I've decided that to sum up my thoughts on my favourite anime of 2012 I'd write two posts. This is the first one and is part of the Ani-Blogger Choice Awards run by kidd. Since I also participate in the APR rankings, the top 10 on this list make up my ballot.
2012 has come to an end too quickly. It was a strong year with many good anime, but the choice was hard; there were no Madoka/Steins/Penguindrums to make the list easier. Anyhow, after much thought I finally managed to compile what I thin are the best anime of 2012.
Let's start from the bottom and work to the top.
Honorable Mention - Ano Natsu de Matteru
After initially dropping Ano Natsu de Matteru, I went back to give it a second chance. When I first dropped it, I couldn't quite figure out what it was about the series that I didn't like.
Second time around, there wasn't anything that I didn't like. AnoNatsu was one of the best directed anime of the year and the story was just the right amount of quirky and dramatic. Throw in some decent J.C. Staff animation and no pacing issues - perks of an original story anime - and the anime is close to being one of the best of the year.
What stopped it from being higher on the list was the characters. There was nothing wrong with them, but at the end of the day I wasn't invested in any of them nor did I care enough about them to be moved by the ending. Had this series done a better job with the characters, it would have probably been in the top 5 instead of missing the top 12 best anime of 2012.
Despite its shortcomings, Ano Natsu de Matteru was one of the most consistent when it came to delivering quality. Each episode was as good as the last, and I rarely felt taxed when watching the series. If only it had better characters, it might have actually landed on the official list.
#12 - Kuroko no Basket
Kicking off my list is the shonen sports series that actually made waves on both sides of the world. It's none other than Kuroko no Basket.
Seeing as how I was reading the manga months before the anime announcement came, I was going to be a harsh critic. Despite my best efforts, a lot of the time I get angry at poor adaptations of manga I enjoy and always look for any excuse to state "the manga is better." This is one adaptation I was extremely happy about. Production I.G's limitless budget for animation and music really exceeded my initial expectations of the anime adaptation, and I was more than happy with how they handled it.
Luckily for me, the man living on the lonely island that shonen sports fandom, others responded to this anime as well. Yes the majority of them are MAL users but a few anime bloggers also praised the series, leaving me happy and not alone in appreciating this sports anime.
KuroBas isn't ranked higher because I already knew exactly how it was going to turn out. I was happy to watch what I had read before but a part of me knew I wasn't going to rank it higher than #12 on my best anime of 2012 list.
Final Note: As I publish this, a second season has been confirmed! Yay!
#11 - Nisemonogatari
I think its safe to say that Nisemonogatari definitely stood out this year. If you haven't watched or heard of a certain scene involving a tooth cleaning apparatus, then I'll leave you to go and watch it.
As much love as I have for Bakemonogatari, this sequel didn't deliver the same sense of satisfaction. A big part of that was definitely the smaller role Senjougahara had, though there were other factors to consider. Being the sequel to a fantastic series is never easy, and unfortunately this one didn't live up to the hype. I guess the biggest reason it's at the bottom of this list is because it didn't do anything new.
As a whole I didn't find the Araragi family arc to be nearly as interesting, nor did I find the composition of the anime to be as entertaining as its prequel was. That said, this was still one of the better anime of the year and proves that SHAFT and Shinbo's style over substance adaptation of the monogatari series is always appreciated.
Even though the series didn't do anything new, it was still one of the best this year. Call it spill over appreciation from the prequel or just plain love for the Shinbo, SHAFT and NisiOisiN combo; this would be a time when a sequel doing what the prequel did is actually acceptable.
#10 - Jormungand
I'll admit that Jormungand isn't exactly the best anime. The two seasons differ quite drastically from each other and depending on whom you ask, one is inferior to the other. What those two seasons have in common, and what made Jormungand earn a top 10 spot was how much fun I had watching it.
It may not be the best, but it was one of the most entertaining of the year. When it wanted to be deep and philosophical, it did so well. When it wanted to be about the action and comedy, it also did that well therefore giving us some variety.
Considering the manga, I have to applaud WHITE FOX for their efforts on this anime. The manga is a bit of a mess at times and it was adapted word-for-word, for better or worse. In my opinion, this was a case of an anime improving on the manga and at times completely outshining it.
At the end of the day, this series was a delightful addition to my weekly line-up and it provided enough enjoyment to earn its spot in my top 10 for the year.
