The Best Anime Of 2011 – Part 0: Introduction and the Anti-Awards

Another year finished and another year the wannabe buzzards prognosticate the demise of anime even when the empirical data continues to defy their constructed narratives. I’d compare these people to climate scientists who close their eyes to the last decade plus of weather but I don’t want to get political here 🙂 .

Instead I’ll point out that this year saw two young studios P.A. Works and Silver Fox create series which signaled their emergence as top quality anime studios. Also, this year saw two studios – Shaft and Brains Base –  take the plunge with original works and the resulting masterpieces pushed these already well-respected studios into the stratosphere.  Nor could it be forgotten how Kyoto Animation and Satelight, two veteran studios, stretched their creative legs and produce great series in genres that their not known for. Or how a quirky little studio, david production, that spun off from Gonzo a few years ago produced not one but two quirky quality series this year and finally attracted the attention of a large number of anime fans.

So, for those reasons and others, it’s easy to see that this was a banner year for anime –  one that I want to reminisce about and remember. There’s various formats that can be used to do so but the one I like involves ranking the anime in various categories because it just seems more orderly this way.

Before starting into the “nice” awards I first wanted to list the anime series that I watched from 2011 that are eligible for the various awards and to hand-out a few “not-so-nice” awards.

Winter Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (2): Star Driver, To Aru Majutsu no Index II

New shows watched this season (10): Fractale, Gosick, IS: Infinite Stratos, Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?, Level E, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Mitsudomoe Zouryouchuu!, Moshidora, Rio – Rainbow Gate, Wolverine

Shows that got dropped (4): Dragon Crisis, Freezing, Onii-chan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!!, Yumekui Merry

Spring Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (1): Gosick

New shows watched this season (20): X-Men, Dog Days, Tiger and Bunny, Nichijou, Yondemasu yo Azazel-san, Hanasaku Iroha, Fireball Charming, Steins;Gate, Hyouge Mono, Hidan no Aria, A Channel, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko, Dororon Enma-kun Meeramera, Maria+Holic Alive, Ao no Exorcist, The World God Only Knows II, Seikon no Qwaser II, C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai, Deadman Wonderland

Shows that got dropped (8): Hen Zemi, Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai, Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi, Sengoku Otome – Momoiro Paradox, 30-sai no Hoken Taiiku, Sket Dance, Sofuteni, Astarotte no Omocha!

Summer Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (6): Ao no Exorcist, Hyouge Mono, Steins;Gate, Hanasaku Iroha, Tiger and Bunny, Nichijou

New shows watched this season (13): Mawaru Penguin Drum, Kamisama no Memo-chou, Dantalian no Shoka, Nekogami Yaoyorozu, R-15, Sacred Seven, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, Natsume Yuujinchou 3, Yuruyuri, Kamisama Dolls, Blood-C, Mayo Chiki, Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi

Shows that got dropped (3): Usagi Drop, No. 6, The Idolm@ster

Fall Season

Carry-over shows watched this season (2): Hyouge Mono, Mawaru Penguin Drum

New shows watched this season (15): C3 – Cube×Cursed×Curious, Fate/Zero, Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!!, Kyoukai Senjou no Horizon, Hunter × Hunter, Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle, Tamayura – Hitotose, Chihayafuru, Persona 4, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Shakugan no Shana III (Final), Last Exile — Ginyoku no Fam, Ben-to, Un-Go, Guilty Crown

Shows that got dropped (3): Shinryaku!? Ika Musume, Working’!!, Mirai Nikki

Total New Series Watched 2011:       78

Total New Series Completed:              53

Total New Series Dropped:                  18

Total New Continuing Series:             07

Now it’s time for the Anti-Awards. These are awards that the winners probably wouldn’t like winning and instead of spreading them out in the various parts, I’m going to put them here. Also, the awards will have a higher level of spoilers then  I normally use but I will still try to keep them to minimum.

Best Half and Half

Winner:  Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko
Runner-up:
Blood-C

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko was improved by having Shaft/Shinbou adapt it but it was also hindered by being attached to Shaft/Shinbou. Hindered because so much of what Shaft/Shinbou does occurs admidst finding the fantastic in the common everyday hustle-n-bustle of life to the point of this being the expectation. There was Natsu no Arashi:  about a boy whose first crush is a girl he meets working in a café who just so happens to be a ghost of a girl who died in WWII. Sore de mo Machi wa Mawatteiru features a normal high school girl that encounters time travelers, aliens, and visits the afterlife. Bakemonogatari has a typical high school boy getting turned into a vampire (then mostly back to human) meeting gods, spirits, and curses. Arakawa Under the Bridge has a typical salary-man fall for a woman that lives under a bridge and declares that she is from Venus (and might actually be an alien). So, when Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko started with the main female character saying that she was an alien, this primed the viewers a certain way but then to throw this out for most of the series made it difficult to not compare it to other Shaft/Shinbou series and find it feeling a bit shallow.

Worst Half and Half


Winner:  Fractale

Saying half of Fractale was okay is probably stretching it a bit but among all the problems that it had there were several good ideas and positive aspects floating about. It’s just that these ideas and aspects were very poorly put together and then buried under a mountain of incompetence. I’m still wondering how the creators were able to take one of my favorite voice actresses – the very talented Kana Hanazawa – and made her voice about as appealing as screeching fingernails on a blackboard.

