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Posted on: December 22, 2011 2:48 am by small image

Consider this my Christmas gift for everyone passing through YumeState this holiday season! I will now suggest my most favorite series EVER. These are stories that aren’t just entertaining, but have truly gotten me attached to the characters, and have gotten me to think a great deal about the presented themes. I’ve whittled down my list to just four series…

There is no particular order to this list, but let’s start with my #1 favorite anime movie:

5 Centimeters Per Second

Guess who is a hopeless romantic? If you guessed Cholisose, you’d be absolutely right! I love this movie. There are three important characters in this film (composed of three vignettes), and I find myself relating to each of them… a lot. >_<

There is also a lot of (BEAUTIFUL) snow in this film, so it’s great to watch for Christmastime, too! As long as you don’t mind… <sniff> getting a little emotional. TT.TT

But seriously, 5 Centimeters Per Second is a work of art that focuses on one very simple, very real theme–the pain of separation. The team behind this film clearly put all their hearts into this story, and I think that as long as you’re in the mood for something quiet and pure, you will love this film as much as I do. Or at least pretty close! Because I love this film a lot.

Book Girl

I have long had a love for reading, and the Book Girl series (AKA Bungaku Shoujo) is largely about just how wonderful books are. But even more than that, the Book Girl light novels are about people and their feelings. If you want some serious light novels with strong characterization, engaging plots, and sheer, raw emotion, you need to get to that bookstore (or online retailer) and get these books. More people need to give light novels a shot in general–and I can’t think of a better series to suggest than Book Girl.

“Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime” is the name of the first book. At first you might think this is just another high school drama, but read on, and you’ll discover a rather dramatic plot full of deep internal conflict for the viewpoint character and the schoolmate he tries to help. The story tells of a high school boy named Konoha Inoue, who ends up in a literature club writing short stories for a high school girl named Tohko Amano–who happens to be a yokai that literally eats the written word! The two end up helping a girl who has issues several layers deep–enough to make this light novel anything but a light read. I was stunned, to say the least.

The second story, “Book Girl and the Famished Spirit,” likewise tackles some big subjects, and continues to weave in backstory for the protagonist as well as elements from classic literature. I loved it just as much as the first book, and intend to get to the third book in the series soon. Highly recommended!

My next entry may be a little surprising, for a list of this sort:

Higurashi: When They Cry

“Wouldn’t Higurashi be better for a top horror series list?” you ask. I agree that Higurashi does a great job with its horror, but from what I’ve read so far (I’m in the middle of the manga, BTW), I think what I love most about the series is its characters. They just want to live their peaceful, happy lives… but due to a mysterious series of events, utter tragedy keeps befalling them. It’s painful because they’re all so friendly and likeable, and yet all these terrible things happen regardless. I guess I’m often moved when characters are thrown back and forth between joy and sadness like this.

The first few story arcs are largely about Keiichi-kun and his relationship with the various girls in the group of friends he is enlisted into. Keiichi is a very easy character to like, and the series does a great job showing his thoughts and feelings, as he struggles to find some way to fight the curse/conspiracy plaguing the quiet village.

The next story arcs focus on other characters, such as the detective Akasaka and the boy Otobe–but the emotion is just as strong when their subplots are slowly revealed. I commend Higurashi for creating such a great variety of self-contained stories within the framework of a much larger, more mysterious plot. I’ll be reading several more manga volumes over the next week or so, and then likely moving on to the anime some time in the upcoming year.

But now, for my final entry… My #1 favorite anime and manga series:

Pandora Hearts

I can probably write a dozen articles for YumeState about how much I love Pandora Hearts. It isn’t perfect, but in my eyes it might as well be, because I have thoroughly enjoyed this story, and essentially everything about it.

Pandora Hearts tells the story of a boy named Oz Vessalius, who has turned fifteen and will one day be duke of his noble house. A shadowy cult casts him into a dark realm known as the Abyss, but Oz escapes with the help of a mysterious girl named Alice. They are then brought into the fold of Pandora, an enigmatic organization that deals with phenomena pertaining to the Abyss. About a thousand mysteries slowly unfold, and the motives and machinations of a wide variety of fascinating characters all begin to dangerously intersect…

There is a little of everything in Pandora Hearts, and Jun Mochizuki handles it all very, very well. The plot twists are brilliant, as is the complex (and amazingly well-paced) plot in general–but what really impresses me are the characters. Oz, Alice, Raven, Break, Sharon, Vincent, Echo, Elliot, Jack, Glen, Leo, and a dozen others… They’re all so amazing, and so real! They all have their good and bad qualities, their own dreams and ambitions, their own strengths and weaknesses, their own ways of looking at the world, their own ways of interacting with the people around them… And just when you think you’ve got a good handle for who they are, an element of their past or a hidden part of their personality is revealed which utterly shakes everything you had ever thought about them. And somehow it always makes sense in the end!

There are also many heartwarming moments in Pandora Hearts, and the relationships between the various characters are just so heartfelt–I can’t help but love all the characters in this series. I greatly look forward to every new chapter released each month! It’s difficult to say how much longer the story will go on for, but it’s clear Jun Mochizuki knows what she’s doing. :>

Other stories that have moved me include:

Angel Beats, Natsume Yuujinchou, Haibane Renmei, and I Am Here

These are all series that have really impressed me on a level deeper than mere entertainment. What are some of your favorite anime or manga that have had a strong impact on you over the years?