Now that this is the third year that I’m doing this, I guess it actually is becoming the Token End of Year Post. Well, more traditional than Token, where I to be pedantic, but given that I’ve not really posted much this year gone, I suppose I need to make up for that somewhat by spamming a few thousand words about cartoons.
Not that I’d actually managed to watch as much as I’d have liked over the last year. Not to moan too much, but the ol’ bad back did put paid to me watching great chunks of anime through the middle third of the year, and resulted in me not finishing off a bunch of shows that I probably should have (I’ve still not got around to seeing the conclusion of Kids on the Slope, for example). TV re-runs of Star Trek:TGN and Futurama ended up consuming way more of my evening media viewing than I should probably have let them, too – and I didn’t even get around to making a blog post about Star Treks Ambojistu either (tl;dr – there’s lots of old anime references in the arena in which it takes place).
In terms of post-related house-keeping, I’m going to have to confess that, for the third year running, I’ve still not gotten around to starting on those Gundam Unicorn BDs I’ve been collecting. I’m sure the punchline to this is that I’m going to absolutely loathe it, but at this point, waiting until the whole series is done and watching it in bulk is looking increasingly preferable.
Okay, so on to the usual specifics with the Beta-Waffle Entirely-Pointless Awards for 2012 Anime Existence, AKA me making up reasons to write about things I want to write about.
The “Where has All My Money Gone” Award for Wallet Emptying Merchandise – THE iDOLM@STER
Still. I’m not really sure what more there is to add to that, though I’m vaguely curious to see what the difference is between the BACKSTAGE M@STER book that was released just a couple of months ago, and the updated BACKSTAGE M@STER+ that they’ve released already. I guess the main story this year is the amount of Cinderella Girls merchandise they’ve started soliciting (the third round of character singles are due out soon), though that’s a rabbithole that I’ve been avoiding plummeting down. I do have to wonder if an anime adaptation is incoming – it seems almost inevitable, really.
(Also, Character Rankings 2012 – Ritsuko == Kotori > Mami > Haruka > ambiguous muddle of everyone else > Yukiho)
(Also Also, I got the BACKSTAGE M@STER+ book this morning, and there’s precious little difference between the two editions).
The “Worst Movie that I Had Unrealistic Expectations For” award for Movies that Weren’t As Good As Last Years Effort – Suite Precure: Take it back! The Miraculous Melody that Connects Hearts!
I’ve written about it on several occasions previously, but I do really love the Heartcatch Precure movie. It’s not even so much that it’s a good Precure movie, tied-in to one of the better TV instalments of the franchise, more that it’s simply a pretty entertaining movie even on it’s own merits – the writing is decent, the music is good, and the animation is largely terrific. Also, it has Cure Marine in it.
In a way, the Suite Precure movie was unlikely to be anything but a disappointment in comparison – the TV show it was span-off from is nowhere near as strong as it’s predecessor (nor it’s successor for that matter) – but it’s rather difficult to get across precisely how disappointing the Suite Precure movie is. It’s not just bad in comparison to the Heartcatch movie, it’s terrible in comparison to pretty much anything you could pit it against.
As a result, I’m not going to throw together a full list of it’s crimes against decent cinema, and instead just point out that the only good thing in the movie is Mephisto – not the villains, not the Cures punching things, but Mephisto. Yeah.
(Also, that Cure Muse transformation sequence they pulled from the TV show is way, way better animated than pretty much anything else in the movie)
The “Sorry, Speak Up?” award for Movies Lacking in Expected Voice Acting – Precure All Stars New Stage
The Precure All Stars movies have, traditionally, served the purpose of suckering the audience of the classic shows into gaining some level of interest in the latest instalment of the Precure property by waving sweet, sweet franchise fanservice in their face. Generally, they centered around the exploits of the latest crew of Cures as they come into a situation that requires the assistance of the classic characters, especially those from the outgoing Cure series.
New Stage, having dropped the DX moniker, takes a slightly different approach, the staff not doubt realising that it was going to get increasingly difficult to write a story involving an increasingly ludicrous number of characters (infact, the movie itself on several occasions makes comment about the difficultly in counting the number of magical girls present). Rather than center the story around the new Cures, it’s all about a guest-character created for this movie, who befriends a fragment of the nasty that the Cures are looking to defeat.
