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The Best Anime Of 2012 – Part 3: VMA Awards

chuu2fall201208918

Step three for awesome anime – after creating memorable characters and giving them a worthy stage – is to use every part of the production process to bring-out/enhance the positive aspects of the anime and hide the negative aspects. Getting the right seiyuu can be the difference between a character being a success or failure. Inappropriate music can ruin the climax of a series and nothing can make a whole anime series fail as assuredly as poor animation quality. In the right hands, a small budget can be overcome through creating the right animation style. Stellar OP/ED with it’s combination of music and animation can build excitement and anticipation for the anime and ensure viewers come back next week.

There’s other parts to an anime’s production – like script writing, cinematography, sound editing, etc. – that won’t gets awards here because I’m not knowledgeable enough in these areas to put any confidence in picking winners. Which is why I call this set of awards the Voice, Music, and Audio awards. I’m hoping, yet again, next year I’ll be able to include a few more areas of the production to these awards.

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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Top Seiyuu “Discovered”

Nominees

Yumi Uchiyama
Kaori Ishihara
Risa Taneda
Asami Seto
Ai Kayano

Winner –

risa_taneda

Risa Taneda

I will profess to being only an amateur seiyuu fan that can’t possibly match the professional seiyuu fans so I’m probably missing several obvious nominees and I won’t mind constructive comments to enlighten me. A couple of the nominees have appeared in a couple roles and are probably stronger nominees then Risa Taneda but she has been just so wonderful as Saki in Shinsekai Yori and is so extraordinary while singing the ED song for the same series that I feel she has the potential of being a huge seiyuu in the future. One of the interesting things I noticed with Shinsekai Yori is that, with all the various ages of the characters that we see, many of these characters are voiced by multiple seiyuu, but Risa Taneda and Kana Hanazewa have solely voiced their characters.

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Best Performance by a Seiyuu

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Yukari Tamura as Remon from Ano Natsu de Matteru
Spring – Ayako Yoshitani as Urabe from Mysterious Girlfriend X
Summer –
Kana Hanazawa as Ichiko from Binbou-gami ga!
Autumn – Jun Fukuyama as Togashi Yuuta from Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Wildcards:

Hiroaki Hirata as Mutta in Space Brothers, Yumi Uchiyama as Momiji from Binbou-gami ga!, Shizuka Itou as Koko  from Jormungand/Jormundand:Perfect Order

Winner –

jun_fukuyama

Jun Fukuyama as Togashi Yuuta from Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

What was demanded of Jun Fukuyama to successfully pull the roll of Yuuta off was large and yet he made it look easy. There were other seiyuu that had the range of talent to pull off a character like Yuuta but I’m not sure anyone could have done a better job voicing the Yuuta that was in Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! then Jun Fukuyama. As impressive of a job as he did, there were several other performances that made his win a close thing.

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Best Male Seiyuu

Nominees

Hiroaki Hirata
Mamoru Miyano
Hiroshi Kamiya
Yuichi Nakamura
Jun Fukuyama

Winner –

kamiyahiroshi

Hiroshi Kamiya

I’ve always loved the range of characters that Hiroshi Kamiya can portray. On one hand he’s Natsume for the Natsume Yuujinchou franchise and on the other he’s Araragi on the Bakemonogatari franchise. This year also saw him stretch his talent by Penguin on Shirokuma Café and Erecpyle Dukakis on Ixion Saga DT. He beat out a very crowded field of great male vocal actors

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Best Female Seiyuu

Nominees

Miyuki Sawashiro
Shizuka Itou
Kana Hanazawa
Ai Kayano

Winner –

Kana_hanazawa

Kana Hanazawa

I could have added more nominees but, realistically, the choice for this category was either Miyuki Sasashiro or Kana Hanazawa and Kana Hanazawa was just in too many series doing too good of a job to not win this award. My favorite role of hers this year was Ichiko from Binbou-gami ga!.

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Best Seiyuu Cast

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Nisemonogatari
Spring – AKB0048
Summer – Dog Days 2
Autumn – Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Wildcards:

Binbou-gami ga!, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou

Winner –

summer201233622

Dog Days 2

There were a large amount of series that featured excellent voice actor casts this year so I think picking the winner really comes down to one’s personal biases and tastes. I wouldn’t argue with someone picking one of the other nominees as their top pick but I truly enjoyed the seiyuu cast to Dog Days 2. One point in it’s favor is that I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that every voice actor has a part somewhere in Dog Days. What really allowed Dog Days 2 to earn this award, though, is the relaxed warm nature to the anime allowed the seiyuu to relax and have fun with their parts. (Or, at least, that’s what it sound to me.)

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Best OP

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Nisemonogatari OP3 – “Platinum Disco”
Spring – Sakamichi no Apollon
Summer – Hyouka OP2
Autumn – Jormungand: Perfect Order

Wildcards:

Tsuritama, AKB0048, Dusk Maiden x Amnesia

Winner –

winter201302166

AKB0048

Sometimes an OP/ED is an instant hit with the viewer and sometimes it takes awhile. Tsuritama and Nisemonogatari OP3 were instant greats and both were early favorites to win this award. They were eventually beat out by AKB0048. This one was a slow burn before it reached it’s full potential which helps explain why it was a wildcard.

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Best ED

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
Spring – Bodacious Space Pirates
Summer - Space Brothers ED2
Autumn – Shinsekai Yori
Wildcards:

Joshiraku, Upotte, AKB0048

Winner –

nichibros30074

shinsekaiyori30752

spacebros33560

tie – Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou / Shinsekai Yori/ Space Brothers ED 2

I agonized over this choice the longest and the hardest. I tried to find a sliver of separation between these three and I couldn’t; so, I’m picking all three to win this category. What normally happens is different ED are stronger and weaker in the various components that make a good ED and it’s a question of figuring out which one overall is the strongest. Here, though, the visuals of all three were great, the music of all three were lovely, how well the ED went thematically and emotionally with the show was excellent for all three, and these three all easily passed the test of how well the ED worked to finish the episode.

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Best Background Music

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Natsume Yuujinchou Shi
Spring – Jormungand
Summer – Eureka Seven AO
Autumn –
Shinsekai Yori

Wildcards:

Hyouka, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Winner –

summer201200179

Eureka Seven AO

Normally I complain how I don’t quite have the confidence when I pick a winner in this category but this year I actually feel at ease for picking Eureka Seven AO. An OST is not quite the same thing as the show’s background music because it is the full tracks separated from the animated scenes that used them but it’s close and there was no other OST that I listened to more this year then the first one for E7AO. I normally cherry pick my favorite tracks and listen to only those. With E7AO, I listened to the whole thing and during the break the Olympics caused I used the OST to tide me over until the anime started up again. When it did, I found myself loving the background music for E7AO even more.

