Jacquie’s 2012 Year in Review – Top 10 Anime

My favourite anime shows of the year, selected from the titles I watched which finished airing in 2012:

#1.  Fate/Zero – This dramatic telling of the events of the 4th Holy Grail War was a far-superior prequel to the awful Fate/stay night anime. The grand storyline, epic cast of characters, and impressive action scenes made for a thrilling watch.  I found myself being very engrossed in the characters and the story, even though the final outcome was already known.  It was always an agonizing wait between episodes, tempered by the dreaded anticipation that any episode could be the last for characters that I’d come to love.

#2.  Chihayafuru – Endearing characters, great storytelling.  I really cared about Chihaya and Taichi and their team.  The anime even managed to make the old-fashioned card game of Karuta seem exciting.  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the new season in 2013.

#3.  BEELZEBUB – Consistently funny, creative, and good-natured.  There were some duds during its 60-episode run, but they were remarkably few and far in between.  It’s a real shame that this is no longer airing.

#4.  Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi – The sort-of companion piece to Chihayafuru, UtaKoi featured the stories of the 100 poems from the Karuta game told in a way that was reverent and irreverent in equal measure.  The mature, bittersweet love stories really resonated with me.  I didn’t even mind the cart-race/talk-show episode.  Although I did find a few of the stories at the beginning of the second half to be weaker than the rest, the series came to a strong finish at the end.

#5.  Aquarion EVOL – I didn’t have any intention to watch this anime at first, due to the fact that I hadn’t seen the preceding Aquarion works and because I had seen supporting character Zessica’s fanservice-y get-up.  However, I was already watching the other 2 space operas (Moretsu Pirates and Rinne no Lagrange) to varying degrees of enjoyment, or not, respectively; and EVOL was often mentioned alongside those two.  EVOL turned out to be a blast!  Very over-the–top, with humorous fanservice and sexual innuendo (see, I don’t always hate on fanservice; I enjoy it when it’s funny) and a lot of heart.  And Zessica?  She became my favourite character.

#6.  Hakuouki Reimeiroku – I watched this because I also enjoyed the two previous Hakuouki series, of which this is a prequel.  It was a treat to revisit the Shinsengumi members and learn of the events of their early days.  The story as a whole may not have been amazing, and the new insert character was as useless as Chizuru from the original series; but the art, the recurring characters, the setting, and the way the events were based on actual history made the show really appealing to me, and I looked forward to watching it every week.

#7.  Kuroko’s Basketball – Watching this semi-fantastical sports anime reminded me of how I felt when watching the early seasons of BLEACH.  New characters were constantly being introduced as potential rivals for the main team, but they were interesting people, each with distinct personalities, and not necessarily “enemies”.  A new season was recently announced for 2013.  Looking forward to that too.

#8.  My Little Monster (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun) – Ostensibly a romance, but this show was really more about the interactions between a group of friends.  Every episode managed to be entertaining.  Although every character had definite flaws, they came across as likeable people that I wanted to root for.

#9.  Jormungand – A bloody, thought-provoking, action anime about a group led by Koko Hekmatyar, an arms dealer and visionary who dreams of world peace.  The mostly serious subject matter was balanced out by just the right amount of levity to make it an entertaining watch.

#10.  KIDS ON THE SLOPE (Sakamichi no Apollon) – If I never loved this show, I did respect it for the convincing portrayal of its 1960s setting, the jazz music, and the friendship of the lead characters.

Special Categories:

  • Best Comedy (intentional):  BEELZEBUB  (runner-up: Daily lives of high school boys (Danshi koukousei no nichijou))
  • Best Comedy (unintentional):  CODE:BREAKER  (runner-up: GUILTY CROWN)
  • Best OP or ED:  “Gekkou symphonia“, by AKINO & AIKI from bless4 (Aquarion EVOL ED1)

Notable Drops: Because I like to complain, listed below are the otherwise well-reviewed and popular anime series that were not considered for my year-end list because I couldn’t finish them.  Number of episodes watched is in brackets.

