The Illogicalzen Top Twelve Anime of 2012
December 25, 2012 8 Comments
It appears to be that time of the year where many bloggers begin to list their favourite anime and make lists that may differ wildly from each other while containing a few common links. I didn’t do this last year, partly because I wasn’t really as involved with anime blogging as I am now, but this year shall be different! I have to admit that I don’t really believe in lists, finding them too restrictive and forcing you into picking your favourite, but for lack of a better format, and because I am taking part in Kidd’s Ani-Bloggers Choice Awards I shall have to come up with a list and an order for my favourite anime for the year. But, even thought they will be in order, these anime are essentially equal for me since I enjoyed them for different reasons and at different times, and in all cases there were points where they didn’t quite work as well. But, before I get into the list proper there are a few honourable mentions, all series that I enjoyed but weren’t quite good enough to make onto my Top Twelve List for a variety of reasons.
K is a beautiful and wonderfully stylised series, full of spectacular backdrops and a brilliant use of camera angles, music and sound, it does however have numerous faults, and chief among them is its story or lack thereof. The problem with K is that there is no discernible story other than numerous gangs attempting to capture Shiro due to a video showing him shooting a particularly well known and loved gang member. That the series is set in an alternative universe where psychic powers exist and various kings’ battle it out for control of Tokyo is a nice setting, but once again means very little in the grand scheme of things. In recent weeks we have slowly been given enough information to understand why Shiro was being chased, while also learning about Weisman The Silver King and the part he plays in this whole set of circumstances. K is easily the most stylish and beautiful series of the season and arguably the year, but this lack of a discernible story has meant that it can’t be in my top list. It is a series that quickly became one where you just sit back and watch as psychics on skateboards and random naked cat girls appeared and ran amok, knowing that none of it made any sense. It’s ridiculous, but still incredibly enjoyable to watch.
Senki Zesshou Symphogear:
Senki Zesshou Symphogear was a truly stupid series, one that started showing the death of the central protagonist Hibiki and then quickly jumping to a concert in the past. The madness unfolded as the series main idols Tsubasa and Kanade fight the Noise, an alien race apparently bent on annihilating humanity with the power of song and huge weapons. The series was effectively based around the death of Kanade and the crazy, revenge fuelled Tsubasa, with Hibiki in tow as the central, but occasionally useless protagonist. That the central villain was also one of their helpers and appeared to have a big problem with the moon simply added the icing on the cake. The idea that Fine out protagonist served go and was somehow responsible for the Tower or Babel and subsequent aftermath, that her apparent betrayal of god and humanity is because she believes that only through pain can everyone be united was as ludicrous as it was brilliant. Symphogear was a series with everything turned up to eleven, only to decide that this wasn’t good enough and went searching for something higher, a new plain of existence where the number ‘twelve’ exists. It was really stupid, utterly ridiculous, but also brilliant in every respect, and because of this it didn’t make it onto my eventual list.
Jormungand is a good series, one with great characters and a fascinating look into the mind of an arms dealer. Koko Hekmatyr has to be one of the most ambiguous characters of the year, someone who acts like a child one moment, but is utterly ruthless the next. Her relationship with Jonah has been one of the highlights of both series, with the characters growing closer as each episode unfolded. Some of the best episodes were one-off story arcs where Koko and the gang had to deal with the inevitable problems of being an arms dealer. This doesn’t however mean that the overarching story involving Koko’s grand plan ‘Jormungand’ isn’t interesting, but at its heart the series excelled at these smaller stories. It’s a great series, but not one of my favourites.
Sankarea was a brilliant series charting the life of Chihiro, a high school boy with a fetish for zombies that is so extreme he ends up turning his dead cat and even the local ojou-sama into one. At its heart it was a story about the problems with family life, with Sanka Rea the stories titular character attempting to run away from a domineering and clearly disturbed father who attempts to control her every waking moment. Danichirou her father is portrayed as some sort of Ancient Greek god with absolute control over her life and an obsession with Rea that ultimately leads to her death. The relationship that Rea and Chihiro have is a particularly fascinating and also highly complicated one, with Chihiro’s obsession with zombies taking over at times and squashing the growing affection that he feels for her. To finally see Chihiro acknowledge that he growing feelings for Rea weren’t because of her zombie nature was a wonderful moment, equalled by Rea taking control of her life and freeing herself from the chains that bound her. That this whole series was overshadowed by the idea that Rea was attracted to Chihiro partly because of her zombie nature and that she may lose it and attack him at any moment added another layer of depth to an already good anime. There is, however one major problem with this series and that is it’s ending, or more accurately, the absence of one. Instead of finishing the series off properly with episode twelve, another important arc starts to be finished with eventual OVA’s, a move that really disappointed and annoyed me. This alone meant that a series I greatly enjoyed was ruined because of what appears to be a cynical attitude to its audience and a cheap way of selling Blu-Ray Discs.
