The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

2006: A Year in Review

In five years time when anime viewers look back on 2006 to reminisce about the year that was, there will inevitably be one anime not more than millimeters from the tips of people’s tongues, even then: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya(1,2). In a sense Suzumiya Haruhi embodies anime as a whole this year, or at the very least, how I saw it: while the depth of quality titles probably wasn’t as great as it was last year or the year before that, there were a small number of titles that grabbed people and were heavily discussed not so much for their plots, but for their characters and the way they so readily smashed through the standard conventions of their respective genres. In one way or another, almost all of the titles we have chosen for this annual review have managed to achieve this to various extents. So, without further ado, The Nihon Review presents its Year in Review for anime, 2006.
Introduction by: Sorrow-kun

ARIA The NaturalNoein – to your other selfAsatte no Houkou

Sorrow-kun on: Noein – to your other self
I’m not a huge fan of science fiction, so a series from that genre has to be special to grab my attention. There’s no question that Noein is a special series. A unique, almost volatile animation style carries a powerful story filled with dramatic plot twists, love, betrayal, jealously, regret and hatred. The music is intense and the atmosphere refuses to let up throughout. But it’s the characters that shine in this story and launch Noein well above the typical of the genre. By focusing the series more on the character- and relationship-drama and less on its pseudoscience premise, which, is merely a setting for the story (though an incredibly well used one,) the audience is allowed to truly connect and feel for the characters as the events onscreen unfold.

Ouran High School Host ClubAC on: Ouran High School Host Club
Ah yes, the sleeper hit comedy of the year. Haruhi is a poor tomboy who incidentally stepped into a club where rich but lonely girls are entertained by male hosts and broke one of their valued items. To compensate for the damages, she ended up becoming one of them and realizes how the seemingly eccentric hosts are not as bad as she thought. This laugh-out-loud series reinvents itself with its “reverse harem”; a genre that corresponds to your stereotypical boy-against-hordes-of-girls scenario. Despite all the crazy antics of the host club, we also get to see the unique chemistry between the wonderful characters and how they keep getting into odd situations, as well as another brilliant performance by Sakamoto Maaya as Haruhi herself.

Pachinko on: ARIA the Natural
There’s something so natural about the ARIA series. Yes, it could be the atmosphere of it all; the delicacy of its simplicity. When watching it, you somehow feel entirely engulfed in this new world that Mizunashi Akari, a young undine-in-training, has slowly become adjusted to. ARIA the Natural continues where ARIA the Animation left off; however, there is still a welcoming freshness in its presence that still lingers. If you ever wanted an anime to help you escape from daily troubles, to take you to an entirely separate world of mystery and beauty, this is definitely one series not to miss out on.

The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzmiyaKuma on: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
From the first episode, a delicious parody of anime conventions, it was apparent that TMoHS was going to be something special. TMoHS goes on a wild ride following the adventures of Haruhi Suzumiya, a very talented, beautiful, and bored high school student. Haruhi, after finding all of the school clubs wanting, decides to create her own club, which she calls the SOS Brigade. With the hapless Kyon in tow, Haruhi sets out to search for aliens, time travelers, psychics, and excitement. Don’t be fooled, there is far more to the plot than is apparent, and TMoHS exhibits creativity on a level not seen since FLCL. Despite this over the top premise, time is given for down to earth character development, making TMoHS a fantastic all ’round show.

Sorrow-kun on: Akagi
Grotesque character designs, menacing atmosphere and an unforgettable lead; Akagi is the clear stand out shounen anime of the year. Madhouse Studios have produced an unfortunately underappreciated gem, one that offers all the elements of a riveting game-based drama series. Words aren’t enough to express my respect for the magnitude of the Akagi’s character, though. It’s not so much his genius that makes him such an incredible character, genius-types are a dime a dozen in shounen anime; it’s his fearlessness, his ability to get out of any situation with seemingly reckless aggression and no consideration for his own wellbeing. And the music is fantastic.

