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Best(Subjectively): Top 5, etc

January has scarcely begun and I’m already running behind my intended blogging schedule. Only Natsume has aired so far, but I really need to accelerate my pace or I will end up behind even on one of my favorite franchises. To that end, I’m scrapping my plans for crazy categories to place my 2011 picks in and just rattling off a standard top 5 list. This year was fairly average in terms of quality shows; nothing completely blew me away, but there were many immensely watchable and enjoyable shows. Once again keep in mind that these are completely subjective, encompass only what I’ve seen, and only shows that are not still on-going. (Warning: uncensored spoilers!)

Best Show I Didn’t See: Madoka Magica

I still have this in my backlog, and from all the positive support surrounding it via DVD sales and end-of-year praise, I definitely regret not checking it out as it aired. I did watch the first episode; it didn’t impress me terribly much and my overall distaste for magical girl shows made me hesitant to follow it. Even hearing it touted as a “complete revolution in the genre” did not really sway me. Alas, I also actually know the big spoiler of the show too, making me even more reluctant to start it.Considering its high praise, I will eventually check it out, but it will unfortunately not find its rightful place on this countdown.

Honorable mention goes to Wandering Son, a relic of quality Noitamina of days gone by.

#5: Level E

At the bottom of the list we have my favorite comedy of the year, a delightful troll fest courtesy of Prince Baka of Dogura. I didn’t initially know what to make of the show after the first two episodes, but once Baka sprung the trap at the end of the first arc I was completely sold. While many complain about the Color Rangers, I actually really enjoyed their story arc as it really showed how Baka could mess with people other than our core cast. The ending was also rock solid, with the master troll finally meeting his match in his future wife. This may not have been a non-stop chuckle fest, but it had some long well-executed gags to greatly supplement its tight character humor. It also has a rocking intro song.

#4: Tiger and Bunny

My hipster sense almost made me exclude this excellent title, based on its widespread American fanbase, but it really is something special. It might not have been the deepest plotted show or even had the greatest wrap-up; it did however have the greatest character of the year: Kotetsu “Wild Tiger” Kaburagi. Making an aging veteran hero the protagonist was certainly an inspired move, and Kotetsu oozes plucky charm throughout the entire show. Naively optimistic, at times to the point of stupidity, Tiger never had a dull moment and made this show a memorable trip. Coupled with a non-conventional superhero premise and some intense cross-demographic appeal, you have a genuinely appealing show that makes up for its lack of originality with some real charm. Expect to see this on Adult Swim in the near future.

#3: Steins;Gate

If Steins;Gate had ended in December, I would have no doubt placed it #1 as it ended quite memorably. My thoughts have cooled a little bit, and I still consider it a damn good show. A lot has been said about this little gem, but I guess I’ll echo them. It has compelling characters, a lead that genuinely grows and makes us care him, and a dramatic time-travel plot. While the time travel wasn’t always paradox free, its internal logic was solid enough to not detract from the powerful character interactions and genuine pathos. There were a lot of brilliant moments and lines, with episode 23 taking the take as best of the bunch. Considering its visual novel roots and its predecessor Chaos;Head’s dismal mediocrity, this show is even more impressive. I will admit it did drag towards the middle, but the big spoiler about changing fate definitely more than made up for all those pacing problems.

Kurisu and Okabe for best couple of the year!

#2: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shirani

Winner for biggest mouthful and best drama, we have a delightful journey of childhood friends alienated by tragedy. This was above all a beautiful character study, with the supernatural element touching the story very lightly. I do like how they put the doubt into our minds as to whether Menma is truly there or not, making the revelation of her reality that much more impactful. There is a lot of subtlety to the story and characters, albeit the tear storm in the last few episodes did veer a little bit off into the truly melodramatic. I knew the gut wrenching ending was coming, but Ano Hana so masterfully steered itself to that conclusion that I still ended up a little shocked at the power of the closing scenes. This is a flower I certainly won’t forget.

#1: Mawaru Penguindrum

I certainly understand that this may be a controversial pick, but anyone that is even faintly familiar with my tastes will understand that this is an easy slam dunk for me. Although not comprehensively more powerful on an emotional level as Ano Hana, Penguindrum was a show I was more emotionally invested into. Ever since the tone shift in the later half, I could not wait for the next episode of abstract allegorical characterization, and it was definitely the show I enjoyed discussing the most with my friends. As I admitted in my wrap-up post, MP certainly faltered near its conclusion, unable to truly realize its grandiose vision, but the ride was thrilling enough, the Survival Strategies brilliant enough, and the metaphorical visuals splendid enough to give it the top slot. All the main cast, especially the Takakuras, fell fleshed out and developed, despite the ridiculous amount of abstractness used to achieve it. Ikuhara really meshed some good visuals with some creative storytelling; Mawaru Penguindrum is a gem, although perhaps a few loose threads away from a true masterpiece. Listen, you lowlifes that will never amount to anything! Watch the Penguindrum!


8: Welcome to the NHK

I originally stumbled on this show purely by accident after browsing a now defunct anime streaming site; intrigued by this phenomenon of hikikomori I had never heard of before, I delved right in and was thoroughly rewarded. Welcome to the NHK was a deep, dark, and tortuous examination of the bleakness of the human psyche, the perfect cure to my penchant for the psychological.

