Feature Blogs

My final rankings for new anime of the Winter 2010 season.

  1. Durarara!! – great ending to a strong first half earns Durarara!! the season’s top honors… fitting ep12 titled “Everything is Interconnected” shows the best aspects of the series.
    (Mar. – still my favorite show of the season…starting to see how more of the characters are related to each other and ep8 ending throws surprising twist.
    Feb. – kickass Baccano!-like OP… somewhat episodic but interesting and well linked by unique character ensemble.) [impressions]
  2. Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu – returning to ‘class battles with summoned beings’ concept, series ends S1 well by balancing comedy with shounen theme of overcoming obstacles through hardwork, determination, and love as motivation… akihisa yoshii = best new male character of the season… looking forward to upcoming S2.
    (Mar. – has done well over last few eps to continue working with previously established jokes and good romantic comedy moments…will be looking for new material in coming eps.
    Feb. – surprisingly enjoyable despite stupid premise… ep3&4 have pretty funny moments.) [impressions]
  3. Hanamaru Kindergarten – overall a pleasantly surprising series that worked the light-hearted slice of life comedy well… the series ends right at the best time after tapping out all the little stories and relationships it had to offer and before becoming repetitive… ep12 closes with the most charming ending possible for the series.
    (Mar. – moving up #5–>#3: has stayed strong with new side characters, amusing parodies and references, and moe chibis… Hiiragi is awesome.
    Feb. – cute and funny enough so far, but I wonder just how long it can stay fresh…)
  4. Dance in the Vampire Bund – felt a little unpolished at times with cutout animation and sometimes imbalanced pacing, but would have been epic if Shaft could have taken its time and fleshed out the series in 24 eps…fight with shapeshifter in ep11 ends badass… overall pretty enjoyable and I will check out the manga for the series down the line.
    (Mar. – problems with Shaft in ep7 for missing scenes and delayed ep8; also has been hard to understand plot and characters’ motivations in recent eps.
    Feb. – strong start so far… was highly anticipated series and is living up to hype.)
  5. Omamori Himari – for whoever didn’t anticipate the ending that Yuto’s love for Himari would give her the strength to beat the two boss youkai characters, this must have been your first harem, supernatural action anime, and btw the romantic comedy resolution is the Himari + rest of harem ending. surprise! … still, decent animation, voice acting, and production quality.
    (Mar. – nothing ground-breaking, but decent animation and quick plot advancement make standardness acceptable.
    Feb. – following generic harem building introduction.)
  6. Ladies vs Butlers! – perfect example of what is wrong with the anime industry: great animation quality, but for what? the series was all ecchi, no story writing, and horrible ending that doesn’t resolve the overall problem. The entire harem cast laughs/sighs over how dumb Akiharu is to cue the end credits, while the viewer feels just as dumb for enduring the series. {i endure not by choice, but by commitment so i can critique}
    (Mar. – stupid storylines and hard to believe situations to force feed ecchi scenes, many of which sound like setups belonging in hentai; if I drank a shot for every panty shot in ep9, I would have been drunk by the end credits.
    Feb. – high animation quality, but proving to be uninspired ecchi smut as advertised.)
  7. Ookamikakushi – I would have bumped this higher b/c the revelations for the overall plot aren’t bad and the resolution and afterwards in ep11 is pretty acceptable. It felt like a visual novel with some high points lost in a slow, dragging plot.  But then ep12 came along, and it is so mind-numbingly bad that it could be one of the worst extra episodes that I have ever seen. I hope the game itself was pretty good, but the anime is most def. not.
    (Mar. – precipitous fall #4–>#7 reflective of how much I’ve lost interest in boring and slow plot; I usually like mysteries and “wtf is going on” anime series, but just don’t care about revelations and explanations beginning to be revealed in ep8.

    Feb. – intruging mystery, but ep 4 plagued with snail-like pacing (not much really happened until the last 3 minutes!)  and notable production quality declines.)

Sora no woto – on hold… didn’t I just finish K-On! last season? first few eps were fine if you can believe that those girls are part of the country’s military, which is asking a lot.

Seikon no Qwaser – dropped at ep2, too ridiculous a premise and massacred by censors… maybe retry when uncut version released, but unlikely.