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Best Character Designs

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Chihayafuru
Spring – Bodacious Space Pirates
Summer –
Dog Days 2
Autumn – Jormungand: Perfect Order

Wildcards:

Btooom!, Jormungand, Aquarion Evol, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Winner –

jormungandfall201209242

Jormungand / Jormungand: Perfect Order

This year I realized that, with the attention I’ve been paying the quality of animation, I’ve started to really notice character designs in both the positive and negative. There were a few cases this year of series that I started watching just because I liked the character designs. I sure there’s a big book somewhere that explains what makes good character designs but, right now, I think it splits into two camps – the first group looks good and is easy on the eyes and the second group helps the show to better convey it’s characterizations and story. Jormungand falls into the second group. The character designs are vaguely ugly to look at but if they had looked different then Jormungand would not have been as good as it was. The characters looked like they belonged in the story that was being told and their look made the plot seem more plausible. Image if the characters had looked like they belonged in K-on! or Hidamari Sketch. Yeah.

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Best Animation Style

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Nisemonogatari
Spring – Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko
Summer –
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
Autumn – Shinsekai Yori

Wildcards:

Tsuritama, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Winner –

spring201217475

Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko

I’ll be the first to admit that the animation to Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko wasn’t always the highest quality or the most consistent but that did not infringe upon it’s memorable animation style. Lupin is a very long running series and, as much as I love it, seemed for a long time now content to keep the auto-pilot engaged and coast along. It was always great to see new Lupin but it also hurt to see another half-hearted effort. Which is why I’m very happy that this Lupin series got made. It wasn’t perfect but the successful attempt at a new animation style might just signal a further re-genesis for this franchise.

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Best Animation

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Aquarion Evol
Spring – Hyouka
Summer – Hyouka
Autumn – Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Wildcards:

Eureka Seven AO, Sakamichi no Apollon, AKB0048

Winner –

summer201223988

Hyouka

Every year there’s at least one category that is incredibly easy to pick because the answer is so blindingly obvious and this year it’s this category. Hyouka is just heads-n-shoulders above everything else this year.

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Top Animation Studio

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – J.C. Staff
Spring – Satelight
Summer – Sunrise
Autumn – A-1 Pictures

Wildcards:

Kyoto Animation, Madhouse

Winner –

shinsekaifall201215795

A-1 Pictures

A-1 Pictures had a beast of year. They were behind two of the best new anime of 2012 (Space Brothers and Shinsekai Yori), another excellent series (Tsuritama), a solid series (Magi), and one commercial success of questionable quality that will fill it’s coffers and allow them to continue animating the other, more higher quality stuff (Sword Art Online). I took notice of A-1 Pictures from almost their inception when there second animated series was Birdy: The Mighty Decode which still ranks near the top of my list of anime series with the best action scenes. My respect for their name has only grown from then and only very occasionally have they created a dud. Several other studios gave A-1 Pictures stiff competition for this award. Kyoto Animation had a very strong year with two successful new, non-sequel TV series plus the K-On! movie that made a killing both in the theater and in DVD/BD sales. Nor should Satelight and Sunrise be forgotten for filling the year up with a variety shows that ranged from good to great.

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That’s it for part 3 of my 2012 anime awards. Stay tuned for the next part

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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 <- you are here
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
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 2012 – Part 2: Genre and General Awards

winter201105881

As I’ve said before, with competent execution, a shoujo anime is as good as a shounen anime and/or a slice-of-life anime and/or a sports anime and/or a science fiction anime and/or romantic comedy anime and so on and so forth.

Each genre, though, has a different tool box of tropes, clichés, common elements, and understoods at their ready disposal to craft an anime in that genre. Some tool boxes are bigger, more versatile, and just plain better than others; so, the trick for those people working with the smaller tool boxes is to know how to maximize the usefulness of their tools and know when to borrow from someone else’s toolbox. Chihayafuru is an example of a shoujo anime that also borrows liberally from the sports anime genre to augment itself and is much stronger as a result.

That said, I elected to not include some genre awards like Best Shoujo and Best Shounen series because I’ve not watched enough of the potential contenders to make an informed choice.

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.

 

Best Action

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Aquarion Evol
Spring – Jormungand
Summer – Eureka Seven AO
Autumn –
Jormungand: Perfect Order

Wildcard:

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Winner -

jormungandfall201207914

Jormungand / Jormungand: Perfect Order

For an anime to have good action a few things are needed: above average animation, animators who know how to infuse their animation with a sense of movement (action) and excitement, a script that knows when to include the action scenes and how to keep them feeling fresh, a reason for these action scenes, and a staff that knows how to pace these scenes to create a sense of taut suspense. This year there was no anime that could match Jormungand / Jormungand: Perfect Order overall. It’s closest competitor was KyoAni’s Chuunibyou; if this series has been more action oriented then it would have won through it’s peerless animation.

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Most Entertaining

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter - Tantei Opera Milky Holmes 2
Spring – AKB0048
Summer – Dog Days 2
Autumn –
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Wildcards:

Natsuiro Kiseki, Aquarion EVOL, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Winner -

winter201213514

Aquarion EVOL

If there’s anyone that pays close enough attention to these awards then you might have noticed that the winner of this category is one of the wildcards which, I believe, is a first for me. Having this series split between seasons (and considered in parts) hurt it’s chances for the seasonal awards but here Aquarion EVOL can shine at it’s full strength. Time, reflection, and a rewatch helped me better appreciate the well thought-out absurdities of Aquarion EVOL.

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Most Interesting Setting

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Last Exile – Ginkyou no Fam
Spring – Eureka Seven AO
Summer –
Eureka Seven AO
Autumn – Shinsekai Yori

Wildcards:

Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, Girls und Panzer

 Winner -

shinsekaifall201202187

Shinsekai Yori

I wasn’t surprised when I found out that the creator of Shinsekai Yori has been developing it for more than 30 years because the world it takes place in is so very thought out and tightly constructed. It’s not a nice place to live but it’s a very fascinating one.

