My review on the 2012 Japanese anime year.

gg_soredemo_machi_wa_mawatteiru_-_11_d6e9ea50-mkv_snapshot_21-46_2010-12-17_10-38-27 The face of disappointment

Welcome to my yearly review of anime that finished in 2012!

Last year was a great year of anime for me – Madoka Magica, Steins;Gate, Tiger & Bunny, they were excellent shows that I praised to death. So I came into 2012 with excitement , with a few shows that I was VERY much looking forward to, so what did I think of this year?

Meh.

Yep, it’s been very average really, I have a few Anime of the Year nominations but most of my picks are flawed, in some sort of way, which I will mention in this review.

Still, to balance that, there have been a lot surprises this year, that involve some of the genres and tropes that I have not grown fond of, some of them even destroyed my expectations, which is something I want to happen more often.

My anime of the year nominees will be mentioned in a separate article, so keep an eye  out if I’ve missed any of the best anime titles that you have seen this year, I am also doing a worst anime of the year list as well, since there has been lots of rubbish I’ve had to suffer with.

So, before I start, lets mention some of the shows that are carrying on to next year (a.k.a The likely AOTY 2012 pile that I can’t nominate until next year)

  • Space Brothers – One of the shows that I was looking forward to and expecting to be really good, I was right, incredibly right. Space Brothers would have been Anime of the Year if it ended in 2012, its wonderful characters, it’s love for Space exploration, the laugh-out-loud comedy, the beautiful moments.I currently still love it’s slow but interesting pace and it still hasn’t run out of steam after 30+ episodes. So I fully recommend you check out, trust me, it makes you feel so moon!
  • Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (2012) – Another AOTY contender, as I write this, the 2nd part of Jojo has begun and I still frickin love it. Hell, I would cheat and put part one on the AOTY list, but I must restrain myself. JoJo is just crazy, over-the-top fun and is no way ashamed of what it tries to do but it also has a easy-to-follow plot and very memorable heroes & villains. This anime ROCKS, it rocks so much that the ending theme is ‘Yes – Roundabout‘. I love you David Productions (no homo).
  • Psycho-Pass – Well looky here, another AOTY contender. Yep, Gen Urobuchi returns to work on the script for Psycho-pass with Production I.G and some folks that haven’t really worked any anime work before, bar the director etc. The show slightly reminds me of Ghost In The Shell in both its philosophical arguments and it’s bleak futuristic setting, but I feel like the ethical decisions that were/are going to be made will have a huge impact on me in the second cour. I look forward to it.
  • Girls Und Panzer – I’m quite sad to disqualify this show to next year, since the last two episodes are delayed for three long months, still I can take this chance to praise this show, which didn’t look likely at the start. The problem I have with most cute girl shows, is that they seem to focus on characters being cute and not balancing with there small activity or serious situations. K-ON and Strikes Witches are big examples of this but Girls Und Panzer has this really great balance of cute girl moments and tank battles, tanks are well implemented and used well, showing tactics and unpredictable moments that really keep you on your seat, all without resorting to cheap fan-service. I can only wish for this show’s success.
  • Polar Bear Cafe – One of the mentioned surprises of the season is this, while I don’t think this will be AOTY potential (I have fallen behind it), I always have a smile on my face when I stick this on. It does entertain me and I have to give huge kudos to the Seiyuu involved, their comic timing is almost always spot on! I will attempt to catch up with it on the winter holidays!
  • Ixion Saga – I really shouldn’t praise this show too much because it’s basically, so far, an episodic show full of hidden sex jokes….but that’s why I’m liking it, when it’s funny, it’s really funny, ED is one of those characters that I can’t wait to see him come on-screen. It’s flawed but it certainly looks to be a guilty pleasure if it continues like this!
  • Little Busters (on-hold) – Studio J.C.Staff were terrible last year, this year though, I kind of saw some good out of them. However, Little Busters is not one of them, I stopped at episode three because…it was boring and for a Key adaptation, then something must be wrong. I’ve not played the VN but seeing the people that have, aren’t very happy with it. Thus the reason why I’m wait for all of it to air, I’ll come back to it but the expectations will be lowered.
  • Robotic;Notes (on-hold) – I think I’ll be more happier to see if the praise for this show increases because I’ve not heard any buzz from it, I would imagine it would get better, but the bar was set incredibly high after White Fox’s Steins;Gate finished, I’m definitely going to return to this after watching a decent first episode but for now, I’m happy to stop at this point.

