With the halfway point of the Spring anime season already elapsed and the final month of the season swiftly approaching, it’s time to take a moment and provide evaluations and grades for all the anime airing currently. Allowing every anime to provide half or a quarter of their story allows for the best judgment of each series since every show has had their opportunities to develop their characters, establish their stories, and separate themselves from each other. Some have scored well and excelled every week while others are continuing to struggle or simply lack the content or energy to compete with the rest. It’s time to judge how the anime of this this season have fared in this Spring 2012 Mid-Season Review.
But first are some quick, overall impressions of the season. Undoubtedly, what’s stood out this season consistently across almost all the anime is the quality and uniqueness of the art and animation. With shows opting for more of a retro style (Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna, Zetman), a brilliant use of colors, lighting, and presentation (Tsuritama, Tasogare Otome x Amnesia) or just outstanding and unparalleled quality (Hyouka, Sakamichi no Apollon), this season of anime have been the absolute best in art and animation that I can remember, dating back to early 2009. It shouldn’t be too surprising considering the usual pattern of high-budget or widely anticipated anime that are selected to air every Spring but the anime this season have impressed in terms of their illustrations and visual representations. The production values for anime this season are phenomenal and every episode is a pleasure for our grateful eyes. And that’s not even mentioning the amount of fanservice present, too. And it’s not just the ecchi anime either, shows like Jormugand, Zetman, and this particular season of Lupin (of course) have incorporated some delectable eye candy as well. And there’s been no shortage of male fanservice, too, though that’s a topic I prefer to ignore. Similar to the wondrous display of art and animation, the choices of music and voice acting have also been remarkable making most of these shows a pleasure to listen to in addition to watch. You might say this season has a knack for delighting or over-stimulating our senses. Unfortunately, not every aspect of this season’s anime are praiseworthy. The stories have seemed to underachieve up to this point, either based off a lack of content or enigmatic storytelling, or by simply being boring. Then again, a number of these anime will continue on into the Summer and Autumn, so there’s still hope for this trend to improve and to do so quickly. Nevertheless, this Spring season has been incredibly enjoyable as a whole and the second half looks to be even more impressive.
The order of anime listed below is in the order that I’d rank them now compared to each other. Accompanying each anime will be their individual numerical score (between 10-5) given their performance to date. What follows is a quick review of how the series has done so far with a bit on what I’d like to see or how the anime could improve. And, as always, I include my favorite character with each review. And like all other reviews here, there is recognition for the best Art, Characters, Entertainment, Sound, and Story this season. Now, all that remains is the Spring 2012 Mid-Season Review!
Favorite Character: Sentarou Kawabuchi
Review – Receiving the top spot for the first half of Spring is Sakamichi no Apollon, an anime that has earned this honor due to its consistency, quality, and presentation. While the characters have been pleasant and the story merely satisfactory, the anime derives its praise and acclamation through how it’s able to tell its story and how it’s able to show its characters. Themes such as jazz, image, and fear are used effectively in ways that force the characters to grow, push the story in a linear fashion, or invoke emotions from the audience. Though unevenly paced or even mundane at times, the presentation of this anime is simply incredible and a masterpiece in storytelling. Beyond that, the art, animation, and music are all superb and reflect well given the style and themes this anime has decided to use for itself. The use of animation during concerts not only sync well with the music but even show the amount of effort and passion the musician put into their instruments to inspire or astound us. And through this, the music comes to life both in terms of helping establish a certain mood for a scene or to merely be the scene itself. Not only has the quality of songs been excellent but their use as well, which make this the anime with the best Sound this season. On top of that, the setting is a decent-sized harbor town during the 1960s in Japan which is a unique setting for which to found the story. It has the potential to make the next step and earn a 10 but it all depends on if there are improvements in the content of the story and how the characters respond to the developing problems.
What would raise the score? Some better or more engaging content in the story, both for the audience and for the characters.
