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The Best Anime Of 2012 – Part 4: The Misfit Awards

winter201220580

I really should think of a better name then “misfit” for this group of awards because the word makes me think of the Isle of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph Christmas special which then gets me to mentally add, “I’d like to be a … a dentist!”, and I start wondering again why would anyone want to be a dentist. The two most likely scenarios I can think of is, one, it’s easier to become a dentist then it is a doctor or, two, the person in question likes putting their hands in people’s mouths. If the internet has taught me anything it’s that number 2 is probably the more likely explanation.

I apologize if you were eating something while reading this and now you’re not hungry. It does, though, show why I want to rename this section of awards.

Anyways, this group of categories is a bit of a hodge-podge. Several of my favorite awards appear in this section like Best Show No One Saw. If you have a suggestion for an award I should add feel free to leave a comment.

Before getting to the awards, as a reminder, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but there’ll be some because of how they’ll relate to specific awards. As for the continuing shows, only the part of the series that ran during this year is under consideration for this year’s awards.

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Best Villain

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Yuuji from Shakugan no Shana Season 3
Spring – Mykage from Aquarion Evol
Summer – Spider Troupe from Hunter x Hunter
Autumn – Sibyl System from Psycho-pass

Wildcards:

Tyrannos Japan from Btooom!, DES from AKB0048

 Winner –

psychofall201211714

Sibyl System from Psycho-pass

Maybe not what one initially thinks of when talking about villains, but, few traditional villains could match the Sibyl System from Psycho-pass in terms of harm caused to humanity. And the kicker is that it’s supposed to be a great aid for humanity. The second half of Psycho-pass will probably continue to focus on the attempt to capture Shougo Makishima but I’d really like to see a sequel that features the dismantling of the Sibyl System.

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Best Fight

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Chihayafuru episode 22
Spring – Hunter x Hunter episode 35-36
Summer – Hunter x Hunter episode 47
Autumn – Girls und Panzer episode 8-10

Wildcard:

Hyouka episode 14, cooking contest 

Winner –

summer201229624

Hunter x Hunter episode 35-36

I’ve already talked about this fight both during the spring season and for the 12 Days of Christmas but I don’t mind mentioning again how great this fight between Gon and Hisoka was. Every facet needed to make a memorable fight scene was perfectly done for this fight. The creators also got the often overlooked concept of distinctiveness correct. There’s been other very good fights in Hunter x Hunter but they all feel different from each other which makes it much easier to remember them individually. (Which was one of the problems with Bones’ fights in E7AO, they all were very nicely animated but they were all the same and hard to remember.)

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Most Unexpectedly Good Show

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter –  Aquarion Evol
Spring – Mysterious Girlfriend X
Summer –
Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
Autumn – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Wildcard:

AKB0048

 Winner –

summer201223644

AKB0048

Another wildcard win; chalk this one up to the one season AKB0048 running across both the spring and summer season. I’m not even slightly into Japanese idols or idol groups so I only decided to watch this because the animation company, Satelight, had earned a measure of positive credibility after finishing Aquarion Evol and Bodacious Space Pirates. To say I was surprised is hardly surprising. Much like how Aquarion Evol – which had the same writer and director – was absurd but still told an interesting story; namely, AKB0048 was about an idol group that fought against a ban on entertainment that many planets in the solar system had by giving guerilla concerts. It took it’s absurdity seriously and was a great show to follow.

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Best Show No One Saw

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Tantei Opera Milky Holmes 2
Spring – Natsuiro Kiseki
Summer – Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
Autumn – Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse

Wildcards:

Upotte, Dog Days 2

Winner-

spring201218170

Natsuiro Kiseki

There always seems to be at least one good series that falls through the cracks each season and gets ignored by almost everyone. Sometimes the reason has obvious factors like having an apparently very overused storyline – like with Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate – or the animation style leads people to the wrong conclusion – like with Milky Holmes.  And sometimes there’s multiple factors like with the case of Natsuiro Kiseki. The description for it put it solidly in the crowded and much maligned genre of “cute girls do cute things” and it’s budget constrained animation quality removed one the big reasons people will give these types of shows a shot. I picked it up on a whim and was surprised when I couldn’t immediately dismiss it. The execution of Natsuiro Kiseki was excellent and the addition of a wishing rock with a snarky sense of humor really maximized the entertainment value.

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Most in Need of a Sequel

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Chihayafuru
Spring – Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko
Summer –
Dog Days 2
Autumn – Btooom!

Wildcards:

Hyouka, Bodacious Space Pirates, Another

Winner-

btooomfall201230917

Btooom!

Chihayafuru would have won this category, if I wasn’t already watching the sequel :) . After Chihayafuru there was a very spirited battle for this award with each nominee having a very good reason to need a sequel but Btooom! edged the competition out to win. Like the other nominees, I want to see what happens to the characters next but I also want to see the evil organization behind the “game” taken care of.

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Best Anime Extra Seen in 2012

Nominees

Young Animators Training Program 2
Daily Lives of High School Boys Specials
Fate/Prototype
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! Lite
Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – 13
Steins;Gate – 25

Winner –

denpa26298

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – 13

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko taught me that one of the reasons I so often like Shaft/Shinbou series is because, no matter the type, they present the view that the world is more amazing, more interesting, a more unknown place then it appears to be. (Which is why Shaft/Shinbou is my most desired studio to make Yotsuba into an anime series.) From Arakawa Under the Bridge to Bakemonogatari to Hidamari Sketch to Natsu no Arashi to Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei to Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru to Puella Magi Madoka Magica this has been a constant part their series. Denpa Onna taught me this because it specifically rejected it – the girl who said she was abducted by aliens wasn’t – and, when I figured this out, I figured out why I wasn’t enjoying the series. It was only at the very end of the season that it began to hint that maybe there was more going on then it first appeared to be which is where episode 13 comes in. This extra episode decided to clear things up by having the main character witness something that was so profoundly unexplainable that he’s even willing to re-entertain the thought that his cousin might actually had been abducted by aliens. So, the way I look at it, this episode saved the entire series and made me want to see a sequel season.

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Best Anime OVA Seen in 2012

Nominees

Un-go – Inga-ron
Hotarubi no Mori e
Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (2012) – BD Special
Another 00
One Off

Winner –

summer201242091

Un-go – Inga-ron

Speaking of saving the series, Un-go – Inga-ron did the same thing for Un-go. I realize it’s more artsy to not explain everything and make the viewer come up with their own answers but the risk in doing that is the resulting work is undermined and no one really cares anymore. That’s basically what happened with Un-go. As a mystery series Un-go was a complete failure because if someone like me can figure them out before the detective then there’s something seriously wrong. This left the story to carry the series and it just wasn’t up to the task because the creators decided to withhold several key pieces of the story from the series by airing Un-go – Inga-ron after the series aired. As a result I had a rather low opinion of the series the first time through but that radically changed for the better with my second viewing because I’d had the chance to watch Un-go – Inga-ron. And like episode 13 of Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, I’d now really like a sequel to Un-go.

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Best Anime Movie Seen in 2012

Nominees

Time of Eve
A Letter to Momo
K-On! Movie
Sora No Otoshimono – The Clockwork Angeloid
The Secret World of Arriety

Winner-

fall201268199

Time of Eve

Being as focused as I am on the currently airing TV series I sometimes miss watching an anime movie that I probably should have; so, I should clarify that the nominees above are also all the anime movies that I watched this year. If I missed something good, I wouldn’t mind a quick comment pointing out my error :) . From these nominees, then, Time of Eve wins by being a really awesome science fiction movie that entertains, makes one think, laughs, and cries. This was a secret Santa recommendation and another good one, made me grumble at myself that I shouldn’t have needed to watch something that was so in my sweet spot. The K-On! movie was it’s stiffest competition and I think if I was actually familiar with London I probably would have picked it instead. Now if Kyoto Animation would make another K-On! movie that features them visiting the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, eating spaghetti and pizza in Little Italy, watching the Cleveland Browns play while getting freaked out by the fans in Dawg Pound – I would find it unstoppable.

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Best Past Anime Series Seen in 2012

Nominees

Thriller Restaurant
Simoun
Ghost Hound
Kogepan

 

Winner -

simoun_16

Simoun

As the years pass where I watch anime as it comes out, there are fewer and fewer opportunities to find a non-current series that interests me enough that I find the time to watch it. I know there’s still plenty of good stuff I haven’t seen yet but it’s hard to figure out what show from 10 years ago is still worth watching which is why I started doing the Secret Santa Project that the blog Reverse Thieves does around Christmas time every year. Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to watch many good older anime series so I thought I’d include this category this year.

