My Top 10 anime of 2011

2011 has been a great year for me, while I haven’t been into many albums this year, the amount of great anime, more than makes up for it, to a point where I couldn’t just do a Top 5 but a Top 10 list instead.

Last year was easy for me because there were only a few stand out anime series, it’s quite strange to say that I watched some of the 2010 anime this year (House Of Five Leaves, Durarara, Kuragehime, Redline, FMA: Brotherhood), these series could of easily made my previous list.

If you wish to see my review or Top 5 anime list last year, here they are:

Review of the 2010 Season: http://reevothemusefan.blogspot.com/2010/12/review-of-2010-japanese-anime-season.html

Top 5 anime of 2010: http://reevothemusefan.blogspot.com/2010/12/top-5-anime-of-2010-season.html

Lastly, this was a very hard list to make and I would imagine the same would go towards many anime fans, so with that out-of-the-way, here are my Top 10 anime of the year:

10. Ben-to

Studio: David Productions

Much like High School Of The Dead last year, my favourite guilty pleasure lands the number 10 spot, it certainly made my Sunday mornings a lot of fun thanks to its well made action scenes and its comic relief, it was this or Level-E but the amount of enjoyment I had with this, I couldn’t resist.

Ben-To’s plot is very simple but it works with it to make a crazy storyline full of hungry teenagers that enjoy fighting for their food and other students find different ways to try to get it by using dirty tricks, most characters I enjoyed as well, Satuo is a decent male lead that can be both funny and determined, Yarizui, I was a bit worried that her cold personality might make her unlikable but she became very supportive to Satuo and her love for Bento actually made her interesting.

I had some gripes with this – episodes 9 & 10 were a tad disappointing and Ume being the only support character I disliked but, when it came to watching a thrilling, funny and exciting show, Ben-to totally provided it.

9. Mawaru Penguindrum

Studio: Brains Base

At first I was in love with Mawaru Penguindrum, it had this great sense of mystery, drama and those cute, comic relief penguins that made it a really enjoyable experience, at the starting in point, then when I got to the middle, I started to get confused when all this symbolism and strange conversations were thrown at me, right to the end, it’s then that I felt a bit disappointed.

However, when I look back at the series, all the good things about Penguindrum, stuck with me, the characters had a memorable backstories, the important parts made an  impact on me and yet again I will always remember these penguins (I may need to import a plush penguin #2 in the future).

Penguindrum may not be as “FABOLOUS MAX” as I thought it would be, but it still makes for a good survival strategy. A re-watch may be needed in the future.

8. Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

Studio: Satelight

The summer season had a few relaxing shows in it’s run and Ikoku Meiro no Croisée was one that was really looking forward to, since I held an interest in 19th century France, it actually turned into one of my favorite historical anime of the year.

I loved how this series mixed the cultures of both Japan and France together by letting these characters learn more about each other, I have a hard time liking most “moe” characters now-a-days but I really liked Yune because of her amazement of French culture and the series does a good job on giving a reason why she traveled all the way to this foreign country, Claude and Oscar who take care of her are very likeable and have a hint of depth in them as well.

Only real nitpick is that I didn’t enjoy the Alice episodes compared to the others, but, this is a gem of a series that will most likely be forgotten in Japan, which would be a shame.

7. Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Studio: A-1 Pictures

At the start I was a bit unsure on how Ano Hana would succeed with just 11 episodes and I felt somewhat underwhelmed with the characters themselves, with some of the characters being unlikable or a tad annoying (sadly this goes towards Menma)

However I could see that Ano Hana really used its disadvantages and turn it into one of the most emotional series of the year, it slowly built up the drama between these six childhood friends who have grown apart after a tragic event, it shows these characters all coming together in a very complicated way.

I think it was just the start that took me a while to get into Ano Hana but the pay-off at the end was brilliant and was the second anime of the year that made me cry, seriously.

6. Tiger & Bunny

Studio: Sunrise

I love it, you love it and many people I know enjoyed Tiger & Bunny this year, since the first episode I really liked the concept of Superhero’s being apart of a corporate TV show and saving people for points, putting a spin on what a Superhero is.

Of course the series could easily fail since the series took a more western approach but it fully succeed in being liked worldwide, it’s most thanks to are main characters Kotetsu and Barnaby, who share a great chemistry throughout and even the other heroes are fun and interesting (some being developed more than others), it’s two main story arcs are fantastic as well-being both thrilling and well written.