#09 - Persona 4 The ANIMATION
Persona 4 is an example of a multi-genre anime that actually works. Covering mystery, slice-of-life, comedy and a bit of action, there was almost nothing this series didn't do. I usually hate overly complex series with too much going on, but I made an exception in Persona 4's case.
This was another series I watched for pure entertainment value. Often being the easiest anime to sit through, its semi-formulaic beginning worked to its advantage as it introduced the characters and then proceeded to work in all the other elements of the series. With some pretty loveable and funny characters to boot, it wasn't long before this series was on the road to success.
In the end, Persona 4 won me over with its multi-genre story and for a game adaptation, it was very well done. This a series that's most likely to appeal to a wider audience than some of the other anime on this list. Although it isn't a factor for my enjoyment, it's always nice for one series to appeal to a lot of groups of people.
In fact, the next one is definitely not for everyone.
#08 - Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
Perhaps the most colourful and quirky anime of the year, Jintai was my saviour for the god awful Summer 2012 season. Don't let the cutesy fairies in the screen capture above fool you, this one isn't what it seems to be on the surface.
Dark comedy, satirical comments on almost everything you can think of, a great main character and beautiful animation. With the last being somewhat of an annomaly - AIC isn't exactly known for being "pretty" - this series had to be all about execution, which was a walk in the park for Seiji Kishi. A man whose resume boasts series, after series (Persona 4 included), made full use of his skill set on this project.
Full disclosure: Jintai was probably the most original anime to come out of 2012. The only reason I don't rank it higher is because it was too much at times. When watching this anime you can't really do so half-asleep, otherwise it wouldn't make sense. This is both its strong point and flaw; I like that it's so witty but sometimes you don't have the energy to decipher the joke.
Having your only problem be "your too witty" isn't exactly a bad thing now is it
#07 - Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
Initially I was going to rank Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun lower, but then I took a day off after the finale aired as to gather my thoughts properly.
Any time I'm familiar with a manga being adapted into an anime, I struggle to remove my bias. Some readers may know that I sometimes moan about some anime adaptations and don't usually hesitate to drop them. Not only do I hate poor adaptations, I don't see the value of watching something I've read and not getting the same joy.
Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun's anime was one of the very good ones. As usual Brain's Base deliver with fantastic animation, direction and composition. Not to mention the strong seiyuu cast and the experience of watching some of the most colourful characters in any shojo romantic comedy come to life, made it easy for me to choose this as a top 10 best anime of 2012.
With a word-for-word adaptation of the first 12 episodes and an original final episode, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun made me laugh more than any shojo romance series I've had the pleasure of watching. It's different from the usual shojo romances and it makes its mark with the cast of eccentric and downright crazy high school kids working out their issues in a slightly Haganai-esque manner.
#06 - Sakamichi no Apollon
It goes without saying that Sakamichi no Apollon was a contender for best anime of 2012 before it even aired.
What do you expect Whenever legendary director Shinichiro Watanabe comes out of hiding to direct another anime that Yoko Kanno is scoring, you're expecting it to be remembered. At the very least you're expecting it to get an honorable mention.
Sakamichi was definitely one of the good ones this year. The setting and focus on Jazz music made it stand out from all your other slice-of-life series, with the music taking up much of the focus - duh. Another story of friendship, drama and romance done well in just 12 episodes.
You can tell 12 episodes was too little. There was the occasional pacing snafu, which was to be expected when you're condensing 9 volumes of manga into just a one-cour series. With that being the only technical problem, the series was a success as far as I'm concerned. It may be too melodramatic at times, but in the end it does a splendid job of developing the main characters.
#05 - Fate/zero
Just to be clear, I don't count Fate/zero as 2 separate seasons. I count is as one whole series.
If I were to only consider season 2, I don't think I would put Fate/zero so high up in my best anime of 2012 list. As good as the second cour was, it didn't have the same sparkle that the first half did. The Emiya episodes didn't help this, and I for one wasn't the biggest fan.
Luckily I'm judging this series as a whole, and in its entirety it's pretty great. What I love about it is how once in a while we would get an episode that was undeniably fantastic and it stood out as one of the best in the series. Unlike some series which have consistent quality, Fate/zero had those episodes which you want to re-watch just by themselves. Granted many series have those types of episodes, but Fate/zero's episode 11 and 23 are some of my favourites.