A part of me really wants to give Thriller Restaurant the award because I had so much fun watching it and was very sad when I reached the end but Simoun is the obvious choice. Simoun is the type of intelligent science fiction that I can never get bored watching. It was set in a very interesting world, it explored some of the problems inherent with that world, it created characters with depth and let their motivations drive the story, and the plot was interesting. If I allowed to rank in my top anime countdown, it would have done very well.

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That’s part 4 of my retrospective look at the 2012 year in anime. I’ll try to have the next section up tomorrow.

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Top anime 2012 Awards Part 0: Introduction and Anti-Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 2: Genre and General Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards <- you are here
Top anime 2012 Awards: Top 15 Anime – #15 – #11
Top anime 2012 Awards: Top 15 Anime – #10 – #6
Top anime 2012 Awards: Top 15 Anime – #5 – #1


Filed under: anime, awards

The Best Anime Of 2011 – Part 0: Introduction and the Anti-Awards

Another year finished and another year the wannabe buzzards prognosticate the demise of anime even when the empirical data continues to defy their constructed narratives. I’d compare these people to climate scientists who close their eyes to the last decade plus of weather but I don’t want to get political here :) .

Instead I’ll point out that this year saw two young studios P.A. Works and Silver Fox create series which signaled their emergence as top quality anime studios. Also, this year saw two studios – Shaft and Brains Base –  take the plunge with original works and the resulting masterpieces pushed these already well-respected studios into the stratosphere.  Nor could it be forgotten how Kyoto Animation and Satelight, two veteran studios, stretched their creative legs and produce great series in genres that their not known for. Or how a quirky little studio, david production, that spun off from Gonzo a few years ago produced not one but two quirky quality series this year and finally attracted the attention of a large number of anime fans.

So, for those reasons and others, it’s easy to see that this was a banner year for anime –  one that I want to reminisce about and remember. There’s various formats that can be used to do so but the one I like involves ranking the anime in various categories because it just seems more orderly this way.

Before starting into the “nice” awards I first wanted to list the anime series that I watched from 2011 that are eligible for the various awards and to hand-out a few “not-so-nice” awards.

Winter Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (2): Star Driver, To Aru Majutsu no Index II

New shows watched this season (10): Fractale, Gosick, IS: Infinite Stratos, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?, Level E, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu!, Moshidora, Rio – Rainbow Gate, Wolverine

Shows that got dropped (4): Dragon Crisis, Freezing, Onii-chan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!!, Yumekui Merry

Spring Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (1): Gosick

New shows watched this season (20): X-Men, Dog Days, Tiger and Bunny, Nichijou, Yondemasu yo Azazel-san, Hanasaku Iroha, Fireball Charming, Steins;Gate, Hyouge Mono, Hidan no Aria, A Channel, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera, Maria+Holic Alive, Ao no Exorcist, The World God Only Knows II, Seikon no Qwaser II, C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, Deadman Wonderland

Shows that got dropped (8): Hen Zemi, Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, Sengoku Otome – Momoiro Paradox, 30-sai no Hoken Taiiku, Sket Dance, Sofuteni, Astarotte no Omocha!

Summer Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (6): Ao no Exorcist, Hyouge Mono, Steins;Gate, Hanasaku Iroha, Tiger and Bunny, Nichijou

New shows watched this season (13): Mawaru Penguin Drum, Kamisama no Memo-chou, Dantalian no Shoka, Nekogami Yaoyorozu, R-15, Sacred Seven, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Natsume Yuujinchou 3, Yuruyuri, Kamisama Dolls, Blood-C, Mayo Chiki, Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi

Shows that got dropped (3): Usagi Drop, No. 6, The Idolm@ster

Fall Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (2): Hyouge Mono, Mawaru Penguin Drum

New shows watched this season (15): C3 – Cube×Cursed×Curious, Fate/Zero, Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!!, Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, Hunter × Hunter, Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle, Tamayura – Hitotose, Chihayafuru, Persona 4, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Shakugan no Shana III (Final), Last Exile — Ginyoku no Fam, Ben-to, Un-Go, Guilty Crown

Shows that got dropped (3): Shinryaku!? Ika Musume, Working’!!, Mirai Nikki

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Total New Series Watched 2011:       78

Total New Series Completed:              53

Total New Series Dropped:                  18

Total New Continuing Series:             07

Now it’s time for the Anti-Awards. These are awards that the winners probably wouldn’t like winning and instead of spreading them out in the various parts, I’m going to put them here. Also, the awards will have a higher level of spoilers then  I normally use but I will still try to keep them to minimum.

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Best Half and Half

Winner:  Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
Runner-up:
Blood-C

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko was improved by having Shaft/Shinbou adapt it but it was also hindered by being attached to Shaft/Shinbou. Hindered because so much of what Shaft/Shinbou does occurs admidst finding the fantastic in the common everyday hustle-n-bustle of life to the point of this being the expectation. There was Natsu no Arashi:  about a boy whose first crush is a girl he meets working in a café who just so happens to be a ghost of a girl who died in WWII. Sore de mo Machi wa Mawatteiru features a normal high school girl that encounters time travelers, aliens, and visits the afterlife. Bakemonogatari has a typical high school boy getting turned into a vampire (then mostly back to human) meeting gods, spirits, and curses. Arakawa Under the Bridge has a typical salary-man fall for a woman that lives under a bridge and declares that she is from Venus (and might actually be an alien). So, when Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko started with the main female character saying that she was an alien, this primed the viewers a certain way but then to throw this out for most of the series made it difficult to not compare it to other Shaft/Shinbou series and find it feeling a bit shallow.

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Worst Half and Half


Winner:  Fractale

Saying half of Fractale was okay is probably stretching it a bit but among all the problems that it had there were several good ideas and positive aspects floating about. It’s just that these ideas and aspects were very poorly put together and then buried under a mountain of incompetence. I’m still wondering how the creators were able to take one of my favorite voice actresses – the very talented Kana Hanazawa – and made her voice about as appealing as screeching fingernails on a blackboard.

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Most Disappointing Ending


Winner:  IS: Infinite Stratos

Why, oh, why did the creators of Infinite Stratos chicken out and try to tack on a boring “serious” ending to this show? Here’s how the show should have went – the climax should have been the reveal of Charlotte’s true gender and the build-up should have involved the generic male main character having to go to greater-and-greater lengths to hide the truth. It would have complimented the nature of the show much better and not have been such a letdown.

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Most Disappointing


Winner:  Guilty Crown

Any questions? Okay, moving on…

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Most in Need of Being Longer


Winner:  C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
Runner-up:
Un-Go

One can’t look over the year in anime without complaining about the episode counts that noitaminA series get. Un-Go actually accomplished a fair amount over it’s 11 episode run which allowed C to slip past to win this dubious award. C had some very interesting things to say but the silly CG battles and the compression artifacts from trying to squeeze C into 11 episodes just overwhelmed those interesting ideas.

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The You’re-Doing-It-Wrong Award


Winner:  R-15
Runner-up:
Nekogami Yaoyorozu

Both of these shows should have been fun, light entertainment – perfect for the hot summer season – but both failed on a fundamental level and left the viewers saying, “you’re doing it wrong.” The bigger failure was on the part of R-15; the set-up was that this anime took place in a school of geniuses but somehow these “geniuses” were just a pack of boring, cliché characters. (And the one that plays the clarinet, if she’s such a genius then why does she spend the entire series practicing the same simple piece of music?)

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The Best Almost Good Series

Winner:  Dantalian no Shoka
Runner-up:
C3 – Cube×Cursed×Curious

In different hands I think both of these series could have been fabulous. C3 probably needed more work to get there since the source material needed a touch of help and the style was trying too hard to look Shaftian without adding anything unique to the animation style. Dantalian no Shoka was so very close. More episodes would have helped but if that was unobtainable then trimming down the number of cases covered and focusing on fleshing these cases out and developing the characters probably would have been all it needed. Even so, Dantalian no Shoka was an interesting experiment in visual style that will probably help Gainax in the future be a better studio.

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The Series That Most Left Me Wondering “Why Did I Waste My Time Finishing This?”