Favorite Character: Jigen Daisuke
Review – The Lupin franchise returns with the usual cast of familiar faces. But beyond that, virtually every aspect of this anime has received an update or modification of sorts giving this derivative of franchise a distinct and unforgettable impression to it. Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that our eccentric yet adept protagonist, Lupin, has been replaced with the sexually-comfortable Fujiko, a move that seems to have changed the heart of the series and taken the tranquil, carefree, and amusing style into a serious, gloomy, and harsh one. While I continue to question whether these changes are for the better, I do happen to enjoy how it differentiates this series from the rest of the Lupin franchise and especially the other anime airing concurrently. One aspect that has irked me, especially recently, is the lack of involvement of the accustomed characters given the focus on new, temporarily persons each episode and the feeble content of the story. As a series, it’s been great but nowhere near perfect. The art style has some outstanding use of detail and feeling, especially the way bold, black lines indicate shading, giving each image a more authentic sensation for the audience than a standard display of light and colors. The setting switches between each episode, keeping the anime variable in terms of content and story perimeters and there aren’t any complaints on the music or sound.
What would raise the score? Involve Lupin, Jigen, and Goemon much, much, much more. Also, some improvement in the subjects of each story wouldn’t hurt either.
Jormungand – 9
Favorite Character: Koko Hekmatyar
Review – Thrilling and invigorating, Jormungand is an anime with an ideal balance of action, comedy, and story, expressed in a way that keeps the audience amused and engaged. Though the quality of the action sequences, frequently in the form of firefights seasoned with unrealistic events, and the duration of the comedy, often very quick jokes predetermined by the characters’ personalities, every episode is certain to entertain. Adding to that baseline of entertainment is the level of detail put into the setting of the anime, not only in the versatility of physical environments, but into the profession of weapons dealing and the mechanics of the world they live in. The overall story has yet to be revealed to the audience but the topics of each episode, each disjointed but sequential to each other, have been satisfactory or better. The cast of characters is pretty weak outside of Koko and Jonah, but the two main characters are able to support the anime through any scene, either it being a serious on or one intended for us to laugh and smile. The anime has begun to develop Koko’s extensive cast of bodyguards in recent episodes, a move that should help us care for these people more, but the overarching storyline is still unclear and beginning to cause a bit of concern. The art is suitable given the genre of anime this is, able to sway between easily recognizable styles such as lighthearted comedy to absolute terror. No qualms with the animation or music, though the music has yet to make a name for itself besides the preview theme which is, for better or for worse, probably the most identifiable aspect of this anime “Her name is Koko, she is loco, I said ‘oh no!’”.
What would raise the score? More character development, more story content, and some more realistic or meaningful action sequences, though the anime has been doing that between the scoring of this anime and the writing of this post.
Favorite Character: Unnamed short, black, spiky-haired, tomboyish girl who sits 2 desks directly behind Yuki at school
Review – A rather touching story of a boy overcoming his demons and enjoying the life he always wanted through fishing and friendship or a clash between aliens searching for a slumbering behemoth and the undercover organization intent on preventing such a calamity, Tsuritama is quite a exceptional and fascinating anime. Though it may not seem like much, each episode covers quite a bit of content concerning the two obvious storylines, as well as the more subtle one about Natsuki and his family. With the four main characters each having their own story, all intertwined and bound together, Tsuritama is able to tell each story through each other and make an anime that’s always progressing, developing, and above all, stimulating. Considering this feat, this anime has, without a doubt, the best Story of the season. The characters are all remarkable given their personalities and how they interact with each other, but everyone else around them seems rather plain and only really help out with minor support roles rather than anything substantial. The colorful display shown in every shot makes it one of the more visually appealing anime of the season. Couple that with the happy-go-lucky soundtrack and the anime comes to life through its peaceful, yet joyful energy. There weren’t any especially memorable or outstanding moments at the time of the scoring of this anime but there has been since and this anime is sure to rise before the final evaluations are determined by the end of the season.
What would raise the score? Complete the four stories for the four characters and have it be an ending that makes sense and not something Deus-ex-machina or something illogical.
Favorite Character: Mutta Nanba
Review – Space Brothers is an anime that organizes its story with considerable care, a methodical approach that seems very systematic and strategic as it tells the story of a brother finding salvation and inspiration in following the steps of his brother and the dreams of his childhood as he works endlessly toward becoming an astronaut. While this scheme of storytelling has been the anime’s biggest strength, it has been, at times, its greatest weakness, too, often lacking in engaging content, dreadful pacing, or being repetitive in techniques and styles in its story. However, these problems are largely overshadowed by the fact that Space Brothers is an endearing story filled with extensive details and inspirational content. The two brothers, Mutta and Hibito, are fortunate enough to act like human beings rather than stereotyped anime archetypes, and their oddities help illustrate their unique personalities in ways that are refreshing for an anime. The art has a bit of a retro feel to it, especially noticeable in the character designs. The animation is a bit lacking but that’s due to the story not requiring intense action sequences which would require such an achievement. The setting and music aren’t anything special, though the music does help enhance the inspiration and accomplishment the series seems to enjoy every episode.
