So, yeah, the Summer anime season ended quite a while back, but it’s never too late (or is it?) to provide my final thoughts, opinions, assessments, and evaluations on the various anime that aired over our warmer, sunnier months. We’ve had plenty of time to watch and enjoy these shows and now it’s time to assign their final scores before they become little more than fond or funny memories or entries in our detailed anime histories. So, just how well did every show do according to my personal preferences? It’s time to explore and score the 2012 Summer anime season one last time!
The lasting impressions from this season are how polarized it turned out to be with several anime being outstanding or rewarding and others being disappointments or worse. Then again, this seems to be a common trend for Summer anime seasons seeing as every year since 2009 has seen me witness a number of phenomenal anime and a number of forgettable anime. However, this might be the most polarizing yet, largely due to the differences in characterization. As you continue further on into the reviews, you’ll notice that characterization appears frequently throughout, especially with the top anime and again as problems with the lower anime. Beyond that, there really aren’t any memorable trends from this season besides being home to several new favorites including possibly the best anime of the year.
Every anime receives a numerical score (between 10-5 as well as a D [delayed/dropped]) and is placed in position according to how they rank against each other from top to bottom, helping differentiate position among anime receiving the same score. Included are my favorite characters for each series as well as my opinions on the best Art, Characters, Entertainment, Sound, and Story. Lastly, each anime is paired with its own review which provides my overall thoughts and evaluation on the anime in addition to explaining my reasoning behind the score and ranking. Any questions or discussion are welcome and encouraged in the comment section.
Sengoku Collection – 10
Review – The Sengoku Collection is not a story but a journey. It is not linear but multidirectional. Not an anime to watch but an anime to experience. The Sengoku Collection is an innovative, imaginative, and inspirational anime that does not follow a story in any sense but observes various exceptional and distinctive personalities and reveals to us their diverse impacts on our world. Whether it is conquering a hostile space station, restoring a failing restaurant, or even something as simple as just making one new friend, every episode focuses primarily on the characterization of the episode’s Sengoku character, to explore them and show us the positive effects and meanings of their lives. Every episode is brilliantly written on its themes and subjects and always has some sense of reward or satisfaction before the ending credits roll. What helps further is that all the characters are charismatic and engaging, making each episode enjoyable in addition to being meaningful. Furthermore, numerous episodes have their own distinguishing art styles or are dotted with artistic motifs, further enhancing this individualistic effect going on in each episode. And though this may seem to be another “Sengoku-era genderbender” anime, this is easily the most innovative anime of the year and worthy of its outstanding praise and acclaim. Everything about this anime is so significant, so demonstrative, so careful, so cleverly directed, that I can’t help but love it. It is the best anime of the year and the eighteenth episode is the best single episode I’ve seen in years, perhaps forever. Yes, it’s that good, that good. Without a doubt, the Sengoku Collection takes the top spot for the Summer anime season.
Review – Often depressing, frequently perceptive and always delightful, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita was an enchanting and memorable anime that explored numerous themes on the subject of humanity masked by the adorable, little fairies with heartening smiles. And though the fairies were the most distinctive and extraordinary aspect of the anime, Jintai won me over with Watashi’s remarkable and relatable character. Her constant observations on both humans and fairies during her daily whimsical adventures provided us with astonishing insight that was both critical and humorous. Her character proved to be rather intricate, too, showing multiple faces that ranging from indifferent to compassionate, from lethargic to ambitious. And behind all those fronts was just a young, sensitive lass wishing to find an easy, happy life during the final stages of the crumbling of human civilization. Her character was purely fascinating, in addition to her charming personality while drove the entertainment in this anime. Beyond Watashi were countless other positives including the distinguishing art style of the anime and its incredible soundtrack. The dystopian setting, one that coupled amiable fantasy with grim tragedy, was captivating, especially with how calm and pleasant it felt for such a dark concept. And the themes of the series, which bounced around from critiques on mankind’s progression, self-awareness, and faults fed our minds with ideas for us to wrestle with long after the finale had ended and after we’ve moved onto the next phases of our lives. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita did everything I wanted from it and more. On the surface, it provided an entertaining and gratifying anime with genuine comedy and meticulous characters, but also provided a rich, rewarding experience beneath with its obscure or ambiguous morals and sobering messages. It is already one of my favorite anime of all time, so it’s no surprise it earns a coveted 10 and sits near the peak of this seasonal review.
