Posted on 31 December 2011 with categories: Yearly Summaries

And with this, the year has nearly ended. This will be the final post of me this year, and I wish a happy new year to all of you in advance. All I’m left with now is to throw a number of genre awards, along with my favorite series of the past year (oh and of course this is all just my humble opinion; feel free to share your own top series of the year). Take care, and be careful with fireworks, everyone.

Worst First Episode

Mayo Chiki

This year featured a lot of very crappy flash shows that are all strong contenders for this award, if they weren’t just five minutes long. The pain thankfully stops quite soon. The same unfortunately could not be said for Maken-Ki, C3, Hoshizora e Kakeru Hoshi and worst of all: Mayo Chiki. This show is the kind of bad that becomes horrible. The convenient stupidity of the plot was just way too much, beyond all of the bland characters of the other bad shows these year, these were the most offensive.

Worst Series

Dragon Crisis

I’m not handing out this award to series that I dropped somewhere along the way, or the shows that haven’t finished yet. Persona would have been a good contender if it wasn’t for that rule, and alongside that are Sacred Seven, which completely failed to be even remotely entertaining beyond the unintentional, Dragon Crisis really takes the cake though. I have no idea how it did it, but this series somehow pulled it off to actually get progressively worse with every single arc of its. It started off… okay, I guess. The kind of “okay” that made me silently hope that it would get better. Instead, the creators just completely gave up and ended off with some of the most uninspired arcs out there that completely failed to be any kind of interesting and instead just went for a dull harem route.

Biggest Disappointment

Guilty Crown

This is not just about Noitamina delivering a bad series. It has been unimpressive in the past (for me it did so with Library Wars). This is about Noitamina delivering a bad series, while selling out at the same time. 2011 marked a very sharp turn in Noitamina’s usual strategy, and the timeslot started to focus itself on a teenaged audience. Fractale in this already was a disaster, but that was just a show that was really poorly balanced. With Guilty Crown, the creators are intentionally making it very generic. Shu is intentionally being a wimp, the cast is intentionally just a set of tools to make Shu look awesome. That is really the worst part about this show. The runners up for this award were the shows that had some really good promise, but in the end were botched by huge pacing problems, like Kaiji and Fractale.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai

Major surprises this year include Gosick turning great, Blade spending so much time on backgrounds and Enma-Kun’s sudden chance into insanity after its very mediocre opening episodes, but the biggest has to be Ano Hana. I said this before, but when I first just saw the promo art of this series, I really had my doubts whether it would work, as it just included a picture of a ditzy looking Menma. After that more and more information about it got released, and it started to look more and more solid, but I really did not expect to be such an emotional roller-coaster, right from episode 1. I literally threw my hands in the air as I saw it.

Best Animation Studio

Brains Base

Nearly every year, there is just one studio who stands above the others. This year, it was Brains Base. When in a year, you release four series at once, more than any other year so far, and the worst of them is something of the caliber of Kamisama Dolls, you’ve got something to be proud of. I mean, Kamisama Dolls just pales in comparison to the other shows they did this year, from the crazy Enma-Kun to the refined Natsume to the roller-coaster ride that was Penguin Drum.

Most Promising Studio

Jinni’s Animation Studios

Every year I give this award to a small animation studio who either just started out, or showed signfiicant improvement. This year… was rather dry on that department. There is Wao World, who finally headed into television-series, but Showa Monogari wasn’t exactly an improvement over movies like Furusato Japan and Symphony in August. There was… um… 8-Bit, which delivered the middle-finger that was Infinite Stratos, but then my eye turned to the 3D CG Studio that was Jinni’s Animation Studio. They worked on the first season of Fireball before, but the differences between Fireball and Fireball Charming definitely shows that they learned a lot during the past years. Appleseed meanwhile also showed that they are very solid at rendering, although they still need to overcome the botox faces problem. Still, I believe that these guys have potential for the future.

Best Old Series I Happened to See This Year

Gankutsuou

I wached a lot of real gems this year, ranging from Kurau Phantom Memory, Rose of Versailles, Black Jack and Infinite Ryvius to finally getting to check out the now legendary Cowboy Bebop and Legend of Galactic Heroes. But all in all, I do have to say it: Gankutsuou was pretty much the best thing I watched this entire year, bar none. What Gonzo did here with its re-imagination of the classic story by Alexander Dumas is just completely amazing. The graphics are completely stunning in every single way, the character-development is just completely amazing, the story is incredible. Everything just fits in 24 episodes of awesomeness.

Best Action

Ben-To

This was a tough one to decide. For me, great action isn’t just a lot of pretty animation, but also depends a lot on the direction, tension and use of characters, music, etcetera. This really came together with series like C and Blood-C, where the former was fast-paced and very creative with both its visuals and ideas, whereas Blood-C’s choreography was just completely amazing and a very solid second place for this award. In the end though, the food battles in Ben-To deserve this award. It’s the first time that I hand this to a comedy series, but even though the series itself had its problems at times, the food battles were just the point where everything fit. The entire concept of fighting over food was just completely unique, but every battle here stood out in the creative uses of every day items, the actual use of strategies, the camera angles wer awesome, and the music was just fantastic for these skits.

Best Comedy

Level E

This one was a no-brainer. Level E has been the best comedy to appear in years. Especially its first arc was just completely fantastic, but even beyond that, it had some of the funniest banter I had seen in a long while. There are a ton of characters here that kick ass, but the prince, Kraft and Yukitaka take the cake here. This show was wonderful in how it both trolled its characters and its audience. The runners up this year also were completely hilarious, though: Ben-To and Dororon Enma-Kun would have also made this a great year alone if Level E wasn’t there, not to mention Hyouge Mono’s unique physical comedy.

Best Horror

Blood-C

Blood-C’s horror style was not the easiest to get into, since it depended heavily on atmosphere. If this atmosphere didn’t work for you, then this series was not for you. However, if it did work, then this turned into an incredibly tense and brutal horror series with an agonizing build-up. Steins;Gate also had a great atmosphere, and Supernatural also succeeded in achieving this.

Best Slice of Life

Tamayura ~ Hitotose

I’ve always found the definition of “Slice of Life” a bit tricky. For example, Natsume Yuujinchou had some wonderful slice of life moments, but I with its focus on Youkai stories it’s not exactly a true slice of life series. Ano Hana I guess is about the lives of a group of teenagers, but it’s not about how they live their daily lives. As for the ones that do feel like focused on portraying the daily lives of the lead characters,there are five that stood out this year: Hana-Saku Iroha, Usagi Drop, Kimi to Boku, Tamayura and Ikoku Meiro no Croisee. I decided to go for Tamayura because it best encapsulated how these characters are spending their time and living their lives, while at the same time showing how they evolve over time and develop their hobbies.

Best Romance

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai

There were two romance series that stood miles above the others this year. Like, there’s no contest beyond them. The first is Hourou Musuko, who broke many traditions, and featured what was by far the most realistic romance I’ve seen in a while. The best however, was Ano Hana, which managed to make me bawl my eyes out surprisingly often through its romance.

Best Mystery

Steins;Gate

Un-Go was great at writing short mystery stories with a ton of twists. Mawaru Penguin Drum used its own symbols very neatly to create a very mysterious series. Blood-C used its mystery in a very daring way by only waiting for the last possible moment to explain everything. The best mystery of the year though, belongs to Steins;Gate. The story for one is incredibly well constructed, and it makes terrific use of the fact that it’s about time travel throughout its plot, though through subtle clues that are never overstated.

My top series of 2011: #10-1

#10: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica really tried to redefine the mahou shoujo genre for the older audience, and as a deconstruction of the whole genre, it really succeeded in this. With a story that flows like water, it started off with a seemingly innocent mahou shoujo setting, and in the end completely subverted everything about it. It’s pretty much the best thing Shaft had made in years, and the visual direction was consistently stunning throughout the entire series.

#9: Hourou Musuko

Hourou Musuko really surprised me in how it started off already very good, and it just kept getting better with every single episode. The acting was just amazingly down to earth and realistic characters. Its decision to start in the middle of the manga, rather than at the start really worked in the way that it already gave the characters a very complex background, and it continued to develop them into better and better characters. The drama it got out of them int he end was amazing because of that.

#8: Steins;Gate

The plot of Steins;Gate was just completely stunning, as I’ve said quite a few times in this summary before. It’s multi-layered beyond belief, and in ways that at first you wouldn’t even hold imaginable. Especially the second half just keeps changing. Now granted, it does have a very unusual concept of time travel, which at times I found a bit hard to buy, Okabe’s rants also tended to get a bit monotone after a while, plus the otaku references all flew a bit above my head. But what this show did well, it did incredibly well.

#7: Tiger & Bunny

Tiger & Bunny just was that show that immediately caught my attention with its unique concept of having sponsored superheroes fight crime. It’s both meant to be a criticism to the modern media, but also an homage to the superhero genre. It’s chock full of likable characters, who work especially well as a team, but in particular the lead character Wild Tiger stands out as memorable, where his characters is really well balanced between his strengths and flaws. The only shame about this series is that it suddenly dips in during the finale. This show is the most fun when it shows the different stories about its characters, whereas the main storyline unfortunately paled a bit in comparison.

#6: Heartcatch Precure

Okay, this show aired for only one month in 2011, but I still really want to include it in this rankings, because of what a great job it did in redefining the mahou shoujo genre. Everything just fit with it, the action was amazing, the characters were all really well developed, with Tsubomi and Yuri being the best, and the finale of the series really was the epic finale we’ve hoped for. Everything about this series just looks so much more professional than usual and even though it’s fifty episodes long,I enjoyed every episode of it.

#5: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

With this third season, Natsume Yuujinchou actually slightly surpassed itself, which is really an impressive feat considering how good the first season was. The individual stories of this season in particular stood out as really heart-warming and down to earth, but the real gem is how much attention it devotes to Natsume’s development. Every episode adds something to his character, and he already was very well developed to start with. I love how this show looked into his past and also his future, and how it stressed how much he has grown as a character, and yet despite all that happened, this show just remains consistently subtle, and about a boy who just felt very isolated for a long part of his life due to his ability to see something that most people can’t.

#4: Hyouge Mono

Now, this was without a doubt the most unique series of the entire year. I still cannot fathom how the heck Bee-Train actually got the funding to go with a project as crazy as this. I still cannot imagine who in their right mind green-lighted the production of this show. Whoever it was though, I really want to thank him or her for opening up the road to long series that are miles away from the mainstream, and allowed a show that is about a bunch of old guys talking to be produced. The amount of attention that this show put on aesthetics and the so-called “Wabi-Sabi” is just amazing, and it did so for three entire seasons, and it’s still not finished. And as if that wasn’t enough: the facial expressions. The acting in this series is just completely priceless, where characters on one hand are able to deliver some really solid acting, and on the other make some of the silliest faces imaginable. You wanted Bee-Train to branch out and do something other than gunfights? Hah! You got it!