With two films on the way, I can’t wait to see more from this.

5. Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season

Studio: Production I.G

If I had to give the award best romance anime of the year, this would take it for me, after building up on a very awesome first season which focused on Sawako and Shouta growing relationship, the second season had a bit more tension this time around, almost breaking those feelings for each other making every episode all the more exciting.

It had everything here, the animation was beautiful, the characters are very likeable (although I STILL HATE YOU JOE) and the final episodes felt very satisfying after some previous tense ones, which you don’t get with most anime of this genre.

I do hope for another Kimi Ni Todoke season soon, otherwise I’ll need to continue collecting the manga.

4. Fate/Zero

Studio: Ufotable

Why do we have to wait till Spring 2012 for the 2nd half of this? ;_;

Before watching this I wanted to watch Studios DEEN’s Fate/Stay Night TV series and Unlimited Blade Works movie and to be honest I kinda like these but not enough for me to love them, while enjoyable they felt lackluster and forgettable in the end.

Meanwhile Fate/Zero (which is a prequel to Fate/Stay Night) succeeds in two major parts, the massive production by studio Ufotable makes the series look absolutely gorgeous, as well as the character designs and the very well made battle sequences which is more tactically involved than any recent anime I’ve seen.

The second is the staff and most noticeably, Gen Urobuchi who originally wrote the story, he gives the characters a lot more motivation and ethical discussion on the Holy Grail rather than the typical “The Holy Grail is what we need, lets fight the bad guys and get it”, it’s more intellectual and for that I can appreciate it.

All the masters and servants are memorable but some are a bit undeveloped so far, same goes for some of the side characters but this is a little nitpick, Fate/Zero is awesome and is worth checking out.

3. Usagi Drop

Studio: Production I.G

Much like Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, Usagi Drop was a very relaxing series to watch but it was much more than just that.

It’s a series that tackles the mature subject of parenthood and how Daikichi who has remained single since his 30’s, goes to his granddad funeral to find out that he had an illegitimate child, Daikichi decides to take care of this young girl after the family discuss if they should put her in an adoption home.

The series excels because of the two leads interactions, Daikichi and Rin start off rough since Daikichi has no parental skills at first and finds that his current job can’t handle picking up Rin every day in his current timetable and so he begins to change as the series progress, giving more time for her and making him an extremely likable character.

Speaking of an extremely likable character, Rin is well-behaved, adorable, sweet and funny child, she wants to help anyone no matter what, it’s these two that make Usagi Drop work so well.

The animation is great, the soundtrack as well, the series is easily the best Slice-Of-Life anime of the year but again it might get overlooked in the years to come and I really don’t want that to happen Japan.

2. Steins;Gate

Studio: White Fox

This was almost perfect for me but I will have to admit, I didn’t really care for the first four episodes as such, in matter of fact I was quite slow in catching up to Steins;Gate, I think it was episode five that it’s comedy and fun characters really started to grab my attention but I was never expecting so much awesome to come out of it, especially the second half.

Okarin is by far the best male character of the year, his smart, funny and determined when it comes to SCIENCE, yet with his mad scientist antics, you start to see a change in him as we get to the middle of the series, most of the other characters are great as well as Kurisu being one of my favorites as well, she is very intelligent and while being annoyed with Okarin at times, she helps him with his time travel experiments.

Steins;Gate is a fantastic series that I would recommend any anime fan to watch, ISSOCOOL, Sonuvabitch!

1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Studio: SHAFT

I think this doesn’t come as a surprise to many people but Madoka is easily my anime of the year and much more than that for me, the series was an emotional rollercoaster full of hope and despair, full of Gen Urobuchi’s awesome writing and some of the best & unique animation backdrops I’ve seen by Studio SHAFT.

All the characters at least had a purpose in this series, nothing is wasted at all, Homura Akemi takes my best female character easily, for having one of the best episode centred around her and her motivations to stop Madoka from becoming a magical girl, Kyubey is one of the most interesting mascot characters I’ve ever encountered as well.

I’ve raved on my previous blog and on twitter on how much I loved Madoka Magica this year and while the two re-cap movies have me slightly worried but I’m pretty sure the SHAFT team can pull it off.

 

My Review on the 2011 Japanese anime season

What an amazing year it has been for anime, I really mean this statement, every season has at least one series that had me waiting every week for the next episode, people are even saying that this is the best year since 2007 (although I can’t say that since I started watching anime two years ago).

