Thursday, September 29, 2011

Summer 2011 Season Review

While we still have a few series waiting to finish up, I thought I'd just give a quick recap of my thoughts on this Summer's series.

On balance, I'd say this was a good to very good season - especially for traditionally weak summer.  There was an above-average quantity of solid, entertaining series though not a lot of true classics.  At this point Ikoku Meiro, Usagi Drop and KamiDolls are all certain or likely to make my top 10 for the year - as is Steins;Gate, which finished in the summer.  Natsume Yuujinchou San and Tiger & Bunny have a chance to sneak into the lower part of that list.




Top Tier

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee - Without a doubt my favorite series of the season.  Equally successful as an adorable heartwarmer and a deceptively deep and complex character drama.  Truly a labor of love from Satelight, with great care obviously showing in all aspects of the production.  Brilliant, lovable and utterly charming.

Usagi Drop - NoitaminA retires - for now - the "heart" half of its timeslot with an outstanding adaptation of Unita Yumi's manga.  I'm currently almost halfway through the controversial post-jump portion of the manga, but the anime restricts itself to the first half.  Wonderfully restrained, it lets the powerful premise do the emotional heavy lifting and delivers a wonderful portrayal of a single Dad as GAR as they come and two realistic, likable kids.

Kamisama Dolls - When I watch a show like this I'm glad anime exists, because you'd never get anything like it in any other medium.  A brilliant generalist that excels in more categories than any series this year.  Huge and intricate story desperately needs a second season.

Natsume Yuujinchou San - Another great season of "Natsume" from Brains Base.  It's not quite as dear to me as the first two as it focuses much more heavily on Natsume's connections to the human world, his growing connections to his friends, and actual plots - but that's just personal preference.  Season four coming in January, and there's no reason to expect any drop in quality.

Very Good


Mawaru Penguin Drum - Ikuhara returns with a series that flashes stunning brilliance and is never less than interesting.  It's also maddeningly inconsistent, emotionally remote and suffered from a three-episode fixation on its most annoying character.  This is not an easy show to understand - or to love - but it's an important one and as intellectually dense as any anime this year.

R-15 - A really smart, sweet and remarkably deep story about the way romance and lust interact in the human animal.  Without question no show this year has a greater gap between actual and perceived quality.  Give this one a chance - it's really good, I promise.

Nekogami Yaoyorazu - A very small, humble adaptation of a Flipflops manga that never failed to put a smile on my face.  Superb cast, clever comedy and surprising emotional depth, at heart this is quite a simple series that feels utterly Japanese.

Flawed but Watchable


Nurarihyon no Mago Sennen Makyou - We're only halfway through, of course, but the second season is certainly better than the first so far.  Better pacing, better action, crisper writing.  It's still a bit inconsistent, but it's generally an entertaining 22 minutes.


No. 6 - I like the feckless, heart-on-its-sleeve silliness of this BONES effort, which was better than its two predecessors on the "Brain" half of the NoitaminA block.  It has a 90's quality to it I really like.  Still, it was a mistake to try and cram no much novel material into 11 episodes and the series really suffered for it with a preposterously rushed ending.


Dantalian no Shoka - I get the feeling there's a series to love hiding somewhere inside "Dantalian", but this adaptation is so emotionally remote that it never lets you get too close.  It's full of smart people and respects the intelligence of the audience, but it could really do with some deeper character insight and at least a skeleton of a continuing plot.


Kamisama no Memochou - Started off with style and punch, got very boring, then finished pretty well.  Just too much of this series was unexceptional and forgettable to rank it higher, though it certainly had some moments and it was never awful.



Disappointments


Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu Ni! - I'm desperately disappointed by this season, which for me has lost almost all the charm of the first.  There's no sense of shared social injustice, the humor has shifted way too heavily in favor of sadism and the deadly-serious flashback episodes felt totally out of context.  How this one has fallen so far - and why more people don't agree with me that it has - it one of the great mysteries of anime for me.

Blood-C - Well, I said in the Summer Preview that I was worried about how this mish-mosh of talents and creative influences would work.  The answer is, not very well - alas this show has been pretty much a debacle.  I'm enjoying it now only because I'm letting the sheer idiocy of it all wash over me, but this is truly awful stuff - CLAMP should never be allowed within 1000 miles of a "Blood" series again.

Dropped for Various Reasons


Ro-Kyu-Bu, Mayo Chiki, Yuriyuri, Sacred Seven, Itsu-Ten






20 comments:

  1. Blood-C and Sacred Seven are so weak that i can't even be mad at them. My only complaint is that there are so many great possible projects for both Production I.G and Sunrise to work on that i can't help but feel that both anime were a complete waste of effort.

    I am thinking about watching R-15 instead of Baka to Test 2. My tolerance for annoying characters has reached it's limits after watching Mawaru Penguindrum.

    That said, i loved Natsume Yuujinchou San and liked Manyuu Hikenchou. They were the main atraction for me this season, along with some of the 2 cour shows (Steins;Gate, Ao no Exorcist, Tiger & Bunny, Hanasaku Iroha, Kaiji 2).

