DDA Top 10: Number 1…

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Here we are, after so many months. Number One. What does Doll consider the best anime of all time? Is she really doing this tired blue-balls gag?

I’ve talked about this series before, it’s buried in the comments several times throughout the blog, but I don’t prop it up a lot because of how very specific it is, and how unknown it is.

I reference Madoka a lot as an example because it’s one most people are familiar with. Like a common language for contemporary anime fans. But also because Madoka, on the whole, is probably superior to today’s outing from the purely technical level, in terms of structure, style, and literary reference.

But as we said in the beginning, that is only part of the battle.

Today we examine one of the first series I watched with my girlfriend.  She isn’t as big into anime as I am, and arguably it’s one of the weaknesses in our relationship that I wish I could share this thing with her but don’t often get to.  But this was something she wanted to see, as she heard me watching it and liked the dark atmosphere she saw so she said, sure, why the hell not, let’s watch it together.

During the course of watching this series, she came to associate our relationship with the two main characters (something apt to happen to a lot of couples, I know. Hell we did the same thing with Madoka), but this has a unique distinction.  Perhaps less so for her counterpart, but in part because I am so physically alike with the character attributed to me, and likely similar shades in our personalities, but at one point she turned and hit me in the shoulder, like really hard, shouting “what is WRONG with you?!” I share this to illustrate how close our focus character is to my own heart.

I’ve mentioned all those things in the introduction about what changes my scores.  In a sort of foreshadowing, I was essentially explaining away why this series comes in at number one.  It has girl love elements, I have used it as forum avatars and facebook icons and cosplays, and it is ripe with dark elements.  Unlike Madoka, which had darkness IN it yet is still a relatively optimistic show, this series is a grand tragedy. A Shakespearean bad end that ends in death and suffering, and that’s the end. It holds out no hope, and I love it for that.

And above all, it is, I would argue, the single best character study series in all of anime.

So with that, let me introduce you, to Dataport Doll’s Number One Series of all time. Continue reading

DDA Top 10: #3: Shinsekai Yori

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If you have any pretense to watching this show and haven’t done so yet, you should consider this your last warning.  Part of the fun in great storytelling is seeing the themes that were subconsciously reinforced throughout your viewing experience bloom like a flower in the climax.  And Shinsekai Yori does this in perhaps the most spectacular example of any anime.

Of course, at that same token, Shinsekai Yori (From the New World) is, truly, a series that DEMANDS multiple viewings to fully absorb what you’ve seen. So spoilers may not even matter all that much in this story.

I have said it in the past, and say it now: Shinsekai Yori is the greatest science fiction anime of all time.  There is absolutely no contention on this point as far as I’m concerned.

This has been in my post queue for some time.  But, recent current events have made it quite relevant.  And the story’s messages are merely that “this is complicated”. Full of warnings, portents, and red flags about how we think, how we treat each other, and how we view the state and enforcement of order. But short on actual solutions. Continue reading

DDA Top 10: #4: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha

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It’s been a long time coming, but here we are.  The final four. The best of the veritable best.

And, much like Black Rock Shooter, I’m using this to accredit the entire franchise, as opposed to a single specific season. But the praise falls mostly on the span of the final half of Lyrical Nanoha through A’s, for the sticklers. But being such an expansive franchise, it’s hard not to just talk about everything.

Many people credit Madoka Magica as being the quintessential deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre. While it may be the revolutionary deconstruction, its forbearer is this series: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha).

Sure, the themes don’t get AS dark (exactly…it’s hard to judge one tragedy against another), and its structure is not nearly as theatric as the Faustian elements that permeate Madoka. On the whole the Lyrical Nanoha series is still an upbeat one.

But I rather liken Nanoha to the works of Alfred Hitchcock.  Hitchcock, if you can’t put a face to the name, is of course the father of suspense and thriller film. The Birds, Psycho, his resume is impressive indeed.  But one thing he did that almost no horror/mystery/suspense directors do, is he played very strictly “by the rules”.  He rarely pushed the boundaries, which is probably part of why he became such a sensation. He rarely went for “shock value”, instead relying on cleverness and storytelling to illicit your reactions to his works.

Nanoha is similar in the regard that it plays by many of the traditional rules of the magical girl genre, but it bends the way the material is presented.  While it doesn’t twist the magical familiar into a Lovecraftian horror like Madoka would, it does present the life of a magical girl as a curse of sorts, and not a blessing.

For example, while there is combat like in, say, Pretty Cure, in Nanoha that combat often ends in hospitalizations for one or both parties. The evil witch in Nanoha, Precia Testarossa, doesn’t JUST want to be evil like Queen Beryl does, she beats her daughter and flogs her for failure, while we have to grimly sit and watch.  And while Madoka often explores the “dark” aspects of love, the selfish preconceptions and such, Nanoha explores the evils good people will commit FOR pure love.  Battling evil isn’t a sacred duty, it is a last resort, and in a sense, Lyrical Nanoha could be considered an anti-war series. I’ll get into that point deeper later.

Which is why, as a fan of both series, I wince whenever anyone proclaims Madoka Magica changed the magical girl genre forever.

Yes, but not as much as you think.

As always with the Top 10s, there will be spoilers. But! If you are new to the series but not sure how to get into it, read the next section, it’s for you, and basically spoiler free. Continue reading

DDA Top 10: #5: YuYu Hakusho

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For many of us, our first anime was probably DragonballZ, Pokemon, or Sailor Moon.  Maybe Voltron if you’re old enough. Or Speed Racer if you’re really old enough.