Not much praise for the animation, but it was adequate. It may have been the weak link in the production but considering the staff, the soundtrack and the source material, it's unfair to judge so harshly when comparing. For me, better animation wouldn't have made much of a difference because this was a story driven anime more than anything.
#04 - Hyouka
Kyoto Animation really do make some of the most aesthetically pleasing anime. Hyouka is the fruits of their labours for this year.
School mysteries and romantic pairings have never been more fun. What the series does really well is invoke memories from my childhood, a time when my curiosity led me to do all sorts of things including a brief stint as a wannabe detective. That sense of nostalgia hooked me in and then I was impressed by the characters.
The character development is almost unrivalled. Not because of how much was done, but how well it was carried out in subtlety. It wasn't until the second half of the series that I noticed how much deeper Hyouka was than just a school-life mystery series, at which point I was glad I stuck with it.
If compared to an athlete, Hyouka is a long-distance runner. After a slow start, the series picked up steam and sprinted towards the finish line, ending one the highest of notes. Not flashy like a sprinter, the long-distance run gets less attention until the final laps. Had the first half of the series been stronger, this could have been my #1/#2 pick for best anime of 2012.
#03 - Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
This anime is more proof that Sunrise are a frustrating studio.
Just when you think they're done, they turn around and deliver a fantastic anime. Last year it was Tiger & Bunny - one of my 2011 favourites - and this year it was Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou or as the blogging community refers to it, Nichibros.
A comedy like no other, and one of the best in recent memory, Nichibros dominated the harsh Winter anime season for me. Satirically making fun of all the slice-of-life/romance anime that came before it, it wasn't long before I hopped on the bandwagon and rode it till the end.
It's style of many short skits comprising an episode worked to its advantage. Almost like The Mitchell and Webb Look, that kept returning to a specific scenario and playing out differently, Nichibros knew how to keep things fresh and fun with the some original comedy.
Everything about this anime is loveable, including that amazing ED. Hands down, the best comedy of the year.
#02 - Tsuritama
Just from episode one there was love between me and Tsuritama.
A series I heavily underestimated because of the recent boom of "bro" anime, leaving only A-1 Pictures' name and the noitaminA slot to give it a fighting chance. In the end it didn't need that chance and it eventually became my favourite anime of the Spring season.
Tsuritama didn't try to do anything it wasn't capable of. It took a simple slice-of-life plot, added some fantasy and worked on making a feel-good series with an abundance of comedy. Even when it occasionally ventured into a more serious plot, it did so with effortless ease which translated during the viewing experience. The driving force of the series was its characters, each of whom are brilliant and irreplaceable.
A-1 Pictures really know how to make an original work for the noitaminA slot, and their exquisite animation wasn't missed out on with this anime. Vivid colours and phenomenal artistic scenery, enough to make this one of the most visually pleasing anime of the year as well.
Unfortunately for Tsuritama, it missed out on the number one place this year because a certain Fall 2011 anime carried onto the Winter 2012 season.
#01 - Chihayafuru
I bet many of you have forgotten about this gem of an anime. It carried on from the 2011 to leave its mark as the best anime of 2012.
Going into Chihayafuru I had close to zero expectations. Not because I doubted the source material, rather my personal taste tends to stray from anime and manga of the Josei demographic. Even if someone told me it's a series about a sport, I still wouldn't have had high hopes.
Then it aired.... and boy did I feel stupid. Instantly becoming one of my favourites of the season, I started anticipating new episodes and grew to love the series even more. With everything going for it from animation to story, the lasting impression makes it the most memorable and most well-rounded series of 2012.
As Chihayafuru continued from the Fall 2011 season to the Winter 2012 season, it kept up its quality and at times it even improved. Highly consistent with the quality of its episodes and managing the balance between the Karuta and slice-of-life, looked effortless. You have to give it to the mad men of MADHOUSE for this glorious adaptation.
It's series like Chihayafuru that make me happy to be an anime fan. This is one of those that can possibly convince die-hard shonen action/adventure/fantasy fans to venture into other demographics and genres. It impressed me at least!
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Stay tuned for the comprehensive year in review to be out before the new year (hopefully). Please tell me what you think and leave a comment with your own top 3-12 anime of 2012.