Saturday, December 28, 2013

2012: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The author is a life-long fan of anime. The author first acquired a taste for anime at the tender young age of five and has never looked back. The author spends far too much time treading back and forth between Japan―their homeland―and the United States, where they currently reside. (Apologies for the anonymity, but it was requested by the author. - Ed.)

On December 31st, 2012, I walked out of the Mandarake in Akihabara into the chilly Tokyo night. After three days at Comiket, I was beat, but not beat enough to forgo the chance to pick up some last-minute goods before retiring for the night. On my way out, I saw a sign on the shop's door:

"The word of the year is 'imouto'."

So here we are, nearly fifty years after Tetsuwan Atomu. Our long, meandering journey through the history of anime leads us to this pithy little sign posted outside on of Tokyo's largest otaku interest shops, and the word of the year is "imouto". In one simple, elegant sentence, the staff of Mandarake evoked the zeitgeist of a generation: a generation who worships archetypes, not characters; a generation sensitive to trending words and phrases; a generation who revels in the predictability of industrially-produced plot lines and personages. There is no lament in the sentence, "The word of the year is 'imouto'." Only glee. In Dostoevsky's immortal words, from universal reason, we have arrived at universal madness.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2011: The Year of the 'Dokes

Patrick George Jones (@Whats_Ur_Name) is just another guy on the planet Earth living in the Milky Way. He puts the "Pat" in "Psychopath" every time he spits hot truths into the microphone on his podcast called "Oh Great! Another Podcast" ( if you're feeling dangerous). He also runs a website called THE WORST REVIEW SITE EEEEVAR, so clearly he is qualified to write reviews.

This photo describes 2011 as well as ALL OF ANIME.
As questionable as this phrase may sound, 2011 shook up the anime industry.

This is the year that Akiyuki Shinbo struck gold and lightning. This is the year that someone finally freed Kunihiko Ikuhara from his cage to make another anime. Most importantly, this was the year Japan was rocked with one of its worst earthquakes. That Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 anime that came out a while back about a "what-if" worst case scenario is now the reality we face.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Mike (@cinco_bajeena), a lapsed anime blogger, has the same origin story as plenty of other fans of a certain geography and age: a cloudy mix of Vampire Hunter D, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and Macross Plus. You can occasionally find the telltale byline otou-san at Altair & Vega and Sea Slugs until his own blog returns from the deep again, as it probably will someday.

One of the calling cards of the aging anime fan, a relatively new species in the West, is his insistence that they just don't make 'em like they used to. And in the 21st century, a case could definitely be made for that. While the OVAs of the late 80s and early 90s heralded an anything-goes era of experimentation where the spectacular outweighed the sensical, anime in the post-industry-collapse world is increasingly marked by formula and safety: works that guarantee a hardcore otaku audience yet alienate other potential consumers.

But we've heard all that before. Years as recent as 2010 give us plenty of reason to believe this is the case — there's always hope.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

2007, Part 2: Seven for Seven: Two for Love

Having covered three tales of technology for 2007, Part 2 from Owen (Twitter handle @riajuunibyou) covers the human side of anime in two forms, one from a digital distribution and another from the more traditional means.

More often than not, stories about love inevitably turn into stories about time. Whether it's the aftershocks of a breakup, a long, hard look at loves past, or even new love budding in the present, the lens of love is always there to colour matters. With each new relationship, the examination of the past is all but certain—we look to the past to think about the future.

Consider 2006's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. It uses time travel not as an escape or an afterthought, but as a way of underscoring the pinning of love and how obdurate such feelings can be; it uses time travel as a means to emphasise, through repetition, how even the most fervent attempts to undo time cannot undo hearts. Love, it decides, is inevitable—just a matter of time.

The two anime covered this time as we embrace the shows from 2007 have no scientific or fantastic aspirations, yet in themselves do contain that dimensionality with their nuanced take on a subject well explored. It's unavoidable, after all, that the sum of one's here and now is but the result of every year, every day, every second that we've lived, and it's this that we bring to each relationship, new or old.

Love is like time travel in that regard. Romance stories in such a vein take the long route, an introspective that starts then and ends now; as much as it is about the feelings and hopes and dreams that two individuals bring together, it's also the way in which so many of us are shaped by what we've gone through and those we've loved, and how that affects those we're now in love with.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

ZA SHAZAI (Our Apologies)

I humbly prostrate myself before your feet, Milord.

As editor and curator of the Golden Ani-Versary of Anime, I desperately ask for your forgiveness. Choose one of the above formats for a proper apology.

Yes, we have just under 4 years left to cover in this year-long worship of the past five centuries of anime (four years that have taken forEVER, Editor-san), but due to circumstances beyond control (a temporary three-month dispatch to places unknown and a few conventions to see), the ball has been dropped. That's not to say that interest has waned; there's just so much mental energy that the editor can devote to this project that every weekend became either a recharging moment or a trip back to the apartment to make sure nothing went up in flames.

Perhaps this may have resulted for the best, as it gave our final contributors some time to process and the editor some time to contemplate how to proceed from here. Some terrific ideas have been tossed around, including a possible convention run, another project for next year, the rumored "Hall of Fame" vote, and even a printed publication. Most, if not all, of those ideas will likely be tabled to the beginning of 2014, but stay tuned for information!

Meanwhile, we have a few weeks of publications to catch up with until we hit the end of our mad trip through time. The time machine is repaired, and with an "El Psy Congroo!" we will be returning to our journey, but not before we stop back at 2007 to pick up something we forgot (Part 2).

