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The Best of Anime, Sort Of (Part Two)

Nadia's second part of her Best Anime List.

By Nadia Oxford, Columnist     January 31, 2008


Nothing like watching some AKIRA.
© Toho

I started last week's column with a Spoiler Warning, and I think doing the same for this week is a fantastic idea. You don't want to spoil the ending for choice #1 the same way I did several months before I even got into the series. Sigh. Thanks, 4chan.

So we're ready to keep counting down the supposed Ten Best Moments in anime, a list I put together for another website. A link to the feature will be available at the end of this column, as will punch and pie.

Before I resume though, I should note that this is interesting timing for a "Best Of" list. The anime community is currently buzzing with big news: anime distributors ADV might be in some class of financial trouble. It's too early to know anything for sure, but this might mark the beginning of some major reforms in the anime industry. Publishers may start to exercise greater scrutiny in deciding what gets translated and what doesn't. Putting more thought behind such selections can only be beneficial.

That said, there's no disputing the greatness of the following clips. I guess it's up for debate about whether or not you, as a person, feel they're the absolute best…but speaking for myself, these are moments that won't fade away from me even as I'm gibbering to myself in an Old Folk's Home.

4. Akira -- Tetsuo Transforms

Many fans broke their anime cherries with Otomo's bizarre science fiction film. Animated in 1988, Akira's fluid animation was an enormous step away from the budget anime that was produced (and sadly, still produced) by Japan at the time.

Every country experiences an animation Renaissance of sorts, America included. But whereas American animation reached new heights with the help of beautifully animated Disney films like Beauty and the Beast, Japan broke new ground by meticulously animating piles of slithering guts and exploding heads. The transformation of the black sheep Tetsuo into a pulsating mound of flesh is as disturbing as Tetsuo himself is disturbed. One thing's for sure, though--climaxes this memorable don't occur in movies often, animated or no.

3. My Neighbour Totoro -- The Bus Stop Scene

Sandwiched in between two of anime's most horrific events is one of anime's most endearing scenes. You can't have a "Best Of Anime" list without referencing Studio Ghibli (it's true, I looked it up)--and heck, a "Ten Best of Studio Ghibli" would be a hell of a list on its own.

The bus stop scene in My Neighbour Totoro is simple: The giant cat-like Totoro uses an umbrella for the first time and revels in the sound of the raindrops on canvas. It sounds like a mundane moment, but Ghibli really excels with turning the smallest movements and sounds into wonders: The way the rain drips on Totoro's nose, the experienced and casual way Satsuki holds her sister, and the sheer fun of being in the rain--when you're protected by an umbrella.

The scene ends when the multi-legged Cat Bus shows up to pick up Totoro. Actually, scratch what I said about My Neighbour Totoro having friendly imagery: That Cat Bus still manages to steal a few hours of sleep from me.

2. Barefoot Gen -- Hiroshima Bombing

If there's one thing anime is equally praised and criticised for, it's the fact that the medium doesn't pull any punches. Barefoot Gen, the story of a young boy who survived the Hiroshima bombings, even garnered applause from Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) for its unapologetic realism.

The scene referenced here starts with Gen's family going about their morning business moments before the bombing. We watch them do their daily tasks while knowing precisely what's coming. And when it comes, it's unforgettable. People left unprotected by the atomic bomb's heat literally melt away. The blast that follows propels shards of glass into their skin and eyes. Collapsed beams from houses impale those unfortunate enough to be caught under them.

Barefoot Gen isn't a blame piece, however. The bombing scene is animated with such realism to remind us about what nuclear weapons are underneath all the swagger about terrorism and MAD: "The power of gods in the hands of children," to borrow a quote from The Chrysalids.

And on that cheerful note, we're down to numero uno:

1. Cowboy Bebop -- "Bang."

Sorry if this doesn't come as a surprise, but I didn't have the heart to even consider another contender. The final five minutes of Cowboy Bebop are stunning, an adjective that doesn't even begin to describe the mastery that went behind them. Spike's final fight with Vicious is worthy of being called one of the greatest confrontations in movie history--and in my mind that includes big-budget live action as well as animation--but it's his death that will, ironically, live forever. The silence, the choreography, the blinding lights…and, of course, Spike's final word.

Thus concludes this small countdown. Thanks for hanging on! Clips of all the selected scenes are available here, and they're all worth watching.