NanaPachinko on: Nana
Just in case you were preoccupied (or obsessed with Haruhi and her misadventures) and Nana slipped under your radar, there is still time. In this slice-of-life marvel, we are taken into the lives of two separate girls; Komatsu Nana (or “Hachi”) and Osaki Nana. One is a rocker with an ambitious goal to out-shine her unrequited lover and the other is a preppy sweetheart just trying to find her place in the adult world. Through all the tears, laughs, and kick-ass concerts, each Nana matures and together they discover the true bonds of sisterhood. While they find their own identity in the chaotic world of Tokyo, we experience a heartfelt comedy like no other.

DarkKanti on: Kemonozume
Unorthadox is the only word I can use to describe Kemonozume. From the art and animation to the story and characters, close to every aspect of Kemonozume is unorthodox… and I loved it. Essentially it is a story of forbidden love between a Shokujinki, a man eating beast, and Momota Toshihiko, heir to the Kifuuken, an elite group of swordsmen sworn to destroy the Shokujinki. Everything about this show is unique and fresh, and it is definitely one of the best of the ’06 year.

Higurashi no Naku Koro niAC on: Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
If you are looking for a series full of suspense and frights, then I present to you Higurashi no Naku Koro ni. Set in a secluded town side, one person will mysteriously vanish and another will die during a yearly religious festival. Who did it and more importantly, why? As well as a compelling mystery, this series is an authentic thriller that requires no blood fest or extreme gore to set your pulse racing. Furthermore, what make this series stand out are its chibi-drawn characters that actually make the horror more terrifying in contrast and high production values, reminiscent to Elfen Lied(1,2). If the characters do not appeal to you, then the exceptional storyline will where you can only expect the unexpected.

Kuma on: Red Garden
Red Garden is the most unique anime to come from Japan in a long time. Taking place in a rich private school in New York, Red Garden tells the story of four girls, Kate, Rose, Rachel, and Claire who have nothing in common except a shared friend, attending the same school, and a fateful night in which they all died. A mysterious woman, Lula, tells the girls that they can come back to life if, when they are called, they fight and kill “Awakened” humans, who have super strength and reflexes, but only animal instinct and thought processes. What sets Red Garden apart from other anime, is the unique art style and setting. The characters actually look like Americans and the New York setting is masterfully reproduced. Red Garden is what you would get if you crossed Gantz and Resident Evil and turned it into a Broadway musical. The only thing that worries me is that GONZO has messed up a similar plot-line before.

Honey & Clover IITypicalIdiotFan on: Honey & Clover II
While not quite the happy ending we were expecting, we are still treated to a resolution that will soothe the soul. H&C‘s appeal has always been the characters and their interactions with each other, but there was always the looming inevitability of people moving on from their happy college life to find their own destinies. This concluding sequel allows us to see the direction each character will take with their lives, and we know that while they’re separated by distance, they’ll always be tied together by the immortal bond of friendship.

DarkKanti on: Welcome to the NHK
The Nihon Hikikomori Kyo-kai is an evil corporation that has been plotting conspiracies to turn healthy Japanese television watchers into otaku and shut-ins, and the only man to find out their dastardly scheme is one Satou Tatsuhiro, or at least that’s what Satou thinks. A college drop out, Satou has been a hikikomori (shut in) for nearly four years. But, with the help of friends Misaki and Yamazaki, Satou vowes to overcome his hikikomori ways. What makes this comedic gem shine is the interactions between characters and a realistic look into the life of hardcore otaku and the socially inept.

Death NoteKuma on: Death Note
What would you do if you had the power to kill someone simply by knowing only their name and face? Yagami Light, one of the top high school students in Japan, must ponder this question after finding a shinigami’s notebook at his school. Anyone who’s name is written in the notebook will die. After some deliberation, Light decides to use the notebook to kill off criminals to create a perfect society, of which he will be the god. Before long, the many deaths of criminals by heart attack comes to the attention of the police and the enigmatic “L.” Light and L engage in a battle of wits with the fate of the world at stake. The myriad of rules for using the Death Note, and the thought processes of Light and L are exceedingly well thought out, making Death Note a very interesting anime. If you say you know what is going to happen next you are a liar (or you’ve read the manga). Death Note is an unpredictable and fascinating psychological thriller that will have you eagerly awaiting each new episode.