Winner:  Deadman Wonderland
Runner-up:
Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi had the characters and story of a really generic fan-service series and the low level of fan-service that’s typically found in a “serious” anime. Watching it every week left me confused and wondering when it would decide to fully commit to being one type of series or the other. This series was topped by Deadman Wonderland, however. I should have seen the signs early that the creators wanted to make a “dark” anime – like what all the cool kids are doing now – but lacked the ability and talent to do so. I even remember getting a chuckle over how the creators wanted to vilify private prisons but thought nothing of the implications to how the story would unfold. I did learn, though, when Mirai Nikki started resorting to implausible, silly turns-of-events to advance the story and I quickly dropped it.

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Best Series I Dropped

Winner:  Usagi Drop

Usagi Drop was, is, and will be on many lists as a top 10 anime for 2011. Not mines and that’s because I broke a personal rule I have about not checking out the source material before the end of an anime series. Objections to how it ends was just part of the reason for dropping it. The other part was watching a few more episodes after spoiling myself and seeing how the author clearly had the ending in mind when laying out the story and how she forced the characters into that path instead of allowing the characters to develop naturally and organically. Which is a shame, there was much to like about Usagi Drop.

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And on that note, let’s end part 0 and tomorrow I’ll put up part 1, the character awards.

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Top anime 2011 Awards Part 0: Introduction and Anti-Awards <- you are here
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and General Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #13 – #7
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #6 – #1


Filed under: anime, awards

The Top Eight Anime of the Spring 2011 Season, #8 to #5

The end is fast approaching for The Null Set’s examination of the spring season; all that’s left is the countdown of the top shows of the season. I’ll readily admit that creating such a listing causes one to compare apples to oranges, as the saying goes, or maybe oil and water is a better description. The result probably speaks more about the preparer of the list then it does the actual merits of the shows involved but it seems hardwired into humans to continuously make these types of lists and give importance to the results.

So on that note, let’s head to the countdown and discover which series juuusst squeaked onto the list.

8Tiger and Bunny

My opinion of Tiger and Bunny has swung the widest of all the spring anime series; sometimes very high and other times it’s rather low. At various points it seems that Sunrise wants viewers to take Tiger and Bunny seriously and at other points it clearly wants Tiger and Bunny to be considered a silly, over-the-top series.  Done right, it’s possible to swing between both but Sunrise hasn’t done the best job getting the tonal shifts right which leaves Tiger and Bunny somewhat frustrating to watch. For example, am I supposed to see the completely ineffectual mayor of Sternbild City (the NYC-like setting of the anime) who looks good on camera but is completely overwhelmed by the demands of the jobs as thinly-veiled political commentary about the current President of the US when Sunrise resolves the Ouroboros storyline, rather absurdly, with the big bad villain having a helicopter fall on him and killing him?

So I’ve needed to do a bit of leveling the mountains and filling in the valleys to get a better read on where Tiger and Bunny actually stands independently and in comparison with the other anime of the season. The result was I realized Tiger and Bunny deserved to make the top anime list for this season because it does lots of things right (sometimes really right) but that it still hasn’t come close to it’s full potential yet and that it has a few elements holding it back.

I’m optimistic about the second half of Tiger and Bunny that airs this summer season. Now that the introductions, character development, and the true forming of the superhero duo of Tiger and Bunny are accomplished, Sunrise can really kick the story in gear. (More Lunatic, please. :) )

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7Hyouge Mono

One of the disappointments of this season is how Hyouge Mono has fallen through the cracks and ignored by most of the anime fans out there. I’m grateful that there is at least one group willing to sub this show, though it would be wonderful if they had more help, and for the 5 episodes I’ve seen so far. I know for certain that if I’d’ve seen 9 or 10 episodes at this point, I’d be ranking Hyouge Mono much higher.

The animation and vocal work are both above average but the real draw to this show is it’s characters. They are toned down from Sengoku Basara levels enough so that it’s possible to show the political side of the Sengoku time period while still keeping enough eccentricities that the characters are fun to watch. I particularly like the main character because of how conflicted he is and how he tries to balance everything. He prides himself as an aesthetic, particularly about all things related to tea, and he loves his wife and son but the only way to provide the lifestyle they deserve is to fight in the army and try to advance up the ranks to win prestige, power, and money while being totally not cutout for military service. He also realizes that it’s impossible to become a respected aesthetic until he has a collection of treasures showcasing his appreciation of art so he’s very bribable at this point but he seeks to be totally loyal to his lord, Oda Nobunaga aka the Demon King.

And the kicker about Hyouge Mono is how true to history it actually is.

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6 – Hanasaku Iroha

Hanasaku Iroha is the latest anime from PA Works who has shown in the past great animation quality but a consistent flatness to it’s characters that impedes the quality of their shows. (I’m still marveling at how I didn’t shed a single tear during Angel Beats but filled buckets over KyoAni’s AIR, Kanon, and Clannad.)  As a firm believer in the adage ‘Practice makes perfect,’ I figured at some point that PA Works would get it right and Hanasaku Iroha shows that they’re starting to get it right. It’s still not perfect but there’s tantalizing flashes of brilliance, for instance, pretty much all of episode 13 was perfectly awesome. If it could stay at that level then picking the top show of the season would have been a much tougher task.

One of the smart things they did was to have the main character, Ohana, quickly mature past the whinny, brat stage she was in at the beginning of the series. For one, I don’t think many could have tolerated watching her pout over the unfairness of life as the main character for too long before dropping it. For two, having a cool main character, as Ohana is at this point, increases the show’s overall coolness (always a good thing).

I’m not sure how Hanasaku Iroha will fill another season’s worth episodes, though a couple things have been hinted at, but I definitely will keep watching the daily adventures of the people that run what must be the best little hot springs inn in Japan.

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5Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

In hindsight, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko suffered from certain high expectations that have slowly formed about Shaft/Shinbou series. The largest expectation stemmed from the many past series from Shaft/Shinbou that have had a surprising amount of depth to them. When Erio exclaimed that she was an alien, it primed us to expect something like Arakawa Under the Bridge and when it didn’t deliver a show of that depth, it felt like a disappointment. ‘What is the point to this anime,’ was a comment I saw over and over. I thought the same thing but I kept watching and finally I realized the real purpose was just to have a fairly generic male lead spend his time with a variety of different girls/women doing fun things. It’s light entertainment; that’s it.

Once I straightened my expectations out it was a very fun series to follow and after Madoka, I’m okay with something a bit lighter from Shaft/Shinbou. I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel but there are a few series from Shaft that I rather see a sequel done first.

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The top four come next and then it’ll be time to start examining the new summer season :) .

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Spring 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1


Filed under: anime, awards

Top Picks – Spring 2011 Anime, Part 3: VMA Awards

After looking at the characters in part 1 and then the show built around those characters in part 2, the third group of awards will focus on the extras in an anime; namely, the vocal work, music, and animation quality. These components aren’t among the core reasons why an anime is successful or not but they can exert a surprising amount of influence for either outcome.

Not that I’m implying correlation equals causation; maybe that’s something Okabe from Steins;Gate could study after he was done changing the world’s ruling power structure and defeating the secret organizations – he could study how integral are the vocal work, music, and animation quality towards an anime’s success or failure.

Best Male Seiyuu

Winner: Mamoru Miyano as Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate and Shinku Izumi from Dog Days

The best part of the rather uneven Star Driver was Mamoru Miyano’s vocal work for the main character, Takuto Tsunashi. As a result of that role, I decided this season that it was worth checking out both anime that he was voicing the main character, Dog Days and Steins;Gate. He was merely good as the Hero in Dog Days but that had more to do with limited nature of the role and the animators behind the show. The role as mad scientist in Steins;Gate gave him much more room to perform and he took advantage of that.

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Best Female Seiyuu

Winner: Aoi Yuuki  as Victorique from Gosick and Tooru from A Channel

Runner-up: Yuu Kobayashi as Mariya from Maria+Holic Alive and Undine from Yondemasu yo Azazel-san and Ruka Urushibara from Steins;Gate, Aya Hirano as Katja from Seikon no Qwaser II and Shizu Shidou from Maria+Holic Alive

The meteoric rise of Aya Hirano’s career opened many doors for her but it also attracted a lot of noise from detractors that sometimes makes it difficult to remember underneath everything Aya Hirano is a very good voice actress. Both of her roles this season were smaller then I’d like but combined they showed that she has it. As for Yuu Kobayashi, I’ve been a fan of her unique talent for awhile now. I like the wide assortment of voices that she can bring to a role and this season saw her utilizing many of those voices in her various roles. My favorite was the cross-dressing Mariya. However, the winner just had to go to Aoi Yuuki for carrying, not one, but two anime series she starred in with just her vocal work. If it wasn’t for her, I’d’ve dropped both Gosick and A Channel for being complete wastes of time. Instead, in the end, I found both decent enough shows.