Until then, please accept our deepest groveling "orz" in the cutest manner we could find for free online.

There. That should do it. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, September 27, 2013

2009: The Internet Finally Takes Over

Feeling rather humbled by participating in the project, Raindrops (@DaydreamsUK) is a relatively new blogger from the UK who has been a fan since the early nineties. She spends most of her free time watching anime and speculating furiously about the future of the industry overseas. Choosing 2009 was originally a thinly-veiled excuse to mention her favorite show, and you can follow all those opinions on her blog, Raindrops and Daydreams.

As we draw closer to the fifty-year milestone for anime on television, we've seen the medium moving from monochrome to color and from cel animation to digital. Along the way, it's inspired a vast global audience and survived several new home video formats. 2009 ended up being a year bursting with the same rich innovation as anime continued to explore new approaches both on screen and behind the scenes. While I'm not sure whether any will end up as future classics, there were so many interesting projects on offer that I was forced to make some tough choices in selecting the series I wanted to introduce.

The first title on my list, however, should surprise nobody who was active in the fan community four years ago. Its sequels are still selling well today, its theme songs have become anthems and the script was often rumored to be "untranslatable" by fans trying to rationalize the length of time it took to appear in the US. The series I'm talking about is Shaft's Bakemonogatari.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2008: A Briton's Guide to Anime

@IanWolf writes manga reviews and features for MyM Magazine, anime and manga reviews for Anime UK News, and a "Beginner's Guide to Anime" for On The Box. He has a degree in Media Studies from Teesside University, where his love of anime really flourished. He also works for his local anime convention, ONECon in Middlesbrough. His main ambition is to boost the reputation of anime in Britain, which is not always good in the eyes of the media and general public.

In this article, I will be mainly be talking about the anime industry in the United Kingdom, but for those of you from outside of the UK, don't worry; there will still be plenty of interest. Plenty of anime will be covered--some fantasy, some sci-fi, some historical and some romantic.

The thing people have to understand about anime in the UK, however, is that it has never really had a good reputation. This first occurred with the video release of the tentacle-rape themed Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend back in the 1990s. When it came out, the newspapers attacked it, saying how horrible and violent Japanese cartoons were, as all cartoons for the British were for kids. Attacks came from both the left-wing and right-wing presses. However, in the end the moral panic it stirred up backfired, as Urotsukidōji accidentally received all this free publicity in a country where the anime market at the time was very small. Sales of the video boomed.

Conditions were also not helped by the fact that many anime distributors in the UK at the time practiced something called "fifteening". Companies wanted anime to be seen as something different, edgy and controversial, so they insisted that their video releases should be no less than a "15" rating, ideally an "18". Therefore, if a release was likely to be given a "12" rating, they would add excessive swearing when they dubbed it into English so the censors would give the release a "15". (Editor's note: this practice isn't strictly a UK practice; remember the original Appleseed OVA?)

In terms of anime shown on British TV today, there is hardly any broadcast at all, and just about all of it is shown on digital channels. The only anime that really gets shown are Pokemon and the Studio Ghibli films. Recently the rather small Sony Movie Channel announced it would start showing the Bleach films late at night in August 2013, but that's still a small piece of the pie. DVDs and Blu-Rays are also relatively slow in coming over to Britain. For example, One Piece, arguably the most popular anime of them all, was first broadcast in Japan in 1999. It came out on DVD in America in 2006, but in Britain, it was not released until May 2013. Also, many releases get delayed or are faulty in production.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2007, Part 1: Seven for Seven: Three Robot Tales

Owen writes copy for a living, and has been known to occasionally extend that ability to anime, although it's a while since he did so. When he's not attempting to finish his backlog of games on Steam, he can be usually found on Twitter, trying to break language 140 characters at a time.

Everyone knows how this list ends. It's the beginning, however, that makes the most of what it really is: an unbridled look at nostalgia barely six years old. That's kindergarten age! How do you tell Nostalgia that they have to get out of the house, put on a uniform, and play nice with the others? One week at a time, I think.

For this year, I decided to focus on seven original, made-for-anime works. No adaptations, please; we try to keep the riff-raff out. The emphasis on "made for anime" here was a no-brainer; the problem with adaptations, inevitably, lies in how the original's vision has to be molded to fit into the target medium, and in this case anime. In this the premise of an adaptation is usually flawed; the arcs in a manga are either ignored or overtly drawn out, the sparse text of a light novel becomes a plodding 25-minute exercise in animated dramas, and the less said about visual novel adaptations, the better.

"Original", of course, tends to be usually tenuous, but was defined here simply as "a story that did not exist in any form or medium prior to the anime." Filtering with this criterion was mindboggling--there was no Baccano, for instance. No Bamboo Blade. Not even Gakuen Utopia Manabi High, which, to my surprise, actually existed as a manga by ufotable before it was an anime.

By the time I was finished, there was one problem: the ones that were original weren't good, and the ones that were good weren't original. Shigurui? A straight-up adaptation; possibly one of the best around, but an adaptation nonetheless. Dennou Coil? Didn't sit well. Towards the Terra was a manga, albeit one decades old and entirely changed from its origin, as were Bokurano, Hitohira, and Hidamari Sketch. Gigantic Formula felt too mecha-heavy by way of visual references and homages, while Sky Girls was relatively simplistic.

In the end, I decided to separate the seven works by the tentatively fragile genre trappings they employed: mecha, romance, and vignettes. Mecha, of course, deserved no further explanation. Romance explored the age-old question of love, and all its trappings. Vignettes told short stories that explored a greater whole.

