My memorable anime from 2002
I've got to say: 2002 was an awesome year for anime, or at least for the type of anime that I really like. Several of the standouts from this year are more like 'extreme standouts that are among my classics list'.
See the initial 2000 entry for the full background. I'm doing this based on the show's start date and memorable is not the same as either good or significant. Date information comes from Wikipedia and Anime-Planet.
- Haibane Renmei: This is where I drag out the big guns and call HR
'numinous'. It is many things, including a character study (of several
characters) and a study in how not answering our questions can make a
show better. As I've written before the climax of the
last episode had me genuinely tense and terrified, which is very rare.
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: SAC is my favorite work
out of all of the GitS I've
and I feel also the best; everything came together right. That makes
it not just excellent but awesome, full to bursting of so many great
things and great moments and great characters. It is the essence of
cyberpunk, boiled down until it is as beautiful and as brain-bending
as it should be.
(Very few shows could set an entire episode in an online chatroom and pull it off, but SAC manages the trick.)
And oh, the Tachikomas. They're the best characters, really.
- Princess Tutu: This starts out as a magical girl story with ballet
and classical music and fairytales, which is already awesome, and then
goes sideways repeatedly. It never takes the easy way out and is the
better for it. And the technical execution is marvelous, full of
little touches in directing and animation and beautiful, emotional
dancing (which is far from trivial).
If you don't mind some spoilers, watch this Princess Tutu AMV. The show is as excellent as the music video, which is high praise because the music video is stunning.
(I have a high resolution copy of this AMV saved on my disk and I watch it periodically. That's how much I love it.)
- Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi: Gainax cuts loose and takes an extended tour through a whole collection of genres in pursuit of a funny and touching story. Abenobashi is frequently crazy, usually amusing, and just generally excellent. The answer to what's going on genuinely caught me by surprise and I'm still not sure if the ending is a happy one or not.
- The Cat Returns: This is Ghibli at their most straightforwardly
charming and accessible.
- Full Metal Panic!: The characters carry the show, especially
Sagara Sousuke. It isn't flawless but when things go well, it
really delivers. There is a good reason that people want more
- Saikano: Watching Saikano is one gut punch after another; it's
a well done work but also an inevitable tragedy from start to finish
and there are no happy endings here. I can't imagine rewatching it but
it has totally stuck in my mind ever since I saw it the first time.
Watch it for people finding and taking what joy they can in the face
of an inevitable, slowly creeping doom.
(You know, that describes life in general. We're all going to die sometime; it's what we do on the way there that matters.)
- Naruto: Naruto is the best long-running shonen fighting show
that I've watched and it held my interest for what was a remarkably
long time, all things considered. For all of its bad traits, it
delivered a lot of memorable interesting characters (and sometimes
it even let the female ones do things) and good, affecting fights.
(Naruto is not the best shonen fighting show I've watched; that would be Soul Eater.)
- Onegai Teacher: I remember this fondly for various reasons, including the novelty of a reasonably well done love story which benefits from shoving the protagonists together first and then letting them gradually fall in love with each other later. It is not flawless by any means.
Things from 2002 that I want to see and am going to real soon now, honest:
- Azumanga Daioh: Another casualty of disappearing anime clubs, so I've seen only some of the early episodes. I know, I need to fix that.
Things I want to see are here in large part because I expect that when I see them they'll be good enough to place into at least the ordinarily memorable section. Some I rather suspect will be standouts.
Sidebar: things that stubbornly stick in my mind
Aka 'shows that I feel like saying something about'.
- Kiddy Grade: This isn't exactly a good show; among other things it
has all sorts of flaws with pacing. The frustrating thing is that
it also has all of the ingredients it needs to be great. I love the
characters, the setting, the premise, and many other things about it,
just not the execution.
(Even the core plot is fine.)
- Macross Zero: Beautifully animated but ultimately about as hokey
as you'd expect. Still, beautiful. And it features a cameo by
Earth Girl Arjuna (the TV show).
(I'm so much of an EGA fan that I not only immediately spotted the cameo but was able to place just which EGA scene it came from.)
- Tenshi na Konamaiki: This is a shoujo show that starts from an interesting premise with a bunch of nice characters but (from what I remember) then spirals off into the usual flaws of a relatively long shoujo show. It's probably a good thing for my fond memories that I watched this through an anime club and so only saw a limited amount of it.
