This post marks the 500th post I’ve written for The Null Set. Stack that milestone on top of the other ones that I never thought I would actually accomplish. I had wanted to have my fifth year anniversary post last month be my 500th post for the symmetry of it but I didn’t get this look back at the anime of 2012 done in time. 😦
Oh well, this post is almost as good because there is nothing I spend more time on here then these yearly looks back at the anime series that aired.
Last year I was happy to see that three of the top 6 anime series were anime original and had hoped the trend would continue in 2012. That didn’t happen. This year there’s only 1 anime original in the top 6 (though one could argue that a second was largely anime original). I guess it’s too much to expect that the multi-year effort it takes to create an original anime could get sandwiched into a single year. So, if last year taught us the power of creating original anime then this year taught us the power of adapting great source material in an inspired way.
I’ve been working on a post, which is probably why I’m thinking about it now, about the failures of Robotics;Notes and one of it’s more egregious is it’s main character, Kai. At the onset of Robotics;Notes, Kai was characterized in a similar way as Houtarou, the main character in Hyouka. Only at the onset, though, as the series played out the differences between the two became profound. Kai was shown to be an emotionless blob that would react exactly the same to any situation, from passing gas to learning the world was going to end in a couple of years; namely, pull out his mobile computing device and start playing a game. The poor writing that was episode 16 might shock Kai into action (and that was probably the point of it all) but that will hardily improve his character now since it came as a result of poor writing. On the other hand, the creators of Hyouka made Houtarou interesting from the first episode and had him naturally shed his low-energy personality for a slowly increasingly higher-energy personality. This is just one of reasons for Hyouka’s high placement. Another reason was the original creator actually fashioned interesting little mysteries for the characters to solve. I almost always get disappointed in the mysteries found in anime – Un-go was one recent example of this – I’m either bored by the mystery or can guess the conclusion well before the halfway point of the mystery. I also like Kyoto Animation’s attention to building likeable characters as shown by the anime original episodes that fit into the series and focused more the building the characters. Nor could I pass up mentioning the absolutely gorgeous animation found in Hyouka; even compared to their other recent works, there’s nobody out there even close to Kyoto Animation’s skills at the TV series level. (For animated movies there are a couple of animation studios that would be fierce competitors, assuming they get a large enough budget.)
One of the fun things about writing for an anime blog is that there’s a written record that I can look back on and smile when I get something right or laugh at myself for getting it wrong. This is what I wrote in my first impression of AKB0048, after episode 2: “I have serious reservations about how this anime will unfold. I love the idea of a guerrilla idol group that will infiltrate oppressive regimes so they can give a concert. It’s the right mix of ballsy bravado and absurdity that I love to see in anime but, oftentimes with anime such as this, the creators only tepidly embrace the premise and the anime bogs down in it’s own mediocrity. If the creators push AKB0048’s story and plotting to it’s maximum silly, absurd glory – like the people behind Aquarion EVOL and Phi Brain did – then this will be a fun anime to watch.” In hindsight, I didn’t realize then that AKB0048 had the same director and writer as Aquarion EVOL which would have allayed my worry that AKB0048 would only weakly embrace it’s premise but I was right that if this anime would push itself then it would be a fun anime to watch. In the end AKB0048 succeeded to a far greater degree then I thought possible after the end of the second episode. The creators accomplished the near impossible task of getting the viewer to take the story seriously while also entertaining the viewer with how absurdly, silly the story is at the same time. Another thing this anime did right was have an ending that felt like a real ending while still keeping enough plot threads unresolved so the sequel could pick right up without having to graft on a new story.
Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!
