I finally made it! Over the last five months I watched roughly 240 episodes of anime to get to this milestone. This doesn’t even include the anime that aren’t part of this marathon. I started ten anime all at once, with certain expectations, and I ended up rather surprised by what I ended up liking the most. I started this marathon back in October so it took me roughly five months to get this far, but it was all easily worth it, and I have no inclination to slow down. For reference, this season one checkpoint concluded at the 26th episode of each anime, if they even ran that far. While I’ll eventually have reviews for all of these, for now I’ll just be sticking with the finales in general and a quick overall impression. Now, let’s just talk about some anime, shall we?
1. Fairy Tail (Episodes 21-26) Still Ongoing
Fairy Tail is actually in the middle of an arc at this point, but it is definitely the best arc so far. Fairy Tail was shaky throughout my last couple posts. I was really into it at some points, but bored with it at other times. That was because I found the action a tad lacking, and that the characters weren’t fighting for anything special in particular. This last arc is progressing very well, however, and has shown me that Fairy Tail is, more than anything, a brilliant display of the bonds of friendship and the power it can give you. I finally witnessed just how much of a family the Fairy Tail guild is. It was always hinted at, but never exemplified until their guild is finally threatened and they all band together. Coupled with the sweeping orchestra version of the theme song, there are moments that really make you feel a surge of excitement, hope, and sometimes sadness. It’s something rather unique to Shounen, and despite all the hate Shounen anime gets sometimes, it’s the moments like these that make it all worthwhile. It’s giving you the permission to dream and motivate yourself.
As it stands now, Fairy Tail is becoming more emotional, which is exactly what I wanted. It was much more interesting and empowering to see the characters fighting to defend themselves and their home rather than just trying to earn some reward for a quest. I also deeply appreciate how well they make you sympathize with certain characters due to their often tragic back stories. Fairy Tail seems to be a haven for people who have suffered in their life and have nowhere to go. It can be very heartwarming at times to see these young kids lost and scared, only to be saved by the family that is Fairy Tail. The action is still hovering around simply being entertaining. The powers have gotten a little more varied and interesting, but it’s still more about the character’s emotions and fighting spirit than any actual tactic. I enjoy smart fights, and Fairy Tail hasn’t really had any yet, but it’s only a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent anime.
2. Hunter X Hunter
Hunter X Hunter was the exception to the one episode at a time rule. I loved it so much that I couldn’t wait and watched all 100 plus episodes without any hesitation. Because of this, I no longer write about Hunter X Hunter in these posts, but in my currently airing anime posts. However, I still have to mention that of all the anime I started for this marathon, this one is my favorite. Hunter X Hunter is an incredible journey full of emotional characters, clever fights, smart puzzles, and a diverse world to adventure through. It’s powerful and intelligent. Fights will be full of emotion and heart, yet at the same time they’ll also be a battle of strategy and wit. It can be very sad and dark at times, yet it expresses uplifting and cheerful moments on a regular basis. I’ll be writing a lot more about this anime in my next post, so until then we’ll move on.
3. Durarara (Episodes 21-25) Concluded
It was rather appropriate that my favorite character wasn’t decided until the final episodes. I always enjoy it when someone near the end of a series becomes an amazing character. I am talking about none other than Kida Masaomi. He became absolutely fascinating when it started exploring his past, and his current dilemma as the head of the Yellow Scarves gang. During the anime, he was this aloof optimist that was always cheerful almost to the point of annoyance and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Come to find out, he’s dealing with a horrible sense of guilt over his past and he simply hides it behind a veil of fake happiness. I always love characters like that. Characters who have a harrowing past that they don’t want anyone to know about, so they master a completely new identity that seems completely unsuspecting of any type of drama or complexity. It also helps that Kida was an absolute bad ass confronting his entire gang, finally unafraid of death. A poetic last stand for a character who’s entire struggle stemmed from being a coward.
The anime on a whole was an amazing character study. To describe Durarara is difficult, but simply put, it’s all about a large group of characters who have their own individual stories that vary wildly in subject matter, but have a common thread in the fact they they all happen in the same city, and each story connects with another character’s story in some clever way. If I had any complaint, it’s the soundtrack. At first I enjoyed it’s quirkiness, but there were many moments where the music simply didn’t do anything to help the scene feel any more powerful. I’m not saying that the only way to score an anime is with heavy emotional music, but there should be some effort to adapt the music to the moment, and I didn’t really notice anything like that throughout the series. It’s highest points are it’s writing, and amazing flexibility in the sheer amount of stories this anime has, and in the end, that strength goes a long way to make this anime feel very unique.
4. Psycho-Pass (Episodes 21-22) Concluded
I was pretty much at the finale last time I wrote about this anime, but luckily the final two episodes gave me a lot to talk about. First off, they set up perfectly for a second season of this brilliant psychological sci-fi story. It escalated a lot more than I thought it would. Truly, the boast between the Sibyll System AI and Akane at the end set the scale even higher. Kagami’s arc involving his rivalry with one of the coolest villains I’ve seen in an anime was fantastic to watch. It was more interesting even, to see the main villain eventually fold into the gray area where good and evil aren’t so defined. He was clearly evil, but there was something even more cold hearted and malicious lurking behind the scenes. My favorite thing is that all the characters have justifiable means to what they do and the increasing ambiguity of the morals of this world can make everyone seem like a hero or a villain.