What would raise the score? Not sure what it can do immediately since this is rumored to last a year but I want to see general trends of improvements everywhere to be happy.
Favorite Character: Kirie Kanoe
Review – Though the content of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia is indeed tiresome and overused, a bushel of anime clichés about a mini-harem lead by a selfish and horny ghost surrounding a clueless male lead in a modern Japanese high school, the high score and ranking are entirely thanks to the directing, art, and heart of this anime. Virtually every shot, either through zoom or angle, puts the characters or subjects in a view that makes scenes look more dramatic or appealing than how most anime tend to stage their normal shots. The visual work is absolutely enchanting and mesmerizing, some of the most outstanding use of colors and lighting I have ever seen in an anime. What it’s able to do is take an ordinary and dilapidated school and express it to be more fascinating than anything in the untouched depths of our imagination on how schools can look. Also, the attractive character designs, high quality art style, and the selection of shots make it, in my eyes, the best Art which is probably the best accomplishment of any anime this season. The four characters each have distinctive and rich personalities who all drive the story in various ways, either working to solve the mystery (Kirie), wondering about the nature and feelings of Yuuko (Teiichi) or just making sure the fun and comedy are never completely ignored (Momoe). The characters are the heart of this series, shining when not bound by the unfortunate writing of this anime and are heavily responsible for what makes this anime watchable. The setting would be a negative on the anime, another anime set at another Japanese high school, but the way it is shown, especially with the use of colors to promote diversity, it doesn’t make it seem that dull or repetitive like all the other clichés in its story (which, without a doubt, are the biggest negative in this anime). The anime does dance between various genres, from mystery and horror/fear to comedy and romance, so the anime has a variety of styles with some being strengths and others faults on this series. The music is surprisingly proper and helps create either an easygoing or eerie atmosphere, making it able to help the anime flip between its various genres and enhance the mood in each scene.
What would raise the score? Get rid of the harem-type stuff with Kirie and Momoe, work on the mystery more, and give Teiichi some brains. Also, show more Kirie. A lot more Kirie.
Favorite Character: Hime Haruno
Review – Perhaps the best anime this season to watch if you want to simply relax and smile is Acchi Kocchi, an anime with supreme Entertainment values and not even as little as a hint of a story to be concerned with. The variety of subjects examined in every episode keeps the anime continuously fresh and the assortment of activities, usually restricted to those of real-life high schoolers minus a few superhuman abilities or futuristic technologies, are all areas where the audience can relate to and thus, enjoy the humor. The characters all have excellent chemistry with each other which might explain why they have received zero development through the series. Perhaps the producers believe that any growth or change in any of the characters will shatter the bonds and throw the anime out of equilibrium. But then again, if you were looking for characters changing as a result of stress and a story that narrated an adventure of sorts, then this isn’t the anime for you. Rather, Acchi Kocchi wants to be lighthearted and something to laugh and smile at, so it is not necessary for the characters to change when they’re designed for optimal entertainment. However, the characters have begun to get a little stale and their jokes are all predetermined. Nevertheless, every episode will make the audience laugh and smile which is the main purpose of this anime. The next purpose of the anime would be to be adorable and that cuteness is thanks to the simple yet delightful and loveable art style that gives the characters their irresistible charm. There haven’t been really any memorable displays of excellent animation but that might be a positive given the relaxed and optimistic nature of this anime. And though I usually dock points for anime taking place at a high school and in modern suburban Japan, the chemistry of the characters interacting as a mixed-group (boys and girls) makes it feel like it isn’t the standard clichéd anime setting where the sexes are separated and gives it a rewarding feel considering the two sides can be friends with each other without being awkward or random.
What would raise the score? The characters to break free from their shells and do more than the same types of jokes we’ve seen all season. I’m a bit tired of seeing Io on God- mode the entire anime and Mayoi getting the major burden of physical abuse.