Hyouka – 9
Review – Hyouka deserves praise for what it was able to accomplish. It did something that we hope every anime does but few are able to do. Hyouka improved steadily and continuously throughout its entire run, becoming better and better with each passing episode and saving its best for its conclusion. And no, I’m not talking about the mysteries or curiosities that were the subjects of the show but on its characters and their brilliant development. Hyouka did a phenomenal job of constructing its quartet of detectives, revealing themselves through these fleeting mysteries and profound discussions, to the point where Hyouka became a story of these young kids and not the random ‘mystery-of-the-week’. The characterization in Hyouka was so precise, so surgical, so skillfully executed that it became the anime. And when you finally realize it, that this is what Hyouka is, the anime becomes more than just lads and lasses solving various mysteries through the medium of vibrant, decorated illustrations by Kyoto Animation. Yes, the final few episodes that surmised the hesitant romances and exposed every secreted attribute of each character solidified this series as one of the greatest for this year. Not only was the character development worthy of praise but so, too, are various other aspects of this captivating series. Perhaps the most notable is how vivid and fascinating the art and animation was, easily the top of this season. The setting for the anime, though rather mundane, felt appropriate for the series and earned a bonus for being set in a slightly outdated, rural Japan. Certain mysteries were hit-or-miss but once I realized the appeal of the series was with the people and not the stories, I began to thoroughly enjoy the episodes regardless of the how good or bad the mystery was. Still, what prevents this anime from reaching the desirable 10 was the weaker first half of the anime. If I were scoring the episodes that were broadcasted over the summer only, then Hyouka would be a 10 and this would be the first season with three 10s in over three years. However, that is not the case, but Hyouka presently and pleasantly sits within the Top 5 for the year.
Joshiraku – 9
Review – Joshiraku is one of those comedies that can make you smile even without attempting to make a joke. And judging from its ending song, one that reinforces its message of wanting to make us smile, it did so magnificently. Its amusement stems not through the various haphazard subjects of each skit but through the characters that communicate this bizarre gags to us. It understands comedy. It embraces its entertainment. And though the anime had its ups and downs, I absolutely enjoyed watching Joshiraku. Its strength lies with its characters, primarily their personalities and their dynamic together. Each character connected with the other like the pieces to a puzzle or the parts to make a machine function. Their positive energy, excitement, and general happiness (yes, this even includes Kukuru) gave the anime a radiant, dazzling feel to it, even between jokes. And the actually comedy was pretty damn good, too, if you were able to realize the references before too late. Considering how much I love comedies, it should be no surprise to see Joshiraku score so well. Besides the excellence displayed with its characters and entertainment value, the rest of the anime felt somewhat mediocre though nothing worthy of complaints. The setting, that of the dressing room rakugo performers is certainly distinctive and a unique plus for the anime, but the skits where the girls visited various neighborhoods of real world Japan fascinated me. Whereas other anime are merely set in “Japan”, Joshiraku actually explored its country and featured rather stimulating segments on the history and geography of various regions of Japan and on their place Japanese culture. Actually, this cerebral aspect of the anime grew to be one of my favorite, especially in the latter episodes. The art and animation was rather lackluster and unimpressive, though the anime did an exceptional job at what it intended to do: draw cute girls talking to each other. And though an anime about cute girls talking to each other may sound tedious and overdone, Joshiraku performed exceptionally, forcing me to alternate between laughs and smiles throughout each episode, and became one of the better comedy anime I’ve watched.
Tari Tari – 8
Review – The simplicity of Tari Tari, found in its characters, comedy and story, allowed the anime to find success with only a few flaws or faults. Because Tari Tari never really gambled with itself, never took any risks or saw any dangers, the anime remained committed to its message and flourished as a result. Unlike other anime with similar, emotional themes, the character problems in Tari Tari were straightforward, never overly complicated or unnecessarily complex, and were solved appropriately, allowing time for the anime to tell its story effectively and to show the characters progress after dealing with these issues. Yes, once the introductions were over and most of the problems solved, the anime improved drastically and become significantly more enjoyable. In fact, I might even go as far to say that the second-half is when the anime became enjoyable. It is here when the characters of Tari Tari began to evolve into something more. They began to feel, talk, and behave more like real world people, at least compared to what most anime do for their characters. Rather than a collection of pre-recorded anime archetypes responding to stereotypical anime stimuli, the cast of Tari Tari felt somewhat genuine or realistic, especially in how they conversed and interacted with each other. That is something to appreciate in an anime of this caliber, for attempting to design and write authentic characters and not copy-pasting anime archetypes into these roles. Not only that but the story was largely immune to anime clichés, too, though it did have a few sprinkled throughout. My enjoyment of the anime through the setting was limited, largely due to it being another anime at another anime high school, but the sights and scenery of Enoshima and its surrounding were pleasant. The art and animation remained above-average throughout, a constant positive for this anime and the soundtrack proved to be one of the better this season. Given the plot, setting, and structure for Tari Tari, I often felt like the ceiling for this anime would be a 7, largely based on how ordinary the first-half was. However, the latter episodes of the anime surpassed my expectations, improving not only with its characters but with its story and comedy, helping earn this anime an 8 and being one of the pleasant surprised of the summer anime season.
