These middle weeks of the Summer anime season serve as a highly appropriate period to provide evaluations, grades, and rankings on each of the anime we’re following. Here, you’ll find my reviews for each of the anime I’m following for the Summer 2012 season.
Generally speaking, this might be the best season of anime in recent memory. And if it seems like you’ve heard it from me before, which you have, it’s likely because I’m better able to discern which anime I will enjoy before the season starts and I’ve gotten better at dropping anime I find mediocre or worse. As long as this trend continues, you can expect me to continue to rank anime higher and higher compared to seasons past. In addition to that, there’s also a number of anime that I find simply enjoyable, especially with the amount of continuations or sequels this Summer. Those two factors combine to give this season, though it still is only the Mid-Season, the highest average of any season since I started blogging in Winter 2011. Beyond that point, other generalizations for this season are the excellent uses of characters and the unfortunate sloppiness in art and animation. Beginning with the aesthetic aspect of the season, several anime continue to display subpar or unattractive art styles and animation, including a handful personal favorites. One explanation for this could be how brilliant the art and animation were last season and how each studio focused themselves for the visual-heavy Spring season. And with the Autumn season quickly approaching, one lined up with a number of potential blockbusters and masterpieces, it might be explained that there’s the money and talent for animation and art work is elsewhere this season. This trend in Summer anime is believed to be attributed to this phenomenon though there is no research to prove if it’s true or not. Notwithstanding, the art for this season still feels generally substandard when compared to some of the other anime from 2012. Despite this opinion, the use of characters this season has been unrivaled with a number of anime featuring complex, comprehensive, and complete characters that make each anime exceedingly emotional, avidly charming, and constantly engaging. The characters are the engines which drive each anime and this season features outstanding casts in a vast majority of the anime. And while this, too, is simply a subjective opinion, its perhaps the stoutest reason why I found this season to be among my favorite since this blog was founded last year. Perchance it’s time to end this general overview and explain the enticing components of each anime and how they make this season one of the best.
The order of anime listed below is intended to show how I’d rank them when compared to each other for this Summer season. Accompanying each anime is their numerical grade ranging between 10-5, as well as the option for D for Delayed or Dropped. Included is a condensed but clarifying review on how the series has performed with a section on how each anime can improve before the end and raise their scores. And, as always, I include my favorite character for each anime. 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 actual Summer 2012 Mid-Season Review!
Sengoku Collection – 10
Review – Already my prime candidate for ‘Best Anime of 2012’, Sengoku Collection has quickly and steadily risen to the top of this year for anime and is now among my favorites of all time. What contributes to the success of this distinguished anime is how it utilizes its characters and innovative their stories are. Without a centralized plot dictating the fluidity and context for each episode, Sengoku Collection has been free to illustrate the lives or adventures of these displaced gender-swapped generals and see how they assimilate in with the real world with real people. With each episode focused on one or a handful of historical figures, character development is straightforward, meaningful, and emotive, not to mention the characters themselves are frequently charming, energetic, and wholeheartedly amusing. The plots for each episode are outstanding, too, often documenting how the lives of the generals influence or impact the lives of modern Japanese citizens, a concept I find both spellbinding and exceptionally rewarding. And without resorting to convoluted histories, mind-numbing concepts, or mediocre storytelling, each episode feels complete and gratifying, making the experience of watching Sengoku Collection both expressive and completely worthwhile. Because of this fantastic combination of character use and storytelling, many episodes rank among my favorites, including Episode 18 which could be the best episode of anime I have seen in years. Out of all the anime airing this season, this easily has the best Characters and Story. Beyond that, the art style varies from episode to episode, often a brilliant display of pastel colors or gritty aesthetic renditions and the music transcribes the atmosphere of each scene as one should come to expect from any anime they watch. I cannot sing enough praises of Sengoku Collection and am eagerly awaiting the series conclusion at the end of this season. I can only hope you or any anime fan you know will pick up this show and enjoy it as much as I do.
What would raise the score? A finale ties the series everything together, for all the characters and all their stories.
