A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Four)

December is here (somehow)! Hope you’re all safe – I’m back with an update to my Top Ten… which is to say, I’m updating some things that are lurking just beyond and I also have one ‘shuffle’ change 😀

As usual with these posts you can click here for a preamble along with the parameters (no films etc etc) and also some reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose back in quarter one.


The List – Quarter One

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Two

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Three

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Four

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
Trigun (1998)
The Big O (1999)

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


Just some shuffling up there, reflecting no doubt, my semi-recent re-watch of Trigun.

But in the beyond, where other shows are jostling for position in my mind, there’s also something I missed in the past, which is Land of the Lustrous which is not just visually amazing but features a really fun mythology and plenty of memorable characters too.


(Still!) Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that I reckon are pretty close/could well sneak into the top ten one day. Again, the longer I do this, the more I’m finding a lot of this process relates to mood as much as anything else. I still suspect that this is where most of the changes will occur over the years.

Land of the Lustrous (2017)
Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Ghost Hunt (2006)
The Great Passage (2016)
Dororo (2019)
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)
Vision of Escaflowne (1996)


As before, I’m always looking for classics to add to the list if anything you think I’d like is missing, just lemme know 😀

Thanks for reading!

50 Favourites (& just a line or two for each)

I guess this post really steps on the toes of my other ‘top/fav’ posts, but I tend to like lists a lot, despite their extremely low functional value!

Of course, as with all posts like this that I make, you’ll notice gaps in my viewing. You’ll also probably pick up on my obvious love of certain genres like sci-fi, fantasy and action, but I do occasionally watch stuff that doesn’t fit those labels 😀

(Only the top ten are actually ranked, the rest I just listed randomly because I gave up on ranking very quickly. TV/OVA releases only.)

50 Favourites

Cowboy Bebop (1998)

No surprises from me here, right? This series has had an amazing life so far – I’m hoping the Netflix adaptation won’t end up as an awful footnote.

Ergo Proxy (2006)

One of my all-time fav science-fiction titles in any medium. Featuring Amy Lee of Evanesence too… well, not really.

Mushi-Shi (2006)

Episodic storytelling done so well – beautiful series too, sombre as it can be.

The Big O (1999)

Batman meets Bond but with retro mecha and a gripping mystery. Even though the second season isn’t quite as good as the first, there’s a lot to enjoy for me.

Trigun (1998)

One day I reckon Trigun will creep up higher on this list – and it’s hard not to enjoy such a good-natured hero too. I tend to like post-apocalyptic fiction and westerns, so this was always going to be featured 😀

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)

Is this actually an underappreciated series? I’m not sure… mostly when I see it mentioned, it’s because folks like it a lot. Memorable characters and action-sequences with some ‘slow-burn’ aspects here.

Steins;Gate (2011)

One of the more recent shows on my list – and it’s pretty much ten years old already. Great time-travel science-fiction with a side-order of ‘tear-jerker’.

Neon Genesis (1995)

Perhaps because of the bitterly divisive ending, I think I actually like Evangelion even more now than back when I was a teenager.

Kids on the Slope (2012)

Jazz, coming of age themes, historical fiction and stories about being in a band – yes to all!

Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)

Flawed in a different way to Neon Genesis, this is one of my favourite adventure series out there. I’ve written a few posts on it too 😀

Gunbuster (1988)

I remember how hard the ending hit that first time – I have to watch this again and review soon.

Samurai Champloo (2004)

It’s interesting to see just how different Watanabe’s Champloo is to Cowboy Bebop – while being very similar in terms of genre mash-up/heavy incorporation of US culture and music. Another great cast of characters too, I’ve nearly had this in my top ten a few times.

Full Metal Alchemist (2003)

That’s right folks – not Brotherhood. This is what I saw first and I haven’t finished Brotherhood yet, so I can’t compare properly. But I will add, this version has more Maes Hughes.

Haikyuu!! (2014)

I don’t know a lot of sports anime but I play volleyball and love underdog stories, and so I loved the mix of realistic stuff and drama here 🙂

Ushio and Tora (2015)

Classic supernatural shonen – I really enjoyed the buddy-cop aspects too, and wish more folks had seen this.

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)

Sword and sorcery is one of my all-time fav genres and the Lodoss series hits a lot of marks – aside from the RPG stuff, it has a lot of cool 1990s-era visuals that I dig, like the designs and split screens.

FLCL (2003)

One of my former students recommended this to me one year and boy does it stand out among anime – does some fascinating things with medium and style. Great OST too.

