Thursday, March 15, 2012

Anime’s Finest Hour: A Look Back at Spring 2007

moribito01 Ttgl (1) 5CM

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:



TTGL2 Tenga Toppa Gurren Lagann – GAINAX

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.



Moribito Seirei no Moribito – Production I.G.


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.



5cm 5 Centimeters per Second – CoMix Wave

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.



OER Oh! Edo Rocket – Madhouse

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.



dennou1 Dennou Coil – Madhouse

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.



Sola Sola – Nomad

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, Nodama 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.

  1. Seirei no Moribito
  2. 5 Centimeters per Second
  3. Tenga Toppa Gurren Laggan
  4. Ghost Hound
  5. Oh! Edo Rocket
  6. Sola
  7. Minami-Ke
  8. BACCANO!
  9. Potemayo
  10. 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.

50 comments:

  1. Eh...Romeo X Juliet wasn't that good. But that's the only one on the list that I've seen that I didn't really like.

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  2. I agree with the above comment that Romeo X Juliet was average at best.

    However I agree that 2007 was a very strong year. My top 3 would be Dennou Coil, Gurren Lagann, & Toward the Terra. The first two are top favorite series for me.

    Now I am ashamed to admit I've never seen Guardian of the Spirit. It does sound like a series that will be right up my alley. I might give a few episodes a chance on Hulu & if I like what I see I might purchase the affordable DVD set.

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    1. Ah I completely forgot about Baccano, that & Nodame Cantabile would cover my top 5

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    2. Okay this is the 3rd time and hopefully my last reply :)

      But I'll add Ghost Hound and Big Windup as also notable series from 2007 for me. I don't want to leave anything out.

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  3. Seirei no Moribito as number one...Enzo, I officially love you now XD

    I'm curious though, have you watched Kemono no Souja Erin (Beast Player Erin)? It's done by the same person who wrote Seirei no Moribito.

    Kamichama Karin, BACCANO!, Clannad, Tenga Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Kaze no Stigma were also my favorites in 2007. Romeo x Juliet didn't seem that good to me either along with Lucky Star, Shugo Chara and Nodama Cantible.

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  4. Count L*S* as one of the series I included based on sales and influence, not personal preference.

    I watched some of Erin out of loyalty to Uehashi-sensei and I.G., but I could never quite get into it.

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  5. I actually think last year (2011) was the strongest year of anime since the golden age of 2006-2007. Maybe not the most commercially successful, but 2011 had a lot of memorable anime.

    Notable 2011 series:
    Usagi Drop
    Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
    Steins Gate
    Mawaru Penguindrum
    Ano Hi Mita hana no namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
    Fate/Zero
    Hourou Musuko

    That's not even including other series such as Tiger and Bunny, Dantalian no Shoka, Bento, Un-go, etc.

    The biggest difference between 2006-2007, and today, is that there are far more 1-cour (11-12 episode in length) series nowadays than back then. It seems that investing in a multi-cour anime is considered too risky or something.

    But yea, I mostly agree with a lot of your favorites for 2007, Seirei no Moribito in particular. I find it sad how a lot of people I know won't watch past the first few episodes of Moribito because they deem it "too slow". If only they knew what they were missing out on /sigh

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  6. I'll give Seirei no Moribito a try since you like it so much. Haven't heard of it before but reading the synopsis, it sounds pretty interesting.

    Personally I liked Romeo X Juliet as well. Definitely better than average, though yes, flawed.

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  7. Snipyro (and anyone thinking of trying Moribito) - I think if you go in understanding that this is like no other TV anime, you won't be disappointed. It uses all 26 episodes to lay out a layered plot and to develop the characters to an astonishing degree. There's no pandering, no instant gratification, and lots of attention to details any other series wouldn't bother with.

    Tsuki, I tend to think of 2011 as an above-average year, but I think there's a max of 2 or 3 shows that would crack my 2007 list - and none that would he higher than 5th or 6th. And nothing that would be higher than 4th just going up against Spring of '07.

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    1. Yea, I didn't say that 2011 was better. It was just the best since 2006-2007.

      And I too would vouch for Seirei no Moribito. For those that haven't seen it, just have the patience to get through the first two or so episodes, they are a bit more slow paced (but still quite good).