Review – Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita has been a delightful experience, attributed to its unforgettable storytelling, all narrated through the perspective of our protagonist aptly named Watashi, and its healthy balance of surrealism and fantasy in a dystopian future ruled by pint-sized elves better known as fairies. What separates Jinrui from the rest and elevates it up to the coveted 10 is primarily because of Watashi, a young maiden who always has a witty remark or amusing comment to enhance any situation, often being the dominant force for comedy throughout the series. Her keen outlook on her various peculiar situations, her lethargic and selfish attitude, and her deceivingly cheerful behavior all make her a main character worth watching. The setting of the anime is of particular note, too, given how it plays into the fantasy and mystery in each episode. How it affects the anime is it turns simple stories into bizarrely and fascinatingly complicated tales of adventure, mystery, and general strangeness, much like the series itself which is apparently airing itself out of order. It’s an unparalleled style of storytelling, compared to the other anime this season, and triumphs brilliantly in how each episode unfolds itself. In regards to the artwork and animation, Jinrui demonstrates itself with a gorgeous array of colors drawn in an atypical fashion, augmenting the experience and drawing significance to the setting and the creatures who live within it. And the soundtrack has been another delight, though one that isn’t nearly as exceptional as the rest of the anime. The only area that’s holding the anime back is there’s a lack of consistency sometimes, with some episodes being more interesting than others. Though when that’s it for suggestions, and really that’s it, you know you have a marvelous anime on hand.
What would raise the score? A bit more consistency and a lot more Watashi.
Hyouka – 9
Review – Dazzling and radiant, Hyouka has rekindled its magic and launched itself into admiration and achievement with this early Summer season. Known predominantly for its astounding and remarkable art style, one that continues to display magnificence making it the top Art anime of the season, Hyouka has swiftly improved its story and characters with the most recent story arc. What the school festival was able to do that Hyouka failed at before was individualize each character, express their interests and concerns, and incorporate it all together in a central mystery that kept everything together and meaningful. Every character progressed like never before, especially Satoshi and Mayaka, and the mystery during the school festival felt appropriately paced and was intriguing and original enough to keep the audience attentive throughout the deduction process. This arc truly exemplified how spectacular of an anime Hyouka really is, showcasing its complicated and varied cast while, again, illustrating the development and process of mysteries and solutions instead of simply telling the audience a mystery story. This was a fantastic harmony of writing, scenario, character progession, and as always, art work, animation, and music. It’s wonderful seeing everything come together for Hyouka which has shown such potential in the past only to meet it part-way and never reach the goal. With this arc finished, the anime is over the hump, and is looking at finishing on a strong note. The only question that remains now, can Hyouka keep this energy and enthusiasm until its conclusion at the end of this season?
What would raise the score? Maintaining this momentum until its ends.
Joshiraku – 9
Review – What makes Joshiraku an outstanding comedy and probably the best value for Entertainment this season, is because it understands how to use comedy effectively. Rather than a mismatch of characters with conflicting clichéd personalities forced together for comedic situations, Joshiraku takes five friends with varying personalities and has them work together to find the best humor. Rather than relying on one character to be the ‘funny guy’ and another to be the ‘straight guy’, everyone plays off each other in these diverse forums of discussion that often plays out like a few friends conversing after dinner or following a movie. The character dynamic is essential, so having a chemistry such as this is imperative to the anime’s success. What we’re left with is a successful comedy with a fantastic cast. And really, for an anime that’s as modest as this, it leaves me with a smile on my face and one of the highest scores of the season. The cast of characters is rather simple with characters assigned archetypes that they rarely adhere to, allowing their interactions to be variable and ultimately humorous. The subjects of humor vary between each episode, as does the intensity of comedy, so some episodes have performed well while others only mediocre. There’s nothing impressive about the art or animation, though the historical segments of Tokyo are a refreshing change-of-pace that are both enlightening and a well-timed break from the standard skits in the backroom. In regards to the music, there are a few tracks that I enjoy, so I can’t really complain about the soundtrack in this anime.
What would raise the score? Keep making me laugh.
Review – While Moyashimon Returns is indeed the sequel to Moyashimon, there is a significant difference between the two in terms of pacing, story, comedy, and themes. While the original seemed haphazard, hilarious, and highly unusual, exploring the curious nature of an agricultural university and its students, the second season has taken a more genuine approach to the students and their work and has focused intently on story arcs rather than random events. Because of this, the anime has adjusted its pacing, taken its story more seriously, effectively reduced that characteristic Moyashimon comedy, and shifted its themes from finding oneself in a massive university to establishing and maintaining relationships among your fellow peers. And while these two models of Moyashimon are extremely different, there really hasn’t been any change in how enjoyable the anime is. It’s not that this sequel is bad or anything, it’s just different and takes some time to properly adjust, too. I suppose if one were expecting a continuation of the style from the first season and couldn’t amend themselves to this new style, then maybe they’d be distraught, but it really isn’t bad at all. The art and animation have changed slightly, too, becoming cleaner, more fluid, and more moe, something that could go either way depending on people’s preferences for ‘good art’. The characters all still feel the same, something I’m sure we all appreciate being this sequel is 5 years from the original. As for negatives, I haven’t been laughing as much as I had hoped with this anime, seeing as the comedy has taken a step back and a step down in terms of frequency and quality. The original Moyashimon had some fantastic comedy and I can only hope this sequel rediscovers its talents before it concludes in a few weeks.
