Top 10 OVAs
Overall 2012 was not such a good year for OVAs in terms of quantity compared to other years. Because of that I’m including series-based OVAs this year in the rankings because otherwise I can’t make a proper top 10 this year.
#10: One Off
One Off is Sato Junichi’s latest slice of life work after Tamayura. It too focuses on the lives of a bunch of teenaged girls who live in a remove village. It’s not as good as Tamayura though, mostly because it feels too much like a copy, and because there is one really annoying quasi-british character who tends to ruin the mood whenever she’s in the spotlights. Still, good enough to make number 10.
#9: Computer Kakumei
Computer Kakumei was part of a two-part OVA along with Kyou no Asuka Show. The latter was crap, but Computer Kakumei was short but sweet, using 10 minutes to paint an interesting picture of science fiction in combination with school life that was surprisingly well acted.
#8: Eureka Seven Ao: Jungfrau no Hana-tachi
Eureka Seven Ao’s OVA was pure fanservice. With that I don’t mean that it had a lot of nudity, but it’s just there to please the fans. The thing is though that as a fan, I was incredibly pleased with what this show did. It was completely non-sensical how it forced this in (how on earth did the characters get the appropriate clothes for it), but this ended up as a wonderful homage to both the first and second series, despite being completely stupid.
Gyo was the first anime adaptation of a mangaka whose works are known to be completely disgusting and disturbing. And oh god, this showed. The fish things were just horrible and even though I prefer my horror with a bit more subtlety (this OVA had like, none of that whatsoever), it definitely succeeded in weirding me out. Definitely not for those with a weak stomach.
#6: Natsuiro Kiseki
The OVA for Natsuiro Kiseki was short, but really worth it. In like six minutes it actually added a lot of character development to the mix. It’s an incredibly simple idea and i”m not going to say here what that was, but if you’re fan of the series, then you just need to watch this one.
#5: Pukapuka Dudu
The Young Animator Training Project was without a doubt the biggest source for good OVAs this year. Only Buta disappointed, and apart from that they all are worth watching. This one was a really charming tale about a girl and her father. It’s been done before, but not like this. Usually it’s one of them saving the other, but here they really contribute to each other, making for a heart-warming story for both of them. All based on this adorable floatee that came to life.
Young Animator Training Project again, this time with a unique looking OVA about bullying. Or rather, being the guy who just stands there and doesn’t do anything. This one was quite thought-provoking as it also showed what happened to all the kids involved and how they changed. They really turned this into a character-study in just 30 minutes, which is quite an impressive use of time.
Like I said, the Young Animator Training Project was excellent this year. The best was Wasurenagumo, otherwise known as that show that has a really annoying title to type correctly. This one really took me by surprise. One by how good and how well characterized it is, and also by some events that happen throughout its runtime. I mean most of the OVAs from the YAT are aimed at children. This one pulls some stuff that you really would not expect while taking this into account.
#2: Another OVA
Another had the best OVA this year. Like Natsuiro Kiseki, it added some much-needed character development that really changed your perspective of the cst, but this one did it even better, by showing what happened to the female lead before the start of the series. Not only do we get to see a totally different side of her, but it also serves as the final piece of the puzzle in her story. After watching the OVA, the story really feels complete.
Kyousogiga completely sold me. This was a collaboration of some of the best guys in Toei just having fun with something they like. The series of 5 OVAs are random side-stories about the different characters, but they’re all incredibly charming in their own ways, accompanied by really creative animation. There is no point to the story, so I can only hope that there will be more of it, because this is just one of those franchises that has so much heart put into it.
Top 10 Movies
This year had a very good selection of movies. Not the best, definitely though. That will very likely be reserved for 2013, which is looking to be the best year for movies in… well pretty much a decade, perhaps even more. Of course I’m talking about the movies that got released on DVDs, not their actual airdates. If I reviewed it in 2012, then it’s eligible for this list.
#10: .Hack//The Movie
Hack The Movie was entirely in 3D, and can be seen as the spiritual successor to .Hack//Quantum, with a similar story. It again is about life in an MMORPG that get out of control, but what mostly made this movie worth watching is the interactions between the different characters. The whole thin is well acted, especially the parts that take place in the real world. The story is simple,but it worked quite well.
#9: Kokuriko Zaka Kara
Goro Miyazaki’s next work, and with this it’s clear that there is one thing that this guy is really good at: portraying characters believably. Sure, the story nor the attention to detail may be nothing like what we’re used to from his father, but the realistic characters were quite charming and down to earth and that made this movie work. Nothing special happened through its course though, and unfortunately, I have already forgotten most that happened in it. That’s a bit of a downside.
#8: To Aru Hikuushi he no Tsuioku
This movie had a simple, but effective story: an excellent pilot having to transport a princess in a tiny plane. The character development was interesting and this movie knows that it should stay simple, rather than being too epic. It’s a shame that the romance got rather corny, though.
