Posted on 31 December 2013 with categories: Yearly Summaries

And so, 2013 has nearly ended. It was an interesting year, in which a lot changed. The way I look at this blog has changed, and at the same time I have been making less posts. I just couldn’t keep up with 12 posts a week anymore, however I still have my passion for anime, especially the good ones.

Having said that though, 2013 is the worst year for anime since the past decade, and I’m afraid that I need to say this. The big problem lied in the amount of series that aired. Every season had its gems, however when you look beyond these gems, that’s where the problems lied: everything just looked the same, and there were lots of series that had potential, only to get bogged down by bad writing. This is the year I really realized that the way in which most anime are written is inherently flawed, with too few writers working on too many projects and people not really thinking about making anime whole conclusive stories that stay consistent. I’ve seen so many promising series this year that only ended up meh, when they could have been so much better, so it’s really a shame to see this.

As for the good stuff though, there thankfully were quite a few series that did catch my attention. Here are my highlights. Unfortunately Hajime no Ippo and White Album are not included because I’m really behind with them at this point.

Worst Series

Amnesia

There really were some stinkers this year that at first sight looked like they had potential. As much as I’d like to hand this award to Valvrave for pulling the rape-card from out of bloody nowhere, it had nothing on Amnesia. At first sight this looked to be an interesting mystery-series, however every single character save for one in the series was a total prick. The worst was the stalker one with the cage. I mean, did nobody on the production team stop to think “wait, this is completely stupid”?

Worst First Episode

Walkure Romanze

Oh god, there really was a lot of bad stuff this year, though most of the ones fell into the category of “so generic that they’re bad”. On top of that there also was the usual terrible incest, as well as the many, many shows that were simply thinly veiled fanservice. It was hard to just pick one that stood out, however I have to go with Wankure Romanze. It’s really here where the creators just gave up completely trying, treating their audience like a herd of lobotomised sheep. This episode really screamed “just whatever, I dunno. Have a horse that eats panties or something so we’ll at least get some viewership. I don’t care”.

Biggest disappointment

Yozakura Quartet – Hana no Uta

Despite being a big fan of the director and the OVA, I really don’t think that I’m going to be able to finish this series. Why? Because the story is just random fluff. Okay, I guess stuff happens aside from its horrible fourth episode and all, but when I really ask myself whether that’s interesting to watch for a full season… I have to answer no. Even though the animation is just completely fantastic… the rest just wasn’t.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru

I was ready to immediately write this series off as the umpth light novel adaptation with a ridiculously long title and having it be nothing more than a glorified boob parade. And then the first episode aired, and it was actually the best thing that the creators could have done with such a horrible premise. The creators made this actually a really funny parody, and they kept it up for about seven episodes. I really did not expect that.

Funniest series

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San

Oh, Azazel-san. You sure gave me quite some headaches this year. On one hand, you made me laugh harder than any other series this season, but on the other you had these completely tasteless episodes that tried way too hard to go for laughs with their shock value. Every episode we would hope that we’d strike gold, instead of literally poop. However, when you hit, you hit hard. The characters at their best are absolutely hysterical with their brand of sadistic humour and energy that very, very few series can match, and you had me nearly fall of my chair on multiple occasions.

Best Animation Studio

Production IG

This year, I was torn between Madhouse and Production IG. They really rose to high standards this year with many great series. The reason why I handed it to Production IG though, was because Madhouse has been too much into its own franchises: as amazing as Chihayafuru’s second season was, it was a sequel. Hajime no Ippo is great, however, it already has so many episodes. Hunter X Hunter too has been going on for ages: they played it way too safe. Production IG meanwhile went all out with Psycho Pass and Shingeki no Kyojin, they did something really bold with Kick Heart. Sure, they had their sequels, but they had a balance between old stuff and new stuff, which I didn’t notice that well in Madhouse’s case.

Most Promising Studio

Wit Studio

Every year I also hand out an award to a studio that’s either really new, or made a huge improvement over the past. With this year, it’s obvious that it would be Wit Studio, the subsidiary of Production IG. Next season they’re out on their own, and if Shingeki no Kyojin is any indication, then there is a lot of talent hiding amongst them, and I hope that they can follow Bee-Train’s example and become a good standalone studio in the future!

Best Action

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

It took the award last year, it also takes it this year. Jojo is just so wonderfully over the top and every episode was just loads of fun to watch. It really was everything that the shounen genre should be, and I can understand why it got so popular. However, it did have much more competition this year. Kill La Kill is a huge contender for next year’s award with the way that it’s going, and Shingeki no Kyojin also was really exciting to watch, from start to finish. I really had trouble with the award this year, as opposed to last year.

Best Horror

Aku no Hana

Pure psychological horror, but oh my god, this show was so effective in drawing me into its atmosphere. There was hardly any point at which I wasn’t at the edge of my seat, and that’s what I consider an amazing horror-series.

Best Background Art

Shingeki no Kyojin

This year, I want to give props to the incredible amount of polish that the creators put into the backgrounds of Attack on Titan. They really created a medieval-ish city and the amount of detail that went into it is astounding, and it looks consistently crisp. The creators obviously spent a lot of money on it, and it did pay off.

Best Animation

Yozakura Quartet – Hana no Uta

There were lots of really well animated series this season, a few too many, if you ask me personally, however Yozakura Quartet to me was the best, because of its focus on kinetic energy that was very visible in its movements. Its animation wasn’t just a bunch of money shots, the creators really cared about natural movements and interesting poses, they really wanted to create movement, and they did that better than any other series this season. It’s just a shame that the animation was the only thing noteworthy about this show.

Best-Looking Series

Kyousogiga

This award goes to the series that just looks incredibly good, regardless of animation. The artistic direction here is important, and Kyousogiga had that, and much, much more. For 10 episodes there were hardly any weak moments in the animation, and everything just looked gorgeous. Close seconds are Chihayafuru and From the New World, not to mention the trippy Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure and the gritty Aku no Hana (I don’t care: I loved how Aku no Hana looked, with its own unique and distinct style; so what if it wasn’t crisp).

Top 20 of 2013

#20: Teekyu

Wildcard: Teekyu is just something to sit behind, turn your brain off and enjoy the spectacle. Nothing special, but damn entertaining to see all of the things that the creators can throw to the screen in the span of only two minutes per episode.