This week is dedicated to exploring the first of the three: Mecha. Because everyone loves a giant robot or ten.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2006: Welcome to the Next Level

Serdar Yegulalp, a tech journalist by day, is also the Site Guide for He also runs his own science-fiction-and-fantasy imprint, Genji Press, where he blogs about SF, movies, creativity, the complexities of self-publishing, the Sun Ra and Skinny Puppy back catalogs, and most everything else that catches his attention. He also occasionally sticks his neck out on Twitter (@genjipress).

Back when I started curating, one of the first feature articles I put together was a four-parter which involved a number of anime at different "course levels." An anime that required no understanding of Japanese culture or Japan to begin with was a "100-level" anime. Another that was still easy to get into but would be best appreciated with a little foreknowledge was a "200-level" anime. A show pitched mainly for Japanese audiences, or which one wasn't likely to find accessible unless you were already steeped in the tropes and quirks of anime generally was a "300-level" anime. (I later refined the categories a little, but the basic concept remains intact.)

I now wonder if listing Black Lagoon as a 100-level anime was such a good idea.

For the average adult (most likely male) Western audience member, Black Lagoon actually isn't difficult to get into at all—provided they don’t mind being dropped into the middle of the most violent, raunchiest, most foul-mouthed, cynically-scripted story this side of, well, every 1980s-era Chow Yun-Fat action vehicle and every 1990s Michael Bay production. Black Lagoon was created in homage to and for the audiences of exactly those things, and like a lot of anime itself, you either eat this stuff up or you run like hell.

But if Black Lagoon the anime is like that, it's only because Black Lagoon the manga, the source material—which started hitting shelves in 2002—is also like that. Form is merely following function, and Black Lagoon's function is to dance right on the line between being entertaining and being repugnant.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2005: In A Silent Way

@QX20XX does not have a Ph.D. in cultural studies, is not featured in any magazines or books, and only writes for Once deemed "a great example of cognitive dissonance in action," QX started writing about anime as a joke, but that joke stopped being funny over a year ago. QX likes hamburgers, probably enjoys your least favorite anime, prefers Asuka over Rei, and dreams of designing a video game you will regret letting your children play.

Ask anyone for post-2000 anime recommendations and you're guaranteed to receive at least one of the following responses.

"You should watch Aria."

"I definitely recommend Aria."

"What do you mean you haven't seen Aria?"

If I said Mars of Destruction was the only anime I had seen from the year 2005, I wouldn't be lying except that Akagi also happened to air in 2005.

What do you mean you haven't seen Mars of Destruction?

Best known for its extensive catalog of otome games, video game publishing company and development studio Idea Factory occasionally produces anime series and OVAs based on their properties. In 2005, Idea Factory produced a twenty-minute OVA for a visual novel they developed for the PlayStation 2, Hametsu no Mars, or Mars of Destruction. As best as I can commit it to words, Mars of Destruction is a sci-fi story about a virus from Mars that arrives on Earth, infecting people in Tokyo and turning them into "Ancients". This woeful cartoon has the distinction of being one of, if not, the worst rated anime on both MyAnimeList and AniDB. For such a minor blip in the grand scheme of things, how does Mars of Destruction get one over (under?) other legendarily awful productions such as M.D. Geist and Garzey's Wing?

Despite the game's rapid descent into obscurity, the tie-in anime that was destined from inception as a throwaway extra stands out as such a blinding example of terrible, it refuses to be forgotten long after the game proper was buried in a bargain bin. In a succinct twenty minutes, Mars features a nonsensical story rife with clichés, regrettable acting and dialogue, thoughtless direction, amateurish animation, shameless parallels to Evangelion, evisceration of generic anime girls, and the vocal talents of a young Chihara Minori (Yuki Nagato from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) who couldn't have known better. Being a mere promotional video attached to a low tier game release, Mars of Destruction may not have been so disastrous as to shutter Idea Factory or force a renowned creator into early retirement, but it is exceptional in how immediate and aggressive it is in being bad. Thanks to its short run time and dubious interest from the rights holders, the anime is easily found on YouTube for the benefit of future generations of anime viewers.

I am aware I am being facetious. Since even I'm not comfortable saying Mars of Destruction defines anime in 2005, let's talk about Aria.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

2004, Part 2: Respectful, Yet Rebellious

Over 130 new anime shows debuted in 2004 on Japanese television, a number in magnitude that would be the norm for the next decade. Naturally, George J. Horvath from The Land of Obscusion needed just a little more space for his coverage on what shows made 2004 what it was. If you need a refresher on the first half, click here.

It could have been easy to give a simple mention of each of these titles and get this year covered in one post, but as the essay titles indicated this year had to be covered in more detail, respecting the reader and the blog while also bucking tradition and giving more. Luckily, the latter half of 2004 felt the same way...

Being a visual medium anime has to do something to really catch viewers' interests at times and while the year had a few worthy contenders, like Windy Tales and Tweeny Witches, no anime from 2004 did that as well as Gankutsuou–The Count of Monte Cristo. Based on the legendary novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, Gonzo took the story and put it a new spin on it, while also giving the entire show a look that, to this day, is still one-of-a-kind.