#7: Code Geass: Bokuko no Akito
This is the first of four movies, so it was obviously building up to a lot of stuff here. But here is the thing: the creators did manage to get me hooked on Code Geass’s setting (a series that I did not like, by the way). This series both takes its freedom and actually makes the setting work to be more than just something nationalist by focusing on immigrants, and the tensions around them. Add some really solid action to that and yeah: I can see this one becoming awesome for me.
#6: Full Metal Alchemist – Brotherhood – The Sacred Star of Milos
For this movie, Bones pulled out some really good animators, making it a feast for the eyes. The story, well it was obvious that it wouldn’t live up to the TV-series of Ful Metal Alchemist – Brotherhood: it was just a random side story. And as a side story, it did its job of being interesting enough and having good characterization, without hitting many heights. This really is a solid action movie, nothing more or less.
#5: Hotarubi no Mori he
Hotarubi no Mori he: you can pretty much see this as a glorified episode of Natsume Yuujin-Chou without Natsume in it. Because of that, it’s perfect if you’re looking to check out whether Natsume Yuujin-Chou’s style is something for you, because if you like this movie then there is a very good chance that you will also like the series. The story is really heart-warming so by all means give it a chance if you’re interested.
#4: Un-Go Inga-Ron
More glorified episodes with the Un-Go prequel. Normally I don’t really mean that in a positive way, but both Un-Go and Natsume Yuujinchou are awesome series, so glorified episodes are like, even better than usual. Here too the prequel has a very definitive point to make as it explains how the two main characters met each other, in the same style of storytelling that made the TV-series so addictive with some great twists along the way.
#3: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc: The Egg of the High King
It really is annoying: the second movie is out but not subbed yet. Because of that, the movie is not yet on the list. Berserk’s first movie promises a lot, though: great atmosphere and they actually managed to condense the story to movie format with its own style different from the TV-series. Only disadvantage is that the CG is rather messy at times.
#2: A Letter to Momo
The premise: you have a child living somewhere in a village, and this child meets supernatural beings. Lots of movies pull this, but A Letter to Momo has definitely been the best attempt of this in years. The reason is how well it portrayed these supernatural beings: gorgeously animated and hilarious to watch in their antics. Great climax as well.
#1: Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha
Osamu Tezuka’s adaptations are AWESOME! Buddha’s first installment was my favorite movie of the year due to its scope and storytelling. Movies about buddhism already are quite rare, but the style of storytelling is also really typical for Osamu Tezuka’s mature works, with just tons and tons of character development stuffed in one movie, characters who change immensely over the course of years and hard-hitting morals. On top of that there were some really good animators working on it, making this not the most polished looking movie of the year, but definitely one of the most interesting visuals to look at.
Top 45-31 TV-Series
#45: Last Exile – Ginyoku no Fam
Ginyoku no Fam suffered from putting its main character too much in the center of the story. Fam had to do everything and she was the key to bringing peace. Thankfully it made up for it with its gorgeous 3D graphics and its world building: the world it created was full of life and had many interesting locations and cultures, and I really liked how this show fleshed them out. The plot also wasn’t an entire disaster. It just lacked creativity. It definitely does not live up to the original Last Exile, but it could have been much worse.
Moyashimon: after the juggernauts of Nodame Cantabile and Honey and Clover it was the first Noitamina series to get a sequel. Was it really necessary? Nope. The second season is not as good as the first and lacks the charms it has, and most importantly the germs don’t really feel like the main character anymore: they’re sometimes there to give a bit of explanation. Beyond that though, the sequel still had plenty of reasons to make it enjoyable. The chemistry between the characters still is great, it’s still chockful of creativity about the germs and it still was a very enjoyable ride with talking germs.
#43: Shirokuma Cafe
Shirokuma Cafe is a show that took the concept of a panda and a penguin that walk into a bar, and turned that into an entire series. It’s a deadpan comedy at heart, with lots and lots of dry humour and animals trolling each other. There were plenty of times through the series at which I just cracked up and laughed hysterically. The big problem with this series however is that it’s too long: it’s slated for 50 episodes, and it has nowhere near enough material to fill everything with fresh jokes. The result? Padding.
This was a simple, flawed but effective action series around bombs. It had a solid atmosphere, and particularly impressive side characters that kept the story going. The side characters made sure to keep the series fresh and new, and because of them every battle was different. Taira in particular was a great character, but yeah: you do need some suspense of disbelief when the main character escapes this large blast that would have killed off any other character…
#41: Saint Seiya Omega
Here is a tricky one to judge. The thing with Saint Seiya is that it takes forever to get anywhere. For a large part of the series you’ll be bored by the repetitive fighting and over the top yells. At a certain point though, something changes, and this show just gets more addictive, bit by bit. It takes care to develop all its characters properly, and bit by bit the action gets more and more intense. You definitely need patience for this though, because it really is nothing but fighting for the most part.