#19: Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru

Light novel adaptations with really long titles had previously been notorious for being bad, lazy and incredibly contrived for fanservice. This year, there were two series that broke that trend. Noucome (resting at place 21 due to its rather bad ending), and Yahari Blahblah. This series starts off with the generic ingredients, but I don’t know. Along the way something happened that set itself apart from its contemporaries. The dialogue, it was actually cleverly written. It actually takes a deep look at its characters, and creates some thought-provoking drama out of that, rather than going with the usual cheese. The characters in this series all look like completely generic stereotypes, and yet they aren’t. This series could have tried even more though, and there are some stories that are a bit lacklustre compared to the others, placing this relatively low at this list.

#18: Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San’s sequel contained both the best, and the worst episodes of the season so far. The Moloch-episodes were obviously awesome, but a few other arcs were also comedic gold. And then there was the haemorrhoid arc. What on earth were the creators thinking? It’s a series with huge ups and downs, but its own brand of incredibly vile and sadistic comedy somehow worked for me.

#17: Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi is nothing really fancy, however it did create its own fascinating setting that it rolled with for thirteen episodes,. It did have a tendency to suddenly pull twists from out of absolutely nowhere, but it barely avoided those becoming Deus ex Machina, and it consistently asks questions about life and death with its strange portrayal of the undead. It could have been much more because the series just ends after a random arc has been resolved, however, the characters all made it very worth watching.

#16: Uchuu Kyoudai

Last year, I made the prediction that for 2013, this series again would have been a great contender for the number one spot, however, something happened along the way. The series remained a wonderful look at what it means to become an astronaut, it still was fascinating. The problem however, was the pacing. Things started to take forever to get going, and every episode on top of that started with like two minutes of recap. The creators were simply coasting on the manga to carry them through, and you couldn’t see the passion of the first fifty episodes any more. The creators made the mistake of going on for way too long, lessening the experience. It’s such a pity, because this series really stood out: it had characters in their thirties for once, and the synergy between them is just amazing. However you also need to learn to not overstay your welcome.

#15: Gatchaman Crowds

Anime is a great storytelling medium, but usually they really aren’t up to date with current events. Some shows nowadays still feature the Tokyo Tower as the highest building in Tokyo, for example. Gatchaman Crowds however, is about social media. It’s very clunky, but it portrays a setting in which saving the world is crowd-sourced: through the internet everyone contributes with stuff like saving the day and protecting the earth from aliens, and from that base setting it creates its storyline. The characters aren’t the most relatable, however they serve the purpose of exploring this setting. The pacing is ridiculously fast, but in the end they pulled it off with also quite a great ending to close off with.

#14: Samurai Flamenco

Samurai Flamenco, I’ll put you at number 14 for now. This can become much higher, or much lower next year. The series started off really well with a sortof realistic view on this idiot who wanted to play a superhero. And then episode seven happened, and it was awesome, but afterwards it just kept getting more and more ridiculous, to the point where we are now just watching a completely different series. It’s really a bizarre series and at this point it really could go anywhere. I do have to give props for having the balls to actually try what it did though.

#13: Silver Spoon

Silver Spoon: a meticulously planned out look at what farming life is. It has lovable characters, it’s fun to watch, but at the same time it also doesn’t shy away from the realities of farming: that animals are killed in the process, in order to make a living. It shows both sides of the picture, and never really leaves a moment or episode wasted, and it’s filled with interesting trivia. Not to mention that it made me hungry on a regular basis.

#12: Uchoten Kazoku

Uchoten Kazoku is a look at Japanese folklore,in a modern coat. It tells about tanuki and crows, and how they can transform into stuff, and it contains all sorts of obscure cultural references surrounding their legends. It really taught me quite a few new things through its airtime, and that’s always a plus. The best thing about this series is its dialogue: cleverly written and it manages to develop the characters in a unique and engaging way. It does lose a bit of steam near the end, but it remains witty and unpredictable.

#11: Kill La Kill

Kill La Kill’s storyline is nothing special, however it manages to present itself in such a way that it doesn’t become boring. Its formulaic, but never formulaic enough to get tedious, the characters are simple, but not one-dimensional enough to get boring. It’s all carefully planned out for the action to just keep you entertained from beginning to end. Hiroyuki Imaishi is a great director, and you can see Studio Trigger having a ton of fun making the most over the top action sequences that are all still very varied and interesting to watch. Not to mention that soundtrack. That really makes the series even more exciting.

#10: Hunter X Hunter

My stance on the series remains: I did not like sitting through a year and a half of material that I had already seen. I’m sorry, but that was really tedious, even though the Greed Island was much better than the Nippon Animation version. Finally though, the Chimera Ant arc stepped into new material. At this point I’m really behind, however even though the arc took incredibly long to build up, I just reached the point at which it really started to deliver. Finally I can appreciate this series for the very intelligent shounen series that it was meant to be, and it indeed blows generic stuff like Naruto and Bleach completely out of the water.

#9: Rozen Maiden

The third season of Rozen Maiden, but really: this new instalment is completely different from the previous two TV-series. It’s written perfectly over its airtime, starting off small and ending big. The first half really mostly just takes place in one room, with most of the characters absent, being dedicated to some really personal character-development for the ones who did get the focus. It pushed all of its characters to a different direction, and definitely was a worthy addition to the Rozen Maiden franchise.

#8: Zetsuen no Tempest

Tempest’s second half perhaps was a bit less sharp than its first half, but it still was just complete gold in terms of its script, and how it played with its storyline to throw all kinds of logic-based holes and loops. This really was a great example of a world-shattering conflict being solved by logic, with force playing just the role of assistant. The characters also got through their own share of development that this series also cleverly made use of and all of that resulted into an incredibly fun watch. The biggest reason why this one ended up slightly behind the others is its slightly lackluster ending.

#7: Shingeki no Kyojin

All series from #8 are incredibly close to each other. They all were amazing to watch. The reason why Shingeki no Kyojin lost out was because of its inconclusive ending: no resolution whatsoever, leading to one heck of a cliff-hanger. Up to that point we got to witness an amazingly tense action-series that really managed to convince that yes, humanity is completely screwed. This series is incredibly good at putting humanity at the brink of destruction, and keeping the stakes just inches away from everything going to hell. This is fantastic for its atmosphere, and on top of that, it was easily the series with the best production values of the entire year: everything looked incredibly polished, and where these series usually skimp on the substance, this series had plenty of it. This is an action-series with brains.

#6: Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass, intelligent science fiction from Urobuchi Gen, and the second half really delivered, whereas the series that aired alongside it, Robotics;Notes, pretty much crashed and burned. What managed to keep it afloat was that it always knew where it was going, and it kept asking poignant questions about its setting and it actually continued to push its storyline forward in creative ways. The characters came to their rights, the animation was still solid, and everything concluded really well, so I was really pleased with this series.