#3: Level E

Now, Level E was just completely delightful as a comedy. It was masterful at trolling, it contained the most hilarious episodes I’ve seen this entire year, and the way it consisted out of a number of unrelated stories made it a very varied series that was different for every single arc of its. The characters were all just awesome to watch, the banter between them was just wonderfully hilarious, but also its backdrop of aliens on earth had some very neat ideas and was a very interesting setting to play with. In this year Studio Pierrot and in particular David Production really showed how awesome a comedy can be when you add in a little bit extra and really try to make it stand out as unique.

#2: Mawaru Penguin Drum

Oooh, deciding my top 2 of this year was really hard. I love both series, and both series completely dominated my monthly rankings in the seasons they were shown in. Penguin Drum was the long-awaited comeback by Kunihiko Ikura, of Utena-fame, and it delivered an incredible character-study. It had a plot full of symbolism that seemed random at first, but fit in the context really well. It’s a show that’s open to quite a bit of interpretation, and it really requires you to read inbetween the lines. There were parts at which it perhaps got a bit too surreal, and I guess that there were a few twists that it just pulled for the heck of it, but it was a consistently entertaining ride that kept throwing interesting twists around the characters. I’m definitely looking forward to Kunihiko Ikuhara’s next work, although I hope that it won’t take 12 more years for that to happen… In any case, I loved this show and its ambition, but in the end I have to give the best show of the year title to another show….

#1: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai

Ano Hana is a show that made me cry more often than probably all other series combined this year. It was the single most emotional series for me, and in the end, it even hit me more than Penguin Drum. Every episode of this series developed the characters of this series immensely, and it turned into one of my favorite Noitamina-series ever made. In just eleven episodes, this show didn’t just nail its main character, it nailed all of the side characters as well. This series really aimed to become an emotional roller-coaster, and therefore it perhaps got a bit too dramatic at times, but it never delved into cheese, and just kept getting to me, closing off with a really emotional finale. It’s a close call, but Ano hana in the end stands as my favorite series of 2011.

Posted on 30 December 2011 with categories: Yearly Summaries

This will basically be three lists, one of the best OVAs, one of the best movies, and one continuing the countdown of my favorite series of the year. Oh, and at the start there are a few “Worst of”-awards that I found to be typical for this year.

Biggest Waste of Great Visuals

Houkago no Pleiades

Houkago no Pleiades was a short little OVA for Gainax, to promote the Subaru Car brand. They knew that they couldn’t get a good story out of this even if they tried, so they just delivered some random story about schoolgirls and magical powers that instead just looked really good. And while the visuals indeed were pretty, I would rather have them seen back up something interesting, rather than a freaking car commercial.

Biggest Disappointment

Armored Trooper Votoms – Case;Irvine

Don’t get me wrong here: I am all for trying out new things. For that, I applaud this move. The thing is, however, that this just was not very good. In fact, now that I think back on it I can’t remember anything about it anymore, other than that it had some really annoying and underdeveloped characters. It was half-assed and I expected a lot of this, and as a Votoms-fan, that made this my biggest disappointment in terms of movies and OVAs this year.

Biggest Rape of a Franchise

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kira

Now this is just an atrocity. Especially the first episode completely raped the Higurashi franchise of its status of an original franchise that takes cute girls into a completely different direction than usual. I mean, it would have been fine if this OVA would just show some random punishment games, like they did with Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kira. Heck, the creators could have made these episodes fun and I would not have complained. With this though, the creators threw away all pretense and just made this a pandering OVA. The second episode was just dull, with a very bad attempt at a mahou shoujo parody, but the first episode. Oh dear god. Why did it have to ENTIRELY focus on the male cast of this series, IMAGINING things? Why did it have to focus on their sexual fantasies?

My Top 10 OVAs
2011 was a very interesting year for the OVAs. Whereas 2010 involved big productions that often had more than 3 episodes, the best OVAs this year were on a smaller scale, with a lot more one-shots than usual appearing. There were in particular a lot of one-shot originals and one-shot epilogues that caught my attention this year.

#10: .Hack//Quantum

I’m a fan of the .Hack franchise. Heck, .Hack//Sign ranks amongst my top 5 favorite anime ever, and even though some other installments of this franchise aren’t as… solid (*coughduskrootscouch*), I still find it a fascinating series to be based in a giant MMORPG. The pity with .Hack//Quantum is that it was way too short. We need more TV-series for this thing, but the story that it told in 3 episodes was interesting, solid and quite charming.

#9: Otona Joshi no Anime Time

Now here is one that caught me completely by surprise. Before it appeared I didn’t even know it existed. And here it comes and delivers a surprisingly heartfelt episode about a single mother and the memories of her childhood. It has a bit of an unfortunately cheesy title, but make no mistake: the rest of this 20 minute OVA is surprisingly well written and realistic Josei.

#8: Norageki

The great thing of these 20 minute OVAs is that they’re great to experiment with. Norageki was a fun little thriller with a ton of mystery, that wrapped itself up surprisingly well. Its characters weren’t particularly detailed, but they were enough to keep the plot interesting, and it was the plot that really made this little OVA memorable. We don’t often get science fiction anime in bite-size chunks like this, and it was well worth the 20 minutes invested.

#7: Tales of Symphonia

This has really turned into one ambitious OVA project. Heck, I remember that it was announced back in early 2006, and it’s still going on. Ufo Table are really taking their time with this, and the results show in the script here: this is an OVA that translates the game’s core concepts, yet takes plenty of freedom to actually tell its own story, rather than just being a commercial for the manga. This year’s installment wasn’t the best this series has shown, because of the characters it focused on, but that’s just personal preference.

#6: Armored Trooper Votoms – Alone Again

This was the widely anticipated conclusion of the Votoms Franchise. And in the end it turned out to be completely different from what I expected it to be, and yet it was a really good story here, focusing on the grown up kids of Cocoa and Vanilla. This was a very welcome surprise, because I had been interested in these kids ever since they appeared in the Gen-ei hen. This movie again did a great job of expanding upon the Votoms franchise without being derivative.

#5: Kyousogiga

More one-shot OVAs, and with this we pretty much get the single best standalone OVA in years. The direction of Kyousogiga was just amazing, the visuals were incredible. And if that wasn’t all: it also has a lot of heart. Toei went all out on the graphics here, but they also made sure that it was an incredibly charming ride. The plot itself was a bit confusing, and you have to pay attention to actually be able to understand what the heck is going on, but that made it even better.

#4: Black Lagoon – Roberta’s Blood Trail

This year showed the conclusion of Roberta’s Blood Trail, and I’m amazed at what a solid job Madhouse turned it into. Every episode was very solid to what it aimed to be, and the build-up and eventual unexpected payoff was just excellent.

#3: Kara no Kyoukai – Epilogue

The more I think back to this epilogue OVA, the more I love what the creators did here. It’s hard to describe exactly what without ruining the surprise, but let’s just say that this OVA just focused on one thing alone, and did that brilliantly. It was exactly the thing that was needed to give the different involved characters some significant extra insight. Heck, this OVA was deep and incredibly well written.

#2: xxxHolic Rou – Adayume

xxxHolic succeeded where Tsubasa Chronicle failed: even though I’m not a manga reader, I could follow it and sympathize with it. The character development at this point is just completely amazing, and more than worth it, considering how incomplete the anime is. It was a short OVA, but it just added so much to the cast with so little.

#1: Yozakura Quartet – Hoshi no Umi

Ryousuke Sawa was before active as the animation director of Birdy the Mighty Decode 02, Noein’s Key animation and he was the animator behind the running scene of Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo. And now someone gave him the opportunity to actually direct a full 3-episode OVA series. The result is just glorious. There was so much eye candy put in these episodes, ranging from the most insane and over the top action scenes imaginable, to highly expressive characters whose personalities just sparkled off the screen. This was the best possible reboot that this show could have hoped for.

My Top 10 Movies
These are my top movies of the year, or at least the ones that got released this year, because there always is about a nine month delay for these things (one particular movie on this list even took 2 years to finally show up). This was a big year for the family movies. Seriously, half the movies on this list are intended to be watched by all ages. To balance things out though, there also were a bunch of movies with very mature themes, along with a few great ones that were aimed at teenagers. It all balances out pretty nicely this way.

#10: Towa no Quon – 03

In this list, I list movies individually, so yes, it would have been possible that I listed all four the Towa no Quon movies separately. Now, it is not THAT good of a franchise, so that didn’t happen here, but what made the third movie stand above the others was that it ditched the cheese and action, and instead turned into a full on thriller in the middle of a dream sequence. It became a bit non-linear and a story that was hard to tell what was real. An as an added bonus it significantly improved the characters who in the first two movies clearly struggled to stand out.

#9: Mardock Scramble – The First Compression

Mardock Scrable was one gorgeous looking movie, and it also was the prequel of a very interesting story to boot. It had a ton of nudity and sexual violence, but it also was very good at fleshing out its characters, and in particular the main ones. The meat of the story definitely was saved for the future movies, but a very solid start it definitely was.

#8: Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo

Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo was Makoto Shinkai’s attempt to do something different from what he had done before. The result is a mix between his style and that of Ghibli. I wouldn’t really call it a rip-off, because it definitely has its own story to tell here, and in any case the two styles here blend really well with each other. It’s got some great character development, although the big flaw here is that the female lead’s motivation is very weak. I mean, she has no goal throughout the entire movie, and is more like swept away with the events. It’s a bit hard to create good tension out of that.

#7: Heartcatch Precure Movie – Hana no Miyako de Fashion Show… desu ka?

Rie Matsumoto, she’s a new director that we should keep our eyes on. She did two major works this year, the Heartcatch Precure movie and Kyousogiga, and both were just full of heart. The Heartcatch Precure Movie captured exactly what made the TV-series so great, and even though it was a random side story it stood on its own as a worthy addition to the series with some very well developed characters and an excellent scenario about a trip to Paris.

#6: Karigurashi no Arrietty

Arrietty was the movie version of the story of the Borrowers. And with this, Ghibli again did an excellent job bringing it to life. It created a unique culture of little beings who thrive on borrowing small things from people, and it built some very nice characters out of them. It had a bit of a strange villain overall, making the conflict around this movie a bit lackluster, but it really captured the emotions of the main characters here. I also loved how well the animation was able to capture how big everything looks to the titular Arrietty.

#5: Yona Yona Penguin

Since Rintaro is one of my favorite movie directors out there, I was really eager to watch his latest work, Yona Yona Penguin. What I got was a movie aimed at very young kids, that was just completely adorable. The lead character running around in a penguin suit alone made it more than worth watching, but he really captured the emotions of young children here. The finale of the movie also really worked. All of the subtle build-up really come together there and made for a really heart-warming climax. Oh, and the soundtrack too was really excellent.

#4: Uchuu-Show he Youkoso

This was a space adventure movie that was one hell of a ride. It’s just about a bunch of kids that gets pulled into an intergalactic storyline here, but the amount of creativity that has gone into the different worlds they visit is really impressive. It’s got an interesting story with some well developed characters, that actually fits for a show that’s all about children. It was one of A-1’s first attempts at making an actual movie, and yet the animation looked really interesting. The best part of this movie was the huge amount of creativity that went into it, though.