Favorite Character: Mayaka Ibara
Review – Hyouka is an anime that is consistent in what it does and what it does consistently, it does well. Perhaps the most enticing or distinguishable aspect of Hyouka is its artwork, especially considering the detail in the background or the environment of the shots and the animation the characters perform as they move throughout the world they reside in. Indeed, these aspects are outstanding and superior to just about every other anime airing (an incredibly close second to Tasogare Otome in terms of Art for me but probably the undisputed #1 for everyone else) and a prime reason to watch the anime. The music, too, has been enjoyable, leading this anime to be a delightful sensation for both our eyes and ears. The content of the episodes, in terms of stories and mystery, have been a bit mediocre or unappealing, answering questions that no one really cares about. While true that Chitanda is curious about these mysteries and will stop and nothing to have them answered, she doesn’t seem to dwell on them like they’re substantial, leading me to believe she realizes the weightlessness in her pursuit of throwaway knowledge. I don’t hate any of the characters but none have really done enough for me to like them, though I will admit that the girls are attractive and their personalities agreeable. And though I’ve been critical of the stories presented thus far, I’ve really enjoyed the anime in terms of wanting to see how the mysteries are solved and how the characters interact with each other when they’re explaining it. It’s another example of an anime with weak mysteries but strength in terms of how the characters go about resolving it and how they interact with each other. Still, if the mysteries become more valuable or hold consequences for the character, then I wouldn’t be complaining at this improvement.
What would raise the score? Better mysteries in terms of their significance to the characters or surroundings. Also, show the kids do something besides talk about school stuff and have them do various activities.
Favorite Character: Ursula Abramov
Review – Significantly slipping from the previous season, Mouretsu Pirates is an anime that seems to have lost its sense of piracy and adventure in favor of educating and training schoolgirls in space travel and modern piracy. While seeing the anime attempt to change its style and story is generally appreciated, it ultimately is graded on how well the modification is received and, unfortunately for Mouretsu Pirates, these recent changes have devalued the series after a strong close to the Winter season. Hell, even the focus of the anime has turned from our trusted Marika to the adorable Ai, a move which leaves me and probably most baffled on the change in lead when Marika had been an emphasis throughout the series. The series still remains enjoyable but it has a different feel to it since the resolution at the end of the Winter and the anime has suffered as a direct result. And while I don’t have any proof to back this up, there is also a perceived notion that the art and animation have seen a slight drop in quality but that could be due to the dumbfounding number of schoolgirls who need to be drawn in every scene and their plain appearances and standard dress might be reasons for this observation, especially if they’re merely standing in the background. Beyond those mentioned points, there really hasn’t be a whole lot different from the previous season which accounts for its respectable score and is probably keeping the anime stabilized in such a region. However, to make up for lost ground, the anime will need to return to its roots and rediscover what made this anime indulging in the first place.
What would raise the score? A return to piracy and space adventures. Seriously, why would you move from that to anything else?
Favorite Character: Konoha Amagi
Review – Zetman has been an anime that has done well in a variety of categories but has failed to excite me or engage me in anyway whatsoever. Unable to decipher what this anime is doing wrong that so many others do right, Zetman falls victim to indifference on my behalf. What’s wrong isn’t the story, a tale of two heroes as they battle violent mutants in an aims to protect the defenseless society and discover the origins of this evil and Zet’s power. I have no qualms with the characters either, an enjoyable cast that can both plays serious and comedic roles with ease and who have clear motivations that are essential to this heroes’ story. The retro style art and animation are among my favorite aspects about this series and its use in creating more courageous and dramatic shots, especially the character poses and the amount of artistic detail, are phenomenal. And there are no problems with the setting or the music either, so it’s not that either. Perhaps the biggest flaw with this anime are that the fights aren’t entertaining given what we think they should be. These fights all feel rather haphazard or poorly paced and their introductions are often missing or severely reduced. I’m not sure why I should care who’s fighting who or why they’re even fighting in the first place. That and some of the content of the story has been cyclic and repetitive, which has led to some confusion and boredom with what we’ve learned and where we’re going with the story so far. But those haven’t been problems in the past for other anime, so I’m not certain why it is here. Maybe those two elements combined have begun to outweigh the positives in the series, the only explanation I can pitch at this moment, but it doesn’t paint a complete illustration of why this anime just hasn’t clicked with me. Maybe the second half of this season will answer this question or, better yet, nullify it all together.