#5: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

This series became something really amazing, putting most other shounen completely to shame with how much manly action the creators managed to put on the screen. It’s definitely not for everyone, and the excessive use of colours will disturb some, however I loved just how over the top this show got. There were so many moments that were just pure gold, and the creators really knew how to capture the essence of the manga, which delivered its action with completely ridiculous poses and massive amounts of manliness, while still keeping a straight face. The training arcs were really kept to a minimum, and the fights themselves all tried to be as creative as possible, both by making great use of the environment every fight was in, and some very creative powers. This really was my weekly fix of adrenaline, done incredibly well.

#4: Chihayafuru

After Shingeki no Kyojin, the second most polished series of the year. A show about Karuta, every single match looked crisp. Every single swipe made impact. The creators still managed to keep this up for in total 52 episodes. The most amazing thing about this series however, was its character development. Most series just pick one character to develop per episode. Oh no, not this series.. Every single episode developed as many characters as it possibly could a little. This means that hard-hitting development could really come out of absolutely nowhere. It’s only a shame that we still haven’t reached the ending, and we need to wait for a potential third season for everything to be resolved. And it already was a miracle that we got a second season.

#3: Aku no Hana

Aku no Hana is unlike any other anime ever made. The animation is completely rotoscoped, leading to continuous movements, that all are jerky, and amazing characters that say “screw it!” to every single convention. The pacing is incredibly slow, but it’s deliberately so: it’s entirely made to draw its audience into its atmosphere, and some of the best moments of the series are actually when little happens and you only can watch the eerie moments happening. It’s an amazing look at the darker sides of being a teenager, and the creators did an absolutely fantastic job of capturing the paranoia inside the main character. But yeah, they did choose to do it in a style that will turn off plenty of people. But that makes it even better: a series actually had the balls to be completely different in every single way from all other anime. That deserves to be commended.

#2: Kyousogiga

Kyousogiga is just a series that did everything right for me. It’s a whimsical story, inside its complete own world with its own set of rules, heavily infused in Buddhist and Shinto themes, and it got itself some consistently incredible animation with hardly any weak points. There is always something interesting going on on the screen and the characters are more expressive than any other series this year. Its storytelling is meant to be vague: you can see lots of unsaid stuff inbetween the lines and every single episode is different. It’s incredibly fun for all ages, and the conflict and resolution are finally something different than what we’re used to, due to the lack of villains. It’s one of those series in which all of its different parts come together wonderfully in every single episode: the animation, the music, the story, the characters, the themes. Everything fits perfectly.

#1: From the New World

For 2013, it was really difficult to choose my number one pick. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 were all incredible series that I enjoyed immensely, despite the lacklustre nature of the rest of the year. The reason Shin Sekai Yori, or From the New World, is my number one pick though, is because it had one of the best endings I have ever seen. I’m not sure if it’s in my top 5 favorite endings, but definitely my in my top 10. The series already was really good, with how it portrayed its characters its incredibly mature style of storytelling, and how it just did not shy away from anything (there really was some shocking material here that nearly broke my heart). It was incredibly intelligent in how it presented itself, even though some of its characters were quite naïve, and it used its animation brilliantly to create a consistently creepy atmosphere. It’s hard to watch because it’s completely different from traditional animation, and the camera often made things difficult to make out, but to people whose alley it was up at, it rewarded with an incredible finale. 2013 may have been the worst year in terms of anime in more than a decade, however these series still showed me that there are some very passionate, inspired and special people working in the industry. And ehre is to hoping that they will show more of themselves in 2014 and the years to come. I wish all of you a very happy new year, and I’ll see you in 2014.

Posted on 2 January 2013 with categories: Yearly Summaries

Happy new year everyone! And apologies for the delays. Compiling this post took a bit longer than what I first anticipated. In any case, 2012 was a great year for anime. I can see an upward trend with studios trying out more and being more experimental than previous years (finally more good 52-episode series and Noitamina-series running full cour). Let’s hope that 2013 will be even better!

Worst First Episode

Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru!

Every year I had out these awards for the first episode that I checked out that was the absolute worst. And yet again, it’s the godawful incest shows for me that were the bottom of the barrel: Oniichan Blahblah makes for a good runner up for this award. But even then I wasn’t prepared to how bad this was. I mean, this show isn’t even trying anymore. I still remember how it just pulls off the car accident without a shred of irony, only to have the supposedly dead character walk away like it was nothing.

Biggest Disappointment

Liche Light Club

Disappointments are created by high expectations. Last year for example this was Guilty Crown for all the hype it built up for. 2012 didn’t really have such a series though, since I already knew that Guilty Crown was bad at the start of the year and everyone kept telling me that Sword Art Online’s ALO arc would be pretty bad. However, there was one series that just screamed “Waste of Potential”: the story of a bunch of sexually frustrated high school guys who design a robot powered by Liches and go kidnap people. It’s such a great concept for a show with tons of bleak and dark humour… if only it had gotten adapted by some people who actually had some shred of ambition. Now the anime of Liche Light Club is just a collection of bad SM-jokes.

Most Pleasant Surprise

AKB0048

Runner up would be Nazo no Kanojo X for being actually good, AKB0048 really takes the cake: it’s a show about idols who hold guerilla concerts to fight an evil government that has outlawed entertainment. It s such a hopeless premise, and yet the creators made it work by not just glorifying the idol business, but also shows the darker side of the business.

Best Animation Studio

A-1 Pictures

For the first half of the year, it looked like Satelight would end up as my favorite studio of the year with their work on Aquarion Evol, Mouretsu Pirates and AKB0048. Then A-1 came and blew all these titles away with Uchuu Kyoudai and From the New World. Then Magi delivered very solid adventure and not to mention Tsuritama ‘s addictive fun, and then they pretty much out-produced all other studios this year.

Most Promising Studio

TMS Entertainment

This is an award that I hand out every year for promising new studios or small studios that made huge improvements. Dogakobo would have gotten this award with their work on Natsuyuki Rendezouvs. This year was a bit different though, because something very interesting happened with a studio that was already very well established: TMS Entertainment have made a name for themselves decades ago by animating all kinds of western Disney series and the company itself was founded in 1946 as a fiber manufacturer, not to mention that they did make one of my favorite series with Kaze no Shoujo Emily. In the past number of years though, things have been a bit quiet around this studio. They brought their focus more and more on kiddie shows and nothing else, so I had given up hope. And then in 2012, something happened: they delivered three series that were experimental, three series that did not care about living up to their peers, or keeping true to conventions. Lupin, Kamisama and Zetman’s execution bursted with creativity and despite limited budgets, these three series really tried to make the best out of their limited budget and airtime. I am not sure what happened: but keep this mentality going. Try to get this mentality into series of 2 cours length. That would be just amazing.