What this anime ultimately turned into is a battle of ideals about what is best in terms of law and order for this futuristic society. It sets up incredible character dynamics. Makashima the original villain is a ruthless and doesn’t mind killing people to achieve his goal. However, the goal in question is to actually wake people from their sleep, and stop them from being controlled by the Sibyll system. So in a way, he was saving humanity by preserving their free will. The Sibyll system is an AI that is constantly looking for the perfect way to rule the world. It literally does have humanity’s safety as it’s top priority, however, it’s willing to bend or break any rule to achieve this. Akane, the female protagonist despises the true face of the Sibyll system like Makishima does, but her personality knows that humanity in it’s current state will not remain peaceful without the system in place. Finally, Kogami is deemed a criminal by the sibyll system, but works for the law to solve crimes in order to keep himself from being in prison. Everyone has this duality to them that makes them a bad person in one sense, but a good person in another. It’s only because the true nature of ruling over humanity doesn’t have a definite answer, that this world doesn’t have a clear sense of what’s right and wrong, and I find that a very thought provoking notion.
5. Cowboy Bebop (Episodes 21-26) Concluded
With this, I can finally add another check next to the “must see to be a real anime fan” list. The last six episodes were a definite highlight and continued the diverse and mature series of stories that I had grown to like about this anime. Cowboy Funk and that weird white knight of a cowboy was quite hilarious. I always appreciate the show’s sense of comedy. Honestly it’s range of genres is amazing. Some episodes are frightening, others are dramatic and dark, while the rest are interesting or hilarious. I always liked the ones that end sadly the most such as the Bohemian Rhapsody episode about the chessmaster or Brain Scratch about the hospitalized man who tries to immortalize himself in a computer. And of course, Spike’s “bang” at the end gives him a trillion cool points.
Overall, the show was very enjoyable. I found even the worst episodes to at least be rather intriguing. It takes real skill to craft so many different stories with a range of emotions and tones like this anime does. However, while I definitely see it’s merit as a classic, it’s not one of my favorites across the anime I watch. While the stories behind the characters were fantastic, I found the characters themselves to be not quite full of the emotions that I wanted. The soundtrack was amazing to say the least. Yoko Kanno is one of the most unique composers in the anime industry. The big question is whether it felt “old” or not because of this anime’s age. I don’t think it did. In fact, I think it’s storytelling is timeless. The animation definitely leaves hints of what era this is from, but that hardly mattered in the end. I adore beautiful anime, but I also appreciate intricate storytelling, and this was definitely the latter.
6. Hajime No Ippo: New Challenger (Episodes 21-26) Ongoing
This anime definitely saved the most intense fight for last. Over the course of around 5 episodes, this one match had so many turnarounds and moments of loss and triumph that I felt like an entire saga was spread out in front of me with a beginning, middle, and end, wrapped up in one single fight. It definitely shows the anime’s biggest strength in crafting fights full of personality and spirit. Sure, maybe they fell down and got up with some inexplicable power one too many times, but this show gains it’s identity by having characters that simply never fall down forever. I did think the last two episodes easily could have been wrapped up in one. It’s never fun when the finale fizzles out into episodes that don’t really matter as much. The season ended strongly, yet simply, and I look forward to moving on to the most recent third season!
Overall, I like to say that this series has one strong point that it executes extremely well, and that is the moment to moment experience of a true fight. The primal instinct that can turn one into an animal, the methodical strategies that you need to employ amidst the surmounting pressure of fighting an opponent who can utterly devastate you with one mistake. and the realization that you in strength, spirit, and hope all work in tandem to give you power. However, there are a few qualms I have with this series. For one, the narrative structure is very limited. It is basically jumping between one fight to the next with mainly training montages and a breakdown of the upcoming opponent to space the fights out. However, the thing that I find the most unappealing about this anime is it’s art style. It has a couple things that are animated well. The punches are dazzling and the movement is fluid, but the character designs sometimes make me cringe. I didn’t find anything rather beautiful in this anime, nor did I find any of the characters visually interesting. In fact, a lot of the times, I just found the facial expressions to be downright ugly. As a huge fan of animation, I do find a lot of enjoyment about the visual fidelity of what I watch as well, so it does irk me when an art style doesn’t appeal to me.
7. Ano Hana (Concluded at Episode 11)
This was one that I finished a while ago, and I wrote about it in detail then. However, I felt like reflecting on all ten of the anime I started for this post instead of just the ones that had enough episodes to last this long. So simply put, Ano Hana is adorable, incredibly sad, and full of charm. It is easily an anime for people who love anything to do with cute characters dealing with wild emotions. The art style is bright and colorful, full of vivid imagery sure to portray the little town it takes place in with all it’s splendor. It’s only 11 episodes so I don’t really hesitate to recommend this. I guess you should only stay away if you solely prefer action.
