Spring 2011 – Season Review

With all the Spring finales having finished and the Summer anime season starting briskly right behind, it’s about time to recollect all that anime that aired during the past three months and see how they fared.  Yes, it’s time for the Spring 2011 Season Review for the 12+ series I watched.  Below will be some quick reviews and evaluations comparing some of the very best and most memorable to a series I just could not finish despite having lofty hopes for.

The spring anime season, as a whole, bundled success with disappointment for a pretty decent season.  Some series soared above the rest with their storytelling, characters, and production values, while others stagnated and sank in a quagmire of dashed hopes and shattered dreams.  Aside from the three anime I passionately loved and the two that were disappointing at best, the other seven mostly did well, were enjoyable, and made this spring a well-rounded anime season.  In addition to that, I also watched several short animations, too, which were all four minutes or under each episode. Fireball Charming, Suzy’s Zoo Daisuki Witzy, and Fujilog (never found it translated) were all amusing little shorts that had some cute and funny moments but were too minimal to write much about.  And as always, one series that I put an oversized, red X on my viewing chart before the season starts but ends up being watched anyway was Fujilog this season.

Overall, most anime didn’t really change their scores from the mid-season review but most improved over the course of the season leaving it on a higher note than what I felt midway through the season.  That typically happens because finales usually leave me feeling better about an anime, once everything is all wrapped up and concluded.  Unless of course there are gaping holes in the plot that seriously damage the story of the entire series.  That or the finale is rushed like an overweight child finishing the mile-run after the school bell has rung and everyone wants to just go home rather than have a decent conclusion.  Thankfully, this season, none of the anime fell into those latter categories, although I wish some finales did more.  Then again, don’t we all for the series we love?

Along with each anime’s numerical score (between 10-5 as well as a D [delayed/dropped]), 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.

[C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – 9

Favorite Character: Masakaki

Favorite Moment: The final battle in episode eleven.

Brain On – C was not perfect but it did enough to claim the top spot for the season in my opinion.  While there was some fogginess over certain details in the series, I felt the storytelling did more than enough to present an engaging series.  The concepts and presentation were stimulating for our minds, trying to uncover all the mysteries and symbolism in the series and figuring out what exactly Kimimaro could do to save his country’s and his own futures.  The anime did have problems with the fights, which never fit in well with all the serious themes in the series and sometimes the art and animation felt subpart, especially during the middle episodes.  The final fight really helped me forget about both flaws since it was the best example of animation and cinematography, I felt, for the entire season, and the fight had authentic meaning behind it.

Steins;Gate – 9

Favorite Character: Okabe Rintarou

Favorite Moment: The end to the first episode, where the elevator opened and Kurisu began to glance over at the camera.  Either that or the end of the ninth episode.

Brain On – Steins;Gate has enriched itself since the mid-season since it has shifted from discovering and using time-travel to dealing with its unregulated consequences and developing each character around time-travel, too.  All these mysteries and twists and, with the mid-series climax now providing much desired action, it comes as no surprise that I find Steins;Gate to be the highest Entertainment of any anime this past season.  Additionally, the Characters have been worked on more and they continue to become more interesting and better overall, especially making Moeka, Faris, and Ruka more than one-dimensional characters who have their ‘thing’ and that’s it.  The pacing has been a tad bit slow for what I expected but I’m sure everything will be fine in the end.  The series seems to be more content with creating unanswered mysteries that we eventually forget but that might be because it assists in the confusion and chaos that Steins;Gate seems to thrive off of.  I’m glad its continuing during the summer and am looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.  Hopefully the opening sequence remains unchanged as the season change unlike the trees outside.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai – 9

Favorite Character: Baruko “Anaru” Anjou

Favorite Moment: Launching the firework in episode ten.

Brain On – I can still remember back before the season began when I thought this would end up being some sort of romance/love-triangle/harem anime whose story revolved around helping a hikikomori mature socially that would waste the efforts of an excellent production staff producing a beautiful anime.  I couldn’t be happier that I was wrong about everything.  AnoHana had the best Story of the season, providing an unparalleled examination of how the lives of five friends were affected by a major event ten years prior.  The storytelling provided something new each episode, both regarding the overall plot and a little something for each character, and eventually built itself to the climax with the firework scene in the tenth episode.  The artwork was absolutely beautiful and the ending song was the best of the season.  What kept it from reaching a 10 are the romance and the lack of enough flashbacks.  Some of the romance elements I dreaded from the before the season started were present in the series and irked me a bit.  I also wished there were more flashbacks to when everyone was a kid since, I felt, those were some of the most significant and interesting scenes in the entire series and they could’ve used those to provide more background on the current relationships of each character.  Nevertheless, this anime was the biggest surprise of the season for me and might end up being the most memorable of the season.