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Best OP

Winner: Maria+Holic Alive

Runner-up: Nichijou, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera, AnoHana

If this award was based solely on the song itself AnoHana would have won; I’ve had Aoi Shiori by Galileo Galilei on heavy repeat for weeks now. However, I also have to factor in the animation and how well the two work together to create the right mood for watching the episode. Using the full criteria, Maria+Holic Alive edges out the competition for the win.

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Best ED

Winner: AnoHana

Runner-up: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Nichijou, Gosick

This time AnoHana does win, in part, because they did that thing where the ending song starts playing as the last climatic scene plays out before going to credits in just about every episode. So now I associate the song with all the best moments of the show and the song’s soothing, cathartic nature was perfect for the show’s ending.

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Best Background Music

Winner: Nichijou

Nichijou is just the latest in a long string of anime series by Kyoto Animation that feature stellar background music. I’m sure there were other series that had good background music but I can’t remember any other leaving much of an impression on me.

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Best Dressed Characters

Winner: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Runner-up: Hyouge Mono

I’m slightly disappointed that Nichijou didn’t win this award; it might even be the first KyoAni series that didn’t place since I started giving this award out. There chances dimmed primarily because we don’t see many characters ever wearing non-school clothes. On the other hand, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, had a plethora of different outfits that the characters wore (having one of your main characters never attend school helps this); so, it was the obvious pick. Hyouge Mono earned the runner-up spot for it’s characters sporting a nice amount of wardrobe changes including the Demon King’s eclectic fashion sense.

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Best Animation Style

Winner:  Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Runner-up: Hanasaku Iroha

These last few years has seen the Shaft/Shinbou style of anime mature and hit that sweet spot of being just right for the series being animated. For Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko another layer was added – extremely attractive character designs. In most of Shaft/Shinbou series the characters will, at best, look decent but many series have down right fugly looking characters. (Natsu no Arashi is one example.) I actually like this since it will help make the characters seem more realistic but it’s a nice to see something new coming from them. Also working in Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko’s favor is Shaft/Shinbou creates the absolutely nicest night sky shots – no other animation company can match them.

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Best Animation

Winner: Nichijou

Runner-up: AnoHana, Hanasaku Iroha

As for the highest animation quality, Kyoto Animation is still incredibly hard to beat when they go all-out and this season no one could make this category a competitive one.

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Top Animation Studio

Winner: A-1 Pictures

Though with the frequency of financial home runs that A-1 Pictures has so quickly racked up along with consistently nice animation, Kyoto Animation may have a serious contender in the near future. (And yes, for the record, I loved the animation style to Birdy Season 2 and I continue to rank it as probably having the best done fights of any tv series that I’ve watched.)

The one weakness they’ve shown so far is not having a core group of directors that can ensure a consistent level of quality from their anime series. This season they had two series; the first, AnoHana, was directed by Tatsuyuki Nagai. Normally he directs for J.C. Staff and for them he’s directed Honey and Clover 2, Toradora, and Railgun. Their other series is Ao no Exorcist, directed by Tensai Okamura who’s done Wolf’s Rain and Darker Than Black (two series I haven’t seen yet but hear much praise for). By this point it should be obvious how much I liked AnoHana but Ao no Exorcist has been a small surprise itself; as a shounen-series-set-in-a-school-with-kids-who-have-special-powers, I wasn’t expected to particularly like it but I’ve come to enjoy my weekly doses of Ao no Exorcist.

So for fielding two hits for the spring season, A-1 Pictures gets the Top Animation Studio award.

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That’s it for part 3 of my spring 2011 anime awards. Stay tuned for my top overall picks of the season. :)

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Spring 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #8 – #5
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1


Filed under: anime, awards

Top Picks – Spring 2011 Anime, Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards

After focusing on the characters that populate the various anime in part one, this – the second part – focuses on the parts of the show that are built around the characters (for the most part). This division is one that I’ve come to value when assessing a series. For example, series like Maria+Holic Alive have a strong core of characters stuck in mediocre constructed show and series like Deadman Wonderland have the tools for a well-constructed series but lack the characters to make it work.

Like I said last time, there was a pretty broad slate of shows this season but there always seems like a few genres are missing each season. Which genres that are missing change with the seasons; this time there was a surprising lack of quality fan-service series (the absence of series from AIC this season probably has something to do with this). And other genres never seem to have enough qualifying series to warrant the inclusion of a category. This time that meant no awards for best slice-of-life and SF series.

Okay, that’s enough rambling; let’s get to this group of awards and don’t worry I will explain the above screenshot. :)

Best Action

Winner: Nichijou

Runner-up: Tiger and Bunny, X-Men

Action equals money spent on extra frames of animation and this season there was no action series that was given a large enough budget to do more than show flashes of action. That wasn’t to say that the season was without a consistly action-packed anime series; we had Nichijou – a comedy series. German suplexes, epic chase scenes, explosions, festival shooting galleries, sisterly kendo matches over sweets, mosquito swatting and human missiles were just some of the action packed scenes from Nichijou this season.

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Best Fight

Winner: Ep.12 of Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

The best fight was, without a doubt, episode 12 of Enma-kun. Brains Base took an already crazy show, jacked it up a couple orders of magnitude and removed all the restraints. The result was truly epic.

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Best Comedy

Winner: Nichijou

Runner-up: gg’s fansub of Hidan no Aria

The top image of this post is related to the runner-up for best comedy – the fansub group gg’s sub of Hidan no Aria. J.C. Staff has always been weak at improving a show when the source material is bad but this time it felt like they weren’t even trying to make Aria a better show. The result was a show that’s painful to watch and it’s here gg stepped in. The result provided almost as much laughs as Nichijou this season and Nichijou was positively bursting with laughs.

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Most Entertaining

Winner:  Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Runner-up: Tiger and Bunny, Hyouge Mono, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Comedy is definitely a subset of Entertaining but often the most entertaining shows are ones that only provide sparse comedy. Enma-kun was consistently entertaining by always coming up with some off-the-wall idea and keeping the viewers guessing. It was also entertaining because it’s retro feel made it a unique experience. I’m not complaining about the overabundance of anime that follow modern anime stereotypes and tropes but a little variety is nice.

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Most Interesting Setting

Winner: Hyouge Mono

Runner-up: Steins;Gate, C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

I fell in love with the Sengoku era of Japanese history after the completely over-the-top series Sengoku Basara turned out to be a pretty historical show so when the chance to watch another show set in the same time period came up I jumped on it. So far they’ve introduced an even wider cast of characters that couldn’t possibly exist but actually do and there’s been political intrigue, posturing and double-crosses all by the end of episode 5. Also in the mix is seeing how western influence is just starting to affect Japanese society which includes the viewers being introduced to a Christian warlord who’s destined to flee to the Philippines after Tokugawa clamps down on Christianity.

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Best Plot

Winner: Steins;Gate

Runner-up: Hyouge Mono

So far Steins;Gate has felt like X-Files when it was in it’s prime and that’s a great thing to be like. Hopefully, as more of the plot gets revealed it doesn’t follow X-Files into the boring mediocrity that was the ending of X-Files.

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Best Story

Winner: AnoHana

Runner-up: Tiger and Bunny

After creating a group of flawed, compelling characters the creators needed a good story to fully realize the potential of the characters and trying to fulfill the final wish of a young girl was just that sort of story. It’s not that complex or unique of a story but in the right hands it didn’t need to be. AnoHana had those hands in the name of Tatsuyuki Nagai and everything just came together.

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Best Villain

Winner: Heaven from Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Runner-up: CERN from Steins;Gate

Heaven was featured in another anime, Yondemasu yo Azazel-san, this season and there it was merely presented in a very unflattering light but Enma-kun takes it a step further and turns them into the villain that our rag-tag group of heroes (4 demons and 1 human) must  stop before a global apocalypse occurs. It reminded me of the Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman classic Good Omens, a book I highly recommend. Having heaven show up as the villain provided a nice twist like how the demons in Panty and Stocking were the law-abiding rule following citizens.