So like my previous review post on my other blog, I will focus on all four seasons and tell my thoughts on what I saw and what I need to watch, a Top 10 anime of 2011 list will soon follow – so let’s get started.

Winter 2010/2011 – Looking at the season sheet I can actually say that I have almost watched all of these. One of the series I honestly regret putting on-hold is the noitaminA title – Hourou Musuko, I honestly kept thinking that this will get a DVD/Blu-ray license but there has been no luck unfortunately, hopefully like Princess Jellyfish, I will watch it early next year.

Mitsudomoe S2 I will soon watch, depending on when I get to watch the first season and Starry Sky has had a lot of “meh” reaction but I’d been interested if I somehow get on that.

Series I watched: 

The Good:

  • Level-E – It very nearly got on my Top 10 list but that doesn’t take away from how much I enjoyed this, Prince Baka’s attempt to make everyone’s life a living hell by basically trolling them can be hilarious at times, mentioning episode 3 is one of the most obvious choices. While it lost its way in some of the one-off arcs, it was still a great watch and worth checking out. Available on Crunchyroll.
  • Kore wa Zombie Desu ka – This one was fun as well, great action scenes, some of the drama was alright and I enjoyed the mad plots that was thrown at me and while fan-service was present, it was at least used in the best comical way. The last episode however was very pointless though, which did annoy me, but with the second season approaching, I hope that it will make some improvements.
  • Go-Sick – It took me a while to appreciate Go-Sick but coming around the final arcs I figured it out, I really enjoyed Victorique and Kazuya’s chemistry on solving these mysteries and how they become more closer as arcs passed by. Sure I have gripes with some of the side characters but overall, I really enjoyed. Available on Crunchyroll.

The Average

  • Star Driver – It finished in 2011, it’s on the review and I’m disappointed to put it here. It’s one of those shows that had huge potential, only to be let down with repetitive episode structures and undeveloped characters. This will be what I will remember from it but at least it had a fantastic finale.
  • Freezing – Much like Sekirei (which I reviewed on Anime UK News), the target audience for this is obvious, women fighting with a chance of getting there clothes ripped apart, if you somehow get past that and the large amount of gore, then the main two characters build a solid understanding of each other, which is actually interesting. It was enough to keep me watching until the end, still felt mediocre though. Available on Funimation
  • Fractale – It had my full attention at episode 3 but I soon lost interest in this mysterious, futuristic dystopia setting, It’s one of those times where really amazing production values, doesn’t equal a great plot or interesting characters, which it lacked in both area’s anyway, I didn’t hate it outright but no way near the best.

The Bad

  • Yumekui Merry (On-hold)  – I think I made it to episode 9 but I seriously lost interest in its plot progression, in matter of fact, I almost forgot about it. I still would like to finish it and since Sentai have licensed for the US, I could wait for a UK release.
  • Infinite Stratos –  Considering this is one of the best-selling series this year in Japan, my views can’t change that, still this series was below average with – a generic setting on the only male being in a all-girls school, an alright male character, one of the worst main love interests (in a Harem) I’ve seen, useless side characters and I could list more. The only sliver linings are some decent mecha fights and Charlotte (best character in the Harem by far), however I can’t forgive how much anger this series put me through.
  • Dragon Crisis – While everything in the series was bland and annoying, the one memorable moment was the ending climax, however it was meant to be taken seriously but it made me laugh, so much that I was crying, if you can’t even get that right, then it really deserves to be on this bad list. Available on Crunchyroll.
  • Rio ~Rainbow Gate & Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen…blah (Dropped) – Nothing really to say about these, they seemed so focused on fan-service that I couldn’t be bothered to continue them.

Spring 2011 – It with this season when the UK finally got a service which allowed us to watch the latest anime from Japan, without relying on Crunchyroll, this was of course “Anime On Demand” and it had a pretty damn good starting line-up featuring some of my best series. Much like Winter, I did watch a lot of anime in this season, I do wish to continue Nichijou since I only caught three episodes, did make me chuckle a few times but it did become a bit bland at other times.

This season also saw a return for Gintama, a huge fan favorite that people have been begging for me to start, I got to episode 9, slow progress but I really am enjoying the satire and 4th wall jokes. Other series like Blue Exorcist, Dororon Enma-kun and Dog Days (since a 2nd season has been announced) I will keep my eyes on.

