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Veteran Member - Level 13
Recently, I've been getting into anime...No, that's an understatement. I've been completely infatuated with it. From the light-heartedness of ones like Rosario + Vampire to soul crushing ones like Anohana, I've been consuming as much as I can. And, to date, I've finished eleven series from beginning to end (albeit many of them are short). So, I figured since I reached this milestone I'd talk a little bit about the series in the order I watched them, rate them, and impress upon you why I gave them the scores I did. Keep in mind I'm not going to include spoilers. So, without further ado, I bring to you:
Soul Eater - B+
Here's where it all began. Prior to this my anime experience had been pretty much limited to random viewings of late night Adult Swim anime, some 4kids dubs, Dragon Ball Z, and Pokemon all in ye olden days which never really left that much of an impression on me. However, when I obtained Netflix in January of 2012, I remembered reading the manga of this and decided to go ahead. And, to be honest, it's a great start to get into anime. The dub is fantastic as Funimation is so oft to do. The aesthetic is absolutely brilliant, creating a dark surrealistic atmosphere that never really delves into depressing without prodding by the story. The characters are great, particularly the interactions between the meisters and their weapons. And many people tend to not like Black Star, but there's a moment somewhat in the earlier portion of the series where he steadfastly believes in Tsubaki and does everything he can to protect her and let her accomplish her mission despite him being attacked for it. Some characters are surprisingly tragic as well, in particular Crona's backstory. The main thing this anime suffers from however and why it isn't graded at an A is that the longer it went on after the second season the momentum took a dive and never truly recovered. It's far from BAD, per se, but nevertheless the ending was deeply unsatisfying and the buildup was nothing like what I expected. Great series, but not one of the best.
Gurren Lagann - A+
Next up is one of the finest series I've ever consumed. Gurren Lagann is a series that manages to expouse on philosophical concepts and have many emotional moments on top of the sheer badassery the show oozes. The visuals are unique and suit the series well. The characters are just so damn likable, and on top of that you have giant mechs battling each other. What's not to like? The character of Simon is handled great as the series progresses to push hardship after hardship on him to allow him to persevere and grow stronger. Kamina is just the epitome of awesome, and Yoko is one of the most adept anime females out there, using a freaking sniper rifle on a regular basis. The only thing that blemishes this series is that the second half isn't as strong as the first. It is still a great watch, but the essence isn't as potent as back in the days of Simon and company battling Lordgenome and his generals. Yet I love the series to death, and the philosophical exploration regarding spirals, and it's one of the highest quality ones of all time. Spiral on and pierce the heavens.
Madoka Magica - S
Now we come to one of the pinnacles of achievement in the anime world, the phenomena known as Madoka Magica. It's a magical girl anime, but shies away from cliches in favor of providing a rich tapestry of the five main characters and their interpersonal relationships. Rife with tragedy and sorrow, mixed in with touching and emotional moments, and topped off with the vibrant personalities of Madoka, Homura, Sayaka, Mami, and Kyoko. The visuals are stunning, often times going into the abstract worlds of the witches which are like nothing you could possibly imagine until you watch it. The length of the series is perfect and fleshes out the characters and backstory beautifully, creating a stronger emotional bond with what you face on screen. The soundtrack for the series is utterly flawless, what could objectively be called the finest OST to come out of the medium. I still find myself regularly listening to several pieces off of it. Tie all these facets together under the banner of sacrifice and redemption, and you get what is quintessentially the closest to perfection an anime series has ever reached.
Afro Samurai - B
If I had to pick a few words to decribe Afro Samurai, it would probably be gritty and visceral. It's an incredibly dark anime with everything from decapitations to horrific injuries. It works to the benefit of the series however as it matches the atmosphere and the story in which people will literally kill for a chance to take on the owner of the #1 headband. The voice acting is great, and the characters are interesting. It is however an EXTREMELY short series, clocking in at five episodes, so it doesn't really have enough substance to inter itself as one of the greats among full-length animes, relegated to more of a single film status. But for what it's worth, it's an enjoyable watch.
Samurai Champloo - B
Samurai Champloo is a series that, retrospectively, has more style than substance. The visuals are appealing, the music has a neat flair to it, and the two main samurai Jin and Mugen are badass. I also like the pseudo historical atmosphere mixed in with more modern hip hop culture, they create a unique counterpoint between the two to create a product different from the norm. However, that historical atmosphere tends to be a detriment in a couple episodes later in the series, namely one focused on baseball. On points like these, it's like the two main aesthetical choices clash and bring out the worst in each other. Aside from that flaw, it also didn't leave much of an impact on me when all was said and done. Enjoyable, but don't expect something to really make you think.
Plastic Nee-San - D
I honestly don't even know what to say about this. The entire series is thirty minutes long, and one of the most random things I've seen. I can't claim to have liked the series much at all, but it's almost like something you need to see once just out of morbid curiosity. It is seriously the most unsettlingly STRANGE things ever. Just check the GIF I have inserted up there for reference. No, there's no context, he just decided to do that after finding those guys threatening someone. I...just...there are no words to adequately convey how odd it is.
