Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Anime Classic Zettai

“This is a must-have guide to 100 essential Japanese animation films, TV series, and made-for-video series, from 1950s classics to the latest Cartoon Network hits.
Looking for something specific? Eight unique icons make reviews easy to browse. From Akira to Naruto, Pokemon to Sailor Moon, anime veterans Brian Camp and Julie Davis present over 100 black & white images alongside summaries, style notes, rare facts, viewer-discretion guides, and critical comments on films that fans absolutely—zettai!—must see.”

[From the publisher's web site]

We could say this book is only a compilation of reviews, but, on the other hand, it has the great advantage of offering extensive and very structured reviews. Also, if it offers only one hundred of them, they constitute the authors’ all time best anime selection (including movies, TV series, OAV, from 1958 to 2006, from Akira to Yu Yu Hakusho)!

The book opens on two essays: the first one gives a quick summary of the history of anime in America and explains the criteria use in the selection of titles; the second attempts to describe anime through its formats, styles and the experience it provides. It goes on with short biographies of fourteen great anime directors: Hideaki Anno, Osamu Dezaki, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Satoshi Kon, Leiji Matsumoto, Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Oshii, Katsuhiro Otomo, Rintaro, Gisaburo Sugii, Isao Takahata, Osamu Tezuka, Yoshiyuki Tomino and Shinichiro Watanabe (a list similar to the Top 10 directors published in PA #90: 14). Like all good references, the book concludes with a bibliography. If there are about one hundred illustrations, some reviews have plenty of pictures while many are not illustrated at all. Such a book should be more generously illustrated.

All the reviews follow the same structure and are divided into nine parts: production notice (date, format, duration, genre, staff), summary, description of its style, comment (the review itself), mention of related titles (pre/sequels), notes on the creator/director, highlights (notable scenes), additional notes (anything from production notes to details on voice actors, or DVD extras), and rating advisory (violence, profanity, sexuality, etc.). All reviews are detailed and average three to four pages each.

I have often a hard time answering when people ask me to recommend them titles to watch. I’ve seen so many anime that it’s difficult to say which one I like best. This book offers an easy solution: here’s 100 titles that I can easily suggest. The book’s selection probably includes most people’s Top 10 (it’s the case for the staff Top 10 published in PA #84, or mine [minus Megazone 23], and you’ll find almost all Satoshi Kon [save Paprika] and Miyazaki [without Castle Of Cagliostro] titles). Of course, you cannot always agree with their selection (Chobits? Demon City Shinjuku? Harmagedon? Pokemon? Wicked City?!), but it certainly reviews most classic, popular and significant (historically or artistically) anime titles.

All in all, this is a very nice coffee table reading as it offers a ready-made list of viewing as well as lots of interesting information about the reviewed titles. Recommended for anime fans of all levels, zettai! (Absolutely!)

Anime Classics Zettai! 100 Must-See Japanese Animation Masterpieces, by Brian Camp & Julie Davis. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2007. 408 pp., paperback, $18.98 US / $23.00 CDN, ISBN 978-1-933330-22-8. Recommanded for teenagers (12+).
For more information / Pour plus d'information:

A version of this article was previously published in PA #97: 76.

Anime Classics Zettai © 2007 Brian Camp and Julie Davis.

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