I did intend to talk about something serious and factual this week, you know, with technical information and such. Very researched and educational, I assure you. But when I sat down to actually write all this pile of anime goodness, all seriousness flew out the window, pegged by Cupid’s arrow. I’m sorry. I caught the V-Day bug. All I can think about is love and the pile of DVDs under the TV, and the cases of manga in the closet.
Unfortunately, today you’ll be reading a lovefest to the anime and manga series that I love. Feel free to check back next week when the Hallmark manufactured hormones wear off. Now onto the titles that I find myself coming back to, again and again, no matter how they treat me!
Haibane Renmei - I end up watching the anime series at least four times a year. Not that I have a schedule; I’ll just come home, sit down and think, “You know, I really feel like watching Haibane Renmei again.” Vintage 2002 from Geneon, I love the peaceful pastel watercolors, the music, and the fact that the series never explains what the Haibane are, or where they go on their Day of Flight, leaving it open to personal speculation. Therefore, it’s rather hard to talk about the plot. It features characters who look like angels (with halos and tiny wings on their backs, hatching from cocoons), but the Haibane seem to be children who had untimely deaths or young adults who committed suicide, now reborn in an enclosed land where they can grow and work through their problems in their previous life. Once they’ve conquered their demons, so to speak, they ascend to a new mortal life. I like how it begins, thrusting you right into the store, sharing the wonderment of the characters as a new cocoon is found in an abandoned area. I love the ending episodes (11 to 13), as you suddenly realize that the entire series was about a secondary character, Reki, not the innocent, then corrupted, then redeemed Haibane, Rakka. I love how the atmosphere reinforces the character scenes, as clouds moving across the full moon illustrate confusion and Reki’s inner darkness and feeling of abandonment. Awesome stuff.
Someday’s Dreamers - Short series, clocking in at three discs, dating from 2003, courtesy of Geneon. Someday’s Dreamers shares the slow pace and watercolors of Haibane Renmei, although the series does feel rather rushed near the end in wrapping up the story. It tells the story of apprentice mage Yume, a country high school girl who goes to Tokyo one summer to learn about magic and pass her examination to become a registered magic user. For more details on the story, check out the review I wrote on the manga series a few months back. It contains a really powerful episode on the second DVD, where magical genius Angela bends Tokyo Tower to the ground to prove her love to a magical-poor but good intentioned fellow apprentice. As Angela is usually emotionless, this sudden outpouring of passionate speech and actions is powerful.
Honey and Clover - Two seasons (26 and 12, plus two extra special episodes in the first season) of real life love life drama that aired in 2005 and 2006. Hearts are set aflame, broken, superglued and then fade over time, as we follow the lives of a group of friends attending an art school over the years from their lives as students to leaving school to start their adult lives. There’s love triangles, unrequited love and potential love, all mixed in with the feelings of uncertainty that every college student can attest to. It’s currently unlicensed in the US, although the first season has been licensed in Europe by Media Blasters, and there is a live action movie as well. I want to read the manga so badly! Somebody license this! Now!
Last Exile - So pretty. It’s the show I use to introduce RPG friends to anime. This seven-disc action-adventure-political intrigue series from Geneon aired in 2003. It’s nice to see the angsty pretty boy pay the price for his dark obsession for revenge for once, although the revelation of what Last Exile really is was rather anticlimactic.
Lone Wolf and Cub - The granddaddy of samurai manga, this is a timeless classic published in the US by Dark Horse Manga that every serious manga otaku should have in their collection already. With minimal dialogue and inkstrokes, this manga shows that sometimes, less is more.
Descendants of Darkness - The anime that sold me on boy love, and opened the gate to yaoi. Brought to TV screens by Central Park Media in 2000, this is a beautiful anime about shinigami detectives who solve crimes of untimely deaths. The main character, Tsuzuki can summon powerful god-creatures to protect him and attack his foes, but Tsuzuki’s nemesis, Doctor Muraki seeks the secret to Tsuzuki’s near immortality in his mortal life... in order to get his revenge. I haven’t read the manga series from VIZ Media yet, but the anime is wonderful!
Gravitation - The anime and OVA series... the title that finalized my love of boy love and yaoi, when done right. The four-disc series from Right Stuf (circa 1999-2001) contains great music, characters that you soon grow to love, and unrequited love that slowly becomes accepted. I didn’t enjoy the manga as much, but the anime... mmm... oh yeah.
Comic Party - A fun series in both anime and manga form, from Right Stuf in 2001. It explores the whole otaku/doujinshi/cosplay community, as the characters explain their fandom to a newbie artist who wants to make doujinshi comics (think indie, convention-only comics), although the manga series uses less of this show-and-tell method. Each medium tells a slightly different story, both ending happily with a girlfriend accepting of the otaku lifestyle and of creepy friends. Now isn’t that an inspiring story?
Hooligan - My final entry is my favorite hentai, outside of La Blue Girl. It’s a quest for the seven magic dildos... with Dragonball Z-level epic battles following the standard rule of hentai battles: whoever comes first loses. Hooligan contains the best ad lib line I have ever heard in anime: “Is that a fish on your penis?” It takes no attempt at all to be serious hentai, tossing comic dialogue everywhere. And that’s how I like my hentai. This title comes from Critical Mass/Right Stuf, 2002.
There you have it... the anime and manga close to my heart, and to my TV and stringy bookmarks. Tune in, Otaku of the Future, for the further adventures of American Otaku Girl! Rawr!