Here's the final review on the best anime of 2012. I've already posted my top 12 TV series and my top 10 OVA's & Movies and now I thought I'd give a more comprehensive overview of anime that aired in 2012.
The review will start off with a retrospective look back at the seasons, then I'll move onto talking about the best anime by genre, production value and a few other categories. No time to waste, so let us start!
Best Anime of 2012 - By Season Retropsective Review
2012 was a solid year for anime fans. Plenty of decent anime came out this year, which made deciding on the top 10-12 very hard. As one might expect, quality of anime differed as the seasons went by and some ended up being better than others.
I don't give the Winter season nearly as much credit as it deserves. The quality of anime in this season was unexpectedly strong and there were plenty of anime that could have made other people's top 10.
Out of the series that carried over from the Fall 2011 season, Chihayafuru and Persona 4 were the best, and they continued to do very well in the Winter season. Others such as Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam and Mirai Nikki were decent, but not good enough to continue watching regularly - I ended up putting them both on hold.
Amongst the series that started their run in Winter, there were a few gems. Danshi Koukosei no Nichijou surprised me and became one of the best anime of the season and year all the while other series like Another and Ano Natsu de Matteru delivered good quality entertainment. Another series that did well but was underrated was Inu Boku x SS, which started slow but was easy to watch and heart-warming. Perhaps the biggest shock was that Thermae Romae ended up as the best noitaminA series of the Winter, much to my surprise.
Much like any season, this one had its disappointments. Amagami SS+ Plus didn't come close to the first season in terms of quality, and the noitaminA slot heavily underperformed this season with Guilty Crown and Black Rock Shooter taking up most of the air time. I ended up having some misfortune with my episodic blogging since alongside Black Rock Shooter, I blogged Brave10 and that ended up being an average anime. There was however one series that I completed even though it wasn't good: Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai!
A few loose ends for me with this season:
This year's spring season was very good. Some of the best anime of 2012 aired in the spring, starting with noitaminA's return to higher quality with Sakamichi no Apollon and Tsuritama. In terms of variety, this was the more diverse season, with a wide range of series and a higher average quality.
Out of the three quirky romances that aired this season, I watched Sankarea and Tasogare Otome x Amnesia and never got into Nazo no Kanojo X. I also had great pleasure in watching Jormungand and Fate/zero to get my action fill for the season. Zetman was another action series I watched, but it didn't live up to my expectations. It was still not bad, but seriously flawed.
Other series I watched included Kimi to Boku 2, Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna and Ozuma. Lupin III was the surprise of the season for, KimiBoku delivered another good season and Ozuma was just okay. Finally, the 4 series I carried forward from this season to the next were Uchuu Kyoudai, Hyouka, Kuroko no Basket and Eureka Seven AO. I was happy with all of them, although E7AO was the least interesting to me.
As I would soon learn, the series I carried over from this season would be my saviours.
What I labelled as the death of anime, was the Summer season. A season you want to forget more than any other in recent years, there was little to choose from a crop of rather bad anime. When Sword Art Online was the most hyped anime for the season, you know it couldn't have been a good season.
The best of the season (not counting the carry overs from Spring) included Binbougami ga!, Natsuyuki Rendezvous and Kokoro Connect. Kokoro Connect and Natsuyuki Rendezvous had their ups and downs but I still enjoyed both of them. The one anime I watched that surpassed my expectations was Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate, which may not have been the best anime but it wasn't a bad watch.
To add insult to injury, Moyashimon Returns was a bust. One of the most anticipated series in the blogosphere, ended up crashing and burning. One of the biggest disappointments of the year, without a doubt, proving that a sequel in the noitaminA slot can be a bad idea.
With such a poor season, Hyouka and Uchuu Kyoudai really shone as the best and joining them was my favourite new Summer anime, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Luckily my short watch list would soon be filled with mountains of good new anime.
The fall season was by far my most favourite season. It didn't have higher average quality per series like the Spring season, but it had some of the most interesting and high quality series of the entire year. Series like PSYCHO-PASS and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure instantly became my favourites with Shin Sekai Yori and Zetsuen no Tempest trailing a little behind .
As a season for shojo, Fall 2012 was perhaps the best. Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun stood out on top, but Sukitte Ii na yo. and Kamisama Hajimemashita were also strong performances. For me this was the season to be a shojo anime fan.
Then there was the huge crop of high quality series: Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai!, the new KyoAni offering, was good for the most part as were Jormungand's second cour, Robotics; Notes and Bakuman 3. Each one was good in its own right and may have had a less than stellar episode here or there, but in the end delivered a good anime.
The biggest surprise of the season was Girls und Panzer whilst the biggest disappointment was Magi. GaruPan just amazed me with how good it was at making a series about moe operating tanks wildly enjoyable and Magi failed to live up to the manga's high quality. Some might say that K was also a big disappointment, but I always expect less from original works to keep myself from getting my hopes up.
I'm glad most of my favourites are continuing next season! Should make the harsh winter more bearable.
