Top Picks for the Summer 2012 Anime Season – Part 2 of 3: The Middle 8 Series
If part 1 felt like winter, part 2 is going to feel like a spring where it comes in like a freak St. Patrick’s Day snow storm and leaves like a late May heat wave the wilts all the seedlings and recent plant transplants. (Local weather metaphors will vary.)
16 – Kokoro Connect
Provisional series rating for episodes 1 to 13 – 7/12 B
Winner of the Biggest Opportunity Missed Award
There was a lot of stiff competition for a dubious award like Biggest Opportunity Missed this season but Kokoro Connect clawed it’s way to the bottom to win it. Let’s count all the ways it lost it’s chance to become a great series. There’s the story to Kokoro Connect, it kept promising it would delve into interesting, meaty questions like how much of a person’s personality and identity is tied to their physical body and then it would always pull up well short of delivering on these promises and just fluff the story along. Then there was the animation studio, Silverlink, which is made up of former Shaft employees. So far this animation studio has been a slavish imitator of the Shaftian style and Kokoro Connect could have been just the series to show that they’re ready for the big leagues but Kokoro Connect needed to be good for that happen. Then there’s the whole issue of how one of the executives on the Kokoro Connect production committee used this anime as a way to bully and humiliate a voice actor because the executive was jealous that his girlfriend was friends with the voice actor and pretty much financially sank Kokoro Connect once fans found out about this and canceled their DVD/BD orders. Good job everyone.
15 – Muv Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse
Seasonal rating for episodes 1 to 13 – 7/12 B
Runner-up Best Villain: The Soviet Communists
Runner-up Best OP
All the flaws of this anime series were on display pretty much from the beginning and there wasn’t a whole lot of positives to counterbalance those flaws. If it wasn’t for a really catchy opening song I almost assuredly would have dropped it early on. As the season went on, however, I found myself actually looking forward to the next episode of Muv Luv. The flaws were still there but the main character stopped being a pompous buffoon, the alien invasion storyline became more interesting, and the Soviet Communists were introduced as a secondary villain. I’m probably showing my age when I mention how seeing the Soviet Communists acting all Cold War-like was weirdly nostalgic but it was. If the second half of Muv Luv can continue the pace the recent episodes have settled into, this series will be ranked a lot higher in the fall season rankings.
14 – Phi Brain S.2
Series rating for episodes 1 to 25 – 7/12 B
I’m vaguely embarrassed to own up to the fact that I’ve watched over 50 episodes of an anime that features, as a central tenet to the story, puzzle solving as the means to unlock god-like powers but it is what it is; I try to give each show a fair shake and the first season surprised me. The second season left me slightly disappointed because the plot re-treaded the first season a little too much and the storytelling wasn’t quite as focused as the first season. On the plus side several new interesting characters were introduced and the existing characters were fleshed out further, which made them more loveable and appealing. A third season has been announced to air in 2013 and I plan on being there, hopefully the break will allow Sunrise to improve upon their plotting and storytelling.
13 – Tari Tari
Series rating for episodes 1 to 13 – 8/12 B+
Runner-up Best Supporting Character: Wien
The simplest way to describe Tari Tari is to say it’s the scrap odds’n’end that P.A. Works had left over from creating Hanasaku Iroha. Which is not necessarily a bad thing if Tari Tari could have stepped out of Hanasaku Iroha’s shadow but, outside of Wien, it really never did. It was still an enjoyable series; I particularly liked the vocal work done by the seiyuu.
12 – Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
Series rating for episodes 1 to 12 – 8/12 B+
Winner Best Animation Style
Another series I found satisfactory, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, seemed to be supplying smart, saucy, stimulating stories saturated with sarcasm but supplemental scrutiny showed sketchy shortcomings. Sorry, I just got done watching an episode of JoJo as translated by gg. What I was trying to say is that the initial story arc appeared to be the starting point of a very good series but almost the entire rest of the series was spent explaining what happened before episode 1 to get us to the starting point of episode 1. I didn’t particularly care how we arrived at episode 1 after I finished watching episode 1; it struck me as if the original creator came up with a super good opening but then couldn’t figure out what to do next with it. That’s not to take away from the very nice animation style that AIC ASTA employed for the anime series. I always like to see an animation studio step outside of it’s comfort zone to try something new looking.
11 – Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru!
Series rating for episodes 1 to 12 – 8/12 B+
Runner-up Most Unexpectantly Good Show
Better known as Who is Imouto?, this anime series once again proves that a well thought-out silly, stupid anime is a better bet then so many other “better”, classier anime series. The storyline – male high school student heir to a very large fortune and chairmanship of a giant company has to transfer to a certain school and find a bride from the girls there while making sure the girl he picks isn’t his younger sister (who doesn’t officially exist) – is so absurd and unhinged from reality that I’m not bothered by it. I loved the number of twists the storyline took before we actually learned who is his younger sister; just when it looked liked they painted themselves into a corner, some ridiculous turn-of-events would occur and we’re back to wondering who is the younger sister.
10 – Accel World
Series rating for episodes 1 to 26 – 9/12 A-
Runner-up Best Science Fiction
Runner-up Most Interesting Setting
From the same author behind Sword Art Online, the two series share many similarities but Accel World feels like the more thought-out, better plotted of the two (at least in their anime incarnations). I normally have little love for the wimpy male lead character type that runs so rampant in anime but here I found myself warming to Haruyuki. It took awhile but Yuuki Kaji does a great job voicing the main character and Haruyuki does slowly grow enough of a backbone that by the end he falls more into the underdog category and I’ve always liked the underdog. The extrapolated science underpinning this series is probably a bit dodgy, at best, but it fits together nicely and feels possible as a result. I really hope to see this series get a sequel because the main plot of the series – beating the game – has a way to go and I want to see what happens next.
9 – Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
Series rating for episodes 1 to 12 – 9/12 A-
Winner Most Unexpectantly Good Show
In a normal season Imouto would have handedly won the award for Most Unexpectantly Good Show but Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate was just so much better. What became apparent during the series was the original creator obviously enjoys politics; the series was not about a group of high school kids that just happened to running a campaign to get the main character elected student council president but a series about how to play the politics to win a sophisticated campaign that just happened to feature high school students. That alone made this anime a pretty unique experience and the rest of the series was pretty good as well. Another high point to the series was a shocking refusal after a confession of love, (the type of confession that always gets a yes but I don’t want to spoil it anymore) which just isn’t seen that often in anime. The biggest negative to this series is that it needed another 2-3 episodes to make the pacing not feel a bit rushed at the very end. Another small negative was the inclusion of a couple of scenes of fan service in the first 2 episodes that where then heavily censored in a bid to up DVD/BD sales – I hate then animation companies do this because it’s so blatant.
Part 3 will be along in a few days, the elections have pretty much made doing anything else impossible.