  • Rinne no Lagrange (12) – unnecessary fanservice detracted from the story; I just didn’t care about the characters enough to continue watching.
  • Tsuritama (5) – unlikeable characters; it was about fishing.
  • TARI TARI (5) – too sentimental, bad storytelling, bad music.
  • SWORD ART ONLINE (15) – so much wasted potential; wish-fulfillment pandering written with the mentality of a child.
  • Say “I Love You” (7) – irredeemably cliché-ridden; most of the characters were not the sort of people I would want to associate with; seemed to imply that sexual harassment/assault is okay, desirable even, as long as the offender is good-looking and popular.  (Maybe I’m overreacting and this is often sadly true, but I raged.)


2.5 stars (out of 4)

Released 2012

Three teenagers stumble upon an underground cave and encounter something which mysteriously gives them the power of telekinesis.  These are regular boys, not superheroes, and they do not have any exceptional maturity or mental stability to help them handle their newfound “great power”.  We follow them as they experiment with and learn to use their abilities and eventually see the effect they have on the outside world.

There’s the added gimmick of the movie being seen through the lens of a home-video camera and it’s mostly effective and creatively-used, and doesn’t detract from the story.

Coincidentally, CHRONICLE can function as an origin story for the ongoing anime series Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World), which imagines what the world will be like hundreds of years after some of the population acquire telekinesis and become a threat to humanity.  More on that later, maybe…


The Hobbit

File:The Hobbit- An Unexpected Journey.jpeg

3.5 stars

(released 2012)

It’s wonderful to see another beloved Tolkien novel brought to life on the screen under the thoughtful direction of Peter Jackson.  This film is visually, aurally, and tonally continuous with the Lord of the Rings series, although the material tends to be lighter than LOTR (which is consistent with the source material).

Martin Freeman is spot-on as Bilbo Baggins – in fact it’s hard to imagine a better casting choice.  Andy Serkis’ Gollum is simply perfection and the rendering of the “Riddle game” sequence is just like the book come to life (and I mean that in the best way, not that it was just a word-for-word re-creation of the novel).

The concerns about Jackson’s decision to stretch the series out to make a trilogy appear to be unfounded, based on the pacing of this first episode.  Material added in to flesh out the dwarves’ history and to dramatize some of Gandalf’s manoeuvring are entirely appropriate.  Jackson and his writing team have consistently made good choices about adapting the books to the screen, both in terms of what to edit out and what to add in for better movie-story-telling.

A couple of relatively minor complaints:  I saw this film in 3D and 48 frames per second (the way Jackson wants it to be seen) and it definitely was a detriment to the movie-going experience, especially during the indoor scenes.  The lighting seemed artificial and I was acutely aware of camera movements.  The 3D effect made the characters who were in close-up look like they were standing in front of a flat background.  I definitely recommend seeing this in 2D and traditional 24 frames per second.

Also, I was a little disappointed that they did not introduce more new theme songs – I think they only added one new Lonely Mountain theme (which basically replaces the Fellowship theme) and recycled the Shire theme and the Rivendell theme.  I know they wanted to establish continuity with the LOTR films, but I thought hearing so much of the same music was off-putting.

Mid-Autumn 2012 Anime Ranking

How I feel about the anime on my current watch list.  The most recent episode watched is in brackets.  The order of the first four is kind of arbitrary…

01.  Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) (ep.11) – I’m liking the dark, dystopian future setting.  It took me a while to tell the kids apart, but now that I know them better, I’m really interested in their actions and what the consequences of those actions will be.  There’s a lot of artiness and intrigue, and it remains to be seen whether things will come together or make any sense at the end.  For now, I’m happy to be patient and see how things unfold.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

02.  Jormungand (ep.21, or PERFECT ORDER ep.9) – Not many anime will reference quantum physics and super computers, but that’s what the current arc of Jormungand is about!  So far, the show is doing a really good job of fleshing out the members on Koko’s team.  We didn’t get to know them much during the first season, but now their backgrounds are getting some good attention.  Ep.19, about William Nelson’s past, achieved a near-perfect balance between dark, violent material and lighter, comic relief.
(streaming at Funimation)