What would raise the score? Improvements in the story and entertainment would help. Improvements in all areas would be spectacular.
Favorite Character: Hastur
Review – Like an over-energized and over-caffeinated kindergartener being locked inside a candy store, Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is an anime that has no short supply of vitality and electricity for which to entertain its audience. Every episode also plays around with silly ideas or outrageous subjects as its stories and gives it a style of humor that is full of enthusiasm and intelligence. Anyone familiar with any aspects of the otaku subculture should be able to understand most of the humor though there are outside references that are unknown to me that still are able to get me to laugh or smile which is a testament to how this anime communicates its comedy and transmits its energy to us. The humor, however, isn’t always impeccable and some episodes are clearly better than others, though it depends on the content of the episode more than the actual jokes. While the humor is often steady enough to produce a healthy number of laughs and even more smiles, the content of the episodes are entirely hit-or-miss and probably the primary reason the anime is receiving this score and ranking. I often wonder if I’d like this more if I knew more of Lovecraftian subjects and trivia but I assume it’d only have a marginal effect given everything this anime is able to do. The characters are alright, all around the level of mediocre, with nothing really special to them besides being able to make me laugh with almost no effort whatsoever. The romantic aspect of the series, with every character seemingly chasing after someone, has gotten a bit dry and probably one of the more irritating aspects of the series for me. The art and animation are inferior compared to the other anime this season but sufficient for what this anime wants to be. Beyond that, there’s not much else to comment on at this point.
What would raise the score? Keep me laughing every episode. Improving the content so that it’s consistently an entertaining story would be good, too.
Favorite Character: Galil AR
Review – Upotte!! is strange in that it does a whole lot but it just doesn’t really do anything well. Throughout the series, we’ve seen Upotte!! wear different hats such as comedy, romance, slice-of-life, war, and educational, but nothing has distinguished itself for being the best part of the anime or the principal reason to watch it. It’s been able to do many things good, especially some of the comedy and the way it uses real world examples and explanations for us to understand the humor, but other aspects have been completely numbing and lackluster, especially the relationship between FNC and the Japanese teacher. The stories so far have been all arbitrary and don’t seem to have any real connection between each other which gives the anime no direction for which to build itself off of. The characters are, for the most part, all amusing and fun to watch, but no one has done enough to be considered great and their personalities are all so well defined and set in stone that were anyone acting even just the slightest bit out of character would be an absolute shock. The whole novelty of the girls being guns who use guns at school has waned considerably and the biggest distinction and recognizable aspect of this anime has virtually disappeared. They seem like human girls to me now which is probably a byproduct of the lack of new gun trivia and the fact that they’re human-shaped and act like people all the time. Not sure what to expect for the second half of the season besides more mundane comedy, chaotic episodic content, and new guns who appear as cute girls.
What would raise the score? Just stick to the comedy and war genres since those have produced the best episodes of the series. Cutting out the romance would help significantly, too.
Favorite Character: Bokuden Tsukahara
Review – Yup, I’m watching this despite making no mention of it since I provided my first impressions on it. I delayed making a decision on the anime until I watched the third episode but that was put off for about 5 weeks meaning I could either drop it or marathon it and catch up for this review. After hearing commentary, reviews, and opinions of the latter episodes, I figured ‘why not?’ and pushed some other anime aside and catch up in Sengoku Collection immediately. So although I have neglected to mention this anime since the beginning of the season, I am watching Sengoku Collection and enjoying it.
That being said, Sengoku Collection is a collection of hit-or-miss episodes. While some episodes have been wildly entertaining and enjoyable (episode 5), others were so boring and lethargic, I worried it would put me to sleep or worse (episode 3). Thankfully every episode is its own individual story with its own main character, so the anime has a diverse selection of styles and content for the anime to sort through as it narrates its central story. Because of this format of storytelling, I’ve grown to enjoy several of the main cast and been impressed with how they are all strong enough to support their stories and distinct enough to have idiosyncratic and pleasant personalities. It actually is the anime that I believe has the best set of Characters this season. The art work and animation are a bit substandard though it does enough to make sure all the characters have unique designs and appear either cute or sexy. The music has been decent but nothing special and nothing worthy of more than a non-descript sentence. Overall, an enjoyable anime that I’m glad I caught up with and even happier that it’s continued to do well in its most recent episodes, too.
