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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and children of all ages (even if the laws of the internet say you’re all guys and FBI agents anyway.) It is Thursday, June 21st, the first day of summer, and Day 4 of my Spring 2007 Season Review Week. I’m short on time tonight, so no screencaps and I hope to keep things short as I count down my top 10 favorite series of the season.

Honorable Mention.) Princess Resurrection (Kaibutsu Oujo)

I haven’t done honorable mentions in my previous lists, but that’s because the other lists were a bit easier to quantify. I have utterly loved this Spring season in general, though, so there are not one, but two series that did not make my Top 10 for reasons that shall be explained. The First Honorable Mention I have to give goes to Princess Resurrection.

I love a good Schadenfreude series (For those who don’t know what I mean, I refer to a psychological aspect of the human mind that takes pleasure in other peoples pain. There’s a song about it in Avenue Q. Best song in it, in fact. Certainly better than those over-used songs If You Were Gay and The Internet is for Porn,) and Princess Resurrection pretty much meets the bill quite nicely. It’s got a fun set of characters, including a Male Lead who has a habit of dying at least once an episode, as well as a pair of good OP/EDs and a fun plot going for it. There’s only a few things that prevent me from putting it into the top 10. First is that in terms of general quality of animation and humor, it falls short of the other two Schadenfreude series this season, Hayate the Combat Butler and Seto no Hanayome. Next is that Hiro is a less interesting main character than the other two hapless idiot lightning rod main characters of the other Schadenfreude series, Hayate and Nagasumi. All Hiro really does is blankly accept that it is his lot in life to die (repeatedly) for his Mistress. Hayate has multi-faceted bad luck, and Nagasumi has the misfortune of actually surviving what he has to go through. Finally… in general, the scope of its humor is less broad than the referential Hayate and the Hyper-insane Seto no Hanayome.

Still a fun, easily recommendable series, just not Top 10 Material.

Season Rating: B

Honorable Mention.) Death Note

Death Note is, in my opinion, one of the best Manga ever written. Why do I not rank it in the Top 10, then? To put it simply, I don’t like how the anime has given an unfair treatment to the second half of the manga. After spending a leisurely 26 episodes taking its time through the more popular L Saga, it has blazed through the Mello and Near Saga at a rapid pace of 11 episodes. I find this mostly pandering to the loud and obnoxious fanboys who unfairly decried the second half of the series as not as good as the first. Also, thanks to this rapid pacing, events were dropped or reordered, a decision that I don’t see much justification in. It’s still a brilliant series… just one that’s hindered by the director of the anime trying to cater to what’s popular rather than giving all aspects of this wonderful story equal treatment. Especially when I thought the first saga was almost too SLOW.

Season Rating: B-

Honorable Mention.) Shining Tears X Wind

Do not watch this series alone. By yourself, the gratingly bad plot (one that would even suck as an RPG) and dull characters make this a series to avoid. However, if you watch with a friend or friends, prepare for a wild, fun ride. This is a series that is designed for two purposes: heckling and drinking games. The amount of sexual innuendo is so copious that any amount of either will make this a riotously hilarious series.

Season Rating: F (If watching alone), A (For sheer humor value when watching in a group with no reservations on heckling)

10.) Lovely Complex

A wonderful Shoujo series by any measure, LoveCom charmed me almost instantly with its liberal use of rapid humor, kansaiben (Which is fun no matter if you know Japanese or not) and most of all, a delightful cast of characters ranging from one of the scariest trap-chans in anime to the All-Hanshin-Kyojin Duo of Koizumi and Otani themselves. The plot develops at an excellent rate (reportedly much faster than the manga, which works out well) and also somehow realistically. Granted, there are some crazy-go-nuts over the top moments that would probably not happen in real life, but they still manage to stay SOMEWHERE close to the ground. The obvious romance between Koizumi and Otani naturally begins to form, but not in the way you’d end up expecting, which works out beautifully.

Also of note is I’m rather glad that the director, famous for heading up One Piece, decided to go at a pace that DOESN’T drag things out. Kudos to you, Kunousuke Uda.

Rating: A-

9.) Darker than Black

A series that is more about its stories and less about its characters, Darker than Black has turned out to be a very cool series from Studio Bones. All the situations so far have been very interesting and at times quite fun, and it’s slowly building up the framework for a very well defined supernatural punk action world. My only wish really is that they give us even more about our Main Characters, especially Hei. Dropping hints about his past as though he were Spike Spiegel but not giving him the same amount of screen time doesn’t really let us grow to like a character.