TypicalIdiotFan on: The Third – Aoi Hitomi no Shoujou
A satisfying mix of science fiction and fantasy with interesting characters, crisp animation, and inspiring music, The Third flew under the radar to be one of the year’s best. Though not perfect in it’s execution, and lacking any true originality, it is nonetheless an enjoyable series that should appeal to almost any anime fan.

Kanon 2006Sorrow-kun on: Kanon 2006
I’ve always been a fan of Key; even if they’ve come under criticism for writing melodramatic stories, they’ve always had a tendency to strike a chord with me. More recently, I’ve become a big admirer of Kyoto Animation. It’s this partnership that brings us a remake of the 2002 visual-novel conversion, Kanon. And the improvements in this updated version are profound. From superb directing by Ishihara Tatsuya (who handles comedy as well as anyone else in the industry) to the gloriously improved visuals, every detail is handled with the care expected of a KyoAni work. But, personally I think it’s the pacing that is the biggest improvement over the first anime; by slowing things down to a crawl, we are given more opportunity to learn about the characters. That, and the decision to hand the role of Aizawa Yuuichi to seiyuu Sugita Tomokazu.

DarkKanti on: Asatte no Houkou
Most of us, at one point or another have felt the sting of being treated like a child. Karada of Asatte no Houkou feels that same sting every day and wishes to become an adult so she will no longer be a burden on her older brother. When a young woman named Shouko returns from overseas they meet at a wishing shrine and something extraordinary happens: they exchange ages. Using a Freaky Friday type scenario, Asatte no Houkou brings a new spin to an old story that you won’t want to miss.

Kuma: One title stands out from among the rest for anime of the year: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. TMoHS‘s sheer creativity and interesting plot will make it the subject of many discussions for years to come.

Pachinko: While there were many decent contenders to choose from, Nana continues to remain my numero uno choice of ’06’s greatest anime triumph. Its shoujo-freshness and endearing story continue tug my heartstrings.

Sorrow-kun: For me, 2006 had three anime that stood together head and shoulders above every other title of the year: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzmiya, Mushishi and Honey and Clover II. Picking one over the others is like splitting hairs, but in the end I can’t go past the moving finale to what is easily the best josei franchise of the decade so far in my opinion: Honey and Clover II.

TypicalIdiotFan: This has been a relatively weak year for anime. Though a close, fellow anime critic has said that we’re in a golden age of anime, this year came off more as a burnt umber. The fact that there was so much crap allows us to really appreciate the anime we got that stood out, and none stood out more then The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Honey and Clover II, Nana, Ouran High School Host Club, Welcome to the NHK, The Third, and Kanon 2006 were other strong shows in a sea of mediocrity.

DarkKanti: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is hands down the best anime to come out in 2006. While there were quite a few anime that could have taken this spot, Haruhi eclipses them all with its wild creativity and overall addictiveness.

AC: As 2006 comes to an end, the anime series that have caught my attention are Death Note, Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Nana. However, Death Note is the one that’s outshining the rest for me. This is the best thriller since Monster and it has yet to fail me with its unpredictable plot twists. For now, I’ll be watching with my eyes wide open to see how Death Note will unfold until its last chapter.

The Melancholy of Haruhi SuzumiyaNanaHoney & Clover II

As 2006 is now safely behind us we are given the gift of hindsight, the power to see with unclouded eyes exactly what the year had to offer. Despite having quite a few less quality titles than years past, 2006 did seem to bring more originality out in the few good shows that it did churn out. That’s not to say that 2006 failed entirely, in fact it may have given us much more than a few good anime: inspiration. If, in the future, onlookers take some of the ideas they find in shows such as The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Kemonozume and apply them to future anime titles we just might see a renaissance of modern anime, and as anime fans, isn’t that what we all want?
Conclusion by: DarkKanti

Top of page