Best Anime Series of 2002 – All About Haibane Renmei & Azumanga Daioh

2002

I’m really interested to look at 2002 because the year contains one of my favourite series (Azumanga Daioh) and the series that came out on top on the decade list I made (Haibane Renmei). I want to know how they actually rank against other series and am rooting that they do well! Below are a list of the top 10 series from this year based on the various Western source. I have also interested a few interesting findings from this research and an initial comparison with the 2ch list, which produce markedly different results.


10. Cheeky Angel (天使な小生意気)

a_cheeky_angel4

Average rating: 7.41 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 50

Director: Okuwaki Masaharu

Animation Studio: TMS

Watch if you likeSchool Rumble, Ranma ½, Ouran High School Host Club

One-Line Synopsis: Megumi-chan enters high school and is looking for a book to reverse a strange spell placed upon her

Excerpts:

The humor brings to light the way teenagers actually struggle to define themselves as individuals, carve out their place in society, and come to terms with sexual orientation, gender roles and gender identity. More importantly A Cheeky Angel does so in a way that is largely non-judgmental and surprisingly individualistic for a society famously conformist.  (The Spectrum)

SourceMALANNAnime Planet

My take: This is the one series in the top 10 that I have never heard of before

8=. GetBackers (ゲットバッカーズ)

getbackers_background_wallpaper_2-normal

Average rating: 7.45 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 49

Director: Furuhashi Kazuhiro

Animation Studio: Studio DEEN

Watch if you likeBlack Cat, Gintama

One-Line Synopsis: Mido Ban and Amano Ginji lead lives as ‘Get Backers, retrievers of with a success rate of anything with a success rate of 100%, and frequently get themselves into dangerous situations, often leading to unwanted re-encounter with old (and dangerous) friends

Excerpt:

It’s a pretty decent anime. It’s very classic [with] a couple of big tournament-oriented plot arcs, quite a number of rescue arcs, bunches of mission-oriented one-shots stuffed between them, a beach episode, and a bunch of good and bad superheroes with inconsistent abilities, and lots of humour (Anime Planet)

SourceMALANNAnime Planet

8=. Chobits (ちょびっツ)

chobits1b

Average rating: 7.45 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 26

Director: Asaka Morio

Animation Studio: Madhouse Studio

Watch if you likeDearS, Elfen Lied, Sora no Otoshimono

One-Line Synopsis: Hideki Motosuwa, a prep school student, encounters a “Persocoms” that he named Chii and realizes she might be the fabled “Chobit”, am advanced Persocom rumoured to have independent thoughts

Excerpt:

Barring the formulaic structure, it seems to have no major flaws to speak of; after all, it has characters that are interesting, delivers some truly heart-warming moments, and looks very good. If you are looking for a romance with a mostly-sweet-sometimes-sad feel, then this one comes highly recommended. (Anime Planet)

SourceMALANNAnime Planet

My take: I have actually heard more lukewarm responses to this series than positive ones. I imagine enough people love this series to push it this high.

7. RahXephon (ラーゼフォン)

rahxephon

Average rating7.58 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 26

Director: Izubuchi Yutaka

Animation Studio: BONES

Watch if you likeNeon Genesis Evangelion, Eureka Seven, Melodramatic robot show

One-Line Synopsis: Ayato Kamina’s world is turned upside down after an attack by the mysterious civilization “MU” and an encounter with a woman named Reika Mishima will lead Ayato to discover the truth about their existence, who he is and the powerful angelic robot RahXephon

Excerpts:

From start to finish this show is riddled with mystery, action, humor, and emotion. Do not do what I did and just write it off as an Evangelion clone because you’ll miss out on an equally good series with a unique atmosphere.  (Anime Talk)

This is one of those series that is powerful, intellectual, and beautiful at the same time. In conclusion, RahXephon is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest anime ever, a sublime experience that is rivaled by very few existing titles. (THEM Anime)

SourceMALANNAnime Planet

My take: I like this series though it’s been ages since I have seen it.