Yuru Yuri ♪♪ (S2) – 8
Review – Charming and delightful, the second season of Yuru Yuri proved to be more than just an outrageous comedy by providing us with numerous heartfelt and touching moments for all the cast members. Nevertheless, the strength and driving force of Yuru Yuri is its impressive, unceasing, and surprisingly intelligent comedy which made this second installment of Yuru Yuri so amusing and enjoyable. With that in mind, the heartwarming moments were simply bonuses to an already remarkable showing by this anime. Without any form of coherent plot or apparent story, the anime is set-up as a series of skits with episodic content, which Yuru Yuri uses to its advantage, especially when it relates back to previous jokes or character gags regardless of its situations. However, this acted as a double-edged sword since some of the inside jokes were reused a bit too much and the anime never really ventured outside its comfort-zone in terms of its style of comedy. In fact, some skits were rather humdrum as a result. Still, the comedy proved to be successful for the duration of the series, hitting more often than missing with its episodic content. The cast never receives any sort of meaningful development, but considering that the series is a comedy first and comedy second, I actually prefer it to having progress that never leads to anything or will receive any resolution. Yuru Yuri is pretty much ideal as it is, making me smile and laugh with each episode. Beyond that, there’s not much else to add to this anime that hasn’t already been established. Like the comedy, the art and animation is charming and quite cute. The anime does an excellent job of removing the stale “school” aspects from the setting, helping enhance the comedy in the process while keeping the boring skits to a minimum. And the cast of characters are all hilarious and wonderful, something I really adore in a comedy of this style. Overall, the second season of Yuru Yuri impressed, turning out to be one of the better anime this season and better comedies of this year.
Rinne no Lagrange (S2) – 8
Review – The continuation of Rinne no Lagrange took the anime on an unanticipated journey, one that focused less on its successful, humorous cast of characters and primarily on its convoluted, disjointed plot. Really, the plot for this season of Lagrange was unnecessary, often baffling, unsystematic, and unwise. It sucked the joy out of the series from some outer world conflict on Earth where Madoka and friends and their magical voxes saved the universe from peril or whatever. And on top of that, there was some romance nonsense spread evenly throughout in case the sudden onslaught of “plot” wasn’t enough. Perhaps the most criminal of this second season is how the character development for the trio of friends, done brilliantly in the first season was completely botched and wrecked in this second season. Have Lan and Muginami fight was dumb enough but putting the focus solely on Madoka for the most of the season seemed to indicate that the whole idea of friendship and cooperation was forgotten in the first season so that we could get a garbage plot to end the season. Yeah, I’m pretty bitter about how this season was handled. The anime ignored what worked for it in the first season and opted for a mess of a story that essentially ruined the anime for me. I even began to enjoy the simple visuals and magnificent soundtrack of this anime less as a result. And though this season was fraught with problems, it wasn’t so terrible that it placed near the bottom. Yeah, I am unhappy with what this season of Lagrange did, but it still had its moments when it focused on Madoka, Lan, and Muginami together. And because the first season earned a low 9 and this season earned a low 7, its total comes to an 8 which is respectable given how negatively I feel oh how this anime ended.
Space Brothers – 8
Review – Although my interest and motivation for Space Brothers is waning, the anime continues to impress me with its devotion to Mutta and his challenging journey to float aimlessly among the stars. Its commitment to detail translates to an unparalleled enthusiasm for space, further enriching the anime’s themes. Its extended length and the concurrent pressures that Mutta feels shows us how difficult a process it is in its entirety and why his story is so inspiring. With each trial and encounter becoming more sophisticated and stressful, the anime is able to generate some interest and drama out of Mutta or the surrounding characters. However, when this is not the case, the anime becomes tiresome, uneventful, and unnecessary. During these slower episodes, the anime does nothing more than drag its feet for little more than minimal character development or inching along with its story progression. Seriously, 26 episodes of Space Brothers and this is where we are? These tedious, exhausting scenes extend Space Brothers beyond what it needs to be and it is the most damaging aspect of the series. These scenes are not enjoyable nor are they particularly meaningful and, as a result, my interest in the series is free-falling. I can only hope that as the anime continues that it will rediscover its merits and return to being simultaneously entertaining while inspirational. The anime does need more action or excitement, just less time wasted between the action and excitement. If Space Bros is able to do that in its third season, the anime will rise and earn itself some deserved praise. Until then, however, Space Brothers is sputtering and in danger of falling even further.