      I wonder if we'll ever see years of anime like 2006-2007 again anytime soon...

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    2. In the new economic reality and with the increasing industry awareness of otaku trends, I doubt it. I don't think you'll ever see two-cour shows be the rule rather than the exception again, for one thing, and I just don't think you'll ever see as many creative risks taken.

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  8. I love these "looking back" articles. Serei no Moribito was truly a wonder as it was being aired. I seem to recall the subs stalled at some point....took me a long time to finish anyway. I was glad to see Dennou Coil getting a nod as well as Sola. Fond memories of these series. I have to agree that the studios these days tend to play it safe with 1 cour series. changing times I suppose. I also have to mention Ghost Hound...one of the most effective horror/suspense animes I've ever watched.
    Enzo, I'm really getting addicted to your writing and your tastes

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    1. That's flattering. I'm blogging crack. ;-)

      There's no denying that something is lost with one-cour series being the norm now. One-cour shows can be great, but in many cases there just isn't the opportunity to develop the characters to their maximum potential. I mean, in Spring '07 Gonzo did SnH, Bokurano, R x J, and Kaze no Stigma. Can you imagine any studio doing 4 multi-cour shows in one season? I can't remember the last time one studio did 4 shows in one season, period.

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    2. Actually... I've seen JC Staff do 4 shows in one season, granted it's JC staff and their quality can be "DEEN" level at times ;)

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    3. Sunrise, Madhouse, AIC, and JC (recently) can all scale up to four a season through their various teams and subcontractors.

      JC did six this season, although it's atypical. It's actually quite impressive that they could manage that without a complete collapse (and with quality control generally a notch better than most of their seasons over the past year and a half).

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  9. I wasn't following anime seasons back in 2007, and so was unaware that many of these shows that I've since watched and loved aired together - quite an astonishing thing to realize. but what I personally find most amazing is that you find the time and energy to write these miscellaneous posts on top of your regular posting duties. I take my hat off to you, sir.
    (by the way, I couldn't sleep for two days after seeing 5cm/sec for the first time, and couldn't think straight for another week or so)

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    1. To be fair,k Wednesdays are dead days for me and have been for several seasons, so that's the only day when I'd ever have the time...

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  10. What called for the sudden time reversal?

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  11. I would say that 2006 was the golden YEAR for anime. A lot of the all time best series started in 2006. (Keyword STARTED)
    examples:
    Gintama, Death Note, Kanon, Haruhi, Code Geass, Aria the Natural, Ouran High, Reborn, Welcome to the NHK, Higurashi...

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    1. Kanon is the only one of those that would make my 2007 list. But you did also have Noein and Mushishi, among others. No question 2006 was a very good year - maybe the 2nd best over the last decade - but for my tastes 2007 was an order of magnitude better.

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    2. never watched noein! i forget when mushishi came out..but if it is indeed 2006 just add it to da list.

      always loving your insight tho enzo :)

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    3. NP, say hi to Natsu and Happy for me. And tell Lucy she's hawt...

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  12. MMMMMMMmmmmm Seirei no Moribito and Bokurano. Gooood shiz. Just like Seirei though, looks like Chihayafuru is going to join it as being horribly neglected by most viewers ... well at least community around the anime blog sphere.

    ps: spelling error on moribito on the top =)

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  13. "My fear is that this is going to be remembered as the last great GAINAX series ever"

    Eh, TTGL was badly animated, badly scripted pile of trash for people who've never seen true super robot shows.
    But anyway, regardless of how good the season was - "finest hour" term already has a meaning, and there is no need to redefine it, so its certainly ill-used here.

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  14. I love how the trolls never have the balls to sign in... LOL. That's then price of having open commenting, I suppose.

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  15. I only started following seasonal anime around Winter 2009 and back then I was only watching 3-4 shows. I watched a lot of anime when I was a kid like YYH, Gundam, HxH, Slam Dunk, etc. I kinda stopped when I entered HS.
    When I did come back to anime, I marathoned a lot of stuff and that includes TTGL, ef memories, CG, and Baccno. Needless to say, those animes hold a special place in my heart.
    And I still have a lot to catch up to then with all these anime in this list. I really missed out on a lot of good animes. Oh well, it just means I have to do my best to watch all the animes out there(the good ones anyways). Having a hard time now with real life stuff but I manage somehow.
    So yeah, I love watching anime.