But for myself, and many in my older-millennial generation, the first anime where we knew anime was genuinely, honestly, going to be a real thing, was YuYu Hakusho.  It rode those DBZ coattails to get greenlit to be sure, but it is a completely different show and far superior in generally every regard.

It’s true that the show kind of fell back on the tournament fighter style a bit heavily once the second half of the series kicks in, but there are elements here that make it stand out amongst all others. It is my favorite non-apologetic man-drama. Let’s do it!

And yes, today we’re using the dub terms almost elusively. Deal with it! There’s a good reason, I’ll get to it. Put on your 4:3 vision, kiddies! Continue reading

DDA Top 10: #6: Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou

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Taking a trip in the way back machine, I mentioned when I reviewed Outbreak Company that I generally regretted watching comedies.  I can appreciate funny stuff. My girlfriend watches stand up comics aplenty and Family Guy is frequent on the TV, but for my own personal enjoyment comedy is, on the whole, a waste of my fucking time.

I love funny shit, don’t get me wrong.  But my take comes in the form of, say, Thug Notes or Zero Punctuation, or little Newgrounds flashes. But comedy stories? No. Not even once.

Well okay once or twice.

But I really do find them abhorrent and insulting most of the time.

Either way, as anime fans, even among genres we don’t typically enjoy, there is always a best of the worst, so to speak.  And today’s installment, Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyou (InuHasa) is the one that trumps my “favorite anime comedy” spot.  Best? No, that I’d still award Baka to Test. But when it comes to favorites, it barely gets edged out by InuHasa.

Of course there’s one very strong reason. That of our female lead, Natsuno Kirihime. And other bits I’ll get into, which make this series have a very focused fanbase.

Since this isn’t a story really worthy of analysis or such, this should be a nice, short and sweet one. Continue reading

DDA Top 10: #7: Death Note

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We’re finally entering a realm of the big series. Other than my little shot at Naruto last year, I haven’t really tackled big series. KILL la KILL’s about it, but I still doubt its staying power.

And like my Naruto rantings, here it’s probably going to seem like I’m focusing on so little and ignoring so much. That’s probably true, as my mantra still stands: If it’s been said before, the internet doesn’t need me adding my voice. So my comments will be generally short and sweet.

I’ve mentioned before how I personally would demarcate the end of the Anime Renaissance at Death Note.  It was really the last series to have incredible mainstream appeal.  Attack on Titan might fit that mark, as perhaps could Madoka Magica, but the absolute saturation of Death Note into the community, similar to that of DragonballZ, Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Cowboy Bebop, really puts it a cut above anything that has since followed. Death Note absolutely crushed everything in its three season run, and being back in the day before distributors were doing simultaneous online releases, it spoke all the more that most of Death Note’s fans had already seen it by the time it was translated.

Most impressive of all, perhaps, it is one of the few series that makes its moral argument “three dimensional”, as it were (I don’t know the technical term).  Often antiheroes are blasted by the average viewer, but the divisions of “Light did nothing wrong” are still strongly, if not as bitterly, divided as they were seven years ago.  In this, Team Light, as it were, rather amusingly and unwittingly embody the warnings of the story itself.

But, before getting deeper into this business, we should talk about the run of the series. Continue reading

DDA Top 10: #10: Aoki Hagane no Arpeggio: Ars Nova

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This is, by far, the most unexpected choice to end up here if you were trying to figure out what someone would list in their favorites.  And I will concede it deserves its slot least when Avatar:TLA and Fullmetal Alchemist were barred from presentation.  But that is why it is Number 10.

The 10 slot was the only one I really struggled with at length. And it came down to a four way tie.  And as I mentioned in my introduction to this review series, the thing that put it over the top was how much I identified with the characters here, one in particular.  Which, if you’ve noted my aesthetic already, probably isn’t a surprise.

There’s also a very simple reason: I love big fuckin ships with big fuckin guns duking it out as old ships of the line.  Hell, that was the ENTIRE reason I was a loyal Pirates of the Caribbean MMO player, the chance to shoot and sink warships with my decked out cannonade. My favorite episode of “Dogfights”, which if you’re unfamiliar is about fighter plane combat (back before the History channel became about aliens, remember those days?) was the naval battle of Taffy 3.  I’m also a sci-fi lover, as evidenced by many references I make, so Ars Nova really hits my blind spots.

Yet, while I do recognize I have those blind spots, and objectively, sure, I could rip apart the flaws and it would probably score about Noragami levels of quality in the end. But this is just a list about what I like, and I’m not going to go looking for problems when I’m having too much fun.

And, of course, the ship avatars.  Ahem. “Dataport Doll” is an old name I used in Andromeda fan circles, many of which probably don’t even exist anymore. It is a reference to Rommie, the Andromeda’s avatar, whom was given the nickname “Rom-Doll” by the ship engineer.  And the dataport which was the way Humans could interact with AI minds.  So the “Mental Models” in Ars Nova are, to me, just a wonderful anime extension of the Ship’s Avatars from Andromeda.  So this series hits me in all the right feels (fitting, I suppose, as Andromeda was heavily influenced by anime).

Ars Nova is a series that just sticks to your brain.  It is a visual masterpiece, and while the pure-CG nature can be off-putting, if you could handle Sidonia, this show is far, far less intrusive.  The loving detail of the ships really could NOT have been done with line art, not on a reasonable budget, and the color schemes of the ships and the fights exploit the CG nature of the series remarkably. Combat is a wonderful blend of the naval and sci-fi, giving us an aesthetic to fights that are one part Red October, one part Star Wars, and one part Tron.

Reminder, sailors: Here there be spoilers. Continue reading