Top Twelve Anime of 2012:
Number 12 – Sukitte Ii na yo:
Sukitte Ii na yo is a wonderful romance series that takes the best bits of shoujo while leaving out the senseless melodrama that many other series fall prey to. At its centre is the relationship between Mei and Yamato, two characters who have had to deal with the problems in their past and learn to live with them and move on. Mei in particular is a fascinating character and fits into what appears to be a growing trend in shoujo and broader romance stories of female protagonists who aren’t simply waiting for the Prince to sweep them off of their feet. The determination with which she faces all her obstacles is fascinating and wonderful to watch, with Mei doing as much to help Yamato as he does for her. The strength and determination that Mei shows throughout the series comes back to help her, with all the character whom she has stood up for or confronted about their own problems inevitably become a part of her ever growing social group. A wonderful shoujo series, that despite the clearly evidence that it is a shoujo has become one of my favourite anime of the year.
Number 11 – Sakamichi no Apollon:
This was a fascinating series mixing the cool sound of the 60s with deeper political and ethnic elements that explore some of the more difficult parts of 1960s Japan. The chemistry between the central characters of Sentarou, Ritsuko and Kaoru really made this series a joy to watch. Sentarou and Kaoru were both fascinating characters that were in part held captive by their pasts and the expectations that they had to live with and live up to. The relationship between Yurika and Junichi was also a wonderful moment and helped to demonstrate how restrictive certain aspects of Japanese society was. That they were the only proper couple in the entire series with their arc ending happily, although with certain problems that were obviously ahead of them further reinforced why this series was so good. The highlight of the series however was the numerous jam sessions and essentially everything to do with jazz and its ability to bring people together. The only real issue came at the end, with the story ending on a rather ambiguous note that slightly spoiled what had come before.
Number 10 – Binbougami Ga!:
Binbougami Ga is a wonderful series full of great humour and fascinating characters. The central duo of Ichiko and Momiji worked perfectly and provided a stable base that allowed the humour and other characters to flow and do their work. Some people criticised the series for adding too much drama, but for me the drama and problems that Ichiko inevitably had to deal with only further strengthened Binbougami Ga as a series. To me it needed the drama to flesh out Ichiko’s character and create a wonderful story about incredibly unlikeable characters and the madness that they get up to every day. The humour was great as well, with numerous references to other anime and parts of Japanese culture. That Hanazawa Kana, a voice actor normally given the quiet roles in anime was able to bring out such a powerful voice for Ichiko became one of the highlights of the series for me and helped to demonstrate that she is capable of far more than her usual, slightly introverted roles.
Number 9 – Rinne no Lagrange:
I am not the biggest fan of mecha or robot anime, finding them largely dull generally too serious, there are however exceptions to this rule, with Rinne no Lagrange being one of them. The robots, whole important to the overall narrative never took over from the great characters that this series introduced. Madoka, Muginami and Lan were wonderful characters with their own eccentricities and curiosities; it was truly wonderful watching their daily lives and the problems that they faced right up until the end. What were particularly fascinating were the numerous problems that Lan and Muginami in particular had to face, with their rival kingdoms constantly attempting to use their newfound power to wipe each other out. The ambiguous nature of the central robots or ‘Vox’, along with their place within the broader galaxy reinforced why I loved the series. You never quite knew who were the ‘bad guys’, with both sides demonstrating that they had good reasons to fight while simultaneously showing the wider world their own intransigence and foolishness. It was a wonderful mecha series exemplified by Madoka’s first time in the Vox and her German Suplex finishing move. After all, who needs guns, swords and weapons of mass destruction when you know a few wrestling moves?