Best Old Series I Happened to See This Year

Monster

I did not watch many older series this year because my private life got much busier, but I did manage to watch Monster. What a series that was. Slow-paced with breath-taking characters. Johan Liebert in particular shines as one of the best villains out there, not to mention how well the creators managed to capture Germany and the tensions around the Berlin Wall and its fall.

Best Fanservice

Eureka Seven Ao

Fanservice is often used for nudity, but it basically means stuff that is just there to please fans. Although 2012 did have two series that made very good use of nudity: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and Lupin the Third. Sakurasou had the tension that it created with its fanservice that brought a spark to the characters, while Mine Fujiko’s sensual portrayal had a really unique effect. Eureka Seven Ao meanwhile was fanservice at its truest sense: even though the story and focus of Ao was entirely different from the first Eureka Seven series, it did pay a brilliant homage to it by having its characters return and be much more than just dead weights who are only in the way for the younger generation.

Best Action

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

So, Aquarion Evol and Eureka Seven Ao had very solid action with gorgeous CG effects, Zetman had very tense action, but what really did it for me was the incredibly over the top action. That gives us on one hand Black Rock Shooter that just kept pulling all sorts of awesome stuff in its alternative world, and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a show that manages to be ridiculously over the top, and yet focus on the small details. This series is completely crazy and its action shows it. It’s a thrilling roller coast er ride from start to finish that hardly ever seems to let go.

Best Comedy

Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki

At the beginning of the year, Milky Holmes sold me with its incredibly random humour that was incredibly stupid on so many levels. After that there came Polar Bear Cafe, whose best episodes actually rivalled it, and Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki, which actually brought some thought into its humour, which is why it got this year’s award. This series was full of those kinds of jokes and it never dragged: it always tried to be fresh and new and it never aimed to waste time.

Best Horror

Another

There really weren’t many horror series in 2012: only Another and From the New World had some. I’m giving it to Another because it was fully dedicated to it, rather than From the New World which just occasionally moved into the genre. Both really managed to create a really freaky atmosphere though.

Best Slice of Life

Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki

Most comedies I watch are just for laughs, but Poyopoyo did something more: it was really relatable to watch the every day lives of its characters. It had tons of situations that wer ment to be recognizable for lots of people. Mostly pet owners, but probably everyone else will find a few moments that hit home.

Best Romance

Natsuyuki Rendezvous

2012 had lots of great romance series that treated their casts seriously: Sakurasou, Sukitte, Nazo no Kanojo, Inu X Boku, Kamisama Hajimemashita, Kokoro Connect, Sakamichi no Apollon and Uta Koi. None of them came close to Natsuyuki Rendezvous though. A romance about adults, which blended in the supernatural really well. The lead couple is amazing to watch in their struggle and the chemistry they have with each other. Heck, for me this was the best romance show in years.

Best Background Art

From the New World

Last Exile still looked gorgeous, although not as gorgeous as in its first half. Fate/Zero managed to look even better with its background art, but From the New world sold me the most with its art that is really varied, detailed and imaginative. The creators really give the artists freedom here, and you can really notice that.

Best Animation

Fate/Zero

Again, From the New World deserves credit for giving its artists so much freedom, and also K’s incredibly smooth animation deserves to be mentioned, but I think that in the end, it’s Fate/Zero that had the best animation of the year in how clean and crisp it was, and yet how incredibly solid the show looked through its entire run. It’s hard to get that kind of consistency for 26 episodes.

Best Looking Graphics

Lupin III – Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna

This award is not for the best animation, but just for the graphics that looked best. This one was a no-brainer: the creators went with their complete own art style that didn’t care about conventions whatsoever, and it looked amazing. From the New World (again) takes second place.

Best Script

Zetsuen no Tempest

The best script this year was from Zetsuen no Tempet, and how it used this so wonderfully in order to not just create its own mind games, but also have them build up to each other. Runner-up is Space Brothers with its unseeming ability to make every situation it’s in incredibly funny with an anti-climax.

Best Story

Uchuu Kyoudai

Uchuu Kyoudai: Uchuu Kyoudai has an amazingly uplifting story, about a guy in his thirties trying to make it for an astronaut. This is the series that returned my faith into slow pacings, and how much you can do if you take your time. Because of that the creators managed to add so many details to the storyline of this series, ranging from a wide variety of characters to so much background detail on what it means to be an astronaut. Eureka Seven Ao, Mouretsu Pirates and Shin Sekai Yori had really good stories too.

Top 15 TV-Series 2012
#15: Lupin the Third

For this re-imagining, the creators gave a very different spin on the Lupin franchise, putting the focus on Mine Fujiko instead, and on her sexuality. Hey turned this into an episodic series that at times seemed a bit random, although the story that appeared in the second half of the series had some really interesting points, not to mention a very good ending. It’s by far the most experimental series of the year, and I really appreciate the creators taking all these risks.

#14: Psycho Pass

Psycho Pass will very likely end up a lot higher on the list next year, but for now 14th place is good for a series that’s only halfway there. It’s a series that looks into psychology, at what defines a psychopath and how people can survive in a society that expects everyone to be mentally healthy. In its first half it packed some really good suspense, symbolism and dialogue, combined with a very good script and that really sold me on this series.

#13: From the New World

From the New World is heavy, putting children and innocent themes of friendship on one hand, and dark horror on the other. The show is halfway finished, and we’re right at the point at which the cast is really being forced to grow up in a very cruel way. On top of that though, this show managed to create a fascinating setting around all this, with its own customs and culture, not to mention the folklore that it put into it.

#12: Fate Zero

Fate/Zero’s second season was one of the most hyped series of the year. From that standing point, it slightly disappointed me, in the way that in the end, you are required to know hat happens in the other Fate instalments of the Fate franchise to really be able to enjoy this, and I have not. Because of that my suspense of disbelief was occasionally broken at some unfortunate times. That’s the reason this is not in my top 10, but despite that it still is a really good series with rock-solid characters and rock-solid production values.

#11: Hyouka

Hyouka showed us a very interesting approach to mystery: instead of showing us epic mysteries with world threatening consequences, the mysteries that our characters had to solve were small, instead of a corpse there is a small prop stolen, or something like that. This show really was good at trying to delve into these mysteries and make their solutions pay off. It stuffed tons of small details into each of these episodes to make them worthwhile, and I love how it gave this series such a down to earth approach.

