About two weeks ago, I started penciling in the picks for the previous three parts as well coming up with the top shows of the season. In the time between the preliminary picks and the final picks there was a few shows that went all out to make me reconsider them. Changing my picks was most apparent in this part, the top seven anime of the season; I revised this list 6 or 7 times before finalizing. I’m satisfied with this list and how the shows are ranked. Since we’re so near the end of the season the only thing that can really upset this list is a catastrophic failure of an ending.
Since there’s a few carryover shows on the list, I wanted to mention before starting that for carryover shows only the part of the show that ran during the winter season is considered here.
7 – Rideback
For this season, I picked Rideback for having the most interesting setting, best OP, second best ED, and best animation. These are certainly several reasons for Rideback to place on this countdown but they aren’t the only ones. I don’t normally watch much in the way of mech anime, Gurren Lagann and now Rideback being the few exceptions. One of the reasons why I came to like Rideback was the main character, Rin, is refreshing different and likable – you can’t help but like her and want to see her happy again. Another reason why I like Rideback is that it shows how, even if a one thinks they are unaffected while living under a totalitarian government, sooner or later their lives will intersect the government and the results will not good.
6 – Asu no Yoichi
When I decided to watch this, I never thought it had the chance to be one of the top shows of the season. After all it was a harem romantic comedy – those aren’t supposed to be quality shows. I watched the first episode with an open mind, letting either it’s success or failure rest wholely on it’s shoulders and was surprised when it didn’t stink. Watching a few more episodes, I became shocked to realize that it was turning into a pretty decent show. Sure there was fan service but the anime was full of interesting characters that the animators took the time to develop. A further plus of this show is the main male character, Yoichi, is an honorable swordsman that grew up in the mountains and is definitely not like the spineless male loser that typically stars in shows of this type.
I didn’t fully grasp how much I was into this show until the bad guy set his devious plan in motion to get Yoichi and the 3 younger sisters to allow him to take the eldest sister away. I found myself feeling shock, anger, and a desire to see things put to rights; all feelings that one doesn’t normally associate with a show like this. It’s a real shame this was only 12 episodes long, hopefully it’ll get a second season.
5 – Toradora
Last season’s number one pick comes in at number 5 for the winter season. This drop came from not being quite as impressed with Toradora this time around and also from stronger competition. This slight disappointment came chiefly from the show’s ultra-quick pacing, trimming too much of the overall story away and from the increased emphasis of getting to the end couple of Taiga and Ryuuji, to the detriment of the other characters. I’m very happy to get to the ending of the story but I think another 6-8 episodes could have really improved the show.
There was still plenty to like about this half of the series. The increased focus on Taiga allowed more chances for her nice and adorable side to manifest. We learn she genuinely loves Christmas and tries to live up to the spirit of the season. The scene where Ryuuji dresses up as a santa bear for Taiga is one of the most touching scenes of season, rivaling the best scenes of Clannad or Natsume. It was also nice to see Ami being the voice of reason and helping those around her, even if that meant she couldn’t end up with Ryuuji.
4 – Shikabane Hime: Kuro
I almost dropped this show after a couple of episodes because it seemed to care more about fan service then building upon the success of the first season. I gave it a couple more episodes and it started to feel like the story was going somewhere so I figured I stick around. As the series continued, the plot continued to build to higher levels and I found myself getting sucked back into the show. Like Asu no Yoichi, I didn’t fully realize how good the show had gotten until the plan of the bad guys got going. It was genuinely devious and spelled huge trouble for the good guys and the corpse princesses in so many different ways. I love it when a show has intelligent villains.
But it wasn’t just having good villains that salvaged this show. They went back to developing the main characters, answering some lingering questions like why Makina was killed and what exactly is up with that creepy cat. Throw in Gainax action scenes and a few plot twists and Shikabane Hime: Kuro makes it to the number four spot of top anime of the season.
3 – Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou
The first season of Natsume’s Book of Friends was one of the finest examples of relaxing slice-of-life anime made and that makes it a hard act to follow. If I’m judging the second season solely on it’s ability to mimic the feeling of the first season, I’d say that this show had fallen short. However, the show appears to be shifting away from being about the Book of Friends to focusing more on Natsume and his ability to see spirits. And so, judging the second season by the standards of the first is not the best way to get an accurate result. The second season widens the scope of the show. One episode featured a ghost that Natsume shouldn’t have returned it’s name too. Another introduced a young woman that can see ghosts provided it walks over a specially designed circle that she can draw. In other episodes we see Natsume preforming exorcisms, either alone or with the actor/exorcist that we met in the first season.
Through all this though Natsume continues to selflessly help the people and spirits that ask for his help; which continues to make him such a great main character. Another facet of the show that’s being explored more is the deepening friendship between Natsume and Nyanko-sensei. It’s apparent that Nyanko-sensei knew Reiko and Natsume’s personality reminds him of her. One of the parts of the show I especially like to see is when Natume’s kindness is unexpectantly paid back to him – adding to how the show can leave me feeling satisfied after watching it. I hope this show gets a third season, I still think there’s plenty of stories left to tell.
2 – Birdy the Mighty Decode 2
The first Birdy the Mighty Decode was a pretty good show and I was hoping that the second season could match the first season but I wasn’t sure if it could. The reset-ish ending didn’t seem to give the show much to work with for a second season. Turns out I was wrong, really wrong. The second season logically expands upon the plot of the first season and even ties the new characters into what happened. That wasn’t the only surprise of this second season. There was the realistic, gritty action scenes that reminded me of Kurozuka in their furiosity. Also surprising was the improvement to the characters and the time taken for character development. This was one of the weak points of the first season and this big improvement helped push the show from good to exceptional.
This show really has just about everything a person would want in a good anime and I’m really surprised that not more people are watching this gem.
1 – Clannad ~After Story~
If you follow this blog at all, you could probably guess that I’d pick Clannad to be my number one show of the season. I know this show isn’t for everyone, cynics and self-absorbed anime “experts” in particular should not even bother – I can almost guarantee this show would fail for you. I knew before this show started what a Key-KyoAni anime will entail: that I’ll probably shed many tears, magic exists, miracles can happen, and events will probably occur and I won’t fully understand their meaning. All these did occur and I loved the final result.
One aspect of this show that I feel deserves special recognition was how it went further then any other anime that I know. It starts with the characters in high school and instead of ending when Tomoya and Nagisa decide to become a couple or even when they graduate; we watch them struggle to become adults living in an adult world. We watch Tomoya trying to find a job and an apartment to live in and then getting into the position that he could marry Nagisa. Nor does the show end when they finally marry, it continues to show what happens next. It does a real good job of showing why the saying about highs school being the best years of your life came into being. The problems that plagued Tomoya and Nagisa as adults made high school and all it’s petty problems look heavenly compared to their adult lives. Of course, they also show how the joys of adulthood can be profoundly better – Ushio.
I’m really going to miss this show. If KyoAni wanted to create a short third season about the everyday events of Okazaki family, giving it a slice-of-life feel along the lines of Yotsuba&! – I’d so want to watch.
Well, that’s it; my picks of the winter season. I’d like to thank everyone that read and commented on this 5,000+ word look at the season’s best shows. I believe the spring season starts next week so it’s a good thing I finished this up. 🙂