The year of 2012 saw the debut and broadcasting of well over a hundred television anime and even more in the forms of movies and OVAs. Over the past dozen months, I’ve spent countless hours watching these anime and documenting my thoughts, opinions and evaluations on each and every show. Now with the year coming to a close, it’s time to summarize this year of anime with two simple lists: one on the top 12 characters of the year and the other on the top 12 favorite anime of the year.
Just a quick note before beginning: the list is just on the television anime of the year and does not include any movies or OVAs. Furthermore, it includes any anime that aired over the year regardless of when it began or when it ends, so some of the anime from last year’s review will be appearing again.
Top 12 Characters of 2012:
Honorable Mention: Misawa-chan (Sengoku Collection)
Had she played a larger role or appeared in more than half-an-episode, Misawa-chan would’ve placed somewhere on the list. Unfortunately for her and for the rest of us, she didn’t, but leaving this malevolent, sandbox-hording toddler off the list would be unfitting for such an exceptional rival. And anyone who watched the twenty-third episode of Sengoku Collection knows just how awesome of a character she really is.
12. Mayaka Ibara (Hyouka)
Mayaka had a strict, serious personality that kept the Classic Literature club composed but also possessed a refreshing, calming smile that reassured her friends and made her one of the most agreeable characters to watch in Hyouka. Her willingness to help her friends was insightful of her character, showing how compassionate and resourceful she is. However, her most remarkable attribute is how she held everyone to an incredibly high standard and was always harsh on herself, even if it was unfair. Still, we were able to understand what was going on in her mind and why she was so easily conflicted and difficult despite being a wonderful friend. Watching her think and act in Hyouka was somewhat striking but always enjoyable.
11. Nanami Momozono (Kamisama Kiss)
Whenever Nanami smiles, my heart slowly melts away because her smiles are always so genuine, honest, sincere and encouraging. It’s rare to ever see a smile like that in an anime, but you see it every time with Nanami. Her considerate and optimistic personality keep her afloat amid the chaos and mayhem that dictates her life as she is now an emotional teenager yearning for a fulfilling romance while also serving as the Earth deity at a neglected shrine. It’s amazing how she tackles her hardships with such energy and enthusiasm and smiles, yes that smile again, even through thick and thin. Now if only more anime characters were cheerful like her.
10. Nanami Takatsuki (Dog Days’)
Although most of the personalities and characters in Dog Days’ share similar attributes, a cast of energetic, enthusiastic and sociable friends who are all connected, Nanami shows some admirable depth as she is portrayed as an antagonist by being Shinku’s superior rival. Even though she’s still friendly and supportive of everyone in the series, she is able to take on any challenge and do her best, even if it’s against her friends or when she knows she’s likely to lose a battle. She also seems to adore the world more than any other character and immerses herself in the culture, too, always smiling and enjoying activities with her friends. Not only that, but she’s immune to the rather shallow romance around Shinku and is hinted at being the only female pervert in the series. Whenever Nanami is around, Dog Days becomes much, much better.
9. Kukuru Anrakutei (Joshiraku)
Kukuru was always the odd-one-out in Joshiraku given her incredibly bizarre and often depressing personality. However, it was because of this and her role in the comedy anime that made her an absolute wonder. Kukuru was often portrayed as the craziest one in Joshiraku and was able to benefit greatly from her zany, unique act. Her quiet, well-mannered but disheartening personality contrasted greatly with the general theme of the anime and often caused all the characters to rally around her or away from her in skits. When she was secondary in the skits, she often would provide insightful information or provide complimentary humor. However, her role always produced smiles or laughs and she quickly became the most memorable character in this delightful comedy.
8. Kona “Frau” Furugoori (Robotics;Notes)
Frau is fascinating character well beyond the surface of her eccentric, unconventional, and uncanny personality. Although she’s always joking around with her new friends, making references to otaku or internet humor mid-conversation or mid-sentence, this is only the exterior of her character. Within this shell is an emotionally-fragile, confused, and isolated teenage girl who has never experienced a true family, instead being raised by the computers, and is searching for her missing mother. Her quest and frail personality, one that lacks much in the way of social skills, shows what Frau really is and her humorous, wild outer self is how she hides her delicate side so she no longer exposes herself to weakness, pain, or embarrassment. This duality, of what she is and how she presents herself to others, is genuinely remarkable, and it highlights the depth and complexity of her character. Not only that, but she’s easily the funniest and cutest character in Robotic;Notes, too, which is quite an accomplishment itself.
