Spring Anime 2012 - A Look Back, Reviews and Awards
For all of the series that I wasn't covering this season, it's only fair to do a blog post covering them in a little detail and then giving my final thoughts on the season as a whole with some sort of a retrospective paragraph thrown in regarding my viewing habits.
There will also be some "awards" in which I single out the best aspects of the Spring anime. Just to state this at the beginning, I'm adapting a similar style to the Best of Anime posts written by Divine at Random Curiosity, however unlike Divine I'm not one for awarding "Best Fanservice" or "Best Seiyuu" and since this isn't a best of post for the year I will forego singling out best anime by genre (save that for the end of the year).
So without further ado let's kick off the post with a retrospective on my viewing habits followed immediately by the series reviews.
Retrospective Look on Viewing Habits
What I Watched Weekly
Jormungand - Because I was blogging it, but even if I wasn't I still would have watched it weekly.
Kimi to Boku 2 - It was so easy to watch, plus it made for a good way to start off the week.
Sakamichi no Apollon - No explanation necessary I hope.
Sankarea - A nice romance to make my Thursdays even better.
Tsuritama - No explanation necessary I hope, plus I blogged it.
Zetman - Mainly because I blogged it, otherwise I might have put it on hold.
Hyouka (Still Airing) - I like it as a school story and the animation is unrivalled.
Kuroko no Basket (Still Airing) - Getting my sports fix from Kuroko and because of my loyalty to the manga.
Uchuu Kyoudai (Still Airing) - This series takes its time and doesn't rush, unlike quite a few series. There might also be a hint of childhood dreams popping up.
What I Put on Hold but Completed
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia - Put it on hold because I didn't have the time to stay up-to-date with it and I enjoyed other series more.
Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna - Put it on hold due to lack of time, maybe regrettably so.
What I Put on Hold Indefinitely or Dropped
Eureka Seven: AO (On Hold) - Many reasons but the main one being my lack of love for the genre. I still plan to catch up on the episodes sometime soon.
Hiiro no Kakera (On Hold) - I still haven't gotten around to watching this. Much like Eureka 7, I put it on hold because of my feelings for the genre.
Nazo no Kanojo X (Dropped after episode 4) - I couldn't really get into it. I could tell the anime wasn't bad but it wasn't for me.
Saki: Achiga-hen - Episode of Side-A (Dropped after episode 8) - Simply because the series was a guilty pleasure to begin with but got very boring and repetitive.
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia
This was an anime that I found a little troublesome to keep up with at times, hence making it my most erratically watched anime of the season. On a few occasions I may have mentioned that I approached this anime like a second coming of Bakemonogatari (only not as good) but I still couldn't commit to watching it on a weekly basis, even making me consider whether I even wanted to continue watching this anime; I'm glad that I did finish it in the end.
From the production side of things, this series was just plain beautiful but would put off anyone who isn't a fan of SHAFT directing which is done in abundance throughout the entire series. The soundtrack doesn't even compare to the animation quality of the series and isn't memorable even if it does do fit in quite well and in terms of what held the series back from being better it was not an aspect of the anime I would point out; that would have to be the (execution of) the story.
Whilst I viewed Tasogare Otome x Amnesia as a lesser Bakemonogatari in it's early episodes, it did improve as the series approached the end and in particular the romance aspect of the series became considerably better towards the end than it was for the first 6-7 episodes. It also helped that unlike the first half of the series where there was more mixing of the genres, which I didn't care for, the second half drew the line between the mystery and romance aspects thus allowing both individual genres to flourish.
The series did however end on a high note for me with the romance between Yuko and Teiichi portrayed so beautifully, putting Tasogare back on the table as a contender for "Best Romance" of the year. This was a surprise to me at least, seeing as how I couldn't bring myself to like Yuko for the most part.... in fact I didn't like most of the cast but I guess it just goes to show that a good director can create a good enough moment and make you love it despite any feelings of hatred for the characters.
Overall, I don't know if it's the source material or the choice of focus for the anime but Tasogare Otome x Amnesia will only remain as good and not great; not to say others might not rate this anime higher but it didn't do anything extraordinary in my eyes.
MyAnimeList Rating : 7
Kimi to Boku 2
With a much slower pace and almost no plot direction - something I found quite enjoyable - the second season continued as kind of the "chill out" anime of the season that I followed weekly without any real effort.
Much like with many anime who have a great first season Kimi to Boku's second season didn't bring up the same feelings of happiness and excitement for me, not surprising when you think back at all of the Chizuru x Mary (Masaki) romance episodes that hijacked the second season all together and with a significant downplay on Kanami's appearance and overall focus, I cared less for this season than it's predecessor.
That said, season 2 was by no means a failure and still an anime I would rate good enough to watch on a weekly basis or marathon without a second thought. Even with the minimal progression in the general timeline of the story and excess Chizuru romance episodes, some focus on the Asobi twins and light-hearted humour are always appreciated and make up for all of my complaints with the series.
MyAnimeList Rating: 7
Now this one was a surprise!