Series I watched:

The Good:

Kaiji Season 2 – I watched the first season last year and my reaction was very positive, much like most of the anime community, so I was very much looking forward to this, yet while I still enjoyed this season, it didn’t really fascinate me unlike it’s predecessor. Sure it was tense and great at certain moments but to do two arcs in 26 episodes, it can drag and this lost some points for me, overall though, only Kaiji can cause so much emotional tension.

Maria Holic Alive – The first of my guilty pleasures, the 2nd season provided more laughs and more insane characters for me, it was great for SHAFT to come back to that sharp, well-timed humor that I love them for, some memorable multiple openings as well. However, I do feel that this doesn’t need another season.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – SHAFT provided yet another great series that show why they do so many creative and witty comedies, unlike Maria Holic, Denpa had at least a faint plot, trying to fit the weird Erio into the real world again. Strange thing is that technically the series hasn’t ended yet until the OVA next month.

Hanasaku Iroha – This one was a tough cookie, I thought I was really going to like this series; with its light-hearted yet drama setting, in the end, I had a good time with watching it every week, much like other two-Cour series, Iroha has some bad and pointless episodes in the second half but overall, a good Slice Of Life series. I just hope the new project will be more interesting. Available on Crunchyroll.

The World God Only Knows Season 2 – After quickly watching the previous season on Crunchyroll, I went straight into this and had some interesting arcs that causes Keima even more frustration and this continues to give many laughs on my part and I wouldn’t mind more seasons in the future (although I need to read the manga) .Available on Crunchyroll.

The Average –

Lotte no Omocha – Quite honestly my surprise of the year, I was fully expecting to loathe this series and the synopsis was pretty much asking for it and that includes the 1st two episodes, but under the amount of fan-service and dumb jokes; I found a genuine, sweet and likeable fantasy anime. Nothing spectacular but it did leave a positive impression on me…..somehow.

[C] – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – This project oozes ambition and intrigue, it had me really excited but it felt rushed, the eleven episodes just didn’t use that interesting idea to its fullest potential and never really developed its characters, a shame but still a decent watch.

Deadman Wonderland – The first episode was amazing, no question about the introduction at all but it sadly declined into a big mess, it was all over the place and new characters were thrown in randomly. Sure the anime has some great ideas and at times did well with them but it was too little, too late.

The Bad 

A Bridge to the Starry Skies – Can’t believe I watched all of this and for a Harem series, this is yet again a forgettable one, one thing I really hated about this was the main characters best friend (or is he?), he was an irritating and useless person that made it unbearable at times, add to that the bland female cast and you just have a hollow anime series.

Aria The Scarlet Ammo – At first I really wanted to appreciate what this series had to do, take every action cliché and make it into fun watch, however, all I got was hateful tsundere female’s, lackluster actions scenes and one of the most stupid antagonist’s of the year becoming more of joke than threatening, it’s yet again a light novel adoption that J.C.Staff attempted but failed exponentially.

A-Channel (Dropped) – This isn’t awful, it’s just so average that it was boring to me, I’m starting to think that 4koma adaptations with all female cute characters just aren’t for me, A-Channel just never interested me because of this.

Battle Girls ~Time Paradox~ (Dropped) – Interesting concept but incredibly stupid, a reality with all the famous warriors in the Edo war period are all women? That’s alright. Are main character trying to settle war with childish games instead. No. Just No.

Softenni and Under The Innocent Sky (Dropped) – Both were way too silly, stupid and fan-servicey for me to even care, both were easily dropped.

Summer 2011 – I was a bit put-off by this season, I would even call it the weakest of the year, however, it has some decent shows though. One of the most anticipated but disappointing series by most anime viewers, was Blood-C, which I never really picked up, it was surprising to see so many negative comments but I would like to check out why.

Two out of the three Brain Base projects – Natsume: Book Of Friends S3 and Kamisama Dolls are others that I want to watch (for Natsume I want at least watch the first two seasons) and while Uta-No Prince Sama doesn’t really look like it’s for me, I was actually impressed with the first episode.

The Good –

Three that I would put here made the top 10, so looking at the summer chart, there was nothing else to put in this section.

The Average –

Kamisama no Memochou – This was a good detective story with a great beginning and an awesome last arc but in the middle the series, it was in a state, episodes that involve pointless fan-service or a baseball episode that did nothing to advance the plot, while this was J.C.Staff’s best project of the year, they still need to make a huge improvement.