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Best Plot

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter –  Another
Spring – Eureka Seven AO
Summer –
Eureka Seven AO
Autumn –
Shinsekai Yori

Wildcards:

Hunter x Hunter, AKB0048

Winner -

summer201223589

 Eureka Seven AO

Eureka Seven AO was one of the most divisive anime series of 2012 amongst fans It seemed like for most people, the more one enjoyed the original series, the stronger the negative reaction towards E7AO was. Which puzzled me because I thought it had a very strong plot and it actually had a real, honest-to-goodness, ending. Sure we had to wait months to get it, thanks to the Olympics, but Bones didn’t mess the ending up like they always do and this allowed the plot to actually work. Now if only the characters had been more likeable.

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Best Story

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Chihayafuru
Spring – Space Brothers
Summer –
Space Brothers
Autumn – Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Wildcards:

AKB0048, Hyouka

Winner -

spring201205077

Space Brothers

Though this category is called Best Story, it’s really about storytelling because even the most humble of stories can become equals to the grand stories if the person telling the story does it right. Space Brothers is, oddly enough, about two brothers that wanted to become astronauts from the time they were kids. One never gave up on his dream and became an astronaut and the other one, the older one, deemed his dream impossible until falling into a bad situation pushed him into seeing if his dream of space was really that impossible. Over the seasons the story to Space Brothers has unfolded and it’s become apparent that it’s an example of a humble story told right, really right.

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Best Final Episode

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Natsume Yuujinchou Shi
Spring – Aquarion Evol
Summer –
Hyouka
Autumn –
Nekomonogatari – Black

Wildcards:

Bodacious Space Pirates, Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Winner -

hyouka_22

Hyouka

Not that I knew it at the time but coming into the last episode of Hyouka there was one thing this series still needed to do – flesh out Chitanda’s character. All the other main characters were given the opportunity to let the viewers get to know who they were except for Chitanda. That she was constantly curious about everything and slightly ditzy was a given but that was all she was until the last episode came along. Along with Houtarou, the viewers finally got a peek at what grounded her and what she held dear in her heart. It was just the thing to give Hyouka that sense of completing something needed for an ending when the story continues. It also made me really want a sequel.

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Best Ending

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Chihayafuru
Spring – Aquarion Evol
Summer –
Binbou-gami ga!
Autumn –
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Wildcards:

Bodacious Space Pirates, Sakamichi no Apollon

Winner -

summer201229881

Aquarion Evol

For a series so bent on being absurd and over-the-top, Aquarion Evol never forgot that it needed to do the basics, like tell a story, as well. I was surprised, though, to see it weave it’s various story arcs and plot points into a coherent, satisfying conclusion where love conquers all. Not the most original ending but I don’t particularly care when it’s done as well as Aquarion Evol did it.

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Best Slice-of-Life

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Natsume Yuujinchou Shi
Spring – Space Brothers
Summer – Space Brothers
Autumn –
Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb

Wildcard:

Natsuiro Kiseki

Winner -

fall201219954

Space Brothers

I mentioned above about how with the right execution even humble stories can be magnificent; this category’s nominees all help prove that assertion. We have a show about a boy who can see spirits, a show about a guy who wants to be astronaut, a show about a girl who is an art major in high school, and a show about four girls who discover a rock that can grant wishes. The best this year was Space Brothers and who knows maybe a year from now I’ll saying the same thing for 2013.

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Best Science Fiction

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter – Bodacious Space Pirates
Spring – Space Brothers
Summer – Space Brothers
Autumn – Shinsekai Yori

Wildcards:

Aquarion Evol, Psycho-pass

Winner -

fall201219386

Space Brothers

This was another very good year for science fiction anime; between the titles listed above and Doctor Who, I almost forget there’s almost no good SF series being produced in the US anymore. That’s a topic for another day, though. It was very difficult to pick the winner because of the wide variety of SF seen in the nominees but I picked Space Brothers in the end because Shinsekai Yori and Psycho-pass are unfinished and still have a few surprises in store for the viewers and also because Space Brothers has a more positive outlook for the near future. (Depressing near-futures are so common that those that run counter deserve a little extra credit.)

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Best Comedy

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter –  Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
Spring – Upotte
Summer – Joshiraku
Autumn – Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!

Wildcards:

Binbou-gami ga!, Onii-chan Dakedo Ai Sae Areba Kankeinai yo ne!

Winner -

winter201225988

Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou

Last winter I was sure that Nichibros had a lock on this category but as 2012 unfolded there were quite a few strong contenders with Joshiraku being the strongest. If Joshiraku had been produced by a stronger animation company that could have and would have added onto the source material then it probably would have won. Shaft was the obvious choice but they weren’t the only ones; instead, J.C. Staff handled it along with their trademark lackluster adapting skills. In the end, though, I was right; Nichibros was the best comedy of 2012.

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Best Drama

Nominees

Seasonal Winners:

Winter –  Chihayafuru
Spring – AKB0048
Summer – Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi
Autumn – Shinsekai Yori

Wildcards:

Psycho-pass, Another

Winner -

shinsekaifall201205962

Shinsekai Yori

I am a bit leery about awarding this to Shinsekai Yori when it’s only half done but only a bit because it’s been so perfect at building the tension and drama that I don’t think I’ll regret this choice later. In case that happens, the runner-up for this category is Chihayafuru.

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

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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 <- you are here
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
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

Top Picks for the Summer 2012 Anime Season – Part 3 of 3: The Top 8 Series

Like a thief in the night, I come

Part 3 and we’re reached the summer of the summer season; the series that burned the brightest. Up until now there hasn’t been too many awards given or series that are ones that have carried over from a previous season but this part has plenty of both.

Before I get to the top 8 series there’s one award that I traditionally give out that doesn’t fit well in this format – it is Top Animation Studio – because it is normally earned across multiple anime series. Therefore I’m going to award it now; winning the award for Top Animation Studio is Sunrise for animating Binbou-gami ga!, Accel World, Phi Brain Season 2, and Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon 2. Of the animation studios that put out multiple series this season, the quality of Sunrise’s series were consistently the highest and even series that didn’t rank all that highly, like Phi Brain and Horizon, were a fun watch that never felt like a waste of time to watch.

