Winter 2012 Mid-Season Anime Report – Part 2: The Top Eleven

I wanted this to be a single post but when I finished, a quick word count showed roughly 3000 words which is just too much to ask people to read in one sitting and also, who wants to scroll through such a long post? So a hasty cut was in order and here we are.

Let’s pick up where the last post left off with number 11 …

(11) – Aquarion Evol

Rating for episodes 1 to 7 – 9/12  A-

Even more fun then Symphogear has been this anime, Aquarion Evol – a sequel set 12,000 years after the original series. Normally, I don’t try to jump into a series but I figured 12,000 years was long enough to reset the series. The story is moderately interesting at this point; I’m most curious about the reason why two different dimensions are linked together and what these two dimensions mean to each other. What pushes Aquarion Evol this high is an interesting cast of characters, the high production values, and occasionally its dialogue. The noteworthy dialogue might be more of a function of the translation but I loved two lines in particular. The first was, ‘You stink deliciously,” which was what one of the antagonists said to the main female character; this has to be one of the oddest pick-up lines ever. The other is, ‘He’ll fly for anyone,’ said by a couple of female characters about the male main character’s habit of floating when being excited by a female character.

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(10) – Last Exile – Ginkyou no Fam

Rating for episodes 1 to 16 – 9/12  A-

Gonzo has done a much better job with this sequel then I thought possible but, by being that good, this sequel of Last Exile is frustrating when it fumbles along when it clearly should be soaring. The world building is stellar; the politics is intriguing; the story is grand enough to showcase the world building and politics; and, the characters are a great mix of people who fit with the story and allow the story to accomplish what it wants to do. Yet, when examined closely, problems crop up with Last Exile 2. Probably the most disappointing is the vocal performance of two of the main characters – Aki Toyosaki and Aoi Yuuki. Both are personal favorites and have many great roles under their belts but here they are so lackluster. I don’t know if it’s that the characters are poor or if it’s the fault of the person in charge of the vocal recording for these lackluster performances but the result really saps the energy out of the show when either are on-screen. Many of the other problems with Last Exile 2 could be fixed if the person(s) behind the series composition and the individual episode scripts had been fired and more competent writers brought in.

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(9) – Hunter x Hunter

Rating for episodes 1 to 19 – 9/12  A-

I fall into the category of people who have not seen the original Hunter x Hunter anime series nor read the source manga it’s based on which leaves me in a different state of mind over Hunter x Hunter then the majority of the people I have read talking about the strengths and weaknesses of this anime. For example, at the beginning when I thought the pacing in the episodes was dragging the series out I was constantly reading people who complained about how quickly they were flying through the source material. To me, Hunter x Hunter has really started to hit it’s stride during the current winter season and, as a result, is slowly bubbling towards the top of it’s anime brethren. A good shounen series is a nice change of pace sometimes.

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(8) – Tantei Opera Milky Holmes 2

Rating for episodes 1 to 4 – 9/12  A-

The first season of Milky Holmes was a hilarious, subversive gem that flew under too many people’s radars. For a successful sequel, Milky Holmes needed to use everything good about the first season and infuse that with fresh, new awesomeness. I didn’t know if the creators had it in them but the first four episodes have shown that somewhere in the dark, twisted depths of their psyches they were able to summon new reserves of insanity to make Milky Holmes 2 even better.

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(7) – Another

Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 10/12  A

I’m going to resist the urge to make a joke using this anime’s name – Another. It pains me to pass this over because I like jokes like that but we don’t need yet another blogger making the same joke. With Hanasaku Iroha, P.A. Works finally succeeded at producing a great anime series after a string of disappointing attempts. At the onset I was anxious to see if Another would continue in the footsteps of Hanasaku Iroha or would it fall back to being another frustratingly almost good series like their early works. Six episodes in and I’m relieved that, after a bit of stumble in the first couple episodes from trying to force the creepy/scary vibe, it’s found a pace that should end with Another being one of the best anime of the season.

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(6) – Mouretsu Pirates

Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 10.5/12  Strong A

It is indeed time for some piracy. Bodacious Pirates is about a high school girl who finds out her absent father was a space privateer (legal pirate) and with his death she’s inherited his ship and his title, if she desires them. She does, of course, because it wouldn’t be a show if she declined but it does take a couple of episodes for her to reach that decision. This made the show feel like it started off slowly but by episode 5 it started showing it’s potential and, egads, does this anime have potential. What it does with this potential remains to be seen but this anime has become the anime that I most look forward too each week.

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(5) – Ano Natsu de Matteru

Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 11/12  A+

Over the last several years, J.C. Staff almost always has done its best work when Tatsuyuki Nagai is the director (Honey and Clover 2, Railgun, Toradora). Last year when he directed AnoHana for A-1 Pictures I wondered if he had left J.C. Staff for good and what that would mean for J.C. Staff’s future but with AnoNatsu I can stop worrying about J.C. Staff. at least partly. On paper, even though AnoNatsu is an original anime production, it doesn’t appear to be that ambitious of a project – as opposed to other recent anime originals like Penguindrum or Madoka – however, what it lacks in ambition has been more than made up with impeccable execution. J.C. Staff is in the odd position this season of fielding two of the top series of this season.

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(4) – Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou

Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 11/12  A+

Extremely hilarious somehow still low-balls the comedic genius of Daily Lives of High School Boys. There are so many parts to this anime that are worthy of praise. There’s the comedy – it’s actually funny and there’s the characters – they capture high school boys and girls so realistically and the voice acting – they make the characters pop and then there’s the parts were NichiBros lightly lambastes common anime tropes to name but a few areas.

