The Top Eight Anime of the Spring 2011 Season, #8 to #5

The end is fast approaching for The Null Set’s examination of the spring season; all that’s left is the countdown of the top shows of the season. I’ll readily admit that creating such a listing causes one to compare apples to oranges, as the saying goes, or maybe oil and water is a better description. The result probably speaks more about the preparer of the list then it does the actual merits of the shows involved but it seems hardwired into humans to continuously make these types of lists and give importance to the results.

So on that note, let’s head to the countdown and discover which series juuusst squeaked onto the list.

8Tiger and Bunny

My opinion of Tiger and Bunny has swung the widest of all the spring anime series; sometimes very high and other times it’s rather low. At various points it seems that Sunrise wants viewers to take Tiger and Bunny seriously and at other points it clearly wants Tiger and Bunny to be considered a silly, over-the-top series.  Done right, it’s possible to swing between both but Sunrise hasn’t done the best job getting the tonal shifts right which leaves Tiger and Bunny somewhat frustrating to watch. For example, am I supposed to see the completely ineffectual mayor of Sternbild City (the NYC-like setting of the anime) who looks good on camera but is completely overwhelmed by the demands of the jobs as thinly-veiled political commentary about the current President of the US when Sunrise resolves the Ouroboros storyline, rather absurdly, with the big bad villain having a helicopter fall on him and killing him?

So I’ve needed to do a bit of leveling the mountains and filling in the valleys to get a better read on where Tiger and Bunny actually stands independently and in comparison with the other anime of the season. The result was I realized Tiger and Bunny deserved to make the top anime list for this season because it does lots of things right (sometimes really right) but that it still hasn’t come close to it’s full potential yet and that it has a few elements holding it back.

I’m optimistic about the second half of Tiger and Bunny that airs this summer season. Now that the introductions, character development, and the true forming of the superhero duo of Tiger and Bunny are accomplished, Sunrise can really kick the story in gear. (More Lunatic, please. 🙂 )

7Hyouge Mono

One of the disappointments of this season is how Hyouge Mono has fallen through the cracks and ignored by most of the anime fans out there. I’m grateful that there is at least one group willing to sub this show, though it would be wonderful if they had more help, and for the 5 episodes I’ve seen so far. I know for certain that if I’d’ve seen 9 or 10 episodes at this point, I’d be ranking Hyouge Mono much higher.

The animation and vocal work are both above average but the real draw to this show is it’s characters. They are toned down from Sengoku Basara levels enough so that it’s possible to show the political side of the Sengoku time period while still keeping enough eccentricities that the characters are fun to watch. I particularly like the main character because of how conflicted he is and how he tries to balance everything. He prides himself as an aesthetic, particularly about all things related to tea, and he loves his wife and son but the only way to provide the lifestyle they deserve is to fight in the army and try to advance up the ranks to win prestige, power, and money while being totally not cutout for military service. He also realizes that it’s impossible to become a respected aesthetic until he has a collection of treasures showcasing his appreciation of art so he’s very bribable at this point but he seeks to be totally loyal to his lord, Oda Nobunaga aka the Demon King.

And the kicker about Hyouge Mono is how true to history it actually is.

6 – Hanasaku Iroha

Hanasaku Iroha is the latest anime from PA Works who has shown in the past great animation quality but a consistent flatness to it’s characters that impedes the quality of their shows. (I’m still marveling at how I didn’t shed a single tear during Angel Beats but filled buckets over KyoAni’s AIR, Kanon, and Clannad.)  As a firm believer in the adage ‘Practice makes perfect,’ I figured at some point that PA Works would get it right and Hanasaku Iroha shows that they’re starting to get it right. It’s still not perfect but there’s tantalizing flashes of brilliance, for instance, pretty much all of episode 13 was perfectly awesome. If it could stay at that level then picking the top show of the season would have been a much tougher task.

One of the smart things they did was to have the main character, Ohana, quickly mature past the whinny, brat stage she was in at the beginning of the series. For one, I don’t think many could have tolerated watching her pout over the unfairness of life as the main character for too long before dropping it. For two, having a cool main character, as Ohana is at this point, increases the show’s overall coolness (always a good thing).

I’m not sure how Hanasaku Iroha will fill another season’s worth episodes, though a couple things have been hinted at, but I definitely will keep watching the daily adventures of the people that run what must be the best little hot springs inn in Japan.

5Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko

In hindsight, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko suffered from certain high expectations that have slowly formed about Shaft/Shinbou series. The largest expectation stemmed from the many past series from Shaft/Shinbou that have had a surprising amount of depth to them. When Erio exclaimed that she was an alien, it primed us to expect something like Arakawa Under the Bridge and when it didn’t deliver a show of that depth, it felt like a disappointment. ‘What is the point to this anime,’ was a comment I saw over and over. I thought the same thing but I kept watching and finally I realized the real purpose was just to have a fairly generic male lead spend his time with a variety of different girls/women doing fun things. It’s light entertainment; that’s it.

Once I straightened my expectations out it was a very fun series to follow and after Madoka, I’m okay with something a bit lighter from Shaft/Shinbou. I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel but there are a few series from Shaft that I rather see a sequel done first.

The top four come next and then it’ll be time to start examining the new summer season 🙂 .

Spring 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and Misfit Awards
Spring 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Spring 2011 Awards: Top 8 Anime – #4 – #1

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10 thoughts on “The Top Eight Anime of the Spring 2011 Season, #8 to #5”

  1. Japanese literature and historical dramas are very hard for translators, especially the young adult to teen crowd that does anime subtitles, to work on.

    Because even most Japanese don’t understand the older spoken form of Japanese, the people living in the modern era that don’t use Japan as their first language, will have even more problems. While they could look up kanji on the net and thus cut down on their research, anime doesn’t have kanji for them to read or copy.

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  2. I forgot to mention something. In the samurai era, particularly after the battle of Sekigahara in 1600, amongst the samurai class there became much debate concerning whether real samurai and bushido is followed by practicing jutsu in warfare or whether something else is involved. Warriors like Miyamoto, Hyouge, and others that came afterwards, started focusing more on the aesthetics of life, such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy, and tying such things to the skills required to wield a sword and kill one’s enemies in war. This was connected together by the fact that the Japanese katana is said to be both lethal but also beautiful, thus compressing the aesthetic of beauty and harmonizing it with the warrior, budo.

    Miyamoto had an interesting collection of ink paintings, done in the classical style of black and white. He said that once he saw the connection between wielding a pen and wielding a sword, that there was no difference between the two. Mastering one uses the same principles as mastering the other.

    Before the Battle of Sekigahara and the rise of Oda Nobunaga, the samurai was supreme and their practical ability to be a military powerhouse emphasized warrior skills above all else. No soft or womanly arts like tea ceremonies. As firearms began more and more to substitute or overpower the usefulness of samurai katana warriors, the samurai adapted to a world increasingly more at peace. And a world that was using firearms for military power more than the Japanese sword.

    So Hyouge’s conflicting dichotomy between the aesthetics of tea ceremony and the dictates of war and military virtue, aren’t so far apart as may seem on the surface to casual observers.

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  3. Perhaps you should change your ‘what is the top new spring show’ poll soon :v

    That said, it’s amazing that you put eight anime on your list when I haven’t even watched that many last season. I guess I’m looking forward to see what you place higher…? (The thing about writing this post in two parts is that once we know the shows that were relatively good, it’s obvious which ones of the shows left did not make that list, and which ones are really good. Then again, if you wrote this from the best to the worst, that wouldn’t be very climatic, would it :v)

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  4. I thought the point of Denpa was… well, a Denpa Onna. An incomprehensible, radio wave emitting woman and a male full of youth being together.

    The Japanese have a couple of connotations they attach to youth, but this is generally a story about having fun. Incomprehensible fun perhaps…

    I don’t try to figure out “what the point is” until after I’m done with a series. Only then can I look back and see what I gained or did not gain. In the meanwhile, I try to keep “subjective” judgments to a minimum, as they tend to interfere with the objective analysis later on. Watching and observing data is just that. Only until the end, do you get to go back and start making comments about what was or wasn’t achieved.

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  5. @ymarsakar: Cool, I knew at some point samurai became “cultured”, I didn’t realize this was that time period. Yet another thing to look forward too.

    That’s probably the correct frame of reference, especially for a blogger, but it’s hard to separate the inner anime fan that wants to be needy 🙂

    @Mushyrulez: Actually, I was leaving the spring poll up until I finished my spring countdown to give any late voters the chance to vote (that or I can’t think of a good poll to take it’s place 🙂 ).