Chu-Bra!! – dropped at ep1, I could can’t care less about the content.

*I do not own any part of the poster presented. Thanks to the creators at chartfag.wordpress.com for their amazing work for the anime community.


I’ll start with a quick story on how I got to this topic. So this weekend, I went paintballing with some friends in NYC, and on the 40 min subway ride back from Queens, we started talking about Naruto and Geass. Friend A asked me and Friend B what our Top 5 Anime were, and Friend B listed Full Metal Panic (a solid series), Gundam Seed (meh…), H2, then he wasn’t sure and needed to think about it. In fact, Friend B was the guy who introduced me to H2 (also to Ichigo 100%, as mentioned previously), and I enjoyed the series enough to pick up a couple other Adachi manga series – Touch and Katsu!. So I got home Monday afternoon, and after doing some studying, I was looking for something to do to avoid having to watch Allison & Lillia Ep3 (so I didn’t have to write a First Impression page) or struggle through the rest of To love-ru (more on that in its Reflections page when I finish). I decide to wiki our old buddy Adachi and found out he’s currently working on a series called Cross Game, which just finished its second story arc and is on hiatus until spring 2009. 140 chapters later (with more studying and going to work and class in between), here I am trying to get some thoughts down on Adachi-style sports/romantic comedies.

The interesting thing about Adachi’s works (at least the four I’ve read) is that he reuses the character models for the main protagonist and his primary love interest in each of his stories. Here are some pictures of his works:

From top left going clockwise (and also in series creation order): Kazuya, Minami, and Tatsuya from Touch; Hideo, Hikari, Hiro, and Haruka from H2; Mizutani Katsuki and Satoyama Katsuki from Katsu!; Koh and the Four Tsukishima Sisters: Momiji, Ichiyo, Wakaba, and Aoba from Cross Game.

The main character, Tatsuya/Hiro/Katsuki/Koh in their respective series, all play the same “baka, lazy, and unreliable except in their sport and in caring for their childhood friend/love interest” type characters. They oversleep and are late for school, unwillingly train hard during practices, tease and get teased by the main heroine, can never clearly admit that they like the main girl until late into series, and always shoulder some burden (usually of their respective girls) as motivation for their sport. All are pitchers except for Katsuki as Katsu! is a boxing manga, and none were exceptionally good at their sports at the start of each series. Romance is always complicated by love triangles that ultimately resolve themselves very lightly; there is never any gut-wrenching over-drama like in other romances. And although the main girl is always pursued by other characters, the main character never receives an unhappy ending.

In fact, the best way to describe Adachi’s work is “lightness”. His drawing style is simple and clean (possibly a reason why I’ve never found fault with reusing his character models – the recurring basics of the protagonist serve as a foundation for the specific character development in each series) and writing is never long and dragged out. Dialogue is typically light and witty with puns, situational jokes, teasing between the main pair, and self-satire as the main forms of comedy. Often times, Adachi has his minor characters complaining about screen time or characters breaking the 4th wall to advertise other works or refer to previous chapters in the series. Adachi himself appears as a mangaka always trying to meet deadlines or appealing to his editors for more time.

But Adachi does add aspects of sadness and tragedy to his works, and the stark contrast between those moments and the light moments adds great depth to the emotions of heartbreak and disappointment his characters face from time to time. And even in those scenes, Adachi employs a lightness in minimalism, trying to use as little as he can to drive the sad scenes without weighing down the reader. For example, in Cross Game, after the initial tragedy that sets up the story, instead of depicting scenes with everyone crying and hysterically sobbing and going through all of Koh’s feelings, he leaves it simply with Koh sitting alone on a street with some tears starting to roll down his face. As a reader, I was as shocked as Koh by the suddenness of the event and then felt the same catharsis as Koh began to let his emotions out (the first point when I thought, ‘man, that sucks…’). So while Adachi’s works are generally very light and easy to read through, its not to mean that they aren’t as full of emotion as other heavier works can be.