03.  PSYCHO-PASS (ep.9) – Another brainy anime.  The storytelling is good and I’m enjoying the dark, psychological themes that are being presented.  However, the indignity-to-a-dead-body stuff makes me uncomfortable.  It is meant to be horrifying, but I just have trouble reconciling it with “entertainment”.
(streaming at Funimation)

04.  My Little Monster (ep.11) – This shoujo anime has its share of the usual tropes, but it works because the characters have believable, well-defined personalities.  Also, the textured backgrounds are some of the nicest I’ve ever seen.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

05.  Blast of Tempest (ep.10) – The characters are interesting, as are their interactions with each other.  The show works best when the characters are not quoting Shakespeare, and the music is not overwrought.  Some episodes have been overly expository.  They’re also throwing out a lot plot threads and it remains to be seen whether things will come together or make any sense at the end.  As with Shin Sekai Yori, for now, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

06.  IXION SAGA DT (ep.10) – Deceptively stupid, but actually quite clever, this show often displays more common sense than some of the serious-themed anime that I’m watching.  So far, my favourite character is the villain, Erecpyle Dukakis (yes, ED for short).  Although, after having had his ass kicked twice already by the main character, he’s somewhat more of an underdog than a villain now.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

07.  MAGI (ep.9) – Nice animation; the characters are likeable, complex, and genuinely strong.  Morgiana is a so-much-better female role model than Asuna from SAO, for instance, and new character Sinbad is awesome.  The current story arc is surprisingly balanced and thoughtful, especially considering that the anime seems to be aimed at a younger audience.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

08.  Muv-Luv Alternative: TOTAL ECLIPSE (ep.23) – Looks like the meat of the story is happening.  I won’t mind if there’s less attention on Yuuya’s multinational harem now.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

09.  K (ep.10) – Stylish and nicely animated, but the quality of the story is questionable.  Many of the large cast of characters are not very interesting.  Still, I’m curious to see where they’re going with this.

10.  Space Brothers (ep.36) – Good show overall, but lately it’s been dragging.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

11.  CODE:BREAKER (ep.10) – So bad, it’s good.  And make no mistake, it really is bad: sloppy storytelling and plot developments, annoying and unlikeable protagonists, overdramatic score.  And yet, at the end of the day, it’s kind of fun, even if unintentionally.
(streaming at Funimation)

12.  BTOOOM! (ep.10) – Disturbingly exploitative at times, but otherwise, the battle-royale survival theme works.  This show also has some pretty hard-to-like main characters.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

13.  Kamisama Kiss (ep.10) – Not terribly engrossing, but fine as a light distraction.  Unfortunately, I thought it was a bit more enjoyable before the romantic storyline began.
(streaming at Funimation)

14.  Chu-2 byo demo KOI ga shitai! (ep.10) – I find this show to be tedious and sometimes overly sentimental.  Maybe I’m too far away from my own eighth-grader syndrome phase to properly appreciate it.  Plus, I don’t buy the romantic sub-plot, even though I knew it was coming.  I do give the show credit, though, for being fairly straightforward about the romance instead of dragging it out unnecessarily.  Supporting character Isshiki is the best thing about this anime.  (Dekomori is the worst.)

Recently dropped:  Say “I Love You” (ep.7) – I tried to give it a chance, really I did; otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten this far in.  But I was complaining so uncontrollably after every episode, my family would probably have to take me out back and put me out of my misery if I were to watch any more of it.  Even now, when I see similar tropes used in My Little Monster, but executed so much better, I realize I’m still not done trashing this anime!  Bottom line: I don’t like Mei, I don’t like Yamato, and I’m not rooting for them to get together.
(streaming at Crunchyroll, but who cares?)


3 stars

(released 2012)

Skyfall is a solid entry in the Bond canon with an interesting baddie (Javier Bardem – wow, that guy can act!) and a welcome focus on Judi Dench’s M.  There were some nice bits of humour, which helped to flesh out the relationship between Bond and M.  The last act, involving a shoot-out in an abandoned mansion, seemed a little under-developed (they would really go hide out somewhere and bring no weapons with them?), and I was hoping they would reveal a little more backstory into Bond’s origins.  Still, overall, an entertaining, exciting action flick.