8 – Dog Days 2

Series rating for episodes 1 to 13 – 9/12  A-
Runner-up Best Screen grabber: Godwin (Norio Wakamoto’s character)
Runner-up Best Ending
Winner Most Entertaining
Winner Most in Need of a Sequel
Winner Best Vocal Performance by the Cast

In my summer season preview (that I didn’t finish before the beginning of the season and thus never posted) one of the last shows on my list was Dog Days 2. The first season was “okay” and I really didn’t see how the series was going to fill up an entire second season so I wasn’t really looking forward to Dog Days 2. It was worth a couple episode test, however, and almost instantly I realized Dog Days 2 was not the same show Dog Days 1 was. The sequel didn’t change it’s genre or go in some weird direction so in a sense it was the same show as the first season but everything in the sequel had a clarity to it that the first season didn’t quite have and the resulting series could be summarized as “warm and fluffy”. I never finished an episode without a smile on my face and my mood shifted to happy contentment. Anime needs to put out more of these types of series.

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7 – Hunter x Hunter

Seasonal ratings for episodes 37 to 49 – 10/12 A
Winner Best Villain: Phantom Troupe
Runner-up Best Action
Winner Best Fight:
Kurapika and Uvo episode 47
Runner-up Best Plot

Much like how Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood phoned in the first patch of episodes because they had to re-cover ground from the original series, the creators of this version of Hunter x Hunter phoned in the first couple of story arcs. It was only towards the end of spring season that Madhouse signaled it was starting to get serious about this show. This season picked up where spring left off and has continued on a very steep upwards curve in terms of quality. One of the reasons for the increase in quality is greater focus on Kurapika and his quest to avenge his fallen clan and the recovery of the remains of his clan that are in the hands of collectors. This storyline allows for a greater sophistication and emotional depth then the more standard shounen storyline (as exemplified by the just completed story arc surrounding Gon’s quest for a Hunter’s license) and once again proves that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the shounen genre – just with the lazy, shallow writing that seems like the norm in this genre. Now if only we could get a remake of Yu Yu Hakusho then I’d truly be a happy camper.

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6 – Eureka Seven AO

Provisional series rating for episodes 1 to 22 – 10/12  A
Runner-up Best Drama
Winner Best Plot
Winner Best Action
Winner Most Interesting Setting
Winner Best Background Music
Runner-up Best Animation

As I’ve said elsewhere, I did not like the ending to original Eureka Seven series in part because it felt like a confusing mess. Because of that, I did not have the mindset of hating this sequel even before it aired like so many people apparently had and that also allowed me to give this series a fair chance to win me over. Which it did. I even think Bones might actually be able to nail the ending this time without reverting to their typical M.O. (and greatest weakness) of needing to fit way much material in at the end and not having the time to do so. And if it wasn’t for the stupid Olympics causing the final two episodes to get aired months after the rest of the series, it would be possible, at this point, to see if Bones accomplished a great ending or not.

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5 – Joshiraku

Series rating for episodes 1 to 13 – 10/12  A
Winner Best Comedy
Runner-up Best ED

If one imagines a party thrown for these top 8 anime series, one might imagine Joshiraku feeling a bit embarrassed for being invited to the party after winning so few awards when compared to the other 7 anime series. It shouldn’t, though, because these awards are an imperfect way to judge the overall quality of series. For example, being a comedy meant that Joshiraku wasn’t going to win any of the character awards when there’s anime series like Space Brothers that focus on the characters almost exclusively. Nor was there a chance for it win awards like Best Plot or Best Story and having J.C. Staff produce it made awards like Best Animation and Best Animation Style equally unattainable. Winning the award for Best Comedy in conjunction with earning the number 5 spot does show my personal belief that making a successful comedy is as tough to do as creating a successful drama. I’ll be shocked if there’s a great number reading this that will agree with my high opinion of Joshiraku because Koji Kumeta (the creator of the original manga) takes a bit of work to understand. It’s not impossible, especially with the consumption of 3+ seasons of his previous work Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei that Shaft animated and a superb effort by the translator to localize the translation without losing the flavor of Kumeta. I actually find that Kumeta actually has a more Western mindset towards comedy then the average anime comedy series.

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4 – Binbou-gami ga!

Series rating for episodes 1 to 13 – 10.5/12  Strong A
Runner-up Best Female Main Character: Momiji, a Poverty God
Runner-up Best Comedy
Winner Best Ending
Runner-up Most Entertaining
Winner Best Vocal Performance by a Seiyuu
: Kana Hanazawa as Ichiko
Runner-up Best Vocal Performance by a Seiyuu: Yumi Uchiyama as Momiji
Runner-up Best Vocal Performance by the Cast

All comedies series are entertaining but not all entertaining series are comedies. This distinction led me to creating a Best Comedy award and a Most Entertaining award. The possible overlap between the two awards appear here with Binbou-gami ga! being the runner-up for both awards. By not being a pure comedy series, however, Binbou-gami ga! was able to diversify how it filled up the episodes and helped make sure that it never got stale or stuck repeating material. Also helping this anime series finish so high was an extremely great performance by the seiyuus Kana Hanazawa and Yumi Uchiyama as the two main characters and backed by a slew of great performances from the supporting cast. Before this series I was sure that I had already heard the best that Kana Hanazawa could do (which is to say performances that put her at or near to the top for all vocal actors) but this anime showed that she still had room to get better.

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3 – Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi

Series rating for episodes 1 to 13 – 10.5/12  Strong A
Runner-up Best Cast of Characters
Winner Best Drama
Runner-up Best Animation Style

My initial desire to see Uta Koi was enhanced by the excellent recent anime Chihayafuru which centered on the game of karuta which uses the poems of the Hyakunin Isshu collection but I was still skeptical how a series could be constructed around a group of poems. Some days it doesn’t pay to be skeptical because the creator of the manga was way ahead of me. For Uta Koi a mixture of historical fact and poetic license was used to show the circumstances behind why the writers of the poems in the Hyakunin Isshu wrote the poems they did. Because so many of the 100 poems dealt with love, almost without fault, each episode featured a different story of love between the characters of that episode. Of those, many ended up being stories about how the writer of the poem could not marry the love of their life because of the strict societal laws of the time. This is a very difficult way to set the show up, however, since every episode had to introduce a new story and complete it within the roughly 20 minutes in that episode but they nailed it. By the end of each episode I found myself wrapped up in the story and wishing these people could have found more happiness in there lives. And just like how Chihayafuru made me look forward to Uta Koi, Uta Koi has now made me all the more excited for Chihayafuru season 2.