What would raise the score? An improvement in the comedy, perhaps returning to the humor that worked so well for the original.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 8
Review – If you didn’t know already, I’m dreadfully persnickety about romance animes, often to the point where I know I should enjoy an anime but often don’t over the trivial or minor details. And that’s true for Natsuyuki Rendezvous, unfortunately. While I am enamored with the meticulous love triangle developing and the clashes between Ryousuke and Shimao, not to mention how comfortable and adult Rokka is around these obsessive men, there’s always something for me to find that just irritates me. For this anime, it’s the whole body-swap and the resulting episodes in fantasy land and Shimao being a living jerk. I was originally prepared to applaud this anime for grounding itself in realism and reality (despite the whole ghost bit, which I was hoping was Ryousuke imagining everything, an unquestionable 10 for a romance if I ever saw one) but then these episodes came along and shredded my most significant compliments to the anime. Nevertheless, I do find myself enjoying Natsuyuki Rendezvous in spite of my ambivalence to certain aspects and am excited to see how the romantic tensions resolve. I find the cast to be outstanding, largely because I have a crush on Rokka (no surprises here), Ryousuke is appealing through his perseverance and timid yet progressively outgoing nature, and Shimao is always worth a laugh when he’s not sulking. The art is stellar though it lacks motion and kinetics, the reason preventing it from being one of the best this season. And in terms of general romance mechanics, I’m thrilled to see one between adults who can handle their emotions and act accordingly rather than an incompatible disarray of hormones, misunderstandings, and melodrama. If it were anything like that, I probably wouldn’t be watching, let alone enjoying, this anime.
What would raise the score? Remain realistic and genuine for the remainder of the series, no more strange ghostly stuff.
Rinne no Lagrange S2 – 8
Review – The second half of Rinne no Lagrange, that is the collection of episodes airing this Summer, have remained true to the first part in terms of its flow and feeling. What these episodes have done, however, has expanded the story well beyond what was possible with the Winter episodes and expand the characters to fit themselves within the story and the setting. What’s been sacrificed to make this happen, unfortunately, has been the high entertainment value that made the first season so delightful. Gone are the fantastic and detailed combat sequences between robots and replacing them are dreary dialogues scenes with shot after shot squared in on character faces. It almost feels like the mecha aspect of the anime has been forgotten; the vox were the staple of the first season, essentially being the entire story and a dominant aspect of each episode and every fight, but now they’re severely underutilized and unmentioned as topics of discussion. Very strange considering how I thought this second season would involve these giant robots more. Thankfully, the humor has endured though noticeably reduced. I’m still in love with the music and the voice acting is terrific, especially after learning about the whole process of selecting the seiyuu for Lagrange from the anime’s Producer this past April, earning it the best Sound of the season. I still am fond of the main trio and how they work together, happy to see them together after their scuffle and animosity during the first few episodes. It’s always rewarding to see friendships such as these withstand through such adversities and stresses, especially considering the significance of this war and the sides that each girl is from.
What would raise the score? Less story, more comedy, and a ton more robots!
Space Brothers – 8
Review – Space Brothers is a great anime but it doesn’t always feel like a great anime. While the concept is still novel and the documentation highly comprehensive, both positives for me, the anime can reduce itself to a snail’s pace easily and drag itself on through material at an unreasonable rate. The fact that we’re still in the middle of these JAXA exams has resulted in me being bored with the subject at hand though I still find the characters and their interactions to be somehow still fascinating. It’s an ambivalence that has prevented this anime from climbing higher in the rankings and dropping from ‘great’ to ‘better’. I want to see something more from this anime but it seems content with relying on the same storytelling patterns and techniques and never really experimenting with its characters or story, something almost disappointing given its original storyline. And while I was once captivated by its retro character designs and animation style, I’ve grown accustomed to the appearance of this anime and find it rather ordinary now, though you come to expect that after watching it 20 times. Besides that, nothing has really changed for me over these past episodes except I’ve grown restless and want out of these JAXA tests for good.
What would raise the score? Generate some excitement, some energy, something different, and something fun for the audience as a reward for tolerating that space capsule arc.