NHK is setup thusly: Satou is a 20-some year old college dropout, unemployed and unwilling to leave his apartment. He is a tried and true hikikomori, a reclusive NEET. He lives a meaningless, delusion-filled life until he encounters Misaki, a high-school girl who thinks she can cure his “disease.” As she tries to make Satou turn a new leaf, we learn that Satou’s psychological problems run quite deep as he latches on to new addictive fixations over and over again; Misaki meanwhile is gradually revealed to be not quite the sanctimonious angel she would have Satou think she is. We meet some other characters from Satou’s past on his journey, each demented in their own idiosyncratic and perplexing way.

This show is pure black comedy, one that almost makes you feel guilty for laughing. Each of Satou’s ludicrous flights of fancy is terribly amusing, but also terribly telling of his abnormal mental state. Satou, despite being the focus of the story, is also irredeemably unlikeable. He is an obsessive pervert, lazy to the utmost, and a huge coward, unable and willing to help anyone, not even himself. Though he does slowly get over some of his issues, he remains at heart a selfish human being and even his act of “heroism” in the final act seems more selfish delusion than well intentioned aid. That’s exactly what is great about him as a character. He isn’t some good guy that has fallen on bad times: he is a gray-morality whose bad lot in life is mostly his own doing. He’s an eerily realistic portrait of an actual human being, a thoroughly disturbed albeit. While jeering in schadenfreude at the way he stumbles through his wreck of a life, we as the viewer can’t help but see how close any of us are to his madness, a chilling and weighty thought.

The entire cast is similarly mentally troubled, every one colored to some degree or other by alienation from the world around them, trapped in their own little spirals of despair that they desperately want to escape.  None of them get as much limelight as Satou, though each of them inevitably snatches our main character up in their various unhealthy obsessions. From MMO’s to hentai games to get-rich quick schemes to suicide pacts, Satou gets roped into them all, at times being the only voice of reason in a sea of howling madness.

My only real gripe about this show is the conclusion. It feels off key and definitely anime specific. Not to be a downer, but it’s much too optimistic, making it feel awkward with the rest of the material. I’m going to be slightly vague to avoid spoilers here, but I’ll try to articulate my thoughts without specifics. All the negative buildup seems like it should lead to some much darker conclusion. Instead, everyone seems to much too readily cope with their issues, especially Misaki, whose problems were explored much too briefly. The very end is optimistic and vague, unwilling to resolve the Satou/Misaki relationship and ending a pretty ambiguous note. The strong character studies that preceded it, make me forgive it to a certain extent. I mean, it’s still here on my top 10 list. It is enough, however, to push it down here to bottom reaches of the list.


2012, Preemptive Best of

Thinking about the previous year had me pondering all the awesome new projects slated for the coming year, especially a certain movie project that is infinitely exciting to me. There are some pretty cool movie projections and adaptations that I have been hoping for for many years. Thus I present the top 5 titles I am most excited for in 2012; hopefully they don’t let me down too much. These are predominantly OVAs/movies as those are the big budget beasts that impress the most.

5- Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki

Also known as the new Mamoru Hosoda movie, this is a title I am excited for mostly on the back of Hosoda’s stunning track record with Summer Wars and Girl who Leaped through Time. It is therefore the most speculative of my expectations, but still well worth the bottom slot here.

4- Hellsing OVA 9

As a huge Hellsing fan, the delays in the previous OVAs really irked me and 8 ended on a fairly large cliffhanger. Stunning animation coupled with the trademark Hellsing hyper-violence make me look forward to each year’s new Hellsing release, gleefully. The only thing keeping this from being higher up in my list is the fact that I have already read the manga and know exactly the contents of each OVA. That doesn’t prevent me from loving it though.

3- Zetman

I’ve been saying that this amazing dark hero manga would shine as an anime adaptation for a while now; apparently enough source material is out for a series to finally get humming. While it may not be the most original story, the bleakness of the plot really drew me in. Add in some seinen flavor, awesome art, and dark heroes for a truly promising recipe. I just hope that they don’t have to make up an awful anime only ending.

2- Evangelion 3.0

I just watched 2.0 which is actually what prompted me to make this list in the first place. I wasn’t entirely sold on the Eva reboot after the first movie as it turned out to be a shot for shot (almost) remake of the first few episodes of the original series, albeit with some greatly updated graphics. After watching 2.0 I was completely blown away with the new material and overall much more mature approach to the tropes predominant in the first series. Shinji is such a stronger character, and that makes the franchise as whole that much more satisfying. Considering the ridiculous ending to 2, I eagerly expect the third installment, though it is kind of mind blowing that two more movies worth of events can happen after that. Also, that Asuka preview is simply ridiculously awesome looking.

1- Berserk Golden Age

Berserk is by far my favorite manga series and the original anime left me with a terrible hollow feeling upon its ending. When I heard rumors of an OVA reboot, I was absurdly excited and now that it’s confirmed I’m even more so. I hope that these movies indicated a plan to adapt all of the manga material in addition to the prequel. For now though, I am blissfully happy at even only the prequels being adapted. Berserk is so goddamn amazing.

Top 10 Honest Trailers Videos - TopX Ep. 36 |

Top 10 Honest Trailers Videos - TopX Ep. 36
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Top 10 Honest Trailers Videos - TopX Ep. 36 |