Number 8 – Chihayafuru:
Oh Chihaya, how oblivious and dense can you be? The answer is very, with Chihaya as the central character who is so obsessed with Karuta that she cant even notice the two incredibly handsome boys who are after her affections. I have never been a fan of sports anime finding them largely dull and given over to the ludicrous with the same sorts of problems that long running Shounen anime have. Chihayafuru is one of the few exceptions, largely because the sport in question, Karuta is a particularly fascinating one. Furthermore, the interactions between the characters, coupled with Chihaya’s beauty along with her complete lack of common sense made this series a joy to watch and I am looking forward to the second season.
Number 7 – Hyouka:
Hyouka was a wonderful if misunderstood series. At first many people seemed to be disappointed since they may have been expecting a serious detective series with the central characters acting out a Sherlock Holmes style role. Instead KyoAni presented us with a series about the numerous ways with which information and ideas can be interpreted and reinterpreted to fit in with your own worldview. The central premise of Hyouka is one of the numerous interpretations that a mystery can have, along with the notion that in reality whatever answer is presented will always be subjective and tied to the background of the person giving it. The mysteries presented to us in Hyouka may be considered benign or inconsequential, lacking the over-arching and often sinister nature of other mystery anime. As a series Hyouka is not concerned with solving these mysteries, but instead focuses on their presentation and the multiple interpretations that are given by the central characters. Each character brings with them a clear set of ideals and goals, ones that are encapsulated in their understanding and interpretations of the mysteries that they are presented with. Furthermore, it was the central characters of Oreki, Chitanda, Mayaka and Satoshi that moved the story forward, with each character really coming into their own during the second half and in particular the school festival arc. However, it was the central pairing of Oreki and Chitanda that really caught my attention, their relationship was not one of fiery emotions, but was instead far subtler. The final moments when Oreki apparently confessed to Chitanda only for us to realise it was a daydream perfectly summed up why their relationship was so wonderful to watch. They were incredibly close, so close that words seemed to be unnecessary, with each other’s emotions and feelings conveyed through simply gestures and acknowledgments. Hyouka was a wonderfully animated series with brilliant characters and a fascinating story.
Number 6 – Girls und Panzer:
Who ever thought that girls taking part in battles with tanks would be a wonderfully exciting and enjoyable series to watch? I admit to approaching this series with caution partly because I didn’t honestly know what to expect. I was immediately pulled in however, with the entire notion of ‘Sensha-do’ as somehow inherently feminine as fascinating and weird. But as a series it works wonderfully, and as we follow Oara school on their quest for victory the series became increasingly fun to watch. The current highlight for me has to be when Oarai fought Pravda as Pravda went to battle while singing Katyusha. It is a wonderful series and I dearly hope it gets a second season, because it has really got me hooked. Also, naming the English after tea blends was a stroke of genius.
Number 5 – Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai:
A wonderful series that focussed on a fascinating cast and an equally fascinating idea in the form of ‘Chuunibyou’ and the effects that it can have on those who supposedly ‘suffer’ from it. Throughout the series the notion of what Chuunibyou is and whether or not its dangerous became increasingly problematic and complicated, with the delusions of Rikka taking on more importance as the series progressed. At its centre it was about the relationship between Rikka, a Chuunibyou who keeps searching for the Unseen Horizon and Yuuta, a supposedly ‘ex-Chuunibyou’ who put far more effort into being normal than Rikka seemed to put into her own imaginary world. Their relationship, along with the crazy characters that surrounded them really made the series worth watching.
Number 4 – Mouretsu Uchuu Kaizoku:
I loved Mouretsu even when others dismissed it as stupid and largely pointless. Over the course of the series we saw multiple sides to the people we know as space pirates; they are outlaws, smugglers, but also performers, and hold the ability to be a significant power in the galaxy and perhaps universe. They are feared precisely because they lived on the margins of society in Mouretsu and through their various types of work were able to move between gaps in the law. The Letter of Marque is the clearest indication that the greater powers in the galaxy wish to control and harness the power of these space pirates. Ultimately many pirates have succumbed to the easy life of a travelling performer, preferring to stage the performances for the benefit of rich cruise passengers rather than attempt something more dangerous, something only a true pirate may even consider. We have seen how Marika and the Bentenmaru are bound in by the Letter of Marque to carry out specific tasks and jobs every month to maintain they legal position within the Umi no Akeboshi star system, and yet there was always something different about Marika. She knew about and fully understood the power of the Letter of Marque, and because of this was never fully controlled by it, simply using it as a convenient way to allow her and the Bentenmaru freedom to do what they wanted. Marika, Chiaki and every other character in the series were great to watch, with Mouretsu Uchuu Kaizoku producing a fascinating space adventure that was part high school series and part space opera.