#10: Mouretsu Pirates

Yes, this is an incredibly girly science fiction series, especially as the show goes on and you realize the size of the part that the local school’s yacht club has in a show that is supposed to be about pirates. But as the show goes on, its strength shows up more and more: it’s an incredibly fun pirate show. It just takes its time to set everything up by creating its own view of how pirates survive in the future, establishing all of the characters and make them act believably. The thing with this series is that every single arc is more interesting than its predecessor as it keeps spiralling out of control. That completely sold me.

#9: Hyouge Mono

Hyouge Mono was only there for one month, so I’m not going to rank it higher than this at the moment, but still, the month still aired in 2012. And Hyouge Mono remains a delight: how on earth were they able to fund it? How on earth were they able to make a series about a bunch of old dudes making silly faces? I do not know, but THANK YOU Bee-Train, for taking this risk. The conclusion to Hyouge Mono was slow (which was the reason why I didn’t rank this show 90 or above), but it made such an impact.

#8: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure

This show is unbelievable. With just its first half, it completely blew away nearly all manly actions shows with how ridiculously over the top it was. With a fantastic soundtrack and voice actors who really like to yell their lines out as loud as possible with as much passion as possible, combined with the way how this show can give huge powers to incredibly weak things. It’s constantly glorious to just watch this show surpass itself time and time again with its bombast. And to think that this originated in 1988.

#7: Zetsuen no Tempest

Zetsuen no Tempest took a while to get going in its first half. But holy crap, did it take off! The way in which this show built up its climaxes was amazing, and especially the way in which it used its mind games was awesome beyond belief. It just kept throwing around the table and toyed with things as logic and fate. And that’s just its first half.

#6: Sakamichi no Apollon

Playing music is something that is really difficult to animate. And yet, here the creators did it. Using rotoscoped animation, the soundtrack is perfectly played by the characters. This makes for a bunch of stunning musical performances. I also really liked the romance between the different characters: instead of padding out, the characters here wasted no time and just kept adding things and events to their development. It does have the flaw that sometimes it tends to throw in a twist for the sake of having a twist, but the character development all makes up for it.

#5: Eureka Seven Ao

This one is very likely my most controversial item in my top 10, because a lot of people disliked it. It definitely is a series that is not for everyone. First of all you need to be a fan of the original Eureka Seven, and second of all you also need to like the completely different direction. That the series headed in. This series also takes no prisoners: some plotholes are plotholes, others are just explained episodes earlier but are things that are so easily missed through everything that goes on. This show does not plan to hold your hand, but it also provides amazing fanservice for those who manage to enjoy it.

#4: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

Natsume Yuujinchou’s fourth season had the best opening and closing episodes of all four seasons combined. These really were amazing, and gave it such a strong impression. The middle episodes in comparison were a bit below the quality that we’re used to from this series, but even then this series made such an impact. We can only hope that there will also be a fifth season.

#3: Chihayafuru

For a long while, I kept saying that Chihayafuru’s only flaw was that it would end prematurely. So yeah, with that second season now around the corner… I really can’t find any faults in this series anymore aside perhaps that it’s about teenagers. Its energy is just so addictive. It managed to make Karuta fun and exciting, even its second half contained so many exciting games that still remained fresh, even though the game from the outside looks fairly repetitive. The characters were the final seal for me: incredibly charming and already well developed even though there still is so much more material left.

#2: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

I already suspected that this show would be awesome with a name as Kou Matsuou behind the direction, but I did not expect this show to be THAT good. Everything about this show is amazing: the voice acting is perfect, the pacing is perfect, the story fits perfectly, it knows exactly what it should do, the characters fit each other incredibly well, the music is wonderfully used, the characters are amazingly life-like and expressively animated. Heck, there were two series this year that stood above all the others, and Natsuyuki Rendezvous may not have the biggest or most ambitious storyline, but everything just worked in its favor here. And yet there is one series that I liked more than this. You can probably already guess which one it is.

#1: Uchuu Kyoudai

Uchuu Kyoudai is amazing. At the expense of a rather slow pacing, it managed to create a fantastic cast of characters around one guy’s quest to become an astronaut. Nanba Mutta is one of the single best characters we’ve had in years. His wit is just amazing and he is an incredibly charming character to follow. Add that to its incredibly genuine style of storytelling that loves to combine anti-climaxes with climaxes that one moment make you laugh really hard and the next feel incredibly sorry or inspired, and yes: you have my favorite series of 2012 that can also very easily become my favorite show for 2013.

Posted on 29 December 2012 with categories: Yearly Summaries

Most Annoying Character

Sword Art Online – The Cousin

Nisemonogatari wins the award for having the collective most annoying set of characters, but when I started thinking about the single character that just got on my nerves with every appearance, then I just have to come back to the cousin. How she doesn’t belong In the story and came with that incredibly pointless incest subplot, the way she just pushed Asuna aside from the seat of lead female, despite not really doing anything. The creators taking all of this seriously was the final straw for me. She symbolized the wasted potential of the second half of this series.

Worst Character

Guilty Crown – Shu Ounuma

Shu is not a character: he is a plot device. Whatever the plot needs him to be, he becomes, whether this is Hitler or Jesus. And yet the entire show revolves around him. The show keeps pulling more and more stuff out of its ass to keep true to this. Yeah, he was by far the worst character of 2012.

Best Cast of Minor Characters

Uchuu Kyoudai

Beyond having Mutta himself, Uchuu Kyoudai has also the cast of most delightful minor character, every single one of them who feels real and believable. The cast is incredibly diverse. And all of them are adults. It’s like this show wants to make us care about every single one, and it has used its slow pacing brilliantly to bring these guys to life. It does this so much better than any other series this year.

Best Voice Acting

Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Absolutely without contest whatsoever. The voice acting of Natsuyuki Rendezvous blows every other show completely out of the water. Matsuo Kou’s method of recording the voices before animating the characters has given the cast so much freedom to really focus on expressing their emotions right, and just look at the heights this got them. The range of the motions that they can do is great, and it the tensions they managed to create with just the acting had me constantly on the edge of my seat.

Best Character Development of a Single Character

Takashi Natsume

It’s a bit boring to keep handing out this award to Natsume, but here is the thing: he already was an incredibly well developed character, and then the fourth season came and added even more to him. The focus on his parents in particular was amazing, but he also changed in the way that he interacts with the people around him. If there ever is a fifth season, will he continue to just get better or something?

