Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2010

It is time for the most anticipated and respected anime awards show of the year! (De gustibus non est disputandum.) On the Speakeasy we looked back at the trends that defined anime and manga in 2010. This is an examination of the individual titles and characters that made the biggest impact on us this year. We discuss what made us laugh and cry (for the better and the worse.) Feel free to chime in with your picks as well. If you have a suggested category you would like us to use next year just leave us a comment and we will try to work it in next year.

I really enjoy doing this post. Yeah, everyone does one, but that is because they are fun! For good or ill I know what kind of year I’ve had when I do this post.

Best Anime of 2010 or the Junmai Daiginjo-shu of Anime

Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn by Sunrise I know it seems impossible but Gundam Unicorn might actually be the one modern series that a majority of Gundam fans can get behind without their normal bickering. It incorporates the newest and flashiest technology while keeping true to the strength and spirit of the original Universal Century series. If you did not know better you would assume that Yoshiyuki Tomino played a part in the creation of this series for who seamlessly it works itself into the universe. The characters for the series harken back to the former archetypes set by its predecessors while not seeming like clones. Obviously a good deal of money and love was poured into this series because it consistently looks amazing. I look forward to learning the secrets of the Laplace Box and the RX-0.

Runner up: House of Five Leaves by Manglobe An absorbing and atmospheric character based historical drama. Based on seinen manga it is an adult work for both sexes that continues the tradition of great noitaminA anime.

Giant Killing by Studio DEEN When thinking this over, I had to ask myself what was I most anxious to watch each week? What did I want another season of (and thought it could sustain it)? I arrived at my answer pretty quickly. It was Giant Killing’s approach to characters that impressed me throughout the season. Never did the show bang you over the head with who these people were, instead we were shown through small actions, bits of conversations, and of course their approach to soccer. And best of all we got to see everyone involved when it comes to sports from the players to the fans, from the press to the managing staff. Everyone had a role but our main character was not a star or up and coming player, but rather the coach. Tatsumi makes this show and gives a new perspective for a sports anime. Perhaps Giant Killing isn’t the most thought-provoking showing of the year, but it did things just a little bit differently and it never faltered.

Runner up: Kuragehime by Brain’s Base (second mostly because I haven’t seen how it ends yet) This is a very absorbing comedy about a house full of girl geeks whose lives get turned upside down when cross-dressing Kurnosuke takes an interest in them. This is the most genuine depiction of geeky girls I’ve seen to date without being pandering. And it is also turning into a tender romance as well.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #084

We received a review copy of Twin Spica from Vertical books. Twin Spica’s first volume is charming almost immediately and grips you with an attachment to Asumi and her story with ease. I felt warmth and real human spirit starting with the scenes between her and her father about her decision to attend space school, the emotion portrayed is taken throughout the volume. Asumi is a bit eccentric, but the major problem she must overcome is her small stature. This isn’t particularly unique, but it is done in a believable manner and you get the feeling that while it will certainly be a hindrance at times, her small size may come in handy at some point. The friendships that begin to form in this book are well-earned complete with determination, egos, teamwork, and arguments. Everyone learns some lessons and starts to build some trust all of which they will need because this doesn’t look to be an easy trip to space. While there is a still an element of fun and whimsy to the series, the space school itself seems tough as nails and I don’t have the slightest inkling what kind of test they’ll be put through next nor whether all the characters we’ve met will get their chance in space. My only issue with this volume comes from the bonus chapters which remove much of the mysteries of the series, just seemed a bit early and loses a bit of tension in the story. However, those secrets are about the past and not the future so I’m anxious for another volume. Twin Spica is a story that will appeal to young and old alike, a real gem from the new line of Vertical books!

hisuicon Twin Spica is the series for people who want more Planetes in terms hard sci-fi space travel stories and quality manga in general. It is the story of Asumi Kamogawa who wishes to join the Tokyo Space Academy and become an astronaut despite a tragic past involving space travel. She is encouraged by a ghostly apparition she calls Lion-san whose face is hidden behind a Lion mask and seems to be linked to the tragedy as well. But the competition is tough and she seems to have more drive than natural ability. The art is a simpler seinen style that while consistently solid will not impress anyone. But it is great at conveying the emotional impact of all the important scenes which is vital as the story and the characters will consistently draw you in a keep you reading. Every chapter hooks you on Asumi’s struggle to be an astronaut while balancing between making things too bleak or too sentimental. Despite having the ghostly spirit of Lion-san everything else in the series is very hard Sci-Fi. Asumi’s first test to get into the Tokyo Space Academy set the bar pretty high for the rest of the series in term of how well it mixes develops the characters while keeping the story exiting and captivating. But the manga also excels at being able to keep us engaged during the less frenzied sections as well. I am sold and and look forward to reading the rest of this amazing narrative.

First it has to be said that the simulcasting of House of Five Leaves is indeed a feat and one that I am personally very excited about. The styling of the characters will hit you immediately, this lends a lot of expression to them even when they aren’t talking or doing anything. The visually striking pieces don’t stop there either as the use of light and shadow is lovely as well as the angles. It’s unique and certainly won’t remind you of most anime design. The way this story is told is very somber, there is action and there is drama, but the overall feeling I was left with was one of quiet melancholy. Akitsu is a talented sword fighter but more than a little mousy, while that sounds probably familiar the way he is portrayed is not. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but much of the characters are gave me this feeling of both old and new. I’m sorry this show is so hard to explain, it was almost dreamlike. I give up, watch it, I will be.

hisuicon House of Five Leaves is a refreshing show on a variety of levels. The anime captures Natsume Ono’s unique and expressive art style very well while adapting it to a TV animation format possibly even better than they did with Ristorante Paradiso. Also this is a story of mature characters on the fringe of society of historical Japan which is a refreshing change of pace. It centers around Akitsu Masanosuke who is an extremely meek but proud ronin who keeps getting fired because he does not exude samurai spirit despite having unsurpassed swordsmanship. When he accepts a body guarding job from Yaichi he quickly gets involved in the criminal syndicate the Five Leaves. Akitsu is both repulsed by the seedy nature of the group but also drawn in by Yaichi’s charisma and complex motivations. Although there is some action the main draw is the intriguing character studies and interactions on display. It seems like another great noitaminA that you can watch legally streaming.

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