Summer 2011 – Season Review

Better late than never, right?  Well, at this point, it might as well be never.  So here it is, the final, all-encompassing review for the Summer 2011 anime season.

First, some general thoughts on the season as a whole.  The season started off well with many shows being impressive and celebrated (Usagi Drop, Mawaru Penguindrum) and others showing signs of great potential and intelligence (No.6, Dantalian no Shoka).  And like every season, there were those who had problems that left you wondering what might have been (Kamisama Dolls, Blood-C).  The season also had many shows continuing from the Spring meaning an opportunity for these anime to explore more of their worlds, complete their likable characters and finish their stories in a proper fashion.  The season ended up with a diverse range of shows from all genres performing greatly, poorly, and a few that turned out to be masterpieces.

The general feel from the season was that of an intelligent or artistic one.  Numerous anime tried to replicate that feeling with their stories, art style, dialogue, and themes, and many succeeded.   Even Nichijou, a comedy anime, had that feel to it sometimes, although it would often turn that feeling into ridiculousness for laughs.  Another reason for this feeling was the aesthetics of the anime this season.  Many anime had gorgeous artwork, scenic backdrops, and attractive character designs.  This season had a high standard for art and animation, especially considering the number of anime produced.  I also was pleased with the cast of characters this season, finding most to be generally pleasant or interesting.  I did find minor female characters like Moeka from Steins;Gate and Masako from Usagi Drop to be particularly fascinating (although it seems not many found the same amazement with them as I did).  The season did well in the entertainment department, too, having several amusing shows and many more memorable scenes, especially in shows that weren’t comedies.  There are no real major complaints for the season.  During the mid-season review, I criticized the stories for this season since most started out weak but they all recovered and accomplished their goals, some outperforming my expectations.  This has likely been the best season of anime this year, although crowning it such is another topic entirely.

Along with each anime’s numerical score (between 10-5 as well as a D [delayed/dropped]), the anime are placed according to how they rank against each other from top to bottom.  Included are my favorite characters of each series, my favorite moment and awards on the best Art, Characters, Entertainment, Sound, and Story.

Steins;Gate – 10

Favorite Character: Kurisu Makise

Favorite Moment: Okabe watching the video from the future in episode 23.

Brain On – Transfixing.  Outstanding.  Brilliant.  Steins;Gate ended up being the best anime of the season and one of my all-time favorites.  The anime featured a dynamic and amazing cast of Characters caught up in an intense story about the effects of time travel and how to save the lives of those around you.  Every episode unveiled a new piece of the mystery, often toying with the tension and creating exciting and engaging drama.  There was always a reason to watch the anime, to see what unpredictable event would happen next.  The artwork, especially the character designs, is lovely and really fit the style and atmosphere of the anime.  The voice acting and music are also worth mentioning, having the best Sound of any anime this season.  There are a few minor complaints with the series, such as the pacing early on and some character episodes, but those really are insignificant since the anime was able to do everything it wanted and needed.  Everything in Steins;Gate worked extremely well and the end-product is nothing short of a true masterpiece.  Absolutely a must watch for any drama, sci-fi, or anime fans out there.

Usagi Drop – 10

Favorite Character: Daikichi Kawachi

Favorite Moment: Rin and Daikichi at the grave with Masako watching in episode 8.

Brain Off – Usagi Drop is one of the most charming and heartwarming animes in recent years.  The simple Story of a compassionate adult reaching out and taking in a young girl with no family turned out to be the best of the season.  There were no action sequences or supernatural events to make it a grandiose or complex, just a modest story showing the day-to-day lives of two people living, learning, and growing together.  And it worked perfectly.  The characters, especially Daikichi and Rin, were exceptional, especially how they worked together.  How they fit in with the story, the setting, and how they played off the other characters were vital to the anime’s realism, message, and success.  I particularly loved the artwork for its allure and simplicity than anything else, complementing the theme of the anime and creating an inviting and engaging atmosphere.  Probably the most important aspect of the anime was how it affected us, the audience.  There were many reflective and introspective moments in the anime, often times when Daikichi realized or learned about something.  There aren’t many anime that can do that.  Overall, Usagi Drop turned out to be exceptionally delightful, natural, and often times amusing and is highly recommended to anyone, even those who aren’t anime fans.

Mawaru Penguindrum – 9

Favorite Character: Kanba Takakura

Favorite Moment: SEIZON SENRYAKU!

