The Top Eight Anime of the Spring 2011 Season, #4 to #1

A part of me didn’t want to finish this post because then I’d be quasi-officially done with the spring season and I’ll miss it; it was a great season. I really shouldn’t be sad, though, the few new summer anime that I already checked out make the summer look like another promising season and there’s a number of great series continuing as well.

4 – Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera

Filled with tenacity and manliness, Brains Base’s adaptation of Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera does things it’s own way and demands it’s viewers to accept it for what it is and not what the viewers want. In this way it’s strongly reminiscent of Gainax’s Panty and Stocking. Also like P&S, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera frequently uses fan service not to stimulate the senses but as a means to further push the show over-the-top and in completely random directions. This helped make Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera a unique experience and set it apart from most other anime of recent memory as did the age of the original source material. The age meant everything felt a bit rougher around the edges then what is generally expected of today’s stuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; for instance, the characters weren’t a group of random character traits thrown together to appease as many groups of fans as possible, like so much recent anime seems to be.

The age of the source material also injected a nostalgic undertone to the show that further made the show interesting. My innards were tickled when the main character’s fire staff stopped working at one point because the AA batteries that powered it died and he couldn’t find replacements. It reminded me when I was little and how all the cool toys seemed to run on batteries and it was a constant battle to convince my parents that I needed another set of batteries.

Brains Base also earns top marks for the care and attention they gave to Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera’s production quality. The vocal work, in particular, was particularly memorable. (For fans of Norio Wakamoto (and really, who isn’t a fan (I bet communists and people who don’t rewind their movies aren’t)), he’s in a few episodes as the King of Hell – as if to be the exclamation point on the quality of vocal work.)

3 – Nichijou

A long time ago, when Yamakan was actually a rising star, Kyoto Animation had a comedy series called Lucky Star and many people, including myself, didn’t think it was all that funny at the beginning. Eventually it hit it’s stride, 8-9 episodes in, and became a pretty funny anime. Fast forward several years and KyoAni is getting around to doing another comedy series, this time called Nichijou Everyday Life. The first episode aired and it was light years better than Lucky Star’s first episode. From there, each episode has built upon the success of the last one and by mid-season it was regularily leaving me in stitches – gasping for breath – a pile of giggling goo. Which is the long way of saying I’m thoroughly enjoying Nichijou and I expect the second half of the series to push this series into becoming my favorite comedy from KyoAni. It probably won’t even be a real contest since, with Nano now being allowed to go to school, Nano is going to get loads more screen time and I shouldn’t need to remind people that Nano=Win.

2 – Steins;Gate

Normally I wish the Japanese would stop using English punctuation marks in weird ways; but, I like the semicolon and personally use it more than I probably should so I’ll give Steins;Gate a pass on this one. Besides, Steinsgate sounds like a political scandal and that’s one area that this anime hasn’t touched upon, at least not yet. It has so far included conspiracies, mad scientists, computer hacking, murder threats, comedy, time travel, improbable science wrapped within cool sounding technobabble, shadow organizations, budding relationships, parallel world lines and one man’s quest to put right what once went wrong. In short, Steins;Gate has been an awesome ride so far; it’s even been able to use time travel without stepping on the toes of Puella Magi Madoka Magica and vice versa.

The ending could still be a big disappointment and drag down my opinion of the entire show but, for right now, it’s making a fast beeline towards becoming a classic anime. The first couple of episodes of the summer season really cement this as the show to beat this summer.

1 – Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

The anime that needs no introductions this season. I’m not going to act cool by being a contrarian for the sake of being contrary; AnoHana is a masterpiece and deserves all the accolades it has received and will receive. It showcases the power of anime series as a storytelling format, especially when freed from trying to fit a story told in another medium into the confines of an anime series.

With AnoHana’s win, the last three anime seasons have all had an original anime as it’s top anime. The first was Panty and Stocking for the Fall 2010 season, Puella Magi Madoka Magica for the Winter 2011 season and now AnoHana for the Spring 2011 season. Will summer see this trend continue? Only time will tell.

I’d like to thank all the people who read my 5500+ word review of the Spring 2011 season; I hope you enjoyed it and maybe discovered an anime or two that you want to watch now.

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 – #8 – #5

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8 thoughts on “The Top Eight Anime of the Spring 2011 Season, #4 to #1”

  1. Most of the issue comes with plot coherency and providing enough material for the audience to actually understand what led up to the ending. The more material there is that the anime leaves out (either intentionally or unintentionally), the more disappointing the ending becomes. And that even becomes worse if the lead up is done well.

    It happened with Utawarerumono (complete deliberate cluster F) as well as Chaos;Head.

    Steins;Gate is a sort of non-linear sequel to Chaos;Head. Some companies recycle their characters while changing the setting, like Age with Muv Luv Extra/Unl/Alt, others just write up brand new stories in the same setting using new characters (Eien no Aselia: Eternity Sword), or they just scrap both the universe and the characters. There’s benefits all around as well as disadvantages. Although, it was hard to see any “disadvantage” to the Muv Luv series. All 3 VNs were favorites.

