As the year comes to an end it may be kind of a stereotypical behavior to recollect and remember the highlights of the year. I hope this can serve as a primer.
When it comes to anime we should always take that step back (if you can) and remember that anime is a vague label applied to Japanese animation–it can be odd and unavailable as Paprika; cartoony but uninteresting like Animal Yokocho (just kidding); or plain and teenager-ish like Gundam Seed Destiny. People invariably like different kinds of shows, so they’ll be able to talk about those shows they saw. Not a lot of people watches everything across the board, so these kind of “best of 2006” lists are a good way to figure out what sorts of shows they like.
But invariably, too, that there are only so many shows any one person can watch in a year. There are only so many shows the country of Japan (with help from Korea, China, and even US and Europe) can produce in a year.
This all just means one simple thing: list the shows how you like them. It’s nigh impossible to assign some kind of objective value, so if you like a sucky show, just say that you like a sucky show; if someone knocks your top favorite, no big deal–it just means they have different tastes, or don’t understand what’s so good about it.
But there are some things you can do that can make life easier. The first thing is to actually figure out what you’ve seen this year, and make sure the shows you list are actually from this year, or whatever. It’s nice to have some internal consistency so your favorite list this year isn’t just your all-time favorite list because you rewatched everything on your all-time favorite list every year, and you just go by what you’ve seen that year. You could, but that’s boring.
If you’re the kind of person that watches 2-3 series a season, you probably would have seen something like 9-12 new shows this year. If you make a top-10 list from that, it would just mean that you’ve exercised little to no selective brain muscle. On the other hand if you make a top 5 list, suddenly you are engaged in the difficult yet joyful activity of mentally debating what is worth that little bit of honor you bestow to your favorite shows.
Of course if you watch like 50 shows a year, a top 10 is definitely a little too restraining. And I’d guess restraint might not be your forte. So why stop there? We also need people to talk about the dinky shows that few others have seen yet these shows could carry some redemptive value that only you did not oversee.
If you’re like me, you probably would like to watch a bunch of different kinds of shows, for all sorts of different reasons. Spending some time to explain why you think Suzumiya Haruhi actually deserves your #1 spot is a good thing. Talk about why you like something is really what I love the most about these kinds of exercises; or, alternatively, figure out why by looking at the list and puzzling it with what you know about that person. Which is to say–if you put something like PriPri as your #1, please do NOT explain why, I’ll just step away…
Most importantly, take your time. Think back to shows that went on from last year. I’d imagine Noein and Black Cat are not shows fresh in people’s minds, for example. How many people caught Mushishi? How would we evaluate Asatte no Houkou fairly? It takes time to figure these things out.
This end-of-year season I want to encourage everyone to talk about what they love this year. I’d like to think 2006 has been a superb year for anime with a lot of landmark shows and surprises. Ups and downs rocked this little subculture several times, and it’s good to savor these moments. A boring list alone doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what has happened.