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  16. There was also Heroic Age and Hitohira, but yes Spring 2007 was a good season although I didn't care much for Sola (I had to force myself finishing that one) and I think TTGL is terribly overrated. :p But I love, absolutely love, Seirei no Moribito and 5 cm/s.

    In hindsight I can't believe I lost interest in anime few weeks into this season, ah well, I suppose playing WoW does that to you.

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  17. among those you mention give i seen

    Tenga Toppa Gurren Lagann (dub)
    Sola
    Seto no Hanayome (dub)
    Romeo x Juliet (dub version & one of best dub i've ever watched in my life)
    Lucky Star (dub)
    Claymore (dub)
    Kaze no Stigma (dub)
    Ghost Hound (dub)
    Potemayo (of course i like potemayo series waiting for s2 or dub)
    BACCANO! (dub)
    Bamboo Blade (dub)
    Clannad (dub)

    yea most of them are dubs give i was still huh at time give those ok series really like give i'm dub person.

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  18. So many great shows.

    I tend to like slice of life/comedy shows so '07 was a stand out year for me.

    My favourites from that period are in no particler order:

    Oh! Edo Rocket
    Lovely Complex
    Sketchbook
    Hidamari Sketch
    Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei
    Nodame Cantible
    Minami-Ke
    Potemayo
    Lucky Star (yes I kow it's not trendy to like LS,but it's my list :D)

    and out of the more serious shows:

    Dennou Coil
    Baccano!
    Darker than Black
    TTGL
    Seirei no Moribito

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  19. Damn you Enzo. Because of this post I am now hooked on Denno Ceil.
    Seriously Dam you :)

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  20. I like this kind of post. Whan it's penned by you it's even more interesting ;>.

    I wasn't really following anime season by season in 2007... I was still busy recovering the 1995-2006 series I had missed (Italian TV channel had been pretty good in licensing stuff old and new until that moment. I could watch Nagai and Matsumoto's series in kindergarten for instance, not to speak of Rose of Versailles ;D.
    In mid-90's the licensing decline started... and the situation here anime-wise has never really recovered since then).
    With many many thanks to campus internet I caught up with 11 years of anime within 2 years . Good times X,DD.
    A couple of the 2007 anime titles are among my all times favourite, both in my mind and in my heart: Moribito and Dennou Coil.
    Toward the Terra had me bawling in some moments, it would probably be my #3 for that year.
    Baccano would be my #4. I liked the storytelling and the variety of characters.
    Ghost Hound (my #5) was good but was more more of a 'head' anime to me. I enjoyed it a lot but it didn't grip me completely the way DC and Moribito (especially Moribito) did. More 'very interesting' than 'very enjoyable'.
    Nodame Cantabile, Emma and Lovely Complex were pleasant in anime form but their manga source are much better imho. LoveCom and Emma (manga) are among my top favourites, their anime version not so much.

    Rome X Juliet was my biggest disappointment and one of the few series I have dropped ever. I kept up with blogs reviews for it and watched the ending... and the final episode(s) went the Sailor Moon anime seasonal endings route O_o ( an hodgepodge of the first half of season II ending + the very end of season V . And a bit of season I too, due to the whole forbidden starcrossed lovers feuding families - or planets :p - backstory). And Juliet channelling La Seine No Hoshi. Weird. Weird weird weird.
    I was fine with Gonzo putting its spin on Montecristo, it's the best series they have made imho and one of my personal all-times favourites , but RxJ... uhm. Nice music, some lovely scenery and scenes but that's it.

    I never watched a few of the titles you mentioned. Time to check :D

    Thanks again for writing, Enzo ^^.

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  21. @deafvader: oy, hi there Cupid! XD
    DC is an excellent series. Happy watching!

    Eli

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  22. I dropped RxJ mostly because I knew how it was going to end. It was nice that they tweaked the setting, though.

    BACCANO! had to have been my favorite of the year, followed by Seirei no Moribito, TTGL, and Kaze no Stigma.