Simply from a storytelling perspective Gankutsuou took the tale and put it into the far-future year of 5053, even having the titular Count live on Luna, a colony on the Moon that houses the worst criminals. After saving Viscount Albert de Morcerf from certain death at the hands of Luna's bandits he finds the opportunity to make his way to Earth, Paris in particular, so as to enact the revenge that he's wanted to do, much like the original novel. While the story stuck to the novel's original time period, specifically in terms of social classification and general attire, the show also fully embraced its futuristic shift, with the poor people living a world of dirty pipes and grunge, while the rich live in a seeming-utopia, and grand battles are dealt with by way of giant robots that are piloted by the duelists when the need arises. The idea that the rich are in fact the ones who are caged like birds was indeed brought up and it helped push the thought that these people were truly living in their own fantasies.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2004, Part 1: Rebellious, Yet Respectful

George J. Horvath had been a fan of Toonami's airing of G Gundam and Rurouni Kenshin as well as Fox's airing of Digimon and Escaflowne before being an "anime fan", but in 2004 he went into the medium full-bore, always looking for what came from the past while also seeing what the future would bring. After writing a Guestspotting article for GameSpot and two reviews for Sega-16, though, he decided to take use his B.A.-quality education in Journalism and Media Studies from Rutgers University and start reviewing, on his own, the obscure and forgotten anime and manga of the past (and present). He now runs The Land of Obscusion, talking about anime you may or may not have heard of, and posts semi-randomly over at Twitter.

When it comes to the history of anime, 2004 was a great showing of how the industry was changing. More titles debuted in letterbox format instead of the usual "full screen". Digital animation was replacing cels. Late-night anime was hitting just about every major TV station in Japan after its slow, growing presence was felt starting from the late 90's. Most importantly though, chances were being taken on all sorts of genres and ideas while also celebrating the history that had already been made. To truly understand how diverse the year was for anime one must look deep into the jungle and see what titles defined themselves among others. Among a list of some of the most well-known titles to have come and gone were shows that dared to be different and change the way we viewed anime. In the first half of the year they managed to not only respect the past and even the viewer but some also challenged tradition and made the viewer think of anime in brand new ways.

Before 2004 the last real vestige of the magical girl genre was Sailor Moon, which finished back in the late-90s. There were titles like Magical Doremi (Ojamajo Doremi in Japan) in between that span of years, but none of them truly broke through that glass ceiling and became major hits, even if they had multiple season runs. Toei, though, didn't just rest on their laurels, and in this year they debuted Futari wa PreCure, also known simply as Pretty Cure. On the surface the show's plot about two girls with completely different ways of life who end up becoming guardians of good against the powers of darkness wasn't anything original, but what made people tune in was the execution.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2003, Part 3: Ten More for the Road

Last time, Bradley talked about some of the most notable series that aired in 2003. This time, he concludes by talking about some of the more obscure series you might have missed, and closing with a comparison of anime in 2003 and anime a decade later.

And now, our exciting conclusion...

So in addition to stalwart anime subject matter like giant robots and bouncing breasts, 2003 also had plenty of weird, out-there stories. Kino's Journey is one such anime, based on an adaptation of some unconventional material, this time from a light novel series telling the tale of a boy and his talking motorcycle who travel a world with an incredible variety of cultures and wildlife. Kino's stories often bloom into short, poignant observations about life that echo many of Aesop's Fables. Combined with a muted but very pretty animation style, this is a series that really earns its moments of emotional resonance with a little bit of fairy tale magic and a lot of earnestness.

Also weird but a lot more pretentious was the follow-up to the depressing and beautiful Haibane Renmei from writer Chiaki J. Kanaka and character designer Yoshitoshi ABe: Texhnolyze. The two created a vibrant yet depressing cyberpunk world with underground fights between cyborgs and social strife that become gang wars. It's an utterly surreal watch, but difficult to penetrate. Partly this is because the story is non-linear, but also because the pacing is really slow, which doesn't quite fit the action that the DVD cover promises with an angry kid with a metal arm looking like he's ready to punch someone.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2003, Part 2: Fullmetal and Full Frontal

Last time in our thrilling exploration of 2003 anime and what Cool Japan meant then, Bradley Meek talked about how the true test of whether anime was going to continue to be perceived as cool would be made or broken on TV. And how did that pan out? Read on...

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.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2003, Part 1: The Cresting Wave of Cool Japan

When Bradley Meek is not coding, sleeping, reading or playing Dota 2, he's watching every kind of anime he can get his hands on. At times, this means he subconsciously channels Madarame from Genshiken, which is known to frighten away women and small puppies. Sometimes he writes on his blog, Those Damn Cartoons, but to be honest, he would usually rather watch anime than write about it. You can find him opining about cartoons over on Twitter (@BradleyCMeek).

Do you remember superflat?

That bizarro pop art movement of the early 2000's where Andy Warhol, street graffiti, ukiyo-e and thirty-plus years of anime and manga were dropped into a blender, dished out onto canvases and sculptures, and then served to the world of high art in Tokyo, New York, Paris and London? It featured art that was a cheery mix of kawaii mascots and apocalyptic imagery, with dollops of a potent mixture of sexiness and child-like innocence familiar to anime fans. It was a grab-bag of forty years of Japanese culture informed by much older, more traditional Japanese art styles, and it was, by all accounts, a big success. One of the short-lived movement's primary authors, Takashi Murakami, was profiled in the New York Times in 2005, and it's an instructive read.

Murakami was an otaku throughout the 80's and 90's, and that meant grappling with the destructive legacy of serial killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, who embedded a nasty impression of otaku on a culture that was already suspicious of them. As the article recounts:
"When Miyazaki's room was revealed to the public, the mass media announced that it was otaku space,'' Murakami once told an interviewer. ''However, it was just like my room. Actually, my mother was very surprised to see his room and said: 'His room is like yours. Are you O.K.?' Of course, I was O.K. In fact, all of my friends' rooms were similar to his, too.'' Murakami added that Miyazaki was only ''different from us'' because he ''videotaped dead bodies of little girls he killed.''
Miyazaki's murders were a dark cloud that hung over otaku, and superflat was part of Murakami's attempt to wrestle with that legacy and contextualize it in Japan's larger cultural struggles to define itself. Riding a wave of renewed interest in Japanese culture, he found international success and inspired others who would make similar work.

