Anime of Tomorrow
Tag Archives: 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the first time, I find myself unable to choose just one anime for my weekly honors. Given that we’re currently going through a slow time for anime as it was the break between seasons makes this decision even more significant. Additionally, I don’t feel that it’s fair to let a four-episode extravaganza hog the spotlight when another ongoing series managed to shine just as brightly.
|December 31||Jormungand PO Ep. 12 The series ends on a philosophical note, but feels empty because we don’t get to see the fruits of everyone’s labors.|
|January 2||Nekomonogatari Ep. 1 Nishio Ishin tells stories in a unique way. It takes a while to get to the point, but I feel smarter for the journey.|
|Nekomonogatari Ep. 2 Philosophical without being preachy. Beautiful without being garish. Erotic without being lecherous. Nicely balanced.|
|Kokoro Connect Ep. 14 I don’t buy into the theory that it’s a bad thing to hear people’s emotions. I find my inner monologue to be positive.|
|Kokoro Connect Ep. 15 I’m confused by all this. It frustrates me that I can’t interrogate Iori myself so I can figure out what’s going on.|
|January 4||Nekomonogatari Ep. 3 When Araragi saw that Hanekawa’s house had no place for her, his reaction was the most correct thing I’ve ever seen.|
|Nekomonogatari Ep. 4 How should we react to those stiflingly perfect paragons of humanity in the world? Jealousy? Worship? Hatred? Pity?|
|January 5||Shinsekai Ep. 14 I love when science fiction seamlessly mixes real science into the narrative of its setting and educates in the process.|
*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.
Happy New Year everyone! To kick off 2013 I’m going to start by looking back on the past year and highlighting my favorite titles for 2012. And just to make things clear, series that are currently airing and won’t finish until the end of the winter 2013 season are not candidates for this list. Those anime will have their chance at Anime of the Year come 2014. With that explanation out of the way, here we go!
A very original premise, beautiful art style, insightful plot points and kind, fun-loving characters give this series a serious charm that’s rarely seen in a romantic comedy.
4. Acchi Kocchi
A bucketful of smiles and laughs. Adorable girls, suave guys, awesome punchlines and heartwarming youth solidifies this as the Moe Anime of the Year.
Enrapturing characters, an endless flow of intriguing conundrums and just enough tension to keep everyone on their toes means that we’ve finally been treated to a mystery series done right.
2. Accel World
With its daring character designs combined with fast-paced action that rewards tactical prowess over pure physical might and deep, multifaceted antagonists—I proclaim this to be Action Anime of the Year.
In a word? Concise. Not a shred of excess. It has beautiful music, mold-breaking storytelling methodology, a sharp and original art style and a cast of talented voice actresses. There was never any doubt in my mind that Black Rock Shooter deserves the title Anime of the Year.
Final impression – cute philosophy (8/10)
Fall 2012 (12 episodes)
Back in junior high school, Yuuta was consumed by the crazy belief that he was possessed by a demon and could communicate with forces beyond the understanding of normal people. But he realized he was completely delusional and snapped himself out of it before he graduated to high school. Wanting to abandon all of the embarrassing mistakes of his past, he enrolled in a school far away from home to avoid meeting anyone who might ridicule him for the person he used to be. But just as he thinks he’s in the clear and a normal high school life lies before him, he crosses paths with Rikka, a girl who still hasn’t grown out of her childish delusions of grandeur and could possibly blow the cover on the past he wants to forget.
The most important thing that Chuunibyou has brought to the world of anime is that it’s possible to create a really fun, heartwarming romance story that doesn’t revolve around the subject of romance as its central premise. In this way, when Yuuta and Rikka’s relationship blossoms into love, it feels so much more natural and believable because they had a strong friendship that was already well developed. Rika’s romantic rival in Nibutani also doesn’t have the problem a lot of high school comedy romance series have with the usual plethora of girls vying for the protagonist’s attention. Instead of being a sort of homewrecker to Rikka’s heroine character, she feels like a real rival that Yuuta has an immature crush on, which he can grow out of as his focus shifts through the story.
