Despite being months overdue and embarrassingly late, the review for the Winter 2012 anime season is at long last completed. Though these anime have long since concluded and become a fragment of our cherished memories, there should be closure for these shows and that’s what this comprehensive review hopes to accomplish. Come, let’s take a moment to reexamine, reanalyze, and reflect on the anime that composed the first anime season of 2012.
From my perception and memory of other reviews and comments about the Winter season, it was regarded merely as mediocre due to the lack of any momentous blockbusters and plethora of distinctly intelligent or hilariously entertaining anime. It baffles me since this season has ended up being the highest rated since I began blogging though I believe I did grade easier for this season than I have in the past and trimmed my anime watch list to adjust to my unforgiving schedule. Had those anime been included in this final review, then the grade might return toward the median. Perhaps the people who had pessimistic impressions about the season continued to watch those mediocre anime and therefore developed a lesser opinion of this season than I did. Or maybe I found these anime more rewarding than most? Who knows. And really, that’s all I have to say before going into the individual reviews.
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 for each series. My thoughts on the best Art, Characters, Entertainment, Sound, and Story are also included in each anime’s respective review.
Favorite Character: Taichi Mashima
Review – Chihayafuru is a complete anime, one that incorporated a diverse array of elements and performed each to the best of its ability. The result was a spectacular and mesmerizing anime that featured wonderful sports drama, an amusing and entertaining cast of characters, beautifully integrated romantic tension, and a promotion to karuta which bound everyone together. Chihayafuru certainly had the best Story of the Winter season because it felt realistic given the setting and the characters genuinely competed and struggled and showed growth. The entire cast was wonderful, though it did take some time for everyone to warm up and bounce off each other, and Wataya redeemed himself in the latter half of the series. The soundtrack to Chihayafuru enhanced the atmosphere throughout the anime, especially during the matches when the tension and circumstances were blazing. There were really no flaws in this anime, everything came out strong and the anime really picked itself up at the end with the Queen and King matches and the resolution of the kaurta club to continue their industrious training into the next year. Easily the best anime of the season and easily my favorite, too, and perhaps even my favorite shoujo anime altogether.
Favorite Character: Naoto Shirogane
Review – One of the most comprehensive animes I have ever watched, Persona 4 was able to immerse itself in virtually every genre of storytelling and excel in almost everyone. The story engaged the audience with its unnerving mystery, the presence of a bizarre otherworld, a cast of defined and sophisticated Characters who were actors rather than watchers, absolutely riotous comedy, and an unforgettable adventure. It’s rare to receive an anime with such a mesmerizing story and such wonderful Entertainment as Persona 4 was able to display. Beyond that are other positive factors such as the voice work and music and the astounding setting of rural Japan coupled with the Persona system. I truly respected and enjoyed this anime and, if it weren’t for some atrocious artwork and animation (having some of the animation studio quit in the middle of the season on an already mediocre team really insulted the product on the screen) and an unsatisfying ending that requires waiting until the Autumn, the anime would’ve been a lock for a low 10. Being considered for a 10 is some serious respect but the gaffs in animation and the ending are forcing it to resort to a high 9, which is certainly respectable considering how rare that is as well. Depending on the OVA finale which will premier this Autumn, I will reconsider the franchise to move into a low 10 but with the TV anime completed, it’s settled at a reputable 9 until whenever the next major rankings overhaul is.
Favorite Character: Ursula Abramov
Review – Though the anime has dropped to an 8 in the Spring season, Mouretsu Pirates earned a 9 for its episodes in the Winter season. What earned Mouretsu Pirates this high grade was for its distinctive storytelling, its meticulous setting, its unique take on privateering, and how it depicts adventure. Each area stimulated me to turn this into one of most fascinating and entertaining anime of the season. While the story did have some issues with content and direction, I enjoyed the plots for how they were narrated to the audience. The art and animation never suffered throughout and its lack of fanservice in a rather lifelike and serious world became a positive moving forward. The extensive cast sometimes felt like dead weight and continues to be a problem into the Spring but a few characters were able to shine through and cancel out the first problem. It’s worth noting that I do have a renowned weakness for pirates and space, so that explains why its score might be inflated for the Winter. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s begun to decrease in the Spring due to a multitude of factors but it was still one of the best anime of the Winter for its merit, not because the Winter was merely a mediocre season.