Review – The return of Moyashimon seems to be in name only with the heart and soul missing from this series extension. Whereas the first season of Moyashimon found success in its bizarre antics, refreshing comedy, amusing cast and insight into the vast world of microbiology and its applications, this second season to forge its own, new direction and focus on character stories rather than amusement blended with education. How foolish of a decision this turned out to be. In selecting this new direction to take, Moyashimon Returns lost its familiarity and charm and muddled around with a disarray of stories that effectively fragmented its cast. Yes, perhaps most damning about this season of Moyashimon is that it removed some of its best characters for most of the season, a decision that continues to perplex and bewilder me. The cast from the first season was effectively severed and more screentime was given to unpopular and unfunny characters like Hasegawa’s fiancé and Marie’s family. Yeah, we lost out on Oikawa and Mutou for them. And rather than fill each episode with genuine comedy, the formula for success for the first season, Moyashimon Returns elected to convey emotional stories that were poorly structured miscommunications that yielded unsatisfying results, such as the secret underground lair, the resolution between Haruka and Ryuuta, and solving the issues with Marie’s vineyard. Ugh, what a mess. The second season of Moyashimon is a prime example of how to mismanage a series, to disregard what worked before and attempt to recreate itself off abysmal stories on unappealing characters. However, not everything was terrible about this series, and the few episodes that took place on campus with the familiar cast of characters were particularly enjoyable. The improved production values were noticeable in this go-around, particularly in the consistency in art and animation. And the educational segments were interesting though infrequent. So although the series was a massive disappointment overall, the series did have a number of positives. However, when thinking about what could’ve been, I can’t help but find myself frustrated with how Moyashimon Returns panned out.
Dog Days’ (S2) – 7
Review – Dog Days’ provided its lighthearted adventure series with a number of contributions as well as a number of setbacks. Easily the greatest positive from this sequel was the expansion of its cast, to include two new heroes to the cast while opening up the kingdom of Pastillage with its amusing cast of characters. This installment also explored more of the setting of Dog Days, developing the character a bit more while exploring new fighting powers and battle mechanics. Not to mention, following different characters around provided an exponential increase in its entertainment value, giving us the chance to do things that would otherwise be impossible through a Shinku-only version of Dog Days. And, considering the stories and developments that we saw in this season, it appears as though another season is being planned to follow this one though probably not anytime soon. Yeah, considering all that, it sounds like this season was a success, right? Well, there’s a reason why this sequel is rather difficult to evaluate, a bit of a mixed bag. Perhaps the most noticeable problem with the series was its dedication to fanservice. Pretty much every episode multiple features of nudity, panties, bouncy boobs, skimpy swimsuits, and anything remotely considered ecchi. The worst was Becky’s uncomfortable, borderline erotic transformation sequence which was a warning of how bad this season would be in terms of how ecchi it’d be. And though I do like some fanservice, this was excessive and unnecessary. Furthermore, the episodic content of the anime served absolutely zero purpose. Instead of showing a satisfying story like the first season did, the episodes were a haphazard jumble with random events occurring that never saw resolution or conclusion. Although it seems to indicate another season is on the horizon, it damaged the season as it is by having no substance whatsoever. And seeing as the series thrives on its entertainment, there were issues with both the comedy and fighting. The fighting saw a decrease in quality, often forcing action sequences off-screen for no justifiable reason and the humor in the series focused on ‘lol fanservice’ more than not, showing an unhealthy trend for the anime. Nevertheless, Dog Days’ turned out to be rather enjoyable and entertaining despite these multiple flaws with the series. Should the anime continue onto a third season, which it appears is likely to be the case, then hopefully there will be some reevaluation on what worked for the first two season and what didn’t before production begins.
