Juzo from "No Guns Life"

It’s kind of been a while since we got a major cyberpunk anime that was outside of the general orbit of Masamune Shirow. Season 2 of SAO, from the description of the arc, was something that I might describe as cyberpunk adjacent – but otherwise, I generally didn’t see much that didn’t have a connection to Shirow or one of the series he created in the listings. So, when No Guns Life came up in the Anime Chart, I figured it was worth checking out.

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Well, we have come to the end of the 2010s, a decade where I actually was much more on top of watching new anime each season – more or less – in part because the rise of streaming made it possible to actually do that in an affordable manner. This past decade also saw me get my Bachelor’s degree, and go to Worldcon for the first time, in a semi-vain attempt to get lit-SF fans to give anime the time of day.

So, I’m going to do a run-down of my favorite Anime of the 2010s that I’ve seen. I will be doing one series per year – and again, this is show’s I’ve seen. Just because a show is not included doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch it or didn’t like it. Additionally, I have a massive List of Shame, so just because a show didn’t make the list doesn’t mean I wasn’t interested.

I’m choosing one show per year, that I watched, and that I generally enjoyed. Each show will have links to where you can watch the series, and affiliate links to where you can buy it – buying anything through those links helps to support the site.

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Well, another year come and gone, so it’s time for me to give some thoughts on my favorite shows of 2019 that I’ve seen. The keyword here is that I’ve seen. There are plenty of great shows this year that I missed, whether because they’re sequels to earlier seasons (Symphogear), or they just slipped under my radar, so I’ll need to come back to them later. As with all of my lists, these are in no particular order, so don’t consider a lower spot in the list, nor an absence from the list, as a slight against that work.

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Sports Anime is something of a blind spot in my viewing habits. A lot of the top shows of the past few years (Kuroko’s Basketball, Haikyu, Yowamushi Petal) are on my to-watch list, and a few other shows (Giant Killing, Free, Princess Nine) I’ve never gotten around to finishing. So on a recommendation I decided to sit down and watch Scorching Ping-Pong Girls, on the one hand I found it an enjoyable and brisk watch – but on the other, it left me hanging.

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After this past year’s horrific fire at Kyoto Animation, I found myself looking at all the animated series that Kyoto Animation had done in the past, and found that I had seen so very few of them, and that they were also all on my to-watch list well before the fire. The body of work of the studio was at a level that I’d compare to GAINAX at their prime. So, having read the first volume of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid a couple jobs ago, while I was working in Downtown Portland, I decided to bump that show up on the list. Also, as a part of the weekly anime viewing nights I’d started with my parents after I got my Dad into anime, I decided to add that show to the rotation, sight unseen. The results were favorable, with an asterisk.

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Key Art banner for season one of "What the Hell Are You Doing Here, Teacher?"

When it comes to concepts related to fanservice in anime, there are some that are very hard to do well. One of them, probably the biggest one of them, is what I call “Sexual Slapstick.” It’s someone walking into a room and seeing someone undressing, or tripping and falling and copping a feel (or seeing something they shouldn’t. They’re all based around acts that are gross, which means it can be hard to make funny. Season one of We Never Learn did it and What the Hell Are You Doing Here, Teacher? also manages to actually pull it off.

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From Left - Ultra Seven, Ultraman, and Ultraman Ace from Season 1 of Ultraman

This past year or so we had a fair number of anime series paying tribute to classic Tokusatsu series from Tsuburya Productions. The most high profile of these was S.S.S.S. Gridman, with Netflix’s Ultraman Season 1 (adapting the manga) coming out earlier, and flying under the radar. There are a few reasons for that – Gridman had Trigger’s rep going for it, instead of being a totally CG anime series, and was released in English in a more conventional manner instead of the Netflix binge model. As far as how much each of those contributed – well, I can’t get into specifics without delving into Steiner Math (which I flunked in college). That said, the show is still fun, and worth your time.

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The last Lucio Fulci film I watched was The Black Cat, and while it was a pretty decent horror film, I will say it didn’t quite get into Fulci’s reputation as an extreme gorehound. The Beyond, part of his “Gates of Hell trilogy” and one of the films to make the Video Nasties, on the other hand, definitely fits that criteria.

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Movie poster for Count Yorga, Vampire

Horror films about vampires in the present day are kind of interesting to me. We live in a time where the concepts of how vampires “work” are common knowledge enough that on the one hand, you don’t need to explain the concepts to an audience. That said, we also are in a world of skepticism, so characters generally shouldn’t buy into the idea of vampires being real at first glance either. Count Yorga, Vampire is probably one of the earlier films I’ve seen that takes on this concept, even pre-dating Hammer’s attempts at the concept.

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I haven’t watched a lot of “Kids on Bikes” movies and fiction – I’ve seen ET, Explorers, and The Goonies, and as of this writing am currently in the middle of reading IT (which is something of a Kids on Bikes story for the flashback sequences) but I haven’t seen or read any of the other works that really feed into subsequent works like Stranger Things. I haven’t seen Monster Squad, and until recently, I hadn’t seen The Gate – a lesser-known work in the genre that I hadn’t heard about until Giant Bomb did a “Film and 40s” commentary for it with the Giant Beast crew. Well, this oversight has, at long last, been rectified.

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From left, Lila and Lemora

Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural is a vampire film that’s been on my watch list for a while. I’ve seen it praised for its theme and tone, but due to the film’s cast and how relatively unknown the director was – and it’s limited DVD release – never really bumped it up my list. Why do a little known vampire film from a director known more for co-writing Eating Raoul than anything else, and starring an actress known for myriad sexploitation films over, say, a film by Amicus? On a whim, I bumped this to the top of my DVD Netflix Queue and gave it a try – and it wasn’t exactly worth the wait.

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From Left - Tilarna and Kei

With the Summer 2019 anime season, while I enjoyed El Melloi II Case Files, I found it somewhat lacking as a mystery or detective series and had hoped that Cop Craft would make up for that. Cop Craft executes its Urban Fantasy Buddy-Cop story well from a narrative standpoint, but less so from an animation standpoint.

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Waver Velvet (Lord El-Melloi) reacting in shock and pain

Lord El-Melloi II is a mystery series that breaks from the conventions of the genre. Specifically, the convention of using the question of “Howdunit” to determine “Whodunit”. When urban fantasy normally sets into this territory, you see writers structure out their magic system to fit within this magical structure. Lord El-Melloi II, on the other hand, tosses convention out on its head and decides to play Calvinball instead.

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Promotional art for Lupin the Third Part IV

Lupin the Third is a character who refuses to be tied down. Like Tom Servo, he’s like the wind, baby. His various earlier anime series and films have set him up as a consummate flirt and womanizer, and his adventures have spanned the globe. Lupin the Third Part IV upends that status quo immediately in both respects. In the second, Lupin’s adventures in this series are generally limited to Italy. In the first case, the series opens with Lupin getting married, and not to Fujiko Mine.

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