Which is fine, it’s not a terrible idea, and it’s not all that bad in it’s execution (how much of that statement is just relief after it following the Suite movie is debatable), but the problem is that it ultimately ends up in a reduction of the level of fanservice presented to the viewer, which is pretty much what you go into these movies expecting. Not only do many of the classic Cures barely show up, but anyone prior to Fresh is reduced to not even getting a single line of dialogue. Infact, they don’t even get to make any battle-shouts or anything. It’d be hilarious if not for the fact that some people only watch these movies for the Futari Wa girls.
(Also, Cure Marine is still the best character, no matter what you new-fangled Peace fanboys say!)
(Also Also, Cure Mamiko Noto only got to be a cure for about five minutes, and didn’t get to punch a single thing. For shame)
The “People Keep Talking About This” Award for Shows I Need to Watch More Than Two Episodes Of – Shin Sekai Yori
On the surface, Shin Sekai Yori is a show that seems that it’d be right in my bailiwick. Watching it, it certainly is right in my bailiwick, but I must confess, I’ve only actually watched up to about episode three – largely because I was meeting up with someone I knew had been watching it prior to Nerawareta Gakuen at Scotland Loves Anime and wanted to ensure I had something to talk about.
I guess I kind of stalled at episode four – this isn’t really indicative of the quality of the show or the episode in question, but the evening that I started watching what proved to be a rather talky, exposition-dense episode of the show was also an evening where I was really rather tired, and I was finding it difficult to stay awake. That somewhat shows the issue I have when coming to catching up on the show – it’s something you actually have to pay some degree of attention to, and as a result isn’t exactly marathon material.
I’ve simply not been able to find the time to get back to it, either, and with every passing week I’m faced with needing more and more time to catch up on it. Maybe when it’s finished, I guess.
(Also, since should have gotten the spoiler avoidance award as well, but man, people really enjoyed posting spoiler-heavy .gifs from this one! Didn’t really help that the Crunchy stream is several days delayed, either…)
(Also also, that screengrab is exactly where Crunchy restarted when I opened the video. More interesting cut than I might have expected)
(Also also also, I did eventually get around to seeing all of Chihayafuru!)
The “Why Do People Still Use The Term Gainax Ending?” Award for Seriously? WTF!? – Nerawareta Gakuen
I feel kind of bad picking on Nerawareta Gakuen – if it wasn’t for the fact that all but one of the people I’ve spoken to who’d seen the movie in Scotland back in October loathed it, I’d think it was getting a lot of undeserved flak.
I can’t say I particularly hate the movie myself or anything, but it’s certainly a bit of a mess. As a romantic comedy, it’s actually pretty good – the problem is that it, at least partially, reports to be a science fiction movie, and it’s SF plotline is extremely muddled. It ultimately builds to a bizarre sequence of non-sequitors, an awkwardly-framed climax that makes not a lick of sense and a pre-credits ending that pretty much rendered half of the audience speechless.
Part of the problem is that the movie relies a little too heavily on the audience already being somewhat familiar with the source material that this is based on – it’s a sequel of sorts to the original story that seeks to subvert it in odd fashions, but it chooses not to explain certain elements of it’s plotline that those familiar with it’s origin would immediately grasp. It’s maybe a little too easy to blame most of the movies issues on that, but, honestly, the climax is muddled even if you can place some of the events occurring in the context of the original.
Not that I’m not curious to see the movie again – I think it’ll go down far better now that I have some grasp of what it’s actually trying to achieve.
(Also, I’ve got the subtitled HK release of the 1982 live action version of this on DVD now, but haven’t had the chance to watch it yet. Probably post about that soon…)
The “This Is Only Awesome Until Everyone Else Sees It” award for Bestest Anime Movie of the Year – The Wolf Children
To a certain degree, picking Wolf Children for this honour this year seems like a bit of a cop-out – it’s a pretty widely seen movie, certainly in comparison to the movies I’ve picked for the last couple of years. Also, it’s not exactly a surprise that Mamoru Hosoda has directed another good movie.