I'm not saying that I wasn't expecting much from this series, but I was definitely not expecting THAT much from this series based on the previews and synopsis, so imagine my surprise when this became one of my favourites of the season.
While I found the romance aspect of this series to be very endearing, it soon lost it's charm as the series progressed which then allowed me to enjoy this series for it's dark and twisted drama plot. The reason why the romance element of the series lost it's appeal for me was simply for the reason that I'm not big on romances between a human and non-living beings (Tasogare included), so I couldn't fully get behind the whole "I'm in love with a zombie girl" idea that became somewhat central to the plot but much like Tasogare, at the end of the series I came back to be charmed by the love story which makes this a contender for a best romance of the year (not kidding). Unlike many romances where the love can end up being everlasting, I found Chihiro's attempts to preserve his main love interest to be more touching and pure - even if it was for a zombie girl.
The drama behind the characters was something done very well and was a little darker than most anime that aren't action or thriller/mystery series; Sankarea is definitely a series you see yourself enjoying if you don't mind the darker character background stories, which lead into very good and shocking dramatic episodes.
The most noticeable flaw in this series is that it simply doesn't maintain a consistent level of quality throughout; the quality is high overall but the first 3 episodes are probably the best and then the OAD. Inconsistency aside, the actual contents of the episodes failed to impress when Ranko and Mero were given their individual episodes; though they make decent side characters, they ultimately didn't add that much to the actual plot - something tells me that the Ranko episode was purely for the fans.
A very good series but with a few major flaws - major when compared with the other series - preventing it from being the season's best.
MyAnimeList Rating: 8
Sakamichi no Apollon
Did I ever doubt Watanabe-sensei or Kano-sensei Of course not!
Probably the anime that I was expecting more from than any other this season, Sakamichi no Apollon delivered and with consistency. I can't say anything bad about this series which had an interesting story (historical yet fictional enough to draw you into it) supported by fantastic character development (the main characters were great but also a few other side characters got some focus) and a soundtrack like no other (Jazz that excites and paints a beautiful picture).
There was plenty going on as well, with the drama and friendship aspects of the story, not to mention the romance as well, all of which combined to give a richer and fuller story and that also meant there was rarely a dull moment void of any emotion or heartbreaking moments. My only complaint would be that the romance was too frustrating for my liking and resembled that of a western soap opera/anything involving teens (e.g. 90210), definitely not something I expected but I'm guessing that it was part of the manga so I won't place any blame on the production.
Other than the frustrating romance, the restriction to 12 episodes made the pacing a little unreliable. Now when I say this, I mean that there were definitely points where fluidity was not at it's best and the time skips were a little crazy - most noticeable in the last episode - but again this wasn't really the fault of the production team or the studio since they were the ones given such a limited number of episodes to carry out an adaptation.
Clearly the director and composer team up for the series meant that it came close to being a flawless and a must watch for all who haven't been following this season.
MyAnimeList Rating: 9
Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna
Not having experienced the wonders of the Lupin III franchise, I was initially reluctant to get into this anime but I'm glad that I did. What's more, I'm glad that after putting it on hold I came back to finish it.
I suppose what made me put this series on hold in the first place was it's episodic nature, which after a few episodes became kind of dull for someone like me who isn't familiar with the series and the characters like the fans of the Lupin franchise; of course there was always a lingering thought in my mind that I can't fully appreciate the series since I haven't seen any of the 200+ episodes. In retrospect it was my foolish decision to put the series on hold after episode 7, just before the story became continuous and more engaging. The continuous story from episode 8 onwards was hardly one of the most original but it was psychological and very interesting, not to mention it showed Mine Fujiko in a completely different light than in the previous episodes which was a nice change of pace to the series.
Other than the story, the animation and soundtrack were something special and definitely appreciated by me, a person who's in love with throwbacks to the classics and definitely when it reminded me of A Clockwork Orange, even if it might freak a few people out. The best way to describe the production of the anime would be to use the word "stylish" or "artistic," which fit that much better when the subject of beauty is broached so many times in this anime.
The series may not have been the best of this season but it definitely deserves praise and respect for standing out from a multitude of great anime.
MyAnimeList Rating: 8
Well you can read my thoughts on Jormungand in any one of my episodic posts or the series review here if you want a more detailed overview of the series but the short version is that it's a great series and one which I'm anticipating an equally good sequel for.
This anime is probably one that has something for everyone one, whether it's straight up action you can easily watch when you're about to doze off, deep and meaningful sub-plot that appears at every stage of the series or if you just want to laugh at the expense of Scarecrow (the guy who gets screwed over) and Koko's ridiculously humorous actions.
If Tsuritama and Sakamichi took 1st and 2nd place in terms of best anime of this season, then Jormungand takes a close 3rd but unlike the other 2 which won't be getting a sequel, Jormungand still has one more season to stun and wow it's viewers.
MyAnimeList Rating: 9
Just a quick overview of the series, if you want something more comprehensive than you can read it here.
Why is Tsuritama so good Well because it does everything right as a slice-of-life anime and with extreme focus on character development for the over-the-top characters, great humour and equally compelling serious moments which compliment the series like maple syrup on French toast.