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Best Final Episode

Winner:  Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Runner-up: AnoHana, C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

I didn’t think it possible that an anime could squeeze through with a better final episode then AnoHana but Enma-kun did it. I already mentioned a few reasons why this episode was so awesome earlier when it won best fight but there were so many other reasons. For instance, this episode actually tied-up many of the story threads that got introduced earlier in the series, giving this series a real sense of closure. There were several elements to C that prevented it from reaching it’s full potential but it was still able to cobble together a very interesting final episode and ending. It didn’t make total sense but it was at least interesting.

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Best Ending

Winner:  AnoHana

Runner-up: Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Overall, though, AnoHana had the best ending and it goes back to how well the show was executed. The biggest thing that helped the show was that AnoHana didn’t attempt an overly complex story that couldn’t be finished satisfactorily in 11 episodes like several recent Noitamina series. *cough*Fractale*cough*C*cough

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Most in Need of a Sequel

No one does a better night sky then Shaft/Shinbou

Winner:  Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Runner-up: Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

I’d definitely watch a sequel to either of these anime but in both of these cases there are other series I’d rather see first animated by their respective animation studios. Enma-kun comes from Brains Base and I’d really like to see a third season of Spice and Wolf first (now that Natsume’s Book of Friends is getting a sequel). Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko comes from Shaft and I’d like to see a third season of Arakawa Under the Bridge or a fourth season of Hidamari Sketch and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei first.

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That’s it for part 2, the next part is the VMA awards.

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Spring 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #8 – #5
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1


Filed under: anime, awards

Top Picks – Spring 2011 Anime, Part 1: Cast and Character Awards

The near-totality of Puella Magi Madoka Magica’s dominance in the various categories made writing up a winter seasonal awards post pretty pointless. This season, however, saw a more diverse and larger group of noteworthy anime to choose from.  There was shows about ghostly girls, alien girls, superheroes both in America and Japan, demons of Hell with undemon-like behavior (4 different ways), conspiracies,  cautionary tales about monetary policies and privately owned prisons, the everyday life of various people from metaphorical trolls to lesbian stalkers to high school girls, historical tales set in the Sengoku period (both genderbent and tea-centric) and an alternative 1920’s where Victorian fashions were still worn along with the standard handful of decent to poor shounen series and low-budget/low-quality fan service shows that every anime season seems to have. So let’s take a look back the spring anime season.

Before starting, below is a listing of the shows that I watched this season and are the pool from which the picks for all the awards are coming from.

Also, as a reminder, I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum but there’ll be some because of how they’ll relate to specific awards. As for the continuing shows, only the part of the series that ran during this season is under consideration for this season’s awards.

Carry-over shows watched this season (1): Gosick

New shows watched this season (20): X-Men, Dog Days, Tiger and Bunny, Nichijou, Yondemasu yo Azazel-san, Hanasaku Iroha, Fireball Charming, Steins;Gate, Hyouge Mono, Hidan no Aria, A Channel, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera, Maria+Holic Alive, Ao no Exorcist, The World God Only Knows II, Seikon no Qwaser II, C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana), Deadman Wonderland

Shows that got dropped (8): Hen Zemi, Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, Sengoku Otome – Momoiro Paradox, 30-sai no Hoken Taiiku, Sket Dance, Sofuteni, Astarotte no Omocha!

Best Female Main Character(s)

Winner: Nano from Nichijou, The Professor from Nichijou

Runner-up: Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha

Nano’s eternal quest to slow how quickly The Professor gets into trouble, pass as a human and go to school makes her an obvious pick for this award but leaving out the other half of this comedic duo dynamo – The Professor – with her precocious intelligence bent on world snack domination just felt wrong. They beat out Ohana; she was a character that I was sure at the beginning that I would detest but she turned out to be the exact opposite.

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Best Male Main Character

Winner: Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate

Runner-up: Tiger from Tiger and Bunny, Furuta Sasuke from Hyouge Mono

Early on, when I was still unsure how the plot to Steins;Gate would play out, the reason I kept watching was mad scientist Rintarou Okabe was an absolute treat to watch. I was worried, however, that he’d become boring after a while if the “mad scientist” shtick got old but, with every episode, we learn more about him and what makes him tick and he’s pure distilled awesomeness.

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Best Supporting Character

Winner: Grandma from Hanasaku Iroha

Runner-up: Matsurika from Maria+Holic Alive

A couple of years back I wrote a short post about how anime needs more old characters. One of the reasons is their age instantly gives them the a body of experience that quickly and easily gives them a depth to their character that younger characters have to struggle to obtain. The grandma, Sui Shijima, from Hanasaku Iroha is another great example of this and is easily the best part of the show.

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Best Screen-grabber

Winner:  Meme from Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Loud, brash, and egocentric Meme becomes a screen-grabber whenever she’s onscreen, even if the other characters would rather her not be. I still don’t particularly like Meme because of her complete lack of decent parenting shown at the beginning of the series but throughout the series she’s shown that there is a decent human being inside.

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Best Couple

Winner: Prince Enma and Princess Yukiko from Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

I keep this award just to actual couples in the anime so that sadly left AnoHana out of the running, even with it’s tantalizing hints at how the characters would couple-up after finally moving on from the memory of Menma. Instead, I choose the oddball couple of Prince Enma of Hell and Princess Yukiko, the ice demon. I’m not sure how it’ll work out but this relationship was on the smaller reasons for how good Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera ended up being.

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Best Character Ability/Power

Winner: Rintarou Okabe’s ability to remember past world lines from Steins;Gate

Runner-up: The ability to control an element from Seikon no Qwaser II

By rights, being able to control an element should win this category but, much like the alchemy in Full Metal Alchemist, it’s never exploited to it’s full potential. (For example, who cares if one can make cool iron scythes; let me see that person fight if his lungs are full of helium or that person has all the calcium drawn out of his bones, breaking them, and then having a heart attack from having way too much calcium in the blood or that person’s sodium levels are changed causing diarrhea, disorientation, lethargy, seizures and a coma or one of my sister’s favorite, the nursing student one, have his potassium levels changed causing paralysis, a heart attack and an inability to breathe among other fun things.) Rintarou Okabe’s ability to remember past world lines in a normal person wouldn’t be that noteworthy except he happens to be studying time travel and one of the side-effects of the type of time travel he’s perfected causes him to jump to alternative world lines.

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Best Cast of Characters

Winner: AnoHana

Runner-up: Hyouge Mono, Tiger and Bunny

This was almost as easy to pick the winner as the next award but Hyouge Mono and Tiger and Bunny put up a spirited charge. I could even see Hyouge Mono edging AnoHana but there’s only been 5 episodes subbed so far and the characters are just now getting a chance to shine.

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Best Character Development for Cast

Winner:  AnoHana

This is the easiest award to pick for this season and should be self-evident.

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Best Character Development of a Single Character

Winner:  Rintarou Okabe from Steins;Gate

I love how Steins;Gate started out with a great character, Rintarou Okabe, and has slowly built him up even more. Episode 13 gave us some tantalizing hints at how much room there still in for Rintarou Okabe to grow. I could very well be back next season calling him one of the greatest characters of the year (if the ending doesn’t stink and he gets the chance to continue improving).

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That’s the end of part 1; I hope to have the second part up within a day. Comments and feedback are always appreciated – I’d love to see what others would pick.

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Spring 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #8 – #5
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1


Filed under: anime, awards

What This Week’s Anime Taught Me About Japan and Life

In Japan, they keep their changing booths very clean:

In Japan, their cows are alien creatures:

In Japan, they take the saying “Eyes are the window of the soul,” literally:

In Japan, shark beats paper, rock, and scissors:

In Japan, they learn a version of English known as Engrish. Seldom correct, it’s still more coherent then Charlie Sheen:

In Japan, they expect physics to apply in their cartoons:

In Japan, all young girls are geniuses and can build robots that can pass the Turing Test:

In Japan, they still like Snoopy:

And finally, in Japan, they believe less skin equals more win. (Not that I really blame them in this case.) :


Filed under: anime, anime rants/views, general anime interst

Ranking The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of the Spring 2011 Anime Season – Part 2: The Top Fifteen

Two of the best things that aired in April, conveniently in a single picture.

Looking at both halves of this countdown/first impressions list I noticed two interesting features that I hope become trends. The first is that there’s only a very small handful of sequels this season. Which is a good thing since a high level of sequels can signal timidness (and an aversion to risk) by those that pay to create anime and the truly great anime are the first victim of overly timid producers. Having a low amount of sequels also allows viewers to watch a greater number of series and it also quiets – a bit – those that whine about “the end of anime”. (Sorry zzeroparticle, Kaiji happens to be one series that I missed the first time around and didn’t watch this season.)

