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A book not so essential ...
on September 18, 2009
This is a nicely organized and finely printed volume, but the author's choice of what is essential is often mystifying. Her ratings make things even more mystifying in light of what she leaves out. Why include lower-star rated titles when clearly good titles are omitted? For instance, a big omission is the two-part Rurouni Kenshin OVA "Trust" and "Betrayal." I would think that anyone who has a decent amount of anime under their belt would agree: those are essential viewing--and do not necessarily require watching the TV series or reading the manga to understand. But the author opted to omit them, presumably in favor of some anime she regards as not so great. ("A Wind Named Amnesia" is another glaring omission--it may not be great; but it's way more essential than some of the other titles included. The omission of "Twelve Kingdoms" is among the other absurdities.) Then there are the several titles that clearly belong in no book of recommendations, such as "Ninja Resurrection" (which doesn't even have a real conclusion).
To some point, yes, this is a matter of taste. But any author undertaking such a book has to step back a little from personal taste and idiosyncrasy and use a finer critical eye. Also, applying a little practical thought to the choices/ratings would, in some cases, have been more useful. What good is featuring as "best" something like "Samurai X: Reflection (Director's Cut)" when it's very likely to be a frustrating watch for someone who hasn't seen the whole Rurouni Kenshin series and read the manga?
Also, her ratings in some cases seem less well-considered or classy than an intentional attempt to buck the norm. Rating "Spirited Away" lower than "Pom Poko"? Giving "FLCL," "Jin Roh," and "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" the same rating as "Ninja Resurrection" and "X: The Movie" and a lower rating than "Origin" and the RahXephon movie? Did the author even watch this stuff? The five-star rating of "Reflection" also fits this bill as do many of her other ratings. All of this flaming weirdness does a disservice to readers. (For me, it means I can't trust the author's judgment on titles I haven't seen, and so her ratings become merely an irritating distraction.)
If you're already an anime fan, what the book is good for is its listings of older titles that have fallen off the general radar screen. If you're new to anime, it's okay as a basic volume to give you some titles to check out elsewhere to determine viewing worthiness. I would say that's about it.
I bought the book inexpensively from a marketplace seller, and my advice to anyone interested is do the same rather than shell out big bucks. And as Bruce Carlson (another reviewer) mentioned, you're apt to get better info/details onine. Anime sites like Anime News Network are very helpful (check out ANN's top 10 lists, which offer active stats based on the ongoing opinions of fans and which can be expanded to include many more titles); also, amazon's listmania can be surprisingly useful, especially if you're starting out as an anime watcher. Anime fans can have their own idiocyncrasies; but I've found over time that, when opinions are averaged out, they're really the ones who know what's up.