#3: Fafner in the Azure – Heaven and Earth

It’s rare for a movie to actually be as good as the series it was based on, but Heaven and Earth actually did it. It pushed the story of Fafner further and developed its setting more, and actually evolved the franchise in quite a limited time-frame. All of the characters were able to show off their development, the graphics also kicked ass. Thanks Xebec, for finally showing again that you can also make good series.

#2: Redline

The top 2 of this year stands miles above the others. Redline was just completely unique. The visuals are by far the best of the entire year. So much talent has gone into this movie, and its storyline is simple, yet mature. It had a few too many one-dimensional characters to really make it an outstanding movie, but still, this is one of those movies that you just need to watch.

#1: You Are Delicious

Yes, the best movie of 2011 is a dinosaur movie! Don’t look at me, I was also completely surprised when I watched it and realized what an incredible gem we have here, and I really nudge everyone who is looking for a family movie to give this one a chance, because this was pretty much the best family movie we’ve seen in many, many years. At first sight this movie just seems to be your standard story about this tyrannosaur that takes care of a small baby dinosaur, but I was amazed at how much detail this movie puts into these characters. The premise of the movie is just a tiny part of it. So much more happens to these characters, and the character development that resulted from it was just amazing. The cast of this movie turned out to be incredibly likable, and I definitely recommend checking this movie out.

My top series of 2011: #20-11

#20: Letter Bee

Letter Bee’s final quarter that aired this year was not as strong as what it had previously been. The reason for that is that the creators went into anime original territory, and they suddenly had to wrap up a story in 13 episodes that belongs in a much longer time-frame. However, it definitely deserves points for actually realizing this, and starting off as early as possible, in order to prevent one of those last-minute rush-jobs of endings that you see everywhere, and they actually did wrap up the story in the end. It just wasn’t as good as what it could have been, but it still was worthwhile here. The big flaw here was that the main threat they chose to go with was a bad one, and didn’t allow for interesting storytelling at all. There was no complexity whatsoever to that. The creators did keep true to the characters, though, and they actually came up with some very good character development in the end that fitted in the story.

#19: Fate/Zero

I wasn’t the target audience for this one. Ideally you need to have seen or played through Fate/Stay Night in order to fully enjoy it. It remains a great series if you haven’t done so like me, though. This series rocked in the way that it didn’t really have one main character: it had a whole bunch of important characters, all with their own goals, personalities and backgrounds, and those meshed together really well. The show is strongly rooted in ancient wizardry and that painted a great picture of the world this played in. There were a few times the dialogue went on for a bit too long, though, like when characters are in the midst of a battle and decide to break the mood by explaining what they’re doing.

#18: Chihayafuru

At first sight, Karuta seems like a really simple game compared to other games like Shougi or Go, especially if you’re good at memorization. It was Chihayafuru’s task to convince us that it indeed was a challenging game with a lot of depth. And after 12 episodes, it did exactly that. Courtesy of a terrific characterization and a story that is perfectly paced so far, all of the different characters together showed through their passion for the game how interesting it can be if you put your mind to it. In particular the lead trio has an excellent chemistry for this.

#17: Kamisama no Memo-Chou

This year had three major shows that were about a small girl who solves mysteries: Gosick, Dantalian no Shoka and Kami-Sama no Memo-Chou. The best of the trio turned out to be the latter, and this also was pretty much the best thing JC Staff had put out since Aoi Hana. The key here was the script, which was both excellent at creating mystery with great twists, as well as creating great dialogue between the different characters. Alice’s monologues were always fun to watch, and the dialogue between the rest of the cast felt very genuine, especially for a mystery series. There’s a lot of nice character development for the lead male as well, which made him grow above the usual male lead quite nicely. The main problem with this show was that it was too bloody short. It clocks in at 12 episodes, with one double-length first episode, but at the end of the show there still is a ton of potential left in the setting. It only took an in-depth look at about half of the cast. A second season would be perfect for this show. Alas, though: it bombed in terms of the DVD sales.

#16: Hana-Saku Iroha

Hana-Saku Iroha was another one of those series that threw many people off with its first episodes. Its first two episodes were completely different from what it would showcase after that. The show started off with two really tense dramatic episodes, only to change into a strange slice of life show with colourful characters afterward. It took me a long while to get used to that, especially since the individual episodes tended to get really forced at times. The third episode is the prime example of that. And yet, after 26 episodes, the character development it got in really was impressive. This show was at its best when it took in-depth looks at its different characters, both the main and the side characters. it’s a series that celebrates hard working, and around this theme the cast really grew together. They were awkward at first, but it really was fun to watch the adventures of the cast together as they kept an old inn running, all combined with an excellent graphics budget.

#15: [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

C was ambitious. It probably was one of the most ambitious series of the entire year with its promise of building an epic story around economics with pokemon elements and aiming to be a social commentary. Its ambition was massive, and in the end I’m still surprised that they actually managed to make it slightly fit in just 11 episodes. Sure, it’s rushed beyond belief, but it still got to make the points it wanted to make, it ended on a strong note, it still turned into a very entertaining series and it still got to showcase the great ideas it had. The character department is just one mess that didn’t really produce any likable characters. The visual also probably would have been amazing… if it wasn’t for that damned earthquake. That definitely was a shock when I found out about it, and I hope that everyone in the affected area had the best luck in trying to recover from it.

#14: Dororon Enma-Kun Meerameera

Now this show was complete madness. It started off with two very mediocre episodes, but after that it completely fired off in one ride of complete insanity. And with that, it ended up as the best fanservice comedy I have ever seen. There is just so much energy in this series, even though its mindset is completely juvenile. The music also was the best of the entire year, with the creators showcasing modern renditions of classic tunes from the 70s, for which this show turned out to be an excellent homage to. Oh, and then there was the ending. It was here where this show departed the realms of crazy, and just went into the complete surreal with one of the most unique endings I have seen in a long while. I of course refuse to say exactly what went on, but if you’re looking for entertainment that doesn’t care how dumb or stupid it gets, then this is a show for you.

#13: Blood-C

Blood-C definitely had a ton of people who hated it, and yet also a ton of people who loved it. Belonging to the latter, I can see how it is very easy to be turned off by this show, thanks to is extremely risky pacing. For a really long time, hardly anything of considerable significance happens. Instead, we have a lead character who lives her life and fights monsters, in a slightly odd world. It’s a series that thrives on atmosphere, and as the show slowly goes on, you’re supposed to get a clearer and clearer idea of what the hell is going on, until everything is revealed in an amazing climax. In the meantime, it had some of the best fight scenes of the year, an excellent soundtrack, and some completely brutal gore. This show is SO not for everyone, but I really love what an enormous risk it took with such a series structure, and how it kept kept its trump cards to itself until the last moments. Usually I dislike shows that take too long building up, but for me the storytelling and mystery really were enough to make this an exception.

#12: Supernatural the Animation

Blogging the episodes of this series was… a challenge. This show released its 22 episodes as a series of OVAs in about two months time. Despite all that though, Supernatural had a very good story that nicely combined random stories with an overall storyline. It had a few weak episodes here and there, but overall it was consistently excellent. It used a lot of flashbacks to a lot of different periods in the lives of the main characters, and therefore painted a very good picture of who they were the storyline packed some great twists, the show looked excellent with its interesting use of colour palette and it made great use of the fact that it was a story about adults, rather than teenagers.

#11: Un-Go

Un-Go was a series that like C, tried to stuff as much as possible into just 11 episodes. The big difference is that this series actually got away with it, thanks to some smart use of fleshing out the characters through the story and dialogue itself. The show overall had an incredibly tight pacing, and every line of dialogue had a meaning to the story. Every episode here delivered, and the different mysteries in this series did a great job o involving the setting of this series into the core of each mystery. This show really loved pulling twists that turned out to be completely different from what they first seemed, and that was the fun about this series.

Posted on 29 December 2011 with categories: Yearly Summaries

This list will be all about the characters, just like I did last year. At the end, you’ll find my choices for my top 30 to 21 series of the year. Overall, I hope that I got everyone here. Compiling these includes an awful lot of management and it’s very easy to overlook something (I actually nearly accidentally overlooked Heartcatch Precure, but thankfully I realized this just in time). But yeah, these are my personal choices. Feel free to share your own character highlights, of course. ;)

Most annoying character

The World God Only Knows – Elcea

In terms of annoying characters, there were two big ones that stood out. First is Yosuke Haramura from Persona, who I keep labeling as the Pee guy (seriously, he enters a new world, and what’s the first thing he does?). Every single moment this guy is whining, yelling or just being an ass. That’s just too much. The one who really took the cake though, was Elcea from the World God Only Knows. I mean, stupidity is one thing, but this was taken way too far here. This kid has the IQ of a sheep. There is nothing fun about her. She just keeps making the most moronic and self-unaware statements. If this was meant as a parody, it completely failed because it adheres to the exact tropes of the things it tries to make fun of, without anything else.

Worst Character

Sacred Seven – Yuuji Kenmi

Like with the most annoying character category, I am not counting the characters of series that I dropped at some point. It’s just not fair to judge characters of which I just didn’t watch everything of. The choice of worst character of the year was a difficult one, because there were a lot of really, really bland characters this year. Think The world God Only Knows, Fractale, Dragon Crisis, Kore wa Zombie Desu Ka, or Guilty Crown: it makes it hard to really pick one who stands out amongst them. Because of that, I decided to hand this award this time to a character who is so bad that he becomes hilarious: the main villain of Sacred Seven. What makes this guy stand out is how most of the series, he’s trying really hard to not stand out as a villain, only to fail miserably, only to completely derail near the end of the series with some ridiculously overacted monologues and some character designs that make me really wonder who in their right mind found it a good idea to approve them.

Best Cast of Minor Characters

Tiger & Bunny

These are the side characters who collectively ended up the most memorable to me this year. Level E deserves a honorable mention for creating so many interesting characters who go beyond the usual tropes. Hourou Musuko had a huge cast for only 11 episodes, and yet put down every character really realistically and dynamic. The side cast of Tiger & Bunny takes this prize though, because all of them were just really fun to watch, and they did an excellent job as supporting characters, to the point where I’d really with that the creators devoted more time to them, in order to really show what they’re made of.

Best Voice Acting

Hyouge Mono

Hyouge Mono’s voice acting was exquisite: it knew exactly when to be subtle and when to be over the top. Sasuke’s voice actor delivered both in his delirious speeches, his over the top reactions and the more subdued drama, but every major voice actor here pretty much nailed his character. There are a ton of memorable performances in this series. Very solid second places are Hourou Musuko with its wonderfully subtle acting, and Ano Hana, where the cast knew exactly how to make their characters part of the emotional roller-coaster.

