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|Title:||2005: Highlights of the year|
|Category:||End of year review|
|Published:||Sun, 1 Jan 2006|
2005's lowest moments
Andy Glass: Naruto Licensed. Or, more accurately, the immediate aftermath to this announcement. As the shockwaves rippled through the net, it seemed everyone suddenly had an opinion on how the series was going to be taken to hell. Worse is the way the fansubbers have continued to release episodes of the series, and people continue to download it. Fansubbing is supposed to have an ethical code, but it seems this has been forgotten in recent times, which may only harm the industry in future.
Stuart Bullen: Rumour of a possible UK release of ADV endorsed crap-fest Samurai Gun was a definite low point, now, if they actually release it, well, that would be a full blown disaster.
Since many of us chose the VDC fire that made BBC headlines in July- a disaster that saw countless stock piles of anime DVDs perish under intense flames, we have selected but two of the responses.
Martin Butler: The fire at MVM's DVD factory knocked a large portion of the UK industry for six, and sadly even now there are some release dates that have been delayed. It's a real shame, considering that MVM have been one of the big anime distributor success stories of the year. Good luck to them for next year!
James Seys-Llewellyn: For the UK industry, the most likely repeatedly aforementioned blaze that swept through MVM’s stock, along with some products of the major UK anime distributors, has to rank as a low point. The disruption in the release schedules was seemingly endless, dealing no favours to the UK anime market, and making importing seem ever more tempting for those who have thus far resisted.
2005's highest moments
Andy Glass: Full-size Gundam head for sale on Ebay. If that ain't the ultimate collector's item, I don't know what is. Also, the news that the Totoro song reached space warmed even my cold, stone-like heart.
Martin Butler: Going to Ayacon was my personal highlight, with all of the news, preview screenings and cosplay talent on show but in terms of the UK anime industry as a whole it has been great to see not one but two good quality and popular new releases get an airing on TV. Rapture listened to the fans and gave them what they want: Full Metal Alchemist and Wolf's Rain will no doubt be leaving us suitably impressed well into 2006 and beyond. We can't ignore the effort Beez have made either: they've gone from almost complete obscurity to bringing some of the best DVD releases in a few short months.
Jo Sarsam: The general plethora of enjoyable series that have been released this year has been a real shot in the arm for the UK industry. All of the main distributors have had at least on series worth checking out, with Beez in particular coming from behind to offer an increased selection and a welcomingly swift schedule of releases.
Stuart Bullen: The return of the Guyver was an undoubted highlight for this veteran of the original OVA series. I had to pinch myself to make sure it was really happening, but I’m glad to report it was worth the wait -- just the kind of license ADV needs to aid their ailing fortunes (hint, hint).
Paul: This entire year has been littered with great strides forward for the UK anime industry but the greatest step of all has to have been the return of (sophisticated) anime to UK TV. Teen culture channel Rapture TV (previously a haven for UK clubbing fans) was hardly the most likely of places to find cutting edge anime but their rebirth in Autumn was none the less a gratifying moment for anyone who had waited for anime to finally reappear on UK TV schedules.
2005's fansub highlight
Andy Glass: Few other series this year have entertained me as immensely and as consistently as Yakitate!! Japan. I started watching out of sheer curiosity - how the hell can they make bread interesting? - and just found myself coming back for more. If you like wacky comedy with a large helping of randomness, this should be right up your street. Anime-Empire, he team responsible for subbing Yakitate, always includes helpful notes about the various bread-making terms, or explaining the many Japanese puns and references. Although sometimes these notes flash up a bit too quickly, their inclusion is often very helpful in understanding a given gag.
Martin Butler: Being new to the unlicensed thing, my experience is pretty limited but the intelligence, realism and all-out creepiness of Monster has left me thoroughly impressed. I'm really looking forward to seeing this excellent (not to mention long-running) series through to its conclusion.
Michelle Howarth: Seeing as I haven't watched many fansubs at all before this past year, I spent a lot of it catching up with non-2005 series. However the hilarious Gokujou Seitokai would be my highlight of this year. It's a series that's often overlooked and doesn't seem to have too many followers, yet its a schoolyard comedy to rival Azumanga Daioh (albeit with a different sense of humour). If anything watch it for Puu-chan the living glove puppet!
Jo Sarsam: As a Bee Train series, it was near inevitable that I would end up looking into Meine Liebe, and my curiosity was well rewarded. Combining well developed characters with political intrigue and machinations suited to the historical setting, there’s rarely a dull moment. If you let the shounen-ai undertones put you off, you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice, although admittedly bishounen fans will have nothing to complain about with regards to the character designs.