Again it’s hard for me to not mention these shows in my lists but fair is fair, I look forward to mentioning some of these shows next year, so lets get this review started:

Winter 2011/2012

Looking back at the chart, I didn’t watch much new anime, sure I was watching continuing shows from the fall season but most of the stuff didn’t catch my eye. New Prince Of Tennis and Kill Me Baby we’re victims of uninteresting 1st episodes, leaving me to put them on-hold.

Still shows like High School DxD (which I dropped but later regretted it) and Aquarion Evol were some of the supposedly stupid but entertaining enough to build a fan-base, I would like to come back to some of these shows someday.

Nisemonogatari

Verdict: Good

Thoughts: Bakemonogatari was one of the first big hits for studio SHAFT and for very good reasons, it’s very entertaining dialogue and excellent presentation was full of praise for most anime fans but it’s never been my favorite out of SHAFT’S great catalog, but Nisemonogatari was a big title to look out for in this season and while I enjoyed it (a lot) I still felt that this was weaker than it’s prequel.

I read that this was the weakest out of the -monogartari novels and I kind of see why, the two sister arc’s had plenty of episodes but they felt padded, that’s probably why Shinbo took the controversial route, to make the show more entertaining and boy did he succeed.

Nisemonogatari still held the great characters, great dialogue and great presentation and I certainly had fun but in the end, I could see it’s flaws and it barely misses the Top 5 spot, still I can’t wait for Nekomonogatari in two weeks.

Another

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: This horror anime, failed to do what others tried to do, in it’s same genre, scare me. ‘Another’ was not scary at all and relied on cheap scares and laughable death scenes that didn’t convince me in the slightest.

However, the P.A.Works staff nailed the atmosphere and mystery of the show to a T and I wanted to know what would happen to this cursed classroom but that’s all that this show had going to it, disappointing.

Rinne No Lagrange

Verdict: Mediocre (On-hold episode 3)

Thoughts: I won’t go into much detail because I’ll be watching this as soon as I can re-new my Anime On Demand account, but from what I watched, it had the right balance of mecha battles and Slice Of Life (even though most of that was fan-service).

However, I could just wait for a future Blu-ray release for this and it’s sequel, but from what I watched, t’was entertaining but nothing special.

Mouretsu Pirates

Verdict: Good

Thoughts: This could of easily been full of anime cliches, bad writing and so much cuteness that it might put me off, it never did that, instead, the show really succeeded in it’s character and world building, trying to make it’s premise full of Space Pirates actually feel real.

To sacrifice this though, it took most of it’s first cour to explain stuff, which did feel like a chore I will admit, but once Marika became captain of the Bentenmaru, then the next arcs became more interesting, plus it felt good that most of the female characters were strong ones.

A few flaws though, some very weak episodes, most coming from the Space Yacht arc. Some might struggle with it’s slow pace but Mouretsu Pirates is certainly worth watching, I look forward to the UK release!

Inu x Boku SS

Verdict: Good

Thoughts: Last year, David Productions started to make some stand-out anime series, Level-E & Ben-To were very entertaining for example. I’ve already talked there amazing Jojo adaption so far but, they also did Inu x Boku SS, which seemed to focus more as a everyday comedy series with hints of supernatural elements, instead of balancing the two genre’s.

However, this doesn’t make it an average show, I liked it, it does the comedy well and most of the characters are so wacky & likeable,it certainly lacks a plot throughout, no question about that, but I could forgive it, because I had a lot of fun watching it.

Add to that a very strong ending and some of the best ending themes of the season. Good stuff.

Listen to Me, Girls. I Am Your Father!

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: Sadly – this show is mostly forgettable, I do remember a few stand-out scenes and I remember the ending was satisfying, not relying on a cop-out that could easily ruined it.

I felt like studio FEEL got the most important thing in this anime right, to focus on the main characters as a new, struggling family that we can sympathize with, without making the main focus of the show a very fan-service one.

Yet, it is still a show that I will probably never watch again, it held my attention long enough but that’s about it really. (Yes, that title always reminds me of Star Wars)

Ano Natsu

Verdict: Good (Anime Of The Year Honorable mention)

Thoughts:Tatsuyuki Nagai has again made another memorable story and a pretty damn good romance anime, which is no surprise since he again worked with J.C.Staff and the Toradora character designer.

I really liked the way the characters felt believable, it’s certain moments in various episodes that can be either heart warming or heart breaking, which Tatsuyuki always seems to excel at.

