I'm working on DVDtalk's list of top ten anime of 2005. This is what I've seen so far:
1. Samurai 7. I don't if I'll watch this, frankly. Who needs a remake of a masterpiece like Seven Samurai. There's already a decent Hollywood version, a Japanese schoolkids-versus-bikers version, even an outer space version. Japan! Don't catch Hollywood's unnecessary-remake disease! If you do, what next? Citizen Kane: The Anime? The Godfather: The Anime? Once Upon A Time in the West: The Anime? Actually, the last one might be kind of cool.
2. Ghost in the Shell: SAC (2nd Gig). I've seen the first two DVD's. I loved the first Stand Alone Complex, and this is shaping up to be just as good. In addition to the issues of what it means to be human in a cyber-world, these shows built on the political intrigue that was part of the original comic book, but (understandably) did not feature in the movie.
3.Fullmetal Alchemist. I've seen the first six DVD's. This started out looking like an entertaining kid show, a super-hero story with alchemy replacing super-powers. It gets darker as it goes on and the hero realizes that to achieve his quest, he has sold out to a semi-fascist regime that waged an unnecessary war against darker-skinned people. Even kids' anime is more cynical about power than the most "adult" US TV show dares to be.
4. Planetes. I've seen the first DVD. It reminds me of Patlabor, but with regular-guys-in-outer-space instead of regular-guys-with-giant robots. There's a humanistic spirit that suggests the series could be close in quality to Patlabor as well. Besides, I really liked Quark, which was also about space garbagemen.
5. Samurai Champloo. I've seen the whole series, and all I can say is see it now! See it if you like Samurai, or hip-hop, or grafitti, or goofy humor, or 60's TV series where characters wandered from one place to another getting involved in other people's drama, or Cowboy Bebop, or any combination of the above.
6. Porco Rosso and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I've seen both of these. Nausicaa was one of my most-anticipated DVD's ever; I almost bought a Chinese bootleg, but I couldn't do that to Miyasaki--sensei. Then it was announced as coming out, but the release date kept getting moved back. Although nothing really could live up to the hype (especially since I'd already read the manga and knew the basic story), it still ranks as one of the best science-fiction movies ever, animated or live-action. The detailed world-building sure makes Star Wars look the the half-assed combo of kung fu movies and 30's movie serials it is. Porco Rosso is pretty good, but not in the same class. The flying scenes are wonderful, but it's probably the only anime (with the possible exception of Black Heaven) geared mostly to middle-aged men who feel they've "sold out". I appreciate it in a somewhat remote way.
7. Appleseed. I've seen this movie. It is basically a remake of the 1988 video series, but that one looked crappy and this one is the best-looking all-cgi anime I've ever seen, so it's definitely worth seeing.
8. Gankutsuou--The Count of Monte Cristo. I've seen the first two DVD's. So far, so incredible. The cgi backgrounds are incredibly lush and fantastic. If you are tired of giant robots, annoying kids, and cute animal sidekicks in anime, this is a refreshing change. There's more intrigue, secret love affairs, and revenge plots in one episode than in a whole season of Masterpiece Theater, but with more gender confusion, aliens and strange machines.
9. Gunslinger Girl. I've seen the first DVD. The Japanese ability to mix heartbreak and violence may have reached its apex with this series. I mean, who else would have thought of terminally little girls whose parents can't afford treatment being cured by a secret government agency that also transforms them into cyborg super-assassins. That would be a unique solution for the health care crisis in the US today. Somehow, though, it's tastefully done, with the emphasis on the kids dealing with the problems of their unique situation and their relationships with their "handlers".
10. Area 88. I've seen the first episode on a sampler DVD. It looks OK, but I'm not big on war movies, so I probably won't watch the rest.