To be fair, most contemporary anime disappoints me. It follows Sturgeon's Law with high skew: 99% is crap. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s there were so many great shows. Now look.
This is, of course, an illusion. Fifteen years ago the only shows an American got to see were those fansubbed to VHS tape by other fans. And those were the best shows, because fansubbing was an expensive, laborious process, and no fansubber wanted to waste their time on a mediocre show. Nowadays, with digital media manipulation and fansub distribution via torrents, and a much larger, and worldwide fanbase, almost everything is subbed. US fans are no longer protected from the vast ocean of mediocrity that is Japanese anime.
Still, good anime is wonderful. Even if a good show only comes along once every few years.
Okay, so recent shows.
Simoun. Shounen science fiction, shoujo-ai. In another world, all children are born female and must decide their sex at some point during adolescence. The story focuses on adolescent priestesses who fly machines ('simoun') which may be supernatural, and draw patterns in the sky which do various things. Some of these things are useful in warfare, and the priestesses have been drafted to fight their nation's battles in its current war. Meanwhile, they develop crushes on each other, try to evade the emotional and political juggernauts of the adults who control them, and generally survive in a difficult world. Very angsty, lots of melodrama, complex world with both science fictiony and religious elements. I loved this show from early in the first episode. Alas, it never fulfills its promise. It starts strongly, but this 26 episode show begins to fray apart by episode 16, runs out of plot entirely around episode 20, and coasts sloppily through its final episodes. None of the major questions or mysteries about the show's world are answered, the characters just sort of drift off, the moral conundrums remain unsolved. So disappointing. And Simoun had such promise.
I'd still advise watching the first dozen episodes. Beautiful and touching stuff.
Blood+. Another bad fat show with a good thin show inside yelling to get out. 50 episodes that should have been 26. Saya, Japanese schoolgirl, learns she is a vampire slayer. She has a much harder time adjusting to it than Buffy did, and suffers much worse personal losses early on, but eventually gets with the program. Sort of.
The show has some interesting ideas, but not enough to sustain 50 episodes. When it runs out of ideas and plot, somewhere around the middle, it starts to introduce new characters, who become less and less interesting as their numbers increase. Likewise the fights. Saya never does learn to fight all that well, and she usually has to be rescued by someone. Good lord. No, guys. If your main character is a fighter, she has to be good. She can spend as much as the first half of the show learning, but she must show steady improvement, and by the second half of the show her challenges must be ethical, emotional or spiritual, she should NOT still be struggling with the technical aspects of swordplay.
One thing this show always does right is its score and the art in the OP and ED, which are superb.
Red Garden. Set in the US, chiefly on Roosevelt Island and NYC. Beautiful, detailed sets and backgrounds, Interesting character design. Plot was a total mess, never made sense, never went anywhere or accomplished anything. Characters were mostly irritating, boring, or inconsistent. Why, oh, why did I watch this 22 episode show when it was obvious by episode 10 or 12 that the designers and cell painters were talented and the writers were idiots?
And by the way, AMERICANS DO NOT BOW. Why is this so hard to figure out?
Claymore. Part cute girl, part demon, Claymores fight other demons. Generic character design, extruded European medievaloid sets, by-the-numbers fight scenes, phoned-in plots. I watched the first four episodes before I gave up. Yet, this is a fantastically popular show, with thousands on the torrents each time a new episode is released. Why? Can it possibly have gotten better? I've seen lots of shows start strongly and then fail, but I don't think I've ever seen a show start badly and then improve.
Currently watching, irregularly, and haven't formed an opinion on: Mononoke (ghost hunter in Edo period), Baccano (gangsters and alchemists in 1930s America), Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (character-driven screwball comedy about suicidal depression).
meaning: fort, baseball base
堅塁 == kenrui == (noun) stronghold
Bottom radical is 'earth' (土). Top
radical is 'field' (田), which here acts phonetically to express 'build up'. 'Build up earth'
signifies fortifications made of earth. Henshall
suggests taking the middle element of four small strokes as 'four', and as a mnemonic:
'Four earthen bases in field.'