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Anime of the Year 2012 (6 to 12)

Fellow Aniblogger Justin at Anti-Social Geniuses has brought to my attention my need to network better with other bloggers.  He participated in a Bloggers’ Choice Best Anime of 2012 collaborative rating project done by another blogger, Kiddtic, and while it’s too late for me to enter according to his rules, I’ve still decided to expand my anime of the year list out to twelve titles for two reasons. The first being that it seems most other people have lists longer than a top five and so I’ve given in to peer pressure and I’m following suit.  The second reason is because reading some other anime of the year lists has reminded me just how important my existence in the AniBlogger community is, since I find myself agreeing with only one or two of the ten or so anime that most people seemed to have picked as their favorites for 2012.

Being that one of my missions here is to represent my own taste in anime when nobody else seems to be challenging the majority, I feel compelled to shine my own—admittedly small—spotlight on the series I feel deserved more credit than most Anibloggers were willing to give.  And so begins the bottom seven of my top twelve anime of 2012.

Misaki knows more than she lets on.12. Another

Most horror series don’t interest me in the slightest.  So when this well-written title actually gave me chills and tingled my spine, I can’t possibly fail to give my honors to an anime that I found to be genuinely scary. This one takes the title of Horror Anime of the Year.

 

Shana prepares her attack, looking every bit the beatiful fire angel11. Shakugan no Shana III (Final)

To say the last installment of the story about the flame-haired, burning-eyed hunter saved the franchise would be an overstatement. But it was definitely a sharp wrap-up to a truly rolling epic.

 

Ichika is straightforward and honest...most of the time.10. Ano Natsu de Matteru

I always have a soft spot for “summer adventure” stories and this one was really fun; filled with strong, kindhearted friends, humorous trouble-making, a difficult romance to sort out and…aliens. It’s the best Romance Anime of the Year.

 

Yuuko remains cheerful, despite not knowing her own past.9. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

The literal “ghost president” of the occult club proved to be a playful, creative, ironic and perceptive look at people’s beliefs and reactions towards unexplained phenomenon.

 

Sakamoto returns in time to be a hero8. BTOOOM!

There have been survival game / battle royal anime a plenty over the past few years, but most have lacked this anime’s emotional psychology that really gets into the mind of people pushed to the edge.

 

Sweats Club spirit!7. Rinne no Lagrange

With a really strong story focused on the topsy-turvy, but bright friendship of the three leading ladies, colorful side characters and some well-paced battles, I pronounce this to be the Mecha Anime of the Year.

 

The Fire Sisters, Karen and Tsukihi6. Nisemonogatari

Nishio Ishin is a master at creating weirdly funny, twistedly creative and insightful adventures that really challenge us to look at the world in new ways.

 

 

This list continues with my top five here.

Shakugan no Shana III Final (review)

Impression – the end of a legend that unfortunately, may not endure (8/10)

Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (24 episodes) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

After Yuji recovered Reiji Maigo from Bal Masque he, Shana and Kazumi resumed their Christmas Eve. It was to be Yuji’s responsibility to choose between the two girls in order to settle their rivalry in romance once and for all. But something happened that neither of his wooing ladies expected. Yuji just disappeared. It was as if his existence as a torch had been snuffed out as all of his possessions and remnants of him through the memories of others simply vanished. But Shana sensed that he still existed…somewhere. So they had no choice but to resume their lives as best they could and wait for his return.

For all of you who were put off by Shana II much more than I was, let me start by saying that Shana III is undeniably better. Gone is the love triangle between Yuji, Shana and Kazumi…as well as pretty much everything else to do with school life in general. It’s back to the much more action-packed style we saw in the first season that favors story progression. Please do try to ignore the first three or so recap episodes that start Shana III in a pitiful attempt to get new viewers up to speed. Rest assured that the old format is finally back, but it’s much colder and calculated—fitting of two worlds on the brink of war.

Although it tries its best to bring back everything that made season 1 awesome, there are a lot of new problems in Shana III that just can’t be overlooked. The most difficult for me to grudgingly accept was probably unavoidable because of where the story needs to go—the ever-expanding cast that seems to grow by about five characters each episode for the first half of the series. It gets really hard to keep track of names and loyalties after a while, especially when they only get about a thirty second introduction and then reappear a few episodes later to finish the tasks they’ve been given—major, plot-altering assignments at that. Occasionally, I had to just sit back and let them do their thing and most of them are so poorly characterized their presence hardly seems necessary.