It's not only that. Being an original anime it didn't encounter problems with pacing that some of the adaptations face and what's more the art style and soundtrack added even more delight to the viewing experience of the series.
MyAnimeList Rating: 9
One of the less favoured anime on my list and out of the ones I blogged, it was the worst.
Though the worst out of the ones I blogged, it was still a decent anime with very exhilarating fight scenes, a memorable soundtrack and enough character development to make the characters interesting.
The biggest issue was pacing, which I assume left fans of the manga upset but that's to be expected when a long running (180+ chapter) manga gets adapted into just a 13 episode anime, with a very unlikely chance to get a sequel.
Though not great, it's not worth dismissing without giving a proper chance.
MyAnimeList Rating: 6
Best Opening Sequence
This was actually quite hard to decide; not only did this season have so many great anime, it also had plenty of anime with fantastic opening sequences. I rarely bother sitting through opening sequences, unless they're songs which I enjoy and/or the opening sequence itself is eye-catching so I was surprised that there I was happy to sit through 5 opening sequences (Zetman, Jormungand, Sakamichi no Apollon, Tsuritama and Lupin III) but out of all of them none were brought me more joy than Sakamichi no Apollon.
I guess it was the the beautifully animated characters alongside the flying musical notes and the song Sakamichi no Melody by Yuki that just made me listen and watch the opening every single time I watched an episode, made even better by the trumpet played by Junichi at the end of it just as Kaoru and Sentaro run down the slope.
Best Ending Sequence
At first I was inclined to give this award to Fairy Tail, which I don't blog but it has a beautiful end sequence nonetheless and then I remembered Jormungand has a damn good sequence, so I decided to go with Jormungand. Again much like opening sequence, I rarely take the time to watch the ending sequences so this award turned out easier than the previous one.
In particular, the end sequence for Jormungand's 4th episode which transitioned so smoothly after Chinatsu's death has been burned into my mind and is also a different song. And another thing that's noteworthy about the end sequences of Jormungand is that they change with each episode and sometimes have different songs.
This one was difficult. I had to ultimately choose between Sakamichi no Apollon's phenomenal Jazz soundtrack and Jormungand's diverse soundtrack, even though there were many decent soundtracks this season like Tsuritama, Zetman and Kuroko no Basket. In the end I went with Jormungands because it was much more varied, with songs ranging from Indian Bollywood Music and Italian Opera to Electro and Dubstep. I was surprised by the sheer range when I first saw the soundtrack but then I remembered always hearing a new song with each episode.
A few favourites from this soundtrack include Masala Dosa, Alligator and of course Time to Attack AKA the Koko is loco song.
This may be a difficult choice for some, but for me it was simple: Yamada Akira Agarkar from Tsuritama.
Why Well when your an Indian spy who looks like he works for the Men In Black, have a duck called Tapioca and have a boss who pronounces your name (Yamada) with an accent on the 1st A, you know your too cool for school - in fact he's too old for school.
Superficialities aside, Akira added a lot of humour to the already funny Tsuritama and never disappointed with his eccentric entrances or habits (Duck!, Yoga!, Fish!).
I thought this choice would be simple and I'd go with Sanka Danichirou (Rea's father) from Sankarea, considering how much of an evil and hated character he was but then I watched Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna until the end and found the main villain in that series, Luis Yew Almieda, to be significantly better. Now what's interesting is that Luis wasn't alive during this series, but even posthumously he was a fantastic villain who ended up scarring the real flesh and blood villain of the series to the point where she makes it her mission to make others miserable.
In essence, it was the idea of Luis Yew Almieda that made for such an impressive villain, a plot device that added even more style and mind blowing moments to the series.
Good Character, Inferior Anime
This one was an easy choice for me, with it being Jin Kanzaki fro Zetman. I suppose what makes me think that Jin was too good for Zetman was that that he made for such a good dark hero - poised and mature with a sordid past - whilst his counterpart, Kouga was quite a bit weaker. Other than purely liking him, his character development in the series felt much more natural than Kouga's even though one could argue that Kouga got more screen time.
I would say Sankarea was the most surprising anime this season, but I remembered that I had almost no expectations from Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna since it's an established franchise. It should also be mentioned that Lupin managed to draw me in unlike Saint Seiya Omega, the other established franchise with a new anime this season, so it definitely was the series that exceeded my expectations like no other.
Failed to Meet Expectations
This one has to go to Zetman. After I read a few chapters of the manga and saw the preview I thought that this anime would be one of the best, if not the best this season but unfortunately it didn't meet my high expectations for it.
Sakamichi no Apollon episode 7; need I say more
In terms of episodes for anime centred around music, this one was nothing short of great and topped my favourite episode of Nodame Cantabile in the process. After watching the episode once, I returned to watch the scene with Kaoru and Sentaro playing the medley at least 20 times.
Might have mentioned this a few times already, but it's got to be Tsuritama for best of the season. This series never failed to make me smile and was just a great slice-of-life, which is always a great find.