It seems to be that time of year again, when “Top Ten” Lists of everything from manga to Bollywood Babes pop up and, as I am leaving next week right after Xmas for Tokyo and Comiket, I thought I’d better start working on this now. ^_^
As always, this list is going to be a mix of old and new, licensed series and as-yet unreleased in the west, because otherwise the list would be darn short. ;-) It’s also all in *my* opinion, so go ahead and comment that I’m wrong, but it’s not like you’re gonna change my mind. In any case – here we go!
10. Aria the Natural – This anime is making this year’s top 10 list, not because of its brilliant overt yuriness, but because part of the fun of watching it was looking for every teeny weeny little thing that could be vaguely run through the Yuri goggles and pointed at with a successful “Aha!” I and many others, remain convinced that Akira and Alicia are an item.
9. My HiME – What might have been a HUGE release for this anime in the US seems to have fizzled, largely in part to the DVDs for Volume 1 having issues. But the love of ShizNat, and other smexy Yuri couples, with or without any basis for existence, made this series a Yuri fandom fave in 2006. I personally think a strong push as a “Yuri” series would have bumped sales considerably.
8. Ichigo Mashimaro/Strawberry Marshmallow – I know, we’ve been beating this series to death this week, but when I bought the first volume of the anime I remembered all over again just how snortingly funny it is. And how much Miu is all about getting a little sugar from Nobue. Because, despite myself – every freakin’ time – I watch this, I laugh, and because there’s more than enough Yuri in it to make a case for just about anyone and anyone, this series makes number eight this year.
7. Coyote Ragtime Show – Sometimes a show just gets it right. The women are cool and sexy without making you feel yucky for thinking that, they look voluptuous, but not absurd, and they make you laugh, even as they are capping some redshirt. When neither the men nor the women are weak or incompetent and there’s a sense of something, you know, between the women. Throw in some space opera and friendly ruffian-type action, and you got yourself a winner. To paraphrase a very bad movie, give me a bottle of redeye, a crazy straw and Coyote Ragtime Show, and I’ll be one happy Erica. ^_^
6. Tied for sixth place are Kannazuki no Miko and Ninja Nonsense – Kannazuki no Miko was undoubtedly one of the most popular yuri releases of 2006. I’ve talked alot about KnM and why it’s popular but not good and, every time, people prove my point by writing incoherent comments filled with righteous indignation at me. But re-watching it, I was able to divorce the anime from the fandumb and remember why I thought it fun in the first place. The same is true for what is being released here as Ninja Nonsense. It’s openly tacky and ridiculous and, unlike KnM, is not going to have armies of insane fans, but *like* KnM it has a really cute Yuri couple, and some fun moments. Fun train-wreck Yuri anime. Number 6.
5. Mai Otome – It ended in spring 2006 without the enormous thud that tarnished Mai Hime. It was not nearly as good a story, and the plot holes were, well large and plentiful. But it had about 1/100th the angst and the whole setup read like an alternate-universe fanfic for the original anyway, so anyone who expected “good” clearly lacked critical thinking skills in the first place. What it was, was a fun, stupid take on the characters of the HiME-verse and it remained, from beginning to end a coherent, consistent, fun stupid take on the HiME-verse. And once again in the minority, I liked the ending. ^_^
4. Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl -I haven’t reviewed the thirteenth episode yet, but it hasn’t changed my opinion overall of the anime. This is another series I was prepared to dislike, but never really needed to. Sure, it was light, fluffy, full of incredibly convenient plot complications….but hello, anime? This is not Ghibli. So, for the anime, at least, once Hazumu became a girl, she stayed that way and it became a Yuri story by sheer force of the fact that it was girls in love with a girl. When the end came, which I saw as “the right choice for the wrong reason” I wasn’t surprised. When the *real* end came, which I saw as “the wrong choice for the right reason” I still wasn’t surprised. I was surprised at the outrage among viewers at the fluffiness of the end. Did they not notice that the plot was about a boy who was turned into a girl because he was killed by an alien spaceship? In any case, although it will never be something I recommend as a representative “Yuri” anime, it was still fun to watch.
Now for the big three. ^_^
3. I am SO glad the Maria-sama ga Miteru OAV 1: Kyuuka no Hitsuji/Vacation of the Lambs made it in for this year’s list! I think the OAV did a great job of capturing Yumi’s feelings of akogare/admiration/desire for Sachiko, while significantly cutting down on the self-loathing. It’s romantic and sweet and win. Once again, my akogare for Konno Oyuki grows by leaps and bounds. ^_^
2. Strawberry Panic was undoubtedly, the hottest Yuri anime this year. What began as cheesy, blatant rip-offs of every other Yuri anime and manga ended as a cheesy blatant rip-offs with a decent story, characters that didn’t blow and a fun, if predictable, ending. The Yuri was as blatant as the rip-offs, and all the plots and characters were recognizable and therefore easy to comprehend. Fandumb rooted for all the wrong characters, for the wrong reasons, and delighted in the gouts of fanservice and pandering. This series will be a benchmark series for me going forward. If a person likes Strawberry Panic more than Marimite, they won’t be coming over my house for lunch, ever. And they probably won’t ever understand why. ^_^ But in the end, the characters proved us wrong and they all went ahead and became three-dimensional anyway, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.
1. Simoun and Strawberry Panic were opposites in nearly every way, but they both undoubtedly shaped this year’s Yuri anime scene. Simoun was an eclectic mix of Yuri fanservice, war story, character story, gender issues, politics and religion. Not everyone who saw it liked it, but those who liked it, loved it. And rightfully so. This was not an anime for the lowest common denominator – it presupposed some genuine intelligence in the viewing audience. For that alone, it stands on top of the pile. No blatant rip-offs here – this series took actual work, because the world it was set in was original and unique…and they never filled in all the details. And yet, because the characters were strong, and the reactions real, the holes in the world weren’t a problem. After all- who knows everything about why people do what they do in this world, either? I wouldn’t recommend Simoun to a beginner, but if I were doing an academic course and wanted to use an anime to engender discussion, Simoun would be the one I would choose.
By far and away, the most outstanding Yuri anime of 2006, Simoun.