Best Character Development of an Entire Cast

Sakamichi no Apollon

This one had me contemplate for a while: Uchuu Kyoudai has an awesome cast, but it’s also a huge cast, so there were a few characters that have always stayed the same. Natsuyuki Rendezvous also has amazing character interactions, but again: development is not the main focus. This brings me to Sakamichi no Apollon, where the development of the entire cast IS the main focus. Not just the lead characters, but everyone around them. Especially the epilogue of the series brings so much change and growth in these people, and they really change constantly throughout the series.

Top 5 Side-Characters

#5: Sakamichi no Apollon – Junichi Katsuragi

For me, the fifth place goes to Sentarou’s older brother who he always looked up to: Junichi. This guy especially in the first half knows his role as a role model really well, not to mention that he’s a really good trumpeter: out of all of the rotoscoped musicians in this series, he always looked like he had the most passion. It’s his development over the second half of the series that lande him on this list though.

#4: Uchuu Kyoudai – Kenji Makabe

The thing with Uchuu Kyoudai is that it’s got so many awesome characters, it’s hard to just pick one. In the end I just went with Kenji over Serika because of how much time this series spent on his fatherhood. Why he still decided to become an astronaut, even though this meant neglecting his family, and how much he cares about his little daughter.

#3: Hyouka – Satoshi Fukube

This is the first time that I put a character like Satoshi on my list of favorite characters. Normally, his type of characters are a dime a dozen: the best friend that is not as talented as the lead character. Then Hyouka came and turned this around, and made this a very strong point about him; it actually started exploring that side of him. It resulted in a well rounded character who actually has many reasons to be likable.

#2: Zetsuen no Tempest – Samon Kusaribe

I remember last year, my list of favorite side-characters was dominated by manliness: larger than life characters who were confident and arrogant. This year is completely different and the most prevalent is characters struggling with their own flaws. By far the best example of this is Samon, the guy who desperately tries to avoid his own fate. Saying any more would be a huge spoiler, but this guy completely sold me with his passion in trying to overcome his own weaknesses.

#1: Hunter X Hunter – Chrollo Lucilfer

I was debating whether to put this guy on first place, simply because it’s nearly the exact same Chrollo of the 1999 Hunter X Hunter series. But in the end: yeah. The organization this guy set up is the single best evil organization in any shounen series. Bar none. The people he gathered, the bond he created, and how intelligent they keep working. He’s intelligent and comes up with some brilliant plans. I just could not give the number one position to any other guy.

: Top 5 Male Characters

: Honorable Mention: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Joseph Joestar

This is a bit of a strange list this year. Mostly because some of my favorite characters only appeared for one month of the entire year, even though they’re very clearly main characters. One of them got a proper space in this spot for very valid reasons, but Joseph… we just haven’t seen enough of him to really warrant a proper placement. However, I will say this: this guy has a really good chance to become the single best main character in a shounen series, ever. This guy just screams everything that is awesome, it’s ridiculous.

#5: Sakamichi no Apollon – Kaoru Nishimi

I love this guy’s character development. Regular teenaged boys are nothing new as main characters, but he added something different, both with his piano skills, as how his romantic development is way faster than his peers. His short temper also was something you don’t often see, which was always the source for great drama and development from the other members of the cast.

#4: Hyouge Mono – Sasuke Furuta

Hyouge Mono only aired in January, but I still decided to include Furuta Sasuke in this list, just not on number two anymore. Yes, the best male characters of 2012 were actually better than the top male characters of 2011. Furuta Sasuke is still a character you have to see to believe though: completely silly and with no sense of shame while he rambles on about aesthetics. The climax took its time, but it also had some great effects on his character becoming more serious. I still remember the final scene of this show vividly with what he ended up doing.

#3: Natsuyuki Rendezvous – Ryousuke Hazuki

The two themes around my favorite male characters this year: they’re either really, really eccentric, or realistically portrayed stubborn guys. Hazuki is the most stubborn of them all with his attempts to hit on Rokka, but what he’s thrown into as the result of that is just wonderful. His weaknesses are illustrated beautifully throughout the series and his wit also is a delight to watch.

#2: Natsume Yuujin-Chou – Takashi Natsume

Natsume is also quite stubborn in how he refuses to let people into his life, but the fourth season of Natsume Yuujinchou made him an even better character (yes this guy was my favourite character of 2011, just imagine). Especially the arc around his parents was amazing and added so much to him.

#1: Uchuu Kyoudai – Nanba Mutta

Nanba Mutta is just amazing. Not just the best male character of the year, but also the years before it. His sense of humour is amazing, he’s developed in such a realistic way. One moment I laugh so much with him, the next he manages to move me to tears with his desire to become an astronaut. He also works off so incredibly well with the rest of the cast, bringing out the best out of all of them. I really did not have to think long before deciding my number one spot on this list.

: Top 5 Female Characters

#5: Kamisama Hajimemashita – Nanami Momozono

Lots of good shoujo this year, and the past Autumn brought in a good selection of shoujo romances that were really quite good. Nanami stood out perhaps through a personal bias: I love strong female characters like her who at the same time aren’t afraid to show their own weaknesses. The romance around her was by far the best portrayed teenaged romance I’ve seen this year, and her energy and wit kept every single episode fresh.

#4: Lupin the Third – Mine Fujiko

2012 had a lot of reboots of all sorts of franchises. Mine Fujiko… I don’t know how she was in the original Lupin III because I have not seen it, but here she was this character who knew exactly what she wanted, and did not hesitate at all to use whatever means necessary to get there. She flaunted her sexuality just about every time she could, but that added to her charms thanks to the way in which this series portrayed it.

#3: From the New World – Saki Watanabe

I’ve said this before: I like strong female characters a loot. Saki is what you get when you test the limits of such a character. It’s not like Saki is independent, because of how she was raised, and despite her strengths, she is just chockful of insecurities about the bizarre culture that she’s living in, At the same time though, she does not shy away from confront ing it. Her development and subtle actions regarding this earned her a place in this list for me.

#2: Chihayafuru – Chihaya Ayase

Chihaya is awesome. She is not the most complicated character: her mind is entirely on Karuta, a card game. But in the process she drags just about everyone along with her with the passion she has for the game. The creators did such a good job of portraying this. As Chihayafuru went into its second half it started to develop this passion: show her flaws and where she could improve. That made her character even better

#1: Mouretsu Pirates – Marika Katou

Marika really was a delight to watch. Here she was, just a regular high school girl, and then she suddenly was the captain of a pirate ship. Because the creators let her play out like she wanted, she really gradually grew more and more into her role of an actual leader. The plans she comes up with are always creative and especially near the end of the series she really managed to blossom and take control of just about everything.

