Slightly delayed by exams and a change of country (You think I'm joking), I return to present you with the five best anime from Autumn 2009.
I will be brutally honest - Autumn this year did not thrill me. It seems that the economic recession is finally taking hold as we are presented with a distinct lack of big budget, glossy productions of a scale to rival Canaan or Valkyria Chronicles. Add in the shadow of previous seasons - the manga and video game adaptations this time around are noticably smaller titles than in previous seasons (Letter Bee is a reasonable title but can't begin to approach Kuroshitsuji or 07 Ghost in terms of popularity, and 11eyes is not Umineko no Naku Koro Ni or Tears to Tiara) and we have no big franchises like Gundam 00 or Fullmetal Alchemist either. Even some impressive studios seem a tad off form. But having said that, there are still some pretty decent runners this time around.
In fifth place, at the risk of getting lynched, I put FAIRY TAIL. Now hold on just one second. The initial premise - adapted from a stupidly long running shonen manga by the same artist as One Piece, featuring a central character who's a moron, the guy he hates but has to work with, two pretty girls and a cat, and aimed at teenage boys - does not bode well. But bear with me on this one. Fairy Tail does not attempt to take itself seriously in any way, shape or form, and the result is enjoyable in a charmingly simple way. Plus if you've ever been inrigued by one of the LONG series but don't have the guts to marathon 150+ episodes, now's your chance to get in on something from the beginning.
Sliding neatly over to fourth place, my money is on MIRACLE TRAIN. The first of two shojo offerings this blog entry, girls of an excitable nature can happily sign here. Subtitled 'Welcome to the Oedo line', good students of Japanese should realise about five seconds into the opening theme that the seven (Stunningly good looking and nicely uniformed) male main characters are actually anthropomorphic personifications of subway stations on Tokyo's Oedo line. All your basic reverse harem personality types are well covered, and you soon come to learn (Along with more random facts about the Oedo line than you knew existed) that there is no reason too minor to indulge in some time-honoured fan service. Adorable, hilarious, and above all genuine, expect fanfiction faster than you can say 'Roppongi has the deepest station in all of Japan' (Actual line of dialogue)
We keep with the girl's comics for third place, which goes to KOBATO. The latest animated offering from the masters (Or should that be mistresses?) of shojo, CLAMP, Kobato very much carries the torch for the mangaka's earlier series. Sadly, fans of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles and xxxHolic may find Kobato just too sugary sweet, and fans of any CLAMP will be wondering where the crossovers are going to end. However, it's hard not to be endeared to the good-hearted-but-without-an-ounce-of-common-sense Hanato Kobato, and there's a touch of mystery for those who can't stand the central concept of heart-healing or the increasingly unfeasible and yet inevitable romance.
Second place is held by TEGAMI BACCHI, or LETTER BEE in English. Initial reports were skeptical, and I will admit that the series has it's faults - an overindulgence in exposition and slow pacing being primary among those - but overall, I feel that Letter Bee is raising the bar on shonen. Serialised alongside D.Gray-man these days, I don't feel that it's an unjust comparison to make between the tone, depth of heart, and wonderful development of the two manga series. However, Letter Bee the anime manages to capture this much better than D.Gray-man the anime ever did. Beautifully animated, the heartfelt and realistic characters make for one of the highlights of my week. Just don't expect anything to happen fast.
ARMED LIBRARIANS: THE BOOK OF BANTORRA, also titled TATAKAU SHISHO, an unlikely inclusion, takes first place. You may have noticed I have a certain pechant for mysteries, and Armed Librarians is no exception. Nothing in Armed Librarians makes any sense - until it DOES. You get exactly as much exposition as you need - which is far less than how much you WANT - and spend whole arcs in awed confusion until the moment when it all clicks into place. The characters run the gauntlet from charming to detestable, sweet to psycho, and are never what you expect - even though sometimes they are exactly what they seem. No sooner have you got your head around one concept until they pull the rug out from under your feet. Throw in enough excellent fight scenes to keep any action fan happy, some pleasantly retro-styled animation, and a pretty good soundtrack to boot, and you will probably join me in expecting big things from the finale of this series.
Not making any promises I can't keep, I'll see you in two months or so for the Winter Releases!
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