A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Three)

As I mentioned before, I’m a bit behind in terms of posting a list in each quarter, so I’ll probably push the final entry back to December, perhaps.

And also just like before, you can click here to check a preamble and reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose for quarter one, and there’s also a note about the single change from quarter two here.

So, again – let’s see if anything has changed! (If so, it’s generally because I’ve changed my mind about something older or finally watched something I hadn’t seen before).

I will probably re-post this bit each time though:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this 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)


No change!

Where I have made changes is in this larger ‘just outside’ section – a few additions, one of which I want to highlight being ‘The Great Passage’ which I loved, and surely, it has to be one of the few shows out there about making a dictionary?


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.

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)


I fear that I must now resort to creating a Top 50 far sooner than I’d hoped – I also fear the mere thought of a Top 50 😀

Again, I’ve love to know if you think I’ve missed a great show! (Doubtless I have) and so maybe I’ll be able to include it in my list for future viewing… especially if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally. (I’m curious to see whether some of my A-Z Challenge titles might eventually get into this list too).

Thanks for reading!

A-Z Challenge: “L” is for Lily C.A.T

Lily C.A.T (1987)

I definitely enjoyed Lily C.A.T but I think if you want terror in space, then you will invariably be more satisfied by the film it owes the most to, which is of course Alien.

However, that doesn’t mean this longish OVA is not worth checking out if you’re interested in the genre. Or that it doesn’t have moments of tension. And for me, there were also parts that definitely ‘explored the human condition’, to borrow a phrase from literary fiction circles.

And as a bonus, I actually wanted some of the characters to survive!

As an aside that is actually a couple of paragraphs long, when I use the ‘Toys in the Attic’ episode of Cowboy Bebop in my classes, we talk a lot about the influence of Alien on the ep (and 2001: A Space Odyssey among others) but I think Lily C.A.T should get a mention too.

It feels like part of that famous homage episode (especially the blob itself and the blowtorch) are close enough to what you’ll see here, to warrant a mention at least. Certainly, my obsession with connecting texts to one another is something I might one day cut back on, but it’s out of my system for the rest of this review at least!

There’s plenty about the film that uses the typical ‘crew dies one by one’ structure, but the menace itself is something a little different. And when you do catch glimpses of a certain thing, you might recognise creature design by Yoshitaka Amano, with a Vampire Hunter D style, if a little more muted perhaps.

Actually… it turns out that I lied about the intertexual references, as I do have one more that I’ll get to in a moment:

So, there’s a nice layering of mystery in Lily C.A.T that I also enjoyed.

Generally, the crew is trying to figure out what went wrong to interrupt their ‘hypersleep’ flight. However, at the same time they learn of imposters aboard, and so while folks are trying to determine who they can trust amongst the humans, they’re also having to deal with increasing threats from the non-human.

It does add an extra dimension to the suspense, which I really enjoyed but if you’re looking for a really slick, vividly animated film then you might find Lily C.A.T a bit dated. However, that’s not to say it’s bad – for instance, the hanger door sequence was ace.

But back to the reference I mentioned – parts of that sub-plot seemed to echo They Were Eleven (an earlier space flight themed manga/anime) though obviously the idea of false identity is not new.

Worth it if you’re interested in ‘retro’ anime, I reckon.

3 Stars

[This is the first entry in a challenge (that I hope to one day finish), where I have set myself the goal of watching something for each letter of the alphabet – you can see the list over here if curious].

Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie (Supēsu Adobenchā Kobura)

Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie (Supēsu Adobenchā Kobura) (1982)

Space Adventure Cobra was another gap in my anime viewing history and I’m glad that I’ve now seen the film, as it was fascinating to experience so much psychedelia within a post-Star Wars, action-adventure Space Opera.

There’s also a bit of the horniness common to Bond films present, and what I considered a dash of Lupin, yet if I go too far with the comparisons I’ll probably do the characters a bit of a disservice.

But!