Still, US screenings have been few and far between, and it’s not like any of the more obscure or little seen movies I’ve caught this year have been all that notable either. I’ve already talked about NeraGaku, and the only other particularly little-seen thing I’ve caught was After School Midnighters, which was cute and all, but hardly remarkable.
All that being said, it’s not like Wolf Children wasn’t a particularly remarkable movie anyway – it was pretty amazing piece of film-making, though the fact it’ll likely remain that way in my mind even once everyone else has seen it probably makes this somewhat disingenuous an award.
(Also, I’m glad this movie didn’t turn me furry, which is perhaps the real danger of a movie this good of this genre existing).
The “Wait, That Show Was Actually Good?” Award for Most Not-Terrible Show That Should Have Been – Sengoku Collection
Sengoku Collection is a mobile phone game developed by Konami. It’s part of their larger “Collection” series of games, along with the somewhat better known Dragon Collection (which may have gotten a release outside of Japan on iOS in some territories). They’re basically card-collection battle games, where you unlock character cards which you use to battle against others. In Sengoku Collection, the cards are of Sengoku-era generals (in addition to a few from The Three Kingdoms and similar historical yarns), rendered in four different forms – two regular, and two gender-bent. There’s no real “story”, so to speak, which doesn’t exactly suggest that it’d make it a rich basis for anime.
I hate to admit it, but like many others, I wrote of Sengoku Collection after the first episode as being something it wasn’t, but it didn’t take too long for it to reveal itself as being something rather more interesting.
It’s not really just the whole movie-parody (or, rather, referencing, as it’s not really played in jest which any frequency) aspect that made the show entertaining, though – many of the movies as too niche and little seen to be particularly amusing to most, or at least to myself. It’s more that the show, in it’s better moments, is truly eccentric, not to mention eclectic in what it deems worthy to cover. It’s a show in which plays in a lot of genres, running a bizarre gamut of idol dramas, fishing, melancholic tales of loneliness, and, err, Michael Moore. It’s kind of bonkers, in the best possible way, and a few episodes actually manage to have genuine emotional gravitas.
(Also, Ieyasu was my favourite character, probably for idol-related reasons. That image of her singing with the gospel group is actually a pretty clever joke…)
(Also also, Omo has a list of the particularly worthwhile episodes I largely agree with, even if it effectively means Most Of Them)
(Also also also, apologies to Reevo, who had to put up with me repeating tales of Michael Moore earlier in the year)
The “That Was This Year?” Award for Show I Keep Thinking Was 2011 – Symphogear
I must confess, however, I didn’t get around to actually finishing the show off. That being said, outside of the amusement of having what’s essentially a magical girl show where the heroines sing their own insert songs whilst punching things, and some of the QUALITY animation on display at times, most the things which stick about this show come from outside of the show itself.
Like the easily abusable alternate faces which shipped with the Hibiki nendoroid. Actually, mainly the easily abusable Hibiki faces.
(Also, I really wish I’d bought that nendoroid).
The “There’s Not Much Point In Me Saying Much” Award for a Show That Everyones Already Seen – Girls und Panzer
I would call this the “surprise hit of the year”, but I don’t think it was impossible to see this coming. Last years Blood-C may have been more than a little divisive, but series director Tsutomu Mizushima has steadily, if somewhat quietly, been making a name for himself producing better-than-average series that, being primarily based upon others works, other people have tended to get more credit for. I may well be saying this as the one guy who kind-of-likes Kujibiki Unbalance TV, but if you look through his previous works, it’s a remarkably solid list.
Girls und Panzer is, I think, his first completely anime-original work, and I think it’s a show that clearly displays that he’s put in his time working in general audience anime as well as fandom-orientated shows over the years. It’s a show which clearly knows it’s audience, and is built around this fact.
The major complaint that the shows naysayers tend to level against it is it’s lack of character depth. Whilst I think that this is at least partially based on the fallacy that a character doesn’t have any depth if you don’t spend two episodes detailing their oh-so-tragic pasts, I don’t think it’s an entirely unfounded argument – after all, it’s not a show about team mahjong, where you only need five or so characters per side. The mere nature of Tankery requires the addition of enough characters to pad out the line-up, and it’s not like you can blow significant portions of valuable screentime detailing the less important members of the cast.
