Despite the most popular show of the winter season still incomplete, I’ll go ahead and write my season review for Winter 2011. It’s not like there’ll be any changes to the scores or how they rank when Puella Magi Madoka Magica finishes, so there’s no real point in waiting an undetermined amount of time to pretty much post the same thing, especially with the other nine shows already complete.
Winter 2011 will be known for a number of things to anime/manga fans and followers, but the most notable memory will be the March 11th earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that has devastated Japan. However, the response from within Japan and the rest of the world has been encouraging and we hope that the region can make a swift and safe recovery.
And now back to the anime/manga realm. The Winter Season turned out to be mediocre but several shows climbed as they improved in the latter half of the season while others descended coupling their frustration with dissatisfaction and confusion. The main focus of this season was drama for me, with Wandering Son and Kimi ni Todoke leading the group. I particularly don’t care too much for drama in anime but both shows performed really well with their stories and characters and produced very memorable and enjoyable dramas. There were no real solid comedies this season: Level E was the best comedy this season (no real contest) but it spent too much of its time away from Prince Baka and with less interesting aliens instead. Puella Magi Madoka Magica will be remembered for its originality, its presentation, and the unparalleled response in the anime fandom. It still amazes me how successful PuMaMaMa (the Durarara type name for Madoka) has been, especially with all the discussion and artwork everywhere on the internet. And the rest of the shows will get their mention when I do the rankings.
Along with each anime’s numerical score (between 10-5), I order the anime from my favorite to my least favorite. Included are my favorite characters of each series, as well as my favorite moment. And again, I’ll provide my opinion on the best Art, Characters, Entertainment, Sound, and Story.
Favorite Character: Madoka Kaname
Favorite Moment: Madoka tossing Sayaka’s soul gem off the bridge and making that adorable noise in the sixth episode.
Brain Off – No matter the nature or result Puella Magi Madoka Magica has for a finale, this anime will be one of my all-time favorites. And not just because the series is so popular either, the entire series has been a delight in all respects: art, animation, story, characters, setting, sound, atmosphere, themes, originality, everything. It’s the complete package which is difficult to come by in an anime. Since the very beginning, the show has built up the tension and mystery, revealing new information each time about the mechanics of being a magical girl and the misfortune that pursues these poor girls’ lives. I’ve had a blast trying to figure out what exactly has been going on and what might happen in the future only to find out the very next week everything was off and there’s something new to talk or think about. Easily the best Art and Sound this season. Wonderful job by Shaft.
Favorite Character: Takuto Tsunashi
Favorite Moment: The entire final episode.
Brain On – Star Driver has had the best finale of the winter season (so far) with its exceptional final episode. The intensity of the fighting, the passionate dialogue of the characters, the superb battle animation, and overall presentation helped solidify this anime in second place this season. That and the way the story developed was quite satisfying, especially given the end result. Aside from the finale, the second half of the winter season was entertaining and informative, just what I was hoping for. We learned more about the island, the cybodies, Takuto’s father, and spent some more time examining the love triangle between Takuto, Sugata, and Wako. However, the thing I’ll remember about this anime is the cast of Characters who each brought their own unique individuality to the series in a positive way. I wonder if there’ll be an episode 26 somewhere on the horizon with some sort of epilogue.
Wandering Son (Hourou Musuko) – 9
Favorite Character: Chizuru Sarashina
Favorite Moment: The kareoke scene in the eighth episode.
Brain On – Wandering Son is the biggest surprise of the season for me, considering how well the anime developed the story, the drama, and the characters over the course of a painfully short eleven episode regiment. I began the season not expecting much from the this show aside from it’s stunning visual appeal but the drama kept growing on me over the course of the season. The way the anime built up the tension, through dialogue and background music rather than action, helped keep each episode engaging without there being too much going on screen. In addition to that, the way the show manipulated the tension for comedy was excellent. I think I laughed the hardest out of the whole season during the karaoke scene. It was my favorite Story of the season, too, with how everything turned out in the end and it will be remembered as one of my all-time favorite drama animes. The noitaminA time slot sure has a lot of successful anime.
Favorite Character: Ryu Sanada
Favorite Moment: Kazehaya opening the classroom door in the ninth episode.
Brain On – The result is what matters here. All the misunderstandings and interference during the middle part of this season were repeatitve and unproductive but they helped make the ending result that much more satisfying. Without all the hardships and difficulties in their relationship, the romance in Kimi ni Todoke would be rather bland and uneventful, especially if Sawako and Kazehaya never got over their uncanny shyness for each other. The second half of this season had all the rewarding episodes in it, both regarding the romance and comedy, but I can’t help but wonder why there wasn’t more time spent on the secondary characters like Ayane, Chizuru, and Ryu. Still, Kimi ni Todoke delivered when it needed to and these final few episodes helped make the whole season worth the wait.
Favorite Character: Captain Craft
Favorite Moment: Pretty much anytime Craft and Prince Baka were on screen together.