Most Disappointing Ending


Winner:  IS: Infinite Stratos

Why, oh, why did the creators of Infinite Stratos chicken out and try to tack on a boring “serious” ending to this show? Here’s how the show should have went – the climax should have been the reveal of Charlotte’s true gender and the build-up should have involved the generic male main character having to go to greater-and-greater lengths to hide the truth. It would have complimented the nature of the show much better and not have been such a letdown.

Most Disappointing


Winner:  Guilty Crown

Any questions? Okay, moving on…

Most in Need of Being Longer


Winner:  C – The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
Runner-up:
Un-Go

One can’t look over the year in anime without complaining about the episode counts that noitaminA series get. Un-Go actually accomplished a fair amount over it’s 11 episode run which allowed C to slip past to win this dubious award. C had some very interesting things to say but the silly CG battles and the compression artifacts from trying to squeeze C into 11 episodes just overwhelmed those interesting ideas.

The You’re-Doing-It-Wrong Award


Winner:  R-15
Runner-up:
Nekogami Yaoyorozu

Both of these shows should have been fun, light entertainment – perfect for the hot summer season – but both failed on a fundamental level and left the viewers saying, “you’re doing it wrong.” The bigger failure was on the part of R-15; the set-up was that this anime took place in a school of geniuses but somehow these “geniuses” were just a pack of boring, cliché characters. (And the one that plays the clarinet, if she’s such a genius then why does she spend the entire series practicing the same simple piece of music?)

The Best Almost Good Series

Winner:  Dantalian no Shoka
Runner-up:
C3 – Cube×Cursed×Curious

In different hands I think both of these series could have been fabulous. C3 probably needed more work to get there since the source material needed a touch of help and the style was trying too hard to look Shaftian without adding anything unique to the animation style. Dantalian no Shoka was so very close. More episodes would have helped but if that was unobtainable then trimming down the number of cases covered and focusing on fleshing these cases out and developing the characters probably would have been all it needed. Even so, Dantalian no Shoka was an interesting experiment in visual style that will probably help Gainax in the future be a better studio.

The Series That Most Left Me Wondering “Why Did I Waste My Time Finishing This?”

Winner:  Deadman Wonderland
Runner-up:
Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi

Itsuka Tenma no Kuro Usagi had the characters and story of a really generic fan-service series and the low level of fan-service that’s typically found in a “serious” anime. Watching it every week left me confused and wondering when it would decide to fully commit to being one type of series or the other. This series was topped by Deadman Wonderland, however. I should have seen the signs early that the creators wanted to make a “dark” anime – like what all the cool kids are doing now – but lacked the ability and talent to do so. I even remember getting a chuckle over how the creators wanted to vilify private prisons but thought nothing of the implications to how the story would unfold. I did learn, though, when Mirai Nikki started resorting to implausible, silly turns-of-events to advance the story and I quickly dropped it.

Best Series I Dropped

Winner:  Usagi Drop

Usagi Drop was, is, and will be on many lists as a top 10 anime for 2011. Not mines and that’s because I broke a personal rule I have about not checking out the source material before the end of an anime series. Objections to how it ends was just part of the reason for dropping it. The other part was watching a few more episodes after spoiling myself and seeing how the author clearly had the ending in mind when laying out the story and how she forced the characters into that path instead of allowing the characters to develop naturally and organically. Which is a shame, there was much to like about Usagi Drop.

And on that note, let’s end part 0 and tomorrow I’ll put up part 1, the character awards.

Top anime 2011 Awards Part 0: Introduction and Anti-Awards <- you are here
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 2: Genre and General Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #13 – #7
Top anime 2011 Awards: Top 13 Anime – #6 – #1

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4 thoughts on “The Best Anime Of 2011 – Part 0: Introduction and the Anti-Awards”

  1. I despised the Usagi Drop manga ending. Granted, that’s what the mangaka aimed and it’s a mild possibility that the ending given was more realistic. I just couldn’t the bear the thought of a man who raised a girl (through the baby-teeth falling out, to the bed-wetting etc.) going for the same girl, except this time not as a father. It shattered the wonderful image I had of the series. I don’t care if that’s what was “realistic”, not that I know any foster parent who ended up doing his kid, but it tainted the innocence of a show unnecessarily. I’m happy with the way the anime ended.

    Dantalian no Shoka was something I had pretty high expectations for as well. But GAINAX’s lead staff leaving to form Studio TRIGGER had a devastating impact.

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  2. Thanks for the comments,

    @TRazor: I’ve been meaning to post something about Studio Trigger and Gainax. I’m kinda excited to see what Hiroyuki Imaishi can do on his own but it’s a sad day for Gainax.

    @Taka: Thanks for the link. I have no problem with other viewpoints but I have hard time thinking it’s a realistic turn of events maybe if we were in Jerry Springer Land but not in the real world.

    I can’t remember which anime lead me to read up on incest but what I read applies in a case like this. Humans have one impulse/behavior/response in finding a mate that directs them to look for someone with a similar DNA makeup and another competing impulse/behavior/response that makes those that lived in close proximity to oneself as they grow up not be considered a possible mate. The first explains cases why siblings separated at birth who meet up as adults often find their siblings attractive and for cousins marrying. The second explains why incest isn’t a common occurrence and why situations where communities that raise the kids in common (the example was some Orthrodox Jewish groups in Israel) see these kids marry someone from outside their community.

    Knowing this makes it hard to believe that Bunny Drop would end the way it did.

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