2017 has been an eventful year for me in the world of anime. I don’t think I’m even scratching the surface with the shows I’ve listed here, compared to everything I’ve watched this year (even excluding the ones from 2017). But these are the ones that made the biggest impression on me.
And while I did make attempts to follow along with everybody on a couple of shows (notably Gamers!, Made in Abyss, Princess Principal, Re:Creators, Tsurezure Children), I want to dedicate this post to the old ones I decided to finish, and in some cases as celebration for their 10th or 20th year anniversary (sparking desire to write separate posts to pay some kind of homage to them). So this entry is for those series, the ones that reached out and grabbed hold of me from, injecting me with much to remember and thank them for. The new can wait! Make way for the (not that) old!
Toradora! – “NANI?! Anime for the Whole Family?!”
I’m rather disappointed in myself for not lavishing this show with much in the way of expressing my attention and appreciation of it, as it has quite boldly made its way into my favourite anime list. Never before had I experienced a show that so delicately, and yet so clumsily celebrated love in a myriad of ways, from friends to family to romance and back again, all in a very powerful and beautiful way. I’d also like to thank it for its incredibly awesome soundtrack, and especially its amazing emotionally woven opening themes.
There are, of course, many memorable scenes that could be drawn from this series. From the moment at the train station on the way to Kawashima Ami’s summer villa; the moment Ami sees Taiga’s strength and through it becomes brave herself; the moment Yasuko reunites with her parents after heading to care for Ryuuji; they were all great moments. But were I to choose a moment to highlight from the show, it’s really hard for me not to pick Ryuuji and Taiga’s time together during the festive holidays. The bear suit surprise and Taiga going along with it excitedly, knowing it was Ryuuji underneath, was lovely moment of sentimental kindness. It made my heart swell three sizes that day, and then shortly afterward became tinged with a lachrymose bitter-sweetness in the snow.
The Melancholy (and Disappearance) of Haruhi Suzumiya – “Raibu Araibu”
If you’ve been following me long enough, then you may have seen me talk at (relative) length about my experience with and feelings toward Haruhi. For everyone else, they are complicated, so to speak. I’ve had pretty high abstract expectations for this show for quite some time, so perhaps that had something to do with my discontent with it as a whole. It should be noted that I don’t hate it. Not by any stretch. In fact, I still have intentions to re-watch it again with hopes I am able to get more out of it next time. However, I am not here to dwell on my problems with the show. Instead, I wish to reflect upon the moments that I did, in fact, enjoy and/or took a strong liking to.
And while I did find much to like in The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (Kyon threatening the IDSE and defending his harem); and thoroughly enjoyed the SOS Brigade’s mystery vacation, despite its predictable conclusion (much credit to the cave scene); Nagato’s eagerness to play commander in an online game; Kyon saving the world via kissing Haruhi; the sobering fight between Nagato and Asakura; the bizarre and wonderful Adventures of Mikuru Asahina (Nagato protecting Kyon from laser beams being particularly noteworthy); all moments that were without a doubt iconic and memorable. But it was Haruhi’s awesome singing performance, taking center stage in the most stunning bunny outfit ever, and rocking out the auditorium with her amazing singing and guitar playing to one of the series highest notes that made me really enjoy what I was watching. The animation was beautiful and fluid, and the music (and Aya Hirano) was phenomenal. Nagato in her awesome witch cloak and hat outfit shredding away at guitar was also a treat. And Haruhi’s kindness shines through and true. I really loved it.
Berserk – “The Choices We Make”
I dug open another old fossil this year and it turned out to be a valuable find indeed. And even though there are many memorable moments to pick from, I didn’t even need to think about which one I’d end up choosing, because it’s without a doubt one of the most ballsiest scenes from anything ever. And I hold the utmost respect for this show because of it. To have such massive balls and then grow two more in the final moments of the show is a commendable feat. I was already engrossed in the show by this point, but this plot twist made me tremendously absorbed in what I was watching. Things went from gritty and dark to insanely grim and it was both disturbing and oddly beautiful.