If any of that sounds like your thing, then let me add that you’ll also encounter aliens, laser-arms, spaceships, mystical powers, fun cheesy names like ‘Crystal Boy’ and even snow-boarding rebels facing off against a powerful Pirate Guild 🙂

In a way, it comes across as a wild grab-bag of stuff… or even a somewhat stoned version of the Pulp genres, but I certainly didn’t find that any reason to stop watching. It was heaps of fun, something that maybe I forget to gravitate toward sometimes. Or perhaps I’m just easy to please when it comes to my fiction?

But while I do think I’m fairly forgiving, for me it all works, at least in part due to the pacing.

Space Adventure Cobra is not a short movie, and it covers a lot of ground (or space, I guess I should say) but does so at a fair clip, which keeps you watching. Due to that pacing I didn’t always get enough time to really interrogate some of the things I saw, I just accepted that everything fit together in the universe and found myself instead wondering, just how far could bravado take Cobra on his quest to save the beautiful Royal Sisters and escape the Pirate Guild?

This isn’t all to claim that the adaptation lacks flaws for me… but I haven’t read Buichi Terasawa’s manga, so I can’t focus on differences/omissions there. Instead, I’ll note that the animation can swing from lovely to quite uneven and I don’t know if the psychedelic-naked-chick-montages do much beyond establish a tone (or that retro aesthetic) but otherwise, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that characterisation takes a back seat to action in terms of balance.

Should you check out this classic?

If like me, you’ve always been curious, then yeah. Because while there are parts of Space Adventure Cobra that will feel quite derivative, to contrast that, I think the inventive side of the film compliments the action-adventure feel and so maybe you’ll find plenty to enjoy after all, especially if you can watch it as a product of its time.*

4 Stars

*Part of me really dislikes that term, but it’s fairly apt here I guess.

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Two)

So, I’m a little late on the ‘second’ quarter here, but it’s still the second entry in this little ‘series’ of posts, at least 🙂

If you click here you can see a preamble and some reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose for quarter one… but let’s see if anything has changed! (If it has changed, it’s generally because I’ve changed my mind about something older or finally watched something I hadn’t seen before).

I will re-post this bit though:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this 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)


So, there was a change 🙂

I’ve replaced just one title, but there are a few extras further below as well. But first:

9. Kids on the Slope (2012)

Kids on the Slope is a superb drama with an excellent romantic subplot and a soundtrack that should satisfy most jazz fans, especially if you like the Cool and Bob sub-genres. I loved it and look forward to watching the show again – especially for all the little references here and there, from character design to album covers etc

It’s also basically historical fiction I guess, or at least a period piece (in that it focuses on the 1960s in Japan) so that’s always a plus for me. Like most folks who’ve seen anime, I also really enjoyed the fluidity to the musical performances, achieved via rotoscoping.


Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that are pretty close/could well sneak in. As I go through the months, I’m finding a lot of this process is based on mood as much as anything else, AND, wondering if this is where most of the action will be over the years? (I’ve certainly added more here than into the Quarter Two Top Ten.)

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)


Based on my missed ‘deadline’ of May for this post, I’ll try to get the third quarter post done sooner, and once more see if anything has changed but if I don’t get a chance to see a lot of new things by September, it might not look very different.

As before, let me know if you think I’ve missed a great show! (Doubtless I have) and so maybe I’ll be able to include it in my upcoming watching if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally. (I’m curious to see whether some of my A-Z Challenge titles might eventually get into this list too).

Thanks for reading!

Demon City Shinjuku (Makai Toshi: Shinjuku)

Demon City Shinjuku (Makai Toshi: Shinjuku) 1988

I swing back and forth on how much I enjoy the works of Yoshiaki Kawajiri (and Hideyuki Kikuchi) due to their tendency to drift into territory I’ll describe as crass at best.

Other times, the team-up creates things which are sinister and stylish from start to finish – with plenty of action to go along with the horror elements. Demon City Shinjuku mostly fits under this description for me.