James Seys-Llewellyn: An exceedingly difficult question; from starting the year with Gankutsuou, Monster and Fantastic Children, through Emma and Aquarion and finally to Mai-Otome, Mushishi and Noein, 2005 has had the most fantastically varied (both in content and quality) selection of anime, and there was hardly a time when I wasn’t watching multitudes of series weekly. The grand prize for me, though, has to go to Honey and Clover, a perfect example of how to weave the loves and losses of student life into a cohesive package with a unique design style geared towards older ladies but able to be appreciated by anyone.
Stuart Bullen: In an attempt to satiate my burgeoning Gundam addiction I ploughed my way through many a Mobile Suit related fansub this year, but none have stuck in my mind quite like the superb Turn A Gundam. A mix of mecha, steam punk and pure good ole fashioned fantasy it breathed new life into a familiar genre and will forever sit high on the altar of Gundam.
Paul: I had to think long and hard about this one but in the end, Honey & Clover was the one new series that not only had me on the edge of my seat, week in, week out but that I know I will revisit time and time again. It could be lumped into the 'slice of life' genre, but this series is beyond any simple classification; sporting a wonderfully melancholic style of animation, Honey & Clover begins as a kind of FLCL-lite over-the-top take on student life but quickly develops a cast of living, breathing characters inflicted with the kind of raw, heartfelt emotion that melts even my icy heart; philosophical, dramatic and warm, Honey & Clover is a coming of age story to die for.
Looking ahead to 2006
Andy Glass: More of the same, please. Honestly, I think we've had it pretty good this year, with a lot of great titles finding their way into shops. If the anime companies keep up the job their doing, the only thing we'll have to worry about is too much choice. I'm still baffled as to why FLCL hasn't yet been granted a UK release; it did rather well for itself in the States, gaining an instant cult following. It's not difficult to see why, with a distinctive visual style, an interesting story and one of my favourite anime soundtracks ever, courtesy of J-rockers The Pillows. I remain hopeful that FLCL will be given a UK release in the not too distant: it'll surely fly from the shelves.
Martin Butler: Again, so many...The films made by Studio Ghibli and their associates that have been released (some re-released) by Optimum Entertainment have been some of 2005's highlights, and there are still the likes of Porco Rosso, Howl's Moving Castle and Only Yesterday to look forward to. Madlax is another one I have high hopes for, and how could anyone forget the second instalment of the Ghost in the Shell Stand-Alone Complex?
Michelle Howarth: In terms of UK releases announced for 2006, I'm looking forward to the Second Gig of Stand Alone Complex (preferably in a boxset form at the end of the year though). Beez's release of Mai Hime is also high in my priorities for UK purchase too.
Jo Sarsam: Beez and Manga have announced an interesting selection of new series that will be coming to our shore in the coming years- in particular I’m interested in seeing Mai-Hime, Fantastic Children and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Second Gig. Apart from that, there are the concluding volumes of more than a few series to look forward to, such as Gungrave and Paranoia Agent.
James Seys-Llewellyn: As far as series to be released in the UK go, both Fantastic Children and Mai-HiME seem perfect choices, as I adored both of them fansubbed, along with many other titles – if Gankutsuou is scheduled to visit the store shelves of Britain, it’ll take my place of the favourite series released next year even before it comes out. 2005 was perhaps the single greatest year the UK anime industry has ever had, a great, sometimes perilous, adventure that expanded the range and popularity of anime titles from all companies immeasurably.
Stuart Bullen: There are some truly exciting licenses on the horizon and it looks like 2006 is already shaping up to be a year to remember. I never thought I’d be saying this, but it is Manga Entertainment’s line up that has got me the most excited. They’ve managed to bag an eclectic clutch of licenses ranging from big hitters such as GITS: Second Gig to more niche series like Tetsujin 28 and Heat Guy J, not bad for a company who looked like they were on the verge of imploding this time last year. It’s an encouraging sign and I can only hope Manga Entertainment have a few more surprises in store for us as the year wears on.
Paul: After the explosive year we have just had, 2006 will have to do a lot to step out of the shadow cast by 2005. To be honest, I'm just looking for the current UK industry to consolidate its current position; by all accounts, the UK exclusive (anime dominated) NEO magazine has been a success and I have my fingers crossed that they will continue to thrive. Likewise, I can only hope that Rapture TV continues to support anime by broadcasting more fine series into UK homes. Looking at the DVD releases, we're pretty much sorted now; despite a few notable absentees (I'm still struggling to work out why Berserk isn't out in the UK yet), all of the publishers continue to release great anime at respectable pace (Fantastic Children is my pick for the first half of the year). So see you same time, next year?
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