Best Character Development on a Single Character

Natsume Yuujinchou – Takashi Natsume

Before the start of the third season, Natsume already was an excellent character. And here that season comes, and ends up completely devoted to developing him even more. This show showed his coming of age as he matured and grew closer to his friends, and grew to accept who he was. This show examined his past, present and future, with amazing results.

Best Character Development on an entire Cast

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai

The collective cast of Hana-Saku Iroha grew really nicely through the course of its series. Hourou Musuko had a ton of characters who matured wonderfully. Penguin Drum’s characters and plot twists made for a very cast who just kept changing (they indeed get very solid second place for this award) and No6’s characters never were static, and always were pushed forward. The best though, was Ano Hana, who delivered a heart-wrenching story about lost childhood friendships being rekindled. It examined how people change, and how easy it is to grow apart. It wasn’t just the main character Jinta who did this: it was the entire cast; everyone delivered to it.

Top 7 Supporting Characters

#7: Blood-C – The Big Villain

Um yeah. It will be a bit difficult to praise this character without spoiling everything. Being as vague as possible:usually villains who only reveal themselves very late in the series suffer from being dull and uninteresting. Not so much here. This character’s air is over the entire series, even though its identity is a mystery for most of its airtime. I know that this series got a ton of criticisms, but yet this ended up being one of my favorite villains of the year.

#6: Chihayafuru – Arata Wataya

Thankfully this guy is a bit easier to praise, because his biggest role in the story is right at the beginning. On top of being fantastically animated as a Karuta genius, he sparked this passion that convinced me: yes, this is the guy who inspired the titular Chihaya to start playing the game as well. When his biggest part is over, he still remains really present in the series to serve as Chihaya’s inspiration, on top of being very well developed himself.

#5: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai – Chiriko Tsurumi

Of course, the entire cast of Ano Hana is amazing, everyone stands out. Chiriko however took that extra step due to her level headedness compared to the rest of the cast. She’s surrounded by characters who have mental problems, and still manages to act level headed throughout most of the series, with some notable exceptions that only get better because of this. She was the voice of reason needed for the rest of the cast, and yet she ended up stealing the show herself quite a few times anyway.

#4: Level E – Kraft

Kraft is just adorable. Usually the straight men in a comedy are dull and formulaic, but this guy breathes new life into this trope with his ramblings that know exactly to stay outside of the borders of melodrama, but on the other hand being such a charismatic guard person with a huge sense of responsibility.

#3: Fate/Zero – Rider

When I first started watching Fate/Zero, I did not expect a side character to steal the show like this. I mean, Rider is by far the best character of the entire series. His monologues are fast and witty, and even though he looks like this huge fighter, he’s very intelligent and witty. He’s got his own ideals that he keeps shoving down on everyone, but he does it with so much force and charisma that it becomes almost impossible to retaliate.

#2: Hyouge Mono – Oda Nobunaga

If I had to mention the one highlight of Hyouge Mono, then it’d be the way they portrayed Oda Nobunaga. That was by far the best portrayal of the guy I have ever seen, and I’d go as far as saying that there will probably never come an anime that will do it better. The creators just perfectly succeeded in creating this megalomaniac ruler with a thirst for both conquest and the fine arts. And his crowning moment of awesome (the ones who reached that point know what I’m talking about) was just a beautiful display of wit and character.

#1: Supernatural the Animation – John Winchester

Numbers 2 to 4 are really larger than life characters. Heck, two of them are rulers, and I do tend to like these characters whose personalities are all over the place. As for the question of my favorite side character of the year though, my choice goes for someone completely different: a tormented father who is stuck between taking care of his sons and getting revenge on the murder of his wife. The series explores a ton of facets of his life, and tries to explain as much as possible why he did what he did. This show tries to relate to him by using different, yet similar cases and stories. And in the end, this leaves a surprisingly well developed character here that in the end is a step above the other side characters this year.

: Top 7 Female Characters

#7: Chihayafuru – Chihaya Ayase

Overall in 2011, unlike 2010, the male characters overall tended to overshadow the female characters, so I’m doing the female characters of the year first. Still, Chihaya as a character deserves to be mentioned. This girl has passion, and part of the fun of watching Chihayafuru is to see how far that passion drives her. She single-handedly managed to inspire a ton of people around her in a believable way, and her virtually limitless energy made every episode really fun and interesting to watch.

#6: Gosick – Victorique de Blois

Victorique took a while to crawl out of her shell. It’s only as the show goes on that we learn what exactly she went through, but also as what a strong character she grew into despite all that. It’s a shame that her male lead often was a bit of an idiot, just to show how smart she was. She didn’t need that. Even without him it was apparent that she was a genius, and I especially liked how she was constantly looking for a challenge to get rid of her boredom. Gosick as a series perhaps wasn’t the best out of the three “small girl detective”-series that came out this year. But in the end, it did have the best female lead.

#5: Hourou Musuko – Yoshino Takatsuki

I was really doubting whether to put her amongst the side characters or the list of the main characters. Technically Yoshino is a main character, but I also think that she gets the least amount of screentime out of all of the other characters on this list. In any case, I really have to praise her for putting forth such a believable portrayal of a young girl with gender issues. She’s very realistic and likable, and yet the drama around her was ridiculously well done.

#4: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica – Homura Akemi

This is another one of which I’m not going to say much due to the spoilers and all, but Homura made one heck of an impact on Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica. She’s strong and well developed, even though she’s a big mystery for most of the first half of the series.

#3: Heartcatch Precure – Yuri Tsukikage

The beauty of Yuri was that she was much older than the rest of the main cast of Heartcatch Precure. Suddenly in a shows about kids, a mature high schooler suddenly stole the spotlights and was pretty much involved in all of the kickass fights, and the best part was that the creators acknowledged that she was awesome, and didn’t just put her on the sidelines just so that the younger characters could shine. Yuri was caring and confident, but her own story and background in the series are along with Tsubomi the most charming.

#2: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai – Meiko Honma

Oh, I remember when I first saw the promo art for Ano Hana, I was like “What? Even more moe? What’s this doing in Noitamina?” And then a little more about this show was revealed and it seemed to take itself quite seriously. And then the show aired. The beauty of Menma was that she adheres to some moe tropes, but also subverts them just as hard. Yes, she’s ditzy, but she isn’t stupid. She’s innocent, but not clueless. She’s bratty, but she’s nowhere near the stereotype you’d expect her to be. She helped really well in order to make this show the tear jerker it was, as the character around which everything revolves. Many of the heart-wrenching moments of the series were because of her. I really would not have guessed that from my first impression.

#1: Mawaru Penguin Drum – Himari Takakura

Himari is important, not just for what she means to the other main characters in this series, but also because she’s so damn well developed. In a series with as much flashbacks as Penguin Drum, we get to see a ton of different points in her youth that shaped her to who she is, and why she’s so important to the other characters. She really was the glue that kept everything in this series together.

Top 7 Male Characters

#7: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai – Jinta Yadomi

Jintan was sometimes hard to watch, because of how passive and miserable he was as a character. Part of the goal of the series was to heal him, and make him grow into a better character. And that was done so well here that made me place him on this list. While Menma was the center of the story, he was the one who carried it and with that he did a really good job.

#6: Tiger & Bunny – Kotetsu Kaburagi

The competition really is fierce for this list, and I’m surprised at how many characters I loved I had to eliminate, just to cut it back to just 7 entries. I just couldn’t not mention Kaburagi Koutetsu, though. This guy is very unlike your average hero. He’s much, much older than usual, and even has his own daughter. He’s irresponsible at first, but as the show goes on you get a much better insight in his character. It makes him both fun to watch, and a very engaging character during the dramatic parts.

#5: Supernatural the Animation – Dean Winchester

How many different parts of Dean did we see in the series anyway? Of the two brothers, Sam always struck me as a bit too angsty, but Dean struck the balance perfectly. He here had everything: he was funny, he was caring, he was mature, he was independent and as a character, his development over the years was amazing. In particular his past makes him quite a complex and interesting character.

#4: Mawaru Penguin Drum – Kanba Takakura

Kanba is a hard to follow character a times, but what really struck me about him was his determination. He really was completely devoted to Himari, and that leads to some incredible scenes at times. Overall his character development also is amazing, and especially the ending of Mawaru Penguin drum really utilizes his character to the best.

#3: Hourou Musuko – Shuuichi Nitori

Part of the brilliance of starting the adaptation somewhere in the middle in the manga, is that this gave Nitori already a terrific background. And then he used that to turn into an even better character. I mean, cross-dressing is really often just played for laughs. This guy actually treated his own problems seriously, and managed to convince us of the same. There is nothing cheesy about this guy. His character development especially in the second half turned out to be incredibly detailed and engaging.

#2: Hyouge Mono – Sasuke Furuta

Sasuke… sure is a character. I mean, his ramblings are unique. There is no other character out there like him. Sure, there are plenty of over the top characters out there, but none of them really comes close to what this guy does. On one hand he marvels over some ridiculous aesthetics, on the other he tries to play a serious part in a period drama. The faces he makes are just completely ridiculous, but the comedy around him is always just hilarious. This guy is an eccentric through and through, and by far the most unique main character of the past years.

#1: Natsume Yuujin-Chou – Takashi Natsume

I already said it above: Natsume already was a very well developed character when the third season started. And here this show came and developed him even better. And to think that we’re still not done yet with him after a fourth season got announced. This third season showed some more tidbits around Natsume’s past, but also how he changed as a character. The different characters he runs into illustrate that perfectly: he’d would have treated them quite different when he would have met them in the first series. And yet, everything remains so incredibly subtle. All of the details in his development fit, and the acting for this guy turned him into a really believable character.

: My top series of 2011: #30-21

#30: Fireball Charming

This year didn’t have one comedy sequel that was better than the original. It had two of them. In Fireball’s case, you can really see that the creators wanted to surpass the first season of Fireball; it was much more ambitious. The CG graphics looked much better, the dialogue was faster and even more nonsensical. And it actually worked here. The combination between random yet strangely interesting banter and the random yet strangely interesting poses that the characters kept making really worked.

#29: Last Exile ~ Ginkyou no Fam

After two years of absence, Gonzo returned with a bunch of very poorly produced series, and one heck of an ambitious comeback of Ginyoku no Fam. It left some things to be desired overall, and the quality of each episode varies greatly, but where it delivered, it really delivered. It successfully expanded upon the Last Exile setting, expanding it even further, the graphics and backgrounds looked amazing and Fam and Giselda, despite first appearances, are likable leads. When compared to the first half of the first Last Exile though, it loses out.

#28: Gosick

Gosick had its problems. The arcs that it used to build up its story had some serious issues, including a very annoying male lead and a female lead who looked more like she had access to the script, rather than she was a genius at solving crimes. And then, good episodes showed up. To a point where in the final third, the bad episodes were completely gone. This show suddenly turned into a very engaging adventure series, and the lead characters who had once been flat, stupid and annoying grew into very relatable characters. This definitely was a welcome surprise.