However, the sci-fi elements were never really explored until the last episodes, which made the end a bit disappointing.

Persona 4: The Animation (ended in 2012)

Verdict: Good (Anime Of The Year Honorable mention)

Thoughts: If we ignore the pretty bad – last episode OVA, the Persona 4 anime was a success as an adaptation of the game, I couldn’t believe it as first.

It was both really funny and had the most important elements from the plot, the director  did a really good job with it, and not mess with the memorable characters that we all love.

This would of be on my AOTY list but I’ve played the game many, many times. So I already know the plot from the top of my head. Still, it’s totally worth watching.

Spring 2011/2012

Took me a while to get into the Spring season, it’s probably the one I talked about the most when all the shows started to end.

I did drop a few straight away, Upotte offended me, I really didn’t want to watch a new season of Kore Wa Zombie Desu Ka Of The Dead and Shining Hearts took the award for most boring first episode of the year.

Shows that I might look into are Accel World and Kuroko No Basket, since these shows looked enjoyable, again I would look out for future UK release for these.

Medaka Box

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: A manga adaption of one of NisiOisin more popular manga and it’s been animated by Gainax? Back then I said “Sign me up” but by the end I said “Wow, most of that was boring”.

In defense of Gainax, this is a solid adaption, but most of the time, the first season of Medaka Box is very bland, I started to get frustrated with it on twitter, wondering why this show was hyped.

When I finished the first season, I decided in my free time to read the whole manga and the later arcs are overwhelmingly bizarre that I enjoyed reading it. In conclusion I can now understand why this was so hyped, but still, the first season of Medaka Box was a disappointment.

Sengoku Collection

Liu_BeiHey, Liu Bei is in this ani- Wait what?

iVtaVHE’S A GI-, oh wait, she’s pretty cool.

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: I had a discussion about this series with my friend DiGikerot (http://www.beta-waffle.com/blog/) at the BFI anime screenings in London and the things he told me, were enough for me to watch the whole series during summer.

What I got was a 26 episode anime that focused mostly on one girl per episode, it never  felt like there was any kind of over-arching story, which made the conclusion a bit weak, but as an episodic anime, there were some good episodes  and some really bad ones.

But I’m glad I watched all of this for those stand-out episodes, it’s better than most of the all-girl Sengoku Period character stuff that I’ve watched recently.

Sankarea

Verdict: Bad

Thoughts: Weird story about me and this show, I actually read the first volume of the manga around two years ago, so the 1st three episodes weren’t that much of a shock for me.

I can’t remember much of this show, it’s episode structure had silly placed filler episodes, the show lacked in the drama department, especially in those later episodes and I really hated that ending.

I remember cringing at some of the romance moment and getting really frustrated with the pointless fan-service. So yeah, didn’t like it in the end.

Mystery Girlfriend X

Verdict: Good

Thoughts: Never thought I’d like this, Hoods Entertainment’s are notorious for making really creepy fan-service stuff but Mystery Girlfriend X was good enough for another surprise of the year.

It went deep into romantic relationships, which didn’t involve love triangles or cliche drama I have seen in a lot in anime, I was interested in Akira and Mikoto’s slow moving relationship, making it feel natural.

I did question a few fan-service moments but overall, I was satisfied by the end. Well done Hoods, well done.

Tasogare Otome x Amnesia

Verdict: Bad

Thoughts: When I think of Silver Link, I think of disappointment, so far that hasn’t changed, C³ was awful and I’ve never liked Baka to Test and now we have this.

To be honest, the show was mainly average, it had some good animation tricks and some decent backstory to the major characters, but I started to hate it because of that cursed ending.

The last episode is good for the most part but when you get to those final five minutes, it suddenly cops out of it’s bitter sweet ending, I can’t forgive that, better luck next time Sliver Link.

Haiyore Nyaruko-san

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: Speaking of studios that I have little respect for, Xebec can make some really bad anime sometimes (see Upotte), but they occasionally might do something interesting, I thought this show was one of them. Haiyore Nyaruko-san was funny in it’s first couple of episodes, I enjoyed it when it satire’s other anime and I thought it was promising, as long as it keeps up that humor.

However, the show ran out of steam very quickly and it didn’t help that most of the new characters had only one punchline given to them.

I don’t see any point of the show getting a second season but it’s getting one, so I can hear the same jokes – over and over and over and ov…

Tsuritama

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: I think the problem with Tsuritama, is that while it was fun to watch and the animation was gorgeous, I never felt any emotional connection with any of the characters, sure it was fun to watch at times but most of the drama didn’t do anything for me.

