It’s that time of the year again, and throughout the month I’ll publish specific moments from anime and manga from this year’s offerings. In this post however, I put together an unordered list of moments from the shows and comics I’ve read from my backlog.
There’s still so much anime and manga that I want to experience, and while last year I was able to cover much ground, this year I’ve covered a little less, though to me it’s still a lot. I’ve gone back to shows I’ve dropped and now find them amazing (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), shows that I’ve taken years to complete (Monster), and shows that people recommended I watch since forever (Planetes, Revolutionary Girl Utena), and lastly shows I’ve seen in parts back before I attended school (Space Battle Ship Yamato).
From all these, here are the moments that really stay with me: [I’ve made the headings extremely large so you can skip reading about shows that you’ll be spoiler’d; also, I’ve kept the images non-spoiler-y]
Hiroko’s ambitions and ideals are run through the gauntlet of business, of the workplace, and the relationships this inflicts on her, and the relationships it pulls apart. In light of her clear goal, which is to be a full editor by the age of thirty (she’s 28 at the beginning of the story), the steps actually seem very clear: learn some tough lessons.
It’s the enduring the experience that lead to those lessons, the humble pie that she has to eat, the bitter fruits as well, and the end gives her a most bitter one. But leading up to that bitter end (somewhat lessened by the insinuation of possibility) are truly uplifting stories.
My favorite moment is when the sales representative (a contemporary of Hiroko) for the first time gets acknowledged for the work he rendered that directly impacted the book’s success. My tears streamed uncontrollably and my chest was racked with powerful sobs. The acknowledgment of one’s worth is one of the most powerful experiences we could ever have. Knowing this let me experience this moment more powerfully than anything else in anime this year.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig
The narrative explores Kusanagi’s concern that she is losing whatever thing that keeps her human, and this is cheerfully contrasted with how the Tachikoma and their AI inexorably become more human.
Things become very real in the finale, when the Tachikoma perform their most human act, and commit themselves to the ether to save the humans from catastrophe. It’s an encore of the first season’s acts of self-sacrifice, but the higher stakes that include all their gains put at risk, makes the moment more poignant, more bitter with the sweet.
Legend of Basara
I had so much fun reading this manga (I had stopped watching and reading everything else in the week or so that I blitzed through this one) that I thought it was inevitable that I’d spill oceans of ink discussing it. It never happened.
I still find myself tongue-tied trying to say something about this work that isn’t a meaningless platitude. So here’s what I can say most truthfully: I fell in love with the story, the drama, and the characters. They’re all awesome to me. The love story of Sarasa and Shuri moved me; it made me swoon like a fangirl. More than just this, the personal journeys of the leads (and a few other characters) into the fullness of their destiny is amazing. Every time I thought that I have one of them figured out, there seemed to be another place their characters grow into.
Corny? I think so too, but I’d take this kind of epic melodrama especially when I feel from it a heartfelt tribute to the notions of heroism itself.
If I had to pick a moment, it would be their time in Okinawa, neither revealed each other their true identities and fell deeper in love, increasing my dread at the eventual revelation which did not disappoint.
Amazingly dark and serious, this adaptation of Urasawa Naoki’s celebrated manga triumphs in its portrayal of Eastern Europe. Not with hackneyed use of color and imagery, but rather in successfully communicating atmosphere and mystery. I always feel I’m somewhere far from home and in an uncomfortable way.
The moment I chose is very close to the end, where Tenma’s two most powerful enemies faced off against each other. Oh my god the battle between Roberto and Runge was amazing to witness. Neither are imposing physical specimens by anime standards, but the presence they both bring never fails to impress upon me dread and danger.
Both characters are driven by incredible powers. Runge with his unshakable belief in doing the right thing, and Roberto with his unbendable commitment to seeing what Johann will bring into the world — and both of them truly insurmountable foes for Tenma. It took their crossing paths to cancel each other out so that Tenma can actually do what he set out to.
It took me almost two years to finish watching this show, I’m glad I finally did so this year.
It’s a symbiotic love triangle, or a co-dependent love triangle. This is not Sheryl being nice to Ranka and Ranka looking up to Sheryl while Alto’s interests lie mostly elsewhere. This is a group of individuals functioning like a family while operating like a love triangle. It’s also very sexy.
I find it difficult to pick a moment from this manga, given that I’ve yet to finish it as a few more chapters remain without translations. The whole of it struck me powerfully, as its conceits and absurdities yield what to me is a powerful story of choosing what it is to do in life. I recall Po Bronson’s book which is a fascinating read
In this light my moment would be Minori figuring out what he wants to do, that is to be like a father, someone who can make the aspirations of his family members possible. This is focused on Yoko, who Ichika also dotes on, but Minori does what he can to nurture Ichika as well. Alas she’s not ready to see her own value yet. But this choice, this epiphany is something that rings true for me and is something I value myself.
I really do not wish to repeat something I’ve discussed elsewhere, but this list would not be complete if I don’t acknowledge one of the most awesome moments I’ve ever experienced in an anime: Guts fights 100 mercenaries.
When the I think of the very idea of a “crowning moment of awesome,” this is now what first comes to mind. The legend puts Guts kill tally at 100, but the unofficial fan count is closer to 80 (kills 39-109).
The thing is, this isn’t the best thing about this show. It is but a highlight in many, amongst smaller details that never seem to fail to tell a dark and tragic story so remarkably well despite of, or perhaps because of all the violence and evil it chooses to depict. I think this anime is brilliant. [Beyond the Berserk anime]
Possibly the finest experience of science fiction I’ve had in animated form, this show took me into all sorts of emotional spaces: from Hachimaki’s ambition, to Dolf’s corporate struggle, to Tanabe’s unbreakable idealism, to Claire’s devolution.
It’s power lies in the believable portrayal of the contemporary workplace (corporations), which allows it to do other things well: explore the space of the being of humans, and riff on geopolitical issues. I value the former significantly more.
If I were to pick a moment (not quite a favorite but) that moved me more than most, it would be Tanabe Ai choosing to keep Claire Rondo alive, even when Claire is convinced her own life isn’t worth dying for. That was badass at the level of more bombastic male paragons of awesome in anime. And no, she never lost her power in life — which is to face it as possibility. Tanabe Ai is a monster of badass.
Revolutionary Girl Utena
The moment I saw the first frames of this show (not counting the OP) I knew it was something. There was something about the look, the shojo-style drawings of the Ohtori Academy that told me that this setting wasn’t just a backdrop, that I was entering a different world entirely.
Part of why I love this show so much is how this world, really just a school for the most part felt so distinct and complete despite not really fleshing out a lot of detail. It has to do with the way the stories are told, from the ritualistic structures with all its repetition, the symbolic and faux-symbolic imagery, and the randomness and absurdity that permeates everything.
If I have to choose a moment, it would be Utena making pillow talk with Akio. It’s not like it was a shocking surprise that she fell for him, but rather how vulnerable she looked and sounded in that bed. You could see only her face, looking at and sometimes away from (or the other way around) the man who could be her prince, but devoured her in such an un-princely manner.
These aren’t the only shows or manga from my backlog that I watched and read (The Memories of Emanon, Battle Royale, Space Battleship Yamato, Genesis of Aquarion, Taisho Baseball Girls, Overman King Gainer, Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, Patlabor (movies) 1 & 2, Patlabor OVA, Aim for the Ace! (movie), School Days (LOL), Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight, Baby Leaf, Devilman (manga), Macross 7: Trash, and Narutaru) but I do think that these gave me the memories I like the most.
If you’ve read any of the manga I mentioned here, or have seen any of these shows, what’s your favorite moments?