#27: Usagi Drop

Overall I probably wasn’t the biggest fan of Usagi Drop. Of course it was adorable, and I love it as a look upon what it means to be a father, but I dunno, it could have gone a bit further than what it did. It’s still very gentle slice of life though, and pretty much the most realistically acted show of the year. It definitely gets points for that. Daikichi in particular was a very interesting character to watch.

#26: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

Beyong being completely adorable, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee also was a very interesting look at cultural differences. Every episode featured interesting little tidbits about the differences in every day life between Japan and France of about 100 years ago. There was some really good chemistry between the different characters, and even the seemingly annoying rich girl had something to offer here. As a pure slice of life series though, it was a bit too forcedly dramatic, so if you want more heart-warming slice of life you should probably go to some of the other shows that this year had to offer. The different cultures however were enough of an addition to make up for this.

#25: Tamayura ~ Hitotose

Now, if there was any director on fire this year, it was Sato Junichi. He was behind three series this year (twie as the director, once as the main writer), all of which made it into my top 40 at some place. My favorite production of his was Tamayura, due to how incredibly solid it was as a slice of life show. It’s a genre that is usually very hit or miss for me, but this show really nailed it for me. It had a well developed cast, a heart-warming atmosphere, very nice animation and really succeeded as an Iyashi-kei series as well.

#24: Dantalian no Shoka

Dantalian often baffled me when I watched it, but looking back I can definitely claim that I don’t regret watching it. It’s a show that took the episodic series structure, and completely nailed one part of what makes the genre great, only to completely ignore the other part that’s required for the genre to really work. The individual stories were excellent. They all were diverse and examined some great characters with fascinating stories. And yet the main storyline or cast never really was important here. They were just tools to show these stories. Even overall themes were not really existent. All this show was was 12 standalone episodes. But granted: those episodes were very interesting.

#23: Blade

This year had more shows that went under the radar than 2010. The king of those shows though, is Blade. I was utterly surprised when I found out that in AniDB, it ranked overall even below a rating of 6/10. What this means is that it ranks amongst the 20 worst TV-anime ever made that had more than 100 votes on that site. I know that ratings like that should be taking with a salt shaker and all, but even then this is something it does not deserve at all. After watching Iron Man, Wolverine and the X-Men, it really surprised me how much this series delved into Blade’s past and how it focused to develop him as a character. Out of all of the marvel series, it also had the best female sidekick, and how one episode delivered one of Wolverine’s characters better than what Wolverine did. Plus, the entire series was pretty much a tour through South-East Asia. This show visited so many locations that go completely against the convention. Speaking of conventions, it’s great to finally see another black main character again.

#22: Star Driver

I only realized this after compiling these places 30 to 21, but this show illustrates something interesting about this year, compared to 2010. You see, Star Driver as a series stayed pretty much consistently interesting. It never really got better than what it was, but it also didn’t dip in. Last year when I compiled my top list of the year, I ranked Star Driver at the nineteenth place of the year (because yes, I do include incomplete series just like any finished series here). And still: the shows that I ranked below Star Driver then are still shows that I’d rank below it, and the same goes vice versa and for 2011 as well, meaning that 2011 had actually slightly more great series compared to 2010. Anime is dying? Hah! In any case, Star Driver was pretty much the younger brother of Mawaru Penguin Drum. It featured much more action, but also had a lot of parallels, like the use of tons of symbolism. And I have to give credit for this show that when everything finally unraveled and was explained, it took some neat risks and chances. It’s definitely not the most balanced show though.

#21: Ben-To

After so many dull and uninspired fanservice comedies, this show finally delivered with an awesome premise. A show entirely dedicated to food battles. You just have to come up with it. This show proved that even though there may be fanserivce and moe, it can still be incredibly entertaining. The storytelling was very solid: the jokes were hilarious, the action scenes were really well directed, the music was awesome, the characters were well acted. It was one heck of an entertaining ride. The only shame is that at times it indulges in pointless fanservice a little too much, and it was probably about two episodes too long.

Posted on 28 December 2011 with categories: Yearly Summaries

This year, I started thinking what kind of new thing I could add to my yearly round-ups this time. My mind then came to how I’m always trying to praise the technical parts of each anime: the settings, animation, storytelling, etcetera. So that’s why I decided to take some of the awards I usually hand out, like “Most Imaginative Setting”, “Best Animation”, “Best Script” and “Best Story”, and dedicate an entire post to them, showing a bit more of what the year had to offer than just the one best. Also, as an extra to each post, I’ll be listing my top 40 series of the year, starting today with #40 to #31.

Overall, 2011 definitely wasn’t the best year we’ve ever had. I’d say that it was below average if you’d compare it to the past ten years, though it’s probably not the worst thanks to quite a number of solid series that even though they weren’t amazing, still were very solid to watch.

#Top 11 Best Settings

Honorable Mentions: Appleseed XIII and Hunter X Hunter

With this top list, I’m highlighting the settings that really delivered something special and really well thought out this year. First, I want to include some honorable mentions, though. The reason these two didn’t make the list is very simple: because they already had incredible settings, but their 2011 versions didn’t really add much to them to warrant a place here. Especially Hunter X Hunter is exactly the same as it was ten years ago. Appleseed meanwhile did add some interesting extra tidbits, but it’s too early to see whether they actually paid off. In both cases though, it still goes that they contain very imaginative settings Hunter X Hunter completely subverts the shounen genre, while Appleseed’s bioroids are definitely interesting science fiction.

#11: Fate/Zero

Fate/Zero also had both the tasks of expanding upon the universe created in Fate/Stay Night, and also prevent new viewers from being lost. And well, it actually succeeded. It presented a modern interpretation of the quest for the holy grail, and yet it is full of historical references due to the inclusion of all sorts of famous historical figures. It takes a look at what it means to be a king, with huge themes being laid upon chivalry. It’s not finished yet, but with the way this is going, next year this show may show up even higher on this list, if I’m doing it again.

#10: Steins;Gate

One annoying thing about Steins;Gate is that it was set in Akihabara, and the part of it that celebrates the otaku culture was nowhere near my interests. However, the part that was near my interests totally made up for it. This show had some well researched plot threads about time travel, and used some particularly imaginative concepts, yet at the same time restricted itself with some strong constraints. It pretty much was an interpretation about time travel that I had not yet seen before, and even though some parts were a little hard to buy, I still really appreciate the effort.

#9: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

There are a lot of things that can make me consider a setting to be great. In the case of slice of life, I want it to be believable, and get the feeling that the world the characters are in are really alive. Ikoku Meiro no Croisée pulled this off. Here, it really holds a candle over Tamayura, Sato Junichi’s other slice of life series this year. It actually bothers to animate a lot of other people that walk around in the setting, but what really set it apart was how well it used the fact that it took place in 19th century France. Satelight have a bunch of French connections, and they used them really well for this series. Every episode is chock full of historical references, cultural differences and customs that even taught me things I didn’t know yet about Japanese life.

#8: Level E

Level E is about aliens on earth, and I especially love the creativity it throws in all lof its arcs to make this idea come alive. The amount of ideas that it uses earned it a place on this list,, and it’s just really interesting science fiction that keeps throwing you for a loop. The short story nature of this show means that it can show a lot of different aspects of its setting, which it makes gladly use of.

#7: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

This series made the list, because it’s just so dam believable. There are a lot of series about youkai, but few do it as well as Natsume. You really get the feeling that the world Natsume lives in is alive, and that the youkai in it are a core part of it due to the really strong characterization on nearly every one of the characters. This series also doesn’t’ just animate one town in Japan, it actually portrays multiple locations in the country that Natsume lived at, and it does an absolutely wonderful job at it.

#6: Hyouge Mono

This show… is unbelievable. After so many over the top portrayals of the Sengoku Era in the latest year that pretty much raped the era, this one comes along, does exactly the same, and yet it does it with an incredible portrayal of historical accuracy that puts every other installment just to shame. This is just a completely bizarre combination between accurate portrayals, with an incredibly detailed look at pottery, art and architecture, combined with characters making the silliest faces imaginable,consciously hammy overacting and a ton of parodies on the postmodernism that nowhere near existed yet in those ages.

#5: Last Exile ~ Ginkyou no Fam

Last Exile definitely gets the award for the grandest setting of the entire year. No other setting can top it, and if it wasn’t for some shoddy storytelling here and there, it actually would have easily made the number one spot. There has been an incredible amount of creativity and details into each location. The story here is epic and it actually manages to expand upon the setting of the first Last Exile massively.

#4: Un-Go

What really surprised me about this series is how actual it was. But even without that, the creators gave a very interesting vision of the future here. Again, the semi-episodic nature of this series really helped, because in this way it could show a lot of different technologies that were all really well woven into the story of each episode. This show also examines what kind of impact these technologies have upon the people who live in it, and all of that together make it into one of the most solid settings of the year.

#3: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

The reason why Madoka Magica’s setting is awesome would mean to delve into spoilers, which is not something I’m going to do. Let me just say that as a deconstruction of the mahou shoujo genre: it really did its job well.

#2: Tiger & Bunny

This is a series that really took a very imaginative setting, and had its way with it. The concept of Hero TV, a television series in which superheroes are followed on camera and paid by sponsors already stood out from the very first episode. It’s a great parody, homage and criticism of modern society at the same time, and yet at the same time it also is a great concept for a really fun and enjoyable series. The creators really struck gold with it.

#1: [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

None of the setting sthis year came as close to C in terms of ambition, though. It really wanted to do something interesting, and while it would have been even better if it had more episodes, it still really stands out as the ballsiest setting of the entire year with its focus on economics, delivering this crazy premise where people gamble away their futures with a ton of similarities to modern stock trading. More than any other series this year, this concept stood out for doing something different from the usual anime, and it definitely was a very interesting ride from start to finish.

#Top 3 Best Background Art

#3: Yumekui Merry

Shigeyasu Yamauchi is an amazing director. While he can’t do anything about bad stories, he really knows how to make graphics speak for themselves, and he knows a bunch of very good background artists who help him with this. The best example of this was Casshern Sins a few years ago, but Yumekui Merry has the same utterly gorgeous backgrounds. The nature of this series allowed the creators to come up with a ton of different designs and settings that all looked equally stunning.

#2: Hana-Saku Iroha

Hana-Saku Iroha gets a place on this spot due to how incredibly refined every single one of its backgrounds was. Seriously, there just are no weak spots whatsoever: every background just looks amazingly detailed and life-like. The use of CG is brilliant, in the way that the creators know how to use just enough to make the different drawings stand out, yet stay away from the “3D-look”. And it kept this going for 26 whole episodes. This may be much more grounded in reality than Yumekui Merry, but these creators found a way to show eye candy in every day situations.

#1: Last Exile ~ Ginkyou no Fam

No TV-series however, came close to the backgrounds that Gonzo delivered this year. I mean, people are often on Gonzo’s case that their visuals look rushed. But that’s the thing with their visuals: they’re either really good, or rushed through due to lack of budget. The cloudscapes look amazing, the landscapes are full of creativity. These people even brought entire cities to life in the most imaginative locations, with in particular the architecture of the huge and grand buildings in this series standing out as a feast for the eyes.