Griffith’s abandon of his old acquaintances, the disbelief and brutal slaughter of the Band of Hawk against terrifying foes beyond comprehension, Guts yelling Griffith’s name while struggling to fend off the demonic forces, feelings of hope utterly destroyed and replaced by fear and despair, a reborn Griffith carrying out his revenge against Guts via sexually violating Casca; it’s one of the biggest, greatest mind-fucks I’ve ever seen. And after seeing the scene in context, I’ll never forget it.
Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor – “ZAWA ZAWA!”
As much as I enjoyed the first season of Kaiji (it was cool, it was tense, I was hooked), I didn’t find myself forming any strong emotional connections with any of the characters. But this turned out not to be such a bad thing, as Kaji is unsurprisingly really good. For its merits overshadow this by making the narrative so thoroughly, and so harshly human. It presented everyone who wasn’t Kaiji as a potential threat, regardless of how friendly or pitiful, showing just how awful humans can be. Yet despite this, Kaiji maintains his trust in people. And he is awesome in his trials because of it. I watched the first season at a marathon pace over two weeks, and I was absolutely gripped. I can’t imagining watching it week by week, as the suspense would kill me. But among the many gambles featured in the narrative, two stuck out as particularly nail-biting:
1) Crossing the beams
Quite literally a do-or-die moment. But Kaiji isn’t just doing it for himself, he keeps encouraging everyone to move forward, not wanting to see or hear a single life plummet to the abyss below. I may have gotten a bit of vertigo watching this. Just imagining myself in this same scenario is enough to send all my nerves on edge. I really feared for the the characters here. And it was particularly dreadful witnessing the transition shot of Ishida on the beam one second, and then gone the next when Kaiji turns around. The speech he gave to Kaiji really hammered in the despair he was feeling, tinged with a cry of hope before falling to his demise. And to make it even more depressing, he muffles his frightened screams so as not to distract Kaiji as he drops into the abyss. The utter shock, anguish, and sorrow Kaiji feels after noticing this truly shows his humanity, as Ishida demonstrated a heartbreaking kind of heroism.
2) High stakes raffle
Nothing gets me so nervous and terrified than when protagonists try and pull-off huge gambles like this. Kaiji wages it all; not just all the money he’s earned (which could pay off his debt), but his fingers too! He wants to trust in others, and not only commits to surviving and winning, but tries to minimize human cost as well, with the intent to save whoever he can along the way. It was painful seeing him suffer, backstabbed multiple times, and watch in disbelief as he sunk deeper into desperation. Yet he persisted in his commitment to believe in humans, and for that, he earned my respect. I routed for him. But there is a line that’s not worth crossing, and while I wanted to trust in Kaiji just as he did in those that failed him, I kept thinking ‘Don’t do it, you fool! He’s clearly not someone you want to bet against!’. Just like Kaiji and those around him, I too became caught up in his master plan to rig the raffle and ensure victory. But I could tell Hyodo was up to something as well, and felt both a rush of excitement and dread course throughout my body. The moment he pulled the winning piece of paper from the tissue box was the moment I shuddered, knowing the outcome that would transpire next.
Psycho-Pass – “I Would Like to Show…”
From the showcasing of its concept in the first few episodes and its phenomenal execution of said concept throughout the entirety of the first season, Psycho-Pass has ended up as one of my favourite shows from the last decade. It felt like I was watching this really tense, awesome tightrope act being performed by this action sci-fi cop thriller, consistently amazed at its persistence in delivering on its ideas through its clever writing, slick aesthetic, and fully realized setting. I’m much more a fan of shows in the near future that place a heavy focus on technology and form interesting commentary around the concept of societal change based on this integration between humans and technology, now than ever before. And while I have a really strong penchant for this kind of story, when it comes to picking a moment from Psycho-Pass, I am more enamored by the scene that gave me one of the best deliveries of visual exposition (outside of Edgar Wright’s works) ever.