8. A Certain Scientific Railgun (Episodes 21-24) Ongoing
I don’t know why I enjoy this show so much. I mean, it’s an action anime starring all girls in a city full of schools. It’s schoolgirl action: the anime. Maybe it’s because my current anime crush is the Railgun herself. The second arc concluded pretty much as well as the first arc did. While any scene where Misaka is unleashing her electrical powers is incredible to watch, it didn’t top the first arc in terms of being a powerful climax. That’s not to say it was any worse. Both arcs finished with Misaka unleashing her power on her foe as she lectures them on what they did wrong and what the moral of the story is. I really enjoy it when protagonists do more than just beat their foes, and serve as a purveyor of what is right and wrong. It also set up well for the second season. Despite the variety amongst the story and the villains, it has all been flowing toward a bigger, more sinister problem that I’m expecting to be explored next season.
Actually, I do know why I love this show so much. It’s because I think this show has a great balance of storytelling, action, comedy, and intelligence. It doesn’t particularly shine in any of those, but it’s one of those anime that encompasses a lot of different aspects in a perfectly enjoyable combination. This anime has been pretty consistent in it’s quality and tone. If you like episode one, then you’ll probably like every other episode. If you dislike one, you’ll probably just want to leave this one alone. I have to say that this anime is a huge improvement over A Certain Magical Index, which I dropped. Magical Index seemed to be a more mindless and uninspired version of Scientific Railgun. There is still one more season of Railgun and I’m excited to start it.
9. Bakuman (Episodes 21-25) Ongoing
I can not get enough of this anime. I’ve never watched something so constantly inspiring. The last few episodes were all about finally getting their first legitimate attempt at serializing a manga. It was suspenseful because these characters have put so much effort, and have so much at stake that you simply want them to win just for their sake. That’s powerful character drama to make a viewer feel that way. I love how close the competition is too. The new characters they’ve been introducing have added a lot of new perspectives on what is good and bad for the manga industry. My favorite part, being the romantic that I am, is that obtaining their serialization was finally enough to make Miho call Mashiro for the first time. These two destined lovers who put their entire future in each other’s hands, have always kept an unusual amount of distance from each other. It was sometimes sad to see, but it’s all for the future they are dreaming of, that they can be so resolute now. They also ended the season with a cliffhanger, which I didn’t expect, and that is the disheartening revelation that they have to switch editors. The man that helped then turn this dream into a reality has to hand his two star pupils to someone else. It’s amazing how something simple like that can seem so powerful. That’s how strong this anime can be sometimes.
Overall, Bakuman is one of my favorite anime of all time. I can say already that the first season gets a 10/10 score from me which I’ll detail in the full review. I won’t know for sure until I finish every season exactly where it ranks, but I have seen enough to safely say it’s among the best I’ve seen. It’s main character is incredibly absorbed in romance, which I can instantly relate to, and they are also the very epitome of inspiring and dedicated people. Every episode I’ve watched so far has made me want to create something. I’ve said it before, but this anime is the reason I started this blog. I just wanted to write, and to express myself after being so inspired by watching these two pursue their ambitious dreams. Season 2 is right around the corner and I’m excited to continue this fantastic anime.
10. Kuroko’s Basketball (Episodes 21-25) Ongoing
Sometimes I don’t think I can handle the absurd intensity of this show. I say absurd because each time the stakes are raised, or a character is revealed to be stronger than initially thought, I was already thinking “this is as crazy as it can get.” Kuroko, who was once a completely overpowered player with an incredible ability, is now barely capable of even helping the team making a single shot. And the antagonist, Aomine, who caused the protagonist’s team to suffer their first loss, made me think that he’s the limit. That’s who they have to beat in season 2. Then they reveal that this player who’s already a monster on the court hasn’t even shown his full power yet. All the while, all the other players with amazing abilities are getting even stronger. I also have to say that the final game, particularly the face off between Kise and Aomine was incredible. It was a risk having the final game of the season not involve Kuroko’s team, but it clearly paved the way to show just how much more intense the next season will be.
Like Bakuman, Kuroko’s Basketball is also now one of my favorite anime of all time, having finished one season. It’s one of the most suspenseful shows I’ve ever seen, and the thought process behind the powers and every game has been enthralling to see unfold. No basketball game has even felt close to being the same, nor has any of the powerful players felt similar. There is a rich amount of diversity in this entire show. Not to mention that when it isn’t slamming my heart into my chest with trepidation over who’s going to win, it’s actually a very funny show. I laugh more during this show than any other on this list, yet I also feel intensity that only Hunter X Hunter has rivaled so far. This series is mesmerizing and captivating, and it’s about freaking basketball. That’s just genius.
To everyone who reads my thoughts on these anime, I can never thank you enough! To recap, going forward, there are only five anime remaining in this marathon that have more seasons or episodes to watch. Fairy Tail, Hajime No Ippo, A Certain Scientific Railgun, Bakuman, and Kuroko’s Basketball. I’ll have reviews on all the first seasons as soon as possible! Stay tuned for the next update. They will come more often now that each lap will go by twice as fast! Now if you’ll excuse me, the latest episode of Hunter X Hunter is calling my name.