Favorite Character: Laffinty Fin E Ld Si (Lan)
Review – After almost being dropped following the pre-aired episode following New Year’s Day, Rinne no Lagrange turned out to be one of the greatest anime of the season. The strengths of this anime were found in its unmatched artwork, especially its visuals of scenery, its humorous, yet complex cast of characters, and amazing sound work. Rinne no Lagrange really had inspirational artwork in its scenery and in the design and representation of its mecha, too. I originally disliked the each of the main trio but quickly warmed up to their personalities and their obstacles in the story. Rinne no Lagrange also had the best original soundtrack of any anime this season and the voice work, especially considering the number of novice seiyuu in the anime, came together to create an audio masterpiece. The comedic and entertaining elements of the series, especially Lan’s antics throughout the series, were positives for this anime, too. But not everything was worth complimenting and that’s how I feel about the other aspects of the series. The whole premise of the story and how it played out, in general, never excited me and I often ignored it for robotic warfare and appreciating the characters. The cast outside the three main girls was completely dismissible and virtually irrelevant to the story that we saw. That should change when we get more information on the whole planets/war/backstory whatever in the second half of the series, but for now, the extra characters felt like distractions rather than additions. And I always question an anime with fanservice in the first episode and none thereafter, like it tried to hook in a wider audience with its nudity and panties but quickly turned face and went on with its original intentions of being free of ecchi material. But those negatives barely register on what was one of the biggest surprises of the season for me.
Favorite Character: Lucius Modestus
Review – Thermae Romae was an anime that ended back in January, consisted of only 6 miniature episodes, and was completed in the medium of Flash animation, it bested the remaining traditional anime for its undeniable merits. The anime possessed a unique charm given its story, setting, mechanics, and approach. Couple that with the rather distinctive Flash art style (not the best but easily recognizable) and the best soundtrack of any anime this season (any inclusion of classical music, despite being horribly inaccurate in terms of histories, will typical be my favorite for Sound), and it begins to become clear why Thermae Romae was scored as high as it did. Simply watching anime about bathing in distinguishing by itself, but couple the pairing with ancient Rome, unexplained time travel, a focus on problem solving, understanding, and knowledge, and corresponding entertainment (the reactions by Lucius are unforgettable) made it one of the most satisfying anime of the season. Rather than introduce more than it needed, Thermae Romae remained modest throughout, doing everything it wanted with its story, characters, and entertainment and then promptly finishing. I often wonder how my scores for this anime would be different had the series been adapted like every other anime with improved animation and 12-full length episodes because it never really felt like a normal anime. Nevertheless, Thermae Romae ended up being a favorite of mine for the Winter and will remain as one of the most unique anime I’ll ever watch.
Favorite Character: Orin Miyashiro
Review – Just as Thermae Romae ended before every other anime by a considerable number of weeks, Mirai Nikki ended weeks after the rest during the Spring season in the month of April. Even then, the ending is not yet complete (an OVA is schedule to be released in the Autumn, like Persona 4), so there is still some material in the world of Mirai Nikki that remains. Never mind those facts for now since both play only marginal roles when evaluating the TV series for what it was. One’s evaluation of The Future Diary depends on how they interpreted the story and its events. For me, it is steps above mediocrity but the score for this anime fluctuated greatly depending on my mood and how I understood the story and the humor. To me, I watched this anime more for its entertainment value than for the thrilling story but to say that I missed out on that half would be wrong since I was absorbed in the story but only when it seemed like the story mattered. Aside from the beginning, the ending, and a few choice scenes dotting the middle of the anime, it really felt like an anime whose purpose was entertainment than anything else. This might be why my score for this anime is about the middle while many out there either loved it or hated it (which sounds like they valued the story more than I did). I can understand where both sides come from since the story had a number of remarkable turns and twists and that others found contradictions in these storytelling devices which injured the series for them. The cast was satisfactory or better for the most part, the fanservice was tasteful and never a distraction, and the survival game setting turned out to be probably my favorite ever given how it played out. The artwork and animation suffered greatly throughout and I caught a frightening number of issues throughout the series that I irritated me (the worst being a shot where the animators forgot Yuno). And after hearing the entire story and piecing it back together, there were some incredibly awkward and confusing parts which could either be inherent to the story in general or a problem with how it was directed. Regardless, I enjoyed Mirai Nikki and I’m glad that many people insisted I watch it back in the Autumn.