    Funny thing about Seto no Hanayome; after watching that, I haven't LOL'd at comedy animes since. Chuckled, sure, but never outright laughed. SnH is probably my standard for comedy-anime now.

    And yeah, now that you've mentioned it, there are hardly any 2-cour animes now relative to 2007 and previous. I wonder if the studios are really just catering to otaku trends now for instant cash (make 1-cour show with its own merchandise, make another 1-cour show that's similar to the previous one and has its own merchandise~) instead of telling epic stories. This revelation is quite saddening :(

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  23. Heh, if people dropped Shakespeare because they knew how it ends, high school English programs would be dead in the water! And Gonzo did sort of tweak the end a little. I don't think R x J is a classic, but I do sometimes think it's unfairly maligned. For my money it's quite a good series and pretty to look at.

    DV, Dennou Coil had that effect on me too (I also missed it when it aired and watched it later). Very, very addictive.

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    1. No high school english would still be there. Since school has the tendency to teach us things we don't want to learn.
      At least for me.

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    2. Ah, let me clarify: I dropped RxJ because I already know the original Romeo & Juliet. And funny thing about high school English; where I'm from, my teacher let us watch that R+J movie starring DiCaprio instead of forcing us to read the original XD

      I knew the whole Capulet vs Montague argument, who would do what, etc, and after seeing the anime progress as expected, I dropped it.

      It wasn't bad, but it didn't interest me enough to continue watching.

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  24. I don't know 5 Centimeters completely broke my soul.. I was sad for a looong time...

    Sola was just perfect,loved this show. Is the original source a game?manga?novel?

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    1. Sola was an original anime by Hisaya (who's reportedly working on a new anime project at last, BTW). There was a manga adaptation that came after the anime.

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    2. i too was depressed! 5cm per seconds made me feel that long ache I felt when my heart was first broken.
      Sola could have a happier end but it was good for a non-game non-manga sourced anime.

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  25. huh why some boo on romeo x juliet series give it make well done if seen dub by funi really one of best dub i ever hear besides go watch dub version of it.

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  26. Wow, that really was a great season. Dennou Coil alone would have made it one of the best seasons ever, but that and Sola and Edo Rocket? Wow.

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  27. I just finished rewatching Gurren Lagann (long plane ride + power outlet on the seats).

    2 words: manly tears. Multiple times.

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  28. "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." - is what 2007 looks like 5 years down the road but I remember at the time one couldn't get away from the crowd that loudly declared - "moe is killing anime". I had a hard time back then believing that to be the case and that's grown to a firm belief that people who continue to argue that "moe killing anime" are more detrimental to anime then "moe" ever was.

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    1. I don't recall all that much crying about moe in '07 to be honest - and there really doesn't seem to be all that much in looking back at the schedule. Maybe that's the benefit of distance.

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  29. Was Shigurui shown in 2007? If so, I'd definitely concur with you. One of the most exquisitely directed anime pieces, along with Ghost Hound and Seirei no Moribito (though I find Kamiyama at his finest with GiTs).

    -ReAl

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    1. Shigurui was summer 2007, but I actually haven't seen it. It isn't a show you often see mentioned as one of the classics, so I'm surprised to hear you place it in that company.

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    2. Because it's not a show you can recommend to just anyone. It's a show that completely removes itself from the ideal of the noble samurai. The direction and cinematography is very calculated and precise, which is something it shares with the director's other works, Texhnolyze and Steins Gate (with the latter being the most accessible of them all).

      Give it a try.

      -ReAl

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  30. Thanks for this post GE. Because of it, I discovered Seirei no Moribito and spent the last 2 days marathoning through it instead of studying :)

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    1. I accept no responsibility for your grades, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I could have watched the whole thing in a day or two, but I forced myself to stretch it out as much as I could...

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    2. I'm slowly working my way through Moribito and Dennou Coil. They're really series better taken without a marathon. Not so much because they're "too dense" in one shot, but due to the fact you don't get series like this very often. So I'm kind of taking it bit by bit, to enjoy the series in chunks.

      It's a little different than I tend to watch older series, but I'm liking the change of pace with these two.

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