The decade that was…

“Anime of the decade” posts seem to be all the rage these days, as we count down to the 2020s, but I was honestly debating whether I wanted to do this or not. After all, I’ve all but dropped off the scene over the last two years, and given the increased workload I have at my new job, I doubt I’ll ever be able to return to a regular blogging schedule.

But the last 10 years have been, in many ways, formulative for the kinds of stories and shows I like now. So more than anything else, this is going to be a record for myself, a record of the 10 or so shows of the last decade that have contributed to making me the fan I am today. I am not going to restrict myself to one title a year, because there was no way I was going to leave a certain figure skating anime off this list!

Love-that!

It’s always difficult to figure out how to organize lists like this…so aside from the very last one, I’m going to take it chronologically. Also, I debated putting Monogatari on this list, as most of this franchise has come out in this decade. However, nothing has ever beaten the 12th episode of that first season for me, and that was first on TV in September 2009. But still, I do wonder if anyone can guess which title has actually had the biggest impact on my life trajectory. Care to have a gander?

Makishima

It isn’t just because of recency bias that this title makes the list. I did enjoy the SS side stories, and I quite like where directors Shiotani Naoyoshi and Motohiro Katsuyuki seem to be taking the series with this third season. But the first season of Psycho-Pass is the show that changed the way I thought about the world. It was the show that helped me truly recognise, for the first time, the invisible structures that hold up our societies. The problem is, even if you know that these structures exist, it can be difficult to identify what they are, and thus where different societies might overlap, mingle, or clash. And so, although I still do not know entirely how to deal with such issues, which are always around me these days, I will forever be grateful to Psycho-Pass for making me able to recognise them in the media I consume.

Eccentric-Christmas

Back in 2013, I found it difficult to pinpoint just why The Eccentric Family took my “favourite anime” crown. And the same holds through today: I can’t quite tell you why the tale of Yasaburo and his three brothers has captured a corner of my heart. Perhaps the closest that I can come to an explanation is that it is a story about family. My own family has become a much more important part of my life over these last ten years, what with the multiple additions to it. And now that I think about it, it may have been The Eccentric Family that helped me realise just how fortunate I am to have them.

Aldnoah

We return to the family theme again with this next entry to the list, as Yuki and Inaho’s brother-sister relationship will always be my favourite thing about Aldonoah.Zero. But the other reason that AZ is here is that this was the first real robot show I saw after I really started understanding what international relations was all about. In fact, it was by diving into AZ and what Aoki Ei and Urobuchi Gen said about it that I learned that real robot shows — beginning with Gundam — were all about war and what causes it. Just like international relations. And that’s why I am probably the only person in the English-speaking fandom naming AZ to their list. ^^

Donuts

Of all the entries on this list, SHIROBAKO is the one that I’ve returned to the least. I’ve not rewatched it, nor have I actually completed watching all of the “this is how we make anime” extras that came with the home video releases. But you could also say that SHIROBAKO underwrites everything I have been doing every since it was released. It’s the namesake for the website I created to compile the collection of interviews that I’d started to amass, and it something I do still want to maintain, even as I increasingly struggle to find the time to do so. Perhaps it is a resource that is no longer necessary, except for my own interests, and that is as important a reason as any.

Umaku-naritai!

It’s tempting, in some ways, to rehash the frustrations that I have felt with the Western fan reaction to Sound! Euphonium, because it really pains me that so few people understand the core themes behind it. I’ve already written at length about why this franchise speaks to me to deeply, and there’s no way that I can briefly summarise it. All I can hope is that more people will one day come to understand why I, too, wish I could just jump on a train one day, with a ticket that can take me anywhere but without a set destination in mind.

Rakugo-Jiji

Few stories of a life lived are as compelling as this one. A lost young boy found in rakugo a place to belong, and through it met and lost his two soulmates. This first act sees two love triangles painfully interacting with tragic results, setting us up for a magnificent second act that I will not spoil for those who have yet to see it. Simply put, Rakugo Shinju is a show-don’t-tell masterpiece, though you will need to become a rakugo fan in order to pick up on all the nuances hidden within the storytelling. But believe me, it is well worth the effort.

Ishida

As I noted back in 2016, that was a tour-de-force year in anime for me — four different shows from those twelve months alone have made it onto this list! But A Silent Voice is still the one that I place on a pedestal. Given the subject matter, it is a difficult watch at times — content warnings for bullying and suicide are a must. But if you watch only one piece of animation that has come out of Japan in this decade, this is the one I’d recommend.

Yuri!!!

I’ve already waxed on lyrically about this figure skating anime several times over the years, and I’m sure you’re all sick of that by now. But I just have to say it: there is one thing about Yuri!!! on ICE that I think will continue to astound me forever, and that is how reality and art continue to overlap with each other. Fans of figure skating will know what I’m referring to — it is news that’s damned hard to miss, and to be honest, I am still not sure what kind of face I should put on when I get to see this newly formalised partnership in person in February!