Top 30-16 TV-Series

#30: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita

Jinrui was a strange series that thrived on creativity: it had these fairies of which you never knew what they were going to do, which lead to quite some interesting situations. On top of that, it aired its episodes in random order and brought in lots of satire to the mix. It came a bit late with its character development, but thankfully it managed to just in time give Watashi (the lead character) a solid backstory.

#29: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo

The shounen romantic comedy with lots of fanservice…. actually done right. The fanservice in this series is quite different from usual, because removing it would make the series less good. Sakurasou had from the start a great chemistry between its different characters: it really knew when it needed to be sharp with its dialogue. For a while it also had this annoying harem theme, but as the show goes on it moves more and more away from that. It’s got a bunch of great lead characters, but also the side-characters have some really interesting sides to them.

#28: Kimi to Boku

Kimi to Boku continued from its first season with one very big advantage: it already had really well developed characters. In its second season, it used that really well, to the point where the characters just weren’t annoying anymore and they all had their charms that got explored really well for this series. Every episode developed a different character, and with this show’s subtlety it lead to some really charming moments.

#27: AKB0048

I was set to hate AKB0048. I hate idols and how they’re often just corporate exploits without much focus on actual talent. But then, something interesting happened: instead of glorifying idols, this show actually started to bite the hand that fed it: you need to read between the lines for that a bit, but it highlighted how competitive the idol business is, how actual talent is not the most important part, and some of the other uglier sides of the business, while still being this cheerful tale of reaching your dreams. It just sold me despite the ridiculous premise.

#26: Uta Koi

So, the show had its animation issues. Its budget was clearly limited. Nevertheless, to whoever made this series possible: THANK YOU! It’s such a refreshing change of pace to see a show that explores the stories behind a collection of poems, especially if the same poems were used by Chihayafuru: it also added some wonderful background on an entirely different show in the process. This was such a great history lesson, even though some of the romances tended to be a bit cheesy.

#25: Zetman

Zetman had some HUGE pacing issues, but what really caught my attention was how much passion the creators still managed to put into it. They rushed through the manga in a record pacing in order to be able to stuff everything in, but they still managed to come out with a pretty good product here that looked at what it means to be a superhero, although some of the character development was a bit out of whack as a result. Still, what I love is how much the creators were able to do with the limited means that were given to them. The budget was limited, yet there was a selection of stunning action scenes, the time was limited, yet the story closes itself off rather than hinging on a sequel hook that will never get there. It still has a likeable cast and feels complete to anyone who has never read the manga.

#24: Aquarion Evol

Aquarion Evol. The product of the collective deranged minds of Shoji Kawamori and Mari Okada, some of the biggest trolls active in the business. This show was glorious in its symbolism and how ridiculously cheesy it could get at times, not to mention its godly soundtrack. It had its annoying moments, but this show is so dedicated to teenaged hormones, orgasms and its themes of males versus females that it was just amazing to watch. Even for someone like me who did not watch the first series.

#23: Inu X Boku SS

The prime example of a show that takes its time to get going. This series caught my attention with its excellent first episode, but hen it dulled in a bit. It’s not like K where it wasted too much time on uninteresting stuff, it was just regular slice of life that was.. enjoyable I guess, but never really hit any highs. And then it just completely blew me away with its final two episodes, which were brilliant. Did it waste time? Most definitely. Does it have flaws? Hell yeah, some side characters in particular are too one-sided. But the two final episodes were so good that they made up for everything, especially since throughout the show, you could see this series carefully setting up the minor details required to make it work.

#22: Another

Another was THE horror series of the year. Sure there were other series with horror elements, but none went as far as this series. I loved the mystery it had and how it slowly unraveled its storyline, not to mention how intense it could get when it really hit its heights. It also got really brutal at times, so this series really is not meant for those with a weak constitution.

#21: Tsuritama

Tsuritama was ridiculously fun to watch in the Noitamina timeslot: it really managed to combine whimsical fun along with this impending thriller, especially in its second half where it really got creative. Plus, it’s a show about fishing. You just have to have that idea and create an anime about it. The characters did have some moments in which they were rather dull, especially in the first half of the series, but as the series spiraled out of control, it definitely made up for it.

#20: Tantei Opera Milky Holmes

The first season was out of its mind, but it still had some grounds in logic. Then the second season came, and it just went all out. It’s completely random and crazy on every single level, it’s unbelievable. It had some of the most hilarious episodes I’ve seen all year, counterbalanced by some episodes that ended up a bit dull for too long. I just find it hilarious though: the original concept of Milky Holmes was a bunch of detectives that solve problems. The alternative OVAs that came out later this year are a testament to how bad that premise was. The creators just took that and tried to parody it as hard as they could by inserting as much randomness and stupidity in it as they could, turning the characters from capable detectives into incredibly incompetent nut-jobs. All of that accompanied by some really creative animation.

#19: Poyopoyo Kansatsu Nikki

The reason I’m putting Poyopoyo so high on this list: for the past year, every single Sunday it managed to put a smile on my face with only 2 minutes of airtime that sometimes feel like 10. Every week it put so many sketches in so little time, and it made sure that all of them worked. Every joke managed to hit its mark with me as it tells about the very relatable daily lives of a bunch of pet owners. Unlike most shows about animals, it really is about owning the pets, rather than just the pets themselves. It managed to become such a charming series because of that and I’m really sad that it has nearly ended.

#18: Kamisama Hajimemashita

Kamisama Hajimemashita had an execution that for me blew all of the other shounen and shoujo romances out of the water. Akitarou Daichi behind the direction made sure that every episode had a really charming ending that fitted exactly. It’s not the most complicated romance show by far, but because of that it shines with its simplicity: the quibs between the two lead characters were always fun to watch and the res of the cast also had its hilarious moments. The timing that this series had was particularly impressive: it knew exactly what to say and when to say it.

#17: Hunter X Hunter

I really have been debating where to put Hunter X Hunter on this list for this year, because throughout the year it has moved from cringe-inducing rushed build-up to absolutely amazing, not to mention that I already watched the entire story before. A quick summary would be that Nippon Animation did the Hunter Exam better, Madhouse was better at the Killua and the Heavens Arena, the Yorkshin Arc was done brilliantly by both and then Nippon animation was again much better at the Yorkshin Finale Arc. Because of the flaws and how it rushed a bit past some of the best parts, I at least decided to not include it in my top 15 of this year. Whether it will next year though… it all depends because we finally get into the bloody new material in a few months from now.