Hanasaku Iroha – 8

Favorite Character: Ohana Matsumae

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

Brain Off – It turns out Hanasaku Iroha is a slice-of-life story rather than a coming-of-age story, even with the mid-season climax focusing on Ohana handling issues with her mother and Ko.  However, I don’t mind the episodic stories in Hanasaku Iroha and definitely prefer to see Ohana working at the inn each episode rather than at school.  The anime has done a great job keeping the setting original for the anime, which might actually be my favorite aspect of the series.  The Art is still the best of the season, which should be no surprise.  I’m starting to buy into the story a little more but I figure the only coming-of-age part will happen around episode 20 or 21 when Ohana has to decide between the inn (her current life) or Ko (her old life).  Nako has really improved as a character, from one who I disliked due to her clichéd shy stereotype to a more outgoing, helpful, and open character.  She’s my second favorite character behind Ohana and ahead of Tomoe.  I hope the anime does steer away from its episodic nature in the summer and have a central storyline that builds until the anime reaches a satisfying finale.

Tiger & Bunny – 8

Favorite Character: Kotetsu T. Kaburagi (Wild Tiger)

Favorite Moment: When Tiger visited the NEXT academy full of people with worthless abilities in the eighth episode.  And Tiger was doing his best to be nice to all of them.

Brain On – Another anime that turned out to be less than what I expected.  Regardless of my expectations, Tiger & Bunny is another quality anime which featured the best character relationship of this season.  Watching Tiger and Barnaby work together, going from complete opposites to an effective team, is an example of proper development for interpersonal relationships in anime.  Maybe I’d like romance in animes if they progressed like what Tiger & Bunny did.  All the heroes are likeable characters and have minor backstories which help show their life beyond being a hero, which I enjoyed, even if the episodes were mediocre.  The animation is still breathtaking and makes all the action scenes a gift to watch.  I felt like the Ouroboros arc felt a little substandard compared to the first few episodes but it’s over and now onto Lunatic which should be a much more interesting nemesis.  Looking forward to watching this anime in the summer.

Nichijou – 8

Favorite Character: Mio Naganohara

Favorite Moment: Mio dressing up as the Daifuku in episode eight.

Brain Off – Probably the best example of a hit-or-miss comedy anime I’ve ever seen.  Every segment either falls into one of two categories, either I laugh or I don’t.  There is no middle option here, either the joke is hilarious or worthless.  More often than not, I end up enjoying whatever joke happens but there’s always a handful each episode that leave me unsatisfied.  Actually, the best aspect of the show is not the humor, which is typically my favorite part of comedy anime.  The production values overshadow any other element of the anime making it an enjoyable anime to watch, even if certain jokes drag on way too long and end up with a weak punch-line.  The music in this anime is my favorite for the spring season and the seiyuu do a great job of portraying the chaos in most scenes.  Sound-wise, it’s the best of the season.  I’m not sure how I feel about Nano joining the girls at school now but it will give the series something new to work with for another season.  Hopefully the segments with Sakamoto and the Professor don’t suffer as a result.

Dog Days – 7

Favorite Character: Leonmichelle Galette des Rois

Favorite Moment: Anytime that Leonmichelle was awesome, so pretty much whenever she was on screen.

Brain Off – Dog Days was the exact personification of fun for this anime.  From beginning to end, Dog Days made ‘having fun’ as its top priority and did just that.  Without having anything too serious presented in its storyline, the anime was able to focus on the characters having a good time, fighting in mock-battles, singing in concerts, and just playing around with each other.  As a result, Dog Days accomplished what it set out to do by making an entertaining and peaceful anime to watch.  And as such, it never really did anything spectacular either, which is why I scored it where it is.  The anime was awfully clichéd and predictable over the course of the season and the art, animation, and story were pedestrian when compared to the other anime this season.  It never got to the point where I felt bored with the anime but there were some dull moments in the anime.  I felt like the pacing was way off at the beginning of the anime but it corrected itself and had one of the best finales of the season, saving enough time to conclude everything and leave the series open for another season in the future.  An enjoyable anime if you’re looking for something calm and fun.

Maria Holic Alive – 7

Favorite Character: Matsurika

Favorite Moment: Jokes when Kanako played the straight-man, like when everyone brought their card games over on that rainy afternoon in episode two.

Brain Off – This never really lived up to the untouchable expectations I set out for it.  I loved the first season of Maria Holic but for whatever reason, this one never seemed to recreate the charm and comedy that the first season depicted so well.  But when you put it as an anime by itself, it gets some fairly decent grades.  This season of Maria Holic had some humorous moments, interesting episodes, and was a worthwhile comedy.  The art and direction by Shaft were great, helping keep the anime a visual success.  And a staple of Maria Holic are the wonderful cast of characters who help keep the show going even when there aren’t gags in the current scenes.  But for some reason, it just felt like there was something missing from the show the entire season.  I can’t figure it out but the anime never really felt complete from start to finish and it’s not a feeling of wanting more episodes.  Well, whatever.  This anime turned out to be a great comedy, even if it never lived up to the expectations I had after watching the first season of Maria Holic.

Softenni – 7

Favorite Character: Kotone Sawanatsu

Favorite Moment: The time spent at Shidou’s inn that went from episode eight to nine.