Favorite Character: Yasuna Oribe
Review – Kill Me Baby embraced innocent fun and lighthearted comedy as its entire show, never really exploring outside its chosen realm, and ended being of the most amusing and delightful anime of the season. Though the jokes were inconsistent in their level of humor with some skits vastly stronger than the others, the happiness and energy from the series would keep a smile on your face from start to finish regardless of the on-screen action. Kill Me Baby was all about chemistry, that between its characters and setting the perfect mood for entertainment. The welcoming atmosphere was responsible to how that liveliness and cheerfulness harmonized with the cute moe animation style and silly humor. Without these components matching each other, the impact from this anime would not nearly be as great. And given its substandard production values, an unfortunate outcome given the minimalist budget this anime received, it made the most of its situation. This anime was an absolute pleasure to watch. So while its overall comedy was never the greatest, its characters were rather straightforward, there was no plot, and the animation was inferior, I treasure this anime for how the characters interacted and for its inviting atmosphere that made every episode an enjoyable experience. And that’s why it ranked higher than…
Favorite Character: Ringo-chan
Review – Parodies and satire are a prominent form of comedy in anime, poking fun frequently at itself and its neighboring cultures, so it is common in this medium in varying forms and focuses. Rarely is there an anime that understand the fundamentals behind these societies and knows how to properly adapt them into a hilarious comedy. Daily Lives of High School Boys was an exceptional anime in terms of parodies and satire, utilizing it in a way that understood what it was targeting with its comedy and why their humor was funny. That disconnect often plagues the various forms of comedies in Japan and further exemplifies what an brilliant anime Daily Lives of High School Boys was. That being said, I did find some faults with the series. I found this to be the most amusing anime of the season in terms of consistency and best humor, but there were many jokes that took too long to develop until a single punch-line. And even then it was often ended as hit-or-miss. Still, while the jokes were building up, you could immediately recognize the parody and appreciate how the anime was poking fun at the various subjects. The art was never terrible but nothing memorable either and the cast of characters, often joked as being forgettable, actually turned out to be just that besides a handful of girls. The fact that virtually any male member of the cast could do any of the jokes without a hitch is an example of why the cast was never a strength for this anime. Notwithstanding, Daily Lives of High School Boys (Nichibros) was an astounding comedy which revitalized parodies and satires and should become a new benchmark for evaluating these genre of comedy anime in the future.
Nisemonogatari – 8
Favorite Character: Kaiki Deishu
Review – Whatever passion for the Bakemonogatari/Nisemonogatari universe I had waned as the sequel progressed but despite that, Nisemonogatari turned out to be a splendid adventure which augmented the former series in a both appealing and gratifying way. However, as a stand-alone series, Nisemonogatari never could match the attraction and fascination of Bakemonogatari and the scores reflect this difference. Nisemonogatari had preposterous production values with each episode blending eccentric visuals with unrivaled dialogue and authentic emotion to create an anime that delighted our sensory organs from week to week. That being said, the content of the anime was a bit of a frustration. This series only covered the two sister arcs but really seemed like an excuse to mess around with all the girls again and showcase two new mystic beings with everything loosely connected to the Araragi family. Neither story gave a satisfying ending. The levels of incest, too, were alarmingly high and it does make you wonder why Araragi continues to chase after so many girls when he can’t get enough screentime for his harem in the first place. A strange aspect of this series was how much stronger the newly introduced characters seemed than the girls from the original series. Characters like Shinobu and Kaiki were revealed to be quite a bit deeper than, say, Sengoku and Hachikuji after their problems were solved. Then again, this series was never about them but their roles in this series seemed flat and included only to satisfy the fans of each character. They retained their chemistry with Araragi but nothing beyond that. Still, Nisemonogatari was a gratifying anime that seems unable to escape from the shadows of Bakemonogatari, its former and better half.
