The end is fast approaching for The Null Set’s examination of the 2011 year in anime so let’s switch gears, drop the categories, and let the various anime series go head-to-head.
I’ll readily admit that the anime series occupying the top spots on this list probably won’t be a surprise based on a simple tally of which anime won the most categories but using just that method doesn’t give a wholly accurate picture of the relative strength of the top anime series. Sure it’s causes one to compare apples to oranges, as the saying goes, or maybe more aptly, forces one to mix oil and water together but humans seem hardwired to try to do just that.
On that note, let’s head to the countdown and discover which series juuusst squeaked onto the list.
13 - Rio – Rainbow Gate
At number 13 and better than over 46 other series that aired in 2011 is the much derided Rio- Rainbow Gate. It’s an easy show to denigrate and a cursory watch would seem to confirm the need to criticize it. However, as I found myself watching more of the series and wondering why I kept watching, I realized that if the show was merely generic then I would have tired of it very quickly and dropped it like I did four other anime series that season. Generic is bland and predictable. Rio – Rainbow Gate was never predictable; every episode surprised and delighted with some silly, absurd story. It takes genuine knowledge and skill to make a show entertaining for 14 episodes. How many anime series have come out even just recently that showed promise in the first or two episodes but quickly fell apart after those couple of episodes?
12 - Ben-to
Ben-to is the story of a Japan that hosts impromptu daily gladiatorial competitions in it’s supermarkets where the prize is a half-priced box lunch. Ridiculous? Absolutely, but sometimes it takes the ridiculous to break the mold and create something great. What made this anime so appealing was it’s frequent well-constructed and thrilling fight scenes but that wasn’t the only reason why Ben-to succeeded. There was also a killer soundtrack that matched the over-the-top perfection of the action. Then there was the delight Ben-to showed while fleshing out the world that it inhabited. Wolves were supposed to have respect and pride; dogs and boars should be looked at with disdain; food only tasted good when one fought for it; one has to give thanks before eating to everyone from the farmer that grew the food all the way to the people who were beaten to get the half-priced box lunch. It helped make the world seem more authentic and helped make the fights more meaningful.
11 – Ao no Exorcist
Ao no Exorcist is one of the reasons that doing this countdown is warranted in my eyes. It didn’t win a single category and was nominated in only two categories; yet, it earns the number eleven spot for being one of the better shounen series of recent memory. It had a very tough slate of rivals during the two seasons it ran and found itself constantly playing second fiddle to them. Initially, I wasn’t that impressed with Ao no Exorcist because the first couple of episodes seemed to suggest that the show wanted to be “dark” but it came off as wannabe dark like Deadman Wonderland. However, once those episodes established the “tragic nature” of our hero main character and we moved into the story proper the show started to get better and better. The main character was a nice guy; the type of person that one can’t help but root for and the supporting cast is a diverse, interesting bunch that interact well with each other. The plot was more interesting than I thought it would be and I liked how the animators didn’t try to just continue once they burned through most of the source material.
10 - Hyouge Mono
Having only seen 11 episodes of this 39 episode anime, it was difficult to give this show it’s proper due in the category section; yet, this anime about a man living in the Sengoku period who seeks security and comfort for his wife and child through success on the battlefield even when he does not have a warrior’s heart convincingly earns this spot of top anime for 2011. The thing that surprised me about this anime is that it takes the political intrigue of the era seriously while still allowing the eccentric characters to be larger-than-life and interesting. For example, I was prepared for disappointment over Hyouge Mono’s version of Oda Nobunaga aka the Demon King after his portrayal in Sengoku Basara but he’s as interesting here as he was in Sengoku Basara.
9 - Tiger and Bunny
I think Tiger and Bunny is the result of someone at Sunrise looking at all the super-powered movies coming out from America and deciding that it’d be cool to try making one as well. The result was loads of fun with the occasional flash of brilliance. What prevented it from going higher on the list was the infrequent lapses in the plot that would deflate the momentum that it had built up for itself. These lapses bothered me when I first watched this series but later in the year I decided to rewatch it with my one sister and the second time through it was easier to just focus on the strengths of Tiger and Bunny – it’s characters, production values, and entertaining nature. The end hinted at a possible sequel and I’m hoping it comes to pass.
8 - Ikoku Meiro no Croisee
This, the story of a young Japanese girl transplanted to Paris in the late 19th century was full of all the fish-out-of-water experiences one would expect (and enjoy) and had the interesting and well done backdrop that an anime with high production values set when it was would have but, ultimately, the part I most liked about Ikoku Meiro no Croisee was the characters and their relationships with each other. Which made the decision to have what was named episode 4.5 be a DVD extra so baffling. It was an early episode that focused on character development and would have shown people that Ikoku Meiro no Croisee had a subtle bite to it (and wasn’t just an anime about cute girls doing cute things). I’ll hold out hope that, even with the low sales numbers it had, a sequel will eventually be made.
7 - Hanasaku Iroha
During it’s run, Hanasaku Iroha’s popularity suffered from people’s assumptions about the story turning out to be wrong. At the beginning it was assumed by many that P.A. Works was attempting to make an anime version of a Japanese dorama series but as the story unfolded it started acting more like a slice-of-life series that really wasn’t concerned with including some sort of overarching plot structure. I felt it was wasting it’s potential but continued watching because it was better than several other series I followed. It was only during the last episode that I realized how much I’d come to like Hanasaku Iroha. (Much like how it wasn’t until episode 20 of the second season of K-On! that I realized how much I’d come to like that franchise.) I needed to rewatch Hanasaku Iroha to see how well it held up on a second viewing. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect and not expect or it was the new light I saw the characters in after finishing it the first time that did it but it was a much improved series the second time through. As for a sequel, I could see the merit of one if it was set a few years in the future when the inn was being re-opened and focused on making it profitable.
Whew, only one more section – the top 6 anime of 2011 – to go. Then maybe it’ll be time to start covering this excellent winter 2012 anime season.
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 0: Introduction and Anti-Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and General Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #13 – #7 <- you are here
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #6 – #1