And if you like the supernatural genre or films with great action sequences or with low-level lighting, stylised reds, pinks and blues for the palette of a city in endless night, and a city filled with mysterious characters and seemingly insurmountable odds for the hero(es) to tackle, then you’re in luck with Demon City Shinjuku.

To contrast, I’m certainly aware that some of the criticisms aimed at this film (and which can also be applied to many films and genres, especially fighting shonen) are certainly valid. Character development is not missing precisely, but the storyline is mostly built around getting the hero from one battle to another. And those battles tend to be exciting or surprising and are clearly so well directed, and thus the trade-off is definitely worthwhile for me.

On the other hand, Sayaka Rama doesn’t have much of a role beyond damsel (but she’s pretty brave, forging ahead in her high-vis pink dress) and so that issue with the characterisation being a little thin plays out elsewhere too. Again, I think there is a trade-off – which is the mystery behind a lot of figures (and the setting itself) especially for someone like Mephisto.

I also found it interesting to see the shinai from Kendo being the hero’s weapon of choice, which is something I think modern martial arts anime has maybe moved away from a little. As tends to be the case with me, I really enjoy Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s character designs – and even though his role is mostly confined to the prologue, the character of Genichirou strikes me as a cool mix between Clint Eastwood and Jet Black, or maybe he just has a 1970s vibe in general.

In terms of audience, I’ll mention that Demon City Shinjuku has far less sexualised violence compared to say, Wicked City or even Ninja Scroll, and the violence is somewhat more restrained too. I wonder if at this point in his career (right after Wicked City) there was an urge to make something (potentially) more commercial and suitable for distribution in the US, as Bloodlust perhaps was.

4 Stars

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Film Edition)

Much like my previous, similar post to this one, I want this list to change whenever I come back to it 🙂

Also like my last post, there’s no special reason to do this really – but it serves two purposes for me; Self-Reflection and Fun. I do think that as bloggers and audiences we tend to crave the act of listing, of categorising and ranking, so I’m giving in to that need once again today!

And yes! The copying from my other post continues below, but with minor tweaks:

  • I’m focusing on films today
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years and it will definitely reveal gaps in my knowledge
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to still see the 1990/2000s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will maybe be shorter than this one

Onward to the list!

Let’s climb from the bottom up:

10. Redline (2009)

For my number ten I’ve gone with a film where almost the whole reason it’s here is due to the visuals. The storyline or character aspects are not bad – at all – but I think this is one film that you can appreciate on the art and animation alone. Boy, it is fantastic and still stands out style-wise, in the anime industry, with its heavy use of Dick Tracy kinda shadow.

9. Sword of the Stranger (2007)

This is a film that I hadn’t seen until quite recently and it shot into this list in part because I do really enjoy historical and also samurai anime, and upon reflection I think this one holds up better in some aspects compared to a classic I nearly included – Ninja Scroll. Sword of the Stranger has some superb fight sequences and great scene-setting too. Very much worth it if you’ve never seen this and you like the genre.

8. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)

Perhaps the first Vampire Hunter D is maybe more ‘important’ to anime in general (or at least certain genres) and in some ways I prefer the 1985 film to Bloodlust but maybe this one sneaks into the top ten due to the higher production budget. The story’s great too; it’s creepy without being crass and the visuals really are memorable. This is one that I’ve already reviewed (like at least half this list I think).

7. Paprika (2006)

As you’ll soon see, I’ve got a couple of repeat directors in this list, which shows that I’ve struggled to choose between two or more of their works… or that I need to see more films. But I couldn’t leave Paprika off this list – it’s influential and mesmerizing. Aside from the thriller storyline and great animation, there’s a lot of fun references throughout that rewarded me on nearly each re-watch.

6. Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)

I could have put a few of the big Ghibli films here – obviously Spirited Away is a landmark and I also love Whisper of the Heart, but I think Howl’s is a fantastic adaptation of an already fantastic book. It’s got all the classic Ghibli features to be expected from a Miyazaki film too and my favourite Joe Hisaishi score.   

