In 2010, I had a general rule that I roughly kept. I watched 2-3 new series per season – one of high quality, of enjoyable, but of questionable quality, and then maybe one other that hooked me. Despite trying to keep this rule in 2011 to avoid burnout, I couldn’t help but watch more new series than I’d ever had before. There were a number of excellent shows this years, and several more that I didn’t get to watch. And so when Kiddtic proposed an AniBloggers Choice Awards on his site (and later made a final, more structured setup), I jumped right on board. It also helps that I love me some lists.
After shuffling series back and forth, day after day, unable to settle on a satisfactory ranking, I settled for a little different approach. The series (and movie) below are placed into categories based on where I would roughly place them in my Anime Planet anime list, based on rankings from one-half star (worst) through five stars (best).
The Bottom Three: 3 to 4 Stars
Though without the bits of substance that stylistic predecessor Code Geass possessed, Guilty Crown is similar to that series in that both are entertaining and pwetty. I just wish someone would tighten up the writing, because I don’t think Guilty Crown is too far from transitioning to “good series” from a mediocre one.
Kamisama no Memochou
I knew (and expected) little of God’s Memo Pad, which is often the point when a series will surprise you (in a good way). Stylistically cool and full of at least somewhat interesting characters, the series begs for a second season (which, with further character development, could be better) – but please, if you’re going to claim Alice is a genius, show us how.
Last Exile ~ Fam, the Silver Wing
This series has definitely been a head scratcher for me. The blogosphere has featured widely varying opinions on the sequel, and even on a personal level, my thoughts are up and down. Thus far, though, an annoying lead combined with supporting characters who mostly don’t engage me like those in the original (with Millia being the exception) have particularly been disappointing aspects of the show. But certain scenes (and even entire episodes) are punctuated with airship awesomeness and as of episode 8, the series is looking up.
Middle of the Pack = Still VERY Good: 4 to 4.5 Stars
Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (AnoHana)
This wasn’t the perfect show that it could’ve been, or that I thought it might be. But still, the emotional payoffs in AnoHana felt honest and raw and less manipulative than they may have appeared. I’ve seldom seen shows deal with the themes of loss, death, adolescence and friendship with as much tenderness and style as in AnoHana.
I’ve added many items to my lists of favorites because of this show. I’ve added new members to my favorite new characters list (Chihaya); favorite games I’ll never play list (karuta); favorite team/group/club list (Chihaya’s karuta club); and most of all, favorite shows about growing up list.
First few episodes withstanding, the second season of Working!! has been just as addicting and fun as the first. Despite the somewhat cumbering inclusion and emphasis on previously minor or entirely new characters, Working’!! is an excellent show. It seems that the animation staff and/or the mangaka whose work the series is based has figured out how to use each character most effectively.
Almost Perfect: 4.5 to 5 Stars
Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below
I approached Shinkai’s latest film expecting another trip down the “beautiful but somehow dissatisfying” aisle, but ultimately found the film to be his best work. Powerful, beautiful, and for once embracing the warmth that has been lacking in his previous, this film is a major achievement.
Along with Madoka Magica, Mawaru Penguindrum could easily have placed number one on my list. It’s that rare series that engages me intellectually while still being thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a show that I want to understand better, but which can still be greatly enjoyed without knowing the context of what’s occurring and the deeper symbols of events and ideas in the show. But most of all, Mawaru Penguindrum is terribly creative in its animation and storytelling – and that’s what makes this show something special.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
I joined the bandwagon late on Madoka, catching up with the series during the delay in broadcasting due to the Tohoku earthquake. I soon realized that the critical acclaim for the show was justly earned. I had a field day writing about various religious symbols in the show, as well as posting similar analyses by other writers. But more than blog fodder, Madoka brought us compelling characters, interesting and juxtaposed animation, and powerful (and sometimes painful) episodes.
My Last Day
The short film, little known outside of Christian circles, was animated by STUDIO4°C. Powerful and uncompromising, it portrays the crucifixion of Jesus from the eyes of a thief executed beside him. It is well worth a watch.
Magical. Simply magical. As a father, you’d think I had a particular interest in this show. But actually, I went into each episode thinking, “I don’t really want to watch a show about bonding between a bachelor and his adopted relative.” But by the end of each episode, I was reminded again what a beautiful, charming, and heartwarming series Usagi Drop is.
My Number One…
This last pick was difficult for me, as it may have been for many of you creating similar lists. Any of the above four could easily have made it here for me. But Hourou Musuko was consistently my favorite anime this year. The sensitivity of the series, the beautiful animation style, and most of all, nearly a dozen compelling characters (take note all you series with similar numbers of characters and not one that’s interesting!) help mold a show that is different, but equal to (or I think better than) the manga upon which its based (which should be noted, has a very different tone). Even further, watching Wandering Son was an experience for me – a show that moved me spiritually and moved me to think more deeply about long-held beliefs, while still remaining wholly entertaining.
Licensor of the Year
I looked back at this year’s releases, and a number of companies did awesome, at least in terms of the quality of the series released. Aniplex particularly caught my eye, with releases including the Rurouni Kenshin OVAs and the infamous Garden of Sinners set. But because of sheer numbers, both in first time releases (ex. Summer Wars, Evangelion 2.22, Eden of the East films) and rereleases (ex. Last Exile, Noir, Love Hina), Funimation takes the cake.
Favorite Release: Trigun: Badlands Rumble (extras to die for)
What are your top anime for the year? Are there any recommendations you have for me?