Pyscho-Pass (2012)

Disturbing vision of the future – a new classic, or at least, Season 1 is in my opinion, but I haven’t seen the others yet.

RahXephon (2002)

I nearly missed this amazing mecha show, one of my favs of the genre. It’s probably more mystical, more of a drama than being an anime of constant battles but I liked that.

Witch Hunter Robin (2002)

Another supernatural anime, this one suffering a bit from that early CGI-look but compelling leads in my opinion and so I don’t notice too much in the end.

Casshern Sins (2008)

This is a pretty bleak series really, but it’s a memorable reboot, a lot of contrast between grace and decay throughout.

Battle Angel (1993)

I still wish this had been a full series instead of a short OVA but it’s a great adaptation of a seminal cyberpunk work nevertheless.

Claymore (2006)

Here’s another ‘unfinished’ show, and one that I wish had been given a fuller ending. Still, if you’re in the mood for bloody action and revenge, then Claymore should deliver.

Pumpkin Scissors (2006)

In my review I mentioned a slight FMA resemblance here but it’s no copycat and I really liked the idea of a small team trying to do post-war recovery.

The Dragon Dentist (2017)

Something released within the last five years! I remember being enthralled by the opening sea battle but everything else was great too.

Outlaw Star (1998)

Space opera is one of my other fav genres and Outlaw Star checks a lot of boxes, from the mis-matched crew to mystery, action and humour, and of course, space!

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (2016)

Horror with a dash of steampunk – grim but not without a few uplifting moments, the ‘trapped on a moving thing’ was a nice way to offer extra tension.

Kurogane Communication (1998)

Few seem to have heard of this but it’s such a great positive dystopian show – fascinating that each ep is only around 12 mins too.

Bubblegum Crisis (1998)

That’s right. The ‘90s version – that’s the one I’m going with, folks. And basically, it’s in part because I saw it first and have a fondness for this version.

Blood Blockade Battlefront (2015)

As a fan of Yasuhiro Nightow I was excited to try this out one day and it’s wonderfully over the top – still hoping for a third season.

Violet Evergarden (2018)

Once more into the tearjerker sub-genre! Beautiful stuff from top to bottom, it’s also a nice to see letter-writing in the foreground.

Golden Kamuy (2018)

The wartime period, the winter setting, the unlikely duo and the treasure-hunt makes this so good, but there’s also a chance for me to learn about another culture with the Ainu so that’s another draw for me when it came to Golden Kamuy.

Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997)

Maybe a bit like Princess Knight but with more fairy tale surrealism even, this is a classic but not one beloved by all, I think. The aesthetic has that elvish, angular look that was big in the past too, and which I usually enjoy.

The Vision of Escaflowne (1996)

Another classic shojo, this with more action and a whole lot of mecha as well. It’s a great mix and characters definitely stand out here, along with the range of romantic sub-plots.

Read or Die (OVA) (2001)

If you want to see Mata Hari, Genjo Sanzo and Ludwig van Beethoven (among others), battling it out with secret agent heroes with inventive powers, in an easy to digest 3-part OVA, then this is worth finding!

Le Chevalier D’Eon (2006)

Featuring one of my all-time fav opening episodes, this is a heavy mix of politics, swordplay and magic as a team of musketeers traverse Europe, hunting evil ‘Poets’. (More when I write a full review one day!)

Black Lagoon (2006)

Crime, action and fan-service in this ‘girls-with-guns’ classic, set in a fictional SE Asia during the 1990s but with a more modern aesthetic.

Gundam Wing (1995)

Compared to at home, this was another anime that seemed to do better years later in the US, and was my proper introduction to the world of Gundam.

Lupin the Third (1971)

Another classic. It’s fascinating to see the tonal shift here, from the early Ōsumi episodes to the majority Miyazaki/Takahata ones, but once you see those first seven or so, it becomes clear how much they had an impact on Watanabe and Cowboy Bebop.

Astro Boy (1980)

Ah, before I knew what anime was, there was Astro Boy and Osamu Tezuka’s unwillingness to shy away from tough themes in a kids show. Burnt into my memory 🙂

Ride Back (2009)

I really enjoyed this and was thinking I’d have loved it just as much if it remained focused on racing alone – but there are definitely a few layers, here.

Arte (2020)

Historical setting in Italy, a series about art and artists and an underdog heroine with a positive outlook – all pluses! This was a fun series that I’ve like to see more of but I dunno if it was popular enough.

Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)

Nostalgia trip! Having played in rock and metal bands as a teen and into my 20s, this was a great music/teen drama.