This is where the show is kind of clever, though – it shorthands an awful lot of it’s content in ways which suggest a deeper setting to the anime-literate. It abuses the fact that it’s intended audience has already seen a lot of other anime shows, similar or otherwise, in the past. The show doesn’t have to spend several episodes going into characters histories because shows like Saki have already laid that groundwork, and in just a few lines of dialogue is usually enough to allow us to equate a particular character to someone from another franchise whether we’re aware that’s what it’s doing or not. It very easily allows us to fill in the blanks. Otherwise, it just languishes in national stereotypes, but that’s simply a less subtle way of doing much the same thing.
It does make me wonder how someone who is relatively new to anime would take the show. I mean, it feels like it’s cheating to a certain degree, but the other point of view is that it’s just bypassing criticism of it being too similar to other shows whilst expediting it’s movement into the content that makes it unique. Sure, the show could spend half of it’s runtime on silly drama, but I don’t really see who wins in that situation.
(Also, I really need to get around to finishing that Ausf. D model I was building. Would have bought a 38(t), but they’re pretty expensive).
(Also Also, Aya Hirano role of the decade? I think so).
The “Thank God That’s Over” Award for Unintentional(?) Humour – The Mystical Laws
I suppose you could say this about any Happy Science movie, to a certain degree – they’re all bonkers, they’re all kind of hilarious in a fashion, and most of them are probably a little too long to watch purely for comedy purposes. The Mystical Laws goes down a little easier than most – or at least a little more comedically – thanks to the fact that Happy Science deemed to bestow it with a dub of such magnificence that it puts the work of Manga UK from back in the 1990s to shame.
Also, it has Alien Dinosaurs from Space. Which isn’t even the most stupid thing in the movie.
It’s hard to really recommend watching the Happy Science movies – they’re peculiar combinations of science fiction and religious advertisements for the Happy Science organisation. I suppose it’s worth watching at least one of them, purely as a bizarre curiosity seeing that they’re something truly peculiar coming out of the industry, and I guess The Mystical Laws is as good a one to watch as any.
(Also, I still can’t get over how ghetto the cinema this was showing in was).
The “Hang on, I’m sure the trailers were in HD resolutions!” award for most annoying release format – iDOLM@STER Shiny Festa
iDOLM@STER Shiny Festa was a series of three OAVs, tying in somewhat with the TV anime produced last year, produced by the same production staff. The problem is that, well, they were only released accompanied with the three PSP games of the same name, and as a result, they were contained within the bounds of the UMD disks that the game shipped on.
Which also means that the OAVs were presented in the same 480 by 272 pixel resolution as the PSP display, which isn’t exactly ideal. Nor is being stuck watching these OAVs on an actual PSP system (though, personally, I watched them via the digital download copies of the games on the Vita, which is marginally more pleasant an experience). Funny thing is that they clearly saw the OAVs as the main draw to the game, given that the games boot straight into the episodes, as opposed to the game, when you start them up. Probably means that there’ll be a pricey BD release at some point in the future.
Super-great ED theme, though. When is the single coming out?
(Also, I don’t think this is popular opinion, but Vault That Borderline was my favourite of the insert songs).
The “Most Disappointing Show That I (Kind-of) Still Like(-ish)” award for Something That Really Should Have Been Better – Sword Art Online
I’m not about to write a few thousand words about how Sword Art Online is the smartest anime show in years, in a Kotaku-esque fashion, but I do think it’s at least somewhat more intelligent than some tend to give it credit for these days. The problem is, it’s kind of a show of two halves. Or maybe three. Well, three-thirds, given that three-halves wouldn’t be mathematically correct.
The show presents a pretty interesting take on the whole stuck-in-a-game thing. It explores a lot of aspects of how different people would adapt to the situation in not-entirely-dumb fashions, and makes clever and fairly clear usage of it’s game mechanics to set up it’s stories. It separates itself pretty well from the likes of .hack, which may well be set in an online game, but essentially is just a lot of people talking without ever really presenting anything compelling about the game.