5. Summer Wars (2010)

I’ve mentioned before how much I like the pairing of Hosoda and Okudera and I feel like this is their best work together. It’s fantastic that such a large cast works, with time enough to get a feel for even most of the minor characters here. To me, this has that adventure feel – even though the setting is (at least in one sense) limited to one homestead.

4. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

This is my favourite Ghibli film and it’s technically not a Ghibli film, I guess! I believe it’s easy to make a convincing argument that Princess Mononoke is a better execution of the same themes that appear in Nausicaa but I have a soft spot for this one. Since I’ve reviewed it here, I won’t ramble on too much more 🙂

3. Perfect Blue (1997)

I found myself having trouble placing some films above or below others, due to the implications of ‘quality’ that any hierarchy creates, but again, this is a personal fav list and as much as I love Nausicaa, I think Perfect Blue is too hard to place lower for me. This film is a harrowing psychological thriller executed so, so well. I seem to remember over the years, occasional calls along the lines of ‘why wasn’t this a live-action film’ and sure, it’d work… but I don’t like the implication behind the question: that animation was the lesser form for this story.

2. Akira (1988)

I know Akira tops a lot of lists and it should be abundantly clear why. It’s probably here at number two in my list because cyberpunk is one of my fav genres. Akira is a monster of a film, from its huge budget (esp for the time) and the staggering number of cells 160,000+ to the length and scope of the story. For me and many folks the world-building is another key draw; the setting is so immersive.

1. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

So, no surprises for the top of the list! Ghost in the Shell feels like it’ll be a film that remains enshrined for many more decades still, possibly in part because it’s a great mix of ‘high concept’ and grittier genre elements? I love that the structure is basically 3 or 4 action sequences with the rest being divided between dialogue and atmosphere. I probably watch this once a year and it’s always enthralling to me.


The Current List

Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Akira (1988)
Perfect Blue (1997)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Summer Wars (2010)
Howl’s Moving Castle (2005)
Paprika (2006)
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000)
Sword of the Stranger (2007)
Redline (2009)


Down a little further are a few films that could have made it into my list but got close enough.

Next quarter, maybe I’ll have seen a few more films and also, been able to decide whether I should have a Shinkai film in there!

Venus Wars (1989)
Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Girl who Leapt Through Time (2006)
Endless Waltz (1997)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Ninja Scroll (1993)
A Tree of Palme (2002)


Again, like last time, let me know if you think I’ve missed something stellar (spoiler: I have) and maybe I’ll be able to include it in my upcoming watching if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally.

Thanks for reading!

Windaria (Douwa Meita Senshi Uindaria)

Windaria (Douwa Meita Senshi Uindaria) 1986

Time for another classic!

I want to start off by saying that there is a FAR better film hidden beneath the one that I saw, but my version was clouded-over by a misguided English-language script.

Sadly for me, this edition was surely not the version that Kunihiko Yuyama and Keisuke Fujikawa had in mind. As some of you will already know, Windaria has been released in several versions over the years, with most folks steering clear of the ‘Harmony Gold’ cuts.

And Windaria did go through a few cuts; chiefly to some violence and nudity, when released for the US market, along with a new script for the dub*. Now, the new script itself obviously made sense (for the most part) but it did do some ruinous things to characterisation and world-building, in its effort to make the film more ‘kid-friendly’.

I actually have an Italian release of the DVD, which happens to include the English dub – but remains visually uncut, so I’ve seen the full film in some ways, but didn’t get the real story. Later, I checked out a fansub and wow, there’s some serious differences between the two versions, especially when it comes to conveying character motivation.

Because in the dub there are some extreme left-turns for characters that have almost zero foreshadowing and a real dearth of detail in other scenes. Overall, I think it’s clear that the original is a tragic cautionary tale, told on a fairly epic scale, but the new script really makes the cast – especially Izu – seem unbelievable in key moments.