Yes, I understand that this is war and there’s a hierarchy of commander and subordinates all playing their part in the big picture that needs to be established. But a lot of this is fine details that I feel could have been done without. It leads to getting things spread too thin and I wish Shana and Yuji could have had a stronger presence. Either that, or some of the bigger players should have been allowed a more gradual introduction so we could get to know them better and care about why they’re taking part in this endeavor—even if they’re just going to die in a few episodes. At least then it wouldn’t have felt like such a waste.

But as I said in my Shana II review, the amount of dead time back in the second season starts to show very clearly in the third because so much material is getting crammed in to make a mad rush to the conclusion. So while Shana II was painfully slow, Shana III has the exact opposite problem of being almost too fast to keep up.

But there’s a lot of high points, too. The psychological attributes of season 1 that had been mostly absent in season 2 have made a strong comeback. It’s also managed to up the ante from Shana I and push the limits a lot higher. Shana I simply dealt with the nature of existence on a very platonic level. But Shana III addresses a deeper theme in the purpose of existence. There are some very strong concepts dealing with loss of direction in one’s life as everything you devoted yourself to becomes irrelevant and a future full of nothing but aimless emptiness is all that waits after several lifetimes devoted to a single-minded cause that has suddenly disappeared. But if freed from this burden, there is also a chance to discover a new, greater cause if you manage to not despair and broaden your focus to look at the big picture.

One thing that has always endured through the Shana story is the very clear understanding that the Crimson Denizens are not all evil. Just as you wouldn’t call a lion evil for killing a zebra, the bad guys have always been simply acting on their nature, even if at times the terms excess and greed could be applied to their methods. Particularly in Shana III we are given a difficult-to-handle dilemma of just who is actually on the right side during this war—the Denizens attempting to achieve their own, personal paradise or the Flame Hazes who zealously deem such a paradise nothing but a dangerous delusion.

The ending manages to find a compromise between these two extremes, but it doesn’t feel half-hearted or conciliatory. It instead goes for a tone of understanding and inevitability even if that isn’t something that adequately ties up every loose end. And as much as I like the characters of Shana and Yuji as separate entities, the two could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering they inflicted on each other unnecessarily if they had just sat down and talked things through honestly, which is a sad little detail that undermines a lot of the dramatic strife of this series.

I’ll say it again, Shana III is better than Shana II because it takes a lot of cues from Shana I, making itself into a nice wrap-up to a really great franchise. The battles are suitably epic in the smart, well-composed flow that is a hallmark of the action sequences in the Shana series. It’s let down by a few writing and pacing problems, but overall is a solid and thought-provoking anime.

Anime of the Week (3/25 – 3/31)

Anime of the Week – Zero no Tsukaima F
I’ve always been enamored by the undeniable charm of this series. Though occasionally romantic, sometimes ecchi and often hokey doesn’t sound like the best formula, it’s a really fun story.
March 25 Zero F Ep. 12 It was a bumpy road for Saito and Louise, but the final season of the series got it right and gave them a great finale.
Shana III Ep. 24 It was a nice ending to a roller coaster of a series. But it also squished in a lot of story that really needed more time.
March 26 Rinne Ep. 12 I didn’t care for the flashback-style order of events in this episode, but it was a nice send off while we wait for season 2.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 23 There seems to be a lot of shadowy motives floating around in this series. But I’m glad Yukiteru now knows the truth.
March 27 Another Ep. 12 As much of an exaggerated slasher this series turned into, it continued to be smart about how it dealt with the curse of 3-3.
Ano Natsu Ep. 12 As smooth as this anime was, the ending was really hokey. It completely did not match the tone of the rest of the series.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (3/18 – 3/24)

Anime of the Week – Black★Rock Shooter
Ever since it debuted halfway through the winter 2012 season, this series has been far and beyond the best in so many ways.
March 18 Nisemonogatari Ep. 11 This series always performs well when it focuses on its strong point. Its intellectual dialogue is always awesome.
Zero F Ep. 11 If your loved one sent you away to protect you, would you honor their protective wishes or do everything you could to return?
March 19 Mirai Nikki Ep. 22 This was a brutal episode. But all these cliffhangers and mysteries are starting to annoy me. Are they really necessary?
Rinne Ep. 11 Sure enough, Madoka went berserk in Vox Aura. But I’m confused. When a pilot loses control don’t bad things usually happen?
March 20 Another Ep. 11 It seems we’ve reached the breaking point of sanity. How will this curse be brought to an end and what will be the cost?
Shana III Ep. 23 In some ways the battle is over and in other ways this is just a minor change in the status quo, but it was most elegant.
Ano Natsu Ep. 11 Seriously!! Just who is Remon? Things are getting a little ridiculous, but it’s still a lot of fun so I’m not too annoyed.
March 23 Guilty Crown Ep. 22 Talk about crunch time. A pretty series with an interesting concept falls flat with a rushed and empty ending. =(
March 24 BRS Ep. 8 The winding path this series takes belies its actual simplicity. Telling such a straightforward story so beautifully is amazing.
Persona 4 Ep. 24 Ah… all the secrets are getting revealed. I really love this part since all the subtle clues were there all along.
Amagami+ Ep. 12 It seems the Morishima family is full of bad girls. After jumping through all those hoops I’m glad he got the good ending.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (3/11 – 3/17)