BF

Almost one year ago, I made the futile wish that I would one day be able to tell you why the anime based on Yoshida Akimi’s classic shojo manga resonates so strongly with me. I regret to say that I still cannot find the words for this. Or rather, I have not been able wrestle the hours I’ve spent talking about Ash with friends down into a single blog post. This is an even harder watch than A Silent Voice — I’m not sure I could recommend it to people who have been victims of CSA, even though I have heard of fans who say that it has helped them. What I can promise you is that, if BANANA FISH grabs hold of you, it will never let you go.

Shout Outs

Before I get to my final entry, let’s look at a few of the titles I had to squeeze out. The unfortunate thing about restricting myself to 10 series is that there are many, many other titles that I enjoyed greatly over these last 10 years. Besides the above, March Comes in Like a Lion, Chihayafuru, Princess Jellyfish, Ace of the Diamond and Given have all given me a great deal of joy. But most of all, I also want to mention Hyouka, Free! and Tamako Love Story, three vastly different Kyoto Animation shows that captured their own little places in my heart. These shows were the reason I fell in love with KyoAni, and especially with the stories that Yamada Naoko and Takemoto Yasuhiro were weaving for young women and young men respectively. That we will never again experience the visions of Takemoto, Ikeda Shoko, Nishiya Futoshi and the many others we lost on July 18 is something that I still have not truly come to terms with. But I am thankful for the wonderful pieces of art that you left behind. We will remember you, always.

And without further ado…

SnT

If you know me well, you should have had no doubt that Macross Frontier would have ended up in this spot on the list. Even though Shoji Kawamori brought us another entry into this franchise in the middle part of this decade, there was no topping Wings of Farewell as a cinematic experience. I’ve had the pleasure now of seeing it twice in theaters, and I would definitely pay to do so again, especially if they bring back the Macross Explosive Sound (bakuon) screenings that I kept missing. With its last major entry landing in 2011, Frontier has given me so many amazing memories that you could say it defined the decade for me. Indeed, as the post I am planning for tomorrow will illustrate, almost everything I’ve done since was arguably born from the time I spent on this series. And I am sure that it will be part of my life for many more years to come.

Eventing in 2018 Part 12! Banana Fish at the noitaminA cafe

I am sure it escaped no one’s attention that I have spent more time at this cafe then I probably should have. In fact, if I’d spent less time (and money) at the two Banana Fish cafes over the last four to five months, I’d probably have been able to buy the first BD set and apply for one of the tickets to the Premium Party…though given that only half of the people who applied got tickets, it was still a risky proposition.

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These were the Christmas drinks — the one in the middle was “Candy Bar,” hence the bromide ^^



But…while I have just a tiny bit of regret that I missed out on that party, I’m quite pleased to have the chance to really highlight a place in Tokyo that I am extremely fond of. I’ve written about it a couple of times before, but the noitaminA cafe has always been one of my happy places in Japan, even when the series screening was dark and sometimes depressing, as the first offering I ever caught there was.

And I am doubly pleased that the series that made this possible is Banana Fish. It was a polarizing series, no doubt, especially in certain English-speaking anime fandoms. I am probably one of the few English-speaking fans who came out of the experience agreeing with Nojima Kenji, Eiji’s voice actor, that at the core of this story is a message of “hope,” hope that dawn will come at the end of the long dark night.

Why “hope”? Especially given where the story left us? …I’m still finding it difficult to put it into words, so for the moment, let me leave you with this spread from Spoon.2Di vol.45.

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One day, hopefully sooner rather than later,
I’ll be able to tell you why Banana Fish was my anime of the year.

Eventing in 2018 Part 11! Liz and the Bluebird

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Er…you won’t see me in this pic, as I was on the second floor balcony ^^; (source)


Liz and the Bluebird was, hands down, my cinematic highlight of the year. But…I still cannot tell you why it affected me so much. It may be because Liz didn’t feel like an anime, it felt like a live-action drama, where there is so much hidden in what characters say and don’t say, in what they do and don’t do.

I can still remember one key moment that hit me, though I suspect it’s a moment that may not have struck many of my fellow fans: when Nozomi told Ms. Niiyama that she was thinking of applying to a music college as well, and only received a lukewarm “Oh, is that so? Well, do let me know if there’s anything you’d like to ask.”

What must Nozomi have felt, getting the confirmation she’d feared to get?

This was the moment that made the film for me. And I bet that just about every other person who loves Liz can name their own moment–or three.

And that is why Liz and the Bluebird is my film of the year.

Eventing in 2018 Part 10! Skate Crazy

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I debated about whether I should include this or not, considering that it’s not anime-related per se… But in the end, a certain figure skating anime was what set me on this path, so why not?