#Top 5 Best Animation

#5: Fate/Zero

Now this year, the category for “best animation” is an interesting one, because this year didn’t have a show that had the jaw-droppingly awesome kind of animation like in previous years with Full Metal Alchemist, Bounen no Xamdou or Seriei no Moribito. So instead, I started to think about which series did warrant a mention for this category this year, especially because I’m certainly no expert on the subject. At first I really thought to include series like Guilty Crown but the more I watched it, the less impressive the animation became. In terms of overall quality, I think that Fate/Zero does stand on top. The action scenes are consistently well animated, even in the non-action scenes, and there is plenty of movement through he entire series, not to mention how crisp the creators made everything look. The entries below here all did something special with their animation, because in terms of consistency, this one is unbeatable this year.

#4: Fractale

A-1 really knows their animation. And there is one thing that they were really, really good at this year: continuous movement. Characters hardly ever stopped moving in this series, and instead of the usual shortcuts you see in anime, they were really well animated while making all sorts of poses and elaborate body movements. This really was a series where the difference between key animation frames and inbetween animation frames was really thin.

#3: Dantalian no Shoka

Gainax only had one series this year. Perhaps it was because of this that the animators could fully focus themselves on trying new stuff out, and that is exactly why I gave it a spot on this list. Dantalian no Shoka’s episodes actually experiment a lot with different art and animation styles (not to mention that it has this year’s Osamu Kobayashi episode) that brought many different styles together, and made them work.

#2: Blood-C

I just had to place Blood-C’s animation here in this top list. I know that it’s definitely not the most consistently animated series: the quiet scenes do take quite a few shortcuts. But especially the early episodes had action scenes that just made my jaw drop. The animation here was incredibly fluid, and yet the characters moved around like nothing limited them. Usually with frame-rates like this, characters only look around, change angles, or just stand still. Here though, the direction of the movements was fully brought to life with that incredible fluidity.

#1: X-Men

In the end though, I do have to give this year’s best animation award to the X-Men. This show had excellent animation, that on top of that made use of some of the most gorgeous artworks and character designs. This show had a lot of movement, but also a lot of detail. A combination that is really hard to get right, as the more detail you put in your character-designs, the harder they are to animate. This is a syndrome that Madhouse knew fully well, and they actually averted this with the X-Men. The results were just gorgeous.

#Top 5 Best-Looking Graphics

#5: Heartcatch Precure

Of course, I have to mention Heartcatch Precure. It already was gorgeous in 2010, and its finale in 2011 did it justice in terms of pretty looking graphics. The final battle had some really nice animation. It doesn’t win this award this year because of how little episodes aired this year, but it still is a truly gorgeous series that’s full of eye candy.

#4: Last Exile ~ Ginkyou no Fam

Traditionally, I hand out this award for not the series the best animation, but the ones that simply look the best. Last Exile made this list because beyond anything: it has shown how good CG can look when done well. The aerial battles in this series look just amazing, with Gonzo pushing its CG to even more boundaries than it already did before it died for the first time.

#3: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

This show had two kinds of animation: normal, and completely crazy. The contrast between them in particular looked really good, and shaft put a ton of abstract eye candy in all of the different settings and dimensions hereto make this one heck of a gorgeous looking series.

#2: Yumekui Merry

I mentioned Yumekui Merry above already, but its backgrounds aren’t the only thing that looked absolutely amazing in this series. On top of the background art, the artist also put an amazing amount of detail and colours into the foreground art, brilliantly making use of CG for shading everything and making everything come together. It’s clear that the creators had a ton of inspiration when they started on this series, and by the end of the series this seemed nowhere near run out.

#1: X-Men

I originally introduced the category f “best looking anime” years back, in order to differentiate between the series that may not have the best animation, but still have visuals with undeniable charms. This year though, there is one series that has them both: X-Men both was incredibly animated and it looked completely gorgeous. Madhouse just went all out on this series and even though the storyline may have had its problems, it never failed to deliver gorgeous images with amazing use of colours.

#Top 5 Best Music

#5: Hyouge Mono

Bee-Train actually walked away with this award for the first four years I did these yearly summaries. Hyouge Mono’s soundtrack is too restrained for this to pull this again, but I still want to pull out a honorable mention to its originality. Again, Kou Otani is experimenting with a lot of different things, the use of instruments is great and this soundtrack always manages to strengthen each scene it appeared in.

#4: Ben-To

This may be a strange choice at first, but when watching this series, it really caught my attention how fun it actually was. The soundtrack here is completely over the top, which sounds this series perfectly, There are many different tracks which with their sheer power completely enhance the value of the scenes they’re played in, and they especially make the food battles even more fun than what they already were.

#3: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Boku-Tachi wa Mada Shiranai

Now this is a soundtrack that fits its accompanying series to a T. Incredibly emotional, and it did exactly what it needed to do for the roller coaster that was Ano Hana. Every time it was played it was exceptionally well timed, plus the piano pieces in particular are just beautiful.

#2: Tiger & Bunny

Now, Yoshihiro Ike is one of my favorite composers. Above anything, he’s consistent, and always delivers something that is unique and highly atmospheric. It worked really well for Tiger & Bunny, with his violin strings that hardly ever seemed to die down. He could be both upbeat and downbeat with the same style, and he nailed both the exciting and dramatic parts of this series perfectly.

#1: Dororon Enma-Kun Meerameera

There is one soundtrack though, that stood light-years above all the others this year. There is just no contest with this one. What the creators had done here is completely un-rivaled by every other series this year. The creators here took a ton of classic tunes from the seventies, and gave them a modern coating and a new meaning through the series. They were all sung with a wonderful voice that makes them even more fun to listen to. Without a doubt, the most creativity has gone into these series to make them sound good and unique.

#Top 4 Best Scripts

#4: Level E

With this list I give a nudge to the best written scripts of the years: these are the series that are just technically really well written and constructed. Level E is the prime example of this. As a collection of short stories, every of the stories made its impact, and did something really clever with its script. It was a master of trolling and also its variety was very impressive. All of them were well written and incredibly fun to watch.

#3: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

Madoka Magica on the other hand, stood out because of how well it used its format as a continuous storyline. Gen Urobuchi really delivered a storyline that made optimal use of its time. where things flow seamlessly into each other. It leaves no episode wasted, yet it does pay enough attention to building up in the first few episodes. The script itself does a great job in fleshing out its purpose as a mahou shoujo deconstruction as well.

#2: Un-Go

Un-Go meanwhile is a combination between the two series above, taking the best of both, and then putting in some more. It both shines with its individual stories, but in its second half its plot also is very well constructed and put together. On top of that, the creators also put as much dialogue in this series as they could muster. Dialogue that was full of hints to the different mysteries in this series where you really need to pay attention in order to catch everything. Because of this, the pacing is fast, and this definitely isn’t a series that you can just sit back to, but that really was part of this series’ charms.

#1: Hyouge Mono

The best written script comes from Hyouge Mono, though. It’s a show about some old guys talking to each other, but it does so wonderfully. The script it has to back up its views on aesthetics is incredibly solid and the way in which it describes everything in this series is just un-rivaled. The ramblings of the different characters also did a great job on giving detail to every major character involved.

#Top 4 Best Stories

#4: Tiger & Bunny

And finally, I’d like to present my list of series that had my favorite stories of the year. Tiger & Bunny was really well put together. especially in the way that it used its unique setting. It made great use of its individual stories to build up its overarching plot, which got more intriguing with every episode. Unfortunately it couldn’t keep up with this and so the finale dulled in a bit, but it still was one of the best stories of the year.

#3: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

Madoka’s story rocked because of how well everything fitted. The story flowed really naturally here, in the way that it slowly deconstructed the Mahou shoujo genre and really gradually began to lose all of its innocence. All the major arcs here fit, and it found a great purpose for all of its characters.

#2: Mawaru Penguin Drum

Penguin Drum’s story isn’t for everyone. Unlike Madoka above, it does not answer everything about its story, and it’s really something where you have to read a lot in-between the lines. The story in Penguin Drum isn’t just told through its dialogue, but also its visuals, symbols, and emotions. The heavy use of flashbacks also gives this series a very non-linear and vague approach, but when it all comes together, it does come together wonderfully.

#1: Steins;Gate

Here there was no mistake: Steins;Gate had the single best story of the entire year, period. It had a weird way to look upon time travel, but it used that to create a story about time traveling unlike no other. There were a ton of layers in this series I just loved how it kept intertwining them in the most unexpected ways. That was just brilliant. It took a bit to build up, but it was definitely worth it.

#My top series of 2011: #40-31
I’d like to try something more elaborate this year. Usually I end each year with a top 20, but this time I’m going to list my 40 favorite series of this year, counting down ten shows each day. So here it is: the first part of my list of favorites of 2011.

#40: Kimi to Boku

Kimi to Boku was a peculiar show. For starters, it was a slice of life with the majority of characters being guys, rather than girls, but also it made no attempt at all to avoid getting on the viewers’ nerves. In particular Chizuru was consistently annoying, but the rest of this show also had this “bored” atmosphere. And yet, when you came down to it, it did have very well written characters. The end of each episode always made sure that the characters and their development came together. It was annoying sitting through it, but that alone is enough to give it the final place in my Top 40 of 2011.

#39: Wolverine

By far the most underrated franchise of 2011 was the Marvel Project. It made a really bad start with Iron Man in 2010, but after that they all delivered, but hardly anyone seemed to really notice them. Wolverine had its flaws: it had really simple characters, plus a bit of an acting problem. But when it came to the action, it was exactly what it promised to be? This series shows that even on a short budget, you can create an exciting action scene with creative camera work, great stunts and a pacing that doesn’t drag but keeps you on your seat. This show was simple, but actually quite effective.

#38: X-Men

The X-Men meanwhile lacked Wolverine’s problems of a small budget, acting problems and simple characters: these really are iconic characters who work great together, and the animation in this series was drop dead gorgeous, as mentioned above. Instead, the problems here were with the plot, which in the end boiled down a very crappy conflict. Wolverine had some pretty nice anime original characters, but Hisako in the X-Men completely unbalanced the series, taking away the spotlight from the real main characters of this series. Nevertheless, the action and atmosphere in this series made up for it.

#37: Appleseed XIII

For the record, I’m going to consider OVAs with 13 or more episodes as TV-series, because they very well might be, and are much easier to compare to TV-shows than time-constrained OVAs. Even though much hasn’t come out yet for this series, but it left me impressed. It’s definitely a series that’s very good at storytelling, and it uses its own setting very nicely in its stories. Its big flaw is that its acting leaves a lot to be desired. Especially Deunan acts much more feminine than what she was in the movies. So feminine that it feels like she’s on a non-stop period or something. This girl really needs to learn to control her hormones.

