Anime of the Year 2007 title holder

Current holder of ‘Anime of the Year 2007’ title.

The best character in this anime, doing what he does best!

My first review for this month is for a 2007 anime titled Bokurano. This means that Nodame Cantabile will have to face yet another challenger to its throne. Just like Doujin Work, this psychological thriller cum part-time mecha anime is actually a very good title, but is it good enough to unseat the incumbent for ‘Anime of the Year 2007’ title?

See the picture below for a succinct synopsis for this anime.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but the video actually tells you what happened. Watch this excellent series yourself to find out how good the story in this anime is.

The story in this anime is excellent, no doubt about it. Definitely better than the one in Nodame Cantabile too. As each pilot take their turns piloting the giant robot as they defend their Earth and their own universe from devastation, the anime take a page from Jigoku Shoujo’s playbook and started to show the anime’s world from the point of view (POV) of the would-be pilot just before their time in the ‘rotating’ hot seat started. Some of them are great (example: the POV of the boy that delivers newspapers and takes care of his siblings) but others is just so-so (example: the POV of the boy whose mom is the researcher at that tower whose name I forgot). But unlike Jigoku Shoujo, these POV plots happened as the main storyline develops quietly but nicely at the background for the first half of the series before it surfaced to the fore later.

The pacing of this anime is just about perfect, but it was blemished somewhat by the huge amount of flashbacks that happened in the penultimate part of this anime. This affects the ending too, giving it too little time to unfold. This is very unfortunate because the ending itself is very good, and could do much better with an extra episode for tying up the loose ends. While the main storyline itself has perfect story developments as mentioned above, the transitions between the POV plots could have been better because it degraded after around 10 episodes and continues until the main storyline take center stage.

Character developments in this anime is uneven but very unique in the fact that this series doesn’t have an overt main male or female protagonist. You may want to claim that Ushiro Jun is the hero of this anime, but his impact in the first two-thirds of the series is limited at repeatedly kicking his own little sister as he unleashed his irrational rage upon her. If you want to call that character development, power to you. Almost all the time, characters developments for any given character happened during the said character’s POV episode(s), and the quality depends on what that POV episode have in its plot. The best character in this anime is definitely the very likeable snarky foul-mouthed flying doll who gives very helpful instructions to the pilots who are sacrificing their life defending Earth from the 15 incoming Angels beings.

This method of character design is common in this anime.

Character Design:-
Just like Nodame Cantabile, this anime is also aimed towards more mature audiences. So, despite that most of the characters here are middle-schoolers, their designs are more of the realistic type with plenty of black hairs. Outstanding designs include the supposed bespectacled main protagonist Ushiro Jun, the domestic violence victim her sister, the daughter of the Diet member, Kokopelli and also the girl who wasn’t contracted. Mecha designs are also excellent, no wonder the creator of this series was tasked into doing designs for the second installment of the Evangelion movie. Definitely a positive point for this anime.

The best character in this anime also have one of the best voice acting gigs, used to the fullest to delivers plenty of snarky lines.

Voice Acting:-
The voice acting in this anime with big cast is decent overall, and some nice voice acting gigs comes from the snarky flying doll, Ushiro Jun, his sister and also the daughter of the Diet member. Quite good but not a match for the voice acting in Nodame Cantabile.

Quoted For Truth!

The OP theme and the two ED themes which are sung by the same person are excellent. The OST is sparse in this anime (virtually none of them during mecha battles –  only heard when not fighting) is not less good either. Definitely a positive point for this anime.

The final battles is supposed to be epic, but it doesn't.

The animation quality in this anime is good, even in fast-paced scenes. There are also CGI animations in this anime which is fluid and integrates seamlessly with 2D animations. Choreography in the mecha battles are great and very variable, and my only complaint is that some mecha battles are ridiculously short (spoiler: One of the battles even includes the enemy committing suicide too). Only the choreography for the final battle is somewhat lacking. The director has done a very good job not only for presenting the story flawlessly (except for the flashback issues), but he/she has also done a good job at framing great camera angles during the mecha battles.

Some of the earliest battles are better depicted and executed than the final battle.

An easy 10 out of 10.
And finally, Nodame Cantabile has been replaced by this anime as the new ‘Anime of the Year 2007’ title holder, mainly because of the vastly superior story. If you planned to watch this, remember that this anime is more Jigoku Shoujo than, let’s say, Gundam or Evangelion. The direct, dark and overly realistic story about humanity (there are no meticulous mind games here, or comedies either) far trumped the action factors in this anime, and that’s what I like about this anime.

Hilarious dialogue, but very dark at the same time too.

edit – Just read the manga version of this anime, and my observation are:-

  1. This anime is a watered down version of the manga. The plots in the manga is far more substantial and more intricate, but I have a feeling that they (plots) are less humanized than the ones in the anime (the anime shows the ugliness of humanity better than the manga). Still, this anime would have benefited greatly if it stays true to the roots of the manga.
  2. Plenty of changes happened with the conversion from the manga version to the anime, unlike the more faithful reconstruction in Nodame Cantabile. This applies mainly to the background of the characters, but some key plots was changed too (one character that dies in the manga doesn't in the anime, the uncontracted characters differed between the manga and the anime, the way some of the characters dies has also been altered etc.).
  3. After reading the manga, now I realized that not only the mecha battles in the anime is way too short, they are also very lop-sided like the ones in the first season of Gundam 00. In the manga, mecha battles are longer, has more strategies and more importantly, the pilots in the manga are weaker than their counterparts in the anime.
  4. The only thing the anime has done better than the manga is the ending. The manga's ending is actually better, but the anime's ending has far more clarity in it (although just like what I have said above, it could do with more airtime) thus making it far less ambiguous. The lead-up to the ending is better in the manga version too, unlike the flashback-laden lead-up to the anime's ending.
  5. Oh and BTW, the flying doll in the anime is better than the one in manga version!