I am a UK citizen who starting watching anime about 6 years ago, when finishing secondary school. While at university, i introduced my friends to Neon Genesis Evangelion. They loved it (obviously) and we started buying more between us (at the extortionate UK shop prices of the time - £20 for a single volume with just a few episodes).
I prefer television series in anime, as it allows more time for the plot to develop, although some films hold high places in my regard, particularly the first Ghost in the Shell film, as well as some Miyazaki's and Satoshi Kon films. Nothing has ever toppled Evangelion from the top spot, although I have greatly enjoyed many others. I have now joined the UCL Anime Society, so hope to be introduced to new, unheard of gems!
Just went to my first ever anime convention! I love cosplay! Seeing someone dressed as the Cat Bus from Totoro should be a daily experience.
Recently watched: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni - heavily recommended by some of the girls at the UCL anime club (I suspect for it's gory violence) this series left me fairly ambivalent. The structure is interesting, presenting several similar plots one after the other, some of the later episodes explaining events from previous ones. Revolving around a "Twin Peaks"-esque town called Hinamizawa where missing people and murders are the norm, the main characters are all school-kids who are alwys directly involved in events. About half-way in I was quite bored of the show - the main problem for me was the excruciatingly slow pace of the initial stories and the feeling that the series was never going to develop further. It is certainly true that the second half was more entertaining (particularly the chapter that explains the Mion/Shion arc), but it never left me feeling that I had witnessed something challenging or innovative. Quite a lot of the appeal would seem to come from the shock factor of seeing seemingly innocent school-girls losing it and going on homicidal rampages, but strangely these characters were not the ones that produced the most tension or fear in this viewer. The adult characters, particularly the detective Oishi and the doctor Irie, were much more effective at raising the hairs on the back of my neck during the few scenes where the writers really let them off the leash. More the pity that this only happens once or twice in the whole series. I understand that the series is an adaptation of a set of videogames in which the player reveals the secrets of the town in an interactive story-book style. You can certainly see the "Cluedo"-esque elements here that would make the game a page-turner, but I'm not convinced that it translates that well into a purely non-interactive experience.
Seirei no Moribito - at first i thought this anime was pretty average fantasy fare and that it would offer nothing that i hadn't seen before. However, as the series moved on, not only did i realise that the scenery and art style alone made it worth watching, but that i was in for a measured and balanced story. The plot moves forward at a slow, but engrossing pace, never throwing unecessary action or characters our way to provide fillers. Instead, we are treated to a competent and confident stroytelling experience with strong characters and very smart action.
Tengan Toppa Gurren Lagann - watching this at the same time as Moribito was fortuitous, as this is the opposite of the above. While Moribito was measured, TTGL is deliberately outrageous, pushing sense to any possible limit in its quest for a bigger explosion. Essentially using a psychedelic and fast flashing colour scheme and all manner of ridiculous battle cries, TTGL should be awful. But Gainax have managed (just about) to get away with this one just because it never once asks you to take a step back and reflect upon what is happening, but just to buckle up and hold on!
Mushi-shi - Although all around me were seemingly enraptured by this series, i found it pretty boring to be honest....well that needs some clarification. I like long, twisting plot threads - so perhaps the highly episodic nature of this series simply wasn't for me from the beginning. That said, I still have some gripes with it. Episodic, fair enough, but does the structure of every single episode have to be identical as was the case here. Ginko (our main character) goes to a new identical little Japanese village and finds some strange affliction to a sense/dream/other human dimension of experience and hey - it's a mushi! Now the mushi are strange pre-life forms which apparently aren't out to cause humans harm, although every single one we saw in this series did seem to harm people (guess it must have just been sample bias). Ginko then either manages to solve the problem or not. And that's pretty much the sum of the whole thing... There were some pluses - the music was pretty awesome (especially the way each episode would end with a new haunting melody) and it did cause some moments of deep contemplation, as i'm sure was the aim. But overall, i found it quite a chore to get to the end of the series - which i just can't take as a good sign for my enjoyment factor.
Ergo Proxy: By god, what a disappointment. I have to say i largely agree with the two reviews of this anime that exist on this site. Ergo Proxy starts really well and had me fully engaged. The story seemed dark and moody, the characters seemed moody and dark and the music was a mixture of the two. Where did it all go wrong? I can't quite pin down when this show became a chore to watch, replete with plenty of eye-rolling at banal conversations and themes. I think it was roughly when i stopped caring about any of the motivations for what anyone was doing, something that the show seemed to have down so well at the beginning. More than anything, i feel annoyed at myself for being so drawn in by a beginning that subsequently clearly had no follow-up planned at all. There were highlights, however, chief among them the animation which does look top-notch. A special mention must also go out to the robot-child character Pino who i found totally adorable throughout, a tough feat for me: I usually wants to kill such characters with my icy stare a few seconds after they are introduced. Top marks in that respect!
