Sorry; I’m pulling a Peter Jackson. I intended to do this countdown in two parts but, as I finished up, I realized that I had been writing at Extended Edition speed and both halves were entirely too long. I know this takes some of the fun out of the final part because between knowing 2/3 of the countdown along with the honorable mentions means which series are in the top 5 is probably a no-brainer. Oh well, onto the countdown.
Aquarion Evol won two yearly categories for 2012 – Most Entertaining and Best Ending – and this is a very good shorthand explanation why it lands in the number 10 spot. Of course there are many components that went into why Aquarion Evol won those two. One of the most important was the complete mastery shown by the staff to know exactly what they wanted and how to achieve it. The staff knew that to be successful Aquarion Evol needed a fairly large dose of over-the-top absurdness. Too much would make the story irrelevant and too little would make the story overly melodramatic, either of which would have severely weakened the show. A second, almost as important, component was the unflinching attitude the staff displayed in making this anime; there was no timidity shown, no hedging, no reluctance, no apologies, no faintheartedness at Satelight. I think this was what was lacking at Gonzo with their Last Exile sequel. They built a wonderfully interesting world but didn’t have enough confidence in themselves so they threw in a bunch of cute girls, weakening the story as a result, because cute girls doing cute things always sale well (except when they don’t).
Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi
I would have liked Uta Koi without watching Chihayafuru first but it certainly helped me get excited for Uta Koi because it stimulated my interest in the 100 poem anthology that’s used in Karuta. Creating a cohesive series centered on the stories that led the various authors of the 100 poems in question to write their poems was a daunting task for Uta Koi and it succeeded to a greater degree then I would have thought possible. The format was a series of one-episode stories that normally featured at least one character that would reappear in a couple other episodes to give a bit of inter-episodal structure to the series. The first time I watched this series I missed some of the connections between the various characters; however, the strength of the stand alone stories meant I still greatly enjoyed this series. The second time I watched Uta Koi I knew how the characters were connected which freed up brain space to focus more on the characters and I discovered a deeper layer to the characters. I became even more impressed with what Uta Koi accomplished and liked it even more. It’s a shame that the animation style kept some people from watching this noteworthy anime.
Natsume Yuujinchou Shi
The fourth season of Natsume’s Book of Friends appearing in my yearly top 10 is hardily surprising since the first three series all appeared in their respective years as well. While the quality of this series has been constant, as in constantly sublime, the nature of the series has slowly changed over the seasons. The first season had a very sparse cast with a strong feeling of melancholy permeating it. Slowly, with each season, this changed; Natsume meets new friends and learns to better integrate his ability to see spirits into living a normal life. With this fourth season I was marveling at how this series now has a large cast and carries a warm, pleasant feeling with it now. Sometimes I almost miss how Natsume was during the first season but I catch myself. I wouldn’t want one of my favorite characters to suffer like Natsume was in the first season. A fifth season is an almost assured thing and I can’t wait to see how Natsume Yuujinchou grows next.
Nekomonogatari – Black
In the previous 5 years that I’ve compiled a list of the top anime series of the year there has been two animation studios, with the consistent quality, to appear on 4 of those lists somewhere in the top 10. One is Kyoto Animation and the other is Shaft. When I first started compiling this list back in mid-December I realized this year was going to be the first year since 2007 that no Shaft series was going to appear. Nisemonogatari, their first series of 2012, was a testament to how good Shaft/Shinbou are at making anime but the underlying source material was deficient, to put it mildly. Hidamari Sketch x Honeycomb, their other series, was a worthy fourth season to the franchise and a very good series; however, this season caught the franchise in the process of transition, the two high school seniors will be graduating soon, and there was an awkwardness to it that dampened the enjoyment of it just enough to put it out of contention. Shaft had one more trick up their sleeves; on the last day of the year a short prequel series to Bakemonogatari was to air. When I realized it was going to focus on Tsubasa I got excited. Senjougahara and Tsubasa are the most interesting characters in the franchise and neither were in Nisemonogatari to a sufficient degree. Nekomonogatari – Black turned out to be everything I wanted Nisemonogatari to be and then some. I luxuriated in the smart writing, sharp directing, stellar animation, high quality vocal acting, great music, and – of course – the Shaftian animation style that they’ve perfected in the last couple of years. After getting used to the larger cast of the earlier, and chronologically later, series of this franchise, I was fascinated by how focused this anime had to be since it literally had only four characters to work with. The most vivid memory I have of this series was how shaken up I felt when the viewer found out that Tsubasa lacked even the smallest space to call her own, as if to say she was an afterthought in her own house.
Jormungand / Jormungand: Perfect Order
As great as Nekomonogatari – Black was, there was only 4 episodes to it and that it made it difficult to compete against longer series like Jormungand. This series started off almost as if it was a slice-of-life series, a slice-of-life series about a bushy eyebrowed arms dealer with a highly skilled team of bodyguards, but still a slice-of-life series and this threw many people off. I thought it was a bit odd for a series backdrop like what Jormungand used to take this approach but it quickly grew on me. I love good characters and watching Jonah and Koko made this a worthwhile series by themselves. Add in frequent well-made action scenes and a story that just got more interesting as time went on and I was sold. The second half, Jormungand: Perfect Order, decided to upset the balance of the first season by revealing there had been a larger plot going on that the viewer might have picked up on if they caught the subtle hints dropped everywhere. (I was not one of those eagle eye viewers 🙂 .) This half built upon everything that made the first season so excellent and added another element that of figuring out what Jormungand was and how it was going to be used. I would have dearly loved to see what Jormungand would have meant for the world but anything less than a full treatment – say 24 episodes – would be inadequate. (Apparently the anime series ended where the manga ended so hopefully the manga’s author will do a sequel series and White Fox could animate that as well. And as long as I’m speaking off-topic why don’t White Fox handle doing a sequel for Full Metal Panic if KyoAni has no plans in doing so.)
Whew, only one more section – the top 5 anime of 2012 – to go.
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 0: Introduction and Anti-Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 1: Cast and Character Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 2: Genre and General Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 3: VMA Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards Part 4: The Misfit Awards
Top anime 2012 Awards: Top 15 Anime – #15 – #11
Top anime 2012 Awards: Top 15 Anime – #10 – #6 <- you are here
Top anime 2012 Awards: Top 15 Anime – #5 – #1