Gurren Lagann (2007)

A fair while ago on the blog, I tried to figure out what I thought was a ‘classic’ and ended up deciding that certainly, the age of a show wasn’t the only thing worth considering. This is classic mecha with enough humour to fit in parody elements too.

Berserk (1997)

More sword and sorcery anime, something I haven’t really seen for a long time, it seems (outside of the portal fantasy genre at least). Well, maybe ‘dark fantasy’ is a better genre, though the series is less so than the manga.

Demon Slayer (2019)

Ah, another recent anime in my list, this is typical shonen from top to bottom but visually striking – with a couple of flaws; the failures to really use Nezuko in the narrative and… well, Zenitsu.

Made in Abyss (2017)

Adventure, mystery and suffering! I’m quite keen to see the film one day, to see how those kids survive against serious odds.

Hozukis Coolheadedness (2014)

I’m not familiar with a lot of comedy anime, but the premise forced me to take a look – hell as a bureaucracy, with the demon Hozuki tasked with running the show while his superiors slack off.

Granblue Fantasy (2017)

Anime based on games are hit and miss for me but this has a fairly light feel to the fantasy adventure and I liked it. Fond memories of binging this with the flu one year!

Ghost in the Shell SAC (2002)

Obviously fairly different from the seminal film but still pretty awesome – and I finally get to include some more cyberpunk on this list!


Done!

That took longer than I thought, but there we go at last.

50 Favs (for now) and there’s certainly a few more I could have included – I have twelve or so left over, all vying for a place in the list 😀

Heaven Official’s Blessing (Early Impressions)

I started a fair few shows from the current season but haven’t really drifted back to many of them yet – with one exception, Tian Guan Ci Fu.

Only the first 4 episodes are available but I’m enjoying it a lot – it has plenty of things I love: action, fantasy, historical aspects and fantastic costumes, lovely art and engaging characters, so I’ll definitely continue on.

This early, the romance hasn’t really kicked off – in fact, the show is a little darker, more supernatural perhaps than I was expecting, but that’s not a problem at all. Xie Lian is a great lead too and I’m keen to see how he’ll hold his own against the Demon King.

I’m also enjoying this introduction to the Xianxia genre (which is closely related to Wuxia, I believe), with the heroes not just being warriors but also gods – which creates some interesting problems for the story; how to make them not too overpowered too early etc

Looking forward to more!

It’s also my first introduction (I think) to Chinese animation group Haoliners Animation League, and this is beautiful work so I’ll definitely seek more of their productions in time.

I will say, that I have one minor issue so far, which is with the typsetting for the subtitles, they’re a touch small. Obviously, that’s because both the Japanese and English are placed onscreen, one above the other. Maybe that’s just my poor distance vision, but the alternative is to have no translation at all, and I would not like that!

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando)

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando) 2019

As I’ve said before, I don’t mind being a year or two behind the pace when it comes to new shows because I tend to miss both the hype and the reactionaries.

However, I did catch on that a lot of folks enjoyed this when it came out, and I can now add myself to the ranks.

The Promised Neverland is edge-of-your-seat stuff, with memorable characters and formidable villans indeed, with a largely dormitory setting that manages to have enough variety to keep things interesting visually, but also, retain a heavy sense of claustrophobia, I reckon.

While it’d definitely be safe to say that this is a horror anime, and that it has a few other genres mixed in, I think psychological thriller/suspense is probably the one that jumps out at me. Very few characters have clear motives and it seems like everyone is, at one time or another, keeping secrets.

It was nice not to know exactly how something would play out, as well as be surprised a couple of times too. I can see how ‘Mom’ was voted as a fav villain and while I was hoping for a different resolution to her storyline, I remain excited for the delayed second season early next year.

I don’t want to write too much more, in fear of spoilers or hints, in case anyone is planning on watching The Promised Neverland but I will add that if you’re not keen on seeing kids suffer – a lot – then maybe give this a miss. Having said that, it’s not relentlessly grim… but it’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure. Cool opening theme too!

5 Stars

(Mamoru Kanbe also directed ‘The Perfect Insider which could be said to be in the same ballpark re secrets, mystery and suspense).

Note: I should have mention before, but Sister Krone’s design is not great. She’s an actually character with a mini arc but design-wise, yeah, too evocative of minstrel shows.

Trinity Blood (Toriniti Buraddo)

Time for a short review!

Trinity Blood (Toriniti Buraddo) 2005

Another entry into my ‘monsters hunting monsters’ collection – Trinity Blood has heaps of action and enough blood for vampire fans, but probably skews toward political intrigue almost as much as action.