Anime of the Week – Black★Rock Shooter
This series has been fantastic; touching on intellectual insights and covering the difficult intricacies of relationships, all while creatively slipping in some epic fight scenes. But now that Mato has to face herself, what will the ending yield?
March 11 Persona 4 Ep. 22 How will the anime address the video game’s bad ending? Will there be a new spin or will it just cut right to the good end?
Nisemonogatari Ep. 10 As this series winds down, it’s turning away from the intellectual tone that made Bakemonogatari so philosophical.
Zero F Ep. 10 The current plot point serves no other purpose than to put Louise and Saito’s love in jeopardy, which makes it feel hollow.
March 12 Rinne Ep. 10 More team building followed by a threat of war and losing something precious as well. But what’s at stake is still unknown.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 21 This was such a satisfying episode that was well worth the wait. But, why do new mysteries suddenly keep appearing?
March 13 Another Ep. 10 When desperate people get cornered, there’s no telling what they’ll do. What will be the result of their hasty conclusions?
March 14 Ano Natsu Ep. 10 Things feel like they’re wrapping up nicely. A little love and a little heartbreak leads into this anime’s last segment.
Shana III Ep. 22 What tricks does Yuji have to pull this turn of events back in his favor? Will his last resort be venting his frustration?
March 16 Guilty Crown Ep. 21 As the story winds down, everyone puts their faith in Shu while he honors their trust by praising their humanity.
BRS Ep. 7 Things are really starting to move. How will Mato resolve her fight with Yuu? And how will Yomi play a role in wrapping things up?
March 17 Amagami+ Ep. 11 Haruka is such a bad girl. The way that Junichi plays along with her silly, often frightening antics is hilarious to watch.
Persona 4 Ep. 23 Now that the mysteries are getting solved, I’m suddenly getting a desire to replay the last few battles of the video game.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 2/26 – 3/3

Anime of the Week – Black★Rock Shooter
How does the link between the real world characters and the other selves work? The connection is taking shape and the consequences of actions in the other world reveal something far bigger than initially expected.
February 26 Zero F Ep. 8 This was a rather ordinary episode to lead into the next segment of the series. How will these loose ends get sewn up?
February 27 Shana III Ep. 20 The series just seems to be driving along at a steady pace without any bumps in the road to make things more exciting.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 8 It’s all part of the fun of watching this anime, but sometimes I don’t understand how what’s going on is relevant.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 20 The survival game is almost over. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the for-TV censoring that appears a lot in this anime.
Rinne Ep. 8 I’m glad to see this series has addressed the issue of where the humans who are living on other planets originally came from.
Feburary 28 Another Ep. 8 It’s starting to strike me that the writing is getting more and more contrived in its ways to get Misaki into the story. Hmmm
February 29 Ano Natsu Ep. 8 This episode was a lot of fun. Some big secrets got revealed, but there’s still more—Lemon’s identity being one of them.
Persona 4 Ep. 19 Why are the side stories more interesting than the main plot? It must be how well the bonus material adds to video game.
Persona 4 Ep. 20 The past few episodes were a nice diversion with good timing since there’s nobody to rescue. But it’s time for some action.
March 2 Amagami+ Ep. 9 I think I’d like Sae’s story much better if it wasn’t for that annoying narrator. He’s funny at times, but too obvious.
Guilty Crown Ep. 19 The climax of this episode was way too predictable. This was merely a pathway to the trials that are coming next.
BRS Ep. 5 Why is this show so good? The formula is simple, but there’s majesty in watching this visual metaphor reveal its deeper meaning.
March 3 Shana III Ep. 21 I’m glad to see more subtly in this battle than I’d originally assumed. Conflict other than physical violence adds depth.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 2/19 – 2/25