Favorite Character: Aya Ayano
Review – Okay, first thing’s first: I have sufficient evidence and can prove that Aya Ayano did not die in Another. I never could find the time to complete a post covering this topic and often wondered about the timing of the post in relation to spoilers. The project eventually got dismissed, so I figured I’d make a swift point about it before moving on to the full review. It may materialize in the future sometime but for now, just be aware that she did not die and there’s enough proof in the anime to arrive at this conclusion. N-no, I’m not just saying that because she’s my favorite character… and I’m not in denial because they handled that murder worse than all the rest… it’s just the truth. Just accept it that she’s alive somewhere, far away… far, far away… Alright, and onto the review.
Another is an enigma, still, even after the anime has conclude and the mystery answered and seemingly resolved. However, the number of details in the story, presence of red herrings, mechanisms of the curse, and a myriad of other factors and discrepancies leaves the story incomplete and lacking sufficient closure. How the mystery and curse ended is inconclusive, especially since this was the richest and most attractive aspect of this anime. That alone prevents the anime from becoming an 8 which the other characteristics of this anime certainly fight intensely for. The Art in this anime was the best of this season, not only for its scenery, detail, and character designs but for how it showed emotion in its characters. The cast of characters was remarkable considering how many there were and how little time there was for development. Though the curse and its mechanisms did irritate me throughout the anime, the setting was inspiring and engrossing, especially with its location in rural Japan and its time which was set in the late 90s. Horror is among my least favorite genres but there was something about the fear and most of the deaths that really captivated me and kept me in the show. For the most part, the mystery was also absorbing but the interest waned as inconsistencies and confusion felt like driving tools for keeping the mystery unanswered when instead it felt like cheap storytelling tricks and devices. I spent more time trying to score this anime than the rest on this list showing how close it was to being scored an 8 but the difficulties I had with the story are what keep it a reasonable 7.
Favorite Character: Dio Eraclea
Review – Last Exile: Ginyoku no Fam is one of those anime that has a delicate balance between positives and negatives that results in it being around mediocre. As always, I admired the setting and appreciated the level of detail given to the airships and technologies, the environment, and the tactics used in the various battlefields. Still, for an anime with a setting like this, I can never be satisfied since I became so quickly mesmerized and enthralled in its magnificence. Besides reusing elements from the original Last Exile (a Top 10 anime for me), returning characters from the previous series was an excellent choice though I wish their involvement and influence in this anime was greater than what was seen. Among the new characters, Princess Millia was the most outstanding given her personality, hardships, goal, and drive. And watching airships battle each other with varying degrees of technology and the war in general made for exciting action in a number of battles. But as mentioned earlier, the positives and negatives are in about a steady balance meaning the negatives are about as extensive as the positives. Perhaps the most irritating aspect of this series was Fam and how she was the protagonist. As a character, Fam would be ideal for a side-kick or comedic role, but that personality and demeanor and constant reminder of the Grand Race and other selfish tendencies really pissed me off. But perhaps the most annoying fact is that she went through the entire series with God-mode on: nothing bad ever happened to her. It’s real compelling to depict conflict with a character who can never fail. In fact, the way she was shown, she was the best pilot in the world, the best thief in the world, the most fortunate person in the world, and essentially one of the most powerful people in the world, too. It’s clear that placing Millia as the lead and subjecting Fam to somewhere in the background would’ve significantly improved the anime. Actually, completely remove all the Sky Pirates and that stuff and this might’ve ranked near the top of this season. Other issues in the anime were some art and animation gaffs, a substandard story, and clumsy pacing. The final verdict shows the scale seems to favor the positives of this anime slightly more than the negatives but not by any significant amount. It’s almost ambivalence for me but I am glad I watched this anime.