But beyond the romance, Chuunibyou is also a terrific story about growing up. I already discussed my take on the deeper meanings behind the imaginative symbolism with Charles, so I won’t go into that here. However, the creative side of this anime is really amazing and a lot of fun. It takes those childish fantasies of imagined playground battles and fleshes them out with full visuals of what’s happening in the mind’s eye of the characters as they act out their abilities. Then the fights are given a hilarious comedic spin when the very next scene might cut to what’s actually happening in reality. So one moment, two combatants can be trading blows, each wielding a sword or hammer, and then their epic battle is quashed when we realize Rikka is just swinging her umbrella around while Dekomori spins around her twintails. It’s such a stark juxtaposition that you’re unlikely to ever see anything quite like it again.
But as much as I liked this series, I felt a bit betrayed by the final episode. It seemed very out of place when the rest of the story was building up to the point when Rikka and Dekomori could break free of their coping mechanisms and appreciate the world as it actually is. However, the ending regressed on that theme a bit and left things a little more open than I liked. I wanted something more final, and while there’s room for interpretation as to how everyone ends up, it’s not as bad as it could have been. I’ve seen anime like Canvas 2 completely fall apart on the last episode and Chuunibyou doesn’t come anywhere near that level of failure. Despite that last little problem, altogether it’s a series with a great style, original story and loveable characters.
|Anime of the Week – Sakurasou|
|The best way to ensure that a performance will be enjoyable for your audience is to first make sure that you as the performer are enjoying the show. Because if you aren’t having fun, what are the chances others will, too?|
|December 23||Zetsuen Ep. 12 From a purely observational standpoint, what is the difference between fate and coincidence? They often look very similar.|
|Panzer Ep. 10 The final battle approaches; which will prevail? The adaptability and flexibility of creativity? Or tried-and-true tradition?|
|SAO Ep. 25 A happy ending for sure, but for a series that had the potential for some cool existentialism themes, it really dropped the ball.|
|Shinsekai Ep. 13 Something doesn’t add up. I’m much more curious and bewildered by the current circumstances than the characters seem to be.|
|Little Busters Ep. 12 With her quiet demeanor, love of books and penchant for solitude, Nishizono may be the character I most identify with.|
|December 24||Total Eclipse Ep. 25 Even after an impressive victory against impossible odds, such are the cold and calculating ways of military politics.|
|Jormungand PO Ep. 11 The way Koko dances the line between hero and villain is beautiful, but she just hasn’t been very fun as of late.|
|December 25||Sakurasou Ep. 12 When you know you’ve got to motivate people and they don’t want to follow along, the only thing to do is lead by example.|
|December 28||Accel World EX Ep. 1 While I love fun little spin-offs like this, I can’t say I care for the drastic decline in Haruyuki’s courage.|
|December 29||Medaka Box 2 Ep. 12 What an insightful, twisted and weirdly Gainax / Nishio Ishin way of ending an otherwise run-of-the-mill series.|
*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.
Final impression – play the game first (7/10)
Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (25 episodes)
Yuu Narukami is a city boy, who for various circumstances at home, ends up moving out to the countryside to live with his uncle and little cousin. But being a naturally suave and likeable guy, he’s quickly able to shake off the aura of being a transfer student and makes some friends. But when the tiny town of Inaba he finds himself in is rocked by a series of bizarre murders, he gets caught up in a creepy cold case where the victims are seen on a mysterious TV program called the Midnight Channel that airs on foggy nights when you have your TV turned off. In the face of such unbelievable circumstances, Yuu and his friends become the only ones capable of rescuing the victims by diving into the television and fighting the bloodthirsty monsters that live there using a manifestation of their psyches called Persona.
Writing an objective review on P4 was difficult for me since I’ve played the game it’s based on. This isn’t the same as reading the manga that serves as the source material for an anime since both of those media are non-interactive. Video games on the other hand are and being put in the position of having no influence on the characters’ decisions or the pace of the story was a little unsettling. I wonder if many other people feel this way about adaptations of video games that aren’t a loose reinterpretation of a concept, but instead a faithful retelling of the same story.
That being said, P4: The Animation recreates the events of the game as closely as is possible, with a few changes made that were probably necessary for the transition to TV. This includes obvious things like completing a side character’s story in a single episode rather than the game’s slower progression that might be spaced out over the course of the entire play time (or even not completed at all if the player neglects that particular social link). But one thing that always disappointed me about P4: The Animation was the fight scenes. The game is something of a visual novel built around the framework of a really solid RPG. That setup should have been a natural cue that the anime ought to be an action / drama. And while the drama does well, the action is dry and has an air of inevitability to it that never feels the slightest bit suspenseful.
