2011 Year in Review

And so it ends.

Ah, 2011. A pretty down year for me, insofar as anime is concerned, as I managed to finish a measly seven shows of those currently airing, the bulk of them focused in the autumn. In fact, if not for the autumn, the year would’ve been a serious wash for current shows, as I finished merely one show in the first half of the year (did finish a second from winter later on), and two from the summertime. Thankfully, the autumn seemed to realize that it’d been a shitty year for anime, and delivered two shows I’ve finished (UN GO, Fate/Zero), one I’m in the process of finishing (Tamayura~Hitotose~), and two others I am following (Future Diary, Chihayafuru), although a seriously terrible connection has hindered my ability to follow along on a weekly basis.

On the flip side, its been a fairly good year for shows I was either stalled on or have owned on DVD for a while and never quite gotten around to. Blame it on the bad internet connection, I suppose! In the month of November, I plowed through four TV series despite having a workload that kept me away from blogging and kept me largely away from my own place of residence.

I’ve found myself enjoying manga more than ever before this year, despite the shuttering of Borders and therefore the sudden disappearance of my major source of manga purchases. If only Viz would publish more titles like solanin and shift its focus just slightly away from random shounen adventure #86,000…! But, thankfully we have a plethora of publishers in this day and age such that the loss of Tokyopop, while regretful on a nostalgic level, did not even leave the slightest of pinching feelings. And, surely, it does help to remove a publisher known for cut-rate production and terrible wages from the picture, does it not? I’m happy to pay those extra two dollars, or three or four dollars, for a high quality product we get from publishers such as Vertical and Fantagraphics. The market may be changing, but in 2011, at least, it seemed to be moving in the right direction, death of a massive publisher be damned.

Manga. Its an interesting thing, because it simply seems more suited to the life of a working adult. I read it on lunchbreaks as I eat in the back of my truck, my fingers numb in the cold. I read it on the train when I commuted. No wonder its such a massive market in Japan! Its so convenient! And I can find stories so much more easily about those magical creatures called adults.

But, anime. Back to that. For current series I finished in 2011:

  • Tiger & Bunny
  • Uta no Prince-sama – Maji LOVE 1000%
  • Mawaru Penguindrum
  • UN GO
  • Fate/Zero
  • Aki-Sora: Yume no Naka
  • Magi Puella Madoka Magica

And I’ll finish Tamayura TV before the clock ticks out Saturday at the rate I’m moving. So, you can see it was a pretty thin year for me.

Toss in non-current anime:

  • Red Garden
  • 009-1
  • Weiß kreuz
  • Weiß Kreuz Glühen
  • Senkou no Night Raid
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam
  • Mad Bull 34
  • Superdimensional Romanesque Samy: Missing 99
  • Harbor Light Monogatari: Fashion Lala Yori
  • Lily to Kaeru to Otouto
  • Urotsukidouji
  • The Tatami Galaxy
  • Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie
  • Macross Frontier: The False Songstress

I could be forgetting some things, but I’m pretty sure that about covers it. There’s a lot of crap on the list, but I feel that my success ratio was much higher with these versus my attempts with various airing shows. Red Garden was good enough that I wondered why on earth I didn’t watch it when it aired, and why on earth I stalled out on it when I bought it about two years ago. Senkou no Night Raid was also quite good, ditto The Tatami Galaxy. Lily to Kaeru to Otouto was surprisingly enjoyable. And Weiß Kreuz was just as awesome as it should’ve been. The rest ranged from unwatchable (Urotsukidouji) to just plain bizare (Harbor Light Monogatari, a Cinderella story which suddenly involves disco, biker gangs, and terrorists). And then there’s Weiß Kreuz Glühen, that rare bird where an improvement in animation from original show to sequel actually hurt the show. But I’ll do a post about that someday.

And for random Japanese junk, I watched the J-Drama ‘Tumbling’, a show about a high school boys’ rhythmic gymnastic team. And it was much better than it really had any right to be, although don’t go calling me a concert to the medium anytime soon.

A top five for the year? There are only three shows which aired this year that I could in good faith put in a list like that. While I enjoyed Fate/Zero quite a bit, much to my surprise, I don’t feel that it warrants top five status. Really, its that there’d be such a huge drop-off in quality from three to four  that I couldn’t do that. So, top three: Mawaru Penguindrum and UN GO tied, Wandering Son right behind.

For a true top five, that of all I watched this year for anime:

  1. Mawaru Penguindrum/UN GO
  2. Red Garden
  3. Wandering Son
  4. Senkou no Night Raid

But even if the entire year had been shit, Mawaru Penguindrum would’ve made the whole thing worthwhile. Because, even with its own flaws, Penguindrum was weirdly wonderful, and was a reminder of the sorts of stories anime can tell, should it so choose to. In a sea of harem trash and dull “comedies”, Penguindrum kicked us in the teeth gleefully from week to week, leaving everyone thrashing about madly, trying to make sense of it all. And we still are trying to, by the sounds of things.

And UN GO. Can’t quite go without at least referencing it, although on it alone the year could not have floated. This may beg why it ties with Penguindrum, but it was worthwhile in a slightly different fashion. I’ve already started re-watching it, although it just concluded, since there are things which flit about just out of my reach that I could catch ahold of if I watch it all more closely spaced. Terrorism and totalitarianism and freedom of thought and the post-9/11 world! For a show produced elsewhere, it felt shockingly American at times, even as it just as often was so thoroughly Japanese.

And there’s something interesting: two shows this year which had a serious consideration of the phenomenon of terrorism and its ramifications for societies or their people, as opposed to it simply being a prop (I’m looking at you, Full Metal Panic, although I cannot fully comment on your “true” sequel).

I hazard to say that Mawaru Penguindrum was an exorcism of the 1995 sarin gas attacks, by the way. And by Ikuhara’s approach to meaning in his works, I would be right, but so would you if you disagree.

And I’ve wandered about a bit. In closing, I’ll just note that if you saw and enjoyed Magi Puella Madoka Magica, you should watch Le Portrait de Petit Cossette (a.k.a. Marina Inoue’s first voice acting gig), as it is the direct ancestor of Madoka Magica. In fact, Homura’s… “house” is almost exactly the same in design as the antiques’ shop in Petit Cossette. It is also the last time Shinbo and Kajiura worked together, and if you close your eyes to listen to the Petit Cossette soundtrack, you’ll hear it immediately. If nothing else, Madoka Magica was the first time in years that Kajiura has turned out a score that isn’t wholly indistinguishable from everything else she’s ever worked on. If you can tell the difference between the Mai-HiME and Pandora Hearts soundtracks, you’re a better person than me.

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2 Responses to 2011 Year in Review

  1. Definitely watch Sayonara no Tsubasa.

    I have no real clue what the fuck Penguindrum was all about and I won’t pretend that I do get it. But man it was sure fun in that stretch towards the end.

  2. Hogart says:

    After all the year-rounders I’ve seen lately, reading this post was like swirling fine wine in my mind. I honestly fear that I don’t remember how to comment in a classy post anymore.The mere mentions of Red Garden and Night Raid were a breath of fresh air in a year where Drossel is lesser-known than Rio, and Madoka gets a perfunctory #1 simply because it was what Endless Eight might have been.

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