Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2009

Narutaki & Hisui VS. 2009 is in part an award show, in part an exercise in humor and snark, in part a challenge, and in part a love letter to everything great this year. We picked several categories and each of us picked titles, characters, and people who we felt best summed up our feelings on the year. Take a peek into what we thought on the anime and manga of 2009 and the people who bring it to us. Feel free to suggest new categories and challenge our picks.

Would also love to hear other people’s picks for some of these categories as well! By the way, some of this stuff happens to have come out in years gone by but we first watched/read/whatnot this year so that’s why they’re here, I’ll hear no guff about it! I really enjoy this part of the year, all the posts seem to be more fun and this one is no exception.

Best Anime of 2009 or Show that Infuriates You to No End When Someone on MAL says “If you like this show you will love Dance in the Vampire Bund.”

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0
The noitaminA is your go to animation slot when you are looking for something that is simultaneously different, mature, well produced, and smart. Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is no exception to this rule. An exceptional look at ordinary people involved in an extraordinary but still extremely feasible situation. It is a superb mixture of intense character study and survival drama. I know some people feel the end is weak but I thought it did well in capping off this  powerful and thought provoking show.

Eden of the East
It is a little bit mystery, a little bit drama, and a little bit suspense wrapped around an intriguing concept. It’s a wonderful series to watch unfold and since Takizawa doesn’t remember what has happened there is a wonderful element of discovery that comes. Takizawa himself is a refreshing and mysterious guy but you always get the feeling, or I did, that he was a good guy even when things looked dubious. Also he loved dogs, can’t be bad. The game was able to engross and impress me from episode one and continued to do so throughout its broadcast.

Anime Man of the Year or You Must be Swift
as a Coursing River

Battler Ushiromiya
Have you ever wished Phoenix Wright could be the star of his own supernatural murder mystery anime? Well if so then someone heard your prayers. In Umineko no Naku Koro ni we have Battler Ushiromiya who is a clear homage to Phoenix Wright with dramatic finger pointing, manly crying, and split between having to do detective work and acting like a lawyer. He may have his flaws but no matter what he keeps marching forward despite numerous set backs and tragedies. Plus he is just plain cool whenever he is on the counterattack. His casual charm and iron clad will set the tone for the anime as much as they do the games it was based on.

Guin
After thinking this over way too much, I finally decided on Guin for a few reasons. First being that after more than 100 books about his quest on the bestseller list, Guin finally got an anime. Adding to that is that Guin may arguably be the most manly character animated in 2009. If you watch just the first episode, this will become obvious. I also read about Guin in novel formthe first time this year myself. And finally, and sadly, Guin’s creator Kaoru Kurimoto passed away in 2009, a woman who was still writing about her most popular creation.

Anime Woman of the Year or I am Woman Hear Me Roar

Canaan
Canaan is a competent kick arse girl with a gun. That is usually all that you need to sell me on a character. The fact that Canaan has her rather slick synesthesia ability which I thought was a very original superpower. She has a stoic and cool feel to her but it she still cares for the people she wishes to protect and gives her all to do so. I also think that her competence on the battlefield but her awkwardness in personal relationships gives her a good mixture of strength and weakness that make her a serious version of Sousuke Sagara. I also think makes her an interesting character to me.

Sawako
Picking a woman of the year became a lot easier the more I watched Kimi ni Todoke. Sawako has a special strength of character that uplifts you, just as she does to the many characters around her. She is humorous and endearing and you never doubt that she will succeed and grow in each new scenario she encounters. Sawako’s positive attitude, even after endearing so much isolation is a true testament to the human spirit and the ability to change.

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Manga of the Month: November

Honey and Clover by Chika Umino

If Honey and Clover was always sepia toned it would never seem horrifically out of place. Honey and Clover is a joyful if melancholy tinged looked back on college life. It looks at the lives of 5 students at an art college in Tokyo. The main theme is trying to figure out where you are going. Everyone is trying to discover where exactly they are headed with their lives before they enter the “real” world. Of course being college students there are also messy and mature relationships do deal with along the way. Everyone’s story is a mixture of joy and sadness like the bitterness and sweetness of a honey and clover sandwich.