I think my dividing line between 'honorable mentions' and 'shows I remember and want to say something about' is whether I'd recommend other people consider watching them. But who knows. This whole series is a work in progress and I figure stuff out as I go along.
Some reactions to RahXephon
I finished watching RahXephon last night and I want to jot down some reactions while they're fresh in my mind. First, one striking thing about the show is that it was almost compulsively watchable. I ran through episodes at a really high rate (for me), often watching four or five at once until I ran out of time, and there was almost never a time where I didn't want to watch the next episode.
Overall I feel that RahXephon is a good series that is somewhat let down by its ending. Not that the ending is bad or incompetent, but it's merely ordinary; weird but reasonably explicable stuff happens, the show waves its hands a bit, and there is a nominally happy outcome. In retrospect, even before the ending the show lacked the vital spark necessary to lift it above merely competent and good (Shingu has that spark, for example). With that said there's plenty of decent stuff in the show; there are appealing characters, an engaging presentation (as mentioned), and the show can be clever and subtle when it wants to be. I do like how a number of things become clear in retrospect, including Haruka's activities in Tokyo Jupiter in the first episode. I certainly don't regret watching it.
(While the epilogue confused me initially I did wind up sorting out what was going on and who was who, although the show seems to have gone out of its way to be a bit confusing.)
There are unpleasant aspects, though. In particular an awful lot of people die over the course of the show, especially at the end in a very End of Evangelion-esque sequence that's essentially pointless. The show dangles a bunch of mysteries in front of us that it doesn't explain at all. There is a core romance in the show that I found both somewhat unrealistic and somewhat disturbing.
After thinking about the ending for a while, sorting out more or less what's going on in the epilogue, and reading spoilers in the Wikipedia entry, I think that it's a happy ending and a decent one, one that resolves what became the core issues of the series. I don't think that it's very exciting or very powerful (this may be a generic failing with 'reset' style endings). The sequence of emotional development and so on that led to the ending is okay but again not something I found exciting or powerful; it was more an affirmation of what the show had developed than anything more abrupt.
I wish it was possible for me to watch RahXephon without thinking about the long shadow of Neon Genesis Evangelion. As I put it on Twitter I strongly believe that they're quite different stories, but the two shows are definitely playing in the same territory and I couldn't help but compare and contrast them as I was watching. I know that 'a better Evangelion' is apparently something that Izubuchi was aiming for but I don't think that's how RahXephon came out, except very broadly.
(I could write an entire entry about RahXephon versus Evangelion and I probably will at some point.)
Sidebar: Some notes, especially on the ending
There are big spoilers here. In general the Wikipedia entry clears up several things if I trust it.
- I saw people wondering why Mishima Reika showed up to work for Isshiki
Makoto when he was commander of TERRA. My view is that she showed up
for the same reason as she had earlier; she wanted to hang out around
Ayato and 'working' for TERRA was a convenient way of doing so. She
disappeared again when there wasn't any point to this.
- Reika doesn't actually exist as a normal human person. I maintain
that this is clear from her first appearance in the first episode
(and other events in the first episode go out of their way to reinforce
this). She is effectively a manifesting spirit or the like. Most people
magically remember or forget her because that's what she wants.
- Ayato clearly returned at least some dead people back to life when
he re-tuned the world, in particular Asahina. I'll assume that he
revived at least everyone he knew about, so Souichi is alive again
(Wikipedia states this outright but I don't believe we have any evidence
for it in the TV series unless I missed something in passing).
- The 'Dandelion Girl Coda' post re-tuning part of the last episode
is first in the current time, showing a married Haruka and Ayato
(although he wears his hair very much like Itsuki) and baby Quon,
and then in a flashback to when Ayato and Haruka first met before
the series started (that explains the whole picture motif). I assume
that Haruka's question about the painting is rhetorical and she knows
perfectly well who and what it's about.
This is not at all clear in the show and I've read people who think that something else is going on. However I think this version is the simplest answer.
(It's not clear to me if adult Ayato's voice is provided by Itsuki's VA. Maybe I was mishearing, but his voice in the modern day segment didn't really sound like his voice in the rest of the show.)