On the 5th anniversary of the greatest season in anime history, it’s a good time to reflect on just how spectacular Spring of 2007 was.
There are several ways I could approach this topic, because this is a season than stands up on many different levels – personally, artistically, commercially. All of the elite studios were well-represented. There are three entries from this season that would rank in my own all-time top 10 list. In addition to the shows I would call classics, there are a large number of very good shows in the next tier, and many series that were hugely successful commercially and thus influenced the direction of anime in ways that are still being felt today. I think you could create a “Ten Best” list from Spring 2007 that would be as good as many entire years.
To start with, here are the shows that I consider the cream of the crop:
My fear is that this is going to be remembered as the last great GAINAX series ever, but if it is, it’s a good way to go out. It’s an action-driven show full of GAR and broad comedy, but that disguises some wonderful character development and intricate plotting. One of the great “Aniki” relationships in anime history, along with Outlaw Star.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog for a while knows that this is my all-time favorite anime, for a multitude of reasons. In terms of production values, writing, seiyuu performance and music I don’t think it’s been equaled in a TV anime. Not a commercial success, but no less a masterpiece because of that.
Technically the first chapter previewed in Winter 2007, but the actual release was in March. Again, anyone who knows me knows I revere this film both for Shinkai Makoto’s art and his story. This is poetry, stunningly beautiful and heartfelt.
Nakajimi Kazuki, the writer of TTGL, wrote the stage play this anime was based on – and there are allusions to TTGL scattered throughout the series. This is pretty much a unique animal in anime – non-traditional in every way. It’s a very funny, heartfelt and wildly creative look at peasant life in Edo, filled with fourth wall breaking and anachronistic humor. Criminally underrated.
What a season for Madhouse. This is another hugely underrated gem, terrifically inventive sci-fi and one of the best anime ever to feature pre-teens in all the lead roles. The character interaction here is authentic where so many series about children ring false, and even if the plot does start to lose focus late, it’s still a series full of fascinating ideas.
Hisaya Naoki (Kanon) is one of my favorite anime writers, someone who writes drama that doesn’t need to rely on programmed tearjerker moments to have an impact. This is yet another very underrated show – flawed, subtle, but full of true feeling and depth, and quiet beauty.
These series represent the ones that stand out for me on artistic merits, but the greatness of Spring ‘07 hardly ends there. We also have a long list of very good shows that would content for elite status in almost another other season, including:
- Ookiku Furikabutte – A-1 Pictures: A shoujo fantasy take on sports shounen, very silly and idealized but almost impossible not to like.
- Seto no Hanayome – AIC/Gonzo: One of the most genuinely funny comedies of recent years, a trifle inconsistent but utterly hilarious at it’s best.
- Darker Than Black – BONES: One of BONES’ most successful series, created a sensibility all its own that’s been much copied over the past few years.
- Over Drive – XEBEC: An underrated sports shounen about cycling, featuring a pleasingly off-key sense of humor.
- Nagasarete Airountou – Feel: A likeable and well-directed harem series set on a tropical island, succeeds in capturing a good deal of the manga’s charm.
- Romeo x Juliet – Gonzo: The end of the glory days at Gonzo was already in sight, but this series retains some of the majesty and magic of their re-imaginings of the classics. Flawed but beautiful.
- Bokurano – Gonzo: Manga fans weren’t pleased with the changes Gonzo made, but I enjoyed this incredibly depressing and dark science-fiction story.
Of course, there were also a number of huge commercial hit series that weren’t my cup of tea – among them Lucky Star, Claymore, Nanoha StrikerS and Hayate the Combat Butler. And other series that were either quite good or quite successful (or both) : Kaze no Stigma, Kamichama Karin, Toward the Terra, Lovely Complex, and Eikoku Koi Monogatari Emma.
There are seasons that have quality at the top, and some with depth – but this season had both, and in a big way. And it’s not as if 2007 was a bust other than Spring – the rest of the year featured many series I would call genuine classics too: Ghost Hound, Potemayo (obscenely underappreciated), BACCANO! and Minami-ke. And a bunch of other very good and/or notable series besides: Hidamari Sketch, Nodame Cantible, Higurashi Kai, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, Bamboo Blade, Sketchbook, Clannad, Shugo Chara! and ef – a tale of memories. If I was to make a top 10 list for the year – easily the best such list of any year – it would look like this.
- Seirei no Moribito
- 5 Centimeters per Second
- Tenga Toppa Gurren Laggan
- Ghost Hound
- Oh! Edo Rocket
- Dennou Coil
What a year. It’s pretty much all there – every studio of note with quality releases, and every genre is well represented. We had mature series, smart shows aimed at kids, josei, seinen, shounen, shoujo, romantic comedy, slice-of-life. It was a glorious age – anime at a peak of creative and commercial confidence, an industry that was willing to be bold and take a few chances, with spectacular results. I’m not one of the doomsayers who continually predicts the demise of anime – this is a medium that has shown the ability to adapt to changes in tastes and new commercial challenges, and survive. I haven’t always liked the results, but we’re in the midst of a pretty good season, with Spring looking potentially even better. But that said, I think it’s very unlikely we’ll ever see an explosion of great and very good anime like we did in 2007, and a season as great as that Spring.