Best Anime of 2012 - By Genre
Sometimes an anime may not make my top 10 list, but it'll still be one of the best for a specific genre. There are of course those that are harder to define by genre, so they are harder to recommend for any specific genre - hence the nature of this list being for fans of concrete genres.
Best Action - Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna
Choosing an action series is always a harder task than I remember. Most series that have good action scenes don't tend to have good stories, and vice-versa. This year this was no exception, but one series did stand above the rest.
Lupin III was my favourite. The old school animation, combined with action sequences were both beautiful and exciting to watch. I didn't expect it to be as accessible to those unfamiliar with the franchise, which made me that much happier with the series.
A few others like Fate/zero came close, but in the end those other series didn't emphasise the action as much and ended up being good for reasons other than the action. Lupin III may not have been all about the action, but the action did add a lot to the series.
Notable Others - Fate/zero, Jormungand (not really for the action).
Best Romance - Sukitte Ii na yo.
Unlike 2011, there was a lot of choices for fans of the romance genre. Starting from the Winter season, each season offered its own type of romance and by the end of the year we'd have covered most subgenres and demographics.
For me it came down to a choice between Ano Natsu de Matteru and Sukitte Ii na yo. In terms of pure romances, these two were my favourites, and in the end my inability to connect with the characters in AnoNatsu led me to choose Sukitte Ii na yo.
The series didn't do anything special, but in its simplicity it managed to win me over. Not to mention, it had a great female lead which in a shojo romance's case, makes or breaks the series. There were of course other series, but each of them had something that didn't appeal to me as much as the straightforward romance of Sukitte and some like Sankarea lost their way after the first few episodes.
Notable Others - Ano Natsu de Matteru, Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Sankarea (first 3-4 episodes).
Best Horror/Thriller - Another
Looking back, 2012 didn't really have many good horror or thriller series. The only ones that come to mind are Another and Mirai Nikki and since I didn't finish the latter, Another wins by default. Had I finished Mirai Nikki this year, my decision might be different but my inability to do so stops me from ranking it.
Another was a horror with strong emphasis on a mystery plot. What it did do, was make use of that mystery plot to further the horror side of the story and to produce something more than just senseless violence. On occasion it did take things too far, but for most of the series there were many spine-chilling moments.
Since there was no other horror anime this year, it's the only one that I can really recommend for fans of the genre. I could recommend what I've seen of Mirai Nikki, since there really were no other series that came close to being good horror/thrillers.
Notable Others - Mirai Nikki (of what I've seen)
Best Romantic Comedy - Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
What separates a romantic comedy from a pure romance is the need for a conclusion. Romantic Comedies can lead you on and let shipping become an attraction of the series. In many ways, I prefer a romantic comedy to a pure romance series.
This year, I found myself most impressed with Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun. Taking me away from the familiar waters of shonen romantic comedy, this shojo series took the "Will they /Won't they " plot to a new level of comedy and at the same time showed us some great romantic progress.
It wasn't a hard choice to make, but one other series also deserve to be mentioned. The other series I enjoyed was Kamisama Hajimemashita, yet another shojo romcom.
Notable Others - Kamisama Hajimemashita
Best Comedy - Danshi Koukosei no Nichijou
This year's top pick for best comedy was the easiest out of all the other genres. Nichibros came out on top without so much as a second thought, leaving many other series wanting.
The parodies, the satire and the complete destruction of the slice-of-life/romance clich s had me on the floor for most of the series. It only helped that series like Tsuritama and Kimi to Boku aired in the same year, to give this series that extra boost of memorability later on in the year.
Other comedies I enjoyed were Beelzebub and Binougami ba! Both cater to my sense of humour as over-the-top shonens with more obvious humour.
Notable Others - Beelzebub, Binbougami ga!
Best Slice-of-Life - Tsuritama
Alongside choosing the best comedy anime of the year, choosing the best slice-of-life came easiest to me. It could only really be my #2 favourite of the year, Tsuritama.
When I think back, what made me choose this anime over something like Hyouka was the happiness I got from watching this series. Don't get me wrong, Hyouka was also great as a slice-of-life series, but in the beginning it struggled to make itself more than a small mystery series.
Tsuritama had my favourite cast of characters and it was all about feel good times with these four quirky guys. At times it introduced some drama to keep things interesting, but never strayed far from its easy-going pace and style of story telling. I would still recommend Hyouka and the less quirky Kimi to Boku 2, but Tsuritama was my favourite.
Notable Others - Hyouka, Kimi to Boku 2
Best Mystery - Hyouka
If 2012 saw an improvement for the romance genre, it also saw a dive in the mystery genre. Perhaps a genre that offered the most last year, offered close to nothing this year with only a handful of series to choose from; Persona 4, Hyouka and Another.
Hyouka ended up being the most interesting mystery series. It began with small insignificant cases before moving onto the main bulk of its story: the Kanya Festival arc. What it did at its best was not only uncover the school mysteries but bring in fantastic character development for its main cast.