As which series to begin with, H2 is likely the best bet if you want a finished conclusion. His baseball work reads a lot better than his boxing (and Hajime no Ippo is a much better boxing manga to look for) and casual readers may be put off by the old feeling of his earlier animations (Touch began in 1981 and the animation-style isn’t as comparable to his other work until later in the series – the last few chapters of Touch looks contemporary to the beginning of H2). But personally, I’ve really liked Cross Game so far and am happy to have gotten to it just after he ended part 2 and went on hiatus. It still is clearly Adachi’s drawing style, but higher production values add to its more modern sense. The story is moving along well too, as the main girl seems to only be beginning to notice feelings for the main character, while the introduction (or re-introduction) of another main girl has Adachi setting up for more focus on romance in the coming part next spring.

Well, people are probably reading them, but these 5 manga just don’t seem to have as much popularity as their quality would suggest (well, one is somewhat popular already). I kinda wish that these series would already be finished so I could enjoy their awesomeness in full, because English releases just don’t come out regularly enough for some reason or another – like if the releases in Japan are monthly or manga fansub groups just don’t get around to them (and that’s probably because they give other more popular series higher subbing priorities) . So in no particular order, here are “the 5 underappreciated manga series that you may not have heard of or read, but in an ideal world should be bigger hits because they’re that good”.

Gantz (2000 – ongoing)

Of the five, this one can be considered already somewhat popular having about 270 subbed chapters, a 26 episode anime (though it ends very early in the series), and an American license with Dark Horse Comics (less of a manga company and more graphic novels like Hellboy, Sin City, and 300). The manga started way back in 2000, and even though it has one of the most interesting premises for any anime series I’ve come across, its popularity doesn’t come close to other big name shows in comparable genres like Deathnote, Monster, Hellsing, or Full Metal Alchemist. One of the biggest positives of this series is how mortal the characters can be – unlike many other action series, death is always a possibility for every character (even the main characters), and creator Hiroya Oku does a good job of building suspense through the unpredictability death adds to fight scenes.

As oversimplification of the plot would be that a group of characters (that is always changing) is sent to hunt a group of aliens with the goal being that a character must survive through some amount of missions before they no longer have to participate. But in actuality, its the various rules and circumstances dictating their missions and the interaction among characters that makes the plot so interesting, especially after Oku adds further possibilities by changing the rules late into the series (Sorry for writing as vaguely as possible, but the premise is simply so interesting I don’t want to spoil it). I picked up the series last spring and read up to the end of the first arc (ch237) in about 2-3 days, then decided to break due to the irregularity of releases and because plot-wise, it was at a huge crossroads. Kurono Kei becomes an awesome action hero (despite having to suffer a bit of a Simon-Kamina Complex from Gurren Lagann), and Reika is one of the most beautiful female characters that I’ve seen that I actually like. Oku does an excellent job with his female characters, blending ecchiness into his drawings with interesting character development. In fact, most of the main group of characters are well designed, and while reading this series, a part of me was always hoping that this character or that character didn’t die.

Addicted to Curry (2001 – ongoing)

A manga series dedicated to cooking curry at first sounds about as weird as a series about baking bread, but with Yakitate!! Japan being as awesome as it was, I decided to give this one a read and was disappointed only with that fact that only 40ish chapters had been translated at that point. And surprisingly, Curry started a year before Yakitate in 2001! The basic plot of the series is that Sonezaki Yui is trying to run her father’s curry shop after he leaves to train his skills, and even though business is going poorly, she doesn’t want to close the restaurant because she loves her father’s curry. Koenji Makito, whose life was saved by Yui’s father, comes looking for him and decides to repay him by helping Yui save the curry shop. Like Yakitate, the series features various curry recipes (that are a lot easier to make in real life than the bread in Yakitate) and spaces big cooking battles between smaller side character problems solved by introduction of a relative curry dish. Koenji has the same love of curry as Azuma does for bread in Yakitate, but he is also like GTO’s Onizuka with an ecchi personality and the willingness to go to extremes to help others. While Yakitate utilizes puns and outrageousness in its comedy, Curry employs more ecchi and situational comedy, but both are equally inspiring when the main characters show their passion for cooking.