6. Vandread: The Second Stage (ヴァンドレッド the second stage)

vandread.fulldescription

Average rating7.61 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 13

Director: Mori Takeshi

Animation Studio: Gonzo

Watch if you likeMartian Successor Nadesico

One-Line Synopsis: The final test of Hibiki, Dita, Meia, Jura and their friends on the Nirvana draws near as the battle with their enemy’s mothership approaches. (Anime Planet)

Excerpts:

Character development is a key in Vandread, and it shows in all the characters through death and experience… Vandread: the Second Stage is a worthy continuation to the first series and it wraps up most of the plot at the end. (THEM Anime)

The overall Vandread series, both half seasons taken together, is one of my favorite series ever, and one I rewatch a lot. The combination of engaging characters, a really nasty enemy I love to hate, action, comedy, cute girls, and triumph in the end is hard to top. (Chizumatic)

Source: MALANNAnime Planet

5. Hellsing (ヘルシング)

hellsing_ova,_1_270_1280

Average rating7.63 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 24

Director: Iida Umanosuke

Animation Studio: Gonzo

Watch if you like: Devil May Cry, Trinity Blood

One-Line Synopsis: Two vampires employed by the Hellsing Organization, Alucard and Seras Victoria

Excerpts:

If you’re looking for an anime with good action scenes, plenty of blood and moral/spiritual references here and there, then Hellsing is definitely a title you should not miss out. (Minitokyo)

the themes and plot may be too horror-esque and choppy for some, but… It’s a great movie to watch at a Halloween horror-anime fest (as I did), or if your in a good Vampiric mood  (Shiroi Tsubasa)

SourceMALANN, Anime Planet

4. Full Metal Panic! (フルメタル パニック!)

full_metal_panic_wallpaper_11-normal

Average rating8.00 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 24

Director: Chigira Koichi

Animation Studio: Gonzo

Watch if you like: Code Geass, Mobile Suit Gundam 00

One-Line Synopsis: Sousuke Sagara, a seventeen year old military specialist working for the secret organization MITHRIL, has been assigned to protect the latest “Whispered” candidate Kaname Chidori and has to deal with enemies from his past as well as the occasional panty thief. (MAL)

Excerpts:

Though slow to start and a lot of information to absorb for anyone who hasn’t already read the manga for this series, it’s worth the learning curve to enjoy a fun show that does a good job of blending together two normally disparate anime genres (giant robot and high school drama) and manages to make both worlds enjoyable.  (Anime Verdict)

Everything clicks and it’s definitely a crowd pleaser. It’s packed with action, funny, charming, and addicting… By and large the show is everything a mecha fan dreams of.  (Anime Talk)

SourceMALANNAnime Planet

My take: I like the series but did not think too much of it.

3. Hanada Shonen-Shi (花田少年史)

hanada (1)

Average rating8.15 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 25

Director:Ojima Masayuki

Animation Studio: Madhouse studios

Watch if you like: Natsume Yuujinchou, Crayon Shin-chan

One-Line Synopsis: After being hit by a truck and getting 9 stitches in the back of his head, Hanada Ichiro, the local troublemaker in a small village, becomes able to see ghosts, all of whom want him to fulfill their unfinished business. (ANN)

Excerpts:

Hanada Shounen Shi is a sappy story, but I mean that in a good way. From the outside it might look like a kiddie show, and Ichiro can and WILL get on your nerves, but despite that it again and again proves that it can be a heart-warming series. (Star Crossed Anime Blog)

SourceMALANNAnime Planet 

My take: Surprised to see this series this high. I don’t even recall knowing about this series much at all before compiling this list. The series is actually selected for the Tokyo Anime Award in 2003 and is the only entry to be selected ‘Best Entry’ in the award’s history.