    The difference is pretty simple to tell. Original creations have a closer working relationship between the creator, the director, the writer, and so on. That produces a more seamless transition. On the other hand, many people who are tasked with writing the script for an anime from a visual novel or light novel, aren’t fans of the VN or light novel, and thus… they don’t get it. And they’re not going to get it without 6 months of lead time, which is impossible in the anime industry. Nobody has the money to pay people for six months without any coherent profit-income. That’s like the government printing up its own money that it then spends.

    There’s a lot of things responsible for the distance between the directors, writers, script organizers, and series composers of the anime studio on one hand and the original writers and creators of the Source Material on the other. Japanese hierarchy. Formality rules. No risk taking (we’re not spending a full season of funds, just half a season, and we’re going to cut corners here and there). Although “no risk taking” often leads to what is called “disasters” when the director messes something up and then can’t figure out how to rewrite (of course you can’t rewrite somebody else’s work in so short a time. Ever hear of the way to tell who is lying when they claim a novel was theirs…) or reshow the material to make it consistent. Well, even if they wanted to be true to the source material, they first have to “understand” it. That’s always a big issue between fans and those who produce stuff fans buy. The fans get it in a way that producers, cannot understand. And the producers didn’t even produce the work themselves, so they themselves are “consumers” of somebody else’s written material. Lovely. That’ll help communication out.

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  2. Btw, Steel, have you checked out Broken Blade yet, the movie mini series?

    That thing has great cinematography and background music. Although the plot line is similar to Gundam poi, in a new universe of quark powered telepathic crystals.

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  3. I watched the first episode of Enma and it was too familiar so I looked it up.

    Kikoushi_Enma

    It’s a remake of that OVA, with a different thematic focus. The main characters are exactly the same, except they were styled more as young adults or the trashier segments of Japanese under life. It was primarily a horror story told in episodic format. Enma and Yuki’s personality and relationship was the same. Even though I wanted them to provide more material on it, the story was, again, primarily focused on episodic plot and characters involving dark drama, horror, and psychological suspense.

    I didn’t finish watching it (25%), I just did skimming through it now that I discovered I still had it on my HD. The theme was too dark and oppressive in nature, which only appeals to me in a tragedy or drama like FSN VN. My favorite, Yukihito, didn’t get much development.

    I saw the Kappa in Kikoushi Enma after Arakawa, and that character really did felt like a real human cosplaying. The grittier nature of the OVA, in fact, made a lot of things feel realistic and sort of grimly and bloody.

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  4. Sounds more like you’re liking Nano cause of moe overload than because of humourous scenes. Nichijou is a sortof hit-or-miss show, I think you’ll agree – I personally find the voice acting of many characters incredibly weak and indecisive, making the show relying less on brute humour, which is the only humour I enjoy 😦

    As for all original shows – they also tend to hit-or-miss. If you look at all original shows, they tend to merely be average, but there are some that suck and others that are amazing. With every original show that’s amazing you’ll also find another one in the same season that sucked, so it’s not much of a surprise that original shows are at the top. Whereas, adaptations tend to be forced to follow the main story, which tends to be pretty good – however, since there isn’t much freedom with adaptations, they tend to be worse than the main story, balancing each other out.

    tl;dr stuff

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  5. I’ve been reading manga, black and white version, for Bleach, Naruto, and Fairy Tail for awhile now. I also read through about 70 chapters of Aiki.

    For some reason, there were some real tear jerkers in certain mangas. Naruto probably has the most, but Bleach has them as well, except it was in the first half of the entire story.

    I’ve also tried reading shoujo manga, such as Vampire Knight or Absolute Boyfriend. The primary thing I notice is that… it doesn’t feel the same. Meaning, if you remove the plot and character designs from contention, shoujo manga is mostly about relationship PROBLEMS, such as between one girl and two guys competing over her. I just don’t see that in shounen harem. If there is competition between girls, it is friendly competition. The conflict is… between people who use violence or fighting or some kind of action plot.

    So in summary, shoujo manga places conflict in relationships and for some reason girls really really like that…. while males, from my perspective, seem to find that excessively troublesome and stressful. On the other hand, shounen manga places conflict between enemies who fight and try to kill each other, which, I surmise, women and girls tend to find excessively troublesome and stressful… but males really like that. There’s even a new term for it. “Archer is gar” which came from a 4chan misspelling of “I am gar (gay) for Archer”. I’ve also heard people say Ayamine (the silent, H2H, female specialist in MV Alternative) is gar. It means the same thing as in Arakawa, when you see the pigeon doing certain things in relation to his love, the bee, and the rest of the guys go “Aniki!”