However, the premise interested me, while I’m not a fisher, I know people in my family that do it as a hobby and I thought it might stick to that and let these weird characters interact with each other, but it didn’t since they introduced that weird, alien plot.

I don’t really remember much about Tsuritama except for the “DUCKU” pose, so that’s why it never really impressed me, the opening is catchy though.

Eureka Seven Ao

Verdict: Good

booingReaction to most E7 fans reading this.

Thoughts: So, it seems that I will have to explain myself on why I like Eureka Seven AO, I would consider most of the first part of the show – great, even AOTY potential, it had the “OHH YEAH” moments that I never had this year, it had excellent presentation including that fantastic soundtrack and some likeable characters.

However, even I will have to admit that the second half was mindbogglingly confusing, to a point were I lost track on what was happening, I was really hoping that it would start explaining the major plot points more clearly but that never happened.

I know it’s an unpopular opinion but I really did have fun watching it, even with it’s major flaws and I can’t wait for the UK release.

Hyouka

Verdict: Mediocre (On-hold episode 6)

Thoughts: Supposedly one of the AOTY contenders looking at many people’s list, it seems that a lot of people loved this show, I lost interest in it to be honest, it’s mystery’s never really wow’ed me at all and the discussion in one of the characters house was the last straw for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard the positives from it, some consider the festival episodes to be one of the high points of the show but at the same time, Kyoto Animation always seem to be great at them.

Again, I’m happy to wait for a UK release but I have no interest in checking this out now.

Kids On The Slope

Verdict: Great (Anime Of The Year Honorable mention)

Thoughts: I think Kids On The Slope is probably something the music anime genre needed, it had those really wonderful musical performances that sounded excellent.

It was set in 60’s Japan, where Jazz music was starting to be talked about, it’s an interesting timeline to pick, also discussing certain topics that were happening around that period.

I think like a lot of people have discussed, the ending was ridiculously rushed, thus it’s not on my top five, but this is clearly at the number six spot.

Summer 2012

Summer always seems to be the weakest season and this year is no exception, I can see a few stinkers in this category but a few did impress me somewhat.

Shows that dropped at episode one, Hagure Yuusha no Estetica made me feel too uncomfortable, while Ebiten tried to parody popular shows – it was really unfunny and La Storia Della Arcana Famiglia was just boring.

I’d like to watch Oda Nobuna no Yabou and Chouyaku Hyakuninisshu: Uta Koi since popular opinion on them were positive.

Muv-Luv Alternative – Total Eclipse

Verdict: Awful (Dropped episode 14)

Thoughts: Once I saw Total Eclipse was turning into a harem, I couldn’t carry on watching this, for such a serious world threatening situation to be ignored for a anime trope that has been done to death, I couldn’t stand it.

I wished the story was more focused on stopping this BETA invasion, the first two episodes have some decent world building and gritty drama but after that, the tension was mostly thrown out the window, even throwing two beach episodes in the first half.

So, I’m not going to return to this, unless this somehow gets a UK release.

Koi to Senkyo to Chocolatechocolate

Meanwhile, in Chisato’s mind.

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate did try it’s hardest to separate itself from the typical Rom-com Harem anime out there, and at times it succeeded, they take the mick out of the typical tropes and the election part of the show can be interesting at times.

However, what I really didn’t like about the show is the romance and drama, it’s so underwhelming & I really didn’t like the way the show ended or how it was all wrapped up.

Which is a shame, I liked parts of it – hated others (I hate you Chisato).

Moyashimon Returns

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: So, many people were hyped for this, I decided to watch the first season to see why it was and I could clearly see, it was very different to other anime I’ve seen,  especially in a college environment, it was a pleasant watch, even an educational one.

I don’t know how to feel about Moyashimon Returns, while it still had that first season charm in that first half (The festival opening scene I will never forget), once some of the main characters went to France, the show became boring with it’s romantic sub-plot.

Which is unfortunate, I really liked parts of the sequel but calling it a disappointment is sadly correct.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Verdict: Bad

“Sure there are things I could do if I was half prepared to, Prove to each other that romance is boring” – Los Campesinos!

Because it was boring in this series, it was nice to see a Josei anime with a more “mature” take on the romance genre, though me putting quotation marks around mature, shows that the show was far from it.

The characters were basically unlikeable for most of the first half but had a few believable moments, then the second half happened with the supernatural stuff, this is were I lost all interest in the show because it just dragged on, the finale was too rushed as well.