So much is conveyed with so little dialogue. This scene provides a wealth of character information through context, and is left for the viewers to piece it together, with enough time and plenty of cues from the environment and characters to allow for that. Akane showing up in the ward with no one else around indicates that she is arriving early, and judging by Yayoi’s reaction to her appearance, unexpectedly so. This is further supported by Akane’s surprise at Yayoi leaving the comprehensive analysis laboratory as she’s about to enter the room, and by Yayoi’s surprise at Akane appearing at this time of day. Akane smiles and doesn’t inquire about it. And Yayoi walks away seemingly indifferent about the whole thing.
Shion’s actions (her swift movements in putting her clothes back on) imply that this sort of escapade with Yayoi happens a lot, and has probably been recurring for quite some time. This is then followed up by her smoking, and a zoom in on her chest to show that she is, in fact, not wearing a bra. After noticing this, Akane’s shoulders stiffen as she registers what just took place before making her unforseen entry. Of course she’d figure it out that quickly! She’s a detective. What impresses me so much about this moment is that it achieves in under a minute, what many other stories have stretched out for entire episodes. And it keeps everyone within their characters! As it should, because there’s no reason for any of them to bring it up, especially considering that they (Shion and Yayoi) have clearly arranged it so that they have their carnal visits in the morning, in secret, when they expect no one else to show up so early.
It’s one of my favourite moments from the show because it only focuses on the most important details (all the information Akane is processing are given close-ups; Yayoi’s one second reaction, Shion’s wardrobe), and does a great job establishing so many things: the relationship between Yayoi and Shion, a lot about Yayoi’s character; resigning to getting caught and not saying anything because she knows Akane is a highly skilled detective easily capable of putting two and two together, Akane’s innocence and professionalism. It’s less a moment that spoke to me emotionally, and more of one which I find myself a lot more appreciative of in hindsight. Superb direction, round of applause!
Lucky Star – “Konata sings Dragon Ball Z”
I had so much fun with this show. And it was really awesome being educated on contemporary otaku culture via moé. Although by this point I had already been fairly well acquainted with the phenomenon, it was still interesting to see what I was turning into and Konata wound up being the character who would act as something of a teacher, explaining things in a rather strikingly educational way. The sketches are also genuinely funny and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of times I found myself smiling and laughing to them.
My love for this show is too great to try and encapsulate in one moment. I’ll never get tired of watching the anime tenchou scenes or Konata and the twins attending comiket. Those were definitely some of the most fun moments I’ve had watching anime. And among the many Lucky Channel and karaoke sketches I enjoyed, it was Konata’s rendition of Dragon Ball Z’s ‘Cha-La Head Cha-La” that made the fanboy in me leap out with the same expressive otaku behaviour (how could I not sing along with them?). This is a kind of awesomeness that’s beyond words for me. I was so awed I can’t even articulate the level of satisfaction this gave me. I was simply free to enjoy what was before me and wound up enhancing the experience further by joining in on the fun.
Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. – “Bokura wa Minna Ikiteiru”
When it comes to shows that invite me to take them seriously, Stand Alone Complex delivers everything I could ever ask for: top-notch directing and action scenes, first-rate production values, robots, interesting themes with moments that allow for contemplation, speculation, and introspection in regards to both the series and many real-world comparisons, and moments of heartwarming awesomeness. While the narrative is most certainly given a neat science fiction setting and does delve into the realm of technological and geopolitical concepts, the story itself is very much a human one. The Major holds concerns that the thing that keeps her human is slipping away, while the Tachikoma are cheerfully becoming more human by comparison. This contrast alone is enough for me to ruminate over.
Who would have thought, in a show full of cool, and interesting characters, that this gaggle of highly intelligent and playful robots (autonomous AI mini-tanks) would be the greatest of the bunch? Having them act as a reflection on the nature of individuality was especially thought-provoking and provided much rich discussion and conversational material. There are many layers ripe for peeling here, and I highly commend the cleverness that went into portraying their playful, curious, and melancholic stories. I particularly enjoyed the 15th episode “Machines Desirantes”. Though, I think for my moment of choice, I have to give the spot to their most human act in the finale.