Guilty Crown – 7
Favorite Character: Kanon Kusama
Review – Not everything in Guilty Crown was a disappointment, but it certainly seemed that way given its widespread ineptitude. Throughout the series, I was a fan of the artwork and animation which remained remarkable and magnificent throughout despite some drops in quality near the end. The setting also impressed me with its complexity of having the GHQ suppressing a devastated Japan, a lethal infection with the Apocalypse Virus, a unique weapons/superpower system with the Voids, and the presence of multiple parties competing with each other, but their mismanagement in the anime crippled the execution of the setting and left it as a mess from some great potential. The sound was never an issue in the anime and there were a few insert songs that helped establish the atmosphere. And for a majority of the anime, the characters were never severe issues for me though they were fairly simple and many felt awkward at times. Given all those factors, this sounds like Guilty Crown did must better than second-to-last and a low 7, but that’s failing to mention anything about the story which was an unquestionable catastrophe from start to finish. It’s almost inconceivable about how horrendous the story and storytelling was but Guilty Crown managed to find the absolute bottom and began to explore beyond it for a new home. Every aspect of the story was a problem from direction, to pacing, to content, to details, to logic/rational, and to purpose. At least the story was consistent throughout meaning there were no major fluctuations or drops in the story, but that also means the story was consistently terrible throughout. Without this story, Guilty Crown would have easily improve and been a much more enjoyable anime. All the other aspects of this anime had more positives than negatives and a wide range of qualities but the story was the anchor that sunk this anime.
Favorite Character: Masamune Date
Review – I watched BRAVE 10 for the wrong reasons and it reflects in my final scoring and ranking for this anime. What I wanted was an anime that took place in Feudal Japan, one that involved farming villages, imposing samurai, an engaging atmosphere, and a setting that was a driving force for an anime. What BRAVE 10 turned out to be, however, was a typical shounen fighting anime, something that I do like from time-to-time. This, however, was not one of those times and the lack of exciting characters, a confusing and incomplete plot, rather shoddy art quality, and unhealthy expectations really doomed this anime for me. Had I known the series wouldn’t satisfy my desire for a samurai setting, I doubt I would’ve watched this anime. I enjoyed it sporadically, the fights were rather stimulating and I did like the powers that certain characters had, but the story and characters really sunk the anime for me. It never was in danger of becoming a 5 since it didn’t do anything to infuriate me or make a number of unforgivable errors but a 6 is pretty sorry score. There are some out there who’ll enjoy the anime more than I did but this anime was just not for me in quite a few ways.
Notable Winter moments:
Best OP: Mouretsu Pirates (an amazing and energetic song is the best way to start an anime. Rinne no Lagrange is a close second.)
Best ED: Rinne no Lagrange (Thermae Romae had the best ending song and Kill Me Baby had the best ending visuals but the complete package goes to Lagrange on this one.)
Biggest Surprise: Rinne no Lagrange
Biggest Disappointment: Guilty Crown
Best Finale: Thermae Romae
Most Hated Character: Kubodera-sensei (Another)
And that concludes the review for the Winter 2012 anime season. This turned out to be my highest scoring season since I began blogging and the Spring season appears to be even better from top to bottom. One reason why I believe the Winter scored so high was the reduced volume of anime being watched meaning I eliminated a few of the lower rated shows at the start which subsequently would raise the average. Still, it shows that this season was rather impressive in its anime. And with another strong season already underway, it looks like 2012 will be both an enjoyable and marvelous year for anime.