2. Azumanga Daioh (あずまんが大王)

Azumanga_Daioh_Wikia_Picture

Average rating8.16 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 26

Director: Nishikiori Hiroshi

Animation Studio: J.C. Staff

Watch if you like: Lucky Star, Nichijou

One-Line Synopsis: Azumanga Daioh is about high school life through the eyes of six girls with unusual personalities, including Chiyo (the 10-year-old genius), Osaka (the resident airhead), Sakaki (the shy one prone to cat bites), Tomo (the loose cannon), Yomi (the short-tempered one) and Kagura (the resident jock). (MyAnimeList)

Excerpts:

I love everything about it and it stands as one of the most charming, hilarious and sentimental shows I have ever seen. If you are looking for an anime that marches to the beat of a different drummer, then this one is definitely up your alley.  (Anime Talk)

Azumanga Daioh is like nothing in anime that has come before it. While it is based on a four-panel gag manga, it tells an extensive, seamless, and very realistic story with engaging, lovable characters. It also doesn’t wear out its welcome – it tells everything it wants to during the span of a 26-episode season. (THEM Anime)

SourceMALANN, Anime Planet

My take: One of my favourite series. When I need to smile, I can just replay a segment from this series. The characters are incredibly strong and unique. The jokes/gags are really funny. The soundtrack fits the series perfectly. I love to just pull out random episodes every once in a while to watch and relive the experience.

1. Haibane Renmei (灰羽連盟)

Haibane Renmei

Average rating8.17 (out of 10)

No. of episodes: 13

Director: Tokoro Tomakazu

Animation Studio: Radix

Watch if you like: Angel Beats!, Kino’s Journey, Mushishi

One-Line Synopsis: Rakka is reborn as a Haibane, a charcoal-winged feather, and together with her new friends, is searching for the meaning of their existence in the process

Excerpts:

Part fantasy, part coming-of-age story, and part religious allegory…Haibane Renmei has just the right combination of magic and realism, and the visuals are beautiful to experience. With a lovely musical score, characters you can identify with, and a story that builds to a moving conclusionHaibane Renmei is the best animated [series] I have seen. (Talking Pix)

Haibane Renmei truly is one of the best slice-of-life series I have ever seen! It first takes four episodes of building up, introducing its unique setting and its characters, and then it waltzes the viewer down with one of the most amazing storylines, perfectly fitted for 13 episodes. (Star Crossed Anime Blog)

There are very few shows as special as Haibane Renmei in the world. This is a work that I wish would break beyond the barriers of the animation world because it is touching and personal, far beyond the average. (The Anime Review)

SourceMALANNAnime Planet

My take: Very atmospheric and calming. Glad to see it on to of 2002 also because this is ranked as the top rated series of the decade from my blog meta-analysis list! I love the OST of this series to death. Given how underrated this series is, I would really check it out!

The next five on the list are:

11: Petite Princess Yucie (7.36)
12=: Please Teacher (7.34)
12=: X TV (7.34)
14=: Legend of the Condor Hero (7.32)
14=: Kaze no Yojimbo (7.32)

Some thoughts on this year:

  • The year is dominated by three series and these top three are separated by only 0.02 points
  • Nearly half of the series are set in a school environment (Azumanga Daioh, Chobits, Cheeky Angel and FMP)
  • As highly ranked as Hanada Shonen-Shi is in this list, (just below Haibane Renmei and Azumanga Daioh which are in the top 10 of my best of the decade list), I am most surprised by the fact that it did not even appear at all in my best-anime-of-the-decade list. Is it really that underrated or just a rating favourite
  • As bad as Gonzo may have been down the years, they still have 3 series in the top 10 this year (FMP, Hellsing and Vandread), probably the first studio

Some thoughts across years:

  • Only 4 series in this year have average rating above 8.00. This is significantly lower in comparison to 2007 (18), 2009 (27), 2010 (~10), 2011 (~12), 2012 (~8). Is the anime series in this year really that much worse or has the ratings been inflated in recent years? And I never realized how well rated series in 2009 are
  • Still on the subject of rating comparison, if Haibane Renmei, the top anime in 2002, is compared to those from 2009, it would have been ranked 16th on that list and below the series such as One Outs and Tokyo magnitude 8.0. That is just weird to think about and makes me wonder whether the ratings are really comparable across years or that they get inflated over time

Comparison versus Japanese sources:

