Some may not be aware of this, but to me, this is akin to revisiting one’s childhood home and reminiscing about the wonderful years in one’s youth. (more…)
Two days ago, WordPress statistics showed that I amassed 10,000 views on my blog! Thank you all so much for continuing to tune in and read my critiques and thoughts on various subjects from movies to anime to video games. To commemorate the occasion, I’ve decided to take upon analyzing… myself! To take the reader into the deeper portions of my twisted psyche and explain why I love the anime that I do. I’ve thought upon this subject a little throughout the years, but never felt I had a deep enough pool of titles to choose from. Now that I’ve seen over 250 anime titles (and re-watched all of my favorites at least once), I’m comfortable enough to know what I cherish most.
I’ll also publicly state that this idea was heavily inspired by this thread on the MyAnimeList community forums.
My four favorite anime, at the time that I am writing this, are Toradora!, Katanagatari, Ookami to Koushinryou, and Dennou Coil. Just in case you weren’t familiar with the titles from the picture above. On the surface, these anime don’t tend to have a lot in common, whether it be setting, animation style, or focus of the narrative. In fact, Toradora! and Dennou Coil are completely opposite to Katanagatari and Ookami to Koushinryou in terms of the year the story takes place. My favorites tend to have a varying blend of different distinctive qualities to them. However, there is something that sticks out like a sore thumb, if one has seen these anime from start to finish.
Setting aside Dennou Coil, the three anime left all have an integral focus on romance. While the importance of romance in Katanagatari is debatable, they all thrive within the finicky feeling to both progress the plot and develop the characters. Though romance is a common theme in most anime titles, there’s something inherently similar with the romance among these three titles. It focuses on two characters (for the most part) slowly getting to know one another through a mutual desire to work together towards a similar goal. Taiga and Ryuuji from Toradora! want to get with each other’s friend. Togame from Katanagatari wants to collect the twelve legendary swords, while Shichika joins her simply out of “love.” Holo from Ookami to Koushinryou wants to travel back to her homeland, while Kraft, a traveling salesman, wishes to do business along the way. Each anime casts a heavy focus on putting two important characters together and having them share a momentous amount of screen time (and implied off-screen time) together. Over the course of their respective anime, the male and female lead eventually begin to understand each other more than they ever cared to before, which is another point to make: the major characters in each anime have no prior personal connection to one another before the anime begins. They start off as complete strangers, only to mold into something more.
So what does this say about me? One might assume based on what I’ve described that I just really want a girlfriend. While that may be true to some regard, I feel it’s more that I relish the building of a relationship between two people from beginning to end, and friendships can only go so far before the emotional spike hits the ceiling. I’ve had many chance encounters with people online and off that develop into meager acquaintances or casual friendships, but it’s those certain few who you want to let inside your world, and they the same for you, that tickle my fancy for blooming relationships. Very few times have I met that person who would continue to pique my interest in them for long periods, despite knowing next to everything about them. This isn’t only applied to romantic partners, either. Friendships can have an everlasting impact on the well-being of an individual, but I’ve always been intrigued with the concept of love and how the people involved deal with it. It’s one thing to see it in fictional media such as anime, but to see it in person, with people who aren’t always the same frame after frame, is always bewildering, whether good or bad. As an aspiring critic, I enjoy critiquing works created by people, but what might be the most difficult and satisfying subject of all are the people who created that work.
As such, a critic’s tastes in anything are bound to develop over time. I watched Toradora! and Ookami to Koushinryou in June of 2012, while Katanagatari was later in December. Until Dennou Coil earlier this year, I was torn between various titles as to what would be my fourth (and even fifth) favorite anime. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was up there for a while, then eventually teetered off as my experience with anime grew further out. Gosick was also a contender very early on (as another series that focused on two strangers, male and female, developing a bond over time), but a recent “re-watch” (of half an episode) reminded me of how trivial the series really was. Finally, White Album 2 held a spot among my favorites for about a half a year, but even that began to wane in self-perceived quality thinking back to it. That’s in desperate need for a re-watch. It wasn’t until Dennou Coil, viewed early on in the 2016 Summer of Anime, that I managed to find something I felt comfortable enough putting among my favorites list. Needless to say, it’s not exactly from the same family as the favorites that came before it.