7. Lucius Modestus (Thermae Romae)
Unlike a vast majority of anime which assume that you show a brainy character but pulling out random trivia or reciting poems or ideas, Thermae Romae shows to us that Lucius is genuinely an intelligent and resourceful man. Every episode showed him attempting to learn and understand modern bathing technologies and then trying to attempt recreating them in ancient Rome. It shows us how he learns, how he thinks and how he finds success through his inspiration. Not only that, but it demonstrations his dedication and innovation for something he feels passionate about, too. Often times, characters feel flat or lifeless when describing what they feel obsessive about, leading them to feel one-dimensional, but Lucius is so well developed that we can understand his love and enthusiasm of bathing based on how he approaches it. It’s like Lucius is the antithesis, the complete opposite of one-dimensional, poorly written anime characters given how we came to understand and appreciate his character. If only every anime could develop characters like Thermae Romae did for Lucius.
6. Houtarou Oreki (Hyouka)
What makes Houtarou such an astonishing character is not only because he’s a lethargic, indifferent but genius cynic who enjoys conserving his energy and emotions (that’d be enough to make this list), but because of how he breaks his personal philosophy to assist his friends. Even though he remains committed to his ways throughout Hyouka, and often times he cites his reason for helping as the path of spending the least amount of energy, Houtarou shows his concerns for others though his actions and satisfying their curiosities. Sure, he only does it after he can no longer tolerate their constant harassment, but he continues to spend time with his friends even though it requires him to spend his time and energy in ways against his personal belief. Not only that, but Houtarou’s straightforward and sarcastic nature made him a delight around all these happy, sociable and sincere characters.
5. Deishu Kaiki (Nisemonogatari)
Sophisticated and suave, clever and perceptive, influential and manipulating, Kaiki is an ideal character and everything you want from a villain. His personality is refined and civil, placing a rather enjoyable and deceiving layer over his malevolent interior. He uses himself to con the money out of everyone he sees; like a successful businessman, he takes what he has (knowledge and experience with the oddities) and turns it into a profit. But what really makes his character fascinating is how significant he revealed himself to be throughout the series while always remaining in the shadows. In fact, he’s connected to Senjougahara, Karen and Tsukihi, Kanbaru, Nadeko, Oshino, Yozuru, and many more. Not only that, but he’s seemingly caused everyone around him harm due to his principles and philosophy without any regrets. The fact is he’s steadfast in his ways and exists only to make a profit without feeling any hints remorse, distress or a need to change for his actions. If only more villains could be like Kaiki.
4. Yoshitsugu Ootani (Sengoku Collection)
The story of Yoshitsugu’s life is a heartbreaking one, of adversity and despair, but the story of her character is of strength, perseverance and hope. Unsatisfied with her hollow and isolated life, Yoshitsugu began to search for external sources of luck in order to improve her life, though time and time again, they slowly morphed into misfortune that returned her to her original, depressed state. It wasn’t until the final tragedy that she found how her life was an inspiration to others, how they found strength in her. It was through this reflection that she began to find confidence, determination, and a purpose in herself and realized that what she was missing was within her this entire time. Unfortunately, we were only able to see Yoshitsugu for one episode, but what we saw from her and her story goes well beyond what we see from most characters in an entire series.
3. Dio Brando (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Dio Brando is exactly what a villain should be: a perfect mirror for which to use to contrast the hero against. Dio is the antithesis of Jonathan, a selfish, cruel, and menacing murderer striving for his own personal gain at the expense of everyone around him. But what completes Dio is how we learn about his motives and his purpose in life, a history usually only reserved for protagonists. By documenting the challenges and destitution of his life, we’re able to witness his transformation as a merciless ruffian into a truly wicked and malicious being. For such a malevolent antagonist to receive such meticulous and complete detail to his character is honestly remarkable, especially since most villains in anime are flat, one-dimensional obstacles with funny costumes or gimmicks. Instead, Dio is a personality, an ego born through catastrophe and suffering, and does he part to elevate and enrich the story and characters, especially the protagonist, of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
2. Naoto Shirogane (Persona 4 the Animation)
Although Naoto did not emerge until the latter stages of Persona 4, her character was fundamental and impressive in the anime. Her role in the anime did not appear until there was a sudden shift to resolving the murder mystery, in which she became the dominant female character and the only one besides Yuu making progress in the case. Her intellect and rationale were essential in moving the plot along and revealed through her astute thoughts and actions. Beyond that, however, Naoto was a conflicted character, adopting boyish mannerisms and dressing as one believing that to be required as a respectable young detective. As Persona 4 progressed, we saw her grow out of her troubled self, going from a shy, introverted lass, confused and shamed by her age and sex, to an amiable, confident and outgoing girl who is comfortable and happy with herself and her life. As she matured, her character significantly improved and become a highlight in the Persona 4 anime.