#36: Phi Brain

Phi Brain was just a series whose entire concept just didn’t make any sense. The whole thing about a world in which puzzles are so important that people make death defying puzzles, just to test this guy who happens to be the “Phi Brain”… it really was hard to buy it. And yet, after 13 episodes, that’s exactly what I did. This show can be rather stupid at times, but not when it matters. Its characters were surprisingly well fleshed out and fun to watch, the different puzzles were interesting to watch and very creative. Most of the puzzles are puzzles that you could try to solve yourself if you have the patience and the pause button.

#35: Kamisama Dolls

Kamisama Dolls was a show which nailed a combination between action, drama and comedy. It didn’t have too much of either, and all of them had good parts to really show off, making it a very diverse series and even though the story really left you hanging, and it devolved into a cheesy harem over time, it still brought consistent entertainment with some very good animation. It had some nice character development, the chemistry between the characters was great, and even though the story didn’t really live up to what it promised at the start due to some characters refusing to move out of their stereotypical roles, I still liked this a lot.

#34: Mitsudomoe

Comedy sequels that are as funny as their predecessors are already rare. So imagine my surprise when Mitsudomoe actually surpassed itself here. The first season had some very annoying flaws and jokes it milked too much. This season was much more stream-lined. As a result, it was a really hilarious series when it hit its stride. Sure, it was wrong on so many levels, but the chemistry between the different characters really rocked. What also made it a great series is that for once, it knew that it wouldn’t be able to fill 13 episodes, so it just stopped at 9. Seriously, more series should do that.

#33: Deadman Wonderland

This year of course also had its share of series that were just way too short. Deadman Wonderland was probably the show in which it was the most apparent: it rushed through its story and in the end left us hanging for a second season that will probably never arrive (it completely bombed in terms of DVD sales). But yet, the story that it tried to tell was completely crazy. In fact, unlike probably many others, I preferred this as a completely crazy and psychotic show over Mirai Nikki, due to the completely messed up system that the characters were thrown in. It had neat ideas behind its characters, and even though it had some weaker episodes here and there, the better episodes were very solid entertainment.

#32: No.6

Ah, No6. How I would have loved to put this show a little higher on this list. It really had the ingredients: terrific acting, great animation, an interesting post-apocalyptic setting and most importantly: character who just kept evolving. Seriously the characters kept developing in every single episode. Unfortunately, it’s stuck at place 32 due to that ending of its. This was a very believable series, so it doesn’t really work when the creators suddenly start pulling all kinds of nonsensical twists from out of their asses, just to wrap everything up in one episode, where it also went completely against the characters.

#31: Hunter X Hunter

Hunter x Hunter is another series that would have been much higher up my list of this year, if it weren’t for one thing: the existence of the first Hunter X Hunter series. It’s just too similar. I’m essentially rewatching a series here. The differences that are there are just minuscule, and the rest of the series will have to prove that a remake of this series was warranted for fans of the old series. But still: it remains one of the best shounen series ever. In 12 episodes it already did so much. Compare that to all other shounen genres, who keep having contests to see who can shamelessly drag on for the longest. 2011 was a year that broke a lot of subtle trends like this, and because of that I can call it a successful year.

Posted on 27 December 2011 with categories: Monthly Summaries

As usual, my December summary is a bit earlier than usual so that I have time to work on my 2011 summary (I’ve got 4 more posts for that planned; what the hell am I doing?), but it’s not like we’re getting any more episodes after this.

Overall, I will definitely remember this month due to all the things that happened here. I suddenly had to pull a rush job, moving this site to another domain after Blogsome suddenly announced that it was going down (which by the way, it still hasn’t), having to come up with a new design in less than a week. On top of that, it was also a really busy month for me in real life due to me finally moving out of my parents’ house and buying my own place to live.

In terms of anime, this was very consistent with last month: pretty much every series performed like I expected it to do, with only a few minor exceptions. It definitely wasn’t the strongest season we’ve had. In fact, when looking at the shows that debuted this season, this season at this point ties with Autumn 2010 as the least impressive Autumn Season since 2001. It mostly stood out because it broke some nasty trends of the past few years and for that I can say that it headed into the right direction again. And because of this, there are still plenty of series that still need to finish, so let’s find out if it can make me come back to these words in three months time.

#18 (18) – Persona 4 The Animation – (6,5/10) – The pacing in this show is still terrible. Sometimes it tells you which days it skips, at others the change into another day is completely random and unnanounced. I mean, what’s the point of this date system if you don’t use it consistently? Overall, this month this series had some nice ideas, which in the end didn’t really amount to anything. The bear? Cool, I guess, but he’s still bloody annoying. The thing with the killer also is nice and all, if we actually knew something about his character. This show spends so many times on random dialogue, and yet it doesn’t even flesh its characters out well.
#17 (17) – Shinryaku! Ika-Musume – (6,75/10) – That final episode was horrendous. Why on earth did the creators find it a good idea to YET AGAIN abandon all comedy for a serious story in this series? There is no way for that to suddenly work. Apart from that, this month was much of the same, but overall this sequel was a waste of time. I really hope that Milky Holmes avoids this next season, but that show is based on a Pachinko Game instead of a manga, so anything can happen there.
#16 (16) – Guilty Crown – (7/10) – I have watched every Noitamina series except for one. And yet, I can easily say that Guilty Crown has the worst characters compared to any other show from that timeslot. Fractale? The character s there at least were likable. Library Wars? the cast at least was engaging. In this show, no single character is interesting. Everyone is just a tool to make Shu look awesome, even though Shu is a whining protagonists who just keeps changing character depending on what the plot demands. Holy crap he was annoying this month.
#15 (15) – Bakuman – (7,5/10) – Oh for god’s sake, the whole issue with the angry Miura was hard to sit through. I mean, I get the point that they tried to made, but it was just so dragged on. Miura isn’t the best acted anyway so it was rather hard to buy him. I liked Yuriko’s subplot though. It’s short and to the point, and yet in much less time it also gets a lot out of her character. Take an example of that, Bakuman.
#14 (10) – Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon – (8/10) – I have very mixed feelings with this series, but in the end I do have to praise it. Sure, it makes no sense with the creators consistently pulling all kinds of rules out of their asses, but these rules were inspired and imaginative, and they actually got some neat things out of the characters this way.
#13 (13) – Mirai Nikki – (8/10) – One of Mirai Nikki’s biggest problems was that most of its villains were dull. They were badly developed, not fleshed out well enough, and just not interesting to watch. A show that’s as crazy as this really needs good and enjoyable characters to make the most out of this. That is what I realized after watching the latest arc, which did have an interesting antagonist. The show suddenly got a lot more enjoyable when that guy took the center stage.
#12 (14) – Kimi to Boku – (8/10) – The final episode of this first half of Kimi To Boku was also the best episode so far. I like that. Overall, the final month only cemented the characters even more as well written. Compared to the first episodes, the characters have gotten less annoying. Yes, even Chizuru. But that guy still gets on my nerves.
#11 (12) – Phi Brain – (8/10) – In this month, Phi Brain finally got to business. And it worked. It remembered to develop the main villain well, and because of this the episodes involving him were a bit cheesy, yet had some solid drama as well. The puzzles also continue to get larger and more dangerous, which is a good sign for 2012
#10 (9) – Nurarihyon no Mago – (8,25/10)

It’s a shame that Nurarihyon ended with a sequel hook, because that ending would have been the perfect time to close off this series. Overall, the last month of this series was really well done. Finally this show got to what it actually was about: a war between small armies. Finally it got down to business. Finally the characters came together, and the graphics looked really solid in the process. It took way too bloody long to get here, but it’s still good to see that amidst an ocean of shounen shows that end on a bad note, this one didn’t.

#9 (5) – Last Exile – Ginyoku no Fam – (8,25/10)

Overall the strongest month for Last Exile was the first month. Right now it’s still very solid, but there are a few too many inconsistencies for my tastes. Shangri-La had this too, but to make up for it it had a crazy plot that kept moving, whereas Last Exile is much slower. The build-up still is pretty solid though, and the characters still are pretty good and well acted. Bring on that second half!

#8 (8) – Hunter X Hunter – (8,25/10)

The thing with this show s that it’s just too similar to the first season. The surprise and suspense is gone because of that. Those who haven’t seen the first season however, are in for something awesome here. This does remain as one of the best shounens out there.

#7 (7) – Tamayura Hitotose – (8,25/10)

Tamayura ended with a very solid note. The character development really stood out in these final episodes, plus it ended with a heart-warming finale. Perhaps it wasn’t th best slice of life series I’ve seen, but nevertheless it was a very solid attempt.

#6 (11) – Ben-To – (8,5/10)

What I especially liked about the finale is how well built up it was. This lead to a few episodes without food battles, but the pay off in the end was really worth it. The characters all were interesting to watch, and everything came together wonderfully for the ending. This definitely was what I expect an action comedy to be.

#5 (6) – Fate/Zero – (8,5/10)

This was the month in which Rider really showed what an awesome character he can be. Things are definitely slowly getting better and better, and even though we have to wait three months for the next episode, it overall was one of the most solid shows of the past three months.

#4 (4) – Chihayafuru – (8,5/10)

This was the month of the first Karuta tournament, and I love how short and to the point it was. This show has a wonderful balance: it makes sure to spend enough time on everything, yet it also never drags on or feels padded out. By far its biggest virtue here was how in every episode, it involved every character, and added a bit to every one of them. Now that’s some solid writing to nail consistently.

#3 (3) – Hyouge Mono – (8,75/10)

It is really impossible to find episode 36 anywhere. This is a bloody shame for a show that consistently ranked among my top 3 this past season. Especially Rikyuu’s development over the past episodes was memorable here, with a few misers involved, though. When this ends, I can only hope that Koichi Mawshimo will continue make many more series, despite his age (he’ll be turning 60 this year).

#2 (2) – Un-Go – (8,75/10)

This month, Un-Go ended pretty much as solid as how it’s ever been. The plot twists it came with were really well done, and it still left no moment wasted. I like how you really needed to pay attention to this series in order to be able to follow it. This show just kept throwing you for a loop with some really plausible scenarios, only to turn things around completely.

#1 (1) – Mawaru Penguin Drum – (9,25/10)

The ending may not have explained everything, but who cares? It did give conclusion to the things it should have. It all fitted wonderfully and it did push the characters to new levels. It was a very sad ending that worked really well as the conclusion of this series.

Posted on with categories: Phi Brain

Ah, so the puzzles will indeed be getting much more elaborate, dangerous and deadly from now on. The first half of this series really was just a warm up. It’s great to see this show evolving.

Rook turned out to be quite the interesting villain, mostly thanks to the background this and the past episode gave him. In fact, this episode really worked because it was all about Kaitou finding out that his former best friend changed completely.However, I do have to wonder how he was able to pretty much act like god inside this puzzle of his. Using a hidden shortcut of course is one thing, but diving into a flaming pit of seventeen stories high… that’s not really survivable, no matter how many secret trick you happen to know.