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2 – Hyouka

Series rating for episodes 1 to 22 – 11.5/12  Near Perfect
Runner-up Best Male Main Character: Houtarou
Winner Best Female Main Character: Chitanda
Winner Best Couple: Chitanda and Houtarou
Runner-up Best Fight: Wildfire Cooking contest from episode 14
Runner-up Best Character Development
Runner-up Best Slice of Life
Runner-up Best Story
Runner-up Most in Need of a Sequel
Winner Best OP
Runner-up Best Background Music
Winner Best Animation

For the spring season Hyouka ranked at 11 but I said the show seemed to be picking up and would probably rank even higher for the summer season. Turns out that I was right on both counts; it almost caught Space Brothers this time. As a result of the increase in excellence Hyouka went from no character awards to winning or being runner-up four times, content awards went from zero to four, and creation awards stayed the same with three last time and three this time. Part of the reason for this show’s success was the original creator, of course, but the other part was the anime-only episodes that Kyoto Animation created. KyoAni used their expertise with character-driven slice-of-life series to further flesh the characters out and fluff the story side out more. For instance, episode 22 did a spectacular job of not only giving the series a sense of closure but it also went a long ways towards fully developing Chitanda’s character. There were glimpses of what made Chitanda tick before but episode 22 pulled it all together and probably permanently destroyed Houtarou’s energy conservation outlook on life. Ending the series like that, though, makes me really want a sequel.

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1 – Uchuu Kyoudai (Space Brothers)

Seasonal rating for episodes 13 to 26 – 12/12  Perfect
Winner Best Male Main Character: Mutta
Winner Best Supporting Character: Monkey Guy
Winner Best Screen grabber: Head of JAXA
Winner Best Cast of Characters
Winner Best Character Development
Winner Best Slice of Life
Winner Best Science Fiction
Winner Best Story
Winner Best ED

Surprise?! Probably not. Space Brothers finished at the top of the spring season and an even stronger story arc this season helps fend off Hyouka to keep it at number one for another season. This anime is a bit of an aberration in that it’s not a one cour or even two cour series which can throw some viewers off because a longer series means the pacing can be more relaxed compared to a series that only runs for 13 or 26 episodes. The animators aren’t forced to shoehorn a big story into a small number of episodes. (Though the ones that can effectively compress a story like in Madoka, Kaiba, FLCL, Haibane Renmei, and Baccano end up as awesome series that have a gravitas to them that a longer series will often lack. Once I finished writing this last sentence I realized I just named 4 series that show up on The Cart Driver’s excellent new combined Top 30 list.) There are so many facets that make Space Brothers the grand anime series that it is. Many of these facets are already mentioned by the awards it won but I also wanted to mention my continued love of the vocal work Hiroaki Hirata is doing for the main character Mutta. If KyoAni created an anime that was just about paint on a wall drying, I would tune in each week as long as Hiroaki Hirata provided the voice-over play-by-play as the paint slowly dried.

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Well, that’s it for look back at the summer 2012 anime season. It’s now time to move onto the fall season :) .


Filed under: anime, awards

The Top 12 Anime of the Spring 2012 Season – #12 to #7

from Bodacious Space Pirates

Because a tally of awards only gives a rough idea of the overall strength of an anime, I wanted to close this examination of the spring season with another way to look at the various anime series – a countdown – pitting the strengths of one anime against another to find the best anime of the spring 2012 season.

Why twelve? That happens to be the maximum number of series I can have under my two criteria. The first condition is that the anime has to good enough to be worth listing because anything less and series that don’t deserve to be  included are included. The second is that the maximum number of series to make it in the top list can be no more than half the total number of series because I have to stop somewhere.

12 – Upotte

What’s better then an anime about girls and guns? Answer, an anime about girls who are also guns. Well, maybe not. There was many anime better then Upotte this season but it was better than many other series. The only area Upotte really succeeded at was being funny, everything else was cobbled together and somehow the whole became enjoyable. Rock bottom expectations and having the right set of quirks and interests probably helped me to like Upotte. For example, I’ve actually fired a gun prior to watching Upotte and know enough geography and history to appreciate and “get” many of the characterization and jokes used in Upotte.
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11 – Hyouka

TV series by Kyoto Animation, arguably the world’s highest quality non-CG animation studio, carry a heavy burden of expectation from the moment they are announced and that can make it very difficult to give these series a fair shake before forming an opinion. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, a KyoAni series can’t raise above this burden and is seen as “failing” – like Nichijou was – even though Nichijou was a very excellent anime. In fact, I feel that the Nichijou anime would have been a huge commercial success if some other studio’s name had been slapped on it. I initially thought Hyouka was bound to follow Nichijou and this time I’d agree with it’s critics; though, I was more worried about the characters and not the mysteries side – I like the mysteries but the characters were too one-dimensional and not interesting. The last story arc about the unfinished movie, however,  pushed the character of the main characters forward and I found that I started to like our gang of sleuths. This last mystery also showcases the writing chops of the creator behind the original light novels. I was proud of myself when I beat super sleuth Houtarou to the solution and equally dismayed when the full truth became apparent in the end. I’m excited to see what’s next for Hyouka.
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10 – Sakamichi no Apollon

Instead of complaining or bellyaching about how Sakamichi no Apollon failed to live up to it’s potential, I want to focus on what the show did right. After all, the way to fix Apollon is simple – give it more episodes – Guilty Crown got 22. Could you imagine what the creators could have done with another 10 episodes? Though, Apollon and Tsuritama, the two noitaminA shows this season, provided an examination of the question: is it better to be ambitious and miss the mark a bit or less ambitious and execute near flawlessly? I found the answer is that they’re about the same. With Apollon, I loved the setting and how a couple of the characters happened to be Catholic (with enough research done to get it right) and the presence of a larger family and the focus on non J-Pop/Rock/Rap music and the time period; all these elements worked together to make this anime feel unique. I also liked how the story didn’t always pick the path of most dorama or the easiest, most neat path because life is messy and troublesome but it rarely plays out like a novel or TV show. For example, the final time skip allowed the anime end on a positive note, while feeling realistic. In the end, I guess the take away from this anime is that fans of anime should seek out the manga.