Back in January of 2018, I bought my very first tickets to a figure skating event: the 2018-19 Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (Dec 6-9, 2018, in Vancouver Canada).

The 11-month wait after that was filled with other ice shows, and a competition of sorts, not to mention a tense Grand Prix series filled with amazing highs and crushing lows

Well, that’s figure skating. And Yuzu wasn’t the only one — to be honest, it was incredibly disappointing not to see any of my favs, or the top dance team in the world right now, at the GPF…

But there was a silver lining: I appreciated the opportunity to just sit and absorb the performances without having my heart in my throat the whole time. Especially since I only had my iPhone and thus couldn’t take anything better than cropped shots like this. But it was still exhilarating to stand no more than 10 feet away from Patrick Chan, and to meet and speak with Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès!

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So once again, Thank you, Vancouver! Until next time!

Eventing in 2018 Part 9! Thank you, Sakura-chan

Part of the reason I postponed this piece is that I hadn’t quite finished this particular event as of yesterday. The Card Captor Sakura 20th Anniversary Commemorative exhibition was actually split into two parts, the first of which I was lucky enough to visit with a friend back in November. But with that big trip to Canada and the US back in December, not to mention moving shortly after I returned to Japan, I only managed to get around to the second half today… orz

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In any case, this exhibition really brought back the memories. CCS was one of the first manga I collected, back when I was in high school or in my first year of uni, and entirely in Japanese even though I couldn’t actually read the language back then! I was in a huge CLAMP phase back then, you see…and while I’ve moved on from CLAMP, CCS is the one manga of theirs that I will keep for as long as I live. Walking through the exhibition today reminded me why: the art, the messages it encompasses, the key words…

Well…there’s A LOT I’d love to say, but I just don’t have the headspace for it at the moment. So let me direct you to my friend Kim’s piece instead, so you might be able to understand why this story is so beloved even today, more than 15 years after it ended!

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Eventing in 2018 Part 8! Should I roll that gacha…?

Hang on! you say. Why is a mobile game on this list? It’s meant to be all about events in Japan, right?

Well…you see, mobile games have “events,” too ^^; And Uta Macross was most DEFINITELY a big part of 2018 for me.

That’s all I really want to say about it, I must admit, so I’ll just leave you with my uta macross home screen as it was earlier this evening.

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あけましておめでとうございます!

今年もよろしくお願いします!

Eventing in 2018 Part 6! A trip to the home of Rakugo

Unfortunately, I didn’t tweet about this one either — was I just not feeling up to covering the events I was doing that month? So thank you to Dee for staying on top of it!

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And do you know how cool it was to see this very theatre on TV just a few weeks later?!

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We weren’t able to take photos, but you can check out the drama if you want to see what it looks like inside ^^

Eventing in 2018 Part 5! Super Dimension Orchestra F

I honestly meant to tweet about this, but for some reason I never got around to it. In any case, this past September, I finally made it to a Frontier Concert. And Megumi was there! So yes, I’ve finally seen one of my Macross idols live!

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But the real reason this concert made it onto my list this year is this: when the orchestra played the opening bars of this song, memories of one key scene came flooding back to me, and I found myself clutching my hands over my heart.

I must confess that this didn’t happen to me even at the Yuri!!! on ICE Concert. I suspect it’s partly because I’d been listening to that music almost nonstop. In this case, I haven’t actually listened to the Frontier orchestral pieces for years, and that’s why it was so overwhelming when it all came flooding back… It really was an unforgettable experience, one that I will remember for a long time to come.

Eventing in 2018 Part 4! Yuri!!! on MUSEUM

(In which I realise to my horror that I didn’t actually tweet much about this one!)

I guess it shouldn’t surprise anyone that YOI is the first series to repeat on this list. But to be honest, other than the first post, for which I wanted something pretty impactful, the other non-AOTY entries are all in chronological order! So since we’ve had a bit of a dearth in terms of YOI events in the second half of 2018, it’s time for Yuri!!! on MUSEUM!

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Everyone probably knows that I went to the Tokyo one, if only because I’ve been living here all year. But…I actually made a trip to Osaka in January precisely BECAUSE I wanted to catch the museum there. At that point, IIRC, we didn’t even know that they’d be bringing it back to Tokyo, much less with all that additional content — I only wish we could have taken more photos there, but I guess they were trying to make sure that we’d want to get these!

Eventing in 2018 Part 3! Deltama+ Mission3.3

Can’t believe I almost forgot about this one! I’d planned to write about the third Walküre live, the huge one at Yokohama Arena on February 24 and 25. Which I must admit I only went to a live-viewing for, anyway, since tickets were pretty darned difficult to get. That would have been very cool, but still, as someone who got into Macross BECAUSE of the seiyuu, making it to this little event before making it to a concert is probably a bit more reflective of who I am!