In any case, it’s clear that the way in which this kid was raised is completely crazy. With the way that POG is set up, I can easily imagine that we was raised specifically for this twisted goal. At this point it’s pretty clear that Makata Jin is that Professor Pythagoras, which does make it very likely that he had Kaitou and Rook meet very consciously. As for the naming of this guy… well, the real life Pythagoras was also completely crazy and came up with the most crazy yet logical systems, so in that way it makes sense for this show to use his ideas at its core.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on with categories: Mirai Nikki

Okay. Now this was just crazy.

The big difference between this arc and the previous ones lies in the characters. In the previous arcs, the villains just weren’t interesting. their characterization was too simple, their characters were too one-sided. Fourth has been around for a while, which really helped. Ninth and that other officer also were getting better, which resulted in an episode that was finally about characters I could care about, and it’s no longer an “us vs them” deal. As a result this was pretty much my favorite episode of this show so far.

What I do want to know is how Ninth escaped from all of this. I know she has the escape diary and all, but even escaping is very hard if you’re chained to a freaking police officer. I mea, the fact remains that she blew up a school and a hospital. Did he just let her go because she looked cute or something?

I also love the way in which the end of this episode featured Yukiteru claiming that the officer he shot turned out to be alive. I know that being shot in the chest is survivable when treated immediately, but there still are so many things wrong with that:
– First of all, what happened Yukiteru’s sense of responsibility? “Oh, he didn’t die; I have no guilt whatsoever; I don’t need to visit the hospital to apologize to him or anything, let’s move on now…”
– Also, I love how this show just lets it slide off that Yuno has just become a mass murderer here. I’m not even talking about those corpses she hides. This episode did show her mercilessly kill about five police officers. And nobody even mentions that afterwards. Could Yuno perhaps be this ghost that only diary holders can see or something?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon is… weird. I mean, Kimi to Boku was annoying, but that was part of the reason why it worked. Most of Horizon’s flaws are completely pointless. For starters, this is directed by Manabu Ono. This guy has found himself a trademark. A very annoying trademark that involves pasting enormous boobs on his characters.

The result is a show with character designs who are indeed very varied and inspired, but look absolutely abysmal. The enormous hair of the characters looks like this series is still stuck ten years ago. Because of this, even though this show has a large budget, there is hardly any room for eye candy at all.

To continue: the great thing about the characters in Horizon is their diversity: it’s chock full of colourful characters of all kinds of ages, shapes and forms. And yet the main character is an incredible pervert who considers groping boobs a greeting. The fanservice in this show is so completely out of place and gets thrown so often into otherwise serious scenes that it’s not even funny.

Overall, this is a show that thrives on chaos: it tries to put an immense amount of content into just 13 episodes. The result is a massive cast of characters, a huge setting, and very fast-paced dialogue that have their good points and their bad points. The good points about the characters are that when they want to, they can deliver some interesting chemistry. Alone they’re cliches, but together their relationships become quite unique. The bad points re the aforementioned fanservice, and the huge amount of underdeveloped ones. It unfortunately… doesn’t really mask that.

Then there is the storytelling: the setting in this series is full of ideas. every single character has this really weird and unique power that he or she uses to fight. The good thing about this is the imagination that went into it. The bad thing is that all of the battles in this series make no sense. It feels like the animation staff at times just doesn’t know what they’re animating. The battles furthermore completely create pull their own rules from out of their ass, depending on what is most convenient for the plot, and this changes with every battle. This is a show that on one hand forces its viewers to think and pay attention, but on the other hand it demands a ton of suspense of disbelief and expects the viewers to not really think about the logic behind each battle. That doesn’t really match here!

Above all though: Horizon wants to tell a story, no matter how crazy and incoherent. The ideas in this series are like a blast from a shotgun shell: some hit, while others completely miss the target. There is one thing I cannot fault this series for, and that’s for being generic. Compare that to Koukaku no Regios, which at first started out with a similar setting. only to refuse to focus on it. Horizon refuses to not focus on its setting. It definitely needed to be more refined, and the story desperately lacks some kind of editor. But it is a great trainwreck to watch.

Storytelling: 8/10 – This show is a complete chaos. It’s well written, but also lacks direction at times.
Characters: 8/10 – Huge and diverse cast of characters, with some characters who work, others who don’t, or characters who do work, but make it really hard to actually be likable (the male lead for one)
Production-Values: 7/10 – This show has a large budget. So why go for these abysmal character designs that make any possible form of eye candy impossible?
Setting: 9/10 – Really diverse, full of ideas, tries to put as much into its setting as possible.

Suggestions:
Overman King Gainer
Turn A Gundam
Baccano!

Posted on 26 December 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews

The two big slice of life series of Autumn 2011 were Tamayura and Kimi to Boku. Overall I ended up liking Tamayura better, but I also recommend this show. Plus: this show isn’t even finished yet, while Tamayura was a sortof sequel.

With a show about a group of five high school goys, there is one thing that you need to understand before watching this series, though: Kimi to Boku is annoying. This show is obnoxious, and fully aware of that. In fact, it actively tries to get on your nerves. You need patience with this show. This might sound weird, but this show has an overall “bored” atmosphere. The characters are mellow and lethargic. Most of this show is actually a bit of a chore to watch.

But here is the thing: with every episode, this show redeems itself. Whereas episodes start unbelievably boring, they always lead to some redeeming point where this show suddenly delivers heart-warming drama and acting. And not only that, it actually uses the annoying episode to build up and develop into something that catches your attention.

These characters really got on my nerves, but the fact remains: these are really well written characters. Their acting is really believable. They’re far from the usual stereotypes and they’re already quite well developed.

There are two points at which this show leaves things to be desired, though. The first is the random cat shots that often have absolutely nothing to do with the scene they’re shown in. I still don’ really understand what’s up with them. The other, is Chizuru. Being annoying is one thing. This guy is annoying, every single time he opens his mouth. And he never shuts up. And I mean, I know that real high school boys are annoying as well and all, but a show about watching paint dry is realistic too, but that doesn’t make me want to watch it. This guy is not interesting to watch at all and the moments where he redeems himself are far too few to make up for him constantly trying to be an ass.

Let me stress though: he is the only character with this. The rest of the cast more makes it worth watching this series and sitting through the awkward moments. This show tried to invade a genre where the majority of characters are usually girls, rather than guys, and actually upstaged a lot of them here. That’s quite impressive.

Storytelling: 8/10 – It might not seem so at first, but this show knows how to tell a story.
Characters: 8/10 – With the exception of Chizuru they’re all surprisingly well written. They will be annoying, though. Be prepared.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Nothing special here, but nothing that gets in the way of the rest of the series.
Setting: 8/10 – Little detail is given to where this show takes place, although the past of the characters is nicely laid out.

Suggestions:
Hourou Musuko
Showa Monogatari
Bokura ga Ita

Posted on with categories: Anime Reviews, Shinryaku! Ika Musume

The big disadvantage of having a successful comedy is that people want to make sequels of it. It sold well, so hey: why not try milking it out some more? What/ You mean to say that the first season already exhausted all of the possible jokes that could have been made? Who cares! People will buy it!

So yeah,Squid Girl 2 is much of the same. And in this case, this is a bad thing, because “much of the same” in a comedy pretty much means that the entire second season is derivative. There is no reason for it to really exist. This season doesn’t really advance the show or characters aside from perhaps a few minor details here and there that you could have made an OVA out of. And for the rest of the time this show spends repeating some of the jokes and scenarios of the first season.

It becomes clear very early on that the creators are struggling to find new material to fill 12 episodes. The creators at least try to squeeze some new jokes out of things, but this series never really introduces new characters, so its only option is to try some variations of some of the jokes we’ve seen so far. The result is that there are a few characters who just keep returning. In particular the crazy scientists are guilty of this: their crazy inventions are really often used to create random wacky situations for Squid girl to be in. Also milked to death are Chizuru, and worst of all: the crazy stalker. The stalker was completely horrible in the way that just REFUSED. TO BLOODY. GIVE UP. She tries to glomp Squid Girl more than five times every single episode, for god’s sake!

Thankfully the creators realized that there was no way for them to remain funny for 12 more episodes, so at least they tried to shift their focus a bit: they at leas try to make sure that the ending of each story comes with an original twist. For this, I can at least say that they’re hit and miss: sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But at least they’re not as derivative as the rest of the series.

But seriously though: there is no real reason to watch this; over these entire 12 episodes, there was only one sketch that I considered to be genuinely funny. That’s way too little. Ideally if you’re interested in this series: watch till episode 11 of the first season. That’s all you really need, because this series has the really weird tradition of suddenly turning to a serious story for the final episode. And yes, this second season has this too. And yes, it’s baaaaaaad….

Storytelling: 7/10 – Repeated jokes and scenarios from the first season that while mildly funny, are not enough to sustain interest.
Characters: 6/10 – Only a few details are really added to the characters. That’s not good here, and it’s a good thing that the characters still have a bit of their natural charms left.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Still solid, but the animation too has gone downhill.
Setting: 7/10 – This show is completely derivative. Again nothing is added here.

Suggestions:
Mitsodomoe
Tentai Senshi Sunred
Demashitaa! Power Puff Z

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  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 04:14 PM)
    You don’t buy and play final fantasy 7 only so you can gamble on the chocobo races if you know what I mean.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 04:12 PM)
    @K-Off, hey the Sims I get. The Sims lets you play god and raise a family so that at the height of there glory asnd happiness you can burn them to the gound.
    This is paying to do something that is pretty much indistinguishable from doing the exact same thing in real life.
  • k-off
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 04:05 PM)
    @Aidan You also have people today, dumping tons of money into Sims games.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:53 PM)
    *virtual
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:52 PM)
    Actually that just blows my mind. Think about it. In SAO there are people, people who pay monthly subscription fees who when in a MMO spend their time at a virual bar, drinking virual beer while watching a virual tv show.
    ….really?
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:11 PM)
    @Bam, That wasn’t live TV. That was a TV show that was in the MMO. Yes, a tv show which is broadcast and filmed in a MMO. You may put faces to palms now.
  • Bam
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:06 PM)
    @Aidan: I haven’t watched it past episode 2 but I gather from you guys that there are two deathgun guys, one of them which is the RL killer. So I’m saying how did he kill that guy that was being interviewed on live tv in the 1st episode?! Makes no fuckin sense.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 01:02 PM)
    Seriously this show….f*ck this show. We both are eager to drop it. But we are waiting for Grisaia to start up so we can watch that together.
    And yet it’s still getting praised…I am truly baffled.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 12:56 PM)
    Funny enough that isn’t even the worse of it. The last episode consisted of Ass-chan and trapito(Our pet names for the two) sitting in a cave talking. Mostly about stuff that has already happened or been gone over. All while being…weirdly intimate. I mean this is the girl whos sorta tsundere and she’s laying her head on his lap and he’s invading her personal space. They weren’t even talking about anything remotely romantic.
  • AidanAK47
    (Thursday, Sep 18. 2014 12:51 PM)
    So how did second death gun break in while leaving no traces, shoot this guy while leaving no traces and leave without raising suspicion despite wearing a f*cking hoody and a helgast mask?

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