Dennou Coil is an interesting phenomenon. It doesn’t involve two opposite-sex strangers developing a bond over time working towards a similar goal, nor does it even star characters within my age range (Toradora! had teenage characters, while Katanagatari and Ookami to Koushinryou had adult characters). Dennou Coil is more keen on imaginative world-building and developing the bonds between friends and family members, along with an almost whimsical study of denial and letting go. It’s an anime that took me by surprise; I would’ve never guessed I’d become so fond of it based on the first few episodes. And I think, above all, Dennou Coil is the first anime to really impress me without having to tickle my fetishes or tinker with my subjective biases. It’s an anime that, back in 2012, I wouldn’t really care to partake in, whether it be because of the age-range of characters (most are kids), the style of the animation, or the G rating (I like my series dark). It seems so “kiddy” on the surface, like it would only appeal to little kids, y’know? Luckily for me, this plays out more like a Studio Ghibli film than Norm of the North.
As I said before, Dennou Coil is the first anime I’ve favorited without having it appeal to my many subjective biases, but that doesn’t mean there were things about the series I didn’t feel emotionally connected to. A central topic in Dennou Coil is death, an area which I haven’t had to deal with often. Many of my relatives (ones I feel close to, anyway) are still alive and kicking, and I never had any friends be subjected to freak accidents or anything of the sort. The only thing that comes close was the death of a family cat that lived with me for nine years. It’s both good and bad to say that the most traumatic death I’ve ever experienced in my life was the death of a cat I had for nine years. However, Dennou Coil also deals with coping with death, or the loss of a loved one. Perhaps because of my inexperience with death, I struggle emotionally handling things of a similar nature. That section above about the chance encounters with people online and off? Many of those people, both with whom I was close and not so close to, are gone now. They didn’t die, but we eventually drifted apart. I no longer speak to many of them, which in a way counts as a “loss.” A few of them were people I felt close to, likely too close, and the ensuing difference in interest caused friction within the relationship. I understand it’s more trivial than something as permanent as death, but things like that bother me greatly, and Dennou Coil reminded me of my own struggles with letting others go. Most importantly, it reminded me that life goes on, even after all the turmoil.
The difference in time between my favorites also shows my evolution as a critic. In 2012, I was young, practically a child (if 19-year-olds were children). I would let my love for romance and uninhibited emotional growth between two people cloud out the flaws present within the anime. I would overrate anime if it tickled my romantic bias enough (See: Mayo Chiki!, Gosick, Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, Kami-sama no Memochou). Now-a-days, if an anime so much as shows a single panty shot, I rate it a 1. Just kidding. But I’ve become much less tolerant of ecchi clichés and… well, clichés in general. Perhaps that’s why it took so long to find another permanent replacement for a favorite after Katanagatari, because I was so stubborn with my own expectations that it took something completely off my radar to find a suitable heir apparent. I’ve just become more picky. When you compare everything romance to Toradora!, it’s hard to find another Toradora!.
This is all subject to evolve within the years, but I think what I’ve listed now is a good start in showing what kind of person I am and how my favorite anime reflect that. I think this post would’ve been a lot more dull had Dennou Coil not been on there. It certainly would have cut about five hundred words or so. I think it’s interesting to see the contrast between my three first favorites and the one that came long afterwards. I suppose sometime in the future I’ll have to do the same for my favorite manga… except all my favorite manga are what I enjoy about my favorite anime, so it’d be a little redundant. The one thing I can guarantee after reading this post is that you, the reader, will know that I’m very fond of romance. And that I am incredibly grateful for taking time out of your day to read my blog. Thanks again for 10,000 views, and happy reading!
You can find all my favorites and their ratings on MyAnimeList.
Toradora is my favorite anime. It has been for almost three years. I have it to thank for shooting me into the anime medium. However, its additional OVA bundle isn’t really anything.