I’ve already mentioned the great animation quality to Apollon and this quality might help explain what has happened to Madhouse of late. Much of the animation production for Apollon was handled by a new studio called MAPPA. It was founded by one of original co-founders of Madhouse and he had a history of pushing Madhouse to animate the off-beat series. I can’t find out if he’s permanently split with Madhouse or what; but, as a minimum, the energy in starting a new company is going to cut into time that could otherwise be spent creating anime.
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9 – Tsuritama

This time execution wins out over ambition with Tsuritama finishing higher then Apollon, although, neither side can compete with an anime that has both the ambition and the execution, like a Madoka or Steins;Gate :) . One of my favorite parts to Tsuritama was it’s animation style because it made the show feel summery, somehow.  For a long stretch of my being an anime fan it has felt like most animators, outside of Shaft, have been timid about creating stylized TV anime series and instead stuck to a basic, stock style. Sure, there was the random anime that was stylized but they were definitely the exception but now, with the recent success of Shaft, it looks like the other animation studios are more eager to diversify their look (if this season is a guide for the future). Which is a good thing because used correctly – like in Lupin and Tsuritama – the style of animation can serious enhance all aspects of an anime and make it so much better. If, say, Tsuritama had been done by J.C. Staff chances are it would have lost it’s summery feel and just felt way more generic. Tsuritama will be remembered by me for two specific reasons. The first is that it’s yet another example of how cool older characters are in anime; we really need more characters like the grandma. And the second is it left me wanting to try my hand at fishing.
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8 – Eureka Seven AO

Due to my slow writing speed I find myself in the awkward position of knowing that E7AO is a better show then this number 8 spot but not willing to bend the rules to allow episode 12 or 13 to be considered part of the spring season. I was actually shocked at how episode 12 moved me because I have a rather negative opinion of the original Eureka 7 series after being disappointed when the story got “weird” and incomprehensible towards the end. This impression came from the prehistoric times when I was just getting into anime seriously and still used Cartoon Network for the majority of my anime fix. It probably is no longer a valid opinion; but, it did allow me to look at E7AO as a way to redeem the franchise and not as the way for Bones to ruin the original (which many fans thought). Even without episode 12 or 13 it was apparent that E7AO was building up to something big and ambitious by how carefully the earlier episodes were plotted out, which allowed it to win the awards it did and place as high as it did. For the summer season I already know that I’ll be vacillating between excitement and fear that Bones will pooch yet another ending.
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7 – Jormungand

Sometimes not seeing a popular anime prior to a specific newer anime series is a detriment to the enjoyment of that newer anime series and I can tell when I start reading the thoughts of others. Conversely, sometimes I can tell it’s beneficial. In the case of Jormungand, I kept seeing talk about and comparisons to Black Lagoon – which I’ve yet to see – and invariably, this anime seemed to have warped expectations of what Jormungand should be doing to it’s detriment (as seen by those viewers). I still wasn’t entirely free of heaping expectations of what I expected Jormungand to do and my enjoyment of the series was limited as a result. Eventually, I realized Jormungand was set up more like a slice-of-life series (of an arms dealer) then a more traditionally plotted action series like an E7AO or Fate/Zero and the series clicked into place. I read the second half is set to air in the fall and I’m giddy over the chance to see more Loco Koko and Jonah.

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Stay tuned for the top 6 anime tomorrow.

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Top Picks – Spring 2012 Anime, Part 1: Character Awards
Top Picks – Spring 2012 Anime, Part 2: Content Awards
Top Picks – Spring 2012 Anime, Part 3: Creation Awards
The Top 12 Anime of the Spring 2012 Season – #12 to #7 – currently here
The Top 12 Anime of the Spring 2012 Season – #6 to #1


Filed under: anime, awards

Top Picks – Spring 2012 Anime, Part 2

from Eureka Seven AO

Things have been a bit slow around here at The Null Set in part because the computer I use to write these posts out on has been acting up and, while I wait for it’s diagnosis/recovery, I’ve taken up good ol’ pen and paper to write this series of posts about the best of the spring season. It’s been well over a decade since I’ve composed anything on paper and my brain seems to have rusted in certain areas which made writing on paper difficult at first. Slowly, though, I re-got the hang of it and I found myself writing more than I’d initially intended. I think I might continue writing on paper first, even when my computer is back to 100%, to see if it makes a positive impact on my writing.

Anyways, back to part 2 of my Spring 2012 seasonal anime awards. This time we will focus on the content of the anime series.

Content

Best Slice of Life: Space Brothers
Runner-up: Natsuiro Kiseki
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Best Science Fiction: Space Brothers
Runner-up: Bodacious Space Pirates
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Best Comedy: Upotte
Runner-up: – Nothing -
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Best Drama: AKB0048
Runner-up: Sakamichi no Apollon
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Best Ending: Aquarion Evol
Runner-up: Bodacious Space Pirates
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Most Unexpectantly Good Show: Mysterious Girlfriend X
Runner-up: AKB0048
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Best Plot: Eureka Seven AO
Runner-up: Fate/Zero S.2
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Best Story: Space Brothers
Runner-up: AKB0048
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Best Action: Jormungand
Runner-up: Eureka Seven AO
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Most Entertaining: AKB0048
Runner-up: Natsuiro Kiseki
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Most Interesting Setting: Eureka Seven AO
Runner-up: Sakamichi no Apollon
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Most in Need of a Sequel: Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko
Runner-up: Bodacious Space Pirates
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The characters have to do something to fill their weekly allotment of 23 minutes – it might be as simple as having two characters sitting in a park talking or as complex as a densely plotted space opera with a cast of hundreds – and it’s this wonderfully varied content that is the next area of reflection.

Predictably, there is a mix of new faces in this crop of awards and anime series that look to add onto their character awards wins. Of the newcomers, Eureka Seven AO (E7AO) makes the biggest impression by winning Best Plot and Most Interesting Setting as well as earning Runner-up for Best Action. It missed out in the previous section because it’s characters are still largely merely functional for the roles they’re asked to play; instead, Bones has focused on making E7AO a well-plotted, action packed, interesting anime series. There is a good chance that the second half of the series will be even better and E7AO will become one the top series of the summer season. A second new series to win, Upotte for Best Comedy, was definitely this season’s overachiever. A show about guns that can take the form of girls, animated by Xebec, and directed by the guy who directed Rio – Rainbow Gate should not have been able to become as funny as it did nor remained so during it’s run.

from AKB0048

from AKB0048

Two series, AKB0048 and Lupin, barely missing out on winning an award in the character section have both come back with wins here. With Lupin (Most in Need of a Sequel), it was an interesting choice to see the guy that the show is named after being relegated to a supporting character; but, even the prospects of having further tinkering done to the formula does little to dull the desire to see more of the master thief and cohorts. Runner-up Most Unexpectantly Good Show is a good place to start with AKB0048 because it encapsulates so much of my reaction to the show. I’m not really all that interested in idol groups and, after being turned off by the Idolmaster anime, I was perfectly fine with merely knowing that AKB0048 was a popular idol group until I read the description of the AKB0048 anime. I chuckled. I figured if the animators were willing to try something different than I’d give it a chance before dropping it. I should have known better. The creators struck the perfect balance in AKB0048; the show is serious enough to play it’s story straight – there is no ironic eye-winking towards the fourth wall – and yet it’s not too serious that it can’t have a bit of fun along the way. This allowed AKB0048 to earn the Best Drama and Most Entertaining awards in this section and pick up Runner-up Best Story as well.

