I realize it’s a bit late for “Year in Review” posts, but some inexplicable urge just compelled me to write this out. Possibly attributed to my current holiday I guess. In anyways, I suck at ranking things, so this is not a “Top Ten” styled post, but more of a focus list of shows I thought best represented the year that was 2006 for me.
Number 1: Shakugan no Shana.
Shana started off strongly, but disappointingly tapered off towards the ending of the series, resulting in the show being written off as mediocre, a disappointment given that J.C. Staff is known for their quality. However, Shana-chan herself remains strong in the fandom scene and the antics of the tsundere, melonpan-addict loli still garners a lot of fandom around, with the “Urusai! Urusai! Urusai!” trademark line of hers and also the unquestionably funny Shana-tan DVD specials, even managing to fight her way up to the Quarterfinals of the Saimoe’06.
Number 2: Fate/Stay Night
Ahh.. Fate/Stay Night… how awesome it could have been. Alas however, Studio DEEN failed us all, especially on the infamous “mana-replenishment” scene, which got toned down, for the fear of parental objection when the show is inevitably licensed to North America, and replaced with a cheesy dragon. Still, the show had it’s saving graces, mostly in the form of dynamite tsundere, Rin Tohsaka, and her ass-kicking servant, GAR.. Archer. C’mon, HE coined the term GAR.
Number 3: Hanbun no Tsuki ga Noboru Sora
Given it’s 6 episode run, it’s more fitting that it should’ve been given a full run instead. Yet, this bittersweet romance story between a sick girl and a sick boy, who met in a hospital, did a lot more than what it could’ve done in 6 episodes. It’s an admirably well-done story, and the ED still manages to evoke a tear to my eye when I listen to it.
Number 4: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni.
Emo facial contortion anyone? Probably one of the most shocking and horror thriller shows in anime in recent times, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni unfortunately also fell in to a steady decline after the shocking first two arcs of the show. Nevertheless, the mystery of Hinamizawa remains a compelling watch, if just to find out the truth in the end, with all the weird theories being thrown out, especially in the final two arcs.
Number 5: Black Lagoon
Unarguably one of the best action anime of recent times, and undoubtedly this year, Black Lagoon was an all-out fun ride of guns, pirates and gangster wars. While the budget undeniably went in to the choreography, the plot was there too and written quite well, whether when it dealt with some serious issues or just as a cause for more guns to be fired and things to be blown up. Black Lagoon is definitely a show well enjoyed by going along with the ride.
Number 6: Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru.
Fittingly, after popularizing the phenomenon of traps, Otoboku is definitely one of the influential shows of 2006. The sordid premise of a guy, forced by his grandparents will, to play dress-up and attend an all-girls school, did particularly well for focusing on the characters that surrounded Mizuho-chan, and while the ending might have been a disappointment to many, I found it a very good one instead, since it didn’t ended on a “forced” note to pair up Mizuho with any of the girls that surrounded him. The performance of Yui Horie as Mizuho will be one of her notable roles in the future, undeniably.
Number 7: NHK ni Youkoso.
A title that deals with a subject matter that strikes close to the heart of many otakus (this blogger included), hikikomorism, the anime adaptation has long been awaited. Initial concerns were raised when it was discovered that Gonzo would be handling it, given their reputation in recent times, but I’m pleased to say that my hopes were not dashed. Of course, the production quality of the show bombed many times throughout it’s run, but thankfully, the story remained solidly one foot in the ground, tackling a lot of social malaise’s that have struck Japan in the aggressive rush to the future, and in the center of it all, Tatsuhiro Satou, a very human character that personified the many negative sides of a human, but yet in the end, still manages to stand back up and face the challenges, slowly but surely. I would also give kudos to the performance of seiyuu Yui Makino as Nakahara Misaki, and I’m looking forward to her future career up ahead.
Number 8: Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu
If I had to name a show that represented 2006, no doubt SHnY will be the first name I come out with. There was absolutely no fanfare about the title at all, up to the week it aired, except for a few that noticed it was being done by the gods, Kyoto Animation. And true to their reputation, KyoAni literally created a “Big Bang” in the otaku scene, with the story of an eccentric girl, bored of the world, in search of otherworldly beings to literally bring excitement to the world. She might not have managed to create the excitement she originally aimed for in her own dimension, but in ours, she has definitely spiced up the lives of countless fans, and now rightly claims to be the most marketable brand name in the industry, perhaps only eclipsed by more, commercially focused shows, such as Bleach.
Number 9: Zegapain
Initially neglected by the torrent that was Suzumiya Haruhi, I’m glad to have discovered this little gem by Sunrise, who have, in many ways, disappointed it’s own fans recently. Zegapain, however, shows that Sunrise still possesses a considerable amount of talent at it’s disposable, just don’t let them near the marketing executives. The story and setting of Zegapain is undeniably compelling and exuded an exceedingly melancholic feel, while the clincher of the show lies in it’s main characters, from the spunky Kyo Sogoro, the enigmatic Misaki Shizuno (the best role of Ayako Kawasumi, to date) and the cute and innocent Ryoko Kaminagi (wonderfully done by newcomer Kana Hanazawa). The exceedingly awesome accompaniying OP and ED songs also made Zegapain, all in all, an extremely awesome package to watch.
Number 10: Simoun.
While Suzumiya Haruhi might have been the representative title of 2006, by no means it’s the best show of the year, rightfully belonging to Simoun instead. Sadly promoted as a “yuri fanservice” title, which till now still sticks in the minds of many, Simoun quickly showed a depth rarely seen in anime titles nowadays. The cast was purely all female-voiced, the setting of the series was done wonderfully well, the battle instruments are most probably the most unique ever seen in recent times, and the way the show was presented was absolutely top-notch. Combining the evergreen themes of human suffering in times of conflict and the uncertainty of stepping in to adulthood from youth, Simoun told a very complex story, but yet a very compelling one, once it is understood.