What interests me about superflat isn't so much what it was, but what it represented to anime fans in Japan and elsewhere: legitimacy. Here was the world of high art writing flattering profiles and gallery reviews of art that was inspired by anime and its culture, and in the same way that Roger Ebert's enthusiastic reviews of Ghibli movies galvanized and inspired fans, the renewed interest in Japanese culture gave fans who had been around for years reason to hope that more mainstream recognition was soon to follow. And the growing popularity of superflat in high art was reflecting a trend elsewhere: anime was becoming exponentially more popular, with growing fan convention attendance in the US and bigger and bigger sales of home media and merchandise in Japan. Anime and its fandom really left behind the long shadow of Miyazaki and other basement-dwelling creeps and was coming into its own as a medium to be recognized by even the most mainstream and highbrow of cultural critics and consumers.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

2002: Anime Rising to the Top - Believe it!

Savanna Smith, more commonly known around the net as "lostty", has been into anime for over five years. Although she is currently stuck in summer school along with a job that takes up too much of her time, she still considers her full time passion to be procrastinating. One of her many pastimes is analysing anime like Evangelion in way too much detail. She runs a blog known as Anime Princess where she tries to update when time permits, and you can follow her daily rantings on Twitter.

When choosing 2002, I did so without much thought into what had actually aired. Back in these days I was pretty much a youngin' who hadn't yet discovered anime outside of the things that had made its way to North American television. 2002 was a year that anime really started to thrive in the West with Spirited Away even winning the Oscar for Best Animated Film, but as for Japan? I wasn't really sure how it was shaping out there, but what I ended up discovering was that it was a year filled with some of the most popular series out there that new and old anime fans still turn to watch today.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2001: 21st-Century Digital Toys

Alexandra Roedder is finishing her Ph.D. in musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, writing about Joe Hisaishi's Ghibli soundtracks. She first encountered anime on her TV in the form of Sailor Moon, but didn't recognize it as anime until years later when a friend who was really into anime had her watch Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies, and then the first few episodes of Ergo Proxy, all in one night. Since then, she's never turned back. When she's done with her degree she plans to write a few books about anime music aimed at closing the gap between academics and fans. She also plays cello professionally. You can find her personal blog ( and her Twitter account at on @alexandramuses.

2001 was a year mostly notable for its anime films: Spirited Away is probably best known, but there was also Studio 4ºC's Princess Arete, the gekijouban presentation of Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door, and the epic Metropolis based on Tezuka's manga. However, television also had its gems from the year, surprisingly enduring shows on surprising subjects, each of which showed sensitivity and depth and tried to turn away from many of the stereotypes which 1990s anime had developed. Below I will discuss three shows I feel to be representative of the year: Mahoromatic, Hikaru no Go, and Angelic Layer.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

2000, Part 2: Retrospect Before Passage

Happy 2000 (all over again!)

At the rollover of the 1990s into the 00s, fandom was digesting the collectability of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Digimon in Japan, while America was awash in the competition between the likes of ADV Films, Viz, Bandai Entertainment, CPM, Media Blasters, and Pioneer. Perhaps due to the thickness of the market, Patrick Stoeckel's analysis on the biggest shows from the last year of the last millennium was just so big that he decided to give us a glimpse on the lesser-known shows of 2000 that were lost in all the kerfuffle.

As I look at more animated output for the year, I'm struck by the connections to the past. As the 20th century drew to a close, anime studios had a great opportunity to examine Japan's history and see where the country's headed. John Coltrane's 1942 rendition of "I'm Old Fashioned" makes for a good piece to listen to while writing this article; as the years pass by, being old-fashioned isn't so bad when you have someone to be old-fashioned with. The approach of a new millennium provides ample opportunity to see the history of a society, and where to go from here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

2000, Part 1: Last Stop of the Millennium

Patrick Stoeckel began his anime life with the Toonami line-up, then moved on to the unedited DVDs. After that, it's been a steady stream of writing about it (via The Anime Discussion Corner before moving the blog to Anime Commentary) and occasionally teaching an informal class on the subject. His passion for anime runs deep, and his blog is his outlet for commentary. You can also find his commentary on Twitter at, appropriately, @AnimeCommentary.

I chose the year 2000 primarily because it lay within my early years of anime-watching (and, to be honest, it was one of the few remaining years available that I had any real knowledge of). My first real exposure to anime came through the significantly edited broadcasts of shows like Sailor Moon that made the rounds on Cartoon Network back in the day. That first experience got me hooked, and I began purchasing DVDs when I could. The unedited DVD releases of these shows informed me of how diverse Japan's animated fare could be, and I remained a fan ever since.

2000 was an interesting year for anime. Toonami still broadcast edited versions of shows that remained popular; the debut of [adult swim] the following year will change the broadcast dynamic for Cartoon Network. With Toonami, it would broadcast old favorites (such as Rurouni Kenshin and G Gundam) throughout the upcoming decade. As should be noted, Pokemon's popularity in the 1990s saw the emergence of the controversial 4Kids releases–controversial because of the "Americanization" and censoring elements prevalent in their broadcasts.