#40: Rinne no Lagrange
This series ended up much lower on the list than what I expected when I first started it. The reason for that is that I didn’t quite get the idea that the plot knew where it wanted to go, which became especially apparent in the final quarter of the series, in which the series wandered around a bit aimlessly in search for a conflict. Mind you, the reason why it was searching for a conflict in the first place is one I really like though: instead of waging an all out war, this series emphasized reaching out to others and trying to talk. This was possible with down to earth characters and a big emphasis on slice of life. Not the most exciting, but definitely relatable.
I have long debated where to put Magi on my list for 2012. In the end it was a bit low because for most of this year, I got the feeling that I was missing something, which wasn’t so much the case as the ones that I’ve ranked higher than this one. It’s a great adventure series though with very solid production values. It starts off rather light, but the dark focus on slavery works quite well. It just needs to blossom in its second half.
#38: Legend of Korra
2012 was the year in which I finally set my biases aside and checked out other mediums: western animation and manga. I’m not going to put the manga in this list because I wrote a compilation that was good enough, but I do want to include the Legend of Korra in this list, the spiritual successor to Avatar The Last Airbender. I liked it a lot, and its focus on what it means to be a hero in times of peace. The fight animation and choreography also was really good in this series, and also very consistent. Its downside was that the romance subplot didn’t really go anywhere, and the final few episodes grossly simplified the conflict of the series, and went against a lot of the build-up earlier in the series, leading to an unfortunate disappointment.
#37: Phi Brain
Ah, Phi Brain. A show that just boggled my mind in how the producers have ever been able to make three freaking seasons for it. And the thing is: that the first two seasons were actually worth it! The characterization really was good there, despite the silly premise, and compare that to Bakuman, which also goes on for three seasons, but was something I dropped. So yeah, this series definitely did a lot of things right… but it also did a lot of things wrong. Oh god, where to start here? The way it refuses to make good use of Nonoha’s character (she is really talented, except at puzzles. So just make her either do puzzles or stand on the sidelines! Yay!), or how about that time in which the creators had us watch the same puzzle four episodes in a row? Or take how long it took me to get used to the fact that NONE of the villains in this series can think straight (Seriously, this is an actual plot point!). Oh boy.
#36: Nazo no Kanojo X
A show that explored this not so average romance between two teenagers with lots and lots of hormones. At first I did not think that this would work, but the really charming soundtrack along with the down to earth portrayal of the characters actually made it work surprisingly well. We really got into the head of the male lead as he explored what his relationship with his new girlfriend meant and all. Great job.
#35: Sukitte Ii na Yo
2012 had a lot of very good romances, actually. Sukitte Ii na Yo was the same as Nazo no Kanojo: before the start of the series I had seen it described as smut, but it is not smut at all. In fact, it’s a genuine look at a shy teenaged girl’s first romance as she learns to accept herself more for who she is. This is what Kimi ni Todoke should have been: it just cuts right through the crap by having its characters actually talk about their feelings, rather than padding out incredibly long. It’s a great example of angst done right, and I love how it takes care to develop all of its characters in its short airtime of 13 episodes.
#34: Kokoro Connect
More really good romance with Kokoro Connect that I initially wrote off. In this series we have this alien thing that toys with the main cast by forcing all sorts of powers on them and observing how they react. Unlike the above Sukitte Ii na Yo it did not have full control of its angst, which sometimes got a bit out of control (especially in its second half), but it definitely made up for this with its really sharp dialogue that really delved deep into their minds. It’s a bit of a shame that the best arc was the first one so the rest of the arcs did leave a few things to be desired here and there, but still it was a very interesting watch.
Robotics;Notes will probably end up a lot higher on the list next year, but so far I really like what it’s doing so far. It has believable character and a ton of subplots running right through each other that all try to do… something. It’s spending a lot of time on building up and it’s still unclear what it really wants to do, but that’s what makes it compelling. The pacing is a tad too slow for my liking, but even then this series has already delivered a lot of interesting climaxes.
If it was just for the first season, Jormungand would have ended up a lot lower on this list, and I still fault that season for not making that good use of its time. Something happened in that second season though. A complete change of direction in which the plot actually got really interesting and Koko elevated herself as a main character. Finally the characters started to do other things than just trying to be as snarky as possible, and show who they really are with great results.
#31: Mirai Nikki
Mirai Nikki, otherwise known as “Plot twist: The Anime”. While the first half of the show was tedious, the second half just kept delivering the plot twists right after each other, and it just kept going. The show had plotholes, but it was always fun to find them and nit-pick on why they didn’t make sense. It succeeded in making its lead female the school example of all yandere as well, which is a pretty nice achievement.