The second feature is the high number of oddball series this season. Oddball probably isn’t the best term because they aren’t actually strange but seem to signal either the further diversification of what anime “is” or the decision to attract non-traditional viewers of anime to anime. If this continues, this is bad news for those people (including R1 anime executives) that like to watch and license the same shows year-in and year-out; but, for everyone else, it’s great news. I’m ready to welcome the oddness be it tea-sipping feudal lords, pizza-eating aliens, management book-reading baseball managers or pantsu-less ice princesses.

(15) – X-Men

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 6/12  B-

The adaptation of X-Men by Madhouse marks the third time in three seasons that they’re working on an anime version of an American comic franchise. I didn’t watch the first one because the reviews of Iron Man were just too brutal but I decided to give the second series, Wolverine, a shot. I reasoned that it’s exceedingly difficult to muddle a show built around someone uncomplicated like Wolverine and it turned out that I was basically right. The animation quality was on the very low-end for what Madhouse can do but it was a decent anime overall. So, for X-Men, I hoped Madhouse could, at a minimum, repeat. Four episodes in and I’m glad to see a much better effort with the animation but I’m not quite won over with the story (and plotting) yet. On the plus side the Japanese mutant that is introduced in this series appears to already be a character in the “X-Men universe” so there’s a better chance she won’t get killed off in the end like what happened in Wolverine but, on the negative side, the show’s been a little too talky and not enough actiony. There’s still plenty of time for this anime to get even better and I’m definitely going to keep watching.

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(14) – Fireball Charming

Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 6/12  B-

A micro-series from Disney (!!, seriously it’s from Disney) about a robotic princess and her adventures as a princess; Fireball Charming is a fun little series that I wish would run longer than it’s 2 minutes episodes. In fact, really the only reason it’s ranked so low is because it’s format makes it problematic to accurately rank and grade it.

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(13) – A Channel

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 6/12  B-

A Channel is like the made-for-TV version of a blockbuster movie that gets made after the fact with about a tenth of the budget, a tenth of the acting, a tenth of the writing, and a tenth of the quality. On paper the two might be very similar but no one will actually remember the made-for-TV version a couple of years later and the blockbuster movie becomes everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure for years-and-years to come. The only thing that saves A Channel from falling any further into complete mediocrity is Aoi Yuuki’s excellent vocal work (much like how she makes watching Gosick worth it).

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(12) – Tiger and Bunny

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 7/12  B

Initially, I was very impressed with Tiger and Bunny. I like how the main character, Tiger, is an over-the-hill superhero that still actually believes in what he does even though it’s so cynically commercialized. I like the idea about how superheroes are being manipulated for commercial reasons. I like how the show seems to take place in an alternative Manhattan. I initially liked what Sunrise was doing with the story but with a few more episodes watched I’m no longer that keen on what they’re doing. It’s pretty much a given that a show like Tiger and Bunny will see Tiger and Bunny overcome their differences, become an awesome hero duo and both of them will get what they most need or want: Tiger gets the admiration of his daughter/the respect of the public and Bunny finds a family to belong to/learns the meaning of friendship. This type of story has been done to death so the execution needs to be stellar to make the show great and it hasn’t. Which is what separates it from That Really Long-titled Flower Anime. Everyone knows how that’s going to end but everyone is still enchanted by it.

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(11) – Maria+Holic Alive

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 7/12  B

Maria+Holic is one of the weaker Shaft/Shinbou anime offerings and one of most disappointing series that they’ve done. (The set-up was perfect for Shaft/Shinbou; it should have been a home run but it was a big miss.) So, while, I’d prefer one of their better series like Arakawa Under the Bridge or Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru, that are in more of a need of a sequel, to be getting a sequel now; I am willing to try any anime from the joyfully demented minds at Shaft. So far, I am pleasantly surprised with Maria+Holic Alive. In the two years since the first season of Maria+Holic, it’s apparent that Shaft/Shinbou has become better at making anime. The show’s biggest liability – Kanako, the main character – has significantly less screen time in the sequel and the two best characters – Maria, the abrasive cross-dressing boy who attends an all-girl school, and Maria’s maid get a corresponding boost in screen time. It’s still far from perfect but it’s now a pretty decent anime.

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(10) – Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 7/12  B

Brains Base takes the animation quality and polish of a modern anime and applies it to a 40 year-old manga in Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera. The result was about what I expected; it looked good but the content felt completely different then everything else that I’ve watched in recent memory. I imagine what I felt was akin to an anime fan that’s only watched Naruto or Bleach before, watching Bakemonogatari for the first time. I wasn’t scared off, partially because I like and respect Brains Base; but, before the fourth episode I wasn’t sure what to really think about this anime. Then episode 4 arrived and suddenly something clicked in my brain and Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera became a fun series to watch. It’s got this energetic vibe to it that leaves little time for character development so far but that’s okay. Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera  has been too busy with demon attacks, absurd situations, fan service and making the viewers laugh to explain the sad back-story (because it always has to be sad) of the kappa that helps capture demons or fleshed out the talking, flying hat beyond him/it being a bit lecherous. I see this anime getting stronger as time passes and getting included among the top series of the season. Next I demand a modern reboot of the Lupin the Third franchise.

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(9) – Moshidora

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 8/12  B+

I realize at this point that most of Moshidora has aired due to it’s unique release schedule but I wanted to include it here so I stopped watching it after the fourth episode until I finish writing this post. The rest of the long-winded title of Moshidora encapsulates the premise of the show; namely, what would happen if a baseball manager read one of the classic books about business management theory and applied it to baseball. I’m not much of a fan for sports anime when the focus is on the sport itself but when anime, like Bamboo Blade and Cross Game, make the sport secondary – I’m willing to give the show a chance. Moshidora turns out to be, much like Bamboo Blade and Cross Game, not really about the sport. Now, it’s not quite as good as either Bamboo Blade or Cross Game (both anime I highly recommend) but it’s still pretty good and better than a good portion of the anime this season. Definitely worth a look for people looking for something slightly different.

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(8) – The World God Only Knows II

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 8/12  B+

I have to credit Manglobe for doing their absolute best with TWGOK2. The result has been better than the first season and an all-around pretty entertaining show. I still don’t think it’s ever going to compete for a spot among the best anime of the season; though, the introduction of a second spirit-catching demon seems to signal that the show will begin moving away from merely focusing on the main characters capturing spirits and developing a deeper story. So, maybe it’s still possible.

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(7) – Steins;Gate

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 8/12  B+

After the ending to Chaos;Head burned me a couple of years ago, I approached Steins;Gate (from the same people) with a fair amount of trepidation. I didn’t want to get burned again. The first episode was really cool; cool enough that I started thinking maybe this time will be different. Then episodes 2-4 aired, and it started feeling like the show was going to just wander around and not make good on it’s promises. I gave Steins;Gate one more episode to re-interest me and, wouldn’t you know-it, episode 5 got me hooked again. So, that’s where it stands; I love conspiracies, time-travel, people with secrets and shadow organizations and when this anime delivers that, it’s wonderful. Depending on how the ending, this could still make it’s way further up the list or it could crash-and-burn. Time will tell.

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(6) – Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 9/12  A-

I’m not a fan of 15 minute shows when it crimps the overall quality of the show and that’s the case with Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san. From Production I.G., the story revolves around a young woman who has become the assistant to a private detective that makes pacts with devils to accomplish tasks that clients need done like stopping a cheating husband from cheating or stopping a stalker of an idol. The third and fourth episodes really showcase how well-done and funny Yondemasu yo, Azazel-san is. It got bonus points for casting Yuu Kobayashi as a mermaid demon that personifies jealousy and uses this jealousy to drive her magic. She’s fabulously perfect for the role and it’s nice to see someone other than Shinbou/Shaft understanding how to use her (her special talents were completely wasted playing Clain in Fractale).

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(5) – Hyouge Mono

Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 9/12  A-

The lack of buzz around this anime is truly criminal. Set in Japan’s Warring States era (think Sengoku Basara), the main character is a feudal lord under Oda Nobunaga (yeah, that guy though not quite as cool here) and lives his life pursuing the beautiful things of the world which includes tea and tea ceremonies. It’s not a comedy, per say, but more like a historical drama with a healthy dose of comedy, mainly centered around the main character’s lack of restraint around all things tea. Perspective viewers should note that Hyouge Mono is set to run 39 episodes so the pacing is a bit slower than a typical one season series. This is definitely one of this season’s gems and I hope more people will give Hyouge Mono a chance.