Brain Off – From start to the midway point (since this anime is continuing in the Autumn) this anime has been fabulous.  Fabulous Max is more like it because at times, it is also somewhat peculiar.  There are elements in Penguindrum that, on the surface, appear strange and marvelous but they’re a sign of something greater going on underneath.  When something eventful or significant happens on screen, it doesn’t mean much at that moment but it’s a part of a grand picture.  I can’t help but think this anime is operating like clockwork and the final result will be some magnificent display that warrants a celebration.  This anime is working toward something and watching it slowly build itself up is all part of the fun.  Been happy with the characters, especially Kanba and Himari, and am happy that Ringo’s/Shoma’s story has taken a backseat to more interesting developments.  The artwork, as always, has been eye-candy, especially with all those details and colors.  You’d have to dig deep to find any complaints with this series, so let’s leave this piece on a high note and get ready for the second act of this fabulous anime.

Tiger & Bunny – 8

Favorite Character: Kotetsu T. Kaburagi

Favorite Moment: Lunatic killing bitches.

Brain On – Tiger & Bunny turned out to be a tremendous anime and would’ve ranked higher if it weren’t for a few bumps and bruises.  The whole superhero/justice and marketing/corporation theme is evidence to what originality can do for an anime.  It defined Tiger & Bunny throughout the series and made for some interesting stories.  The action and mystery kept the series exciting and lively which really won me over from week to week.  The art and animation, especially the merging of 3-D characters in a 2-D world, was impressive throughout.  However, the quality did dip at a few points in the series but it never reached the levels where it became shameful or laughable.  Kotetsu was an admirable and bold character and truly the only “hero” in the show but the rest of the cast was rather dull and pretty gimmickish.  I did buy into Lunatic and his ideals though and always thought he deserved more screentime.  The biggest flaw with the series was the lack of intelligence that characters had and some inconsistency in the some of the events.  Characters acted irrational at times and certain aspects seemed off but it never was enough to destroy the story, the characters, or the series.  The finale was a bit of an anticlimax, virtually a reset for Kotetsu and Barnaby, but I’m down for a second season whenever it airs.  And compared to the rest of the anime this season, it was one of the stronger and more enjoayble ones.

Nekogami Yaoyorozu – 8

Favorite Character: Mayu

Favorite Moment: Pretty much all of episode 9, when Mayu meet Yuzu.

Brain Off – Easily the best surprise of the season.  Nekogami Yaoyorozu turned out to be a humorous comedy with an amusing cast and some uplifting moments to spare.  This type of anime is always a personal favorite of mine, so when I found out that this anime would be like this, I was thrilled since I had no idea it would be.  The comedy was never hilarious like Nichijou or BakaTest but it did enough, producing countless smiles and plenty of laughs throughout its course.  The cast was uncomplicated and nothing special, although I loved Mayu’s laziness and selfishness around everyone.  They worked extremely well together which greatly helped the comedy, allowed for there to be some emotional stories, and create that friendly atmosphere this anime thrived on.  The art and animation were never strong points but were fine for the easygoing nature.  One of the reasons why this anime ranks higher than all the other comedies and most other anime is that I really appreciated the few background stories the anime had, something I wish more comedies would do.  Two episodes that come to mind are Yuzu’s dreams in the fourth episode and when Mayu met Yuzu in the ninth episode but there were others, too.  Having these cheerful and touching episodes brought new dimensions to the characters and provided a nice contrast to the silly comedy.  These episodes never helped with the comedy but they added some real depth to the characters and the world and I always admire those forgotten details in comedies.  Surprisingly, those brief stories turned out to be stronger than many anime this season, which is almost unreal for an anime of this style.  I’d love to see more of this anime but it was relatively unknown among anime fans and greatly underappreciated.

No.6 – 8

Favorite Character: Karan (Shion’s mother)

Favorite Moment: When Karan sees the wall in the final episode.

Brain On – The anime I have the most conflicting, ambivalent feelings toward this season.  There were parts of No.6 that really blew me away but the execution and finale did the exact opposite.  For starters, it had the best setting of the season with that stark contrast between No.6 and the slums around it.  Shion’s character was comprehensive and complete, making him reasonable (still naïve) and a great lead for this anime, and his dynamic with Nezumi made for some stimulating discussions.  I liked most of the characters in the series, too, especially Karan and Inukashi (Dogkeeper), and found the series to be intelligent.  At least until the finale.  There were many different ideas and concepts bouncing around the series and the story never really seemed coherent besides Shion wanting to save Safu (which didn’t come up until like the 8th episode).  The finale was an absolute disaster and still leaves a bitter reminder of what could’ve been whenever I think about this anime.  I hated Nezumi more than anyone else this season, from his personality to contradictions and all-around assholery.  And the animation was decent but I’ve come to expect more from Bones.  And that’s about it.  Every characteristic of the anime turned out to be something I either loved or hated which is probably why I’m so polarized about this anime.  In the end, it gets a rather generous ranking, although at times I want to rank it below Nichijou.