The other awards of this section were won by anime series that have already won character awards and this season’s strongest anime series begin to make themselves noticed. Space Brothers does the best with three wins – Best Slice-of-Life, Best Science Fiction, and Best Story – for it’s superior character-driven slice-of-life SF story :) . Jormungand shows that it’s success isn’t merely derived from it’s characters by winning the Best Action award while working with a smaller budget then either Eureka Seven AO or Fate/Zero. Aquarion Evol remembers the love with this season’s Best Ending and MGX (Most Unexpectantly Good Show) reminds us it’s still possible to take a common type of show and shock us when the creators give a little blood, sweat, and tears – or maybe it’s drool – to an anime.

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Part 3 should be up within the day and then it’ll be the top 12 countdown.

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Top Picks – Spring 2012 Anime, Part 1: Character Awards
Top Picks – Spring 2012 Anime, Part 2: Content Awards – currently here
Top Picks – Spring 2012 Anime, Part 3: Creation Awards
The Top 12 Anime of the Spring 2012 Season – #12 to #7
The Top 12 Anime of the Spring 2012 Season – #6 to #1


Filed under: anime, awards

Spring 2012 Anime First Impressions – Part 2

And I’m back with the second half of my first impressions post covering the other 11 12 new anime series of the spring season that I’ve watched. Sure, most every other blog has already completed their first impressions weeks ago but with the late start to Hyouka and AKB0048, I’m only fashionably late :) .

Living on the Edge

Sometimes it’s very difficult to accurately decide if an anime should be dropped or not based on the first few episodes and that makes my inner-Chiri (from SZS) come out – I want these anime series to take responsibility for their quality level and properly separate themselves. Luckily for the animators of these series, I live an ocean away from them or I might be inclined to help persuade them to declare their intentions so I wouldn’t have to watch the entire show ;) .

Natsuiro Kiseki

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 7/12  B

I’ve actually enjoyed Natsuiro Kiseki a fair amount so far, even though it feels like an inferior Hanasaku Iroha because it has one thing truly going for it – a magic wish-granting stone with a sense of humor. And therein lies the problem. If the magic rock continues to grant the wishes in random, interesting and absurd ways then I’ll gladly keep watching; however, the moment this rock loses it’s trolling heart is the moment this anime becomes a chore to watch.

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Polar Bear Cafe

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 6/12  B-

Polar Bear Cafe features, shockingly, a polar bear that runs a cafe but that’s just the backdrop for our main character, who is a panda and happens to work part-time at the zoo as a panda. Don’tcha love anime :) . I picked up Polar Bear Cafe more out of curiosity then a desire to see a polar bear run a cafe. I was curious to see if the animators could create a compelling anime once the whole wow-that-cafe-is-run-by-a-polar-bear reaction grew stale and now I’m stuck. Polar Bear Cafe is only marginally funny at times; which would be okay if the characters were interesting but they’re not. The best one of the bunch is the llama played by Daisuke Ono who no one ever pays attention to in the zoo but, sadly, he’s only a minor character. Throw in the animation quality well below average and I think the only real reason I’ll continue watching; until the characters, comedy, and story decide to go one way or the other; is because I like the opening song/animation.

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AKB0048

Rating for episodes 1 to 2 – 8/12  B+

I almost put AKB0048 into the next category of series, which is a better group to belong too, but I have serious reservations about how this anime will unfold. I love the idea of a guerrilla idol group that will infiltrate oppressive regimes so they can give a concert. It’s the right mix of ballsy bravado and absurdity that I love to see in anime but, oftentimes with anime such as this, the creators only tepidly embrace the premise and the anime bogs down in it’s own mediocrity. If the creators push AKB0048’s story and plotting to it’s maximum silly, absurd glory – like the people behind Aquarion EVOL and Phi Brain did – then this will be a fun anime to watch. Will they or not remains to be seen.

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Guilty Pleasures

Amidst all the quality and not-so-quality anime this season there’s a few series that I’ve enjoyed well beyond what I probably should have. Compare them to the high-quality, excellent series of the season like Sakamichi no Apollon or the new Lupin series and it’s impossible to explain why these series rank so high on my list of series I can’t wait to see the next episode of but I guess that’s why they’re called guilty pleasures.

Upotte!!

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 9/12  A-

I will not pretend for even a second that Upotte is a quality series or that it will ever get lauded as a great example of the high artistic merit that’s possible in anime but at this point I don’t really care. Upotte has been genuinely entertaining and is, by a long shot, the funniest anime series of this season. It’s first episode even contained my favorite joke of this season and, even though, explaining a joke makes it automatically not funny, I want to share. It was when the main characters decided to film a little introduction for their new teacher and, as it got to Sixteen (an American M16A4), it was said that she speaks with an Osakan accent for no real reason. This reminded me of how the Osakan dialect is oftentimes dubbed into Southern-accented English because both carry a similar connotation by the speakers of the main dialect in each country and I couldn’t stop laughing.

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Mysterious Girlfriend X

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 9/12  A-

At it’s core Mysterious Girlfriend X is a fairly typical anime but the addition of said girlfriend having strangely super-powered drool and a significant contrarian’s outlook to life has made this anime a unique experience. Take the drool out and I’m not sure there’s much to distinguish it (for now, the characters still have the room to become interesting characters and if the anime can capitalize on it’s Arakawa Under the Bridge vibe then it won’t necessarily need the drool). Though, the especially perceptive viewers might argue that the characters having noses is the most unique aspect to this anime :) .

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Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle 2

Rating for episodes 1 to 5 – 10/12  A

I give up; I can’t do it anymore. I’m sick of trying to hide that I’ve come to really enjoy Phi Brain. I started watching the first season as a lark and was sure that I’d drop it after a few episodes because I saw no chance for success with a shounen series that was about a high school boy that battles a mysterious organization through puzzle solving. I gave Phi Brain a fair shot and I haven’t stopped watching it yet. Sure, it hasn’t lost that – yeah, it’s a really dumb premise – but there’s several genuinely interesting characters and story moves along at a brisk pace and the plot makes intelligent use of the characters and the premise. I ended the first season with a couple gripes but Sunrise must have a mind-reader on staff because they have addressed those exact gripes in the second season. Compared to Hunter x Hunter, Phi Brain has turned out to be the better shounen series.