Team Medical Dragon (2002 – ongoing)

Team Medical Dragon is one of the extrodinarily few manga/anime series I’ve seen that deals with doctors and medicine (Blackjack is the only other that comes to mind), and as someone who wants to become a doctor himself, I’ve gotta say that sucks. In a world of schoolgirls, giant mecha, and chakra/ki/spirit energy/reiatsu/dying will flame attacks, maybe the content is too close to reality or it requires too much additional research, but Team Medical Dragon leads (or should be leading) its own genre to provide a novel and refreshing alternative to the world of anime (like Phoenix Wright and Trauma Center did for video games). Asada Ryutaro is a brilliant doctor who gave up on medicine in Japan until Dr. Katou Akira recruits him as the lead surgeon for her thesis on the Batista operation, a surgical heart procedure of the highest difficulty. Asada accepts the position, but his unorthodox approach that goes to extremes in order to save lives challenges the foundations of rotten, hierarchy-based Japanese university medical centers. While fighting this feudal system, Asada recruits members for his Batista team through helping them with their own respective problems and instilling them -and the readers- with what it means to be a great doctor: the willingness to never give up on a patient.

High School of the Dead (2006 – ongoing)

Like Gantz, High School of the Dead boasts action filled with both gore and suspense. Death lurks around every corner as you’d imagine in any survival horror game, and the possibility/inevitability that one of the main characters will die is both dreaded and anticipated. Even a simple bite by a zombie will become fatal, and the series handles the mortality of its main cast very well. Also like Gantz, High School of the Dead features some very well-illustrated fan service that is never in poor taste nor does it ever drag or slow the pace of the series. In fact, it contributes to the quality of the series in two ways – firstly, as expected of a post-apocalyptic setting, law and order have become displaced by more carnal instincts like violence, lust, and sin, and the non-romantic fan service (shredded sailor uniforms, torn skirts, exposed skin) add to this atmosphere of desperate survival; secondly, more romantic fan service is employed between action/ suspense sequences during “break” sequences to give the reader the same sense of relaxing and unwinding that the characters are feeling during the sudden unstressful period. But unlike Gantz and almost all other manga/anime series, High School of the Dead is the only series I’ve seen that takes on the zombie survival horror genre as well as games like Resident Evil or House of the Dead.

The basic plot is as simple as a group of high school students escape their suddenly zombie-infested school and try to survive the following apocalypse, and many basic survival horror aspects are included such as weaponry ranging from the basic (metal baseball bat, wooden poles, revolver off dead policemen) to the unrealistic (sniper rifles, modified shotguns), the search for food and shelter, and salvaging of potentially useful items. The main cast consists of a kendo swordswoman, a gun/military otaku, a school nurse, a genius student, the would-be leader, and his main love interest. The female character models are amazing, and the characters themselves are well developed, especially in their handling of typical emotions like fear, guilt, and (interestingly) euphoria as they walk the fine line of maintaining their humanity and surviving by any means.

Mr. Fullswing (2001 – 2006)

Mr. Fullswing is a Shonen Jump baseball manga, but for a Jump school sports series, you’d think it’d be somewhat popular with the success of series like Prince of Tennis and Eyeshield 21, but there are currently only 30 subbed chapters available and the series remains unlicensed in the US. So what gives? Its by no means a short series – 24 volumes is easily franchisable. And the premise isn’t ridiculous at all. Like plenty of high school student male characters, Saruno Amakuni is a bit of a pervert and has a long history of rejection in his attempts to find a girlfriend. He hates school sports clubs because athletes get all the girls, but he meets the baseball club manager, Torii Nagi, and decides to join to impress her with his skills (like a certain red-haired Shonen Jump basketball player). Although Saruno isn’t as good as his enlarged ego makes him think he is, he does possess a lot of strength and potential, and Nagi believes that the full-swinging Saruno can carry the team to the championship just like a lengendary high school slugger did for their school 20 years ago.