So I really didn’t like Natsuyuki Rendezvous, which is a shame.

Sword Art On- “Why isn’t this on you AOTY list Reevo”

Sword Ar- “Why isn’t it?”

Swo-“WHY?”

Verdict: Mediocre (On-hold episode 20)

Thoughts: It’s very rare for me to have enough spare time to read Light Novels but I did read the 1st three and I will admit that I kind of liked it, enough to get me interested in the anime adaption that others were hyping for, what did I get?

Great animation, great soundtrack, flawed writing. I think the anime really did show the flaws of this now popular anime series. I think the ALO arc (which I’m currently on) clearly shows this and thus is the reason why I’ve put it on hold.

I don’t think the show is bad though, there are parts of the LN that the anime does better at but the anime certainly brought the flaws out.

Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita

Verdict: Good

Thoughts: I’m glad that this show was better than I was expecting, we have the studio and director that worked on the Persona 4 anime, so I knew that there might be a decent balance of both seriousness and wackiness.

Well, I will admit, the wackiness mostly stole the show but at least it made me laugh at times and certain memorable episodes that I won’t forget, that was Jinrui’s biggest strength.

The reason why it’s not on the best of the year list, is that there is no coherent storyline, just some random episodes and arcs, that are all over the place and it didn’t help that some of the arcs (while creative) were boring & unfunny.

However, what I did enjoy, I enjoyed a lot.

Tari Tari

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: I think a lot of people will disagree with me on this but, Tari Tari focused way too hard on the female cast, damn even most of the supporting female characters got more character devolpment then the two male MAIN characters of the show, Wien got a fairly weak back story and resolve in one-two episodes, plus the badminton guy only wanted….to play badminton.

Some of the female cast got most of the tragic back stories, which I will admit, are very well done but I never really got into this show, the light-hearted moment felt too cheesy as well, thus the reason why I though this was mostly average, although the second part of the last episode, again, was good.

But my gripes still remain, I don’t hate Tari Tari but I don’t like it either.

Binbougami ga!

Verdict: Good

Thoughts: What made this show great, is the wacky characters, the slapstick comedy and the parodies on different anime. It worked well for the most part. What didn’t work well is the drama, which can really kill the mood at times, which was shown in various episodes.

Not much to say about Binbougami ga, just that I very much enjoyed most of it, even if the drama was lackluster.

Fall 2012

This part will be extremely short, since most of the Fall anime are carrying onto next year, which shows that I didn’t watch a lot of one cour anime this season, which is very rare for me.

Shows that I dropped this season – Onii-chan Dakedo Ai-(blah) since the first two episodes were terrible and To Love-Ru Darkness because I’m sure that that series will never have a satisfying conclusion.

Shows that I want continue with and finish, i’m annoyed with myself that I’m not close to finishing Hidamari Sketch X Honeycomb, it’s still a very good series. Shin Sekai Yori and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun are shows I gladly watch or catch-up with in the future.

Litchi DE Hikari Club

Verdict: Bad

Thoughts: Wasn’t expecting much from this, once I saw this was basically short episodes, I have the manga and read it all the way through, it’s very grim stuff.

However, these shorts try to parody the manga, more than telling the actual story, I know some people might be lost if they haven’t read any of Litchi DE Hikari Club.

Sadly, the comedy isn’t good, at all. So it’s not worth watching, even if you somehow liked the manga.

Btooom!!

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: Finished the show last week and my final thoughts ended with a big massive ‘meh’, it didn’t really help that the show never completely concluded.

I thought the show was dumb but it was enough to be entertaining, this bomb game been played on an abandoned island could unleash different possibilities, which they execute some of them pretty well.

But, the problem with Btooom, is that it can be unbearable at times. When the R-word is mentioned in a few episodes, it can really put me off. It’s the male & female interactions that I really didn’t like about this, but it’s strengths were enough for me to watch it all.

K

Verdict: Mediocre

Thoughts: I was really looking forward to watching this, due to the interesting urban visual style by GoHands and the really great main theme but there was always a chance that it could be bad. While parts of it were underwhelming, the style of the anime still left an impression.

The visual style and soundtrack still impress me and some of the action sequences, plus it tried it’s hardest to set up a decent mysterious plot.

Yet, that plot felt confusing at times and the finale never had that emotional payoff since we never really got to know most of these characters. Still, the sequel is in-bound and I will end up watching it to see if any of my questions will be answered.