Anime of the Week – Black★Rock Shooter
Somtimes the most innocent, unassuming comments can be the most painful. But when someone sinister is manipulating everyone’s feelings from behind the scenes, just how low will everyone’s hearts drop?
February 19 Persona 4 Ep. 18 I’m liking the additional side stories that the anime is adding to the video game’s plot. I guess it’s only natural.
February 20 Shana III Ep. 19 What a confusing episode. This series has always been clumsy with its dialogue. If you need to say something, just say it.
Rinne Ep. 7 This was a nice team building episode and a good lesson to everyone out there who thinks good deeds will always be praised.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 7 Kaiki’s send off was rather anticlimactic, but when I think about it I’m not sure why I expected more from him.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 19 I like the attitude of the new Yukiteru. He’s finally getting down to business. But this episode’s cliffhanger is weird.
Feburary 21 Another Ep. 7 I hope next week’s swimsuit episode will be handled with appropriate grace. This could be make or break for this series.
Zero F Ep. 7 Sometimes this series really gets its act together. Beset by troubles on every side, Saito manages to set a new plan in motion.
February 22 Ano Natsu Ep. 7 Secrets are starting to be revealed as outside forces coax the true feelings from the hearts of this group of adolescents.
February 24 Guilty Crown Ep. 18 It’s like this series has reverted back to its beginnings. Shu is a wimp, Gai is an ass and Inori is a mystery.
Amagami+ Ep. 8 Junichi and Kaoru may get along really well, but that doesn’t make for a good story. They’re more like siblings than lovers.
February 25 BRS Ep. 4 Humans are amazing creatures. The ways we adapt to the changes and challenges in our lives are fascinating and insightful.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 2/12 – 2/18

Anime of the Week – Another
The writers gets big points this week for being able to read my mind. If your classmates are going to ignore you, call their bluff.
February 12 Guilty Crown Ep. 16 With the level of deceit surrounding Shu, it’s no wonder the world is beginning to fall apart—but can it still be saved?
BRS Ep. 2 What happened? All through the episode was a story of being bound, unable to escape. But now…everyone is suddenly freed? Huh?
Inu x Boku SS Ep. 5 This anime had some real potential to be sophisticated, but it’s since devolved into a menagerie of hyper sex jokes.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 6 The intricacies of “no doesn’t always mean no,” is too terrible a weapon for women to use indiscriminately.
Amagami+ Ep. 5 So far the Ai Nanasaki arc has been the most lovey-dovey story. Along with the quirkier girls, it’s set to a good pace.
Amagami+ Ep. 6 I thought the original series’ story of Nanasaki was too simple, but I’ve taken a liking to this style and her character.
Symphogear Ep. 3 Tsubasa and Hibiki are not getting along and some of Hibiki’s careless words are not helping their relationship.
Kill Me Baby Ep. 2 This series is cute and funny most of the time, but it just doesn’t have the permeating appeal of other moe anime.
February 13 Zero F Ep. 3 Although somewhat ineloquent in its writing, this anime does a decent job establishing some rather complicated politics.
Zero F Ep. 4 Saito has come a long ways from being a lowly familiar in season one, but he’s still unable to escape his troubles with women.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 18 In some ways I’m glad to find out there’s difficult circumstances behind Yuno’s craziness, but really it’s just so sad.
Rinne Ep. 6 Has this mecha anime finally started to reveal its true colors? Is it going to follow a more supernatural path like Evangelion?
Zero F Ep. 5 As much as Saito eyes other girls, he’s quite faithful to Louise. Sometimes he just gets stuck in a bad or worse scenario.
Zero F Ep. 6 Despite this being the obligatory fanservice onsen episode, there was actually a decent amount of genuine romance.
Feburary 14 Another Ep. 6 Sakakibara’s fantasy with Misaki was absolutely priceless. But the madness is just setting in as people become more desperate.
Shana III Ep. 18 The final battle is going to be long, with ideals being the combatant’s main motivation for victory. This will be good.
February 15 Persona 4 Ep. 15 I really liked the crossover music from Persona 3 in this episode. The real turning point of this series starts now.
Persona 4 Ep. 16 I wonder how many first-time viewers were able to guess Naoto’s secret before this episode. I think it should’ve been easy.
February 16 Ano Natsu Ep. 6 Thankfully this anime’s swimsuit episode has a good ratio of plot to fanservice as the unrequited love circles are revealed.
Persona 4 Ep. 17 I’ve said there’s not enough extra flavor in the anime to set it apart from the video game, but this episode delivered.
February 18 Guilty Crown Ep. 17 Ok…now what? I’m eager to see what happens next, but it feels like we’ve reached a bad end with no other options left.
BRS Ep. 3 Mamiko Noto is an awesome voice actress. There’s been a change in pace that makes the first two episodes seem like a mini-arc.
Amagami+ Ep. 7 I’m not sure Kaoru is a good match for Junichi. The two of them are so similar there’s no complement in their relationship.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 2/5 – 2/11