    Ah, there’s a sort of synergy or mirror likeness there. I didn’t even know Vampire Knight was shoujo genre, until about 20 chapters in and I realized (the protagonist was a girl, the other characters are her female friend and two guys who compete and have their own little personal backstory issues). Looking at the list of popular manga… Japanese girls certainly seem to like vampire stories. What is it with vampires stories and girls? The US even has it with Twilight.

    Another little mystery in the human species.

    While I get relationship problems, it’s still stressful when I have to keep reading manga and nobody does anything to resolve it. I guess that’s how people feel when they see their heroes get beaten in DBZ, which lasts a long long time. And when they finally make a come back, the emotionalism has really been built up for that.

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  6. The heroine in AnoHana reminds me of that girl always sipping coffee in the secondary resource library in Clannad. I believe you mentioned how it was hard to believe that a small high school girl like that would have so many devout delinquents following her around. That’s because she, like Menma, don’t have a dark side. Some people are true pacifists and they don’t have a violent or dark streak. They’re not hiding it. They’re not controlling it. It just ain’t there. Thus it is easier to trust them and talk to them, especially for those who are conflicted or live a life of violence. They feel at ease in her presence.

    What safeguards her or any neutral faction’s protection is simply that if you attack them, everyone else that relied upon that neutrality will seek your destruction. That is a deterrence that guarantees the neutral faction’s protection. They’re too useful to harm, and they provide no reason or benefit to attack them. Thus violent people don’t target them.

    Violent people or those who understand violence, are always living in a constant “warrior” state of awareness. Some are more neurotic about it than others, but this constant tension is always there. Even when peacefully meeting with other people. The thought is always in the back of the warrior’s head, ticking off “What’s the plan for killing everyone in this room”. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Even for someone with absolute phenomenal emotional and mental discipline, the warrior is always keeping that in the background.

    By being in the presence of such a neutral and peaceful woman, the warrior can let down this burden temporarily. Precisely because he knows that no one else will want to attack or kill anyone in this woman’s presence. It guarantees the trust of the warrior to the woman, but it also forms a guarantee of trust between other males that don’t necessarily like or trust each other.

    People who are always in conflict or in war, constantly seek for “neutral” places to be. Civilians or those who have never lived or trained with this warrior mentality, such as the Japanese who live in what is known (by them even) as a “pacifist nation”, do not understand this kind of thinking. Those that have never trained to walk into a room and instantly form a plan to kill everyone in it, no matter who it is, cannot understand what this mentality is. What people do when they buy car or fire insurance, the warrior does by forming plans and preparations dealing with life and death. It’s also another reason why veterans returning from war find it hard to talk or re-assimilate into the civilian population. The ‘warrior mentality’ required for survival in the war front is a strange, alien, and social unacceptable thing back in civilian life. Attempting to suppress this, is what leads to PTSD symptoms and issues.

    Btw, this cannot be faked. Meaning, while it is true that people can lure you into a false sense of security and then ambush you, this actually makes the woman or man who can project true “peace and pacifism” even more valuable. Because the warrior feels this, a feeling that cannot be expressed in words. Words can lie, but this feeling does not. For a warrior sensitive to “killing intent” or (saki, which does exist but isn’t as magical as manga makes it out), it is impossible to fool those and even if you do fool them, their preparations are such a tight knit affair that they have already defended themselves by muscle memory even while being surprised.

    I am familiar with this not due to experience in war or battle, but due to the training methods my instructors told me to use to improve H2H abilities. Basically, in order to train to use violence, one had to remove the social and emotional constraints binding all loyal and obedient citizens to the rule of society. Thus we were told to use holographic visualization on people we’d see passing by us in the street, to locate anatomical targets and then prepare to strike them with intent in mind. From the other person’s perspective, I look like a normal person passing by as the point is to give no indications of hostile or emotional affect. Nothing happens in reality, other than what went on through the mind. While this seems like something tailored for assassination (which I suppose it would be good for), it’s primarily used as a form of self defense preparation and training.

    The trick is to walk the line without becoming a serial killer or a megalomaniac like Yagami, Light who glorifies in the power over the life and death of others. “With great power, comes great responsibility”, but what does that even mean to most people? Those are just words people interpret. But to me, it means I have the power to kill a human being using nothing but my bare hands. And those that die by my hands or are injured by me, are so permanently. I cannot heal what I destroy. That is the responsibility.

    I feel a great sympathy for such because this kind of training and mentality has a price in terms of energy and spirit. It’s not easy. If you don’t do it seriously, you’ll die at the hands of those who are better at violence. But if you take it to extreme levels, you’ll become a megalomaniac like Yagami, Light or a Robbes Pierre. Great intentions, evil methods. People often find it hard to believe that the best soldiers, the ones that are the greatest at war or killing, want peace the most. Yet to me it is perfectly understandable. I understand very well why they wish for peace. Being good at violence doesn’t necessarily the person wants to always live a life of violence. That is not what people fight for most of the time.

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  7. i watched Anohana like people recommended and what did that bring me???????????????????????????????? I pretty much wasted hours of my life!!!!!

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