All in all, it makes me sad because, because I loved the game and my hopes were high that the anime would live up to that same level of quality. If nothing else, the soundtrack for the P4 anime is even more amazing than the game and includes all of the original music in addition to new and expanded tracks with terrifically-written English lyrics that really gets me fired up. In the end, Persona 4: The Animation is a supplemental anime for fans of the game, but still a very solid series.
Final impression – smart action, sharp story (9/10)
Spring 2012 to summer 2012 (24 episodes)
Haruyuki Arita was your atypical rotund kid. The target of bullies and dealing with self-esteem issues, he at least has a few good childhood friends to make his life bearable. But one day, the gorgeous and unapproachable student council president, Snow Black (yes, that’s really the name she uses) offers Haruyuki a chance to break free of the chains the world has placed on him. After installing the program Brain Burst, given to him by Snow Black, he becomes a burst-linker—someone who can accelerate his mind beyond normal perception to react to situations in ways that would normally be impossible. But each use of the program costs a point and recharging will require him to enter the battlefield that is the Accelerated World.
Accel World has everything a shounen action anime needs to be good, plus a whole lot more that makes it great. One of the things I love about this anime is that it gets you thinking in some very creative ways right from its very premise. The thought of slowing down time—or more literally, accelerating your perception of time—is not only exceptionally original, but proves to be a flexible enough concept to allow it to keep expanding its usefulness through granting access to new abilities and rewarding out-of-the-box thinking. This subtlety of the powers granted by the Brain Burst program is where this concept’s true strength lies. To truly master the system requires a burst linker to come to terms with the scars of his or her past, which is manifested in his or her duel avatar.
As much as I talk about how important aesthetics are to me when it comes to anime, Accel World’s choice to cast a short, plump, weak-willed, generally unattractive young man as the protagonist was both daring and genius. His flaws are huge and conspicuous, leaving Haruyuki plenty of room for growth and opportunity to overcome challenges as the story progresses. But this rather simple starting point pales in comparison to the metaphoric dichotomy that is Haruyuki Arita, the slow and tubby junior high school student and his sleek, shiny and fast duel avatar, Silver Crow.
Rarely do we see the manifestation of someone’s desires visualized so clearly, and since all the characters are a part of this system of emotional scars that take on an incarnate form, this entire anime becomes one big canvas for depicting each character’s backstory through it’s visual design—even if it’s only speculative in some cases. In this way, I could appreciate this series far beyond its beautiful art style.
Since Brain Burst is at its heart a fighting game, it would be a shame if Accel World didn’t have some excellent action scenes. And once again, it delivers in this area as well. From more simple, straightforward fights that give the message that in battle using your head is just as important as using your fists, to bigger, grand melees that have a pace to them that tests players’ abilities to read the battlefield and adapt to the pace of the fight, there’s no shortage of excellent skirmishe punctuated at the right times between the daily lives of the characters.
One thing about the fights that disappointed me slightly was that towards the end of the series things start to lose the cleverness that filled the earlier fights in favor of something more akin to a dry battle-of-wills where the winner just wanted it more. But it never gets obnoxious because the focus always remains on the characters and they never feel defined by their powers—rather just the opposite, because the players are the ones who give their powers form.
One of the things about this series that I think shouldn’t be overlooked is how deep its premise really goes. Being able to accelerate your time and interact with people to grow and mature at a rate several orders of magnitude faster than is normally possible makes you wonder about these children’s futures. The obvious advantage of their abilities is to analyze situations in detail and essentially, “cheat time” but they can also develop themselves mentally. Are some burst linkers already many years ahead of their peers with respect to their maturity? Will they accelerate through their childhoods and become adults far sooner than they otherwise could were they not given the Brain Burst program? This even challenges our definitions of what it means to be an adult. Can we really define that developmental stage in a person’s life correctly in a world of young people who experience time at a different rate compared to the rest of us?