Rosario + Vampire - C+
And now we get to the single most frustrating anime I have ever watched. There's so much potential in the concept, squandered in the stupidest of ways. It never actually gets BAD, just that it could be so much more. The concept is a human who accidentally goes to a school for monsters and falls in love with a sweet girl who turns into a cool, calculating vampire when her rosary is removed. He's later accompanied by a succubus, two witches, and a snow woman. They have a great opportunity to go for something emotional, perhaps improving the character of Tsukune so he can hold his own, or exploring his relationship with Moka more fully. Instead you get the merest glimpses of aspects like these before it quickly meshes back into nonstop fanservice and romantic comedy. They also try to shoehorn in routine, where nearly every episode ends the exact same way, with Moka defeating the monster of the day and then sucking Tsukune's blood while the stupid bat thing calls out how long the battle took. Overall, I still enjoyed it, but it just could have been so much more, and that is its inherent flaw. Utterly disappointing.
Higurashi no Naku Koro ni/Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai - S
And here is the other pinnacle of the anime world. It starts off looking like an innocuous cute anime, but by the second episode starts to turn into horror dusted with happy moments throughout (keep in mind this is NOT for the faint of heart). It takes an unconventional method of storytelling in going through isolated arcs with little relation to each other at first, but as the tapestry is spun they start to make more and more sense, eventually coalescing into a fantastic, heartbreaking story. I refuse to spoil anything, as part of the beauty of the anime is experiencing the story as it unfolds with little prior knowledge.The characters are utterly amazing. Over the course of the series you begin to understand them and come to appreciate all their characteristics, and their innate flaws, and the daily battles they go through. Even when they're doing terrible things you can't help but feel for them. From Satoko's pranks to Rena's carefree outward appearance to Rika's sensibility, you develop a bond with the characters. The first season deals more with the horror aspects and interpersonal relationships between the characters, and as it progresses into season 2 the story comes full circle and begins tying together. No filler here, everything serves a purpose. I can't really say anything else that happens, but rest assured that if you had the strength of will to make it past some of the more difficult to watch parts (you'll see what I mean in the Shion arc) you will be richly rewarded. A truly stellar anime.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni - A-
Let me get this out of the way first, the ending is a mess. There's easily enough source material for another 26 episodes, and it ends up with many of the characters not fleshed out at all. Now, as far as the good stuff goes, there's quite a bit. The anime has a plethora of Japanese and Italian influences, going so far as to give the characters westernized names as Maria and Eva, and the theme song is sung in both languages. It makes the overall feel of the anime very pleasing. As for the story, it's the next in line written by Higurashi's creator, and while it might not match up to Higurashi's story, it is nevertheless very compelling. Murders start happening on the mysterious island of Rokkenjima caused by the witch Beatrice. The protagonist Battler denies the existence of witches and is locked in a battle of wits with her to prove the murders were carried out by a human. The story and pacing has some issues, but overall the series is a enjoyable experience.
Anohana - ?
You may notice there's not a grade up there. That doesn't mean Anohana is bad, quite the opposite. It is an extremely emotional anime and I've watched it recently enough to where I can't give my final grade. As of right now it's either A+ or S rank. As far as the show itself goes, it's about a group of friends who drifted apart after one of their friends named Meiko "Menma" Honma dies in a tragic accident during their childhood. Ten years later, Menma appears to the protagonist Jintan and from there he gathers his old group together to try and figure out what her final wish is before she can move on. And, I'm not gonna split hairs here, this is the saddest anime I've ever seen in my life, but absolutely beautiful. There are some flaws, namely certain characters having revelations near the end that aren't fully explored. But, and here's the kicker, there's one thing this anime does so freaking well it overshadows anything else. The characters feel genuine; alive, breathing, like they have their own hopes and dreams. It's very real despite the supernatural aspects and denotes the pain of loss and memory superbly. This anime will make you cry, laugh, and cry again. Seeing Menma prodding Jintan into rebuilding his shattered friendships is heartwarming, and she's just such a likable character. As a matter of fact, all of them you can empathize with, or at least understand. This, along with Madoka Magica and Higurashi, is one of the series you should see for yourself above all else.
Angel Beats - A
Finally, we get to the series I finished just the night before last. I utterly adored this one. The animation is gorgeous, the characters are all likeable, and I mean every. single. one. Even the various characters used as antagonists. The story is about youth who had tragic childhoods in life getting a second chance at having a normal existence as teenagers at a high school in the afterlife before passing on free of regret. The catalyst of this is the mysterious girl Kanade Tachibana, also known as Angel. The chief protagonist Otonashi gets recruited in a task force headed by a girl named Yuri who attempts to stop Angel from making people pass on but things aren't as clear as they seem. The series explores regret, fear, and acceptance. One truly beautiful scene fairly on is a girl coming to terms with her wish of creating music to get away from her home life in a hauntingly emotional ballad. This series has pretty much all you can reasonably expect and a whole lot more. The only issues regard the series being much too short, where some characters are never seen as anything more than comic relief and extra fighters when there could've been so much more. However, all of the main characters and a few of the side ones are explored to utmost satisfaction, and is tragic and joyful all at once. The length of the anime rushing some points is its only real flaw, but aside from that it is awe-inspiring and another series worth your time.
If you've watched any of these series or watch one after reading this, or just want to discuss anime; please comment on this, or my profile, or send me a conversation if you want to add spoilers. I'm always open to discussion. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful day.