Rating: A-

8.) The Skull Man

Darker than Black is, as I said, a fun series from Studio Bones. However, their BETTER series this fall, The Skull Man, is darker than Darker than Black, and has more well defined and interesting characters. This supernatural mystery thriller evokes the image of V for Vendetta with Monsters, Evil Religions and references to Nietzsche. Plus, the two main characters, a Tabloid Journalist and a cute female Photographer, have been really fun to follow. The plot makes turn after turn after red herring, and has kept me guessing the whole way. Very good show indeed.
Rating: A

7.) Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS

As I have said before, I don’t get the blogger hatred for this series. All four of the new main characters are interesting in their own right without being carbon copies of any of the previous characters in the series, the returning main characters are all still fun (though the lack of Yuuno, who has barely appeared at all, and Arf, who is completely absent, depresses me,) and unlike most Shounen training sequences, the training here actually manages to show some insight into the characters as well as letting them grow in a realistic (i.e., non-epiphany induced) manner. The plot has moved at just the right rate for the kind of story they seem to be wishing to tell this time around as well. No complaints here, I’m enjoying this show immensely.

Rating: A

6.) Lucky Star

This show about nothing has grown stranger and stranger with each passing week. While the first week was rather tame (and to an extent boring) each consecutive week has been better than the last. However, the highlight of the show, and really what has this up so high, is always Lucky Channel. I seriously would love a spinoff starring just Shiraishi and Akira. The two are simply hilarious, one of the best humor duos in anime history.

Rating: A

5.) Bokurano

An excellent, thoughtful and well laid out mecha series that manages to avoid all the things I dislike about mecha (and believe me, there are many.) Up to where I’ve watched, the series has been much more about the children than about their doomed mission to save the world, even if it all turns out to really just be a game. I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter if the anime director hates the source work; something as bleak as what I hear the source is is most certainly not going to be for everyone. I’ll probably get around to reading it sometime, but until then my general opinion of the anime remains what it was to begin with: an excellent character focused drama.

Rating: A+

4.) Hayate the Combat Butler

At the start of the season, I would have ranked Hayate as my favorite of the Schadenfreude series of this season. Hayate himself is a riot, and the situations were kooky and fun enough, and the general tone sarcastic enough, to be the most fun of these. And for the most part, it’s stayed pretty consistent, with only one episode really upping the series already high ante, episode 10. Still as fun and hilarious as ever.

Rating: A+

3.) Seto no Hanayome

Seto no Hanayome, on the other hand, is a Schadenfreude series that started out a little below Hayate and has since then surpassed it, mostly driven by its pure, unadulterated energy.It risked falling into harem cliches several times, but thankfully its tendency to pull itself out with the most insane of insane situations has driven the series more towards absurdist shonen now, and it still doesn’t let up on tormenting its main character. Last I checked, Nagasumi had just been assaulted by a terminator-like big muscular guy… who just happens to be the head father of a mermaid clan rival to the mermaid clan he has married into.

Yeah, the dude is starting to seem like he has about as little luck as Hayate, if not less.

I would also like to suggest that this is one of the best animated shows this season. The vibrant, warm colors and smooth animation is always appealing, and the amazingly (for Gonzo) conservative use of obvious CGI is quite refreshing. The series also flows in and out of animation style changes with ease, and even when things are going completely insane, the super-deformed or occasionally different mangaka styled characters never seem out of place or weird. WONDERFUL series, this is.

Rating: AA

2.) Denno Coil

Inventive, clever and all-around nifty, Denno Coil has skyrocketted this high on my list with ease. The series unique take on the idea of cyberspace as a layer of data placed over reality is simply appealing to me, and though it is at times confusing about the ramifications of this, the series remains engrossing and fantastic. The characters are all delights as well, from the meek but cute Yasako, to her loud but strangely cute younger sister Kyoko, to the incredibly cool Isako, to even the utterly adorable cyberdog Densuke, the cast of Denno Coil is one of the most fun I’ve seen in anime in ages. Plus, the animation is simply gorgeous. Studio Madhouse has a true winner with this series, as everything seems so perfect. Even the blatantly CGI Sattchi doesn’t seem out of place. I cannot rave enough about this series.

Rating: AA+

1.) Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

One of my favorite series ever. Not much more I can say beyond that. A cast filled with utterly amazing characters, energetic, lively and colorful animation, plus a simply fun adventure to be carried along by all add up to the series I have enjoyed the most all season.

Every time a blogger writes off this series as a children’s cartoon, I give a sad sigh. Certainly, it’s shounen, and not afraid to admit that. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still an utter blast to watch, mostly due to the sheer energy it puts off. One bad episode (Episode 4) isn’t enough to drag down this space opera epic, and since episode 5 it has been running on pure adrenaline, even when it stops for a short recap episode.The main character’s two episode stint of angst was just long enough to give the growth Simon needed without it seeming unrealistic, but not too long as to be frustrating.

And yet while watching it, I still get the feeling that it hasn’t hit its ceiling yet. Not when there’s still so much ground to cover.

Favorite series this season.

Rating: AA+