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(4) – Hanasaku Iroha

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 9/12  A-

I’ve already wrote a first impressions post for this and I don’t really have that much to add now.

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(3) – Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 10.5/12  Strong A

The second Shinbou/Shaft series of the season and the best way to sum Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko up is by saying it’s a typical Shinbou/Shaft anime. There’s the head tilts, the strange girl claiming something fanciful which might be true but probably is just covering over a tragic past, the clueless guy that falls for the strange girl, the awesome backgrounds and the best done night sky scenes, the dialoguing that fills so much of the episode up yet still is so insanely interesting and the little things that tell the viewer that once again Shinbou/Shaft is trying to do too much with too little time. In short, another winner for Shaft/Shinbou. The most notable thing about this anime, in comparison to past Shaft works, is the character designs are probably the most visually appealing of any Shaft series that I can remember. After last season, I’m glad I can get my Shinbou/Shaft fix and not have to worry about the heat death of the universe.

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(2) – Nichijou

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 11/12  A+

Between it’s placement and it’s rating, I, obviously, happen to really like Kyoto Animation’s latest series – Nichijou. Truthfully, I’m scratching my head after reading the vast majority of other posts about this show. I think it’s great that people are forming their own opinions about this anime but I’ve started wondering if I’m watching the same show as everyone else. Episode 5 made me laugh so hard that I was like an asthmatic fish flopping around at the bottom of a fishing boat trying to breathe after watching it. Nichijou is just so effortlessly funny and well put together all-the-while having this season’s best animation quality. Luckily for my sanity, I’m watching this with my younger sister and she’s loving Nichijou as much as I am so my chance of just being insane falls significantly.

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(1) – Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 11.5/12  Near Perfect

Whereas, I’m almost assured not to catch any flak over picking this as the early top anime of the season. Nor, are there many people who have not heard of this anime at this point. After making Railgun vastly superior to Index, I’ve been wondering and impatiently waiting for when Tatsuyuki Nagai would show up again. I’m glad the wait is over but I’m surprised it’s not with another J.C. Staff series. Having him helm this anime and the resulting awesomeness goes a long way to proving, in my mind, the idea that A-1 Pictures is really only as good as the director is. (Which is why their last great work was the second season of Birdy the Mighty Encode.)

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Wow, that was way more writing then what I was planning to do. I hope you enjoyed this double post.


Filed under: anime, first impressions

Spring 2011 Season Preview

Alright, so we’re pretty much on the eve of the start of the Spring 2011 season, which means it’s time for our previews. Below, you’ll read what each of the 4 of us think of the many many shows that are coming up. It seems that noitaminA is creating great anticipation again with its financial thriller [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, and the much hyped urban fantasy/scifi thriller Steins;Gate has caught our attention. We fork in our interests quite a bit from there, which is expected given the huge number of shows next season, but studio Shaft’s works seem to be on all our radars, a sign of the respect it’s earned over the past 2 years.

Rakuen

I would like to start by saying there is entirely too much anime airing this season. This is both good and bad. On the positive side, with at least 48 series listed on the latest guide I found, there’s a little something for everyone. If you can’t find a show you’re remotely interested in here, anime might not be your thing. On the negative side, it also makes it very difficult for me to watch everything I want to see. Right now, I have 15 series on my list. I am a little enthusiastic about 7 of them, while I’m definitely ready to try out the remaining 8. I expect to see this number dwindle rapidly. 7.5 hours of anime viewing per week is almost impossible to keep up to date, let alone remembering all the characters, plots and so on. Enough of my kvetching. I should get into the meat of my little segment.

I decided to order my lists by airing date, starting with the series I have a little interest in watching. Dog Days occupies the earliest spot on the list. I expect this to quickly devolve into harem territory, but I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for the summoned hero bit. Next up is the new season of Kaiji. The titular character participates in a gambling event where the stakes are his life. Joojoobees piqued my interest in his post about the first season, but I haven’t gotten to it. So, this go on the Want to Watch list by default. Then, we have Hidan no Aria, which gets a first episode watch based solely on adorable girls with lethal weapons.

A Channel seems to be going with a typical four-girl band for a school comedy, but it is a school comedy, so I’ll give it a shot. The little one, Tooru, also has a baseball bat that shows up all over the promo art… so it could be interesting. Next, we have Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, or in shorter terms, a new Shaft show. I loved Soredemo, but didn’t like Arakawa. This seems to lean more towards the latter, what with the main girl insisting she’s an alien. Ao no Exorcist continues the “son of Satan will fight his fate” trend. I wonder if this theme comes up because many people have a desire to fight their own fates. What better example is there than the son of evil trying to do good? Finally, The World God Only Knows rounds out this portion of the list. I went back to finish the first season, which means the series did hold some interest for me. I just don’t know if it can do it for another 12 episodes.

The rest of my list comprises of shows I have stronger interest in, and Moshidora has the “earliest” airdate. Giant Killing got me into sports anime, and Big Windup has continued to strengthen my view of the genre. Like Big Windup, we have a female manager trying to lead a baseball club to victory. However, its airdate has been postponed, so it might have to wait for a later season. KyoAni’s Nichijou also airs this season, but I didn’t even realize they animated it until I started writing this. The synopsis itself got me hooked. A principal might wrestle a deer? This is a school comedy I’ve got to see! Hana-Saku Iroha kind of reminds me of Love Hina with the hot springs centric plot, but that’s where the similarities end. It looks like it completely lacks the male lead, meaning no harem, and the plot sounds more focused on drama. I think both of those aspects are Good Things. Showa Monogatari adds another drama to my list with its family orientation and historical setting. This is a more tentative entry on my list, but the Olympic setting piqued my interest.

Now we’re to two of my most anticipated shows. First, STEINS;GATE, which just looks phenomenally awesome in both the artwork and the synopsis. It has the whole time-travel thing, as well as the struggle for survival with the SERN organization on their tails. I get a little Persona vibe from it too, but it might only be me. Sket Dance is yet another school series, but this one stood out from the pack. The premise reminds me of Haruhi, except with less aliens, time travelers, and espers. Unlike the rest, this has the best chance of a strong overarching plot, which I’m really hoping happens. If someone who’s read the manga could confirm it, it’d be much appreciated. Returning to the outlier series on my list, there’s C, plus its long title. It’s got an economically crapsack Japan and a main character who gets sucked into the shuffle. Sounds interesting, and with its noitaminA slot, I’ve got hopes for it. Last, but not least, is Deadman Wonderland. The fight for survival premise fittingly relates to the old Coliseum. It could have a bit too much violence for my tastes, but want to give it a good shot.

Looking back at my list, there’s plenty of comedy, action, and drama with a variety of premises. This could very well be my most anticipated season since I first got into currently airing shows. I hope school and work don’t kick my ass too hard, so I can have the time to watch all these shows.

Top 3: Steins;Gate, Sket Dance, C

lvlln

There sure are a lot of shows coming out next season, but somehow the only ones I’m looking forward to are the sequels: The World God Only Knows, Maria+Holic Alive, and the Kampfer specials.

Just kidding; besides those 3, We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day (AnoHana) on noitaminA’s block sounds like it has potential, simply for being a real-life drama on noitaminA. Oh, and it also contains a character type that’s near and dear to the hearts of everyone here on this site, a hikikomori. Then again, noitaminA has been really hit or miss lately, with the trainwreck that is Fractale and the hugely disappointing Kuragehime, even if AIC’s Wandering Son is absolutely knocking it out of the park this season. AnoHana is being made by A-1 Pictures, which is responsible for some pretty poor shows such as Kannagi and last year’s Anime no Chikara duo Sora no Woto and Occult Academy, so I’m very prepared to be disappointed. Still, the director has A Certain Scientific Railgun on his resume, and that didn’t suck too much, and I’ve heard his Toradora! did drama well.

Besides that, only 2 other non-sequels have caught my eye: Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko and Steins;Gate. Denpa Onna because it’s Shaft, even if it sounds just like another version of Arakawa Under the Bridge, which turned out… alright. Steins;Gate because I’ve read some other people really excited about it. Plus, I like modern-day scifi stories.

But really, the sequels are what I’m looking forward to.