#16: Natsuiro Kiseki

I loved the character study that was Natsuiro Kiseki: you have four girls and this rock that keeps trolling them with all sorts of magical powers. Sortof like Kokoro Connect, really, but with much shorter arcs and stories. It may have lacked Kokoro’s wit, but what it did have was a really well developed cast of characters as it kept forcing them into different situations that forced them to develop and change. It’s a very forced show because of that, but it did make wonderful use of that.

Posted on 27 December 2012 with categories: Yearly Summaries

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.

#7: Gyo

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.

#4: Shiranpuri

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.

#3: Wasurenagumo

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.

#1: Kyousogiga

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.

#44: Moyashimon

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.

#42: Btooom!

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.

#39: Magi

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.

#33: Robotics;Notes

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.

#32: Jormungand

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.

Posted on 25 December 2012 with categories: Yearly Summaries

Top 19 OSTs
I mentioned this before, but one way in which 2012 stood out, was its huge amount of stunning soundtracks. Seriously, where I could count the number of soundtracks that really caught my attention in 2011 on one hand, here I’ve got nearly 20 shows that delivered beyond expectations in the audio department. Because of that I’m dedicating this part of this year’s summary to the soundtracks.
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Posted on 16 December 2012 with categories: Yearly Summaries

So, every year I start my summary with a list of my favorite OPs and EDs of the season. This year it’s a bit smaller than last year though, but that is simply because last year was simply amazing in terms of how many awesome OPs and EDs it had. This year instead stands out through its soundtracks, but there were much more generic openings and endings than usual. So therefore, I use this list to honour the ones that did go the extra mile for me and really resonated with me. Enjoy.

And in advanced I apologize for the people who read this half a year from now when half the videos are taken down…
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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.

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  • k-off
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 10:15 AM)
    Hell, my favorite game of all time is far superior to Dark Souls in every possible way, yet the only thing that keeps me playing is the atmosphere and charm the game has in its combat.
  • k-off
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 10:10 AM)
    @Bam I’ll argue that the gameplay in Dark Souls was the best. Dark Souls II was the worst in terms of gameplay (within the series, so still better than most in its genre) which ended up pissing me off. As for story and writing, who the hell plays this series for the story??
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 09:31 AM)
    That I don’t like FMPs humour probably explains alot why I couldn’t laugh at amagi, same author.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 09:30 AM)
    Moreso that the episodic stories were more miss than hit and the pacing needed alot of work.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 09:29 AM)
    it wasn’t well balanced out with the main storyline and aside from Yin I can’t remember the characters having much to them. The ideas behind the contractors was creative and it was well produced, second season had that off the wall awful ending and also focused too much on that teenage girland “character death for Hei”.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 09:28 AM)
    @Realist: Dark comedy would be more my thing so school rumble and FMP didn’t cut it and I particularly went against FMP for focusing too much of the school over action stuff. Darker than black felt like a waste of potential, wasted as an episodic thing,
  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 09:12 AM)
    @Emma I could never get into Darker Than Black either. School Rumble had some moments but mostly just bored me to tears. I did like Full Metal Panic though but it’s super generic. I could see that being one of those shows that I like less after rewatching it.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 09:07 AM)
    @Realist: And theres things I’ve watched a few times and could never get into such as school rumble, full metal panic, darker than black.
  • ninjarealist
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 09:02 AM)
    @Emma Rewatching is the real acid test for anime. Shows that I loved the first time around seemed terrible on the second and third viewings. On the other hand, there are some shows I didn’t appreciate fully until I watched them multiple times.
  • Emma
    (Thursday, Nov 27. 2014 08:59 AM)
    I think I am in a re-reading/re-watch phase perhaps now, which is good because all that old stuff will feel new again in my head when I go back, can live it all over again.

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There was quite number of still frames this episode so I hope that the animation budget isn’t starting to hurt. So our heroes triumph over the villains with a little help from Elizabeth. She showed some actual enginuity for once. As I was about to sigh as the villain was preparing to blab on about […]

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Ah, the story progression that I was looking for. I finally find myself having a reason to get attached to Leone and Kaisar, because this episode devotes an entire episode to their rivalry and is just all around an improvement from last episode. I’ve talked about how the slow pacing hurts this show, and this […]

Parasyte-the Maxim- 03-05

Let me put up a disclaimer: When I first started to review this series, I didn’t foresee the obvious outcome that this show would end up so mediocre. I debated whether or not I should write reviews in groups of 2-3 episodes versus reviews that would drone on about the same issues every single episode, […]

Your Lie in April – 04 & 05

Episodes 4 and 5 of Your Lie in April were crucial ones in terms of how the series would develop. Episode 4 was a very important episode in the series as we see Kousei reintroduce himself to the music world after his mother’s death left him unable to play the piano. How the writers would […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks – 05

Always elegant. That is the motto of the Tohsaka household and the mask of Tohsaka Rin. The meaning clearly that no matter what you do, do it with style and grace. It is the creed which Rin upholds by playing the honor student. Though as you can see, at times cracks can appear in the […]

Nanatsu no Taizai – 05

One of the problems facing this series is the presentation of threats. In many other shounen you can just bring out some powerful villain and have him force the protagonist to get stronger. In seven deadly sins however our main characters are already veteran legendary warriors with tremendous power. So just adding in a strong […]

Latest Reviews

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Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

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Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

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Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

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Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]

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Pokemon: The Origin Review – 75/100

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. […]

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Tamayura – More Aggressive Review – 75/100

I’m not going to dedicate a post for my impression for the final three episodes of this series. It was just too boring to write much about. I guess that that gives a pretty accurate indication of what I think about this series. Right at the start of Tamayura’s second season, I asked one question: […]

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Silver Spoon Review – 86/100

When Noitamina started airing two series per season, it was amazing. It’s a timeslot that on average tends to be aimed at a much older audience than usual, and having two series with the same mentality definitely helped to bring more diversity to anime overall. Unfortunately it’s a schedule that could not be kept up […]

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Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San Z Review – 82,5/100

Reviewing a comedy sequel usually is quite simple: in most cases it just drops the bomb and runs out of inspiration, and in rare cases it actually manages to stay hilarious. The tricky thing with these kinds of series is that you need to remain funny, and you need to have the inspiration for that. […]

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Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review – 81/100

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet tells the storyline of a planet that is completely submerged, with only giant ships residing on the surface, while one of those ships gets visited by this guy and his AI-mecha from this very technologically advanced civilization. Yes, this show is about world building. What this show managed to do […]