The dawn of the 21st century (and the new millennium) marked a surge of popularity in the Dragon Ball franchise, as well as other titles such as the various Gundam shows and Pokemon (all of which remain major pulls). The U.S. market proved very receptive to anime, ever since the previous decade, and the upcoming decade would see more shows being released (particularly on the Adult Swim block). As far as television in general goes, a few live-action dramas debuted (including Ikebukuro West Gate Park, which received a manga adaptation), and TV viewing had been astounding from the 1980s onward. But what did the anime scene look like in that year?

Well, that's what we're going to examine with this article. Sit back and enjoy; 2000 had some great releases, and this article looks at three.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

1999: Towards A New Era

In middle school, Naru appreciated anime, fanfiction, and pretty guys just as much as the next internet-surfing pre-teen, but it was actually in her high school years when she began to discover what was so "special" regarding the former. On a whim, she created her main blog Oromywhat where you can occasionally find her explaining or rambling endlessly about the Japanese pop culture and its secrets unknown to outsiders. If she ever disappears from her blog, you'll easily find her at Organization Anti-Social Genuises as an anime/manga reviewer or ranting on Twitter.

Before we begin focusing on the quiet year of 1999, I believe I should be honest with you all and straight out say 1999 was a year I personally did not know much about until I made the decision to participate in this project. Between the end of the 90's and the beginning of the 2000's, my little self was rather occupied with shonen anime being aired in my country at the time–Yu Yu Hakusho, Gundam, and the like–which aided and formed me into the grumpy hard-to-please anime appreciator that I am today.

However, it is until just recently that I've taken the time to search around the deepest parts of the dark hole that is the Internet to find out that, while 1999 isn't the most memorable year for some of us, it certainly wasn't an uneventful year. Heck, the year 1999 gave birth to cult anime adaptations that are still present in the minds of old fans, and now to new fans of the current generation.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

1998: The Birth of the Cool

Evan Minto, also known as Vampt Vo, went from wide-eyed newbie anime fan to hardened cynic in just over ten years in the game. Nowadays he serves as the editor-in-chief of anime, manga, and video game blog Ani-Gamers, writes reviews for Otaku USA Magazine, and goes to a heckuva lot of conventions (he was even Con Chair for Genericon 2013). If you can handle an overdose of bad puns and nerd snark, go ahead and follow his exploits on Twitter @VamptVo.

If I may be so bold, I'd like to suggest for a moment that 1998 is the most important year in the 1990s—at least in terms of its effect on American anime fandom. Sure, 1992 introduced Sailor Moon, and 1995 brought us game-changers like Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell, but 1998 is notable for something other than just its spectacular list of memorable series (and boy oh boy, is it a spectacular list).

That's because in 1998, anime was finally cool. The only problem was that Japanese otaku didn't know it yet.

Monday, June 3, 2013

1997: Take My Evolution

Eric McLeod (@SweetDurga) didn't really know what anime was until high school. His only anime before that point were Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, but after discovering shows like Trigun and Cowboy Bebop, he decided to give this thing called anime a try. He is currently the editor of anime content at TheBrokenInfinite, where he blogs about the current anime season, and is working to become a history teacher when he's not bemoaning the anime fandom on Twitter.

1997 is a prime example of the adage "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Many franchises would be born, die, or take a break in 1997. Magical-girl shows were still selling like hot cakes, super robot shows still had a footing in the market, and a little series about taming magical monsters would become one of the biggest things in the world. However, there was a noticeable shift in the content of TV anime this year, and that shift owes Neon Genesis Evangelion a favor.

Hold your horses. I know we already have an article on Evangelion, and you should go and read it now if you haven't already, but I need to set the tone for this year and the anime I'm about to talk about. Were it not for Evangelion smashing all conceptions of what televised anime was capable of, the anime I am talking about might not have found an audience. This was the year that Evangelion was supposed to end, but its legacy would live on, not only through its massive merchandise franchise, but through the anime trying to recapture its magic.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Golden-Ani Updates: Future Posts and Hall of Fame Votes

For those of you who may have noticed, we have been low on content recently. Part of this is intended, as editing two articles per week has become heavy lifting. (No real complaints here, but it's more taxing than it first appeared!) Part of this is also unintended, as we have had one person back out on us at an inopportune time.

However, that doesn't mean the blog has been left to grow weeds in the intermission. A little brainstorming during a podcast (more on that in another post) and with some fellow bloggers at Anime Boston has led to some ideas that merit some acknowledgement.

The Future of Golden-Ani

First of all, there have been a few people who have wondered if there will be a printed book version of Golden-Ani. At the moment, it would be hard to envision how such a project would come about, but I can picture some sort of print media that could be distributed at a con event in the future. Perhaps it would get people's minds focused on older shows if they were to be given something that required a turn of the page and not the click of a link. It's been on the burner for now, but certainly not ignored.

Second of all, there have been questions about the future of this blog once we do hit 2012. Does it sit here like Stonehenge for visitors to explore? Does it get revamped every year, maybe with a blogger covering a single show into more depth?

What we have been exploring is a better way to cover the decades. Currently, we're exploring the past 50 years as yearly slices of the loaf of bread that is the past half-century of televised anime. If we were to push those slices back together and cut along the grain, perhaps we could envision a study into particular genres (e.g. harem comedy, sports drama, seinen, shônen, shôjo) and how they have evolved over time. We'll be drumming up business for that kind of analysis perhaps around July.

Hall of Fame Voting

Lastly, what has come to mind is some sort of way to analyze all of the shows overall. We've been nailing some of the bigger features, but once this thing is over, there should be some way to pick out the important ones. That's where you, the writer, and you, the reader, come into play.