The stakes are higher than ever, and things are looking dire. But the Tachikoma perform one more operation, ignoring The Major’s orders, and committing themselves to the void to save the humans from disaster. It was sad enough seeing them go before, but here they risk it all in one last act of self-sacrifice. It’s bitter. It’s sweet. And how it plays out is oh-so incredibly poignant. I love anime (;_;)7.
Shirobako – “Idepon Miyamori: An Exodus Christmas”
It’s very difficult for me not to appreciate that this show exists, especially after becoming more ingrained in my anime viewing habit to such an extent where learning more about the industry genuinely interests me now. This one gave me two moments bursting with a beating heart:
1) Idepon bonding
A dispute between two feuding co-workers, Endo and Shimoyanagi, has brought production in the workplace to a standstill. Aoi, after hearing from Segawa that Endo was inspired via Idepon to enter the animation business, invites him to an exhibition celebrating the series. A chance meeting has Endo and Shimoyanagi bump into each other, and has them discover each other’s burning adoration for the show, bringing them closer together. It’s so awesome to see two people bond over their childhood inspiration like this. They went from awkward tension to childlike glee and passionate nostalgia over their favourite anime in only a few short bonding moments. It’s also a really nice love letter to, not just Space Runaway Ideon (the real equivalent to the one mentioned in Shirobako), but any similar robot or mech show the audience may have formed a similar connection with, as there are many props and recreations of frames here drawn with immeasurable love, accompanied with an incredibly faithful instrumental rendition of the Ideon theme. This moment didn’t just save their production (at least for that particular situation). It also reminded the characters and the viewers of why we love this anime hobby of ours. And for that, I really, really, really like this moment.
2) Sugie’s Passion
Desperate for a highly skilled key animator capable of animating horse scenes, Aoi meets with Kanno (aka meta-level Hideaki Anno), who points out that there are very few animators left that could accomplish such a task. After recalling that Aoi works for Musashino Animation, Kanno informs her that they already have a talented key animator more than capable of handling the scene, Sugie. One trip later to Sugie’s house gives us a delightful conversation between him and Aoi, where she humbly requests for his assistance, and he gladly accepts. More than that, he’s really excited to get to work. And it’s a joy to see this old-timer so ecstatic to draw horses for this Japanese cartoon.
When the key animation is nearing completion, Ema lets Aoi know that after seeing Sugie’s passion become reinvigorated and giving him something to do, she has become inspired to draw like him. Erika returns to work. And Sugie expresses his gratitude to Aoi for her work and leading to him opening a key animation workshop at Musashino. He is invited to celebrate the airing of the final episode with everyone, but declines the offer, as he’s had enough excitement for one day, and must return home. While I do really appreciate the stressful, chaotic ride that is anime production, and the underlying passion that barely keeps things together, it’s these moments of bonding over anime and exchange help and advice on developing the skills needed to realize one’s passions. Both episodes are so damn good and are exemplars of why I love this silly anime hobby of mine so much.
K-On!! – “I DIDN’T WANT IT TO END!”
The light and fluffiness really made me feel good about watching anime. Like so good, I didn’t want to leave its perfect world. Reality is so cruel. Why can’t life be more like K-On where the concept of evil has been reduced to only the miniscule acts of stubbing one’s toes and playful teasing? I weep out of a yearning to live the K-On life!
Remembering Yui’s airheaded antics, Ritsu’s cheerful mischievous, Mio’s adorable awkwardness, Tsumugi’s attempts at forming closer bonds, and Azusa’s excitement when the band gets going; these are all aspects throughout that I am fond of, but moments are a lot harder for me. Not that I can’t list off many moments from the show which I thoroughly enjoyed and/or greatly appreciated, but rather I feel an enormous pressure to make sense out of what I felt about what I was seeing. It’s embarrassing not being able to articulate my feelings, especially for a show I love so dearly. I’m a big fan of the Ritsu and Mio episode where they play Romeo and Juliet, and in order to do their parts end up imitating one another in a playfully mocking manner. There’s a lot more credit to give the episode that I omit, but alas, it does not take the number one spot on the enormous list of moments that made me feel.
