2012: The Anime Year in Review

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It’s time once again to look back on the good, the bad and the #$%$#@%#@??? in anime this year. Actually I think this has been a pretty good year with more than the average number of entertaining shows. (Except in the shoujo category, but I’m not the biggest fan of those stories anyway.)

Outstanding Anime of 2012

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai is the perfect anime comedy: tightly written, superbly animated, hilarious and ultimately heartwarming. Who could be against it? Apparently a number of people, but I suspect most of the complainers are those whose memories of their own Eight-Grade Syndrome are still to painful.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a smart josei supernatural romance. A class act all around.

Notable Anime of 2012

Accel World is a refreshingly original take on the fighting anime genre, based on a light novels by Reki Kawahara.

Binbougami ga! is low comedy and proud of it, but this story about a conflict between a lucky girl and a goddess of misfortune is unusually funny and genuinely cares about its characters.

Bodacious Space Pirates starts with a ridiculous premise about schoolgirls who get part-time jobs as space pirates and plays it totally straight, with nary a wink or a leer. The energy, enthusiasm and high production values make this show a joy to watch.

Chihayafuru (started Fall 2011) was by far the best actual shoujo anime of the year. Granted, a sports anime in which the “sport” is based on medieval Japanese poetry is not going to be for everyone, but I found it pretty entertaining. (A new season starts in Winter 2013.)

Dusk Maiden of Amnesia, a shonen supernatural horror/romance, suffers by comparison with Natsuyuki Rendezvous, a much classier josei anime with a similar theme. However the comparison is somewhat unfair since Dusk Maiden is aiming at a different target (less romance, more horror and a bit more titillation.) Judged on its own terms Dusk Maiden is pretty entertaining. Unfortunately a good ending is rather spoiled by a final 30-second add-on obviously demanded by clueless marketroids from the production company.

Fate/Zero (started Fall 2011). Dark, bloody and totally exhilarating.

What can I say about Humanity Has Declined, a post-apocalyptic social satire with fairies? Only that it is very weird, disturbing and funny.

Hyouka is a cleverly written and beautifully animated story about young detectives who solve unimportant crimes. If it were not for the weak ending I would put this in the “Outstanding” category.

Inu x Boku SS is a first-rate shoujo anime. Oh wait, it’s based on a shounen manga, which makes it rather disturbing. Still this story about the frustrations of a socially awkward oni girl is pretty amusing.

Shakugan no Shana Final (started Fall 2011). This series has had its ups and downs but the final season was a blast, raising the whole story to a higher level.

Space Brothers is an oddity, a kids show with a distinctively adult sensibility. It also has the slowest-moving story ever, but I like its strong characterizations and wry sense of humor.

Sword Art Online, based on an earlier work by Reki Kawahara, is not on the same level as Accel World but still much better than the usual fighting anime.

Reserving Judgement

I haven’t listed Shin Sekai Yori as “Outstanding” only because it is only half over and I have been disappointed by endings too often in the past. So far it has been a weekly serving of awesomeness so I may well be putting it at the top of the list next year.

Disappointing Anime of 2012

Kids on the Slope. This looked like such a high-class show. How did it end up being such a dreary story about the minor disappointments of a spoiled, self-centered rich kid?

Little Busters is not the worst anime of the year. The competition for that title is pretty fierce. Still I doubt that there has ever been an anime that attracted so much anticipation from so many people that turned out to be such a tedious, unfunny, uninvolving and badly animated mess. Maybe they will continue this for 100 or 200 episodes. They are certainly putting in enough filler. But if they do I won’t be watching.

Polar Bear Cafe initially was absolutely hilarious. (To me. Some people couldn’t stand it. Mr. Polar Bear is basically a big white troll.) Unfortunately it overstayed its welcome, eventually running out of energy and ideas.

Interesting But Not to My Taste

Nisemonogatari. OK, granted, director Akiyuki Shinbo is a genius, but I still end up disliking a lot of what he does. This one started out pretty well but in the end the creepy sex stuff got to be too much for me.

Odds and Ends

Folktales from Japan is not for everyone but it could be a valuable resource for students of Japanese culture.

Similarly I can’t give a general recommendation to Utakoi but this somewhat cheesy takeoff on medieval Japanese poetry is bound to interest some fans of Japanese culture.

This has been a pretty bad year for shoujo anime. Aside from Chihayafuru, the only one I found at all watchable was Kamisama Hajimemashita, a comedy/adventure/romance about a homeless girl who becomes a goddess. Good points: The heroine is brave and resourceful. Bad points: there’s a bit too much shoujo angst for my taste. In particular I think the heroine could do better than chase after a moody fox spirit who is about 500 years too old for her.

1 thought on “2012: The Anime Year in Review

  1. DP

    I consider Hyouka to be a near-masterpiece, really unlike any other anime I’ve ever seen in its understated subtlety in developing its characters and story, so I’m very curious as to what you didn’t like about the ending, which to my mind was a perfect summation of the series.

    The final episode, like everything that came before it, was an absolutely lovely work of melancholy reflection, including Chitanda’s stoic acceptance of her role in maintaining “old” Japan, and Oreki, still smitten-but-not-quite-able-to-say-so. They’re perfect for one another, and to my mind the series ends ideally by not feeling the need to explicitly tell us that. I’m curious (hah!) as to why you feel otherwise.

    Also, I want to note that like you I adored Chuunibyou. I thought it was funny, visually engaging, and for a long stretch very insightful.

    However, I also agree that the show’s critics have a point. Did it really need so much melodrama? And to the extent that it did (and again, I want to say how much I liked it), do you not agree that the last handful of episodes were extremely rushed? Yuuta and Rikka declare their love for one another, almost instantaneously go into a relationship death spiral over Yuuta’s insistence that Rikka give up her chuuni ways, and then are “reunited” through Yuuta’s sudden recognition that perhaps throwing away and disowning all of one’s imagination in order to be “normal” is no better than living a totally delusional lifestyle.

    It’s a lovely message, but don’t you think it gets a bit lost in the rush to wrap everything up so quickly? Because I sure do!

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