Compared to other baseball manga, Fullswing is closer to Ookiku Furikabutte in its focus on the relationship with teammates than to Mitsuru Adachi’s baseball works, Touch and H2, which focus closer on the main character’s pitching success and romantic life. Unlike Ookiku, other characters on the team each have their own specialties along the lines of Prince of Tennis (a softball-style pitcher, a jet-like baserunner, etc), and the main character’s strength is in hitting, not pitching. This is a pretty crucial distinction as pitchers are generally associated with dominating or clutch performances while hitters can be built up for a single miraculous play like a walk-off grand slam. And aren’t these kinds of come from behind victories the basic driving point behind shonen sports series? Returning back to the point of this show’s lack of popularity. With only 30 chapters out, its hard to see where the series might go wrong, but the various training exercises up to Ch30 have been pretty funny and the entry test match was as entertaining as any other Jump sports series. The only possible minus for the series might be that a lot of the jokes Saruno uses outside of the situational comedy are based on puns and Japanese culture that would be difficult to understand for a Western audience without proper explanation. Still, you’d imagine Shonen Jump would jump on any chance to add one more to their list of big name franchises by pushing the popularity of this quality series.

So as many Geass lovers and haters know, Code Geass ended this weekend with episode 25 of the second season. Since I didn’t write a first impressions page, I won’t write up a formal reflections page either, and I’ve already expressed some of my love for the series in this Top 10 Anime post. Here’s an exact quote: “if Code Geass can end well in the next few episodes, it easily deserves its spot in the top 3 of my list after I enjoyed watching it so much.” Let’s go into some thoughts on how the series ended, but with plenty of spoilers ahead, readers might want to finish the series first before browsing this blog. But to sum it up, for me whose hands were still shaking even afterwards out of adrenaline from the awesomeness of the series, it was damn good.

The beginning of the episode after the OP plays beautifully, jumping around from character to character like a well designed PV, but continually building on the philosophical dialogue among characters over why they fight and what was justice during war – who was right, how wrong is it to fight for your dreams – and other rhetoric in that vein that really binds together the series well. These vignette-like scenes gives the rhetoric a warmer feeling of humanity rather than transidentally cramming philosophy down your throats and preaching through extremely confusings scenes of abstract, surreal thought (yes Evangelion, I’m referring to you). Ironically, this comparison comes to mind only because of criticisms I read elsewhere dubbing the show “geassgelion” negatively because of how confusing the episodes during the world of C was, but I’m also aware of the popular OP parodies of Evangelion’s opening with Code Geass (people who loved Eva probaby use that term in a positive sense, but I hated how Eva ended, so I’m with the former on the negative sense of the phrase, not that it should apply). I didn’t think the episodes – 16, 20, 21 – were that hard to understand other than the origin of the world of C and how they were able to start manipulating it. And if it was for you, I’m sure another watch through slowly (or finding an explanation) would probably clear things up for you.

Zero Requiem – Its a pretty flashy name and we all probably wanted to know what it entails, so when he kept throwing the phrase around with Suzaku, you know there was definitely some bigger plan other than takeover the world (Light would def. have settled with world domination). Well, I was not disappointed at all finding out about it in this episode. And even though I warned about spoilers, I won’t mention anymore about Zero Requiem other than the fact that it was so poetically well-done. Heroes are heroes, punishments are for past sins, and the future is left for the right people. Perfect.

Wishes and Geass. I can see why the writers did it, but I think it puts too nice of a bow and too sweetly presents what geass really is. Its what people thought it was throughout the whole series – a sin and a burden, but it does go nicely with the idea of a new world that he creates. I have mixed feelings about it, only on whether the emphasis should be on Lelouch’s repenting for his heavy sins or on his goal of a peaceful world (adds a sense of justification for his sins).

But was he suffering? R2… So watching the last scene, I thought the fanboy in me was just screaming that maybe Lelouch actually is alive (was C.C. addressing the spirit of Lelouch or Lelouch the wagon driver?) I disregarded it until my bro brought it up and then I read a few blogs and people were feeling the same thing. Nice job Sunrise. Stating it flat out makes it too concrete – people will either like or hate that he lived or died. Leaving it simply as a possibility creates discussion and is a recipe for an epic ending that no one but the purest haters would be unhappy with.