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The Heavy Hitters

They have the money. They have the talent. They have the ambition. And they have left the entire anime fandom all atwitter in their wake as a result.

Eureka Seven Ao

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 10/12  A

I watched the original Eureka Seven early in my timeline as an anime fan which might have clouded my ability to properly judge it but I found Eureka Seven to be disappointing. It had good build-up and great animation but as the series lurched to the end I found it unraveling, much like Bones’ first Full Metal Alchemist series, and completely ruined by a poorly handled ending. This cemented a personal belief/theory that Bones is incapable of making a decent ending to their series and since then there’s been numerous series that further prove this belief/theory. As a result, I was in the complete opposite mindset as most fans of the original series apparently were – I couldn’t wait to see Eureka Seven Ao because the first half of the series was going to be awesome. Of course the second half will probably follow Bones’ MO and fall apart but that was a worry for next season :) . And so far I’ve been properly impressed. The animation has been some of Bones’ best work in years and the story, with it’s political backdrop, is interesting and the characters have been very solid. One couldn’t ask for more from Eureka Seven Ao. If this ends well then I’ve already decided to give Eureka Seven a second try.

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Tsuritama

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 10/12  A

A year ago the noitaminA animation block was airing a Kenji Nakamura directed series called C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control and it was a mixed experience. It had a number of very interesting and thought-provoking questions that it wanted the viewer to think about but this enticing nugget was wrapped in an anime that suffered from time constraints, unharmonious animation, and uneven story-telling. Ultimately, I was happy that I watched it but felt it was an opportunity lost. Now a year later Kenji Nakamura is back with another series for the noitaminA animation block and it appears that this one will be a winner. Animation duties have been shifted to A-1 Pictures, a young studio that’s already created many excellent series, and it’s beautiful to look at. The story feels like it’ll fit into the episodes allotted it and it’s being told in a much better manner. The only complaint that could possibly be laid at it’s feet is that Tsuritama lacks the big ideas of C but I don’t see the point of trying to squeeze a series that needs at least 2 cour (minimum) to be properly told into 11 episodes.

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Sakamichi no Apollon

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 12/12  Perfect

What I most love about Sakamichi no Apollon or Kids on the Slope is that I can just relax when watching it. We, the viewers, are in the hands of masters. I don’t have to worry if the ending will stink or if the pacing will feel rushed or if story will fizzle or will the animation get dodgy or will the characters get treated like walking clichés that need to adhere to certain stereotypes or will individual parts of the show like the soundtrack work against it. I know I’m not the only person that’s already mentally placing this anime at the top (or very near it) of their 2012 best anime list. I hope Kids on the Slope sells a million DVD/Blu-Ray discs because every time a great anime sells a bunch that helps pave the way for more great anime and because it’ll help the animation studio MAPPA, which is a new spin-off from Madhouse. Masao Maruyama, one of the original co-founders of Madhouse, started MAPPA as a means to animate those oddball, high quality anime series that Madhouse was known for like Kaiba, Blue Literature (Aoi Bangaku), The Tatami Galaxy, and Rainbow. Masao Maruyama has also said that MAPPA will finish Satoshi Kon’s final movie that he was unable to finish before his untimely passing but they don’t currently have the funding to do so. A financially successful series or two should allow MAPPA to find that funding.

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Lupin the Third: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna

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

I was super excited that Lupin was finally getting a new series and that it wasn’t going to be merely a continuation of the bland, halfhearted TV specials and movies. I was also worried that this new crop of creators and seiyuu wouldn’t be able to do justice to a Lupin series. Basically, the same thing every fan of a particular work feels when it’s revisited by it’s creator(s) or gets adapted. Turns out, I shouldn’t have bothered worrying; they knew what they were doing. I particularly like that this series is set as the Lupin “origin story” because this allows new viewers a point of entry into the Lupin franchise and because it gives preexisting fans the chance to learn more about their favorite characters and gives them something new to see. Now, if only they don’t muff the ending, more Lupin series might be forthcoming.

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Hyouka

Rating for episodes 1 to 3 – 10.5/12  Strong A

When Nichijou aired last year I remember saying that, no matter how it did financially, Nichijou was a success for Kyoto Animation because it allowed the animators room to experiment with different animation styles and that would improve the overall quality of KyoAni’s work and would help prevent them from stagnating like other formerly top quality animation studios (cough, J.C. Staff, cough). I didn’t think I’d be proven correct so quickly but here we are; Hyouka seems set to claim a large share of the attention (and yen signs), even in this incredibly awesome anime season, partially because of it’s spiced-up animation style. I’m kinda surprised that I’ve enjoyed Hyouka as much as I have, though. Normally, I find myself not really caring for mystery series because the answer to the mystery in a mystery series is always vaguely disappointing and why get into a book or show if it’s going to end in disappointment? Maybe it’s how the early little mysteries have been handled that makes me willing to invest in caring about what has happened to the Uncle or maybe there’s enough other stuff to Hyouka that has made Hyouka so interesting.

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Someone’s Been Reading My Brain

Get out of my mind Randall! Sorry, I just had a XKCD moment.

Several months ago Ghostlightning at We Remember Love wrote a post about the anime he would make if he was given the keys to an animation studio and a blank check. His creation was exceptionally brilliant and something I’d love to see. At the end he asked others what they would make and I’ve been kicking the idea around. Little did I know that I shouldn’t have bothered because Uchuu Kyoudai aka Space Bros is probably as close to my ultimate anime as is humanly possible.

Space Bros

I wear a Stetson now. Stetsons are cool.

Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 12/12  Perfect

After voicing Tiger from Tiger and Bunny and now voicing the main character for Space Bros Japan should just pass a law proclaiming that each year at least one high quality anime is made which features Hiroaki Hirata voicing a middle-aged male character. He’s just that great. The only question I have left for this anime is how much of the story are we going to get to see and will it ever be revealed if the two brothers actually saw an alien as kids.

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And apparently I felt like rambling well over my target of 1500 words. Sorry, I’ll try to write a few short entries to balance it out :) .


Filed under: anime, first impressions



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