In contrast to Berserk's grim, dark fantasy, Lodoss TV is a fairly rosy tale of heroism, daring-do, and repressed heroes slowly marching toward cluefulness. Based on the original Lodoss novels, it retells the second half of the original OVAs and adds a whole new party of characters to the original mix. If Lodoss TV fails to reach either the heights of romantic high fantasy or the murky depths of grim low fantasy, it at least keeps a coherent plot and makes good use of the diversity of "fantasy"-esque elements at its command. Despite occasional instances of low production values, this was one entertaining stroll down fantasy lane.
And what would fantasy be without some good fluff, which is precisely what Detatoko Princess is. It has just enough service, just enough slapstick, just enough challenge for the characters to overcome, and just enough of the right seiyuu without going overboard -- "tastes great, less filling". This is precisely the sort of thing you can watch to improve your mood and lessen class-related stress.
The rest of the anime I watched were all fairly hard-core sci-fi. Gasaraki, a Clancy-esque fusion of political intrigue and military technology, is sort of like Eva meeting Patlabor 2: the Movie. A technically savvy show charged with questions about the Japanese collective identity, it has brilliant execution and atmosphere... and its somewhat abrupt ending didn't manage to cast that big a shadow over the show as a whole. Definitely not a series to watch without a good translation or a good grasp of Japanese, though.
The same goes for Seikai no Monshou, which I got to see the first half of. This anime is C.J. Cherryh to Gasaraki's Tom Clancy: its political struggles surrounding a boy and girl from prominent but controversial parentage is somehow reminiscent of Cyteen. This show has a very rich cast of characters and considerable attention to detail where the dynamics of its interplanetary empires are concerned. The chemistry between the two main characters is also very well-handled, something that defies simple labeling as "love" or "friendship". Its creators manage to convey a sense of "epic" without making it seem campy. Definitely a show I can't wait to get the rest of, especially since a sequel has been announced for Japanese TV within the year.
Eden's Bowy, a fantasy/sci-fi fusion, also has me panting for more. In a previous newsletter article, I derided the stupidity of the cast and the plot based on the first two episodes; I'm happy to say that the supporting cast and world dynamics become much more interesting starting around episode four. Despite the dunce of a main character, the multi-sided political struggle, tangled past and ambiguous intentions of some of the "bad" guys, and foreshadowing of some upcoming religious cataclysm are all pointing to more enjoyment up ahead. I particularly like the use of villains who seem boastful and overconfident but who actually do constitute major threats when the chips are down, something also employed in Berserk to good effect. I can only hope that the second half of this series lives up to its promising first half.
And then there's Better Man, a sci-fi/horror anime whose blend of frenetic action and brooding atmosphere defies easy description. This show is amazing because no matter how much of the science gets displayed, no matter how many new characters appear or how much things seem under control, the forces of darkness still manage to sneak up on the audience and cast with the same sense of foreboding and terror. I honestly can't guess where this show is going, but assuming it keeps going there via the same ingenious blend of "mecha team" and horror, I'll love every minute of it. Also interesting is how the entire show is shot widescreen, despite being a TV series.
Finally, I'd like to mention Blue Submarine #6, a short OVA series of which the first three parts are out in Japan. Blue #6's main claim to fame is that it was animated entirely by computer, blending digital paint for characters and backgrounds with rendering for vehicles and other visual effects. This makes the high-speed chase scenes and underwater combat into thrilling roller-coaster rides that Squaresoft would be proud of, but that's not where the real power of the series lies. Without divulging too much of the plot, in Blue #6 there are a variety of genetically-engineered species of aquatic humans who are fighting with the remnants of normal humanity. The creator's conception of the aquatic humans: the way they move, the way they sound, their group dynamics... all add up to the most visually compelling depiction of a "near-human" alien I've ever seen. The show's plot is interesting enough to be unobtrusive, but I think this show's real strength is its lush, vibrant visuals. Watch and be drawn in.