We will be starting a formal vote for a "Hall of Fame" ranking that stretches over the full 50 years. The plan is to post a generic ballot in the next day or so, then have people send their choices for the best shows of the past 50 years to a generic mail account. This will likely be something akin to the Hall of Fame voting styles used in professional sports, where voters can say yea or nay to shows and are not restricted to having to select a certain amount of shows. (But for sanity's sake, the ballot will likely be capped at twenty selections.)

Once a ballot is composed, it will be posted here on Golden-Ani, so keep your eyes peeled! We'll also be resuming our posts this week, once our emergency replacement has sent the 1997 article. Almost 15 more years to go before the end!


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

1996: Pivot Point

Kadian1364 grew up with anime since middle school during the Pokemon and Toonami boom in the late 90's, and developed a voracious appetite for Chinese girl cartoons that hasn’t stopped since. Sometimes anime reviewer at the Nihon Review, sometimes content to make his opinion known on other blogs, he spews most of his on the Internet’s soapbox, Twitter ( He also relishes running weekend Skype calls with friends viewing the best and worst of anime’s history.

The mid-90's was a time of affirming stylistic and philosophical changes in the anime industry. The recognizable stereotype of popular anime characters folks still associate with the medium–realistic body proportions with large, expressive eyes and youthful facial features–largely developed and matured in these years. It was a hybrid of the cartoonish Disney-like designs Tezuka popularized and the realistically shaped heroes of the gritty science fiction and OVA anime that populated the 80's. It wasn't until a decade later would we see the dawn of a new character design paradigm. At the same time, disruptive titles in recent history like Saint Seiya, Sailor Moon, and Neon Genesis Evangelion made artists and producers think differently about who could be their prospective audience and how to design new works to reach them. Cross-gender pleasing characters were of course a major part of this emerging design philosophy, but the novel combinations of diverse genres was an emerging effort to broaden the demographic appeal of traditionally niche, gender-exclusive brands.

But before we get to the meat of this article, there are the also-rans worth enumerating. Of course, the second half of Evanglion in early '96, with its psychological complexity, artistic abstraction, and culturally relevant topics, so precisely struck a nerve with an entire generation of viewers that clones and variations would be seen for years to come. Slayers Next, the second of a series of seemingly arbitrarily titled seasons, continued the distinctly 90's-flavored high-fantasy gag-comedy action-adventure franchise. Kosuke Fujishima's You're Under Arrest found a home on TV after its '95 OVA, but instead of fluid car-chase animation, it found pleasant success in low-budget traffic police sitcom fare, spawning three seasons in total through the 90's and 2000's.

Gundam continued to roll out sequels and spinoffs, with After War Gundam X, an alternate universe TV series in a post-apocalyptic scenario with maximum colony dropping absurdity, and the 08th MS Team, an OVA returning to the "One Year War" from the perspective of grunts embroiled in the jungles of Southeast Asia, which earned points with fans for its gritty Vietnam-like take in the favored continuity. And the big traditional shoujo series from the year, Kodomo no Omocha (a.k.a. Kodocha), was the most off-the-wall, dizzyingly hyperactive melodramatic romantic comedy about child actors you'll probably ever see. (And this is just the opening theme! - Ed.)

While numerous titles deserve their due, a few series are so distinguished for finding trend-setting, audience-broadening combinations of diverse genre elements and their enduring popularity that they justify greater elaboration of critical merit.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

1995: A Year of Old Ideas in New Ways

Ray (@R042) originally didn't intend to be an anime blogger, but quickly discovered he quite enjoyed it. A big fan of mecha and science-fiction after his first experience of anime were Evangelion and Macross Plus, he writes articles at Ideas Without End about a wide range of subjects, and tweets endlessly when he isn't writing blog-posts or novels.

To start looking at a year in anime history, why not start with what the primary audience thought of it?

For this, Animage Magazine's annual poll and review of the year in animation provides one snapshot of what some fans and viewers thought defined 1995. The answer appears to be that 1995 was the year of Megumi Hayashibara, who had already shown her chops as fiery lead characters (Ranma's female side in Ranma 1/2; Ai from Video Girl Ai). Voted "Best Voice Actor/Actress" purely on the basis of fan submissions to the magazine, it is quite possible to argue her immense popularity that year came from one role which provides the perfect place to begin looking at the year's most influential and significant series.

Neon Genesis Evangelion, winner of the "Best Anime of 1995" award in Animage as well as three entries (#1, #3 and #9) on "Best Female Character", #2 on "Best Male Character" and winner of "Best Song" for its opening "Zankoku na Tenshi no Teeze" ("A Cruel Angel's Thesis"), is a fair candidate for the defining anime of the year. A series that, despite having a fraction of the number of episodes or series of any long-running big-name shonen show, or mecha juggernaut Gundam, has in its own way become a cornerstone of how anime is perceived both in Japan and overseas. Its enduring popularity is as much a result of the controversies and mysteries surrounding it–the prevalent symbolism and imagery are said to be meaningless, while the apparent non-ending of the TV series is resolved much later in End of Evangelion–as its specific merits as a super-robot anime.

Friday, May 10, 2013

1994: Introducing the Supporting Cast

Brian (@awesome_engine) used to have to write hundreds of movie synopses for the UK video market, which has left his brain full of unnecessary information. He is the co-host of the Dynamite In The Brain podcast and owner of AWESOME ENGINE. If you must see him in the flesh you can usually find him at UK anime conventions like Ayacon, hosting events such as MADstravaganza (now in its seventh year).