Taka raised a point in one of my previous post s that all of my sources are Western-based. So for this one, it would be interesting to compare my top 10 list to the top 10 from 2ch voting of the best series in 2002 (note that I am filtering out series that finish in 2003 (e.g. Overman, Twelve Kingdoms), which will be featured in my 2003 list)

01. Haibane Renmei (390 points) – Ranked #1 in my list
02. Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar (188 points) – Ranked #60
03. Azumanga Daioh (164 points) – Ranked #2
04. Kanon (138 points) – Ranked #22
05. Sister Princess: Re Pure (126 points) – Ranked #76
06. Figure17 (116 points) – Ranked 15
07. Galaxy Angel Z (97 points) - Ranked #21
08. Gravion (71 points) – Rank #65
09. UFO Princess Vakyrie (68 points) – Rank #62
10. Rizelmine (61 points) – Rank #80

Aside from Haibane Renmei and Azumanga Daioh, none of the other top 10 in my list makes an appearances. At least they got those two right:) It seems that the other series in the top 10 got on the list because of their moe-ness or harem appeal. I fully agree to anyone also who is suggesting that 2ch results should be taken with a big grain of salt since they have their own unique taste that probably is not the same as the general Japanese anime watchers. It’s still fun to see how divergent their rankings are in most parts to the Western anime crowd.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Apart from the top two, I am a little underwhelmed about this year. FMP and RahXephon are fun but nothing special. The rest have mixed reviews in general. I would also love to see a comprehensive comparison of this year against other years

APPENDIX I – Sources

Similar to the previous rankings I have done, the scores given to each series to compile this ranking are a weight average from the following set of sources:

MAL – Ratings as given in MyAnimeList.net

ANN – Ratings as given in Animenewsnetwork.com

AniP – Ratings as given in AnimePlanet.com

AniDB – Ratings as given in AniDB.net

IMDB - Ratings as given in imdb.com

Review sites – Collections of different review sites, including THEM Anime,Star-Crossed AnimeNihon Anime, DVD Talk, DVD Verdict, Listal, Anime Source


5 Comments on “Best Anime Series of 2002 – All About Haibane Renmei & Azumanga Daioh”

  1. alua says:

    Oh, I have Haibane Renmai sitting on my shelf, but am missing of the discs of 4. It’s so hard to track down at an affordable price, although I should look again, because when I got the first three, I was limited to Region 2 or All Region DVDs (now I have an external DVD player that seems to be region-free, amazingly enough).

    Any idea if the OST can be found anywhere?

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting:) I remember it taking me a while too to buy all 4 dvds too… It’s only 13 episodes so you definitely should fine sometime to watch it!

      I can’t remember where I downloaded it from now. I should have it somewhere. I Will send you a link for download once I find it.

  2. kadian1365 says:

    I’ve never heard of Cheeky Angel and some of 11-15 before. A case of the sands of time burying all but the brightest gems?

    There is definitely some rating inflation that pushes recent shows up more. It’s a combination of individual recency bias and the discrepancy in overall levels of exposure of titles between before and after the popular adoption of internet rating databases. So much more current anime gets to our eyeballs than series from a decade ago – they get subbed faster, are easier to get, generally more aesthetically attractive since the mastery of digital animation techniques, more relevant to current fandom discussion – that many more recent anime will be rated higher just from sheer volume.

    And oh my, that 2ch poll made me spit take. Sister-fucking-Princess in the top 10?! It should be made clear that poll was taken way back in 2003 by a relatively tiny voting population involving shenanigans. It’s nice to reference as a sort of time capsule and see how perceptions have changed in 10 years, but I wouldn’t put much weight to it beyond that.

    • Thanks for dropping by and comment:) Same as me! I have only seen Please Teacher and heard of only X TV from the 11-15 list. 2002 is a while before and I am sure a lot of series got lost in time. I would even say that not many new anime watchers would have heard of Haibane Renmei, which would have been a shame!

      It makes a lot of sense with regards to your reason on grade inflation. If I ever manage to collect the information from all the series across time, I can try to adjust for this yearly grade inflation for a possible better comparison.