Sword Art Online – 7
Review – Having lost 7 years of my life to MMOs, I found the premise to Sword Art Online to be rather encouraging through I reserved my opinions overall based on its harem set-up. The anime was able to deliver a gorgeous online fantasy realm with its vibrant backgrounds and detailed settings, easily my favorite aspect of the anime. Not only that, but the soundtrack is impressive, too, making SAO a delight for both my eyes and ears. Too bad my brain doesn’t feel the same way. Where SAO has its faults is with its characters and story, though both have surpassed the realm of “this is bad” to “this is laughable”. And seeing as these areas are so pathetic, it almost works as a positive for the series seeing how utterly stupid it gets at times. Everything in this anime is asinine, an illogical mess fostered by the impractical personalities of this online world. It is absolutely hilarious seeing how these people interact with each other, fully immersing themselves in roleplaying and whatnot and creating all this pointless drama. Everyone is so deadpan serious, it has the reverse effect of being stupidly hilarious. The harem set-up and romance are forgettable, pretty much simplified by “I like you cuz you helped me once” or “I am compelled to like the main character because…” or something equally idiotic. The characters themselves are only slightly better but they’re just a gathering of anime archetypes stuck in this anime. The plot is the most ridiculous aspect of the anime. It makes no sense nor does it care to explain what the fuck is going on. Remember that scene where Kirito and Asuna came back from the grave or something and immediately won the game. What is this bullshit? Like, how and why did this happen? There wasn’t even an attempt at explaining what happened. It’s almost as if the anime were structured with “this happens, then this happens, this that happens with this girl, then she’s sad, but then this happens and omg it’ll be so awesome!” Well, SAO is pretty awesome at getting me slightly frustrated until I can laugh everything off. And seeing as I laugh during every episode, I’m inclined to keep it around despite its number of shameful errors and significant catastrophes.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 6
Review – For me, Natsuyuki Rendezvous bombed. After climbing so high during the first half, a stunning display of a conflicted romance shown through the perspective of three disenchanted adults, the anime took a tailspin from which it could never pull out of. The former part of Natsuyuki Rendezvous was spectacular. I admired how the series portrayed its romance and its characters, how they were distressed in their situations but choosing to move forward into further conflict and a reckless unknown. It felt genuine and meaningful building up to a point where everything would be won or lost by the three players. I had to search long and hard to find faults with the series… but as soon as Atsushi assumed Ryousuke’s body around the midpoint in the series, everything changed. And unfortunately, it changed for the worse. What resulted was complete irritation and dissatisfaction with the story and characterization, effectively scrapping everything built up for the three characters by reversing their dynamic and eliminating one completely. I have no idea why they thought Ryousuke wandering through Wonderland would be a good idea or how it was even an idea to begin with. Not only that but the anime never cared to explain how or why Ryousuke was sent there and not floating around like Atsushi. Because of this ill-advised move, it removed him from the series, serving no purpose to him or the story and it changed the complexity from a web of intricate thoughts and feelings to essentially nothing. Not only that but with Atsushi back in the real world, his and Rokka’s characters were effectively halted as the series seem confused with what to do with either. The series stagnated and the remainder was spent with an incoherent mass of flashbacks that destroyed all continuity and sensibility. The characters acted irrationally based on what we saw from the first half which felt appropriate given the direction of the anime at this point. Nothing worked for this anime. To say it was a disaster would be rude to word disaster. Natsuyuki Rendezvous flashed promises of wonderment and success in its first half but it was ridiculously wasted and exiled in its second half. To say this anime was a tragedy would be an understatement.
Kokoro Connect – D
Reason – Due to a combination of losing interest, an increasing workload, and the beginning of school, Kokoro Connect has been delayed and will be completed sometime later. Since the anime is still incomplete, there is not much I can say for a final review, but I do enjoy the anime enough to eventually complete it.
Notable Summer moments:
Best Art: Hyouka
Best Characters: Sengoku Collection
Best Entertainment: Joshiraku
Best Sound: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
Best Story: Sengoku Collection
Best OP: Sengoku Collection (I absolutely love the song and appreciate the animation flashing quick profiles of every episode’s main character including various familiar faces from the first cour. Barely edged out the infamous dance from Jintai for first.)
Best ED: Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita (Stylistic animation, a very appropriate theme, and a beautiful song. Dog Days’ and Joshiraku had a more charming songs and animation with happy chibis, placing behind Jintai, with Hyouka as an honorable mention.)
Biggest Surprise: Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Something happened that caused it to tailspin and drop quickly. You never see an anime bomb like this for me but it somehow did.)
Biggest Disappointment: Moyashimon Returns (It forgot the appeal of the first season and developed the second on two weak, unlikable stories. Never lived up to its potential.)
Best Finale: Sengoku Collection (Incredibly gratifying to see everyone one last time, often together with other characters, during the festival at the end.)
Most Hated Character: Balance T. Moid (Rinne no Lagrange (S2))
Also, I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the lengthy and unreasonable delay in this post. Thank you for understanding and I hope you were able to enjoy the post, especially if you were able to remember all these anime in the midst of a new and arguably better season.