The time spent sitting next to each other nearing the end of their school days, and just now realizing the full weight of the transience of time and the feeling that their moments together were fleeting, so earnestly yearning for it all to last longer and crying out their hearts desires. All those seemingly inconsequential moments up until now have been bestowed greater meaning now, because it wasn’t so important what they were doing, rather that they were doing anything as a group was what made everything so special. What the girls value most is only truly made apparent when they become aware that it is slipping away from them. The band, tea, cakes, dress-up, and all the other little ephemeral things that made up their daily lives and connected them as growing friends will be but fond memories of a much simpler, fun time for them once they enter the adult world. The club was valuable to them, but their actions spoke otherwise a lot of the time, because their denial of complexity kept them living in the present. Perhaps it was the gift of youth and penchants for more immediate comforts and delights that dictated this course of action. Whatever the case may be, it was this moment from the second season that struck me with perhaps more emotive power than anything else I’ve seen from anime. The tears, my dear readers, are real.
There were a couple great shows which I found more difficult to choose any particular moments from. I made a spot for these shows as I felt they were still special enough to deserve at least some acknowledgment, even if I wasn’t able to pick any moments from them. They may not be my favourites, but they still found a special place in my heart.
Hibike Euphonium – “Straight Trumpet”
Kumiko being awkward about getting the part, and Natsuki milking the awkwardness to get a good laugh. And some amazing good sportsmanship too. She acknowledges her faults and acknowledges Kumiko’s efforts. These are two are so good together.
Gunbuster & Diebuster – “Aim for the top!”
Two unexpected legendary shows make their debut in my life (and my watched list). Gunbuster marries a shoujo story with robots until it becomes a full-fledged robot anime with both elements of real robot and super robot goodness. The concept of time dilation via space travel was a surprising melancholic touch that depicted a cruel but awesome tragic consequence from science fiction, and really spoke to the human condition in an incredibly profound way. And at the heart of it lies a theme I will never, ever tire of; the power of love and friendship. Hot-blooded fight ownage!
And Diebuster followed up all of that with its own added elements of awesomeness: adorable character designs courtesy of Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, spectacular animation from Yōji Enokido, wonderful direction from Kazuya Tsurumaki, and one of the most awesomely satisfying endings ever. It’s a show that embodies that positive, uplifting, “go beyond the impossible and kick reason to the curb” spirit GAINAX (and now Trigger) practically live and breathe by. This moment is just a taste of its awesomeness (spoilers).
Gankutsuou – “Won’t See Me Coming… From Outer Space!”
Damn. Damn. DAMN, this was such a thrilling show! So glad I finally pulled it from the shelf and sat down to watch it this year. And among the many moments that gave me much satisfaction in following this smooth, dastardly villain carry out his revenge that I’d love to talk about, I choose the HYPE AS FUCK ENDING THEME, because honestly it’s so awesomely catchy that it’s the only thing that’s been going through my head every time I think of it since I finished the show.
The ED promised something so exciting, so thrilling, I have no idea how to put it into words, other than that I wanted it, and expected it would deliver on it. Awesomeness begets awesomeness. GAR TO THE MAX! I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
Ponyo – “HAM!!!”
Sosuke’s older sister and her crazy driving versus a massive tidal wave being manipulated by a magical fish girl. As much as I love the cheery, fun, wholesomeness that is the rest of the movie, I love this absolutely gorgeous and thrilling race against the forces of nature (and magic) even more.
These aren’t the only shows or movies from my backlog that I watched this year, but I do think that these gave me the memories I like the most.
If you’ve seen any of these shows I mentioned here, what are your favorite moments?