The problem is that the show stops doing this about two fifths of the way through – the shows opening act follows our hero, solo-playing beta-tester (“Beater”, in the games silly terminology) Kirito as he wanders the game, getting involved in the lives of others as he helps them, almost like an anime The Littlest Hobo. This is fun – it introduces a lot of interesting characters, and the individual story-arcs in which they inhabit are as much about them as they are the less-interesting Kirito.
Then it eventually stops being episodic, and it turns out the shows narrative simply isn’t very interesting. Kirito isn’t a particularly interesting character, and as soon as we get into the narrative-focused content, it gets increasingly obvious, and Kirito finds himself without any bonafide challenge. It doesn’t really help that the show keeps informing us that Asuna, Kirito’s “Girlfriend”, is this amazing-awesome-badass equal in skill to Kirito, only to never actually show it. It doesn’t really help that Asuna is pretty much the least interesting female character in the show, either.
The the second half, as these things usually do, follows, and it somehow manages to throw out everything that was interesting about the show, whilst simultaneously magnifying everything that was bad about it, and also throws in a bunch of the most maligned tropes in anime into the mix at the same time. It’s kind of frustrating, really.
This isn’t to say that the show stopped being entertaining, though – it’s just that it stopped being something to get genuinely excited about, and became that was entertaining purely on the mockery level. It became something to laugh at as it ran through it’s increasingly ham-fisted developments.
(Also, if I’d been drawing comics this year, I’d have totally drawn a “More Deband” one).
(Also Also, token “more hamfisted than Accel World, even though that stars a pig” joke).
The “Contribution to Science!” award for Show Which Dares To Ask The Important Questions – Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imōto ga Iru!
Or, for the linguistically challenged, My Younger Sister Is Among Them, or Schroedingers Sister as I frequently not-so-amusingly called it. Back when Kotaku made their post about how Sword Art was “the smartest show in years”, I joked about making a post saying much the same about NakaImo. Well, half-joked, anyway.
NakaImo is, of course, kind of dumb. It’s a show in which a handsome, kind and wealthy young man looking for a wife has to avoid scoring with the bevy of eligible ladies who’re hot for him due to the fact that one of them might be his scheming, estranged younger sister, and, you know, incest is kind of icky, not to mention bad publicity. Mostly the later, being that this is, you know, anime.
So, the important question is, as is rendered in half-English in the title, “who is IMOUTO?”. Which the show strings out to ludicrous degrees as it goes along. Of course, it uses that question, and the fact that the hero is desperately trying to avoid anything serious happening with the increasingly-frisky heroines, to reach increasingly silly and fetishistic moments whilst maintaining a narrative reason as to why they don’t cross any censorship lines.
By which I mean to say, the show is kind of smart in how dumb it is, or perhaps it was dumb in smart ways. or maybe just dumb in dumb ways. At least, even though I don’t really tend to watch these kinds of shows, I ended up watching it until the end – but only because I was curious to IMOUTO actually was. Honest!
(Also, I don’t see why there was any degree of romantic confusion when one of the characters wears a witches hat as formal wear. Clearly Best Girl).
The “Battling Seizure Robots” award for Show Most Like Western Anime Parodies – Horizon on the Middle Of Nowhere
This seems like rather an unfair statement, in a way, given the typical claim levelled at anime in parodies is that they makes absolutely no sense, and have absolutely no logic to them. In a sense, the problem with Horizon is more that it has too much logic to it – there seems to be a canonical explanation literally everything, right down to the censorship window obscuring the heroes delicates throughout most of the second series. It kind of wraps back around again to seemingly making absolutely no sense.
Not that much of this reasoning is presented in the anime, though – there’s about enough there for the savvy viewer to actually follow the plot should they actually be paying attention to what’s going on, but it’s often woefully lacking in flavour detail. Whilst I certainly don’t think it’s a show that requires any of the wiki-reading that some claim to be necessary, I do think it makes the show an awful lot more entertaining if you do that.
Saying that, it’s not as if there’s actually any real reason to engage your brain when watching anyway – It’s a show which, at times, has some of the best non-KyoAni animation around, a gloriously eclectic soundtrack, and a werewolf Sir Francis Bacon. Purely on a superficial level, it’s a gloriously insane and entertaining show.
(Also, Adele is totally still my favourite character).
(Also Also, BOOOOOOOOOOOOOBS!)