Note the placement of the folded Crane, Nunnally’s signature item. Note the series title R2, as in R.R.? as in Lelouch (romanji = ‘Rurūshu Ranperūji’ ) if he had inherited the code and immortality from C.C.? Now instead of “C.C. becomes satisfied with her immortality after living with Lelouch and wishes to live her life fully” (which I kinda didn’t like) it becomes “Lelouch doesn’t die and doesn’t leave C.C. alone with her immortality, but rather grants her wish and the two disappear wandering the world together” (that’s poetic and brings nice closure; it refutes Lelouch repenting for his sins with his death, but makes his punishment his ‘death’ that doesn’t allow him to ever live happily with his sister or Kallen or Suzaku or all the people from the student council club that he had wanted to protect) Now, I’m not saying its one way or the other, and I’m not telling you how you should interprete it either. But for me, if Sunrise is leaving hints for this kind of interpretation, I’m gonna go ahead and take it as intended and think that’s how the series ends. Man, damn good.

It seems like writing yearly rankings (Top 10 of 2008) and series reviews is a big part of a lot of anime blogs, so expect those to start coming out as I continue working on the site. But if you the reader and I have extremely different tastes, then how much would my reviews really help you? So I thought it’d be good to write up an initial series of my own personal overall and then by-genre rankings for people to gauge how much our views have in common.

Here are my Top 10 Favorite Anime series:

10. Naruto / Bleach / Flame of Recca.
Let me start by prefacing that the Recca anime ended awfully – they skipped/changed a bunch of things during the last round of the tournament (so many tournaments in fighting anime) and then ended the series there, which was like only the halfway point of the manga. But hey, Naruto and Bleach anime aren’t perfect either – I still can’t forgive the Naruto series for that year or so of awful fillers, while Bleach fillers were at least relatively watchable. Anyway, I finished the Recca series as manga and currently only read the manga forms of Naruto and Bleach, and of the three, I couldn’t decide which deserved to be by itself in the 10 spot. I thought the Sasuke Retrieval arc of Naruto was alot better than the Soul Society arc of Bleach until Aizen dropped the hugest plot twist of the series, and even though the Hueco Mundo arc in Bleach as been good, Shippuuden has definitely had its moments, albeit in between some really slow and useless chapters (Tobi’s convo with Sasuke about Itachi was interesting until they drew it out for like a month and a half). And Recca is just a really solid fighting series with what turns into a very awesome overall plot to tie everything together.

9. Gungrave
Gungrave is kinda like two series put into one. The first half is a huge flashback about how Brandon Heat and his friend rise up through the yakuza/crime syndicate that they join, and then the second half is about how he’s resurrected as Beyond the Grave (not a really a spoiler, you’ll understand after the first episode) to get revenge on the people that betrayed and killed him. The second half was action packed, but not nearly as good as the first half, and I really feel there should be more like this in the yakuza/mafia genre. Think something like all the backstory behind Spike Speigel from Cowboy Bebop, and you’ll get an idea of what the first half of Gungrave is like. (Speaking of which, Cowboy Bebop prolly deserved a place on this Top 10, but I first watched the series in English dub, which I generally don’t care for)

8. Getbackers

One of the few instances where I started by reading the series at a Barnes & Noble one day and continued to buy and read the US distributed volumes. I really believe that the success of a action/fighting series is based on how interesting its characters are and how novel their fighting techniques are, then on how good the story is. Even though Ginji is basically a lightning element user, some of the ways he uses it during the series is more unique than simply blasting the opponent with electricity or charging limbs for melee fighting. And while Ban’s Evil Eye is basically genjitsu, the ways he tricks his opponents is interesting, and the one minute and three times daily limitations keep it from being too cheap of a hallucination technique. The series has finished publication in Japan, but I’m currently only up to Tokyopop’s most recent release of volume 25 (of 39). Its also important to note that the series is illustrated by Rando Ayamine, so it wasn’t surprising why I really liked the animation style because…

7. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi
Probably one of the most notable titles of 2006, I’m happy to have watched it while it was still coming out before it reached the near epidemic popularity its enjoyed more recently. The show is hilarious with even its eccentricities in good taste, and Haruhi is definitely one of my favorite characters all-time (and I’m typically not a big fan of tsundere characters). “Hare Hare Yukai” is one of the most iconic anime ED themes in recent pop culture, and “God knows…” is one of the best insert songs I can think of. I’ll be a little honest though – I only liked “Hare Hare Yukai” the first 100 times I’ve seen it. That said, I’m trying to temper expectations while I wait as anxiously as anyone else for the second season. BTW, Aya Hirano, the seiyu for Haruhi and the main vocalist for a lot of the show’s songs, followed up this breakout role with roles as Misa Amane in Deathnote and as Konata Izumi in Lucky Star.