Nichijou – 8

Favorite Character: Mio Naganohara

Favorite Moment: Any scene that made me laugh uncontrollably, especially the one pictured above.

Brain Off – Probably one of the most improved anime of the season despite its score and ranking.  What began as a hit-or-miss comedy slowly evolved into an excellent and hilarious anime with frequent laughs and memorable moments, definitely the best Entertainment anime of the season. Helping its cause were some unusually high production values, most noticeable in the graceful animation, and an amazing score.  I’m pleased with the improved success-rate with the comedy and enjoyed the second half of this series more than the first.  Not sure if it’s more me adjusting to the style of this series or if the comedy significantly improved.  I was able to form quick opinions of the cast based on their personalities and jokes and formed a few categories which helped determine if I’d like the sketch or not.  Mio, Yukko, Sakurai-sensei, and Nakamura-sensei were my favorite characters and I almost always enjoyed their skits.  Never really cared for anything with Mai, Hakase (Professor), go-soccer, or the airship skits but they did produce some laughs.  Maybe that’s why I was able to enjoy the comedy more since I knew what to expect.  Well, for whatever reason, I really enjoyed this anime.  That absurd style of comedy was exceptional and I’m eager to try any other anime that are similar.

Dantalian no Shoka – 8

Favorite Character: Dalian

Favorite Moment: Whenever Huey and Dalian were on screen in episode 9, the episode in that book with the beautiful art style.

Brain On – Another anime with conflicting feelings but, unlike No.6, most of these feelings were resolved throughout the anime.  I eventually came to accept the episodic content of the series and gave up expecting a central story sometime toward the end and it helped improve the series in my eyes.  But it also lowered my expectations for the series with it.  Huey, although bland and boring at times, was a well-rounded and interesting protagonist and made for some interesting stories, especially going over his past in the eleventh episode.  Dalian was a bit too tsundere for me at the beginning but she eventually grew on me when I realized she was rather compassionate and thoughtful to those around her, especially compared to the two other libraries.  The physical setting would’ve been my favorite of the season but it was underused and underappreciated.  It seemed like they never used the setting to its fullest, another disappointment.  The biggest disappointment would be the lack of a central story, but I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t enjoy the individual stories in most episodes, especially the one with Hal and Flam (episode 6), the storybook (episode 9), and the last 2 episodes.  The artwork was nothing special, except for the episode 9 which was simply phenomenal.  So again, another series with ambivalence for me but with the series being enjoyable overall, it receives a decent score.

Hanasaku Iroha – 8

Favorite Character: Nako Oshimizu

Favorite Moment: When Ohana starts crying at the end of episode 1.

Brain On – In the end, I realize what Hanasaku Iroha wanted to be (and it was able to pull it off) but it’s not what I wanted from it.  There were just too many meaningless episodes and unimportant characters in the series that lengthened the series to show the entire inn and its staff.  Rather, I wanted the series to focus solely on Ohana and a little bit on those around her and be a 12-13 episode anime rather than the 26 episodes we got.  A more concise and focused story on Ohana would’ve made the series better in my eyes.  However, that’s not to say this was a bad series.  The artwork was elegant and beautiful throughout, especially the scenery and cityscapes, and the animation was fluid, earning this the best Art of the season.  The setting, another anime set in rural Japan, pleased me throughout and was used continuously through the story, especially helping heighten the drama and develop the characters.  As for the cast, aside from Nako, Ohana, and Tomoe, I didn’t care for anyone and even hated a few.  Maybe that’s why I thought the series was too long.  And while I enjoyed the central story, I thought the anime should’ve sliced-and-diced the excess fluff.  Again, another point on why I thought the season was too long.  But I realize what the anime wanted to do and why it turned out to be 26 episodes.  It wanted to show the whole inn and everyone in it.  Again, I enjoyed the series and it undeniably earned this score but it had the most flaws for me of all the anime that scored an 8.

Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu II – 7

Favorite Character: Kouta Tsuchiya (Muttsurini/Voyeur)

Favorite Moment: The scene above with a playful, happy Hideyoshi in episode 10.