This anime is an example of why I find ranking the top anime of the year important. The winner of a single yearly category – Best Performance by a Seiyuu – it wouldn’t appear that Chuu2 would place this high but the format of the categories section glosses over how close this anime was to winning many other awards. (Best Couple, Best Character Development for Cast, Best Animation are three such categories that Chuu2 came in second overall.) There were so many different facets to this anime that I loved watching. There was the action scenes. KyoAni picks series where it’s near impossible for them to actually animate fight scenes so I find myself sending brain waves westwards stating my desire for fight scenes. Chuu2 partially fulfilled this desire to see an action series animated by Kyoto Animation but it also reinforced this desire because I wanted more. Another facet was the cast of characters. I read how KyoAni fleshed out the source material which included adding characters such as Kumin and Dekomori. I can’t imagine the show without these characters; actually, yes I could – it would have been a far weaker series. I loved how all the characters changed over the course of the series, not just the main characters. Another facet I loved was the drama of the second half of the series. It was appropriate and natural to see the series take this type of turn and KyoAni played it perfectly. People complained about the whipsaw nature between the drama and the comedy. I wanted to politely remind these people of the fickle, supercharged nature of kids at the age we saw the characters of Chuu2 at. It felt like KyoAni allowed their characters to be themselves and have the story develop around what they wanted to do.
Thinking about it Chihayafuru, this year’s number 2 top anime, shares a degree of similarity with last year’s number 2 series, Steins;Gate. Both series started off slowly, silently building their characters up and getting us acquainted with the setting. Then, just before the midway point, the creators removed the blinders from the viewer’s eyes and we realized the depth to the masterpiece we were watching. From there, both series were like robber barons in their relentless pursuit of maximizing the returns from the capital they invested in building up their characters and setting the stage. And in the final tally both these series took the 10 talents they were given and returned with 100. Oh, and Mamoru Miyano voiced a character in both 🙂 . I’m really glad I gave this anime series a shot; it was only because Madhouse was animating it that I did. I normally dislike sports anime and I’m iffy about josei series which is what Chihayafuru is: a josei comedy/drama about a group of high school kids that play Karuta (a competitive card game built around the memorization of 100 poems). But the characters turned out to be great characters and I got sucked into the Karuta tournaments; I would marvel when a 22 minute episode felt like 5 minutes. This is the point I should be lamenting that I would love to see more of this series – though the chance of that is small since the DVD/BD sales were weak – however, I’m not because a sequel got approved and is currently airing and will probably rank highly in next year’s top anime countdown.
For the spring seasonal anime awards I wrote this about Space Brothers. “It might be a little early but I think Space Brothers will end up my top anime of 2012.” Turned out I was correct. It wasn’t a huge prediction to make, however, when it’s biggest competitor was probably going to be Chihayafuru and I knew it would run through the summer and fall seasons; so, it merely had to continue at the same dazzling level shown in the spring. Which it did and here we are. The only thing that might have tripped up Space Brothers was the lack of an ending (and the accompanying sense of satisfaction that comes from having a good ending) that came from it’s continuing into 2013. However, that problem didn’t materialize because right before the end of 2012 we got the conclusion of the arc that featured Mutta trying to become an astronaut which worked as a good temporary ending to the series. It still sometimes feels like I’m dreaming when I watch this series. An anime about two middle-age brothers, one an astronaut and the other trying to be one, that follows them as one trains for a mission to the moon and the other takes the rather involved test to become an astronaut is hardily the type of series that gets a TV show, much less one that will run longer then 4 seasons. The recent announcement of the continuation of Space Brothers into, at least, the spring season plus it’s promotion to a more watched time slot makes me think 2013 might be another year full of Space Brothers goodness. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2013 countdown of top anime will feature Space Brothers and Chihayafuru fighting it out for the top spot again. I certainly wouldn’t complain if it that was so.
I’d like to thank all the people who read my 13000+ word review of the 2012 year in anime (3000 words more than last year 🙂 ); I hope you enjoyed it and maybe discovered an anime or two that you want to watch now. And if you’re so inclined, vote in the poll to the right for your favorite anime series of 2012. I’m curious to see what the people reading this think.
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
Top anime 2012 Awards: Top 15 Anime – #5 – #1 <- you are here