Tari Tari – 7
Review – Though I do enjoy Tari Tari, I just don’t feel passionate about it like most of the anime before it. It’s an engaging and entertaining tale about highschoolers coming to grasp with the reality of their dreams, conflicts, and predicaments, but I never feel strongly about any one character or any one storyline. Sure, it’s depressing to see Wakana go through her social withdrawal after her mother’s sudden death but it never struck me emotionally. Neither did Konatsu when the Vice Principal continued to torment her by preventing her from realizing her dream. They’re just storylines that happen to characters. I’m not sure why but that’s just the case with Tari Tari and perhaps the largest flaw with this anime for me. One theory I have is that the characters don’t really seem concerned about each other and their problems, often dealing with it by themselves until the end, so perhaps the lack of emotion through these episodes translates strongly to me. Or maybe I just don’t care about teenage melodrama after its redundancy in anime today? Or maybe it’s just me? Beyond that, I enjoy the female members of the cast, though Miyamoto is the only one to make me laugh and smile consistently. The art is exceptional, especially in respects to the backgrounds which are often visual masterpieces and the character designs are amazing, too. I’m always fond of the art and animation from anything PA Works, so it’s not shocking to see acclaim from me again. Humor exists within the anime, a positive for me, but it’s often separated, secondary, and only mildly amusing meaning it has some room for improvement. And like most anime, I find the music to be a positive though nothing much for me to talk about specifically. And though I’m not emotionally invested in the anime, I’m still intrigued by where the anime will go from here and how it will conclude, so I’m somewhat attached to this anime, just not how I’d like it to be.
What would raise the score? Provide me with character problems I can become concerned about or do them in such a way that forces me to connect with the characters on an emotional level.
Sword Art Online – 7
Review – Sword Art Online is another anime where my emotions are fortunately strong but often mixed and indiscernible. While I tend to enjoy the anime overall, a magnificent and vibrant setting filled with serene landscapes, imaginative monsters, and fascinating people, certain aspects of the writing ultimately undermine the anime and reduce it to this mediocre standing. Kirito and the non-Asuna female members of the cast are pleasing to watch, their motivations and actions clear, their personalities and psyche agreeable, and all within the boundaries of reason given their situation. The storylines are commonly engrossing, detailing the troubles and adventures of the characters trapped in this medieval fantasy deathtrap and how the characters handle these issues. And the soundtrack to this has been excellent, one of the best this season. Where this anime falls short is in its writing and storytelling. Many fans of the series who’ve read the light novels have explained to me many aspects that were reduced or removed from the anime which have ultimately inhibited several key points and details I was expecting the anime to cover. Without these points, I feel the anime is an incomplete adaptation. Not to mention we’ve been receiving side-quest after side-quest without ever hearing anything about the main storyline thus far. Character interactions are often left undesirable and the resolution to a few situations have been downright appalling, giving the anime unnecessary blemishes on what otherwise would have been tremendous episodes. These continuous faults are what has doomed this anime for me though it hasn’t ruined the anime for me like it seems it has attempted to do on numerous occasions. There is room for improvement that Sword Art Online can perform rather easily and immediately, but I have serious doubt that the writing will improve by a significant amount anytime soon.
What would raise the score? Improve storytelling mechanics, character dialogue, and actually going through the main story for a change.
Dog Days’ (S2) – 7
Review – The second season of Dog Days has retained the enchanting, lighthearted themes of the original but adjusted the series to provide more entertainment, amusement, and fanservice than ever before. While the first season narrated the story of Shinku and his quest to resolve the ongoing wars between Biscotti and Galette, the second season has no such storyline, three heroes, a mass of new characters, and no such issues regarding demons or teleportation back home or anything. The anime is completely free to do whatever it wants meaning a diverse array of arbitrary, disconnected episodes focusing on a variety of characters and their thrilling misadventures. It actually has performed wonderfully for Dog Days, given its relaxed nature and focus on adventure and fun. The decrease in emotions and drama has been wonderful, too, allowing more time for the characters to have fun with each other and for the comedy to flourish. However, the significant increase in fanservice is a bit questionable. Though it was present in the first season, often in the form a few underwear shots or a ripped clothes scene or two, this season has gone out of its way to feature nudity or put a few characters in their panties for every episode. Not only that but the romance has been wanting to develop in the anime but been largely halted since it doesn’t seem to know how to progress or even what romance it wants to do. Sure, there are character relationships that would suggest there’ll be a romantic conflict later on but the anime seems too focused on adventures and amusement that it’s been neglected (but that’s a positive for me, I’d rather have more adventures than more romance). Just some things to get adjusted to, I suppose, though they seem rather unnecessary given how the anime used to be innocent and carefree. The art and animation seem to be subpar most of the time though enough to give the anime a decent appearance and satisfactory fight sequences. I’ve always enjoyed the cast of characters in Dog Days and the newly introduced ones are no exception to this fact either. There have been zero signs of a central storyline for this season, which may ultimately be a good thing since I’ve found myself to enjoy these slapdash and casual episodes the more and more as the season progresses.