Brain Off – I always enjoy a strong and consistently funny comedy and Level E was up for the task, except for a few episodes in the middle. It is a tough task to consistently hit my sense of humor but Level E was able to go above and beyond whenever Craft or Prince Baka were on-screen, especially if they were on-screen together. Those well-developed characters had wonderful seiyuu who were able to enhance their jokes and make this the most Entertaining anime of the season. Still, I wish the series had only focused on the Prince and Craft instead of doing some side-stories on other aliens or Earthlings. Nevertheless, Level E is a memorable comedy. I’m glad people recommended it after a few episodes since it turned out to be my favorite comedy of the season and land in the upper half of this season’s rankings. Also, the art style and animation were a nice change of pace compared to what we constantly see in this era of anime.
Favorite Character: Haruna
Favorite Moment: The group’s Tanabata in the seventh episode.
Brain Off – Kore wa Zombie desu ka? really picked up in the second half of the winter season with its actually plot for an anime with considerable amounts of comedy and fanservice. I thought the character development between the two main characters, Ayumu and Eucliwood Hellscythe, was well done, particularly during the final few episodes. I was surprised how the show seemed to promptly drop its comedy and ecchi elements during all the serious episodes but I think it had a positive effect on the series. That was until the final episode which I thought was rather disappointing, considering it was just singing, lame comedy, and fanservice for ~20 minutes. Still, if a second season is made, I’ll definitely mark it down for another go.
Freezing – 7
Favorite Character: Chiffon Fairchild
Favorite Moment: The Nova fight in the final three episodes.
Brain Off – I rather enjoyed the cast of Freezing. It is a shame that they hogged most of the season introducing them and then battling Satellizer for whatever reason instead of spending their time together battling Novas or focusing on their training. Despite the constant abundance of bare breasts and panties, the fanservice never really distracted me during the course of the show, which is always a positive. While the levels of fighting were also consistent between episodes, the amount of bloodshed was not and that was the most disappointing aspect of the anime. Still, it was by no means a failure and was a very enjoyable anime, especially a Brain Off one. I’d be looking forward to a second season should they make one, particularly since they’ve already introduced everyone and can spend more times focusing on the battles between each other, their relationships, and the awesome Novas.
Fractale – 7
Favorite Character: Nessa
Favorite Moment: Anytime Nessa had that big, dumb smile on her face.
Brain On – If Fractale were a 24 episode series, I wonder what it would’ve been like. Being stuck in the noitaminA slot and forced to work with only 11 episodes may have caused it to be rushed and ambiguous. Still, the lack of exploration and adventure leads me to wonder if they’d even include it if it were stretched to fill 24 episodes. Those topics never seemed to be the focus of the series, so that has been and always will be my chief complaint. But regardless about my expectations, the anime just wasn’t that exciting. I never really enjoyed any of the characters besides Nessa. The explanation of the Fractale system was also a little disheartening, never understanding it entirely. And the fascinating and remarkable setting was left untouched. But Fractale did some things well, too. It had some fun moments, like the sixth and seventh episodes, where we got to learn more about the world, its people, and the technology they use and depend on. The animation and seiyuu were well done and the story (what happened between Clain, Phryne, and Nessa) was creative. Even so, I just can’t ignore the high expectations I had for this series mainly going unanswered.
Favorite Character: Kuroko Shirai
Favorite Moment: Last Order and Misaka Imouto talking at the end of the seventeenth episode.
Brain Off – During my Winter 2011 Midseason Review, I complained about how I had trouble figuring out the overall plot and direction the series was going in but still rated it high for its action and comedy. Well, the second half of the season just had too much general disconnection and unexplained plot that it got in the way of my enjoyment with the series. Without seeking help or reading online information, I have no clue what the whole second half of the season was about since it seemed like completely random scenes strung together with our familiar characters fighting someone completely unknown for some random and, again, unconnected reason. It really ruined what seemed like a pleasing final arc for the season and I guess I should blame JC Staff for that poor production. Still, the action and comedy are the reasons why I watch and enjoy Index and those areas were done well. I just don’t enjoy it as well when most of the time I’m trying to comprehend what’s going on and coming up with baseless guesses.
Favorite Character: Chaser John Doe
Favorite Moment: Chaser John Doe’s catgirls, Spica and Albireo
Brain Off – Maybe I got burnt out of JC Staff anime this season because the two I watched this season ended up at the bottom of my list. Regardless, Yumekui is far from a bad anime, it’s just it ended up here because it wasn’t as exciting as all the other ones. Mainly, I think it just isn’t my kind of anime. Yumekui Merry had beautiful environments for each Dream world and lovely designs for each Dream Demon but, aside from that, there wasn’t much else, at least in my eyes. The plot and the characters never grew on me and Merry seemed to lose her edge as the series progressed. It progressed in a direction different than what I had hoped, which helped shift my interest away from this series and into other anime. Still, Yumekui Merry isn’t a bad anime, it’s just not the type of anime I enjoy.
Other notable Winter moments:
Best OP: Fractale
Best ED: Wandering Son
Biggest Surprise: Wandering Son
Biggest Disappointment: To Aru no Majutsu Index II
Best Finale: Star Driver
Most Hated Character: Orito (Kore wa Zombie desu ka?)
And with that, we can close the book (pretty much) on the Winter anime season! I think I’ll get my final reactions and opinions for Madoka when it has aired but for now, it’s onto the Spring anime season. I am very thankful for all the wonderful memories and all the enjoyment this season provided.