    That is one drawback to splitting up the countdown. I figure that if I kept it together then the length of the post will be such that no one would actually read it beyond seeing who placed where.

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  6. Miyamoto Musashi was said to be 16 or 18 in 1600. Musashi is considered to be a national treasure of sorts, since he not only had technical skills but also the artistic writing skills to pass his knowledge onto post generations. While there may have been equals or superior swordsmen in the warring past… they didn’t write anything that survived. Which is its own testament, of a sort. They didn’t have time to write anything and they had no interest to do calligraphy or artistic pursuits to begin, those that came before Miyamoto. Many started to teach their techniques, but often hid the truth when writing due to enemy espionage. The Japanese value old age, so the fact that Miyamoto, a warrior by trade, lived to die an old man’s death, probably impresses them more than they realize. Only the best warriors and the most clever strategists could live that long while fighting.

    The Battle of Sekigahara was said to have had more people killed by bullets and arrows than the sword. The Age of the Sword was unofficially over. And when the Meiji Restoration banned the open carrying of swords and disbanded all feudal classes in order to adopt Western “egalitarian values”, it was then officially over as well.

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  7. “Many started to teach their techniques, but often hid the truth when writing due to enemy espionage.”

    To elaborate on that point, teaching from Master to Student or from Father to Son, works pretty well… up until somebody decides he’s not going to take up that tradition any more. There is also no guarantee that the X generation will teach things with the same focus as the 1st or 2nd generation.

    Musashi cut through all this by writing his ideas down, first hand, so what you read is by own his hand, not by some successor X generations down that may or may not have interpreted things correctly. Which is why my point is that people who chose to pass down their sword knowledge personally, had to survive and transcend that “gap” called the Meiji Restoration as well as post-WWII era MacArthur occupation and banning of martial arts.

    Not every sword technique line died out, some converted to more “acceptable” versions. One line of kenjutsu schools converted themselves to aikibujutsu after the banning of swords. Basically took sword movements and replaced them with hand to hand movements that used the same principles. A class I attend, shinkendo, has some of that history around.

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  8. I was actually a bit dissapointed when I didn’t see [C] The money of Soul and Possibility Control. It’s true that it’s hard to tell a decent story in 11 episodes, C is the perfect example, but the anime had an incredible potential.

    First: A very original setting, the Financial District was interesting and grand, but they failed to explain it’s details.

    Second: Fighting for money sounds cool. Especially with superpowers. The way they do it is great too. But you know what else is great? The comment question of the…. lol. No The COOLEST THING EVER in this anime is

    THE COMMENTATOR VOICE.

    With these elements, fighting could have been really interesting. But they messed it up, partly because they used only Direct, Mezzoflation, and Microflation in their fights. Plus they try to make it sound like strategy is needed, but I still don’t know what is it that you need to win. Luck maybe?

    Third: The system. They give them money. But if they lose it, they lose their future. Interesting! Problem: Why do they mess with your future when you haven’t gine bankrupt?
    This is the prblem that the plot is based on, but the plot itself sucks. So maybe this is the issue here.

    Plus: The stock market was awesome too. “Watch.” ” Msyu is yours.” “Mine.” It all looked cool and you could figure out the details, even if they didn’t explain them. Again the problem here is that they couldn’t do many fight scenes so this wasn’t used too much either.

    Fourth: Characters. More precisely Masakaki. The perfect voice actor was chosen for this awesome role. Because a character is awesome when he/ she is weird. Different. Someone with a personality that’s unique.

    Rating the Character potentials:

    Masakaki 9/10
    Msyu 7/10
    Mysterious blonde agent 7/10
    Yoga 5/10
    Hanabi 5/10
    Q: 8/10
    Mikuni: 8/10

    Few but decent characters.

    Final conclusion: 11 episodes is not enough, explain the system, how the world you created works, and hire a better animator. Seriously 1st episode 1st fight. It’s painful to watch how that guy runs.

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  9. @Péter Csiszár: Thanks for the comment. I originally wanted to also write a short summary of each anime this season I watched so I could discuss the anime shows that didn’t win many awards but I ran out of time. [C] has to be one of the conflicting animes I’ve seen in a long time. There was so much wrong with it (a longer episode count would probably have really helped here) but there was plenty of positives too. I am glad I stuck it out and watched the whole series.

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