The story has a few flat spots that I felt messed with the pace a bit—most egregious being Snow Black’s trip to Okinawa—but if that’s my only complaint, I’m not going to hold it against this otherwise brilliant series. Most pleasing is the ending that leaves things open to the possibility of continuing, but has none of the failings of a cliffhanger. It’s complete and brings everything to fulfillment. Instead of leaving you wanting more, it’s simply the impression of “well that’s the end of that chapter. Life goes on and maybe someday I’ll get to see more.” But more doesn’t feel necessary. This makes Accel World one of my top shounen action anime in recent years.
On Christmas, Ian and I talked about our favorite (and least favorite) anime of the fall 2012 season. And just to show that I’m not alone in my anime preferences, we actually agreed on almost everything.
I’m always looking for new guest commentators, so leave a comment or send an email if you want to talk about any anime, anime-related topics or Japan in general.
|Anime of the Week – Psycho-Pass|
|How can a man whose nature runs counter to a system designed to evalutate a person’s guilt based on his mental state possibly be judged by that system? What kind of twistedly perverse person could have his morality so confused that it defies the logic of society?|
|December 16||SAO Ep. 24 How simple and unimpressive. Yeah, Sugou may have deserved what he got, but that doesn’t change the fact that god mode is cheap.|
|Shinsekai Ep. 12 Will Saki be the one to change the world or become a member of the ethics committee? Either way, it should be interesting.|
|Little Busters Ep. 11 Key has always had a knack for making delightful anime and the goofy twists and turns of this series are so much fun.|
|Jojo 2012 Ep. 11 New depths are being plumbed. Not only does the writing make a B movie look sophisticated, they’re just making stuff up.|
|December 17||Total Eclipse Ep. 24 Something that’s easy to overlook in this series is the alternate history that’s been created with the military craft.|
|December 19||Sakurasou Ep. 11 Inspiration for innovation comes in many forms, but if you’re not inspired, how can you possibly hope to inspire others?|
|December 20||Chuunibyou Ep. 12 I’m not sure what to take away from the finale. There’s a definite feeling it recanted the overall theme of the series.|
|December 21||Psycho-Pass Ep. 11 Akane has been a kind and honest girl. What will become of her now that she has been dragged into Makishima’s game?|
|December 22||BTOOOM Ep. 12 It takes a lot of heart to give up immediate hope for yourself so that you can share that hope later with the one you love.|
*You could have read these mini-reviews in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.
|Anime of the Week – Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!|
|When someone who has based his or her life around a false belief realizes the mistake, the transition to letting go and moving on is difficult. Friends can be alienated and conceptions about the world must be changed. But it’s made easier when there’s someone there who genuinely cares and is watching over you.|
|December 9||SAO Ep. 23 As powerfully emotional as this series can be and despite the great battles, all too often it’s just too predictably cliché.|
|December 10||Little Busters Ep. 10 If we focus too much on the sad, dark and hurtful, we can find ourselves unable to see the happy, bright and hopeful.|
|Shinsekai Ep. 11 When it comes to conspiracies involving modification of memories, you can always count on someone being resistant to it.|
|Total Eclipse Ep. 23 No matter how dire or righteous your cause, starting an idealistic war you can’t hope to win is not the right decision.|
|Joshiraku Ep. 3 As much as I love the concept and the cast, I just can’t get into this anime because it feels too much like an inside joke.|
|December 12||Sakurasou Ep. 10 “There’s always going to be someone better than you,” unless your motto is, “Don’t just be number one, be the only one.”|
|December 13||Jormungand PO Ep. 10 What is the price for peace? When do the ends justify the means? Is it a gradient of right to wrong or a line in the sand?|
|Chuunibyou Ep. 11 I would much rather live with an uncomfortable truth and deal with the consequences, than indulge in a comforting lie.|
|December 14||Panzer Ep. 9 A cornered mouse will attack a cat and the girls of Oarai with their happy school life at stake are pulling out all the stops.|
|Psycho-Pass Ep. 10 When technology can read minds, it’s human curiosity that constructs a test of character designed to reward chivalry.|
|BTOOOM Ep. 11 If it’s beyond a one’s limits to repay betrayal with revenge, it would seem that trust is not such a fragile thing after all.|
|December 15||Zetsuen Ep. 11 I always get a kick out of arrogant jerks getting put in their place, but to his credit, Samon has motives I can appreciate.|
|Medaka Box 2 Ep. 10 There’s a lovely, genuine honesty about finding the purpose of existence through the kind, simple mind of a child.|