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian – This was a tad disappointing, I really liked the set-up of post-WW1 Britain and two characters attempting to seal supernatural demon books, it just didn’t have a good episode structure, relying on one-off stories rather than an overall one, it’s not what I wanted but still I enjoyed watching all of it anyway.

No.6 – The Yaoi undertones didn’t put me off when I watched No.6, it has potential for its futuristic utopia and the conspiracy behind it, however, it didn’t focus on that. It was mainly on are main characters and there conversations on either saving No.6 from a threat or just leave them to there doom, it was repeated so many times that I got frustrated, I will be positive on the beautiful animation and some moments on the last episodes but I was again disappointed.

The Bad

Mayo Chiki – It had one of the worst first episodes from what I remembered but the 2nd and 3rd episode gave me hope that the Kinjirou and Subaru chemistry would make Mayo Chiki more enjoyable, then it fell apart. What made me put it in the bad section are the side characters, Kanade being the worst, doing things that would put are characters in unnecessary danger, I really hated her, the others were just your generic panel of characters that barely got a laugh off me.

R-15 – Yes I watched it and yes it was bad, it never really was going to impress me, it’s just the main character trying to write ero novels and putting him into awkward situations, ending with a poor payoff, it was just another series that focused on fan-service, easily forgettable.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! (On-Hold) – I feel that I was put off on the first episode, just because it never made me laugh, it still looks great but it’s over-the-top gag’s and wacky characters never grew on me and same goes for the 1st season, might pick this back up in the future, just to finish it.

Kaitou Tenshi Twin Angel: Kyun Kyun Tokimeki Paradise and Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi (Dropped) – Never interested me, both are equally bland in their action scenes and both feel very generic.

Fall 2011

Series that won’t be considered on the Top 10 list or review until next year since there 2-cour but deserve a mention:

  • Persona 4: The Animation – Loving this adaptation on the game so far and is a great fun to watch.
  • Mirai Nikki – Premise is awesome, interesting and batsh*t insane, fantastic stuff so far.
  • Phi-Brain – Five episodes in and it’s fun to watch these characters solve puzzles, might lack an overall story at the moment but I like it.
  • Chihayafuru – WHY HAVEN’T I STARTED THIS YET!, Considered one of the best of this season, I will catch up so I can post my real thoughts for next years list.
  • Guilty Crown – I’ve not watched this but heard bad things for it being a “Code Geass” clone, although I have not watched that neither, hopefully I can enjoy GC a lot more when I watch it in the future (Unless I start Code Geass before then)

Since starting College on this new course, I’ve reduced the anime I’ve been watching this season but I recently had the time to catch up with some series, One that I wish to start is Squid Girl S2, liked the first season and I’ve heard the second is even better.While I did watch the first two episodes of Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, I never felt like judging it at this moment, it looked like one of those harems that breaks from the norm and it does have my interest, lastly Working!! and Tamayura: Hitotose will be on my “To Watch” list.

The Good – 

Un-Go – A very smart and intellectual detective anime from Studio BONES, it has enough mystery in the cases to keep me interested, set in a war-torn future, it uses modern technology mixed with the futuristic ideas to its advantage, it might not be in the best list but deserves an honorable mention.

The Average –

Mashiro-Iro Symphony – Out of all the Harem series this year, Mashiro-Iro Symphony wins it by far, no annoying characters but kind and understandable ones, no rushed romance or harem endings, just a natural way for characters to announce their feelings to each other, this is what I want from an anime like this, sure it can be bland at times and nothing much goes on in the series but I did kinda like how it was executed.

Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon – If Horizon didn’t have those great action scenes and political interest then I would easily dismiss this, It feels that Horizon is rushing through its storyline, leaving many anime fans confused. Some characters have had some back story but I do feel that this series needs more, disappointed in this one.

The Bad –

C³ – Imagine Baka To Test then add some dark mindless violence, that’s it in a nutshell and it isn’t good because of it, I’m currently at episode 6 and the switch back to school life, pretending like nothing happened just doesn’t make sense, it just comes down to poor plot progression that makes the series awful in my view.

Maken-Ki (Dropped) – I normally give anime at least three episodes before judging it but to have everything wrong in your first episode is quite an accomplishment, I just hated the dumb male main character and some of the female character motivations, it was easily dropped.

My Top 10 list should be up before the new year, so look out for that.