Still, there’s a lot to enjoy despite those problems. I feel like I’m being a little hard on Windaria, because it’s still worth seeing for the visuals alone. It’s a beautiful and detailed film, with sweeping vistas and great character design too. In a way, it has a very vague Castle in the Sky feel but it’s not an adventure film with that sort of violence and a happy ending.

Instead, as I mentioned above, Windara is a cautionary tale.

It focuses mostly on the ‘star-crossed lovers’ trope, and pitches them in the middle of war, politics and tragedy (of course). There are even a few protagonists almost masquerading as heroes too. Again, it’s still a bright fantasy film from a real golden age of anime, so it’s clear, and nearly everything feels high-quality in terms of production. (In particular, I loved the way they portrayed water in the film – especially in the scenes around the city of Itha.)

And there are a few moments where the true nature of the tragic circumstances shone through the dub, and without spoilers I’ll say one moment above the others was focused around poor Marin, great writing and visuals there.

Okay, so finally now – would I suggest that everyone should try to track down Windaria?

Maybe if you can get the uncut, original version. Even if maybe you don’t watch a lot of fantasy-themed anime or generally watch work from the ‘80s, the production values are high and there is a more complex, rewarding story there, it just wasn’t the case for the script that I saw.

3 Stars

* The Harmony Gold director did mention that, as was perhaps not unusual for the era, that they weren’t given a translation or notes to work from, so I suspect they did their best. And it’d be a tough job! What I guess I didn’t agree with, was pushing the story toward PG territory.

Astro Boy (1980) 40th Anniversary

It’s the 40th Anniversary of Astro’s colour version this year!

A fact which makes me realise that this particular show and I are getting on a bit (I’m pretty close to the same age now :D). Of course, we all know that Osamu Tezuka first had Mighty Atom debut back in the early 1950s, so the character is really getting on, but he’s also one that has remained beloved.

After the 1980s remake, there was the 2003 TV series and then a 2009 CGI feature film, and a few even more recent spin-off/versions of the hero. From memory, there’s also French production around 2019, but I can’t remember the details.

And related, there’s a still-forthcoming adaption of Pluto which I’m excited about – but basically, all this is me trying to say that I’m happy to see Astro is still someone folks want to see in action.

Astro Boy was the first anime I saw, but of course I didn’t know it was ‘anime’ then. I would have been watching re-runs in the late 1980s and I still remember that it seemed very different from other animated shows. It struck me as far ‘sadder’ actually – more willing to take the gloves off for difficult moments.

It also had everything I was looking for as a kid; a fantastically different future world, robots, battles, heaps of variety in character design, bold voice acting and even a bit of humour.

Perhaps more importantly, it had things I didn’t quite understand at the time – characters didn’t always act in ways that I grasped at first, but made me want to keep watching, to find out why they made the choices they did.

But it had something else too…

Atlas!

As much as I was definitely onboard with Astro saving the day, Atlas was compelling in a different way.

He had such a commanding voice to my young ears, he was powerful, and had a killer design and more, he was steeped in mystery. Atlas also stood out to me because he was connected to an ongoing narrative (to some extent), which immediately made him more memorable compared to other characters, since Astro is quite an episodic series.

But I think the most important thing about Atlas was that he was probably the first example I’d seen of a redemption arc – but I won’t spoil things here. Instead, I’ll just say that for one of the antagonists, he is portrayed sympathetically enough at times, so that as a kid (and probably when I re-watch the series) I felt for him.

Years later, I found out that Atlas had a fairly different role in the 1950s and 1960s and so that’s part of why I’ve only seen few of those episodes from the black and white series. I also discovered (when I received a very cool tin/boxed set for one birthday or another) that Australian broadcast had skipped over the true opening – and thus I was missing some key information about Atlas.

It’s been maybe ten years since I last watched all the 1980s Astro episodes but I did use the The Wreck Of The Titan in class one year, which is probably a fair example of what I think of when I consider Astro to be a kids show that doesn’t shy away from the sad moments.