A personal favourite of mine is when the mystery is used to accomplish other things with the story so after the Kanya festival arc, Hyouka became my favourite mystery of the year. No others compared but Another provided a decent mystery-horror plot, which makes it the second best anime of the mystery genre this year.
Notable Others - Another, Persona 4
Best Drama - Natsuyuki Rendezvous
Personally, I'm not one for the drama genre. It doesn't appeal to me in many forms of media, and in anime I usually stay away from a drama series unless I've been told it's good. This year definitely had one or two good drama anime, with my favourite being Natsuyuki Rendezvous.
I did have some issues with the pacing and the general direction of the plot, but the quality of the drama in this anime was by far the most heart-wrenching of the year. Showing the troubles of loss and love, the series really made you connect to the characters, each of whom was stuggling through their own issues.
No other anime came close to evoking as much emotion from me like Natsuyuki Rendezvous. Some like Sankarea lacked refinement whilst others like Sakamichi no Apollon couldn't make the drama come as naturally. I'd still recommend the other two, since this one is more on the niche side.
Notable Others - Sakamichi no Apollon, Sankarea
Best Anime of 2012 - By Production
This part of the list is more about the animation and music side. As much as a good story is what makes an anime, good production is what takes it to the next level.
Best Animation - Hyouka
Good animation is always easy to recognise but at the same times that is all a series is known for. Something like K, will be remembered as being a visual buffet and that's it. What I look for is animation that adds to the story and isn't the main attraction which is exactly what Hyouka had.
No surprise that Kyoto Animation have some of the most stunning animation, which they put to good use for this series. Every time there was an explanation or a theory being strung together, the animated sequences was a delightful addition and it made for some pretty mesmerizing visuals. A good example of animation adding to a series and not overpowering the other elements.
If it were more about just plain animation, series like K and Sword Art Online can also be considered as some of the most beautiful series of the year.
Best OP - PSYCHO-PASS
It many not be eligible for this year's best anime, but I'm going to allow the OP for PSYCHO-PASS. It's the only one I remember replaying an absured amount of times for both the song and the animation sequence.
Loved the dark feeling it captures,and the use of black and white. The song is also prety catchy, which always helps.
There were a few others that I remember replaying a few times like Sakamichi no Apollon's OP. Nevertheless, PSYCHO-PASS' was still my favourite out of this year's bunch.
Best ED - Danshi Koukosei no Nichijou
I'm sure all of you can understand the allure of an ending where all the main characters are dressed in ridiculous costumes and are doing some kind of crazy performance.
Nichibros' was more about the animation than music. The music itself fit the ending quite well, but I was too distracted by all the craziness going on in the background to even care about the music. Much like the series itself, it was brilliant comedy even at the end.
Best Studio - TMS Entertainment
I'm going to go out on a limb and vouch for this studio. They had 3 anime this year: 2 very good (Lupin III, Kamisama Hajimemashita) and one okay (Zetman). Other studios have made all the anime that make up my top 12 this year, but it's TMS that have managed to create the most anime I've enjoyed.
Some studios like A-1 Pictures may have had outstanding series like Tsuritama but at the same time they were responsible for Sword Art Online. It's a delicate mix between quantity and quality, which makes this studio the perfect choice.
I'm looking forward to see what they can do next.
Best Anime of 2012 - Over's and Under's
Most Underrated - Kamisama Hajimemashita
Underrated series tend to be overlooked by the majority of anime fandom and even bloggers such as myself who watch most of what is airing. This year's least talked about series that deserved more attention was Kamisama Hajimemashita.
Overlooked for being yet another shojo romantic comedy, it outperformed a good number of other series this year. It was just a shojo romantic comedy but it was a lot of fun to watch, especially when it was about the comedy that made use of the reverse harem plot.
Exceeded Expectations - Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
It feels odd writing about a series like KoiChoco but when I think back to all the series I was expecting least from that actually delivered something good, it comes out as the clear winner.
Whenever I see an anime is being adapted from a VN, I'm instantly indifferent. When I see it's an adult VN, I'm highly skeptical about its chances of being watchable. At the very least, KoiChoco was an okay watch. It began slowly but towards the middle it was one of the better anime of the wretched summer season.
There were a few other series (Tsuritama, Sukitte, KamiKiss) that suprised me, but none like this one.
Biggest Disappointment - Moyashimon Returns
An award that you really don't want to give is the biggest disappointment. It acknowledges that something you had high hopes for just didn't live up to your expectations. It doesn't mean the series was bad, it just means you were expecting more.
Moyashimon's sequel was a huge let-down. Abandoning everything that made me fall in love with the original, the sequel took a completely different direction by transitioning from comedy to a semi-dramatic plot. We may want the sequels to do something new, but this was the worst choice possible for Moyashimon.
As I said, this doesn't mean the series was bad. It was average bordering on bad, but not quite bad enough to drop straight away. If there is a season 3, I sure hope the series returns to its roots and doesn't do more of this ever again.
That's all he wrote folks! I hope you enjoyed all three parts to my Best Anime of 2012 review. As usual, feel free to comment on anything I've written.