Number 3 – Ano Natsu de Matteru:
Ano Natsu de Matteru was always going to be compared to Onegai Teacher, not least because both series were produced by the same team of people and involved the sudden appearance of a beautiful, redheaded alien wearing glasses. Regardless of these similarities Ano Natsu de Matteru has become one of my favourite series, introducing fascinating characters and a wonderful setting. It is a driven by the characters themselves and the relationships between them – watching Kanna’s ineffectual attempts to catch Kaito’s eye for example was as wonderful as it was sad. One thing I particularly liked about Ano Natsu was the way it dealt with the eventual confession and subsequent aftermath that ensued. Rather than have a ‘loser’ we are left with the notion that these characters are now mature enough to accept what has happened and move on with their lives while remaining good friends. We did see drama, but it never really fell into the realms of melodrama, and at no point did it take over the series. The ending felt a little rushed in places as if they really wanted a thirteenth episode to really finish things off, but it still remains one of my favourite finales of the year and easily the most emotional.
Number 2 – Tasogare Otome x Amnesia:
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia has been a series about friendship and the acceptance of your own darkness. It was a series about how an innocent meeting between two different people can change the way they look at the world forever. Between them they were the light and the dark in the series, with Yuuko being used in places as a metaphor for peoples inability to truly accept their own dark sides, as if it would destroy them. Her fear of the emotions and feelings that she felt during her final moments set of a chain of events that filled Seikyou Academy with ghost stories and supernatural phenomenon. She was so afraid of her own darkness and the negative emotions that were associated with it, that Yuuko pushed it away, creating shadow Yuuko. The relationship between Teiichi and Yuuko was central and wonderful to watch, with Teiichi able to accept everything about Yuuko and finally allow her to accept her own past and darkness. It was partly described as a horror series, something that meant many people unfairly suggested that it was a failure. It is a series with horror themes, but it was never one designed to scare you, rather the horror elements helped to focus the audiences attention on the destructive nature of these stories and the way they are interpreted. This series was expertly crafted with a wonderful script story and characters, the resolution, while slightly odd felt right, showing how two people can be drawn together and change their lives and their fate. It was an emotional story at times, but throughout we had characters that were capable of showing us the importance of accepting our own pain and fear. By doing so we can become whole, but by pushing it away we are in danger of creating something terrible through the repression of the darkness that may in someway inhabit us all. Yuuko, through her meeting with Teiichi is able to overcome her own darkness and live a life filled with playful joy, and the series ending feels like it is no less than these characters deserve.
Number 1 – Aquarion EVOL:
It is hard to work out where I should start with Aquarion EVOL because it was a series so full of brilliance that anything I say will likely miss out something important. At its heart this series is an incredibly serious story about a war between Earth and Altea, only it isn’t, because there is almost nothing serious about this series. Everything about Aquarion EVOL is silly, from its orgasmic Gattai to Andy describing Mix’s breasts as ‘Big Bangs’, the series is almost one big parody of the giant robot genre. The brilliant of EVOL however is how all of this is portrayed, with the characters playing everything dead straight rather than fall into the clear trap of slapstick parody. By taking what they say seriously the series manages to make fun of the genre and itself while still producing an incredibly enjoyable and entertaining show for all. It is very hard to really think of something to talk about since there is literally too much, however, one of the standout performances has to be Fujiwara Keiji as Fudo Zen the supreme commander of Neo-DEVA. His philosophical speeches about donuts, ants and bananas will remain some of the most memorable in anime, that he dresses like a pirate captain further enhances the brilliance that is Fudo Zen. However, despite all these eccentricities and silliness, Aquarion EVOL is at its heart a wonderfully told story about a love that has crossed 24,000 years, with great characters that really make the show worth watching.