Kino's Journey: Wow, this is one well-loved anime. On this site, the lowest score out of 4 reviews is 8.5/10. Pretty impressive on top of the number of positive reviews i've had in person. I was underwhelmed. Sure, some of the stories were pretty interesting (Land of Books and the marooned traders come to mind) but many were plain uninteresting (the finale definitely comes to mind). I agree with one reviewer here who comments on the story-book allegorical feel to the whole thing and would add that the whole thing feels uniquely like a western faerie-tale for a Japanese creation, which is accentuated by the simple, pastel pallette. The main character is endearing, but all others utterly forgettable. More than anything else though, while many on this site praise Kino no Tabi's reflection of man's inner soul (though some of these very same dislike Evangelion somehow), i think that it scores fairly low in this regard, scratching the surface of complex issues and painting them at their extremes. One thing i disliked in particular was the ubiquitous nature of whatever 'philosophy' each land represented as embodied by its inhabitants. Reality is simply far more complicated than anything Kino attempts to present and this simplified vision simply ignores the conflict at the heart of these ideals. I digress. Not a bad show, by any means. It was not at all difficult to get to the conclusion. However, i am left feeling that it is heavily over-rated and most certainly have no desire to watch it again.
Ouran High School Host Club: From the word go, i was smitten by this series. Although it (unwittingly?) displayed some suspect gender politics at times (Nazi feminists, blaming women for their vulnerability), somewhat unforgivable for a show that is attempting to subvert normal gender roles and laugh at them, for the most part, the show is charming and funny. The characters are well-developed and endearing, especially the heroine and prince characters. The animation and soundtrack are divine, emphasising just how under-used original classical scores are in anime and just how relaxing they can make the watching experience. Although many episodes follow a simple template, derived from a skeleton plot, the series never drags and filler seems absent. Instead, I feel that I would be happy to sit down to a second series, a real rarity in anime.
Basilisk: Already a fan of "Ninja Scroll", this series was a must-see from the word go, immediately showing the former to be a cheap imitation of this well-worked idea. What "Ninja Scroll" can't sustain for 13 episodes, "Basilisk" is comfortable delivering for 24. The plot is pretty thin, with two clans of supernaturally powerful ninjas thrust into war after a long-held but generally disliked truce is annulled by authorities seeking Japan's new heir. At the centre are two young leaders, in love with one another despite the hatred between their kin (yes, it's "Romeo and Juliet"), called upon to put aside their love for the sake of their clans. So far, so ordinary. The series works because the collection of side characters (10 ninjas for each clan) contain some wonderful personalities, powers and grudges. As members of both sides begin dropping like flies, I couldn't help but turn to the next episode to find out who would survive the blood-bath. By introducing all 20 characters in the first 2 epsiodes and emphasising the competitive nature of the war (the end credits even displaying the current score for each clan) "Basilisk" manages to convey a certain urgency and importance to the deaths of all of these characters, something "Ninja Scroll" loses after the first few episodes. One minor gripe I have is the eventual distinction of a 'good' and 'bad' clan (though this is only really applicable to the leader of one clan), but on the whole I was impressed with how comfortable the series was with portraying some real freaks as good guys, and putting some interesting powers to good use.
Zipang: An interesting one to be sure! Most of the anime that I have seen, and that seems to be popular (certainly in the West) has a supernatural or sci-fi element to it, so it was refreshing to watch a straight-up war anime. With the exception of the time-travel angle at the beginning, which sees a modern JSDF warship transported back to WWII, this is a human story through and through. Providing the what-if question of whether a 21st century Japanese crew would alter the course of the war given the choice, and their attempts to conceal themselves from combatants, the show centres around half a dozen men, both alien and native to the era. The story is brilliantly paced, with some wonderful character-development and a generally excellent adherence to historical events. Rather than have the new arrivals blunder in and create a new, completely fictional WWII, the alterations that eventually occur are cleverly thought-out and reactions to them sensibly developed. A serious problem is that the series ends right in the middle of the story, with few signs that the rest will ever be made! The visuals are also merely mediocre, though the series gets it right where it counts, when depicting ships and planes, and much of the show's grip relies very little on the visuals, the narrative doing all of the work.
Le Chevalier D'Eon: This one surprised me, for sure. The story, of a French knight in the 1760s who becomes the vessel for his sister's soul after her murder, is frankly ludicrous and certainly shouldn't provide the coherent 24 episode narrative we are treated to. Though heavily plot-driven, with little real character development to speak of, the story managed to entertain me throughout, avoiding the sag around two-thirds in that seems to be an unfortunate and obligatory part of so many anime series. Though the underlying mystery can be a little too elusive at times, it does conclude in a satisfying climax that provides the answers in the end. The core strengths for me were the depictions of the various monarchs of Europe at the time, Elizabeth of Russia and George III of England standing out particularly. Their roles are central to the plot and their characterisations well-formed. Less impressive are the four knights who comprise our main party, each one of them a standard cliche. The animation and colour is never less than stunning, with a competent soundtrack dominated, admittedly, by an excellent opening. The biggest problem with the series is undoubtedly its attempt to create an air of historical accuracy while also presenting a story rich with magic, possession and zombies. The story is set in a single year, during which we see many historical figures die untimely deaths, though this is at least acknowledged by the creators in the closing credits. Two of the fictional characters' stories were also lost on me, their motivations seemingly directed by whatever was most convenient for the writers at the time, though their contributions, on an episode-by-episode basis were certainly entertaining. Overall, this was a very strong series, with a generally tightly-woven plot clearly nailed out early in its conception and executed with style and confidence.