I lied about the punch and pie, though. Sorry.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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AbsoluteDesignz 1/31/2008 4:41:25 AM
Cowboy Bebop was a hell of a TV show, and the movie is great as well, perhaps the best anime I've ever seen and the only one I can watch over and over without a desire to fastforward thru a scene. That gun/sword fight was amazing.
mbeckham1 1/31/2008 6:34:16 AM
I could not agree more. That last scene in Cowboy Bebop was one of the most haunting moments in fiction. Beautiful and sad. The last battle, hell, the whole last two parter was sheer genius and everything you could hope to expect from the most brilliant series in anime, or just about any medium. The sword and gunfight was extraoridinary coriagraphy. The pacing both epic and tragic and inspiring. So often it just proves imossible to make a finalethat lives up the a great series. And one would have thought that would have been impossble here, but the crreators pulled off that rare miracle and made the final note of Bebop pitch perfect. Also gotta give some love to Ed and Ein's goodbye, and Fey's almost goodbye, surprisngly movng last act, the music gets me every time.
nadiaoxford 1/31/2008 7:28:04 AM
I was tempted to somehow include the scene with Ein and the mushrooms.
toran 1/31/2008 8:54:20 AM
When I read the last list, I thought to myself, "Gotta include the final scene form Bebop." Glad to see it was not only included, but made number 1. Of all the animes out there that I think would make terrific movie adaptations, my list would have Coboy Bebop at the top. The show had a wonderful blend of both Japanese and American culture. It was scifi but the characters were very grounded and easily accessible for the audience. And lets not forget, Bebop had probably the best English dub version around. Nothing drags a show down more than a bad dub. Bebop never had that problem. Well, I could wax on forever about the show. Suffice to say, good choice on number 1.
michaelxaviermaelstrom 1/31/2008 9:08:09 AM
I'd agree that over-all Bebop is the greatest pound for poundings anime series, but the one I would feed into my cerebral cortex with an razor blade and an IV drip would be, ][Ghost in the Shell - Stand Alone Complex][ Completely under-appreciated in its time (read: ignored by the Cartoon Network's younger Pokemon and Naruto viewing demographic., apparently for being "too boring") ..and yet it absolutely heads my list of recent fave anime series. I'm still viewing episodes of GiTS: 2nd Gig, and so I haven't yet decided if it will replace Bebop as my all-time fave anime series, but it's making a good run for the title so far. It slices into the pleasure center of the/my brain; I enjoy it more than 99.99% of the excrement (animated or live action) that is on the idiot box at any given moment. Such is my unabashed love for GiTS:SAC. Anyway, Bebop's great. I'm partial to some Bubblegum Crisis and Lodoss War, and an no doubt easily dismissed yet quite atmospheric anime that I stumbled onto in an old VHS bin, nomened "Darkside Blues" - that baby unexpectedly frequently finds itself going on replay at many a sleepless Ante Meridian. Good list of top-key-anime-moments. mXm
galaga51 1/31/2008 9:18:18 AM
Damnit, Nadia! Now I want some pie! Alright... I'm having rib eye tonight and watching some Bebop. Anyone is welcome to come over, but you must bring pie. Pumpkin, apple, chocolate, key-lime and chess are best. Any crumbles or cobblers are acceptable as well. Hell, just bring about any dessert. Good list though.
gauleyboy420 1/31/2008 9:52:55 AM
Fantastic List, You hit the nail on the head with this, ESPECIALLY #1. It's no wonder I like Cowboy Beebop if it is being regarded as the #1 Moment in anime ever. I can't stand most anime, I really like Akira, and am absolutely in love with Beebop. It is truly the best anime ever, I think the stories and character development is what puts it ahead of the pack., It never gets boring or slow, but it doesn't needlessly rush the afore mentioned character development. Creating an emotional bond between the viewer and the characters.
soulrevivor 1/31/2008 11:54:44 AM
Fantastic list, I couldn’t agree more with you, but in my book there some pieces missing here of the great anime universe that when they did come out change the surroundings of the anime World, one of them is the manga origin Space Adventure Cobra and the other is the purely anime best Ninja Scroll.
jamauntre 1/31/2008 4:33:43 PM
Okay, 1st off I agree great list..Cowboy Bebop and Akira are 2 of my favorite animes and it fits that CB is #1 and the picture for the blog is Akira.
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