Takasu feels threatened over his housewife status after Kitamura’s grandmother makes a spectacular boxed lunch. The entire OVA goes through Takasu trying to one-up Kitamura’s grandmother by making bigger and better lunches.
It’s random. It’s absurd. It’s basically just Takasu being dumb and the rest of the characters looking at him like he’s weird. There’s some sentimental value to it, but very little. It’s just filler. Nothing important happens. Just some extra screentime for people enamored with the parent series. Like me.
I actually noticed that the animation for this OVA is of a lower-standard than the parent series. That’s… pretty much it.
It was a point in my life where I was starting to become interested in the anime media once again after a long dormancy. I was already reeling off of initially dropping Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann after its (at that point) disappointing time-skip. I was looking to avenge the sorrow that it had left me with a new title altogether. I found Toradora. Or perhaps more dramatically, it found me. Watching Toradora was like staring into a vivid dream. Dreams that you’d find wistfully carried by a child’s unfiltered imagination. Its characters and settings were unlike anything I had ever encountered before in anime. Their introductions were superb. Their development even better. Everything was intricate and detailed. The care put into the show made me care. It made me care a lot. It made me proud to have watched it. And when episode nineteen happened, I knew it was perfect.
The perfect anime, just for me.
I felt this way prior to re-watching it. I was about to indulge in the greatest anime I will ever view. My perfect anime. But something happened that I didn’t expect. My perfect anime was no longer perfect. It had flaws. It was dull. Lackluster. Disappointing. Imperfect. I shrugged it off, it will never be as good as the first time, right?
Katanagatari is another title that swept me off my feet upon watching it. Its art style is unique and gripping, and its characters and their interactions could rival any form of entertainment media. It was a very entertaining watch, and it found a place in my heart next to Toradora and Spice and Wolf.
Late 2014. I re-watch Katanagatari.
I loved it even more the second time.
Katanagatari > Toradora?
Why did I enjoy Katanagatari more the second time and not have the same happen for Toradora? Was Katanagatari truly better? Are my emotions trying to tell me to let go of Toradora? Which was is my favorite? Should I even have a favorite? Is anime even really worth having a favorite?
Was Toradora real?
March 2015. My anime hiatus is in full swing when I get an idea: B Gata H Kei, a few months before, had revitalized my interest in anime after a slow week. What better anime to revitalize this creeping feeling of self-loathing than Toradora? It was a grand idea, and after slowly hyping myself to start watching it, I did.
Day 1: 13 episodes.
Day 2: 7 episodes.
Day 3: 5 episodes.
It wasn’t my quickest run-through of Toradora, but it was certainly more than I could do shortly before my hiatus.
After almost three years, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact feelings I had when I first watched Toradora. I recall going into a funk after I finished it, realizing that it was the greatest thing I had ever seen and I would never find anything better. It was a mixture of depression and light-hearted pity. It was a crowning testament to everything I loved about anime before I even knew what anime was. How lucky I was to find a series that could speak to me clearly so early on. Once it was gone, I could never hold on to the emotions and unfathomable joy I experienced watching the story of Toradora unfold for the first time. For a while, I almost felt like a kid again. A kid whose dreams were wistfully carried by his unfiltered imagination.
Watching Toradora for a third time was exactly what I needed. Every doubt, every flaw that had bounced its way into my subconscious were still present. However, a whole new wave of emotion ferociously washed them all away. With every weed, two flourishing plants would grow to overtake it. Whatever emotions (or lack thereof) that lay casually in my mind were driven out by a buffet of succulent new connections. Scenes that had never so much as grazed me suddenly became crucial moments for my empathy, and for my mind to analyze. The characters’ intentions seemed clearer. Their purposes no longer mattered. It all felt real. Real, once again.
Perhaps it was the changes in me that resulted in the changes in Toradora. Whatever the case, I couldn’t have had a more pleasing experience with it, save for the first time. It’s everything I want in a series, revived in an unexpected way. The flaws were present, but were excusable. Excusable to me, that is. I’m clearly biased, but you’ve read this far anyway. Toradora is the perfect anime. The perfect anime for me. And nothing will ever come close.
I didn’t cry.
And that is my only regret.