Anime of the Week – Another
As more of the history behind the strangeness of class 3-3 gets revealed, the mystery evolves just enough to hold your interest but still keep you filled with anticipation.
February 5 Amagami+ Ep. 3 There’s something refreshing about the personalities of the girls in this anime. They’re all so unique and likeable.
Inu x Boku SS Ep. 4 Natsume is really creepy. If the purpose of this episode was to introduce some new characters it wasn’t done well.
February 6 Rinne Ep. 5 I like these moments in stories when people’s true nature gets revealed. This was a cool twist setting up what will come next.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 5 I think we’re starting to get into the meat of the plot. Sadly, there was a serious lack of cleverness this episode.
Feburary 7 Mirai Nikki Ep. 15 I totally knew that was going to happen based on the large amount of foreshadowing. That was dissatisfyingly predictable.
Black★Rock Shooter Ep. 1 Initial impression – a rough diamond http://wp.me/p1Gaby-hz
Another Ep. 5 It’s finally making sense, but it’s still far from finished. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next.
February 8 Mirai Nikki Ep. 16 Yukiteru’s dad is too desperate and selfish. But I’d really like to understand why Minene is acting so altruistic.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 17 The line between action and inaction and the associated guilt or innocence of being a bystander is not clearly defined.
Zero F Ep. 2 What this series lacks in complexity, it makes up for with a compelling pace that makes you want to keep watching.
February 9 Shana III Ep. 16 I want to know what role Pheres will play in the upcoming battle. She’s a random element that will make things interesting.
Shana III Ep. 17 I love these kinds of meaningful conflicts in which each side is principled and neither has clearly good or evil motives.
Ano Natsu Ep. 5 How fast will the story proceed now that the secrets are getting revealed? Next is the obligatory swimsuit episode. -_-
February 11 Amagami+ Ep. 4 Ordinary girl Rihoko gets a fairly simple ending to her love story. It’s happy and elegant without being sappy.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 1/29 – 2/4

Anime of the Week – Nisemonogatari
Despite the very different direction of its plot, the writing of Nisemonogatari is living up to the standard of excellence that made Bakemonogatari awesome.
January 29 Amagami+ Ep. 2 A somewhat ordinary, but cute conclusion. I’m a big fan of those moments when an icy girl’s personality starts to melt.
Mashiro-iro Ep. 9 Panya is supposed to be a cat, but why does she look nothing like the other cats in this series? It’s somewhat disturbing.
January 30 Mashiro-iro Ep. 10 That was an exciting, emotional twist. My interest in this series almost reached the point that I was going to drop it.
Mashiro-iro Ep. 11 This anime handles its romance pretty cowardly. At this point I’m not sure what compelled me to continue this series.
Mashiro-iro Ep. 12 After watching a generally mediocre anime, it felt really rewarding to have such an awesome finale. Bye bye Pannya! ^_^
January 31 Another Ep. 4 I totally knew that was going to happen based on the large amount of foreshadowing. That was dissatisfyingly predictable.
Ano Natsu Ep. 4 The setup has now finished. The mishaps of the first three episodes have been cleared and the real story can finally start.
February 1 Rinne Ep. 3 How serious does this anime want to be? At first it’s mecha in rather slow battles, then it tries too hard to be uplifting.
Rinne Ep. 4 Oh c’mon…did they seriously continue the swimming race while someone was drowning right in the middle of the course?
February 2 Nisemonogatari Ep. 2 Gosh this anime is a master of language. The poetic meanderings of twisting conversation is amazing in its complexity.
February 3 Guilty Crown Ep. 15 This was an episode filled with big transformations. How will this new Shu deal with the trials that he’s going to face?
Nisemonogatari Ep. 3 As the plot thickens I’m increasingly absorbed. This anime creates its own powerful gravity and I’m rendered helpless.
February 4 Shana III Ep. 15 There were some really brilliant moments in the battle, but I feel it was far too complicated to have been so effective.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 4 I can’t recall Shinobu talking much in Bakemonogatari, but I like her character after her conversation with Araragi.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

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