So for the 40th anniversary of the colour series I think I might do a few more posts on Astro Boy over the next few months!

And as a final note (something I’ll probably come back to in another post) – the 1980s version has a great jazz fusion OST (well, not all tracks are such).

But during the ‘Astro vs Atlas’ battle theme, which I’ll try include below, I think it’s clear that the Seatbelts gave a nod to this piece in their Cowboy Bebop opener Tank!

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter One)

Okay, so that’s my somewhat opaque way of saying that I want to start posting an ‘ever-changing’ top ten list this year and maybe beyond?

There’s no special reason to do this really – I think it’ll serve two purposes for me; Self-Reflection and Fun. I do think that as bloggers and audiences we tend to crave the act of listing, of categorising and ranking, so I’m giving in to that need today!

Obviously, there’s no weight at all behind these choices (other than that which I give to them for myself) but I’ll also note a couple of other things quickly:

  • I’m focusing on TV shows here
  • This list should change as I see more texts over the years
  • Equally, it should also change whenever I re-watch and re-evaluate something
  • By definition of the list being ‘mine’ it clearly reveals my biases and interests
  • Expect to see the 1990s heavily represented, lol
  • Subsequent posts will generally be shorter than this one

With all that out of the way, let’s go!

Starting from the bottom for maximum ‘suspense’ let’s kick off with one that might be familiar to recent visitors here:

10. Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)

One of my favourite ‘adventure’ anime but one which suffers from a few serious flaws – some that are, for many folks, unforgivable. I love the blend of Miyzaki and pre-Evangelion darkness that this series features. For me, its strengths manage to outweigh the problems.

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

There’s something exceptionally fun about an RPG coming to the screen as animation and this is jam-packed full of fantasy tropes and expected big stakes. I also love the direction here, with the use of super-dramatic split screen, almost comic-book panels.

8. Neon Genesis (1995)

Ah, the famous deconstruction of the mecha genre. An undeniable classic that perhaps gets as much attention for its polarising ending as it does for the other aspects. I can see this jumping up and down the list but perhaps not leaving anytime soon.

7. Steins;Gate (2011)

Science-fiction, time-travel, angst, detailed settings and even a bit of romance – lots of ticks here. This one had me glued to the storyline indeed, despite nearly dropping it due to Rintaro’s theatrics.

6. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)

I tend to really enjoy historical fiction when it comes to film – and Moribito brings together aspects of action, costume drama, fantasy and a focus on character that I found exceptionally enjoyable. Still holding out a bit of a forlorn hope that there will be another season one day.

5. Trigun (1998)

That loveable goofball, Vash. It’s a common idea that from restraint can come creativity and Trigun fits that bill for me with the pacifist gunslinger approach. Gunsmoke is also an interesting world in its own right – I can imagine this rising up through the ranks when I watch it again.

4. The Big O (1999)

Slowly unfolding mystery in an unsettling but also familiar city, androids, revolving villains, a dramatic multi-genre OST, Batman and James Bond nods and finally a retro-looking mecha placed within a very 20th Century aesthetic – the mash-up is so good.

3. Mushi-Shi (2006)

I didn’t watch this during its original run but I’m glad I finally saw this one, and to quote from my review: Mushi-Shi is full of fable-like episodes that seem to draw on equal parts Japanese folklore and creator Yuki Urushibara’s fantastic imagination, exploring the lives of regular and remarkable people in an almost-Edo-period-setting that includes lots of supernatural elements mixed in with the natural world.

2. Ergo Proxy (2006)

This series does such a great job of revealing true cruelty from humanity – though not via an obvious ‘gore-based’ way common the crime genre perhaps. I won’t spoil how I think the series achieves this but I thought about Ergo Proxy often after finishing it, it has a memorable cast and captivating world-building, and is a grimy but not hopeless science fiction series that seems equally enamoured of philosophy.

