumic Theater was based on a collection of short manga one shots, and contained a variety of genres that, combined, was closer to "romantic magical realism." It's a charming, solid set of adult fairy tales grounded in the real world, with concerns like angry land ladies, lost pets or unresolved crushes. Viewed today, it's sure to hold charms even for those who find Ranma 1/2 or Inuyasha grating.
R.O.D. the TV was a mixed bag. It has its good points, but it's definitely not a good next step for any new fan, because they're too green to discover that there's no great idea JC Staff can't make a lot less interesting. (See also: Tsukihime) But every Read or Die fan should eventually watch it, if only for that fantastic first episode featuring a commercial airplane being hijacked by terrorists before the Paper Sisters, with powers similar to OVA heroine Yomiko, save the day spectacularly.
Up next, Godannar which was...
Wait, wait, hang on, let me try that again. This anime's full title is so awesome I have to give you the whole thing, in all caps, so you can experience the impact.
Up next, MARRIAGE OF GOD AND SOUL GODANNAR!!
So I'm not entirely sure when giant robots went from being made for boys to being for men, but it was probably somewhere around the time it became common to deal with themes like war, the energy crisis and terrorism. Godannar is about marriage so it's definitely for adults, but it's mostly for adults who have never forgotten their horny inner 14-year-old. Combining robots have been a conceit in super robot shows for a long time; this takes it to the next level by having pilots Goh and Dannar--hence the name--be a married couple as well as a pair of pilots who combine their robots to make a bigger, better robot. This anime doesn't really do subtext, which is fine because it's a big, loud cartoon with lots of rockin' robot violence on giant monsters. If you've heard of this anime before but never in relation to the premise, that's probably because it's mostly famous for its absurd, campy fanservice, which extends to bullet breasts and copious jiggle on every woman in its cast, including the women robots. There's a kind of giddiness to it all that keeps it from getting too creepy, which is damn near a virtue compared to most other ecchi anime. Godannar seems primed for some renewed appreciation since I hear more people talking about wanting "hot blooded action" anime more often now, but perhaps that's just the circle of anime fans I hang out with on the Internet.
Like Ikki Tousen, Air Master is also an ecchi "fighting girls" anime, but this is the one with a good reputation. A lot of that should probably be credited to director Daisuke Nishio (director for Dragonball), who knows a thing or two about directing fluid hand to hand combat. He gives heroine Maki's high flying acrobatics some real oomph, and some of the fights are still a highlight in the long lustrous history of flying cartoon fists. What makes or breaks the anime for most people is the comic relief, embodied by a screeching gang of schoolgirls with loud personalities who befriend Maki and, in one case, even crush on her. Some people find them to be a turnoff, and others think they're great, but either way, they're too loud to ignore. The best thing is that the series is easily available streaming basically everywhere for free, so you can make up your own damn mind about it at no cost to you. You should at least try it to see Maki's aerial combat style in the first episode--it's kinda awesome.
Gunslinger Girl seems to be largely remembered as moody anime whose creepy subtext either helped or hurt its story, depending on who you asked. I'm in the former camp, if only because I've seen the sequel that aired about five years later, and its straightforwardness made me appreciate Madhouse's take more. It also looks great, especially the guns, which have such detail you feel you could stroke them and feel every bump of metal from your laptop screen. This is also notable for introducing a lot of anime fans to the fantastic gloomy Scottish rock band The Delgados, whose ironically majestic "The Light Before We Land" is a perfect match for the tone of the story. I suspect that this is a series whose story is almost entirely lifted on the back of Madhouse's stellar production. Hey Editor, can I get a video of that opening? ("Why, sure!", the Editor responded in the third person.)
I’ve been going so long my editor is threatening to kick me out the door, so join us next time when I talk about everything else that aired on television in 2003! (Editor's Note: No, you will not.)