Not every year gave the viewer a brand new anime TV series that achieved greatness, longevity, or popularity. 1994 was one of those years.

The big shows of 1994 were all shows that started years previously. There are series that are still ongoing today like Sazae-san (1969), Doraemon (starting in 1973, but airing since 2005) and Crayon Shin-Chan (1992). In addition, there were the monster Shonen Jump shows of the day: Dragonball Z, Slam Dunk, and Yu Yu Hakusho. They all managed to get over a 20% audience share at various points in the year (with Dragonball Z doing it week in, week out). Finally, there were a couple of shows that have had little following in anglophone fandom, Kiteretsu Daihyakka (1988-96) and Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai (1992-94). These aired either side of Sazae-san and regularly got at least a 20% audience share. One reason why it may have been difficult for new shows to get a footing was that 1994 was the year that some of these established shows hit their peak ratings; Dragonball Z, Kiteretsu Daihyakka, Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai, Slam Dunk, and Yu Yu Hakusho all had their highest rated episodes during this year.

So what new shows were trying to get their voice heard this year?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

1993: Everybody Wants To Rule Za Waarudo

[1993 was the year that Geoffrey Tebbetts (@GeoffTebbetts) learned that "anime" was a "thing". After watching Locke the Superman and Akira in his first year of college, he joined Atlanta's Anime X and helped co-found Georgia Tech's first anime club in 1996. Geoff wrote for Animerica Magazine as a reviewer and columnist from 1996 to 2004, and he has been covering anime through his own blog AniMaybe since 2010. He's also the editor of this very blog, the Golden Ani-Versary of Anime.]

After years of riding a monster wave of success, economically speaking, Japan in 1993 had found itself treading water. The Nikkei stock market had managed to reverse its course after losing over half its value, but its GDP hadn't changed in three years, and the yen itself was falling against the dollar, the stable platform since 1987 taken out from under the currency until it bottomed out in 1995. The unemployment rate, traditionally a comfortable rate between 2 and 3%, had started to creep upwards until it peaked in 2002 (although some will argue that the rate had been notoriously underestimated for years). While the industries were boosting production, bankruptcies had tripled since 1990, and business confidence was at an all-time low.

That's not to say that Japan's anime industry was suffering from its own lack of confidence. Perennial all-stars such as Sazae-san, Doraemon, and Chibi Maruko-chan (which unfortunately ended in 1992 during the height of its popularity, but returned in 1995 to stay) were consistently gathering weekly television ratings that rivaled numbers set by Tetsuwan Atomu in the 1960s, while Yuu Yuu Hakusho discovered its own ratings bonanza alongside its Shonen Jump brother, Dragonball Z. (Of course, ratings can only say so much about success. If you were to look at the numbers, Sailor Moon's first-season ratings in 1992 were comparable to those of the short-lived nonsense anime Obotchama-kun that ran in the time slot thirty minutes afterwards.)

You could arguably state that televised anime's rivalry with the direct-to-video OVA market was keeping both afloat during these times. Trounced suddenly in the late 1980s by the deluge of OVA titles, television was making its comeback, but not without stiff competition. The Tenchi Muyo! juggernaut launched in 1992 with the Ryo-Ohki OVA series, which quickly became the biggest OVA success story since Patlabor, while critical acclaim would be passed to the slow-and-steady Giant Robo over time. (Seriously, Brian. Just one small mention?)

Based on the confidence in older shows and the industry's creativity in 1993, if you were to look at anime's activity and claim there was economic turbulence in Japan, you'd be hard-pressed to view it from its outward appearance (partly due to the lag between brainstorm and video release). However, that was two decades ago, and time has been a judge that has been harsher on some shows over others. What shows could we consider to be the bedrock on which many of today's anime skyscrapers have been built?

Monday, April 29, 2013

1992: Anime Goes Over the Moon

In the late 1990s, Brian Ruh became seduced by the dark side of anime–the academic side. After reading the chapter “Vampires, Psychic Girls, Flying Women and Sailor Scouts” by Susan J. Napier, Brian decided that he wanted to become an anime scholar too. After all, what else was he going to do with a philosophy degree? He went on to get an M.A. in Asian Cultures and Languages from the University of Texas at Austin and then a Ph.D. in Communication and Culture from Indiana University. Along the way, he's written articles, book chapters, reviews, and a column for ANN. He also wrote the book Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii, and is currently at work on a second edition to be released in 2014. He can be found on Twitter at @animeresearch, where he opines about anime and tells terrible puns.

Until I began investigating all of the shows that came out in 1992, I didn't really have any idea of the embarrassment of riches this year provided. I had originally decided to write about 1992 because it was around this time that I began re-discovering anime. I was born a couple of months after Star Wars first came out in the theaters–this created a wave of SF entertainment, particularly cartoons, throughout my formative years. My afternoons were filled with watching the likes of Battle of the Planets, Voltron, Starblazers, Robotech, and Tranzor Z, although I didn't know it as anime at the time. In late elementary and junior high school, I grew more towards Star Trek and the like, but early in high school I found myself back in the anime groove, thanks to a friend with a couple tapes of Robotech and Gunbuster.

Although I had my own subjective experiences of anime in 1992, at first I wasn't sure how to get a handle on what the year looked like for the Japanese industry. I figured that if I wanted to hit some of the highlights, it couldn't hurt to check out the covers of the major Japanese anime magazines–Newtype and Animage. Of course, I knew this wouldn’t be the whole story, but it would point us in the right direction of what was popular (or at least what the magazine editorial teams thought would sell) that year.