The World God Only Knows was a surprisingly entertaining show for which didn’t have a bit of faith in going in. But Keima’s cynical, almost nihilistic personality combined with his occasional outbursts made for good comedy. A show that was as meta as that could have been a lot more meaningful, sure, but it was a fine source of dumb laughs. The 1st season ended on a planned cliffhanger, and though I doubt the pickle Keima got into will last more than an episode, I look forward to seeing how he will continue to add to his transient harem.

What I liked about Maria+Holic was Asami Sanada‘s Kanako, the perverted lesbian man hating protagonist. Her smooth, soft voice is unique, and seeing her character constantly abused somehow didn’t get old. Didn’t hurt that it was Yuu Kobayashi as Maria doing the abusing. She plays male characters well, and she does crazy well, too. Then there’s Marina Inoue as Matsurika. I like to think of it as a gay Stalker-tan being forced to live with an abusive Kaere and her snarky maid Symmetrical-tan. What more whacky antics will these 3 and the rest of the cast get into?

And bottom of the sequel list is Kampfer. Now here’s a show that was pure guilty pleasure. Looking for things like action, plot, character development, or meaningful relationships was a fruitless endeavor. I just loved seeing Natsuru and his/her thick head be dragged around by his psychotic harem. And this show’s cast is pretty much a who’s who list of female voice actors right now. I wish they’d do a 2nd season instead of just a couple episodes, but I suppose they’ll do.

Top 3: The World God Only Knows, Maria+Holic Alive, We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day

Raphael

Pleasantly, there’s a good bit of original anime in this crop. Tiger & Bunny is among them and has received more press for the large amount of product placement it’ll employ than for the fact that Sunrise is doing a superhero show. I’m hoping it will be fun and won’t drag. Another of these original shows is Dog Days by the team behind Nanoha. The setting and premise don’t appeal to me, but I may well give it a whirl; it’ll probably at least look nice. The most promising of this lot in my eyes is C. Strong staff, very interesting premise, noitaminA. Unfortunately, the trailer didn’t meet my expectations, with the wonderful character designs not translating as well as I’d hoped and the animation looking a tad under par. It’s still the season’s series I’m most eagerly awaiting. The last two original anime, Hana-saku Iroha (which, judging by trailers, will look stunning) and AnoHana seem to fall squarely into the slice of life/drama genre zone. They also have the same head writer in Mari Okada. Both could be enjoyable if done well, but I feel like both could also try my patience, especially given that Hana-saku Iroha is reportedly 26 episodes. I’ll give them a go.

Moving onto the adaptations, we have manga-based slice-of-life comedies in A Channel and Nichijou. I’ve read the source of the former, and I was expecting to discard it quickly… but I found myself really enjoying it. It’s nothing new, but the humor has a slightly mean bent and I got several good laughs out of it. I’m curious to see how it translates to anime, as there’s a fairly new studio on board but also the director and series composition guy who did Saki. The latter is Kyoto Animation’s spring offering and, like Hana-saku Iroha, is supposedly two-cour. I found the prequel OVA nowhere near as funny as I do A Channel’s manga, but I definitely felt it had charm to it. I’ll give both of these series a try. Other comedies include Xebec’s entries Hen Zemi and Softenni. I’ll be watching Hen Zemi because I liked its OVA for its disgusting humor, but I do wonder if things will get cleaned up for TV. In addition, the OVA’s director will not be returning for the series; instead he’s been replaced by the director who did Rio – Rainbow Gate! and To Love-Ru. Meanwhile, the man behind the OVA will be working on Softenni, which I get big Saki vibes from. I’m also a massive tennis fan, so – though I’m sure I’ll feel silly for thinking there might be actual tennis-playing involved – while I really, really doubt I’ll enjoy it anywhere near as much as Saki, I’ll give it a shot. Hopefully I won’t want to be shot because of it/need several shots of something to get through it. (Punning is hard, give me a break (ha!).) Shaft will also have two comedies airing: the sequel to Maria+Holic, and the bizarre enough for me to check out Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko.

To the action/adventure side of things, Steins;Gate stands out as having potential to be very entertaining and entertainingly technobabble-filled. Premise sounds great, art looks great, and Jukki Hanada is at the writing helm. Really looking forward to this. We also have Ao no Exorcist, Deadman Wonderland, and Hidan no Aria. The first has good buzz and the director of Darker than Black going for it, and it could be interesting. As for the latter two, I’m up to date with what’s been translated of the manga of both. Deadman Wonderland is packed full of gore, action, good characters, and plot twists, and I love it. I’m unsure whether it’ll get the treatment it deserves, though, as Manglobe will be dividing its efforts between it and the second season of The World God Only Knows. But I’m hoping for the best. Hidan no Aria has been less fun for me to get through. I would’ve dropped it very quickly (for its mix of mostly-loli fanservice, poor art, and storm of cliches) if I hadn’t found the concept of a school for armed detectives so enticing. I plan to be watching the anime too, even though Rie Kugimiya as yet another flat-chested tsundere should’ve deterred me, and – despite my grumbling – I’m sure I’ll have some fun. Interestingly, this (along with Gosick) will make two shows airing simultaneously that focus on a foreign-loli-Holmes/Japanese-high-school-boy-Watson duo.

As for the rest? Moshidora‘s unusual premise has piqued my interest, and I plan to check it out; Hyouge Mono, Toriko, Sket Dance, and Showa Monogatari don’t appeal to me; OreTsuba (We Don’t Have Wings) and HoshiKaka (A Bridge to the Starry Skies) look very similar and similarly uninteresting; and Astarotte no Omocha! does not exist. And finally, though I’m almost certain I’ll be unable to get through an episode, I feel obligated to check out Sekaiichi Hatsukoi because BL anime adaptations are just so rare.

Top 3: C, Steins;Gate, Deadman Wonderland

CPAnime

Despite the overwhelming amount of new anime coming out, it feels like most of the stuff out there is either for teens or a generic (adult) drama. Thankfully, there are enough shows out there that choosing which anime I will be watching will still be a difficult task. The following are a few of the anime that I have the most interest in for varying reasons.

It has been about two years since I started watching anime on a season by season basis, and one of the first shows I watched in this way was Maria+Holic. So, with the benefit of two years of full time anime watching experience, it will be interesting for me to see if I find Alive anywhere as interesting as the original was in 2009. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I tuned in on a week to week basis was to see the OP and ED, so it will be interesting to see if my tastes have changed, or if this show is actually as awesome as I remembered.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

I am also pretty interested in the other Shaft show, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, but mainly because I don’t know anything about it. Shaft has built up some serious street cred over the past few months with Madoka Magica, but there is also the possibility that this could turn into an Arakawa under the Bridge 2 situation, especially given the synopsis. Another thing that worries me is that Shaft is doing two shows this season, and seeing as how they can barely manage one most of the time, I think the quality is inevitably going to suffer. Still, girls with mysterious pasts are kind of one my things, so I’ll be checking this one out for sure.

C is another interesting show for me, but for some different reasons. It reminds me a lot of Madoka in that there is a contract being made, though I doubt that the main character will be naive as some of the characters in Madoka, as the show doesn’t seem to be hiding its cards. From the previews I’ve read up to this point, it seems like the show might have a difficult time with its first few episodes as there looks to be a lot going on. Hopefully, a deeper understanding of economics or business won’t be needed for this show, as that could turn off some viewers. Personally, I have confidence that this shouldn’t be a problem as it is part of the noitaminA time slot, but even that is no longer a guarantee.

Moshidora

Staying on the business end of things, the one show I am looking forward to the most this season is Moshidora. While its broadcast schedule kind of seems up in the air, I’m looking forward to watching this during the baseball season. Since I’m a business student and a baseball fan, this show is kind of a no brainer for me, and I can potentially see myself blogging this. Still, I do have my doubts as to whether this will work, despite its popularity in Japan. Mainly, I am concerned that the translation of the material into an anime will fail to jump off the page, if you will, and just become another boring class lesson, though I doubt it.

Finally, the one show that will undoubtedly be my guilty pleasure is Hen Zemi. I recently watched the first episode of the OVA and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The only real criticism I could levy against it, besides the obvious, was that it took too long to get to its punch lines. I am a bit concerned that the TV broadcast will be impeded by those god forsaken censors (Kiss X Sis‘s OVAs, for example, were and are infinitely better than the censored TV broadcast), but as long as the staff is witty enough, it can probably work around this. Though, it is XEBEC. So… that could be good or bad, depending on your preferences (btw, where is my LxB sequel?).

Top 3: C, Moshidora, A Channel

And that about wraps it up. Which of the dozens and dozens of shows are you looking forward to this spring?





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