What would raise the score? Continue to create more entertaining and meaningful characters and incorporate everyone in a story together that is both fun and engaging.
Favorite Character: Yatsushiro
Review – While I’ve enjoyed Medaka Box more than a few of the other anime listed above it, it doesn’t deserve a higher spot or score because it is loaded with anime clichés, an abysmal setting, and a cast of characters that sometimes the very definition of one-dimensional. While the comedy has been able to entertain and the chemistry between the characters, especially between Zenkichi and any of the girls, the rest of the series has been a disappointment, the anime presents its share of problems in every episode. I’ve always had problems with anime that revolve around a school club and this one is not immune to such treatment. The stories in each episode are all patterned the same way, with a problem being discovered, the problem being addressed, a learning point for or about the characters, and then a final resolution. While alright for a few episodes or dusted throughout the series, Medaka Box relies on this formula for everything and relying on such a weak or boring structure has prevent this anime from developing in a positive fashion. Of this pattern, however, the comedy is able to shine which is the main reason why I continue to watch the anime, but it’s challenging to care for the characters and their problems when it doesn’t seem the producers care about making them interesting or engaging for the audience. That being said, I do enjoy the cast and the characters but they are all incredibly one-dimensional and their descriptions shouldn’t require more than 3 words because of how characterized they are. The artwork and animation are decent but never anything better and often sometimes worse. Overall, the anime has a chance to improve upon itself with ample space for which to work with given the characters but the routine pattern of storytelling and the lack of interesting stories have doomed this anime to this score and ranking.
What would raise the score? Actually, every negative aspect about this series would be dropped if I just got some more Yatsushiro.
Favorite Character: Yuki Yoshida
Review – The second season of Kore wa Zombie desu ka? has been a huge disappointment for me given how the first season ended on such a high note. This season, however, has reverted back to what I disliked about the franchise in that the characters refuse to grow or develop, there is zero story development, and the comedy is often otaku- or fanservice-related which have just been worn-out due to all the anime that exploit this choice of comedy material. That being said, the brightest spot of this anime has been the humor and I’ve laughed at a good number of original jokes, but the fact that it relies so heavily on exhausted anime tropes is a sign that this anime really doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. And for a season which I heralded for having some of the best art and animation that I can remember, Zombie actually has the distinction for being the worst, likely a result of hastily assembled episodes with little to no care on how everything looks. And the complete absence of a story has really damaged the series since the whole tale about Eu and Ayumu were some of the more engaging and interesting aspects of the first season. As for the characters, I don’t ever recall an anime where there have been this many dislikable, irritating, or downright infuriating characters as much as this season. The presence of Chris and her glass-shattering, high-pitched banshee wails have put her in consideration for passing Seraphim, Sarasvati, and Orito as the worst character this season but each have plenty of time to ruin their characters even more between now and the end of this anime. And while the comedy is my favorite aspect of this series, it seems to have regressed when compared to the first season. Now, Zombie has chosen to seclude itself to only otaku-pandering. It really is distressing to see my favorite aspect of the series begin to sink but it has been able to make me laugh and enjoy bits and pieces of the episodes. As with every list, an anime must be stuck at the bottom and be labeled as the worst, and no other anime besides Zombie deserves to be ranked here when compared to all the anime airing this season.
What would raise the score?
And that concludes the Spring 2012 Mid-Season Review. As one might assume, these rankings are fluid and shows have already begun to trade places on this list and work toward improving their scores and evaluations. Among the fastest movers is Sengoku Collection, which recently went from not being watched to on the list to now, at the time of writing this post and not at the time of scoring/judging these anime, to an even better position and a higher score. Tsuritama is another anime that has made considerable strides in improving itself, too, since the evaluation period at the end of week 6. Of course, with an anime moving up, another one must be moving down, though they aren’t necessarily the ones immediately ahead of it. The rankings are in constant motion throughout the series and it should be interesting to see how each anime’s performance in the second half of the season affects their scores and their standing among each other. Whatever happens, either for better or for worse, we’ll be watching.