6. Ichigo 100%
My friend introduced me to this manga and I was really surprised at how quickly I went through it. For romance series, especially ecchi harem types, I typically wade through it, enjoy it if its funny, then forget about it when its done, but somehow for Ichigo 100%, which seriously only has a small harem of three contenders, I really took the story and characters to heart. Even before I finished it, my friend and I were already arguing over who the main character should/would end up with (I was in favor of Nishino, but later kicked myself when I found out Noto Mamiko, my favorite seiyu, did the voice for Toujou in the anime). I should also note that the anime and OAVs don’t come close to finishing the story like the manga does, and the series is a Shonen Jump comic, if anyone cares in terms of series popularity or intended target audience. Ichigo 100% also features one of the most ridiculous confession scenes in all the anime/manga I’ve ever seen near the beginning of the series. I’d be impressed if it ever worked in real life.

5. Detective Conan

Into the top 5, this series has been around for forever (Wiki says 1994), and even though I heard rumors that it was getting ready to end about a year ago, it just keeps on rolling. I haven’t been keeping up with the most recent releases, but I am pretty proud to have gone through 627 of the 664 chapters. Every 50 chapters or so, a major story arc with the Black Organization occurs to progress the overall plot, but the large majority of the series deals with individual cases usually lasting between 3-5 chapters. And despite some repetitiveness, especially in the same formula of intro chapter -> investigation chapters -> deduction chapter, a lot of the murders and how Conan solves them are pretty ingenius. I think I like being impressed by how clever a lot of the things are (while others can be just really far-fetched) and thats what keeps me reading even after the hundreds of chapters. The rotation of recurring side-characters also gives the series a sense of continuity, even when its mired in a long span of episodic cases without much overall plot movement. And as Conan says, “There is only one truth”, and that truth is that if I didn’t really like this series, I wouldn’t have devoted some much effort into reading it all these years. It is pretty ridiculous though how they manage to run into so many murder cases (even when theyre on vacation). And also that people like Ran still haven’t figured out that Conan is Shinichi.

4. Slam Dunk
Another old school series (started 1990! and ended 1996) that I ended up watching during college after seeing it on TV during a vacation in Hong Kong a while ago. The anime ends before the Nationals tournament though, replacing it with a not very good “all star” pickup game with players from other schools that they beat in the series. I reread the manga version with the continuation to the series end, and it did not disappoint. Sakuragi is one of my favorite all time characters with the same goofy but zealous “otoko spirit” (I just made up that phrase, otoko means ‘man’ or ‘manly’) as some of my other favorite characters (maybe you can guess the some of the next few series with that). As hilarious as the series is, I found it to be also very motivational. Sakuragi initially joins the basketball team to impress a girl and practices to beat his rival, but he later realizes that he’s come to love basketball, and his determination makes his triumphs motivational and his failures heartbreaking. I remember watching this series freshmen year, and because the matches last around 6-8 episodes, I ended up being late to or missing a lot of classes that week (you shouldn’t skip class) because I just couldn’t leave until I saw how they ended. I was really satisfied with the series ending too, and that’s really important to me (Recca and Ichigo 100% both also had really great endings).

3. Code Geass
Let me just say that I know there are people out there who don’t really like this show and think its overrated. If there were an equivalent for ‘narutard’ or ‘harutard’ for geass fans, they’d probably be flaming people with it. But I also know that a lot of people really like this show, and I’m of the mind that this is one of the best shows I’ve seen in my anime experience. Yea, people say “its gundam seed 2” and there were a lot of similarities, but I’ve been impressed with a lot of the other mechs in the show after lancelot (the guren in season 2 is awesome). And yea, other people make comparisons to Deathnote, but I personally hated Light after a while (I feel like there’s a point when he becomes less “I’m going to outsmart and trap you” and more “I’ve become so twisted with power that I don’t really care what other important things I lose.”) Lelouch remains a tragic hero for me even after the last few episodes, and that makes a huge difference in my opinion. The show also manages a fine mix of comedy, fan service, and drama that separates it from shows with similar genres like Gundam and Deathnote. Heck, go ahead and even call it a harem, as there used to be no clearcut frontrunner between C.C., Kallen, and Shirley for Lelouch’s affections, assuming he doesn’t have the same kind of ending as Light. Overall, there haven’t been many series around that make me shiver with anticipation before and after every episode quite like geass does (I honestly couldnt fall asleep a couple months ago after watching a certain episode at around 2am just after the fansub had been released). And if Code Geass can end well in the next few episodes, it easily deserves its spot in the top 3 of my list after I enjoyed watching it so much.