What would raise the score? A reduction in fanservice, replaced with more adventures, fun, and Nanami.
Yuru Yuri ♪♪ (S2) – 7
Review – Yuru Yuri S2 has enjoyed a similar success to the first season in terms of its characters and comedy, becoming another relaxing comedy with pleasing results again. Where Yuru Yuri finds its success is with its character situations and how everyone responds to whatever’s going on. What’s nice is that the cast has expanded for this season, allowing secondary and minor characters to split the spotlight and employ their humor for both variability and delight. And though I don’t find myself laughing as hard as other comedies, Yuru Yuri always manages to put a smile on my face with its enjoyable characters and its tranquil charm. Where Yuru Yuri could improve is finding independence from its in-jokes which the anime seems to have an unhealthy reliance on. After seeing the same joke utilized in only a slightly different manner for the umpteenth time, I just can’t derive any more pleasure, even if it’s a joke I found hilarious to start. I can’t even force myself to smile given how lackluster and overused they’ve become, especially all the lesbian ones which the anime set its foundation in. This second season has begun to progress past this point, something that staled the end of the first season, but it’d still be nice if the anime could resist placing these jokes in every episode. I find the character designs adorable but the character personalities only allow me to really like half the cast. Nevertheless, these cast members always seem to find their ways on the screen, so it’s never a dull moment in Yuru Yuri. The art and animation are simple and effective, something that keeps the anime easy on the eyes while still appearing detailed enough to stay interesting.
What would raise the score? A greater, more diverse arsenal of jokes for which to entertain.
Kokoro Connect – 6
Review – Though Kokoro Connect is the final anime being watched and ranked right now, I am enjoying the anime. Even though the anime is a 6, one of the lower scores I award to an anime, I am happy I’m watching it and will continue to do so. But what gives it the lowest score of the Mid-Season Review is that I feel no real emotions while watching it. Much like Tari Tari, I have no reason to feel concerned or troubled over the characters and their problems. There’s a certain overbearing magnitude of melodrama that really saps my strength while watching this anime and what remains is a brain-dead state where I feel like Heartseed is my mirror image. Yes, I understand the pain that each character goes through as their private lives are exposed to these strangers and that they’re unable to control these occurrences, but there’s an emotional disconnect between the characters and me. I’m not sure why but I just don’t feel anything while watching this anime. Perhaps I find the whole situation a bit melodramatic or the characters to be overly emotional but something doesn’t fit well with me in regards to these characters. When there’s comedy, however, I do tend to find myself laughing though the humor is often dull or unoriginal, especially when it’s between both sexes. The concept of the anime is highly intriguing and the main reason why I started and continue to watch it, but I’ve been disappointed with how I’ve responded to these episodes and how they’ve covered their material. Perhaps there’ll be a point where one of the storylines captivates and wins me over but for now, it’s an unwanted 6. The art and animation are decent, nothing special or noteworthy, so there’s not really any bonuses there. I love the way the seiyuu are able to change their voices to try to accommodate the other characters when they’re switching bodies, perhaps my favorite aspect of the anime, but it seems that this gag has ended with the bodyswapping effectively gone now. I’m curious to see how this anime will play out and I’m hoping to become more emotionally invested as we arrive near whatever conclusion they have planned for us.
What would raise the score? Something emotional for me to feel engaged and concerned with the characters.
Binbougami ga! – D [Delayed]
Reason – I’ve been meaning to continue with Binbougami ga! but working six days a week has wrecked my schedule for watching anime. I plan to catch up before the Summer anime season ends but who knows when I’ll find the free time for this.
Chouyaku Hyakunin Isshu: Uta Koi – D [Delayed]
Reason – Same reason as above but I’m not as interested in Uta Koi as I once was and am debating dropping it. Right now, it is delayed, but don’t be surprised if I drop it before the end of the Summer.
And that concludes the Summer 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 warranting better evaluations. The rankings are in constant motion throughout the season, with each episode making its case for why the anime should rank higher or lower every week. And it should be interesting to see how each anime’s performance in the second half of the season considering how different the structure of the stories and behaviors of the characters are. Each anime has the opportunity to affect their scores and their standing among each other until the end of the season. Until then, let’s enjoy some anime!