      On 2ch poll, I’m pretty sure that even for 2012 or 2013, the 2ch poll will contain some serious questionable choices. 2ch seems to also be such a unique group that I wonder whether their perceptions on something like Sister Princess would have changed over time. I bet they would still rate it relatively highly even now! Like you say, it’s just more for curiosity purpose and we can’t really trust it more than that. I wish there is some easily accessible Japanese anime rating site somewhere! I would love to see how their general preferences are different from the ones outside of Japan.

  3. Taka says:

    Hey! I’ve kind of dropped off the anime bandwagon and haven’t checked my RSS feed in months (if people even still use those). I wanted to give my 2 cents on score inflation. I think we can almost certainly expect some degree of inflation in score whats more difficult to ascertain is the cause of this. Three possibilities I’ve been toying with:

    1. The content of today is dynamically different. This thought is tied to having larger animation budgets. Now there are still anime with lots of bad animation but many anime nowadays can mask some of their more fundamental problems by looking pretty. Not all mind you, but some.

    2. A corollary to this is that many of the ratings that are being given to 2002 anime are retroactive. Either given when the Anime are no longer fresh in their minds (which I would think inflate the score rather than lower it based on hindsight bias) or they have discovered the series and watched it retroactively. These retroactive watchers might enter these series expecting them to be of the same quality as modern anime.

    3. This leads to the idea that being able to dynamically and constantly rate anime is offsetting Sturgeon’s Law and allowing more crap to rise to the top along with the cream. I personally have gone back over my anime list months or years later and changed my initial ratings and I know others have done the same.

    4. This is because most of these rating sites and blogs were created after 2002. MAL is listed as having its domain registered in 2006 but the site admin has his account creation date at 2004. Most of the anime on these sites prior to 2006 or 2007 are likely to have lower ratings just because they did not air in that period and weren’t rated simultaneously with their airing.

    5. On a more statistical nature I wonder what weights are given to number of viewers. Some of the anime on the list per MAL have 70k+ completes (Azumanga) others have barely 1k (Hanada) but that is an extreme case. Most of the rest fall in the 20-40k range for completes. If we are comparing to 2009 the low bar is Cross Game with just 13k completes (through which one must sit through 50 episodes of glacial pacing) and the high bar is Toradora with over 203k. Having an extra 130k votes on MAL will statistically benefit it. I think the average vote on MAL is high anyway. I looked at anime with a value above at 5 or above, now it is a little tricky to see how this compares to all anime on their list as their list includes everything from shows that haven’t been started yet to hentai and music videos. This is further complicated by the ability to rate said shows before they air such as Fairy Tail season two which has 15 ratings 12 of which have rated it 10 giving it a 9.7 rating that completely demolishes FMA: Brotherhood’s top rated 9.2. MAL weights things a bit differently when a show has completed airing so I can look at my list of anime on MAL and see that out of 9017 anime only 6871 have been ranked in some fashion and from first glance those 6871 will not include anime that have not aired yet (as Fairy Tail has a high rating but is ranked 7213). This has a point and that is 99.3% (6821/6871) of ranked anime have a rating of 5 or better. If 5 were truly the value for “average” anime we should expect something closer to a Gaussian distribution and we do not get that. So MAL in particular has a tendency to rate anime higher. Way back when I talked about the number of completes each series had it was to argue that if a series had a larger number of votes than it is more likely for users to vote them high. I would be interested to see what the distribution is for ratings 6+, 7+, etc and also for 5 & 6 versus 7 & 8 or maybe 6 & 7. My guess the average rating actually falls somewhere in the 7 to 8 range.

    My own guess falls somewhere between 1, 3 and 4 though the first 4 reasons are all linked together in concept I think it is likely that the ability to rate something as it airs allows many shows that might not get a decent rating get one anyway. Reason 5 is a better statistical answer though. I know MAL gets a high value in your weightings but I also don’t think it would be completely unheard of if the other sites also had that tendency. Now why we statistically as a subculture might have a tendency to rank anime higher than say if we watched American cartoons, American sitcoms or Japanese dramas of similar quality is an entirely different interesting question all together.


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