1. Watashi (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita)
Watashi is just about the perfect character. Her delightful smile and pleasant demeanor, along with her charmingly cute appearance, lead her to be popular with humans and fairies alike. In addition, her intelligence and awareness allowed her to find success as a mediator between the two civilizations. However, these were nothing more than tools she used to hide her laziness and distrustful nature, one that only wanted to bake sweets at home rather than going on outrageous misadventures. But within this was another layer, a core of Watashi, that housed a sensitive girl wanting to be friends and happy with those around her. Throughout Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, we saw fragments of Watashi’s development on specific areas, learning from her mistakes and understanding the world around her. Not only was the anime both entertaining and informative, but we witnessed the maturity of Watashi through various points in time and how she became such an enjoyable and cynical protagonist. Her character is exceptionally remarkable and inspiring, both in terms of her amusing personality but also in terms of her phenomenal growth, too.
Favorite OP and ED of 2012:
OP: Sengoku Collection (back into my world):
After finishing half the series, the Opening changes to this stimulating video with an uplifting and rousing song. Not only that but the first time you see the faces of the next 13 generals is moving and sensational as you know we’ll come to learn who they are and why their stories are meaningful. One final outstanding touch is how is also mixes in all the old generals, too, which really holds all the individual characters and stories of this anime together as an outstanding and incredible anime.
ED: Kill Me Baby (Futari no Kimochi no Honto no Himitsu [The True Secret of Our Feelings]):
Yup, that dance. That dance… what can I say about that dance? But more than that dance is the song, too, which, even after looping it constantly for hours on end, becomes more catchy and cute with each passing play-through. But the captivating and adorable dance animation is what really makes this the most memorable and outstanding Ending of the year. It is a true masterpiece of what anime Endings should be.
Top 12 Anime of 2012:
Honorable Mention: Rinne no Lagrange S1
Before the second season lowered Rinne no Lagrange’s score below the threshold, this was one of my favorite anime of this year. The main trio of girls was amusing and engaging, the mecha animation/battles were pleasant to watch, the soundtrack was phenomenal and the series had fun as its top priority. It was entertaining to watch with a decent story which is why it deserves a mention though it didn’t meet the criteria.
12. Kamisama Kiss
An enchanting tale of a teenage girl becoming a local deity, Kamisama Kiss is a delightful anime that relies on genuine humor and an endearing romance to narrate its story. Even though it seemed like it would be another monotonous, indistinguishable shoujo romantic comedy, Kamisama Kiss possessed unquestionable charm in is comedy and in its lead character, Nanami Momozono, which promptly made it one of the most entertaining and surprising anime of the year.
11. Tasogare Otome x Amnesia
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is a standing example of how superb directing and phenomenal visuals play a fundamental role in enhancing and improving an anime. The use of conflicting colors with varying lighting and the diversity in cinematographic techniques made this anime an aesthetic masterpiece, one in which the illustrations were meaningful and expressive. The characters were magnetic and enjoyable, too, each playing a significant role in the story’s mystery and not just a part of the humorous comedy. The setting and mystery were positive aspects, too. Despite being passionately dissatisfied and disgruntled with the finale, I found it to still be one of my favorites of 2012.
Another example of how comedy and characters will always leave me satisfied, the magnetic cast of Joshiraku and its nonsensical, random humor won me over rather quickly and easily. A comedy of this caliber is always fulfilling by my standards, so I found Joshiraku to be an amusing experience. An added bonus were the exploratory segments where the girls wandered around the boroughs of Tokyo and examined, explained and critiqued the various beloved landmarks of this metropolis. Not only were they somewhat educations, but the contrasting and pleasant nature of these segments felt both rewarding and relaxing, as an ideal break between the skits of heavy and random comedy.
Tsuritama found its success in developing the friendship between four teenage boys, showing their triumph over their own personal challenges, and doing so with its unexpectedly detailed and charming art style. Many of the establishing shots, shots of the setting at the start of a scene to provide context or meaning, featured gorgeously and thoroughly detailed environments full of vibrant and vivid colors. Every member of the main quartet started out as either as annoying or a jerk, but each grew into a respectable and likable character before too long. How they overcame their problems was detailed very well in the anime, showing how they’ve matured and how their friends played essential roles. It’s rare to ever see that in an anime, let alone four times with four characters. The plot was a bit crazy, too, but in that fun kind of crazy way that just felt appropriate for what Tsuritama was.
8. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Smashing moderation and rationality square in their boring, old faces, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is remarkable in how exaggerated and theatrical it is but that’s what makes it so satisfying and enjoyable. The characters, the fights, the comedy, too; everything in JJBA is done to the extreme. Not only that, but it’s done extremely well, too, with a calculated approach to find that ideal high-point where it’s not doing too much or too little, but is just right. The characters, especially Jonathan and Dio, have been thoroughly developed and examined throughout and we’re going throught he process again with Joseph for the second half. The use of erratic and contradictory colors during dramatic scenes has been a phenomenal touch on the visuals of the anime, too. Just, everything about this anime is done masterfully and it has been outstanding and entertaining to watch.
7. Sakamichi no Apollon
With a setting as passionate and distinctive as the 1960s as a harbor of clashing cultures, Sakamichi no Apollon earned its way onto this list through its dazzling use of friendship and music as constant themes through growing together and growing apart. Although the story and romances had a few regrettable decisions and melodramatic outcomes, the overall anime was solid with its complex and expressive characters taking charge. Friendship and music played integrals roles which were performed effectively throughout, especially with such a terrific soundtrack as we had with this anime. The setting was a bit underused given its potential, wishing to see more about how the time and location affected the story and characters, but it ended up being a favorite for this year.
The thrilling story of Psycho-Pass examines the life of a rookie detective in a futuristic, encompassing metropolis setting with applied psychology, synchronization, and social order are topics of discussion. The themes that the anime explores are somber and heavy, done through a rather grim and painful lens, too, showing the perplexity and suffering of Akane. But this is a controlled chaos that makes every story meaningful where it shows her closely mature in this world and allow us to understand and experience the setting. The use of the setting in the anime has been influential, too, and that dirty dystopian metropolis feeling is an absolute favorite.
5. Persona 4 the Animation
Persona 4 was a versatile and complete anime, featuring components of just about every genre from mystery to comedy to drama to action to adventure to even slice-of-life. Not only that but the characters were ridiculous and vibrant, not to mention unique and fully developed, bringing a certain vitality and delight to the story. And though the ending was rushed and the animation quality substandard at times, I found this anime to be both excellent as a stimulating, thoughtful anime and as a charming entertainment anime throughout.
Hyouka finds its success in its quartet of fascinating and mesmerizing characters. Each of the central characters faced their own strengths and flaws throughout the anime and gradually changed throughout in order to improve themselves as people and as friends. The characterization was brilliant, much like the visuals of Hyouka. The illustrations featured an unparalleled quality, featuring picturesque scenery and backgrounds for which to set the characters and mysteries in, and their motions and energy was expressed through seamless and flawless animation. Sometimes the mysteries were rather trivial or shallow, but the experience was always precise, reflective and rewarding, both for us and for the characters. Truly an astonishing experience.
Blending a sports drama with shoujo romance and adding in heavy doses of legitimate comedy, Chihayafuru is an exceptional anime. Every member of this magnificent and meaningful cast saw their diverse interests explored and their characters developed to show that they were more than just karuta players and that they were distinctive, expressive, and amiable people. Matches of karuta were frequently dramatic and intense, creating an enchanting but stressed atmosphere. The comedy and romance were emphasized at appropriate times, giving the anime a comforting, heartfelt and genuine feeling. It is a complete anime, performing excellently in every measurable category and is quite possibly my favorite josei anime of all-time.
2. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimasthita was an enchanting, charming anime that toyed with the subjects of humanity and civilization in a rural, dystopian setting through its exceptional and distinguished protagonist. It dissected each topic with surgical care, using its characters to explore various themes and matters with critical and humorous results. Everything that was critiques was either heavy or depressing but masked with a lighthearted approach of using elves and comedy to soften each episode. There’s been quite a number of analyses on this anime, on its characters, and on its episodes which shows just how meaningful and fascinating this anime was. Not only that but the art and soundtrack were remarkable, too, creating a delightful palate of sounds and colors for which to display each story.
1. Sengoku Collection
The Sengoku Collection is not a story but a journey. It is not linear but multidirectional. Not an anime to watch but an anime to experience. Yes, the Sengoku Collection is undoubtedly the top anime this year through its remarkable cast of characters, its dedication to innovative and expressive storytelling, and its ability to conjure a diversity of emotions from its audience. The forgotten art of storytelling was revived in this illustrious anime, demonstrating modest stories effectively with charisma and resolve. The characters were all an amusing and intriguing bunch, with every episode displaying their incredible personalities and showing how their existence positively impacts the lives of others around them. And though some episodes were less than stellar, this anime featured numerous episodes that were beyond extraordinary and sensational. This is easily the best anime of 2012.