Brain Off – The second season of BakaTest turned out to be another hysterical comedy, bringing back all the good humor and jokes from the first season and introducing some actual progress in its story.  That style of simple nonsense and absurdity works well with me and I enjoyed its refreshing and relaxing atmosphere from all the dramas and serious anime this season.  But some of the jokes weren’t as funny as I remembered from the first season and some jokes were overexposed and became spoiled, like Himeji’s cooking, Minami’s constant injuring of Yoshii and flat chest jokes, and anything from the Class F Inquisition (for some reason, I think I only enjoy the jokes from the males and the teachers in this series).  With that in mind, I don’t think this season was funnier than the first but it did have more meaningful stories, the one about Minami moving to class and befriending Yoshii being my favorite.  However, this is a comedy and stories like that, even if I like them, cannot replace diminishing humor.  The artwork is vivid and sweet with a brilliant use of colors and effects to give the anime a special and matchless look.  A 7 might seem like a low score but it’s about my average across all anime, which is how I felt about this sequel.  It’s just it wasn’t as strong considering all the other anime this season.

The iDOLM@STER – 6

Favorite Character: Makoto Kikuchi

Favorite Moment: Whenever Makoto is on screen dancing, singing, or kicking ass.

Brain Off – There really isn’t a whole lot to say about Idolmaster as an anime.  It’s pretty much what I expected, a slice-of-life about their professional careers.  There really is no story and no conflict, so everything is straightforward and a bit boring.  Makoto, without a doubt, is my favorite and is the main reason why I continue to watch this anime.  She’s pretty cute, has a great voice, and a positive personality, so what’s not to like?  The rest of the cast are rather lackluster or annoying, often the personification of an anime personality stereotype which dictates everything they do (even Makoto falls into this category, too).  The only ones who I’ve warmed up to after this midway point are Chihaya and Takane. Chiyaha because she’s the most human and actually has problems, both socially and realizing her goal.  Takane, with her personality and behavior, makes me laugh and her voice and looks are better than most of the other idols.  Aside from Makoto, the other bright spot of this anime has been the animation during the dances and concerts.  Most of the art and animation is pretty substandard and sorry throughout the episodes but when the girls are moving and dancing and singing, it becomes extremely complicated and thorough and I’m very happy then.  I always love kinetics and motion in animation and this anime does not disappoint whenever there’s a performance.  It’s a shame there have only been 2 big ones so far since it’s one of my favorite parts of this anime, all those detailed movements and whatnot.  I don’t care for most of the music but it’s a plus since it fits the style and content of the show.  There really isn’t a whole lot going for this anime besides wanting to make fans of the franchise happy but the combination of Makoto and the animation during dances makes me happy.  Hopefully there are more of both during its second half.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée – 6

Favorite Character: Alice Blanche

Favorite Moment: Whenever there was a clash of cultures and both sides exchanged words and ideas (which almost never happened).

Brain Off – Ikoku Meiro no Croisée turned out to be a pleasant, relaxing anime but was never anything special or spectacular either.  It’s nice, heartwarming style and stories made it amusing and watchable but there really was no conclusive ending to this anime.  The stories about Yune, Claude, the Gallery, Alice, and Camille were just kinda left there without any sort of ending point after being slowly developed throughout the season.  If they make another season to make a conclusion, that’s great but it felt lazy or careless to not wrap everything up before going on a break.  I liked the characters Alice and Yune the best and their stories were the most interesting, so whenever they were on screen, especially together, I enjoyed the anime.  Claude’s attitude got a little annoying how he always had a short temper and readily forgave anything as soon as he cooled down.  His annoying behavior became readily predictable and he felt more like a machine following commands than a human at the end of the series.  And as the season progressed, it felt like the format of episodes began repeating itself which became a little tiresome toward the last few episodes.  Ikoku Meiro no Croisée turned out to be a fine anime but nothing exciting, fascinating or remarkable.

Ao no Exorcist – 6

Favorite Character: Shiemi Moriyama

Favorite Moment: When Rin explorered his new school in episode 3.

Brain Off – My interest in the series burned out with that poorly directed and extremely rushed episode 16 and that lame fight that started episode 17.  I don’t care for fights that are won in a few seconds, a problem which has always plagued shounen-action anime for me.  Since then I’ve become unhappy with how the anime has progressed and am thinking this is where the anime diverged from the manga and made its own anime original ending.  Well, consider me not a fan of this.  For the most part or rather the first three-quarters of the series, I enjoyed the action and thought the story was refreshing and interesting.  The cast was fine, and for the most part still is, but some characters grew on my nerves, especially Konekomaru and Shima.  The art and animation steadily grew worse as the series continued but it picked up at the most crucial moments in the series.  Maybe I’m just really bitter about how the series changed during those few episodes.  To me, it’s like the series took a nosedive and never recovered to its original level of awesomeness and quality.  It’s a shame it ended this way since I thought this was one of the better shounen-action anime I’ve watched in recent years.