(Also Also Also, Nate’s hair continues to be absolutely ludicrous in a wonderful, wonderful way).
(Also Also Also Also, man, the art from the novels in pretty darn ugly looking).
(Also Also Also Also Also, “BEST” fictional representation of England, Girls und Panzer aside).
The “Show DiGiKerot Is Mostly Likely To Cosplay A Character From” Award for Exactly That – Tsuritama
I was sorely tempted to turn up to an event this year dressed in typical Duck-agent attire – I mean, the suit, turban and possibly sunglasses isn’t exactly a difficult look to pull together. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a suitable stuffed duck to go along with the costume, so, alas, it did not happen. I do own a Duck! t-shirt, though.
I really liked Tsuritama. I didn’t go into it as a Nakamura veteran, my previous experience with his works amounting to basically an episode or two of C, though I am somewhat interested in seeing Trapeze at some point now. I’m not really so much into Fishing either. Actually, beyond it’s rather attractive visuals, I’m struggling to formulate any specific reasoning so to why I enjoyed the show so much. When it comes down to it, Haru was kind of annoying, and the fishing chatter, as I say, did nothing for me.
Still, I guess it had an affable sense of humour to it, and also a duck called Tapioca as a recurring character. It’s hard not to appreciate that, at least.
(Also, the irony of it raining when I wore my Duck t-shirt to an event is not lost on me. Probably also not actually ironic).
The “Corners? What corners?” Award for Cost Effective Anime Production – Aikatsu!
Aikatsu is last years (still continuing) idol anime from Sunrise, as opposed to Love Live, this years far-more otaku centric effort. One of the curious things about Aikatsu is that is uses CG for all of it’s dancing sequences. It’s obviously not the only show which has done that in recent years, AKB0048 doing much the same thing, as not all shows can sport the killer production staff of iM@S, after all. The thing which is a little more interesting about Aikatsu is the specific approach that they seem to have taken with it.
As a show, Aikatsu is a video-game advertisement. Recent 3DS game aside, the main thrust of the Aikatsu franchise is an arcade game. For all intents and purposes it looks to be Bandai’s equivalent to SEGA’s Love and Berry game that was popular a few years back – it’s a collectors card powered rhythm-action game. Users collect cards, which they use to control the costumes that their idols wear on stage whilst singing and dancing in real-time 3D glory.
The thing about the graphics from the arcade game is that they look remarkably similar to those used in the TV show. At the very least, it looks like Sunrises animation team are using the same assets as those used in the game, but I kind of wonder if their approach goes beyond that – even a lot of the camera movements used in the show are identical to those used in the arcade game. I’m curious as to whether the Aikatsu game team ported the games engine to run on a high-powered PC for the use of the anime staff – the anime version looks to run in a higher resolution to the game, and has a few spot-effect niceties such as actual shadows and a 3D audience, but there’s simply too many similarities in how they actually animate for it to be something which they’re recreating by hand.
Which must save Sunrise a heck of a lot of animation time every episode, or someone is wasting way, way too much trying to replicate the darn game…
(Also, I got the first insert songs single today. That darn song has been stuck in my head all day. You know the one).
The “I Promise This Is The End” Award for Show I’m Astonished Got Licensed – iDOLM@STER Xenoglossia
Because I couldn’t think of a show I seemed to like more than most for this year, I’ve pulled out one from the past instead. Saying that, I’ve written way, way too much about Xenoglossia on previous occasions for it to be something I subject you to a huge amount of additional text about.
It is kind of curious to see that it got licensed, though. I suppose the closure of the non-Japanese Bandai labels worldwide somewhat opened up the licensing channels into Sunrise for shows that Bandai Entertainment had passed up on, or at least opened the door a little wider. Perhaps it led them to reduce their asking prices for some of these shows as well – it certainly seems like Sentai may have gotten some kind of package-deal on barrel-bottom productions. I mean, I can’t think of any other reason that they’d be releasing things like Cluster Edge (or even Xenoglossia for that matter).
Still, I got my subtitled Xenoglossia disks, with those subtitled omake I’d only previously seen raw, so I guess I’m, ultimately, pretty happy.
(Also, Ritsuko is one of the best characters in this version of iM@S, too).