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  2. Started watching 4 shows this season: Blood C, Dantalia, Sacred Seven, and Tiger and Bunny (started watching it after episode 13/14).

    And only T&B passed my 3 episode evaluation. Quite disappointed by this season.

    New season has Guilty Crown, Gundam Age, and Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere as the lineup. We will see if it goes well.

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  3. No room for S;G in your top tier Enzo? At least a mention!

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  4. Not a summer series! As I said in the intro paragraph, it's likely to make my year's top 10 (in fact, it's a lock).

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  5. For you top tier I have seen everything except
    Kamisama Dolls (I guess I should look into that one).

    The only thing I think I disagree with you on is Mawaru Penguin Drum being "emotionally distant". Although I suppose your mileage will vary, I definitely feel emotionally connected to the characters.

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  6. I'm guessing your top 5 this year looks something like this?
    1.Ikoku Meiro
    2.Anohana
    3.Steins;Gate
    4.Usagi Drop
    5.Kamisama dolls

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  7. @Anon: Perhaps if Autumn produces nothing but Blood-C. I would think Enzo would rank Steins above Ano hana. Let's see whether I am right.

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  8. Oops, I guess it would have been more appropriate if I had said 'top 5 for the first three seasons'. Well, I would personally prefer if he did rank S;G above it, though considering how Cross Game is his fave anime and how similar Anohana is to it makes me doubt it/:

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  9. haven't watched Usagi Drop (though i've already downloaded all the episodes) but i've read a number of good reviews for it.. guess i should watch it soon..

    i agree with you in Penguindrum && Dantalian.. Penguidrum is a pretty good && interesting show though somehow difficult to understand.. as for Dantalian, i'm currently stuck in ep8 && even though the per-episode story is pretty good, i really do wish that there could be something more than that..

    && as for Blood-C, i'm got stuck in ep1. thinking it was a promising show, it was the first series i watched for summer. well, after what you said, i'm considering on dropping it..

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  10. Anon, the order isn't right but that would probably be a pretty good guess as to the 5 - I think you'd have 4 of them anyway. I haven't yet thought hard about how the winter and spring shows stack against the fall ones.

    DV - Right now I'd have AnoHana higher, but after careful consideration I might feel differently.

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  11. Kamisama Dolls, IDOLM@STER, Usagi Drop and MPD are my favorites this summer.
    I enjoyed Ikoku Meiro no Croisee but I thought some of the dramas felt forced and unrealistic, and Claude and Yune can get a bit too angsty on occasion. I followed a couple episodes of Natsume Yuujinchou on your recommendation but somehow we didn't quite hit if off. I thought the settings were unnecessarily depressing at times and it wasn't quite the heartwarming treat that I pictured it to be.

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  12. Seishun, I think you'd like S1 and 2 better. Try S1E07, and if you don't care for that episode Natsume just isn't for you.

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  13. Thanks for the heads up, I'll put it into my bucket list. I haven't found the time to rewatch FLCL yet and there are so many shows in fall that interest me. I'm happy to see you'll be blogging Mirai Nikki and UN-GO in RC. Are you gonna put up a tentative blogging schedule for LiA as well? ;D

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  14. Look at my fall preview and it should give you an idea. Shinryaku, Working, GC, Chihayafuru, Bakuman and Kimi to Boku for sure. Several others - Fate/Zero, Hunter x Hunter, C3, Boku wa Tomodachi are all possible, depending on my time and how much I like 'em.

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  15. Looks like you really loved Ikoku Meiro. I liked it a lot too but Usagi Drop grew on me and is my favorite of the two.

    I tried watching R-15 after seeing you praise it so much but I ended up dropping it around episode 6 mostly out of boredom. Can't say I didn't try, though.

    I quite agree about BakaTest but I wouldn't be so harsh. Maybe it's because, unlike you, I didn't mind the two flashback episodes since they were so well executed, especially Minami's. The second season remains a major letdown but it's far from unwatchable for me.

    I see you are not yet sold on Mawaru. I'd say it's been a fantastic inconsistent show. Nevertheless, I have to praise it for its ability to make me theorise like no other show this season.

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  16. thank you! as I plan to watch the summer season retrospectively, this should prove to be very helpful. kudos!

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  17. You're very welcome. Let me know what you end up liking!

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  18. You should definitely keep the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Hotarubi no Mori e on February 22nd in mind, it's the most touching short story by Midorikawa Yuki I've read so far and very much like Natsume Yuujinchou (I could imagine that she already had Natsume in mind when she made that one shot). By far my favourite of her works and I can't want to get the Blu-Ray... <3

    I also loved this season of Natsume a lot, still have to watch the last episode tho. I'm scared of watching it... then I won't have no more Natsume to watch for now. But oh well, season 4 will be coming. I didn't really expect this show to last as long when season 1 started (but I'm so, so glad it's getting so much love <3).

    Definitely one of my all time favourites, as I'm a sucker for these relaxing mystery series (Mushishi being my number one!). :>

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  19. Thanks, miruki - as soon as someone subs it, I'll be blogging it. And for Natsume, well - you only have to wait three months this time, at least. Last ep is a keeper - you should watch!

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