2. School Rumble

I’ve based the #2 ranking going to School Rumble because its one of the few shows that I regularly rewatch/reread and find its just as entertaining the sixth time through as it was the first time. Its also great when you can just randomly pick an episode to watch, think ‘oh, its this episode, sweet’, then laugh and smile during the next twenty minutes. Aside from the trainwreck that was the last 2-3 chapters of the manga (and I know Kobayahi prolly just wrapped it up as fast as possible so he could switch to publication to something non-weekly with School Rumble Z) I’ve generally loved this series. Harima Kenji and some of the misunderstandings he gets into is just hilarious, and the series easily transitions between scenes of simple slapstick/comedy to more dramatic/meaningful scenes without losing the overall lightness that defines the series. I wish I understood Japanese better to fully comprehend some of the puns the series uses. A lot of criticisms with the first season was that there was no plot development, but I disagree – you can definitely see the relationships between Harima and Tenma/Yakumo/Eri and between Tenma and Karasuma change throughout the series, and SR is a completely different beast than other true ‘no overall plot’ comedies like Lucky Star or Minami-ke (or Azumanga, so I’ve heard). A lot of the issue is that SR doesn’t really hit full stride until some of the relations outside of the Harima-Tenma-Karasuma connection is established a couple of episodes into the series. The second season, admittedly, isn’t quite as good as the first, but its still has plenty of great moments – it only got a little stale for me towards the late middle/end (I forget) when they throw in one or two anime-only episodes. The second of the two episode third season OAV was just released the other day, and I can’t wait to watch it, but its a shame they didn’t give san-gakki the full 26 episode treatment – I’d suggest turning to the manga after season two. I could go on and on about the various, well defined side characters and all my favorite SR moments, but I’ll just finish up with saying that Yakumo is prolly my all-time favorite female character.

1. GTO
I mentioned before that Getbackers was illustrated by Rando Ayamine. That was huge because Ayamine started by working as an assistant under Tohru Fujisawa, the creator of GTO and my favorite mangaka. In addition to GTO, I’ve seen Tokko, read Rose Hip Rose and Bad Company, and am still working on Rose Hip Zero and Shonai Junai Gumi, the prequel to GTO that Fujisawa first wrote. Onizuka is awesome, period. While Sakuragi of Slam Dunk is a ‘goofy’ hilarious and SR’s Harima is a ‘baka/misunderstandings’ hilarious, Onizuka’s is more of a ‘lewd and outrageous’ hilarious. He passionately stands for his ideals, and as the Great Teacher, uses his own unorthodox methods of fixing his troubled class of students, which is the premise behind the series and is almost always motivational/inspiring. The series does have its ecchi moments, but its not the mind-numbing fan service you get in some harem-romance anime. Again, the anime version has its problems of ending in the middle of the manga, and I personally read the manga before the anime, but in rewatching it recently, you do get a lot of laughs from watching Onizuka in action, even if the animation looks pretty old (1999 old). I’m a really big fan of Fujisawa’s drawing style, and everyone out there should do themselves a favor by checking out the first volume of Rose Hip Zero at their local bookstore. Its a recent work that really exemplifies his style of character models and action cinematography in a more modern sense. And as a side note, I wanted to point out that Atsushi Okubo, the mangaka behind Soul Eater, a 2008 anime possibly worth checking out, used to be an assistant to Rando Ayamine, making him Fujisawa’s disciple’s disciple, but Okubo’s animation style is significantly different from Ayamine and Fujisawa.