* BERSERK (9.5/10)
Our hero, Guts, is unsure of his purpose, until he meets the charismatic Griffith, the leader of a band of mercenaries and whose grandiose plans include conquering the world. He also encounters Casca, Griffith's loyal, female subordinate. After joining Griffith's group, Guts believes he's found a true friend in Griffith. But Griffith seems to have a different perspective on friendship. Feeling unappreciated, Guts leaves Griffith and the group to seek out his destiny. What follows is a poignant tale of loss and betrayal. While watching the relationship between Guts, Griffith and Casca unfold, my emotions ran the gamut. In the end, I was left speechless. Berserk starts off choppy, and the ending is unfinished. However, its profound impact destroys any negatives.
* GUNGRAVE (9.5/10)
OUR PROTAGONIST, BRANDON HEAT, AND HIS BEST FRIEND, OUR ANTAGONIST, HARRY MCDOWELL, SPEND MUCH OF THEIR YOUTH TOGETHER INDULGING IN PETTY CRIMES. THEY EVENTUALLY JOIN A TOP CRIME SYNDICATE, BUT HARRY'S AMBITION LEADS TO HIM BETRAYING AND KILLING BRANDON. WHEN BRANDON IS REVIVED FROM THE GRAVE BY A SCIENTIST, HE RETURNS WITH VENGEANCE ON HIS MIND. AS WE ARE TAKEN ON A JOURNEY THAT REVEALS HOW THE TWO BECAME RIVALS, I STAYED INVESTED IN THE CHARACTERS AND THEIR DILEMMAS. BUT IT'S THE FINAL EPISODE THAT GOT ME. IT INCLUDES A DEVASTATINGLY EMOTIONAL SHOWDOWN THAT'S SIMPLY UNFORGETTABLE. I ADORE THE THEME SONG, AND THE ACTION SCENES ARE MOSTLY GOOD. BUT LATER IN THE STORY, CERTAIN BATTLE SEQUENCES ARE SO ODD, THEY THREATEN TO DERAIL THE SHOW'S FOCUS. STILL, GUNGRAVE IS A POWERHOUSE ANIME THAT SHOULD NOT BE MISSED.
* THE ROSE OF VERSAILLES (9.5/10)
Oscar, raised as a boy by her father, becomes the commander of Versailles' palace guards prior to the French Revolution. While protecting the naive and irresponsible Marie Antoinette, who's married to the King of France, Oscar must confront her feelings for Fersen (Marie's rumored lover) and Andre (her childhood friend). The story works on all levels, but it was Oscar and Andre's complicated union that snatched my heart completely. Their relationship was beautiful to watch. During the French Revolution, tragedy and heartbreak strikes, and I felt every ounce of pain those two endured. All the characters are well developed, but Oscar and Andre are the only ones that stayed with me long after the series ended. The Rose of Versailles is a true classic that's way ahead of its time.
* TOWARD THE TERRA (9/10)
In aworld where a mega computer controls humanity, a new breed of psychic humans manage to escape this oppressive digital society. They look to Jomy to return them to their mythical homeland, Terra. It's up to Keith, a computer-generated human, to eradicate them. The plot is outstanding and briskly paced; and the key characters are spellbinding, including the awesomely volatile Tony, who looks up to Jomy, but doesn't always agree with his strategies. Though the ending left me slightly unfulfilled, Toward the Terra is a thought-provoking and highly underrated series.
* NOW AND THEN, HERE AND THERE (9/10)
NOW AND THEN, HERE AND THERE STARTS OUT SUNNY, BUT THANKS TO THE MAD VILLAIN, HAMDO, THE SERIES QUICKLY DESCENDS INTO DARKNESS. WHILE TRYING TO SAVE HIS LOVED ONES FROM HAMDO'S GRIM SOCIETY, OUR PROTAGONIST, SHU, MUST CHOOSE BETWEEN HIS MORAL BELIEFS AND TAKING THE "EASY" WAY OUT. THIS SERIES SHOWCASES OPTIMISM AT ITS BEST. NO MATTER HOW GLOOMY THE SITUATION, SHU REMAINS SUPREMELY CONFIDENT. THE BLEAK SETTING GETS A BIT DAUNTING AFTER A WHILE, BUT THE STORY IS IMPRESSIVE.
* PHANTOM: REQUIEM FOR THE PHANTOM (8.5/10)
BY MAINTAINING ITS GRITTY AND SERIOUS TONE FROM START TO FINISH, PHANTOM knows exactly what it is and delivers it with no apologies. Our main characters, Reiji and Ein, are trained to become assassins at a young age. Both are bad-ass to the core. However, they have different approaches to their work, with Ein being more compliant to her master than Reiji is to his. Nevertheless, they develop an ironclad bond. Phantom explores the underpinnings of the assassin world in great detail, and the action scenes are utterly stunning. On the downside, some of the secondary characters are woefully underdeveloped.