Kamisama Dolls – 6

Favorite Character: Kuuko Karahari

Favorite Moment: Whenever Mahiru’s doll (Magatsuhi) sang its song.

Brain Off – I never hated Kamisama Dolls, I just never respected it.  It had some cool ideas and concepts but the series was overloaded with them and could never focus on a central story.  I think the show wanted to have Kyouhei overthrow the current order in the village but there was no real progress toward that idea, especially when they kept throwing new characters in the series and went to the beach for no reason.  Instead we had some entertaining fights between the people and their kakashi but with no real meaning or gratification.  I suppose it has a second season so that it can start and finish a story since virtually every idea and theme they started was never finished.  The cast was mediocre, a collection of your favorite anime stereotypes like the jealous and childish imouto, the angsty yet misunderstood teenage male, the large-breasted romantic interest, and so on and so forth.  The art and animation turned out to be pretty subpar but it quickly became a point of interest of mine with those outrageous, cartoony faces everyone had (screenshot above is a perfect example).  If you couldn’t tell by now, I loved that part.  It really helped me enjoy the anime by breaking up the uninteresting seriousness of scenes and characters and make it worth a few laughs or smiles, even if the jokes were stale or simply unfunny.  For me, Kamisama Dolls turned out to be more of a comedy with some good ideas and original concepts but was unfortunately tarnished by poor execution and directing.

Blood-C – 5

Favorite Character: Watanuki Dog (or whatever he was)

Favorite Moment: When Watanuki Dog started talking/acting like Watanuki.

Brain On – A catastrophe from start to finish.  Blood-C came across as a schizophrenic and perplexed anime that wasn’t sure what it wanted to do, let alone how to do it.  From my understanding, the anime wanted to be a story where Saya was tested to see if she could change.  But most of it was Saya being confused and fighting terrifying monsters with no real direction or clear progress.  Watching Saya go to school and kill shit got tiring after the third episode but they did it the entire season.  Eventually the big twist came at the end where everything was revealed, the moment the series tried to justify all that happened, but it came across as completely ridiculous, implausible, and careless.  They had a few hints toward this but it felt like they pulled their out of their ass in the final episodes.  It tried to be a serious anime, featuring unrestricted gore and a “deep” message, but the product we got was confusing and disappointingly executed.  I don’t often say this about an anime but I hated the entire main cast since they were so shallow and idiotic and the explanation at the end did little to satisfy me with their behavior and personalities.  The artwork and the fights were the two lone accomplishments in the series and maybe the music, although the same 2 tracks did get tiring after being repeated every episode.  But this anime turned out to be a colossal regret and an excellent waste of time.

 

Notable Summer moments:

Best OP: Tiger&Bunny (barely beat out Dantalian no Shoka and Steins;Gate)

Best ED: Double J (very catchy song, great animation, and only 20 seconds)

Biggest Surprise: Nekogami Yaoyorozu

Biggest Disappointment: Blood C

Best Finale: Steins;Gate

Most Hated Character: Nezumi [Rat] (No.6)

And that’s it for the Summer anime season.  The Autumn one is well underway so check back to see how well the first full week, and every week thereafter, of Autumn anime went and episodic posts on Shinryaku!? Ika Musume S2, Guilty Crown, and Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam.

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  1. #1 by zammael on October 16, 2011 - 7:06 PM

    Good post.

    I rank Steins;Gate as the best of the lot as well. Almost as good as the immortal Magica Madoka. Did not follow Mawaru Penguindrum till a few weeks ago, and it might prove to be even better. Absolutely loved Bunny/Usagi Drop, although I felt it finished way too early. A second season in the offing, i hope?

    Didn’t enjoy anything else. Dantalian No Shoka blew its potential (rich characters and worldbuilding) and never pushed its boundaries, content with episodic storytelling. Hated Tiger & Bunny — it lacked ambition. Didn’t watch the rest of them.

    • #2 by avvesione on October 17, 2011 - 9:43 PM

      Usagi Drop ended at about the halfway point in its manga, so a second season is expected sometime in the future. If you don’t mind spoilers a lot has been said about it on the internet already when fans of the anime flocked to the manga and read it from start to end. All I’ll say here is that I’ve heard mixed reviews.

      Also, glad to hear you thought Steins;Gate was the best, too. Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy Dantalian no Shoka or Tiger & Bunny. For DnS, it never lived up to its potential but I enjoyed the series and thought most stories were interesting and fun. I loved Tiger & Bunny mainly for the protagonist Kotetsu. He’d be in my top 3 favorite characters for this season and I wish more anime had characters like him.

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