1. Cowboy Bebop (1998)

Cue complete lack of shock from my number one choice, right? I haven’t reviewed this series here yet but I did do a post on how I feel that this one is far more than a ‘gateway series’ and will save more gushing for the future. Basically, I don’t know if I’ve seen a show I enjoy more just yet.


The Current List

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)


Now, below this list are some shows that are currently knocking on the door, perhaps able to take the place of probably half of the current top ten, depending on my mood, I guess.

Next quarter, one of these might have snuck up the ladder a few rungs but there’s also a chance that something I’m currently watching right now might do so too. For instance, depending on how Golden Kamuy turns out, it just might get in there.

I’d also better note that two of the entries below (Haikyuu!! and Pyscho-Pass) are perhaps subject to ‘decay’ for a lack of a better word, in that, if they continue on for twelve seasons beyond the bounds of the original/main story then maybe I won’t place them so highly in this obviously personal top ten list of mine 😀

Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)


At this stage, I’ll update this somewhat fluid list in May and see if anything has actually changed.

Let me know if you think I’ve missed something stellar (spoiler: I have) and maybe I’ll be able to include it in my upcoming watching if it’s within my reach, both figuratively and literally.

Thanks for reading!

The Dagger of Kamui (Kamui no Ken)

The Dagger of Kamui (Kamui no Ken) 1985

Sometimes I feel like society’s tendency toward hyperbole in language dilutes words a little – and sure, language is always changing and that’s exciting… and maybe I have my own inclinations toward exaggeration at times but I reckon The Dagger of Kamui really is an ‘epic’ film.

Superficially, it is over two hours long but I was thinking about the other elements – geographically it features Japan, Russia and America and the storyline is essentially inter-generational; more, there’s training and trekking through the seasons, duels and battles, a treasure hunt, a promise of revenge and finally toward the end, the backdrop of war as Japan’s final Shogunate collapses.

Personally, the revenge story is focused around young ‘foundling’ Jiro who has been misled by a corrupt monk, the blocky, even stone-like and formidable Tenkai.

During Jiro’s search for not only the truth about his family (and who was responsible for their deaths) he goes through a lot of the classic coming-of-age aspects you’d expect to see but that doesn’t mean The Dagger of Kamui was predictable, precisely. There are plenty of twists (though one in particular seemed to push the bounds of coincidence or design) and our hero’s kinda mournful face makes up for his taciturn nature in some ways.

Part of what I really enjoyed was the way the film (and obviously the novels too no doubt) really think big – and I also wonder what sort of research both writers undertook? Because historical figures are littered throughout (even Mark Twain when Jiro reaches the USA!) and it seems like there were deliberate parallels drawn between the Ainu and the Native American tribe Jiro visits – I can’t figure out exactly which tribe they’re meant to represent but the French girl is an odd inclusion.

Related to this, I can’t decide whether the portrayal of Sam is a bit tone-deaf and/or whether it just takes the film a while to get around to calling out slavery for the bullshit that it is.

So who’s this one for?

Well, it’s pretty violent at times but more often than not it’s done in a heavily stylised way with coloured flashes and almost ‘floating’ fight-scenes that perhaps approximate slow-motion I think, along with some great bright colours. Having said that, the DVD I have is not remastered or restored etc so you won’t quite see that brightness in my screen caps.

But otherwise, if you like samurai or ninja* films and big epics, I think you’d enjoy The Dagger of Kamui, as Rintaro and Madhouse made something striking, I reckon – right down to the OST, which is almost a throwback to 1970s rock but it also features Balinese kecak vocals – which here are percussive chants that become quite menacing in the context of the film.

A classic for sure but maybe a classic to action-epic fans more so.

5 Stars

* I found it interesting that shinobi were shown as both villainous and heroic – in contrast to a lot of Western portrayals perhaps, but I also didn’t necessarily notice much disdain of shinobi that I would have thought samurai characters would show. Maybe I just missed it 🙂

Thanks to the Classic Anime Museum for reminding me of this film too – check out Josh’s review here.