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(3) – Nisemonogatari

Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 11.5/12  Near Perfect

Watching Nisemonogatari provides a yard stick to measure how much Shaft/Shinbou has improved in the last 2.5 years since Bakemonogatari and it’s almost scary to see the level of improvement that they’ve accomplished. Everything from the scripting to the visuals have been fine-tuned to be tighter, sharper, and better able to deliver the goods with less effort exerted. The only question left at this point is will Nisemonogatari outsell Bakemonogatari or not?

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(2) – Chihayafuru

Rating for episodes 1 to 19 – 12/12  Perfect

Residual respect for the animators, Madhouse, and my new-found respect for the voice actor Mamoru Miyano lead me to try Chihayafuru which is about a group of teens that play Karuta – a game where players compete over collecting cards featuring verses from 100 different poems. I’m glad I did because Chihayafuru started off excellently and has steadily gotten even better. Normally, I’m not a fan of “sports” anime but I love the characters and how they’ve grown over the course of the series and the creators have somehow even made a game like Karuta interesting to watch. The only potential fly-in-the-ointment is that the source material is a continuing manga and the animators have to give the anime some sense of conclusion while leaving the door open for a second season (fingers crossed for that).

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(1) – Natsume Yuujinchou Shi

Rating for episodes 1 to 6 – 12/12  Perfect

How does this series continue to find the room to get better? The creators should have already hit the asymptote of possible quality by the fourth season but they continue to push ever upwards. At this point, future seasons are probably a given and, though, I’m tempted to want countless more, I’ve started wanting to see an ending. I’ve even been thinking about how I’d love to see it end – an adult Natsume, happily married, sitting on the edge of one those short open porches that Japanese houses have and explaining to his young son/daughter not be afraid of the strange creatures he/she has started noticing and he then pulls out the now empty Book of Friends and starts into the story of his grandmother, Reiko, and the camera would pan up over a lovely bucolic scene, we’d hear Nyanko-sensei call out for some food item and the screen would fade out.

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9 thoughts on “Winter 2012 Mid-Season Anime Report – Part 2: The Top Eleven”

  1. I enjoy your vision of the Natsume Yuujincho finale and I applaud you for placing it as number one. Frankly it is miles ahead of anything else for me this season. Even Chihayafuru has lagged a bit from it’s early impeccable pacing, but Natsume somehow still finds ways to produce excellent episodes.

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  2. I’m glad to see Chihayafuru rank so highly. I have been so impressed with this show. It is probably the closest thing I have ever seen to “flawless”. The pace and the variety in the characters, the character development (not just fake “development” in which we get background details, but true development in which we get to see the characters grow … the music, the visuals, the tension in the tournaments … what a show!

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  3. I would have not even watched “Another” if it wasn’t for the fact most of the blogs I read were talking about it. I am really liking the series so far but, I had some issues with a episode or 2. At this point it would be hard to drop the series. I am really curious what is going to happen.
    I refrained from making Another joke about the title :P

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  4. On HUnter X Hunter, new anime viewers have no patience compared to the old days. They are correct to note that HxH skipped through some plot arc material. Structurally, they are pretty similar though. It’s not like a Hollywood remake of ALice in Wonderland. Nothing much gets changed.

    New anime viewers are all about content put into as few episodes as they can. No more 52 episode runs. Max is 24 episodes. While that has certainly made things more interesting, it has also lost certain transition content when moving from very rich and intense story lines, such as from light novels. Legend of galactic heroes is originally a light novel and in 120 some odd episodes, they did it justice. No way could that be fit on 24, at least not without being really boring and leaving lots of story plots unfinished.

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  5. I got to say though, they have improved the fight scenes. Although it perhaps wasn’t manga canon, they did improve it. Of course, it helps if you forgot how the fights actually went so you don’t have to compare. In that sense, rewatching the old HxH is the wrong decision. Either stick with the old, or watch the new, but don’t watch both of them at once. Too much comparison will ruin people’s appetites, you know.

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  6. OMG…I was so happy when they announced the winter season this year and I saw that Shaft was finally going through with their plans to make a sequel to Bakemonogatari. Even though a busy schedule and a backed-up flow of anime has kept me from watching it, it’s hard to imagine a more flawlessly executed series than the original. Akiyuki Shinbo has always been outstanding if from purely an animator’s point of view…and Bakemonogatari was the series that made me first realize his personal style with its high quality, flow, and use of the surreal.
    So now I’m looking forward to Nisemonogatari even more! And the suspected movie…
    U,U If only they would make a third season to Arakawa…they never went to Venus or settled some important plot developments…and I don’t want to have to start reading the manga from the beginning, lol. >,>

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  7. But there’s one anime that I will ALWAYS set aside time to watch every week! And that’s Natsume!
    OMG…I can still remember the first time I picked up the manga in the bookstore…even though I had been avoiding it for a while…I could not ignore it any longer…and how surprised I was!
    And then when I found out that there was an anime…I immediately began watching it…And then I just continued to watch as they made one season after the next.
    Still, when season three came out, I thought it was a miracle! I was so excited as I’d just returned from an Anime Con and had bought the new manga and was wishing for some more…and then I saw that the first episode of the new season had been released that day! (And that’s how I realized how damn fast these things get subbed…>,>)
    Fourth season has also been great, and I, too, am surprised at how they can continue it so seamlessly, even with episodes that are added material. It’s seems like this season has been a bit more filler-y than the others, even though I love some of the new-material episodes like the flashback with the girl…I loved that episode! But the anime has pretty much caught the manga since it’s been on a hiatus-of-sorts…so I keep wondering about season five.
    I, too, would love to see more seasons, but I think that it should begin to come to a close less they ruin the perfection. I’m so curious to know how it will end…but I trust Midorikawa-Sensei enough to know that she’ll come up with the perfect ending…Somehow great mangaka have a tendency to do so…>,>

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