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.

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 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.

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: October

Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi

I know nothing of ballet, in fact I have zero ability to dance but I am consistently drawn to ballet manga. There is something about how it looks on the page that makes it very beautiful and very dramatic both of which Sawn has in spades. Japan’s ballet is a baby compared to its history in the rest of the world, but there is plenty of young (and old) talent. Great dancers from all over the nation are invited to compete, the top chosen will receive private lessons from famous dancers all over the world. This is done in hopes to expand Japan’s ballet reputation internationally. We follow Masumi, who is unexpectedly invited to the school for private lessons after being eliminated early on in the competition. She has had poor training but her staunch supporter, famous Russian dancer Alexei Sergeiev, sees great potential in her. Masumi is uneasy and has self-doubt but she is determined. The many people swirling around her add wonderful contrasts to her style and outlook as well as creating tension and of course sowing the seeds of love, friendship, and competition. All of the rivalries so far have been fair, on the level, but fierce and make each push themselves harder than before. However, they have not leaped into sabotage or foul play which is a easy direction to take such things especially in a series that is as highly melodramatic as Swan is. It is rather amazing how much emotion, suspense, and progress Ariyoshi Kyoko packs into each volume. Each character is given the ability to improve and grow which only seems to get more dramatic as the series goes on. Swan a beautifully rendered story with some of the most dynamic page layouts I’ve ever encountered. You will also learn tons about ballet. Swan is a highlight of shojo manga that shouldn’t be missed and that I can’t personally put down.

Hyakko by Haruaki Katou

I believe that most of anime and manga fandom is always looking for the next Azumanga Daioh. While I will not be so bold as to say that Hyakko is just that, I will claim that it will hold you over until you find the next Azumanga Daioh. It is as if you made Tomo the main star of Azumanga making sure to keep her energy at 11 but turn down her skill at getting under your skin to a more reasonable 5. Beyond that, you get what made Azumanga great: releatable high school characters with all their quirks exaggerated just enough for comedic effect; a focus on relationships to create a natural flow of comedy; but unlike Azumanga there are actually male students who are regular characters. Shocking, I know.

Torako Kageyama is a hurricane at Kamizono Academy, a co-ed private high school. She is an energetic spitfire that is constantly getting involved with other people’s lives. She has no great altruistic streak but instead just wants to shake things up. By hook or by crook she has three other friends who usually get involved with her shenanigans as well. Suzume Saotome is Torako’s very peculiar childhood friend, Ayumi Nonomura is a mousy but cute girl, and Tatsuki Iizuka is a straight-laced lady who is often strong armed into participating. Fortunately for Torako there are many a strange student at Kamizono Academy so she is rarely at a want of what to do next.

Hyakko is an excellent comedy manga set in high school. The main appeal is the characters and how they relate to each other. Torako’s brash nature is amusing and I especially like her antagonistic friendship with Tatsuki. We have a wide variety of odd students from the bisexual class president, a child prodigy, a delinquent, and a man with a crush on Torako who play off each other very well. There is no overall plot it’s just a different day in the life of Torako and her classmates. It’s a fun little series that will not change the way you look at life or manga but it will make you laugh and that is all it needs to do.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #059

In honor of Yoshiyuki Tomino coming to NYAF there is only one thing to be done. Gundam Sousei has to be reviewed because it was a documentary, and the events were drawn in real time. Alright, that may be an exaggeration. Gundam Sousei is actually an over the top dramatization of the creation of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series. This manga does not reflect events as they  happened. It reflects events as they should have happened. All the actors look remarkably like the characters they portray. All the production staff looks like you would imagine them to look. Tomino does not just yell at Toru Furuya to get him into his role. He Bright Slaps the performance right out of him. Shuichi Ikeda does Char so masterfully that when he is recording people see Char Aznable in the booth. Tomino masterfully schemes in ever step of the creation of Mobile Suit Gundam as if he were the Red Comet himself. Things just don’t happen in the manga. They are moved into place by the unalterable hand of destiny as the prophets that are the production staff will it to be. If you are a fan of Gundam and/or epic drama then you should check this manga out.

I picked up this One Piece pin set which is all the emblems that the crew came up with for the flag design. I had seen this set of pins before but when they presented themselves to me on the cheap and in person, I couldn’t resist. Colorful, fun, and unique.

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