Yuta Takemoto is effectively the main character of the story. He is a directionless art student who falls in love with with Hagumi Hanamoto, the niece of one of his professors. His friend and super senior Shinobu Morita falls in love with her at the same time. But Hagu is a shy and extremely sheltered young genius and finds it hard to interact with others. Takumi Mayama is a also their friend who is poised on graduating. Their mutual friend Ayumi Yamada is in love with Takumi but he only has eyes for Rika Harada a young widow whose soul is a broken as her body. We see all of them go through school and try desperately try to find where they need to be after college.

I think one of the biggest appeals for Honey and Clover is it’s more mature setting. We get so many high school anime but it is a nice change of pace to see a solid dramedy set with some older protagonists. I think these older characters who eventually have to deal with jobs and more mature relationships is refreshing while still having the vibrancy of the college experience. All of the characters are very relatable and amusing. You will feel triumph at their successes and heartbreak with their losses. The comedy is extremely well done and prevents the series from being gray colored slice of life quagmire. Shinbou could get his own spin off series and all the women and most of the men reading would probably buy two copies each. Honey and Clover is a amazing series that captures the highlights and low points of being young enough to have the world before you but old enough to know how scary that is.

Palette of 12 Secret Colors by Nari Kusakawa

I have absolutely fallen in love with the work manga-ka Nari Kusakawa does. My most recent passion is for Palette of 12 Secret Colors which takes place on island that houses the most beautiful birds in the world. Cello a “palette” in training (and many others) use the birds’ bright colors to change ordinary things, like cloth and rocks, into precious treasures that are sought the world over. But Cello’s magic doesn’t work like anyone else and usually manifests itself best when she is in danger but her unique abilities get her into some interesting situations. Cello is positive, funny, passionate, and easy to love. As the story goes on we see Cello struggle with how she wants to use her palette skills after her training is complete. However, most things take a back seat to the budding romance between her and the school nurse. She often turns to Dr. Guell, he is blunt but funny and caring, so much so you can’t help but root for these two to come together. Things between these two move along at a brisk but believable pace through a series of mostly humorous incidents about town involving the birds of the island, random students, thieves, and old friends. While the majority of time is spent on Cello or Dr. Guell, there is a colorful side cast that liven things up constantly from Cello’s rambunctious dad who forms an amusing kinship with Dr. Guell to Yoyo and Olga’s scheming to keep their masters apart that ensures funny happenings both in the background and foreground of this manga. Palette of 12 Secret Colors is a charming combination of fantasy, romance, and a huge helping of comedy. And with a mere 6 books to collect, it shouldn’t be missed!

Ongoing Investigations: Case #062

Read through Palette of 12 Secret Colors books 2-5. This series is just delightful, it never fails to make me smile. Things progress quite nicely between Cello and Dr. Guell through a series of mostly humorous incidents about town and involving the birds of the island, random students, and old friends. There are some particularly hilarious chapters focusing on Yoyo, Cello’s bird, and Olga, Dr. Guell’s companion, both of whom have it in for their masters budding romance. Also, Olga takes it upon herself to sort of boot camp Cello in studying to be a palette. From this I learned the saying “Four pass, five fail,” which is apparently a very common saying in Japanese schools by which it means four hours of sleep (spending the other 20 presumably studying) and you will pass your tests. I also found the friendship between Dr. Guell and Cello’s dad ceaselessly amusing. Besides these sort of trip ups on the road to love, I am pleased to say there haven’t been any love rivals. Looking forward to book 6, which is in the mail, to the surely funny but sweet conclusion.

Saki has been a fun little series with varying degrees of mahjong and yuri fanboy relationship fanservice. I think Narutaki summed it up quite well with, “Men are so easy.” I still stick by my guns and state that I liked Saki more for it’s mahjong than for it’s pandering but part of me wonders if almost everyone who watches Saki says that. And how many of them are lying? That being said the mahjong is usually pretty fun in Saki. It is not the crazy intense madness of Akagi but sucks you in. If Akagi is all about the razors edge life and death struggle of the professional gambler taken to a melodramatic extreme then Saki is about the friendships and passions of team mahjong taken to a melodramatic extreme. The fact that most of the characters are pretty well fleshed out for the amount of screen time they get helps this as well. Since you care about all the characters playing the games they become that more more intense. Unsurprisingly this seems to be popular among the otaku crowd in Japan so there are hints that a sequel is in the works provided Gonzo does not go out of business before that can happen. The ending is full of scenes from later in the original manga filled with hints that the mahjong only gets crazier. I will admit I always get the urge to eat tacos after watching Saki. And that is hardly a negative. Still it was a fun ride and I would easily watch a second season. Continue reading