In the end that was probably my favourite aspect, especially within the Vatican but the settings were another highlight. Trinity Blood takes place mostly in Europe, only during a post-apocalyptic time where vampires and human co-exist in an uneasy (and often broken) truce.

Partly due to the setting, there’s a lot of great character designs and costuming, especially from the Empire (not to overlook Caterina), but what I remember most is probably the characters. Father Abel Nightroad has a vague ‘Vash’ feel but is more capable of bloodlust (yeah, a pun, sorry) and is helped along by a fairly large cast. And while I wanted a bit more time spent on folks like Leon and Kate, I can imagine future seasons would have rectified that.

I found Trinity Blood hard to rate however, because despite great rising tension across the season and plenty of stand out moments (most of Seth’s scenes for one), the ending was a little rushed.

No doubt Gonzo were planning for another season (there are plenty of light novels by Sunao Yoshida to choose from) but that wasn’t to be. There is a resolution to the anime, and a set up for the bigger story, but some important things happen ‘off-screen’ which was a shame. I missed the impact of those moments.

4 Stars (maybe it should be 3 but I enjoyed things otherwise)

Cover Art Comparison: Escaflowne (Movie)

To wrap up the month, here’s another short post – a second entry in what I might make a regular thing, a bit of ‘Cover Art Comparison’.

Last time I went with Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and its new box art, but today I’ve got something a bit older, with the Escaflowne movie.

There two aren’t split between ‘reissue’ and ‘old’ cover art, but what I thought was the International poster/dvd/blu-ray is on the left with the Japanese one on the right… but now I’m not sure if that’s actually the way the promotional material worked at all 😀

In any event, I think the left speaks to the tone of the movie a lot better – more shadow, more sense of menace with the sword signalling violence but the moons and Hitomi floating speaking to the fantastical. It also has some of the ensemble feel, and probably puts Van as ‘lead’.

Obviously, in contrast on the right there’s so much soothing blue, feathers and a sense of calm and repose to Hitomi. When I see this, I could almost think romantic fantasy/school drama with her as the obvious lead. Yet that winged skeleton has a touch of darkness to it.

Each version has a different purposes too, I think, in terms of speaking to differing audiences and with the art on the right, I wonder if it was always used as the ‘ultimate’ edition, for re-issues etc.


Over to you – got a fav between the two?

(There’s also this one I found on IMDB but don’t think I’ve ever seen on disc, must have just been a poster – really working the live action conventions of an action/fantasy movie poster I reckon).

A-Z Challenge “D” is for Dallos (Darosu)

Dallos (Darosu) 1983

The first OVA produced!

Dallos feels extremely topical now when wealth inequality is so vicious, and you could certainly also read the OVA as a critique of colonialism – though I’m not sure Hisayuki Toriumi, Mamoru Oshii and Studio Pierrot were making a ‘message’ story? I should do more reading there.

Still, the themes are definitely present and expanded via inter-generational conflict as much as being driven by events around the Lunarian rebellion.

Science-fiction and action tropes do fill a lot of the short series, and although there’s time for politics too, what caught my eye (aside from the world-building) were the now ‘old-school’ visuals from both character and mechanical design – it does feel like the 1970s are very close.

But when I learnt that there were essentially two directors on Dallos, I think it became easier to see the action scenes when Oshii was clearly in charge.

Dallos is told from a few POVs. It mostly follows our hero Shun, rebel leader Dog and antagonist Alex as they struggle for control of the colony, and it doesn’t rush the story either, which is great. I guess if you’re mostly into modern animation, however, you’ll really see the age of the art.

In a way, two stories from 1966 came to mind when I finally saw Dallos – one was We Can Remember It for You Wholesale (filmed as Total Recall in 1990) and the other The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. For the latter, the production team mention it as an influence but my association with the Philip K Dick story is a little more nebulous to me – not sure I can put my finger on why.

I still really enjoyed the OVA series and my only qualm I guess, was that I think I expected a little more mysticism from the film for some reason – maybe since the ‘god’ of Dallos itself seemed to be set up that way? Still, that feel was not absent at all, but I guess I just wanted something extra.

Obviously if you’re a science-fiction fan, or curious about this pretty cool piece of anime history, or Oshii’s early work too, then you’ll probably enjoy Dallos but visually it’s not at the level of Ghost in the Shell, for instance, and I wonder if tonally, this is more the work of writer and co-director Hisayuki Toriumi?

4 Stars*

I love how huge the theme can be 🙂

*To borrow from Iridium Eye Reviews a moment – maybe remove a star if you’re not so interested in the history of anime.

And this is my third review for my A-Z Challenge 🙂