Brain Off – In my mind, Softenni had two distinct halves to its season that split around the time of their practice match with Akadama Middle School in the sixth episode.  Before that match, I really disliked the series: the comedy was lame or clichéd, the characters were all stereotypical, the fanservice was a waste of time, and there was an extreme absence of tennis for an anime revolving around a soft tennis club.  By the time the second half rolled around, all aspects of the series improved.  It began to transform into a fun and relaxing anime to watch, especially since the girls began playing tennis more frequently and were doing other silly things that were entertaining to watch.  I felt the anime became enjoyable to watch then with some scenes being down-right hilarious.  The art and animation are really simple and enough to keep tennis matches watchable.  Softenni’s story really isn’t remarkable at all, especially since their main goal was nowhere near close to being finished, but the episodic nature of this anime helped with the comedy and fanservice that it will probably be remembered for.  If you like a healthy combo of comedy and fanservice, this anime should be perfect for you.  Just be careful since the first five episodes are pretty dreadful.

Ao no Exorcist – 7

Favorite Character: Rin Okumura

Favorite Moment: When Rin explored his new school in the third episode.

Brain Off – Okay, I’m starting to get a little tired of the filler episodes, like the cooking, cait sith, and beach episodes, but the overall storyline still interests me.  The fighting and action in Ao no Exorcist are its best characteristics and have no disappointed in the second half.  The same can’t be said for the comedy which seems to have gotten worse since the first couple of episodes.  The shounen-style idealism has gotten to me a little bit but nothing to the point of other anime where it becomes a negative rather than something I can simply ignore.  The animation and artwork has been fine and I do like when the style changes for certain jokes.  The main issue has been the filler episodes which have disrupted the story and seem completely unnecessary at this point.  Another problem I have with the series is that there really has been no character development outside of Rin, Shiemi, and Izumo, leaving most of the cast feeling fairly one-dimensional and uninteresting.  The series is continuing over the summer and there is potential to improve, which is always a good sign, but I have a feeling we may see more filler episodes over the summer than we did during the spring.

Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – 6

Favorite Character: Maekawa

Favorite Moment: Launching the water rockets into the sky in episode eight.

Brain Off – I’ll start off by saying the anime has improved since the mid-season review, enough where at points I really enjoyed the episodes.  And I no longer hate Meme, especially after the eighth episode (I feel indifferent toward her now).  The artwork, direction, animation, and music are my favorite aspects of this anime and are the main reason why I continue watching it.  Then again, I say that about virtually all Shaft anime.  The writing has made from some witty conversations, which are probably the funniest part of the anime.  And that’s about it for praise from me.  I still don’t like any of the characters or the stories, which is why the anime scores and ranks where it does.  Makoto is still bland and uneventful, Erio is way too shy for me to take seriously, and Ryuuko and Meme are still annoying when they’re trying to be cute but coming across as tiresome and ridiculous.  You can see why Maekawa is the only one I like: she has a brain.  Her cool and constructive attitude helps, too.  The harem-type set-up is almost always a negative in anime and this series is no exception.  The anime was a pleasure to watch, like most Shaft anime are, but I never got into the story or the characters, so I never really enjoyed the anime like I’m sure most were able to do.

Deadman Wonderland – D (Delayed/Dropped)

Favorite Character: Kasuga Kyouko

Favorite Moment: Whenever Ganta got the shit beat out of him.

Brain Off – I’ve watched seven episodes of Deadman Wonderland and have been thinking about dropping it since the about the fourth one.  This anime has been a huge disappointment considering I bought into the hype at the beginning of the season.  My chief complaints with this series are those appalling fights.  No one wants to watch scenes where people just stand around and have their blood attack each other.  And in standard, clichéd shounen style, too, where the main character gets beat-up to the point of almost dying and then beats the bad guy with one, simple attack and then everything is okay.  Those two fights were beyond boring and have to be some of the worst I’ve seen in an anime.  The series also tries too hard to be graphic and cruel which just comes across as silly and senseless, quickly reaching the point where all the gore and deaths lose their meaning and become commonplace like Ganta’s crying.  I don’t like any of the characters, mainly with how they conduct themselves around others, but I do like their appearance, so that’s a plus.  Deadman Wonderland could’ve done a lot more with its unique setting, an aspect I still like, but it seemed to lose focus when the series moved onto the whole Carnival Corpse matches.  I doubt I’ll ever finish this anime but for now, it’s simply delayed, meaning it is behind a bunch of another anime that are waiting in my anime queue.

Other notable Spring moments:

Best OP: Steins;Gate

Best ED: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Biggest Surprise: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Boku-tachi wa Mada Shiranai

Biggest Disappointment: Deadman Wonderland

Best Finale: [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control

Most Hated Character: Ganta (Deadman Wonderland)

The season ended up with many memorable and wonderful anime and a few that ended in frustration.  It seemed I enjoyed the dramas more than the comedies this season, if not only for the story but for the characters, artwork, and music as well.  That’s not the say I didn’t enjoy any of the comedies; they fit in nicely to break up all the seriousness of the dramas and keep the season entertaining and amusing.  The action animes seemed to take a step back as the season went on, which appears to be the only negative aspect of the second half of the Spring season.  And now that it’s over, I can say this season was actually pretty great.

And now onto the Summer anime season!

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